Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cascade Cycling Classic: The Rest of the Story...

With apologies to Mr. Paul Harvey about the title....

Friday's stage was the trip around Mt Bachelor. About 70 miles, brutal climb at the end.

At least I call it a brutal climb. The racers all said, "it wasn't bad at all."

Sigh. It was plenty bad during my first triathlon.

At the start, I caught a glimpse of the wonderfully huge Mt Bachelor Sports Education Foundation van; the same one I've rented for our team entry in the Hood to Coast Relay.

Hood to Coast is 200 miles, 12 runners, straight through the night. Experience dictates that a larger vehicle is much desired over a mini-van. A few more bucks, but this sucker has 4 bench seats behind the driver. If I'm going to run 6 miles 3 times in 30 hours, I'd like to stretch out a bit in between.

We hosted a great rider from Boulder, Dr. Julie Emmerman. A sports psychologist with a growing practice, and she still has time to train as a pro rider. No grass growing under her feet. She spent the first 30 miles of the Cascade Lakes stage chasing down every breakaway, with no team support at all; she was racing unattached. Very hard to succeed in bike racing when going solo.

Saturday: oy vey. First it was 3500m in the pool with my master's swim club, that's over 2 miles. Then a nap, then meet Kristen downtown for the criterium. Zoe and I played Sherpa so racer Julie could ride the bike to the course; we carried the backpack and stationary trainer to the library entrance, where we met Julie in a nice shady spot near the book return. She set up the trainer and did a brisk 45-minute warm-up.

Saw the pace car gunning the engine before the race.

Nice enough, but I prefer a different kind of wheels.

A total of 7 bikes in our garage this week, very cool. The 416 and the other white one are Julie's, complete with pro-level components. I couldn't stop drooling; serious cycle envy.

Julie does some support work for Garmin Cervelo, the guys who just won the team competition in the Tour de France. That's big-time.

Our rider woke this morning very tired, what with Mackenzie Pass, the Cascade Highway, and two time trials already behind her. She figured on simply sitting inside the pack today and not doing much work.

Sure, it always turns out as planned. Except for most of the time when it doesn't. She was doing fine in the crit until all of a sudden, she's several hundred yards behind the pack. Not from fatigue; she got trapped behind a crash and was gapped in a hurry. She ended up in a small group but was doing most of the work.

Afterward, she said she felt fine, even while doing the majority of pulling to regain contact. "That's racing," she shrugged.

Meanwhile, Ed from Pisano's was out practicing his craft.

And MBSEF gave all drivers and volunteers free entree to their VIP viewing area, where we could watch the race and nosh. We were right in front of a pothole that the city graciously marked with orange paint, so that 200 racers going 30 mph would easily be able to avoid it. Uh, Mr. Mayor, it didn't work; there were at least a dozen flats from direct hits. A little asphalt patch might have been in order.

Next day, last day. My warm-up was a 3.5 hr cycling ride of my own, out the Powell Butte Hwy east of town. Bachelor, the Sisters, Broken Top, Black Butte, all clearly visible on the horizon. We members of the triathlon club decided on the spot that this road needed to be the bike course for Ironman Central Oregon 2013.

Then it's back to the bike race and driving the final stage, all 67 miles worth. That's 6.5 hrs in the saddle or the car seat today. In competition for the IronButt award, I had no peer this day.

Julie rode tough, stayed solidly in the pack, and finished 28th on the day, a nice finish to a hard week. The next day, we took her to lunch and convinced the non-beer-drinker to try a sample of Black Butte Porter. Not sure we converted her, but at least she didn't go all anaphylactic on us.

Great week, and a busy one. With 21 days until my half ironman, it's time to cut back on all extra-curriculars and finish peaking. But I'm already thinking about trying out a real bike race someday.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cascade Cycling Classic: Mackenzie Pass Stage

In 2010, I was asked to drive one of the race vehicles in the women's last stage. This year, I'm driving every road stage.

Very cool. My next license plate should read "COM2."  For commissair #2 (referee); my car is the one immediately preceding the peloton. "My" car is slightly inaccurate: I'm driving a rig from a local dealer/sponsor.

The stage begins up in the sticks. A half hour before the start, I'm standing five feet away from the car waiting for something to happen. A woman I don't recognize walks over to the car, opens the driver's door, sits down, and starts rummaging around. Curious, I simply watch. After more fumbling around the dashboard, she pops open the hood latch.

Now I'm really curious. I'm also responsible for the car. So I ask if she needs some help.

"Yes," she says, "I want to put my bag in the trunk."

"Oh," I said while raising the hood and shutting it, "I thought you wanted to check the oil."  Turns out she was another official. I pop the trunk and all is right with the world.

The official assigned to my car cautioned me to stay 30 seconds ahead of the pack. Distance and time are hard to judge when you're going anywhere from 10 to 50 mph. Tonight, I need to break out the slide rule and do some math.

The route goes from Santiam Pass, down 126 toward Eugene, then a tortuous 20 miles up and over Mackenzie Pass. For those who have driven to Mt Bachelor, today's climb averages a third steeper. Gawd.

Up, up, forever up...

Intrepid rider #416 drops off the lead pack when the hammer drops. She is thereby sentenced to climb the last 6 miles all by her lonesome while trying gamely to regain contact. The descent on the other side will be much easier if she pulls herself up to the lead group. But it's next to impossible when you have to bridge a gap alone.

A tough day at the office.

Up at the summit, 11 riders are at the front. Under orders, I bring the car behind them; now it's time for a ripping descent. 50+ mph, tight curves, and white knuckles. On me, that is. The riders look way too happy up there.

I'm really glad it's someone else's car. But I'm taking car of it, Mr. Dealer.

Team cars can hand out water bottles to riders under the watchful eyes of race officials. The riders quickly pass their empties to the car. Then they do a subtle maneuver; they turn their hand thumb-down and palm facing back as the driver hands over a fresh bottle.

And there it stops. The bottle transfer halts mid-stream, the rider stops pedaling, yet miraculously they maintain speed or even accelerate. Yes, they are getting a free pull from the car. Anything more than about 10 seconds earns them an angry honk from the COM2 driver. Some of them also received fines at race end.

You can run, but  you can't hide. Gamesmanship is a subtle art.

At the finish, an 8-year-old boy climbs out of a team car to greet his mom. 20 minutes later, another team member struggles across the line. He sees and runs over to her gasping form.

Innocent Boy: "Why were you so slow?"
Patient Rider: "Because it hurt."

After I stop chuckling to myself and nodding in sympathy, I hear another rider groaning. She says, "The whole way was pain, and not the normal kind."

I'm not sure what that means, and I'm not sure I want to know.

CCC: The Group Ride

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cascade Cycling Classic: the Group Ride

The CCC is the longest continuously running stage race in America, and it just happens to be right here.

Mt Bachelor Sports Education Foundation organizes the race, a huge undertaking. They do a great job in controlling the chaos at an acceptable level. The night before the race started, MBSEF organized a group ride with the Garmin Chipotle Development Team; sponsors and volunteers were welcome.

The guy in the blue/green shirt figures prominently. Read on...

I asked, "will it be a hammerfest?"

"No, no," says Molly, "a comfortable ride." She is MBSEF's events/finance guru and "All Knowing" one. Seriously, that's her title in the race manual.

I'm still recovering from my triathlon two days prior, legs are shot, and the weather looks questionable. But I'll take it easy, and riding in light rain is no big deal. About 25 of us meet at the MBSEF office for Molly's world famous chocolate chip cookies washed down with Gatorade. Then we're off.

Notice the foul-weather gear
I hadn't ridden in a peloton in, what, 18 years? Old habits die hard; you have to pay attention, but it's fun.

Did I mention the rain?

After two or three miles, it's absolutely dumping on us. Oh well. I hope that camera in my pocket is staying dry.

Climbing out of Shevlin Park, it starts to get hard. Who's up there pushing the pace? None other than The All-Knowing One. I comment that I'm not liking her very much right now (but I am).

I'm feeling ok, so I decide to tuck behind the front guys and see what happens. Soon, the Garmin guys are laughing, talking, having a grand old time. I'm dry-heaving, scratching and clawing to keep up.

Still pouring. I can imagine the camera short-circuiting.

The rise from Tumalo State Park was tough but manageable, and much faster than I've done it before. At the crest, I'm still there. We pick it up on OB Riley, riding fast and on the ragged edge (that's me; everyone else is bored).

There was a young blond kid with the front group, maybe 16 or so, and shaped like a defensive lineman (see first photo, back right). His dad works at Bend Memorial Clinic, the main sponsor, so the son decided to come along. His rig had mountain bike pedals and all-terrain shoes, not as aero as the Garmin outfits. Hey, it all works. What's really cool is that this kid had been riding maybe 2-3 months, and here he was, hanging with the pros for the better part of the ride. Nice job, guy.

I don't know who Archie Briggs was, but he could have picked a flatter road to name after himself. This one hurts. First climb, I'm still there, 2nd one, hanging by my fingernails. They finally drop me within 100 yards of the summit. Fortunately, they stay together on the downhill, so I recover and pound away until I'm back.

Then there's one last short steep climb near the college. I'm done, toast. The enamel on my teeth is gone from an hour's worth of grinding, but heck, these guys are half my age. One of the racers cannot drink beer legally; I have socks older than him.

Good showing to keep up this long. And no one would fault me for simply cruising in.

However, there's this thing called pride...

They're pedaling at a steady clip down to the roundabout. I put my guts on my sleeve (figurative, not literal) and it's back into the big ring. I rip around the curve and catch them one last time.

Sure, they are all sitting up and beginning to cool down, so bridging the gap might not be considered an heroic effort.

I don't care. It was a win for me.

CCC: Mackenzie Pass Stage

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Race Volunteering is cool, most of the time...

2nd day of the Deschutes Dash; I'm offline and glad to help at an aid station. We're just past T2, which also happens to be T1.

It's that minimalist thing, I suppose.

T2 empties onto a riverside walkway awash with spectators. Ok, fine, but come on, people. Give the runners a clear path. Pretty quickly we dispatch some loud guy to get people out of the way.

Yes, my voice carries.

Most of the spectators are great. They wait until a break in the action before crossing.

Then there are the ones completely unaware of their surroundings. Like the woman parked in the middle of the sidewalk, 10 feet from the 90 degree transition exit. After yelling three times at her, including once from spitting distance, she finally turns and looks bewildered.

Then there's the guy who basically does the same thing until he realizes he's in the way. He turns and laughs. I shake my head; he says, "dude, don't look at me like that."

Dude, are you always that oblivious, or are you just an inconsiderate jackass? More of that, and I wouldn't be surprised to see triathletes lowering a shoulder and playing fullback.

The day got better. Runners are very happy when you give them something cool to drink, even if they don't say it. Anyone who has been on the other side knows what it's like.

I almost stayed perfect; literally one single drop of HEED spilled on me all day. Keys to success from Michelle, DMC Kahuna:
  • Hold the cup at the top with your palm facing down
  • Tilt the cup in the direction of travel
  • Jog a step or two while passing the juice to reduce relative speed between you and runner
Pitched a nice fit when I got 'splashed.' Everyone laughed.

A woman stopped me with a question.
Her: "What's the difference between yesterday's races and today's?"
Me: "24 hours."
She didn't appreciate that very much.

One guy (not a runner by any stretch, given the 250 pounds he carried) took a cup and splashed it in his face. Too bad he grabbed (sticky) electrolyte and not the water he really wanted.

A woman did the sprint tri dressed like she stepped out of a patchouli shop. Beaded hair, halter top, flip-flops. How do you run a 5k in flip-flops? Dunno, maybe the same way you ride a bike 12 miles in them.

A big guy with  a shirt that says, "Running Sucks."

A guy who finished the swim, jumped on his mountain bike while still in transition, then entered the run course.
Me: 'Dude, are you in the race? If so, you're going the wrong way."
Him: 'Oh s***.'

One tough athlete in the kid's tri who braved the swim course with no wetsuit. And lots of kids who did the backstroke or breaststroke the whole way. No rule against it, and a good way to get used to a bizarre activity.

The fastest kids got through transition in less than a minute. The adults are somewhat methodical in putting their gear down. Michelle noted that the kids do what they do best; namely, throw stuff everywhere and without concern. Spoken like a true parent.

A good day. Volunteering is payback. The race organizers always appreciate it. And you get a free shirt without having to sweat.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Deschutes Dash Olympic Triathlon: the Big Bonk

Or as Al Capone (DeNiro) said to Elliot Ness (Costner),


Hey DeNiro (aka Travis Bickle), you talkin' to me? I think you are. I had nothing today.

Hey, at least I was the water to warm up. 60F, not bad in the sleeveless. Meanwhile, a huge crowd of triathletes on the bank not eager to get in. The downstream river swim is fun; you go under bridges and think that you're a real swimmer when you see the relative speed.

After 200 yards with the field spread out, some guy literally crawled right over me enroute, going from my right hip to my left shoulder. Was that really necessary, dude? Then I took a kick to the jaw. Interesting.

Came to shore feeling strong.

On the bike after hitting a gel. Still working on getting into shoes on the fly, though this was better than last time. Then it's straight uphill toward Mt. Bachelor.

Already blown; legs are dead. No big, this is training race #2, with my target day coming in 4 weeks. It's ok to feel bad today. And I've been feeling really tired the last 6 weeks; training, work, volunteering, home, etc... And last night I spent 3 hours helping the organizers set up the transition area, getting home at 8pm.

Tip: if you're setting up fencing and bike racks, bring heavy gloves. Major blisters. And it poured on us.

Tip redux; don't set up fencing the day before a race if you want a good result in the race.

Anyhow, I just figured all the extra work will simply make the race harder, which is fine for training.

I was right. The race was harder. But I really need to throttle back on my recovery weeks.

Lots more rain uphill. Joseph and Kevin (fellow club members) crank past, and I wave goodbye. I was able to keep out of my lowest gear (23 cog), with a decent spin rate in the 21. I hit the turnaround 2 minutes slower than last year; didn't understand why.

Oh yeah; last year was a relay leg. This time, I was doing the whole thing. A little easier to ride when you didn't swim a mile beforehand. Selective memory?

Coming downhill, wet and cracked asphalt. Stay off the aero bars and take it easy. Nothing to gain and everything to lose by pushing hard now and wiping out. Never been as petrified on a descent like today.

Push the last flat four miles, out of the shoes without wrecking, into transition. Running shoes on, a drink of water, and we're going.

Except we're not.

Crashed hard/immediately, absolutely no energy, and I just started the run. This isn't going to be enjoyable, and it turns out I was right about that.

"Calories! I need Calories!!!"  At every aid station I'm screaming, to no avail. Water and HEED, no sugar or carbs. Later, when I tell my 8-year-old, she says, "Daddy, you should have eaten a chocolate bunny." No doubt.

After one loop, I'm on fumes. Okay, don't think. Just do. I cannot recall ever feeling that lousy in a race. I'm sure I've been there before, but it's been over 25 years.

BTW, only the last 4 years count. The previous 21? No races at all.

One aid station has half a banana. Not anymore. It's no magic elixir, but at least it doesn't get worse. How can it? I'm at rock bottom.

One nice thing about tri training is that it's given me a race-end kick. At least I can finish hard, sort of.

Had a free cosmopolitan afterward, courtesy of the race organizers. Nice touch, although an IV might have been more apropos. Then Joseph, Kevin, and I got back in the water for a bit.

Turns out Joseph took 2nd in our group! He had been dealing with a leg problem for a while, and this was his first race of the year. Nice way to come back, JB. Meanwhile, Kevin went for double-duty, with the sprint tri tomorrow. Today he was 13th OA (postscript: he was 1st AG in the sprint and the overall 2-day winner). Huge effort, Kevin!

Overall: good training day when taking the accumulated fatigue into account. Great workout for the carbo depletion effect, maybe my tired bod will start burning more fat like the books say.  Last tri of same length, I pounded about 5 ounces of gel underway. This time, 1 ounce and a major bonk. Hmmm, me thinks me sees a pattern.

Glad it was today and not at the Half Ironman in Lake Stevens next month.

It's all good. Now I'm taking a nap. For about 4 days.

Post Script:
didn't look at results until the next day. My first ever tri last yr, I was 36th out of 37 in my age group. Yesterday, 6th of 17 and an 8:28 run pace. Now I'm confused; it felt like 10+ minute miles. My Half Iron goal pace is 9:00; if I can go substantially faster while on vapors.....

Holy cow. I'm right where I need to be.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Amazing Disappearing Blood Markers

Cholesterol has always been a problem with me.

Ever since I can remember, I've been above 200 for total cholesterol. Never understood why; I don't eat a lot of red meat or fatty stuff. Being lactose intolerant, I don't do alfredo or Benedict or any cream in quantity. And I've been working out like a madman, which should help, right?

But it didn't. The doctor put me on Crestor to help get it under control.

I hate taking meds. Absolutely hate it. Maybe I'm a control freak. Dunno.

Long story short: cholesterol stayed level, and triglycerides actually went up. But the kicker was when I learned that this little 90-day supply of meds that costs me $20 costs my insurance company over $400.

Obscene. And it wasn't working anyway. So it's time to reboot the diet.

Kristen discovers Mark Bittmann, a food writer who used to have a weight problem and many health issues. He got mad, then made up a diet he calls "Vegan before 6." Breakfast and lunch were no meat, lots of fruit/veg, no saturated fat or processed food. For dinner, he'd have 'normal' food, just a little less of it. Goodbye, 30 lbs. Goodbye, high cholesterol and joint problems.

For the last five months, I've been the joke of the lunch table, with my biggest decision being whether to have balsamic or Green Lakes vinaigrette on my salad. No pretzels, no flour (ok, maybe a little). And eating a third less.

10 lbs lost and I'm back at the doctor.

                                                              Feb 2011            July 2011        Trend
Total Cholesterol                                      240                    241              Constant.
HDL (good chol, should be high)                49                     105              Excellent
LDL (bad chol, should be low)                   158                    125              Excellent
Triglycerides (blood fats, should be low)     167                     55               Excellent
Total Chol/HDL ratio (should be low)           4.9                    2.3              Excellent

The doctor mentioned that current thinking is less toward total cholesterol and more toward having a higher HDL and lower ratio. If I understand her explanation correctly: chol is produced/delivered by the liver as a response to inflammation of the blood vessel walls. That inflammation is caused by sugar, which is made from starch. More sugar/starch means more inflammation means more cholesterol means narrowed arteries and a whole other set of problems...

So, eliminate starch. No white pasta, cookies, or my beloved pretzels. Plenty of lean meat, avocados, nuts, and other stuff a deer would love. Not that hard once you acclimatize.

Interestingly, I haven't had a moderately serious training injury this year. Some minor kinks, but nothing that put me out of commission. And no colds.

The other big change is the shorter recovery time. Last  year, it took me about 6 weeks after my half-iron race before I felt like going hard again. This time, two weeks after my 78-min improvement over that distance, I ran the Hood to Coast relay and pretty much equaled my best 10k time in 30 years. Again, better diet means harder workouts and less recovery needed.

One other thing I changed; eating more eggs, not fewer. Nice trade-off.

Friday, July 1, 2011

US Nationals (the competitors)

When non-tracksters ask me what 'Nationals' are, I just tell them that it's the Olympic Trials without the Olympics.

Tyson withdrew, bad hip. Sigh. Better now than in London, I suppose. Justin Gatlin forgets to lean and is 2nd by a hair; he's happy just to be back.

Ashton Eaton in a romp. He's gotten better in the throws, and his running/jumping is superlative as always. Dangerous man for the next two Olympiads.

Watching Elijah Greer warm up the day before the 800 prelims, I'm reminded of a sports car. Very fast yet smooth, he runs the turns as if on ice skates. That's two UO sophmores in three years running low 1:45's; the other guy's name is Wheaties or something.

David Oliver, massive high hurdler, is practicing over three barriers. Vin Lananna, UO Head Coach,  stands in an adjacent lane. DO flies by at high speed, creating a suction that nearly flattens the coach. Vin laughs and says, "David, if you hit me, I'm finished."

Galen Rupp starts the 10k wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask for allergies. Halfway through the race, he tears it off and pitches it. An ovation from the crowd.

With 2 laps to go, Galen floors it. 1:52 for the final 800, and he looks like a jet fighter on full afterburner going down the backstretch. Nice job, Alberto (Salazar, his coach): you found the lad some late wheels.

Men's 1500: Lil' Centro follows in Dad's footsteps, and I missed the whole darned thing! Lagat takes the lead after the Bowerman curve, and I immediately start looking for Wheating's kick. Not there, not there, still not there, and now AW is 4th at the line. Then I see Centro dancing around. Can't be; no one walks down Lagat in the last 100. Wow. And Centro never broke form, while Bernard began to struggle.

Too bad for Andrew; then we learn that Bernard will only run the 5000 at Worlds, leaving his 1500m slot to the 4th place finisher. Andy should send him a nice fruit basket.

Women's 1500: God bless Cristin Wurth-Thomas. No kick, so she goes for it in a way Pre would have loved, building a 30 yard lead, then getting outleaned for 3rd place. Gut-wrenching, all right, but it wouldn't have been as close WITHOUT guts. That's one tough runner. Morgan Uceny stayed in form and unloaded at the right time with her silky-smooth stride.

Another college kid wins a US pro title, this time it was Wazoo's Jeshua Anderson in the 400 hurdles. A photo finish with Batman and 2-time gold medalist Angelo Taylor, and it's the rookie by a nostril. Nice celebration. Kellie Wells had a  similar dance after the 100HH. The other great hurdler/dancer, Lolo J, got stuck in the blocks and didn't qualify. Still another year, LJ.

Adam Nelson is still around? I thought he retired, got his MBA, and moved to Wall Street. Great that he's still throwing so far, and who doesn't love his psych-up routine? Monster shot put competitions on both sides.

Great meet. I think the team will do well in Korea.

US Nationals (the flavor)