Sunday, June 27, 2010

Broemmelsiek race

Sunday's race was an epic battle. Although the race had a pretty small turn out, with many notables, who would have seriously altered the race, not present. I've had a goal since last season of being competitive on my singlespeed in the expert category and today was good step towards that goal...missed the podium by just over 15 seconds. There's always some kind of afterthought post-race about how to do better and messing up such-and-such a situation, but that's all just water under the bridge. The important thing in my mind and for me in my life right now, is just getting out there and competing. Some days I may feel great, like today, and others I may feel awful and either quit or come extremely close to quitting.

I rode a 36x18 on what was a pretty perfect single speed course. I usually like more climbing, but today's course was almost like a cross race with never ending quick, sharp turns, little dips, and a very undulating gradient. I didn't pre-ride the course and honestly, I don't think a couple of more laps on a course makes that big of a difference, especially in a 6 lap race. Home field advantage on a trail that one rides a few times a week is a totally different story...huge advantage, but on a day like sunday, I'd rather try and ride 3rd or 4th wheel behind some really good riders and see what happens.

That's exactly what happened. Here are some cliff notes, laps were 20-25min and total race time for me was ~2:05:00 or something:
lap 1- 4th wheel following Bob Arnold, who was behind Ploch who was behind TK. Felt great. Gearing was perfect...HR was pretty mellow and legs felt very good after a solid week of training last week.
lap 2- Pass Bob, ride behind Ploch or TK
lap 3- Ploch drops chain, ride behind TK.
lap 4- don't know what happened but I still felt good at this point but I slipped in 3 corners riding behind TK. I think I just got super excited that I was in front of Ploch. Those falls hurt my ego and I actually got pretty pissed at myself because the slips seemed so silly and happened each time I caught back on to TK's wheel after prior fall. Mental slippage seemed to occur at that point. Doubt plus and 1:20 of pushing a big gear convinced me my legs were getting tired. At some point, Ploch caught back on a went around me.
lap 5- Got caught by Mark Gullet. See mindset as stated at the end of lap 4. He passed me.
lap 6- climb hill, see ploch stopped on side? He said he was cramping and we rode together for most of the last lap. I was hurting. Then almost at the end, he decided he wanted to see if he could catch Mark. I couldn't follow. The end.

Goal? Accomplished. Fun? hells yeah. Wifey? Present and rode her butt off in marathon! Teamates? TTM had 50% bad luck, Storve did his first race of the year and came out top 10, and there's talk of a new teamate ; )

Up next are the dirt crits! I love short racing.

July is a HUGE month for me. I have a massive piece of writing due and the month marks the 6month interval from my January treatment. Very crazy, but we still have no idea whatsoever if that treatment had any takes 6 months. 3rd week of July I head to MD-Anderson and will find out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"You also will want to make sure that being extra uncomfortable is something you’re into because 60 minutes against the fastest geared guys around isn’t going to feel very good until it’s over."

"The most important thing, though, is your mental state. That’s where it’s at when you have gears too, (clearly if you’re thinking of going SS you KNOW the bike doesn’t really matter that much) but it’s even more important without them. When you pull up on the starting line, remember: your opponents think you’re dumb, crazy, and possibly tough as nails. You want to encourage this thinking. I wear a Camelbak during warmup because you won’t be drinking for 60 minutes once it starts, no one else does it, everyone should, and because it makes me look like I have no clue."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lost Valley race and some thoughts on training

Riding and training for riding over the past few years has been an awesome lesson in physiology and psychology. Progress has been elusive the last few months...basically ever since the Tour or Hermann. But that's completely understandable and totally natural: sometimes training 15hours a week is what is needed to be better, while other times 3-6hrs/week is all I can possibly handle physically, practically, and even emotionally. The past few months I've started to learn more from my sleep patterns, food cravings, and general hunger then I've ever been able to pay attention to in the past. For the first time, I've been interpreting the signs of consistently poor sleep and intense sugar cravings too mean; take a few extra days off, skip the ride or workout, and/or focus on eating better. My thoughts on nutrition have evolved significantly this past year, as I deviated from my normal diet for a period of time and attempted an experiment of absolutely no animal products for 6 weeks. The reason for the trial, was mostly based on curiosity for the sports-performance effects and as a long shot attempt to see if eating a 'anti-cancer' diet would have any effect on my tumor markers. After the 6 week trial, I resumed my normal diet with a few tweaks and now feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what I need for good energy, focus, etc. In terms of the effect on cancer, I'm not convinced and in fact, I felt like my insulin/blood sugar was all over the place eating such an intensely Cho-rich diet. I much prefer eating more meat, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit...blood sugar stays much more stable and I feel overall more focused, recovery quicker, and generally feel better.

Training-wise, the last month I've only been putting in 3-7hrs total a week. But my intensity has been there in the form of short, crazy-hard stength/cardio work in the gym with these guys. Rides have been down to 1-3/week and have mostly been for mental clarity and fun.

With all of that said, I really haven't known what to expect in June as far as racing. Last weekend I felt really strong on the bike. Yesterday was the Lost Valley race that was put on by my friend Matt James and many of his co-workers at Mesa. I had been at a family re-union in Louisiana Thurs-sunday traveling the morning of the race and not riding for a few days prior felt pretty weird.

I had never ridden the course before, but knew that there were multiple sections of fire roads, with very little total elevation change. I also knew that I wanted to race Cat 1 and would be doing 3 laps on an 11-ish mile course. Gear choice for the week was the highest I've ever ridden on a mountain bike: 36/18. Gino from Team Seagal was there and gave me the advice to hold wheels like I was in a road race and hope I was geared high enough to hold on.

At the start, I felt pretty good. From the line until the first turn was probably about a mile of flat fire road. I managed to hover somewhere between 3rd and 8th wheel, but man was I spinning like crazy. My cardio system took a pretty big beating and the whole time I was thinking about the proprioceptors I learned about in med school which are located in extremities and cause the body to activate the fight/flight response...cus man was my heart racing. I think I must have been going 120rpm or greater (note: rpm= revolutions per minute, as in pedal speed...not heart rate).

After we turned, I descended and then started up the big gravel climb. I ended up making a little break and riding right behind a lead group of Ploch, Breslin, Shottler, Devin Clark, fast DRJ guys, and ultra-hella-fast-for-an-old-guy TK. But then we hit the flats up top and I got dropped. Quick. I just couldn't transition from the climb to the flats quickly on a single speed.

The rest of the race was pretty similar to the first few minutes. The gear choice was good, but I definitely need to ride the big geared SS some more. Adaptation will take place...I can feel it. It was definitely a sign of progress and a positive experience.

Despite the heat, it was an awesome race. Matt did an awesome job. Shottler crushed it again and good races were had by many (Drew Black and Nate Means looked super strong!).

Thanks to TTM for the hand-off and the post-race refreshment! You guys rock. Hope the bike turns out well for ya.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

2010 MO state mtn bike championships

Although I appear to be shorter than those around, I am in fact on the top step.

Maybe next time I won't wear a blindfold and will try and beat Shottler.

Strongest single speed field that I've ever raced in Missouri today. Pro mountain biker and recent (don't know the year?) singlespeed national champion Dejay Birtch was there, as well as Garrett, Dan Fuhrmann, Nico Toscani, and many others. In addition the day was hot, humid, and I don't think I had pedaled a bike for more than an hour in about a month. Given all of that, my goals were not based on any particular outcome, only the the process of getting to the race and seeing how I felt.

The first 'separation' climb felt great at the beginning of the race. At the top, it was Fuhrmann, Dejay, and then me and i felt like I was well within my comfort zone. My gear choice for the day was a 34x18 which was hard but about perfect for the 3 lap, 90-ish minute race. If I would have needed to do another lap, I definitely could not have pushed that gear. At the top of the hill, Fuhrman got off and ran a section and Dejay and I sped around him. A few minutes into the race I felt well within my comfort zone holding Dejay's wheel and we slowly started pulling away. On the second climb we started passing some of the expert riders, which was interesting riding with such an experienced racer, as he was much more aggressive in passing than I normally am...but I didn't want to let him get a gap on me so I just tried to apologize and keep moving. 10-15 or so minutes into the race, at the start of the 'rollercoaster' section, he fell. Don't exactly know how or why and after talking with him after the race, neither does he. So, I just kept my pace and kept pedaling. Next thing I knew, I was by myself. I hammered it up the climbs and just kept it steady and smooth on the single track.

The heat was really hard to deal with. I opted for the camelbak today and was really glad I had it, as I went through all of a 100oz bag except for just a few sips.

The last lap felt great until climb #3, when my quads locked up in searing pain anytime I fully extended my knees.

It was definitely a suffer fest with the heat and the cramps at the end...but for some reason I've got an appetite for that these days.

Jersey #2 and third state title in a year (last year's ss race at the state championships only had 2 riders, so no jersey!).

ps- Very unfortunate thread on stlbiking regarding bitterness. I read this quote last week from Mark Twight and really dig what it says about our personal responsibility to be respectful and to work hard. Although he is talking about road racing and people that sit-in I think the general idea about just putting it all out-there is one of the reasons I love racing:
"I just don't get it. We're amateurs. It's a hobby. The sport is tough. That difficulty makes the feeling of finishing well after having utterly smashed yourself so satisfying. I know that feeling. I wonder what it feels like to finish after having sat in, after having done the bare minimum for 99% of the race, and then shooting to the line on reasonably fresh legs ahead of the chasing, faltering pack. Is it a good feeling, that win? It must be.

Still, why wouldn't you work hard enough to break and redefine yourself? Afraid of what you might find?"

This is not to say ANYTHING about sandbagging or getting second place, or whatever. The only thing I mean by it is that we do this for fun. Winning isn't everything. In 10 years and beyond my daughter won't give a rats ass that I won this race today or even that I raced bikes. She will care however if I live my life with balance, take responsibility, and treat others well.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cosmic Irony

Well, there's a new bike in the Miller family. It really is getting ridiculous, the whole buying and selling of two-wheeled pedaling machines. Honestly, I've given the pursuit a great deal of thought lately and have come down to this:

When I have the ability to effect change, I do so. Often with very little patience. Looking back, the notion of selling my single speed lynskey, the idea of which had been a dream for years, was motivated by a great deal of haste and fear. I thought I needed a change, so after about a month of looking around, when Team Seagal's sponsor contact came up with a great deal on a geared, cushy full-suspension bike that would fit, I jumped on it.

Maggie and I have both toyed with the idea of me and control issues...especially in relation to things that I don't have any control over (i.e. cancer). Maybe that is why training, science, and bicycle materialism have been so attractive in the past few years. It is funny, because in college I was one of those gandhi-reading, world bank-protesting, hippy, live-out-of-my car types. Now I own 2 carbon bicycles and a third that is pretty close to carbon.

I do still hold on to many of my ideals, but clearly the materialism associated with light, fast, and stiff bicycles in something that I've 'compromised' on. The drivetrain on the Kona sold in a day and through good-fortune and friends ended up getting a Specialized (which is actually the bike sponsor of CBC, so I didn't feel all that bad) single speed. I've ridden it once so far and am very happy.

I suppose the whole idea of 'single-speed' has gone a bit over-the-top on this thing. Yes, it is made of plastic. And yes, it is incredibly light for a mountain bike. Complete, the bike weighs a scanty 19.09lbs. Rock on.