Monday, August 31, 2009

Some Favorite Cycling Quotes

"Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." - Eddy Merckx

"Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever" - Lance Armstrong

"he looks between his legs and sees.....nobody there!"** - Phil Liggett "

**For the non-bike racers, a rider on a breakaway will frequently look between his legs to see if someone is chasing as opposed to turning around.

"So much of it is power to weight, so I've got to increase the power and lower the weight and, you know, you can lower the weight anywhere, but you can't increase the power just anywhere. To increase the power, you have to have great training." - Lance Armstrong

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle." - Ernest Hemingway

"Ride lots." - Eddy Merckx

"Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring." - Desmond Tutu

"There were something like 50 good, arduous climbs around Nice, solid inclines of ten miles or more. The trick was not to climb every once in awhile, but to climb repeatedly. I would do three different climbs in one day, over the course of a six- or seven-hour ride. A 12 mile climb took about an hour, so that tells you what my days were like." - Lance Armstrong

"Ullrich and Kloden are having a bit of conversation back there. I wonder if Lance understands any German?" - Phil Liggett (2004 TdF)

"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." — Sherlock Holmes

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Today I was anxious to get back on my bike after taking a few days off to recover from the 1,000 warriors ride. To be honest, I was not only recovering physically from this ride but also mentally. My legs have taken longer to recover from a combination of the difficult course/conditions and the fact that I had severe cramping multiple times throughout the race.

Coming on the scene of the big crash just below Timp Cave in AF Canyon (my favorite place to ride) and the big pool of blood all over the road and the mangled bikes has been on my mind the last few days. I also saw another crash during that race right in front of me that easily could have been me. I've questioned myself, "Is it really worth it"? And to make matters worse, I bumped into one of my friends at the store Saturday night and he recounted his recent wreck on his tri-bike and showed me all of his wounds. Another coworker told how he was riding with his friend recently and his buddy tried to bunny hop a cattle rail resulting in his front tire getting caught causing him to fall and compound fracture his arm.

But after thinking this through, I've come to the simple conclusion that you can't live your life in fear of getting injured. If you love to do something like cycling, then get out there and do it. Sure there's the risk you might run into the back of an SUV going 40 mph or wreck and get some nasty road rash or break a bone, but that's just part of life and part of being active.

This isn't the first time I've had these thoughts. When I was 13 years old, I started pole vaulting. I broke my arm once when I fell off the mat. Another time I witnessed one of my best friends land on his head after he missed the mat. I thought he was dead, but he stood right up and was just a bit dazed from the impact of the soft dirt (he left a good imprint of his nose and forehead). After breaking my arm, I went on to pole vault for 5 more years into college and never again was seriously injured. Just think if I would have concluded that it was "too dangerous" and quit. I would have lost out on all of those experiences.

Growing up on a farm, we did all sorts of risky things from jumping our motorcycles across ditches to water skiing/wake boarding in the canals while being pulled by a four wheeler or pickup truck. Sure we would get injured every now and then but I think it was worth all of the good times.

So, with that behind me I took my bike to work today with plans for a lunch ride. I haven't done lunch rides lately due to being busy at work, so I was a little out of that routine. I quickly got all dressed in the parking lot in my lycra only to realize I'd left my cycling shoes and helmet at home. Doh!! I was so disappointed to say the least. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has done that before.

Luckily I was able to leave work at a decent time and rode up the south side of Suncrest. It was great to be on the bike again. I love the feel of the cool evening air and there's nothing like working up a good sweat from a hard effort up a climb.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

1,000 Warriors Race Report

I must not get up early enough. I woke up at 3:55 AM, picked up my father-in-law Bob (my SAG team) at 5:00 AM in Orem and headed up to Park City. I arrived at the starting line at 6:00 AM. My start time for the CAT 5B group of 54 riders was 6:35 AM. After waiting in line for 10 minutes to use the "Honey Bucket," I felt rushed to make it to the starting line, leaving no time for warming up. Guess I should have set my alarm for 3:30.

I should mention we had our CFO, Mike Herring cheering our Omniture team of 9 riders at the starting line. He had a cowbell and Omniture flag. Pretty dang cool.

I'm used to riding in century rides (only done 2 so far) where you roll out of the start and take the first 10 minutes to get the legs warmed up. Not so in this race. Right away my Omniture coworkers Nick, Dave and Ryan put the hammer down. My plan was to ride with the lead pack for as long as I could, but since I wasn't paying close attention, I missed accelerating with the front 10-15 riders and a gap opened between them and me in the main pack. I decided to bridge the gap on my own and burned a bunch of energy catching them. Once latched on, I was able to settle into the pace line at a manageable pace. I'm still amazed at how huge of a difference it makes in terms of saving energy when you ride in a pace line. The climb up the NE side of Jordanelle Resevoir is not too tough, but since I didn't warm up and since the pace was pretty fast and I probably wasn't paying close attention, I dropped off the lead pack again. Three of us that were dropped organized and tried to bridge the gap, but we weren't strong enough to make it happen and the gap widened to a couple of minutes by the time we made it to Kamas.

The 3 of us took turns pulling for the next 10 miles, although one guy who kept fiddling with his jacket instead of pulling when it was his turn made our efforts less effective. By the way, not sure why this guy brought a jacket as the temperature couldn't have been colder than 60 degrees and by 8 AM it was probably 75 degrees.....nothing arm warmers couldn't handle.

On the downhill side of the road that runs along the south end of Jordanelle, I got the first taste of how much faster my Rev-22 wheel set is compared to my old Bontrager Selects wheels. I let go of the brakes and got up to 53 mph (sorry Tiff).

Further down the course on the south side of Deer Creek Reservoir, a rider in front of me about 75 yards crashed. I don't know what happened, but I just looked up in time to see his bike go tumbling on the road. He was on his feet immediately and was shaken up, but didn't appear to be injured.

The real race began as we started the climb up the Alpine Loop towards Sundance. At this point we were 44 miles into the race. On Tuesday I did intervals on the bottom portion of the Alpine Loop from Provo Canyon to Sundance, which is the steepest and most difficult portion of the climb to the 8,000 ft. summit, so I was dialed into what tempo I wanted to ride. From Provo canyon to Suncrest, I didn't get passed by anyone and I passed probably 20-30 riders. I was maintaining a steady heart rate and feeling good.

That all changed pretty suddenly when about 1/2 mile past Sundance my legs locked up like I've never experienced in my whole life. Both quads and both hamstrings almost simultaneously contracted so hard that I had to immediately stop on the side of the road. I was devastated thinking that there was no way I was going to finish this race with these cramps. I've had cramps before but nothing like these. The first time was in February after 80 miles and 5 hours into the St. George to Zion Century and then recently at the end of two separate 5 hour training rides that included 8,000 ft. of climbing, but never only 2 hours into a ride.

I downed almost an entire water bottle and stretched on the side of the road for 15 minutes while probably 50-60 riders passed by. Many were kind and asked if I were okay, which was nice. I hopped back on my bike and started pedaling thinking that within any minute I'd start cramping again, but to my surprise I was fine. I pedaled softly for another 10 minutes and then started to increase the intensity slowly. I made it to the summit with only a hint of more cramping. The only problem was my bottles were now empty and the next feed station wasn't until Highland.

As it turned out, UDOT and the race organizers failed to shut down the Alpine Loop to vehicles, so there were 600+ racers "bombing it" down the narrow canyon road (AF Canyon side) which by 9:30 AM was already busy with the weekend traffic.

I frequently climb AF canyon during the week in the early morning hours when the traffic is light as this is one of the best road bike climbs around and it's a 20 minute ride to the base from my house. On most days, I only see one or two dozen cars during a 1 hour ride to the top. The traffic on the weekend is a different story. You have guys pulling horse trailers and ATV trailers, mountain bikers driving up to the mountain bike trails, hikers, campers, tourists going up to visit timp cave, etc. It's ALWAYS busy on the weekend, even in the earlier hours of the day and the 2 lane road is curvy, steep and no shoulder.

So, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when a race volunteer with a flag warned me of an accident as I passed through the timp cave parking lot. As I came upon the scene of the accident, I was deeply disturbed by the blood stain covering half of the road, the mangled bike and the bashed in back window of a black SUV. For a second it made me want to just ride home instead of finishing.

At the bottom of the canyon they had shut down the race as the life flight helicopter was in the middle of highway 92. About 100 riders were stopped, waiting to get further instruction. I spotted a couple of Omniture guys in the crowd and learned that the SUV braked to avoid an oncoming vehicle and several riders following rear ended the SUV.

Note: As it turns out, one of the riders who went through the SUV's windshield was in critical condition as he was cut severely from the glass and lost a large amount of blood, which explains the blood all over the road that I witnessed at the scene. As of Sunday night per the news he broke nearly every bone in his face and has had multiple reconstructive surgeries but fortunately they said he's recovering.

All I'm going to say is I feel very badly for those involved in this accident and I hope they recover as quickly as possible. And to the race organizers and UDOT, it's absolutely IRRESPONSIBLE that there wasn't more safety measures involved with this part of the race. Given the conditions, I'm surprised that this was the only accident in the canyon between bikers and cars. At a minimum they should have had flashing caution signs at several points warning people of the racers. Most of the racers would have passed through within a 2 hour window, so they could have easily done a rolling closure with police escorts like they did for the Tour of Utah pro riders that passed through on the same route later that day. It's these types of accidents that ruin it for cyclists when it could have been avoided in my opinion with some added precautions.

Anyhow, back to my race report.

I filled up at the neutral aid station at the base of Suncrest. I'm glad I made it there before most others as there honestly wasn't that much to go around.

Same story on the climb up Suncrest as on the Alpine Loop. I was climbing strong, passing people left and right without a heavy effort. In fact, I kept looking down at my Garmin to see if I was really redlining it and just not perceiving my level of effort. As I was about 2/3 of the way to the top, I stood out of the saddle to accelerate into the flats. Mistake...instantly, my right quad locked up stiff as a board. I was able to work out the cramp without stopping, but had to limp my way to the top.

I downed 2 more water bottles (making it 6 for the day, plus the water I drank at the Suncrest aid station) as I soft pedaled all the way to the last neutral aid station at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The guys at this aid station were really nice and helpful, but honestly their supplies were extremely inadequate. They had two coolers full of water and they ran out shortly after I was done filling up. I felt terrible for the guy behind me who was begging for water and they said they were out. In my mind this is simply poorly executed planning. If you have 600+ riders and you know the weather is going to be scorching, you better have lots and lots of water and lots and lots of ice, especially at the base of the biggest climb of the event at the point when everyone is spent and parched.

The climb up Little Cottonwood was a tough way to end this race. For the first few miles I felt pretty good, although I was pedaling cautiously in order to avoid cramping again. It didn't matter at this point. My legs cramped hard again and I was forced to stop on the side of the road for about 10 minutes while I worked out the cramps.

About a 1/4 mile from the top this nice old guy on the side of the road asked me if I wanted water on my back. "Absolutely", I told him! Man did that feel good! There were lots of nice people like this on the side of the road cheering us on. The words of encouragement made a big difference except for the people who kept saying "you're almost there." That's annoying, not sure why, but it is really annoying. "Great job" and "keep going strong" or "looking good" are much more effective.

I ended up finishing in 6:49, quite a bit slower than my goal of 6 hours. The cramps were frustrating, especially since they came so early in the race and hampered me throughout the rest of the course. But on the bright side, I finished one of the toughest races around,** which is something I never could have done a year ago when I was fat (45 lbs heavier) and out of shape.

**Nick told me at the finish line that this race was as difficult as Lotoja. He ended up taking 3rd place in our CAT 5B group (actually 3rd place out of all of the CAT 5 racers and had a podium finish last year at Lotoja, so I'll take his word on that comment.

Friday, August 21, 2009

1,000 warriors race

I'm at work thinking about my first "real" bike race that's tomorrow. The "1,000 Warriors" race is the same course that the Tour of Utah pro riders will race later in the day. It's 96 miles starting in Park City, climbing over the Alpine Loop, Suncrest and then finishing at Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It should be a fun and difficult ride. The trick I'm thinking is to leave enough in the gas tank for the last brutal climb up to Snowbird.

I upgraded my wheels to Rev-22s by Revolution Wheelworks, which pretty much dropped a whole pound from bike's weight.
I'm anxious to see how they improve my time on climbs. A whole pound may seem insignificant, but back in July I did a demo on a pair of Bontrager Race X Lite wheels and that alone knocked off 2+ minutes on a 40 minute climb. Later I found out the bike shop accidentally mounted 25s instead 23s on those demo wheels, so in reality, the comparable time would have been even faster.

The biggest thing on my mind about this race is proper hydration. It's supposed to be 102 tomorrow and I sweat heavily, so I'll need to really watch that I don't get dehydrated.

If you happen to see the race go by, look for me in my Omniture team kit. There will be 8 or 9 of us from Omniture in my start group of 50.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Man up

Last Saturday I was halfway through my long ride and halfway up Squaw Peak when I had to pull off the side of the road to catch a 10 AM conference call for work. I'm glad I didn't blow it off (I seriously considered it) because a couple of people who skipped out got a verbal lashing by one of the VPs on the call. The call lasted about a 1/2 hour and I was walking back to hop back on my bike when a guy and a girl, both on rode bikes, passed by climbing up the mountain. I said hello as they passed and then resumed checking my email on my blackberry. I sent an email and called my wife to let her know of my whereabouts as I was already late getting back. As I was prepping to mount up again, I was thinking to myself, "I wonder if I can catch those two before they reach the summit?" By then a few minutes had already elapsed since they passed by and the summitt was only 15 minutes away, so I dismissed that entertaining thought and started pedaling a good tempo.

To my surprise I caught them on the 2nd to last switchback before the top. Even more surpising was the fact that the girl was kicking her boyfriend's (or husband's) trash up the climb. I'm not saying that women are inferior cyclists to men as there are plenty of women around the valley that would leave me in the dust. It's just that this guy looked pretty fit, definitely not overweight and he was wearing my employer's team kit (last year's version), so I was expecting a better showing from him. You might suggest that he was sandbagging. I thought that too, but then I noticed he was doing something I'd never seen done before on a climb. He was actually zigzagging the road!! Granted the last 2 switchbacks on Squaw are about an 11% grade, but come on, zigzagging it! In the meantime, while he was making his own switchbacks back and forth accross the road, his girl was powering to the top, about 50 feet ahead of him. All I can say is that's some dang good motivation to get your sorry self out of bed in the morning and ride...