Friday, June 24, 2011

Short track #4

The main reason for this post - Christina G, aka RedHeadedPhotographer took some awesome pictures this week (season) at short track and I wanted you to see them. Some of the best color and lighting I've ever seen. Check out her Facebook albums here and here.
Week 4 - climbing

Week 4 - through the woods

Week 1 - TwinSix Metal Kit

Brockman hot on my wheel week two or three
As for the boring race report part - I started mid pack, moved up to fourth behind Brockman and settled in. The body was good, but I was constantly fighting a mental battle to push through the pain that is lactic acid build up. Mitchell and Anthony left us again and I managed to keep Brockman in check until we got "one to go" instead of three due to Tornado Warning sirens. I caught him at the top of the climb, stayed close down the hill and passed him with a third of a lap to go. We're in a tight battle for third that should be decided by who wins between us next week with double points on the line.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Another State Champs weekend...

I owe a big thanks to my coach for having me ready for a big weekend of local racing...

I got to do this...
Jude Clark Memorial Criterium - Cat 3/4 Podium

And this...
KY State Road Race Championship - Cat 3 Podium
... on back to back days!!!

It was a great weekend of racing - there's no doubt about it! I have to admit, after a rest week a week ago followed by my worst half hour on a bike this year (Wednesday's STXC race) I wasn't all that optimistic.

Saturday morning the weather was awful. The 5's and 4/5's started in rain, but luckily it let up before our start and we only had a few wet laps. Early in the race a break of three got away that I knew I should have been in, but was just a bit late seeing it. The two danger men were Joel Eastman and Andrew Beckman of McDonalds and Clarksville Schwinn - both had 4+ guys in the field to block and their gap grew to nearly 30 seconds. In all honesty I was pretty sure we were racing for fourth, but thanks to a well timed field prime the field pulled the gap down, I took the prime but tasted the late breakfast of Papa Johns. Quickly a Clarksville rider, a McDonalds rider and I had a gap on the field and I knew if we could join forces with the break of three we'd be gone. No such luck, it all came back together. From then on I followed the right wheels and with 5 to go set up in the front six or so in the field and was comfortable, then somehow in the last turn I got pushed wide (by a shoulder) and came out about ninth. I didn't panic, and as the field opened their sprint to the left, I let it rip down the right side and took the W with about a bike length to spare!

Sunday's weather was no better in the morning but we rolled in, got ready and things cleared up. I lined up with 27 guys including two teams fielding five guys. The 1/2's were also combined with our field since there were only three of them. From the gun, McDonalds put a guy on the front and stretched it out. The occasional attack tried to go, but nothing got very far up the road. I was concerned about the climb, but after the first lap it didn't seem so bad. I put in a couple of small attacks but never fully committed and then on the final decent I decided to try and catch those that know me off guard and attacked with four miles to go. I got a gap, Slomo bridged across but the chase was on so we gave it up and geared up for the climb. I made it to the top second wheel and followed what I knew were solid wheels from then into the last turn. Bikeclicks started sliding up the right so I jumped on, then Slomo and Cornelius moved up the left so I jumped on there and opened up a decent sprint behind Nate to take second in the field and first Cat 3.

VeloVivid Photography got great shots of both days. Check out Jude Clark Crit photos and Head First Magazine/Waddy RR photos and support a great local photog!

And back to the beginning of the post and the Thank You - You've seen pictures, but never been officially introduced - my coach is Erik Fagerberg who works with Curtis Tolson Coaching. If you're interested in coaching services I'll gladly get you in touch with him. He has certainly made me stronger, faster and more disciplined while keeping it fun!

Friday, June 17, 2011

McDonald's Tri-State Criterium

I didn't get a lot of pictures, and it's been over a week so I'll keep it short and sweet.

The venue was AWESOME! It was a downtown four corner crit with better than average pavement and bars/restaurants/people scattered  all around adding a buzz to the course.

The payouts were HUGE! $1500 for the Cat 3/4 and $2500 for the Cat 1/2/3, you don't find that kind of money in a race often, thanks to McDonalds, Jeff's Bike Shop, and all the other great sponsors!

The field sizes were OK. For a first year race with a three day omnium, Mohican 100, and a state time trial all happening within six hours, the fields were actually pretty good but I expect this race will draw huge turnouts next year!

The 3/4 race contained a lot of familiar faces with a LOT of red and yellow McDonalds kits. Those guys played the tactics game nicely and got one guy up the road early, then another and then yet another while much of the rest of the field was content to let them go. I attempted to bridge a handful of times, but was too late and never made it across. With a lap to go the field was racing for fourth and Mr Sells jumped earlier than I expected, no one would chase so I went after him alone and finished fifth. Not the result I wanted, but the envelope still had a good amount of green stuff!

The 1/2/3 race was my first with the big boys and I had one goal - to hang on! The field was only 27 deep and while most of the favorites had fresh legs, about half of the guys were in a similar boat to me after racing either the 3/4 or the Master's. I stayed in the front ten or so for several laps, then saw the front (behind the break) for the first time about 18 minutes in, then until about 26 minutes in felt like I was going to die as the field began chasing the break. I kept drifting back spots in the straightaways until suddenly there was no where else to go - I was the last guy! This was the breaking point, either dig in and hold on for the rest of the race or pull the plug. I climbed back up a few places but still felt like hell when coach appeared and said, "Just hang on..." or something like that. A couple laps later, the field slowed a bit and I was able to recover and work my way back to the middle at least. Then with about seven lapping the field, I wanted to stay out of the way and let them do their thing. I had a little more in the legs during the last three laps getting in position, but again it was time to stay out of the way so I just sprinted from the last turn and held my place for 16th. Not great, but the goal of hanging on was exceeded - mission accomplished.

Since then I've had a couple more short track races, a lack of nutrition bonk at a five spot, and spent a weekend immersed in wedding festivities for the joining of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Jones. Now things are ramping back up for the Jude Clark Criterium and the KY State Road Race this weekend!

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Just a Bike Race"

Do you recognize this photo? How about the location? Were you there? 

This picture was taken in the mid to late 80's and the man off the front is the late Craig Holmes. I work with his daughter, who upon seeing a similar photo I had posted, dug up this photo and story her dad had written. While I never knew him, I think you will enjoy his story as much as I did. 

Just a Bike Race By Craig Holmes:
Does this photo provide a simple picture of a bicycle race? Can the visual articulation of unfolding drama appear in this photograph? Why does the young man lunge out on to the racecourse? How soon will the race end? Who ultimately triumphs? Yes, this snapshot disseminates all these answers and more.

A two-wheeled game of chess at thirty miles per hour just begins to describe bicycle racing. Teams of as few as two, up to a dozen, as well as individual cyclists create the group of racers termed “the pack” or “the peloton”. Teams wear colorful jerseys and shorts covered with so many sponsorship logos that cyclists flash past mimicking a moving wall of graffiti. Each team works against the others to enable one of their team-mates to win. Racers’ techniques depend of variables like location of their fastest cyclists in relation to other team’s top racers. One common tactic used in bike racing, called “blocking”, involves one or more team-mates riding to the front of the pack and actually slowing down which causes the entire pack to slow down. This allows another team-mate to sprint away from the group, and if the blocking succeeds they also prevent their partner from being chased down by the pack. Racers react to blocking by swarming around the blockers in an attempt to chase down anyone breaking away from the pack. Blocking provides only brief pauses in the pace and requires continual effort to keep the speed down. Team members who block pay a high price with the draining of their strength while repeatedly sprinting around everyone to get to the front and block again. As the race progresses, favored status may shift from one team-mate to another due to blocking tactics by other teams.

Criterium bike racing throbs with excitement. Great viewing, due to laps of less than a half mile, benefits the spectators as the competitors round the same course many times. Cornering at top speed, four and five abreast in a pack, requires nerves of steel and extreme bike handling skills. Fans, as in other high speed sports, love the thrill of possible crashes. Cyclists race in several different categories based on age and skill. Skill rankings provide four levels. Racers begin in Category 4 and move up to 3, 2, and 1, as finish placement awards them points toward progression. Typically each category has a separate race. A full schedule of racing uses an entire day.

This photograph shows the bottom two-thirds of a key-hole shaped criterium course of just under a half mile in length. The entry-way of an old train station, rising slightly from surrounding parking areas, makes up the lanes of the race course. A giant grey swath of pavement cutting across from upper right to lower left dominates the lower part of the picture. Small shadows directly beneath the riders tell the time near noon on this hot, sunny day. In the upper left corner, the median of dry sunburnt grass about twenty yards wide divides the parallel lines of pavement from the foreground portion of the course. A tent the color of Virginia Bluebells provides shade for some spectators. Hurricane fence restricts access to the race course from the median in some places while bright highway-orange cones demark other boundaries. The connecting lane at the bottom of the course barely shows at the photograph’s top.

I approach the photographer as a solitary racer in the Thirty Five Year Plus category race. My jersey sports watermelon red epaulets which hopefully catch the eye of finish line officials as they pick places at the finish line. My yellow and white helmet cover displays logos of companies sponsoring the Louisville Wheelmen Racing Team to which I belong. The white field on my backs shows logos but also reflects heat on sunny days. The peloton follows, chasing me up a small rise in the road. From the side, a young man steps out between traffic cone barriers towards me. From the style of the sandals and his shaven legs, you can tell he also races bicycles. Bobby, my team mate, will race later in a different category. He yells encouragingly to me. The peloton either laps me or they fight to bring me back to the pack. I struggle mightily to stay ahead. Aerodynamic posture, bulging arms shiny with sweat, and a death grip on the handlebars, portray my strain. The question endures; getting lapped or winning the race? The answers comes from the truth that once lapped, a bike racer feels defeated. The racer back in the top of the picture shows this dramatically. He sits up, no longer trying to stay in the race. Chasers at the pack’s front also answer this puzzle. Their posture imitates my strain. Like my battle to stay ahead, they struggle to catch me. If they don’t reel in the leader, I might maintain the gap until the finish. Their concern for my lead also means that the finish nears and they dare not ignore my attack.

The final drama begins. What thoughts fill my mind and tell me I can break away from the peloton this close to the finish? What information hides from the camera convincing me to give my all for a chance to win the race? Why not hang on until the finish sprint like most of the others? Garry and Randy race with me on the Louisville Wheelmen team. Today they ride in the pack. During the race I feigned breakaways to test the other team’s racers for their strength. Power courses through my well-trained legs today. I can dominate with my speed. Feeling fast and with team-mates to block, what more does any experienced racer need! How can I, as the fast leader, know teamwork and self-sacrifice are unknown concepts to my self-centered team-mates? As the shutter exposes the film for this story, no one blocks. Realistically, no team exists to support me. Truly I remain the lone bicycle racer. In merely half a lap, as all riders approach the finish, the unrestrained pack devours me, the ambitious athlete, and I wearily finish somewhere near the back of the pack. Neither of the unhelpful team members wins the finish sprint. “I was saving myself for the sprint so I couldn’t block for you” held no consolation for me, the defeated cyclist.

This story tells of non-verbal communication based on situational analysis in a dynamic high speed group effort. The importance of role comprehension and execution appear in the failure to win the race by a team unable to work together. Bicycle racing marries the individual’s goal of success with the balancing act of deciding when to sacrifice any chance of winning to make it possible for another team member to attempt to win.

Concepts of behavior required in successful bike racing cross over into numerous endeavors. These typically include any activity requiring cooperation and teamwork. Many occupations also require nonverbal communication and demand that team members reassess changes and adapt actions accordingly. During clandestine combat missions soldiers cannot sit around chatting about the attack without detection. They must understand each others’ roles and know the goals of the mission to allow adaptations that all will follow without verbal communication to avoid discovery. Educators face a similar challenge with students. When students show signs of restlessness, the teacher has the responsibility to shift their approach to regain interest from the class. Leading questions from the teacher promote participation and greater understanding from the class. Enhanced learning will succeed if the students follow their role to respond. Many problems occur when communication disintegrates. Athletes lose, writers don’t publish, and students struggle to learn.

This photograph graphically depicts the potential of success. I can win this race only with my team-mates’ help. Garry and Randy have roles to play as soon as I break away from the pack. They should analyze the facts and act. I cannot turn around and remind them of their responsibilities. Seeing the gap between me and the peloton, combined with having only two laps to go, screams at them to give everything they have to block the pack for my chance to win.

(Note: The racers' names have been changed since I did not talk with those gentlemen before posting.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Day Training Block

Thursday I used some credit hours and did three solo hours over to Blunk Knob and back setting new CP5 and CP6 numbers while riding somewhat conservatively up my favorite hill around. Friday was an easy day with a little extra walking around Valhalla Golf Club for the Senior PGA Championship and the real riding came on Saturday. Coach called it the "4 Hour Epic Chunk Ride". He threw a little bit of everything at me and mother nature had an extra twist to add to the mix but I felt good and got to ride some roads I grew up travelling in the dark while hunting raccoon!

Turtle save
About 45 minutes into the ride, I felt something stick me and as I brushed away the honey bee, I saw the stinger pulsating in my inner thigh, just inches from my unmentionables! Luckily it was between 20 minute efforts and I was able to just spin along making sure I wasn't going to swell up or pass out. It hurt, but that gave me something to think about other than tiring muscles. Once I was sure I'd survive the honey bee venom, I upped the pace for another 20 minutes and then did odd and end intervals and finished with a lot of "sweet spot" on a beautiful sunny day.
Saturday's route
Sunday was supposed to be 3 hours, but the body and mind wouldn't work together (the bourbon from the night before probably didn't help either) so it got cut short but still with some rollers and headwind riding toward the end. I was still reminded how much I miss country roads. Over the two days I covered most of the roads for the MS100 ride and all basically in my parents' backyard!

Monday was the Mayor's Hike and Bike and Paddle and after a 4:15am wake up followed by a nap, I almost didn't make it. But, like always there were a handful of people interested in pushing the pace so I joined in. After a while it was just Tim Omer and myself cruising along at 24mph. Other than the delayed start, it was a great event - it's super cool seeing thousands of people riding their bikes as we headed back into town! I didn't see a final number but the mass of people seemed almost endless!

Monday evening I skipped the Lexington Crit and chose to do a little fishing instead. Sometimes the body needs a break and the mental boost doesn't hurt either!
Summer dusk buzz bait catch