Month: February 2017

In a previous post, I celebrated getting an opportunity to work with a coach.  For years I have been reading various sources and incorporating workouts and ideas into my training, but it was not very well-planned and executed.  My training was haphazard and random, and while I had some pretty good results in mountain bike races in the mid-90s, those were probably more the result of years in the saddle, some native skill and youthful exuberance. 

I’m 58 now and have enough time and enough sense to know that to make the transition to road racing with the Masters Men, I would need to up my training game.  So I contacted an old bike shop colleague to chat about a coach recommendation, and was delighted to have my friend, a long time cycling professional who has worked with many Pro-Tour and elite cyclists, offer to manage my training plan. 

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12 February 2017

Havasu Havoc – MBAA #3

There were 22 at the start and after the top five riders in the series standings were called up to the line, I slotted in behind one of them, hoping to get a good start.  The course did not become singletrack for several hundred yards and by the time we made the hard U-turn onto the narrow, rock lined, twisting trail, there were 6 of us that had already gapped the rest of the field.  I rode a few wheels to the singletrack “junior loop” trying to save a little gas for later.  I did not feel particularly good – or bad – so I had little clue how I might fare the day after my less than enthusiastic pre-ride.  I was a little concerned about the ten mile “long loop” that I had not checked out and I could not remember much about the course from 2014, except the steep descent marked with signs that offered two paths to the bottom.  In 2014, riders were treated to a bit of course marker’s humor that suggested one of these two routes was “Sane”, the other, steeper, rockier trail, “Insane.” There was also a very steep climb out of a wash that was a hike-a-bike section for all but the very strongest riders. That’s all I remember from my third place finish in 2014.
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10 February 2017 – MBAA Havasu Havoc

I’m not sure why I’m here. 

I registered for this mountain bike race a week or so ago, when I saw there were only 11 riders registered.  There were 22 this morning when I checked before I left Tempe for the 200 mile drive to the race venue, Sara Park, a few miles from Lake Havasu City.  I never really felt much excitement about this race. 

Well, that’s not true.  When I installed a new set of Reynolds Carbon “BlackLabel” wheels, an XTR cassette, and a new, quiet, sweet-shifting Shimano chain, I was pretty happy.  I’m a bit of a tech geek and love light, high-end components.  Moreover, I sincerely enjoy working on things mechanical, especially when my work presages improvements.  I had somewhat regretted not getting the Giant Anthem Team bike when I bought my 2014, 650b ride; the difference in price between the “Team” bike and mine was small, when one considers the cost to switch to carbon wheels like those on the “Team” bike.  But at the time I was being “practical” trying to adhere to the budget constraints of a full-time high school English teacher in Arizona (50th in teacher pay, nationwide), so I bought the Anthem Advanced, a notch below the Team machine. 

But even after a shakedown ride and the transient joy of fitting these upgrades, I found little to get excited about, as I packed, drove and ruminated about this race.  Still, I soldiered on.

That lack of thrill was multiplied after only a few thousand yards of recon-riding of the poorly marked, hyper-rocky “junior loop.”  Our race, destined to start at 10:39am the next morning, consisted of this 3 mile lap and a 10 mile “long loop.”  The shorter of the two is nearly all singletrack, once it leaves the rodeo grounds parking area, so as a long-time mountain biker, I should have loved this course.  I didn’t.

While I have not loved getting beaten on a bike, like I have in the last three road races, I think I’m beginning to drift away from the “joys” of getting beaten (up) by the bike, as is so much a part of the rocky rides in Arizona. 

They aren’t called the Rocky Mountains for nothin’.

I finished the 3 mile loop and though I rode slowly, I felt my legs – heard my legs suggest “let’s not do the whole ten mile second loop recon.”  Coupled with the frustrations of the as yet poorly marked course, my legs easily won the argument – my “know-better-than-not-to pre-ride-the-course” mind put up no fight.  There was no body-mind split – my mind and body were one – unanimous. I had spoken with three other riders on recon and none of them were sure where the blue (junior) loop and the black (long) loop merged and I just didn’t look forward to pre-riding one of the many trails that branched off, only to find out that the one I checked out, would not be part of the race course. I rode about a mile of the long loop and when the trail happened to veer close to the paved road entrance to the rodeo grounds, I turned back to my car.

If this race was closer to home, I might have loaded my bike and returned then and there to the solace of home sweet home.  But I had paid for the race, the hotel, the gas, the carbon wheelset, the XTR cassette and I decided to stay.  If only to get my money’s worth.

Typing up this handwritten reconstruction of my recon ride several days after the time of those misgivings, I’m still not entirely sure what informs my reticence to ride, my reluctance to race. I’m still not sure why the event did not have the usual impact on me, did not thrill or excite me, did not provide those telltale intoxicating feelings of anticipation and anxiety that are so much a part of racing. 

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Sun Devil Criterium – February 5, 2017

I made the decision to race the Sun Devil Criterium, held on Arizona State University’s campus late in the week.  That I am an alumnus of ASU’s arch rival, the University of Arizona, did not weigh in my decision – much. But I did think about racing incognito in case one of my Wildcat peers saw me.

I had trained hard Monday through Wednesday, in anticipation of a trip to Newport Beach to visit my dear mother.  Flying with bikes is an expensive pain, so I thought two days off, if I could get in a recovery spin on a stationary bike at a gym, would not be too damaging to my training.  My legs were toast after a day of climbing South Mountain twice and two more days of longish rides on my mountain bike due to the drivetrain problems on my road bike.   And there was a race last Sunday that I would rather forget about, so I had four hard days in a row.   I was waiting for a new chain to arrive and riding the mountain bike, though it is carbon and pretty light, was an eye opening and leg “sore-ing” experience. 

A Quick Aside About the Road Bike And The Broken Chain Saga Of The Santa Catalina Omnium

  The chain, a SRAM PC-991, broke at the PowerLink.  And it was my fault.  Part of the reason that I had been using the SRAM chain is that it can be easily removed for cleaning.  I tend to keep my driveline very clean.  What I did not know is that the PowerLink is not meant to be reused.  I had removed that chain at least twice so that link was indeed the weak one.  So all my rather vocal “never again” about SRAM chains made me feel a little sheepish. 

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The Santa Catalina Road Race – January 29, 2017

My first honest to goodness road race.  Not a time trial, not a criterium – a road race.

It was windy and 41 degrees in Oracle, AZ at the start line.  Later, along the course I would see little patches of snow resting in the shadows of roadside cacti.  Many riders wore jackets or vests obscuring their numbers and no one was without tights, full-finger gloves and other defenses against the cold.  Unlike the young guns, we older gents don’t need to display our disdain for the cold by showing up at the starting line in short sleeves and blue skin. My new Garneau short sleeve base layer, Craft long sleeve base layer, tights and semi-thermal arm warmers kept me “warm” but, no matter, it was not long into this race before I wasn’t thinking about the temperature or my comfort.  My mind and body were full of the feelings of being in a pack, in a road race – for the very first time.

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