Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thrown into the Pain Cave Blind

I have been helping out a teammate, Jonathan Dugas, with a performance testing project he is completing with some students. He really knows his stuff, as can be seen here. This stuff is way over my head, but I am a good at being a guinea pig. The testing is taking part at Benedictine University out in Lisle, IL. We started back in July with two different max power tests. These are done on a Velotron bike. This is a really cool piece of machinery. If I had an extra $10,000 lying around it would be a great home trainer. The fist max test consisted of staring a ride at 150 watts. The watts increased 20 watts per minute at a constant rate. The goal of the test was to ride as long as you could. I maxed out at 408 watts, so I rode for about 13 minutes. The next max power test consisted of riding for 3 minutes at a given wattage followed by 3 minutes rest. The test started at 150 watts, and increase by 25 watts for each hard effort. I made it through the 350 watt test, and halfway through the 375 watt test. The hardest part of the tests was breathing through the mask, and not being able to breathe through my nose. It becomes very claustrophobic and the nose portion of the mask feels up with snot.

These first two tests were to ensure I made the cutoff to continue in the program. The cutoff was a max wattage of 4 watts/KG, which I easily made. Jonathan was running into some roadblock with getting the testing protocol approved through the school, but after a few months we could now continue with the testing. The next portion of the testing consists of completing four-20 KM time trials. These tests will be done over several weeks. The first is a baseline test followed by 3 more TT’s. Jonathan says there is normally a learning process from the 1st TT to the next 3 efforts. Most riders improve by one to two minutes. The toughest part about these TT’s is that I have to do them “blind” and have no information to look at. All Jonathan provided is a that he lets me know when I have completed each 2 KM segment.

For these tests they switched to a mouth piece instead of the mask. It is a little bit better, but your nose is still clamped shut, and by the end I was covered in drool. After getting the bike setup and a good warm-up, I was off. My goal, go as hard as you can go, but don’t blow up. The first 2 km seemed like it took forever, and quickly realized this was going to be long and painful. I settled in trying to keep the pedals moving at a good rate. Not knowing my speed or watts, made it really difficult from a mental standpoint. I just kept pedaling, switch to a harder gear for a bit, then back, increase the cadence, keep ticking over the pedals. 4 km’s past, and I really thought I was going to have trouble completing the TT. I had the same sensation from Sunday at JP, where my legs just felt dead, there was no snap. I kept pedaling. I told myself to hold a stead rate up until 4 km’s to go, and then hopefully kick it up a gear for a strong finish. The km’s went by slooowly, finally reaching the 4km to go mark. Put it in a harder gear and go. I finished fairly strong, really sprinting to the finish. I have no idea how long it took me to finish, or my average watts. I will be provided this info after the testing is complete. Cycling is such a mental sport, and I realize now that I do much better when I have a carrot in front of me to keep me moving; whether it be a rider in front of me or a rider behind chasing me, or a wattage reading to follow, I really need something. Now I have to complete 3 more of these TT’s. Should be fun?!?!?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Moving in One Gear

My day started with a 5:20 wakeup call. Threw on some clothes, loaded up the Curtlo and the Paragon and put some coffee in the travel mug. Next was a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts for some coffee and donuts for the volunteers. After a quick drive to Jackson Park it was time to get the course up and running before the first race at 10:00. We had a small, but very focused group of guys to help set up the course, and after a few minutes of discussion we set off in different directions to play connect the dots with survey flags and SRAM tape. Riders started showing up around 8:00 in the morning for registration. Big thanks have to go out to Cecile for getting registration up and running, and making sure it ran like a well oiled machine throughout the day. After a mad scramble at 9:30 the course was finalized and we were ready to go. We had over 90 riders line up for the first races (Masters and Women 1,2,3). It was awesome to see that all our hard work had paid off and people actually showed up to compete. During the first races I realized that one section had been laid out in a different design and was allowing some riders to bunnyhop a barrier. Brian Parker and I had to quickly run and get some zip ties to hopefully keep the barrier in place. Lap after lap the barrier was taking more a beating. By the end the rebar was bent, and we decided to make a change prior to the next race. After some quick decision making we scrambled to move stakes and tape to create a really fun snakey section around some shrub plantings.

After watching a bit of the Juniors/Women 4’s race it was time to get ready for my race. I did a quick change into the XXX kit; and had enough time to eat a PB&J sandwich, down a couple of bottles of water, and head out on the course for a warm-up lap. The course was super fast, and I realized we were going to do a ton of laps in our 45 minute race. I lined up at the start with fellow XXX’rs: Nico Westlund, Brian Parker, Mike Stanley, Adam Clark, and Brian Boyle. The week before the race I told this guy that I fully expected him to win, and I was right. He was off like a madman never to be seen again. The race started, and I got an OK start. After rounding the baseball diamond, I was able to pass several guys heading into the first tech section with a fast move up the outside heading into the quick right, quick left section.. I nailed the barriers, and had a good run up. After the 180 degree turn, I had difficulty clipping in. I have new pair of shoes, and still haven’t been able to “stomp and go” the way I would like. After the 180 degree turn around the thorn bushes I still wasn’t clipped in, and lost several places. Finally back in the pedals and I was off. I jumped on the back of a train with Brian P. and Nico, and couple of other riders. I was hanging on the back, as we came into the newly designed snake section. I was trying to hang on for dear life, and knew being with this group was the difference between a top 10 placing and a Top 20 placing. As we came out of the snake I was gapped. I just didn’t have that next gear that I needed to hold on. It was one of those days, when your legs can’t keep up with your lungs. I never felt redlined, but I couldn’t get the legs to push a bigger gear. I rode the next couple of laps with a Turin rider. We battled back and forth, eventually being caught by Rich Delgado of Redline Racing. A few laps later Rich proceeded to dropped us, and I was left to battle it out with the Turin rider. With 3 to go, I could tell he was slowing. I put in an effort on the backside of the course and was able to open a gap. Unfortunately with one lap to go he was able to get back up to me. I really need a moral victory, so after the snakey section I put in one more effort to get in front of him, and was able to hold it to the finish, for 16th place.

After my race I had a short cooldown, and was back at it making sure the race was running smoothly. The Pro 1/2 race went off without a snag, and it was time for the best event of the day. The Men’s 4 race is really entertaining, with people of all different abilities out on the course. With 80 riders there is no doubt that there will be some entertaining moments. The looks on some of the rider’s faces are of pure terror, while others are smiling and having a great time. We had a couple of XXX’rs in the Top 10, which was great to see.

After the 4’s race it was clean up time. With a bunch of helpful people we were able to get everything torn down quickly. After a few minutes discussing the day’s events, I loaded up the car and was home by 5:30. The day really was one speed, and that was “Go, Go, Go”. My race was also done in one speed, and I know there is a ton of room for improvement. Not sure of my plans for this next weekend. I may do the Fall Color Festival race at Kettle Moraine or head to the Wisconsin Cross Race that has a strange TT format and two events on the Saturday schedule.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

STAR-CROSSED cyclocross 2006

Busy Days Ahead and Races in the Ville

As excited as I am for the first cross race of the year, I am just as excited for the first cross race to be over. Planning the Jackson Park race can be a stressful situation, but I know once I start seeing racers show up on Sunday it will all be worth it. It is great to have events so close to home, and if dealing with a little extra stress means me not having to drive to Wisconsin every weekend, it is definitely worth it. Before of this can happen, I have to fly down to Louisville, KY for my cousins wedding. I fly out on Friday evening, attend the wedding and fly back on Saturday evening. The flight is short, less than an hour, so things shouldn't be too stressful. I then get home, load up the Mazda, and get ready for the early wake up call on Sunday. Then is is course setup, make sure registration is running smoothly, and a few minutes to get ready for my race at 12:30.

Yesterday I signed up for the USGP races in Louisville. The races take place the last weekend in October. I am really excited about getting the chance to race in front of friends and family. Everytime I try to explain cyclocross racing to my family they give me this really strange look, which I guess is pretty understandable. I am a little dissapointed to see that my race is a Cat 2/3 event. As an average Cat 3 racer, there is a big jump between my ability and that of a Cat. 2 racer. It will still be a ton of fun, and most likely a major beat down. The other great part about the USGP events will be getting the chance to see the Pros race. I will be there with cowbell in hand with the rest of the cross fanatics.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Life's Too Short

This shouldn't happen ever, and it shouldn't happen to the same team twice in one year.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fall is in the Air!!

I went out for a run at lunch today. The weather was crisp and the skies blue. Really a perfect day in my mind. Fall is just around the corner. I headed over to a park in Lisle where I ran cross country races during high school. It brought back some painful memories, as I always suffered on this course, but I felt really good today tackling the hill in the middle of the park several times. Cyclocross season is just 10 days away!!!