Saturday, August 16, 2008

Go ride with peeps...

Season is winding down...dang. This time of the year is always a little disappointing: Fitness always is good, races are few, March is so far away...and the desire to race cross is not there at all. What is exciting though, even if the races are few, is that the group rides live on and even start to flourish with more people coming out to ride with friends, discuss the seasons past and future, and show off their late season form.

I have a real problem with going out and riding by myself...not sure why that is, but I think I'm more of a pack animal...needs to be around others to get a kick out of whatever I'm doing. Anyway, I recommend the group ride, cause I believe what it stands for. Meet your teammates, your competitors, see all the shiny stuff everyone else is buying, and learn technique, skills, and all that other stuff that makes you a better and safer cyclist/racer. So here are my top five group rides that I've been doing lately:

1) Saturday 7:00 am ride out of Rock Creek and East West Highway. This one rules. The measuring stick of rides. The beauty of this one is it has all the great elements of a great group ride. One, the size of it. On a nice Saturday morning, when there are no races going on you can expect anywhere from 50 to 70 people (I've never counted, but it feels like a lot). Two, the quality of the guys/gals that show up. You can expect our local pros and 1/2s to make an a showing and set a blistering pace. How often do you get to measure yourself up against the likes of Langley, Super Dave, and Frick? Three, the terrain and organization. From the pace line at 30+ mph down the parkway, the climbs up Angler's, Great Falls, and Brickyard, to the sprint on Democracy and up to the top of Ross...awesome. Great practice and opportunities to see how your fitness is compared to some of MABRAs finest. Four, and this may be the best part, back home before 11:00 am with over 60 miles in the books. Some of us can't validate a mid-afternoon ride of 3+ hours on a Saturday. It may have the title of "Father's" ride, but getting that kind of effort in and being back to have brunch with the "Family" is good.

2) Sunday 9:00 am ride from Arrow Bikes in Hyatsville. I'm a little biased on this one since it has become our team ride. The Capitol Hill Bikes Sunday team ride (usually through the hills of Arlington) has shifted over to the Arrow ride. Which although not quite as convenient to home, has become quite a sweet ride. Beauty of this one is that is go from the gun and is pretty much race pace the whole way (a little slower maybe than race pace, but the effort is still serious). As it becomes more popular I wouldn't be surprised if it gets faster and the team uses it as a place to test tactics and learn. If you're around the shop in MD on a Sunday, I recommend it. From DC, roundtrip closes in 50 to 55 miles.

3) Tuesday 6:30 pm Conte's ride out of Clarendon/Ballston. When you roll up to this one you'll notice the high number of triathletes and fancy eye candy (the bikes...the bikes!). At first I thought this one was going to be a huge group ride through the hills of Arlington, but it broke out into an A,B, and C ride. The B and C are more triathletes and beginners, but the A group works...and works well. The ride is four laps through Arlington between Military and Glebe that all go up hill and has been very very fast and hard. We aren't blessed with tons of hills in the area, but this ride pretty much hits all the big ones in Arlington...hurts, but in that good, "I'm glad I did that" kind of way. The nice part of this one is that on the first Tuesday of the month, Team Z (a local Triathlon group) provides beer and food afterwards to all participants...nothing better than beer and food post ride, right? Also, there is a police escort on the roll often do you get one of those on a group ride? Ride is probably around 30ish, but the ride out from DC makes the mileage decent for a post work ride.

4) Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday lunch time Intervals at Haines Point. This one is a staple of the area and also rules. Show up and flex your muscle for one hour every day. If your lucky Nima, Ken Young, or any of the Harley boys are there and are dishing out a good dosage of humble pie for everyone to swallow (while giving everyone a great workout). This is the ride where I learned about pacelines and how to ride smart in a group. I think I learn something every time I ride this one...the organization is great and some of the more experienced riders really let the more junior riders if they're out of line and how to improve. Speed is usually really fast and sprints are well contested. Group rolls out around 12:05 and usually rocks for about an hour.

5) Thursday Night World Championships at Haines Point (starts sometime between 5:00pm and 6:30pm). Not quite as organized as the lunch time ride, but still awesome. I'm a big fan of intervals and testing the legs against some great bike riders. Without fail there is always someone here that lays down hurt or is willing to push the pace so that hurt is nicely distributed to all those who show up. The group forms and continues to hammer for the sprint line for a couple of hours. Another great post ride group ride and a good place to test the legs.

I need to find a good Wednesday evening ride...


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tactics...what do you do in this situation?

Let me set up the scene for you:

It was a cool Saturday morning in August and three of the route 1 velo boys were ending up the 7 am ride with the group. As we headed down Beach Drive towards Ross hill for one last effort, the leader of the group ( we'll call him "Elder Lumm") looks over to me and says:

"when we get to the base of the hill, I'm going to attack."

I nodded in acknowledgment and told him that I'd lead the pack to the hill and then open the door for him to roll off the front while I soft peddled to let him get a gap. So as we started rolling to the base of Ross, I was controlling the pace up front and trying to make sure that we came to the hill 1 and 2. At the base, plan worked perfectly. Elder Lumm rolled of the front and gapped the whole group quickly. I slowed and nobody came around, which allowed the gap to grow until Elder Lumm was out of sight around the first turn.

We rolled towards the first turn when all of a sudden, a Harley rider attacks the group up the inside and starts his attempt to bridge up to Elder Lumm who at this point has a good lead on the group.


Okay, what do you do in this situation? Do you:

1) Go with the Harley rider with the intention of getting a free ride up to the lead rider and countering if the catch is made. On the plus side, if timed correctly the counter would put the Harley rider into a spot of bother and he would not be able to chase again. On the negative though, you run the risk of dragging the whole field up with you and keep the race just between two people and turn it into a field sprint.

2) Let the Harley rider go and hope that he either doesn't make the bridge attempt, or if he does, Elder Lumm will have enough juice in the tank to out sprint him to the line at the top of the hill. On the plus side of this, I don't have to make any efforts. :) Just wait and save up for the final effort at the top. On the negative, Harley vs Anybody Else around here usually ends up not in the favor of Anybody Else. So if Elder Lumm got caught (and assuming there is no pride for second), the effort is wasted because a teammate wasn't there to counter.

I chose 2 at the time. Thinking back on it, I should have gone with the Harley rider and countered regardless of how many people got dragged across with me. We had a third with us (we'll call him Younger Lumm) and we could have saved him for the last effort if my counter was unsuccessful. Oh well, live and learn. There may have been another option of what to go to the back and discuss whether it is really appropriate to call deep section wheels "deep dish wheels" (it aint pizza!)..but what do I know.

This is the beauty of group rides. You don't get this kind of experience on that solitary 4x30 with 2min rest in between day. Or going out for the 4 hours of LSD. You get real "race-type" experience and get better about making quick decisions that can make or break your day in the saddle when it counts.

This stuff probably comes like breathing to those pros and guys/gals who have been around for a while, but it is all still fascinating to me. I guess that is what makes this biking stuff fun.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Thursday Night World Championships

So I've been trying to get the notion that Thursday evenings down at Haines Point is the place to be. I think the Goon ride goes on around the same time, so it may not happen, but for sprint intervals and major efforts...HP does the trick.

Was down there and got to "ride" with the Don and Chris from Team Nissan. Those dudes are freaking machines and both get the Manimal of the Ride award. Don (I'm sure it is Don...rides a Cervelo TT track bike and kicks everyones @ss when he shows know who I'm talking about) sits on the front and just churns out all kinds of power. 30+ mph for an entire lap hurts, even when you're (me) just sucking the wheel, it hurts. I would have liked to help and taken a pull, but (a) it looked like he was in the middle of an interval and (b) I physically could not. After a lap of that, I was mentally done and ready to go back and find the group that we had dropped, but was convinced that I had one more in me...I did, but it hurt real bad. In the end though I'm glad I pushed through...mental toughness is something I need to work on.

So we're back with the group and it's a hodgepodge of triathletes, kits, Haines Point warriors, and a couple of dudes I know well and like. The difference between the lunch time ride and Thursday nights is the organization. Maybe its because a lot of the heavy hitters and more experienced riders come out at lunch and they take control of the group and keep it organized? We'd meander down the front stretch down to the point and then pick it up on the backside. At lunch, it's balls to the wall from the moment you pass the front gate all the way to the line on the other side. It's been a while since I've been down there at lunch, so maybe it's changed.

I went down there last night with the intention of getting a couple of major efforts in...not really sprints, but consistent hard efforts simulating being off the front and in the wind solo. Maybe it's all this press our boy Cannell is getting on GamJams about how to do well in a TT, but it got me thinking that I needed more sustained efforts to get better. I'd attack off the front and try to hold a pace between 28 to 30 until the group caught up with me. I have no power meter, but 28 to 30 on my own feels like 90+ percent, or "why the hell are you going this fast, slow down stupid, this hurts" pace.

I think something I have to work on is the response to getting caught. Example: You've just attacked the group and gotten yourself a couple of seconds gap. Say you're out on your own for about half a mile or a mile and then a couple of dudes bridge up to you and pull through fast. The thing that is currently getting me is that initial effort to get back on the wheel of the passing train. You know, you've been doing a major effort solo and then you have to raise the tempo to get back on with a group...that gets me every time right now. Maybe I just gave away a secret for the next race...If you bridge up to me, attack, and you'll drop me like a bad habit.

Anyway, the end of the season is quickly approaching, that's a bummer. Kind of depressing, but at the same time, the end of the season means only one thing...time to switch the obsessions.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Some quick realizations

Quick update:

Weight: 179
Health: Much better
Mood: Decent, but very tired all the time
Fitness: Not bad, better actually, but disappointingly will probably be really good right after the last race of the year.

So when I started this thing I was excited about writing up race reports and discussing team tactics and the experience in the 3s and the 1/2/3s. Unfortunately though, it has become more a notebook for my thoughts on training and lack of racing. Getting hurt sucks. Missing Fort Ritchie, CSC, Bike Jam, Kelley Cup, RFK, and Reston because you're hurt also sucks. I think those would have been some good ones to be a part of and also to write about. On a positive, I got to watch those races and gain another appreciation for the sport. Seeing the teammates do well in the 2/3s and 3/4s was great. Seeing the local Pros bang it out against some of the nations finest was also inspiring. I've become a fan again.

Okay, so what's on my mind today:

Last night, after the 6:30 pm Conte's ride, I realized that I don't necessarily want to be a cat 2 or cat 1, but I do want to ride like one. I'd be happy to be a cat 3 forever, but be able to hand and hold my own in the 1/2/3 races regionally. Also, after looking up Sean O'Rourke of team Kenda/Raleigh (who blew up the ride...but in a good way) I also noticed that a requirement to being a 1 is to be under 30 years old (not always the case, but if you look at the roster of riders on kenda/raleigh, all those dudes are under 30). Okay one of them is 30, but still...youth rules the upper echelons of the pro circuit. Plus, how cool would it be to be a competitive in the 1/2/3s as a cat 3? Do they still force your upgrade in that case? Now I am getting ahead of myself as the only 1/2/3 race I've done was the greatest sufferfest I've ever been a part we'll wait and see what happens next year. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself or maybe the first cup of coffee hasn't kicked in yet and I'm still delirious from sleep.

That's all for now..