Followers

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Winter is long, dark, and full of trainer terrors . . .

Well, I wish such was the case.  If it were truly so my legs would still find themselves attached to my body after the Team Integrity Cycling Winter Training Series event I did today.  The race was held in Martinsburg, WV (http://wintertrainingseries.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=8591) and the venue was AWESOME!!!  Temps in the 70s for February is a gift and I want some more of that . . .

It’s been like, FOREVER . . . since I posted after a race so I am hoping this little exercise will inspire me to not live as a mere mortal and get back on with my quest for SEXY TURTLE Fitness and cycling greatness.  I love to dream big!!!

Anyway . . . regardless of my lack of fitness and inconsistent winter training regimen, it was OFF THE CHAIN fun to line up with three other members of Evolution.  The small field combined the CAT 4/5s with the CAT 1/2/3s and I quickly started higher level math to predict how many times Dan DANO Underwood would lap me.  How does one calculate the area under the curve as n goes to infinity?  I'm sure that would have gotten me close . . .

I got two good laps with him in sight and for a rather PHAT TURTLE squeezed into our new kit (why did I order mediums by the way), I  will call that GOOD!  One day in a galaxy far, far, away, I will drink less, partly less like a ROCKSTAR, and actually train consistently.  In that alternate universe TURTLE will be great again!  Honest . . .

Serious great efforts from Jeremy JV Vaughn and fellow CAT 5 rider Doug DOUG E FRESH Crooke.  JV hung hard in a chase group and would most likely done much better in the 1-hour of circular fun if not for a couple of MX challenges.  Yet both often waved for me to jump in as they too lapped the TURTLE (multiple times).  I attempted this physical act a few times but there was limited resources developed under the TURTLE shell to keep me in the game . . . well, other than the breakfast burrito I revisited a few times after the 30 min mark.  Not very tasty at all . . .

But this is how it always seem to begin for me . . . great race venue, great friends, and splintered off the back like a rock skipping across a pond.  I LOVE IT!!!  It is also what keeps me trying to ride when I can and laughing as loud as I do (often).  Life is simply too short not to have fun . . .


Life remains bikeROCKstar good and gets better with every pedal stroke . . . I ride and race with some of the best cats on the planet!

Members of the Evolution CAT 4/5 Revival
IT'S ON!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Hell of My North

The Mecklenburg Giro was first advertised as 178K (~110 miles to my non-metric friends).  With a shift in dates the race was shorten to 164K (STILL 100 MILES!!!) and was no less a threat.  Having 100 - 120K legs most of the season and a training regiment that was sliding down an almost vertical slope to the valley of the under trained, I question my mental judgement for even considering this under taking.  Yet I pressed forward on my quest.  I was committed to finishing the German Cycling Cup (GCC) series and the list of excuses to break my personal contract with myself were few and far between.  It was time once again to man up and just make it happen . . .

The Giro was also the longest drive of the GCC series.  Mr Google said 7.5 hours.  It took Claudia and I almost 11.5 due to Friday traffic and a few accidents.  Needless to say, I was seriously happy we decided to roll up on Friday for a Sunday race.  Trying this on Saturday would have been simply insult to injury and more brutal time in a car seat than my frail frame could handle . . .

We scored great digs about 40k from the START/FINISH that allowed Claudia to play golf while I rode.  It was the best combo for a weekend.  I took complete advantage of this and did an easy spin (80K total) to packet pickup in a cool AM mist that turned to rain on the return.  Which I have to say was not bad as the rain was far from cold.  It was actually refreshing . . .

There was one section of cobbles within the 1K marker of the START/FINISH.  this was going to be interesting.  Little did I know, there were more than just one section.  The Poor TURTLE Planning axiom, “…those who fail to plan, plan to fail…” was taking shape before my eyes and I was blind to it . . .

Despite my plan crumbling, I was not alone at the Giro.  Evolution Cycling Club p/b Long & Foster was 3-deep for the event.  One more and we could have secured Team points . . . UGH!  Such remains our goal for next year but that is another story.

The start was a bit chaotic on a narrow farm road in which short and long distance competitors were all grouped together.  I lost track of my teammates and assumed they had made it in line a head of me.  They were actually behind me . . .

Out the gate we hit the first section of cobbles and I did my best to push through it.  Water bottles were already hitting the ground and I though to myself . . . 164K and losing your water bottles in the first kilometer—THAT SUCKS!!!  But I pressed on.

The front of the train!
The pace was intense out the gate as the field was mixed with 74 K and 164K riders.  There was no way I could keep this pace for 164K.  I needed to get my collective crap together and do it fast.  I did not have the fitness or confidence for this level of effort.  It was around this time that Jenn and Yosh came flying by.  Jenn was crushing it and I could not respond.  Yosh was in a strong group of mixed riders and I joined in.  I even took a pull or two to keep the pace steady and increase the size of the group as we caught more riders rejected of the lead pace . . .

However the multiple and inspected sections of cobbles were taking a heavy toll on me mentally and physically.  I did my best to channel Paris–Roubaix greats like Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara.  It was a failed attempt.  Greats like that are just too big for the TURTLE Shell . . .

Hind sight says I should have ran 25C tires w/ 85 - 90 psi.  23Cs at 120 psi was translating into vibration HELL.  My rib cage felt like I was taking punches on either side with every section.  I need the uppercut and the knockout punch was just a few pedal strokes from happening.  In one section I  lost a full bottle of PERPETUM and most certainly needed and wanted those calories for later.  I “assumed” a feed station would save me but none were to be found . . .

At the 74K turn off our group went from 25 riders to 6 or 8 and as we hit another section of cobbles.    I lost another full bottle and was now out of fluids and 80K left to ride.  OH JOY!  It was here that I lost contact with my chase group as well.  One second of mental departure from the task at hand and I was done.  I was in NO MANS LAND with 70K of racing in the rain and out of water.  I found myself holding my tongue out like a small child to take in a few drops . . . they were not very satisfying.

I stopped twice to bum water off the medical and volunteer firefighters helping marshall the course.   I mad promises of beer at the finish and told them to look for me.  I had some cash in the car and most certainly would pay up if I survived this event.  It was epic hard to keep peddling and at some point I thing I was just making small circles trying to get back . . .

How did I miss these pre-race pictures?
SILLY TURTLE!!!
About 10K from the finish I was caught by a small group.  They were suffering too.  I was able to sit in for a few pedal strokes and that was grand.  I needed it.  Sitting in also put a smile back on my face as one guy used a bit too much soap cleaning his shorts and had a backside full of bubbles.  I almost fell on a section of cobbles when I saw it . . .

I glanced at a passing sign and we were just 3K from the finish.  My Garmin said we had 20K to go but I decided to ignore that value and get a little more happy.  My suffering was about to end . . . or so I thought.

As we hit the edge of town we were turned away to another section of cobbles.  The TURTLE shell was already broken, this just made the pieces smaller.  I was being crushed into powder and it did not fell good.

I followed the lead of one cat that tried to use some of the soft shoulder to get through the section.  What I should have done was just stay the course and pedal faster to get through the madness.  However the TURTLE tank was not only exposed to the elements, it was empty.  I slugged through the section and remembered there was one more within 1K of the finish.  I had to finish to keep my standing in the GCC and finish I would . . .


I hit the last section of cobbles and crossed the line completely done.  This was my first 164K ride in almost 12 years and the first time I had ever attempted to race the distance.  It was also my fastest effort at a little over 5 hours.  My nightmare on cobbles was over and a bench mark for next season set.  I will train specifically for this race and make it happen in 2015.  It’s already in my 2015 goals . . .  

There’s something about hitting a low that drives me to bounce back stronger.  This was certainly a low.  However, all was not lost.  My finish was below my normal mid-field ranking but I was far from last (although I felt the broom wagon breathing down my neck).  I secured enough points to move from 41st to 35th in the GCC Series.  I’ll take that and be quiet.


As I reassemble the TURTLE Sell from the pulverised pieces and parts, hell was not as bad as I thought or it could have been.  With better prep and conditioning the TURTLE will go there and back in 2015 and the results will be an improvement . . . this is a promise!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

ACES HIGH!

Well that was interesting to say the least as only a fool would attempt 5 races in 3 weekends on TURTLE sticks and a little engine that certainly tries to push big gears.  It was all about my legs trying to cash checks that my mouth wont stop writing . . .

The journey began 450 km north in the city of Bochum for my 8th race in the 13 race Germany Cycling Cup series.  All winter long I dreamed of this one race. I did SweetSpot training intervals in my PAIN CAVE watching the race on YouTube as I visualized every meter of the circuit.  This was the one race I wanted to do my best in above all others.  It was also the one race that I felt match my riding style the best.  It was going to be because I wanted it so . . . ‘nuff said!!!

Well, sometimes life happens and along the road to greatness I got a flat.  I actually got multiple flats.  I lost motivation to train, my diet became sporadic, and I failed to motivate myself.  One of my office mates mentioned that we all have a “finite” amount of discipline and self-motivation.  Well, I had used all mine up too fast, too soon.  I was tired, grumpy, and back to drinking a lot more then I knew I should.  What was once considered the “A” race of my season was now one of survival and a fight to earn points to stay in the game.  I needed just enough points to stay in the top 100 of my age group (was sitting at 68th going into the race).  In the darkness of low motivation I had lost the “eye of the tiger” somewhere under the TURTLE Shell.  I was even too lazy to look for it.  I made excuse after excuse.  I just wanted to get it started and over . . .

Despite the lack of mental attentiveness and motivation, I was at least surrounded by an awesome crew.  Evolution Cycling Club p/b Long & Foster European Division had 5 riders set to hit the line at Bochum that included our top girls Jenn and guest ridder Yosh, Danny Havard, and the HAMMER (Jeff Pannaman).  The consistency from these cats and their presence with me on the start line pulled me out of my slump and corrected my vector forward.  I found a little more discipline and motivation left and put it to work . . .

HAMMER, Danny, and me rolled around the course to get a preview of the circuit.  With just 20 minutes to go before the start I realized I had left my transponder in my hotel.  UGH!!!  I started to panic.  What little motivation I had was being threatened by my own forgetfulness. SILLY TURTLE!!!

Fortunate, VERY FORTUNATE, I had my phone and called Claudia.  She had noticed the transponder and had not only tried to get another team to bring it to me (they refused), she then called all the wives trying to get a hold of me through their husbands (my phone was on silent), as she knew I would be even grumpier if this days was all for not if my time did not count . . .

I sprinted back to the hotel and met Claudia half way . . . it was awesome and I was saved.  I thanked her for being at the right place, at the right time, and shot back to the start line to meet up with HAMMER and Danny.  I was back in the game.

HAMMER making sure
the pace stayed high!
At the start familiar faces were acknowledged and race faces turned on.  As we started, the first lap of the 6 was always the fastest.  We were cruising up the slight incline well above my threshold.  Warning lights were starting to come up and I was almost in trouble.  At the top was a 180 turn and a rocket back to the start.  The top came just in time to keep the overheat signal at bay.  However, at this point HAMMER was already pushing up the road and I knew I had to make that group.  I dug deep and closed the gap over some rough pavement that sent a full water bottle flying…UGH AGAIN!!!  It was seriously hot and I was down to one bottle that I had sipped on as we warmed up.  NOT GOOD!!!  But close the gap I did and I told myself I would not leave this group at all.  I was in to the end and would ride through the pain . . . period!

On the second lap I noticed Jenn off her bike and walking.  The New Jersey pavement took a toll on her rear wheel.  The broom wagon took her right to her hotel, she slapped on a second wheel and rejoined the race two lap down.  She put in a serious effort to not only finish but not finish last.  Simply OUTSTANDING!!!

Getting back to our group, HAMMER and a few others were making it happen on the front.  At one point he drifted all the way to the back and then came up alongside me to brief me on the status of our chase group.  HAMMER informed me of the “Who’s who” and what wheels to follow.  He then went to the front and picked up the pace.  The leaders (Group A) were given a 1+30 advantage at the start.  HAMMER was making sure they did not lap us and trying to organize the front of the chase.  It was not happening.  Guys would shoot off and get caught before completing a lap.  This went on and on the entire effort . . .

On the final lap and with 1K to go I stuck my nose in the wind for the first time.  I decided it was too early and sat back in as HAMMER moved up.  I shouted to Peter, a solo rider I had met before to follow and off we went.  We hit the final turn and drove to the line for a finish 15 min better than last year and only 15min off the winners.  Despite my lack of motivation at the start, this was one of my best efforts in the series.  The TURTLE was back and it felt great!

The following weekend entailed another long drive to the historic city of Dresden (530 km one way).  Having not finished this race last year, it WAS on this time around.  We had a strong contingent of riders and that just added to the excitement.  Motivation levels were rising!!!

HAMMER, in his true planning form, had done a route study and confirmed my words on the hazards of railway crossing and a few sections of cobbles.  The circuit was flat and fast and I was looking forward to a Bochum repeat.  I was back and ready to race the wheels off the bus . . .

Dresden would also let me once again run into Team STEILE WAND.  The Brothers were in mass and starting one block behind HAMMER, DUMPER and I.  My goal focused on keeping them at bay for the entire circuit.  Given their depth in the chase, it was going to be über hard to do.  My smiling friend Heiko yelled, “Bis bald!” or “See You Soon” as he went to his start block.  While I knew he was most likely right.  I did want them to work for it . . . I’m not that easy (most days).  With motivation levels rising, desire was also on the rise in my chest.  That desire formed a quest, and a quest stimulated a drive, and my legs were there to answer the call to battle.  The TURTLE Chase was on!
Evolution Europe with Team Steile Wand
(These Brothers and Sister know how to bring the heat!)
We all knew the first lap out the gate was going to be the craziest.  We talked about surviving the onslaught and then moving up.  At least that is what was said . . .

At the gun, we starting moving through the madness of the mass start.  As I led the way HAMMER came up and mentioned the group to get is just up the road.  I acknowledged and began following him.  Got a bit separated in the furry but kept him in sight as I moved passed slower riders . . .

On one such move through a gap I was pushed to the inside during a turn the cut across railway tracks.  I thought I could shoot the gap and misjudged it all.  Within 5K of the start (of a 100 K race) my tire (I think it was the front one) slammed into a railway track groove and I was launched from the bike.  Airborne I went with a TURTLE twist in the air.  I hit the ground on my hip and bounced to the other side in an action that looked like a weeble wobble toy of my childhood (REMEMBER: “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down!”).  I fell, I wobbled and it hurt not so good . . .

My bike flipped up over me and there I sat in a bit of anger at myself (the line was a bad one and I knew it was bad.  I took on unnecessary risk.  A moto police officer stopped and asked if I was OK.  I told him, “I don’t know.”  A moto paramedic then came and asked the same question.  I still did not know and repeated my ramble . . .

I inventoried my body and did not see any ripped kits or major blood.  My full finger gloves had done their job and were torn to pieces over one hand.  Yet my hand had one small cut.  It was all good.  As the moto helped me up my hip started screaming!  It was hot to the touch and not in a sexy way . . .

DUMPER dragging me back into the race after my fall
What an awesome teammate!!!
As I stood DUMPER came to a stop and helped me get my bike back in order.  He told me he would get me through the lap and I was grateful.   We started to chase back on to the groups up the road.  At this point I decided I did not want to leave Dresden like this and grabbed a few gears.  I asked DUMPER to help chase a bit more and off we went.  I organized a small group and starting taking turns pulling.  That lasted for about 2 laps . . .

My hip was throbbing and my wrists were sore.  The railway crossings and the few sections of pavers sent a tremble of pain pulses through my arms to my core.  I got detached from my group and started drifting further and further back.  At this point I gave up the idea of a good finish and focused on finishing to collect my 15 participation points.  Anything higher would just be gravy . . .

Up the road, HAMMER, Jenn, Yosh, and Danny were crushing it.  The HAMMER group was closing in on the lead group and working great together.  I should have been there . . . UGH!!!  Danny was having the best ride of his season.  With four riders up the road I again focused on finishing . . .

With two laps to go Claudia was on the course and handed up a banana as I slide a water bottle her way.  It was hot and out of water I was.  She got the message and had water waiting for me as I came around on the last lap.  She and everyone else knew something was wrong as I was way off the main group and pace . . .

But I was the lucky one.  With 5 K from the finish a crash happened in front of HAMMER in the main chase group.  As he avoided it, the guy behind him slammed into him throwing him from the bike.  The collision took him to the ground winded and gasping for air . . .

But a Ranger is a Ranger, is a RANGER!  He collected his wits, gear, and got back on the bike to finish off the main chase group but still far enough ahead to finish 69th in our age group and move into the top 40 in the Masters 2 category.  It was awesome!!!

The accomplishment was only overshadowed by his immediate bee-line to the medical tent, some serious drugs, and a trip to the emergency room.  The results indicated nothing was broken but bruised and road rashed he was.  HAMMER is also out for the rest of the season . . . THAT SUCKS!!!

I walked the pain in my hip out, covered it with topical anti-inflammatory cream, took drugs, and focused on the three races ahead.  I could rest later.  Right now I had no time . . .

So on the very next Friday I headed 3 hours East and another 295 km for a Time Trial and Criterium sponsored by the MWR crew at Hohenfels Army Garrison on Saturday.  I would then head 6 – 7 hours North (665 km) to Bremen for a 120K race on Sunday.

I awoke to a misting rain on Saturday and took a series of bad directions to get to the TT minutes before the start.  I paid my fee, pump’d my tires and made the first 3 rules of TTs…1) make your start time, 2) make your start time, and 3) make your start time.  There should be a fourth and fifth rule: 4) know where the start is and 5) follow the cones to stay on course . . . I over cooked the 1st turn!!!

Cold and in a rain I started up a climb that I had no idea where it would end.  Should have done a route recon--UGH!!!  Shifting out of the 53 front chain ring my legs were screaming and telling my cold wet dome that I should have grabbed my road rig off the truck.  The course was and out and back and I could see the 1 min man up the road.  Just when I thought I would catch him I would wimp out on a wet turn and grab some breaks.  I am a serious wimp on wet pavement.  Being on a TT rig just added to the fear factor.  I don’t think I could survive another fall right now.  My hips were still blue (under the permanent tan) and tender to the touch.  I was taking it real easy . . .

The TT ended and due to the small field (like less than 10 small) we were given an option to start the CRIT an hour early.  Worked for me as I had a long drive ahead.  So I was all in as far as my cold wet brain thought.  My legs were still screaming so part of me was not so joyful with the math reduction . . .

The CRIT was laps for time and at the start I was still shaking from the cold.  Even though I put on dry clothes, I was still clammy cold and not very TURTLE HAPPY.  I did not want to clamp my hands.  I just wanted to start, pass GO a few times and get warm . . .

The tight (0.4 mile) loop was wet and a bit technical in some parts.  I found myself grabbing lots of break all the time as the wimp factor started to increase exponentially.  Next year I will have to rethink carbon wheels when it is wet . . . or trust my bike more.  Right now I did not trust my wheel, my breaking ability, or even my own soul.

There were only 2 Masters in the group and the turnout was so small and that we all were on the podium.  Having won my age group in the TT and finishing with him in the CRIT, I was given the overall win.  It was my first win on the bike and as my Brothers later told me, you race against who shows up to race, so a win is a win.  I had kept my promised to show no matter what and won my first race.  I was on a rainy cloud 9!!!

Cloud 9 started to sprinkle a little bit more as I headed off base for a 6+ hour drive to Bremen and the next race in the German Cycling Cup.  My legs were on fire and I really should have made time to stretch a little.  Instead it was gas, a few Monsters to keep me awake, and the road.  As I started my GPS unit slung a message “save 40 min on alternate route” . . . I took it and did a slight TURTLE DANCE on the accelerator.  I would make it in time for dinner.  YES!!!

Rolled into Bremen, got checked in, unloaded a ton of crap and feed my face.  Jenn and Yosh were already out but we rallied over a glass of red for me to get my race packet.  Once again I was thankful to have teammates around . . . this part of my life is truly bikeROCKstar!!!

Our late start of noon was further delayed an hour.  But it did not slow the pace out the gate.  There were only 2 groups, A and B.  I was near the front of the B group and as we made the first turn/overpass I could see the tail end of the A group just up the road.  I yelled to the two cats around me to help chase and get in that move . . .

I failed to close the gap (they did though—READ: UNHAPPY TURTLE!).  In fact I fell about 200 m short and just ran out of gas during the chase.  The excitement was a bit too much and I had once again overcooked the TURTLE.  It took everything to catch a wave going by and sit in.

The Force was strong with these cats though.  We picked up riders right and left.  We even picked up Jenn and Yosh as they both had started in the As.  Having recovered 3 laps of the 9 we had to do, I went to the front of our chase group when the pace slowed.  While we missed the big move, the point here was to avoid being lapped by the power houses and I wanted to do my part.  I was doing my best to channel HAMMER . . .
Find the TURTLE!

On the front I could see a group just up the road.  I tried to do a bit more to close the gap.  It just did not happen.  It was not happening.  We kept the same distance from them each lap.  THAT SUCKED!!!  In the perfect clarity that hindsight brings, I could have perhaps made it across with the help of one other.  Yet I was unwilling to risk it on my current match sticks.  So I did my pulls and sat in to recover soon there after . . .

Crossing the line I was beyond done.  My legs were wobbling from the five efforts in three weekends, the long drives (over 3600 km driven), and simply because they are no bigger than matchsticks to begin with.  However, it was and remains a great feeling as I moved up to 40th place in my age group.  I’ll take that!!!

Just 3 events remain to close out my season.  With one of them being a 3-day stage race, I have 5 more chances to excel and ace my time on the bike.  Back to a few basics I go as the season comes to a close.  This journey is far from over . . .

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Green Gorillas

Last year’s Rad am Ring was epic!  Not only did our Stuttgart Local Area biCycle Rider (SLACR) Crew take 11th out of 81 teams in the road competition, it was a tail of cold, wet rain that challenged each of us to the core.  We were not as prepared as we thought, we were short on proper clothing, adequate food, heat, and just about everything.  It was a vertical learning curve . . .


This year was certainly different.  Not only did we double our numbers by adding an 8-man Stuttgart American Cycling Community (SACC) MTB crew, we did a much better job preparing for battle.  Structured planning was done on the fly but effective.  We snagged an RV (The Command Center), had plenty of tents (last year we all huddled in one out of the rain), enough food to last the campaign (pulled pork and Thai food on the first night . . .  YUM!!!), plenty of beer (a necessity), and even a session of Looney Tunes the night before battle.  It could not get much better than that . . .
Nothing says "American" like
Looney Tunes after sunset

This year also saw myself and 3 other members of Evolution Cycling Club p/b Long & Foster competing in the 75 km German Cycling Cup (GCC) race on the Nürburgring.  Two GCC races were offered . . . one at 150K and the other at 75K.  GCC points are award for the top 200 finishers and include pints for place + distance completed.  Having missed the last GCC race, I had fallen 10 places to 78th in my age group of 3232 registered competitors.  With finishing in the top 100 for my age group remaining my season goal, math told me to tackle the 150K. My legs corrected the complex mental algebra nothing that 150K and competing in a 24hr race would separate me from reality and certainly place me on some imaginary plane.  The 75K and three times up the 17% grade of The Green Hell was most likely enough to secure a few points and remain on track with my season goals. At least this is how my proof ended . . .

Little America!
“Little America” . . . our little Compound on the Nürburgring grounds . . . was alive the morning of race day.  Food began to flow as Danny Havard made Southwest and Salmon omelettes with spinach and feta cheese.  We were living large!  Despite the fact that my training had slipped and I did not have the form I wanted to have, it was going to be a great day.  There was too much of a positive vibe in the air.  It was AWESOME!!!

Recalling the start last year, I knew I needed a good warm up so I set about doing that on my trainer while others wondered if I was dipping too far into the TURTLE tank too soon.  The crew was perhaps all correct as there was a 30 - 40 min hurry up and wait on the line before the start.  As we sat there in the beating sun, I did all I could to remain focused on the task at hand . . .

The mass start was a bit different than other events.  Folks were actually taking their time rolling out.  I guess those were the cats on a Saturday Stroll. HAMMER, Jenn, Yosh, and I needed GCC points so it was on from the word, “LOS” . . .

I cut through the field looking for fast wheels to take me around the Grand Prix portion of the track.  They were all up the road and I was chasing.  At the crest of the first roller, HAMMER came up from behind me and I followed him down to the wicked descent to the base of The Green Hell . . .

The climb starts at km 11 and ends at 14.5 and as I said, includes grades of 17%.  This first time up was pure adrenaline.  I kicked the tires and lit the cans and pressed up hard as I could.  Bikes were stopping left and right as folks cramped, walked, and just said NO.  It was brutal and I was loving it!

I hit the top, rolled through a rest station where folks that started in the wave ahead of me were already stopped to recover.  I pressed on grabbing gears as I went.  Two more big rollers and I was back on the GP track and picking up speed for lap 2 . . .

The hills are full of Gorillas!
The second time up was a bit painful.  The adrenaline was still there but the pressure on my lower back and legs was also apparent.  Lap 2 was a slug fest and I could feel the gorillas starting to emerge from the tree line and jump on my back.  I stood when and where I could to stay right outside their grasp.  As I hit the GP track I again picked up speed and zipped around to start lap 3. . .

The field had cleared out so I focused on picking the best line I could as I bombed down to the 11K marker.  I focused on getting as aero as I could.  I was a few kilos heavier and on a heavier bike last year.  I recalled seeing speeds of close to 100kph.  The closest I got this go was more like 75 - 80kph.  UGH!!!  20 - 25% difference over 3 laps was more than I wanted to give.  I will need to work on more flexibility and a tighter tuck next year . . . but I digress.

Hitting the 11km marker I could see the Gorillas at the tree line.  Some were already in full stride jumping on the back of others as I passed.  Half way up the climb the leaders of the 6 lap, 150K race came by me like I was standing still.  I have so much to learn and so much work to do to climb like these cats.  I tried to jump on the train but it was of little use as 2 Gorillas had already decided to go for a TURTLE joy ride . . .

These guys were heavy and I was mashing my bailout gear.  OUCH!  My knees were starting to buckle and I was just about to break when I hit the top.  I gave a shake and darted away from their grip as I refused to give them any more pleasure of a TURTLE freebie.  The focus now became any number representing my start block.  I started picking them off one-by-one hoping that each was one place higher and a few more points for the bucket . . .

Out of an age group field of about 185, I was near the middle of the pack at 109th.  Not my best performance but far from my worse (like the last GCC race).  I took my points, went to camp to fuel, hydrate and nap.  The 24hr race had already started and I was slated to do three more laps at 2200 . . .

Mitchell, at 15 and our youngest rider on the 24hr team had completed his 1st lap.  He finished in a respectable 1+10 and when I asked him how it went his response that he has two more chances to break an hour was priceless!  

This year we were also blessed to have Yosh in camp.  She hit it hard in the GCC race and then turned around to provide the Roadie and MTB team massages.  Talk about being spoiled.  This was AWESOME!!!

As my time to hit the track approached.  I started to waiver a bit.  Perhaps I should stick to the one lap that the rest of the crew was doing.  I had done 2 last year and felt I could have gone for 3.  But that was without racing in the GCC.  The crew tried to talk me out of it and offered to be at the change out point after the second lap so I had a safety net.  With that, I decided to put my legs into action and back up the trash I was talking.  Starting at 2230, I was going long as darkness covered the circuit . . .

Into the darns I ride. . .
The first lap was a bit of a wake up.  I could feel the previous 75K effort.  I did not fell great but I did not feel bad either.  In the dark, moonless sky, I hit the 11K marker and set into my groove.  I passed a few, a few folks passed me.  I hit the top. rocketed through the GP track and went for 2.  It seemed to work, it felt like it was working, so forward I drove . . .

As I rolled through our transition point on lap 2 both Trent and Danny were waiting for me.  Trent, one who can suffer more than most I know, was ready to ride.  I foolishly said . . . “I have one more in me” and when asked how long, I responded, “65 min or so” — I WAS ON DRUGS!!!  The first lap took 62, the second 70.  My math was all bad.  I was about to fail the quiz (again).

I took off for my hat trick and rocketed to my most loved 11K marker to start my final climb up The Green Hell . . .

Did the Gorillas not know it was 0100?  I thought for a moment I could sneak by them.  WRONG!  They came out in force striking crushing blows.  My legs were screaming through the just under 4K of climbing.  My lap time was increasing and the desired repeat of 3 laps in under 3 hours was lost . . .

Yet at the top of the Green Hell I knew I had given my all and it was to be my last time up the beast until next year.  A line in the darkness was set.  A goal made . . . I will repeat the exact same profile in 2015.

Back to Little America I pushed and was actually able to grab a passing wheel for the last few Ks before the GP track.  There I found Trent still up with Mitchell set for the handoff . . .

I crashed for a good 4 hours as the rest of the crew hit the circuit.  The MTB crew was in full battle mode racing through the night and early hours.  It was impressive.

As the sun rose the night was discussed and after racing the MTB course, ANIMAL (Aaron Ross) began to config his Road rig for a run for one final run.  I retraced my words of not waiting to face the Gorillas camped out at The Green Hell and prep’d for battle as well.  The move rippled through the road team and all ready for one final lap.  Tired and battered we each grabbed a can of Coors Light to take to the top of the climb.  This was pure American style at its best . . .

We wanted the Full Monty and this would mean Trent would have to do back-to-back laps.  DUPMER (Erich Schmunk) grabbed and extra Coors and I a water bottle as we went to meet Trent at the changeout point . . .

With 8 riders lined up to include Mitchell, Trent’s initial response was, “NO WAY” . . . but the Coors won him over and off we went.  It was the best lap of the last 24 hrs and perhaps one of the best times I have had on the bike.  At marker 11 we left blood on the track as Mark cut his fingers fixing a dropped chain.  Yet this phased him not as he added waffles and chocolate to our Coors beer party at the top of The Green Hell.
Slamming silver bullets at the top of The Green Hell
The Gorillas was all gone now. Like us, they had had their fill and had retreated back to the tree lines from which they came.  In truth, I think the sounds of laughter and perhaps the smell of Coors sent them running for their lives.  My legs hurt but the laughs seemed to make it all go away.  It is times like this that keep me riding and competing.  It just does not get much better . . .


Life is again confirmed as bikeROCKstar!
The 24 Hr Rad am Ring Crew + 2

Friday, June 20, 2014

Revenge of the Lanterne Rouge

Last year I missed Schleizer Dreieck Jedermann as it conflicted with the second Time Trial (TT) in the Zeitfahrcup series.  Both HAMMER (Jeff Pannaman) and DIESEL (Matt Arant) ventured to the historic area and returned with a epic tale of cold, wet, and misery.  Looking at the lumpy, bumpy race profile I almost wished for some bad weather so I could bow out gracefully.  No such luck.  skies were blue, temps in a good range, my legs were freshly shaven, it was a great weekend to race . . . time to man up and do what I love doing!!!

Schleizer Dreieck Jedermann hit part of the oldest natural race track in Germany.  Auto races where held there as far back as 1923.  It was one bit of awesomeness to be in such a historic area that was at one time part of the former East Germany.  Coming off a not so great TT just two weeks prior, I knew I would have to dig deep to make it happen.  Sitting in 95th place in my age group out of over 3000 listed racers in Germany motivated me to battle.  I needed a placing in the top 200 to score more than the 15 participation points that everyone gets.  The Love Roller Coaster course was going to make that a challenge but I figured I was ready, willing and able to answer the call . . .
The Schleizer Roller Coaster!
Fortunate for me I had three other teammates (HAMMER, Danny Havard, and Jenn Call) in the long distance and one (our guest rider and rising start Yosh Rossman) opting for two laps of the 40K circuit.  This was also a bonus as team points are awarded for the top 4 finishers in a given distance.  So in my little TURTLE brain I had to find the strong wheels, hang on, finish in the top 200, earn a few points for me and a few more for the team.  It was a simple plan and I was silly enough to believe it would work . . .

We all arrived on site a day prior and took the opportunity to pre-ride the course.  It was a change front he 70K loops that HAMMER and DIESEL attempted last year in a down pour.  I say attempted as both made a smart call to get out of the rain and not suffer in order to ride and race healthy another day.  Anyway, the reduction to 40K meant three laps and we would put one under our wheels for sure this day so we mounted up for a recon ride . . .

Getting ready to ride we were greeter by familiar faces in the race series to include Saskia Mey of TEAM STEILE WAND.  This was a great surprise and just added to the positive vibe on the day.

As we started out the WX decided to play a little with our minds and dropped a little rain our way.  NO FUN!  I hand not prep’d the TURTLE shell for moisture and started to think I might just melt.  However, we pressed through and pressed forward.  The first half of the course was some serious narrow and roughly paved surfaces.  This was going to be tough.  REAL TOUGH!  The descents were technical and large hay bails lined sharp turns.  In my mind these would all most likely get some use at race time.  I had to make sure I opted out of trying to demo that maneuver on race day . . .

Post recon lap we all rallied in our Hotel down the road and did our usually pre-race story telling, laughs, and good times.  These are some of the best times as we sit around a table and break bread and prepare to have our legs broken as age-group Americans competing in the German Cycling Cup.  Work, bills, drama, and a list of crap just falls away.  This is one of the reasons I ride, train, and race . . . I LOVE IT!!!

With Claudia glued to the TV watching the World Cup, I crashed early.  We were a good 20 min drive from the race start and needed to get up, get fueled, and get on with it . . .

Jenn, DiDi, HAMMER, and Danny
Arriving at the START/FINISH we were surprised to see the Tour d’ France icon, DiDi the Devil.  This was truly going to be an epic day.  Being in my pre-race groove, I miss the photo op and just readied myself as much as I could.  The temps had dropped yet again and I started grabbing gear to wear as the parking area was once again “naked-land” as folks here are not bashful about changing clothes in public.  It is just what everyone does . . . I joined in.

As we waited to start I did my best “deliberately casual” pose, said my prayers, and hit it at the gun.    We started with one lap of the track and to quote my smiling TEAM STEILE WAND Brother Heiko, “…that track is heavy…”  IT WAS!!!  The one loop seemed a lot harder than it should have been.  my legs felt like lead and air was in short supply.  This was not how I imagined a start for my three laps to a top 200 finish . . .


As we left the track I was already off the back of the main pack and it only got worse in the bumpy technical terrain.  UGH!!!  I could feel my 200th place slipping away before my eyes . . .

HAMMER, Mr 400+ FTP, was riding very strong.  He recalled every turn like clock work.  It was if he photographed the recon ride.  It was awesome.  I stuck to his wheel!!!  As we made it onto smoother pavement for the second half of the circuit I was in difficulty.  I could not keep the pace and told HAMMER to go on up the road as a strong group was just a few meters away.  Instead he sat up and brought me back into the fold.  This yo-yo action happen a few more times and two others joined us and we started really working well together.  Well, they were working well…I was in suffer fest!!!  I was barely hanging on as we approached the final climb of the first circuit.  I got snapped from the group like a dried twig and had nothing at all to get me back on.  I was riding backwards as we finished the 1st lap.  I had two more of these to go . . . OUCH!!!

Jenn’s chase group caught me in the rough technical first third of the circuit.  I dug deep to stay in with this crew and figured I could hang out here for the remainder of the race.  I was tail gunning this group like no other.  My legs had nothing and my lower back was starting to go too.  It was as if I never trained and just decided to race one day.  This was not the theorem I worked out in my little brain.  This was supposed to be an easily executed plan.  It was not . . .

Well, the alternate plan of sitting in evaporated on the same climb that I lost the HAMMER’s group.  I went out the back hard and found myself solo as I crossed the line for the last circuit with DiDi the Devil yelling at me . . . EPIC!!!  I wanted off my bike in a major way.  Just when I was about to hit the breaks I heard a whistle from the barrier and looked up to see Heiko smiling on the side lines.  Most know, I smile and laugh a lot…like all the time, Heiko has me beat in this hands down!!!  He even does it at 40+ kph on the bike…HE’S A BEAST!!!  Between DiDi and Heiko I summed up the motivation to continue and I accepted my fate that 15 points for participation is better than zero.  I knew DANNY was behind me and believed it was a mater of time before he caught me and I would roll with him to the finish if I could hold on to his wheel.  At this point is was all about putting 4 finishers across the line . . .

When DiDi says "go" . . . you "GO!"
The last lap was a serious flash back to my first races. TURTLE parts (legs, arms, lungs, and even a few valves of my heart) were hitting the ground in massive chunks.  I have not been this far back in a race since I started racing in Reston VA as a CAT 5.  It was perhaps more a mental blow than a physical one.  I had crushed my previous times in the first 4 races this season and slowly moved up the points board.  Why was this not working today?!?!  I tried to stand on the pedals and power over the slight climbs and had nothing.  I limped across the line, put my cranium down and was thankful I at least got 15 points and the team would get a little boost in the rankings . . .

My plan had fallen apart.  No glory, no top 200, no extra points.  I made my way back to my car and headed back to the hotel.  I wanted a shower and a “real” beer!

So there I sat beating myself up and looking for excuses.  I had a good list.  It took a text exchange with DIVA (Luis Infante) to smack me out of most of it.  A few of my teammates wondered if I had lost too much weight, was I too lean?  Well, the response I got from others made me laugh like the fool I am . . . “Are girls ever too pretty? Are fast cars ever too fast?…You can never bee too lean as a cyclist!”  Another set of excuses gone.  I think I will get leaner :^)

But wait . . . the results post and the field was much smaller than expected.  I finished 66th out of 67 in my age group…yeah, it was just that bad!  However, this meant more than 15 points for just showing up.  The suffering to finish and push through that last lap and finishing just before last in my age group was worth the effort.  I moved up from 95th place to 68th in my age group.  My worse performance on the bike ended in a positive.  I’ll take that!  Who wouldn’t?  Consistency, constancy, constancy . . .

In truth and to quote Coach Quest, I “overcooked the TURLTE Soup” and fractured the shell early in the season.  I did not rest and recover my 46 year old frame enough and the last two races showed that.  So back to basics I go.  I have 4 weeks until the next big race and that is more fun than racing as we compete for 24 hours on the historic Nürbrugring Formula 1 track and attack “The Green Hell” . . . a 17% climb that is wicked hard.

Time to put fun back into my cycling and more swagger in my stride.  I have achieved a goal I set out at the beginning of the season to be in the top 100 in my age group.  This minor beat down reminds me that I am human (I so hate that).  I can and will rise above it.  I’ve also moved the bar up as now my goal is to finish in the top 50 riders in  my age group by the last race in the series on 3 October.  So let it be written, so let it be done . . .


The Lanterne Rouge came back with a vengeance at Schleizer.  This race is on my “must vanquish” list for next season.  I refuse to be defeated like that . . . 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Planning to Fail

After exceeding my goals in 5 of my first 6 events that make up the combined 17 events of the German Cycling Cup and Zeitfahrcup (Time Trial Cup), I figured I had the fitness to carry me through a 25K TT and put little to no effort into it.  I picked up a new rig (My Black Mini-Skirt), changed my riding position (lower and more aero) just a few days before with boldness and confidence.  I was in my best shape and able to cut a few corners.  My legs could and would sustain my ego.  From time to time I mumbled to myself, “I got this . . .”

Well, not exactly . . .
I believe it was Benjamin Franklin that said:
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
I failed to plan and true to the words of a great American, I failed.  There’s nothing like a swift kick in the jimmy to remind you that if you want to call yourself a bike racer, then you need to train and prepare for battle.  I did neither effectively this time around . . .
Thanks to a very favorable drug deal with my Coach (Dragon Quest Coaching), my equipment was the best it has ever been.  Coach Quest also spent a few good hours fitting me into the new rig.  For the very first time the TURTLE Shell would propel a true light, lean, and lethal TT rig and in a very aero position.  If this did not provide a distinct advantage, nothing would . . . I once again told myself, “I got this . . .”
Yosch not only joined us
but took 3rd in her age group!
So the day before the TT, we assembled and rolled North with our dedicated Evolution Cycling Club p/b Long & Foster - European Division squad.  We were sitting near the bottom of the Team classification but here was a chance to improve our fighting position.  While we were short one rider due to an injury, we (Jenn Call and Trent Minter) once again picked up our guest rider from US Military Endurance Sports (Dan LT DAN Schumacher) as well as convinced our most recent add to the crew, Yosch Rossmann, to hit the start line in EVO colors.
During the course pre-ride my confidence began to rise.  I studied the terrain, the turns, and wind.  I knew where I would grab gears and where I had to keep my line steady to stay on smooth payment.  Survival was a given . . . for a fleeting moment I thought I could crush my time from last year and help move my team up the rankings.  Jenn and Trent were both good in the TT.  Both would crush me often during interclub competition.  They both knew how to suffer on the bike.  It was up to me to make it happen so I once again said to myself, “I got this . . .”

A mid-day race start allowed for a good breakfast and a nap.  I wish I could live like this every day.  This is the bikeROCKstar life . . .
I love this crew!
We hit the course early and set up our trainers to prepare the legs and lungs to deliver.  I was the first cat out the start house for the long distance and right behind me was Saskia Mey of Team Steile Wand.  Recall Steile Wand (literally, "steep wall") is a group of über fast ponies and I would have to dig deep to not once again get crushed under the weight of the Wall (Wand) . . .
My start was clean and perhaps the best I have had in some time.  I was off.  I settled into position and began applying power to the pedals.  I hit the first turn and was moving.  I did indeed have this . . . it was on and I was truly going to crush this TT!!!
Turn two was a beast and into the wind.  I could see the last two starters from the shorter distance were within striking range and I began to dig a little deeper.  I passed them both and no one had passed me yet.  I was bringing my A++ game.  I say again, I was truly going to crush this TT!!!
On turn 3 my body started to respond to the tight aero position.  My hips started screaming and I had to fight to stay in position.  My lack of flexibility was taking a heavy toll on my performance.  Power fell into the basement as I grabbed gears to push through the slight headwind.  To add to my misery the first rider to pass me had started 2 minutes back.  He was cooking and spit ash in my face as he passed.  He was not the last one to pass me either.  They soon came in droves and each kicked sand in the TURTLE face.  I made cried to the engine room for more power and was ignored.  My quest for TT greatness was being crushed pedal stroke after pedal stroke . . .
Once agin looking deliberately casual is something I seem to excel in . . .
On the final lap of the circuit I was overtaken by a 74 year-old cat on his first lap.  I dug as deep as I could but this guy walked away from me.  He was in perfect form and moving effortlessly into the same head wind that was smacking me in the face.  He had parked next to us and before the TT joked with the 62-year old, and current Masters 3 points leader in the series, how today was the day that he would be beat.  And I have to add that he did just that by completing the 25K course in 38 min and change.  His “younger” 62 year old competitor finished in 39 and change.  AWESOME!!!
I on the other hand limped back to the start and refusing to post my time as I hope to move on past the poor performance.   At the finish, I hung my cranium pretty low as I know I can and should do better.  I had become a little over confident and a bit complacent with my training.  I took some input from one of my EVO Euro Teammates (DIESEL-- Matt Arant) and a long ride the very next day to remind myself why I ride, train, and race.  On the rolling terrain around my town I regain my perspective, drive and dedication.
To end with a quote from the German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer, Friedrich Nietzsche:
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
My poor performance “could” have been avoided or mitigated with proper planning and focused training.  I accept my fate and appreciate the “jimmy reality kick” . . . Forward I focus as I have two weeks to shake the P Funk and make it happen at the next race in the GCC series.  

You should see my focus and dedication at the moment.  It is off the chain!!!