The trial of miles; miles of trials.

Monday, March 26, 2012

2012 Barry Roubaix

Waxed and ready to ride!
Riding in the peloton. We were wheel to wheel, shoulder to shoulder, ten wide and a mile deep.  A buzzing line of vibrant colors, clicking gears, humming tires and people holding their arms up shouting "slowly".  The dreaded elastic band effect; a change in speed becomes amplified as it propagates to the back of the peloton.  Don't try this at home.

I had been looking forward to this race for several months.  Any race with a big field and great atmosphere is always a lot of fun.  I pulled into Yankee Springs about two hours pre-race and already the place was boiling with excitement.  The night before it had rained just over an inch so I knew the course would have its share of slop, but I also knew it would be fast.  

As I started my gear sort and was preparing to get my bike out of my backseat I couldn't help but notice the two car doors sprawled wide open into the side of my car as three guys worked their sort off out of their open trunk.  I had to get my bike from the driver's side because the passenger side was blocked with my son's car seat.  I looked over my shoulder a few times and noticed these three guys looking at me but never making a move to free up some space for me to work.  Then I started to pay attention.  They were speaking German.  While I have nothing against German's, past experience brought three words to mind: arrogant, inconsiderate, asshole.  Spot on.  Those guys were pricks, through and through.  After I threaded my frame through a maze of car doors and hairy German legs, I collected my essentials and headed out to find Tony and Matt, which turned out to be just a few cars down.

The day was damp, gray and very still.  We collected our race numbers and headed out to chat with some of the members of the Rapid Wheelmen and Team JTree.  Cycling is better than running in terms of camaraderie.  There is a different buzz and people tend to congregate in groups (teams) opposed to the lonely distance runner.  Likely it's because in cycling people work together in a way that runners do not, but whatever the case may be, it's a damn good feeling to be around a bunch of friendly, happy people with coolers of beer fully stocked for post-race celebrations.  I'm in! 

We killed off an hour chatting and then reluctantly shed our dress to reveal thin layers of spandex.  Or as Tony calls it, our bat suits.  Some people are very intimidated by spandex (Jason), but there is a time, a place and a reason.  It was cold at first but as we spun several laps around the Gun Lake boat launch/parking area my blood warmed my extremities as the chia seeds in my stomach started to churn.  Game face on, it was time to race!

Tony and I took off in the third wave with about 350 other riders and just about 2 minutes behind the previous wave of about 350 riders.  We started poorly positioning with about 75% of the wave ahead of us.  I immediately tried to ride to the left of the pack to make my way towards the front, but the peloton proved dangerous and congested. There were a few spills and one woman sitting in the ditch looking dazed (likely collarbone) but nothing major as I was able to slowly work my way towards the front.  After about two miles the pack started to thin.  I had hoped to jump on with a fast group early but my attempts were futile.  I was mostly standing up, passing and expending a lot of energy in the process.

Just a few miles in we made a left on a tight sandy two-track.  It was narrow with overhanging foliage, very congested and further complicated by the lead moto for the fourth wave laying on his horn trying to clear the way for apparently ghosts because I didn't see anybody following him.  This went on for several minutes.  A loud motorcycle spitting out a lung damaging elixir of hot gas, oil and sand.  Guys around me were kind of pissed.  I heard somebody shout out, "IF YOU WANT TO PASS YOU BETTER USE THE WOODS" and another, "WE HAVE A RACE TO RIDE TOO" and "F*CK YOU!"  It was beautiful, almost poetic.    

Once we turned right off the two-track things started to thin out considerably and I was able to focus on my race.  I did a quick assessment: Lungs feel like they are filled with shards of glass, check.  Legs feel like molten metal, check.  Left hand is sound asleep, check.  Toes on right foot sleeping like a baby, check.  Sweat pouring directly into my right eye, check.  I knew I just had to settle down and the rest would sort itself out.  By mile eight I had settled in.

I desperately needed to find a group to ride with, but was having a hard time.  I was passing, always passing.  Occasionally a group of guys would come screaming by and I would jump on only to fall off the back on the next big hill.  As this was going on there were a few guys that I had been leapfrogging for a few miles.  I rode right up next to one of them, looked him the eye and said, "Are you ready to work together?"  He said, "HELL yes" and grabbed my wheel.  This was around mile sixteen.  For a few miles we pulled each other up and down some of the more difficult hills on the course in a fluid and flawless effort.  Taking turns and heavily hoping more people would jump on the back.  Nobody did.

Around twenty I saw a solid line of about 20 guys that were moving fast and hard to catch.  As I grabbed the last wheel in the line I gave a glance over my shoulder to make sure Mr. Cyclo-cross was still in tow.  He had fallen off and as we made eye contact he waved me on and shouted, "GOOD LUCK."  I gave him a point thanking him for his help.  I was happy to be in a bigger line and was able to replace some calories and drink some water on the fly.  As I worked towards the front of the line I felt energized.  When the lead rider pulled out of line and flicked his elbow I felt a charge of adrenaline rush through my body.  It was my turn to pull.  What an incredible feeling!  Before long a faster group lead by a tandem cruised up beside me.  As they picked us off one by one I waited for my the last wheel in the line scooted by I jumped on.  Perhaps it was a selfish move to leave the line that just pulled me for several miles...but that's racing. 

The race was approaching the late stages and I knew there was one more nasty section of sandy two-track coming before a six mile section of paved road to the finish.  We hit the final two-track and it was immediately congested.  Everybody walking the steep sandy section.  I rode until I lost momentum and then pushed my bike through the sand...legs on the borderline of cramping, lungs burning and sweat burning my right eye as if it was being injected with a syringe.  It was a tedious section and I was happy to get back on my bike and weave my way around cross bikes through the sandy descent.  There were several water holes on this section that people were attempting to dodge.  At that point I really didn't care and was bombing right through the center sending a wall of cold, mud-water towards the riders on my right and left. 

The paved road was a welcome sight.  I knew all I had to do was clear the first seemingly never ending hill and then bomb my way to the finish.  This was also the section of the course where the 24 mile route merged with the 36 and 62 mile course.  So the amount of traffic increased but they were slower riders so it made me feel like I was really flying.  At one point I hit 37 MPH.  Good stuff. 

As the route turned left onto the Yankee Springs entrance drive two guys jumped on behind me.  I was afraid they were going to let me pull them to the finish and then make a last minute pass to gain position on me.  I told myself that was not going to happen.  I thought about slowing down to see what they would do, but as it turns out, I'm not wired that way.  Instead I dropped my chain down to the smallest cog in the rear, put my head down and gave it everything I had.  Snot dripping from my nose, sweat pouring into my right eye and I was spitting.  Or foaming at the mouth rather.  It was beautiful and I can't wait to see the official finish line photo.  When I crossed the line I looked back and saw a good 100 yards of restate between myself and the next rider. 

I really wish I could say this was me, but it wasn't.  Darn, maybe next time. 

After my initial recovery period of nearly 20 min. it was time to start my beer therapy.  I had tons of fun fighting the German's again to get my bike back in the car. wouldn't have believed it had you seen it yourself. 
It was another great race that I really enjoyed riding.  I finished 23 out of 129 in my age group (35-39) and I believe 133 out of around 900 overall.  I'm happy with the results.  Official RESULTS can be seen here.

Here is a good video of the course from the pro race:

post race

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I had another fairly productive week of training.  It is starting to feel like things are coming together for me.  My Saturday run on the Lansing River Trail was probably a bit too much for me but I didn't care how much it hurt.  It was wonderful! 

The training ride with Team JTree was a lot of fun.  It was a great route with plenty of hills and we picked up the last mile of the Poto.  The guys I met were cool and once the ride was over we chugged beer in the parking lot.  I'm going to fit right in! 

My Garmin came back from the dead and has been working fine.  I'm pretty excited about that.

Monday: Run 4 miles
Tuesday: Swim 2000 yards, 45 min. on the trainer
Wednesday: Bike 14 miles, swim 2500 yards
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 60 min. on the trainer
Saturday: Run 16 miles
Sunday: Bike 32 miles with Team JTree

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dead 305

In the past 2.5 years my Garmin 305 has never failed me, not even once.  It worked fine yesterday and fully uploaded my recent activities without fail.  Last night the display read "battery charging is complete".  Today it would not power up.  Dead.  No response.  Nothing.  I docked it on the charger and nothing happened.  Garmin Connect doesn't recognize it.  A quick internet search yielded no related troubleshooting ideas.  I've put about 500 hours on it so that is about $.30 an hour.  Perhaps I've gotten my use out of it...fair enough.  I'm getting a Garmin 310XT.

The past few weeks have been going pretty good.  I've been at it 5-6 days a week with two-a-days twice a week.  Been spending two hours a week in the pool, averaging a measly 15-20 miles on the run and a couple hours on the trainer.  My body is holding up pretty well although my right knee has been hurting a bit so I've had ice on it daily.  My right heel has been sore since the beginning of January (before I even started running again); I assume my Achilles is acting up.  I accept and expect the nagging injuries and will continue to work through them.

The Barry Roubaix is coming up in three weeks and I'm nervous already.  I believe the field is around 1500 riders and there will be pro racers.  I hear the course is hilly.  I'm scared.

I was out today for 22 miles on a dirt road mountain bike tour.  I often feel like a weenie out there on the rural roads in my colorful half-spandex suit bombing the dirt like a maniac.  Today was no different.  Sometimes I feel like I should be doing more "manly" activities with my free time than sitting on a four and half inch wide seat, fully clad in synthetic wicking fabric, pedaling to a cadence of high-efficiency washing machine on the ultra-fast spin cycle.  The following is a short synopsis of my observations today:

1.) On Jason Road I passed a smoke-filled garage with a t-shirt wearing guy tuning a snowmobile.  The rear of the sled was hanging from a makeshift lift attached to the rafters.  Said guy appeared to be testing the track tension as he stood next to the machine holding the throttle to a deafening 9000 RPM's.  Smoke, dust and bits of gravel were peppering the minivan parked on the approach to the garage.

2.)  On Forest Hill Road there was a man in knee-boots smashing the shit out of D-3 dozer track with a sledge hammer.  He was covered head to toe in mud with a cigarette precariously clinging to his lower lip.

3.)  On Lehman Road I saw a guy running a chainsaw in a pair of Kevlar assless chaps while is son operated a 30-ton homemade log splitter behind him.

4.)  On Williams Road, in a large open field, there was a man wearing earmuffs staring into the sky.  He appeared to be holding something in his hands.  I soon realized that he was operating a RC airplane.

Aside from the minivan, cigarette and assless chaps I though observations 1-3 seemed reasonably manly and was feeling a bit like the weenie of Olive Township for the day.  It wasn't until observation number 4 that I was able to check my potentially irrational insecurities and move on with the task at hand.  It turned out to be a fantastic ride with little mud and only a slightly annoying Northwest wind.

 You be the judge of the true Olive Twp. weenie.  See my poll at the top left of this page.

On Saturday I was planning to put up a 10-12 mile run but ended up locking into a decent pace that felt good for a change.  Instead of being greedy and risking a setback I went for quality over quantity and cut the run to 8 miles.  It felt really, really good.  This may sound strange, but due to the lack of feeling in my right foot it has taken me two months to figure out that my shoe has not been laced tight enough.  I knew I had less lace to tie on the right side, but thought it was because of the AFO I have been wearing.  As it turns out, my foot has been slopping around in my shoe and subsequently driving my toes into the end of the toe-box.  Once I finally got things figured out I had a much better run and attribute my discovery to the ease of my quicker pace.

 been trying to get a picture of this wooly beast all winter 

You all take care and be safe out there.  Cheers!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Breakthrough week

I was due to make some gains and have a really strong week of training and I feel like last week gave me a big physical and mental boost.  I'm excited to be getting at least some of my fitness back. 

It started on Sunday with a solid 18-mile dirt road tour on my mountain bike in shorts.  That's pretty good for mid-February riding.

I kicked off Monday morning with a reasonable run just under five miles.

My alarm went off at 4:30 AM on Tuesday and by 4:55 AM I was in the pool for 2050 yards of swimming.

On Wednesday AM I managed four miles at just under 8 min. pace and followed up with 45 min. on the trainer.  That evening it was back to the pool where Jason pushed me to 2250 yards in an hour flat.

I should have rested Thursday but was having too good of a week so I got up and did 60 min. on the trainer.

I was going to save a longer run for Saturday but changed my mind at the last minute and got up at 4:30 AM for seven miles.

On Saturday Tony and I had planned a dirt road ride, but due to technical difficulties with his back it couldn't happen.  Instead I decided to attempt my first back to back run since May of 2011.  I was excited to see the mercury hanging just below 7 degrees F and to see the North wind whipping across the field.  My original plan was to do a short three mile run, but under sunny, crisp skies I couldn't help myself and pulled off just under 5 miles.  I didn't intend to run fast, but once I saw my first mile at 7:45 I went for it.  It was a huge breakthrough run for me and felt so good in the process.  I should have called it a week after that, but was so jacked up about my run I decided to do 60 min. on the trainer.

Last week helped me remember that there really are no excuses; 4:30 starts, two-a-days, bricks and frigid icy conditions, all in a weeks work.  MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Still wearing shorts

What a great winter we are having.  I got in a nice ride on Sunday and feel like the trainer is doing a good job of maintaining my legs as my pace was consistent with where I left off six weeks ago.  I'm pleased with my running efforts as well.  I wish I were putting up more miles, but still  have not run on back to back days.  Just waiting for my time.  I'm planning to start spending two hours a week in the pool.  Prividing that my efforts pay off, I'm hoping to open up 2012 with a sprit tri in May.

Friday, February 3, 2012

When is ice out?

So much work to be done, so many races and so little time. 

I swam for the first time on Wednesday night (2150 yards). I like swimming because it is inherently difficult.  Due to my irrational fears of open water, swimming in a pool is much easier.  I've still been running a little and riding on the trainer.  I haven't finalized any plans yet, but have my mind set on a few races.  I'm really leaning towards the XTERRA Last Stand Triathlon at Ft. Custer on May 20.  Trying to train for three disciplines proves difficult.

I've always thought in order to be a "real athlete" you had to have some sort of skill, natural talent or gift.  I'm not convinced that suffering is a skill, talent or gift.  This sums it up:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Once A Runner...

“Why would you let anything stop you from doing what you have the ability to do?”  Tony Dungy

Last June I came across this quote scrawled on a blackboard in the Alma High School pool locker room.  I read it, paused...then looked down at my foot and ran my hand across the healing incision on my low back.  I emailed the quote to myself and have read it every day for the past six months. 

By late 2011 I thought I had accepted the fact that I was a runner no more.  It wasn't until December when I actually said the words out loud that I realized I'm far too stubborn to give up so easily.  I reached for my copy of Once A Runner.  Thumbed through the pages and read the following:

"Running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew.  It was all joy and woe, hard as a diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension.  But it also made him free."  

It's been a big month for me...full of hope and warm fuzziness.  I'm slowly getting back into the routine and desperately trying to regain my fitness.  My stride is not perfect and I'm working on tweaking some things, but its pretty darn good for what I have to work with.  I'm running with an AFO device called Toe-Off which is made in Sweden.  When I first tried it on and walked in it I didn't feel like it did anything.  It wasn't until I took off running down the road that I realized just how well it worked.  It's shocking!  

I'm not saying that I'm back, but I'm certainly headed in the right direction.  I've continued to fit in plenty of time on the cycle trainer and am hoping to get some time in the pool soon.  As far as the 2012 race season, I'm really not sure right now.  I have a bunch of ridiculous goals in my head that are far too outlandish to disclose at the moment...but I know one thing for sure and that is, for me, 2012 is going to be a much better year than 2011.  

Thanks to all of my friends and family for their love and support.  I wouldn't be who I am or where I am without you.  May we all look forward to a bright new hope.  

Steve Jobs put it best:  "Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."