Photo: Tony Allen-Mills

Photo: Tony Allen-Mills
The Charge: First Race, First Climb

Monday, April 25, 2011

Black Hills Circuit Race: Now I Know

An overdue retrospective on the Black Hills Circuit Race, held March 19.  I tend to go on in these things.  For those who desire brevity, the summary of the summary would read: took epic pull lap one, blew up spactacularly.

Parameters: 12-mile, 8 lap affair (yeah, cat5s are fragile creatures), featuring a rolling profile with one reasonably sharp 200 meter-long climb each lap, with a finish near the top.  The climb was a bit underbilled in discussions leading up to the race, although its effect in the cat5 race was entirely predictable -- bloody carnage.

I was unprepared.  For warm up, I figured if I wheeled around the parking lot a few times that ought to about do it.  When later I saw my higher-cat teammates spinning trainers, sweat dripping from chins, I concluded that maybe my approach was inadequate.  On the bright side, it afforded me the opportunity to line up early, second row.

I had no plan.  Planning is hard when you have no idea where you fit -- it was the first race of the year for most, the first ever for me.  My strategy, such as it was, involved a vague idea about riding in the middle of the field and moving up with a couple laps left.  The hill seemed like no big whoop based on its elevation profile and my brief pre-race eyeballing, and I wasn't concerned.  But when it comes to endurance aerobic activity, a foolish confidence often is worse than none at all.

The whistle blew.  I clipped quickly and jumped to the proximity of the front.  So much for the plan.  Let us now take the time to describe that first lap in some detail, for we will have little to discuss thereafter.  The ascent began almost immediately after the start.  I spun up it effortlessly -- looking back at my power file, I see it was not, but at the time my understanding of reality must have been overwhelmed by the surge of dopamine and adrenaline that washed through my body.  The pack slowed momentarily to negotiate the turn atop the hill, then it was a brisk shot along the back end of the course, over a few small rises, around a turn or two, one bigger hump with another turn, until within a couple minutes we cleared the final roller and charged around the arc onto the straightaway that fronts the parking lot and start line.

Here the race went to hell.  I recall the episode vividly still.  I was riding in fourth slot at the single-file point of the spear.  A slight downward gradient fell out of the wide turn into the straight.  I felt strong.  The pace seemed rather complacent.  I had to warm the brakes to stay off the wheel before me.  But I didn't want to grind brake.  I wanted to charge.  So I pulled your basic roller derby slingshot move coming out of the arc, hit the gas, and leapt around.  Not a sprint, just a solid push into the wind at about 30-32mph or so.  Don't ask: I have no idea what I thought I was going to accomplish.  Drop the field?  I think not.  Nor was that my intention.  The problem is I really had nothing tactical going on in the move, period.  I just wanted to go faster, to taste the air in front for a while.  It was as if I had forgotten I was in a race and not just jousting in a group ride along MacArthur.  Anyway, inevitably, the others jumped into my slipstream.  And so it was that I pulled the field the length of the straightaway, past the start line, and halfway up that maddening little climb.  I was having a ball.  "This is what racing's all about," I chortled.  It was delirium speaking.  As the road turned upward again, I began to dial up the wattage.  Only, rather suddenly actually, I discovered that my legs had turned to clay.  I couldn't push the climb any harder, and that was less hard than my more patient peers.  They swamped me like a slowly rising tide, and I dropped back and back and ultimately out.  Aw, crap.

But my folly did not end.  At this point, I should have cashed every last ounce of mitochondrial fiber to hitch onto the back of the field and then eek a recovery out of the easier side of the course.  Instead, I let them go.  Bye, bye.  I wasn't really thinking at all, to tell the truth.  Somehow, somewhere in that short period when my thumb was pressing the turbo button, not only did my quads fill up with Tabasco sauce, but I lost my mind as well.  My psyche did a significant blue-shift; what had been an acute, Whippet-twitchy eagerness to charge off the front was smothered in a fog of laissez faire complacency.  The stupor began to pass once I crested the hill.  By then, the field had vanished and could not be regained.  I was left to time trial as hard as I could in a cone of silence for the remainder.  I caught and passed a small handful of later dropees, and was passed from behind by one other, but it was not what one might call a successful day at the races.

After my ignominious finish, I stood as a spectator and watched riders from other categories effortlessly streak along the course and smash up the hill, and I began to understand what I had gotten myself into.  Bike racing is really hard.  Now I know.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

18th Annual Carl Dolan Memorial 2011 Senior Men's Category 5 8:45am Cold and Windy Snot-Rocket Circuit Race presented by DC Velo Race Reportage

Ancient history does not sell newspaper, cutting edge news sells newspaper.  I am not in the newspaper selling business.  But so what, it's a fine analogy.  So instead of annotating the tragically funny experience that was my first race, the Black Hills Circuit Race last March 19, or finishing my Sleepaway Camp encomium to the concept that shared suffering is better than suffering alone, both old news now, I will move forward along the arrow of time to the recent past (or near present, if one prefers), and talk about the 18th Annual Carl Dolan Memorial Circuit Race, which I raced this morning.  Bottom line, the Cat 5 race was lots of fun, crash-free (if just barely!), frustratingly slow at points, laden with moments of panic and several bowel-clenching near disasters at others, and topped off by a ridiculously early and tough to pace final sprint which found me out of gas when it counted.  Finish: 21st out of a field of 46-50 or thereabouts.  I loved it, and I thought DC Velo put on a great event.

So let me get some data, the good and the not so good and some other random factoids, out of the way for us:
  • ~9 laps, 18.6 miles
  • Avg speed: 22.9 mph (windy)
  • Max speed: 41 mph
  • Max wattage: 930 (meh)
  • "Normative" wattage: 230 (major meh)
  • 564 kilojoules
  • Max crank torque: 1030 in-lbs.
  • HR:wattage: -2.68% (what does this even mean?)
  • Witnessed nearby wheel bumpage: 3
  • Crashes: 0
  • Lost water bottles: 0 (new record for me)
  • Boogers in face: 1
So, the category 5 race went off at 8:45am.  The wind was running about 15-18mph or so from WSW, according to, which is never often wrong but in this case seemed about right.  Just before I began my warmup on the trainer, I checked the car external temp gauge, which read 49 degrees.  My garmin, however, tells me the avg. temp for the ride was 53.  Either way, with the wind, it was cold at the line in the morning.  As I mentioned, and unlike my first race, I indulged in a steady 30 minute warm up on the trainer prior to heading to the start, and I felt reasonably alright.  I qualify, as I had not ridden for 2 days and was coming off an arduous team training camp the weekend before (at which I did about 650 TSS, in WKO+ speak), followed by a hills interval ride on Tuesday night and a reasonably hard exertion during a solo ride Thursday -- so really I had no idea how all that was going to play out once I got underway.

We hit the road at a moderate pace, at best.  Everyone was antsy about the wind, I suppose, and no one seemed particularly anxious to take the front along the west side of the course.  Almost immediately a predictable pattern emerged: slow as dogshit on the west side of the roughly square-shaped polygon of the course until you hit the single turn, then immediately out of the saddle sprint like hell up the outside along the east side of the course until the finish line.  Then repeat.  Here and there one or two guns would fire alone, but they were rather easily drawn back when no one went with them and the wind and hill did their work.  This pattern held until about four laps remained, at which time a group of 5 or so fast-looking fellows got away and began to form into a line on the slow, wind-heavy west side.  I was sitting maybe 10th or 15th wheel, and when the first 5 got about a 100m-150m gap, one by one I and several others apparently reached a tacit understanding that the move could have a chance and we should join it or bring it back.  I have no idea why I decided to participate in that effort, given my prerace commitment not to do any epic off the front pulling (my Black Hills lesson), as in retrospect there was slim chance anyone was staying away once we hit the hill, but thinking clearly at 170 bpm isn't my strong suit.  So off I went into no-man's land to chase, along with sets of 2 or 3 others at various intervals before me, and I guess the rest stringing out behind us.  The break wasn't working together very well (I later learned), and we caught it and the whole race came back together on the "foot" of the east-side climb (it maxed out around 3.5% grade, so I don't want to overstate), as I probably should have predicted.  That effort in the wind took its toll.  I redlined on that ascent, and it took eveything I had to keep my claws in the ass-end of the field when it hit the hump at the start-finish area until we ran into the much-blessed slow as dogshit part of the course again.  Thankfully, I think the uptick in pace to catch the break took a toll on the field as well, as the next time we reached the turn /stand-up-and-sprint-to-the-hill-climb component of the course, things felt less fierce and I managed to recover.  After that, I stayed in the thick of the peloton until the final lap.

A couple bad things unfolded at this point.  First, and this is gross, a WWVC or some other red-colored kit guy kindly looked over his right shoulder to check his blindspot before releasing a healthy, one-nostril snot-rocket projectile into the free air.  Unfortunately, and for reasons I cannot explain or understand, although he checked right, he turned and unleashed it over his left shoulder.  Into airspace that my face occupied.  I quickly mentioned my displeasure and kept going past.  He was kind enough to say "sorry," so I guess we're good.  Second, I came off the turn less hot then I had every lap prior.  I guess I was worried about the final climb/sprint and didn't want to cook my goose before I absolutely had to.  I may have been right, but maybe not -- my position entering into the sprint was probably the furthest back in the field at that section of the course that I had sat all morning.  This is a guess, but I must have hit the finishing climb about 30-35th wheel.  I dug deep to pass about a dozen bikes as we approached the 200m mark, and by that time the leaders were already hammering hard for home.  I had no chance, was well beyond red, the horizon shrunk to a dim and narrow tunnel, my aerobic energy system hung from its feet in Shelob's lair, and there was nothing left.  The wattage display on my garmin deteriorated quickly as I crossed the line 21st -- frankly, lucky to hold that.

I am not complaining.  The twenty guys who beat me had more in the tank because they are more fit, or more savvy at speed.  Likely both.  Either way, they win.  Truly, I'm sure the top ten or so would have licked me in the uphill sprint even had I jumped with them.  That said, I would have liked to finish somewhere above 15, even if realistically a mid-pack finish is about right.  Most importantly, though, looking back over the months since November, when I  first decided to give racing a try after riding nothing more than recreational group rides for a year, I recall that my sole goal was simply to finish among the main field in a cat 5 race, to not get dropped.  I figured that would be something.  And now, in my second race ever, I have achieved that something.  It feels good.  Admittedly, maybe I set my sights too low; it feels like I did, now that I've done it.  But that's often the case with goal setting generally.  And back in November the idea that I could accomplish even that modest level of success was far from certain.  So I am quite pleased with the result, and I have modified my goals accordingly.  I still do not expect to affix a podium picture here anytime soon; but I want a 5-10 spot.  (Unfortunately, the next few races are 4/5s, and I think we can all agree I am not likely to make my breakthrough in any of those.)   In a solitary cat 5 field, however, who knows, it just might happen ... so long as I play my cards right and stay away from the plethora of inadvertent cat 5 wheel chopping behavior that, incidentally, I also witnessed today (yes, I'm talking about you, crazy inside-suicide-loving no-kit guy, and you, too, kindly but swervy DC Velo gentleman).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sleepaway Camp (for Cyclists)

When I was twelve, I had wealthy friends who would dissapear for several weeks at a time during summer.  They attended camps with silly names where I understand from innumerable cinematic renderings they spent their time endlessly canoeing, competing in foot races, and making out at night with kids from the neighboring camps.  Finally I get to do the same, absent the boats, foot racing, and getting to first base, or summer weather, for that matter.

Team training camp begins tomorrow.  I promised a kidney to get free of work and began negotiations months ago to attend the three-day span of the event, but somehow I managed.  We will be doing four organized rides through the mountainous wilds of West Virginia, three days of a serious amount of kilojoules expended in my attempt to stay with the group during radical 5 mph ascents, or so I'm led to believe.  We've rented a string of cabins, and will be recieving our new kits as well.  Should be fun.

Welcome to WV, Wild and Wonderful

Early to rise.  In the car.  Traffic congestion worse than I recall -- usually I am sheltered from surface urban morning commuter woes in an aluminum tube with other metro area morlocs.  But eventually I break free of the misery that is the federal enclave and find myself buzzing down 66 to 81 to 48 to 55 to 259 to Lost River State Park in rather rapid succession.  I'm actually early, the first on the team to arrive according to the state parks lady responsible for handing out cabin keys.  As a result, I get the choice of beds, and I conclude that my teammate, the indomitable 55+ racer I've mentioned already, is entitled to the larger single-bed room as he has a podium already this year.  My first-race DNF entitles me to the shared space in room two.

The first camp ride was advertized as a chill, 32-mile session.  The weather was about as I expected: high 30s to low 40s, heavy rain, fog.  Somehow in my preparations I failed to pack more than one set of bibs and forgot my excellent Craft baselayer entirely, and I was soaking wet and nearly hypothermic as soon as I began the decent from my cabin to the appointed meeting spot at the base of the park.  About 18 of us set off together, and the two leaders shot off the front at a fairly rapid pace.  I followed their wheels, and felt fairly strong despite the cold and wet, until within about 1 mile I had hit a pothole at 26mph or so that jettisoned my sole water bottle into the abyss of the roadside forest primeaval.  I already had no clear idea where I was, and definitely none at all where the group was headed so I shrugged off the lost bottle as a propitious sacriface to the woodland gods who patrol those roads and stayed with the group, steeling myself for the test whether I had 30 more miles in my legs waterless without cramping.  Fortunately, a teammate spared me the need to find out when he passed me one of his.  And bonus -- it contained a great tasting drink mix the name of which I really need to learn.  A further aside, the rain was heavy by this point, and I ended up riding sans glasses -- I found it nearly impossible to keep the lenses free enough of mud, water, and general road grit, and the risk-benefit equation of blinding myself to road hazards temporarily versus risking permanent eye injury from flying particulate matter fell in favor of squinting it out.

WV soil -- good for the pores
So, the ride; in a nutshell, it was a lot of fun, mostly in retrospect.  The pace remained energetic throughout.  We encountered lots of chained dogs, kamikazi squirrels, collapsed barns, the most horrendous smells wafting from definitively non-free-range chicken farms, and then a cat with an apparent death wish as well.  By mid-ride the rain had slackened, but the mud coating the road surface had increased and multiplied, so that each of us was pushing the envelop on the amount of gunk that could be plastered into the gaps between brake calipers and across faces.  Animated I suppose by the thought of a weekend filled with more of the same, we barreled down the roadway, a glistening, shivering, mud-covered troop of amateur bike racers, gaudy plummage disguised beneath road spray.  By the time we returned to our cabins, I was drained by the elements, my bike was a disaster, and I was damned excited about the idea of putting an end to the battle against hypothermia through the welcome ministrations of a hot shower.

The hard numbers do the experience no justice, but for the analytical types, here is the ride:  32.8 mi, +1800 feet, 1180 kj.

And so ended the work of the first day of training camp.

A compatriot's rig after mudding it through the first ride
May I Have Another?

Day two dawned misty and cool, but markedly better for outdoor althetic activities than the day that preceded it.  With a huge ribeye dinner at the Lost River Grill and 8 hours in the sack behind me, all vital signs were thrumming and I felt ready for work.  The team assembled at 9am for another 32 miler with moderate climbing and a short gravel-enhanced section.  The working concept was to take it easy and to maintain group cohesion throughout, as the afternoon ride would follow soon after and promised plenty of opportunty for exploding hearts and breaking legs and chainrings.  The ascending began soon enough, turning skyward almost immediately out of the park with a nice and steady ~8% ascent rising about 800 feet over 2 miles (ok, you do the math, but my Garmin was convinced we were at 8 percent most of the time) that we completed in a leasurely 15 minutes.  It was here that we hit the promised off-road portion of the festivities.  Only it turned out that there was a bit of a miscalculation.  What our intrepid expeditionary leader thought would be about 2 to 4 miles of gravel was in fact about 17 miles of dirt and mud and stones, and a weird downhill section with pointy-edged slaty looking things in seriatim rows that worked on the same principle as highway dots on the wrists when hit at speed.

Ascending on dirt in fog.  Remarkable image: Grayson.
When finally we hit real roads, 17 miles later (oh, did I already mention that?), the pace revved up right away.  Turns out we had actually done a fair amount of climbing during the off-road excursion, although I had not noticed given the constant focus on picking lines and washing out around a tangled trail of root wells, mud, rocks, and broken tree limbs.  And I didn't really feel it afterwards either, as it felt so good to let the mental fog lift and open the legs at a pace intended for roadbikes again.  I wasn't alone in submitting to this interesting sense of euphoria --  for a few miles a whole line of us shot down the slim ashpalt track leading out of the dirt pass at well over 24mph.  Then a flat or two brought the pace down, until eventually the whole group of twenty-six reformed into a nice, tight pack three abreast for a nice tour through some gently rolling WV country roads back to the park.   Then it was a quick stop for hosing down the muddy bikes at the guard shack, and the unpleasant little slap-in-the-face climb back home to the cabins for a quick lunch (interesting fact, rates the mile of asphalt stretching from the park entrance to the door of my cabin itself as a Cat 4 climb), the passing out of new team kits, the taking of the annual team photo, and back again on the bikes for our next ride, including the much anticipated assualt of the mother of all the worst climbs I've ever dreamt of ascending by bike.

Totals for Day 2, Ride 1: 32.3 miles, +2800 feet, 1285 kj.


Cycling, the recreational sport, amazes me for many reasons, but high on the list is the strange proposition that avid cyclists seek solace in suffering, rather than from suffering.  And that perversion of the natural order is perhaps most vividly demonstrated in the desire of otherwise rational minds, once strapped within a vented polysterene foam lid, to look for more horrible, more horrific climbs with which to punish the frail human flesh that houses the soul.  Enter the Saturday afternoon training ride.

Following the team photo extravaganza which was conducted in the freezing, still slightly misty early afternoon air, 25 of us (one kind member agreed to stay behind and trace the route in the unofficial SAG wagon about an hour behind our departure time) set forth on our third ride, this one into the ugly maw of the WV hill country.  Two groups quickly formed, an A and a B essentially.  I rode the A train for about 3 miles, until I hit the identical pothole that bit me on day one and I ejected another freshly filled bottle from my now soon-to-be-replaced carbon fiber cage.  I was not about to attempt this ride bottleless -- I was pushing my luck with just bringing one -- so I dropped back, allowing both groups to whir past me as I retrieved it from a gully beside the road.  No worse for wear, I cranked it up and caught the 5 or so teammates who made up the back group, and jumped in with them.  Along the way we picked up a couple more.  Word was that the front group was setting a terrific pace toward the first climb.  I thanked the minor roadside diety to whom I had sacrificed my first bottle for knocking out the second and saving me from trying to hang with that crew.  What lay ahead would require the freshest set of legs I could manage.

We hit the first climb, the Climb up to THE CLIMB as it were.  The Climb measured a little more than 3 miles in length with an average grade of 6% and 813 feet elevation gain.  It really is a two-part affair, however, as there is a short flat section in the middle.  Whatever, Strava's calculus deteremined that it is Cat 3 worthy, but who knows.  Anywho, we climbed for a little while and opened the legs a bit.  Then followed a grand descent on wide, clean asphalt where I managed to hit 48mph before deciding to pull the ripcord.  About 30 miles in, the general store, our mid-ride rest stop, hove into view.  I dove into a snickers and coke refuel in preparation for the murderous stretch of winding road that I could glimps in the distance when I dared look over my shoulder. 

So let's get to it then.  The agony ultimately would last about 50 minutes, long stretches of which passed at a blistering 4mph turning my 39-28 at a startlingly painful 45-50 revolutions a minute.  For unknown reasons, we collectively decided to push toward this thing of beauty in a singlefile paceline.  I did my part, taking a hard pull and not really saving enough to latch back on without some pain.  Unfortunately, as I was dropping back one of my teammates opened a spot for me in the middle of the line, but I realized it only after I had fallen behind the optimal point for jumping into the hole.  I had to sprint to make it in, and as soon as I did I knew it was over.  The line was moving fast, and I popped just trying to maintain the pace even with the shelter of a wheel in front of me.  I waived him past with a feeble "I'm done" and then swung out into free air to run my own pace into the maw of the mountain.  By the time I reached the foot, I could see only flashes of a white and blue host rising between the trees in the distance.  I followed at my pace, and began to recover and pick up stragglers along the way.  The climb was about 5 miles long.  By about two miles in, I had passed 3 or 4 others, and was riding at the same pace as a group of 3 guys.  One was the stolid Nathan.  After a couple miles he began to give up his lunch, his own form of sacrificial offering.  By this time, I was deep in extremis, inhabiting that part of my mental space that is reserved for only most harrowing encounters with physiological distress.  The best I could do was weakly inquire if he would live as I wobbled past.  Interstingly, he soon thereafter past me, seemingly refreshed, and I and the others never saw him again.  The other two with whom I found myself sharing the throws of aerobic and neuromuscular agony -- Tom and John -- were the perfect company for this ordeal.  We three hit the same stride, suffered and weaved through the same stretches, and remained a unit the whole way up.  During my darkest moments, when I actually dared suggest that I might be close enough to death that the sag wagon may be in my near future, Tom gave me a mini-lesson in ascending tactics that put me back on track.  John fought on through a leg cramp and back breaking switchbacks indomitably.  The psychology of mutual affection that brands those who undergo shared suffering -- well explored by United States Marine Corps drill sergeants, remarked upon regularly in the literary treatments of the victims of unkind prison wardens -- was fully in effect, and those two soldiers will forever enjoy a most favored nation status in my mind.

The broken, the unbowed, and the beguiling call of the escape pod
Ultimately, after 50 minutes of climbing, we three arrived as a group at the peak and slid into an ice-flecked cloud that had settled upon the crest of the mountain -- nearly 4.5 miles, 10% average grade, 2000 feet ascended, with innumerable switchbacks hitting 17-18%.  Without a doubt, the most difficult climb I have ridden to date, and all the harder with 90 miles and about 5000 feet in my legs in the thirty hours prior to arriving at its base.  The rest of the day was spent in frigid descent, then a 10 mile stretch back to the park that passed in a blur.  The only real recollection of that segment comes from a photo shot nearing the border of our campground, John perched boldly on his seat, me hunched and clearly undone by the work of the day.  Of course, in the strange way of cyclists, I look back upon this pain-filled afternoon with regret that I am not riding that hill again tomorrow.  To suffer is to live.

Totals for Day 2, Ride 2: 48.0 miles, +5600 feet, 1900kj.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Training Day Interludes

I'll get to the race reportage soon enough.  Hint: starts with a bang, ends poorly.  But this blog envisions chatter about training, and I had an intriguing training week, with a tough and demoralizing finale today.  It shouldn't have, but it was.  The week: I did somthing or other Sunday, probably about 40 miles, and a short leg openner Monday.  The fun began on Tuesday evening.  I rode a pre-sundown fast-paced hills trek that in an hour had us covering 15 miles and ascend about 2200 feet over a collection of 6 or 7 solid little 2-4 minute climbs -- climbettes.  Wednesday off, then put in some lower volume, high intensity (albeit flat) efforts Thursday and Friday.  Then Saturday I did a hard 51 mile grind trading pulls with a cat 3 teammate, he more than I, through the Beech-MacArthur-Beech loops that I and everyone I know has ridden so many times we have memorized the location of every pothole of significance. It's nice, as the line just shifts around them autonomously, like the spontaneous movements of birds in echelon.  My legs were feeling a bit unhappy about the amount of higher-intensity work they were being asked to do by this point.  Which brings us to today's, that is, Sunday's, 42 miler, not too fast paced really, but it together with the other efforts left me with a serious sting in the quads, hams, knees, and ankles that I'm still feeling, nine hours later, and a bit of psychological sting over my current level of fitness as well.  More specifically, I got dropped, twice, nay thrice, over a certain damnable stretch of road I really ought to have managed better.  Drop the first, the climb proper, where for reasons I cannot entirely explain (did I lose lung tissue function when I cleaned my bike with toluene in an enclosed space earlier this month?  Did they shrink during my influenza hit a few weeks ago?  Is it a tumor? Am I training myself backward in fitness?), I finished for the third instance this month about 15-30 seconds slower than I used to manage during the depths of winter "base" (i.e., non-) training, or indeed, last year when I wasn't training for anything at all.  I was first ridden off the wheel of my teammate, a strong 55+ masters racer, who I think must have crossed the peak right around my goal finishing time.  Then there was the rolling stretch to the regroup point: I bridged up, but waaay too hard too fast, and he cracked me off his wheel *again* (drop #2) when I tried to sit in for a breather.  At that point, another teammate, a little powerhouse of a newly-fashioned  Cat 4 gal who I have high hopes is going to enjoy some great finishes this year, had the nerve to pass me and catch him, making it thrice.  Let me be clear; these two are both putting in solid efforts.  I begrudge them nothing and celebrate their results and fitness dividends.  My consternation, really, is simply that by this point I would expect to be able to hold my time or, preferably, start seeing improvements on the clock.  Alas, I fear genetics (and perhaps an inadequate tolerance for suffering (or perhaps impatience)) may be having its way with me.  Physics can be a bitch.

Edit: A bunch of pathetic whining, I know.  I'll do better next.  But if one cannot vent into the unoccupied ether of fiber-optic circuitry, where can one?


Here lies yet another cycling-related diary staining the crystaline sphere of public electronic space.  The stated purpose in this instance is to chronicle the author's efforts to train and race during his first Cat 5 season for the edification and amusement of anyone misguided enough to read on.
This latest obsession started in November, a little more than a year after I began riding regularly and a few months since I began to toy with the idea that I might enjoy racing my bike in a generalized melee of like-minded adults (or gear-regulated juniors).  Despite many sound reasons that a person in my situation really ought to shelve these sorts of mid-life fantasies, I was sufficiently intrigued to forge ahead, pragmatism be damned.  But I had no real idea where or how to forge.  By chance, during a group ride I struck up a conversation with a member of the team I since have joined.  (I recall it was late in the month of November in particular because this guy was boasting a well-appointed Movember moustache suited for Mario Cart or the 1970s generally.  See here for the rules.)  At any rate, Mario invited me to attend the next team ride to see how things went and determine whether I was a douchebag, in the cycling argot (use of the word "argot" confirms I likely am).  Although I was looking for this, I also was conscious of two attendant problems: first, my aerobic pump, never all that strong to begin with, had endured about 15 years of idle listlessness before I picked up the cycling bug and was fit for pushing a lawnmower around my yard and little more; and second, I had no great plan how I would find enough time in the saddle to effect any serious changes to that first fact of consequence.  Good sense notwithstanding, I showed up, got shelled, persevered, showed and was shelled again, and then again and again.  Two months later I was officially on the team and ordering kit, and now I find myself refreshing bikereg repeatedly until the good races go live and drafting breezy notes for an audience of no-one about the project of attempting to survive a season as a newly-minted, neophyte, novice, noob, barely-graduated-from-Fredness, unready bicycle road warrior (a Fred being defined, as we must now all agree, as any adult who rides a road bike other than oneself, one's teammates, and the more serious members of the teams against which one competes.)

Up Next (maybe): The business at hand -- a report on my preparations over the winter and their culmination in my first road race, the Black Hills Circuit Race.