June 30, 2010

Peoria Classic

We traveled to Peoria on Sunday for the Peoria Classic (formerly Proctor Classic) bike races. I did the cat 5 crit in Peoria in 2006 and 2008. Both times I was separated from the main field by a crash directly in front of me and I finished off the back all by myself. I didn't have high expectations.

Four other Wild Card riders were in the cat 4 race this year, Luke, Jason, Nick, and Mike. At the start of the race they announced the names of the top five riders in the Illinois Cup series. Jason was 5th and Mike was 2nd. None of the other three riders were there so two guys from our team made their way to the starting line before everyone else. This meant everyone else in the race would be keeping an eye on us. I would have preferred to fly under the radar.

The race started and I somehow ended up leading the pack into the first turn, so I figured I'd get things started. I lead for most of the first lap before moving aside for the next guys in the line. I dropped back into the pack nearly at the back, where I stayed for most of the race.

The race was fast (26 mph average speed for 40 minutes) and there were eight turns per lap. Turning at high speed in tight packs is not my favorite thing, but I handled it much better in this race than in any previous crit... which is good. The first five turns were straightforward. After the sixth turn (into the headwind) of every lap I had to sprint to catch back up to the group, just in time for everyone to slow down before turn seven. On the finishing straightaway I had the opportunity to move up a few places and start the whole thing over again. My average heart rate was 171, right at my aerobic threshold. So I was definitely working hard.

With four laps to go I moved up a few too many places on the finishing straight and somehow went off the front. So, like the first lap, I lead the group for most of a lap, then pulled off and dropped back again. The race was super hot and by the end it was really taking a toll on me. I stayed with the pack the final few laps and into the finish. I had nothing left on the last lap to move up much. I finished near the back of the lead pack in 26th place out of 42 riders. Mike was 4th, Luke was 12th, Jason was 17th, Nick stopped just before the end after trying to help set Mike up for a strong finish.

I'm fairly happy with how the race went for me. I wasn't expecting spectacular results, and I didn't achieve spectacular results, but my steadily improving fitness gives me greater confidence for the next race (whatever that may be). I think a couple guys on the team were hoping for better results, but we did okay regardless. There will other races.

June 16, 2010

The many hills of San Francisco

Last week the whole family was out in San Francisco while I attended Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). This was my ninth WWDC (two in San Jose and seven in San Francisco), missing out only in 2006 when Apple held the conference in August (for some reason) the week after we moved to Nicaragua.

The conference was good, even if the ridiculously growing size does get a little more frustrating each year. The technical sessions are all covered by non-disclosure agreements, so I won't discuss any of them (as if you cared).

The keynote (which some of you may remember I participated in back in 2005) was also good. Unfortunately, due to the size of the conference I keep showing up earlier and earlier to get in line for the keynote and I keep ending up farther and farther back in line. I showed up a little over three hours early this year. The line was nearly one mile long, and I barely squeaked into some of the back rows of the conference room filled with over 5,000 people. The new iPhone looks pretty awesome. In fact, William just bought me one for Father's Day. Wasn't that nice?

Will in the big city

While we were there I purposely didn't adjust to the different time zone so I would continue wake up early to go for a ride on the Pocket Rocket each morning before the conference. The first morning I tackled Twin Peaks, which, at over 800 feet above sea level, is one of the highest points in the city. Shortly after the climb begins it kicks straight up to 17%, which was a tough first hill for someone who lives in Illinois. It stays steep for a good long three city blocks before leveling out to a more reasonable 11-12%. Of course, it was super foggy that particular morning, so I couldn't see anything at the top. If I could have seen anything it would have looked like this (photo from last year).

Market Street

Anyway, I had to hurry straight back in order to stand in a really long line for hours. It was just eight miles with a total of 850 feet of climbing entirely in the third and fourth miles.

The next day I rode up one of the steepest hills I've found in the city (Kearny between Broadway and Vallejo, the road is closed to traffic). It's somewhere in the ballpark of 25-30%. I had to lean really far forward to keep from tumbling over backward. Yes, that steep... but only for a block. After that was Telegraph Hill up to Coit Tower. This climb was used in the prologue of the Tour of California the first few years of the race.

Financial district

But that was just the first few miles. I followed the bay shoreline to the Golden Gate Bridge and rode across to the Marin Headlands. I intended to climb Hawk Hill, but the road was closed half way up so I took a detour to somewhere I'd never been before, which was amazing.




Tuesday's ride had 2200 feet of climbing in 26 miles.

Wednesday I took a break because I felt a little twinge in my calf after Tuesday's ride and I didn't want to risk making it worse. Fortunately the twinge only lasted a day and by Thursday morning I was back at it. I hit Twin Peaks again, this time better prepared for the steepness. Instead of turning around there I continued on through Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, past the Cliff House, the Legion of Honor, the Presidio (along the bike course for the Alcatraz Triathlon I did in 2003), across the bridge to the Marin headlands, and partway up Hawk Hill before turning around and heading home. Just for kicks I rode up Russian Hill and Nob Hill on the way back through town. Russian Hill on Hyde street is 23% for a few city blocks--too steep to sit, too steep to stop (you wouldn't be able to start back up).



Thursday's ride was 2800 feet of climbing in 27 miles.

Friday I tackled Mt. Tamalpais for the Nth time. Last year I rode Mt. Diablo instead, so I was happy to be back on familiar ground. After cool weather all week it was super hot on Friday. This made the mountain that much more difficult. I doubt I made my fastest ascent of the mountain that day, but I steadily knocked out each of the 10 miles from bottom to top.

Mt. Tam may not be as high as Mt. Diablo, but it sure is a lot more scenic, offering a lot more wooded areas, as well as ocean views.

Mt Tam

Mt Tam

Mt Tam

Mt Tam view

Mt Tam view

San Francisco from the top of Mt. Tam

Bridge and Mt Tam

Here's the opposite view: Mt. Tam from San Francisco

Friday's ride was 4114 feet of climbing (2500 on Mt. Tam) in 50 miles.

Saturday I skipped a ride in favor of lots of walking and hiking with the family. Here's William and me hiking the coastal trail, which was part of the run course for the Alcatraz Triathlon I did in 2003.

Two sweaty guys hiking the Coastal Trail

We all had a great trip. Check out William's blog for lots more family photos.

June 7, 2010

The O'Fallon Grand Prix No-Drop Group Ride

"Enough of this Sunday stroll. Let's hurt a little."

-Barry The Cannibal Muzzin (American Flyers)

Saturday was the Illinois state championship cycling road race. A decent group of riders from my Wild Card Cycling team headed down to O'Fallon for the race. The hot weather and rolling hills should have provided a very challenging race. I wanted to do what I could to help my teammates out before dropping off the pace by the end.

We had five Wild Cards from Champaign in the cat 4 race (Jason, Tom, Luke, Scott, and me), along with one Wild Card from St. Louis (Mike). The races started a bit late, at which point the weather was already becoming a bit unbearable. The temperature was in the low 90's and the humidity was high. Fortunately the skies were still overcast at this point, though the sun would come out later.

Mark & Nick
Mark and Nick rode the cat 3 race

I made a point to start near the front, after starting too far back in my last three races. The speed was moderately easy the first part of the race. Nobody pushed the pace, nobody broke away. The course had an awful lot of turns (I'm not sure there was more than one mile straight the entire 22.5 mile loop), which caused some accordion effect at the back of the group. Later in the first loop a few people tried to push the pace (mostly my teammate Luke) but nothing stuck. At one point I almost shouted out "Enough of this Sunday stroll. Let's hurt a little." but I didn't think anyone would get the American Flyers reference.

Scott put in a pretty good attack at the start of the second and final loop. I thought this would finally heat up the race, but it was not to be. The other teams chased him down and sat on his wheel the same as they had been doing to Luke the whole race. Scott and Luke alternated near the front trying to push the pace, but nobody else and any interest in working... but they also had no interest in letting Luke or Scott go.

Scott & Luke
Luke and Scott both spent a lot of time at the front when nobody wanted to work with them

Mid-way through the second lap Jason got a flat tire. He was probably our best chance for a win. The hills hadn't made as much of a difference in the race as I had hoped. First, they were all big ring climbs, not steep enough or long enough. Second, with narrow roads and slow riders in front, we climbed... the... hills... so... slow... and then slowed down even more once we reached the top. I don't think anyone dropped off the back.

At one point I passed a few guys on the right and, without trying, somehow ended up off the front of the slow-moving group. Whatever. Let's push the pace a little. I ramped it up to 25-26 mph and pulled for a mile or so to try to string the group out a little. I flicked my elbow for the next guy to pull through. Nothing. I pulled a little longer. Nothing. I slowed down. They slowed down with me. I slowed down more. They slowed down more. I stopped pedaling. Nobody passed me. By the time I was coasting at 16 mph someone eventually reluctantly passed me and I dropped back in a few places.

Art and Shea (not pictured) rode the cat 5 race

The last 10 miles of the race were 10 of the most frustrating miles I've ever ridden. We were going 16-17 mph. The whole group was still together. The group was all bunched up and nobody had any room to move up. I don't know who the hell was blocking the entire race or what the hell they were thinking, but I was pissed. 2000 meters to go, 18 mph. 1000 meters to go, under 20 mph. The last hill should have split the group, but again we took it incredibly slowly. I had no room to move. I had to stop pedaling several times to avoid running into slower riders.

800 meters from the finish line the race started. This final stretch was closed to traffic and the road was five lanes wide. 40 relatively fresh riders now decided to sprint to the finish. It was pandemonium. People were weaving all over the place. 500 meters from the finish I sat up and soft pedaled. I had no interest in dying for some shitty race.

We waited three hours (for a chip-timed bike race!) for the results to be posted, only to find out Luke & Tom (and about 10 other people) had been disqualified for crossing over the centerline of the road at some point during the race. Now, I'm sure they did cross over the center line. I certainly did a few times. Everyone in the race did a few times. The DQed riders can't really complain that they didn't break the rules, they did. I'm completely baffled at how a dozen riders were DQed and the many, may others who broke the same rule weren't DQed.

So, the good news is I had a decent training ride and got a chance to improve my group riding skills. I handled the heat surprisingly well. The hills were a non-issue despite no hill training. The bad news is that the race was frustratingly slow. I got caught in the middle of a 40 person bunch sprint, which was scary as hell. Jason got a flat. Luke & Tom got DQed. I'm not upset that I didn't win--I should have had no chance to win. I was far from the best rider in that race. I shouldn't even have finished with the lead pack. The race should have been a lot harder. More riders should have been dropped. That wasn't really even a race. It was more of a group ride that ended with a sprint finish.

June 3, 2010

May 2010 Stats

Photo of the Day

Still going.


Easy go

After the Illinois Marathon at the beginning of the month I took a week off, then I took another week very easy. Half way through the month I picked up my training again and I feel that I am getting back into shape pretty well. I had a decent run at my first Buffalo Trace trail race. Then I ran pretty well at the Memorial Day 5K at the end of the month. Of the seven times I ran in May, three were races.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January109.05 Mile1010.905 Mile
February76.18 Mile89.5225 Mile
March84.86 Mile108.486 Mile
April83.15 Mile99.23889 Mile
May57.95 Mile78.27857 Mile
Total411.19 Mile449.34523 Mile



Cycling also took a bit of a back seat while I recovered from the marathon. Since then I've stepped up the quantity and quality of training and I definitely feel like I'm starting to get into decent shape on the back after a very slow start to the season. I did the two local criteriums, as well as a practice time trial on my new bike... all with slightly disappointing results. But I'm getting there.

May 2010 by bike

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi52.6 Mile95.84444 Mile
Big Red14.5 Mile27.25 Mile
Lynskey15.85 Mile115.85 Mile
Pocket Rocket69.85 Mile234.925 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird213.09 Mile635.515 Mile
Total365.89 Mile2018.2945 Mile

January - May 2010 by bike

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi225.4 Mile307.51333 Mile
Big Red14.5 Mile27.25 Mile
El Fuego40.9 Mile113.71818 Mile
Lynskey15.85 Mile115.85 Mile
Pocket Rocket101.12 Mile425.28 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird1102.85 Mile3531.51 Mile
Total1500.62 Mile8318.0798 Mile

Cycling 2010 by month

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January166.25 Mile208.3125 Mile
February140.67 Mile1211.7225 Mile
March508.83 Mile1828.2683 Mile
April318.98 Mile1324.5369 Mile
May365.89 Mile2018.2945 Mile
Total1500.62 Mile8318.0798 Mile



I think all the walking really helped me recover from the marathon. Probably half of this was to and from work. The other half was pushing Will around town in the stroller.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January28.66 Mile93.18444 Mile
February51.45 Mile163.21563 Mile
March34.7 Mile103.47 Mile
April44.35 Mile114.03182 Mile
May48.75 Mile143.48214 Mile
Total207.91 Mile603.46517 Mile