Friday, April 20, 2012

Battenkill: Ben's View

Last but certainly not least is long time race veteran Ben. He was in the cat 3 class with Fred, and like many, just before and through Meeting House was a tough spot in his race. This is the last of the 4 part Battenkill wrap-up series. Hopefully these series wrap-ups will be an ongoing theme in 2012 for the team.

I got up to Saratoga Springs on Friday in time to enjoy dinner and relax. My race began at 10:10 with Fred. Looking around the start, I knew only Fred and a Van Dessel guy, Zebulon Nelesen. Fred points out one of his CX buddies that I should look out for. I couldn't get too excited about that. There are about 120 guys to look out for.

I was comfy and riding among the top 20-30 for nearly 50 miles. Went just below my limit up Juniper Swamp Rd. I knew that would be required so I was just happy to have it behind me. I was just ahead of a small gap at the top but it all came back together quick.

The middle portions were non-eventful. 4 guys attacked going into the feed zone. Three joined them soon after. Knowing that was dangerous, a few racers including myself convinced others to pick up the pace. That group was likely off the front for 20 minutes before getting reabsorbed.

Through the middle of the race, we were catching dropped riders from earlier racers. There was a little confusion. Guys were barking about a break but the pace car was just ahead. Next time I look ahead and the pace car is gone. Two guys got away and I thought they were random riders from other races. That is one of my few gripes about this race. Towards the end, there are bodies everywhere.

We hit Wrights Rd which was a left turn onto a dirt climb around mile 44. I went straight to the limit knowing that the day was going to end for many at that point. I struggle over the top to hold onto wheels with about 10 guys in front of me. The next bit is a blur. A large group of +/- 30 riders reforms during a flatter portion of that climb. As we approached the second feed, things got strung out single file and I couldn't maintain it. As I entered the second feed zone, the group was exiting with a few riders dangling off the back like myself.

Other dangling dropped riders and I, made our way through Meeting House Rd. just ignoring each other. We were all suffering in different ways. I seemed to be the one struggling most going up while making up ground on flat and down portions or that rolling dirt road. I felt the heat hit me like a wall. 

I recall cresting a rise and then descending on pavement towards a right turn. Three dropped riders were coming together about 10sec ahead of me. I look behind and see no one. Fvck, I need to close this gap NOW or I am done. Knowing the guys would slow through the turn, I busted ass and counted on some cornering skills to make the gap. I was going fast enough that I got nervous and the race marshals looked like they were about to crap themselves.

I catch the small group and we begin working. Some guy comes out of no where from behind and helps. One guy is not contributing so we begin a rotation and do our best to keep him from screwing up the effort. The lead group is just a 1/4 mile away. What a friggin tease! We work together as well as dropped riders can and were actually making up ground. It was actually very entertaining and suspenseful.

As the covered bridge adjacent to Stage Rd. came into site, we genuinely thanked one another for the effort and said, "Good luck!" I was literally 100' behind the wheel van as we all hit Stage Rd. Unfortunately, the lead group consisted of the best in my race or more rested riders than I who had been drafting. I had been working near my limit for 25 minutes [I]leading up to[/I] Stage Rd.

Once on Stage Rd., all bets were off. The leaders turned themselves inside out. The remaining riders in that pack were able to continue faster than me. I hate to say it but my goal was to be in that group at the base of Stage Rd. Then it would have been [I]mano a mano[/I] and I would earn whatever result I got.

I made it over Stage Rd. as fast as I could but only passed guys from other races. I dive bombed the descent after. Passing guys so fast I couldn't tell if they were in my race or not. On the flat run in to the finish, I was behind one of my chase companions and could not real him in. I turned myself inside out. Felt the tell-tale signs of cramping begin in one hamstring.

I finished 32nd of 107 starters. 3:10 behind the winner. I was expecting to be in the top 30 and was hoping for a top 20. 32nd is close enough. I would have been bummed if I had just gotten dropped and rode the rest in without a fight. As I said, the chase was pretty entertaining. I was pretty happy to make up ground on the approach to Stage Rd. As my tires went from pavement to dirt on Stage Rd., I knew they were all going to ride away from me again. I just put my head down, found my happy place, and rode the rest out.

You can see from my HR data where my race blew up at mile 45. I popped off the back about 1/2 way up that climb in the profile. My HR drops slightly as I form the chase. The remainder was just everything I had left.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Battenkill: A Picture (of Ilya) is Worth...

Battenkill: Old Rob's View

First Maurice, then Capers, and today we have Rob, the older of the Robs on the team, thus the name. After surprising himself the year before with a 6th place finish Rob was eager to get back and improve upon that. But as with many things Battnkill-related, nothing is as you expect it. If nothing else, this is the race that keeps you guessing. 

This is a really tough recap for me to start. I have so many different ways of looking at this that I feel like I have a pinball banging around the inside of my head. I felt like I was pretty well prepared for this based on my experience of what the race was last year in my group. Right off the bat this is lesson 1, “EVERY race is different, even if it is the same class, venue, weather etc, you can not assume that the effort and dynamics will be the same”. :Last year was my first time up there I was really surprised at how tame the pace was in my group on the flats, except for 4 guys that went off the front after the first major climb. Other than that it was a controlled climbing race and who could out last the next guy and the groups just got smaller and smaller as it went on. Well this year was the opposite. I’ve gotten ahead of myself already.

Friday I made sure I was hydrating a lot as I saw that temp was going to be around 68 and felt that this was going to be a factor. Because of this I got up like 3 or 4 times in the night to pee. Got up early and didn’t feel like I had a fantastic rest but really not that bad. I do normal routine stuff, stretch, dog stuff, etc and go to bathroom one last time before I head out. While in the bathroom the light goes out. I figure the bulb just blew but get this weird feeling like that scene in Apollo 13 when the guy is in the shower the morning of the big launch and his wedding band comes off and goes down the drain. I comfort myself by thinking that although a lot of crazy shit happens between that scene and him going to outer space and getting back to earth again everything turns out ok. Get out of the bathroom and realize that the power for the whole house is out. Ok this is strange.

Take my stuff out the front door instead of the garage as opener won’t work of course and head over to Paramus where I am meeting Jeff (Gratefulrider) and will ditch my car and go together. He makes the trip go fast by good conversation and also doing like 90 the whole time except when slow down to pee 2x. His BMW suv thing is smooth. I think we got there in like 20 minutes even though it should have taken 3.5 hours.

We pull in to park next to some Tenafly guys I know and the 4 of us reg then back to cars for a really slow prerace routine as Jeff’s race is in like 2 hours and mine in 3. I eventually get my stuff on after eating a little bit, Jeff is ready before me and rolls off. I am very indecisive on what to eat ( major mistake?)I then roll out just to coast around and look at the start area and then over to the finish and expo. I see Zach Coop right after his finish and he is sitting on his bike with his legs dangling down and leaning against a pole in pain. He says his both legs are cramped and he can’t move. I give him a few sportslegs that I had in my pocket and made a friend for life. With an hour to go I head back to the car, eat a clif bar and drink some more, and do my pre race warmup on the trainer. I feel good and my heart and legs are responding and I feel I have good power with less perceived effort actually. I’m thinking systems are a go. Get race ready and head over to start with about 20min to go.

Watch the women pros go off while talking to some of the guys lining up for my race to try and get a read on people. I don’t recognize anyone from last year. We roll out behind the pace car and I can feel the front group coming into shape and who will likely be doing most of the work. Pace starts to build much quicker than I expect so early but I figure some of these guys may just be feeling it out. Within minutes I get hit in the face with a big black bee that I guess is a wasp and it gets stuck in the small space between my helmet and glasses and as I quickly pull off my glasses to give it room to escape the bastard stings me right at my eyebrow over my left eye. Next time I will hit myself with a tennis racket and knock both of us out. I let out a couple of choice words and the guy next to me asks if I was ok and if I was allergic which I am fortunately not. It hurt though and I felt with my finger like there was something in there and got it out and see blood on my fingers. Great. Now I am just hoping it doesn’t swell up and or affect my vision, which fortunately does not.

Through the covered bridge I’m in the front few and nothing really changes just the same guys up front taking unorganized turns although pace is still much faster than last year. A few guys ride off the front a little for no reason and no one even discusses it. They all wind up in the back at the next climb. Finally at Juniper things get more exciting and pace picks up a lot near the top and I am right there and this is the move and I am right in the center and we are gone. About 7-8 of us off the front and we drop the pack like a rock. I am working but nothing crazy and wasn’t even like the super hard Rocket Ride sections in my mind. I do my share of work and am cautious of not overdoing it however totally out of the blue after a while on a very minor rise in the road I feel a twinge in my right calf. Alarm bells and whistles go off in my head screaming DANGER DANGER, I’m like WTF???? I have never ever E V E R cramped on my road bike. EVER. Of course on the MTB I have and it was always hydration issues so I instantly started downing my bottles thinking it must be the issue. I am unsure though because I drank a ton the day before and all day. I start hiding right away to conserve and loosen this up very nervously. I am more than a little concerned as they come and go but eventually the calf seems ok. About 30 mi in we are climbing and I get a twinge in my right upper quad climbing muscle and now I am really concerned. I feel it contract a couple of times and feel that it is going to lock up on me and I have to back off about 50’ from the top. And there they went. I get over the top and it is a long rolling section that even though I try and think I can hammer it I know I am not getting back on and the gap gets bigger and bigger. Train is out of the station.

I know we had a big gap on the field but I am thinking this is bad. 32mi to go and I have to manage my body totally different from normal. I do 12 miles solo in the wind and then on a flat dirt section 5 guys come up on me and say join on. At that moment it felt like an oasis in the desert. I hop on and say thanks by telling them how many and how far ahead the leaders are hoping that will count as payment to the cause rather than take any pulls. We go for awhile and on another climb we lose 2. So the 3 of us crank on through the worst of the bad dirt road sections. I tend to be the fastest downhills and get ahead but that’s only because I am looking for every bit of help from gravity I can get. One section where the dirt was super loose and washed out, (you know the kind where you don’t really steer and just let the bike go where it wants to) my momentum carried me all the way across the road onto the grass and I just rode on the grass. The 2 guys I was still with followed me on the grass and thought it was intentional and said that it was a great idea. I didn’t tell them I didn’t get there on purpose.

Approaching that double tiered dirt climb that crosses a road the stronger of the 3 of us moves ahead and I can’t stay on his wheel and neither can the other guy (in green). I think he realizes he is doing all the work and that we were not going to be much help anyway. I see him go over the top as green guy and I start to climb it. My quad starts twitching really bad here and when the second tier starts I am feeling it increase. Then right in the middle of that second tier BAM! Full out mandatory Alcatraz style FN lock down. Can’t move right leg but somehow get my foot out of the pedal and get my foot down without tipping over and just stand there afraid to move while grinding my teeth. I grab my quad and it feels like concrete. There were some spectators and a woman runs over and starts to tell me to walk it off but I know if I move a smidgen right now it will be worse. I ask her to fill my bottles as she has a big Poland spring bottle. I don’t move for about 4.5 minutes (according to my Garmin) and finally it releases and I can walk. She tells me if I can just get to the top there is a downhill and recovery time afterwards. I walk to the top and eat a bunch of gels and wash it down with almost a full bottle and remount.

While in lock down mode I notice a few guys pass me but I have no idea if they are my group or some of the previous that we had caught when I was in the lead group but truthfully I don’t care. I am just trying to figure out how to finish this without another massive lock up like that as it is terrifying to me. I still have decent power amazingly when on the flats and can carry some speed. I make it to the last feed station and toss all my bottles again and take a bunch of the green ones at the top of the zone. Now all I can think about is Stage road and how the F am I going to make it up that without cramping. I am with a couple of guys at this point and I shift into my easiest gear even before the climb starts and they take off up it. I concentrate completely on just turning the pedals as easy as I possibly can and amazingly I am passing people who had attacked this and are blowing up. I even see a guy zig zagging the road. I get to the top and I am just so super happy to not have cramped. Coming down the other side feels great and I am really relieved. When the road straightens I can see far in the distance the green guy from before and I know he is in my group. I watch him from a distance and realize that very slowly but surely I am closing the gap on him. 

I get in the drops and concentrate on maintaining the best pace I can and although he is still far off I am closing on him. When I get within a couple of hundred feet I am just hoping he doesn’t’ turn around. I get about 20’ behind him and ease up a drop because I don’t want to get on his wheel and turn this into a final spring as I am not sprinting, no damn way. But I am thinking I don’t want him riding my wheel either and passing me at the end so I stay back a bit and then increase my pace so that when I pass him it is fast enough that if he doesn’t see me coming he won’t be able to surge and get on my wheel. This goes exactly as planned and I am dangling like 20’ in front of him and I hear him shift and breathing hard but I keep him off my wheel and I basically outlast him to the finish.

11th place in 3:25, this is 10 min faster than last year even wth the near 5 minute stop.
I am still trying to figure out my cramping issue. Now I think it ended up being a serious nutrition F up and I was carb depleted. I felt a significant change after downing those gels and heading into Stage road. I did not eat enough “real food” the day of the race as it was really tough timing with the early drive, the drive itself and then not wanting to eat a real meal 2 hours before the race and feel like I was full. I also reviewed my Garmin info and even though that fist 1.5 hours had a pretty hot pace and my HR was pretty up there for a road race especially, I never really felt like I was even close to the edge. This definitely was not like one of those times where you are riding with much faster people and you say to yourself, no way can I maintain this I predict blow up in x minutes or seconds. My perceived effort did not feel at the max. The next day my entire body felt like it had been through the ringer. This is another clue that it was not just legs getting tired. In fact my legs aren’t even super sore today except where I think my groin muscle got a little tweaked during the big lock down cramp. So we live and learn yet a little more….

The takeaway: so this is the part that I am now really kind of confused about. Last year I knew that my plan for this year was to make sure that I was ready to go with the breakaway group which I was and did. However the irony is that (yes this is Monday morning quarterback talk) had I just stayed with the pack and outlasted others (like last year) I would have likely wound up with a similar or possibly better result actually with a lot less pain and suffering. Granted my time would have been slower. I guess here I am making the same mistake and assuming again that next year will be just like this year which was supposed to be lesson #1 in the first paragraph. I do fully understand now why the pack stays together in these kind of races the same way Zebras do…. Survival. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Battenkill: Capers' View

Yesterday we sa a recap from a long-time road racing veteran in Maurice. Today, the opposite end of the spectrum. This was Eric's first road race ever. No crits, no local road races, maybe not even any shop rides. Feet first, head first - no matter which way you look at it he went right to the deep end of the poop. Here is his view.

Battenkill - My first road race. Words can't describe the anxiousness I had the week leading up to this one. It was all I could think about. I'v'e participated in group rides, centuries and countless long road rides with lots of elevation, but not in the form of a race. My race experience is primarily on dirt, grass and mud. This is a whole different game with different rules and strategy. I didn't come out expecting to win, in fact I predicted that I'd probably end up mid pack. I was treating this more as a learning experience. 

I don't want to draw this out so I'll get right to my race. I started in the front, I think I was the 2nd or third guy back when we rolled out. The neutral start was something Iv'e never experienced before. Much more gentleman like than the "READY-SET-GO!!!!!" balls out starts in MTB and Cross. I was glad to warm up the legs and get a feel everyone around me. Seemed like we just coasted for the first 5-6 miles. Most of us were chit-chatting as we cruised steadily up 313, the only thing we were missing was tea. Shortly after the covered bridge everyone put their game faces on and we eased into a hotter pace. The race officially began on the Perry Hill Rd. Climb.

Perry Hill rd. was the first of many climbs that would start filtering out the group. I knew it would happen eventually but didn't plan on getting spit out the back of the lead group that early on. And by the time we began climbing up Juniper Swamp, the lead group was already pulling ahead. Oh well, thats racing. The rest of us got pretty strung out into 2's and 3's and each successive hill broke everyone up even more. Now we're in chase mode fruitlessly trying to catch the leaders but this was not to be.

From here on out I found myself jumping from group to group and also riding solo in the wind at times. The elevation combined with the varying skill levels of my fellow Cat5 racers made it difficult to keep a solid paceline going for any extended period. The wind was strong at times and I burned a lot of matches chasing down groups I'd see in the distance.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my girlfriend Megan with her hand out with a water bottle for me at feed zone 1. I did not expect her to do this but man, she's on top of it! She executed a perfect hand off and I was happy to know I wouldn't dehydrate! I rode with a group of 4 guys for he next 20 miles or so. At this point, I know I'm probably about mid pack.

Feed zone 2 near Meeting house road. Megan was there again with another bottle for me and a banana already opened. Man, she's good! Meeting house road was extremely dusty with large loose rocks. Racers were flatting everywhere. I got passed by the over 35 lead group as well as their support vehicle. They kicked up a sand storm as they flew by. It seemed like Meeting House road is where the race became a death march for many. This is where I saw the most racers from different fields and everyone looked like hell. The sun exposure, heat and dust gave this road a real desert like feel.

By now, I'm cramping everywhere and my lower back is killing me. Weakened by this, my avg speed is dropping. Hit the pavement after meeting house and cruise as best as I could working with another guy in the 35+ Cat all the way to Stage rd. Stage road…Oi, that was a doozey. I read that it pitches up 3 times and not to be fooled into thinking it's over until you hit pavement. Glad that I opted for an 11/27 cassette. I look over my shoulder and notice 4 guys that are in my field. I didn't wan't to loose any more spots so I hit the gas. By the time I crested Stage road I knew I was home free. I put the pedal to the metal and gave it all I had (which wasn't much) from this point on. Surprisingly I was taken out by a guy in my field with less than 1 mile to go. Unfortunately, I did not have it i me to chase so I let him go. Fnished 23 of 42 starters, 39 finishers Cat 5 blue with a time of 3:24.

Final thoughts:  The production was top notch and much more elaborate than any race Iv'e done in the past. This was a great experience, top to bottom and I will definitely return for another shot next year. Maybe even train specifically for it and make it a priority. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Battenkill: Maurice's View

Here is a view of the Battenkill race, through Maurice's eyes. The week before the race, Maurice had been a bit sick and like many of us, wondered if going up to the race was a good idea at all. Of course he did, and here is his story. This picks up the morning of the race, a few hours before his start...

Ate some pasta and caramel pork (very salty) and we headed for the start. We got there at 8 (1/2 before the start...), just enough time to get ready and head to the line. The thermometer in the car still hadn't gone above 40, but I decided to go bare legged and medium embro as I knew it would warm up. Worked out well enough.

My goal as I lined up was to finish, and hopefully not get dropped by the pack. After 'cross season I was seriously burned out and had a hard time getting back into training. There was not much time to prepare for this race so Ben let me do it my way: rode as much as I could, with lots of hills. I also worked on dropping weight: when training time is limited it is a great way to make up for lack of fitness when it's hilly. Should work well for MTB also.

About 2 miles after the start Bobby Lea goes off the front. I thought that would be it. The first time up Juniper Swamp I felt ok and went from back to mid-pack. The second time I decided to move further up and actually stayed there despite Justin Lindine drilling it hard.

Up until mid-point the pace remained rather mild. There would be accelerations but nothing serious. I made sure to hide in the pack, happy enough to still be there. A couple times it really itched to go, but sure enough we reeled in every move.

Can't remember the name of the roads or sections (I didn't study the map...) but at some point there was a left-right on a bridge, and a steep hill fairly loose. I knew that would hurt and would be followed by more hills so I made sure to stay near the front. It worked well enough that I crested the last hill driving the pace.

Another hill came up and I knew this is where things would take shape. One guy attacked and every one followed. I countered towards the top and made a gap. The eventual winner bridged up and we went. Another guy came up and the three of us opened about a minute.  For the longest time the gap stayed there. I was feeling ok, still a long way to go but this was the move. Eventually we saw glimpses of Bobby Lea. Then we caught him (surprised to ride behind the opening car). Then we dropped him. Still not sure if he had planned that or what since he was racing the next day...

Shortly before feed #2 in a slightly uphill dirt section the eventual winner upped the pace and we couldn't keep up. He just powered away, nice... Took a bottle and then the two of us worked on staying where we were. Eventually I blew up and couldn't follow my break companion. On Meeting House road I could still see the two ahead, but I was spent. What a deceiving section, a straight dirt road with 2 hills in a row where you can see for miles. The last 15 miles I rode by myself, trying to stay where I was.

This was taken more or less in the timeline here.

Eventually I got to Stage Road and started the climb. 5 chasers went by me at the steepest point and I couldn't latch on to their wheels. Crested that, and my legs were screaming... The last 5 km were the longest, slightly uphill and windy. I did not want to turn back but did so inside the last km to see no one was in sight. Good enough for 8th and 80 miles in 3h30.

I ate 2 gels and drank 2 bottles. The second bottle on the bike I never even touched... This is bad and I need to work on that, especially as the weather warms up and with having lost weight. I had ice cream after the race.

Sunday I went for a ride with the home crew (wife and daughter) and my legs felt like concrete.