Posts tagged ‘rain’
Two years ago, I raced all of the Tour of America’s Dairyland including the Fond du Lac criterium. I raced well and crossed the line in first at the start of the last lap trying to maintain good position. Unfortunately, I managed to get passed by 20 people during the last lap to finish just out of the money. I was quite distraught after the race having blown such good position to end up outside of the top 20. I was hoping to redeem that performance with a top 20 finish this year, but with huge thunderstorms and rain showers all across the sky and approaching Fond du Lac before the start I was not very optimistic. We managed to start the first few laps dry, but then it started to rain, and I drifted to the back, off the back, and then expecting to be pulled was told that I could continue to race. I am never going to willingly pull out of a race again after a disasterous race in West Virginia in 1996, so I raced for another 20 minutes or so getting lapped 3 or 4 more times by the field. I used the opportunity to continue racing to work on my rainy cornering skills, as I have had several recent rainy slideouts losing a lot of confidence in the rain.
It was barely halfway through the race by the time that the officials decided I had raced enough and pulled me from the race. I just checked the results, and I was rewarded for my efforts by being placed in the results instead of a DNF — 59th out of 105 starters. Afterwards, wanting to get some kind of training in, I started wandering towards the hills, first looking for some good climbs, and then seeing windmills in the distance riding to try to get a good picture. The windmills are huge so that they appear closer than they really are. And then even when you start to get close to one, you find that the road is gated off or unrideable in the mud or the windmill you were heading towards was actually on a different ridge beside a different road. Eventually, as it was getting dark and as I was getting farther and farther away from Fond du Lac, I started to feel like Don Quixote chasing windmills, and I began to suspect that somehow for many people including me such is the lot of the bike racer. Finally, I found a cool valley with a bunch of windmills with a farm gravel road that was not only rideable but also quite pictureesque. It was amazing to be standing underneath something so gigantic and hearing the whoosh of the three blades as the passed overhead. Standing directly underneath it as the blades headed towards you was a bit disconcerting as you wondered unreasonably that you might have misjudged the length of the the blade and it would suddenly hit you standing there on the ground.
So, anyway, even as I was chasing the windmills I thought of Don Quixote. I don’t know the story all that well, but I believe the basic idea is that poor Don thought that the windmills he was chasing and trying to defeat were actual enemies that needed to be defeated. He continued to pursue these windmills never realizing that they were unbeatable. Comparing this to bicycle racing, the idea is that we as bike racers try so hard to win or at least do as well as possible romanticizing that one good result to the point that it lures us back for more even after a series of really bad results. Often the level of competition is so far above and beyond our own capability that it is truly like Don Quixote chasing windmills – an impossible and illogical vain pursuit.
Again, I don’t know the story all that well, but Don Quixote must have been fulfilled, fully alive, full of purpose as he chased after those windmills even if it made no sense to anyone else. The danger though is the damage that Don was doing to those around him as he sought after those windmills even as he tried to do good and help/rescue/save the world. I am fortunate that my family is supportive of my windmill chasing, and I do everything I can to turn bike races into family trips and family experiences, and I think the good far outweighs the bad, but the very real danger is pursuing too far without putting everything into context.
As I was trying to find a windmill I could ride right up to and set my bike against on my 10 year anniversary with my wife 100 miles away camping with her family in Door County, I realized both the beauty and the danger of bike racing. I had spent the night before camping with them and the morning of our anniversay was awesome with a nice trail run/ride with Kristine and the kids finding a cool boat landing and then a climb up to a tower overlooking Sturgeon Bay and the entrance to Green Bay followed by a little bit of caving with Josiah and then more trail riding and finally capped off joining Kristine’s dad as he finished 1100 miles of hiking the entire Ice Age trail which ends at the tower we had found earlier in the day. All of this before leaving my family to go get dropped in a bike race, but then finding beautiful rolling hills, picturesque farms with barns, cows, and fields of corn, big sky with clouds from various storms on all sides aglow with lightning and the setting sun — surreal, almost perfect, forgetting that an hour or so earlier I had just gotten dropped and pulled from a bike race – I was content realizing that bike racing in the context of life is so small, but in the moment if you look in the right places you can still find something worth pursuing even if it looks like windmills to everyone else.
Pictures from earlier in the day camping with Kristine and the kids -
12th in the road race, soft pedaled the time trial for 50th, and 26th in a crit in the middle of heavy downpour – 17th overall omnium.
Wow, what a great race … epic location in the smoky mountains ending with an HC climb. A break of 7 riders formed on the loop part of the course. This break included eventual winner, super strong climber Jimmy Schurmann (Champion Systems Pro Cycling) plus former winner Scottie Weiss (Veloshine) as well Andy Scarano (UHC/706 Project), Dirk Pohlmann (Texas Roadhouse), Birmingham rider Payne Griffin (Marx and Bensdorf), and two other riders I didn’t know – Nick Jowsey (Brevard, NC) and Jake Arnold (Fort Collins, CO).
My teammate Jeff McGrane rode aggressively and helped keep the pace high at the front of the field. The break never got a huge gap to us as we could always see them so I figured that it would all come back together before the steep part of the climb. I stayed near the very front to look for any promising moves, but still managed to miss Shawn Gravois (UHC/706) when he attacked to bridge to Brian Sheedy (Globalbike) shortly after the turn off the loop onto US-19. The High Country Devo team set a fast tempo, and it looked like they were going to bring Shawn and Brian back by the top of the Cat 4 climb on US 19, but across the top Buddy Spafford (Asheville, NC) attacked and the High Country Devo team sat up. Seeing this as an opportunity to try to chase back up to Shawn, I attacked bringing one rider (Brandon Freyer – App State) with me and the three of us were away. We got a time split of 1 minute to the break shortly before we made the turn off of US 19 to head towards the base of the official climb.
We had lost sight of the main field behind us, so we were going to start the climb with a pretty good gap. Looking at the strava data later, I calculate that our gap to the field must have been about 1’30″ by the start of the official 7 mile climb to the finish. Talking to Shawn and Jimmy after the finish, here’s what was happening ahead – Shawn and Brian’s chase group had indeed caught the lead group. By the bottom of the climb, Jimmy had gone ahead taking Shawn and Scottie with him. Eventually it was just Jimmy as Shawn and Scottie came off his pace. Meanwhile from behind in the field came a flying Cameron Coggan (CCB) who eventually caught and passed everyone except for Jimmy and Shawn who went on to take 1st and 2nd with Cameron in 3rd. Cameron went ahead and climbed all the way up to the top of the mountain as well.
Much farther down the mountain, the three man chase group I was in had been soldiering on working well together for about 7 or 8 miles all the way to the bottom of the climb. At the bottom, I settled into tempo to try to pace myself all the way up the climb and still hopefully catch people from the break. Chris Uberti (Smart Stop / Mountain Khakis) caught me about 2 miles in. I stayed with him until Cameron Cogburn (CCB) came flying by. Chris was able to stay with Cameron for a bit, but I only lasted a few seconds. I wasn’t exactly disheartened, though, because I felt like I was climbing at a good tempo. I kept Chris in my sight for a long time, but he would eventually finish a minute and a half ahead of me. I caught Payne Griffin (Marx and Bensdorf) at the spot we had compared to Karl Daly (from there to the summit) after he had come off the lead group. I caught one more rider before getting caught myself by Daniel Patten (Mountain Khakis) with about 1K to the finish. I saw him coming, so I eased up and then latched on to him until the sprint for the finish, where I cramped and then immediately sat up to finish the race in 12th. Afterwards, Kyle Taylor (Team Bikers Choice) convinced me to climb with him to the top. It was well worth it for the view and to experience the microclimate of the Great Smoky Mountains above 6000′ in elevation (we maxed out at just over 6200′).
Not the result I was looking for, but it was still a good race. I ended up setting an all-time power record for the duration 1 hour 5 minutes up through 1 hour 17 minutes with a power of 290 watts or (4.5 watts / kg) for that duration of time. Even though it was an all-time power record, I believe that I’ve got another 10-15 watts or so in my legs but just didn’t have it on Saturday. My CP curve predicts that I should have been able to maintain 304 watts over that same length of time. Another year! Although, if Tulsa Tough conflicts again with this race, I think I’m going to hit it up next year and then switch back to Johnson City the following year … hopefully the schedules will be different next year to allow me to do both!
Road race heartrate zone summary
With so many strong riders here, I knew that even a max effort for me wouldn’t get me any omnium points. So I decided to take it easy on the time trial – especially since I had cramped hard at the end of the road race. I really enjoyed warming up with a few riders and contemplating bike racing and taking in such a crazy awesome view in the Nolichucky Gorge outside of Erwin, TN. Then I started the time trial with my camera out and took pictures of all the riders who passed me during the time trial. I also tried to shout encouragement to each of them (and stay out of the way). My teammate, John Hart, smoked the time trial ending up falling less than 2 seconds short of the win behind Brian Sheedy and a half second behind Shawn Gravois in second place.
Sunday’s criterium was on a technical course. I did warm-up laps on it when it was dry, and the first few laps of our race were dry, but then it started to rain and the wrecks started to happen and eventually I dropped off the back – taking the corners ultra slow but trying to drill the straightaways to delay getting lapped (and pulled) as long as possible. I got pulled late enough to be placed 26th – no omnium points, but it still counted as a finish to keep me in the overall, where my road race points alone were good enough for 17th overall. Got a good video of the first wreck after the rain started.
Here’s a selection of videos from the races – starting with the rainy crit and working backwards to the road race.
Quick summary – chasing after avoiding early crash, riding in a cold hurricane, slideout crash with five second slide, another near-crash, 20th place!
The details – I drove over from Birmingham past all the craziness that is talladega – partly cloudy and I’m thinking that it’s not going to rain. By the time I make it over to Sandy Springs, it is sunny and HOT. I thought about moving my car to find some shade, but by the time I picked up my number and changed clothes the clouds were starting to get much thicker. Still, there were periods of warm sunshine as I was riding over by the Chattahoochee River. When it started to get closer to race time, I headed back towards the course and suddenly encountered very wet streets with steam coming off them b/c it was still sunny where I was. Apparently while I was out warming up it started to downpour on the women’s race — whereas I didn’t get a single drop of rain or even know that it was raining just a couple miles to my east!
The sun was out, though, with no rain clouds anywhere close (although there were some ominous looking clouds visible south of town). The firefighter’s race scheduled between the women’s race and the men’s race was cancelled b/c of the wet course so there was about 20 minutes of time to ride on the course. With a bunch of riding laps easy on the course, it was drying out pretty quickly. Still, the course was by no means dry on those first laps. We did a reasonable 23 mph on the first lap even with a $200 prime on the line – but apparently that was enough to give the guys at the front confidence to ramp up the speed for the second lap. Unfortunately for those of us at the back, that means even faster speeds around the corners to keep from having a gap open up. So that second lap was absolutely insane. The course was drying out pretty fast, though, but not quite fast enough as there was a nasty crash at the front of the race about three or four laps into the race. I was far enough behind it to maneuver around, but ended up in a second group with people not chasing very hard.
This only lasted for a few seconds though b/c a rider behind me attacked seeing that this group was not going to make it back up to the field. Sergio Hernandez (Predator) and I both followed making for a three man chase group. The rider who attacked never slowed down and did all of the work. Fortunately for us, the course was almost dry by this point so the three of us could fly through the corners whereas the field was a bit more tentative. So after almost 10 laps we finally made it back up to the lead group that had maybe 30 riders still left in it. Sometime during our chase, Frank Travieso (Mountain Khakis) and Karl Menzies (United Healthcare) escaped. Since these were the two strongest teams in the race, they were happy to let them go meaning that the overall pace of the field dropped with only Empire Foundation (NYC) chasing. The next five to ten laps were sporadic with various surges, but the pace always seemed to ease up. I came off the back once or twice through the start finish with the moto-official even passing me, but just steady chasing through the corners meant that I was able to catch back up to the field.
Then the rain started again – fairly gradual at first – so that we had about two or three laps of rain with a course still dry enough to go pretty fast. Then it was a crazy downpour / hurricane. Very hard rain with some high wind gusts dramatically slowed down the field – but because I was at the back, I had to risk the corners at a bit higher of a speed to keep from getting gapped. The last turn was the trickiest. About every other lap, I would be gapped off b/c I would still be taking the turn slowly while the front of the group was already attacking up the hill. This meant that a gap would open up, and it would take me about half a lap to close it back down. The irony was that once I was off the back, I could actually go faster through the rest of the course then when I was with the group because it was easier to pick a line.
Eventually, during one of the laps where I was chasing and hadn’t quite caught back up yet, I tried to take the final turn a little bit faster to carry some momentum up the hill. Without warning, though, both wheels slid out from under me and I ended up sliding on the ground for a good five seconds through the turn. It took me a while to get my chain back on the bike b/c I didn’t realize I had bent my rear derailleur and the chain was off the pulley wheels. Once I figured that out I was able to get the chain back on the bike and pedal back to the pit where I thought I was going to have to use one of the SRAM neutral bikes. One of the mechanics was putting zero pedals onto the neutral bike while the other mechanic worked to straighten out my derailleur. Amazingly, he got it working so I was able to hop back on my own bike and into the race with 9 laps to go.
I got put in on a particularly fast lap b/c everyone was strung out single file through the pit area. I quickly drifted to the back tentative through the corners not wanting to crash again. A lap or two later the rider in front of me went down on the same corner that I had fallen. I was able to get around but there was no way I was going to be able to go fast enough to catch back up to the pack. I settled into a pace that I was hoping would keep me far enough ahead of the leading duo of Frank and Karl, but with three laps to go the head official pulled me. The field was so small by this point that I ended up in 20th place, anyway!
Sandy Springs USA Crits Speedweek Finale May 5th, 2013 20th place Lap Time AvgPow MaxPow HR RPM MPH Comment 1 1:34 274 808 140 77 23 Wet 2 1:21 265 836 160 84 25.8 Insane 3 1:23 273 883 164 78 25.2 4 1:22 241 932 169 77 25.5 5 1:23 256 871 171 75 25.1 Chasing after crash 6 1:19 292 864 177 74 26.3 Chasing 7 1:19 252 909 177 77 26.4 Course starting to dry out 8 1:19 226 876 174 77 26.1 Chasing 9 1:19 294 846 177 77 26.7 Chasing 10 1:19 232 865 177 79 26.3 Chasing 11 1:19 266 890 175 77 26.5 Chasing 12 1:17 272 893 176 79 26.8 Chasing 13 1:18 239 892 176 77 26.8 Chasing 14 1:20 224 981 173 76 26.2 15 1:26 212 872 169 78 24.3 16 1:21 230 1009 169 78 26 17 1:18 244 893 173 80 26.5 18 1:23 188 873 171 77 25.3 19 1:18 248 913 171 78 26.8 20 1:21 227 875 170 77 25.7 21 1:22 210 946 171 76 25.2 22 1:24 212 972 168 83 24.8 23 1:23 207 896 168 75 25.1 24 1:21 228 824 171 77 25.7 25 1:27 202 913 168 75 23.9 Heavy Rain 26 1:30 231 906 167 76 23.2 Heavy Rain 27 1:31 217 894 166 71 22.9 Heavy Rain 28 1:30 214 866 167 77 23.1 Heavy Rain 29 1:27 198 680 170 78 24.1 Rain 30 1:31 233 803 168 80 23.2 Rain 31 1:27 214 845 169 74 23.9 Rain 32 1:27 206 832 167 75 24.1 Rain 33 1:24 221 876 168 73 24.4 Rain 34 1:27 204 667 167 77 23.9 Rain 35 1:27 219 744 166 75 23.7 Rain 36 1:24 198 818 164 75 24.5 37 1:26 202 889 164 75 24.2 38 3:22 73 491 155 60 23.7 Crash 39 3:43 73 816 128 66 6.2 Crash 40 1:32 185 784 154 70 5.3 Bad speed 41 1:31 209 587 160 74 5.8 Bad speed 42 1:37 199 644 157 75 5.8 Bad speed 43 1:34 187 642 156 75 19.2 44 1:42 149 603 155 72 20.4
Heartrate zone summary
This adventure started out on Christmas day when we began our annual trek north to Wisconsin to visit Kristine’s family and enjoy the winter wonderland of the northwoods of Wisconsin. For the past two years, I have left our house in the morning and biked north towards Wisconsin. About six hours later, Kristine has picked me up somewhere north of Cullman, and then we have finished the rest of the 18 hour drive overnight to arrive in Shell Lake by the next morning.
This year, there was a major storm system moving in from the Gulf of Mexico promising lots of rain for Alabama and a huge blizzard for Indiana. We were racing this storm. Everything looked perfect for us to stick to our plan since the system wasn’t supposed to be arriving until later in the evening — at which point we would have already made it to Chicago. My ride started out great with over 3 hours of overcast skies and upper 30s lower 40s temp. Then shortly after discovering the Emerald Lakes climbs and making it to the bottom of Skyball Mountain, it started to pour down rain and thunderstorm. My Garmin cut off unexpectedly as my power meter died and the Garmin struggled to find a signal. I lost all of the data except for the first 15 miles of the ride. Sounds crazy, but I’m pretty sure that the source of the problem is when the power meter starts to give off goofy power meter readings, which confuses the Garmin and then causes it to crash. This has happened several times — all related to goofy (or missing) power meter readings. I’m pretty sure about that since I rode a long time in the rain yesterday but turned off the power meter on the Garmin, and the Garmin had no problems recording the entire 8 hour ride – so it’s not a problem with the Garmin and the rain. It’s a problem with bogus (or missing) power meter signal while the Garmin still is looking for a power meter.
Anyway, back to the ride at Christmas, I ended up riding the rest of the way to Cullman (about 2 hours) including the climb up Skyball Mountain in the pouring down rain and temp in the upper 30s. I was freezing, but I rode really, really hard to stay warm. Then in the process of coordinating the pick-up with Kristine at First Baptist Church Cullman (heavily damaged by April 27th tornado) well short (30 miles) of our original pick-up spot, I stopped and waited for Kristine. It only took her a few minutes because she had earlier started to back track on the route. Those few minutes were enough to make me so cold that I couldn’t stop shivering until I had dried off, changed clothes, heater blasting in the car, and driving up to the original gas station in Falkville where we were supposed to meet.
During this amazing awesome time of warming up, I tethered Kristine’s laptop to her phone and uploaded the ride to Strava discovering that all but the first 15 miles were lost. Initially, I was pretty upset — but then a few minutes later I resolved to do the ride again as an out/back ride from my house. The thought of that adventure was exciting enough to quash the sick feeling in my stomach of losing about 60 miles of data from an epic ride with new climbs and probably a few KOMs.
Yesterday was the culmination, two and a half weeks after the original ride, of that excitement/anticipation. The weather forecast called for fog in the morning and slight chance of rain in the afternoon. Instead, it stayed heavy wet fog all day (misty light rain) and then rained hard by the end of the ride after sunset. Fortunately, I turned off my power meter on my Garmin so that the same problem wouldn’t happen again with the Garmin unexpectedly powering off and losing ride data. But that means I only have power meter data for the first hour or so of the ride, and the latter part of that data is bogus as the power meter starting giving off much too high power readings for the effort I was putting out. That is when I decided to turn the power meter off. Unfortunately, I had to keep a ziplock bag over the Garmin for most of the ride, which kills the total elevation gain as the Garmin is slower in responding to elevation change — which doesn’t make too much of a difference when you are crawling up a climb, but it does affect how it reads the descents … meaning that smaller hills get flattened because the Garmin never records the negative change before you’ve already started up (or completely finished) the next hill.
There were two key things that I was anticipating on this ride: 1) the adventure of an out/back ride from Birmingham up and over Skyball 2) The emerald lakes climbs which I feel could be the steepest paved climbs in Alabama. The top video on this post is from that “steepest climb” on the return portion of the trip after climbing Skyball, changing a flat tire, and lots of other adventures about 95 miles into my ride. The next video below is the climb up the same ridge line near Emerald Lakes, but from the opposite side on the way out to Skyball. It also has some extended 20-25+% sections, but is more of a stair-stepper than the backside climb. Both videos are long, but if you click the “watch on youtube” button then you can click on the video bookmarks in the description to jump directly to interesting spots.
The driest part of the ride was climbing up Skyball on the way out as the clouds had lifted a bit, but by the time I had turned around in the valley on the other side to climb back up, it had started to rain again. Here’s a short video heading down towards the Warrior river with a view of the skyball ridgeline.
After climbing Skyball, I passed a hunter hunting from the roadside (I don’t think you’re supposed to do that). I also got a flat tire climbing back up Skyball Mountain, so I changed it at the top right next to the Tour de Cullman Skyball KOM finish line. The video below is me narrating the last part of the climb back up Skyball telling about my favorite Tour de Cullman finish (2011) and also discovering that I had a flat tire. Also, the two pictures are from the flat tire change.
I spent a lot of time on changing the flat tire making sure I cleaned out all the debris that accumulated in the tire because I still had almost 70 miles left to get home. Fortunately, the single tire change held all the way home (although it had developed another slow leak so I had to change it again last night after I got home). I stopped at Locust Fork to refuel, and got two 20 oz Pepsi’s and one 32 oz gatorade for a total of $3.50. That was a LOT of liquid sugar for not too much money! I ended up with the nutritional equivalent of a perfect tweet – consuming that plus 7 powergels plus 3 cliff bars for a total of about 2300 calories during the ride arriving home without bonking and having eaten everything I had taken with me.
Shortly after the Locust Fork stop, I turned around on AL-79 to head down to the Warrior River bridge to see if the climb from there to the top of Tucker Mountain would cross the Cat 3 threshold (it did). I also went hard to try to get the Tucker Mountain KOM (I did – but just barely – taking it from somebody named “No One” who had ridden from Huntsville to Birmingham … that ride was only 111 miles compared to my 135 mile out/back ride).
By the time I made it back down into more familiar territory, it was past sunset and pretty dark given the rain. I did get a couple more videos below that are somewhat interesting (tornado damage from a tornado on January 23rd, 2012. And also a video starting the climb back up red mountain (including near miss with car towards the beginning). The audio is really muddled on these because I think water got in the microphone port. After climbing Red Mountain, I put my blinky lights on and rode the rest of the way home in the dark, climbing up to the top of Vestavia Dr just as started to rain pretty hard. The last 6 miles or so were in pretty heavy rain as documented by the last video (iphone)
The 2012 Bamacross series finale was held today at the historic Sloss Furnace abandoned steel mill. The course was epic for water, rain, mud, and location. I’m sure there will be some good pics up on facebook that people will post. I’m going to try to link to a couple of them here on this blog in the next day or two. The atmosphere at the race was just amazing — people grilling out under the highway underpass, music pumped up, people banging loudly on steel drums next to the course, cowbells ringing, people cheering, people heckling, people having lots of fun.
The course was just amazing … located right next to the abandoned steel mill, plus the start/finish stretch underneath the highway, plus active trains and train whistles on all three sides of the course during the race, and then the puddle lakes in the central part of the course and the muddy river that formed on the back stretch of the course from an inch of rain that started this morning and never let up through all the races. I did the race on my hard tail 29er running low pressure hoping to get some extra grip out of the wide tires. But in the mud, those wide tires just skidded across the top of the mud rather than digging into it.
In any case, I probably still would have finished DFL even if I had borrowed a cross bike. I started the race with old brake pads that needed replacing. So by the end of the second lap, I had no brake pads left at all … seriously no braking at all! Fortunately, the mud was thick enough that in most places you could just stop pedaling and the bike would slow down quick enough to make the turn. Still, there was a couple places where I had to unclip and dig my heel into the ground to slow down enough to make the turn.
Lots of mud – underneath the bridge next to the historic steel mill. (Click to zoom out and enlarge. Note that is not the bike I used in the background. Also, that is my backpack on the ground for the commute there and back.)
It was a really fun experience, especially since I got to cheer on all the other racers who lapped me (everyone from both the 1/2 field and the 3 field which started a couple minutes behind us). Afterwards, Craig Tamburello (Brick Alley) helped me a ton by switching out brake pads from Alan Barton’s dad’s mountain bike so I could safely ride home. Thanks tons Craig and Alan!! Here’s a picture of Alan riding through one of the lakes on the course:
What a fun experience, the atmosphere and the people are great. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the skills to corner in the mud, but I definitely want to try it again next year. A couple updates from this morning … I forgot to post my heartrate data (see below), and also Paul Roberts got some great pics from the race including one of my friend (and former teammate) Jacob Tubbs with Scott Staubach in the background in a pivotal part of the Masters 35+ race with them eventually taking 1st and 2nd.