je ne sais quoi

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Aram Chronicles: Track and Metro Edition

I've had an absolute Killer (both figuratively and literally...almost) weekend. Where to start? Ok, this post will be cycling related, and I'll post again regarding everything else. So yes! The track! What? This is how it goes:

I slept Friday night with the intention of waking up and doing the Montrose ride. Woke up at around 7:45am, but I'd need a car to get to the start on time. I haven't had a car for a couple weeks (the cream wiz is out of order), so I went right back to sleep, and slept wonderfully for almost four more hours. So it's nearly noon when I get up. Wanted to ride, so figured the usual 4-5 hour trek through the 'Crest would do, but wasn't really feeling it. Opened up the website for kicks. This event was listed for 3pm that day: "Carson Velodrome Indoor Track Series". I looked behind me, at my track bike, that I had not ridden in at least two months. It looked good. It always does. So I got my gear together, switched the pedals over from my road bike, opened up and found that I could get to within 2 miles of the indoor velodrome taking the Metro. I'd never done it before, but hey, spontaneousness, it's how I go. Stuff my backpack full of crap, with flip flops I gently ride the track bike downhill to the metro stop, and done. Switched trains in downtown, and got to Carson and rode about 15 minutes, and I was right there! With time to spare, for once! I've never raced on the track before. Only trained on it. Never done any kind of mass-start thing there. I'm a cat 5 on the track. Hmm. I had a vague understanding of the events...I know the points race -sprint when you hear the bell, lap the field, get points, do well. So after coming in through the wrong entrance (there's a seperate entrance for athletes), the guy on the loudspeakers kindly said "to the guy walking around [aimlessly] with the track bike, please enter the track through the athelete's entrance on the west side of the velodrome". Hm, okay. So I signed up for the star-studded cat 4/5 omnium. Three events. 24 lap points race. 10 lap tempo race. and the last race was basically just a crit on the track, for 20 laps. The field was bigger than I thought it'd be, 15 guys? Aron Gadila from Lagrange (who's a cat 2 on the road) was in my race, and seemed to know what he was doing (it would be his 5th time racing a track omnium, and he won every single one prior). I sponged what information I could from him, and then we lined up.

Points race.

Things were shuffled all weird and I couldn't get position when the first sprint came, but damn it was so much fun. It actually feels really safe, despite the fixed gear. So right after the first sprint, I found a little hole on the inside, and then said "adios" to the the main field, and attacked. Instantly, had a quarter lap. Half a lap, picked up some points in the next sprint. Aron bridged up to me, not surprisingly, but I didn't pull off the front, just kept driving it 'cause I wanted to lap the field myself. So I pulled off eventually, Aron set a hot pace, and I just hung out where I was. He lapped the field, and I stayed "up the road" to pick up 1st place points on the remaing sprints. Fun times, finished alone, and was able to actually drill it real nice. The bike felt great. Aron won, I was second.

Tempo Race.

10 laps. Leader of each lap gets a point, most points wins. This one was bad. In track racing, you do a neutral lap to start the race off. 5 meters into our neutral lap, the guy in front crashes. F!!!! We were going no more than 10 mph at this point!!! CMon guy. So yeah, i've finally had my first crash of the year. I tried to go up track to avoid the carnage, but it's so steep, that if you don't have speed you just slide down. I slid into Aron, actually. My fork came loose, and the front wheel shifted in the dropouts a bit. I forced it back into alignment, but it still didn't feel right. We started the race a couple minutes later, but I pulled out, 'cause I can't go full gas on a bike that *might* be okay. Eh.

20 Lap Crit (I forget what this is called officially...scratch race?)

Fixed and aligned the bike okay, and lined up. Not wanting another dumb dumb dumb crash, I was in front from the get go, neutral lap and all. So right as it was "race on" after the neutral lap, I attacked hard. To my surprise, everyone was still back there. hm? So I stayed at the front. There are no points in this one, just the finish. Set an okay tempo, but I was totally comfortable. Attacked again, there was a bit of division this time, but still a good number of guys with me. A guy came around me and picked up a prime. So then I found myself back at the front. Maybe 10 laps to go at this point? I looked back and said "cmon now, is anyone else going to attack???" I riled up one guy, who went to the front right as I said that, and set a real nice tempo, and only 5 remained in the lead group. He pulled off, I attacked hard, got a nice gap, but Aron bridged up after a few laps, and passed me to take the win solo. I cruised in for 2nd, again, and Fin.

Swell swell times at the track. I wish I had photos to post! I finished 2nd overall in the omnium, and won a bag of coffee and a pair of socks as a result. Yeahhaa. Big Money. Big Cars. Great times, and I'll definitely do it again. And with the metro! makes it all so much more enjoyable.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Aram Arcadium

Hello readers (or "fans" as clara likes to call them).

The truth? I Haven't really felt like updating in the last week. So many things are going on. The world was blessed with a fresh and new 28 track double album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. "Stadium Arcadium" (hence the super-creative and witty subject line...what is an arcadium anyhow?). The album's growing on me, 28 tracks. I'm partial to the second disc, but both are top notch, and flea's bass playing comes through real nice on a long ride with the headphones on. As if the novelty of a new chili pepps album weren't enough.....THE Edmonton Oilers are in the 3rd round. They beat the sharks...thankfully, without as much nail-biting drama as the first series (but still a shite-load)....annnnnnnnnnnd....they face one of the most unlikely of opponents........the anaheim mighty ducks. Anaheim. It's right here. Who said dreams don't come true? Game one is tomorrow. I don't have a car. I likely don't have enough money for a ticket, but i'm going. It's one of those things that if I don't do, I'll regret for the rest of eternity. So yeah. Oil. Peppers. Oh, bikes....

Hmmm. Raced last sunday. CBR 100k. Why'd I go? I dunno. I made it there with about 8 minutes to the start. Vera at registration's great. She signed me up, and pinned me...and a testament to how much I procrastinate; this is the third time she's done so. Thanks Vera...if you read this. The race? I DNFed. But it was my classiest DNF ever. I guarantee that I burned more calories than anyone else in that race. Anyhow. So 100k. Lots of laps. Tiny field, maybe 60 guys. So from the gun, literally, my first couple pedal strokes, I launched a joke-attack. Looked back, fixed my shoe straps, took a drink, and still had a gap. To my dismay, a guy bridged, and then it was head down, round and round, for maybe two laps. Back together. 3491 laps to go. I launch another attack a few laps later. I jumped hard, so no one came. One lap solo. Cool. Felt rad, so kept at it, and didn't feel like I was killing myself at all. A young pup bridged up to me, obviously beat to hell from the bridge effort. Ok. I let him sit, he took a couple pulls I guess. This break went maybe 4 laps? I took a rad simple-green bike cleaning kit prime. I'd of been upset if I did all those laps off the front without something to show for it...Anyhow. With this young guy, there was no chance of staying away, so after one of his pulls, I look back, and it's a strung out field with Hilton Clarke and Ben Brooks (Navigators) leading the chase. "Hey guys, flattered that'd you'd chase me down". No response. Ah's one of those intimidation things Merckx talks about. You gotta show them you feel good. So they showed me a counter attack right there, as they made contact. I went with it. Perfect move. Me, 2 navigators, and Rudy from helens. I knew it'd be the winning break...but...I didn't have it. Hilton destroyed me after about 2 laps, and I pulled off. Embarrassing, but hey. I was off the front for maybe 6 of the first 12 laps. These things happen. So I recovered a few laps later, and just completely dedicated myself to chasing these guys down. Made lots of monster pulls, still felt friggin great, but it wasn't coming back. I dropped out as soon as they lapped the field (took them a long long while, the lap card showed about 15 to go, we started at 60) but did so without any remorse...which is usually the case after any DNF. "So how'd you do today?" "DNFed". "Out of how many?" "DNF". (That's an inside joke glitch for 'core readers of this blog). Oh, and my new favorite race....people ask people "hey, how'd you do?". "oh, you twenty....but I did that 40k TT yesterday". Yeah dude, 'cause surely you would have won if you hadn't done it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Allright: A Proper Update

Hi....from Los Angeles. I'll start this right off.

Gila: Well, as expected, the race was very very difficult. After finishing the first road race (95 miles of rollers, with a 6 mile, 10-17% climb to finish it off), my only thoughts were: You'd be stupid to show up at Gila without peak fitness. I left my peak fitness in March somewhere. Gila's not a race that you can just ride for kicks, or to train, or whatever people say they do. And let's not forget the altitude. BASE elevation is 6000. With a peak elevation of about 8400. My field consisted of several NRC superstars, and a fair share of unknown amateurs (like me) from around the States. Most had teams, but I'd say there were about 15 or so individual entrants around. Sean Kamman's the only other Amgen cat 1, and he's in Boston somewhere, so I was one of these solo dorks riding from feedzone to feedzone, begging, thieving...whichever.

Day 1:

Time Trial. I was the very last one to start. Bib #111. Phil Zajicke (Navigators) was my 30 second man. Chris Wherry (Toyota) was at 90 seconds. Nice. Phil was riding without water. "Hey guy, no water? for 35 minutes?" "35 minutes FOR YOU", he said, implying that he'd do it much quicker than that. Man, can't wait to be good so that I can say that to punk amateurs. I still think he's foolish for riding without water on a difficult TT course for almost 40 mins. So i'm last to start, no one's catching me. The TT starts straight uphill for about 6 miles. I had 55x11 gearing, and used the 55x19 the whole way up the hill, checking out the scene out front. My right aero bar came loose (my fault for not tightening it enough), and it was awkward for a bit, especially on downhills, cause it wasn't steady. Got some weird looks. Ah well, kept at it, caught my minute man, and finished 65th. 5 minutes back.

Day 2:

Ahh. So cool to race such a high-profile event. While moving around the pack, you just see all these people as they'd been photographed in Velonews or some other cycling mag. Scott Moninger (Health Net) seems like a real introverted dude. Gord Fraser pissed more in that one race than I did all week. Toyota United ran the show, as they had a full 12 guys. Oh, and the coolest thing about these NRC Stage Race Road Races....the caravan. Say you get can lose up to a minute, and usually still get back on though all the cars in the caravan. Too rad. So on this day, I felt pretty cool. I started with 2 bottles, figuring that it'd be easy-street 'till the climb at the end. About half way through, I was out of water. Bummer. I managed to steal a bottle off an unsuspecting dude in the feedzone. Dick move, I realize, but it's that or a DNF. There was another feedzone, just before the ascent of the final climb. Here we were going slow, and I was on the back of the main bunch, hanging on for dear life, while pleading with feedzone people for a bottle. I found salvation in some random guy, who gave me a plump cold bottle of water, AND a gel. Thank you anonymous savior. Karma comes 'round. I did get gapped at this point, and got to the base of the climb at the tail end of a strung-out blown-up field. The legs felt great after the feed, and I made some spots to finish 63rd, 9 minutes down.

Cruising up that final climb.
Yes, that's a wuss 39x26 gear i'm using.

Day 3:

On day 3, I was destroyed, I didn't think I'd finish inside the time limit. Day 3 was a RR, big hills in the beginning, then rollers to the finish. I didn't make it over the beginning hill with the group, and pacelined it with a group of 7 for 60 miles all the way to the finish, and surprisingly, made the time cut. Swell. I finished 466th. Or 467th? Not sure. I lost 15 minutes.

Me at this stage's start. In front of me is Gord Fraser (#33)
The guy right behind me to my right is Chris Wherry (#104)

Day 4:

Crit! Nice downtown crit course, with a nice 75 meter hill. Fast course, with pitiful pavement. Beat up my bike real good. By the time it was over, my seatpost had slipped quite a bit, and my left hood slipped pretty good too. It's amazing that my bike made it through. My hands were numb afterwards. It was a 40 laps, @ 1.01, for about 41 miles. We finished it in 90 minutes, not sure where I finished here, but didn't lose time! I think I barely made it at the back of the field. Danny Pate was sprinting for some reason, so I followed him, and yep. Done. One day to go.
The Cat 2s doing that hill I was talking about.

Check out #111's hoods. What a dweeb.

Day 5: GILA Monster RR.

Let me find the course profile for this RR...

This stage is affectionately (riiiight....affectionately) known as the Gila Monster Road Race. Who puts the hardest stage of a stage race on the last day? Who does that?? Ah well. I actually felt okay at the start. I think it's because everyone knew how insane the profiles would become. I had to drop back through the pack and caravan twice to fix a slipping seatpost. The final time, I squirted some cytomax on the seatpost to make it stick, and it worked. So if you look at the profile, i'm happy to say that I was with the field until about mile 60. Let me discredit that accomplishment by mentioning, again, that the pack wasn't really motoring yet. So I lost contact on this climb, but so did several others. I was in a group, and we pacelined to limit the damage, but eventually the caravan passed us, and I'd say we were about a minute or less down over the top, ah well. So I lost faith in mankind after this point, and on the next climb about 10 miles later, I went from group to group...but backwards. Fast forward lots of hours, and the finish line camp up, and the guy I was started speeding up. I looked him down, legs ready, and sprinted. And lost. To some skinny guy. Man. I think we were sprinting for 66th. So I ended up 67th. FortyFive (!!!) minutes back. 68th GC, at 1:15 back.

So, again, to people considering doing this race in the future: Get a calendar. Circle that first week of May with a red permanent marker, and make it the absolute focal point of your season. Nothing else should matter. Only then will you be able to do allright here, and I think it'd be worth it.

Me? I did my first ride since Gila yesterday, at rose bowl. A break was away, but I felt allright in the fred-filled field sprint, and took it okay. Hm. I don't know how my body will respond post-gila, but i'm treating it with kid-gloves. I might race Sunday, but having a swell time tonight or tomorrow is my top priority, for once. More introspective blatherings next time. Adddddio. Forza Cunego!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Brief Hello From Gila


Gotta make this quick...we're in the lobby of the econolodge, mooching some wireless internet, and It'd be better if we didn't overuse the opportunity.

The trip so far has been awesome. Yesterday was the TT, I finished 65th. I felt super, had a good warm up, only hitch was that one of my aero bars came loose in the 3rd mile (of 16), and I was a bit hesitant to let it rip on the decent. Above all, I was happy with how I felt.

Day 2...i'm really just barelling through these things, as I don't have time for a nice elaborate report (and this is a mac...gah). Today (day 2), I finished 63rd, 9 minutes behind scott moniger. Wickeddddddd mountain top finish, and ironically, I felt better at the end than through the first 90 miles. The comraderie in the early parts of the race between the riders is awesome. Gord Fraser pissed at LEAST 10 times today. Amazing. Oh, and if any Gila people read this...the burrito spot next to the Food Co-Op (health food store), is PRIME. I might eat there everyday.

That's it, gotta go. Photos and all that when I get home. Check for results/etc.


Monday, May 01, 2006

My Legs Look Good

So they should feel good, too. Right? It's basic logic, really. Time will tell though, I guess.

Where to start? Well, I have no idea why the lower entry is entirely in large fonts, tried to change it, but no dice. Oiler mystique at work. I'm sitting here, bummin around, listening to an old Sting album "Mercury Falling". Fits my current scene real well -kinda cold, overcast, nothing going. Game 6 of the Oilers v Red Wings is tonight. In six hours, actually. Can't wait. Right when the game ends, I'll be on my way to Gila. Yep, I finally registered. Not sure if I'll be able to update when I'm out there, but i'll take plenty of photos, and yeah, we'll see how it goes. I'm contemplating taking the camera with me while I'm racing...maybe.

As promised, a short report on saturday's road race. Same course that I got destroyed on a few weeks back. Bigger field, but I don't know if I'd called it a stronger one. Anyhow, the giant climb on the first lap wasn't (or didn't feel) as suicidal as a few weeks back, and I was actually at the front setting pace near the end of it. Second lap was a bit more difficult, and I made it up near the back of the main field. Some dudes were definitely dropped on this lap. I think it's just that some of the local "climber specialists" have so few opportunities to shine, that they give it all they've got when those chances come up. And sure enough, guys like me get dropped. This time on the 3rd time up. Our group was spread all over the road, and going from gap to gap eventually killed me, and I rode solo, again, for the next two laps. Caught a group of 2 containing Petr Anderson and Stephen Ferreti, and we cruised for a lap, and I was able to distance myself from them to finish 13th. Ah well. Not the most action packed race, it never is when you're that far back in a road race.

Oh, that guy Brent Bookwalter I incessantly blather about? He won the Tour of Shenandoah Pro/1 G.C. Yep, good on him. It's going to be a very fruitful 2nd half of the season for the Priority Health Team with their sweet green kits.

Well, i've just discovered that my dogs managed to get a hold of my right shoe (it's always the right) yet again, and this time the insole is completely time to go find a new one somewhere. And for the record, Rocket 7's customer service is terrible. I've emailed them several times about buying new insoles and foam heel pieces, and nothing. They're good shoes, however.

Allright then...i'll be in silver city all week. Wish me luck. Wish me well.