Monday, March 29, 2010

1st Road Race in VA

Yesterday was the area's first road race of the year, and my first in VA. Driving down to Charlottesville Saturday afternoon, I was a bit nervous due to the UK game against WV in the Elite Eight, and not knowing how well I'd perform in the race due to my lack of "training" this year.

Saturday night UK plays its worst game of the halftime, I got even more nervous...and by the end I was an emotional wreck. I was glad that we left the Wild Wing Cafe at halftime, or I would've been too hungover Sunday morning for any kind of racing.

After the game, I shift my attention to the race. Thoughts were mainly of the "why the hell are you doing this?" variety. This year I've ridden in a grand total of 1 group ride. Most of my riding has been commuting...although I've taken 2 "extended commutes" to do some loops at Hains Point, I hardly call that training for a race. On top of that, I ran that marathon a week ago. I just didn't want to get dropped...that was the only goal. In a field of 125 Cat 4s, I knew I would have to find a place to hide in the peloton and just survive.

So, I thought about all these things and eventually got to sleep at 1am for a 5am wakeup. I'm pretty obsessive about the weather, so I check 2 weather rain until 2pm, and temps in the 40s for most of the race. Good...just have to decide what to wear.

Show up with about an hour to go. There are a ton of people there...haven't seen anything like it for a road race. I meet my teammates...nice dudes, no one was too serious talking about how we're going to execute tactic A to get rider B up in position...I liked that. A few of the guys had the same idea as me..."not get dropped" or "get dropped as late as possible in the race."

Decide to leave my jacket in the car.

"Neutral" rollout to the start. A lot of guys going up the left side to jockey for position. I start the rollout in the front 1/3 of the peloton...end up in the back 1/3 at the start. So much for neutral.

First lap is pretty tame. It's a ten mile loop with some tight corners and a few small hills. There was always some acceleration on the hills and out of the turns, but the leaders always seemed to slow down and the pack didn't get strung out too bad.

Lap 2 was a little more interesting as it started to drizzle.

Lap 3, drizzle turned to rain. Roads were slick, made the descents pretty hairy...considering there were potholes (from Snowmaggedon) and loose gravel all over the place. I was surprised there were no accidents.

Started lap 4 still in the peloton, but feeling a bit worn. The accelerations on the hills and turns were starting to take their toll. On the first turn of lap 4, there's a small climb. I lost contact with the pack going up the climb...a lot of riders did. I tried to limit the losses...probably 100ft back from the end of the pack. I then did something I never do...hammer the descent. Was a bit risky in the rain, but my the end of the descent I was back in the pack. I'd have to do this one more time in this lap as I was at my limit. With 1.5k to go, I was still in the peloton. At that point, there's a sharp turn. As the pack rounded the turn, the leaders throttled up the pace for the sprint. I lost contact shortly after the turn. I managed to keep myself about 50m back. As I approached the finish, I see 3 dudes laying on the road...there'd been a crash. So, getting dropped when I did may have been a good thing.

So, after the race, I stop to talk to my teammates. After a couple of minutes we decide to ride back to the car. That stopping was a big mistake. I was shaking the whole ride...thought for sure I'd catch hypothermia during that 2 mile ride to the car. I managed to pack up the car and drive back to the hotel shaking the whole way. Didn't feel right until I took a hot shower.

Overall a good race...happy about not getting dropped until the last minute. Even at my best, I can't sprint. The Jefferson Cup lived up to its "Spring Classic" billing, with cold temps, rain and rough roads through a beautiful countryside.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

National Marathon and peeing in a bottle

Yesterday we ran the National Marathon in DC.

My job was to make sure Sonya finished in 3:45. I was a domestique of sorts, watching the clock and controlling the pace.

Day got off to a bad start, as we decided to drive to the start. I discovered that there are no signs for the Southeast Freeway when driving from the south. I knew I was going the wrong way, so I exited 395 and recalculated directions...saved by the iPhone. After getting back on course, we hit some thick traffic. With about 40 minutes to race start, I knew we'd be cutting it close. To further compound my stress, the cup of coffee and bottle of water was making its way through my system rather quickly...with nowhere to go, i chugged the rest of the water bottle and decided to use it. The last time I peed in a bottle was a Corona bottle in a Seoul Subway Station back in 2001. It was a wild night on my first weekend in Korea and I didn't know what to do...seemed like a good idea at the time, and it worked. Yesterday's story was a little different...I forgot how to do what seemed easy, and let's just say I ended up with a wet steering wheel.

I eventually made it to the parking lot at 6:45...only 15 minutes to cover a 1/2 mile walk to the start. When I got to the parking lot, I discovered that there was no one there to direct traffic or park cars...pure parking chaos. I ended up going to down a lane that kept narrowing, eventually converging...knowing I'd get stuck, I found a narrow spot next to a tree and parked the car, hitting a few limbs along the way. The Sport Utility Prius came in handy. We parked the car, geared up and ran to the start with 5 minutes to spare. We started in the 7:00 min/mile pace group, which means we were near a lot of 300-pound walkers. Why do runners lie?

We started out with a strong pace...eventually had to tell Sonya to slow it down as we were knocking out 7:50 miles. After about 4 miles, we settled into a comfortable pace. At mile 6, I decided to hit a water station. I looked behind me to make sure I wasn't cutting anyone off, then reached for a cup. Before I got the cup, some dude pushes my hand out of the way and grabs the water for himself. He caught me off guard, so I said, "hey watch it F&^er!"...he mouths something. I told him he didn't need to be pushy, there's plenty of water, and it's not like he's in contention for the win. He continued to mouth something. Feeling powerful, due to the mustache, I tell him my bib number and that if he has a problem, we can settle it after the race. Talking that trash probably wasn't the smartest move, but I knew the guy was full of hot the Fred on the Mount Vernon Trail, and I wasn't in danger of getting my ass kicked...typical DC asshole.

The next 14 miles were pretty uneventful. Although the course not being as flat as advertised, with some pretty long gradual climbs, we kept a strong pace. At mile 20, we were about 4 minutes ahead of our 3:45 pace. At that point, my legs started to feel tired, and I knew that I'd be slowing down...Sonya was feeling good, so I told her to not let me pass her and she'll be fine. I knew I could still make the 3:45:59, but it would be close. She took off, and I settled into a 9:00/mile pace, which felt pretty easy after averaging 8:15s. Ended up finishing at 3:45:30...Sonya kicked my butt with a 3:43. Domestique job was successful. Sonya gets to run Boston next year, which means she'll forever have that blue jacket which she'll wear to every race for the rest of her life, which lets other runners know she's legit. I get to stop running for awhile and enjoy some nice days on the MTB trails.
After the race, celebrated with a kickass meal and great beers at Rustico.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


The weather has sucked lately....Potomac is flooded, trails are all mucked up.

Sunday we went downtown...beat the crowds to see the Cherry Blossoms...ok, nothing's there yet, so this photo is for comparison of what a few weeks can make around here.
Went for a run Monday, a good portion of the Mount Vernon Trail was underwater.
It has been good mustache growing weather however. Here's what I looked like on Day 14.

Sun came out today and it's in the 60s. I'm still metroing, somewhat tapering for the National Marathon this weekend. It's painful to walk back from the metro seeing all the fairweather Freds on their bikes. Today, I took the Epic on a little spin through the neighborhood with the boys. I think no matter how much I beat myself up this Saturday in the marathon, I'm going to make it out for the Baker's Dozen MTB race pre-ride. No time to waste...first road race is next weekend, and first MTB race a few weeks later. Hopefully it will stay dry for awhile.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fred awakes

It looks like Spring began to poke its head out this past weekend.  Sure enough, the bike path is crowded again.  It's nice to see more people out commuting and riding, but most of the time I'm missing those lonely days of 20-degree rides in January.

 Most folks know how to ride and obey the rules (both written and unwritten) of the trail and road.  Some Fairweather Freds (and Fredettes) throw the rules out the door, endanger the rest of us, while giving us a bad name amongst the driving and walking public.  If only the dude at the intersection that had to hit his brakes for the stoplight running Fred thought "oh, that was just a damn Fred!"…instead, he thinks "Jackass cyclist!"

Today was the nicest day of 2010 so-far…that's not saying much, but it was a nice Spring-like crisp morning…perfect riding weather.  When I headed out the door, I decided to take an "extended commute" and get a workout with a few laps of Hains Point before rolling into the office.  I usually see very few (if any) riders in the first few miles.  Today, I got within site of a rider near Duke Street…the most congested area of my ride.  I'll call the dude, Fred #1.  Fred #1 was riding a beater old road bike and a motley outfit consisting of knickers a sweatshirt and a backpack.  This guy ignored pretty much every light and stop sign along Commonwealth Avenue, causing a few cars to make abrupt stops.  Fearing backlash from Fred #1, after a few intersections, I purposely slowed down to distance myself.

As I hit the bike path, I noticed that there were quite a few more riders than usual. I found myself continually shouting out "on your left".  I also noticed an extra shadow…a wheel sucker, known as Fred #2.  I really don't mind someone drafting off me, just tell me you're going to do it…there are too many obstacles (runners, Freds from the other direction riding 2 abreast) to worry about for a paceline on the trail to be a good idea.

I make a quick diversion to Hains Point to get in a few laps before work.  When I get there, I see a dude about 50 yards up avec backpack, apparently doing the same thing at a slightly slower pace.  After about 4 miles of slowly gaining on the guy, I decide to bridge the gap, say hi and possibly trade pulls with the guy if there's any interest.  As I get closer, it looks like he's a legit rider.  I say hi…nothing. I'm not the most outgoing guy in the world, but if someone says hi to me, I at least say hey back.  Looks like I have a bike snob…Fred #3.  If I'm going to be snubbed by a Fred, I'll crush him.  So, I did that…dropped the hammer and didn't see the dude again.  This guy was more of an annoyance than anything, but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't give the obligatory "on your left" while timetrialing the Mt Vernon like a fair-weather weekend Lance.

So, after 3 laps of Hains, I decide to head to work.  This is a little later than my normal ride, so I see a ton of commuters coming in the opposite direction.  I pass a few going my way, but not a lot.  Eventually I roll off the trail into Rosslyn.  One thing I've noticed in this area is that if you see a sign saying "Bicycle Friendly Community", you better take cover when on bike.  Arlington is anything but that on its streets.  I've seen 2 people hit by cars in this area over the last 6 months and have had a few close calls myself.  For that reason, I cautiously roll on the sidewalks for the .4 miles from trail to office.  Today, I get behind a couple of AF folks in PT gear in a crosswalk…I slowly attempt to go around them, when a Fredette comes hauling ass sans helmet, threading the needle between me and the AF PTers.  She nearly knocks over one of the Airmen, and pushes me into the road with oncoming traffic.  She then hits the curb at an odd angle, almost crashing herself.  Once she gets going again, I yell at her…she ignores me, then she crosses the path of a few pedestrians, rides through an intersection, running a red light, and finally disappears as she hauls ass down a one way street.

Hopefully the early Spring buffoonery is a result of Fred's over-exuberance to get back on the trails after a tough Winter.  I'm hoping he'll settle down, maybe get bored with the riding…maybe realize that there's a code of ethics on the trail…maybe have a close call with a car while running a red light, enough to scare her to not be a menace.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Ride

Finally made it out to the NCVC Espresso Ride...the club's last of the year. It's been a real challenge to make it out, since every chance I had to go out, the weather sucked and the ride cancelled. This was also my first group ride in over 7 months. It looked like a 100ish riders made it out today, so a great reintroduction to group riding.

Ride goes through DC and parts of MD. Post-snowmaggedon roads in DC suck, with potholes all over the place. Potholes are an annoyance on a solo or small group ride, but downright dangerous in such a large group. I almost lost it on the way out of Georgetown, narrowly missing a 3ft wide pothole. The ride was fairly tame until about 15 or so miles into it, when we started climbing a fairly short hill...I was sitting towards the back when I noticed the guys up at the front pushing up the pace. I hit the gas and started passing folks on the way up the hill, coming within a few wheels length of a small group of 15 or so riders...took a minute to catch my breath and the hit it again...I narrowly missed latching on to the group and was in no-man's land for awhile. Luckily there was a regroup a mile or so up the road. Ride was uneventful for the next few miles, then a dumbass in a van decided he didn't want to wait behind a group of 100 riders doing the speed limit downhill, so he merged into the group, just in front of me, almost pushing me off the road...nice. I'm not sure what the hurry was all about. A few miles later, the ride split with a group "riding a bit longer", and the rest doing the standard 45-miles...normally, I'd opt for the long ride, but since the "bit longer" wasn't defined for me, and I'm supposed to be tapering for a marathon in 2 weeks, I opted for the planned 45. There were a few sprints that caught me off guard, but I was able to chase and catch those that started the sprint...happy about having a few decent riding skills. I was doubting myself after this long layoff, but have faith that I can finish comfortably "middle of the pack" in the 2 road races I'm signed up for in the next month.

Got the new Garmin Edge, so I'm playing with Garmin Connect...I still haven't mastered the Edge, and kept it running while on the metro...the 55mph reading is when the metro was above ground near National Airport.

Garmin Connect -
Activity Details for Untitled

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lemond's First Ride

After nearly a month of sitting in the basement, and aside from the occasional trainer "ride", the Lemond has finally hit the streets.  Have ridden both days this week.  This is the first time since late January, where I've been able to ride on consecutive days.
Here's my commute log since I started working in Northern VA back in September.  Hopefully it will stay dry enough for me to rack up some more 400-500 mile months on the commuter route.  If I rode every day this month (a 31-day month starting on Monday), I could get a maximum of 598 miles...that won't happen due to leave, but a 400-500 mile month is reasonable. Of course, rain and snow are forecasted for tonight.  I should just man-up (it is Mustache March after all, the most manly month of the year) and ride in the rain...but then I'd have to clean the bike.  I'm already sitting better than February, and November's numbers are within grasp this week...I'm really just happy to be back on the bike instead of the metro/bus combo.
The Lemond is running smooth...haven't detected any problems with my mechanical skills yet.  I was fearing that the crank would fall off somewhere on Eisenhower Avenue, causing me to fall in the middle of angry traffic rushing to the Patent and Trademark Office...those PTO folks can be some angry, aggressive, and distracted drivers. 
I also was able to crack open a new toy Monday...the Garmin Edge 500.  After years of riding stat-free, or relying on my Garmin ForeRunner (running GPS) which had numerous bike fails, I now have bike dedicated stats.  Graphs to follow, once I start downloading. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mustache March

It is that time of year again, when bare faced mortals shed their inferior
lifestyles and begin to cultivate their upper lip follicles in the glorious
celebration that is:

Mustache March!!

Aside from growing a 'stache, it's a time to honor the mustached heros of the past:




If you think you can't grow a mustache, you're wrong. Everyone has the power of the mustache inside of them, it's just a matter of believing in yourself. Don't be the guy that makes an excuse. Be the guy that's jamming a mustache no matter what it looks like.

Time to man up!