Monday, April 30, 2012

Find the groove

Been a strange week for sure. I didn't ride much...only the Monday after the Yankee Time trail. I had a route all planned out to ride in the hills after work Friday as I had a rare free evening. Instead I loaded up the Epic and headed to Fort Custer for some pre Stampede riding. Dan, Jay, Dwight, Charles and J.J. were all there and off we went.

Dan has a few speeds.....none of them really slow....and because I know he is in my class I try to keep up with him....with little luck. He makes it fun though....he goes tearing away until a climb and lets me catch up....and then disappears again......lets me catch up. The problem was on this ride my back was hurting and I was having problems even pedaling....so it took forever to get around. I planned on riding 2 laps and cut it to one because of my lower back pain. I figure out my seat had dropped and once I moved it back where it belonged I felt better, but didn't want to push it. Fun ride, and hopefully he got some sweet GoPro footage when I was able to go a bit faster.

So, that left me wondering what I was going to do....sore back....race in a week......the only medicine is to go ride. The girls had tryouts for the summer dance production so I loaded up and headed to Fort Custer to meet Brian. Summer and the kiddos were there, along with J.J. who had raced a TT already that day and was out for more, so we started off with them. Kenyon did good but was running out of gas so they headed back. Brian and I headed off to finish our lap. We were cruising along and I was noting the trail changes and getting reacquainted with a trail system I love to ride. It was a decent pace and it was a lot of fun. We rode the race course and it was about 9.7 miles. Lap 1 done. Back good. Lap 2 lets go!

Brian planned on riding two laps...but probably not as fast as we rode the second. I was feeling good and he made the mistake of letting me lead. I had to see what I was capable of so I opened it up a bit after we got going. I felt awesome....so good in fact that I hope I feel like that next week. We were making really good time around the course. I was feeling comfortable on my bike again...which was not the case on Friday. Tale of two rides so to speak. Making the turn onto the two-track I almost lost it. Came off the trail hot and slid around the corner. Note to self...don't do that during the race. We cruised for a bit again and then I got that feeling that I wanted to blast the last few miles. I let it rip and Brian was right with me. I really focused on my breathing and I think it helped because I can't remember feeling this good going that fast on my Epic. Back to the red, past the trail head to my favorite part of the trail. GO BABY GO. It was a fun fast ride back to the car. Haven't ridden that fast in a long time...even when racing Yankee I didn't feel that fast. So...we finished out lap and I felt like I needed to apologize for pushing so hard. In the end it was what we both needed a week before the race. Good ride. Good friends. Good fun.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Yankee Time Trial 2012 edition

This edition of the Yankee Time Trail was different than years past. Zack decided to not race, but Zoe was racing! We got to Yankee around 10 and managed to watch some of the Expert and Elites start, then we got the girls registered for the Kids Race and headed over there.
Zoe after her race
Zoe did the short course, thankfully. She is still on training wheels so I had to basically push her for 1/2 mile around the course. She had fun, and then she got drawn for the bike giveaway! SWEET! Bad news for Zoe, I think Izzy is going to get it first because she is really wanting to Mountain bike.

Izzy after her race
Izzy had to do the long course, 2 miles. She did good from what I hear and Zack ran behind her. She is such a trooper and really wants to ride....so the bike that Zoe won will come in handy.


Onto the race. As this was my first Sport race I was pretty sure I was going to get my ass handed to me.  Jay started 10 seconds behind me and it didn't take long before he was riding my wheel. He trailed me for a bit and then shot past, disappearing over the hill. 


I possibly started too fast again. I didn't want to get passed by a not of people, but it happened anyway. Never really had any problems, but I was letting a lot of people go by. The entire race I was pushing myself. I backed off because I didn't have a choice. I was just cruising along at my own pace. The downhills is where I learned something......I am kinda fast. I had a train of about 8 riders gaining on me, right on my wheel going into a switchback section. I put the hammer down and put a gap on them. They blew past me on the flat, but I held them off for a while at least! I had another section where I had a guy gaining on me, and I let it rip on the down hill. Hit the berm turn at full speed, the fastest I have ever hit it and it felt awesome. I held the guy off the entire downhill until the next climb and I asked him when he wanted around. His response was "you are doing fine dude" and then he promptly disappeared around the bend. 

I was out of gas but I made every climb. Chain slipped once, but I got back on and finished the climb. I even made the matted climb....which drew "AWSOME JOB" from the three guys behind me. 2 miles to go is where I really try to crank it up....and I just didn't have anything left. I saw mile marker 13 which meant I was approaching the finish line soon. I gave all I had as I came out by the road. Thankfully it is a bit downhill and I was able to look fast coming around the corner and to the finish line. 1:12:20. Fastest lap ever for me. 19 out of 21. Sure, I have work to do....but now I know where I stand. Yankee is always my slowest race due to the climbs. Custer Stampede in 2 weeks. Gotta represent!


Future of our sport....flying the colors


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sandbagger

After careful consideration I have decided to stay in Beginner Clyde for one more year. I was doing some time comparisons after my last ride at Yankee and I just feel like I should stay in Beginner. After all, my time riding solo will put me in the top 5 of that group, and towards the bottom of the Sport group. I really really want to get a pile of awards this year because I really liked standing on the podium last year. I had a 2nd place finish at Boyne, a 5th at the Custer Stampede (after starting late) and a 4th at the Custer Time Trial.

I think it will help my ego to just destroy people for one full season. I want to know what it feels like to win by 4 or 5 minutes in a category that I don't belong in. Besides, I have only raced beginner for 3 seasons....why should I move up? You cannot give me one good reason.....but I am sure you will try. Here are a few....

#1 Competition: All I say to this is bullshit. I will still have competition in Beginner, I will just be the strongest rider so I nearly guarantee myself a podium finish at every race.

#2 Distance (sport rides an extra lap on XC races) : I really don't know where you are coming from on this one. I can blast one lap and be done....waiting at the tent for everyone....especially the people in my class.

#3 Sportsmanship:  Look, this isn't soccer...I don't want to shake your hand after the race and collect a "participant" medal. I want to collect my 1st place trophy and raise my hands like Lance 7 years in a row.

So, that being said....look for my name on the top of the list at every race I attend....in the beginner category. Maybe next year I will move up, but if the rules don't change and I cannot be forced to move up...why should I? This way I don't ever have to train harder or get any faster. I can keep my weight right where it is. I can eat what I want. I can just ride when I have time and still show up to destroy people on Sunday.  It seems silly that you would even point it out that I would be a Sandbagger. You should stay in Sport one more year too....at least. You only won 7 of the 8 races you entered....there is still room for improvement. If they change the rule just do 1 race short of the series so they cannot "force" you to move up to Expert. You like to win too right? If you move up to Expert you are going to get your ass handed to you just like I will by moving to Sport. This is such a fun sport and having trophies is what is all about....and seeing the looks on the peoples faces when they know you have won certain events 6 years in a row....and haven't finished outside of the top 5 in any event for the last 5 years. Lets just ride man.

(FYI: this post is only a joke. I will never be classified as a sandbagger because I have seen so many people do it. I have heard the way the sandbaggers are talked about. I have heard the bitching about how that kid belongs in Expert but races sport so he can win. I have complained about seeing the same name for 5 years in Beginner, finishing in the top 3 at every event, and taking podium spots from true beginners. Did you really think I would be "that guy"???

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Get your mind right

I managed a solo ride at Yankee Springs Sunday evening. I ran into Neil and Jody before their speedy laps around the trail. Dan was there too....possibly trying to sneak in a lap or two without telling anyone! He is in my class so I find this disturbing....but alas, I was here to ride for myself and see what these legs are capable of.

The weather was awesome. It had rained on and off since Saturday so I was prepared for a fast trail. To my surprise....the WMMBA had done a trail day and I cannot remember ever seeing this trail in better condition. Kudos once again to this group for their hard work. If not for soccer I would have been shoulder to shoulder with you....but my kids will always come first!

I pace myself by the mile markers. Each one I pass I look at my time and can generally tell where I will finish. I got thrown off a bit by the re-route that took out a nasty root infested climb (which is appreciated by me). It will be a nice section to ride, especially once it is beat down more. The mile markers were ticking by and I reached the first grinder of a climb for me....the trench. I never know how to approach this climb.....but on this ride I picked my line and just found a comfortable gear. To the top....sip....hammer down.

The time went by and the climbs were hard as usual. I felt slow....heart rate was high....uninterested. I started thinking about other things and nearly took myself out by taking a corner wide and barely missing a tree with my shoulder. That was enough to get my attention and regain my focus.

The rest of the ride was a blur. Taking mental notes of how I wanted to ride. Lines I wanted to take. How I want to finish. This time on the bike was important for me to get my mind right for the first A race of the year. There will be a lot of people in my class. A lot of people to chase....a lot of people chasing. I feel like I am in a good position to do well. I am focused on what I need to do. Looking at the list of competitors......I know who I want to beat....and who I want to chase. There are others I don't know yet....but they are not my focus right now. I can only control myself....my legs....my mind.

Is your mind right?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hammer Down

I was off the bike again for 4 days. No real excuses.....just 4 rest days in a row. Honestly, I was stuck in a small tailspin from the Easter weekend. Since it was Thursday I planned on throwing the bike on the car and taking Megan to dance. The girls were playing at a friends house and Chelle wanted to go see Meg dance so I loaded up the bike and rode home, leaving Chelle to bring Meg home. That works!

The route was straight south out of Fennville down to Pullman and back into Allegan. The wind was surely blowing south to southeast because I was flying. I felt like someone lit a rocket on my bike. The thing was, I kept my heart rate high and I was still working hard. Sure I had wind assistance, but I was making sure that I powered along with the wind to get higher speeds. Funny thing was....most of the flags that I saw were just fluttering...not really twisting from the wind. The only reason I know it was blowing was from the part of the route that took me back north into Allegan. Talk about feeling like dragging a bag of cement....the wind was just enough to push my heart rate even higher. Overall, the ride was care free. Only one idiot in a truck honked at me...and he was actually coming towards me....so he honked just to be a douche bag. The roads I ride have large shoulders, but everyone still gave plenty of room. Thank you citizens of Allegan County for having some respect for cyclists. Overall a speedy (for me) 23 mile blast on the Defy. Felt good to get out and blow out any tension that I had been harboring.

It wasn't until this morning that I got thinking about my new road bike. The road bike I borrowed last year was, and is, very nice. The problem is that it is old and a smidge too small for me. My new bike fits me much better and is AWESOME. I want to thank my beautiful wife yet again for bringing it home to me. I was teetering between the aluminum and carbon versions and Chelle decided for me! She brought me home the Carbon Defy ! I want to thank Dan again too....for keeping the secret that she was buying it for me. It was a total surprise. Back to the bike.....it is just comfortable. I probably still need to dial it in some as far as fit goes, but the ride is way different than the borrowed road bike. Both are carbon, but the Defy is new carbon and one piece. The other is carbon too, but it has the connection lugs made out of either steel or aluminum. I noticed I would still get a lot of vibration in my hands and would have to change positions on the bar frequently. With the Defy I almost have to make myself change positions because I don't feel any vibrations or discomfort. This bike will be a great training tool this year and for years to come.

Back on target. Yankee is in 9 days.....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mental awareness vs Mental toughness

Mental awareness and mental toughness can be lumped into similar categories. They both deal with how our minds react to certain situations or problems. Unfortunately, they are very different too. The only way I can tell you the difference is to use a a cyclist.....that has a few extra pounds hanging on his/her frame. Could be me....maybe not.....but an example none the less.

Mental Awareness

Being aware of something. Simple right? The example is Easter weekend. The cyclist in question is at a family gathering on Saturday after riding in the morning. There is food....lots of food. The cyclist knows that over eating is bad, but cannot help themselves and ends up over-eating. Bad. This is mental awareness. Knowing what is going on. Easy right?

Mental Toughness

Mental toughness is being strong willed and unrelenting even in the toughest circumstances. Cyclist know this trait.....in the people that blow the tires off of them at races. The mentally tough are focused on their goals, desires, and results. In order to me mentally tough....you have to mentally aware. You cannot be a goal oriented cyclist expecting podium results and eat the way the mentally aware cyclist did on Easter Eve. It doesn't work. Sure, there are different levels of mental toughness.....and maybe the weakness for the cyclist in question is food. The problem is....that weakness leaves this particular cyclist vulnerable to other attacks and can create cracks in the toughness armor. 


What does it mean?

It means you have to be aware before you can be tough. Lately I have been becoming more aware of how I adversely affect the good work I have done. I am aware, but stopping is still difficult because I lack the toughness at this juncture to change. I am working on it.....as many people are works in progress. I just find it amazing that I can get on my bike and ride in a freaking blizzard and then power down a shamrock shake on the way home. Sure....I "earned" it by riding in awful conditions......but how much easier would the next ride have been if I was 3,4 or 5 pounds lighter?



I am working on it....but is is a struggle.....a fight with myself and my habits. Sometimes I get knocked down. Sometimes I don't want to get back up. Thankfully I have people in my life that care enough to pull me off the canvas and throw me back into the ring. Knowing that they care keeps me going when I am getting the tar beat out of me.....and I am standing there ready to throw in the towel. This works both ways though too. Even with the stress and negative thoughts squarely on my shoulders I go for another round. Slowly defeating the "just quit riding" thoughts that I have made very public in the past. The easy route would be to just give up....throw the towel in.....but I haven't yet. I have looked over that ledge and have been ready to jump.....but I have been talked down. This worked a little backwards this week. One of my friends was standing on that ledge.....ready to just give up racing and find another way to spend his time. Life was throwing all kinds of punches at him. He told me he was on the couch and the thoughts of giving up racing were right there.....he was at the ledge. Then he thought about everything he has told me in the past. He thought about a training partner that is set up to make his presence known this year.....and he turned away from the edge......put his gloves back on.....and stepped back in the ring for another round. Mental toughness......do you have it in you?





Monday, April 9, 2012

Pulled a double Yankee (that sounds dirty)

Getting to ride singletrack always makes me happy. With the Yankee Springs Time Trial quickly approaching I wanted to get some time in out there. I have always rolled around the idea of riding two laps, but have never figured I had the legs to do it.....but it was time to try.....

I got to the trailhead right before 8am. The population of the trailhead always grows exponentially as the race approaches and then quickly dies off afterwards. Being two Saturday before the race I knew there would be more cars than last week. When I got there Dan, Jay, and Dwight were already there and getting ready. I knew Dan had to ride quick so he could get to the shop on time to get it open. Charles was running a few minutes behind, but Dan and I took off anyway....fully thinking these other three would catch us.

I was feeling okay. I was pushing the pace a bit because I wanted to see what my legs were capable of because they were still a bit sore from my road ride on Thursday. To my surprise they were feeling pretty good. The trail is getting sandy, but that is expected....just not this early in the year. I made a point of not stopping to rest at the top of the hills. I just kept rolling, even if it was slower....because this is how I made myself faster last year. Keep spinning. My friend Dave told me something very important last year and it was rolling through my head the entire lap: "Sean, lets go....you are not going to get any faster standing on the side of the trail". Words from the wise....and he is right.....so even when it felt like my heart would quit.....I kept rolling. Dan followed me around until about 3 miles to go and then he took the lead. He would disappear for a bit and then I would see him slowing and waiting at the top of the hills. In all honesty....I think he was messing with me.....knowing that I will be chasing him at the TT. All I know is....he is still faster. We made it through the lap without the other three catching us. I was rather shocked by this....but proud at the same time. Now, they could have started 15 minutes after us....but still.....they never caught me!

We finished up and Dan headed to work. Dwight came into the parking lot first, followed by Jay and Charles was right behind them. When they caught their breath we headed out for #2. I just plugged along. Paced myself. The second lap went how I expected....I got dumped off the back right away....but the other guys were just cruising so I caught them when they stopped. I kept going....no stopping. They were waiting for me at the top of one of the climbs and asked if I needed a breather. I told them to keep going because I was not stopping. We pressed on and I eventually finished the second lap. I was only 5 minutes slower than the first which made me wonder how hard I can push during the race.

A double Yankee. It does sound dirty.....and technically it is.....because I was riding in the dirt. Mark another off my list of firsts. Last year was my first century, this year was my first double yankee. No matter how many times I say it I just smile....I wonder if I will smile after the TT......we will find out soon enough.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Awkward....at beginning....and end....

Thursday my oldest daughter has dance and I have been threatening to bring my bike along for the last few weeks. Yesterday I finally did. I loaded up the Giant and we headed to Fenville. Lake Michigan is around 6 miles from the center of town and there is a park about 8 miles away. I figured I would ride out about 10 miles, turn back, stop at the park, and finish the ride.

Meg headed into dance and I was getting ready to head out. Here is where the awkward moment came. A worker from the dance studio walked out right as I pulled my basketball shorts off. Her eyes were wide open and she said "hey" in a strange kind of "what the hell are you doing" voice. I simply said hello back and headed out of town.

I remember the roads being flat, but they are gentle rollers all the way to the lake. I crossed US31 and was feeling pretty good considering the wind. I turned south and caught a huge blast of wind from Lake Michigan. The shore was probably 200 yards away but my breathing noise was drowned out by the crashing of the waves. It has been a long time since I have ridden in wind like that....and with nothing to slow it down I was getting the full force of it. I felt like slowing down, but the trees picked back up and I pressed onward. When I reached 10.5 miles I turned around and headed back.

The trip back to the park seemed like it took forever. The wind was blowing more in my face now and I could feel how slow I was going. I finally got to the park and stopped for a photo op and to see the waves. Took a drink of water and headed north again. The wind was cold and I could feel it cutting through my "cold weather" gear. I knew as soon as the sun got behind the trees that I was going to freeze....so I did what any normal person would do.....I hammered the last 5 miles back the car.

The hills seemed bigger but I pressed onward and finally saw the outskirts of town. I got to the car and started loading up. A solid 21 miles on my new bike....which for the record.....felt awesome. Fast even....super light....but not twitchy. As I am thinking about this a older man rode over the track on his bike. He was wearing a baseball hat, jeans, and a flannel shirt. His bike had a variety of items attached to it....ranging from an American flag to a 12-pack of Bud Light. He rode past and a minute or so later rode up behind my car. He said "do you need anything, I am a biker too" with a partially tooth filled smile. I explained to him that I was fine and that I was done with my ride. He rode on and disappeared around the corner. When Meg and I were leaving he rode past again and yelled "HAVE A GOOD RIDE MAN" like Cheech or Chong most likely would say it.

So....minus the awkward moments....the ride was awesome. Rest day today....and a double Yankee tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Take the plunge

In a few weeks I will line up for the start of the Yankee Springs Time Trial. The first race on my schedule that means anything. Barry Roubaix is fun, but in all reality I am in no way a contender. I just race against myself for 36 miles at race pace, which cannot be simulated.

The reason this year is different is because I have taken the plunge into Sport. I will still race the Clydesdale class, but that doesn't mean much. The sport class riders are faster and have more endurance than the Beginner Clydes that I have raced with in the past. I know this first hand because my Shop owner races Sport Clyde and he destroys me week in and week out.

I am excited about the prospect of Sport. Longer races, different skill levels, ect. What worries me most is that I was off my bike for 6 months last year nursing tendinitis in my right knee. I have been working hard to regain my fitness from last year, but honestly I only have 3 months on the bike....and only 3 solid weeks of actual training. Had a hiccup this week with my allergies pounding me for 3 days, but I will be back on track this week....tonight actually.

I weighed in at 247.5 on Monday. On track to reach my goal weight by the end of the year. A 1.25 pound loss this week....when I did absolutely nothing. Honest....I had a recovery ride Sunday with Izzy and was not on the bike again until Sunday night for 35 whole minutes of spinning.

What does it all mean? Well.....I need to lose about 8 pounds by Yankee. Those eight pounds can be the difference maker for this first race. I am glad it is a TT because a mass start Sport race is a lot quicker than a beginner race. I know what I need to do......press forward and continue to get better.....faster. A challenge has been given by a teammate.....and I have a teammate in my class that I know is faster than me right now. If they change the start to single riders every 10 seconds I will be chasing him by 20 seconds. Carrot. Frisbee. Beer on a string. Whatever you want to call it.......I need to keep him within 20 seconds....nearly insight for entire race out there in those damn hills.

I will tell you this much.......I will push as hard as my body allows me to push.....and we will see what happens.