Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Shootout

Feb 27 - 55 miles.

The world-famous Tucson Shootout.  Bob, Kyle, and I rolled out of the Pedal Power Training compound in the infamous Pedro's van at the painfully early hour of 6am.  For those who aren't familiar, the Shootout is the weekly Tucson local "world championships".  These types of rides are fast throughout the country, but since Tucson is the winter home to many professional cyclists, AND the location of training camp for many domestic professional teams, the Shootout is pretty much a blazingly fast sufferfest.  So with 400+ miles in the legs from the past week, I knew this was going to be one painfully brilliant endeavor.

The group that showed up wasn't full of heavy hitters....only 2 national champions (Todd Wells, the current national cyclo-cross champion....and Gord Fraser, who has been racing and winning probably longer than I've been alive), the Under-23 US National Mtn Bike team, and a few other fast dudes.  I felt pretty good, and tried to jump in a few moves early on....none of which stuck, but it was some great work for the legs.  Later in the ride, after the pace died down, Kyle looked and me and motioned me to come with him.  He accelerated away from the field, and for the next 7 minutes we had a 2-man breakaway in motion.  We laid down some good power, going about 30mph until the field eventually reeled us in.  A few miles later a bunch of guys jumped to a sprint line, but we didn't even know it existed.  Then we all rolled back into town, got changed, had some coffee, and basked in the glory of out 430 mile week of training.

So Tucson training camp is over, and I head back home to DC and the real-world tomorrow afternoon.    I'm superbly pleased with how this camp has gone.  Pedal Power Training, Sara Bresnick-Zocchi, and Kyle Wolfe put on a great camp.  The organization was spot-on, the food was great, the rides were the perfect combination of distance and intensity.  I learned a tremendous amount from them...all things that will make me more successful as a bike racer.  I will definitely be returning to Tucson next winter for another chance to build fitness and spring-board my season.

Race season 2011 is on.  Fire in the eyes, victory on the horizon.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mt Lemmon Assault #2

Feb 25 - 65 miles.  25 mile climb.

I'm totally beat from the last 2 days, so this is going to be about 2 paragraphs.  After yesterday's 103 mile leg crusher, we climbed Mt.Lemmon this morning.  I actually felt great, and knocked off over 15 minutes from my climbing time on Monday.  Bob, Kyle, and I started off a pretty quick pace the first 2-3 miles, then Bob picked up the pace a bit.  Kyle and I caught up to a group of 4 from another camp in town, and rode with those guys until mile 14.  I was feeling good, and told him that at mile 14 I was going to turn the screws a bit and see what I had in me....maybe I could catch Bob.  So I gently accelerated and got into a steady rhythm.  After a couple miles I had Bob in sight, several minutes up the road.  I had a sneaking suspicion he was just cruising at a low tempo pace, and if I made contact he'd drop the hammer and make my sprinter-self look silly for even trying to challenge him on his uphill turf.  By the time we reached the Ski Village at mile 25 I had closed the gap to about 45-50 seconds.  Considering the gap was many minutes on Monday, I was pleased.  We rolled down to the giant cookie store together and met up with Sara, Kyle, and Linnea for a coke and a cookie.

Sara, Linnea, and I descended together into a nasty headwind.  We still managed to go 30-40mph the whole way, it just required a lot of pedaling.  It was a 3 person pace-line all the way down which was pretty damn fun.  Sara may be small, so you don't have a lot of draft behind her, but while descending it's not too bad, and she carved some great smooth lines.  I think she's done this once or twice . . .

Tomorrow is the famous Tucson Shootout ride.  Every town has it's local weekly "world championships", but in Tucson that typically involves 100+ dudes, many of whom are professional cyclists.  It's a legendary ride, and while my legs are thoroughly thrashed from a week of great training, I'll be out there and in it until I pop (which, admittedly, may not take too long). But I now live by the Jens Voigt mantra, "Shut up legs!" and thus to the shootout I go with whatever ammo I've got left.  Bang bang.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tucson Training Camp Day 5 - Kitt Peak

QOTD: "You don't go to Taco Bell for the quality of the meat. You go there because you're drunk or high out of your mind.  It's also where you hit on the girl behind the counter no matter what she looks like" ~ Kyle before dinner.  I'm not exactly sure what he was getting at either, but this was after a relatively epic 103 mile day on the oxygen debt is likely somewhat to blame.  That, and Kyle's unpredictable and sometimes plain scary thought processes. There is NEVER a dull moment around here.

So, the ride...  (Bob's ride data but the route and elevation are the same)
Today's route took us 103 miles from the top of Gate's Pass to the top of Kitt Peak (about 7000feet) and back.  5 of us parked at the top of Gate's Pass for a 25 mile leg to meet up with a few others at a little gas station in the middle of nowhere.  Only 15minutes into the ride Kyle was feeling adventurous and decided to run over something sharp, slicing his tire.  About 10minutes, and one business-card style ghetto tire patch later, we were cruising. (He really did use a business card between the tube and tire and it held up for another 4 hours...well played, sir)  We made great time, smoothly rotating and setting a solid tempo.  We picked up the rest of the group and headed into the desert towards Kitt.

This ride is pretty cool because from about mile 10 onward you can see the large white domes of the observatory on top of Kitt.  As you pedal it gets bigger and bigger, until it disappears for a while, and you begin the actual 12 mile ascent, zig zagging up the mountain.  It's probably more of a 16 mile climb, because the few miles leading to the actual access road are a steady 2-3% grade.  Then Kitt itself averages 7-8% for 12 scenic miles.

As has become the norm, Bob displayed his climbing prowess, and from mile 3 onward was in front of me.  I kept him in sight for about 6 miles, but that 30lb weight advantage he has eventually kicked my fat ass and he disappeared up the mountain.  The descent back down, however, was where I exacted my revenge.  Sweeping turns, 30-40mph, and incredible views. Although I wasn't really taking in the scenery as I was navigating the turns and trying to avoid becoming a human projectile at 6000feet.  I won the descent...can you even claim that as a victory?  Then somewhere around mile 75 I was challenged to a sprint, which I handily lost...but I was still pleased with how much power I was able to generate after that many hours in the saddle including the climb.  So basically I was 0 for 2 today.  Thus, as a penance to the cycling Gods I pulled for something like 10-15 miles at the end of the ride, which I loved because it was an incredible workout and the kind of stuff you have to do if you want to win races.

So after 5 and a half hours we made it back to the car.  A great training day in the books.  As one of my teammates likes to say, we were "making watts" for sure.

Oh, yesterday I promised more info about the run in with the law at the park.  Well here's the abridged version.  We went to do a recovery ride in this beautiful park full of cacti with a great rolling loop.  Sara had purchased passes for riders to use the park, and we got in no problem.  So we finish our loop, and over comes a ranger from the National Park Service.  Apparently Pedal Power Training is a "commercial organization", and thus the National Park Service(NPS) wants extra money for a commercial use permit.  Ignore the fact for a moment that it's the same number of people using the park for the same purpose, whether it's a commercial venture or not.  I could care less about the policies and politics, but what stood out most was this Ranger's 'combat load'.  She had a taser, mace, AND a pistol.  Now I understand it's a job that can take them into the wilderness and lead them to deal with many different situations, but I had fewer weapons choices when I was stationed in a combat zone in IRAQ!  So Kyle and Sara went off with Ranger Betty to work out the details, and the rest of us began trying to decide who was going to bail out Kyle when he got tased and arrested for doing something ridiculous.  Luckily (or not depending on your perspective...I've always wanted to see someone get tazed), everything worked out great.  Sara handled the situation like the consummate professional she is, and the park can now be used by riders at her camp for the next 3 weeks.  

No pictures right now.  A few people have some of Kitt but I haven't gotten ahold of them yet.  When I do, I'll post them.  Time for stretching and sleep.  Tomorrow is assault #2 on Mt.Lemmon.  I'd rode it conservatively on Monday, well within my comfort zone, so tomorrow it's time to "make watts" and feel some more pain.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I'm crooked

Feb 22 - 5:20, 98 miles.
Feb 23 - 1:40, Recovery pace.

This will be short because I've been busy and I'm tired.

I'm crooked because I got fit for some custom cycling shoe Orthotic insoles today by Bill Peterson and Sara.  Bill is fairly famous in cycling circles for having done insoles for the likes of Lance, Levi, Big George, Dave Z, a lot of domestic pro teams, etc etc.  I'd been having IT Band issues a lot, so while I was in Tucson it only made sense to see the man who IS the authority on fit and feet.  Well Sara measured my limbs and feet, and it turns out my left leg is longer than my right by a significant amount, my arches are out of whack, and some other things are out of alignment.  All of this led them to both, almost in chorus, proclaim, "Well no wonder you have ITB issues!"  So the insoles will be done Friday, and I'm excited to get them.  Because they eliminate toggle inside the shoe, they also increase efficiency which equals increased power.  Always a good thing.  More watts = Better.

Here's Sara measuring Jerry's feet for his insoles:

Yesterday was a great day.  98 miles from Benson, AZ through Tombstone to Bisbee and back.  The ride out is pretty much gradually uphill the entire way, with a moderate 3 mile climb before reaching Bisbee at the halfway point.  We had a nasty headwind the entire ride out, which just beat us incessantly.  But myself and the rest of my Pedal Power Training Solutions fellow riders sucked it up and enjoyed the fantastic weather while making watts and getting stronger.  Thankfully the wind didn't pull a 180, and we had what has become known around here the last 24 hours as "the hand of God" pushing us back.  It took 3 hours on the way out, and only 2:18 on the way back.  We were doing 28-32mph for miles and miles while barely pushing the pedals.  Freakin awesome.

(The Pedro's Van all loaded up to bring us to the start of yesterday's ride in Benson.  Big thanks to Pedro's for the support at camp!)

Due to a mixture of cramps, flat tires and fatigue only myself and Bob survived all the way back to Benson, where I took the sprint to the Benson town-line. (see picture below)  Bob was a great riding partner, and was kind to me climbing up to Bisbee earlier.  We all know "Matt doesn't go uphill fast" so I did appreciate his friendly gesture and choice to ride up with me.  Unfortunately I don't play well with others, and thus the option to not sprint, well, was not an option at all.  Plus, I had Kyle Wolfe and Sara Bresnick-Zocchi in the Pedro's van yelling at me 500m from the sign!  It was ON.

Here's a pic from our stop in Tombstone, AZ.  Thankfully the law wasn't in town, so we all made it through without a trip to the town jail. (the near miss with the law came on Wednesday at Saguaro National Park...more on that later)

Ok well tomorrow is a big day, and I need rest.  I'll fill you in on today's recovery ride (which was possibly more eventful than the longer days in the desert) later.

Finally, We have the "Rule Violation of the Day" (RVD).  Sara in bib shorts over a T-shirt. A pro being "So Not Pro".  What can ya do...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Training Camp Day 2 - Mt Lemmon #1

4 hours, about 63 miles.

Today I made my first ascent of Mt.Lemmon, a legendary place in American cycling lore.  Rising over 9000feet from Tucson (which is about 2700ft), the climb is 25 miles long, with a constant 5% grade the entire way.  The rain last night had us worried that the road to the top would close at the 14 mile mark. (If there is snow on the road, they'll block the road off to anyone without chains and bikes allowed)  As of about 7am this was sadly the case, but thankfully by the time we started up the mountain it had warmed up enough that the road was open.  No more time for excuses, it was time to HTFU(See rule #5 -

After about 2 miles a group of 3 of us settled into a rhythm.  Several miles later Bob, a 140lb Masters racer with a history of climbing well, decided he wanted to push himself a bit so he slowly edged ahead...and then, shortly afterward, disappeared from view. (I wonder what it would be like to only weigh 140, but I'm fairly certain that would require amputation of either a leg or both arms, rendering me unable to even ride a bike and thus making this entire hypothesis pointless) This wasn't a race, and is day 1 of 6 long days, so I stayed in my endurance range and kept a steady pace all the way up.  I felt great, and the numbers didn't lie either.  All the miles on the trainer and in the cold this winter are clearly paying off.

I rode the climb (which took us about 2 hours and 18minutes) with Kyle Wolfe.  Kyle has been racing bikes, coaching cyclists and directing cycling teams for longer than I have been alive.  In just one ride with him I've already learned tremendous amounts of information, all of which are going to make me a better, faster rider and help me win races and support my NCVC/UnitedHealthcare teammates.  I look forward to more miles on the road with him so I can soak up more knowledge.

The road up Mt.Lemmon dead ends at the top, so you ride back down on the same road.  Yup, that's a 25 mile descent and it is AWESOME.  While it takes 2+ hours to ride up, you can make it down in under 1 hour.  Kyle and I rode cautiously due to strong crosswinds and several icy patches that remained because they were in the shade all day.  Still, we were doing 30mph easy most of the time.  I tried to enjoy the view from time to time as we screamed down the mountain, but was typically more concerned with staying upright, and on the road.

Ya see, the state of Arizona has some interesting theories on guardrails.  The guardrails all along Mt.Lemmon are about 2 feet high, which is just high enough to stop your bike, and subsequently turn you into a human cannonball.  No parachute = No tomorrow.  I can't imagine they would even do much to stop a car that is careening out of control at high speeds.  They probably got the guardrails on sale at Costco (did you know the Tucson Costco is the 10th busiest Costco in the US??  Yea, I didn't either...and no, I didn't really care either)  I suppose that on the up-side the authorities will know where to look for the body since your bicycle will have marked the spot....depressing, I know.

One thing that has become clearly evident to me is that people in Tucson are both used to cyclists, and are much FRIENDLIER to cyclists than anyone back east.  Cars give us tons of room when passing, they patiently wait behind you if it's unsafe to pass, and they even wave and honk to let you know they are passing.  Hell, today a Border Patrol truck drove past us as we were climbing the mountain and announced over his loudspeaker, "Lookin good guys!"  Back in the Mid-Atlantic if you hear sirens or a cop comes over his loudspeaker it's to chastise you for riding 2-abreast or to give you a ticket for rolling a stop sign (which of course I have neeeever done because I'm a responsible, law-abiding cyclist. . .)

Tomorrow we head to Bisbee by way of Tombstone, for a solid 100 miles in the saddle.  The forecast looks great, with temps in the high 60's and the sun shining brightly. The route is fairly tame except for one climb that's about 5 miles long and relatively steep. Word on the street is that Wyatt Earp is in town, which could spell trouble....because "on a steel horse I ride, and I'm wanted, dead or alive".

Sorry, no pics of today's climb since there were only 3 of us. The fact we didn't have a camera was also somewhat of an issue.  I do however have a picture of me rocking the Pedal Power Training Solutions team kit and one of the group heading to the base of Mt.Lemmon.  Real men wear pink.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Winter Training Camp Day 1

Technically this is day 2, since I arrived in Tucson yesterday evening but it was the first day on the bike. I decided this winter that I needed a legit week of training camp out west to jump start my season so I'm out here with an old college friend at a camp her coach is running.  The region I'm racing in and level I'll be racing at are much faster than in the past, and the miles out here should give me the fitness I'll need to be competitive in the races, and not just pack-fodder.

My original plan was to get a short 30-60minute spin in yesterday afternoon to open up the legs.  Due to the requisite delays that are now complimentary with purchase of your airline ticket I arrived late and didn't have time for a spin....oh, and the 180MPH HEADWIND the entire flight over didn't help speed things up either.  So today was my first ride out here.  ....we just did a super light 2hour spin to get the blood flowing and legs prepped for tomorrow.  Oh, and saw a DOUBLE RAINBOW.

Tomorrow we ascend Mt.Lemmon.  It's 26 miles long, with an average gradient of 5%.  It's pretty damn in the profile is a perfectly straight diagonal line.  My plan right now is to ride the climb at the lower end of my tempo range, since it goes from 3500-9000ft in altitude, and I'm in no way used to the length of height of the climb.  If all goes well, I'll try and hit the second ascent on Friday at a higher tempo with some race-speed efforts.

So that's whats on the menu for the next 24.  The weather has not been very Tucson like, with 50's and some light rain today, but the rest of the week is predicted to be 60's and sunny. Perfect training weather.  Hopefully the 180mph headwinds don't show up on the mountain since I left my parachute at home.  Time to sleep and rest up for tomorrow's uphill marathon.

Friday, February 4, 2011


My friend Em was in town last weekend to visit and seek out adventures in the greater D.C. with yours truly.  She and I go back to sometime senior year of college(2004), and know each other pretty well, so when she makes observations about me, or my behavior, I tend to listen.  We are quite blunt with each other, and she forces me to explore areas that I normally wouldn't go on my own, which is one of the reasons that I enjoy her so much.  (It doesn't hurt that she's brilliant, cultured, with a sharp wit, and a beautiful face)

Well she said something to me that I had initially not given much attention, until about 30 minutes ago.  Ya see, apparently I mutter to myself.  Many of my friends from college will recall a Marine ROTC friend of mine, BB, who regularly could be heard reminding me that I have no inner monologue.  My roommates in college quickly developed a countermeasure for my rambling which involved the phrase, "Latty! FILTER!"  (Filter in this case was usually a bottle of Labatt Blue but it just as well could have been a fifth of Jack...)   But back then it was a stream-of-consciousness sort of drivel.  I would just end up always stating what I was thinking as if I meant to tell everyone.  It seems that has deteriorated into something much more disturbing and worthy of concern.

Em's observation went something to the tune of, "You mutter to yourself a lot.  It's barely audible, but I think you spend too much time alone because you are having full conversations with yourself."  I likely made some joke about it to ignore addressing some of the boredom I face on a regular basis and the lack of social interaction in my life.  It's not like I live in a cave, but if I'm not at work, or riding, I really am just home alone.  It's an almost monastic life-style of work-ride-sleep that I have unconsciously fallen into.  Physically it's obviously very healthy, but what about the mental aspect?

Her words spring to the forefront of my mind in the last hour when I caught myself walking to my kitchen and talking as if someone else was sitting in my living room.  And I'm not just talking about making some comment to the TV about how unrealistic some scene was in Hawaii Five-O (you climbed straight up an elevator shaft something like 30feet in less than 5 seconds?? I didn't realize Spider-Man was a Hawaiian criminal!)   I'm talking full on addressing a non-existent person, speaking a few sentences (complete with gestures and facial expressions), and then even pausing to "hear" their response in my mind before continuing.  I've heard that imaginary friends are normal for young, developing minds in small children....I've also heard of mentally disturbed individuals who wander about muttering quietly to themselves...

Maybe I need to look for a roommate....I mean after all, that would free up more cash for bike stuff.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

There are certain workouts I love to do, and then there is one in particular that I loathe beyond comprehension.  Most would assume that the hardest workouts are the least desirable, whereas a nice relaxing hour recovery spin, through a college campus or any other area with a high concentration of attractive young women sauntering about, would be a favorite.  That's not the case for me.

It's no surprise that high-speed sprints are my favorite.  I love the speed, the violent explosion of power as you jump out of the saddle and crush the pedals in a fit of rage.  However, the workout that makes me cringe every time I see it rearing it's sadistic head on my training plan, almost wanting to curl up in the fetal position and cry, is the 90-minute tempo interval, done at about 75-85% of threshold.  (I know, not exactly shocking for a guy who enjoys time-trialing about as much as he enjoys eating a dirt covered rock)

Yes, I said "90 minutes" and "interval" in the same sentence, and yes, my coach may in fact be trying to drive me to act like a character in "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest."  Yet the workout is beautifully cruel in it's simplicity...a gradual, slow, constant grinding away at one's energy, motivation, and sanity.  I liken this masochistic creation to having your finger-nails slowly pulled off of your fingers with pliers.  You see, it's not the sharp, blinding pain that rips through your body like a punch to the kidneys.  It is mental torture, plain and simple.

While I hate doing them, and have struggled more with this workout than any other workout I do, I cannot help but feel tremendous satisfaction when I finish it.  The physical benefits to such a workout are actually quite tremendous, but for me it is the mental workout that rises above all others.  In a 40kilometer time-trial you ride as fast as you can for that period of time, and you just know its going to hurt and you have to gut it out, knowing that the faster you go the sooner it's over.  But no matter how hard I ride the tempo, it's still 90minutes long.  It's like trying to run away from your shadow (which, if anyone was wondering, isn't possible....Peter Pan lied)

I did the 90minute interval tonight.  It was the first time I didn't take a short 30sec or 1min break a few times.  It was glorious, and I feel like I've conquered a training demon.

Oh, I should also mention I do this on an indoor-trainer which only amplifies the rate at which my sanity is running away from if you're wondering why I seem to be even less connected to reality this winter, you now have some explanation.  

Ooo look! A shiney object!