RSS Feed

2013 Black Fly Challenge Race Report

My first mountain bike race ever. This sure was a good one to pick. Long enough to be a challenge. Reasonable climbing of 2700 feet total elevation and non-technical riding. Just my thing. The race switches directions every year. This year the race went from Indian Lake to Inlet, NY.
Since Black Fly is an unsanctioned race the categories are self selected. Obviously the age and gender is non-negotiable (well for most) the class for mountain bike is either beginner, sport or expert. I decided to go with beginner since this was my first time ever. Felt like a logical choice.

Heading into the race we had a lot of rain. In fact it rained all day Friday and they were calling for more on race day. I choose not to pay any attention to that because it was a variable that I couldn’t control. As it turned out the temperatures at the start where in the low 60′s and the sky was cloudy. Actually not bad weather for a bike race.

As we lined up for the start one of the first things I learned about the beginner category is that they wanted us to start near the back of the pack. The cyclocross bikes had first dips followed by expert, sport and then beginner. All of the sudden I was beginning to question my choice of self selected classification. To be clear, I am no sand bagger. I had no visions of glory that I would actually get a podium finish even if I did start as a beginner. I really thought I would have no chance of doing very well at all. This would be a surprise later.

As the race rolled out the testosterone fueled cyclocross studs where off to the races while the rest of the peleton consisting of the mountain bikes followed behind. The start of the race is on a paved road and immediately goes on a slight uphill. I quickly figured out that I should start passing people more out of trying to find space to ride than anything else. After leaving town the road eventually turned to the left. Another paved section followed by dirt.

While riding on the paved section in the first 10 mies I was going at a nice hard but steady effort. Nothing crazy rather just trying to get my feel for what others around me wanted to do. I treated it like I would a road race. I was looking for people to work with in the bunch. That would prove a little more difficult than one would expect. I kept finding a bunch, sitting on a wheel and then deciding that it was just a little slow for my liking. Not to long after I found a very tall guy on a mountain bike who looked like he had done the race before. He was also a great guy to draft off of because he was so tall. I got on his wheel and traded places with him for the majority of the pavement and the early dirt road sections. The race turned to dirt and would stay that way for the next 25 miles or so.

The climbing began in earnest on the dirt road. The climb was gradual with a few kickers here and there. I was feeling good. I was climbing well and within my limits. I continued to pass people on a fairly steady clip. My tall friend was still near by and willing to exchange a wheel every now and again. I’ve often said one of the greatest things about doing endurance events is when there is sometimes a lull in the action and an opportunity to chat with your fellow suffering companions often presents itself. I decided that I would start chatting up the tall dude.

Tall dude looked to be in his 50s. Very thin and extremely fit looking. As we were both side by side grinding our way up the dirt road climb I told him that he’d look liked he had done the race before. He replied and said that he hadn’t but he had done plenty of other races. He started rattling them off. 5 time Ironman finisher, Ultra Marathoner, SOS (Survival of the Shawangunks) and many other equally sick and twisted sounding events. I can’t remember them all but trust me, it was an impressive resume. I asked him which Ironman races he had done. He said at this point in his life he was finished with m-dot races because they had been taken over by “Corporate America” He said that he had lived in Hawaii and had done Kona. This was back in the early 80′s before it got too formal. He told me that he used to have these really long dread locks and was in a reggae band. He entered Ironman under a fictitious name the first time. It was the single name, Mai kai which is hawaiian for “toward the ocean”. ( Ok, I made the actual name up because I can’t remember what he actually said it was but it was something like that) The next year he entered he used the name of his reggae band but this time included his surname. He said that this was before you had to produce an ID at registration and long before you had to take out a second mortgagee on your house to enter. He also had tails of drug use. Lots of pot smoking was a regular part of the training regimen as well as during the event itself. He told me he even knew this one guy who did a hit of acid at the bike turn around while racing Kona! Even though this conversation only took a few minutes I was captivated by this guys stories. Sadly, I had to say good bye to my new friend as I started to drop him on the climb. I ratcheted up the effort a few ticks and he hollered to me, “climb on dude”! When we began the long descent I wouldn’t see him again until the finish.

What I learned about my mountain biking skills so far is that I can climb fairly well but my descending is even better. I am fast and fearless when it comes to going down hill. I had received good advice that I should loosen my grip on the handlebars and allow the front end with the shock absorb the terrain. This proved to be great advice and I was using it to my advantage. I bombed those descents like nobody’s business. Only braking when I felt like I was on the precipice of disaster. (mind you I do actually drive a desk for a living so I am making this sound more dramatic than it really is) None the less when I got to the bottom all the people near me on the climb where now gone. I pressed on looking for a wheel to follow.

The rest of my race went like this. I would go strong by myself glancing over my shoulder every now and again to see who was around me to work with. I wanted to form a group and draft off of someone. The road was flat and fast now. It made no sense to work alone. Since nobody was behind me I thought it would be best to look ahead. I would ride a hard steady effort until I found a group of riders. I would make the catch and sit on a wheel for a while. Then when the moment was right I would get off the front and bridge up to another group. I was feeling super strong and confident! These opportunities to leap frog up to another group usually came on certain strategic places on the course. Either a fast descent or on a climb. Before long I could sense the finish line approaching.

We finally exited the dirt road section and came back out on to the pavement. I knew that meant the race would end soon. We started to climb up a hill I rode past this guy with an Adirondack Velo Club jersey on. He told me the course takes us down the descent and into the single track and we are done. I cruised down the hill as fast as I could go and started on the dirt road towards the single track. i passed one rider that looked to be in my age group. The single track was nasty mud. It looked like they had just cut the trail for the race. It was mostly green grass that had been rolled over scattered with a few deep patches of mud. This is where my roadie experience didn’t help me to much. I was a little out of my element and was just hoping that I didn’t crash in the mud. Every time I would come to the mud I would just peddle as hard as I could to try to blast through it. For the most part that worked. I came out of the single track and went into the finishers shoot. I came in at exactly 2 hrs 44 mins 29.12 seconds. Good enough for 3rd place in the beginner MTB Men 40-49 age class.

Tour of Battenkill Race Report 2013

Posted on

To be successful at Battenkill requires three things. Superior fitness race experience and lady luck on your side. I realize that this is an over simplification and it may sound like I am stating the obvious but there is nothing like seeing this for ones own selfness to give you that true understanding.

149680678.wC6U247j

Photo Credit: Jennifer Harvey

I came into the 2013 version of the Tour of Battenkill in excellent condition (relative to me) I also had more race experience and some expert instruction from some of the best local racers that I have come to know.

Bike racing on the road boils down to a few simple facts. You have the main field or peleton, a break away of one or more riders and those that are “dropped” and left behind as the race goes up the road. There are so many key areas of the Battenkill course where the attacks can happen.  Much of which happens within the first 15 miles of the race. It is these key areas that will make or break your chances for success. Once you are dropped it is extremely difficult to make contact with the main field again. Especially at Battenkill where the course is so difficult.

Prior to this years race I was able to participate in a preview ride hosted by Ric at VeloWatts and Andy Ruiz both USAC cycling coaches. In Andy’s case he is an very successful local racer and Battenkill veteran. Both Ric and Andy are highly qualified coaches and I was thankful to have their expert instruction. The preview ride consisted of a classroom session where an overview of the course was presented along with a discussion about race tactics. As we reviewed the course we learned about the areas that presented the best opportunity to attack and the places to be cautious. The one big take away for me is knowing when you needed to try to get to the front of the main field. Now mind you in last years race I was struggling just to hang onto the back of the peleton. In fact I became detached so quickly that I had to suffer alone for a good part of the race. The thought of me getting to the front was just not something that I couldn’t comprehend.

The VeloWatts experience really did a lot to broaden my understanding of race tactics. I also had raced the weekend before at the Trooper Brinkerhoff race in Coxsackie, NY.  Going into the Battenkill I had the goal of making some small improvements over last years results with the specific goal of staying in the main field at least until the Juniper Swamp climb. From there I was hoping to form a small group of riders that I could work with to get to the finish line with. Above all else I was hoping that I didn’t have to suffer alone.

Racing this year was different. I felt very calm cool and collected. I had developed a relationship with a few of the riders in my field and felt like I belonged. This was a stark contrast from my experience last year. As the race started I positioned myself towards the front of the peleton and just tried to stay relaxed. Almost immediately within the first kilometer of the race somebody launched a solo attack. Thankfully the peleton did not react (everybody knew it wouldn’t stick) and the pace remained reasonable. The solo attacker was left to his own devices to burn matches as he wished.

The first key area is the Eagleville covered bridge. The common advice for the bridge is that you want to get to the front and be within the first 10 to 15 riders. The bridge is narrow, has a wooden floor which can become slick if it is wet. After the bridge there is a sharp right hand turn. If you are in the back you are in danger of getting caught in a crash. Being in the front allows you to roll through the turn with far less effort. If you are in the back you have to brake through the turn and then you have to work extra hard to try to maintain contact with the field. This wastes energy which is something that you want to avoid as much as possible.

The land mark that I used to start moving up was the Battenkill canoe/kayak rental place on route 313. The road has a slight uphill in this section so there is a small chance that you can get dropped here if you don’t accelerate. In fact this is what did me in last year.  As I started to move up the speed of the peleton picked up substantially. We made the left turn on Eagleville Rd and I was positioned pretty well. I was towards the front within the first 15 riders or so. Eagleville road is pretty narrow and a little bumpy. A full water bottle from another rider came out of it’s cage and skidded across the road in front of me. Phew….first disaster avoided.

The next key segment is Roberson Rd also the first dirt section of the course. While not very technical the road narrows and the peleton tends to get stretched out here. Again good idea to try to stay towards the front. I came through this stretch with the bunch and without any issues. The first major test of the entire race is coming next.

Perry Hill Rd is the first steep climb. It’s on pavement but it’s a tough one. At the base of the climb I moved up and gave it an effort of a lifetime just to stay in touch with the field. The aforementioned suicide attacker from the first kilometer of the race had been swept up at Perry Hill. The guys at the front of the race hit full gas as they went up and over and started the descent. I  crested the climb and pedaled as hard as I could just to stay close. This effort hurt so much that I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest. Mission accomplished my first major goal had been met

At the bottom of the descent of Perry Hill is the extremely sharp left hand turn onto Juniper Swamp road. Another major dirt section and another major climb. That left hand turn is also a great place to attack. And attack they did. At this point I was still trying to recover from the Perry Hill climb so my heart rate was elevated and I was sucking wind. I had to break pretty hard to make the turn and avoid the heavy gravel. After the turn the road turns to dirt and begins to climb. This is where the wheels started to come off for me. Everybody was attacking and I was working hard to try to hang on. Much to my dismay the beastly climb of Juniper Swamp was about to begin in earnest and I was getting shelled out the back. Made the right turn and stated the steep climb.

Image

The carnage on Juniper Swamp Road

Photo Credit: Jennifer Harvey

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I love this picture because it tells so much of what was happening at that very moment right there on Juniper Swamp road. Utter chaos ensued as the race begins to be blown apart. What you are looking at is the damage being done to whats left of the main field. Of course the picture looks like a flat road but trust me it’s not. This is one steep section! The rider in the orange and white in the back ground behind the cars was hunched over his bike about to throw up at the base of the climb when I passed him. As you can see he is having to zig zag back and forth just to keep his momentum. The rider on the left side of the picture gave up and started walking. The rider standing in the black and orange is at the very steepest incline. Looking at me in the red all the way to the right of the picture I look calm and relaxed.  The rider in front of me in the red vest is a local rider that I know and have mad respect for. This guy is a very strong rider so seeing him in front of me was a boost for my confidence. Sadly after the climb peaked that was the last I would see of him. Juniper Swamp also has a fairly long dirt road descent. You have to be fearless and willing to let your brakes go. While I did my best to bomb the descent things began to slip away. I would now have to look for riders to form a group with to get to the finish line.

In the aftermath of Juniper Swamp I began looking around to see who I could work with. I guy came up behind me who had survived a crash on the last descent. I asked him if he would work with me. He said yes but  I couldn’t hold his wheel. I was solo through Rich road and found my way on to the next paved section of route 64. This is a great place to eat and drink which I did. I looked behind me and a group of two riders came up. They asked if I wanted to jump on and I was happy to oblige. I quickly recognized one of the riders as our solo attacker from the first kilometer of the race. He was a big guy and a strong powerful rider. A great person to draft behind. Our group of three was solid.

149709181.d1nNAQLT

Survival Companions!

Photo Credit: Jennifer Harvey

At this point of the race I knew that I didn’t have any other goal within reach other than to simply finish the race and not finish it alone. I asked my two new companions if they where interested in working to get to the end and they readily agreed. We worked together rotating turns at the front with perfect harmony. As we approached Joe Bean I asked one of the guys if he was a good climber. He replied, “not really” so off I went. I had no desire to drop my companions but I wanted to give Joe Bean a solid effort so I pushed the pace a bit and quickly found myself off the front. I decided to ease off the gas a bit and wait to regroup. I was feeling good but I wasn’t going to do anything foolish.

As we approached the base of the very challenging dirt climb on Mountain Road we were now at mile 40 and my group was still working together and still intact. We came across a guy from NJ   who looked like he was on his death bed. We invited him to jump on and he did his best to hold our wheels. After a little yo-yoing off the back we now had a fourth. This guy was so appreciative that we helped him he would do anything to work with us. We now where approaching the base of Meeting House Road.

On Meeting House I was now playing the role of coach. I was telling these guys just to relax and try not to blow ourselves up. If we could get over this climb only Stage Road remained. Up the paved side and down the steep descent. In front of me was that short steep pitch that can break the heart of any rider. It is not uncommon to see people walking this stretch. Not me, not this time I wasn’t going to let that happen for anything. As we came over the pitch the group of four riders remained intact. As we made the turn on Meeting House to begin the paved descent I saw a familiar face in Kevin Crossman, a local endurance athlete and coach, we exchanged pleasantries and he gave me a few words of encouragement that really lifted my spirits. It’s amazing how seeing a familiar face and hearing a few words of encouragement can really motivate you. I was ready for Stage Road and I was ready to be done with this race.

Stage Road is the last final dirt road climb and it’s a real bitch. The combination of the climbs length the sketchy surface and tired legs makes it a suitable final test of ones will. I was still feeling good but not great. I knew at this point I was going to finish so I may as well go for a Strava PR. I turned up the pressure on my companions. I still wasn’t thinking that I could drop them. I honestly remained committed to working together all the way to the end. As I looked back to see if I had done any damage I realized that we were down to three riders again. The casualty wasn’t the zombie like figure we found on Mountain Road instead it was one of my original surviving companions. We were about to descend to South Union St and the final few kilometers. I wasn’t going to slow down now.

On the run in to the finish we picked up more riders. They came up from behind us and said they were in another field. Technically they aren’t supposed to work with us but most people that fall off the back do it anyway. We had a group of five now and we where hammering to the finish. I had so much more strength then I had last year but I could feel my legs starting to give out. After a few rotations through the pace line a small gap formed between me and the four other riders. I was alone.

The final turn was in front of me and so was the final 500 meters. My sprint finish was about to begin. The only problem is that I was sprinting against myself. My two remaining companions had finished just 14 seconds ahead of me. My official time was 3 hrs 55 mins and 14 seconds. Sub 4 hours! Last year I finished at 4 hours 8 mins. A full 3 minutes after the prior group on the road in front of me.

Small improvements is what I was after and that is exactly what I got. Although I have lots of room for improvement I was very satisfied with my performance this year. It was so much more enjoyable to have a group to work with as opposed to suffering alone. Next year maybe I’ll shoot for a podium!

Plants Giving

It’s going on almost a full year of following a strict vegan diet. As we approached the holidays I wondered how I would do having a Thanksgiving meal with family without the traditional bird. Luckily for me Mrs. Greenfoodie, my partner in all things including my vegan diet adventure had it all planned out for us. Our plan for the holidays was to go down to my in-laws house in NJ for the big day. Mrs. G-Foodie was going to make a few of our dishes before we left the house the day before. Our main course was this recipe from No Meat Athlete. She also made some mashed potatoes and cauliflower, which is basically her mashed potatoes and celeriac recipe except with cauliflower instead of celeriac.  She also made Dr. Weil’s eggplant-walnut spread to have as an appetizer. So off we went to visit with a cooler full of dishes and several growlers full of craft beer.

My mother-in-law is a fabulous cook in fact we have enjoyed many holiday meals at their house. Would I miss her cooking by sticking to only the dishes that we had brought with us? As it turned out my mother and sister-in-law were so very supportive of our desire to avoid animal products. We had vegan versions of squash, sweet potato and apple bake, apple pie, poppy seed strudel and a green bean and walnut stir fry. So we were not limited to the three dishes we took along after all. My sister-in-law was also kind enough to make her Pennsylvania Dutch style cream corn using soy milk instead of dairy. It was delicious! You know what? I didn’t miss having turkey at all. In fact, there wasn’t a single thing I was lacking. The down side is that I found out that it is still very possible to overeat vegan diet or not.

I am very thankful for many things in my life. My family, friends,  my health and my love for the bicycle. There has been many times when I have said out loud how one of the single best decisions I have made was to switch to a plant based diet. I have never been leaner and fitter in my whole life. For that I am very thankful!

Welcome to The Broccoli Cog

As I try to find my voice as a blogger I find that I am wanting to have my own identify on the web. This blog will still be about cycling, endurance sports, life in general and most of all my adventures as a new vegan athlete. When I picked the name I discovered that someone else already was using the URL veganvelo.com. He is also a vegan cyclist (obviously) who I have been following on Twitter.

Blogging is hard work. In fact it’s a lot like work. I guess that’s why I haven’t been doing it as much as I thought I would!

So with that I introduce the world to my new blog “The Broccoli Cog”. All things bikes and vegans.

A rekindled affection for mountain biking

It has been well over a decade since I actively participated in the sport of mountain biking. I was in my 20′s during the boom years of mountain biking and purchased a Giant Iguana in 1994 from a now defunct bike shop in Saratoga called “The Bike Shop”

Yes I still have this bike. Now it primarily resides in the depths of my basement but it will soon be resurrected and put into service as my cyclocross bike when I attempt to do my first ‘cross race this fall. Emphasis on the word fall in the literal sense.

This bike was so bad ass it even had the Bad Boys sticker on it!

Fast forward to today and I picked up this really sweet Cannondale Flash 29er. Since picked up my new bike I have immersed myself back into the mountain bike culture and the riding that the area has to offer. Now mind you I am still a roadie and heart and always will be. This shows when I hit the trails dressed in my full kit and shaved legs. I must look like a total noob to some of these guys but I don’t really care. I don’t know what else to ride in. Baggy shorts get tangled up  and not wearing a cycling jersey leaves me without pockets so a bike jersey with bibs is what it will be.

I joined a local mountain bike club SMBA based out of Saratoga Springs, NY. The trails back there range anywhere from long carriage trails to single track to rock gardens. I prefer to go fast and get a good aerobic workout so I prefer the carriage trails and power lines. I feel like I can fly on this bike. The 29er rides over everything and the Lefty front fork is fantastic. Overall the bike is pretty light and handles quite well. There really is not much to love about it.

What I don’t like about mountain biking in the really difficult technical terrain. I also hate all the bugs! Every time I go back there and find myself going slow or stopping to navigate difficult sections of terrain I get swarmed by bugs! I would much rather keep on moving fast so no bugs have a chance to catch up with me. I am either going to have to get better at rock gardens or avoid them altogether.

While I was in Wilmington New York near Whiteface Mountain I discovered some sweet flowing single track know as the Hardy Road Trails. Here are a few pics of a few of the flat sections.

and this one!

I found out that I really love the fast single track where I can rip around as fast as I can go. I also love climbing and descending but the technical rocks and roots……not a big fan. I feel that I am a little too timid being clipped in to my pedals. Not willing to unclip though. I just need to gain a little confidence first.

Probably the coolest thing about mountain biking for me is the ability to ride my bike with my wife, Mrs Green Foodie and my youngest son. Precious moments for sure.

Tupper Lake Tinman Race Report

Posted on

I did it! I finished my very first 70.3!! What an amazing experience in every way. This was the 30th anniversary of the Tinman so I picked a good year to do the event. I must say there were many times when I thought that I may not make it to the starting line but I did indeed start AND finished the race.

Unfortunately this is the only finish line photo I have taken before the race.

Pre Race – For my first 70.3 the goal to me was very clear. To finish with a smile on my face and without injury. With that in mind, my race strategy was centered solely around this goal. I wasn’t too concerned about my time although I did have an idea of what I thought I could do. My very specific focus was how well I paced the bike so I could save enough for the run and how I paced my nutrion intake.

For the bike my plan was to use my power meter to set the pace. (warning this paragraph for bike geeks only.  Feel free to skip if you could give a crap about power numbers) I took what I learned from reading “Racing and Training with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen and Dr. Andrew Coogan and geared my bike leg exclusively to hitting a certain wattage goal. With Garmin’s recent firmware update to the Edge 500 I now have the ability to monitor three important numbers. They are Normalized Power, Training Stress Score (TSS) and Intensity Factor. Normalized Power by definition is an estimate of the power that you could have sustained for the same physiological “cost” if your power had been perfectly constant instead of variable. Because riding a bike on varying terrain causes your watts to fluctuate up or down the NP is a good way to track it for pacing. TSS is a number that represents how hard you worked taking into account duration and intensity of the workout. Intensity Factor is a ratio of the Normalized Power to Functional Threshold Power.

Armed with my FTP number developed through testing, My TSS goal of 140 based on advise given in the Coogan book I had my RIT educated son help me do the math to come up with the intensity factor of .678 which would allow me to hit my goal of 140.  The Edge 500 now displays those three numbers so I set the screen up to display those and focused on that the whole ride.

The Swim -

Setting up the marker buoys.

The 1.2 mile swim was a reverse horseshoe shape course in Raquette Pond. Before the start of the race I knew sighting would be difficult on the way in because I would be looking directly in the sun. I had worn some tinted goggles that would help with that. I wasn’t nervous about the swim at all. I knew that I could swim that distance because I had practiced it so many times in open water. I am not a strong swimmer so I positioned myself where I felt that I could stay out of trouble and not be run over or stuck behind a log jam. The swim started and I was off. There was a lot of contact for the first 100 meters. More so because I was stuck behind slower swimmers. Don’t you hate it when you make a poor choice as to where to position yourself? There was a guy in front of me who must have been doing the breast stroke because all I could see where these feet doing a big frog kick. I finally got around this guy only to bump into someone else. This was by far the most contact I had with other swimmers in a triathlon. I wasn’t panicked at all by this it was annoying more than anything else. I just wanted people out of my way and clean water to swim in. This didn’t happen until I hit the first turn buoy. When I made the turn it started to get hard to see where I was going. In fact I could hardly see at all because of the sun. I just tried to look for other swimmers to make sure I was on track. When I made it to the far turn buoy just before heading back to shore it go even harder to sight. The sun was now completely in my eyes and I had now prayer of seeing. We were to far off shore to see the beach so I had to once again try to see other swimmers around me. I finally was able to actually follow some feet at this point and did that for a good 300 meters. Then again, I encountered more frog kicks in my face so it was time to get around that person. I started to veer off course to the left and a kayaker was kind enough to yell at me to get back over. I did so and finally came in contact with the yellow buoys marking the straight line back to the beach. I knew I was back on track so I tried to pick up the pace. Finally I started to see the bottom which is a tell tale indicator that the beach is near. Not being able to see where I was going was the most difficult part of the swim. Not much I could have done differently so I was ok with how it turned out. I was out of the water in 45 minutes and 11 seconds. Looked up and saw my wife gave her the thumbs up and jogged to transition.

T1- I wasn’t in a very big hurry in transition. I figured I had a long way to go so I wasn’t going to kill myself trying to set a new PR in transition. I was more concerned with making sure I had all of my nutrition that I was going to take in on the bike. My nutrition consisted of Larabars, Cliff Z-Bars, Cliff Shot Bloks and Cliff Shot Gels. In my water bottles I had six ounces of OJ and the rest water. I also added 1 1/2 tabs of Nuun for the added electrolyte. My goal was to take on roughly 300 to 400 calories per hour.

The Bike -

Pro treatment in transition. Cool to have my name on my designated bike rack.

Set out on the bike and immediately had my Garmin screen set to show my Normalized Power, my TSS and Intensity Factor. I wasn’t concerned with speed, cadence or time. My plan was to focus on those power numbers and take on my calories at regular intervals.

The bike leg at Tupper Lake is nothing crazy hard. It’s just an out and back with rolling hills. If you ask me it’s kind of boring. The first hill exiting town is the biggest climb of the day. I used the gears on my bike to keep my pedal stroke even as possible. Instead of attacking the hills I would shift into my small chainring and spin up. Anything else would have had me exceeding my normalized power goal. The sun was strong and so was the wind. In fact the headwind was very strong for the entire portion of the “out”. This is where having a power meter really helps. Not having a tri bike puts me at a disadvantage because I am pretty tall on my road bike. As a result the wind was really pelting me causing me to put a lot of effort into moving forward. No matter how hard I had to work to move the bike forward I just monitored my watts on the power meter and shifted into smaller gears to maintain it. Of course this caused me to slow down but I wasn’t focused on my speed. It was all about how hard I was working. Saving energy for that run was my main concern.

As I approached the turn around I could see one of my tri club friends sitting under a tree. He said a few encouraging words to me and I slowed to ask him what was wrong. He replied that he was done. I wasn’t sure what happened but I knew that it wasn’t good. I later learned that he had crashed as he was taking a hand up water bottle. He lost control of his bike and broke his collar bone. His season was done and so was his plan on competing in his first Ironman at Lake Placid this year. I felt so bad for him. Kind of put a dark cloud on the race after that. He had plenty of people helping him so I decided to keep going. I knew I had to put that out of my mind for now and go about my business of finishing the bike leg. So I reluctantly continued on without stopping to talk more with him.

Every time I passed someone on the out portion of the bike I joked that the wind was going to change directions and we weren’t going to get that tailwind on the way back. Luckily that wasn’t the case and we did indeed have a tailwind. I made the most of that and felt like my speed was improving even though my effort remained the same. Again, the power meter was my only compass and I continued to focus on that target wattage. I felt really good on the bike mainly because I kept my effort in check. I took on my calories as planned and just executed my race goal perfectly. Pulled into town and looked at my numbers. My NP was 162, my TSS was 141 and my IF was .676. My average speed turned out to be only 16.1 for a total time of 3 hrs 27 mins. Not super fast but I felt like I had plenty of legs left for the run.

T2 – So happy to be off the bike. Riding in wet tri shorts for 56 miles is not the best thing for your back side. Like T1 I wasn’t in a big hurry. I grabbed a drink, fired up my Garmin watch, put on my running shoes, grabbed my Clif Shots and headed out on the run.

The Run -

This is where I had the most reservations. I had never ran a 1/2 marathon before in fact the furthest that I had ever run in my whole life was 9 miles. Not only that I had suffered a plantar fasciitis injury last fall that kept me from running entirely for six months. I didn’t resume running consistently  until April of this year. My total run training mileage prior to Tinman was only about 125 miles. Not sure what most people do but I think this was a little light.

Even though I was confident I could go the distance I really was concerned about re-injuring my foot. So my plan was to go at an easy pace and walk the aid stations. I did this exactly as planned.

I started out feeling a little sluggish on the run. It was now the hottest part of the day and I just didn’t know how this was going to go. I chatted with as many people as I could around me as this would be the best way I knew to pass the time. I met a woman from NJ who had done Ironman Arizona, a women from Boston who had done multiple Ironman’s and a woman from Syracuse who was a regular 70.3 competitor. The people you meet is one of the coolest parts of triathlon in my view. There are so many nice people who participate in this sport. So many times I have encountered positive people who I am just drawn to. I love this part just as much as I do the training and racing.

The run was slow and steady. I just kept plodding along between a 10:00 and 11:00 minute mile. Walking the aid stations and taking on water and nutrition. It got to be pretty difficult to stomach some of gels but I knew I had to keep on fueling my body to make it to the end. There was never a question of if I was going to make it. It was more of a fear of the unknown. Would I hit a wall at some point? Would I have some kind of heat stroke? Would I bonk?? As it turned out, none of those things happened. I just kept plugging along with slow steady progress. My new friend Kris from Syracuse was running my pace from about mile 8 on to the finish. She would stop and walk and I would keep going and vice versa. At one point I was on a walk break and she came up behind me and said, “c’mon Tim, let’s Git Er Done”. With that I ran in the last 1.5 miles at my fastest pace of the day.

I entered the municipal park and could see the finish. I saw my family including the dog waiting for me. I ran over to give them all a high five and they tried to hand me his leash. I though better about taking my dog with me to the finish because I thought it might be against the rules or something. I wanted to finish my first 70.3 alone. This was both my struggle and my victory. Not a time for stunts. Hit the line at 6 hours 46 minutes and 25 seconds. Words can’t describe how good it felt to finish my first 70.3.

Post Race -

My body was craving salt more than anything else. They had some pretzel sticks at the finish line and I couldn’t get enough of them. Took on some more water and walked around a bit. I felt really pretty good all things considered. My legs were a little sore but nothing terrible. Maybe I was a little too conservative on the bike. Somehow it doesn’t matter. I don’t think I would change a thing. Next time I will have a bench mark based on my own experience. I will try to improve on this result moving forward. What a fantastic race! The community came out and supported the athletes in full force. I would highly recommend this race to anyone thinking of doing it.

Tour of the Dragons Race Report

Posted on

The Shires of Vermont is one of my favorite places to ride a bike. My family and I frequently camp in our RV in Dorset, Vermont. After Battenkill I was looking for another bike race to do and this one was the second stop of the Stan’s No Tubes Great American Cycling Series.I entered this race kinda on a whim. After Battenkill I was hooked. I love bike racing even though I’m really not that great at it. Good or not, I’m not going to let my results deter me. Only place to go is up.

Bike racing is so different than racing a Triathlon. In bike racing you have to be confident riding in a group and you also need to be accustomed to the constant change in speeds. One minute you are riding in a pack going 35 mph and the next y0u are slowed down on a steep climb. The next m0ment you have to go full gas to bridge the gap as you chase the lead group. At least in theory anyway. I don’t bridge any gaps. I get gapped and try to do damage control until the finish. Triathlon is different in the sense that racing the bike leg is all about how well you pace yourself to save enough energy for the run. This especially important as you get into the half and full Ironman distance. A triathlon is more steady state where a bike race you have it pegged full gas. I’m pretty sure bike racing is a little bit more thrilling than a triathlon bike leg.

The race was on a Sunday morning with an 8:45 start time. This was cool. In fact, much more to my liking than the 1:45 start time at Battenkill. I woke up early and had a good breakfast of Rip’s big bowl of cereal from The Engine 2 diet book. I made up my homemade energy drink with Coconut water just like I did for Battenkill. At this race I wouldn’t have the support crew that I had at Battenkill. This time I had to stash a cooler on the road side at the designated feed zone.

Once I arrived on site I had to register and purchase my one day USA cycling license. This went off without a hitch. I did a few warm up laps in the park where the start of the race was located. The race got started in short order and we began to line up at the start for the roll out. After some instructions about not bombing the descents because we might die if we crashed if was time to get started. This was designated as a “citizens race” which had the feel of the local townies who decided to give this bike racing thing a try. The real racers had done the official Tour of the Dragons stage race consisting of a Friday time trial, a downtown crit as the penultimate stage capped off by the 62 mile road race on Sunday. I wasn’t part of the official race so we the “citizens” were the last stage to go for the morning before the Cat 1 elite racers started at 11:00 AM. Even though we were starting well in advance of the elites I couldn’t help but have this vision of really sucking so bad at bike racing that I would be swept up by the pro field that started 2 hours and 15 minutes after me. Luckily that didn’t even come close to becoming a reality.

After our roll out we lined up for the official start behind our pace car. I was in the front of the field so I turned around to see the riders behind me. As I turned around I was very suprised to find only 12 other riders in addition to myself. This was going to be way different than racing at Battenkill. Mind you I don’t want to leave the impression that this was like the Cutters from the classic cycling movie from my youth Breaking Away. Where a bunch of townies lined up in cut off jeans and t-shirts. This was a group of fit looking “kitted out” racers. This was going to be fun!

As the race got started I got on the front of the group and chatted with some of the other riders. Most seemed to be Vermonters who where familiar with the climbing that is synonymous with road racing in the Green Mountain State.  The first thing I heard was how brutal this course was and how the climbs where insanely difficult. How was I supposed to take this news? I looked at the course elevation profile and it looked pretty tough but I was in the best shape of my life and had already done a lot of climbing up to this point. I wasn’t at all worried.

The first 12 miles of the race were on good roads and it was relatively flat. I made a concerted effort to stay at the front of the pack and did so without moving any further than 5th wheel back once the group formed. We were flying! This was different than my first bike race. This time I was staying with the group without being put into difficulty at all. I even took a pull at the front of the group for a good 3 miles before peeling off. We were all working in a perfect concert with the strongest of the 5 of us taking turns at the front. I was absolutely in love with the thrill of the pace that we were keeping!

As we were approaching the town of Pawlet at the 12 mile mark the road started to climb a bit before a sweeping left hand turn on the descent. At that moment in time a group of riders started moving towards the front of the pack. I was still positioned towards the front but the movement of the 5 or 6 riders off to my left hand side was placing me in a bad position. As we made the descent into town we crossed a small narrow bridge and all of the sudden, Bang! we were hit with the first climb of the day. This was a dirt road climb called the Col de Rupert. A 4.8 Km climb with an average gradient of 6% maxing out at 15%. Not terribly difficult but enough to create a split in my small field of 13 riders. This is where my inexperience came into play. The stronger riders were smart enough to begin moving up to position themselves at the front as the climb began. When the strong riders got on the lower slopes of the climb they immediately turned up the pressure and started riding hard. I completely missed the move and found myself detached and spinning my way up the slopes in the lowest gear I had. I was riding my within myself but that was not going to be good enough to hang with the pack. In fact the group splintered at this point and there where riders up and down the slope. I got on the wheel of the only remaining rider from my group and pushed up the climb. The dirt road was a non issue. It was firmly packed and dry. Not a major concern at all. When I got to the top I had already lost the wheel of my climbing partner. The pack of strong riders were all out of sight by now too. I was once again on my own…..

After making the descent we made a left hand turn and started to work our way up what I consider one of the steepest pitches I had ever climbed. It was the Col de Gallop. The technical guide had this listed at a distance of 4 Km with a 6% average w/15% max. To me it looked a lot steeper than the dirt road climb we just did. This was tough because it came immediately following the steep dirt road climb. As I started the approach of the main portion of climb I could see that I was going to catch another rider. This excited me. For the first time I was going to actually catch someone rather than being caught myself. I looked behind me and there was nobody. The rider ahead was like a dangled carrot. I turned up the gas to make the catch. As I got closer I could see that the rider was barely able to turn the pedals over. It was guy older than me. A Cat. 5 rider who had been dropped and barely hanging on. He made a comment about my gearing being right for the aforementioned climb and I got about my business of passing him.

This climb was absolutely brutal. Extremely steep and pretty darn long. I tried to do much of it while staying seated but there were quite a few times where I had to get up out of the saddle to keep making steady progress. Up ahead I could see another rider. This time it was a rider from my race field! I wanted to catch this guy so bad! Pretty soon we were at the top and catching him wasn’t going to happen. The descent was extremely fast and fairly straight. The road was in perfect condition so I felt like I could let it all hang out and descended like a stone. As much as I tried I failed to catch him.

After the descent the race entered a beautiful residential area with old homes  and fairly flat roads. I was on the gas at this point trying to go as hard as I could desperate to catch back onto someone, anyone. At this point in the race I was starting to field this weird feeling of loneliness. Going into the race I didn’t have any  big expectations for where I would finish. I just wanted to finish period. The course had major climbing, close to 5000 feet, I just wanted to get some more experience and use it as a training opportunity for the Tupper Lake Tinman 70.3 race that I have planned for June.

Being dropped or isolated in a bike race really sucks. Even though I was motoring along at my own pace and feeling good. I really wish I was with at least one other person or better yet the pack that I had started out with. I would have loved to work together with other people having the benefit of drafting off of one another all the way to the finish. This course would not allow for that unless you were a good climber. I thought I was fit enough to  climb with the other riders but I failed to make the selection when the pressure was put on by the stronger riders at the first major climb. In hindsight, I should have been less conservative and tried to go with them. This sounds like an excuse but if I would have made a little harder effort I may have been able to stay with them. Since I had never ridden the course before I was afraid to go too hard and sap all my energy before I had gotten to the finish. I was intimidated by the elevation profile.

The third climb of the day was about to start and I was feeling good. I was using this race to also work on my nutrition plan for my Half Ironman. My strategy was to take in roughly 300 calories per hour. This consisted of Clif Z-bars, Clif Shot Blocks and my coconut water concoction. I like Clif products because they consist of whole food organic ingredients, nothing I can’t pronounce in other words. Best of all they are Vegan friendly with no animal products. The kids Z-bars are a revelation on the bike. Although the Z-bars are marketed towards kids I find them ideal because they are about 120 calories each and diminutive in size which means I can get them down quickly. Much better than trying to choke down a chalky full size Clif Bar. The Clif Shot Blocks that I was using were also a home run. The particular ones that I had were 2x the sodium which is supposed to be good for replacing electrolytes that are sweated away. I had done some testing prior to the race to determine my sweat rate. I had determined through testing that I need to consume roughly 21-24 ounces of fluid per hour. This is about one regular sized water bottle. Since I did have a sougneir this time one of the other racers wives was kind enough to take my cooler of extra bottles over to the feed zone. There would be no hand ups this time. Instead I had to pull over at my roadside cooler like and exchange the bottles myself.

The third climb was easy enough. The official numbers are 2.4 Km in distance with an average gradient of 4% maxing out at 11%. I had done this climb before when I was vacationing in the area. I got up and over and was feeling really good. After passing through the feed zone the race dove down into the valley until you hit the base of climb number four. This was the Col de Mistral. A 2 Km distance with 7% average maxing out at 12%. I felt great at this point and decided to give it my all on the climb. I could see another rider off in the distance in front of me. Once again I would have my dangled carrot. I dropped down into the small chain ring and went hard to try to make the catch. This was another rider from my race field. I made the catch and didn’t say a word to the other rider. I just kept on going. We were both suffering at this point. I tried to think of something to say but the words didn’t come out. At least I would pass one person and not finish DFL (dead last) Passing this person gave me wings. I gave it full gas and tried to inflict some damage. I was thinking to myself how good my fitness was at this point in the season, after all this was only May and I felt like it was in the best cycling shape ever. Training with a power meter really made all the difference this winter.

I made it to the top and hung a right to start the descent on route 30/11 which is the main road down in Manchester. I was flying now! Going full gas on the descent trying to catch another rider. But alas, there was not another to be seen. My short lived thrill of picking off the one suffering rider on the climb had come to an end. Down in the valley now following the Battenkill River. Man this is a fantastic place to ride a bike. My only wish is that I had caught back on with another group. With that I got in to the best TT position I could which is what I call pseudo aero on my bike. I hammered along still feeling good and taking on nutrition. Clif shot blocks with extra salt are a nice kick. I definitely will work these into my nutrition strategy for Tinman.

Left turn coming up in this small residential area. A guy in his front lawn made sure that I knew to make the turn. I gave him a friendly Vermont wave and started to get on the ascent of the 5th and final climb of the day. As I rode a little further I came upon a bunch of senior citizens watching the race on their front lawn. I yelled out to them asking how far behind I was. One of them replied that I was only a few minutes back. Huh? Could it be that I was going to make another catch?? Turned right now and bam! Smacked in the face with a steep section of tarmac. Quickly shift to the small ring and got up out of the saddle to muscle up a extremely steep but short section of the climb. This was the Col De North 1.6 Km long with average gradient of 8% maxing out at 13%. One more climb and I would be home. I was still feeling really good at this point in the race. I still had my climbing legs and was able to spin a high cadence up the climb. A dirt road section appeared at the top as I made a slight descent. Once the road returned to pavement I entered into the town of East Arlington. As I was beginning to smell the finish line I made a shallow climb and through a covered bridge. Quintessential Vermont!

Made a right on Route 7A. One of the most popular thoroughfares in Vermont. Only 4 1/2 miles to go now and my legs were burning and it was hot! Baking in the sun with cars whizzing buy is not my idea of fun. Nothing I could do but to keep hammering away on the pedals. Still pedaling circles though and feeling good. I was about to reach the Equinox Hotel where the race was set to finish. Cops and volunteers on the course controlling traffic so making the left on the finishing road is an easy task.

Hammering now as I could see the finish banner at the end of uphill sprint. I always see this type of finish on TV and the commentators talk about how an uphill sprint may have an impact on the outcome of the race for the pure sprinters. Now I know why. An uphill finish is tough!! Looked over my shoulder and there was nobody in sight. I know I wasn’t DFL but it was pretty damn close. Heard the race announcer yammering on about something. I knew it wasn’t me he was talking about but I once again had that fleeting moment that I might get a “nice job” or “way to go” but I got nothing. I crossed the finish line in 3 hours 46 mins good enough for 12th place. (out of 13)

Once in the finishers corral I was talking to some of the guys in my race who I chatted with before I was dropped. AKA, the strong riders. I asked how long they had been in and the guy said, “I don’t know, maybe 20 minutes”? I replied with something amateurish like, “If only I could have stayed with you guys over that first climb I may have been able to stay with the group”. With that I hopped on my bike and road back to the start area for the trek back to NY.

http://app.strava.com/runs/8005643/embed/0805d14da960db3bd59f7384ff191dc42027c28f

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 154 other followers