America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

America's #1 Balance Bike Destination
America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Not a Topsfield Race Report

Here is the proof that 24th place receives 17 USAC rank points in an NRC criterium (such as Chris Thater):
I did not finish the Chris Thater 35+ event again this year, same as when I DNFed it in 2008. The one compelling difference is that this time it was not lack of form or speed or nerves in the corners. No this was a little bit more honorable as it was an all-out do-or-die assault on the race, made during an attempt to bridge across to what I [incorrectly] believed to be the winning move of the day. My balls are apparently bigger than my brain, and like a wounded animal which would rather chew it's own foot off than wait for help, I persisted in my effort to the point of burying myself hopelessly and needing 5 minutes of recovery. Stuck in no-man's land, I thrashed myself to get connected and came so close it broke my heart. I should have known I was beat and I should have let the field do it's magic to shut the break down.. When the legs no longer go, they no longer go, no matter what. I wanted to get across so bad- But here's the thing: It was not smart. This small stacked field of 40 is populated with about 15 guys with the form, the experience and the confidence to win. The rest of us are in the "pick two" category, if you get my drift.. After a generous push from Alain as the field swarmed me, it was abundantly clear that my race was over. I had really screwed myself over trying to bridge across.. to a group that failed within a few laps anyway.. I guess what I'm saying is that it sucks to race to failure during a tactically incorrect move. But these things are never easy to predict. I am not intimately acquainted with the many cat 1s in the field who are using this race as a means to tune up for the main event and have fun picking money from a tree of $50 primes and the 20 deep purse of $2000. For me it's more of a crap shoot to pick the correct break because I hardly know anyone in this field besides my teammate. So it goes.. A lapse in judgment caused me to strike out pretty badly. Not to worry though- I did not drive 5 hours to go home without a completed result, even if it was DFL, I was going to race again and finish it. Fortunately, this year they introduced the Cat 2/3 event, which is a first I believe. There were two hours to kill in between my races. I used part of it to take a nap in the Land Cruiser. I used another part to register and change my numbers, and I used most of the time to warm up on the trainer. The experience at Fall River was fresh in my mind- how my legs felt awesome during the 2nd race and felt dead during the first race. Maybe this is what turns my crank- a really long and intense warm up. This thinking was obviously a deliberate way for me to improve my confidence because truthfully, I have not done anything besides Pro-1-2 races and 35+ races since I was a junior. This was going to be interesting. The youthfulness of the 78 rider 2/3 field was intimidating, but I felt pretty good about my form and my crash avoidance skills and my cornering speed. What I did not expect at any point during the race, was to get within striking distance of the 20 deep $2500 purse. Let me re-phrase that. I knew it was possible.. that is, about as possible as throwing a pair of dice and getting snake eyes 6 times in a row. Right from the start I was back on my heels in this one, which averaged about 1 mph faster than the 35s race (I used my Powertap wheel) Starting from the nose bleed section, it took me about 20 (of 35) laps to get up into the top 20 guys. A tiny bit of bad luck separated me from the wheel I wanted to follow in the final lap (take a guess whose..)- with two laps to go a rider skidded out in turn no 1 and caused the field to break up. About 20 guys were separated because a bunch of us had to grab the brakes and maneuver around the skidding bike and body. It took 1/2 lap of being completely on the rivet to get caught up, which is about when my calf started cramping. I was fatigued and fighting very hard to get my nose to the front of the race.. and now the bell is ringing for final lap. What a horror show it is to populate the 21st to 30th spot in the train at this point. It's a knife fight to get into the top 20 paying spots. When the guys from PA and NYC and NJ get a whiff of the dinero, they get a little bit crazy. I don't know how I didn't crash on that final lap- it was insane. Well.. I survived to the final corner about 25th wheel. It's a terrible corner because the inside line sucks (there's a crazy dip in the road right at the apex) and the outside line gets you easily pushed into the hay bales up on the curb. (Huge crash here on lap TWO!) At any rate, I took the final corner with great speed and remember being in between two riders who thankfully, could handle a bike. From there the course dog-legs slight uphill to slight downhill to the finish. Somehow I hit 40 mph in this race and this must have been the moment when it happened. For what it's worth, I held my position from the corner and ended up 24th. Four places out of the money.
At the end of they day, I'm satisfied to have completed a highly competitive NRC criterium against a very strong field without falling apart as it's definitely not something you ever fall ass-backwards into. Full results are up on USA Cycling.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

2010 Chris Thater Criterium

I will refrain from pining about my mediocre result and instead give you the silver lining of today's test: NRC1 level races award rank points to the top 40 finishers, meaning that my 24th place in the 2/3 race is worth a cool 17 points. How 'bout that? I'm sure you're as excited as I am..
If you see Alain Ferry or P. Ruane, squeeze their hand and congratulate them. Alain was in the winning break of 5 and very narrowly lost to a current national champ (in the 35+ race) Nice 2nd place for Alain in a field that was totally stacked.. Mr. Ruane was as calm as a Hindu cow in both the 35+ and the 2/3, snagging 8th and 6th respectively. The 35+ had about 40 starters. The 2/3 had about 80, and was about 1mph faster than the masters race. Long day-
! I'm completely wrecked after driving 10 hours. Thanks for reading.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ninigret No 4: Success is all relative

My 4th edition of Ninigret in 2010 was a good day for me I think. I rode down there, I raced my ass off and I rode home for a total of over 100 miles in 4:57. Granted I raced for 58 minutes at an average of 26 mph, the ride down and the ride home both averaged about 19 mph. I held back both ways because I'm traveling to Pittsfield to get my legs ripped off in the Greylock Federal Criterium. Well it seemed like a good idea when I registered anyway. What I failed to think about is that today's/tonight's workout was a key one for me- more important than the race. Maybe I would have thought twice about it. No worries, my reasons for racing tomorrow night are not about winning. I want to just get some H.I.T. and be ranked as a finisher. That's it. Problem is, tonight's ride is about 350+ TSS, which technically requires 2-3 days to recover from. Oh well!!! Another reason I want to go to Pittsfield is to show off our new LikeTObike 16 model, just in from Germany. I plan to strap my demo model to the top of the car and try to promote it. It's a high end 16" aluminum kid's bike, and it's not cheap. The build quality is the same as the legendary JUMPER and it weighs only 16 pounds. Compare that to the cheap throw-aways you cheap bastards are buying for your kids at Wal-Mart that probably cost less than the saddle on your road bike. Anyway, that's enough of a shameless plug for now, but let's not forget I'm between jobs at the moment and any wool apparel or kid's bikes I can sell right now puts food on the table for my family. How's that for a guilt trip? After tonight's crit I was getting my backpack and was kind of jaded to discover that they only pay 5 deep at Ninigret (how should I know?) I could use the do-re-mi.. Alas, your hero finished 6th in a very exciting field sprint. As many of my FB friends already know the top 6, I'll repeat it here primarily for the benefit of a curmudgeony old coach in our area who, for reasons he himself can't explain very well, refrains from joining us lemmings on the social networking highway.
1. Gary (CLR dude who won Fitchburg cat 3)
2. Shawn M (who just won the 24 Hours of GG with his team)
3. Ernest Tautkus (who took a friendly earful from me after the race)
4. Tobi S. (who just won Fall River Crit 35+)
5. Paul C. (what hasn't he won?)
6. ME.
I was sucking wind at the very back with 2 laps to go but I really felt ON tonight and a tired field is easy to navigate through at a venue which you're very familiar with. Also, there was hardly any wind tonight. I can happily say that I spent more time at the front of this race than I remember doing for a long time. Not less than 6 or 7 times I dragged the field through the start/finish while shutting down the breaks which looked dangerous. I got myself into a couple of difficult situations but had an easy time falling back for a lap to recover. The increased volume of these past few weeks is bearing fruit I think. The recovery which needs to happen quickly in a crit- it's definitely there and it helps immensely. As I was saying with 2 to go I started moving up in leaps and bounds. The sprint was winding up nicely and I took an outside line in the final corner, passed a few people, kept my head down all the way, stayed out of the saddle all the way, and never let up until I crossed the line. I was thinking to myself during yesterday's 3 hour ride.. that sprinting is as much about discouraging people from passing you as it is about passing others on the way to the line. By this I do not mean changing your line and endangering others, no. I'm talking about staying out of the saddle and rocking the bike vigorously no matter what (especially in a crowded sprint) and not showing any weakness/not slowing down in the last 20 meters. A strong rider in your wake who is looking for a way to pass you will be encouraged to do so if you:
-sit and sprint in the saddle, reducing your footprint on the course and opening lanes on either side of you
-slow down, sit up, or stop pedaling (duh)
Tonight's race was a relative success, compared to the last two times when i rode down and back. Those attempts were not successful. I was too fatigued to race when i got there, and I cramped at the end of the crit, making my legs useless. Now typically, on a night when I ride down there and back, and especially the day before a big race, I tend to hold back and try not to use much of my ammo. Tonight for whatever reason I said the hell with it, enjoy your good legs.
And with that I give you some data which hopefully impresses you and underscores why your puny training volume is such an embarrassment. Totally just kidding. In reality it's I who is embarrassed because I should be winning races with this much training! Thanks for reading. Wish me luck tomorrow night.

Monday, August 16, 2010

2010 Fall River Criterium Results

It was not one of those days where I felt like I had anything special. The 35+ race was insanely hard- I was at my limit more times than I can keep track of. It actually surprised me to have finished in the top 20. I've done better at previous FR crits. I've also done a lot worse. Last year was a disaster. I barely finished the 35s and I got ejected from the Pro race after 5 laps.. Today's edition of the Pro-1-2 was where I felt good today.. that is, relative to the 35+ race. I think a more closely matched field makes a faster race easier to navigate, whereas the 35s is a much more lop-sided talent pool. I found myself a bottom feeder in that pool today.. but I evolved somehow during the one hour break in between races and felt pretty damn good in the Pro race. The hill was a breeze and following the accelerations was not hard to do. Yeah I did not do anything special at the end- a moment's hesitation on the final lap put me in tailgun position somehow and the only people I seemed to have passed after the hill were the guys who sat up. Still, I caulk this one up as a win because it basically took me four tries to be strong enough to complete the 35 race followed by the Pro race at this venue. A breakthrough of sorts I guess.
Gotta take a moment here to salute my team mate J Alain Ferry- 15th at Masters Nationals Crit and repeat 15th at the road race.. Top 10 at the Witch's Cup where he populated the winning break which lapped the field.. and today Alain was the only top 10 finisher in the Pro race who already had a [top 10] race in his legs (9th in the 35s).
For me, 17th and 21st sounds like I was basically pack fodder, but considering past failures at this difficult course, I'm pretty happy with my form in the 2nd race. Here's the field sprint from the 35 race below- you can just barely see 'ol Murat at the tail of this train on the far right. Yeah it looks pretty pathetic to me too, finishing 17th, but when you repeatedly grit your teeth and rally through those moments when thoughts of sitting up and quitting pollute your mind, I think it's a win.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

2010 Concord Criterium Results and 35+ Race Report

I'm not going to feel like doing this tomorrow (or remember much of it) so here goes:

Well well.. today's lesson learned was that guys who are 5-10 years older than me can kick my ass in their 2nd race of the day. Humbling for sure.. but my options were a little different. I either do the Pro-1-2 followed by the 35+, or do just the 35+. This event means more to me than most other races so I saved my A game for the 35s.. I was off to a good enough start (this morning I mean). Expecting a 2-1/2 hour drive to Concord, I left at 10:30 (race is at 2:00). Needless to say, lady luck was not by my side, not even for the easiest part of my day- just getting to the race. Let's just say that there are fingernail imprints in my steering wheel.. That so many people are dying to get into New Hampshire on a Saturday morning is nothing short of astonishing. What is the effing attraction up there!? Somewhere near the border, four lanes squeeze into two and that's what set me back about 1/2 hour. The final 20 miles were 80-85 miles an hour and even so, I parked the car at exactly 1:32.. leaving me 28 minutes to ride to registration and back, get pinned, kitted, stretched, warmed up and lined up to start. Luck finally caught up with me at this point- the Pros still had 20 laps to go, which meant I had at least 45 minutes to get ready. Sweet.
I went to Concord expecting to have a good result. In 2009, our team won the race, and we had two others in the top 10 as well, including Yours Truly. That was a hard race last year- I was coming off of a period of declining volume and form. My teammates pushed me kicking and screaming to the front of the race a few times.. and on the final lap when it mattered I got up there thanks to teammates. Today I was without team as Alain was at Nationals and Matt and Adam had promises to keep in the afternoon. They raced the 45s (which Matt won) and had to take off afterwards. So I'm all alone this time, but I've been training like a banshee, getting loads of sleep, eating right, taking vitamins, stretching.. most of the ingredients for success were there. It's been a long year since the last time at Concord, and I can assure you that hours and hours of visualizations have been logged (mostly in the past 10 days), especially relative to that magical final lap where I get myself into the top three going into that wonderful 180 degree corner leading into the final two turns. Well well.. visualizations do wonders. Picture yourself doing something enough times, over and over again.. and with a little luck it will be so. So it was for me today.. Now back to the beginning..
The race started off very hot. On the first lap I was off the front with two others, and the field went pretty hard to shut us down on lap two. Power meter data indicates that my peak 5 minutes occurred in those first 2-3 laps. My plan for today was reasonable. I thought to break up my efforts into fifths, so a 20 lap race meant that I would go very hard in the first four laps, recover for four laps, then I would be ready for action again on laps 9-12 and then shut it down for 13-16.. allowing me to recover sufficiently to empty the tank in the last four laps. Sounds ridiculous, but breaking it down this way kept me from burning too many matches, which I'm prone to do. Nobody wants an early "ride of shame" back to the car. As a friend correctly pointed out to me recently, my fuse burns pretty quick- so I gotta be careful about blowing up. At any rate, after the first recovery period, the bell rang for a two place merch prime.. Recalling the Solobreak won a $150 women's ski jacket as a prime in teh 45 race, I got all jacked up and went with the action. I was fifth wheel out of the final corner and it ended up being a photo finish for 1-2 between myself and another. That sprint took my breath away, literally and figuratively. Mentally I was stoked for getting it but physically I was ready for that 2nd recovery period. After sprinting we rounded the corner and who bolts up the road like a Scud missile- Wild Bill Yabroudy. My first mistake of the race was realized at that instant. Nobody could cover that move, least of all me. He dangled out there for a bit before being joined by Dave Kellogg and another guy (who I won't name because we're not acquainted). A lap or so later, Solobreak himself attacks with a bridge attempt. While all of this is happening, I am completely cross-eyed as I dangle at the back, trying not to get gapped. It was in those few laps with about 9-10 to go, that I had to fight thoughts of quitting, I was seriously in the hurt locker.. and thinking that the match or two I burned winning a shitty prime (which turned out to be an XL pair of $7 socks, thank you very much) could have been better spent covering Yabroudy's attack or trying to bridge across. I remember in the 2009 edition of this race- I did not contest any primes, but when The Move attacked up the hill with about 6 laps to go, I was on it like a bad suit and per team's orders, I sat there on Billy and Ciaran so that the race would come back together, ensuring that it came down to a field sprint, which favored our team.. and worked..
Recovery period No 2 took more like 5 laps and with about three to go I moved back up to the front. Not all at once like a maniac, but gradually.. a few places after each corner. When I heard the bell for final lap, I could really appreciate all of the visualizing I had done because like magic, I was up there in the top 10 guys going up the hill.. This is the part of the race where you need to appear larger than you are.. like when you encounter a bear in the woods.. Elbows are out a little bit.. guys are fighting to be just an inch ahead because that forces others to submit and yield some space. The slightest weakness is detected and if you show any at this point you can get pushed aside like a red headed step-child. I took the inside line on corner two where the field squeezes together. I accelerated out of there nicely on the right hand side, moving up some more, making sure that I have a clean exit for when someone punches it. The back stretch dips a little bit before a slight rise and approach to the corkscrew. The field is hesitating.. We're three or four abreast and I'm in a very sweet spot on the right, looking over my shoulder every two seconds. Then a move goes- it's an OA and a CCB attacking before the corkscrew. I am immediately on it, 4th wheel behind some yo-yo who could not corner to save his life. You could park a bus in the lane he left open on the inside of the 180 degree turn, and I shot through there- quite safely, to get tagged onto the two in front. I'm 3rd wheel through the left turn, I'm out of the saddle for 2-3 strokes before the final corner, just to dissuade others from thinking they can move up on me. Out of the last corner with two fast wheels to follow, I'm fresh and ready for this. But I became impatient, and fearful that passers might block me in. I followed the wheel very briefly before taking the right hand lane and opening it up for all it's worth. Hitting my top speed a little too early (37mph) I'm thinking that the finish is right in front of me but it's really another 10 -15 meters.. I was passed by two riders right on the line. I gave it everything to get 5th in the field sprint with 4 up the road, so 9th place for me, again. I'm not jumping for joy but I am happy to have executed what seemed to be the most important part of the race- having the power to be in front on the last lap AND to sprint strongly at the end.
Afterwards I discovered that Solobreak took a very respectable 2nd place behind B.Y. in his 2nd race of the day. Dave Kellogg got another fine result after his success at Norwell- finished 3rd in his 2nd race of the day as well. Foley and I chugged a couple of Stellas back at my car to honor a fine day of racing, as it should be..
Only one racer repeated a top 10 finish in 2009 and 2010. Me! and 9th place both times. Interesting to note that Matt Kressy won the 35+ in 2009 and the 45+ in 2010. Bill Yabroudy won the 35+ in 2008, won the cat 3 in 2009 and won the 35+ in 2010. This is for my fellow data junkies:

Monday, August 02, 2010

The last five weeks of adventure

Indeed 100/TSS day is now finally within reach- the magical level where good things are more likely to happen on a bike. I expect to cool my jets this week and then ramp up again in time for a peak at Chris Thater. Your opinion counts, so if it looks to you like I am driving myself into the ground, please say something constructively critical.. that is if you think you know better. I guess results will speak for themselves? Fine and dandy.
With wife and child away for the past 20 days, I have been able to partake in the FnF lifestyle- that is, doing whatever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want.. which will explain the 45 hours of training and racing since they left on 7/15. I've lost about 10 pounds too.. which didnt hurt me on Sunday at Norwell Circuit Race. My result there does not reflect the amount of success I had being up front and in the action most of the time, or being part of a lead out train on the run-in to the final corner to help launch Matt K up the hill to the finish.. (he ended up 2nd in the field sprint, 5th overall.. and I basically shut it down after the corner.. but my participation in the Pro race three hours later was purely for the training.. so after getting spit out the back on lap four, I soldiered on to the finish at my limit, even after being lapped by field. That's 24 times all together I sprinted over that little climb, and I actually enjoyed going it alone all those laps- I put the Powertap wheel on for the Pro race knowing that a light wheel would not help me- and I wanted a solid hour of race data- and got it. Other than that, my day is pretty much split into 1/4ths:
-tending to personal, WeeBIKE and Hasyun e-tail transactions
-working on the new house and the other one we still own as a rental
-training and racing lots
-eating, cleaning up after myself, and personal hygiene (this is the part that I have trouble with)
My latest project at the new place is a rehab of our multi-level deck. I have deconstructed it to a point where all of the railings are being replaced, along with the floors boards, and the joists are being reinforced, re-hoisted/re-leveled, and supplemented in a few places. From the street, it's going to look brand spanking new- and no more horrible white painted lattice all over the place. Who paints their entire deck white? Man it looked like ass. I'll post pictures later on to show off my very-sharp carpentry skills, before and after.
Gran Prix of Beverly, Concord Crit, Witch's Cup, and Fall River Crit are all swirling in my mind.. There's even a crit in Pittsfield MA.. the last time I did a crit there it was 1990 and I remember getting my doors blown off in my first year out of the junior ranks. That's when I discovered that being a successful bike racer would require me to train 3x more than a junior ever trains..
Freedom Tour Crit update- the race where I was tangled up in the final corner- locked handlebars with an opponent and still stayed upright and fast enough for 15th- a consolation prize was discovered. According to USA Cycling, my mediocre 15th place resulted in one rank point! Oh joy yes indeed. Apparently the Freedom Tour is a "C" Level event, and so the top 15 get rank points. So I may have missed my goal (and the money) by finishing outside the top 10, but this race was ranked higher than your typical New England "D" race, and I feel better about my result than before. I know I was having a super day because I was feeling very comfortable in the Pro race, up until the crash anyway..
I hear that Beverly is one tough SOB of a course.. I am still on the fence about it, mostly because I don't want to use a lot of ammo this week.
Hat tip to Dave Kellogg for getting 5th in the 45s and 2nd in the 35s at Norwell on Sunday. Well done! Full results of 2010 Norwell Circuit Race HERE.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Letter

The old M1 Racing uniforms have a quotation on the back of the collar, by a Pulitzer prize winner whose work opened my eyes to some things, during a period when my father was in chemo, radiation, fighting lung cancer.
I'm saddened to report to you that Franz himself announced that he has been diagnosed with lung cancer this past week. He's a distant FB friend to me and he does not know that an elite New England bike race team has ridden tens of 1000s of miles carrying his words and his name: "We are created by being destroyed" -Franz Wright "The Letter"

I know that some of you might be saying to yourselves Franz who?? If your interest is piqued, here is the program in which I discovered him:
"The Letter" is read beginning at about 7:00.

I'd like to take one of the last remaining M1 jerseys and have everyone on the team sign it for him.