Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Different "Winter Wonderland"

I'd be lying if I said I don't feel guilty for not blogging in over 3 months, but what better way to start off a new year of hopefully more consistent blogging than by posting on the last day of 2011.

The last 3 months for me have been all over the place. I started out by making the 26 hr drive to Texas shortly after my 19th birthday in October. I can't say I enjoyed the road trip as its hard to find positives to 26 hours alone in a car with only your thoughts and a battery dead iPod, as well as a 6 hour "sleep" in the drivers seat of a small Ford hatchback. I can say, however, that the misery of getting there was totally worth it, because the weather, views, and roads that greeted me were awesome.

I lived and trained in San Antonio and Austin with a good friend of mine up until Thanksgiving when I drove down to meet my parents for the holiday in St. Petersburg, Florida. Unfortunately, I didn't get much training in while I was there, the lack of quiet roads without traffic lights didn't help. But it worked out well as I used the time there as a rest and recovery period, which as it turned out was very needed.

I came back to TX with a burning motivation and immediately got onto the bike again. I hammered out a couple 20+ hour weeks with a few long trail runs in the mornings and some solid power tests, was in the gym every night at 8 for core work and stretching, and was having my legs dug into a few times a week by an active release therapist to ease the strain of the road.

During those 2-3 weeks before Christmas I was also lucky enough to connect with some guys that I really look up to for a couple rides. If you know me, you are probably aware of my goals in this sport, the biggest of which being the Trek Livestrong U23 development team. So, you can imagine how stoked I was to ride with some of the guys on that team that are based out of Austin. I worked out the plan with Gavin Mannion, and met up with the rest of the guys, Lawson Craddock, Nate Brown, their coach, as well as 2009 British national road race champion, Kristian House, at a small coffee shop in downtown Austin.

The ride was awesome. A solid 5 and a half hours in TX country, on some beautiful roads, with some really down to earth and easy-to-talk-to guys. It was nice to be able to ride with guys that are my age, and that are as good as they are, to hear what they had to say about their experiences with cycling and their backgrounds with the sport. When I fly back to TX next week I'll hopefully be hooking back up with Gavin to try to plan a few more of those "blog-worthy" rides.

This has been my life for the last 3 months, waking up every morning with a bit of an ache in my quads, long nights in the gym, deep tissue massage recovery, hundreds of emails back and forth with my coach, thousands of miles of driving, healthy "sale-only" grocery shopping, and memories that I'm probably never going to forget. I'm loving every moment, and to me thats whats most important.


So, until the 5th I'll be here in VA with family, riding every once in a while, but mostly just relaxing and enjoying the time off. Then I'll be back in TX to continue some serious training for a few weeks.

Now, the plan was to head down to the island of Nassau in late January, to participate in what was going to be my first race of the season, the Tour of the Bahamas, with a few teammates on XO-Comm-Harley-Davidson. However, because of not enough riders able to go, and unfortunate illness of our team leader for that race, its just not going to happen.

Really it came down to, either I can waste the money doing a 3 day race in the Bahamas, or I can head back up to VA at the same time of that race, to participate in the EPIC Haymarket Winter League "Race" Series. First of all this won't cost me anything, and speaking from experience, this series is probably the hardest "race" type simulation you can do at this time of the year. There's even a leader's jersey this year which is awesome!

So, that's the plan. I'll be headed back up to VA in late January to continue training here for a month, or two...or three. Honestly, I don't know how long I'll stay, it'll all really depend on how well the training is going and how my body is reacting to the climate change. At the end of the day, thats really what I have to look at. "Is going here, or doing this, or eating that, really the best thing for my training and maintaining my goals?"

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Training in Bryce

For the last week I've been in an awesome getaway house near Bryce Resort with family for a long belated reunion. Its good to see everyone back together, especially in a place like this.

The house sits at around 2,000 ft. elevation surrounded by endless hills and beautiful gravel roads, its an ideal place for training, both on and off the bike. However, this being my cross-training portion of the year, I've been using the extra time here to run.

I'll usually get up around 6 or 7 when the air is still moist and its in the low 50's which, in my opinion, is pretty much perfect running weather. The miles haven't been tumbling quite as easily as I wanted them to, but I guess I'm still kinda used to getting back from 40 or 80 or 100 mile days on the bike rather than 4 or 6 miles from running.  Its funny how big of a difference there is in that, yet I feel so much more hurt after a 6 mile run than I do after a 60 mile ride.

The gravel roads and soft dirt trails have been keeping me away from possible injuries, especially shin splints, which is a major danger when transitioning from cycling to pounding up and down roads when running.

I've also had to take stretching a lot more serious now due to the fact that most mornings I wake up not being able to take my first few steps without holding onto the wall. And forget about walking down stairs, its impossible. But, each day the mornings get less and less painful, and the endurance gets more and more enhanced. So, although its a long process, I at least know that its paying off.

Today I'll be heading back home to get unpacked, clean, and re-packed again to catch a 6am flight to San Antonio tomorrow morning for my good friend Robbie Wade's wedding. It'll also be a good chance for me to kind of scope the place out, seeing as how I'll be living there and all over the rest of TX for a good 3 or 4 months.

It's going to be nice to get some more running in down there as well, although I'm not quite sure that I'm in the best shape yet to run with a professional triathlete. In fact, I'm positive I'm not in that kind of shape . . . Go easy on me Robbie.

: )

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Good Morning

The last 2 weeks have been filled with...well, pretty much nothing. I've been resting up as much as possible. Relaxing, playing video games, sleeping in past noon, enjoying time with family, things that most teenagers do.

Today, however, was different. The alarm went off at 7am and I awoke to a dewy, 63 degree morning, got in my car and headed over to Roosevelt Island. After 7 months of cycling, I've been looking forward to getting back to my roots, running. Its that time of year to do some cross-training, and I plan on taking full advantage.

The trails were littered with puddles of water that I didn't hesitate to step in. It was wet and muddy out, but I didn't care at all how dirty I got. I was too caught up in the feeling I get from running, that rare sense of solitude. It was really cool to experience that again.

I finished up, hurting and dirty. I could really feel the affect that the lack of exercise over the last 2 weeks has had on my body. But it was a good hurt, like accomplishing a century ride kinda hurt, or beating someone out in a sprint on a training ride kinda hurt.

Regardless of how good it felt mentally though, the need for stretch and recovery is constant. So I headed home, and jumped in the hot tub for a half hour to warm myself up and let the muscles loosen up before the next part of the process.

Finally, I finished up with a nice 20 minutes of easy stretching, accompanied by 'The Stick.' It was really nice to be active again, to get out there on the trails and get dirty. It was a 'Good Morning' and I'm smiling at the thought that this is going to be my life for the next year, and hopefully beyond that.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

2011 Season Wrap-Up

Words can't really describe the experiences I've had, the people I've met, and the things I've accomplished this season. Its been an epic blur of memories these last 7 months. I kicked off the season in North Carolina on February 12 with the Wolfpack Classic. A third place finish their had me excited and eager for a lot more races. However, I don't think I ever really realized how many "a lot more" was.

After 51 races started, 32 races finished, 3 crashes, 4,500+ miles, 8 wins, 4 seconds, 3 thirds, and 7 other top 10 finishes, I can finally say I'm done, and this is my reflection on it all.

Having never raced before, the learning process was long and tedious. It was really hard for me to accept the fact that the strongest guy simply does not always win, thats the plain truth of the sport. I made plenty of mistakes and bad choices along the way but I also did a lot of things right and proved a lot of people wrong. The crashing, and the losing, and the failing really, really hurt but the feeling you get from winning and reaching your goals makes it all so worth it.

Photo Credit: Tim Kelley

I went into the season as a Cat5 with the goal of coming out as a Cat2. I've never been more happy to say that I reached my goal. I doubt I'll ever forget that experience, seeing that email from USA Cycling in my inbox, opening it, seeing the word "approved" and then just sitting there in disbelief. It was a really awesome feeling, to reflect on everything I've been through these last 7 months and knowing that it was all worth it, that it all paid off.

It hasn't been easy, in any sense of the word. Its been the hardest thing I've ever put my body through. The amount of mental torture you have to deal with in this sport is just insane, but that part of it is what makes me love it so much. Theres no one to blame but yourself if you don't succeed. The more you can suffer the better you are than the next guy, I love that.

To wrap this up, here are a few of my favorite pictures from the season. Enjoy.

Photo Credit: Joe Dombrowski

Photo Credit: Anthony Skorochod

Photo Credit: Bruce Fleming AKA "Pops"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Short Update

The last few weeks have been all over the place. Picking up bits and pieces here and there of necessary items I'll need for the new direction my life is going in.

I've managed to pick up a coach as well. He's a really knowledgable guy, with some extremely strong and successful riders on his resume. I've got huge goals planned for next year, and I think he's exactly the kind of coach I need to get me there.

The next 6 months will be filled with insanely tough training and mental preparation for big time races that I have scheduled for next year. I'll be training in TX, Boulder, and possibly CA over the Winter-Spring. It'll be a good experience for me, and an amazing opportunity for long training.

As for now, I've got the Cat3 competition marked for the Page Valley RR and Crit this weekend. I'm looking forward to it, and I can hopefully grab that 1 upgrade point that I need for my Cat2.

The Sunday Crit will be my 50th race this season, and for once the season is actually starting to feel like its coming to an end.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Toona de Tour

I woke up at 4 in the morning on Saturday to the excruciating sound of my alarm. It was time to start the 3 and a half hour drive up to Altoona, PA for the big ol' Toona race that I always hear people talking about.

The drive down was beautiful. I was accompanied nearly the whole time by an almost surreal fog that covered the mountainous landscape of Southern PA. I hate to admit the carelessness of my driving but I couldn't resist the urge to snap a quick picture here and there of what laid right next to the road I was on.

When I got there I realized just how serious this race really was as I looked on at the line up for the Men's Pro1 Race. Bissel, Hincapie Development, Chemstar, Pure Black, and of course the legendary Tim Rugg. The field was absolutely stacked!

After I watched the Pro's ride off the line for the 90+ mile RR like it was the start of a crit, I got to talkin' with a few Cat3 and Cat2 rider's about the course. This is around the time when I realized just how serious my race was going to be. Something I really don't think my body was quite ready for after the week of training I had just had.

On Thursday I met up with Joe Dombrowski to do what I thought was going to be a long but slow and easy ride. 6 hours later in the 92 Degree Sun, with 9,000+ feet of climbing and 105 miles in my legs I was pretty much toast. That ride put me at 250 miles since my Mt. Weather ride on Monday.

With only one day to recover from the long week's riding, and hearing about the 70 miles of mega climbing that I was about to do in Stage 1, my goal went from a top ten finish to just not getting dropped.

The first climb up Blueknob Mountain shattered the field as expected. Guys dropped off left and right and a few got away. By the time I made it to the top there were 5 guys away and 11 of us in a chase. The second climb shattered our chase group, leaving 5 guys behind with 6 of us remaining in what I guess you could call was the remnants of the peloton. It stayed that way until we got to the line which I rolled past for 9th overall.

The Sunday Crit was fast. After finding out that it was too short to be used for upgrade points, my goals for the race changed. My main goal would be not to crash but I also wanted to put myself in a break or two, and also practice bridging up to a break just for the experience. The race went as I had anticipated.

I made sure to put myself up front on the final laps so as to reduce my chances of a possible crash. Unfortunately, there was one but thankfully I was not at all involved. Stupidly, I led the sprint out and rolled in for 7th but I didn't care because overall, I had fun, stayed upright, and got some good training in. I was also able to move myself up to 8th Overall GC with that finish, so I was definitely happy with that.

Although it was one of the toughest I've had yet, it was an awesome weekend of racing. However, oddly enough, my body felt 100% fresh yesterday and my legs were already giving me the green light to get back on the bike today. Being the energetic youngster that I am, I took them up on the challenge. Oh to be young ay? :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Whoa! Thats A Rule?

Well, Tour of Washington County was...interesting, to say the least. My weekend started off with the Kick-Off Crit on Friday in Downtown Hagerstown, MD. I didn't know what to expect going into it. After just 3 days of riding prior to this race, my legs were no where near race-ready. So, at the start I was really just hoping to not get dropped and get some good time mixed in with the pack.

I did a lot better than I expected. A break of 3 got away and pulled off a deserving win while I pulled out of the field sprint in 5th for an 8th overall. It was a good start for sure. I made some money and got some of the racing-edge mentality back.

The highlight of the weekend was Stage 1, the RR. The pace was tough at times, but every time we would climb I felt completely on top of my game. I was feeling really good with a mile to go, and luckily I had a great teammate, Patrick, who was feeling just as good. He let me know that he was going to be leading me out for the sprint up the final climb and he did, perfectly.

I had to apologize to him in the end though, because I didn't come out on top as I should have. The wrong choice of gear for the hill-sprint finish left me with too big of gear to push and I got passed at the very end by .2 seconds. After 16 days of being off the bike though, I think 2nd is a pretty good way to start the racing up again.

The surprise of the weekend came on Sunday, 30 minutes before the final stage Criterium, when I was told that I needed to go see the officials before I could race. I got to the officials tent and found out that I had been DQ'd from the entire stage race. The reason was cited as "coaching a rider across the line" in the TT.

What ended up happening was I got a flat halfway through my TT effort. After a 15 minute wait for the SRAM wheel car, the Cat4's had begun their TT's. On my way back I pulled up along side a young GamJams rider who looked like he was hurting bad. I started to yell at him, motivating him up every hill and into a bigger gear on the flats and downhill sections. I was helping him out and I was attempting to be kind.

After crossing the line he shook my hand and thanked me greatly for the extra mental push I gave him. However, the officials were not as happy, and they dealt with it accordingly. Its unfortunate I wasn't able to race that Crit. My form was really coming around and I was looking for a strong finish for that final stage. Lesson learned though, another eventful learning experience to put in the books.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

As Washington County Looms

Its been 18 days since I met with the pavement at the Tour of Somerville. 14 of those days were spent off the bike. That leaves the last 2 days training on a new bike with unfamiliar speedplay, unfamiliar shifting and the weakest feeling body I've ever had.

So, that gives me a solid 3 days of training (including today), after two full weeks of nothing, to get prepped for Tour of Washington County. Not the most ideal preparation for 3 straight days of racing, but I'll have to deal with it.

My goals for the weekend consist of racking up enough points for my Cat2 upgrade and getting back into the GamJams Cat3 Cup Leader's Jersey for the stage races on Saturday and Sunday. I'll need a strong result in the Washington County Kick-Off Crit tomorrow to be able to wear the jersey throughout the stage race. It'll be interesting to see how my body reacts over the next few days.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pre Race: The Carbo-Load

I had to take a picture of this sandwich I had made at Subway for lunch. 12 inches of meatballs, steak, bacon and cheese. Keep in mind this was

Oh and uhh, later that day...

I'll be driving up to Baltimore tomorrow with Chuck to try and make some moves at the Bikejam before our road trip up to NJ for the Tour of Somerville on Sunday and Monday. It'll be a fun weekend, followed by an intense week of training with some serious mileage down in Unison, VA. I look forward to posting about it. Ciao.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Back On The Bike: Full Throttle

I got the staples taken out of my knee from Poolesville on Tuesday. I've been riding pretty heavily since. With a strong sprint ride out of Alexandria, VA. on Tuesday and the Greenbelt Series Race yesterday, I'm having a good week so far.

I'm feeling a lot stronger than I had expected. Its beginning to seem like having a week or two rest was likely beneficial at this point in the season.

Greenbelt yesterday didn't go the way I wanted it to, but honestly, I'm fine with that. I got a great workout in and I confirmed that I am still in the kind of shape to stick with a 1/2/3 Crit for 35 miles. I could even launch some attacks and put out some major power on 300-400m sprints. It was a huge mental boost for me here, I had no idea how this was going to pan out and how my body was going to react.

The rest of the week is falling into place now. Today will be long and tomorrow will be short and easy with some efforts to break the legs up. Then I'm all out for three days with three crits that carry some serious competition with them. Bikejam and Somerville. I'm feeling good and I'm ready.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Its Just That Kind of Sport.

I've learned a lot from cycling. I've learned to leave as little up to chance as possible. I've learned to prepare down to what kind of shoelaces I'm going to wear on the drive over to a race. I've learned to dissect and evaluate every corner, every piece of gravel, every source of energy I take with me on a ride, every angle of my bike. But until now, I hadn't learned to except the fact that much of this sport really is just left up to luck. Its just that kind of sport.

I was involved in another unfortunate incident during Maryland's prestigious Poolesville Road Race this last Saturday. An accident that left me with a jagged rock sticking painfully out of my right knee.

A hospital visit 2 hours later resulted in three staples, over 10 shots of painkiller, and a jungle of various bandages littered all over my leg. I feel pathetic talking about such a simple injury compared to one of such severity as Stage 3's Gila this year but in my eyes the cause is quite similar. Bad timing and bad luck is what I blame accidents like these on. Not a riders preparation or reaction time or skill. Its the unfortunate luck in life that everyone encounters at some point, some worse than others. Its something that cant be avoided but that should absolutely be ignored, for a happy and vibrant life really isn't possible with the constant stress of worry. Its just something that has to be dealt with as it is dished out.

I've never believed in the "art" of luck and changing someone's chances through ridiculous ritual and belief but, I do however believe in the concept and the idea of "luck." With the crash a couple weekends ago and this one recently, I've come to the realization that I am quite simply having an "unlucky" month. It sucks that things haven't exactly gone my way during these last few weeks but I can be damn thankful that they haven't gone worse. I am alive right?

So, I accept what had happened. I take the hard days of healing as they come and I deal with it. Eventually, I'll get myself back on the bike, where I belong, and begin a whole new series of experiences and lessons.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jefferson Cup

This was a much awaited race for me, as I'm sure it was for everyone else. But after last week's practice of abstinence from training I didn't know what to expect.

The whole race was a blur for me. Attack after attack went off the front as the peloton chased every one of them down. Gel after gel went by as the laps flew away. A mixture between the underestimated effect of the Sun & poor decision making by the moto officials is what ultimately ended my race.

The deceivingly hot temperature beat my body into the beginning stages of dehydration towards the latter half of the race. I sipped and conserved what was left in the only two bottles I had for the entire 60 miles but it wasn't enough. Not even close. I guess I first started to feel the dull muscle cramping from evident dehydration with about 2 laps (20mi) to go. I wrote it off and focused on the race.

Halfway through our last lap the moto officials stopped us in the middle of a moderate climb to let the Pro race fly past us. 5min later we began the climb without hesitation of speedy pace. This is when my body began to shut down, entirely. No more than a minute later my right hamstring went and I was forced to stop, yell in pain, stretch and regain composure. I climbed my way back on the bike only to be stopped 200m later by a sharp cramp in my left calf, then my quad. My body wasn't having it. It was done for the day.

I hitched a ride with a wheel car back to check-in. It was a tough experience to swallow. I'm kicking myself right now about it. "Bring more water next time." Another learning experience to throw in the bag.

Fort Ritchie Criterium

A confidence boost is always a good thing, no matter how surprising it may be.

Thats what Fort Ritchie was like for me, a surprising (but much needed) confidence boost. Moral was down after my crash at Ephrata last weekend. So a 2nd place finish to start the weekend off was exactly what I needed.

After the crash I wasn't able to walk, let alone ride my bike. This being said, training wasn't an option for me this week. For weekend races, this is killer. A meager 45min spin before the start left my mentality lacking confidence. My body was saying "no" and my mind was agreeing.

The story was the same throughout the race. Thought after thought of contemplating dropping out and calling it a day didn't make things any better. However, for some reason I kept going, never skipping a beat on moves and positioning. This is what got me to the right spot on that last sharp corner behind my "breakaway partner" Tony Abate.

It was a 200m sprint after that. I was gaining on Tony fast but didn't have enough distance to finish him off before the line. It was a surprising finish. Second. I never would have guessed, going into the race. One thing is for sure. Me and Abate deserved the 1&2 finish after last weekend. Congrats on the win Tony.

Photo Credit: John Clark & Tony Allen-Mills

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tour de Ephrata

Its really been much too long since I last posted on here. Not even a simple update. I'm ashamed.

Its been a hectic last few weeks with seemingly bad news and bad results all over the place. Its finding the high points in your misfortunes that makes you stronger though. Its been tough, but I have been able to find some gain in the losses.

Tour de Ephrata was last weekend. I have a lot of mixed emotions on how this race went down. Me and Tony Abate went big on a risky breakaway in the 54mi RR, 25mi from the finish. It was a good move that stayed away for 22mi until I dropped from lack of energy. That last 3mi was a slow spin to finish in an estimated last place.

I was on unfamiliar ground in the TT up Pain Mountain. No Aero helmet, no TT bike, no Aero bars, no skin suit, no race wheels, just my usual road setup. With this in mind, I went out there to have fun and hurt myself on some climbing. I got a solid workout in and surprisingly put myself in the GC with a 10th place ride.

The downtown crit 4 hours later is where things started to go wrong. Everything was off to a great start. No rain, clear idea of the course, good warmup, and plenty of energy. Before the first lap was through, me and Tony had gone away again. First we had 10s, then 15, then 20, then 30 and even up to 35. However, as a de ja vu of yesterday, we were sucked into the peloton with a mere 2 laps to go. On the final lap I crashed out hard after great positioning that would have set me up nicely for the sprint.

After that weekend I was left with a lot of painful road rash, a swollen right ankle, and the familiar, agonizing question of "What if?" What if me and Tony hadn't gone on those breaks together? What if I hadn't crashed? What if I had a TT setup and a better idea on how to manage that ride? Inevitably, reality finally kicked in and I realized that me and Tony had gained an enormous amount of respect from what we had done together. Any rider can sit in the back of a group with the wind up front. But it takes a lot of guts and strength to make the move(s) that we did, and for that the weekend was a success.

Photo Credit: Anthony Skorochod

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's Been Awhile . . .

These last few weeks have been busy, all over the place, to say the least. Race after race. New Jersey to Pennsylvania to West Virginia to New York and Maryland. It's all still such a blur for me. I really haven't gotten the chance to take it all in yet. It's insane how much has happened in the last 7 months for me with cycling.

I should probably recap the last few races I've had and mention my recent upgrade to the 3's. After Ronde Van Mullica I got my upgrade and went on to race my first Cat3 at Battenkill the next week. That was a good result (21st overall/243 Cat3's). I must say, hands down, that race was the hardest thing I've ever done on the bike, but I loved it.

This weekend I manned up and Reg'd for two double-ups for today and yesterday. I did the Pro 1/2/3 race yesterday at the Chantilly RGS Title Crit with some horrendous conditions. I was happy and rather surprised with the outcome here. I place a respectful 14th with the 1/2's in a tough field sprint. The intention was to do the 3 race later that day to attempt some upgrade points but the 3 race was cancelled due to severe thunder and tornado warnings.

Today's beautiful race in Columbia, MD started off with the 3/4 race. After leading my teammate Jose Nunez, out for the win, I managed a 2nd place finish and my first 4 points towards my Cat2 upgrade. I participated in the Pro 1/2/3 race an hour later as well, partially. 5 laps in and my shifting went. I stopped to fix it, which was mostly successful but there was no way I was catching back onto that group. And because this was not a crit, jumping in was not allowed. So, I had to suck it up and head back to the car. Regardless, I still managed to add another shade onto my tan line.

The next month will be filled with me hectically racing everything I can, trying to gather 25 points for my Cat2 upgrade which I need before the U23 Elite U.S. Nationals in June.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ronde Van Mullica: The "Bounce Back"

Ronde Van Mullica Road Race @ Garmin Connect

I want to talk about being able to "bounce back" in cycling or any competitive sport. This weekend was filled with many mixed feelings. On Saturday I participated in the salisbury Cat3/4 Road Race in Gap, PA. The field was crushed by constant attacks which I made myself a part of every time. The field sprint was a total crap shoot, winning this race was all about positioning. Unfortunately, this is where I faltered. I got stuck in the 40 man pack sprinting it out in the last 200 meters and there was no possible way of moving up. I had plenty of energy for that sprint and I am quite disappointed that I wasn't in a better position to let it out.

Thanks to Bike Line for holding the Salisbury Road Race this Saturday.

I'm beginning to learn that a major part of cycling is being able to "bounce back" after a disappointing finish. This weekend I had a disappointing loss in PA, but then stepped up the next day to win what I think was the hardest finish I have ever had. The same thing happened to me last weekend when I lost Black Hills and came back the next day to win in Richmond. It comes down to how well you can recover, mentally. You've got to teach yourself how to put the past out of your head and focus on the present and the future. In my opinion this is much more important than how strong or talented you are at your sport. If you can't do will not succeed.

This is an example of just how flat these roads were in Elwood, NJ.

The second race of the weekend was Ronde Van Mullica in Elwood, NJ. We woke at 5am to get breakfast and head out for the race which started at 7:55. I put yesterday behind me and focused on the 40 mile flat road race. There were 65 guys here that all wanted the win just as badly as I did. I'm 100% confident to say that this was absolutely the hardest race I have ever done, simply because of the finish. 600 meters left and we were hitting over 30mph on the flat straight towards the finish line. This wasn't even our sprint, no, that started 400 meters out. I was up front the whole time, taking a lot of wind, but it was the only thing I could do to put myself in the right position to win outside of the 60 man pack.

It was the most satisfying finish I have ever had and I couldn't be happier with the result. Oh and by the way...HELLO CAT 3!!!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Walton Park Criterium: First Cat4 Race

Walton Park Criterium @ Garmin Connect

I'm happy to say my first Cat4 race ever turned out to be a win. Better yet, I won it honorably. No drafting, no sitting back waiting for a field sprint, no feeding off other guys' work. I pulled away from the peloton only 4 laps into the 25 lap race and it turned out to be the right move to make.

I was by myself for nearly the whole race, initially gapping at about 20 seconds, then building that lead up to 45 seconds by the end of the race. It was an awesome win and I am really happy about the result. Its also nice to get my first 7 points towards catting up to 3, and snatching some extra cash.

I'd like to thank the two teammates I had in the race as well, Matt White and Patrick Nagler. They were at the front of the peloton the whole time I was away, covering attacks and making sure my lead stuck. Thanks guys! We made HAYMARKET BICYCLES proud.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The #4 Win Of The Season: R.I.R. Criterium

Richmond International Raceway Criterium @ Garmin Connect

I came into the Richmond International Raceway Criterium today wanting to redeem my self for yesterday's fatal mistake for my 3rd place finish at the Black Hills Circuit Race. As you can probably guess this was on a car racing track, a very fast sloped-turn track with a pretty bad headwind for anyone off the front. Going into the race, I knew no one was strong enough to get away here by themselves. And if more than one man went I'd be right up front to go after them. My plan for the race was to sit top 3-5 the whole time taking a couple pulls my self on the inside line and setting my own pace. My goal was to keep everyone together so that there would be a pack sprint which I was 99% sure that I could win.
The first half of the race went completely to plan until there was a crash in the middle of the pack. Well over 20 riders went down and the race was stopped for the ambulance and the broken bike parts to be picked up off the course. It took a good 10 minutes for the race to start again with a neutral lap followed by 5 remaining laps of the race to the finish line. I did the same thing I had done in the beginning of the race and stuck with my plan. With a lap to go I got out to the front and was able to position my self perfectly on the inside of the track. This was exactly where I needed to be because I was setting my own comfortable pace before the sprint, and I was covering all inside attacks plus any outside attacks that I could see very clearly.

With 500m to go, two riders, both on the same team, jumped from the outside. The one leading was pulling his teammate toward the finish, I recognized this and kept calm. I knew that they would be wasting a lot more energy than I was to cover the same amount of distance, because they attacked on the outside of the turn where there is more track to ride. I waited till the end of the turn to jump off and sprint. The sprint was much easier than I thought it was going to the time I had gotten to the line first, I was almost 30m in front of 2nd on a 200m sprint. I'm really happy with the result today and especially the fact that I didn't crash. This was my type of race and I felt in control the entire time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Disappointing Finish @ Black Hills Circuit Race

Black Hills Cat4/5 Circuit Race @ Garmin Connect

Today was the Black Hills Circuit Race. I signed up for the Cat4/5 race instead of the 5 because I wanted a bit of extra competition to try out my strength. This was a 10 lap, 15 mile race, with a 750m 10% grade climb on every lap (including the finishing sprint.) After the first lap I realized this was going to be a tough finish, not because of the hill, but because of the way my body was feeling. I felt nauseous for the entire race and it didn't help at all.

------------- Leading the pack up the climb. -- Photo By: Tim Kelley ------------

I pulled quite a few times during this race and brought the pack with me to catch a couple solo attacks. I was pretty worn out but I wanted to win. I decided to jump off the front with 600m left and try to go solo to the line. It was working as I gapped the group with about 30 or 40m of road. As I got to the base of the climb I was dead but had only 200m left. I picked entirely the wrong gear for this hill sprint finish and it cost me the race. I couldn't get enough rpm's up the hill to move my self fast enough to hold off the two riders that past me in the last 20m. It was a devastating finish and I am still angry with myself about how amateur of a mistake that was to be in the wrong gear. 3rd place isn't bad for almost an 80 man group...but its not what I wanted.

------------------------- The Sprint. -- Photo By: Tim Kelley -------------------------

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

5:30 PM Haymarket Bicycles Shop Race Ride

It took me an hour and a half of traffic and lights to drive from my house down Route 50 to make it to the Haymarket Bicycles Shop for the 5:30 Race Ride with Joe Dombrowski and a few other Haymarket guys. It was about a 15-20 man group. The ride consists of 3 tempo segments with a sprint at the end of each one. The first segment was on rollers, the second on flat ground, and the third beginning on a climb then rolling.

I won the first sprint after a lot of solo attacking/pulling out of pure luck seeing as how I had no idea where the start/finishes were for any of the sprints. The second one didn't go quite as well. Someone got off the front after a descent and I spent a minute or two catching him by myself with an attack. After I caught him the group caught on and we started to pace line for a few miles. At the very start of the sprint to finish up the 2nd Tempo segment I had done a really hard pull for about 30 seconds and was pretty hurt. As everyone started to sprint I pretty much said "screw it," sat back, and relaxed. The 3rd Tempo segment/sprint is what really made the hour and a half drive totally worth it though...

...The start of the 3rd Tempo segment and final sprint is on a nice half mile 10% grade climb. This is Joe D's kind of riding. He is a climber, and a serious threat on any hill. Not surprisingly he attacked near the beginning. He got about 10 or 15 meters on us and I watched him pull away as no one made an effort to chase. I had had enough, stood up out of the saddle, and went after him. I caught on and went by him beginning to pull and allowing him to relax and regain some energy. At the top of hill it was evident that we had pulled away from the group...considerably. The next 7 miles was filled with pain and uncomfortableness all over my body as me and Joe took 20-40 second intervals of pulling each other. We never saw the group again until the end of the ride.

After seeing the stats from the Garmin tonight I now realize why the group never even had a chance of catching us. For the entire 7 miles we were coughing up a 26-27mph average breakaway with hills included. I was well above my threshold @ about 190+ bpm for my Heart Rate and hit a max of 197. We split 2 full 5ks of just around 6 minutes flat (a little over 2 minutes per mile). The agonizing drive from DC to Haymarket was TOTALLY worth it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Update: Haymarket Bicycles Team Camp

Friday: Haymarket Team Camp Day1 @ Garmin Connect

Today was a relaxed ride to be able to have time to chat it up with the guys and get a feel for the Team House and of course figure out where each person was sleeping. I spent the night on Friday for Saturday's ride but had to be home Saturday night for school related responsibilities. Its awesome riding out in Unison, VA and its only an hours drive away. I never knew how hilly and beautiful it was out there...and the 50kph gravel descents are pretty gnarly too haha.

Saturday: Haymarket Team Camp Day2 @ Garmin Connect

Besides the infinite number of flats that the group got today, which of course lead to multiple annoying stops, the ride was quite enjoyable. We hit up one of Chuck's favorite climbs, Firey Run, a 3-4km all gravel climb with some ups and downs. We did a couple other shorter climbs on the road that were fun. I was attacking as much as Chuck and Eli would let me and showing the team why I got picked up and what I can do with my bike. Regardless of the stops to fix flats (I think there were 6?) and some problems of my own with my shifting, this really was an amazingly fun day.

Sunday: Haymarket Team Camp Day3 @ Garmin Connect

Today was the longest ride I have ever done, and it was awesome! After yesterday I realize just how much food my muscle mass body needs on long rides in order for me to not bonk...A LOT. During the 4:30 hour ride and 135km I ate 5 gels, 4 energy bars, a bag of chips, a glazed donut, a blueberry bagel with cream cheese and drank 1 bottle of gatorade, 3 bottles of water and a can of Mountain Dew. Now that really is a lot of food!

There were times on this ride where I was feeling a bonk coming up, but I always spaced out my eating and drinking well and regained energy every time I felt down. I was attacking on every single climb, every single descent, and even won the group sprint we had to the coffee shop (Sorry Steven Black...haha). This was a really fun ride and I absolutely loved the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the top of the 3 major climbs that we did. It was also really neat to finally get a close up look at Harper's Ferry. This is a day I'll remember for a long, long time.