July 30, 2012

Race to your strengths

Or: The Great Egyptian Omnium

My cat 4 teammate Jason and I rode the Great Egyptian Omnium in southern Illinois last weekend. It was a good event that both of us enjoyed.

Road Race

We started the rolling 20 mile loop into a headwind, so it was pretty slow. Nobody wanted to be at the front. There were mostly teams of 1-3, except for one team with like 7-8. A few miles in the leaders finally started looking organized with a rolling pace line. I pulled when it was my turn and… nobody pulled through after me (I was at the end of the line). So much for organization.

When we turned back into the tailwind the pace picked up and the race split a few times, but nobody was willing to push the speed to take advantage of the splits. There were omnium points available at the end of the end of the first loop, but I didn't go for it. I was hoping to save everything for the end of the race.

The second loop was much like the first, though the pack had thinned out a bit. There was a bit more cooperation and we were able to ride a bit harder into the wind. I was staying well hydrated. I had eaten reasonably well. I even took a few S!CAPS. I was feeling great when we turned to head back to the finish. A 40 mile road race with an uphill finish should suit me about as well as I could hope. Unfortunately reality hit me on the 3rd to last uphill section where I stood up to pedal and my quads cramped up really badly. Crap. I recovered over the next few miles. On the 2nd to last hill I stayed seated in the hope of avoiding cramping up, which worked. I lost my good positioning though. We quickly reached the final hill. I was able to stand and pedal. I passed a few people, but I started way to far back to have a good result. I finished 15th, with no omnium points.

Time Trial

We had a few hours to kill between the road race and the Time Trial. We ate some lunch, sat around in the shade (it was over 100˚F by this point), and prepared our bikes. When my start time approached I did a short warmup, which sucked. My quads were completely trashed from the road race. A semi-hilly time trial is normally my cup of tea, but I wasn't looking forward to this.

The start was uphill. By the time I reached the top my quads were screaming. This is going to suck. Then the first downhill I hit 41 mph, which is a record on my TT bike. Suddenly everything was okay and I was flying. The rollers weren't slowing me down. Before I knew it I turned into a cross-tailwind and I sped up even more. Finally, I turned onto the highway back into town and I was doing 37 mph on flat sections. I worked the uphills. It was so fast. I finished at the top of the hill in 18m55s for the 7.5 mile loop, which was good enough for 2nd place. I almost caught my 1-minute man, but I did catch the riders who started 2, 3, and 4 minutes ahead of me.

I misread the race information and I thought I would only get 2 omnium points for my 2nd place finish, so I thought I was completely out of contention for the overall win. Actually I received 12 points and I was in 4th place. I didn't figure this out until after the crit the next day, at which point it no longer mattered.


The next morning I drove back to southern Illinois for the crit. I had to work on my bike before the race, after which I only had a few minutes to warmup. Oh well. The race was challenging, but not super-hard. I was able to move up and back through the field fairly easily. There were a couple of breakaways that never gained more than 5-10 seconds before the race would come back together. I was in pretty good position with half a lap to go, but I waited just a bit to long to sprint. I passed a bunch of people and finished 6th place, my highest placing yet in a cat 4 crit. I didn't end up in the top 3 for the omnium.

A couple of my teammates who were racing later in the day came out early to watch me and we chatted a bit after the race. The race didn't take that much out of me, and there were two more races I was eligible to ride, so (after some egging-on by my teammates) I registered for the Masters 30+ 4-5 race a couple hours later.

Crit #2

As soon as I came back to the team tent after registering for the second crit we began to talk strategy. It was a very interesting conversation that went something like this:

Me: I registered for the Masters/4/5 race.

BJ & Nick: So how are you going to win this race?

Me: Hmm, good question.

Them: But you are going to win, right?

At this point I'm thinking this is a bit absurd. I don't win bike races. Running, sure. Triathlon, sure. Cycling, I'm just not as good. And a flat criterium is the type of race I am worst at.

Me: I suppose it depends who else is in the race.

Them: No, it doesn't. Race to your strengths, not to your opponents weaknesses. What are your strengths? Can you sprint?

Me: Nope.

Them: But you can ride a good TT. You finished 2nd in the TT yesterday. There you go.

Me: Alright.

Them: Here's what you're going to do. You're going to jump at two laps to go and you're going to ride all out by yourself for the last two laps and you're going to win. But you have to fully commit… so much so that if you get caught you can't even finish with the group. Just leave it all out on the course.

I've never tried something like this before, so I was game to give it a go. I didn't actually think it was going to work, but these guys know a lot more about bike racing than I do and, what the hell, what can it hurt to try. I already did the race I came here for, this is just a bonus.

The race was easy and I just sat safely in the pack the whole time. With 3 laps to go I started dropping back in the field. With two laps to go I jumped hard from the back of the field. By the time I passed the guys at the front I was going 10 mph faster than they were and they weren't able to grab my wheel. I settled into TT mode and rode as hard as I could for 2.5 miles. I took all the corners so much faster by myself than I was able to in the big group. A few times I looked back. There were a couple half-hearted attempts to chase me down, but nobody wanted to ride at the front of the group. And by the time the realized they need to shut down my attack it was already too late.

As I rounded the final corner my teammates were going crazy. As soon as I heard one of them say "enjoy it" I knew I had won the race. I took a quick look behind and saw nobody. I sat up and pedaled across the finish line with my arms in the air. I never thought I'd win a bike race.

After my 2nd crit I stayed around to watch my teammates in the cat 3 race where my teammate Keith won from a long (8 laps) solo attack. Mike & Nick finished 3rd and 4th from the main field. Then was the 1/2/3 race where Mark finished 2nd in a field sprint. So we all had a good day.

Keith wins

Keith wins the cat 3 race

Photo finish

Mike & Nick finish 3rd & 4th in a photo finish

Mike and BJ leading the race

Mike & BJ lead the 1/2/3 race

Mark goes for the sprint

Mark narrowly finishes 2nd

July 23, 2012

New Town Triathlon

Early in the season I found the New Town Triathlon outside of St. Charles and thought it would be a good race to try. Then I took a break from racing and completely forgot about it. A friend at the weekly Wednesday night TT reminded me of it a few days beforehand, and I thought, what the heck… I'll do it.

Last Sunday morning I arrived with plenty of time to setup my stuff. I did a very brief warmup on the bike, running, then swimming before they cleared the water to start the race. The (longish) 1000m swim had a staggered start, with competitors beginning the race every 3 seconds. Unfortunately, since I was one of the last people to register for the race, I started near the very end and I had a long time to wait for the 600 people in front of me.

When it was time the line moved very fast and I was in the water before I knew it. A few minutes in I realized that with all the commotion I forgot to start my watch, so I hit the button and kept going. I was very concerned that the swim would be a complete clustercuss, but it was actually the most pleasant open water swim I've ever done. Sure I was passing a lot of slower people (and a handful passed me as well), but we weren't running into each other at all. There was plenty of room for everyone to get by. 17-18 minutes later I exited the water. It was a good hard effort, but I didn't kill myself.


I had an awful first transition. Something went wrong with my bike helmet straps and I couldn't get the dang thing on my head. I must have wasted 30 seconds fumbling with it. Then I left the transition with my bike only to get caught in a traffic jam at the bike mount line. I couldn't get around the slower people so I just had to stop and wait before I could get on my bike. Once mounted, I ripped the hell out of there, a bit pissed off. I started too fast, but things settled down quickly enough. About halfway through the 20 mile effort I started experiencing severe, um, discomfort in my saddle area. Something wasn't right and I was in quite a bit of pain for the last 10 miles. It slowed me down, as I had to frequently stop pedaling when my legs felt fine just to readjust things in an attempt to relieve the discomfort. I was disappointed my bike wasn't as fast as I wanted, but I was incredibly relieved to get off the bike.

My second transition was better and I was out on the run quickly. This is usually where I excel, and this would be no different. Having started at the back, I had been passing people the whole race, but now it was a steady stream. Speaking of streams, several residents along the course pointed their sprinklers and garden hoses out into the course so competitors could cool down. It was well into the 90's at this point and most of the people seemed to enjoy it. Not me. I tried to avoid it like the plague, but the sprinklers covered the entire course in many places and some people actually sprayed me with their hoses after I did my best to ask them not to. The result of this is that my shoes were soaking wet for about 3 of the 4 miles during the run and I developed horrible blisters that made running very painful. My legs felt fine and I wasn't having trouble breathing, but with the intense effort the heat was starting to get to me and my stomach was feeling a bit queasy, so I couldn't really go any faster.

After the finish I gulped as much water as I could. It was brutally hot. I hobbled around for a while trying to find some shade. Once the race started to thin out a bit I was able to get back into the transition area and pack up my stuff and take it back to my car. It didn't take long to get results (since I started near the end) and I was quite surprised that, despite feeling like crap for much of the race, I actually had a pretty decent result. I finished 30th overall (including the elites, 14th not including them) out of over 600 participants, 3rd in my age group. I averaged 1:35/100 in the swim (about what I expected), 22.9 mph on the bike (a tad bit slower than I hoped), and 6:04/mile (the course was short, my actual pace was closer to 6:28/mile) on the run.

So it turned out to be a good race.

July 9, 2012

June 2012


Will, Daddy, & Grandma

As I explained in the previous post, I intentionally stepped my training way back for the month of June. The good news is that I'm feeling good again now, so July should look much better. I still somehow managed to run my fastest mile since I was 18.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January78.06 Mile98.67333 Mile
February75.2586 Mile98.36206 Mile
March126.15 Mile149.01071 Mile
April146.28 Mile169.1425 Mile
May166.75 Mile189.26389 Mile
June54.83 Mile77.83286 Mile
Total647.329 Mile738.86751 Mile

Running 2012 6



Marin Headlands

I was able to get three good rides in on our trip to San Francisco, which really made the month. Two of the rides were just in the Marin Headlands, but I felt really good climbing some really big hills for a change. After the conference ended I went over to the East Bay and rode Mt. Diablo. I felt much stronger on that big ass climb than I did last time (three years ago). The heat was brutal though. It was 68˚F when I left downtown San Francisco and it was 98˚F on the unshaded slopes of Mt. Diablo. I drained both of my water bottles by the time I was halfway up the mountain. Luckily I found a place to refill them so I could continue on up. I flew past a number of riders closer to the top, which is always motivating.


Summit of Mount Diablo (4000 ft, 98˚F)

After returning home I did a couple of the Tuesday night crits, finishing one of them in 7th place, my highest finish yet. I also rode the Wednesday night TT for the first time and did by far the fastest TT of my life, averaging 25.3 mph for the 9 mile course (with my chain rubbing the derailleur the whole time). I think I only hit 24 mph twice on the old Seymour 10 mile course. I'm definitely getting more and more accustomed to my (relatively) new TT bike.

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Lynskey14.44 Mile114.44 Mile
Pocket Rocket102.31 Mile812.7888 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird165.82 Mile441.455 Mile
Total282.57 Mile1321.7362 Mile

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January25.33 Mile212.665 Mile
February40.08 Mile313.36 Mile
March213.43 Mile2010.6715 Mile
April253.27 Mile2311.0117 Mile
May322.147 Mile2413.4228 Mile
June282.57 Mile1321.7362 Mile
Total1136.83 Mile8513.3744 Mile

Cycling 2012 6


I made it to the pool a few times before taking several weeks off. The good news is when I started back again I picked up right where I left off. I love that about swimming. Maybe it's harder to do if you're actually any good though. I'll probably never find out.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
April1750. Yard2875. Yard
May8050. Yard71150. Yard
June4100. Yard31366.67 Yard
Total13900. Yard121158.33 Yard

Swimming 2012 6


MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January51.53 Mile163.22063 Mile
February42.92 Mile182.38444 Mile
March41.15 Mile142.93929 Mile
April31.89 Mile122.6575 Mile
May37.5107 Mile132.88544 Mile
June39.4 Mile182.18889 Mile
Total244.401 Mile912.68572 Mile

Walking 2012 6

Macklind Mile

Ever since we moved to St. Louis I have been fascinated with this race. It's an open 1 mile, which is pretty rare. It's net downhill, so it's particularly fast. It's around Independence Day, so it's ridiculously hot.

I ran it last year, with mixed results. I was happy to finish in 5:01, but a bit disappointed I was so close to being under 5 minutes and I couldn't quite finish it off. I was in good shape, but I screwed up royally by doing a (too) hard track workout a few days before the race and I was still sore on race day.

I told myself this year would be different. I was in even better shape in the spring than last year, so I might be able to pull off something really special. The problem is that I was really starting to feel worn out by my spring campaign by the end of May. I was exhausted and I was starting to have some minor knee pain creep into my runs. This scared the hell out of me, so after the U. City 10K I stepped my training way back in an effort to let my body recover. One easy week turned into two with our trip to San Francisco. Two turned into three in the hectic week after we returned. Three turned into four when my knee just kept not feeling right. Before I knew it the Macklind Mile was a week away and I was feeling incredibly unprepared. But I had been looking forward to this race for a year. What could I pull together in a week?

Well, I went for a short, easy run and had no knee pain. Good. A few days later I went for a slightly longer, slightly faster run, again with no knee pain. It was hardly ideal preparation, but it will have to do. On race day my warmup went well, so I figured I would just let it rip and see what happened. I started out about the same pace as last year, only I didn't slow down, I kept speeding up. My third quarter was the fastest, whereas last year it was much slower. I passed a lot of people in the last half of the race and finished strong in 4:52, my official chip time. My own watch, which I started before I crossed the start line and stopped after I crossed the finish line, indicated 4:49-4:50, which I like better. Anyway, it was a significant improvement over last year and it came after nearly a month of none-to-light running. This is faster than I ran when I was 15. I'll take it.

One of these years I'm going to get this race right.

After my run, I had the pleasure of watching my mom run her first race (at age 60). My parents were in town visiting and my mom (who I didn't even know started to run) decided to run the race on the spot. Congratulations to her for quite an accomplishment.

At the starting line

Will toes the starting line with Mommy

A little while later Will ran the kids quarter mile run. He started off well enough, but after about 15 seconds he just sat down in the middle of the street and started crying for no apparent reason (I think what happened was a grown-up running with their kid bumped into him and he didn't care for that). After minutes of bargaining with him and even carrying him a little while we finally got him to run. And run he did. He was fast. He passed a bunch of people and ended up (even after the fit) finishing two minutes faster than he did last year.

And they're off

Shortly after the start and shortly before the fit


Will crosses the finish line with great form

Will, Daddy, & Grandma

Will with Dad and Grandma after our races

Then I ran 7 miles home in 100˚F heat.