Mike Horgan Hill Climb Race Report

Ah hill climbs…

Funny enough in the two full seasons I have raced bicycles, this is the first ever hill climb I’ve competed in. I have done one other hill climb during the Tour of Catskills Stage Race but it was only 2.2 miles long. I was also getting over a bad chest cold and rode it a lot slower than my potential calls for. This past season has brought about many changes in my racing style. I have found more confidence in Criteriums and Circuit races and have placed a smaller emphasis on hilly road races. It’s not by choice per se, ironically enough Colorado has plentiful mountains but because of hard-to-get road permits, mountains roads are unable to be used. Hence the placement of lots and lots of Criterium racing.

The day before the race I pre-drove the course with my friend Sean. We made our way to boulder, up Canyon Rd and then turned onto Magnolia Rd which is where the “real” climbing starts. I’m not sure it was the best idea to pre-drive the course as the feel of riding in a car is obviously a lot different than churning the pedals.

Our category (1/2’s) was set to go off first at 8:10 A.M. I woke up around 5:30 and slowly got everything packed into the car. I must not have planned our timing right because we were rushing around to get out the house. Until Mickey gets a little older it’s best to bring him along when we will are away from the house for 4+ hours. As the older two, Cooper and Frito get the privilege of holding down the fort. Mickey, Maija, and I arrived at the start with about an hour to spare. I jumped right onto the bathroom line and waited, and waited, and then waited some more. 3 Port-a-John’s was not enough. Even for a small hill climb crowd I felt they should have provided better services. I pinned my number, did a mediocre warm-up and readied myself for the tough climb which lay ahead.

The whistle blew and right away 2-3 guys jumped up the road and had a considerable lead on the group. The group itself was small with between 20-30 riders. I knew a few guys in the group but there were a handful of unattached cyclists with blank jersey’s. It’s my perspective some of these riders don’t compete in RR’s and Criteriums. Whether it’s from a fear of close corner racing or other outside constraints, competing outside HC’s (Hill Climb’s) is not everyone’s cup of tea.

We raced up Canyon road for a few miles at a reasonable but fast pace. I could still see the the couple of riders up the road who jumped early. Luck Pie was doing a nice job at the front of keeping the speed high so the gap of the break remained close. I was using my power-meter during the climb but I didn’t have heart rate. I could tell my heart race was higher than normal during the ride up the canyon. This troubled me because the heavy-duty climbing doesn’t start until you turn left up Magnolia Rd. Once we made the turn I gave a hard effort in my largest gear (12-27) up the first steep switchback only to find my legs not responding the way I had imagined. I maintained a bit of contact with a front of the group for a short period of time. Little by little the distance of most riders in front of me grew father and father apart. I started going back and forth between a few riders. They would pass me, I would pass them but in the end they went up the road faster than I did. I think knowing the course for next year will help in terms of how to pace myself. Personally I like to race against other riders rather than myself and the clock.

I found myself in the red, with heavy legs, and barely turning the pedals at a 50 rpm cadence speed. The 10%-20% grade roads did not help either. Overall I was having a bad day on the saddle but I tried to make the most of the HC and get a good workout in. The latter part of the HC was spent riding alone. I bridged up to a small group after the top as the pavement turned to dirt. I love riding a road bike on dirt roads. Xterra racing on the horizon? The fast winding dirt roads with small punchy climbs suit my riding style well and I enjoyed the bumpy roads for 15 kilometers before the road turned back to pavement and descended into the town of Nederland. The finish ended on a 2 mile climb which was only a half mile before the Eldora Ski Resort. The two mile climb was more exposed with a barren landscape. I was quite tired at this point but no one passed me all the way to the top. When all said and done I finished the HC in about 1:31:00 with a 26th place finish out of 30.

“I’ve had better days”.

All in all it was a tough climb but a lot of fun. I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with Maija, the pups, and her father who came to visit us.

2011 Coal Miner’s Criterium Race Report

Hello!

Welcome back to another anticipated race report. Right after a race (especially the good one’s) I’m compelled to jump on my blog site and write about the events which unfolded. Lately I’ve been trying to harness my composure in regards to compulsive blog writing or the need to put words on a page based solely on recent events or situations.

With that said, last weekend I cracked the top 10 at the Coal Miner’s Criterium. This was not one of my “A” races of the season and with no high expectations on the outcome the pressure to succeed was off the table. Sometimes going into a race with this type of mentality can put your body in a relaxed state and you can merely focus on the task and not worry too much about the result. I arrived at the race sight and right away I noticed a small women’s 1/2/3 field starting. There must have been only 15 women or so. This gave me the feeling there might only be 30 or so guys in my race. I believe there were still around 40-50 riders at the start.

The Cat3 race started before mine and I spent some time warming up while watching the race. An athlete I coach Steve Hageman was in the 3’s and looked strong sitting in the top 10. Two of his teammates got themselves into a breakaway early on with one other rider from another team. It was great to watch two guys from the same team working together to isolate the solo rider, especially when these guys were on the team I raced for! You could see the tired expressions on their face as they took turns at the front trying to distance themselves from the main peloton. Steve played a great team role controlling and monitoring the front of the main pack. A few times I saw him on the front and got nervous but he looked in control and poise to have a good race. Indeed, he did have a good race. The breakaway held all the way until the final lap where the field reeled them in. Steve had a good position coming into the sprint finish and took 6th for the day. His highest placing as a category 3 racer. Congrats Steve! Another athlete I coach James Scully took 3rd in the category 4 field. Congrats to James!

I had a suttle warm up with my friend Evan who is here in Colorado for the summer working for USAC. We both races together back on the east coast. It was nice to have an east coast racer here in the rockies. It helps put into perspective the differences between racing here and in the BIG APPLE. We chatted a bunch on the open rural roads surrounding the Criterium course. The course itself was a wide maze though an industrial corporate section of Louisville. Unlike the pervious race in Louisville “Lucky Pie Criterium” this course offered plenty of room to move back and forth. The problem having a Criterium with a wide roads are the plentiful attacks that come from riders.

From the start of this race there were attacks every lap, on every turn, and on every flat. It was a tough day and again I found myself going back and forth through the field. Unlike the Lucky Pie Crit, you didn’t need to worry as much about your position in this race. It was easy to move up the field because of the wide lanes. I had a lot of teammates in this race and it made me feel a bit secure that one of us would have a good day on the saddle. I woke up (as I seem to always do) when there were 5-6 laps left in the race. Just at this point my teammate Taylor made a huge attack and went off the front with two other riders. Guys were still attacking left and right with counterattacks thereafter. I started to notice their distance increasing on the field. I began to think a late break might stick. With 2 laps remaining they were brough back and a rider jumped solo and everyone pretty much let him go. He had the largest gap of the day and if the field had slow-pedaled for just a little he might have held it. With one lap to go I sensed my legs were not too fatigued anymore. Sometimes this will happen during a race as I’ll get a second wind and feel completely rested and in control of my body and bike. I also talk to myself a lot during the last few laps. “relax, control your body, only a few more laps to go.” Words of this nature. It’s a major motivational boost to the system! After the second turn on the last lap I had a good position sitting about 10 deep. I would have preferred to sit 5th or 6th but 10 deep isn’t so bad with wide roads. Coming into the last turn a rider totally knocked me off my line and thinking it was my fault gave me his choice of swear words. Now we were in the finishing straight away. It was a long flat finish with a slight rise in the road and a small headwind. I had lost my line and the top 5 guys already had a half bikes length. Ugh! I was pissed. In a split second I needed to make a decision, so without much hesitation I jumped to the far right side of the road and made my own “train” to the finish. I ended up passing two more guys on the way to the line and when I crossed I was 8th. I made the tactical error of becoming a bit too passive towards the end and ultimately sacrificing my line. My teammate Mike Giem finished 5th on the day. Congrats! He is a great sprinter and always chooses good lines for Criteriums.

 

Coming into the finish.

My teammate just crossed for 5th place and I’m three riders back.

Crossing the line (on the left) in a boat load of pain.

I felt a bit nauseous after the race. During the last few laps my mouth felt like the Sahara Desert. I made the mistake of only having 1 1/2 bottles. I didn’t fully fill my second bottle up as my mouth went completely dry in the last few laps and I found it hard to swallow. I did a halfhearted cool down and hung around the results area to pick up some prize money. Overall it was a great day and my first top 10 finish in a Pro 1/2 field.

Originally I had planned on racing the Dead Dog State Race in WY but the idea started to slowly dwindle after seeing pictures of the laden of snow on the race course. Plus seeing only 10 guys signed up on the registration list doesn’t make for much of a race. I have been tinkering on the idea of racing the Winter Park XC MTB race series this weekend.

Winter Park Series

I hope everyone is having a great Spring/Summer!

Racing Updates

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonic Boom Criterium: 

After returning back from Santa Cruz, CA my training went back into a more consistent progression. My friend Sean who races for Sonic Boom  was the main coordinator for their team’s Criterium. He had asked me to Marshal during the earlier races since my race was not until 6:50 P.M. It was a hot and sunny day in downtown Louisville, CO. The town itself is small yet quaint and presents itself in an old school fashion with a contemporary spin. I arrived around noon or so and he took me out to a spot where I would be marshaling. The main purpose of marshaling during a race is to make sure spectators don’t interfere with the race and direct traffic away from the closed course. This was one tough job! I experienced a woman screaming on the top of her lungs because she couldn’t cross the street. I also had two guys on motorcycles with a bunch of tattoos giving me their choice of swear words because they couldn’t drive through. It was an interesting early afternoon to say the least. I hung out at the marshaling spot with Steve an athlete I’m coaching who also happens to be on the same team I’m racing for. (BRC Cycling) I was in a great spot on the course because I could see riders coming from all directions. I studied how they took the turns, when breakaways were created, and other important information. The course itself was a blast. Lots and lots of turns with a short sprinting burst straightaway to the Start/Finish area. I love courses like this. Many riders become flustered with hard cornering and large groups. Taking your line is almost more important than your actual fitness ability in the race. If you can handle your bicycle in a sharp winding Criterium you will tend to be more at ease with yourself, other riders, and the race as a whole. The only downside to this course was the nasty bumpy pavement. There were cracks, potholes, and pavement splits all over the place. Ironically enough the course variance gave it more character or being a tough man’s Crit course. Everything about this course was tough, from the turns, heat, competition, and one’s mental capacity for fast repetitive circular racing.

I warmed up with a few teammates out on the surrounding roads. The trainer can provide a great warm up before a Criterium and I would highly suggest riders use them. Sometimes though it’s great to warm up with fellow riders and teammates so you can create a plan of attack for the race or chat about any specific race information or concerns. At this point before the race you can also see who is looking to do well and in top form. After getting a substantial warm up in, the Women’s field was on it’s last lap. I could see there were more spectators watching the Women’s race which only meant a lot of people had either stuck around for the pro race or had recently shown up. The nice thing about racing in category 1/2 Criteriums are the crowds. A lot of people want to see the local pro’s who have shown up on the day. Usually they are there to scrape up some money before they go and travel around the country for larger races.

 

There I am off to the right in the black with a hint of orange.

I jumped on the course and did a nice warm up lap before making my way to the Start / Finish. There were already a bunch of riders at the line and I was standing in the second row. I had a good start and made my way into the top 15 riders. This was a great place to be. I was far enough back from the lead rider but close enough to see what was going on. The first half of the race flew by. The course was fast with lots of turns so concentration was of the upmost importance. My focus was in complete tunnel vision. This is not the best mentality to have for a Crit of this nature. With lots of sharp turns a few riders can get away and out of sight in no time. This is exactly what had happened. Somewhere in the middle of the race two riders were away. I had not noticed the lap counter until 5 laps to go. My legs were responding to every attack of the day and my body and mind were working as one unit instead of two different entities. I was ready for the sprint. With two laps to go another lone rider bridged the gap and caught the two breakaway riders. So, in all essence were were sprinting for 4th place. I was sitting about 7th wheel into the last lap. On the back stretch, the field went from a furious sprint to a standstill and the entire group bunched up. With no room and too many riders, guys starting crashing into each other. I was bumped off my line hard but maintained control and didn’t crash. Once in control of my machine, I rode as hard as I could to the finish line. In the end I was 11th. No a bad finish when all circumstances are considered. Still, I felt cheated based on how my legs were feeling all day. As time goes on, I am starting to believe more in my Criterium ability. Although I am continuing to learn about my own limitations on the bike, my legs and mind tend not to wander as much during a Criterium compared to a long road race. The Sonic Boom Criterium was a blast and I’ll definitely be making my presence there next year.

Superior Morgul Omnium:

Most Pro 1/2 races are either early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Most race promoters leave the 1/2 Criteriums as the last event to top off the day. The crowds are larger, pace is faster, and prize money better. For this Criterium the 1/2 race was held in the middle of the day. It was hot, mid 70’s range and I spent as little time in the sun as possible. After getting my number I warmed up on the trainer next to my friend Rhys who is a junior rider for the Garmin team. I felt good on the trainer and after 45 minutes or so I took to the road for the remainder of the warmup. This specific Criterium was more in my mind like a circuit race. There was only one technical section in the race, the other part of the course you spent climbing up the hill or going down. I felt good during the first half of the race. Then as guys started to get tired, gaps began opening up. I found myself having to close a couple of gaps and was going into the red zone more than I had liked. Personally when I start to get tired in a race you can find me in various places. On the front, middle, and somewhere near the back. It’s an issue I’m trying to resolve. My mind is in another place and starts to worry about maintaining. So, the end result is a labyrinth series of attempts not to get dropped. Finally after almost at my limit the field pace dropped just slightly; Enough for me to recover.

“Right when you body and mind are at it’s complete limit, the pace will even out.” 

One of the most accurate aspects of Criterium racing is to hold your line and keep your composure. The pace will go from a snails movement to suicidal resulting in guys popping off the back. As long as you perpetuate a steady position and are able to hold your pain limit for a given time period you will do well in Criteriums. I tell this to all my athlete’s who race.

I’m loving my yellow shoes from Mavic!

Once I was able to recover I knew I’d be OK for the final laps of the race. Six men had gotten away earlier and I had missed the break. 7th place would be given to the rider who won the field sprint. With two laps to go my teammate Nick gave me the nod as he would try and help me for the lead out. Right at that point another teammate of mine Taylor started our small train to get me to the front. He did an amazing job of working as hard as he could to get me into position. On the long descent before the final turn and sprint finish we lost our position a bit and confusion set in. At that point I jumped to the left while the whole field was on the right and headed for the line. I picked off a couple of riders before the line but it was not enough and I finished 16th. A great day overall but I had wished I was able to hold my position better.

Road Race: 

I had been a bit tired from yesterday’s effort but my legs felt good when I woke up in the morning. When arriving in town for the race the weather was cool and overcast. Perfect! I love racing in cooler or even cold weather. Although having small body fat percentage I use cold weather racing as an advantage over other athletes. I train 90% of the time outside in the winter and don’t mind riding on the coldest and rainiest of days. Mentally this can be a huge blow to a lot of guys. On the other hand, the heat is my kryptonite. I tend to falter of the hottest of days because I still need to learn how to properly hydrate and feed my engine.

By the time we lined up the sun had come out and the temperature had jumped to the mid 70’s. It was only 11 in the morning so I knew a hot day of racing lay ahead. The road race was held on a 13 mile loop. Our group had the longest trek of 6 laps and a 7th to the finish up the “Wall” as it’s known.

That’s me on the front pushing the pace and trying to establish a breakaway. 

Notice the group already breaking apart. 

 

 

 

 

 

The infamous “Wall”

All morning before the race I said to myself I want to get in a breakaway. I knew the climb up the wall would shell guys off the back so I made sure I had a good position when going up. On the first lap I was like a rocket waiting to go off. I led the whole way up the first climb. I even heard my name coming from the announcers deck from the effort. My hard push up the wall initiated a small break of about 10 or so riders. I looked back once we crested and saw pain on a lot of guys faces. The road flattened out for a bit before climbing back up. This was our chance as a group to gain more time. Unfortunately the riders in the break did not work well together and we were caught within a few miles. For laps 2-4 I was in a great position. I was in the lead group and my legs were feeling great.

The sunny weather had pushed the temps into the 80’s. I made the mistake of not drinking enough and started to get a few chills when on the bike. Three riders were away and after being neutralized by the officials because of another passing group the break had 4+ minutes on the field. By this time we were somewhere on lap 4-5. A few times I got out of the saddle and my quads started to cramp. They were only small cramps but enough to send a worrisome chill down my spine. I was still in the lead group as more and more riders dropped out. Each time up the wall I pushed hard so I would not fall off the back. As the only rider left from my team I felt isolated. Guys who had more than one rider on a team were allowing gaps to open up. This forced guys like myself and others to use unnecessary energy to keep the group together. I was getting very frustrated and tired. With about 5k left on the 5th lap I got out of the saddle and my hamstring completely sized up. I couldn’t turn the pedals. My worst nightmare had become reality. There was nothing I could do except get off my bike and stretch. I looked down the road and the lead group was now a fuzzy distant memory. A support car pulled up next to me and asked if I was OK. I responded “Do you have a new set of legs in the car?”. They smiled and drove off. I remounted the bike and my legs began working again. I climbed the wall alone and noticed a very silent feeling coming from all the spectators. Without hesitation I put my hands in the air and yelled “Common! Give me some noise!”. The crowd erupted with cheers as I made my way to the top of the wall for my final solo lap. Somehow I was able to ride at a relatively hard pace without cramping up again. I didn’t catch anyone and no one caught me. I’m happy I finished the race even though I was 26th. At the finish I chatted with a bunch of teammates and friends and made my way back down to the parking lot.

Four Corners Xterra Triathlon: 

Don’t worry it was not me racing! Maija had been traveling all last week. From Michigan to see family, to Chicago for business. All week it was me and the pups. The pups and I missed her, so what better way to spend time as a family than to take a road trip! Maija got back home last Thursday night. We packed up the car and left the next morning for Farmington, New Mexico. The navigation took us on Interstate 25 South and then across the state to route 160. It was not the best drive. There were a lot of small towns to drive through which slowed our overall ride time down considerably. Aside from the slow drive there were high winds and fires blowing all the way from Arizona. The sky was hazy, the temperature was hot, and we were both a bit tired. Still, we had some fun singing in the car and making up stories about what our dogs were thinking. If you have a dog (or cat) and you are on a long trip with nothing to do, start thinking about short animal narratives in your head. It definitely helps pass the time! Dogs will always give us the most interesting non-verbal facial expressions. It’s up to our own imagination to figure out what they are thinking.

We got Farmington in the middle of the afternoon and it was in the low 90’s. Hot! Hot! Hot! New Mexico, especially farmington is a barren area with no shade and plenty of sun to go around. We headed straight to packet pickup so Maija could get her number. Then, before going to the hotel we drove down the road to the reservoir. It was a short circular drive on a dirt road until we arrived to where the race was being held. This small park was actually beautiful! It seemed like an oasis compared to the rest of the city. There were trees, running and mountain biking paths, and even a reservoir for the pups to play in!

The race itself was a blast to watch. Maija had a great race and finished second in her age group and the sixth woman overall. On the way back we took Route 285 through the mountains and snapped some great shots from the San Juan and Rio Grande Forests.

Enjoy the pictures! 

Blog Resurrection!

I’ve been leaning on the side of writing in my blog for a while. I would sit down with a nice cup of coffee (Dunkin lately), ready to type away all the information stored in my head from recent adventures, races, and other undertakings. But, something has stopped me. I’m not exactly sure what was causing this detour or would lead my mind straight to a dead end. In any case I’m not here to pontificate over my loss of motivation to write.

I’m here to update!

A lot has gone on in the 1+ months I have not updated. In the month of April Maija and I had her mother and sister come visit followed by my mother and brother the next weekend. The weekend my brother and mom came to town was also my cousins wedding. I would have to say it was one of the most unique ceremonies and wedding parties I had ever been to. The Ceremony took place in one section of an art gallery while the majority of the party took place in another cut off section. What made the night so interesting was an unexpected marching band came charging in from the city streets to play a few conventional wedding songs in a most unconventional manner. Very cool! Food was also provided by a hotdog stand right outside the gallery doors. The food was great, music was fun, and it was nice to see my family altogether. Maija and I even got our cartoon portrait drawn which is now framed and hung up in our office. Props to my cousin and his new wife Amy for throwing a notable wedding!

Maija, Mom, My brother Drew, and I.

A cartoon drawing of Maija and I.

The day after my mom and brother left I packed up and headed to Silver City, NM for Tour of the Gila. This was a 5 day stage race with three hilly road races, a time trial, and a downtown Criterium. Overall the experience was humbling and enjoyable. I gained a lot of fitness and was able to pinpoint some of my own specific racing weaknesses. I went into this race a little under fit and found myself surviving each day rather than at the front. Racing is always the best tool to figure out what we as athletes need to work on. I won’t go into a stage by stage recap of each day’s racing. My best finish for the 5 days came in the Criterium as I placed 8th. I don’t think I’ll go back next year as it was more of a “bucket list” stage race. The wind was always prevalent and during the time trail there were a few instances I almost got blown off my bike! 135lb rider doing a time trail in 35mph winds with gusts up to 50mph = no fun.

After Gila, Maija and I took a trip to Santa Cruz, CA. Maija had her first Xterra race of the season. This was only her second Xterra ever. Aside from the race, we both wanted to do something different than staying in a generic hotel. We started looking at VBRO.com for a quiet cottage we could stay in for the weekend. Most cottages were beach bungalow’s and we wanted something closer to nature preferably surrounded by a wooded area.

The weekend was definitely going to be epic. It started by nearly making our flight at DIA (Denver Airport). There was a lot more traffic from our house in Highlands Ranch to DIA than we expected and we made it to the departing gate about 20 minutes before take off. We were literally running through the airport. I chose to wear my comfortable Timberland boots which definitely posed an issue when time was of the essence. The other reason we were slow going through the airport was our two cumbersome bicycle boxes I had to lug to check-in. My arms were burning and it felt as if I was in a strong-man competition. In those strong-man competitions it always seems as if they need to carry or hold large usual objects. People in the airport kept asking us “What was in those boxes?”. I felt like telling them I was a 007 agent and I was carrying high powered weapons to my next mission. My tongue caught me as I started to realized we live in a September 11th sensitive world where verbal communique’s whether fact or fiction are taken with a grain of salt. The flight was rather calm and it was nice flying into a California sunset. I only wish all flights were this easy. We landed around 9:30, rented an SUV, and headed south to Santa Cruz from San Francisco.

The cottage we decided to rent was in a small section of rural hills surrounded by large Redwood trees. The pictures on the website showed a cute cottage with a relaxing decor.

Perfect! After what appeared or felt like a long drive we reached the cottage around 11:30 Thursday night. We pulled up to the cottage noticed the lights in the downstairs we already on. As we started to make our way up the wooden stairs there was a tapped piece of paper which read “Welcome Adam and family”. Right next to this sign was another piece of paper which welcomed another family! What was going on? It was our assumption we had rented a cottage to ourselves for the weekend. This was obviously not what we had imagined. We held our breath as we walked up to the second floor of the cottage where we were staying. Maija and I opened the doors to a small but appealing interior. A while back I had contacted the owners of the cottage to make sure they used non-scented detergent as Maija has a sensitively. We smelt the pillows and sheets and it had a very strong overwhelming smell of detergent. This was strike 3. I fuming and Maija could sense my edgyness to wake these people up. The owners had lived on the property which I had no problem with. My major issues were the obvious strong detergent smells and the completely wrong description of the cottage. It turned out the pictures were of the downstairs where another couple was staying. I knew there was not much I could do at 12 midnight. We we attempted to get some sleep and figure things out in the morning.

I woke up and told Maija we are not staying here. It was about 6:45 A.M and I knocked on the doors to the owners house. I told them about the issues and the man was nice but played the innocent role. It seemed as if he was just as surprised about the stay as we were! We packed up the car and booked a room at a near by spa and resort which turned out to be a pretty nice place.

The road leading up to the resort & spa.

We spent a good deal of Friday checking out Santa Cruz, picking up Maija’s race essentials and then relaxing at the resort. Santa Cruz is a beautiful beach city with plenty of local coffee and deli shops. It was nice to support local business rather than major chains back home. It was bit cold for the weekend. The temps never reached the 70’s except on Friday. So, what better to do than go for a ride? I had researched the area a bit on Google Maps and had some ideas of where I wanted to ride. Nothing major just an hour or two to get the legs alive from a 48 hour rest. I rode through the downtown area for a while and saw a road which took me up into the hills of Santa Cruz. I decided to cut through a parking lot to get to the road. Bad idea. I took my hands off the handlebars for a quick second and ending up hitting a speed bump causing me to slide across the road. I had a few scrapes on my legs and arms. My bike was OK except the cable and housing and been ripped apart from the fall. After getting some new cable, I spent a couple hours working on the bike while Maija rested and relaxed in the room. We went out to dinner and finally got to bed.

I woke up the next morning with sore legs from the fall and very sore arms from carrying the bike boxes through the airport, to the monorail, then to the rental car company. Still, Maija and I wanted to make the most of the day. We began to research different areas close to Santa Cruz which would be good for riding and for Maija to get an easy shake-out run in before her Xterra on Sunday. Big Basin State Park was about 25 miles from Santa Cruz. The plan was for Maija to drive in the car to the park go for run and meet me near the entrance. Before we could head out on this journey Maija wanted to do a short pre-swim in the ocean. The water temp was a frigid 51 degrees! I was freezing standing there as she put her wetsuit on and made her way down to the ocean.

 

After a quick swim in the water we made our way back to the car, blasted the heat for a bit and headed down the road to a small park where I could change into my cycling clothes and start the ride. I made my way on the bike down Bay street which turned into another road called High Street. High Street turns into Empire Grade and takes you up into the hills. Right outside of the Santa Cruz city limits the road starts to climb. Nothing too intense but enough to tire the legs. After another couple of miles I road past the University of Santa Cruz which plants itself on a rolling country side. A few more miles down and Maija pulled over to tell me there were a couple of cyclists up the road and I might want to catch them. Before I saw Maija I was riding hard but at a sustainable pace. Once she told me the news about the cyclists I gave chase and found myself in a climbing frenzy. The road would pitch up, shoot down, flatten, and then kick up again. After only 3-4 miles I caught up and past the riders with little to no effort. I realized some major differences climbing at or close to sea level. My breathing was completely erratic as I could burn my internal engine a lot harder. My legs on the other hand were completely fresh and I could push the watts up whenever I chose to. Breathing heavy does not scare me, nor should it scare yourself. Personally I tend to be a heavy breather whether at sea-level or at altitude. My friend Sean always says to me he can’t figure out if I’m hurting during a training ride because I’ll constantly be gasping for air. No matter the fact, I was reaping some major benefits from all the altitude riding. Big Basin State Park summits at or around 2,000 ft above sea level. A rather mediocre height for someone living and/or training at 5,000+ft. I never felt tired nor did I ever totally feel a major build up of lactic acid in the legs. Once past the other riders on the road the climb became much more difficult. Steep switchbacks and long 5%+ gradient roads made me dig into some reserves. It was nice to push hard alone on the road. I have always believed it’s necessary for an athlete to understand how to suffer through pain during solitary training rides. After 45 minutes of riding I saw Maija parked on the side of the road. It was a bit confusing whether to head straight or turn right at a specific intersection. I hopped in the car and Maija drove down a 3 mile descent before the road kicked up for another 5 miles to the park. I wasn’t complaining about the short rest from the bike as it was below 50 degree and I did not have any cold weather clothing except a light long-sleeve jacket. I jumped out of the car and began riding again. The last 5 miles to the park were the most beautiful. A couple dozen houses were the minority compared to the thousands of redwood trees which surrounded the area. It was a beautiful spectacle to witness from my bicycle and I feel so fortunate and humble I didn’t have to drive the loop in the car.

A view from my bike. A lot more green to witness compared to those mountain roads in Colorado.

Finally arriving at the park.

Big Basin in the oldest state park in California.

I followed Maija in the car through a small portion of the park until we found a good parking spot where she could go for a short run. While Maija went on a run I did a short hike and snapped some shots of what nature and the park had to offer. These redwood trees were not the largest of their kind but they were still a sight for sore eyes. Their towering masses were compelling. They were unlike any trees I have seen up close.

Sunday – Race Day: 

The next morning we woke up and headed to the Transition 2 area so Maija could drop off her running shoes for the last part of the race. The mountain bike and running portions were mostly done at Wilder Ranch State park. The park entrance is nothing special but a dirt road with some parking areas. Once you head deeper into the park you are able to get some great costal views. I was a little jealous of Maija because I didn’t get to see all the park had to offer. After dropping her running shoes off we made our way back to the boardwalk and beach. This was the start of the race and the location athletes transitioned from the swim to their bikes. The sun came out for the start of the swim but didn’t make the water temp any warmer. Just like yesterday when Maija was doing her pre-swim I was cold standing on the beach in a jacket. I took some shots of Maija and her teammates coming out of the water and into transition. Once Maija was on the bike I drove back to Wilder State Park and awaited her return. It was nice to cheer on other athletes and to take the position of domestique (For Maija) and spectator.

I took a cool shot of Maija when she was on the bike. Once day I’m going to get a nice DSLR camera with a good lens to get those professional sport shots. Still, I thought this was an interesting perspective.

After the race Maija and I had to rush back to the resort as we were already overstaying our checkout time. We packed the car and decided to take more scenic drive on Highway 1 back to San Francisco. It was well worth the extra time as we made a few stops to take in costal views and enjoy the sunshine. Maija and I had a great time in CA. Although a few disruptions along the way we still made the best of our vacation together.

Up and Down. DU Criterium

We all have them. Days where our legs feel stiff, like blocks of wood. No matter how much coffee, tea, or other caffeine swindle we put into our system, our energy level remain low. Last week’s training went quite well. A few hard rides, a couple easy days and I was ready for a weekend of racing. Physically so to speak, I’m in top shape. Mild temperatures in Colorado this winter gave way to lots of outdoor riding instead of succumbing to the indoor trainer.

Saturday there was a hill climb time trail up Lookout mountain. I opted out of this because I’d much rather race against other riders than the clock, even when the road pitches upward. I awoke Saturday morning with fresh legs so I headed over to the Chatfield group ride. I’ve been meaning to race on tired legs. Tour of the Gila is coming up in the coming weeks and I need to simulate riding hard consecutive days in a row.

After the group ride ended I rode towards Deer Creek Canyon for another half hour or so, just to get more saddle time. On the way back I was putting my long-sleeve jacket on when my phone popped out of my jersey pocket. It fell softly on the ground without any cosmetic damage. “Sweet!” I said to myself.

As I was turning around to pick up the phone an 18-wheeler came whistling past like he was in the middle of a motor car speedway race. Boom! Crack! He ran straight over my phone. I was not a happy camper. Good thing for insurance as I was able to get a new phone for not a lot of money. I suppose insurance does come in handy!

Phone Aftermath

 

Sunday morning I woke up tired, groggy, and sore. I’m sure it didn’t help I ate 85% of a large pizza and a huge bowl of ice cream the night before. The DU 1/2 Criterium was not until 3:45 in the afternoon. I hung around the house for a while, took a long nap with Cooper, and worked on my bike to ready it for the coming race. I made the drive up north to City Park and found someone to leave the car while I rode into the park to register, get my number, and chat with a few people. The weather was cool with intermittent clouds. When the sun was shinning it warmed up fast.

I didn’t warm up for the race. I was not feeling all the best and riding made me colder and more tired. At this point I should have packed it up, drove home and called it a day. But, like many other determined riders out there I wanted to see if the legs would turn around.

They didn’t.

The first few laps were fast and I was already hurting. It could have been because I didn’t warm up much or not feeling well. Or maybe a combination of both. After about 10-15 more laps of pain and agony, I had enough and pulled out of the race. No excuses here. It was not my day. I plan on making a more conscious effort in the future about either racing or waiting until next time. The lesson learned from this experience was to know when to fold em’!

This weekend brings more Criteriums.

Stay tuned for more race reports!

CU Boulder Crit

On the way back from Moab Sunday night I noticed my middle finger was swollen. It didn’t hurt but definitely needed to get checked out. So, first thing Monday morning I went to the Urgent Care center close by to the house. The Doctor told me it was some sort of infection and a double dose of two different antibiotics should clear it up. This was the second time I had been to the Urgent Care center for the finger issue. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday went by and my finger got worse! The antibiotics had been making me feel horrible and I now had a finger more swollen and red than three days ago. I went to a Dermatologist and got some topical cream which seems to be clearing up this issue. Anyway, this was the start to a bumpy week. Friday I took Mickey over to the dog local dog park. We have been going there for a while now together. The park has just been extended to four acres. Now I don’t have to send Mickey over the fence to get the Friz when the wind takes it too far. I’ve been using this frisbee which can be launched the length of a football field! Mickey and I spend an hour or two 3-4 times a week at the park. It’s great exercise for him and way to keep him socialized with others dogs besides Cooper and Frito. At times, Mickey will run around me in circles trying to get the Friz. In a moment of absentmindedness, Mickey jumped up and grabbed my hand instead of the Friz. He bit down pretty hard and boy did it hurt! In all the years I have been working with dogs, training them, walking them, ETC…I’ve never been bit by a dog. Of course, when playing with one of my own pups I get a first hand feeling of how powerful a dog’s bite force really is. It’s incredible how strong they can chomp down. My hand wasn’t bleeding much and it didn’t hurt until I got home. Then the pain came. I rushed over to the store and got some extra strength Tylenol and passed out for a few hours. When I woke up it still hurt to move my hand and grab object with any sort of force. A couple hours later, the pain finally subsided. Still, I needed to make a decision on whether to race tomorrow afternoon.

For dinner I opted out of pasta and went with some Philly cheese steak strips I bought from the store. Maija and I were going to make a steak salad but she didn’t think it looked too appetizing. More for me! I cooked those bad boys up and threw them on some Jewish rye with white cheese for a great tasting sandwich.

Bad idea…

I woke up about five times that night to rush into the bathroom. In the morning I found myself dehydrated with an upset stomach. On a positive note my hand was feeling better! I decided to race. Maija went to the pool and fell back asleep for a couple of hours since the race was not until late afternoon.

My stomach remained in knots as Maija, Mickey, and I traveled to Boulder. It would be a little too hectic bringing three dogs to a race. Cooper and Frito held down the fort. The ride to Boulder was a windy one with high cross winds blowing sand in our car. We arrived on the east side of CU boulder and parked the car. First stop the bathroom. My stomach was still aching. I hung out at the car with Maija and Mickey, registered, and warmed up a bit. I was not in the mood to warm up much. It was a hot day and I didn’t want to tire myself before a hard effort. Sometimes you need to chance it and not warm up much before a race. Criteriums are especially important for warming up. Crit’s usually start out the way horses do at the racetrack. Wicked fast blazes of glory fast! But in this case I decided for a modified warmup.

I noticed a lot of heavy hitters in the field. Bissel, Trek Livestrong, Jelly Belly, ETC…I never get nervous when I see domestic pro kits in the field. We all are human and on any given day, anyone can be beat. Still, I knew I had my work cut out for me. A couple of warm up laps and the race was under way. The first few laps were predictable with gobs of attacks from everyone. Breaks usually do not stick early in a race because everyone’s legs are fresh. The next thing I know some Kenda guy gave me an elbow to the gut. He yelled something at me but I couldn’t make out exactly what he was ranting about. No time for people like him, especially in a Crit where the average pace was above 45KM an hour.

A bit of time had passed and I noticed the pack had gotten smaller. The pace remained the same but less riders to jostle with. A few times throughout the first half of the race I was put into the red zone. The line of riders was getting strung out and I could feel my hurt tank getting larger and larger. As always in a Crit, right at about the time you can’t seem to push anymore, the pace drops slightly.

The first time I noticed the lap board there was 18 to go. Surprisingly my legs and body felt great. I didn’t feel my hand and my stomach issues appeared a distant memory. With 8 laps to go, I told myself to work hard at getting a good position for the sprint. This was no easy task. No one was giving an inch and with the the final lap just on the horizon, I was having trouble making my way into the top 10. Organization starting forming at the front and with 1 lap to go I was sitting 15-18 deep. I gave one last hard effort on the backside of the course but a small gap formed and I got hit with a huge headwind and no one’s wheel to grap. I kept pushing as hard as I could to the line but it was obviously not enough as I saw the winners arms raise in the distance.

This was my first 1/2 race of the season at altitude in Colorado. At sea level where it tends to be damp I could have gotten away with 1 bottle. With five or so laps to go I was out of fluids and my mouth and throat quickly became parched with thin dry hot Colorado air. Overall I was happy with my performance. I held in to the finish and didn’t give up as there were plenty of times throughout the race I had contemplated the notion. It was a good first race of the season and my legs felt great despite the minor setbacks in the past 48 hours.

It was great to have Maija and Mickey along for the trip as they are always great spectators. Maija even received some attention at the race. Earlier in the day Maija had been out on her FS mountain bike where she flipped over the her handlebars and got a sweet looking shiner on her face. People had thought she raced initially but then she explained it was a mountain biking adventure causing the war scar.

I’m excited for the upcoming season here in Colorado and look forward to some more Crits and hilly road races.

Stay tuned for more race reports in the future!

Moab Training 2011


DAY 1

This past weekend was a blast. Thursday morning Maija, our 3 dogs, and myself headed west to Moab, UT. We left early in hopes of beating some traffic and having the latter part of the afternoon to relax and set up camp.  The drive to Moab was interesting in terms of weather. Dry and cool on the front range, cold (10 degrees) in the high country, then hot and dry once over the mountains. The trip was easy with minimal traffic the entire time. We stopped in Vail to pick up some Starbucks and use the bathrooms. I wish I could have seen more of Vail. We turned off the highway into the town and were presented with unique homes and condos. The european style roads with various roundabouts and narrow streets gave a fresh experience compared to the jejune American roadways. After doing a complete circle around town we couldn’t find one coffee shop! Was this really Vail? So, we jumped back on the highway and got off at the next exit to pick up our yuppie caffeine fix. Once back on the road it was another 3-4 hours until Moab. After getting off I-70 you head down a two lane road for 30 miles which takes you past Arches National Park and right smack into the middle of the Moab town.





The town is small, bleak with a cardinal tourist feeling. The sun was shinning in a cloudless sky as we made our way to the nearest bicycle shop. Our first intention was to head to the meeting point for her team. Subsequently, we decided to rent a mountain bike for myself. I chose an Aluminum Trek Full Suspension. Although I had my eye on a Yeti FS it was a little too costly for our liking. After renting the bike we were presented with a slight problem; Our car was already packed to the brim! I definitely overpacked for this trip. Unlike our Pennsylvania adventure where we hiked into our campsite, we had our car with us the whole time. Sleeping bags, tent, bags of cycling clothes, food, water, toolbox, more food, small cooler, bicycle stand, Maija’s FS mountain bike, and my road bike. Not really sure why I brought my road bike to the desert but it was worth it in the end. (Keep reading to find out) If I remeber correctly I put the rented bike frame in the back seat next to two of the dogs while one sat on Maija’s lap. The wheels found their way into the car as well.

Maija had vague directions to where her team was camping. It was not her fault or anyone else’s. The campsite was so remote there was no easy way to give definitive and specific navigation bearings. Our directions and intuition took us down Kane Creek Rd where we followed a paved road that turned into dirt after a few kilometers. We continued down the dirt road with some amazing fews of eroded rock creations, canyons, and mesas. Some of the rocks had been morphed into peculiar shapes and sizes over thousands of years. The more and more we drove down the dirt road, the more desolate and inhospitable it became. I found out quickly the popularity  of ATV’s, dirt bikes and other two and four-wheel vehicles. There was an abundant of mountain bikers but most others had a truck which was pulling some other type of motorized toy. I don’t have any particular dislike for those who use motorized equipment as a form of entertainment but I do have slight angst for the amount of noise it produces in the valley near our campsite. On the upside, the majority of those using ORV’s were friendly and always waved as they passed you.

There was an unspoken truth and respect by most people who used the dirt roads for leisure, and surroundings for  tranquility.

The road to our campsite remained narrow with steep drop-off’s on one or both sides of the car. It was a bit scary at times to drive here. We neared our campsite and met a few of Maija’s teammates leaving the camp area. We arrived at the campsite, let the dogs loose to roam while I busied myself setting up the tent. It was already in the middle to upper 60’s and with no clouds in sight and a mixture of dry air I was roasting as I set up camp. The site from our campsite was priceless and unparalleled.  The campsite tucked around a mesa which made you feel more grounded and stable. But, we needed to air on the side of caution as there was a cliff only 200 meters from our tent. As I went to relieve myself in the middle of the night I made sure I was extra alert.

Traveling with three dogs can be hard work. Three different dogs, wanting to go in three different directions, doing three different things. Even the most well trained pups use nature as their play ground. I found myself getting a little frustrated as it was hard to control three canine minds in the wild. Frito had the most wandering of minds as he searched out every nook, bush, and rock. Finally I tied him up to a rope so he could wander but not out of sight. He remained content with this as he kept a keen eye out for any game.

Once we settled into camp Maija and I decided to go on a short mountain bike ride. We didn’t know the area yet so we chose to ride on the dirt road which we drove in. Our biggest problem was finding shade. I would say 85% of the area was hit by direct sunlight, and another 10% were places we could not park a car. Lucky enough we found a small shaded area to park the car and leave the dogs to chill out while Maija and I headed out for a ride. The mountain bike I had was comfortable for the most part and after a short ride I realized it was easier getting used to a mountain bike fit than a road fit. It was almost as if things had to be off on a mountain bike for it to feel “correct”. No dirt trail is completely uniform and as such a mountain bike shouldn’t be either. We did a short out and back on the bikes and then returned to the campsite just in time to make a fire, eat some dinner, and watch the sunset.

Day 2

The next day was quite epic. Sometimes you have a ride / adventure which turns out to be an experience to remember. Sometimes these experiences go as planned while others fall apart with great compulsion. Still, there is always a fragment of learning which can be applied to future training and racing. It was cold when we awoke on Friday morning but the temperature rises fast in the desert and before nine o’clock it was already in the 50’s. Everyone at our campsite was heading to ride a trail called baby steps. Sounded mild in terms of technical skills so why not try it out? Personally, I still have a lot to learn in terms of mountain bike riding as most of my riding and racing is on paved roads. Notwithstanding, I’m still able to hold my own on technical courses because of the skills obtained on the road. Maija and I got the jump on the rest of the group and followed another car to the trailhead. When we arrived it was already hot so we covered the car in blankets, cracked the windows, and threw water on the dogs to keep them cool while we rode. The trail started out easy except for the sandy sections where it was hard to remain control of the bike. A few turns to follow the signs and we began to climb over slick-rock. It was a steep climb on the slick-rock and I had some trouble staying upright. Maija on the other hand ran into some mechanical issues with her bike which included a loose seat-post / saddle combination, an issue with her pedal getting stuck, and an array of other small disruptions. This made it hard for her to concentrate on the trail and feel comfortable during technical sections. I too, would have felt the same way. We continued riding up, down, and through some straightaways. After a while of continued bike mechanical issue Maija and I decided to turn around and head back to the car. As we turned around and headed in the direction we just traveled Maija encountered an issue (I don’t exactly remember what happened) and flipped over her bicycle. Crazy! She was determined to finish this route so we could make it to our pups before the hot hot weather came. I give her a lot of credit for trying this loop. Both of our riding abilities and made me realize it’s better to start off with easier routes and then graduate to more technical paths. We got back to the car, relaxed for a few, cleaned up some cuts, and headed back into town.


Later in the day we headed down to the river closest to our camp. It was a tough regression to the river but the dogs enjoyed the adventure. I even got to snag a picture of a tiny lizard. Apparently the lizards were the one’s responsible for Frito’s infatuation under the rocks! Once we reached the water it was short lived as there was not much room for us to hang, plus there were giant red ant hills everywhere.

The day was still young so we hiked an out and back trail with the dogs. We snagged some cool shots of nature and found out Mickey can swim! In fact, he loves the water so much I had to call to him just to come out. Mickey is growing up fast and likes to try and control our pack. I reprimand him when he gets out of place but for the most part he is mindful of my guidelines and obeys my commands. He is a loyal dog who is finding his place among Cooper and Frito.

Dog or Wolf?

Each night brought beautiful sunsets with cooler weather. There was always a fire burning at the campsite (at night) which kept us warm during the nightly hours. Once the sun goes down there is an supernatural feeling of sleeping in a large area with nothing around you but thousands of stars filling up the sky and a dim silhouette of the mesas and rock formations. Although around others I felt alone in a vast environment. The past couple of days I gained a better understanding of the desert and it’s natural character.

Day 3

The third day in Moab Maija and I got up early, ate some breakfast and headed out to a challenging yet do-able ride. There was no shade for the dogs in the car but because we made an early start they were cool the entire time. The ride started out on the main highway and quickly climbed through the valley of rocks until you were up and away from the site of any paved roads. We started early enough to be some of the only people on the trail. On the way back ATV’s, Jeep’s, and other motorized vehicles started making their way out on the trail. This ride had some beautiful views of  rock evolution and mountains. This ride was more up our alley as it was psychically and technically challenging but not out of our realm.


Once back to the car we drove back to the campsite, ate some lunch, and headed out for some more adventure seeking with the pups. The afternoon was spent taking the dogs to Ken’s lake. The lake was at the foothills south-east of Moab. The lake itself seemed to be dried out but still held a respectable amount of water. Maija wanted to go for a run so I tailed behind with Mickey and Cooper as we hiked up to a waterfall. The hike was easy but after a tough ride earlier in the day, my legs were definitely feeling it. Also, in this specific section of the foothills there was a hot dry air blowing through. Maija ran back to me a few times to switch out between Mickey and Frito and to give me a heads up on what direction to take on the trail. Once we got to the waterfall I took my shoes off, and walked right in. The water was cold yet refreshing. I dunked some water on my head, took a few pictures of the surrounding area and then headed back to the lake. Ken’s lake and the nearby area was nice but wasn’t the best of sites. Maybe the heat was getting to me after a few days of camping and riding.

Day 4

Our last day in Moab was short lived. With a 6 hour ride back to Highlands Ranch, a tired couple, and three worn out dogs, it was time to say goodbye to the desert. We ate some breakfast and I started packing the car while Maija went on a mountain bike ride. I didn’t realize how long it would take to pack up a car. We had so much stuff. After a while, we were on our way back to Denver. The plan on Sunday was to ride the Colorado National Monument. I had mixed feelings about doing the ride. I was sunburnt, sore from sleeping on the ground with no sleeping bag pad (until the last night), and eager to rest up. The closer we got to Fruita and Grand Junction the more I wanted to see the monument from a bicycle. The decision was made. I would climb the monument. We stopped off at the visitor center where we picked up a map of the national park. The ride was easy to figure out as it was a point to point ride. You climb for a while then ride the rim of the monument until you get to Grand Junction. All in all it’s about 22 miles. I paid my entrance fee ($4.00 for bicycles, $7 for cars) and made my way up the climb. Since we were coming from Moab it made sense to ride from the west entrance. The east entrance is a bit more difficult with steep pitches and switchbacks. The west entrance was just as beautiful. I only saw half a dozen cyclists out on the road and a few dozen cars. For most of the ride I was alone. I climbed for a few miles and then hit a series of tunnels carved out in the mountain side. Cool stuff! I stopped a few times to snatch some pictures of the landscape and continued on my journey. Maija met me on the other side at the east entrance. I’m glad I got to experience the monument. Sometimes it’s important to view historical landmarks from a cycling perspective. Unless I’m on my own two feet it’s hard to obtain the same feelings if I were in a car.

Moab was a great experience. I learned a lot about camping, myself, and how unforgiving the desert can be to humans. The desert is there for us to enjoy but if you play with fire just be careful you don’t get burned!

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