Thursday, March 26, 2009
Last night I was lucky enough to get a preview of the new PRC Papa John's route. Its similar to last years Wednesday night route, but with a new start location and some interesting routing to get the group out to the same area as last year. It should be a great time.
Roughly 8-10 of us rolled out from Rassy's and some indecision left myself and Courtney off the front and on our own. We rolled a light or two the others didn't make and even with a slow down on the way out to our loop, we didn't see the pack again. Once we hit the loop which consists of 6.75 miles of rolling hills interspersed with a couple decent climbs, I hammered it. Soon enough I was on my own completely which was fine by me as I wasn't planning on it being otherwise. A good breeze out of the west at 15mph hampered things a bit, but in reality didn't even phase me compared to the struggle from the night before. I was on the cross bike to keep things a bit more challenging and to get some additional seat time in prep for taking it on the Almanzo 100.
The first lap clicked off in 22:05 and I kept on it for another lap finishing out in 22:29. Pretty even considering I was covering almost 7 miles each lap. By the end of the 2nd lap I had hoped to catch the rest of the group, but alas they were nowhere in sight. I was feeling the burn pretty good and satisfied with having put in a good effort. I guess my designation for a good effort is determined by how light headed and slightly nauseous I feel at the end before I start recovering. There was definitely a tinge of burn in the stomach last night and just enough bending around the edges to call it quits. I backed things off a bit and still moved along at a decent clip back to my truck. 31 miles and a shade under 2 hours off the clock. I did meet up with a few riders still chatting back at the shop and talked to them for a minute.
After that, it was off to the nirvana of tacos, beer, and buddies. Tom joined me for some chatting as we chowed on tacos and Courtney showed up a bit later as well since he had a few extra miles needed to finish out his century. A good effort rewarded by some indulgent fueling. Probably not the best solution on keeping myself lean and mean, but you just gotta enjoy the spoils sometimes.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Last night was a whole different ball game. I was glad for not only the long sleeve jersey, but the long sleeve winter base I had on as well. 50 and WINDY was the name of the game. We had cross tail wind all the way out which meant I knew we'd be going fast out and suffering back. I got popped early on and then caught back up at a stop light before getting dropped again another mile down the road. Such is life. At least I wasn't the first one off so that's an improvement over last year.
I ended up pretty much alone as we headed out of Ankeny and then an A9Y rider hit one of the shortcuts turning west 2 miles before the normal turn. Bratz also tagged in with us and we shared the work into the west wind. We were working hard to maintain low teens even rotating through the paceline as the wind howled at 25+ mph. Once we turned back south to hit Polk City, the wind seemed a lot less wicked. I knew we weren't done yet though as we still had to cross the mile long bridge. We caught a number of other riders who had taken another of the shortcuts in Polk City and formed more of a paceline as we hit the bridge. Just keeping in the draft was a chore as we were buffeted from the front and side. We all made it just fine and turned back south.
Just a mile or so into the south we got passed by the lead group that had run the full loop (we cut off 4 miles). After too much hesitation, Bratz and I gave chase and were actually making up ground as we rotated with each other. Being new to drafting though, Bratz gave it a bit too much gas on his pull and popped off the back when I took the lead. Alone again, I just held my speed to what I could muster and the front group headed off into the distance. Just before the tanks at Camp Dodge another rider passed me and indicated I should hop on, so I obliged and we blew on into the Merle Hay turn. We held up waiting for another group of riders at this point and were joking a bit on how much the wind sucked. We finally rolled back to the start with 2 hours on the clock.
My pace dropped 1.5 MPH from last weeks average. and I'd gone 4 miles less. My muscles ached when I got done, but nothing major. While I know I'm in better shape right now that at any point ever before, I'm starting to have this annoying habit of trying to keep some gas in the tank at the end of the ride. I remember numerous rides from last year getting back to my truck and having to fight the urge to hurl if I breathed too deeply. I'm actually staying with the group easier this year with less effort, but I still think maybe I should be pushing harder to stay with the group and hammering through the entire ride rather than keeping something back. TNWC is supposed to simulate a race effort so I should be giving it my all, I just haven't made it click yet.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
A few short hours later and we were back at home grabbing some much needed rest from the beginning of the weekend.
I got up early Sunday to join a few roadies for a "zone 2" ride out towards Van Meter. Apparently Zone 2 is code for kill it as long as you can and then back it down a bit from there. As we hit the hills out towards Grand on UTE rd, I thought seriously the coffee and bar I'd had for breakfast would be making it's second appearance of the morning. Luckily we swept through a housing area to take a look at Tony Nichols latest project house and I got my wits back about me. After that it was mostly a game of sitting in and watch Tony show off. The highlight of which was him passing us uphill while pedalling with 1 leg, showoff.
After almost 2 hours in "zone 2" it was time for something a bit more relaxing as I met up with the gravellers for a jaunt out on the Booneville loop. The pace was much more mellow as we rolled out and having been properly warmed up all ready, I hit the hills with a little more gusto than the rest and got to Booneville with enough time to make a quick pit stop at Waveland West.
MMM, warmth, gravel, and sun. How could you not be smiling?!
I parted company at this point needing to head back in time for Miranda to get to work. I cranked up the wick a bit and managed to add a full MPH to my average by the time I got back to the truck. 60 miles and a shade over 3 hours of riding for the morning. I was one happy camper.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
RDS5K is meeting at Grounds for Celebration at 5:15ish. Can't say as to the rest of the group of riders as the original BW location has been mentioned along with thee old Targhetto building on Euclid at the rver bridge. See you soon, though you may think twice once you figure out what the video is actually in reference too...
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
1) If you're aware of the weather conditions and start the race when its ugly, be prepared to suffer long and hard for your foolishness. I'm sure most of us racers heard from someone this weekend that we were a bunch of crazy fockers to be out there racing (let alone riding) on a day like Sunday. I thought I was pretty well prepared, but the weather gave me a hard kick in the junk that I won't soon forget.
2) Waterproof/resistant shoes can just as easily turn into watertight containers. I didn't think much about water running down into my shoes other than knowing it would happen and trying to keep it from happening for at least a little while. I didn't realize once it entered, it wouldn't be able to escape due to lack of venting on the bottoms of my winter shoes. Luckily I didn't end up like this. Granted it was nowhere near as cold down here as up in Alaska, but cold extremities for extended periods of time are no joke.
3) My gloves even when sopping wet kept my hands from going numb. Even though I was planning on them resisting the water more than they did (going to treat them to some water repellent soon), my gloves did a good job of keeping my hands from going past the point of just being cold and were actually relatively speaking "warm" or at least not as cold at a few points even after they were soaked to the bone.
4) A waterproof shell is an amazing thing. I was soaked over roughly 75% of my body. However, my core was toasty and sweaty (but not overly so) and my head was dry thanks to a couple great pieces of equipment. The main piece was my Pearl Izumi jacket/shell that cost me way too much when I bought it, but has repaid itself in numerous conditions. The 2nd piece was my choice to go with a wind/waterproof fleece balaclava versus just a hat. The sleet on course really drove this point home as I was able to pull it up covering almost my entire face during the nasty descents where ice pellets ricocheted off us at 30+ mph.
5) My amfib bibs did a great job of keeping my legs warm, but seem to have gone beyond their usefulness in the water repellent role. I might try hitting them with some water repellent spray, but for the most part, I think they're used up in that area. They still do a great job of keeping me warm enough even in extra nasty conditions. I've ridden them down to zero degree windchill with just bib shorts underneath and still been comfortable enough that I didn't think about needing another layer.
6) Be prepared for your bike gear to turn into a crappy mess when done and possibly using up some of the parts. Upon tear down and inspection last night I noted both my bottom bracket and rear derailleur were pretty trashed (moreso than the rest of the bike). The derailleur can be cleaned and greased enough to remain in service, but I think the bearing on the BB are too toast to do anything other than limp along so it will be getting replaced. Additionally, the shifter cables were coated inside the housings in a fine layer of wet gravel dust. My right hand still has a charlie horse from the amount of effort it took to upshift as the race wore on. I thought it was just my hands getting cold at the time. Other than that, the bike was covered in a fine layer of crap, but nothing a good washing couldn't cure. The chain and cassette will both need worked over in the solvent take and I might eyeball the chain for replacement too pending how it looks once cleaned and lubed.
7) Be prepared for the conditions as much as possible when selecting your ride. In my case, it was unprepared with my bike choice. Had I been home on Saturday, I would have had the opportunity to check out the gravel conditions first hand and would probably have brought the cross bike. I think I could have knocked a solid 20-30 minutes off my time on the cross bike with the condition of the gravel. As I was guessing, I opted for the safe choice and missed the mark. Better safe than sorry, but in this instance I should have been able to put home field advantage to use. I rode gravel 4 days before the race including some of the race course. I knew how concrete the base was before the rain, I just didn't know how much softening the rain had done.
8) If you're going to listen to music during a race like this, at least have the forethought to put together a long ass playlist that won't need to be repeated multiple times to get you through the course. As I couldn't reach the IPOD on my arm other than to hit play or skip, I had no way of moving to another playlist unless I wanted to stop and strip off my jacket and that wasn't happening.
9) If racing in weather where nutrition is going to be needed to finish the race, make sure it's easily accessed. I eschewed putting a bento bag on my top tube due to the ridicule I've received in the past from several other racers. Granted, in some cases its definitely a bit overkill, but Sunday it would have shined. As it were, I ended up spending precious energy and time stopping to get nutrition and additionally not spreading it out as much as I should have. I bonked and recovered a couple times during the race and all I really needed was a gel or shot of something a little sooner than I took it on, but I didn't want to stop and get it out of my jersey pocket which would involve stripping a glove off, rummaging under my shell, and probably stopping or slowing to a near crawl.
I think that's probably enough lessons for now, but it covers pretty much everything that I vividly remembering being a point to think about during or shortly after the race.
My bike was a mess when I tore into it last night and definitely wasn't going to be fun to clean up and service just to trash it again this weekend. I'll take some time to do some serious spring cleaning now and stay off the bike for another day before getting back on track. I'm hoping to get healthy enough to hit TNWC starting next week and hang onto the Q group (inside joke).
I'll try to put something together over lunch reviewing the various thoughts and things I learned after CIRREM.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Friday, March 06, 2009
For the most part we kept the pace at a decent tempo though I kept trying to push the hills just to see how my legs would respond. There really isn't much climbing on the way out to the course with the exception of a couple smaller hills and one slow climb at the edge of Pleasant Hill. We regrouped at Four Mile School and took off from there enjoying a pretty decent cross tailwind. After pushing a couple hills early on, a group of 4 of us broke out and kept the pace up as we followed the loop. We hit a pretty crazy crosswind and then headed back into the headwind as the course looped around. I hadn't been on the course before so the hills were a bit of fun for me. I could definitely envision the damage some people with climbing legs would put on the others during the race. I even managed to pop the other 3 off the back on the final climb up to Vandalia where I pushed the pace to purposely test myself. Strangely enough I felt good at the top and opened up a small gap at the same time.
After that, we regrouped and rolled back to the school working on some drafting techniques with the tri-guy who stayed in the front group. A quick break while we waited for the main pack and a few more minutes chatting and we headed back to town. Keely treated us all to some massive rice krispie treats in honor of her birthday and thanks to her mom and dad. We gorged ourselves for a few minutes and rolled ourselves back to head home. 2 hours and a shade over 30 miles on the bike all while enjoying 75 degree weather in early March! How could you ask for much more?
Just a friendly reminder for those interested in gravel: CIRREM is this Sunday. Hope to see you there and enjoying some suffering out on the course.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Monday, March 02, 2009
This is actually the more rideable section of road. Beyond the hill behind my bike in the top picture was a mass of solid ruts spanning the entire width of the road requiring full concentration to navigate including walking a short stretch or two. However, I navigated that section just fine, but my luck soon ran out as I botched moving from one rut to another shortly after I stopped to shoot these pics. One second I'm upright and moving forward, the next I'm still moving forward, but now I'm sliding along my left hip and shoulder. Ya, dirt is hard when it's frozen! Ouch. No damaged to the riding gear and bruises will heal so off I head again.
I stopped to consult my map a few times, but for the most part the route was pretty easy to follow. I had one major run in with a pack of 3 dogs just south of Norwalk that got my heart pumping a bit. As I rolled up to the house, 3 medium dogs came running and barking straight at me. I didn't try to out sprint them and opted for the loud voice and yelling at them. Luckily they stayed just far enough back for me to roll past without getting nipped. A few other dogs barked and showed a little attempt at giving chase, but nothing major. It had been so long since I rolled through the countryside, I'd almost forgotten about dogs.
Around 2 hours in, the cold was starting to get me down a bit. For the most part I was staying pretty toasty, but my cold toes were nagging as they'd go from cold to seriously cold, to almost numb and then back to cold again. Seeing that I was going to be running way over time if I rolled the additional 3 miles into Cumming, I headed back north at Orilla catching some pavement before I logged back onto the gravel that runs just south of the golf course on old Army Post.
It was on this stretch I had an almost oh shit moment. After reading too many blogs about crazy guys doing crazy things on their bikes in way below zero temps, I tend to be a little more mindful of my own vulnerability when riding in cold temps. I had no idea what the temp was other than I knew it was as cold or a little colder than I'd ridden in before when I factored in the wind. As the gravel passed under the 65 bypass I stopped to adjust my IPOD armband as it was slinking its way down past my elbow and beginning to bother me. I pealed off my jacket noting the solid layer of frost I'd been building up under it (nothing new) and pulled off my gloves as well. My hands had been comfortably warm all morning and were actually a bit damp with sweat, again nothing new. I got the armband adjusted and put the coat back on. Now time for the gloves. Oh shit, my left hand had stiffened up in the cold air and nearly become immobilized in just a minute or two. With a sweaty inner liner to my gloves and barely able to wiggle my fingers, I literally yanked the glove down over my hand to get the glove back in place. I was amazed at how hard it was getting the glove back on and felt lucky to get it on when I did. I realize I wasn't really in any major danger of losing an appendage to the cold as I had a number of alternate ways to heat it up, but it brought the risk involved with cold weather riding back to the forefront of my attention.
By now I was 2.5 hours in and ready for home. I rolled back in jumping on Army Post to head back to my place and got home with just over 3 hours on the clock and 37 miles down. Not a barn burner pace by any means, but it was good to get out and suffer for a bit. I'll need to draw on that this coming weekend when I head out for CIRREM. I'm short on long distance rides and though I know I can get it done, I need to know that I can put up with a little suffering too. I hope to see a number of you there.