Sunday, April 14, 2013

Battenkill Race Report, or yes I am still alive!

Blogging is such a conundrum to me. When I'm in the habit, I love to blog. When I'm not, it's overwhelming. That is stupid. I think it's the photo upload process that kills me for some reason. What a dumb reason.

Anyway, I am starting to get back into the habit with a race report. I raced Tour of the Battenkill yesterday, a classic season opener in the Northeast about 3 hours north of New York. I haven't seen any race pictures yet, but here's one I took from another site:

The race is pretty epic. Here are some stats:
- 64ish miles
- Per my Garmin, 4,200 feet of climbing
- 25% or so on dirt roads

SO much fun. I was in the 4 field and I frankly thought I could win. Which would have been very helpful on my quest for my Cat 3 upgrade. The race tends to split up on the first decent climb which is around mile 10. We started out pretty moderate but at that climb that's exactly what happened. I tried to push the pace on the climb to make things more selective, and so did a few other girls that I knew would be contenders. We got the group down to maybe 9 at that point. We organized well into a nice rotating paceline. I kept dropping them on the descents - that's what I hate about 4 fields, many of the girls who are strong just started racing so they are fast but have no idea what they're doing. So I would either try to get more of a gap or just sit up and let them catch back up. I also ended up doing a LOT of work, way too much. That was just plain stupidity on my part. I think I learned from it.

The next big climb was around mile 30. It was 'new' - it had been in the course in 2011, then removed for 2012, then they put it back in for 2013. Holy cats this was tough. I had a moment when I thought I would pass out and fall off my bike, I was going that hard. It was dirt (I think - hard to remember!), and steep. But I made it with the group somehow.

The next action was the three-step climb around mile 50. I basically lost the top two girls here. SUCKS. I don't know, I just couldn't climb as fast as they could at that point. The field kind of splintered again here and it was the top two ahead, then three of us, then the rest got dropped. We tried to catch them but they just didn't get any closer. There was one more climb after this that was just frankly demoralizing. But I was able to stay with my little group so that was good. After that it's flat to the finish. I tried to drop them at 1k to go, but one girl came around me with maybe 150 meters to go, and I couldn't catch her. Once again this was a dumb rookie move - I basically gave her a nice leadout. Next time I would try to sit on someone else's wheel and slingshot around them. But I rolled in for 4th in a pretty solid field. So ultimately I can't be mad and I think I got enough points for the upgrade, which makes me very happy. All in all it was a great day for my team - two of our girls went 2-3 in the 3 field, which is amazing, and we had two more in the top 10. I am so proud of all of us.

After the race, we had a GIANT pizza. I didn't take a picture of that, so I leave you with a hilarious picture (to me at least, I have a weird sense of humor), depicting Peeps as High Fashion (Blakleys are obsessed with marshmallow peeps):

I will really try to blog more now. I know, I always say that. But I will!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Manhattan Half Marathon 'Race' Report

Well I signed up for the Manhattan Half Marathon a few weeks ago to make myself do a longer than 8 mile long run, which I seem to be incapable of without several thousand other people to run with. Eh, what can you do - besides be glad that we have so many races here! I was pretty hung over and sleep deprived but I woke up at 7:00 and didn't feel awful so I decided to show up. And it was a balmy (for recent conditions) 19 degrees. #winning. Or something.

The course is two loops of Central Park plus another loop of the south end. It is hilly but it's my normal training loop so I knew what to expect. I pretty much wanted to run a normal long run pace and just get the miles in my legs. No racing for me. I strolled to the start around 7:58 am for an 8:00 start, which is a benefit of living half a mile from the race start! I love where I live. Not only do we have the best stoop on the Upper West Side....

But it is so close to the park, which is my favorite place in the world.

So the entire first loop of the park I was busy coming up with reasons as to why I was going to quit after one loop. Oh my foot hurts, oh my butt hurts, etc., etc. But I sucked it up and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. The funny thing was I kept feeling better and better and my splits showed it - my first 5 miles or so were maybe 8:45 pace, whereas my average miles over the second half were closer to 8:10-8:20 pace. Not bad for a 'long run', for me at least! Around mile 11 my IT band did actually start to lock up a bit and that was unpleasant, but at that point I really wanted to finish! Strange what the brain will do over 1:50 of running. My last mile was 7:47 - I did want to pick it up a little for that and pass as many people as I could. No real reason, just to see how my fitness was. I have to say outside of my aches and pains, and a very bad chub rub (the shower was extremely unpleasant for the first two minutes or so), I feel like I am reasonably fit! Thanks to a very easy week after the coast ride, I feel recovered, and outside of my poor chafed legs, I don't feel too much worse for wear. Especially because the race/run was immediately followed by a large, steaming cup of coffee. There are few things coffee can't fix.

Now I am off to pick up my road bike, which will be sporting a fancy new chain and (hopefully) a sweet 11-26 cassette. I was thinking about swimming but the idea of chlorine mixed with my poor legs doesn't seem like a great idea. So it may be a mellow afternoon, followed by a hot chocolate date with my UWS bestie and a chili festival downtown later on. Good day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Coast Ride, or why I love California

Sooo to continue the trend of coast ride reports I read today, I thought I'd write my own before my memories get fuzzy. In a word, I would describe the coast ride as awesome. But that is like saying that cookies are delicious - it just doesn't quite get the essence of HOW awesome it was.

Let's just start with the view from the beginning of the ride.

Yeah, that could be worse! The night before was pretty awesome too - hanging out with friends I hadn't seen much or hadn't really met in person, and finding out how easy it was to settle right in with them.  I actually slept pretty well the night before the ride even though I was a little nervous - I hadn't ridden over a century probably since my Ironman in 2011, and had never ridden 375 miles in three days before, because I am not insane. Well okay I'm a little insane. But you know even I have my limits.

We started out day one and the biggest challenge I had was that my bottom bracket started making a really bad noise. I mean really bad, like a very loud clicking noise every time I pedaled. Yeah so I was that guy who came to a very long ride with a ghetto bicycle. But it really wasn't doing it before! I still felt like a giant idiot. So after the first 30 miles out of San Francisco I stopped and talked to the nice Sag driver and lost my group and rode the next 40 miles by myself, which wasn't that bad, because the scenery looked like this:

The ocean is just past those pretty yellow flowers. Yeah, I am cool with that. Later on during the first day I also flatted so it was definitely not my day. Because of the mechanicals and other stuff I ended up chasing a group for a LONG time towards probably miles 105-110. That was fun - how high can my heart rate get that late in a ride? Pretty high! I did finally catch them and ride in with them to Seaside, California. I immediately checked into my room and rode 5 more miles to Pacific Grove to the Winning Wheels bike shop, which SAVED my ride. Those guys are awesome. They stayed like 45 minutes past when they were supposed to close and replaced a bad bearing I had in my bottom bracket. Seriously amazing. I owe them so much more than I paid. Now that extra 10 miles on the first day gave me a total of around 139 for the day, so that was a long one.

The next day was the one I was most nervous about but also most excited about - I had been told it was the most challenging yet prettiest day. And I would say it was both. The scenery was insane. For the first 80 miles it was a lot like this...

So it was pretty enough that the climbing that was pretty much constant didn't seem that bad. We also made a stop in Big Sur, which was much smaller and more quiet than I expected, yet also really beautiful. It's a little bit inland but I found a quiet spot with a nice stream.

We stopped at a place called Ragged Point for lunch at about 80 miles in and then the next 45 were pretty awesome. I got in the group with the fast guys (we had two awesome pros from the Kelly Optum team that would just pull like all day long), and somehow hung on until we reached Morro Bay. It was so painful at times, especially on a long section with a wicked cross wind and a chip seal surface. But I did it! That really boosted my confidence.

Morro Bay, our stop for day two, was really beautiful - there's a volcanic rock or something right off the beach. I am not sciencey. But it was cool to see.

Here I am surprisingly not feeling that bad the morning of the third day. Yet I just feel that I am not photogenic in kit. Who knows what that's about.

My new friend Mark took this picture. I liked the perspective on it with the sun rising in the background. He's a professoinal photographer so he has a good eye. It's early on the third day when we cruised into San Luis Obispo, which is amazing, and I can't wait to go back there. It was nice to warm up the legs slowly and get a huge muffin. I love muffins. I kept that bad boy in my pocket for hours, I kept eating it and it wouldn't go away!

So after SLO we rolled out and things were going well. I stopped for the bathroom and lost the group (I rode with the fast guys to that point) and the pros from Kelly Optum came back and rode me up to the group. They are awesome. After that I was determined to stay with them to Santa Barbara, and I did!! I am so proud. It was very hard at times. Mostly on the big climb after the lunch break and then on the long section on the 101 right before we finished, with lots of traffic and a crappy surface. Day three also sadly included two crashes. One happened right in front of me, and one right behind me (I mean RIGHT behind me - the guy behind me tried to bunny-hop a grate, hit my back wheel, and went down). The first one I don't know how I avoided it. But I feel very lucky that I did. Three guys were injured in that crash. It's a reminder of how dangerous our sport can be. But outside of those little blemishes, it was an incredible day. I am so proud of myself for hanging with the guys for 125 miles.

After the ride we showered up in Santa Barbara and drove back with a very full car!

Four bikes, four bags, four people. Luckily it was a large vehicle.

Today has been a long day and I am very hungry. I suppose that's par for the course. My legs are tired but happy. I am tired and happy. I love California. And most of all I love the people I have met through triathlon and cycling, that make my life better all the time. You know who you are!