Wednesday, February 23, 2011

ROTY and the SWAG

Its time for that classic sitcom, ROTY and the SWAG the hilarious exploits of a middle aged bricklayer who dreams of cycling glory but keeps waking up in a decrepit, hairy body that maxes out somewhere under 300 watts of cycling power.

Actually ROTY is my awesome accomplishment of the Winter. I learned straight from the WBL website that I and two other zealots had earned Rookie of the Year, honors.


I have carefully removed my real name so that the "man" at the bricklaying factory cannot connect me to this blog.

I couldn't sleep the other night and saw this posted at about 1AM. I immediately shook my sleeping hot wife, "Huni, huni!" I said, "I am ROTY, I am ROTY!" to which she mumbled, "you're always ROTY, go to sleep, maybe in the morning." Not getting any love or attention there, I called my Mom.

Mom: (sleepily) Hello
AA: Mom its me
Mom: Antelope? Is everything all right?
AA: I'm great, I just called to tell you that I am ROTY of the WBL!
Mom: You're what?
AA: I'm ROTY! You know, rookie of the year! Riding with the Cheetahs.
Mom: (silence)
AA: Mom are you there?
Mom: You woke me up to tell me some cycling thing?
AA: Yeh, isn't that great?
Mom: (click)

I wasn't even able to tell her the other big news. On last Satuirday's ride I got extra pointage for my heroic chase:

A man and his bicycle, oh the places we will go. What once was a quiet and unremarkable existence has been transformed into a universe of celebrity encompassing my imagination and the adoration of at least one of our housecats.  In the 60's we learned that  the personal was political. In the teens, we have learned that the truly unremarkable can pretend to be famous. Oh to be alive in this age! I also want to put up the final documentary evidence that I did make it in with the group last Saturday and was in the picture.

I know its kind of hard to see me. Below I have blown up just my face. It was a pretty tough chase and I may not have looked my best.

Must be in picture...
With my second place in the DirtySpokes 6 hour race, this has been a month of palmares.  For 6 hours of racing, aside from the potential shame of being a sandbagger, sore joints, and dehydration,  I won some SWAG. If you were wondering, SWAG stands for "souvenirs, wearables and gifts," or "stuff we all get" or "scientific wild ass guess." What comes in beginner 2nd place swag bag? Two samples of chamois butt'r,  a coupon for 15% off some bike grips, two samples of electorlyte drink powder, and a pretty sqweet 9er t-shirt that says pedal dammit.
  Oh yes, and I got a Chainbuster medal and a  beer glass, If I keep training hard and getting on that podium, the Antelope Athens family could be entertaining guests with a complete set of 6 Chainbuster authentic beer tumblers. Sweet.

But I don't want to get ahead of myself. There are many weeks of tough training ahead to make sure that I put "Tallboy" and the other competition in the rear view mirror on the trail.  Fortunately Superdraft is there for me every Wednesday making sure I put in 50+ during the dark months. that and a few rides in the fighter jet draft of Clyde's wheel and I should be ready.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

WBL Finale: In the Pic!

Saturday was an incredible day for riding. Temps in the low 70s sunny. A planned 70 miles jaunt up to Maysville and a last chance to leave it on the tarmac in my young WBL career as off the back fodder.

The ride was sponsored by which put up free massages to winners. This seems counter intuitive as the people off the back desperately huffing and puffing probably need the massages more, but to the victors go the spoils I guess.

So on a 70 mile ride I was confident I would be in the pack until the start of the sprint zone at about mile 55. And this was true. Notable happenings in the ride include a young guy named Parker riding without his jersey and his shorts hiked up so he could get more sun on his skinny bod. he also switched bib straps taking one and then the other down so he wouldn't get bib strap tan lines. Despite myself, the Jefe and other older folks roundly ridiculing this behavior, Parker endured, secure in the fact that we were irrelevant old buzzards and that chicks dig a dude without cycling tan lines.

At the store stop, several young guns discovered new method of hydration involving BudLight. It must have worked because every guy who drank a bud light came in way ahead of me.

And to the sprint zone. I actually found myself pulling the last 2-3 miles for the sprint zone with Tan Line Boy, but I felt great and the pace was perfect, so I didn't sweat it. Sometimes it actually feels better to pull, there's a sense of control regarding the pace and not having to worry about the wheel in front. TanLineBoy told me to give the first hill everything I had because the pace would let up a bit afterward. It was good advice.  We turned onto the Seagraves Rd and the whistle blew. I ignored several attacks (which is not too difficult when you lack the ability to accelerate an addition 6 mph on a hill!) looking for the right wheel to hang on and fought my way up the hill. I was still with the main group so far. The break away began coalescing into a front group with mainly elite guys. A second group of slightly less elite guys was forming and I was fighting to stay with them. I hung for awhile but a 2 second gap opened. I was right there, but damn I just couldn't make the bike go any faster and I watched the second group begin to pull away.

Mike who owns the building where AthensChiropracticHealth will be moving to soon, is an older dude, who doesn't look like he would be a mega-hammer but he is. As I was fading, he pulled up to me and said, "hey they are only 5 seconds ahead, we can catch them." Now my rational mind thought, "what bullshit. I've never 'caught' a group after being dropped." But I thought, hell, maybe this guy know something. And the chase was on. We ranged from 2-4 people and Mike kept us in order. I worked my ass off. I haven't hurt so bad since last Wed trying not get ridden off of Clyde's TT wheel. We never caught the second group really, but we did catch the pack about a mile after the sprint line.

Success! I would cruise home with group and be there for picture. I ended the WBL season 22nd with 24 points, a mere 65 points away from taking it all. Maybe next year.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Real Tall Boy Dishes Out the Watts

Who needs motorpacing when they have the infamous Clyde Watts on caffeine on their mid week training rides? It was a good thing back in January when Clyde had been off the bike for 3 weeks that I took advantage of  Clyde's lack of fitness to punish him on a few hills. It is likely the last time I will ever see Clyde in the rear view mirror again. It doesn't take long for an Iron Man to make the rest of us look like tin men. Here he is with Superdraft before the ride.

You lookin for a Tall Boy? Try to keep up Streak.
Clyde rode up heavily doped on caffeine and without his typical swim or 10 mile run before the ride. He was representing big time, now a sponsored athlete with All 3 Sports in ATL and ready to pull us to Monroe on his TT bike.

So the usual Wed ride, 50+ at 17-18? No chance. This was harder than the WBL. 3 times Clyde turned on the overdrive on long flat sections and just rode me off his wheel maintaining speeds in the upper 20s until I was crying for mercy. Who needs motorpacing? If I can stay on Clyde's wheel once a week until March 19th that other "Tall Boy" won't stand a chance in the next enduro race.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chainbuster#1: Lessons in stupidity and pain

Saturday morning the WBL rolled out without me as I was already 15 minutes into a solo enduro ride at Heritage Park. Race season is upon me already and that means...

I had spent the last week desperately trying to get my MTB legs under me. Usually this involves applying blood and scabs to specific anatomical destinations
and practicing the core skill of mountain biking which involves basically not hitting trees.

Shit, who put that tree in the middle of the trail.
  I signed in for the beginner class solo 6 hour and was pleased to have time to visit the bathroom for the third time that morning. I missed the instructions during this time but I thought, "hey I know the rules, no sweat!" This thought however, would prove wrong in really stupid ways. The rules I thought I knew pertained to a different series. In that series, you could go out on another lap as long as you started it before the 6 hour mark. so if it was 5:59 when you crossed and you felt you could complete another lap by 6:59 you are welcome to go for it. Oddly, I did hear the announcer say that awards would be given at 4:30 sharp, which would be impossible  by the rules I remembered as people would still be finishing until 4:59. Being a bricklayer by profession, I am not really the brightest bulb in the bulb aisle and so let this little bit of contradiction waft through my fluffy brain without a second thought.

I knew from practice I could do laps in the 52-55 minute range and so 6 laps should be reasonable; what I wondered was, should I try to do 7 using the extra time if I completed 6 before 6 hours?

But let's start at the beginning. The crowding made the first lap pretty mellow and I decided to just relax and not worry, it was going to be a long day. There were some slick places that would only get worse and I didn't want to eat too much mud. So I worked on my efficiency and began nailing down lap after lap. I felt pretty good for the first 3-4 laps. It was definitely careful going for me as some areas just got muckier and muckier.  Laps 5 and 6, well, those really hurt. My arms and shoulders were tired and the hills burned my thighs. I didn't cramp though so my new routine of tonic water, tums, and gatorade seemed to be working. Welcome to solo endurance racing.

The last two laps I found myself often following a fellow on a Santa Cruz Tall Boy. This a sweet new model full suspension 29er. Only medical professionals can afford them in computer geniuses in Atlanta can afford them:

I talked with the guy briefly as I thought he was someone else and then was just too in pain to make much conversation. I began to call him "Tall Boy" in my mind as I tired to distract myself from suffering with inner coversation: "There's tall boy again. I wonder what category he's racing in? That tall boy really has a slow cadence. I wonder how much Tall Boy's bike cost? I bet I'd be really fast with Tall Boy's bike. He probably has too much money, I'm sure he steals it from widows and orphans. Oh look, tall boy again!"

Had I been wise enough to actually ask Tall Boy about his category I would learn that, coincidentally, he was! and we were the front of our race. There were some important differences between Tall Boy and myself that should be noted. First of all, I would later find out that I am several inches taller than Tall Boy, he just looks tall because his wheels are 3 inches bigger than mine. Second, I was stronger than tall boy last Saturday, though not as bright, And third, Tall Boy knew the correct rules of the race, unlike me.

So sometime in lap 6, I'd say with about 2 miles to go in the lap, Tall Boy cracks like me in the WBL sprint zone and I easily spin past him for what should have been for good. In the meantime, I am simply obsessed with the question, "should I try a 7th lap?" I also begin to get worried about some strange activity in my drive train and I'm worried it will seize up if I don't clean it out as all kinds of debris gets in there and can really cause a catastrophic failure. I also only have a little water on board. So I think, well I could just push it and do as good as I can for 6 laps and hope no one else goes out, or  I could make a quick pit (which is about 100 yards before the finish line) spray off my rear derailleur and grab another water.  so that's what I decide to do. I'll pit quickly and then ask the guy at the finish line if anyone is going out for a 7th lap. While I'm pitting, I hear a bike go by. Had I looked up, I would have seen Tall Boy. I didn't look up, I grabbed a banana instead, and rolled to the finish line eating a banana. I ask the guy, "I'm in solo beginner, do i need to go out for another lap? He says, you can't, there's only 25 minutes left, you would have to do the fastest lap in history. I said, "don't I have to the end of the 7th hour to finish?" and he said, "no, man everyone has to be in by 6 hours exactly."

Well I was relieved not to go out again. I had no idea how I did and wandered around for about 30 minutes in a stupor before someone told me the results were over at the Maxxis table.

I'm thinking you know how this ends, right? I got second place in my category by, get this, 3 seconds. Tall Boy was the bike I heard whizzing by while I was grabbing a banana and spraying water on my derailleur.

I have been having Tall Boy nightmares ever since. I have 4 weeks to train before the next Enduro. I really hope Tall Boy is there.

Monday, February 7, 2011

In the Pic: Doin Hard Labor

Oh yeh baby, I haven't been in the WBL picture at the end of the ride since I cut off 10 miles on the windy day from hell. Last Saturday, however....
Antelope Athens 5th from the left!
Now you may be thinking, my god what happened? Did an antelope actually stay with the big boys close enough through the final sprint zone to come home with the pack? Who hooked that boy up with the performance enhancers?

I best start from the beginning. Like all great Saturday stories in Winter, this one began at Sunshine Cycles in downtown around 10:15. It was cloudy and wet as we pulled out heading towards Watkinsville for the Hard Labor ride. It was a well controlled pace and I had no trouble staying with the bunch. As we headed West into the wind, the sun finally poked through and we had a mostly beautiful day. Really the only thing that could cast a shadow on a great ride after the sun came out was 5 miles through Monroe, the armpit of Georgia. The people are nice enough when we rode through, though, it's a rough looking little town.  Monroe is so ugly they had to photoshop together 3 buldings, a water tower, and a monument in the city web page to make it look livable. Seriously, here it is:

Come visit Monroe! We have 3 buildings that aren't dilapidated, really.
After Monroe there was a long road called Gratis to a little town I had never heard of called, "Gratis." Gratis isn't actually a town but a "community." Not to be confused with the Georgia Registration and Title Information System (GRATIS), the REAL Gratis is in Walton County and is known to wikipedia:

In fact the wikipedia page had been updated in Jan 11 so we know someone in Gratis has a computer. The clerk at the store was a lovely young lady, who exclaimed, "I've never seen so many bicyclists before." She was probably a little younger than my son, so having no shame I immediately began flirting with her.

No I don't want to go for a ride with you old man, woof
I have fond memories of the gatorade I drank last Saturday and so plan to make sure I hit visit Gratis again this summer. Saving up my 5 bucks for the big show.

And so the first 50 or 60 miles passed without incident. An amazing thing has happened to me from the WBL rides. I can now ride 60 miles on less than 2 bottles of gatorade. I do have to carry a urine recycler but I haven't dehydrated yet.

After the store stop we were 10 miles or so from the intermediate sprint over the Beaverdam reservoir. Again I managed to be in completely the wrong place for this non pro sprint--just behind three guys who weren't interested and let a gap open up with the front. I felt good and so wanted to be in the action. I yelled "coming through" and went by on the right in full sprint trying to cross the gap. I realize that I am the only cyclist in that group who yells "coming through." Real racers just suddenly occupy space including whatever space someone else is occupying that they want. I haven't figured out how to do that yet so I have to yell. I'm fairly proficient at using my voice to occupy space, actually.

I tried to get to the sprint group but it was too late. I am determined, the next time there is a non pro  sprint to make sure I am near the front and can give it a go.

We regrouped and cruised into town heading for the real reason I was in the picture last Saturday---the final attack zone was a circuit. It started just before the pink church and I was summarily dropped on the hill climbing toward the pink church from the east and straggled into the pink church parking lot with about 10 others to wait 20 minutes for group to go around the 7 miles circuit. Two guys sprinted for the line and this guy, named Thomas Brown won by a wheel over J Rosskpf.

 :I'm not sure who T Brown rides for now but he was a Jittery Joes U25 pro and the other guy is Team Type 1 Developmental Pro. These are some seriously fast dudes. The cheetah Jefe came in first among the non pros about 8th place back. Pretty amazing for a guy almost 50. Even when they go gray, these old cheetahs are fierce.

First I am on your wheel, then I am on your throat!

So I ended the ride with 83 miles instead of 90 and with so few miles in my legs was even able to stay awake until 9pm that night.

With only 2 WBLs left, through sheer determination, showing up, and a unique ability to sign my name to a sheet of paper, I am tied for 17th place with 5 other rides, a mere 39 points off the leader.

Next Saturday, I won't be adding to the total, however. I am taking my long winter miles to the trail to contest the 6 hour solo endurance race at Heritage Park. I think this is really going to hurt.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Epic To Alto

If you dream about riding like a cheetah, they say you must, to the best of your ability, ride with the cheetahs, think like a cheetah, and yes, even pee like a cheetah.
When the whistle blows, pull over to the grass, straddle your top tube, pull your bib down and hang over the side. Remember, cheetahs don't pee on their shoes, you can tell when there are rusty cleats.
Some things cheetahs do seem like mad dreams to your typical antelope. For example, gravity seems to have no effect on cheetahs.
This is particularly apparent when trying to climb hills with a pride of them. I have decided that there must be some kind of biological differences between myself and the Cheetahs and sure enough I have found evidence.
Note: While furry cheetahs might need to rest 311 times, the hairless WBL cheetahs actually could make 249k in 2 hours and 26 minutes.
This was on the internet so you know it must be true. Now most cheetahs will tell you that their speed and endurance is not from their biology, but comes through hard work and the ability to withstand extreme amounts of pain. This means, since I can't keep up that I must either be not working hard enough or simply too wimpy to take the necessary pain.

Once again on Saturday, I was setting out with the Cheetahs on one of the most famous WBL rides each year, Alto. 111 miles to the foothills of mountains. There was a sprint zone before the first rest stop at mile 50, something called "Crackback Hill" at miles 70 and the final sprint zone around mile 90. Wanting to keep my goals reasonable I  decided that a great day would be finishing 111 miles and leaving the store stop with the group.

The route north was awesome. 25 miles in we hit commerce and there were 3 police cars waiting to escort us through town. Cooool. I felt good I felt strong. I couldn't understand, however, why there weren't people thronging the street  to cheer us on but it was sweet cruising through all the traffic lights at 25mph. The roads north of commerce towards Alto were gently rolling and on a sunny day, it was a great ride. I felt fine as we approached the sprint zone at mile 42. The whistle blew and as usual we were confronted with the first real hills of the day. There were 3 in the first 4 miles of the sprint zone. I hung tough through the first but couldn't hang on through the second, slipping back, back, back, off of the back. Oh well.

Crack: Hill #2 on the way to Alto store stop
Hill 3 was really steep, or I was just tired because I had to stand and gear into granny to get over it. About 5 other riders caught me (I wasn't the first to crack!) as we turned right for a flat 3 miles to the stop. We cooperated nicely and made the store stop not too long after the main group (I don't know this for a fact but it feels better to believe it). One goal accomplished for the day. The next leg was 10 miles of significant rollers including a really fast downhill on our way to crack back.  I was starting to feel the ride and no surprise, was popped off the back on crackback almost immediately. In fact I am pretty sure I was the last person up that hill.
Hey, wait for me, I'll be there eventually
There was a massive slow down so everyone could regroup and recover after Crackback and I heard that Matt Karzen, Antelope Fall Classic participant and local legal eagle got third for the non pro 1/2 category on crack back. Way to go Matt! Matt is also a major Antelope Athens supporter always giving me a kind word of encouragement when I am slipping off the back.

With crackback in the books we were headed back to Commerce. It was a tough hilly 20 miles and I was fading fast. We hit a sustained hill about 80 miles in and I was off the back again. Fortunately for me, the Reverend Lenny was at the wheel of the sag wagon and I dropped into the sweet draft of theSUV to try and catch up. Wow, there is nothing like the draft behind a big car. I was able to recover a bit and get myself back together. At one point we were about 50 yards behind the peloton and I pulled out from behind the SUV to see if I could bridge. A massive wind hit my face and I realized there was no way I could fight through it. I yelled up "too much wind" and went back to my happy place at the back of the SUV. I entered Commerce motorpacing and Lenny maneuvered to about 20 yards behind the pack. This time it was a downhill so I stomped the pedal and swung out from the Reverend's wing and bridged back to the pack. Cool, I thought, I get to cruise through Commerce again with the police escort. And I did, for about a mile before once again they simply crushed a roller and my power was gone.  After 85 miles my legs had nothing left to hang on with.
Antelope cracked by Cheetah, Commerce, Ga

Not long after, Lenny discharged from the SUV a dehydrated Cat 3 named Rob. Rob was not happy about his discharge but it worked out great for me as even a dehydrated Cat 3 could handle a lot of wind. So Rob and I cruised home the last 20 miles at modest pace, staying under the "cramp threshold."  Rob was pretty pissed at Lenny, although technically the SAG is just for mechanicals not cracks, but I kept that to myself, I needed Rob's help getting home.  An experienced racer, Rob gave me the skinny on Cat 5 racing in case I decide to try it, and I learned about his life and family. Really nice guy, enjoyed meeting him and riding with him. We made it back to sunshine in one piece, and I guess the group just couldn't wait the extra hour to let me be in the picture. Oh well. Maybe next week. A pretty epic day. I have ridden Alto.