A little media exposure for BHCC

A few weeks ago, as I was riding back from Barnstable, a reporter from boston.com called and expressed his interest in doing a story on our club time trial. Sounded like a good idea to me, though not without some risk. What’s he going to think of a bunch of guys TTing on open roads? Maybe he’s faster than all of us, or a lot slower? What if nobody shows up and it’s just me on a funny looking bike?
Well, those fears were mostly unfounded, though I guess I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to see if the Powers That Be have a problem with the TT. The article went live yesterday, and I’m pretty pleased with the result. I would have liked a little more input from the other riders, but I think he got a good story out of it.
I hope he makes it back this month, and hey, if you’re in the neighborhood, come on down.

Scenes from the biker life

Scene 1, Sunday – first club TT of the year. The course would be familiar to Solobreak and anybody who raced the Blue Hills Classic. It’s about 11.4 Km, with a nice 1.1 Km, 5%-average hill in the first third just to screw up your pacing. I put on the dork suit and made a run, and shaved a couple of seconds off my PR. Here’s a graph of my power from this week’s run (yellow) compared to my fastest from last year (red):

TT Power Comparison

Though the x-axis is time, it’s pretty easy to key a few locations on the course to the power curve. We start at the gas station near the corner of Canton Ave and Blue Hill Parkway. The first 0-power dip is the corner of 138. The second is the oblique right from 138 onto Canton, where I get out of the tuck briefly to freak out about traffic and not hitting the curb. The last 0-power moment I think comes near the intersection with Atherton, where we start the final descent to the finish. There, I stay on the aero extensions but freak out momentarily about picking my way through the potholes near the shoulder.

Hey, at least I’m consistent.

Comparing the two graphs, I see that I was maybe 10 or 15 seconds faster to 138 this time, but gave some of that advantage back on Canton. Average power overall on the two runs was the same, but this time we had light winds from the northeast instead of light wind from the south. Unquity is essentially southbound until the state police barracks, so the wind conditions probably helped a bit there, and held me back when headed northeast on Unquity. If I had thought to check that before the race, I may have pushed a little harder at the start.

The next run is 8am on June 27, and if you’re in the neighborhood you’re welcome to drop in. Just get in touch.

Scene 2 – the tail end of MTB Day in the Blue Hills. We showed up barely half an hour before they closed, but they had the obstacle course open. Andrew got to ride his first seesaw, and he also won the bike limbo contest. The dude on the 26″ unicycle gave it a good shot, but he was no match for a skinny 8-year-old on 20″ wheels.
Scene 3 – Monday’s bike commute – well, calling it a commute is a bit generous, because I just ride a couple of miles down to the train station. The full commute takes more than an hour, and while I probably should do it, I usually don’t. This week, I’m practicing my underway camera technique. The dang thing has too many buttons.

Monday’s commute passed uneventfully. Tuesday morning, I was admonished by an SUV driver to “get on the sidewalk” as we cruised through a school zone. In the evening, I rode down to meet the family at Andrew’s baseball game and was nearly right-hooked. If I hadn’t been paying attention, I’d have been caught under the wheels of a Mini. I’ve lived in Canton for three years, and this is the first time I recall being insulted on the road in town. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last.

Can’t we all just get along?


Biking in Barnstable
No racing this past weekend, but still managed to cram quite a bit of biker life into two days. Friday turned into a short-notice full day off. I had planned to take the afternoon off to ride down to Barnstable, but then the opportunity for a quick run up to Svelte Cycles HQ presented itself, so I dashed up there on Friday morning to conduct a little business. I wish I had brought my camera, as Justin’s modest digs contain a large slice of biker nirvana. The Gaulzetti road bikes hit all my bike nerd buttons, though that’s not why I went up there. I’ll save that for a later entry.
Then, a mad dash home to make final preparations, suit up and hit the road for Barnstable. Last fall I did the Plymouth-to-Canton direction of Bike Route 1 but the outbound route was new to me. I translated the map into four pages of cues, threw on the MTB pedals and shoes for the walk across the Sagamore bridge, and hit the road. The forecast predicted afternoon rain, so I rode the fender bike, but such precautions turned out to be unnecessary. Except for a suicidal squirrel in Bridgewater, my trip was unremarkable, but for the rare treat of four hours of sunshine and solitude. I didn’t even make a wrong turn.
Satruday afternoon I reversed course and rode home, wishing I’d had the foresight to print out the cues in reverse order. I only made one wrong turn while mentally re-calculating the route, though. Other than that, another long afternoon of steady-state pedaling over the (mostly) lightly-traveled roads of southeast Mass. I wasn’t feeling all that great – by Monday, I had a full-on cold – but back-to-back four-hour days are a rare treat.
No racing this weekend, either, unless you count the first club TT of the season. I’ll just chew on solobreak’s analysis of why we have such a glut of Cat 4s. I’m part of the problem, for sure.

Snap, crackle, pop

It’s been a bad stretch for bones in my little corner of the universe. Two weekends ago, my buddy JP’s front wheel found the only pothole on the course and he wound up with a cracked clavicle and major road rash. I’d tell him to complain to the race promoter, but, well, he was the race promoter. Bad deal.
Sunday, Dougie J broke his ankle on an easy MTB ride, pulverizing a planned riding trip to Italy and some big races along with his fibula and talus (probably…ankle anatomy isn’t really my thing). And some people say MTBing is safer.
Speaking of Italy, CVV crashed out of the Giro yesterday, again. Italy is just bad news for the poor guy.
So what does this have to do with little ol’ me? My number’s going to come up. Falling off the bike is a natural consequence of getting on the bike. Seriously, if the PROs can’t avoid broken bones, how can I? I just hope it isn’t too bad when it happens. I have lots of reasons to live.

Blue Hills Classic 2010: At last, my butt is famous

I’m fading fast – I hope I didn’t pick up a GI bug from contaminated drinking water, but something has zapped my energy tonight. Not to mention that I’m past the 24-hour freshness date for race reports. So this will likely be short, or at least unedited.
Yesterday we had the fourth running of the Blue Hills Classic road race. My club hosts the race, and we have not yet managed to put a club member on the podium in any category. I wanted to change that this year, and I thought we had the horsepower to do it in the Cat 4 race. However, a quick scan of the pre-reg list revealed that we’d have to find our way past a couple of big teams to make that happen. Threshold Cycling brought 13 riders, and Cambridge Bike 8. Both are well-organized and know how to work as a team.
I prepared about as well as I could. My fitness has been quite good in the last few weeks, and the race is held on my favorite training loop. I knew the contours and the potholes perfectly. Since our race was just 21 miles long, I figured a break had a very small chance of succeeding if we could keep Threshold and CB from blocking the bunch when their riders attacked. My plan was to hover near the front, cover breaks if I saw CB and Threshold go together, but otherwise try to keep my nose out of the wind until the last lap. I had three teammates with me, and while we were down on numbers to those two teams, perhaps we could sneak somebody by them.
For a moment on the first lap, I thought maybe the race had ridden away from me. Cruising down Canton Ave at nearly 40 mph, I had shuffled toward the back of the bunch when a split formed, with maybe 20 riders in the front group. I saw my two teammates up there, so I didn’t try to close the gap. We all came back together on Unquity Hill, though. The second lap was somewhat similar, except this time the split group was smaller, contained CB and Threshold, and I went to the front to bring them back. I probably didn’t absolutely need to do that, but it wasn’t a very long or hard effort. The second trip up Unquity was pretty tame, but I found myself bumping bars as we came around the start area, trying to maintain a forward position.
Coming down Canton for the final time, I sheltered behind my teammate Can for a while. Can has many fine qualities, including throwing a very comfy draft, but a bit too late I realized that we had slid toward the back of the group as we ran downhill. The final corner is 5-6 minutes out from the finish line, and after we sprinted out of that corner I yelled to him that we needed to move up. He chose a line on the shoulder, which I didn’t feel comfortable following, so I tried to pick my way through the group as best I could. Or at least that’s how I remember it. The bar cam video looks a bit different:

The video starts on the last lap, soon after the turn from Unquity onto 138. We have a couple of riders off the front at this point, with Eric Vandendries and then Larry Alford of 545 Velo taking monster pulls to bring them back. Looks like the last escapee to come back in was Gert Reynaert of Threshold.
Nick Liddell of Threshold, our cameraman, stayed near the front all the way down Canton, and then took the lead through the final corner onto Unquity, when Gert makes another appearance, surprising Nick by dive-bombing the corner from the outside. Things get a little sprinty after that as we all get on the gas out of the corner. The pace is high but even until about 8:25 in the video, which is about where we start the final trip up Unquity. I think when Greg Whitney got off the front there. I make an appearance on the video at about 9:12. At long last, my butt is on the Internet! I’m famous! At that point, Nick fades so we don’t really see the end of the race. I was creeping up, but as soon as we hit the coned-off intersection that marked the point at which we got full width of the road, I stood up, swung left to get a clear line, and lit the afterburners. That pulled me up to 13th place, with top 10 an agonizing bike-length away. I heard crash noise as I crossed the line, but I didn’t look back to see whose sweet ride turned into a small heap of frayed carbon filaments.
Since GeWilli mentioned Watts/Kg on climbs today, here’s a screenshot of the last 2:30 or so of my race:
I averaged 426 W for the last 2 minutes, and I’m around 71 Kg, so that’s just about 6 W/Kg. And it was all I had left.
I think I did a fairly good job of reading this race, but I was obviously out of position through the last corner. If I had done a better job of staying forward, I may have snagged an even better result. I wanted to win, and I didn’t, so I failed to achieve my goal. But this is my best result in a 4s race, so I shouldn’t complain too loudly.
It’s also the last race of my spring campaign. The next two or three weeks are chock full of family visits and other enriching activities, so I’m not sure when my next race will be. There will be a next road race, though, because I feel like I’m finally starting to figure this stuff out. I may have delusions of adequacy, but I think I’m within sight of competence as a Cat 4.

I’m boiling my drinking water, I have a race tomorrow, and Steve Garro just kicked my ass

Earlier today, a catastrophic break in a 10 foot water main caused the Mass Water Resources Authority to issue a boil-water order for Boston and several suburbs, including mine. In other news, there are freaking 10 FOOT WIDE water mains, and they can break. At least I’m going to learn a lot about the water distribution system in the next few days.
On an unrelated note, I’m racing the Blue Hills Classic tomorrow morning. This is my favorite road race of the year, primarily because it’s a 10-minute bike ride from my garage to the registration tent. We are the host club, and we have only four riders in a field that’s dominated by large teams from a couple of other local clubs. I still want a Blue Hills jersey at the top of the podium. I think we have the talent to do it, but we’re going to have to race the smartest race of our lives. And I’m going to have to race way over my head to pull it off.
Topic 3: I don’t know Steve Garro. He’s a custom bike builder from Arizona, and he posts on a bike forum I frequent. Oh, and some mishap or other put him permanently in a wheelchair a while back. Go have a dose of life ain’t fair. Thanks, Steve, for reminding me that every day on the bike is a gift.

Turtle Pond Circuit Race – an exercise in frustration

I tend not to bother with race reports, since I seldom see the pointy end of the race. My writeups tend to follow the pattern of “So there I was at the start, and I did everything right, except for the things I did wrong, and a little while later I finished 65th. I’m not sure who won. The end.” I’m not really interested in reading that, so how can I expect you to sit through it?
Today was a little different. My phone bongo’ed me awake at 5:15 to pick up a teammate and make the drive up to Loudon, NH for the Turtle Pond circuit race. Instead of wanting to pull the covers over my head, I bounced out of bed, hit the shower, chucked the bike in the rack and was ready to go a little early. That hasn’t happened to me much lately. I intended to arrive early enough to ride an 11-mile lap of the course, but we started off in the wrong direction during warmup and ended up only covering the first 5 miles or so before turning back. That turned out to be an OK decision, since the actual course differed from the map on the race flyer. Instead of taking a right turn onto the steep hill on Hot Hole Pond Road, we went straight and stayed on gently rolling Shaker Road. We didn’t find out about that until the racer’s brief at the start. The official mentioned something about opening day for fishing. If I had ridden the course as marked on the map, I just would’ve been confused in the race. She also mentioned a yard sale on the course, and the fact that they’d “try” to have the full width of School Street for the finish.
I lined up towards the back with my teammate Can and Internet friends Jerry and Geoff. Geoff proceeded to give me a hard time about my number placement, which I probably deserved. Jerry, Geoff and a couple other guys in the field are also on Twitter, and I think we had near perfect attendance among Cat 4 New England tweeps. I’m only aware of one absence.
We rolled out in neutral to the top of Oak Hill. I swear I nearly fell over a couple of times, we were moving so slowly. The pace didn’t pick up much after we crested the hill, though at some point we let a small break go. Somebody must have been controlling the pace at the front, but after two laps were were all back together. I was mostly mired in the middle of the pack, feeling good but not doing very well with finding a way to move up. We were on the brakes all the time – uphill, downhill, on the flat, I simply couldn’t understand why the pace was so choppy. But I couldn’t get to the front to try to change things, either. The roads were quite narrow with no shoulder, and we had the yellow line rule in effect all the way around. That isn’t to say it couldn’t be done, I just couldn’t figure out how to do it.
With 2 laps to go, Can made a hero move by going wide through the turn onto Oak Hill and hammering past most of the pack. He made it all the way to the front, and I watched him lead us down the back side of Oak Hill. But by the time we came back to Oak Hill for the last lap, he was cooked, and I saw him going backwards. I still felt good on the last lap and gave it all the gas I could on Oak Hill, and moved up a little. The pack finally strung out, but the pace slowed again on the back side and we regrouped. Add in a couple of super-slow-mo turns on Cemetery St and we were headed for a big bunch finish.
This being a Cat 4 race, we had crashes. One guy rode himself into the sand on Oak Hill on what I think was the third lap. Another two got tangled up in the corner onto Shaker Road, and I think another got into the sand on the last lap when turning onto School Street. The most memorable, though, were the two guys who were over the yellow line on School Street with less than a K to go, when a car came over the rise we were about to ascend. They bumped, tangled up and spread themselves over the road doing about 50 Km/h. So much for having the full width of the road. That sure distracted me as I tried to find a way around it. I found myself actually winding up my puny sprint for the finish. I’m not sure what my placing was, but I was in the main group. After I came through, I saw Mark Bernard sitting on the floor – at least he had the good sense to crash after he collected his 5th-place finish.
I left with a feeling of frustration. I had the best legs I think I’ve ever had for a road race, and I couldn’t find a way to really use them. But, I had a glorious day in the company of friends, got to connect with more bike dorks, and celebrate life by hurling myself through space. My compliments to the winners – I should have hung around to hear who you were. Maybe this race report wasn’t too far off the pattern after all…

Car-free days

Well, the Battenkill race report never saw the light of day. We had a good day, and two teammates in the van made the road trip much more tolerable, but my performance wasn’t exactly remarkable. The hamstring cramps that struck me at the 2nd feed zone, on the other hand, forced all kinds of remarks through my clenched teeth.
Today was just another day. Up early to suffer through a bunch of 30-second blocks, then breakfast and a brief pedal over to the train station. I mixed things up by – at long last! – taking the T north of the river to pick up my Spooky Supertouch cross frame at Ace Wheelworks. Thanks, Mickey! I slung it over my shoulder for the ride home. Yeah, I like bikes so much, sometimes I wear ’em for jewelry.
I don’t get to log too many car-free days. Maybe one or two a week, most of the time. Today, with the sun shining and the trees budding, I was happy to sneak one in. I’m hoping to get a few more this summer when the kids just have to go down the hill instead of up to Milton.
Hey – go ride your bike. You’ll like it.

Charge Pond non-race non-report

It was a training race, if I do a full writeup solobreak will come kick me in the shin. So: below freezing but sunny, relatively small turnout, I took a flyer on the last lap from waaaay too far out and ran out of gas before the last corner.
He might just kick me in the shin for that, come to think of it.

It all adds up to one

Saturday forecast:

Sunny. Cold with highs in the mid 30s. North winds 10 to 15 mph…becoming northeast 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon.

This is spring in New England, and the roads are mostly no longer under water, so it’s time to go bike racing. So far I have a short road campaign planned: the infamous Battenkill, Turtle Pond and our Blue Hills Classic, and then see what I feel like doing in between baseball and soccer games. I think I have some fitness this year, and I’m going to find out if I can use it to good effect. It all starts tomorrow with a trip down to Charge Pond for a little training race. I’ve been there before, and these are as low-key as races get, but I’m feeling that pre-race thrill.
The bike is set, and now I have to find a way to sleep. Dang.