Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The head first dive into bike racing - Oak Ridge Velo Omnium RR

It's been a long weekend. One filled with satisfaction, disappointment, fun and most of all knowledge. Saturday I took my first true step into the world of bike racing. Oh sure, I've messed around in a few local training crits and do plenty of group riding with my LBS, but as far as actually signing up and racing an omnium (or road race for that matter) I was going to be getting my feet wet for the first time. The event is put on by the guys at Knoxvelo, who are all awesome... so it seemed only fitting that it be my first event. Without further mussing up things, on to the report.

Pre Gaming
Friday afternoon I was able to quickly drive the road race course, a 27.6 mile course that skimped on very much climbing (1555ft climbing total) and was on the whole not terrible technical.  The finish was a 1k straight shot uphill to the finish line. I marked off a couple of places in my mind that might be good to test everyones legs and headed in for the night. Our group (CAT5's) started at 8:30a.m. so I was quick to bed and early to rise as usual. Last check over the bike and off to race site. I warmed up (a little) and killed some time until it was time for business.

I'm soo blue...

Road Race - 13th Place

The start... I wanna go first!

The road race was a pretty uneventful race... sort of what I expected in some was, but somewhat frustrating in others. I had soaked up a bit of knowledge / advice from guys much smarter than me when it comes to road racing and the general consensus was to stay out of trouble and not work too hard while covering attacks that looked like they might go somewhere. The first few miles (after the neutral zone) weren't terribly fast or intense... it was basically just a fast group ride, complete with jokes and friendly bantering. At mile 9 is the only real climb on the course, and almost immediately the tone changed and the attacks started. A group of locals (CBC jerseys, who had been doing most of the pacemaking) makes a move, as does another group of 3 wearing Volkswagen jerseys. At least two people's chains drop in the rush to find a gear and the pace on the climb is high. I stay in contact to the top and drop back just a hair on the decent (that had a few tricky spots) just to give myself some extra room. At this point the 8 (or so) of us have a fairly nice gap opening up, and plenty of guys strong enough to keep it going. However everyone seems to be ok with sitting up and coasting so before long we are again all together (even the guys who dropped their chains manage to bridge) This annoys me a bit, but what can you do. At one point I do some pace making when things get into a lull, but basically the next 16 miles is totally unremarkable. We stay as a group for the most part. As we make the second to last turn things start heating up again. The pace noticeably increases and at this point I get my first (and only) warning from the road ref. I am traveling on the outside of the lane (3rd row) with a rider in front and behind me. As the road narrows I'm pushed outside the double yellow line... and when I say outside I mean straddling the middle.  The motoref lets me know that is not ok and I suppose he didn't like my shrug and nod. Sorry man, I didn't have anywhere to go until somebody moved. I was trying to keep it in. I move forward (and off the line) as soon as possible and decide I might has well try to catch everyone with their pants down. I shoot off and sit by myself for 300m or so before seeing that it isn't working, then sit up and back into the group. We make the turn onto the last road with 1k to go together. At 500m the road pitches fairly steeply... As I remember from the drive before it somewhat flattens out for the finish. I jump. Nobody responds. I press on and crest. The road flattens and I've got a good gap. 250m. The road pitches again... steeply. I'm in the wrong gear for this. I try to push through... finish line is in sight... another pitch. I drop gears like you can only do when you know you're screwed... the sprint starts. A flush of wheels go by me as I'm sitting on the hoods gasping for air. 13th at the back of the bunch. I went just a little too soon. I try not to beat myself up over it too much, but still... I should have paid more attention to the last 500m the day before. Things feel a little different in a car :)


Omnium Points - 3

I pick up a nonzero amount of points, but it's still a far cry from the top placing. I'm disappointed, but the Time Trial is later so I have a chance to do a little bit more work before the day is done. With almost 5 hours to kill between races though I go with the family to get some refueling (Cracker Barrel!) in and stay out of the heat. My start time is 4:22p.m. so around 3:45 I begin my warmup. (for those of interest it was 12' spinning, 5' of spinups, 5' of spinning, 5' hard, easy spin up til the lineup.)

Warming up... as if it weren't warm enough already

Time Trial - 2nd Place

I come out of the gate in slightly too big of a gear... rookie mistake on the new (oysmetric) chainrings. I get up to speed and immediately into aero, which I never came back out of. I know the second half of the course very well, and even on a fairly tricky turn I am able to stay tucked and hammer through. It pays off. I passed 3 or 4 people on the road and felt like I paced it almost perfectly besides the mistake at the beginning. Time was good enough to win the CAT4 race and place well in the Cat3's, so I was happy with it. Unfortunately the Time Trial isn't doesn't give out nearly enough points to make up for my road race results... I need a good Crit finish to have any shot of being on the podium for the Omnium.

Job well done and coasting home.

Omnium Points - 9 (12 total)

Then it's a long drive home, a quick dinner and some foam rolling/stretching before passing out. CAT5's start the Crit Sunday morning

I arrive early(ish) Sunday morning and try to get in a few "hot laps" before the start. The course is "P" shaped, with all the turns being fast and easy except for the 180 turnaround. Our race is 30' + 8 *no free* laps (although we had a mud/blood only rule for free laps anyways... intense right..) Our group isn't terribly large and everyone seems to be at least fairly confident in their riding. We line up and wait for the start.

Taking an easy lap around the course

Criterium - 4th Place

Not really making a move... just killing time toward the back

Although the course was set up to be fairly fast on the whole, with the 180 at the beginning of each lap (and the amount of speed shaving required to get around it in a group) there really wasn't much way to "lose contact" with the group. I rode lazily and almost at the very back for the first 30 minutes without much worry. A few guys seemed to be fighting for the mid pack every lap and I didn't really want any part of that, so I just hung at the back confident that I was strong enough to respond if the pace really picked up.  With 8 laps to go I decided to test the water and slowly made my way to the front... towards the only "incline" of the course I jumped and put a little distance between myself and the field. Taking some advice from a friend to heart, I looked back, saw that I wasn't getting chased too hard, and kept up the gap. A younger guy started attempting to bridge and so I let up the pace a bit to see if he could catch on. With 4 laps to go he tells me he's done when I flick for him to pull and he drops back. I see that the group is still looming not so far away and so I sit up and do the same. I again sit around towards the rear until the bell lap. Things have heated up (pace wise) since 2 laps to go, and so I start making my way back toward the front again a bit early in the final lap. On the second to last turn I am on the far inside (hugging the curb almost) when somebody comes cutting in on me. We are shoulder to shoulder and somehow make it through (he completely cut into my line) despite scaring the crap out of me. I see the move happen with 4 guys making a surge. I jump on the back wheel and hold on through the final turn in 5th position. The group is right behind us and the first three riders start the sprint. The guy I'm locked in on doesn't respond immediately and so despite coming around him I'm unable to surge to the front guys. I finish fairly happily in 4th position.

Are you guys coming or not?

Omnium Points - 14 (26 total)

Omnium Finish - 3rd Place

Huzzah! I managed to sneak onto the podium! I learned a TON in my first omnium and most importantly I had a great time. Next time I'll be a little smarter (and hopefully a little quicker too) and try to improve my placing.

That's the story. This weekend it's back to triathlons with a short sprint and after that it's a short list of races until the end of the season. Not having a "big" race at the end of the season is kind of odd for me, but I think it's the right choice. I need a good long block of run volume to help me suck a little less and being uninjured and not mentally burnt out both bode well for a good bit of training.

Thanks Everyone for reading! I really appreciate it.

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

REVIEW! Wickwerks Chainrings

The Hotness that is Wickwerks Chainrings

Now it's no secret that I don't need much motivation to try out something new and shiny when it comes to bikes. I was born a tech head (I'm a child of the 80's, when we loved our Thundercats figures that lit up when you shoved a AAA battery in their back.) and as I have grown older it most certainly has not quenched my thirst for new toys.

Seriously... I wore a battery as a ring? No wonder I'm such a dork now...

That said, every now and then I actually NEED to replace parts on my bike. The chainrings on my Ultegra SL crank have long since seen their best days (hell, they probably had seen most of them before I bought them) and so it was time to find something new.

Enter the internet. My reading brought me to two (actually 3 if you count Dura Ace, but that's not fun, nor reasonably priced) choices... Wickwerks and Praxis. I'll admit, there were two totally non performance related things that swayed me towards the Wickwerks. First was the fact that they are $10 cheaper than the Praxis (Kudos WW, high school economics worked for you too!) and second was that they are absolutely beautiful to look at.  Seriously, it's like a functional work of art. Of course looks be damned if the things don't actually shift adequately... and so begins the review.


This is the key factor when we are talking about part of the drivetrain on your bicycle. Does it work, and does it work well? Well, when it comes to the Wickwerks rings the answer is an undeniable YES. I have rode on Ultegra / Dura Ace rings basically since I started riding bicycles and I was confident that I was riding the cleanest shifting setups on the market. Well I was wrong... which isn't to knock Shimano's rings, they are awesome... but they aren't the glory that is Wickwerks. These things shift noticeably cleaner than even my Dura Ace rings do. Yes, I said noticeably and I mean it. Even set up on my "cheap" drivetrain (the Microshift White group... which I still consider the best deal in components on the market.) shifting from small to big and vice versa is smooth and confident. Now there is a lot of science and technology that went into making these things work as buttery as they do, and I'll link to the Slowtwitch article that goes into it a bit more in depth HERE... but to briefly opposed to using pins (like your normal chainring does) to help with the shift, Wickwerks uses "BRIDGE" technology which is basically a lot of ramps that spread the load of the chain more evenly when you are shifting. That's pretty much just a longer way of saying what I said before... it shifts smoothly and confidently.

Ramps! (ok, it has 1 pin)

There is one small gripe with the Wickwerks chainrings, and it's one that is tough to blame on the rings themselves. Cross chaining with the rings is NOT something you can really get away with... they will quickly let you know (somewhat loudly) that you are in the wrong combination of gears. Now we all know you shouldn't be cross chaining to begin with... but sometimes it is a necessary evil (like when you're on very fast rolling hills where you want to stay in the big chainring but need a lower gear... or at least I do) and something that it a lot less noticeable on Shimano rings. Again, it's sort of hard to blame the Wickwerks for not sounding great when you're doing something you shouldn't be doing to start with... but still, it is a thing. The instruction manual that comes with them even makes mention of it.

Rating: 9/10
I'm not sure things get much better than this. Few things deliver on the hype, but these guys do it.


At $149.50 (add $10 if you are a boss and run a 130bcd... hey, you gotta pay to push the big gears) I think you'd be hard pressed to find a set of rings that even play in the same arena as these guys. (Probikekit lists the Dura Ace Outer chainring for $171.09 and of course you still need the inner to go with it) Now can you find perfectly reasonable and race ready chainrings cheaper than $150? I'm sure an internet savvy fellow (or lady, hi ladies!) like yourself can find something on the cheap that will certainly do the job of taking the chain from the small ring to the big ring, but it won't do it as smoothly, it won't do it as precisely and it certainly won't do it as handsomely as the Wickwerks do it.
Rating: 7/10
You can be a cheap skate, but for quality, these are some of the cheapest of the "big boys."
Looks matter... it's just that simple. If they didn't, why would we try to match bar tape (so long as it's white or black bar tape, amirite?) Even if these rings weren't as good functionally as they are, they would still be tempting just for the sex appeal.
It's like a vortex of awesome!
Sadly my Ultegra SL crank is a dark gray. It mates up pretty nicely with the Wickwerks, but it doesn't hold a candle to how sick these things look on a black crank ( Seems like there is a joke there somewhere) SRAM's come to mind immediately.
Yes, that's pretty sweet looking.
Sadly, matching to black is where you are at, so if you've got something that's terribly mismatched you are sort of stuck. The good news is that black goes with everything!
Rating: 10/10
Last Thoughts
There's a lot to love from the Wickwerks. A few (minor) gripes away from being perfect, but I don't think you can go wrong giving them a shot when it's time to replace your chainrings. I didn't know what smooth front shifting was (and I thought I had it down) until I put these on.
Well, this weekend is my first Omnium. I'm *hopeful* for the Road Race, nervous about the Crit, and excited to attempt to crush the Time Trial. With any luck I will be able to keep the rubber down across the races.  Training has been pretty focused on harder sets on the bike while trying to maintain my swim and run. I feel like my run has likely suffered a bit (like it needed it) due to most of them being done on tired legs. Hopefully I can get back some speed before my Olympic race next month.
As always, thanks so much for taking the time to check out the blog, I really appreciate it. Next week I should have a race report (and very likely some lessons learned) from the Omnium.
- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A short OWS report, and some random pictures.

They say they are worth a thousand words... in that case this should be a LOOOONNNNNGGGG blog. I'm often quite a bit late transferring pictures from camera to computer (long story) after races, so I generally end up with one or two that get thrown up on the blog and then a mass of them that just sit in limbo. I thought it'd be fun to share some of my favorites this week. So without further fiddling around, on to the glamour shots.

Looking like a total D-bag in 2012. Thanks Armani sunglasses...

I've always loved this picture. It just totally says everything about an early race morning. This was Augusta 2011, the first stab at the 70.3 distance and one of my better executed races ever. Still remember this morning like it was yesterday.

The 2001 sitting in transition. Hopefully this was taken in T2 and NOT in T1, otherwise I'm going to feel really bad for posting this. I swear I'm not THAT bad of a swimmer.

Coming out of the water in Augusta 2012. I'm not sure how I had a "so-so" swim at Augusta, but I managed it. The pink cap must have put some bad voodoo on me.

My Second Criterium race, which is both exhilarating and scary.  I managed to end this one in second place after I missed the final move. Still have a lot of work to do with my tactics I suppose.

Before the start (and the start of all the troubles) at the Smokin' the Water tri. I added a shoe lace on the zipper of my Xterra swimskin despite it having an "easy open" system because it's tough to get it open with my bum collarbone. 

After taking my DNF at Smokin' the Water (A motorist hit a rider in front of me and I stopped to do what I could until the real help arrived.) I stuck around and cheered everyone else on... and hey, I looked fabulous, right?
The CAAD set up for sprint tri's. Blasphemy or not, it's a blast to ride.
Finding the right tilt for the aerobars was crucial in getting as fast as possible at A2.

Warming up and taking in some last minute nutrition. I always like to get a little something in 15-20' before the start. My goggles (Tyr Spec Ops) match my BT kit almost perfectly.
Out on a Sunday group ride, you get a perfect shot of my butt :)
Trying to get out of T1 at Augusta. If you look really close you can see my fancy S-Works Trivents and my "new" position from A2 Wind Tunnel.
Sometimes drastic measures have to be taken to get a run in. Here I'm drilling into my big toe to get some relief from a black toenail. Hope you weren't eating anything...
The Planet X as it was set up in early 2012 (Pre-A2) I normally don't ride any front but an H3 on it, but wanted to try out my Jet9 for this particular race. You can also see the excellent Simkins Egg brake on the front.
A picture from a Sunday ride of how beautiful it is here.
I guess a good old country boy is all I'll ever be.
Nothing but open road and a view to ride for.
At the Open Water Swim race last weekend. Here I'm watching the 2 milers start from the dock. With a long run to do later in the day, I decided to "only" do the 1 mile.
Resting before the start of the swim. I need my beauty sleep after all. And yes, that's a sweet Tiger towel I'm laying on.
In the water hanging out. For once it wasn't freezing cold in an OWS!

Getting a bit more crowded in the water. The girl on the far left in the yellow cap is an absolute ANIMAL in triathlons (and swimming) She destroyed us, which is awesome.

While I may not have a swimming pedigree to my credit, I did spend most of my twenties (and a good part of my teenage years as well) in East Tennessee bars. I credit my comfort with the "melee" at the beginning of open water swims to that.
Doing my best "model" pose. That is, if you can model a speedo with cycling tan lines, a jacked up scar on your shoulder and a terrible case of raccoon eyes.  Oh well, at least I'm not terribly embarrassed to wear the speedo.
 //// Open Water Swim - 1 mile \\\\
I looked at this event as a fun little chance to get some open water swimming in. The guy who put it on is a super nice fellow, and he's been wanting to put on a swim for a while, but of course open water swims are tough to get a lot of people to do, since "real" swimmers usually stick to the pool and triathletes as a rule (ok, maybe not a rule, but definitely a stereotype) are generally just duathletes who "survive the swim." Nonetheless, he was able to get around 50 people to show up for the 1 and 2 mile swims. The course was a 1/2 mile loop that we repeated (with a short run up onto the ramp and then back into the water.) until the distance was finished. I signed up for the 1 mile race as I also had a 10 mile run scheduled for the day and I didn't really want to start it after racing 2 miles in the water.
After the 2 mile race finished it was time for us 1 milers to get wet and warm up. Altogether I believe there were about 20 of us. I lined up forward middle due to the smaller group, hoping to get away pretty quick. At the gun I get melee'd pretty good for about 2 minutes until the "rush" drops away. After that I never found myself near another swimmer... I did my best sighting, but ended up with the sun directly in my eyes a good portion of the way out. I kept getting the feeling I was not taking the shortest line from buoy to buoy. At the halfway point I came out at nearly 15 minutes!! Yikes. That's not on pace at all!
The second lap was uneventful other than my goggles digging in just a bit too tightly. I make the turn buoy and see another cap a little bit behind me, so I turn up the pace to make it back to shore in a terribly unexciting 32 minutes. I certainly should have been well under 30 minutes (was looking for 26-28 beforehand) so I would definitely call it a sketchy finish. Nonetheless, I was 1st place in the age group and 5th overall. I assume a slightly longer course mixed with the out of water walk between laps and my poor sighting are the cause. I really need to get in the water a bit more frequently overall, but especially outside of the pool.  Nonetheless, it was a good training day.

Well, thanks for checking out the pictures and listening to my lame excuses for a slow swim last weekend :)

I've got a weekend without racing coming up, and then my first Omnium at the end of the month. Hopefully I'll have a little review up next week and with any luck a successful race report the next week!

As always, thanks for reading

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Happy Anniversary to me. (Tri Anniversary that is) A Report

It's that time again. Another year since I first got my feet wet (literally) in the wonderful life of being a mediocre triathlete. Five years since I took the first steps toward changing things. Whereas most triathletes come from some form of active background, I came straight from the school of binge drinking and playing video games. (actually MMORPGs... an endurance event themselves)

Yep... celebrating my athletic background... circa 2008, 220ish lbs.

And so here we are, 5 years later. Racing the West Side YMCA super sprint for the 5th time. I'm not normally a sentimental guy, but I admit that this race holds a special place in my heart. Despite it being a non-USAT super sprint, I always want to do well here. (Which is kind of silly even to type... I always want to do well everywhere I race...) After my so-so percentage of starts to finishes this year, just crossing the line was goal #1. Anyways, on to the enchanting race report.


I actually slept the night before! I'm not sure why that has become a big deal for me the last year, but for some reason I have been having trouble getting a good nights sleep pre-race since the beginning of the season. Not this time... I slept like a baby.

The morning of I had my final check over the bike, watched some stage reviews of the tour and had breakfast. For those who care about nutrition (~5:15a.m.)

- 1cup Oats (1/4c milk)
- 2 Eggs (whole)
- 1 Corn Tortilla shell
- 2 Cups Coffee (milk/splenda)
- 32oz Water (spread out the morning)

Which is my go-to meal every day including races.

After loading the car and giving my helmet yet another "last look" it was off to the Y.

Arriving I realized I was a little late, as most of the "premium" spots in transition were taken. I grab a spot I deem acceptable and get checked in/marked. I saw my buddy Joe (who's been fighting injury and random mishaps all season) and we wished each other luck. It's been a pretty tough week of training so I have to say I wasn't feeling "race ready" by any means. The idea was to have a longer than normal warmup to try to get the body humming and so it was off on the bike to have a once-over on the course and then a long'ish (probably a little under 2 miles) run with a couple of strides thrown in. Checking the watch it was closing in on start time so I made my way to the pool and met up with the family and after getting a couple of laps in, got in line and waited for the start.

- 1 GU (hey, it was free in my packet) 15' before start.

Swimming: (200yards / 3:05)

Rocking the kit matching TYR goggles too. It's all about color coordination.

Not a whole lot to say here. I seeded myself basically perfectly, and had absolutely no contact on either side for the entire (well... It was only 200y) swim. I felt like I had it paced pretty well for my fitness level swimming at the time. It's a bit slower than last year (I had been swimming a lot due to leg injuries) but not a concerning amount. Before I knew it I was out of the water and running towards transition!

Transition 1: (1:08)

Much faster transition than last year, although I can't imagine how. I ran hard through the gravel pavement (sweeping would have been a swell idea) and nearly dropped my sunglasses fiddling around but still managed to make it out on the bike in a reasonable time considering the long run from the pool to the parking lot. Hopped on the bike and it was time to go!

Biking: (7.46mi / 18:07)

Coming out of t1 to start the ride

The secret is out... I've been really enjoying riding my Cannondale Caad8 with clip on bars in these short sprints. It is a little bit slower (from past results) than my tri bikes, but not much and I feel a lot better climbing (and navigating through slower riders on the second lap) on it... so I've been happy (well... accepting anyways) being a little slower and a lot more assured on the bike, especially since a lot of this year has been spent on my road bike. (compared to the last year or two that I spent almost exclusively on my tri bike) Second fastest split of the day is hard to complain about as well, I'll certainly take it and move on. The ride itself was pretty uneventful, which I'm afraid makes for tough writing but good feelings... I'm sick of having to write about something bad happening on the bike. Before long it was shoes unstrapped and heading down the long hill to transition. I spot two racers (one entering and one exiting transition) get into a little tumble so I have to swerve far out to miss them. As entering t2 is uphill, I actually had to stop and hop off as opposed to swinging my leg over. Looks silly, but not as silly as me ending up face first in the pavement.

Transition 2: (:29)

T2 was just how you want it to be... fast. I'm not sure there's much more I could do to speed it up other than run faster with the bike. Always room for improvement I suppose.

Running: (2.48mi / 13:54)

Starting the run out of t2. My form is obviously amazing...

First off, the run has to be vanity measured. The distance/time above puts me at running 5:20 min/miles, which just isn't reality, or anything near it. I'd guess the run closer to two miles tops. That said, I felt like I had a fairly good run... I was passed early on by somebody (never found out who or where/how they got ahead of me) but never let them out of my sights. The only times I saw Alan or Joe is when we were approaching turnarounds. I knew both of them had a pretty sick lead on me even if I did start down from them in the TT swim. I was kind of unsure of everyone else, but figured it was best to not take any chances and try to get done ASAP. I hit the second turnaround and try to make a kick to pass the fellow I had been tailing, but he seemingly notices and has more in the tank/legs than I do. He pours on the heat and dusts me, and I'm left sprinting across the line alone. I take a minute or two to catch my breath, and then the waiting begins.

Total Time: (36:42)

Well, I was about 20 seconds faster than last year despite having a bit slower bike ride and swim (but a faster run and faster transitions) so at a short distance like this, I was very happy. I knew I was somewhere in the top 5 finishers, but due to the TT start I wasn't quite sure exactly where. I get a drink, change clothes and wait for the initial results to get posted. Checking... third place overall! I was a solid :40 behind Joe (who finished second) and nearly 4 minutes(!) behind Alan, who crushed the course record. He actually did run sub 5:30's for the duration... which is beastly. (Which is an understatement.)

This picture really shows that I'm not a tall fellow... and that I'm still a big nerd with my Transformers t shirt.

And so we congratulate each other, pick up our prizes and depart. I spent the rest of my day cleaning out the garage and then having dinner and a few shots of Sake to celebrate my anniversary and podium finish :) 

Some things never change :D

Well, a big thanks to everyone reading for...well... reading I guess. I really appreciate you taking the time to check out my random blathering.
This weekend it's a 1mi open water swim race (hoping to be a little under 30 minutes if I don't get lost) and continued increased bike mileage as I ramp up for the Oak Ridge Velo Omnium at the end of the month.
Until next time, adios.
- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Having fun and adding miles to a 100 miler!

TOUR TIME! No no, I'm not talking about THAT Tour today...

First World problems we mortals didn't have to worry about on Saturday
100 106 miles in the books. Saturday wasn't just the first day of Le Tour de France, it was also the Tour de Rocky Top (put on by Race Day Events) for us weekend warriors.

There I am! In the helmet on the bike!
Our motley crew met up a little before the start and we made our way towards the front of the start line. Let me be clear in saying that of all the racing/riding I have ever done (and yes, this includes Criterium 5 races) the first 10-20 miles of a charity/fun ride are the most dangerous cycling you will ever do. You just have so many people of varying skill levels riding very close together until the hills and TITS (that's time in the saddle for you pervs) breaks things up into more reasonable groups. One fellow crossed wheels with the rider in front of him fairly early and had to take a trip to the hospital over it, and one of my friends (ahead of us) was descending the very technical (and fast) descent down "the wall" later in the day and had another rider crash into him when he took a switchback way too fast... no thanks, not on a fun day.

Me, Jackie, Tony and Jay. I have no idea why I'm making that face...

Anyways, I had promised to ride for/with my friend Jackie as she was trying to go for the "Queen of the Mountain" Jersey (the first man and the first woman over the top of Butterfly Gap were awarded the jersey) so the four of us road at a fairly steady pace the first 10 miles. It was then that a little disaster struck. The course had been marked with yellow paint for the 100milers to follow, however until it deviated away from the shared course (36,50,62) we were supposed to follow white paint... oops. At a certain point we are crossing a 4 way when I see riders going across the opposite direction of us. I call for a stop to check the cue sheet but Jackie doesn't hear me (or thought I was an idiot - which is possible too) and rides on. After a minute or two of confusion the RD pulls up in his truck and sets us straight. I inform him one of our riders is gone the wrong way and he goes to find her. We decide to take a break and wait for them to return and so we sit...and sit...and sit. Eventually we press on towards the rest stop, where we discover Jackie was brought  (in truck) and has already departed with another group about 10 minutes ahead of us. D'oh.

Once again we hit the road once more it's smooth sailing. Lots of joking around and having fun.

- It's worth mentioning that I stuck (mostly) to my nutrition plan mentioned last week. I had 5 NOW Honeycomb bars (and a banana at a rest stop :P ) and water, totaling up to around 1500 calories over the day, which worked out perfectly. (/aside)

And then, we reached the start of the climb. No turning back now... I give my regards and wellwishes to Tony and Jay and tell them I'll see them at the top. Another fellow stalks me up the beginning incline and we chat for a minute about how beautiful the scenery is (and it is breathtaking. Waterfalls line the beginning of the road) as we both start in on the long climb to the top. Here's a link to the mapmyride... "eyewatering" is a good way to describe the 19% pitch of the Cat2 climb. My 11-25 Cassette was NOT the correct choice for the day even with my compact crank. I found myself wishing for a 27 more than once. As the road turned skyward I found myself quite alone in my own suffering. It's these times I feel like I'm at my best. Each pedalstroke a lesson in pain, barely moving forward up what seems like an insurmountable climb. Standing was impossible as the canopy cover over the road had left it still wet... standing would only result in a spinning rear wheel. I see a couple of riders on the horizon, most of them walking at this point. It's very tough to see others walking their bike up a hill and not accept that you should do it too. The mental war at this point was at it's toughest. I also see another Cycology jersey ahead! Jackie! I catch her and we give each other some final encouragements to reach the top. I see the 1k mark on the road and know I've made it! We regroup and wait for Tony and Jay to catch up and get some much needed water refills. It's at this time we learn that another Cycology rider (Barry Lucas - who is an animal) has won the King of the Mountain jersey.

Me and Jackie on top of Butterfly Gap
Of course that still left us with another 50something miles to travel. We regroup and make our way back down "The Wall" and return to the "flatter" section of the route. It's here that we take our second trip off course. Once in Maryville (home sweet home) there are MANY routes painted. Unfortunately, many of them are painted in yellow... just like the 100mi route.  We end up having to take a very roundabout way through Albuquerque to get back on the right track. Eventually, after second guessing ourselves two or three times, we see the final rest stop. 20 miles to go! The final 20 are pretty uneventful other than me having my only "close call" of the ride, when I bounced off a rock in the road while braking before a corner at ~ 40mph. As soon as my front wheel lifts up I can feel it trying to lock up. I don't panic and ride it out with nothing more than a scare and a cut in my tire. Fortunately it wasn't bad enough to totally puncture, so I was able to ride it home. Finally we make our way back to Barleys, a successful 106 miles in the books. I load the bike, get changed and have a chance to watch everybody else enjoy free beer and pizza. (I had Hard Cider... gluten free selection! Oh yeah)

At least my hard cider looks like a beer in a cup :)

And so that was my Saturday. Not a race, but having fun and enjoying the day with friends... which is what it's all about.  It's good to be able to go out and have a good time and not worry about how long it took or who was in front of / behind me.

Every now and then at least :)

This weekend it's my Triathlon Anniversary. Five years ago I did my first tri (West Side Y Super Sprint) and I'll be doing it again on Saturday. It's short and super fast, hoping to continue my streak of PR'ing the course every year! I'll have a little bit of a report on it next week, and also possibly some initial impressions on these bad boys.

Spoiler Alert - these rings kick #@$!$
I've only JUST got them installed and had maybe a 20 mile ride on them, but my first thought (other than how amazing they look) was how slick the shifting on the front was.  But those are thoughts for another day!

Happy Independence Day! Don't blow up anything important!

Thanks for sifting through my ramblings! I truly appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock