Sunday, October 5, 2014

Mud, Sweat, And Gear CX Race Report

First cyclocross race of the season...

We get to the venue that is situated on a nice farm among the Northeast Tennessee mountains.  It was beautiful place for a race.  My teammate Trent and I go out to do some warmup laps and get an idea of what the course was going to be like, we realized that most of the competition was going to be the North Carolina guys.  Trent races road and recognized a bunch of people from the road scene.  Most of these guys had been racing a really strong road season and were at their peak.  Then it hit me...This is going to be a fast group today.

We got lined up for the 3's race with probably another 15 or so guys.  The nerves set in as they always do when I line up for the first race of the season.  When the race official blows the whistle, we all were off...Except me.  I had a good spot at the front of the line up but I missed clipping into my pedal and lost a few seconds off the back.  I came into the first turn around mid pack and just trying to hang on.  That first lap was really intense.  The course was really fast and only had a few slick spots in the back corners.  Everyone was on full gas.

Cat 3 Start Line
Around the 3rd lap I was sitting about 2/3 of the way back.  At this point, I knew where my race was going to be.  I started to hang in with a few guys and try to pull in one at a time.  A few guys were pushing the pace right at the same limits that I was.  As the race official sounded the last lap bell, it was me and one other guy racing together.  I had no chance of a stellar finish but I wanted to still race strong.  He and I powered hard through that lap.  I stayed on his wheel as much as I could but he maneuvered a technical slick section better than I did.  I tried to make up for it on the straights but he countered every effort I put out there.  At the finish chute, I was about 5 feet off his wheel and went to sprint.  I gave every ounce I had and he did the same.  We finished with about that same 5 foot margin apart from each other.

Needless to say, that race was probably one of the most intense Cat 3 cross races I've been in yet.  My fitness felt good but it just wasn't enough to compete at this race.  One thing I take from it is that I need to do a little more pre-riding before these races to make sure I know the course better.  That will help to limit a lot more of the mistakes I made out there.

With barely a 15 minute break between my races, I run back to the truck to change jerseys and knocked down a GU pack and hydrate up a bit.  I got on my single speed CX bike to ride around just a little bit and get comfortable with the gearing.  There was a pretty good turnout for the single speed race.  It was mostly filled with the Knoxville crew and a girl from the Asheville area.  At the start whistle, I actually get a good start.  I'm sitting in 3rd at the first corner behind Don Walker Cycles rider Meghan Korol and Team Aubrey's Kelly Montoya.  Meghan really put out a strong effort in that first lap and made us suffer up the switchback climb and into the slick section of the course.  This group of 3 stayed together throughout the race.

Single Speed start line.
About mid way through the race was when I made my pass and tried to hang on the front.  I didn't know either of these racers before this race and I didn't know their strengths or weaknesses at all.  I knew I was going to take the slick section conservatively and try to hammer on the straights.  While hanging off the front, I decided to attack as hard as I could out of the slick spot and take advantage of a tailwind coming out of the woods.  Each time I did this, I felt like it gave me a little extra distance to work with.  As the course was winding back and forth, I tried to gage how much of a lead I had.  There was no room to sit back.  It was full gas the whole time.

Kelly Montoya hanging tight with me out of turn two.
Luckily, I was able to hold my lead and came across the finish in first place.  This was not expected at all...I haven't seen a first place finish in a long time.  It was kind of a bittersweet moment because I was so excited about getting first and I pull over to the side of the course to only be told that the the Vols Football team lost by one point...Way to deflate a person!

Kelly Montoya (2nd Place), Jimmy Deane (1st Place), Meghan Korol (3rd Place)

All in all, it was a good weekend of racing.  I learned a lot about what I need to work on.  Time to get back to training for the next event.  As always, I want to give a shout out to my awesome wife for being there to support my races and take some awesome photos.  I also need to give a shout out to Cycology Bicycles.  This year, they have helped me to keep my bikes ready to ride and race at all times and made sure I have the parts I need to get the job done.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Trying The Tri Thing...

Alright, I'll admit it...I've stepped over to the dark side.  I signed up and completed my first triathlon.  My wife has been doing triathlons since before we met.  I've gone to pretty much all of her races to support her and have found myself getting the urge to do one myself.  I finally decided to bite the bullet and sign up for a local race at the Knoxville Westside YMCA.  This would be the perfect first tri considering it was only a 200 yard pool swim, followed by a 7 mile bike leg, and finishing it off with a 2.5 mile run.  My weakest discipline is definitely swimming.  I signed up for a few lessons from one of the trainers at the Rush Fitness Center, Oliver Frankel, and tried to learn the basics.  Unfortunately, I really slacked on practicing any of these basics and found myself on race day with the tactic of just surviving.

So here it is...On the morning of the race, I woke up around 5:30am and got suited up in my tri kit and decided to ride the bike to the race from the house.  It was only a 3 mile ride so I figured it would be a good way to loosen my nerves and loosen up the legs.  I got to the race venue around 6:30am and chatted it up with a few friends.  My buddy and local Cobb Mobb athlete, Chris Morelock, gave me some last minute tips and even let me borrow his new SPECIALizED aero road helmet for the race. I got my transition area set up and was glad I got to the race venue early enough to get a primo spot.  My idea was that I would place my bike as close to the transition exit so that when I came in from the swim (running barefoot) I could run the length of the transition and get to the bike where I would have to put on my bike shoes and have a shorter distance to run in those said bike shoes.

Hanging out in transition before the race
About 15 minutes before the start, everyone started to stage themselves for the swim.  Since this race was a pool swim, they gave everyone a 5 second separation in their starts.  I obviously am a really really really really...really really really sloooooooow swimmer.  I asked around and finally found the 4-5 minute 200 yard swimmers and tried to place myself in the mix.  Normally before races, I get real nervous and then get a massive burst of adrenaline.  This race was quite different.  My time comes up to start and I give a half effort at doing a cannonball into the pool (I know...Not a good technique but it looked cool!) And away I was at my first triathlon and trying to survive the swim.  Once I started swimming, I really forgot every single lesson I had learned.  My stroke was terrible, I was able to breath every other stroke but I know I wasn't very efficient.  The only good thing about my swim was that no one passed me...

After 4 minutes and 30 seconds, the 200 yard swim was over and I was out of the pool.  I made a b-line to the transition area which was probably another 200 yards down the hill.  I tried to concentrate at this point on catching my breath and getting myself ready for the bike leg.  I managed to be really efficient in the transition and was off onto the bike.  Going into this event, the bike leg was going to be my specialty.  I felt really confident and once on the bike I got another burst of adrenaline.  The bike course was only 7 miles but it was a two lap course that was full of nearly a dozen turns the weaved in and out of a neighborhood.  The neighborhood was pretty hilly as well.  Since I started pretty far back for the swim start, I found myself having to pass a lot of people on the bike leg.  I tried to keep the communication up that I was passing on their left but there was one turn I came up to that was on a down hill section and turned to the left.  As I was screaming down the hill, I saw 5 or 6 ladies that were spanning nearly the entire width of the road.  All I knew to do was tell them to hold their line and I would be coming around on their left.  Right as I was about to make a pass, we were entering the turn and I barely made it on the inside and was able to safely exit the turn before them and continued on.  This was by far the most sketchy moment of the race for me!  After completing my two laps, I ride down the final 100 yards of the bike course and managed to get out of my bike shoes in a preparation for another quick transition.

Coming in hot to the transition area from the bike course.
In transition, I remained as efficient as I could and got into my running shoes.  I was off onto the run course and knew I was on the final stretch.  I found my pace that I was somewhat comfortable with.  When I say comfortable, I mean a pace that I can maintain without puking.  I left transition pretty hot and ran up on another guy who was maintaining a steady pace.  I stayed with him the entire run.  The run course was a mix of greenways paths that went through a few grassy sections and then finished near the transition area.  In the final stretch before the finish, the guy who was pacing me took off.  I knew I couldn't up my pace to match his at this point and I'm glad I didn't.  He ended up taking off too soon and when we made our last turn to head to the finish, I came around him and found my last bit of energy to sprint to the finish.

On the run leg about to make my final turn to head to the finish.
My finishing time was 42:16 which put me 2nd in my age group (Male 25-29).  I had no expectations of placing in my age group when I entered this race.  I was beyond excited to find out I had placed.  I was only 24 seconds behind 1st place too! This race a lot of fun and I would also say pretty well organized for being right in the middle of town.  After the race, it was good to find out some of my other friends had placed in their categories as well! Chris Morelock ended up getting 2nd Overall, Jon Reggio got 3rd in his age group, and Jennifer Davis finished first in Athena!  It's always fun to see your friends on the podium!  I was also blown away by all the fan support at the race!  My wife was on course the entire time taking pictures and cheering me on.  She is the one who inspired me to do my first triathlon and she even decided not to do this one so that she could watch and support me.  Our local tri club (Rocky Top Multisport) was also present and cheering.  Several of them dressed like the Village People since the race was taking place at the local YMCA...

Male 25-29 Age Group Podium
All in all, it was a great day! I'm definitely hooked on this Tri thing and will be back for more!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dirty Kanza 200 Recap...

So here it is...Last Saturday, I raced in the Dirty Kanza 200 Gravel Grinder.  Unfortunately, I did not finish but had to bail out at mile 183.  If you'll read along, I'll give you a full detail of my experience.  If you're not familiar with Dirty Kanza, it's a 203 mile race among the gravel roads in the Flint Hills of Kansas.  A lot of training took place to get ready for this ride and countless hours were also spent trying to research every blog article I could find that talked about what to expect.  The one thing I can take away from the experience...You really don't know what to expect till you get there and you turn your cranks over and over and over and over...

On the Wednesday before the race, my buddy Mike, my wife, and I all packed our car and drove from Knoxville, TN to Emporia, KS (with an overnight stop in Saint Louis).  When we got to Kansas, excitement was high! We went out for a little pre-ride of the last 10 miles of the course after getting settled into our hotel room.  From the first impressions of that section, I felt like this was going to be a cake walk.  Little did I know that section was not anything like the rest of the course.

(Team Cycology on our Pre-Ride)

Saturday morning came and it was time to race the Dirty Kanza 200.  We woke up around 4am and took it easy getting ready.  My mind went through all the checklists to make sure I was ready to go and had everything I'd need.  We got to the start line around 5:30am where we were met with nearly 1200 other riders.  This was what we had been training for so long and it was finally moments away from the start! I couldn't have been more excited and ready! I placed myself around the 12 hour guys hoping to hang in and draft the front group as long as I could.  Within moments, we were off!

After a neutral roll out through the center of town, we hit the gravel.  From this point on, it was extremely rare to see anymore pavement, much less civilization.  Once you hit the gravel roads in Kansas, there isn't much out there.  It's all open range.  The first 10 miles was pretty flat and fast.  We hit our first climb and were greeted by photographers.  At this point, the group started to spread out a bit.

Coming from East Tennessee, all my training has been with mountains and hills.  Being in Kansas, I didn't think their hills would rival in any comparison.  I soon came to find out that it wasn't the size of the hills that mattered, it was the quantity...During the first 50 miles, groups of riders started to settle in and find a rhythm.  I was able to work with a pretty good group that even included another local friend, Jon Livengood.  We rotated around in a pace line and was cranking out a pretty stellar pace! At the first checkpoint (Mile 50) we rolled into Madison, KS to be greeted by our support crews.  I made this a quick stop and downed some drink mix (Infinit Go Far) along with a Payday Bar and a few pickles.

Leaving the support station, it was a quick ride out of town and back onto the gravel.  While I was heading out of town, I came to realize that the guys I had been working with were nowhere around.  I didn't know if they had already left or whether I had passed them up leaving the last support stop.  I spent about 10 miles just cruising along and honestly enjoying myself.  So far, the scenery had been really beautiful and I was feeling good! The roads were rough in sections and there had been a lot of hills so far but nothing that seemed to be taxing.

At about mile 65, I was able to tag onto another group and was able to get my pace back on target to where I was wanting to be.  We rotated around in a pace line and was really making some great time.  Several guys ended up getting some flats which reduced our group size quite a bit.  The one thing about someone getting a flat was it took them out of your group.  I remember one guy commenting that he was going to miss this one guy because of how long that guy was willing to take a pull on the front.

The segment between the first support station and the second had a lot of rolling hills.  It was kind of an amazing experience because you could see the road for so far.  Every little hill stood out.  The gravel roads in the Flint Hills are nothing like the limestone gravel back home.  The rocks are sharp and vary in size a great bit.  At the bottom of each hill, you're about guaranteed to find some chunky gravel that was waiting to claim a victim.  Luckily, I made it to mile 100 (Second Support Stop) with no mechanical problems and I was still feeling great!

(Endless Hills...)

At the second support stop, I had my wife start a timer for 10 minutes so I wouldn't waste too much time there.  I ate a quick sandwich, filled my bottles, replenished my nutrition, and back off I went.  I was super stoked at how smooth everything was going! I finished the first 100 miles at around 6 hours.  I was way ahead of my expected pace and placed around the top 50 people.  All this excitement was soon to take a nose dive...

Out of the second support stop, we were on a long steady road for 12 miles riding directly into a headwind.  I didn't really mind it much because it was relatively flat and I found a few guys to work with.  At mile 112, I took a turn onto G50 Road and I heard my front tire burst.  I knew I'd probably suffer a couple flats during this race so I wasn't too concerned.  It wasn't until I looked down and saw the hole in the sidewall of my tire.  I had a patch kit and some duct tape on my but nothing substantial enough to patch a hole that big.  I felt so defeated and decided to call my wife who was still at the last support stop helping my other teammates.  I told her I guess that was the end of my race since I would get DQ'd if she came on course to help me.  She said my teammate, Mike Karnes, had just rolled into the second support stop and she was going to send him out with a spare tire for me.  I ended up waiting nearly an hour and a half for Mike to show up.  I had just sat in the wide open sun and watched all these riders pass me by.  I was soon realizing that I would be hard pressed to beat the sun.

(Location of my first flat tire)

Mike showed up and gave me a new tire.  He was a real trooper for carrying that all the way out there for me and these words can't express the gratitude I have for him doing that! I got back on my bike and took off feeling pretty good considering my legs had plenty of time to rest.  I reached down to grab my water bottle with my drink mix in it and pulled out and empty bottle.  My bottle cage had broke and pierced the bottom of my bottle.  I was carrying two 33 ounce bottles between each stop with one filled with water and the other filled with my mix.  I began to freak out a bit because the heat was getting worse and I had already been out for a while.  I tried to ease my pace a little but keep things steady as to make it to the next support stop in reasonable time.  Unfortunately, all the guys who were riding at the pace I was wanting to ride were well gone and I was left to ride on my own.  At around mile 135, I started to feel the dehydration really set in.  I eased up the pace more and started to coast the downhills.  I was down to about 1/4 of my other bottle.  I started to get a bit dizzy and pulled over for a few minutes.  Then the puking commenced.  Shortly thereafter, my other teammate, Neil, pulled up and we talked it out a bit.  He decided to stick with me and ride in to the third support stop.  Through those next 15 miles, I pulled over a few more times to puke.  I couldn't hold any fluids in or food.  I just felt miserable and really wanted to call it quits.

We made it to the third and final rest stop.  I pulled into my pit area and laid the bike down.  I told my wife I was done.  I had nothing left.  I ended up laying under a tree for about an hour and a half.  My wife tried to help me drink fluids and eat some food but nothing would stay down...I was for sure done and I had no desire to go back out.  It wasn't until I actually made a post on Facebook declaring I was done and seeing all the support I had back home that I decided to give it one last shot.  My wife gave me a super supportive talk and I grabbed my stuff and got ready to head out.  My buddy Mike had just left the support station and was not far ahead.  He was in pretty rough shape at this point too and I wanted to ride with him for some support.

I limped out of town and hit the gravel roads again.  After a few miles, I caught back up with Mike.  He said he was feeling pretty sick and having the same problems I was.  He told me to go on and that he was going to try and eat something.  I rode along at a pretty slow pace just hoping to finish at this point.  I didn't have much energy at all but I did have a little bit of adrenaline.  The hills continued as the sun was setting.  I got another flat on the front tire right as the sun went down.  It was a quick tube change and I was back rolling.  At this point, life really started to suck.  I started counting every single mile and just hoping to make it to the top of each little hill.  As I turned onto Road D, I really started to feel very dizzy again.  I pulled over and leaned over my top tube of my bike.  Yet again, I puked.  The dizziness got worse and finally my legs gave out.  I just laid in the middle of the road. Luckily, this happened near a farm house.  Apparently, the farmer saw my lights fall over with my bike and came out to check on me.  He offered to help and at this point, I caved in and asked for a ride back into town.  I was done.  I had nothing left to give.  Mile 183 became the end of my Dirty Kanza 200 experience.

Looking back, I try to think over all kinds of things I could have done differently but honestly, I gave it all I had.  I went to Kansas to race the DK200 and beat the sun.  I felt great for a good part of the race and was on point to finish in a sub 13 hour timeframe.  Unfortunately, circumstances interfered with my goals.  That's the thing about the Dirty Kanza...You can plan as much as you want.  You can read all the blogs you want.  You can train as much as you want.  When it comes down to it, you are out in the middle of nowhere.  You are responsible for yourself out there.  One thing can go wrong and ruin your day.  It's how you react that will make the biggest difference.  There isn't a thing I would change about my plans.  All I can say is Dirty Kanza 200 is hard...Real hard.  I don't know if I'll go back again but for now, I'll just reflect on the experience I had.

There are so many people who played an integral part in my race. My wife provided the best support I could ever ask for!  My teammates (Mike Karnes, Neil Willey, and Dave Penegar) were there for me when I needed them and I am happy to say they all finished their race! I owe Bruce Dickman and ProGold Lubricants my gratitude for their sponsorship in the race as well! ProGold has been my choice of lube for a long time and I had zero drivetrain issues thanks to the ProGold Extreme lube!  I also am thankful for the crew at Cycology Bicycles in Maryville, TN who have kept my bike performing top notch through all these training rides and helping me get my setup for the race!  Lastly, I want to thank all my friends who gave their support regardless of my end result.  You all are the best and for that I am the most grateful!

Till next time...Keep the rubber side down!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'm Back! Pisgah Monster Cross Recap

Man, I've just about forgot about this blog over the past few years!  I'm sure many people who you used to follow this blog stopped doing so long before I quite writing in it...Anyhow, I'm going to give this thing another shot.  I'm going back to my old format of no politics or stupid stuff anymore...Just bikes, trips, races, and fun stuff.

After a pretty long hiatus of being off the bike or just riding enough to not become a beached whale, I've finally hopped back on and getting the fitness back.  That's a tough process to follow when you've basically given it up for such a long period of time.  My wife has been instrumental pushing back into my old self.  She's an amazing woman who rides herself and is currently training for her first Ironman Distance Tri next month (We'll talk more about that in some posts to come).  Anyhow, I've jumped back on to training several days a week.  Mostly I've been on the road and thrown some gravel riding in on occasion.  The fat is definitely shedding off and the quads are getting bigger again (I'm even shaving these beautiful beasts again!)...

This last Saturday, I toed the line on my first real race back in the saddle.  I traveled over to Brevard, NC and raced in the Pisgah Monster Cross Race.  It was 70 miles of asphalt and gravel in Pisgah National Forest with nearly 8,000 ft of climbing.  Driving up on Friday, the nerves really hit me!  I've been training hard lately on the road bike.  I've been increasing my mileage for some endurance training and I thought I was ready but a lot of uncertainty still existed.

After deciding to call in an early night after an awesome dinner in Brevard, I got nearly ten hours of sleep.  The next morning I got up and went to the start line of the race and mingled a bit before everything kicked off.  It was great to see some old friends and acquaintances I haven't seen in the several years I've been away from the biking scene.  However, I looked around and didn't see any single speed cross bikes...My head began to realize that I brought a knife to a gun fight.

Photo Courtesy of Scott Redd

After a brief riders meeting, we all lined up and we had a neutral police escort for the first few miles of the course.  This is it...The race has started!  I started off towards the back of the pack and slowly moved my way up to about mid pack of nearly 190 people.  Being on a single speed, I was just spinning those cranks every few seconds to keep momentum and trying to suck anyone's wheel long enough to recover.  Finally, we hit the gravel and I was in my comfort zone.  On the gravel, I felt like I had no problems being on a single speed.  I was able to pass a large number of people at this point.  There was a bombing descent with washboard bumps in the corners in which caused me to lose a water bottle.  I was hoping to not let that happen and skip the first aid station and count on only stopping at one aid station during the race...

Shortly thereafter, we hit Hwy 215 for what would be about a 10 mile climb on asphalt up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  At this point, I knew I had to reserve but not too much.  Being on a single speed, you can only turn those cranks so slow before you start burning some matches.  You got to stay on top of them and power through it.  This allowed me to start catching some more guys who were playing it safe on the climb with their geared bikes.  As I would pass people, they would ask what gear I was turning.  I learned to say with as little effort possible, "42x19"...It was all I could do to even say that much!  I was giving all I had to just conserve and hammer up this mountain!

At the top of the Blue Ridge Parkway, I ducked into the aid station for a quick bottle refill and grabbed onto the wheels of a group of geared riders.  They thankfully pulled me through the 20 mile section of the BRP till we hit the big descent down FS5000 (Bent Creek Gap).  I ducked into the 2nd aid station for another quick bottle refill while a few others from the previous group rested for a moment.  I hoped I could get another of a jump on the descent to give me a little gap from the mountain bikers.  The guys on the mountain bikes were just able to descend so much faster and with more confidence due to the larger tires.  At the bottom of the descent, I was only passed by 2 people.  At this point, it was really time to evaluate my energy levels and not burn out too fast.  There were several climbs on the gravel forest roads that really tested my endurance with a single speed setup.  I just put my head down and powered through it...slowly.

Right before the 3rd aid station, I was passed by the Knoxville guys (Chris Joice and Daniel Sanders).  Chris was also on a single speed and was followed by another guy on a single speed.  I caught back up with Daniel shortly at the 3rd aid station but I had no choice but to stop and take in some nutrition.  I drank a little bit of coke and ate some salty stuff.  I spent about 4 minutes consuming some food.  I finally got back on the bike knowing at best I would bring in the 3rd place on Single Speed.

The last 10 miles of the race went by pretty lonely.  I didn't see many people and I wasn't passed by many either.  On the last descent to the finish line, I hear someone bombing down this gnarly forest service road.  I knew they had to be on a mountain bike with how fast they were going.  I saw a guy pass and looked down at his drivetrain...Single speed.  There was no way I could hang with his pace.  I just settled into the fact of finishing.

Finishing 4th out the single speeds and 81st out of 120 in the Men's Open field wasn't a bad thing. Yeah, I can look back and think about what I could have done differently here or there.  Instead, I'm pretty damn happy with my finish.  I gave my all out there and I'm even happier to know I'm back into bike racing!  I've got a lot more work to do to bump up my endurance and speed but that will come with time.  Pisgah Productions did a great job getting this event together and I'll definitely be back again to race more of their events!  It was also good to finally race with the guys from Tennessee Valley Bikes.  They're a great bunch that knows how to have a good time!  I'm glad they let me be on their team this year!

Lastly, I'm really thankful for my wife through all this.  She hasn't ever discouraged me from riding.  If anything, she pushes me to ride more and more!  She is my rock and my number one fan!  I wouldn't have been able to compete, much less finish this race without her.  I'm looking forward to having her by my side in the races to come!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Wear White Shoes After Labor Day...

So, who was the idiot that made up this rule that you can't wear white shoes after Labor Day?  That's ridiculous!  In fact, the only pair of white shoes that I have, I typically wear between Labor Day and Memorial Day.  Why?  Because they are more comfortable to wear in cool weather than they are when it's hot.  To rise against this ridiculous faux pas, I will be wearing my white shoes along with my white sunglasses today.  I'm sure there will be an explanation on my friend's fashion blog (Secrets of a Belle) regarding this subject in the next few days.

I break rules!
On to something more non-fashionable....For one, I got a new job today!  Going to be staying in East Tennessee for a bit longer, it appears.  This is great news because I love it here.  I hope to still be working at the bike shop part time but we'll see how that works out.  Hopefully, I'll have the time and money to actually race a CX season this year now.  I'm definitely down for racing the Knoxie-Cross season in late January and February.

As for everything else, I'm just enjoying life.  With the new job, my social status should be updated soon from being that creepy guy that lives in his parent's basement to that creepy guy who has a one bedroom apartment across town.  I guess things are looking up!!  Anyway, it's time to get off this damn computer and go ride the bike in this awesome monsoon that has hit the region!