Friday, August 27, 2010

The end of my season

If you've been around me enough you know there's a saying I always say each year. I'll admit it's a rather grim prediction but one that I know has a good possibility of happening. I say each year I will have one major injury a year. For the amount of time I spend on the bike, I've always been aware that injuries are bound to happen.

So lat night while practicing for cyclocross with Micheal Bloomhuff, my luck caught up with. We had just gotten done practice dismounts and had moved onto cornering practice. We had set up a figure 8 course and I was going around and hit a hole as I was entering a turn and my front wheel hit a hole and the next thing I knew I was on the ground and I immediately knew my collarbone was broken. Micheal asked if I was ok and I simply said "I broke my collarbone." Micheal tended to me and then went to get hi car as I laid in the middle of the field, clutching my left arm, helmet still on and my bike still at my feet. We slowly get me into the car and as soon as I sit down, my version goes blurry and I'm about to pass out. One thing I'm good at is dealing with pain and being aware enough to communicate with whoever is helping what they need to do to get me through. I had Micheal blast to cool me down as I was overheating.

Luckily, Cleveland Clinic had a satellite hospital right around the corner. We got there and I was wheeled in in a wheelchair. We had to sit in the waiting room for what seemed like forever but was probably only five minutes. I finally got wheeled into a room and was given a tetnus shot and a morphine shot, the morphine shot made it bearable. Now, I sat there alone waiting for the x-ray of a bone that was clearly broken in half. My head dropped and I closed my eyes and these two sentences ran through my head over and over: "I broke my collarbone. My season is over." I sat there having those lines repeated over and over again, on the verge of tears. All that hard work and just these past two weeks if feeling on the bike and getting my form back, and all the races I was ready for and in those moments I knew my season was over.

Well after the x-ray, which involved me vomiting, i got slinged up and my prescription. I was sent home. Now I'm o go to the doctor to see if i need surgery. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

West Lake Crit: Continuing to Improve.

Tonight's race at Westlake was kinda fucked up. I generally like Westlake because I usually fell real safe there. I've really not had a big problem with erratic riders and just plain bad riding. Well, it was a little different tonight. I don't know if it was placing, I was further back in the field than normal as there were plenty of people willing to pull, or if there were more dangerous riders. Needless to say, there were numerous instances where if I could be scared on a bike I would have been.

Ok, I guess I must clarify that last statement. I've been scared on a bike numerous times. Usually for a split second, and then I realize I somehow made it through, or I'm "picking up the pieces." But I found in crit racing your best option is not to be scared. If you are scared and you are thinking about being scared, your not paying attention to whats around you, and that's when bad things happen.

So back to my story. After a lackluster season so far, I decided last week to turn that around. So I did a killer week with a ton of intensity and as much riding as I could put in. This week it seemed to work as I came into the race with my legs feeling good. So I talked to my pseudo teammate Weston and we decide that he's going to lead me out for the early money prime so I can collect a prize for my work for him last week. The lap comes up and I jump on his back wheel, and to his credit, he does a perfect leadout. He pulls me up through the field as the lap goes through and as we pull onto the front stretch we are on the sharp end of the peleton. He does an amazing pull all the way to 200 meters out where I'm fully protected and no one comes around us. In hindsight, I had perfect position and we were controlling the sprint that I could have sat on his back wheel for a tiny bit longer and I could have easily won the sprint. If I would have gone at 175 or 150 out I would have had it. So I sprint from 200 out and I'm doing well, but I start to fade and I see a wheel creeping up the inside. I have pinched in between me and the curb so I hold my line making him ride in the gutter hoping it will spook him and he'll let up for a second. To my dismay he gets around me and I come in a close second.

Now the really sketchy stuff happens, a couple laps later while taking the first turn, I'm on the outside with another rider on the inside. He's riding a Scattante, which doesn't make him dangerous, and they are good bikes, as I have one and recently traded up the other one. But add on the fact of a flapping jersey and baggies instead of bibs and I should have known this cyclist is not up to the official rules of the euro cyclist, and should be feared. Midway through the turn, for reasons unknown, said riders decides to go straight, and turns directly into me. We bump shoulder and I hear the ping, ping, ping of his pedals hitting the spokes of my front wheel. I should have gone down, but I didn't. Which I can only say is through the skills I learned through mtb and cross. I yell at him, nothing profane, but he needs to know he did something wrong and to let everyone else know to stay away and be wary. The next lap I spend looking down at my wheel fully expecting a broken spoke or at minimum it to be out of true. But to their credit my Forte Apollo's show no damage at all!

The turn in question (but on a different lap)

I have more stories about sketchiness but they all come down to two things and two things most crits riders have come across, people not holding their lines and random braking. So I'll leave it at that.

Me coming down for the final sprint

Finally, the final sprint. I'm feeling good and I've been learning a lot from my mistakes at other races, so I'm feeling confident for the sprint. The final two laps are spent trying to conserve energy, and move up positions. I'm still feeling good and in the top ten positions coming into the second half of the last lap. Jumping wheels to find the best position, while dodging riders as they drop back after they've done their pull. All is going well until about 400 meters out I get boxed in between two riders. I push my way through and try and do my best. I ended up finishing 6th or 7th and I was catching up to everyone at the end. I topped out at 35mph and easily could have placed better if I had better position. Well, there's alway next week and I'm sure I'll learn from my mistakes.
The final outcome, 3rd-6th, only a bikes off of 3rd!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Summer Report

It is said that the difference between winning and coming in second is mental toughness. To tell you the truth this summer I have severely lacked that toughness. My head was just not in the right frame. Some people can show up to races and no matter what's going on in their life they can leave it all behind and get the job done. I, on the other hand, am completely opposite, for me to do well everything must be in place so I can focus on the job at hand. If things are going well, it's fucking brilliant but if something is unresolved, I'm rubbish. Last summer was incredible for me, I had nothing on my plate and everything was taking care of. In the time I wasn't working I could be on the bike and training. This year has been a different story, time off work has been a constant struggle making sure things get done. My mileage has been halved to what it was last year.

Add on to the fact of a nasty break up and my mental state has been horrible this summer and it's been very hard to be motivated to do what I needed to do to be the best I could. The usual training rides that would be all out and pushing the pace last year, have turned into contemplative sojourns to figure out what is going on in my life. It's hard to bury yourself, when you already feel buried.

This isn't to say there haven't been sparks of brilliance and improvements. There have been improvements but it never seems to translate into race finishes. It's not that I doubt I can do well or that I am not physically able to, because I know I can, but it just hasn't happened this year. My sprinting in road cycling has drastically improved more than I could ever planned. When I first started cycling, I always fancied myself a sprinter. I clearly don't have the build of a traditional sprinter, i.e. muscular. I have the frame of a pure blood climber. I'm lean, which if you know me is an understatement, and have less to carry up the hill. I'm good at climbing but not epic long climbs, I'm best suited for short punchy climbs, classic type climbs, short but very steep. Last year, in my second year, I started playing around with sprints. I didn't really have anyone really to sprint against. I would sprint with my rides but hardly ever against anyone. I would normally hit 28mph and on the really good days I could hit 30. Not good at all.

It all changed last year near the end of the season. Sara and I were riding with the Summit Freewheelers. We had gone off the back deciding whether to ride to the car or ride back with them. I pulled at the front for a good 5 miles as fast as I could, pulling back Needless to say, when I got back to the bunch the sprint came and I missed it because I didn't have anything left. It was near the end of the season so I didn't get back to contest that sprint again. So I stewed on the near miss for all winter.

Fast forward to the beginning to this year. I'm back with the Summit Freewheelers and in the pack a we come up to the sprint. All I can think is this is my chance to get redemption for myself. I somehow am put in the perfect position second place coming into the town sign sprint. At this point instincts kicked in. I knew when I had to go, and I waited, waiting to pounce, still waiting. Is no one going to go? I catch a wheel coming on my left and that's all I need, I jump on his wheel for a brief second and then I opened up my sprint. I look back just as I crossed the line to see where my competition was and he was a good bike length back. I had finally won my first sprint! I sat up, and congratulated the person I had out-jumped in the sprint. I had hit 32mph which I had only hit once before in a sprint, and it sparked something in me to get better and better.

I soon had started a regular sprint interval workout. In no time at all, I had upped my top speed from 30mph consistently and 32 in my best form, to 34mph consistently and 35mph as my top speed. With more work and a new bike I can now hit 35mph consistently and hitting a 37mph top speed on a pretty regular basis. So this is all to say that this summer hasn't been a total waste. I'll eventually get there and it may take me till next year to get that elusive win I've been striving for all summer. But then again I have the rest of the NEO Powerseries, a couple more Westkae Crits, Rubber City Meltdown and the NEOCX cyclocross series. Who knows what may happen the rest of the season and finally my mind is starting to get in the right place and things should be turning around.