Sunday, February 27, 2011

Welcome back to racing - in a big way!

Today was my first race for the season. It was my first race since my surgery. I'm just over 5 weeks out from the surgery, and only about 3 weeks of getting in some hard riding. I had to get out there today as I was going nuts watching all my team-mates mixing it up. My plan today was to just hang in the pack and ride it out, but like most plans, it just never seems to work out that way.

I was a little nervous as we lined up behind the Pro 1/2, and the Cat 3 peletons. Big George came out again to give the Pro 1/2 group some lessons on how to race. Man can that guy ride. Great to see him out there rubbing elbows with the common man.

Poppa gave us his speach, with plenty of seriousness and a little humor thrown in for good measure. We waited a few minutes after the Cat 3 peleton before he set us off. Immediately, two guys went off the front. The peleton reacted, but it didn't seem to be a serious threat.

I was lined up pretty far back, further than I had really planned, but again, plans don't ever seem to work out. No problem, we set off with a pretty good pace and the pack got strung out through the rollers leading up to golf course hill. I took advantage of this and moved towards the front. The only place to be in a race is near the front. Otherwise, you're like a sitting duck, the front is where everything happens.

At the top of golf course hill, we absorbed the two guys, and the pace continued at a serious clip. Not at all unmanageable, but a little faster than a 'group ride' pace. As we rolled along the back side, I tried to stay protected from the wind and stay near the front. Because I had done a full lap of warm-up, I knew where the wind was blowing and I knew it would be coming directly into our faces as we turned to go up 3m hill.

The wind was a factor today. For sure. On the back side, I stayed to the left side of the peleton to take advantage of the protection and while we ascended 3m hill, I moved laterally across the peleton to the center. As we neared the top of 3m hill, I was positioned pretty well - on the right side (for wind protection) and in the top 10 (to watch / cover any breaks).

Sure enough, as we rounded the corner at the top of the hill, two guys went off the front. I don't know if it was the same two, but they hit it hard and a number of us set off in chase. We had a bit of a cross, but slightly tail wind as we went through this section. I was pushing hard, and calling out to get the guys around me to organize to chase the break.

It was working. Several of us started to get organized, although some of them dropped off pretty quickly. A two person chase group had now gotten a little gap and I was in the 2nd chase group (which was pretty much the entire peleton). Granger came up and gave me a good pull to help me get closer to that second chase group that were gaining on the 2 man break. I sat on his wheel for a little while but came around and started to chase on my own. Granger told me later that he sat up after I went around, as the entire peleton was on his wheel.

I was able to bridge up to form a 3 person chase group. I thought I was sitting pretty - the three of us were bridging up to the breakaway and we were working together. Each of us was taking a short pull before we handed it off to the next guy. We switched off a number of times, and we were making great progress when a fourth guy pulled into the chase group.

By this time, I was really starting to feel it. Although I don't have a heart rate monitor, I could tell I was at or above redline. I tried to stay with these guys, but couldn't hold their wheel when I switched out after a short pull. I kept pushing, some crazy belief that I might be able to bring them back. A couple of other guys pulled up alongside and I tried to catch their wheels, but alas, I was burning matches left and right and I was running out!

As we crossed the start / finish line at the end of lap 1, the break had about 6 guys, I was behind about 20 yards and chasing and the peleton was getting shattered behind me. I made the right turn at the stop sign and looked back. I needed the protection of the peleton, I was out of gas.

They absorbed me as we rolled through the terrain leading up to golf course hill. At the top of the hill, I was a bit disappointed that the pace seemed to slow. It almost seemed like this was going to turn into another group ride. I was still recovering, so my heart wasn't too broken by that!

As we came through the rollers on the back side of the course, I felt several times a handlebar rubbing me on the rear end. That is real racing. Nobody got upset by it, and the racing was clean. I was trying to stay near the front again just to see if there was something I could do.

As we approached 3m hill, I had had enough of the group ride pace, so I attacked - uphill and into the wind. How smart is that? I did open a bit of a gap, but my match supply was really low, and I had just burned a couple that I didn't really need to burn.

The attack did what I wanted it to do - drive the pace. Once they re-absorbed me, the pace was brutal! I stayed with the pack, now strung out single file for the rest of the 2nd lap. I was basically just hanging on for dear life! Remember that cross / tail wind (seemed like more cross than tail!)? It was really taking it's toll on me.

I was with them through the start / finish at the end of lap 2, and stayed with them through the rollers near the golf course, but I popped about half way up the golf course hill. I just didn't have anything left. So much for staying with the pack, although there was nothing in my plan about trying to chase and grab that break.

I'm certain that is what did me in. Although, I do feel that is what I needed to do. Even though it was just my first race back, and I knew my fitness was in question, I needed to see what I had in the tank. Now I know.

What I am really glad of is that I have the instinct to see things forming at the front. Not only to see them, but I also feel I have the ability to react to them. I'm totally comfortable to ride near the front of the pack and to make things happen out there. Now I just need to get my fitness up to speed so I can stick with it through the entire race.

So, I didn't race my plan. I had to improvise on the fly. I feel I reacted well, although with my current level of fitness it definitely turned out to be the wrong move. Next time, I'll stick with my plan!

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Mirriam-Webster defines milestone as "an important point in the progress or development of something : a very important event or advance". What's this got to do with me? Two things really.

First, as I have mentioned in my blog, I recently underwent some surgery as part of my total orthodontic treatment. That has left me with some residual pain and more discomforting - some numbness in my chin and lower lip (some might say in my skull... ;). This numbness was causing some pretty serious discomfort if I put in any strong effort while riding my bike on the trainer.

Last tuesday, I decided to push myself a little harder than I had been (on the trainer). It didn't take long for this discomfort to cause me to make the decision to let up and scale back the intensity. I just wasn't ready for it. It really makes my face feel like it is starting to swell up pretty badly.

Two days later, while again taking a trainer class from Jeni (, I decided to push it again. This time, the discomfort didn't manifest itself in the same way, and in fact seemed to be a bit reduced. I was able to keep up the intensity for the entire hour and 20 minutes of the trainer class. That was a big deal for me as I really don't want to be too far behind in my fitness and my training once the spring riding season begins in just a couple of months.

The second milestone - that's a much bigger deal for me. This has to do with my big goal for the year. That being of course to change my body composition. If you have been following along, you know that I am tracking my weight and by % body fat. Today marks the 10th consecutive day that my 7 day average weight has been below 170 lbs. That, for me, is a very significant number.

Why is it so significant? Well, I haven't seen that number on a scale for a long time. Probably the last time I saw a weight below this number on a scale was when I was in the Military. I got out of the Military (about) 24 years ago. It is a big deal for me.

Of course, my jaw surgery and the diet I'm forced to be on has helped, but interestingly enough, I really have only lost 5 lbs before my weight stabilized. You'll see it in the chart I'll post at the end of the blog. It was the first few days after the surgery that I had a significant drop in my weight. Since then, as I have already said, it has been 10 days that my 7 day average has been below 170.

Now I have to keep that up, especially once I can go back to a more 'normal' diet.

Something else I should comment on. My last blog talked about how I switched my scale to the 'athlete' mode for measuring % body fat. Well, as you might imagine, the numbers changed radically. It immediately went from an average of 25 to an average of 20.2. the % stayed at 20.2 and has varied only slightly since I made that change almost 2 weeks ago. One thing I really like about this setting - it seems to have less variance in the day to day measurement. Perhaps that has something to do with my diet, but I don't really know.

So, my numbers (7 day avg) as they fall out today are: 168.5 lbs and 20.1% body fat.

And, since it has been a few weeks since I made the body measurements, here they are as of this afternoon (baseline measurements in parenthesis) :
Chest: 40.625 (43.625) inches
Waist: 36.75 (38.5) inches
Hips: 38.625 (40.0) inches
Thighs: L: 22.625 (23.875) R: 22.5 (24.0) inches
Calves*: L: 16.125 (16.125) R: 16 (16.375) inches

*still not too sure about my calf measurements. I'll keep on posting them, but I'll have to keep an asterisk on that measurement until I have more confidence. Maybe I should just get a tattoo around my calf at the measurement point...

Total inches lost: 8.9

So, here's the screen shot.