Yesterday marked my long ride ever, coming in at approximately 139 miles as a part of the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race. We headed out to the beach (Lincoln City) on Friday evening and stayed in a suite at the Inn at Spanish Head thanks to team president Jim who served as sugar daddy for the evening. [...]
Archive for February, 2009
I’ve been going through my standard pre-race preparations today and realized that for someone not familiar with racing, it’s really anything but standard. So here’s the rundown – for a two hour race, it’s easy to spend far longer just getting ready. At the same time, it gives you a lot of time to focus, visualize, and prepare.
Things actually started off yesterday when I spent over an hour cleaning every tiny crevice on my bike and removing grease and grime. I also adjusted the shifting, checked the brake pads, adjusted the brakes, and spent over an hour with teammate Joel at his place re-dishing, tensioning, and truing my rear wheel. Thanks Joel! Without a bike stand currently, braces on the unfinished basement ceiling came in handy.
Then this-morning I went to the team ride and did an easy 40 miles with a few short efforts thrown in. Ideally, this will wake my legs up and they’ll be fresh tomorrow morning with lots of jump in them.
Then after some final tweaking of the drivetrain, I spent part of the afternoon shoveling bark dust with my aunt. This part wasn’t so productive as far as race prep goes. In fact, I’d recommend against it the day before a race.
Next up, packing the race bag and laying out clothes. I pack enough sets of racing gear to be ready for pretty much any type of weather – from warm and sunny to cold, windy, and raining. I also pack extra tubes, chain oil, food, gatorade, extra water, and a change of clothes for after the race. And of course the most important part – you always have to keep a mental checklist of whether or not you’ve got your shoes and your helmet. You can almost get by without everything else.
Next up, the leg shave. If you’re a cyclist, you completely understand why cyclists shave their legs. If you’re not, you think we’re pretty much nuts. Yeah, there may be a slight aerodynamic advantage, but in reality if you race road, shaving is a necessity because if you crash, you do not want to deal with hair getting in the way of bandages. Plus it’s considered bad form among road cyclists if you don’t. I usually keep my legs trimmed during race season, but only shave before races. Part of it is mental – it’s a great time to focus on the race.
Now this is what the day before the race is supposed to be about – sitting with the legs up in a recliner.
And while you’re at it, get an iPod playlist ready for your race-day warmup.
The last step for me is making some pasta before bed. I make a fairly large batch – enough to have some for a late 2nd dinner plus leftovers for breakfast. In the morning I eat the pasta, and if I’ve got the time, I make some eggs as well. I always seem to feel good in races after eating eggs, even if it’s only a placebo effect.
Everyone’s race prep varies a little bit – but mine is pretty consistent from race to race. Yeah it’s probably too thought out and a bit of overkill, but it’s totally worth it if you get a good result the next day.
I’m racing this Sunday. It crept up on me a bit because I knew the race was the first Sunday in March, but I forgot that February is a short month and March begins on Sunday. This race will be the first of the Banana Belts, a series of 3 races on the loop around Haag Lake to the Southwest of Forest Grove, Oregon. The bike is currently in winter mode, but will be undergoing some maintenance and adjustments to be race-ready in the next several days.
This race is particularly notable for me not only because it’s my first of the year, but because it’s a one year anniversary. More on that later. In general, something interesting ALWAYS happens in the Banana Belts. It’s the site of my biggest win, my dumbest showing off, and my worst crash (all in various different races over the past several years).
Three years ago, I had plans to attack off the front of the race in the last lap with friend and then teammate Scott Jones. He wasn’t feeling it, so I rolled casually off the front of the race across the dam, and then attacked with everything I had at the base of the hill that followed. I managed to solo in the last 8 miles of the race for the win after building up a minute lead on the field. Now that’s a great feeling.
Two years ago, I was feeling really strong and spent the majority of the race attacking off the front of the field, just waiting for someone to come along. I’d allow myself to almost get caught, then attack again. I finally drifted back into the pack and was ready to go again when I flatted. Race over. Figures.
Then, last year – this same race one year ago. For some background, there’s one corner on the course when going clockwise that comes off a downhill into a sharp 100+ degree corner that’s off-camber (slanted against the direction of the turn) that leads onto a dam. It’s a beast, and has aptly been dubbed the “damn” corner. I’ve always been a confident descender and comfortable cornering, so laps 2 and 3 I was a the front of the field taking the corner at high speed. I was feeling confident going into the final lap and used the corner as a way to try to get away from the field to see if I could somehow manage to win the race.
I hit the corner maybe 50 yards ahead of the field and things were going according to plan until my rear wheel started hopping. I got it back under control and had the corner made until the hopping started again, due to what I found later was a wheel failure. Two seconds to react – probably 35 MPH headed straight at a guardrail. I downed myself at the last possible moment, and remember very well my body’s reaction to the large force exerted on it – the adrenaline just froze my body up for a good 10 seconds. I get back up and can’t find anything particularly wrong, other than that I hurt everywhere. Race officials seem amazed I’m standing. I’m incredibly frustrated with myself and just want to finish the race. I’m allowed to get back on my bike and finish, but only after medical checks me over. I finish the race and still manage to beat a fair number of racers somehow.
After the race. Something isn’t right, but I can’t quite figure out what.
Three days later, the pain in my hand has not gone away, and I go to a doctor to confirm that it is indeed broken. That’s mostly all that’s wrong though. A nice bruise and swelling on my thigh. Almost no road rash. Apparently I’ve learned to crash well, considering how bad it could have been.
So that really hindered my racing aspirations for my last year of collegiate racing, which basically ended up not happening. I wasn’t completely down and out though. I could still fit the aerobars pretty well with a splint on my hand:
But other than time trialing, normal racing and even normal riding/reaching the brakes just didn’t happen.
Looking back, I’m glad things turned out the way they did, as the series of events that made up my spring into summer eventually resulted in the 6 month marketing tour that has to have been one of the highlights of my life.
But now, it’s back to racing. One year later, I’m going to show that corner who is boss.
I don’t usually remember dreams very vividly, so the one I had last night stands out. I remember it quite well down to the small details, and it was just interesting enough to warrant writing about.
It started out with me going to visit my parents, who had decided that they liked Saint George (where they currently live) but wanted something different, so they sold their house and bought a tiny little cabin on a lake in the suburbs of Boston. That’s right, Boston. They for some reason or another refused to pay capital gains tax on their house sale. Odder still was the fact that I was arguing with them about paying capital gains tax in a dream. Perhaps the most confusing part of the situation was the my parents were living on a lake, yet my dad (who grew up on the Mississippi and would undoubtedly buy a boat were he near water) didn’t want a boat. Never mind the fact that the cabin and lake were located in the Dedham, MA area which lacks both lakes and cabins.
I’ve spent a little while sitting here tweaking settings and adjusting layout on the blog, and I think it’s looking good.
The biggest thing I’m currently rethinking is content. I feel I need to refocus a bit, find several topics I like that I can delve into further, and at the same time recognize who my readers are and what they might find interesting.
A hot topic right now is “personal branding” – that is, the presentation of one’s self whether that be in a digital or physical form. As a job hunter, it’s something I’m conscious of, and with the high level of competition for jobs, the recent new website and other facets of my online presence have been one way I’m attempting to separate myself (if only slightly) from the competition. Plus it’s been a fun project. I think I’ve got a pretty decent and now nearly complete online presence that gives a well-rounded look at me, but the blog is really the one part that I haven’t made an attempt to professionalize, and I think I like it that way.
My problem with personal branding as it has generally been presented, is that it’s all too easy to lose an individual touch and personality in your efforts to create a persona. The most notable example that comes to mind is someone I follow on Twitter who is a self-proclaimed personal branding expert. I’d agree that he certainly seems to be an expert in the field – to the point that his online presence tells me virtually nothing other than that his profiles, blog, website, and book are all about personal branding. The downside is that it all feels overly branded and manufactured, and I don’t really get any sense of who he actually is (unless he’s very one-dimensional, in which case I suppose I do). I hope to avoid that extreme.
In that spirit, I’ll continue to blog about really whatever I feel like in whatever tone I feel like whenever I want to. I just need to refocus a bit to figure out what sorts of topics will inspire my creativity rather than boring me for the sake of simply posting regularly. Stay tuned.
Can’t visit the Mission District without a stop for burritos!
Driving rain while driving to the race course.
Cuphood and DSLR chilling at the finish line.
San Francisco looking West from Bernal Heights.
Sunset off the wing on the return trip.
Continuing to watch the race via Adobe Tour Tracker – Tour of California goes through this Sunday.
Welcome. Don’t worry, this is still the same blog, only new and improved! You can still find all the old posts, images, etc. If you look at the URL, you’re now at my new WordPress-hosted blog on my personal domain. Please update bookmarks, blog feeds, and links accordingly. I’ll be blogging at this address from now on.
The blog is up and running, but don’t be surprised if there are some new changes and features showing up in the near future. This post will be at the top for a few days, so scroll down to check for new entries.
Here’s the scene after the race.
After hitting some slow-moving traffic on highway 17 into Santa Cruz for what looked to be a minor landslide (yeah, it had been raining that much), I made it to the finish with a bit of time to spare. Here’s some pictures from the finish.
Here’s some shots from the morning on Tunitas Creek Road, the day’s first big climb. The pictures are in chronological order, so if you’re not particularly familiar with pro bike racing, this will give you an idea of just how much race support there is. It almost seems there is a car/truck/motorcycle for just about every rider in the race.
The KOM (King of the Mountains) point at the top of the climb – points are awarded to the first riders up the climb on each major climb, the overall points leader is the King of the Mountains. Where is everybody?
When I planned out my day around the race today, I knew there were plenty of question marks and uncertainty as far as potential roadblocks to being where I wanted to be when I needed to be there. As far as the technical details went, today was perfect. I arrived on the climb at Tunitas Creek Rd. early enough to stake out a good spot. The climb was packed with hundreds if not thousands of people by the time the race came through – and it was probably one of the most remote sections of the course. It was pouring hard and I spent the morning soaked, but it was well worth the wait. It was extremely exhilerating to be on a packed climb with people going crazy cheering on these racers with everyone involved soaking wet. Definitely the atmosphere I was hoping for.
After the race came through I immediately headed south and got to Santa Cruz about an hour ahead of the racers. I was lucky enough to get a spot right on the railing at the 200 meter mark before the finish line, right when the sprint wind-up generally happens. Even more random was running into Karl (from the UO team) who ended up only feet away from me before we noticed each other.
The racers came flying through – Levi Leipheimer did his superman thing and broke away from the pack, caught the disintegrating breakaway, and then dropped them too. Except for Thomas Peterson, the stage winner, that is. So now Levi is the overall tour leader.
I took 550ish photos today, so that’s just a little teaser of what’s to come. I’ll probably have one or more posts in the near future of nothing but pictures, but no time to sort and adjust tonight.
The photo report is mixed. Of those 550 photos, probably about 100 are of the actual racers racing, as was to be expected with the short amount of time I had to see them go by. The beer cup lens hood/plastic bag cover surpassed all expectations and drew a ton of attention and compliments, including a lot of really impressed photographers who had real hoods on their cameras. The lighting on the climb was much too dark for my liking, but I mostly made it work. In the finish area, I had a nasty shadow/sunlight combo, but I got decent shots there as well.
The one problem was that I was almost too close – with racers coming less than 10 feet away at high speed, even with my best efforts panning at 1/200th of a second on the climb and 1/400th of a second at the finish, my camera’s autofocus became its weakness. I doubt I could have done better manually, but often it just couldn’t quite keep up with how fast I was taking pictures. That said, I did get a number of really nice, clear shots and a number more where the speed of the racers makes for a good photo, in spite of the fact that they’re not quite crisply focused.
I’m going to have to do some race number lookups to determine which soggy racers I got pictures of (they all kind of look the same with rain gear on) but yes, I did get pictures of Lance. I won’t spoil everything, but if you’re a cycling fan I’ve got a couple more goodies coming too. Stay tuned!
Overall, the day was extremely exciting and everything I was hoping it would be.