Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Oak Ridge Velo Cat 5 Omnium Race Report

Tough weekend in the books, and fortunately it was a fun, safe and exciting one as well. Since I've got three races to talk about let's skip the fluff and get right to it.

Sharp dressed man
Cat 5 road race

The Omnium started off with a 27 mile road race. Thirty(ish... not sure exact #) riders hit the line, including myself and Matt, who I knew was likely the strongest man in the field. I figured he would attack on the single climb and my goal was to turn myself inside out to make the split with him.

The first few miles were sketchy. I was milling around mid pack when we hit the first set of train tracks... the guy in front of me locked up his brakes and I only very narrowly managed to dodge him. I gave him some (rather harsh) tips on how to ride predictably. At that point I decided I needed to quit messing around and get to the front.  Our pace for the first few miles was abysmally slow... everyone content to just hang out. Just to spice it up I throw in a spirited move which raises the pace and starts putting people in the "racing" mindset. Unfortunately once up front nobody is willing to pull through. I'm fine with that for a mile or so but eventually simply sit up and soft pedal until finally someone has to pull through. (*or we all stop) Once that goes down the pace stays fairly high up until the first (and really only) climb. As it pitches I see Matt make his move and I jump on. When the road flattens back out for a second there are 6 of us. When the road pitches again I'm caught by surprise by another acceleration and can only watch as the others ride over the crest without me. The descent is not a tricky one, no brakes needed, but nonetheless I come out of it with a sizeable gap between myself and the others. Another gentleman catches me (I'm in the red) and we do what we can to erase the gap. We catch another guy a mile or so up the road and eventually catch two more a little further again. That puts three guys who stuck in the break. Our pace must slow as we're caught by another group not long after and eventually we regroup as a fairly big pack. We most certainly *could* have caught three riders in the miles we had left, but disorganization in the pack and the "out of sight out of mind" effect eventually put us far enough back that we're no longer racing for podiums. I had overestimated my fitness (or underestimated the others) and didn't have much to say or do other than sit in and count off the miles. On the last straight stretch there are a few attacks launched, but they are quickly reigned in and we make the final turn together.  The finish is devious on this course, as at 500m you see a hill that looks perfect to launch an attack on. I made this mistake two years ago. What you don't see is that as soon as you crest that hill the entire remaining shot to the finish line is also uphill... so burn yourself out powering that steep section and then you have to coast into the finish. I have the advantage to know that so when I see a couple of guys gun it I don't sweat it. Actually at this point I have no interest getting tangled up in a sprint for...well... not podium... so I am happy to sit on the wheel I've been on all day. At 200m the rules allow for the use of the whole road instead of one lane, however nobody seems to have noticed that sign... everyone is fighting in the right lane still. At the last second I pull hard to the left and sprint into open space. I cross the line in 7th, nothing special but I did pick up some omnium points I would have otherwise foregone. Matt ended up beating the other two guys in the breakaway up that final incline and won the race.

Taking the left lane
Afterwards it was a lot of downtime avoiding the sun and waiting for the 3:30 time trial start. By the time I was ready to start warming up it was well above 90° and I was already boiling. Somehow in all of this I manage to be "late" (actually they were calling me to line up early... I still had 3 minutes to sit in the start house when I got there) to my start, so I scramble to get my Bodypaint skinsuit on (not easy...) and end up in the small chainring at the start house. Not my smoothest warmup or setup for the start.

Cat 5 Time Trial

waiting in the shade
I get out of the start tent and immediately jump to the big chainring.  Once there I get into aero and start grinding away. My goal was to hold 250 watts for the 8 miles, but as the road starts it's gradual incline I realize that's probably optimistic. I hammer the flats and try to keep a steady power on the uphill and downhill sections but I definitely didn't feel like I was staying smooth. I am the first man out so there is no minute (or 30") man to catch, so I am just looking for the end of the road. Eventually I find it and cruise through in 18 minutes and some change. Last year I hit the course in 17:3x, so I was a bit off... however at 30 watts less avg power that's to be expected. I still managed to nab third place, a distant third behind Matt (who again won) and another boy who had been in the road race breakaway. All damage said and done I was a distant third in the Omnium, about 15 points down, and only a few points ahead of 4th place. After the TT it was a quick trip back home to shower and get dinner and turn in... the crit was still ahead.

Off to mediocre results :)

Cat 5 Criterium (TN State Championship)

Crit's are something I have grown to love. No other race has the same kind of anxiety hanging over it, and no other race requires the same amount of concentration for the distance. Our race was 30 minutes with two prime laps. Both Matt and the other guy had proven they were stronger than I was, so the only thing in my favor was that I had done crit's before. (both of them first timers) The course for the ORV race is very tricky for a crit. The "P" shaped course has two defining points... the final turn before the straightaway to the finish line and the U-turn at the end of the P, which heavily favored the first person in (and out) of it.

We line up, get our instructions and the start. I attack from the first pedal stroke for two reasons. First, I wanted to be the first person into the U-turn on that first lap, and second I wanted to try to immediately remove some of the riders so there would be less jumble. My gap sticks however and nobody is interested in chasing, so I string out for a few minutes considering my options. Obviously staying out is impossible with two stronger guys not far behind me, so my plan is to get one or both of them to bridge up to me.
Best laid plans don't count for much as the next time around it's announced to be a prime lap. Probably at the worst time, I get hit hard with an attack from behind right before the U turn. I come out of it and a sizeable gap has opened between myself and Matt/2nd. My ride was likely over if another rider hadn't meant to catch them. I hang on for dear life and we do eventually re-connect, along with another guy, putting us at 5 guys who had a shot. At this point I'm pretty gassed, and fortunate that nobody put any hard accelerations in for a couple of laps. I even got to coast for a few seconds here and there. At 5 laps to go Matt has been on the front for likely 70% of the 30 minutes, with the guy in second probably making up most of the other 30%. I'm locked on his wheel like a magnet though, and as the laps start ticking down I can tell they both would prefer someone else took a pull. Sorry... not this close to the finish. On the final lap we head into the U-turn in the same order, and I'm praying for a sprint. Matt must have read my mind because as he comes out of the U he jumps...hard. The fellow in second doesn't immediately respond and right then and there Matt wins the race, quickly gapping the rest of us. For a split second I imagine trying to bridge up to him, but reality quickly returns me to earth and I have to watch him ride to an uncontested finish. As for the rest of us, the race is still very much on. The final corner comes and I'm still on second places wheel. As the road straightens up he catches me by surprise by slinging hard to the left and starting his sprint. I'm in absolutely too small of a gear so the start of my acceleration is lacking and he pulls a little. I find a real gear quickly and start doing my best Cavendish, making up the gap and then putting some distance in.  Despite a poor start to it, I still managed to avg over 800 watts for the sprint... not near my best in training, but an average I was very happy with. So I finished 2nd in the Crit. Matt was immediately upgraded to Cat4, and put back in the (immediately starting) 4's race. WHICH HE FINISHED 2nd IN! (Seriously...beast power)

The U-turn
Despite finishing second I couldn't quite squeek out the difference in points to boost myself to second in the omnium, so I had to settle with third. Nonetheless, it was a good weekend for me, and a much needed confidence booster for where I am in my recovery. As I've said in previous posts, where all this will end up is still in the air, but the road back is at least the road I'm on again.

Podium shot with the mayor

Thanks so much for reading. I really appreciate it!

Coming soon, pictures of the new TT bike being built!

-Christopher Morelock

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Identity Crisis

The struggle inside continues. Am I still a recovering triathlete or am I a neophyte cyclist? It's a question that I don't have a good answer for. As I continue to build volume in my riding I question if I can go back to adding consistent runs and swims to the mix, and more importantly if I want to sacrifice time on the bike to do so. Can I even go back to "bed at 8 up at 4" 5-7 days a week? Currently the answer is no, so the question is will I ever want to do that again? I don't know.

Fortunately those are all decisions that do not have to be made in the imminent future. I have been enjoying my stay (whether temporary or permanent) in the land of the roadies. There is a simplicity to only having one sport to think about that is a comfortable routine. It doesn't hurt that cycling is what I've always enjoyed most anyways... besides video games... and now that Zwift is a thing I can play video games and ride at the same time! ;)

This weekend is the Oak Ridge Velo classic, and I'm signed up for the omnium. 27mi road race, 8 mi TT and 30 minute crit. It's been two years since I participated in the omnium where I had some mixed results (A way too eager attack on the road race finish left me in last, but a second place TT and a 4th place finish on the crit brought me back into a decent omnium overall.) this year with my re-building fitness I'm not overly expecting great things, although I think I'm skimming the "decent shape" borderline now. Not the same shape I've previously been in, but good enough to not get embarrassed and maybe even pull out a few surprises.  I get bored with sitting in... so there is a good chance I'll at least attempt some kind of move before the finish, fitness or no. We pre-rode the course last weekend and I at least have a good feel for it.

Jimmy and his selfies. My blue glasses totally mismatch my kit.
So next week I'll have some kind of story to tell. Hopefully with some sunny spots! Also, thanks everyone who helped out sourcing a bike... I found a used TT rig, and while it wasn't a P4, I think it will be ok. More on it when I get it together!

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Reality (West Side Y Race Report)

One of the tougher parts of coming back from an extended time off is the mental aspect, moreso even than the physical. I believe this is because while the body can't be "fooled" the mind can easily build itself a "fort" of falsehoods to hide behind. As long as those aren't tested, it's much easier to believe them. Even a pessimist realist like myself isn't immune. And so as the West Side Y triathlon approached, I had secretly harbored some hopes that I was in better shape than the signs pointed to.

Now, the reality is that I ran 8 miles (actually 7.9) in June. None of those miles were over a single mile long, and none of them were done at any break-neck speed.  Swimming? I spent 23 whole minutes "swimming" in June, all of that done on the VASA trainer. Last year I was running 4-6mi/day 6x/wk and swimming 3x/wk for around 3k/day.  So, when you look at it that way...duh. But I had kind of convinced myself that I could just fall back on my bike training and wing it. Nevermind my FTP is also a good bit lower than it was last year despite my upped bike volume. tldr... recovery sucks.

Anyways... on to the report.

Warmup / Setup

If you've ever seen the movie Kingpin (you have, right? If not...go watch it!) there is a part towards the end of the movie where there is a callback to the beginning of the movie, In the beginning Woody Harrelson is on top of his game, his soundtrack is playing in the background, everyone is cheering him, he even takes some guys pizza slice and eats it with the fella's approval. Towards the end of the film when he enters the same way and grabs a guys pizza slice, the music abruptly cuts off and the guy gives him the "what are you doing?" shove. Things change. That's about the perfect way to describe my entry into transition...minus the pizza of course.

The difference a little time can make
I grab a mediocre place in transition (I don't get to t1 early enough these days) and talk to some of the people I recognize. Jenny takes some of our stuff back to the car and I go pre-ride the course. This course is always fairly treacherous as it's two laps and on the second lap even the fastest guys are mingling with the "try a tri" folks, along with open traffic for the most part. It didn't help that it had rained earlier in the morning... and it definitely wouldn't help that I wasn't going to be one of the first couple people in or out of the water this time.

I get back to transition and put the final touches on the bike, get everything set and head to the pool. I figure pre-running isn't going to do me much good so I skip it. Need to make sure I won't drown. I jump in the pool and get a few laps in, enough to satisfy myself that I had indeed NOT totally forgotten how to swim, and that I could make it through 200 yards. Eventually it's time to line up and get ready to start.

Swim - 3:15 (46th)  2014 - 2:58

Back in the water once again

Honestly, a better swim than I deserved despite it's short length. I lined up considerably farther back than I'm used to, but it was at least a pretty good call as I had free water the entire time. Losing a total of 17 seconds considering I haven't even been in the water other than to take a shower this year is alright with me. I could definitely feel some fatigue though (wow... endurance is gone) which I think I could have cut out with just a tiny bit of pool time. Anyways, I'm out in reasonable order and off on the long run to transition.

T1 - 1:20 2014 - 1:11

Something I hadn't really considered was that my feet might have gotten a little "soft" in my layoff. Running on busted pavement and gravel never used to bother me, but I admit I did more hopping and "ouching" than I can ever remember this time. I fumble with my helmet a bit longer than I should have but eventually hit the mat and head out on the bike with only a little delay.

Bike - 18:48 (15th) 2014 - 17:54

I head out of T1 without realizing my disc cover was rubbing the cassette... this in turn turns the crank (like a fixie) and that in turn means the wrong pedal was facing down as I plan to mount. I fumble with it a second then hop on, somehow muscle memory working well enough to keep me from taking an embarrassing spill. I try to get my shoes on, but again end up fumbling with them quite a bit, even yelling to my mom "I'm a bit rusty," as I turn out onto the course.

Once I'm strapped in I set to trying to keep a steady pace, difficult with all of the rollers. I get passed by Mike (on his second lap already) early and foolishly try to up my pace a bit. Once I start on my second lap I'm really in the thick of the "danger" (the less steady cyclists have entered the course at this point) and have to take a lot of turns a lot slower than is ideal to make sure I can dodge everyone elses "line." I successfully keep the rubber down and finish off the ride faster than I had expected considering my avg watts. Not anything exciting, but at least an ok effort.

T2 - :35 2014 - :37

I roll up to the dismount line (which is on a fairly sharp uphill) behind two other people who are stopping and getting off their bikes... that pretty well crushes my flying dismount into standing dismount. I follow through and start running back to my transition spot and I'm actually able to get back out in a timely manner without forgetting anything. Since Nick didn't steal my rack spot this year (:D ) I actually managed to be a couple of seconds faster in T2 than last year. I'll take time wherever I can get it! Off for the death march.

Run - 18:11 (47th) 2014 - 16:01

One of my moments running

And a death march it was. I headed out with some moderate hope that this race was short enough that I might be able to "fake it" through. A little less than a mile in I realize that this is real life, and in real life I haven't been running... I end up taking more than a few walk breaks throughout the course, trying to space them strategically at spots (like uphills) that I know I'd be doing slow regardless. On the off road section I manage to pick up a rock in my shoe and for some reason decide I'm too fast to stop and get it out, so it pokes me in the foot all the way to the finish. Running sockless for the first time in a long time was also probably a bit optimistic, and I paid for it later Saturday evening with a couple of nice blisters. Honestly, it wasn't a disaster of a run, probably better than what I was trained to do. I held it together to the finish and then really fell apart at the line. I can honestly say I put everything I had out there. It wasn't much, but there is was.

Heading towards the finish... with great form of course...

Finish - 42:07 (18th) 2014 - 38:38 (2nd)

So, that's about the long and short of it. Around 4 minutes worth of damage in a very short sprint, and so my return to triathlon came and went with less of a roaring shout and more of a lukewarm murmur.

Now it's back to the questions. Am I going to focus on cycling now? For the near future I think the answer is certainly yes, for a multitude of reasons. I still have a hard time imagining running with the volume I was at last year, and until I had my blood tested again later this year I worry that I might dig myself back into a hole easier than before. Swimming will require me to find a new venue, as I don't think I can mentally accept driving 2 hours round trip to swim for an hour any longer. All these things and the fact that I also think I am not ready to face the prospect of "what if I *CAN'T* do this" any longer.  However, perhaps the simplest answer is, I am enjoying riding and doing some bike racing again. I look forward to it... and it's something I can easily focus on without being overwhelmed.

I am not quite ready to hang my spandex yet. I think I've still got some good racing left in me, maybe some of my best racing. Not today, not this year even... but soon. Now, if only patience were one of my virtues.

Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Thursday, July 9, 2015

"Race" season

I guess this is it.

Swag season!
My race season is here... or what I'll be salvaging of it at least. I had really hoped that I'd get a little bit more out of the year, but as it turns out you can't come back quite as fast as my ego had led me to believe! Not to say that anything is problematic in training, just that I can't put watts onto my FTP with reckless abandon like I had expected wanted wished. So there won't be any big races for me in 2015, but honestly that's almost a relief. No expectations to live up to.

Saturday was Tour de Rocky Top, in which I usually do the 100 (or more...) mile ride/race. This year I only stuck it out for the 50 miler and I have to say, it was fun. Just long enough for me to feel like I was getting a workout in without the grueling final push back home those last few miles of a century.

Getting ready for the rollout on a gloomy but fun day

Last night (mainly the reason for the day late post) I went back to crit racing after a few years not touching the road racing scene. It was short and sweet(ish) as C group crits go... I sat in the first couple of laps just trying to get a feel for it again and eventually bridged up to another (stronger) guy who was sitting a little off the front. I sprinted out for the Prime lap (new bottle cage) and then we basically rode together the rest of the race. We were eventually passed by another guy who just had the turbo's going and I missed the move in the last corner and got gapped in the wrong gear for the sprint, finishing a comfortable third. (Seems like the only place I finish now) I tried to cool catch my breath and jump into the B race, but I was toasted and pretty much yo-yo'd the first two laps until finally just dropping off and calling it a day.  Not the worst way to come back to the game.

Thumbs up for puny legs.

And Saturday will be the West Side Y triathlon. I went back and forth on whether or not I would be there, but finally decided I couldn't miss it. Since I haven't ran over a mile or even been in the water other than to take a shower it will probably go pretty poorly... but with Ignorance and Arrogance, success is assured! I'll make sure to have a proper race report next week, good, bad or ugly.

Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it.

- Christopher Morelock

Thursday, July 2, 2015

looking for a new whip!

So I am sort of looking for a new ride but running into a hard time sourcing one. So to the blog I go.
I've pretty much decided on the P4, preferably the later (Evo) upgraded version, but so long as the seat tube isn't broken/cracked I'd live with the original as well. I only want a frameset (have enough junk sitting around as is) and could care less about the condition (provided it's not unrideable) Has to be a size 51, no room for discussion there.

The only other bike that fits my requirements is the Shiv TT (Medium) but I don't think I can fit one of those into the budget.

So, if you've got any leads, let me know :)

Regularly scheduled programming back next time!

Christopher Morelock