UNC Weekend Part 2

I felt a little bit more apprehensive waking up for the sunday race than the road race saturday.  Chalk that one up to being nervous about crashing and not having done a crit since…August.  Anyway, after replicating the seal noises from the video a few times, we got our breakfast from Starbucks and rolled on down to Chapel Hill.  After our exploration the previous night, we found that this area was much nicer than College Park (not that high of a bar) and were very happy to be having a race in the area.  So, we parked, chatted with the few teams who were there at the time and rolled through a lap of the course.  It’s a fast .6 mile loop with two chicanes and a turn about 200 m from the finish.

I went back to the car to warm up and with the steam rising off my body, began to get a feel of how my legs would be that day.  There are those days that you just know you can get out there and kill everyone and I could tell that I wasn’t quite there but I was close.  There is a certain feel that you get in your legs when I know that I will be in a higher or lower placing.  I can’t feel when I will win because that’s mostly about energy conservation and positioning coming into the sprint.

After going to the S/F, running back to the car to get my sunglasses, realizing that it was locked, sprinting back to the S/F and stealing Ben’s sunglasses, I lined up behind the Chapel Hill riders.  I was only two or so rows back, so I had enough mobility when the start whistle went off but I would have liked to be farther ahead.  Taking a spot in the sat in, I got active with pulls and a couple breakaways but nothing stuck.  I can’t remember the full details because it was too short of a race to have any distinguishing moments so I’ll just put the video link under this.

After our race, the weather turned straight up gorgeous. Watching the rest of the races in 65-70 degree weather is the highlight of my winter. A winter might I add that has been uncharacteristically snowy in Maryland. After Eric’s A race, we went to five guys across the street and basked in the sun as we ate some more fantastic burgers.
The drive back was very entertaining for the last half. In Virginia, Morgan started to play with Eric’s navigation app which has some extra features on it. For example, you can tag on the road where there are cops or other obstructions. We saw a deer on the side of the road with only two legs showing so Morgan labeled it as a kangaroo on the side of the road. We then made good sport of taking pictures of cops and labeling them on the road. Getting into traffic near Fredericksburg, Ben and I began looking around on craigslist for a vehicle suitable for our team’s level of badassery. Here is a dialog I had with one of the sellers of a $2000 bus over email.
Me: Hello, I would like to make an offer of $60 on your 1997 bus
Seller: 60…dollars
Me: Now that we have a price nailed down, would you like dolla dolla bills or quarters?
Seller: What are u talkin about
Me: Great, I look forward to making our transaction tomorrow. Where would you like to meet?
Seller: What deal????
Seller: give me your number than
Me: I thought we settled on 60
Seller: What are I.talkin about.
Me: I don’t speak japanese but do we have a deal?
And then they stopped responding. Guess they were hoping to get a little bit more money for the bus.

So for this weekend we will be headed to Stevens Institute of Technology for their Duck Country weekend. In addition, I have upgraded to Collegiate B category and will be competing at that level to earn points for my Category 3 upgrade. I’m super excited to get up to higher levels so I’m on the journey to Category 1.

UNC Weekend Part 1

The drive to Wilmington is really freaking long.  There is a liberating factor to be that far away from school, from classes and all the problems that those things present.  At one point we opened the sunroof to check on Eric’s bike and we could actually see stars.  I had completely forgotten what that was like while living near a gigantic city like Washington D.C. where you look up and just see the light pollution from the city.

The universe is simply amazing

This week we had four of us in the car: Eric, Morgan, Ben and Myself.  Friday night’s dinner this week was Five Guys which was the most satisfying meal that I had in quite a while.  I got a cheeseburger and split a regular fries with Ben.  The burgers at our school diner are fine and all but nothing will ever compare to five guys.  In the course of our nearly seven hour drive I managed to get only half of my Intro to Materials Engineering homework done because I got to a problem that I had no idea how to solve and gave up.  Real honors collegey of me, I know.  I ended up reading Wheelmen for pretty much the rest of the way and learning about how corrupt a sport can get.  Then I ran into the name of the former chairman of the WADA, Dick Pound and had a chuckle and showed the other guys in the car.  Ben decided to look up if that was his actual name and I advised him to look up “Dick Pound WADA” as opposed to simply “Dick Pound” to avoid some potentially explicit search results.  Turns out that his full name is Richard William Duncan “Dick” Pound, which we found to be quite humorous as well.

Richard William Duncan “Dick” Pound Wonder how old he was when he picked that nickname

Finally arriving at our hotel in WIlmington, we were met with balmy temperatures relative to the frigid College Park.  After checking in and rolling around to our room, we noticed that the pool was still filled with water.  Apparently around 4am, Eric was awoken to the sound of several people loudly jumping into the pool.  Thankfully, I’m out once I’m out and was not alerted to that presence.  It’s still crazy because the water couldn’t have been above 50 degrees considering the weather.  Then again, anything can be warm if you’re drunk.

Race morning again and my anxiety level is not nearly as high as last week.  This time I fill two bottles with water and mix in Cerasport which, in addition to being great for hangovers, is excellent at preventing cramps.  And also which I need more of now.  After downing my first clif bar on the day, we packed the car and drove the half hour to Watha, NC which is apparently the chicken farm capital of the world.

Sign on the course

I am very much used to MABRA races where the numbers are either used for one race or collected at the end.  So imagine my surprise when I am informed that we actually use the collegiate numbers throughout the season. But I got to talk to some of the ETSU guys while waiting in line so it was cool to see teams from another conference come to one of our races.  That could potentially be us next week with a potential quest up to Stevens but I digress.  I had time for a quick warmup which was probably unnecessary considering the length and profile of the course.

If I had to pick a course to define pancake flat, this would be it.  This year’s Watha Roubaix was a 12 mile loop with maybe 30 feet of elevation gain.  It was supposed to be a 20 mile loop with a 5 mile dirt section but that had apparently turned into a marsh from the storms that came through.  I was kinda excited that we might have an actual separation inducing stretch so it sucks that they had to cut it out but I guess you do what you have to do to keep it safe.

Actual image of course profile

After the starting whistle, we rolled at neutral tempo for basically a whole 2 miles not sure whether we were actually neutral or not.  There were about 2 billion Duke riders in front of me so I wasn’t worried and had a lovely conversation with App State.  Finally, Navy got sick of it and jumped up the left side.  I followed and we resumed to an incredibly leisurely pace.  A couple breakwaways tried to form up but nothing really got going until about 3/4 of the way into the lap when a rider from UNC and one from NCSU got a gap.  I decided that it looked promising with two relatively big guys up the road.  I covered the gap just as NCState backed off and the UNC rider (who I later learned is named Brian) and I got moving.  We pulled our advantage out to 45 seconds at the S/F but apparently someone yelled at the field that we were a minute ahead and that got them going.  We managed to hold the gap between 20-30 seconds for a while but were caught.  The account from the field that I got from Zeb (App State rider with a radical beard) was that Navy and Duke were leapfrogging each other and slowing down once they got to the front.  App State took over for a bit and 2 of their riders tried to bridge to us but didn’t quite have the horsepower.  So, we got caught at almost the exact same place we had been sprung.

Absolutely nothing happened until 1k to go in the race.  Navy was on the front going 17 MPH for a couple miles and got yelled at quite a bit for that.  With two right turns at the end, I knew I would need to be at the inside to get a good placing.  Unfortunately I got pushed a bit to the outside on the final corner and got stuck behind a Duke rider in the last corner.  I passed a couple guys and ended up 5th.  Not bad compared to last time.

Strava Profile

I’ll have the video here once I get the massive files compressed and uploaded.

Eric went off for his A race a little after we finished and I just hung around and debated the merits of various food establishments that we should go to after leaving the race with Ben. After getting on the highway and seeing the various food signs, we decided on subway and after 15 minutes there, Virginia Tech rolled up.  I don’t remember how but somehow the subject of using milk as a race drink came up.  Morgan said that he thinks he could down a half gallon of milk and retain those contents in his stomach during a criterium.  One of the Virginia Tech guys behind us backed me up, saying there was no way you wouldn’t throw up during   I offered to take him up on a bet over the subject for tomorrow but he denied me and I prefer not to take that risk myself.

We ended up going into downtown Chapel Hill for dinner and we were completely blown away at how nice an actual college town can be.  A lot of the stores around College Park are very seedy and there’s not very much diversity of food.  In Chapel Hill, they had Italian, Vietnamese, Indian and a myriad of other types of restaurants in addition to several nice clothing stores.  WE ended up choosing the Mellow Mushroom Pizzeria for dinner and what a fantastic choice that was.  I would say it was among the best pizza I have ever had, no joke.

Pizza as good as it looks in the commercials

So yeah, now we’re just chilling in our hotel room and I’m super excited for the crit tomorrow, my first two race weekend since the Tour de Millersburg which is awesome.

Spokes Out

Oh and Ben just showed us this video which we have been laughing at intermittently for the past hour and you absolutely need to watch.  Enjoy.

William and Mary Tidewater Classic

“Chipotle is a good night before the race food right?”

That was my only thought pulling into the greatest burrito chain on earth after a non-stop 4 hour drive from Washington D.C. to Williamsburg.  Eric, my teammate, and I thought momentarily about moving on to see if there were other options for dinner but were quickly re-focused by the allure of those magic 8 letters.  As we consumed our food, we discussed the prospects of an actually competitive Tour de France.  We both agree that NIbali is on form and seems ready to challenge for a victory of the only grand tour he hasn’t won.  I’m also looking at Michal Kwiatkowski as a dark horse after his recent victory at the Volta ao Algarve but it’s uncertain how much support he’ll receive with Cavendish on the same team.

After some awesome burritos, we got checked into our hotel which Ben, another of our teammates booked for super cheap somehow.  After our other three teammates arrived, we found that it was large enough for all of us to sleep in a bed plus have all of our bikes in the room. Not bad for a sixty dollar room.  So, we entertained ourselves with olympic downhill skiing and the latest video from nationsnumber1beast which features footage from a freaking drone.  If you haven’t seen the video or checked out his channel, I highly recommend it.  Setting our alarms for 6 in the morning, we retired to our own tranquil minds for the night.

RACE MORNING!!!  Waking up for a race is one of my favorite feelings.  I love the growing levels of adrenaline coursing through my system and awakening me.  We popped over to Dunkin Donuts for our day’s take of food and where I would make my first mistake.  I ordered a small coffee, which I promptly burnt my tongue on, and a bagel with cream cheese.  Now this was a mistake because it not only didn’t provide me with enough nutrition or electrolytes for the day but because I thought it would.  My remaining nutrition leading up the race was a Clif bar and a couple bottles of water, none of which provided me the electrolytes I would unknowingly be needing.

So we got to the venue, a state park, at around 7:15 for Daniel’s D race going off at sometime around 8 (they had three races going off ten minutes behind each other every couple hours).  Everyone checks in, we get Daniel set up and ready to go, chat with the AmU riders parked next to us and send him off.  Since the loop didn’t actually go by the parking lot, I took advantage of the 2 hour gap to take a lap on the course, a 10 mile affair.  As I rolled out of the parking lot, I remembered that I hadn’t engaged in any physical activity since Tuesday.  The course seemed pretty easy with even the vaunted KOA climb being nothing but a slight bump in the road.

I finished my loop just in time to see Daniel finish just after the pack came in.  So, we headed down to the cars and I ate that Clif bar I mentioned and set up my trainer for some 30 second hard efforts.  The pre-race pee is a ritual I typically only partake in once but I ended up going a couple times for this race.  I rolled over to the start and ended up chatting with the VCU team and my new friend Trevor, who ended up pulling a total bro move for me later on.

So, after the open race for that time slot rolled, we moved up to the start and the promoter started talking to us about the rules, but whom I could not hear in the slightest over the din of college kids chatting about bikes or whatever.  I turned on my contour at this point and started it rolling, which also turned out to be a mistake.  For some reason the data from some previous rides had not been deleted and the camera only had enough memory from there to about a third into the second lap, so I will attempt to describe it in a humorous but accurate manner.

The first lap was mostly uneventful except for a crash which was indicated with a loud boom and a VTech rider at the front nearly taking out a William and Mary rider only a couple rows in front of me.  The crash ended up taking out my teammate, Alex, and cracking the top tube of his bike.  I tried to see if anyone would react to me lining things out on a downhill, but no one flinched.  There were very few serious moves in the race.  The second time up the KOA climb, I was about 10 riders back and suddenly found the pack splitting and providing a huge opening in the middle for me.  I climbed at what seemed a reasonable pace but found myself separating from the pack and catching an App State rider, who I now know is named Zeb.  I asked if he was down for a break and when he responded in the positive, I pulled through and we cooperated for a couple pulls until I found myself getting away again.  I put my head down and went by myself until about 2 miles to go in the lap.  After being caught, I realized that I was super cramped and had to keep pedaling to prevent it from happening continuously.  I found Morgan at the back of the pack, which is when I realized that Alex was no longer with us.

The first half of the third lap was probably the most placid bit of racing I have ever been a part of.  I got Morgan up to the front and he pulled for a bit, dominating the front for a quarter of a lap until we got to the KOA hill again where…nothing happened.  We pretty much soft pedaled that entire half of the lap.  I ended up next to Trevor and when I mentioned my cramps, he gave me a dried apricot he had.  Thanks dude, total bro move.  There was another moderate incline that I thought might be good for a decisive attack on the back half of the course.  So, after working my way back up to the front, I made another acceleration and this time, I gained a companion in the form of a Duke rider who was almost immediately relegated to the back for a centerline violation.  Without a companion, I sat up and dealt with the nervous riding of the pack as we bore down onto the finishing stretch.    On the final road, things went crazy with people jockeying for position and about 500m to the line, I saw a group of 4 gain a small gap which I moved to close.  That ended up being my last tactical decision because I closed the gap just as we got to the finishing hill and as I realized that my cramps would prevent me from doing anything else fast.  So, sitting up, I enjoyed the chaos of a bunch sprint from afar as Drexel rode to victory and immediately crashed at the finish line.

So, I unfortunately only have about half of the race recorded but I will put it up shortly and I hope that you have enjoyed my account. Spokes Out

Cancelled races, weight loss and Valentines day

As I sit here in my dorm’s lounge listening to a floormate’s radio show, I lament the fact that I am not in North Carolina dishing out the pain on the Orange County Speedway.  The NC State criterium was literally on a NASCAR speedway, so I’m really hoping that we get to race it later in the year.  The idea behind breakaways is “out of sight, out mind” and that allows the break to get a legitimate gap over the field if it ends up forming.  Kind of hard to do that on a flat track with nothing in the middle.  So, because of conditions on the course and road conditions in North Carolina, we are not going this weekend.

My plan for this week was to test out my new ContourRoam camera and get some footage but because of the snow and a combination of various events, I haven’t ridden outside or anything so no footage from that yet.  Hopefully this week I’ll have plenty of time to ride after these days off.

In high school, I was a competitive swimmer for my high school and a local club in Baltimore.  For swimming, weight does not really matter, you kind of just try to build up the biggest muscles in your arms, legs, core and back as possible because you’re not climbing a hill.  As a result, I’ve had a stable weight of around 220 pounds for the past 2 years or so.  I never thought much of it because it’s a lot of muscle and I’m 6’2″ so I didn’t look fat or anything.  When I started getting into cycling, I realized that the weight was a little bit of a burden.  Carrying 100 kg up a hill is a lot more than the 60-80 kg that most people pull up a hill.

So, I have set a goal for myself.  By graduation (theoretically May 2017), I want to lose 40 pounds and put myself at 180 pounds. In my condition, the pounds don’t come off so easily because I have been active for so long and my body is in homeostasis at this weight.  However, I recently made a discovery.  I hovered at 220 for all of winter break but last saturday I went for a 98 mile ride.  I hadn’t weighed myself since getting back to school but weighing myself monday, I found that I had dropped to 212 pounds, lower than I had been all race season (I think I got to 216 at one point).  So I’m thinking that maybe doing one long ride per week helps turn my metabolism onto overdrive and burns off fat.  I’m hoping that’s the case and I’m gonna try again.  I have an anterior reason for wanting to lose that weight.  After college, my goal is to be able to ride as a domestic professional for a year or two before getting an actual job.  It would be cool to  jus go couch to couch for a bit and kinda see the country and maybe some other local countries.  It’s certainly not something I would be able to do with a regular engineering job even if I am able to travel.

So that’s my post, I hope everyone had a wonderful valentines day.