Monday, June 29, 2009

Racing and Resting

This year has been rather interesting. For some reason I have been out racing my bike nearly every weekend. The even more intriguing thing is that I am not at all burnt out at the moment. In fact, with every passing week I seem to be structuring my training even more. I was addressing this fact with my parents this weekend, and was trying to find some reason for it. I think its a combination of my actually being in better shape than I expected this summer and having far more/ better friends that enjoy racing their bikes... hence, less going to races by myself and less getting dropped= more fun.

Last weekend was my first race as a Cat 4. As much as everyone told me that it was not a ton faster than the front of Cat 5 races, I was still a bit nervous. Luckily for me, this race took place at the Webster Groves Criterium. Although I got dropped last year, this was still one of my favorite races.

All that aside, there were a few things that were immediately different in the Cat 4 race. First, the field was MUCH larger... nice.

Additionally, there was far less stupid chatter in the pack... I had been informed that this would be the case, but was happy to be in the middle of it. By stupid chatter I mean crap like "on you left" or "inside" or "hold your line".

As for how the race went... well. My goal was to make sure I was mid pack the whole time. This was not entirely trivial since one of the interesting features of the course was that it widened an narrowed often making moving up difficult. Also, some of the wider sections were also very exposed to wind making advancing in these sections rather taxing.

Well... there was not much of any note that occurred over the course of the race. I heard tale of some crashes behind me. Nothing major I don't think. One interesting note was that a section of course that I could have sworn I remembered being kind of tough and a hill last year was really more like a block long short grade and a good place to gain some position this year. I guess I must be in better shape.

Anyway, the coming into the final corner before the last lap I hit a large pothole. I stayed upright, carbon wheels were intact, but somehow my handlebars got jarred loose. I tried to keep riding, but by the time I got to the first turn on the final lap I could feel the bars still slipping. I decided at this point to sit up and avoid crashing... oh well. Such is bike racing.

I sat at the bar across the street and watched the elite Dogfish team attempt to tear it up. Unfortunately a strong break of 5 got away early in the race.

Then I had some additional beers at the Dogfish tent while learning a very important lesson about what my Shimano SPD SL pedals are good for. I am seriously going to have to rethink my plan to get speedplays (or at least keep the old pedals around).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Interval music, and the world's fastest color.

Last night at Mike and Molly's, Ellen asked me "what music did I listen to on my ipod while biking". I don't think she really cared about my bike music listening habits, but was rather insinuating that I didn't like any music. Regardless, when I was heading out today I put on an old playlist I made for my 8 mile runs last winter. The playlist is more or less exactly an hour long making it more or less perfect for a 2x20 workout.

Yeah, after yesterday's failed attempt at 2x20s I decided to give it another go. As far as the workout went, at least it happened this time. My average power was a bit lower than I though it should have been but at least I managed to squeak it out... perhaps I need a better playlist.

Anyway... as far as I am concerned all of these songs are awesome. Some hysterically, some just awesome, some manage to be both.

Barry Manilow- Copacabana
BOC- Burnin' For You
Cheap Trick- Dream Police
Genesis- Invisible Touch
Lovin' Spoonful- Summer in the City
Rush- Limelight
Brian Eno- Baby's of Fire
Billy Idol- White Wedding
Cheap Trick- Surrender
Magazine- Because You're Frightened
Old 97s- Murder (or a Heart Attack)
Peter Gabriel- In Your Eyes
The Outfield- Your Love
REO Speedwagon- Time For Me To Fly
Apples in Stereo- Energy

This is to say, music for this sort of workout really needs to amuse me because its a serious pain in the ass to do. As a side note, I used to hesitate to listen to music while biking. I kind of decided though that whether I heard the cars coming or not it really has no impact on how I am riding. Even when not listening to music I rarely notice them until they are passing me anyway.

Perhaps some of my motivation to ride today came from the fact that I finally got around to putting the new Ritchey "Wet White" stem on my bike. Not to toot my own bikes horn, but it looks pretty sweet.

I have to believe that looking down at a stem in the world's fastest color is going to improve my riding.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

49.8 miles

This is what my computer read when I got back to my house from the Wednesday night ride. I was almost tempted to ride around the block to get that bad boy to an even 50, but oh well. It was an interesting day. I felt like crap in the heat but was actually riding fairly well. Unlike most weeks, I actually found myself in the front group on the way back. Eventually this frightened me as I anticipated dehydration and misery- so I dropped back. After 15 minutes of riding alone I eventually caught up to (or they were waiting for me) a group of 5 or so... it was then soft pedaling most of the way home. I felt tired by not in intense pain like typical after Wednesday night. I am either getting into better shape or last night's ride was easy... I have no idea.

Oh well. I am out for some 2x20s. I am hoping those poached eggs I ate a little while ago weren't a terrible idea... my guess is that they will be.


Well, that didn't work. Most miserable 25 miles ever. I started my first 20min threshold interval at only about 90% threshold and cracked after ~6 minutes. Not fun. I then spent the rest of the ride dehydrated and working very hard to maintain a "recovery" level effort. ugh.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Its too damned hot.

I have now been sitting in my house for about 2 hours trying to work up the nerve to go and ride my bike. So far, it hasn't worked.

This might also have something to do with the excessive debacle that was last night with my friend Mike in town that ended like this:

Last weekend I was in St. Louis with Alex Dan and Anona for the Winghaven NRC race. I managed to miss out on registering so there was no racing for me, also it was hot as hell and I left before the actual NRC race... oh well. I took a few pictures, but honestly, Winghaven is kind of a boring looking place.

Driving through Winghaven to the race was honestly kind of frightening. Matt James described it as being like the Truman Show. Its surreal just how true that was.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My minds made up.

Last night I chose to tip the balance unhealthily in the "beer" direction. I was thrilled to wake up and see that Karl had tweeted this link:

Beer Hydration?

I guess I hadn't been that unhealthy as I thought? Good times.

Anyway... looks like Anona Dan and Alex will be joining me in St Louis for Winghaven. I guess I'm going to skip mountain biking then. To be honest I don't really mind. This will give me a good chance to hang out and take some pictures. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm headed out to Kickapoo with Steven in an hour or so. It rained a lot this morning and Steven was looking pretty damned fast on the wednesday night rides... we'll see how this goes.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What to do?

I have had an oddly productive few days. I have been going to bed and waking up early (for me at least). I attempted to get up and ride Tuesday morning, unfortunately it was raining. So... just work for me. Up early and working again today. Yay for productivity?

Anyway, when I took off early to "reward" myself with the Wednesday night ride, I felt like I'd earned it.

Tonight was an odd ride. I was feeling good, kinda kept up with a few attacks, then started cramping badly in the quad region... thats new. Its typically the calves for me. Oh well... yet another week, yet another time getting dropped. I think I need to work on my muscular endurance. The one thing I have been missing this year is any longer zone 2/3 rides. I think my longest rides this year have been around 55 miles. Oh well.

I'm planning on heading to St. Louis this weekend. Unfortunately, my race at Winghaven is full so I would just be spectating. This should be kind of cool. A lot of friends racing, also some big name pros are going to be in attendance.

That said... there is also a mtb race. So decisions.



St. Joe MTB Challenge

Tough call... I'll probably end up just staying in the lou. I have the feeling I am not going to want to do the extra hour and a half drive. Also, I was kind of looking forward to spectating and taking a weekend off from racing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Steel Cut Oats and Hills

So... last weekend my epic run of racing every weekend continued. I had previously been hoping to go to a DINO race in Fort Wayne IN, but couldn't convince anyone to go and split the gas. I kind of thought that I was going to take the weekend off until Becky and Anona reminded me of a road race south of St. Louis. Although my history with road races has been miserable, riding my bike in that area of Missouri is one of my favorite things to do. They have hills and trees there!

Anyway, it was on. I convinced them that if I was going I was not going to be leaving at 4am, and we were going to be staying at my parents house in St. Louis. I am pretty sure that was a good idea. After the previous weekend's bonking debacle, I swore that I was going to force myself to eat a decent breakfast. In Saint Louis, my Dad and I put some steel cut oats in the slow cooker for the next morning. I ended up eating that with a few tablespoons of peanut butter and some toast. We then headed the hour south to Saint Genevieve for the road race.

As previously mentioned, my experience with road races involves flat tires and DNFs. I was a bit apprehensive about starting another one... but there I was. Additionally, I have had an epic run of disappointing races this year (yet for some reason I keep doing it?). Again, I was nervous. Whatever, I lined up and we started.

This was a 4/5 race and damn near full at a field limit of 75 riders. I was kind of excited about this fact. I had never been in a field of this side before. To start, we were somewhere between slow and fast. On the early rollers the effort got ramped up a bit, but I don't think anyone was really willing to risk anything too early. I had tried to place myself somewhere between 5th and 20th wheel. I think this kept me out of trouble, but I was probably putting out a bit more effort on the hills than if I'd been further back. Regardless, this was essentially my plan for the whole race. Stay near the front, watch the action, if I was feeling good try to participate. I could probably go into surprising detail about the whole race, but that would be horribly boring (even for me to write let alone for anyone to read). So I think I can boil the race down to three points.

1. I thought after the finish that this was one of the more boneheaded things I did in the race. However, the more and more I ran over it in my head afterward it actually seemed like a good move.

It kind of went like this... there was a team of ~6 people (Metro East) who was controlling the race early on (yeah I know, in a Cat 4/5 race weird). So about 12 miles or so into the race I am still sitting around 10th and look up to see that one of the guys from their team has headed up the road. I watch it for a while, he is getting further out, and Metro East has about 5 guys at the front of the field controlling the pace. I am feeling good, and also getting concerned/ interested in this solo break. I move up and talk to the other strong looking non-metro east guy at the front and ask if he's interested in trying to bridge. He tells me that he is unsure that he is strong enough, but says he'll go with me if I go.

After several seconds of thinking about it, I decide that its now or never. The guy is about 200 meters up the road, and the gap is just getting bigger. I put my head down and go. Briefly I look over my shoulder and see that this other fellow has gone with me (Big Shark I think). I think its about a 5ish minute chase, and about 20 meters behind the dude who is out front I am feeling gassed and let the other guy come around. We hook onto the back of the Metro East guy and and turn around to see if anyone else has come with us. This is when I notice that Metro East has upped the tempo and brought most everyone up to us... oh well. I drop to about mid-pack and recover.

My thought was that Metro East would stay at the front, keep blocking and be kind of happy that their teammate had some help to stay away from the field. Apparently instead they thought that it would be better to keep the whole field together than have a group of 3 up the road. Either that or they actually had no idea what they were doing.

2. "The Hill" Since deciding to do this race, I had been staring at the topographic profile of the race.

As one can see, there are several pretty serious climbs on this course. The second to last one with some steep grades was getting a lot of message board attention and was even given a "KOM" distinction (Congratulations to Anona for winning it in her race). I don't really fancy myself a climber and was appropriately nervous coming up to it. I had decided I would "ride within myself" I dropped down to an easy gear and was spinning up trying to hold wheels, but not willing to kill myself to do it. I saw the 400m to KOM sign and was a bit confused... Then I passed the KOM point and realized that unlike most of the people around me, and luckily the first group up the hill I was fairly fresh. I came over with another Dogfish guy and yelled at him to grab my wheel, we were chasing back on. I felt pretty cool being fairly strong at that moment.

So we actually got back to the lead group. Unfortunately the other Dogfish guy (Aaron) didn't make it all the way up.

3. So we were in a lead group of ~17. I heard someone say something like "here we go last turn" I looked up and saw the pace car turning onto a wide road that looked a lot like it would be a finishing straight. I took the inside line and tried to attack the group (I don't particularly like sprint finishes). Anyway, apparently I was so thrilled to have made it over "the hill" feeling good that I forgot all that staring at the topo that I had done... there is another hill before the finish. I looked up from my effort to see not a finishing straight, but a hill. I looked over my shoulder to see not a gap but ~16 guys about to pass me. Oh well... I limped to 15th place.

Messing up the finish or not, I was actually thrilled. The race was well within my abilities and made me feel far less scared about the cat 4 upgrade I was about to get. I couldn't help remarking on the way home with Becky and Anona that it was the first drive back from a race I think I had ever done where everyone was happy with what they had done.

I now officially swear by steel cut oats and will be buying a slow cooker...

Friday, June 12, 2009


This is the first year I have tried to do them consistently.

I think it might be helping. As odd as it seems to say after getting completely shelled on Wednesday, I actually kind of feel like I'm getting into decent shape.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


The Rhett's Run lap times were just posted...
First lap- 29:30
Second lap- 34:06
Third lap- 42:27

Wow... I really faded hard.

*I should point out that the race winner's lap times were ~25 minutes. And Dave Breslin's Expert winning lap times were ~22 minutes. This is to say that even in the beginning I wasn't really fast enough.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Vegetable and Mahi Biryani

Since I started this blog a month or so ago, I have pretty much only written about biking. One post was tangentially about beer consumption. Occasionally I mention beer consumption when also talking about biking. I suppose given what I chose to name this, that all makes perfect sense.

I have always wanted to come up with something else to write about. I will go ahead and take writing about biophysics off the table, as little as I imagine people wanting to read about my biking/ beer biophysics I think would be exponentially worse... This does not of course mean I won't change my mind about that. Getting to the point, I also enjoy cooking sundry things for myself. Although these days I find it kind of depressing to cook for only myself I still do it.

Tonight, as this post title suggests, I made myself a vegetable and mahi biryani (indian rice pilaf). I got the idea from perusing an old cooking light magazine and using what I had at home.

Anyway, I thought I would share... be forwarned, its a bit spicy as I made it.

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp black pepper corns
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 dried red chilies
1 bay leaf
1 fresh serrano chili (finely diced)
1 red potato (about 1/2 inch pieces)
1 small yellow onion (diced)
1 carrot (about 1/2 pieces)
1 handful frozen peas
1 handful frozen green beans
1 Mahi Mahi filet
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
1 tspsalt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

To start warm some olive oil in a dutch oven type pot (I'm a fan of this one) and toss in 1/2 tsp of the cumin seeds, the coriander seeds and the black pepper corns. Wait until the cumin is browned and add the onion after the onion begins to soften, add the carrot and potato and dried chilies. Allow it to cook for another 5 minutes or so, then grind the remaining tsp of cumin seed in a coffee grinder (you could use already ground cumin, but use about half as much). Add the cumin, cayenne, tumeric, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Allow everything to saute for another 5 minutes or so until everything begins to soften. Now, add the serrano chili frozen peas and green beans. When the peas and green beans are about thawed, stir in the rice. when the rice is coated with spice and add the water. Bring to boil then reduce heat and cover. After 10 minutes, stir in 1 inch pieces of Mahi. Recover and allow to cook for another 5 minutes then turn off the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

To be honest, I think it would be just as good without the fish if you are of the vegetarian persuasion.

If anyone actually tries this, let me know what you think!

Monday, June 8, 2009

A race is bound to go well eventually?


I guess there are two ways I could respond if someone asked me how the race in Columbia MO went Sunday.
1. Shitty, I felt terrible and raced stupidly.
2. It was fun and course was awesome.

These are really two different things, so I suppose I will address them separately.

1. Dear god, why am I riding like an ass every time I line up for a race? I somehow missed the front going into the singletrack and got bogged down in some wet stuff starting out, then was forced to ride quite slowly through areas that should have been really fast. It is one of those frustrating features of mountain bike racing where you just kind of know a race is riding away from you. Luckily (said facetiously) I found out in the second lap that it really didn't matter.

It would appear that the one Clif bar I had consumed around 8:00 am was not enough energy for my 12:30 pm race. Go figure right? ~45 minutes or so into the race I started feeling lightheaded and periodically completely devoid of energy... conspicuous bonking symptoms. Luckily I had told me dad to hand me up energy drink after the first lap, so I was sucking that down and holding it off temporarily. By about 1 hour and into the third lap I was done. It was at this point that I decided that my goal was just to live to the finish line.

I knew if I rode slowly enough I wouldn't have to do another lap and also finish :). This was when I got a flat. As I sat by the side of the trail watching another 10 or so people ride past me while I fixed the flat I officially gave up (a second time). I finished feeling worse than I had after any ride for quite some time. I was quite amused by all the sport beans and gels in my bag that I had not put in a jersey pocket before the race.

2. All that said, poor performance aside, the course was awesome. Some parts kind of wet but manageable, most kind of tacky, some downright rocky. The downhills provided a good challenge. I felt I rode them with more confidence and speed than last week, even though at times they were definitely more techy. The climbs were very challenging. Some in a fun way, some in a painful way. I remember one particular left turn on a climb that proceeded to kick up steeper while the ground was rocky and muddy... I had trouble running up it. Also a lot of fun, steep switchbacks, good good times.

As a side note, I put the 2006 Marzocchi Marathon XC on my Giant before the race. It was kind of exciting to have a fork that actually provided suspension. For the first few miles I was actually kind of confused and unnerved by it. After getting used to a working fork, it was definitely a nice improvement. I can't wait for my Corsa to get back. Unfortunately I forgot to check the front derailleur after putting the bike back together. I have apparently shoved the brake lever against the shifter it took me struggling most of the first lap to shift out of the 44t chainring... I did not risk shifting back up.

It was good being back in St Louis this weekend hanging out with my Dad and the sick Sidney the dog. I hung around with Sidney for most of monday before heading back to Champaign, so I guess today is a "rest day" tomorrow, and the rest of the week is bound to be long in response.

Next weekend there is a DINO race in Ft Wayne IN. Part of me wants to take a weekend off of racing, however I know that the only way I am going to get better is to keep doing it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A tale of 2 rides.

I hit up Mike and Molly's last night, and consumed multiple pints of Miller High Life. This resulted in a rather late morning. After sitting around trying to motivate myself to get out on my bike for several hours, I finally managed it around 1pm. My plan was a shortish easy spin, so I took my camera out with me.

Its always amusing to attempt to take photos of a ride... particularly in central Illinois where most of the pictures just involve corn fields. Oh well, I have come to accept this

I have actually obtained a new Ritchey WCS "Wet White" stem for the bike. Sadly, I found my top cap to be stripped and haven't gotten a chance to put it on yet.

Anyway, mysteriously, I felt really good going out. I ended up doing a few hard efforts and much to my surprise set a new 5 minute power record for the year (~330 Watts, but still good for me). Who knows, maybe I am actually starting to get into decent shape again.

On the way home at around the corner of 1200E and 400N I decided I wanted to ride home through Philo. I sent Matt Gambino a text asking what the "main street" was. He told me a group was heading out on a ride that direction later in the evening and I agreed to go. I sort of forgot about this on the way home.

As an interesting aside... I got stopped by a train. This hasn't happened to me in quite a while.

So.... I get home make myself some protein filled smoothie and sit down to do my traditional obsessive examination of my power data. This is when Gambino sends me a text reminding me of the ride to Philo... in like 45 minutes.

I am home just long enough to see Thomas harass a snake and change out of the spandex into some more casual riding apparel.

Then off again on the second ride of the day. This was bound to be phenomenally more low key then earlier in the day, I was fine with that. The whole point (as far as I knew) was to drink beer at the Philo Tavern.

Here we are on the way out:

The surprising thing is that I managed to get some pretty damned decent efforts in.

The several 1min - 30sec spikes were what I like to refer to as "Where is Gambino going, he's gotten like 100 yards ahead. I guess I should probably catch up" spikes. They managed a 450 Watt 1 minute and a 620 Watt 30 second. Not bad for a casual ride I did in "Knickers".

The Philo Tavern was surprisingly cleaner and more food serving that I expected. Regardless, the served me a couple pints of Sam Adams to replenish some carbs.

Good times... In order to sum things up lets look at the details of the two rides

Ride 1
02:00:39, 30.6 Miles, 1,203 KJ of work.

Ride 2
02:08:26, 28.8 Miles, 828 KJ of work.

All in all, I think I have earned tonight's dose of Miller High Life.

This weekend is Rhetts Run MTB race in Columbia MO. I am not going to lie. I am very excited about this fact.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Well... The wednesday night Wildcard ride continues to be a humbling experience for me. I honestly have no idea what sort of shape I am in. Sometimes hard efforts seem easy, sometimes my heart rate gets to like 175/180 and I suddenly feel like I can't breath. I am thinking this is residual effects of my cold, but regardless, its annoying.

The first town line sprint into Flatville kind of took me by surprise. This is of course because I had absolutely no idea where I was at the time. I had just moved up to the front for my turn to pull, and noticed that instead of the guy that was previously next to me in the dual pace line Dave Stone had replaced him. I became a touch confused that he also kept ramping the pace up... When I looked back to realize that we had gapped a number of people and had a few single file stragglers I began to understand what was going on. At this point, I promptly pulled off and dropped back... all the way back. I rolled into Flatville with fellow mountain biker Gene.

Amusement also ensued on the way back when Becky and I accidentally attacked the group. Somehow the two of us were at the front and got a gap (unintentionally) Becky suggested we attack, this was a bad idea. We were out alone for about 10 mintutes, got caught passed and dropped.

Oh well, It was a good 50+ miles of riding. I am off to hit up some intervals in about an hour. Hopefully I won't die.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I gotta do better than that.

Last weekend I headed down to Brown County Indiana for a DINO race. I have to be honest, I was a lot of excited about it. This was going to be my first mountain bike race since the mud filled disaster that was the Matson Hill race in St. Louis last year. For reasons unknown to me, I started racing my road bike last year, then sort of stopped racing altogether. Anyway, I have given myself the goal of upgrading to mtb Cat 1 by the end of the summer and was interested to see where I stood in sport after not racing for ages.

The short answer is: Not so good.

Also- Indiana has hills.

I felt like I was riding fairly fast. I never really felt out of my league or uncomfortable. I am fairly certain that I was riding better sunday than I was last year, but its still not good enough. I ended up somewhere in the middle of the field... like 60 out of about 100 in the Cat 2. I guess this is somewhat skewed, since I started with my age wave like 5 minutes back on the first Cat 2 wave... This of course did not stop the 50+ dude that started a minute after me and finished 7th.

The day started well enough. Nick, Dan Eton and Anona and I got to the trail a good hour and fifteen minutes before the race. I like that, I am a huge fan of being able to dick around before my races. I prerode about 2 miles of the 8 mile course and realized that it was absurdly hard dry and fast. This made me very happy that I had decided to throw my maxxis oriflammes in the back of the car before leaving.

These tires are one of my favorites and I love occasions to use them:

They hook up surprisingly well on a wide array of terrain.

The race started up a ~3/4 mile pavement climb- Houffalize style.

I was kind of scared that everyone was in much better shape then me as they went sprinting up the first pitch... Then it seemed that everyone kind of cracked and I began picking people off. I would guess I was 2nd or 3rd in my wave entering the singletrack. Little did I know that this was going to be a theme for the whole race. I would make up ground going uphill and get owned on the downhills. This was quite depressing. I am not strong enough to get enough of a gap on the climbs to make up for my apparently embarrassingly bad decending skills. It is further discouraging in that as nice as our trails at Kickapoo are, there really is no downhill to practice.

As a side note, my fork got sent back to Marzocchi yesterday. Hopefully having working front suspension will give me a touch more confidence. This also means that there will be no mountain biking for me until next weekend when I hit up the Rhetts Run race in Columbia MO. I am still unsure if I am going to ride that race on the singlespeed, or move the fork over...