Archive for June 2011
Team Primal had some pretty big aspirations coming into Dead Dog this weekend. We knew we’d have the most guys (as usual), but better than that, we knew we’d have 3 strong guys who could contend for GC. In total, we brought 8 guys: Me, Welker, Blake, Wild Bill Roushy, Corey Moxon, Neider, Alex, and Jack. Our 3 GC guys were going to be Blake and his time trial prowess, Alex and his climbing skills, and Neider coming off a great Omnium podium. My job was to be the ultimate domestique. It was perfect because I wanted the hard miles in my legs and my team needed someone who could climb to help in the road stage. Additionally, I was hoping to help Welker contend the sprint in the crit. But having not raced at all this year and coming off injury, I had no idea what shape I’d be in or how much help I could be.
Stage 1: 55 mile road race. I was really looking forward to this road race once I found out it had a legitimate climb. The race was an out and back, with the turn around on the top of a 9 mile climb that took us to 10,500 feet of elevation! Not only that, we were told – and saw pictures of – the amazing 10 foot high snow banks that lined the top of the climb. It was like riding the Giro or something. Anyway, the plan was for our 3 GC guys and me to try to make the selection on the climb and then duke it out for the stage win if any of us was in contention. The first part of the race was mostly downhill and mostly with a tailwind. Welker got on the front and stayed there for the first 10 miles. We made a left turn and the winds changed a bit. At this point, Blake called back to Wild Bill Roushy to come up to the front and start pulling. Wild Bill obliged. Welker and Wild Bill traded pulls at the front for the next few miles. When we got to Centennial, the road started to tilt up a bit more. I took a pull or two with Bill as we approached the first mini climb before the monster. The mini climb was fairly steep, I’d say around 7 or 8%, and we took it hard enough to feel a sting, but not so much that I couldn’t talk about the great Tom Zirbel on the side of the road clapping for us. Truly a great moment. After the first little kicker, it flattened out for a minute and then tilted up for the 9 mile lung buster. At the base of the climb the pace picked up big time. A group of riders drilled it in hopes of shattering the field. I was in the front with Blake and Neider and worked to maintain my position. Blake started coming undone but I knew he’d be okay if he rode within himself and descended like a madman. Neider and I tucked ourselves into the single file line. I was pretty much redlined. I also noticed Alex was nowhere to be found. I wondered what happened to him. (I found out later he busted his chain at the base of the first kicker and spent 15 minutes trying to get it fixed. He eventually did and was able to stay in the race).
After several minutes of pushing 300+, I was beginning to come undone. I was in a bit of a pickle. I knew I had to stay in the selection if Neider was going to. I didn’t want to leave him so early on. I also knew that if I came undone, Blake would probably need my help with pacing up the climb. The group of around 6 or 7 guys kept it going full gas and finally the elastic snapped. It was more a tactical decision than a blow up. I knew that if I held on longer, I’d risk blowing completely and being of no help to anyone – both Neider and Blake. That would be the worst possible scenario. So I thought the most prudent thing to do was to let the group go and ride my own pace near threshold and either help Neider if and when he came undone or sit up and wait for Blake if Neider looked like he was holding strong. Within a minute of coming off the front group, I saw Neider drop off. Well, that just made my decision. I rode up along side him and told him to grab my wheel. We then rode tempo all the way up the climb. We must have had another 7 miles to go at this point. I think we only lasted the first 2 miles. Ugh. Anyway, I pulled Neider the rest of the climb to the feedzone about 3/4ths of the way to the top. We grabbed our bottles and then hit the cool snow bank part. It was truly amazing. When we hit the turnaround at the top, I knew we were in good shape for two reasons. We were only a minute or two back from the leaders from what I could tell, AND Blake managed to catch us at the turnaround! (What an incredible climb by Blake!) Now it was me, Blake, Neider and like one or two other dudes for the hella fast descent. We did about 45-50mph most of the way down. Welker tried to give us the time split to the front group as we were flying down but I couldn’t make out what he said. We later found out it was around 1:30. Once we knew we weren’t but a minute or two behind the front group, we knew we had a chance to catch them. By the bottom of the descent, we had a group of probably 10 guys to roll turns with. The lead group was in sight. Blake was the most vocal about organizing and took charge of trying to teach a couple of the guys in the group how to echelon properly. We were working pretty well together until we made the right turn for the final 11 miles. I think we were around a minute back at this point and the front group seemed to be getting closer. But the headwind and the hills of the final 11 miles was throwing a monkey wrench into our paceline. Guys were starting to tire and several were sitting out turns. Neider, Blake, and I continued to encourage the guys and do our best to keep the paceline going. By the last 5 or so miles, we were falling apart big time.
All of the sudden Neider was gone after one of the bigger rollers and it was clear that our group of 10 was no longer a functioning group of 10. Instead, it was me, Blake, and 3 others taking turns on the front with a couple of other guys just sitting on for the free ride. It was frustrating because we knew we were closing in on them, and we knew that if we all worked together we could definitely catch them. With a few miles left, the gap was only 30 seconds. But still, it was only us 5 rolling turns on the front. As the front group came within striking distance, I was contemplating making one gigantic effort to bring them back myself. I went to the front and told Blake to grab my wheel. I started to give it a go and then second guessed that stupid idea. Nevermind. Dumb idea. Let’s keep pushing it guys. With 1 mile to go, they were right in front of us! You could almost reach out and grab them. It took so much digging to finally latch back onto the group in those final 2 miles. Finally, at the 1K to go sign, we caught them! But it was too late. When the front group saw that we got them and they saw the 1K to go sign, they started attacking each other. The final 1K up the finishing climb was brutality. My legs were searing from the chase. I stomped as hard as I could on the pedals but nothing I did seemed to make me go any faster. When I saw the finishing line, I stood up and hammered as hard as I could. I got nipped on the line by a guy who did no work the entire chase. What a dick. I ended up 10th, only 27 seconds back. Blake finished right behind me in 11th, just 35 seconds back. (Stage 1 Garmin file)
Despite my frustration with our poor cooperation in the last 11 miles, catching that front group was one of the most satisfying things I have ever done on a bike. It was a huge victory for us because Blake can TT his ass off. And at only 35 seconds back, he can pretty much assure himself a high spot on GC barring any crit disasters. Side note: Jack gets the hardman of the year award for breaking his crank and literally walking up the hills, while descending and riding the flats WITH ONE LEG. Anyone would have called it quits had it been one of us. But Jack sacked up and made it through like a true Belgian hardman.
Stage 2: Sunday morning crit in downtown Laramie. I was not happy to be getting up so early this morning for the crit. Not because I wasn’t ready to race, but because I was sleeping so well. Anywho, we ate some breakfast, kitted up, and rode downtown together. After taking a warm up lap around the course to check it out, I knew it was going to be a little hairy due to the jarring road surfaces. There were pretty big cracks, holes, and other obstacles all around. The ones in the turns were a little worrisome for me. Nevertheless, we lined up at the start line with the announcer calling us out for being so well represented. Before the smoke could clear from the proverbial starting gun, the pack was strung out single file. It was basically single file the entire time. Or at least that’s how it seemed to me as I surged over and over again to keep my position in the middle of the field. I only had to do two things the whole crit. First, I paced Neider up the side on the long straight away to get him to the front. Then with 2 laps to go, I saw Alex on the front with Welker on his wheel. Not much of a leadout train with only 1 guy to leadout huh? I realized this was where I could lend a hand. Welker was in the top 5 positions the whole race and he looked like he felt really good. So with only Alex in front of him with 2 to go, I surged up the side of the pack on the backside of the loop. I got in front of Alex and pushed it through the chicane and around the corners. Then I drilled it on the straightaway towards the start/finish line. Rookie mistake. I went way too hard, way too early. I should have dialed it back a bit and tried to pull for a whole lap, or at least until I got the start/finish. I ended up swinging off a bit before the start/finish leaving Alex with way too much work to do. Pulling at any point in the final lap is difficult. Pulling THE ENTIRE final lap is damn near impossible. I didn’t realize my mistake until after the race. Next time I’ll know better. I was able to hold on to the group long enough to either get pack time, or just a few seconds back. It wasn’t Welker’s day though, so no W for Papa Bear. (Stage 2 Garmin file)
Stage 3: 9 mile time trial. There’s not much to say about the TT other than… ouch. My legs were so incredibly sore. How sore? They were so sore I couldn’t go hard enough to make myself breath heavy. They were so sore I pushed tempo wattage basically the whole time. It was painful. I was even passed by not one, but TWO people. Surprisingly, I managed to get 13th. Maybe it was my new TT helmet and skinsuit? Whatever the case, I was pleasantly surprised. And it turned out the two people that passed me both podium’d, finishing 1st and 3rd. Haha. You want to know who finished 2nd? None other than Blake Cohen himself. What a great ride! That awesome TT pushed Blake up into 6th overall. My mediocre TT bumped me down one spot to 11th overall. (Stage 3 Garmin file)
I have to admit, this first race back from injury was a monster success for me. I fulfilled every personal goal I set. I helped in both the road race and the crit, and despite my low wattage, put in a solid 20 minutes of TT time. I successfully helped pull back the front group on stage 1, which allowed Blake a shot at a really high GC spot. We also managed to nab 2 of the 3 primes at the crit! All of that, and I had a great time racing with my friends. What a great weekend!
I’ve been thinking about what my goals are going into my first race of the season this weekend – the 2 day, 3 stage Dead Dog Classic up in Wyoming. First and foremost, my goal is to gain fitness. I need this little stage race to build towards some of my results-oriented goals at the end of the season. So I guess you could say that Dead Dog is one way to get some good, hard TSS in my legs. Secondly, I want to help our team as best as I can. I want to show my teammates that I can be on the front, off the front, setting the pace on a climb, attacking in a crit, or whatever they need from me to help the team get the W. Since I haven’t raced yet this year, I need to prove this to them. It’s only fair as I want and need their help later on in the year for my personal goals like Rist Canyon and the Steamboat Springs Stage Race. Sunday’s 10 mile TT will allow me to get some 20 odd minutes going my absolute hardest. It will be great threshold work, which just so happens to be the training block I’m in right now.
In sum, I guess you could say that my number one goal going into this race is tough miles. I want to look back on this race and know the TSS I got was from suffering my brains out. The best case scenario is that I gain a big TSS through helping my team get the W. I hope I have the legs to help.
So far so good. I am continuing to chill on the couch and attempt to recover from over 5 hours today in the saddle. With just a tiny fraction of reservation, I decided that today was the day to give my first long ride a go. Until today, my longest rides were around 3 hours. Today I wanted to hit 5 hours. And that’s just what I did thanks to Jordo and Lucas. We met up at the Bucks in Golden and headed up Lookout. I think I set a personal best but I’m not sure. My legs felt really good and I pushed it, hitting around 270 watts the whole way up. I probably finished in around 22 minutes, but I’m not exactly sure. Either way, it felt great. Then we headed up through Mount Vernon, took I-70 into Evergreen, made our way through the horse and car infested roads, climbed Parmalee Gulch, climbed City View in reverse via Tiny Town, and descended High Grade. The poor suckers climbing High Grade were suffering in misery as they climbed against a formidable head wind. From there we went home on the roads rather than the path. I stopped off at the Bang Starbucks for a quick espresso and blueberry muffin. When it was all said and done, I did over 90 miles, with 7,000 feet of climbing in over 5 hours.
And the best thing is… no knee pain. Although it was definitely on the cusp towards the end there. I could feel my knee cap drifting further and further from its groove. It kept getting suctioned off to the side every time I would extend my leg. I iced and stretched as soon as I got home. So much so, I didn’t eat for over and hour. Ah well.
Bottom line: it was a great day and another great confidence builder. I should be in good enough shape to help my team at Dead Dog next weekend. Yay!
In the words of Joe Friel, I had a “breakthrough” workout yesterday morning. I am inching very close to the numbers I was hitting back in February and March before I got hurt. Fitness is coming back much quicker than I anticipated!
This is so exciting!!!
Right now I’m in a daze and my stomach is still queasy. I am attempting to recover from a fun-filled weekend with my parents and the soon to be in-laws. It’s like I just survived an initiation or something.
My parents live in Savannah, GA and Brika’s parents live in Fort Worth, TX. They had never met until this weekend due to the vast swath of land between them. Fast forward to this past Thursday and both sets of parents were due to finally meet. I took Thursday morning off of work to entertain my parents before the big meet up later that evening. We went to brunch at Cafe 13 in downtown Golden after they arrived from DIA and settled into their hotel. They stayed at the Marriott in Golden – same hotel as Brika’s parents. (This piece of information will come in handy later on). Anyhow, we enjoyed some fantastic fresh baked quiche at Cafe 13 and then drove to my place so they could see where Brika and I live. I also walked them up to “historic” Olde Town Arvada and showed them all the little shops and stuff. As is the case with all Moms on the planet, my Mom wanted to buy some things from Penzeys Spices. After getting their Olde Town fill, they headed back to the hotel to rest up before our dinner reservations at Bella Bistro in Olde Town that night. Bella Bistro is a fancy-dancy little place that serves a very limited menu. The few items they have are all fresh, local, and constantly changing. Brika and I have had our eye on that place for awhile but never got a chance to eat there. The $25 entree prices were a little too rich for our blood. So scoping the joint out as a possible location for the rehearsal dinner was the perfect opportunity to finally get some Bella Bistro.
At around 6:30 Thursday night, the grand meet and greet finally happened. My parents walked in just minutes after Brika’s parents and they introduced themselves to each other. From that moment on, it was on. They were like long-lost friends reuniting. Incidentally, it was discovered that our parents were staying literally right next to each other at the Marriott in Golden. Coincidence? Maybe.
I wish I could describe the scene at Bella Bistro that night but words can’t do it justice. We shook that place with loud voices and laughter. Not only that, we closed the place down. The food was great, the company was great, but the waitstaff stunk and reserving the entire place on a Saturday night was questionable. Regardless, we were able to bond with each other and rule out Bella Bistro from the short list of possible rehearsal dinner locations. All in all, a tremendous first night.
I made reservations at Vita in Lo-Hi (Highlands) for Friday night. Brika and I both worked Friday so our parents were left on their own to figure out some entertainment. My parents decided to go to Black Hawk and Central City. I think they enjoyed the ride out there on Route 6 more than the destination. I arrived at Vita after everyone due to a chiropractic appointment. Was I surprised that they were already drinking? Nope. I’ll cut to the chase and just say Vita is freaking awesome! The waitstaff was extremely helpful. The food was fantastic. The views up on top of the roof are breathtaking and they can accommodate a large rehearsal dinner. We were hooked! I cannot recommend the Vita experience enough. We left that place knowing that Vita was it. I’ll mention again that our parents bro’d down hard. It was almost scary how well they were getting along. Briks and I knew they’d dig each other, but we were not expecting the whole BFF thing.
On Saturday the plan was to grab some brunch at the Eggshell up the street and then play it by ear until we toured the Boettcher Mansion that night. So I was able to get a little ride in that morning before meeting up with everyone at the Eggshell. Yum. After getting a good breakfast, we decided to take everyone to see Bridesmaids. I would be seeing it a second time and Brika a FOURTH. Yes, it’s that great. Our parents also loved it. It’s good wholesome, raunchy, family fun for all. After the movie we caught a free wine tasting in Olde Town. By this point it was time to head up Lookout and scope the place where we’d get hitched – The Boettcher Mansion. It would be the first time either of my parents saw it and the first time Brika’s Dad saw it. We toured the whole place with a guide and our parents were mighty impressed. It became obvious to them that the Boettcher is “us.” We wouldn’t want to get married at any other location.
I met up with everyone at Cafe 13 on Sunday for some brunch. Again I was fortunate enough to get a little ride in before we ate (and I ate in beautifully crafted Primal spandex). After brunch we headed downtown to Swanky’s. Brika mentioned that Swanky’s has frozen beverages much like Wet Willies in Savannah. That’s all my Mom had to hear, she was excited! So we got some drinks there and watched the Rockies get crushed by the Dodgers again. Afterwards, we headed to LoDo to hit up a vodka bar called the Red Square. But they were not open until 5 that night. However, right across the street was the Rio Grande – home of the “world’s greatest margaritas.” At this point, I just wanted some good chips and salsa. After getting their margarita fill, everyone was feeling quite “happy.” The walk back to the car was hilarious. Again, words can’t describe the scene between our parents. From there we headed to the grocery store to fill up on snacks to take to Jazz in the Park. It’s funny. I was on the phone with my Mom while walking through hordes of people at Jazz at the Park last week and this week there we all were. Anyway, we settled down in nearly the same place as last week with some camping chairs, good eats, and good company. I think the amount of dogs and bikes around was a little overwhelming to our folks. We had a good time relaxing, eating, and drinking. When the music stopped – music that we believe was far too funky to be jazz by the way – the night was certainly not over. My Dad had been bellyaching the whole day about not getting to go to the vodka bar. So after we left City Park, we all headed back to Red Square to get a quick vodka fix. It was a late night. I was kinda sick to my stomach having eaten treats all day and everyone was dead tired. Upon arriving home, we printed some boarding passes and tried to stay awake long enough to say our goodbyes. I hate to see my (our) parents go, but damn if I could take another day eating my way through Denver!
I’ll end the post by saying this: Brika and I could not be luckier or happier with how great our parents get along. It was great to sit back and watch them interact like they’ve known each other for years. And the funny thing is, they genuinely liked each other – a lot. And it wasn’t the alcohol talking. Every family get together from now on is going to be stress free for the most part. We know we’ll all have a good time together. Not many soon to be married couples can say that can they? Almost certainly not many can say with a straight face, “I like spending time with my in-laws.”
Justin – 1. All other married men with crappy in-laws – 0.
I am so grateful right now. I just signed up for my first race back from injury, the Dead Dog Classic up in Wyoming. After taking 6 weeks off to rest and rehab my knee, I will be back racing in the wind up north at the end of this month.
I need to give a big thank you to Dr. D at Alpine Wellness Chiropractic in Arvada, Lee Carmen at Pain Solutions in Denver, bike fit master George Mullen, Jon Heidemann at Peak to Peak Training, and my Primal First Bank teammates for advice and encouragement. I also want to thank my coach Michael Hanna for his support and encouragement. He whipped me into the best form of my life before I got hurt and I have no doubts he’ll have me firing on all cylinders come August and September.
And most of all, I need to give a special thank you for the caring and understanding my fiance gave me this whole time, even when I did not deserve it. She probably suffered more than myself through all this.
Please don’t hesitate to ask me about Alpine Wellness, Peak to Peak Training, and Pain Solutions Inc. for dealing with injuries. They are highly knowledgeable, professional, and fairly priced. I cannot recommend them enough!
Just wanted to hit a little update real quick. Things are progressing nicely for me. I just finished a little 2-3 week block of TEMPO intervals and now I’m embarking on a block of threshold intervals. I’m feeling better and better on the bike with each ride so I should be in fairly decent shape for Dead Dog and Horgan in a 3-4 weeks.
The biggest change I can see aside from the reduction in output for any given input is that my heart rate cannot go above the low 180s now. Before I could break into the 190s pretty regularly when putting in a good effort. Now when I’m pushing it, I’m suffering at 180. Kind of strange, but I’m sure that will come around too. I like seeing the 190s. It feels awesome.
Anyways, I did my first set of threshold intervals on Friday and this morning I went up to my friend Gesink’s house to break off Flagstaff. We did 3 hours and pushed it pretty hard a few times. Overall I felt good.
Things are coming around. I’m excited!
I’m into my second week of structured training and I’ve got some good data collected already. The great thing about training and racing with a power meter, heart rate monitor, and GPS unit is that the data you collect gives you an undeniable, quantifiable look at your fitness at a particular point in time. This is great when you see your numbers going up and your fitness improving. You can say with certainty that you are getting better, instead of telling yourself, “I feel like I’m getting better, but I’m not sure by how much.” Training devices tell you exactly how much.
The downside to having these devices and data collection is seeing how much worse you are after a big layoff.
Knowing that I did some solid 2 x 20 threshold and TEMPO intervals back in March right before I got seriously injured, I decided to take a look at where I was back then and where I am today. In March right before I pulled the plug, a typical 20 minute session of zone 3 TEMPO riding was to average around 245 watts at an average heart rate of around 170 bpm. My threshold intervals were typically 20 minutes at an average of 275 watts with an average heart rate around 180 bpm. (My best 20 minute effort in March was 285 average watts).
Fast forward to my TEMPO workouts now and we see a huge decline in fitness. An undeniable, in your face, can’t dispute it sort of decline. Now I’m averaging only 230 to 235 watts when my heart rate is 170 bpm. And to get that 245 average wattage, I need to push my heart rate up to the mid 170s. For example, today I did a few 10 minute TEMPO efforts and noticed that to hold that mid 240′s power, I had to keep my heart rate hovering around 175 bpm. In other words, I’m getting a good 10 watts less output for the same input. Before I could average 245 watts at 170 bpm, now I can only do 230 to 235 watts at the same heart rate. SUCK.
As you can see, working with both a power meter and a heart rate monitor allows the rider to see what output they can get from a certain input. It’s sort of like a “bang for the buck” measurement. You want to see a larger output (wattage) for your input (heart rate). The ultimate goal is to see big time power with very little cardiovascular effort. My personal long time goal has always been to push 300 watts for my 2 x 20 threshold workouts. I was definitely closing in on that goal before I got injured. Now I’m building myself back towards it, slowly but surely.
There is no doubt in my mind that I will get my fitness back to where it was. Better yet, I know I can blow away those numbers I had in March. It’ll just take time. I have to be patient and keeping working hard. And I will. Just ask the burning anger in my stomach.
Postscript: The great Joe P brought to my attention that I may have the input/output ratio backwards. He might be right. Reflexively I saw it as, “how many watts can I push at X heart rate?” Where my output is the power and my input is my heart rate. But I recall having conversations with Joe and others in the past where I’ve considered heart rate to simply be a response to stimulus. I think I got it right back then. Anyways, either way you cut it, I’m getting lower wattage at each heart rate. But, my form is coming along and each ride is becoming a confidence builder.