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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Interview with Steve Sperry about UWBL finish

Read about the exciting finish to the Upstate Winter Bicycle League at my cycling blog. Can't read? :-) Listen to my interview with Steve Sperry about Rodney Dender's win.

Click here to download a .mp3 podcast file.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

That was a blast

I decided to do the B group ride of the UWBL today. 5.5 hours in the saddle chasing after hardcore racers would not do good things to my physical and mental wellbeing. So, I pulled up at Carolina Triathlon looking for Strad - he was the one who talked me into the 60 miler.

Andy Baker had suggested that the three of us just hang out at the back of the A group and get in the miles. Yeah, right. Like Andy Baker is going to hang around the back of any group. Hope he did what he said he would so he'll be ready to race for money tomorrow.

Probably one of the things that made the ride fun was the people I rode with. Strad was there with his dad. Louis, Billy, and Barry were on this ride as well. Right off the bat the atmosphere was great. I hadn't talked with Louis is quite a while, so we spent most of the ride bantering.It seemed to take forever to get the first 10 miles out of the way. We were going slooooow. We also ended up with a couple of flats on the way out. I started getting kind of antsy.

About 20 miles out Billy and Louis broke away from the group on a climb. I went after them and we paced along for a bit. Then Strad, Tom Smith (Strad's teammate), and Randy (a guy I remember from Cleveland Park) came ripping by. I hoped on and Randy, Tom, and I paced to the next stop sign.

Five miles later we started another climb. Most of the riders slowed and since I was in the back, I got bunched. I decided to break out of it and took off around the left side of the group. I made it to the top and beyond with just one guy bridging over to me. Then Louis came powering up (the guy has power!)

Louis and I began pulling up front for several miles. We moved the pace up to around 20 mph. I realized that I would probably regret riding into the wind later on, so I faded back to sit in.

Forty miles in I was feeling great. I kept sitting in. Then about 54 miles into the ride, Louis took a nature break. The group kept going and I knew he was going to have a bear of a time getting back to us.

So, I turned around to go help pace him back to the group. We were flying along reaching up to 35 mph. We caught them and then sat in to try to recover. Just when I started to breath a little bit, I heard the ride leader talk about getting out of the way for the "big guys."

I asked him if they sprinted on this ride. He said there was always a sprint for the railroad track, but it was just for fun... no points or anything. About that time, I saw the pack begin to morph and riders I knew would be going for it moved into position.

Oh my, now, why was it I went back to help Louis?

As we started up Hwy 20 I moved to be near Billy. He is a rider that I respect and have watched him long enough to know he is smarter than me in these situations. He moved up to the front and I followed. The pace was now up to the mid twenties.

Then Strad went off hard. Billy followed and I was right on his wheel. It crossed my mind that both these guys had teammates in the group and I wondered if they were just pulling some of us into an attack to open the door for their pals.

I decided just to cover these attacks. When they moved over, I just slowed. I would not go up front. When someone else went by us, I would move to cover that attack, but when the attack slowed, so did I.

Finally, I saw Strad look back and drop behind me. Then a freight train came by led by Randy. I think it was Randy, Billy, Tom, and Strad. As they went by, I grabbed the back. Then it became a matter of attrition. Billy and then Randy dropped off. Within sight of the sprint line it ended up being just Strad, Tom, and me.

They should be running junior gearing, I thought to myself. I tried to move up. I actually moved into second running just ahead of Strad to the left of Tom. The line was tantalizingly close and I was moving up, but then things leveled off and my power wasn't there.

I know that is the time when the mental toughness is supposed to kick in. I can't even tell you what went through my mind at that point. I just felt something sliding away as I fell back to Strad's wheel just as Tom crossed the line.

Looking back I can see that was just the time my heart rate hit 193 bpm. I also realize I should have just paced in behind the two guys until closer to the line. I could have come out of their draft a little later and perhaps I could have taken it.

So, why was this ride a blast? It really wasn't the fact that I finished it at the front of the group. It was that the group was very accepting. In the A group you are known by your racing history (I'm not saying there is a problem with that). If you don't have a history, you will have a hard time finding acceptance.

In the B group these guys are out to have fun -- not just fun on their bikes. There was a whole lot more talking going on between more people in the group (it is a lot easier to talk when you're going 15 to 17 mph than when you are hanging on for dear life!) Still, there was some competitive fire in there as well.

Some of the most fun I had was when Billy, Louis, Jimmy Helms (Strad's dad), and I got a pace line going. We were rotating like clockwork with the lead rider pulling for just a few seconds. That kind of thing, I don't think I've ever seen in the A group.

Part of me wishes I had done the long ride. Even when we started to roll out, I felt the urge to jump out there with the big boys. The point is, maybe right now isn't the time for me to be out there with them. Maybe next year...


Sunday, January 27, 2008

I made it to 80

I didn't report on my Upstate Winter Bicycle League ride yesterday. The first order of business was trying to raise myself from the dead! Then it was off to the Monster Truck Jam at the BiLo Center with Thing 2 and Thing 3. Once I got home from that, I dragged myself into bed.

Downtown was a busy place that morning when I rolled up. The 31st annual Greenville News Run Downtown 5K was taking place causing me to alter my route to get to the starting point for the ride. I was told 2200 people had registered. Judging from the number of people I saw, they must have all showed up.

I hooked up with some of my Hour of Power buddies while we waited for things to get underway. Unfortunately, for me, they were taking the 60 mile route. That meant not as much company for the pain to follow.

On Friday I had talked with Strad and John at the shop and told them I was going to hold back and try to finish this one with the main group. John told me that was a smart move, but "if I know you, your ego is going to kick in and you're going to go for something." I was determined not to.

I was being really good up through the first 20 miles. After the potty break, I ended up near the front. I decided at that point to see what would happen if I pushed it a bit. I started to pull aiming for a spot about 200 yards ahead.

I should have pulled off earlier. I was going about 19 mph and had the feeling I was slowing the group. So, I kept pushing a little more. My HR hit 188 and I knew I would have to bail.

I did and fell back like a rock! I was trying to recover and ended up falling off the back. Evil thoughts came into my mind, "You're feeling the way you felt at the end of previous rides -- and you are only 30 miles in! How are you going to survive for 60 more miles!"

Thankfully, we came up to a stop sign which slowed the group and I was able to catch back on. By the time we got to the first attack zone about 43 miles in, I was back into shape.

John would be proud of me. I stayed in the group and kept the leaders in sight, but stayed well within myself. As we finished the first sprint, I felt great and even better was the fact that the store stop was right afterwards.

During the stop, I pulled over to the side of the store to lean my bike against the wall. I changed over my colder gear and put on some drier gloves and stuff. I was ready to go!

We started off and immediately I knew something was wrong. I couldn't get clicked in. My Speedplay system was messed up. I looked down and noticed that my shoes were full of mud. I finally got the left one in, but the right one just seemed impossible to get in.

Finally, I pulled off to the side of the road to fix it in hopes that the SAG could bring me back to the group. Unfortunately, the left foot was hung. I couldn't get it out. Down I went right on my left hip. I had to fight to get my left foot loose. Finally, I thought I had enough mud out and got back on to catch the group.

No sooner had I started than I realized that it still wouldn't go in. Thankfully, the left foot wasn't stuck anymore. I kept working on it toward the rear of the group -- pouring water on it and banging it against the pedal. Ah! I got it in -- though it was stuck there for the rest of the ride.

Not long afterwards, we started the second attack zone. Again, I stayed back, but this time the zone was longer and even though I was trying not to stay up at the front, I started to fade. Thankfully, I was with a few other riders as we came to the next turn. I took the turn before the group returned from the sprint line. I rode on for several miles getting myself back into shape.

The group gobbled me up and we carried on without any events until we started the last attack. No way was I going to be able to contest it, but I hoped to stay with the main group. The horn blew and we started off.

I felt great at first because the group didn't seem interested in pushing it. A rider went off the front and then another. The group let them go. Then a third rider bridged over to those riders. The group let them go. It wasn't much longer that we hit a grade that slowed the riders in front and they were swallowed up.

I don't know what happened after that. Things started picking up at that point and I started feeling a cramp coming in my left leg. I lost the group shortly before we reached the turn onto I20. I started spinning and sent happy thoughts to my muscle.

Just as I turned to go on the four lane road, the SAG came up. I was with a group of about 4 riders. Some of us hoped on the back of the draft. That brought us up to a group of about 10 riders. I bailed at that point to continue on in with those riders.

I couldn't complain too much. Really this was the best finish I've had yet. As we were heading down Augusta Street, I ended up beside Steve Sperry. I told him how much I enjoyed his choice of roads for the today's ride. He saw I had a Garmin and started talking about the elevation of this ride. He mentioned that he hadn't been riding enough and today was a really bad day for him.

I joked, "Well, it is good to have you come back to visit with us for a bit." He replied, "No offense, but I really don't want to be back here." I came back, "Me either." Just because some of us are in the back doesn't mean we enjoy being back there. We can be just as competitive as the guys up front, we just haven't had the experience or the training to be there.

Over all, I'd say it was okay. I feel like something wasn't right. I knew right off that I didn't have it. Had George and Craig been there pushing the pace, I probably would have been spit out the back.

Hey, even King Sperry has a bad day every now and then.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

The 70th mile strikes again

There was an omen before the Upstate Winter Bicycle League this morning. I forgot my helmet. I got out of the truck, got my bike off the rack, and realized my helmet was back at home!

To make matters worse, I knew I wouldn't be able to get in the house if I went home because the beautiful red head was taking Things 1, 2, and 3 to Thing 1's piano guild. (She did very well, by the way. I watched the video.) The door would be locked.

Thankfully, the folks at Carolina Triathlon let me use a helmet for demo rides. I got it on without anyone getting on my case for riding my bike from the truck without one.

Today's ride was to be a 95 miler. My Garmin showed that it was more like 92. There would be three attack zones and sprints. Ooooo, it was going to be a tough one.

The beginning was the same old same old -- except we started going in reverse. No, not our bikes, but the route. I had hoped that things would be pretty close to last week so I could know more what to expect.

We eased into a nice pace and I was able to achieve one of my goals I had set for the day -- take some time to talk to riders around me. I saw Craig Lewis and said hello. Then I spent a good amount of time talking with Dave from Charleston. He is one of the organizers of the Lowcountry races coming up in the Spring.

We had just finished our conversation when we neared the first attack zone. It started right after a stop at an intersection about 35 miles in. I was right up there in the top 12 or so. The whistle blew and we took off.

George and Craig were up there with Sperry, Andy Baker and some other really good riders. I didn't know much about the other riders in the group. All I really needed to know was who would be up front.

A silly grin crossed my face as we started. I decided to see what it would be like to mix it up with these guys. We were flying! It was pretty flat and we were well over 30 mph.

I was right behind a guy in a Furman kit. I just hooked on his wheel and followed -- looking at his wheel. When I looked up, I noticed a gap had formed between the Furman rider and the group of 8 before us!

I went around the slowing rider and actually started to close the gap. I then looked down at my Garmin and saw my heart rate was at 191 and would keep going if I kept this up. 196 is my max. It was time to slow down.

I took my time and allowed some riders to pass me while I got myself back together. It didn't take too long so I got back in line and was able to close up to the lead group in time to see the leaders cross the line up ahead of me. A BMW girl was right in front of me and I just had to pick it up and pass her before we reached the marker.

The good news is that within a minute of finishing the sprint my heart rate was down to the low 140's. The pace went down some and by the time we reached the next attack zone, I was feeling pretty good.

The attack zone was going to be a climb above Ware Shoals. I was actually looking forward to it because climbing steep grades seems to be one of my strengths (relatively speaking). Unfortunately, I was toward the back as the attack started and half the group -- those who didn't want to climb -- turned left to go into the town. I had to slow to get around them and the leaders were nearly 30 yards away.

I decided just to see how many I could pass on the way up. My reckoning put me passing at least 12 riders. I rode in to the store stop leading the second group.

Lots of good things happened in that first half. I was through the first 52 miles and had made it through the first two attack zones. There would be only one more at the very end. Surely I would have a better second half this time.

Things started out pretty good. Unfortunately, around mile 72 we came to an unfamiliar stretch. We had just turned from a stop sign and I got caught flat footed. I was dropped from the main group before I knew what was going on. I tried to catch back on, but this was when I started to feel the same weakness as last week.

It got so bad that I had to do a mile or so behind the broom wagon drafting back up to the main group. From that point up until the last attack zone, I was riding along just fine. There were even a number of grades where I climbed with no problem.

Going into that last attack zone, I just pulled over and let them go. I tried to stay in a secondary group so that I could come in with a respectable finish. It didn't happen.

Just as I was about to turn onto Piedmont Highway the broom wagon caught me again. I waved her on. Drafting off the broom wagon is adding insult to injury. I decided to just enjoy the day and ride in at my own pace.

Turns out I wasn't the only one. Two other riders came up behind me and we paced together for awhile. As we got closer to downtown, I started feeling better and I picked up my pace.

Up ahead I could see a rider in a yellow and black kit. I guessed it was Stradford Helms. What was he doing back here? I caught him and we rode in together. It turns out he broke a shifting cable and was stuck in his small front ring and his 14 ring in the rear. I think he basically spun himself to death for the last 30 miles!

I finished the 92 miles in 4'33" averaging 20.2 mph. We had just under 5000 feet of climbing. I burned 5800 calories and averaged 158 bpm HR.

There just seems to be something about the 70 mile mark where I hit a wall or something. It is the same thing as before. It isn't that I am in a bunch of pain or anything. I pedal and still watch the group slowly ride away. Once there is a gap, I have to work that much harder to close it up again. That puts me deeper in the hole.

It has to be that I am fooling myself on the way out. Once again the elevation chart shows a downhill ride in the first half. The second half is uphill. These long sections with speeds over 25 mph up a 2% grade are the ones that get me. I just don't know what I need to do to improve it.

Oh well, next week I'm going to go back to my Sunshine Cycle Shop ride. We climb nearly as much, but it is in a 28 mile ride. I don't think George will be there pushing the pace either!

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