Race Report - NCC Tour of the Hilltowns

31 July 2015

Having never done a road race before, I showed up way too early (on purpose). My start time was set for 9:50 AM, and I probably left the house around 6:00. I got there so early, in fact, that had they not had a separate table for the Pro/1/2 men to register at, I would have been seriously in the way. Early was good though. It gave me a chance to wander around some, and see how those who were more experienced than me get ready. I got my numbers pinned on to my jersey, and went to watch the Pro/1/2 men's start.

After that, I kitted up, and tried to get warmed up. Probably should have done that sooner, as it seemed like no sooner had I started working my way around the lot, then they called up the men's cat 5 group. Not sure a better warmup would have helped too much though. I was obviously nervous as hell, my heart rate was up over 125 just standing still, waiting for our start. We got our last minute instructions from the race director, and our five minute warning. Then some poor guy had an impromptu flat, without even moving. Which seemed to bring out everyone's nerves. His misfotune was met with a mixture of groans, and calls of "guess you get to find out just how fast you can fix a flat". I'm honestly not sure if he got any help or not, I couldn't even see where in the pack he was, I had self selected so far back in the pack.

Then the start wistle blew. And damn were these guys fast. I expected it to be fast but not 19-22 right out of the gate fast. I tried my damnedist to hold on to the back of the pack, but only lasted about two miles. Then I got popped off the back like you used to pop the head off a dandilion as a kid. It's actually that dramatic, and you can see it in the Strava flyby I link at the end.

Then there were the first two hills. I expected them to be tough, but not brutal. I'm sure pushing it so far into the red to try and stay with the pack didn't help, but, damn. The Pro/1/2/3 women, who were slated to start 10 minutes after the Men 5 started passing me at just about the top of the second steep hill. It was actually a little amusing. The lead car for the women came up along side me, and I asked the girl in the passenger seat if I was about to get passed. Her only response was to laugh a little as they pulled away. Still, I was happy to have at least stayed ahead of them until I made it most of the way up the second major climb.

After those, we (look at me, sounding like I was still riding with someone) got a bit of a reprise. But not too much. A bit of a downhill, then started the 5.2 mile climb. It was more or less what I expected, just a little easier for the first half mile or so, and a few suprise steep spots. I supose the steep section shouldn't have been that big of a suprise. With several sections hovering around 2%, and a 4% or so average over 5+ miles, the slightly steeper average had to come from somewhere. Also, the big climb was where just about everyone else passed me. I say "almost everyone else" because the Pro/1/2 men didn't start lapping me until around mile 17. And their field got split up enough on their second 39.5 mile lap that they kept passing me, off and on, for most of the rest of the race.

And this brings me to the less fun part of the race. I almost abandoned twice. Once right before the pros passed me, and once about half way through. It started to drizzle some part way up the long climb, and that combined with the 1000 or so feet of climbing so far had me ready to quit. Thankfully the race volunteer near where I stopped mentioned that once I got over that ridge I could just make out through the rain, the climbing let up a bit. The second time I almost quit was after the rain really got going. I was soaked, to the point that my shoes were like lakes, and even the nice flat stretch that opened up wasn't enough to convince me I could keep going. Thankfully, an entire pack of Skratch Labs fruit drops were.

And really, the rain probably did me more good than harm. If it had been 95 and humid, I don't know how it would have gone, but it would have been a whole different kind of suffering. So at least the rain helped keep things cool. The only real downside was that I was hoping to use my weight to my advantage, and make up at least SOME time on the downhills. Unfortunately, my confidence descending goes right out the window once the roads are wet.

So, the big question, will I do more road racing? If you had asked me right after the race, I would have laughed at you. But once I had time to decompress, and drink an ice cold Coke, I was hooked. So while I won't be doing any more road races this year, I plan on hitting at least this one, and maybe one or two more, next year. That doesn't mean I'm done with racing for this year, though. I've had a burning desire to try Cyclocross since I went to watch the Mansfield Hollow race with my oldest last year. So I plan on doing at least one or two of those this Fall.

The Kickr is Magic

12 May 2015

I've had a Kickr for about a month now, and still, it feels like magic. even more so because I upgraded from an old Minoura Mag 850. I started using Trainer Road over the winter, and their virtual power output. It got even more frustrating when using a video like "Half is Easy" from The Sufferfest, where the intervals are maddeningly short.

In comes the Kickr. And combined with Trainer Road and Sufferfest, it's beyond compare for training videos. The best way I can describe the combination of the Kickr, Trainer Road, and Sufferfest, is magic. You just pedal, and the Kickr's ERG mode keeps you at a constant power level. No fiddling around with gearing to get the right cadence for a certain power level. It just adjusts to you. Now, this does have one down (possibly up?) side. ERG mode keeps you honest. Especially at higher power levels. Because, you see, if you slow down, or perish the thought, stop, the Kickr ramps up the resistance to try and keep the power level even. Which means it eventually gets to the point where it becomes nearly impossible to pedal again. But let me tell you, it's sublime to just pop on a Sufferfest video, put your head down, and enjoy the pain. It takes a second or two for the Kickr to adjust to the new power level as you go through the intervals, but even with "Half is Easy"'s ugly 15s, it's not too bad. And it's totally worth the trade off to get those nice, consistant power levels for your workouts.

Now, that right there is worth the price of the Kickr. At least to a gear head like me. But there's this wonderful piece of software, currently in beta, called Zwift. It's an online, multiplayer game that lets you use your bike (on a trainer of course) to control a virtual rider. And what they've done is setup this virtual world for you to ride in with other players. And while it'll work with just a power meter (or even without if you have the right trainer, they call it zpower, kind of like TR's virtual power), Zwift really shines with a smart trainer like the Kickr. Because with something like the Kickr, Zwift can put it into simulation mode. Which means you give them your weight, and they combine that with their elevation profile for their virtual courses to adjust the resistance of the Kickr to simulate the hills. And while I've never been able to tolerate much more than two hours on the trainer before, I've done hour and a half rides with Zwift without blinking an eye. And I'm pretty confident that I could do a longer ride. Their simulation isn't perfect (it is still in beta), but it's pretty damn good. And that, combined with the social and competition aspects of Zwift (did I mention they have on island sprint/KOM/overal jerey competititions?) have kept me coming back. Even with the weather getting nicer.

Bottom line? The Kickr has changed how I view indoor training. And Zwift has made it even more tolerable. For now, I've even paused my Trainer Road subscription. With the weather getting nicer, I'm only riding inside when the weather is bad, or I'm crunched for time. So only having one option is fine. Plus, because Zwift maps their virutal rides onto real life islands, they count as real rides in Strava, unlike Trainer Road. I have no doubt that once colder weather returns, I'll be back to Trainer Road as well, but for now, I figure I might as well save a few bucks.

New Blog Engine

26 March 2015

Here we are again, been a bit more than a year this time. I've decided that I want to try another static blog engine. This time, it's JBake. If I decide I like it, I may try and find a way to salvage my old posts from WP, but I may also decide it's not worth the effort. Really, I've been in the mood to write again, but I've gotten sick of constantly having to keep WP updated.

Oh yeah, and I'll most likely get rid of the test posts from the bootstrap theme eventually. I just figured I'd rather have those, than a mostly empty page.

Fourth Post

17 October 2013

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Quisque vel diam purus. Curabitur ut nisi lacus.

Nam id nisl quam. Donec a lorem sit amet libero pretium vulputate vel ut purus. Suspendisse leo arcu, mattis et imperdiet luctus, pulvinar vitae mi. Quisque fermentum sollicitudin feugiat. Mauris nec leo ligula. Vestibulum tristique odio ut risus ultricies a hendrerit quam iaculis. Duis tempor elit sit amet ligula vehicula et iaculis sem placerat. Fusce dictum, metus at volutpat lacinia, elit massa auctor risus, id auctor arcu enim eu augue. Donec ultrices turpis in mi imperdiet ac venenatis sapien sodales. In consequat imperdiet nunc quis bibendum. Nulla semper, erat quis ornare tristique, lectus massa posuere libero, ut vehicula lectus nunc ut lorem. Aliquam erat volutpat.

Third Post

26 September 2013

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Quisque vel diam purus. Curabitur ut nisi lacus.

Nam id nisl quam. Donec a lorem sit amet libero pretium vulputate vel ut purus. Suspendisse leo arcu, mattis et imperdiet luctus, pulvinar vitae mi. Quisque fermentum sollicitudin feugiat. Mauris nec leo ligula. Vestibulum tristique odio ut risus ultricies a hendrerit quam iaculis. Duis tempor elit sit amet ligula vehicula et iaculis sem placerat. Fusce dictum, metus at volutpat lacinia, elit massa auctor risus, id auctor arcu enim eu augue. Donec ultrices turpis in mi imperdiet ac venenatis sapien sodales. In consequat imperdiet nunc quis bibendum. Nulla semper, erat quis ornare tristique, lectus massa posuere libero, ut vehicula lectus nunc ut lorem. Aliquam erat volutpat.

Second Post

25 August 2013

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Nam id nisl quam. Donec a lorem sit amet libero pretium vulputate vel ut purus. Suspendisse leo arcu,
mattis et imperdiet luctus, pulvinar vitae mi. Quisque fermentum sollicitudin feugiat. Mauris nec leo
ligula. Vestibulum tristique odio ut risus ultricies a hendrerit quam iaculis. Duis tempor elit sit amet
ligula vehicula et iaculis sem placerat. Fusce dictum, metus at volutpat lacinia, elit massa auctor risus,
id auctor arcu enim eu augue. Donec ultrices turpis in mi imperdiet ac venenatis sapien sodales. In
consequat imperdiet nunc quis bibendum. Nulla semper, erat quis ornare tristique, lectus massa posuere
libero, ut vehicula lectus nunc ut lorem. Aliquam erat volutpat.

First Post

24 July 2013

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Quisque vel diam purus. Curabitur ut nisi lacus.

Nam id nisl quam. Donec a lorem sit amet libero pretium vulputate vel ut purus. Suspendisse leo arcu, mattis et imperdiet luctus, pulvinar vitae mi. Quisque fermentum sollicitudin feugiat. Mauris nec leo ligula. Vestibulum tristique odio ut risus ultricies a hendrerit quam iaculis. Duis tempor elit sit amet ligula vehicula et iaculis sem placerat. Fusce dictum, metus at volutpat lacinia, elit massa auctor risus, id auctor arcu enim eu augue. Donec ultrices turpis in mi imperdiet ac venenatis sapien sodales.


package org.jbake;

public class Oven {
	public static void main(String[] args) {
		System.out.print("Baking!");
  }
}

In consequat imperdiet nunc quis bibendum. Nulla semper, erat quis ornare tristique, lectus massa posuere libero, ut vehicula lectus nunc ut lorem. Aliquam erat volutpat.


Older posts are available in the archive.