Bike Racing

I guess in the natural progression of the MAMIL is that you eventually think you’re good enough to start racing.  Well I’ve watched the pros, and I’ve even spent time on shop rides with sometimes racers, and I realize I’m not all that great, but I want to see what this body I’ve earned can do.

But first I needed to figure out what it was that I wanted out of bike racing.  I think this is the philosophical question one whom is not so keyed by competition as I am.  For some, their competitive nature would have led them to racing and competing a long time ago.  For me, I had a bit of that competitive juice squeezed out of me in High School.  I learned that I could get over obsessed by winning, and when I finally stepped back and looked at myself, I didn’t like what I saw.  I was always someone who was there to support the team, be quick to be a good sportsman, and took more joy out of playing the game than the outcome.  But somewhere in high school, that flipped, and I stopped being a good sportsman, and got furious at not winning, or not making the team, or would look to cheat to win, so I stopped playing.  I kept being a good team supporter, and took joy in that.  I eventually settled on games/sports where you competed against yourself and competition against others was tangential; Bowling, Golf, Computer Games (not First Person Shooters, or anything that involved Player-Versus-Player).

So it is under this setting that I went to rank what it was I wanted:

  • A team — Watching pro cycling, you realize that it takes a team to win.  One rider can’t do it all, even on one day races, monuments, or especially stage races.
  • A TEAM — Not a bunch of guys who get together every so often and race.  I want to learn, and I know while I can read books about racing, I always learn better by doing, and by getting help from others.  A real team works to improve all it’s members.
  • Proximity — Close to home.  Most teams have team rides, and I didn’t want to have to ride/drive a long distance just to make the rides; it’s much easier to be committed and show up when the barriers to doing so are low, especially on days when you’re not feeling it.
  • Friendliness — If I’m going to be spending a lot of time *NOT* with my wife and daughter but with these folks, I want them to be fun and friendly, and not so totally one-tracked minded that it’s cycling, or nothing.
  • Family Oriented — Much like the point above; my family is the most important thing to me.  I am not a paid professional, and I am not ever going to compete at a level where I can make money from this sport, so rule 11 is pure bullshit.  If the team doesn’t understand that (after getting to know me and my background), I won’t want to be a part of that team.

It seems the Washington DC area is a hotbed for cycling teams.  Some are just too large, and from what I understand, members would show up to races and not know anyone else wearing the same jersey.  Some were just too far away to make the team rides regularly, other are mainly focused on women’s racing or juniors, or, in the case of my good friends at Team Bikenetic, solely focused on cyclocross and mountain biking.  And the others were seemingly focused at higher categories than me starting out at Cat-5.

So I was considering a couple of teams that I knew a couple people on, when after really turning myself inside out going up the climb from Wolftrap up to Route 7, my friend Sean made a comment that I should talk to him about racing and if I wanted to get into it.  I met him for coffee one morning and he at least convinced me to come ride with the team before Christmas.

It was just supposed to be a Zone 2 day doing laps around Haines Point… Un Huh.  Zone 2 for everyone else meant Zone 4 for me.  But at the same time, I was being given valuable lessons on how to take corners at speed (though the road was wet and cold and I really really had to let go of some fear there), how and why to keep up on people’s wheels (it’s not just about you, it’s about your teammates behind you), and other tips, plus learning to ride in very close proximity to others.

After a few more team rides, I knew that I could barely hang on to the Cat-3 guys; I suck at knowing when to rotate off the front — when I finish a pull I have trouble getting back onto the end of the line.  I still have issues with those pesky corners, but I’m getting better.  I’ve been dropped, both on the flat and on the hills, so I know I need to work on conserving energy.

But I was very happy to get the official invite to the team.  I am now the newest member of Team Veloworks-Spokes Etc.


Last night we had our first team meeting, and I got to meet most of the team that I haven’t met yet on rides.  They’re a really social and fun group to be around, and I look forward to racing for and with them.  Team first, don’t be an areshole, and other good information was distilled and dispersed to the team.


I’ll be starting out at Cat-5 (i.e. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing level), with 6 goals:

  1. Don’t Crash.
  2. Seriously, Don’t Crash.
  3. No, really, Don’t Crash.
  4. Don’t Crash and Finish A Race
  5. Finish in the Pack
  6. Podium?!?!?

There’s only one other Cat-5 this year in the team, and he’s a much stronger rider than I am at this time, but I hope that we can work some fields at Cat-5 and see what we can do.

My first official road race (Felix 26 doesn’t count) will be the Tidewater Winter Classic  put on by the William and Mary cycling team.  Probably a good intro to racing; for the Cat-5 race it’s two loops of a 9.8 mile course (as my teammate Brian put it – it’s a lollipop (circle on a stick) course) and the starting and finishing straight.

Nice thing about this race will be that I’ll be able to race without having to take 2.7 million corners, since it’s a road race and not a criterium.  I’ll see what it’s like racing in a pack, and all the things we haven’t gone over yet in drills with the team.

Can’t wait.  Hopefully it’ll be warm/not raining/not snowing…

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Coffeeneuring 2014

With all the traveling that I’ve had to do in the last couple months, I was pleased to be able to complete the 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge.  Now, Mary’s rules require that each coffeeneur ride be

You have to go to different locales, although you may ride to multiple locations of a chain, if necessary.

For an extra challenge, and forcing me to learn new places of caffeine purveyance, I added my own addendum to this rule:

You have to go to 7 different locales That you have never coffeeneured to before, although you may ride to multiple locations of a chain, that chain must not be traded on a stock market.

As much as I visit Starbucks (i.e. Best Buns in Shirlington, or inside the Target in Merrifield), I was forcing myself to make it a bigger challenge.

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Skyline Double – Northbound – Part 2

_DSC731850 miles to go.  Now, I have ridden down to Mount Vernon and back in 3 hours, but that was fairly un-hilly and un-trafficked.   Sunset was around 6:30, so I would really have to rush to get to Front Royal and Spelunkers before Sunset.  I knew that I was near the top of Skyline Drive, and that the majority of the route was downhill from here, but as I looked up from Spitler Knoll Overlook, it was uphill.

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Skyline Double – Northbound – Part 1

I’d love to start this off with “And after a good night’s sleep, getting back on the bike was easy,” but that wouldn’t be true to what happened.


So I settled off to bed around 10ish…

.. And then the curse of being The Most Hydrated Man in America hit.

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Skyline Double – Southbound – Part 3

20141016_132101Once I left out of Big Meadows, there’s a really nice long gradual downhill, with some really nice straight pieces of highway.  I remember thinking, “If someone wanted to pass me, this would be the best place for them to do so.”  Heck, there were even some dashed road lines.

But once I got further down towards mile marker 61, the sky started to open up.  On the uphill, the drops hit harder, but since I was climbing, it was manageable.  But once I started the descent down towards Rt. 33, the rain became needles as I increased speed.  You could tell it had been raining for a while prior to arriving there since the entire width of the road was wet.

Because of the wind and my ability to slow down by just sitting up, I didn’t have to brake very much on the curvy downhill.  Of course, once I hit Rt 33 at the bottom of the hill, the rain subsided.

Because of the long downhill, this was the longest bit between stops.  The climb out of the gap wasn’t too steep or long, just a bit tiring, as now I was getting past mile 70.  At the Loft Mountain Overlook, I finally caught up with my wife again.  I took a little more time here, as my daughter was done, and I still had 30 more miles to go.


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Skyline Double – Southbound – Part 2



Getting out of Rt 211 was the second roughest stretch of road of the day.  Basically 4 miles at 6%, with peaks at around 9%.  Not all that hard when you think about it, but after going out a little harder than I normally do on a century, this climb hit me a little harder than I was expecting.

20141016_105236 20141016_105607


But one of the coolest parts of the climb is the Mary’s Rock Tunnel.  Even with a headlight, and three blinkies, it was still pitch black around me.  Because of this all I could see was the light at the end of the tunnel, and it felt very disorienting, but exhilarating.   There were quite a few tourists parked after the tunnel taking pictures of cars (and me) coming out of the tunnel.

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Skyline Double – Southbound – Part 1

I was not expecting things to go smoothly, so at least I set my expectations high.

I did however, expect to complete both legs of the trip, so I had that going for me.

Watching the Weather was forefront on my mind during the week before.  I had three tabs open in my browser; Front Royal, Waynesboro, and Home.  I kept fretting as it was showing a 35% chance of rain at 8am for  Front Royal, with a 50% chance in Waynesboro.  Plus the temperature forecast had dropped 10 degrees.

My normal method of pre-big-ride schedule is to spend the night before obsessing over what to wear; which kit I should wear (I brought 6 jerseys… oh boy), what I need to bring nutrition wise, should I bring a bag to store things if it gets too hot or cold, basically all the things you need if you don’t have panniers.  But tonight I had two differences: My wife and daughter in the sag wagon (good), but my daughter needed to get to sleep early, so I didn’t get enough time in my mind to obsess over what to do/wear/bring.

After my daughter dropped into unconsciousness, I spend 2 hours prepping.  Filling my water bottles, getting Skratch mixed in, setting out my clothing, food, nutrition, etc.

I had two kit bags, so I sorted one as bike parts / gels, the other with clothing.  I put my helmet, shoes, bike pump in the first bag, arm warmers, leg warmers, socks, etc, in the second.  This way it would be quicker to get kitted out at L’Dees before the ride.

Finally I was able to relax my mind and go to sleep. …And the alarm went off at 5:30am.

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Mountain Anticipation

In getting ready, I had that huge list, but there were still things we needed to do.

First was printing out the Cue sheets.  With much research I put together two separete tracks, downloaded the TCX files Igenerated from RideWithGPS, and made some hand-created cue sheets in Excel.


Next we had to make the tasty treats out of the Feed Zone Portables book.

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Prep Work for My Skyline Drive Double

Throughout this year’s ups and downs, I’ve realized that I need a lofty goal to aspire to if I’m going to stick to a strict training schedule. It’s that little extra bit that gets me up at sunrise for sprints or some zone 4 work, rather than rolling back over and missing my opportunity to ride.

Last year’s big goal was, well, 100 pounds.  And along the way I had to keep upping the mark to ensure I stuck with it.  So this year I set 3 goals:  Ride 12 centuries in the year, get to 4 watts per kg, and The Skyline Drive Double.

So far I’ve ridden 6 centuries, with the probability of getting to 10 by the end of the year.  I got up to 3.87 w/kg, which is more of a function of weight loss instead of power increase.  I got as low as 178.2 lbs (81kg).  I’d probably need to be 171.6 lbs to hit 4w/kg.

But oddly, the easiest goal for the year is the Skyline Drive Double.  It’s just a full lap of Skyline Drive, one of the most scenic rides in Virginia.  Skyline Drive is 105 miles from end-to-end, and is the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Starting from Front Royal, VA, Skyline Drive finishes where it intersects with Interstate 64, becoming the Blue Ridge Parkway which winds south through Virginia and North Carolina, finishing just north of Cherokee, NC.

The Double consists however of riding from Front Royal to Waynesboro on Day 1, and then the next day ride from Waynesboro to Front Royal.  I understand that there are redondonnerus who would scoff at a mere 368km in two rides, but the added complexity to the ride is that over those 225+ miles, there’s over 22,000 feet of climbing.  If I’m ever going to do the Haute Route, I need to determine if I can even handle two back-to-back long days of climbing.

So Day 1:

And Day 2:

The normal issue with this type of trip is logistics; where to get water, where to get food, how much stuff to carry, but in this I’m lucky; my awesome wife is going to be my sag wagon.  So instead of panicking because I’m out out water and it’s 15 miles to the Byrd Visitors Center, it’s a simple call on the phone to fill up at the next lookout.

Now it becomes a logistics question: What do stock the Sag Wagon with?

So far I’ve come up with:

  •  Floor Standing Bike Pump
  • 4 Spare Tubes
  • 1 Spare Tire
  • Hex Wrenches
  • Pedal Wrench
  • Brake Cable
  • Derailleur Cable
  • Brake Pads
  • Crimpers
  • Crimp Ends
  • Chain Tool
  • Chain Links
  • Spare Spokes
  • AAA Batteries
  • Chain Lube
  • Rags
  • Super Glue
  • Spare Cleats
  • Zip Ties
  • 2 Spare Kits
  • Cold Weather Gear
  • Inclement Weather Gear
  • 5 Gallons of Water
  • Snacks
  • Lunch

If you’ve seen the past 4 posts, you’ll see some of the road food I’m considering — Sweet Cream Grits, Chocolate & Sea Salt Sticky Bits, and Honey and Fig Rice Cakes.  I’m not sure which of these I’ll end up making, as it’s just as easy to go buy some packages of Fig Newtons.  I’ve also made some Gorp, using Peanuts, Pistachios, Pumpkin Seeds, Raisins, M&Ms, Almonds and Coconut Flakes.

For Lunch, I’m thinking either Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwiches, or  Beef & Sweet Potato Pies.  Protein, Fiber and Carbs.

Any suggestions will be gladly appreciated.


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Beef & Sweet Potato Pockets

Beef & Sweet Potato Pockets
Recipe type: Pie
Cuisine: Cycling
Tasty Beef Pockets for Quick Mid Ride Snacks
  • Pie Crust:
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅔ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ½ cup cold water
  • Filling:
  • 8 oz grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed (~1 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups organic brown rice, cooked
  • ~3 cups organic chicken stock (for cooking rice, instead of using water)
  1. To make the pie crust: Pulse together flour, salt and cinnamon in a food processor. Add butter and blend until butter pieces are no longer visible. Transfer mixture to large bowl and add cold water gradually, using hands or spatula to turn the dough and mix. Add more water or flour, as necessary, until dough takes shape. Divide dough into 12 portions, forming into balls. Wrap dough and chill (30 minutes in the freezer, or at least one hour in the refrigerator.
  2. To make filling: Cook ground beef over medium-high heat until browned. Drain excess fat. Cooked cubed sweet potato in microwave until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Combine beef and sweet potatoes in a bowl and add soy sauce, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, kosher salt, and cinnamon. Mix until evenly combined and then fold in rice.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat muffin tin with canola oil.
  4. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out each ball of dough, on a lightly floured surface, until it is big enough to fit in the form and fold back over the filling. Transfer dough to muffin forms, gently pressing into place and letting excess dough hang over edges. Place enough of the filling mixture into the dough pocket to be level with the top of the muffin tin. Fold excess dough over filling and gently press together to form a seal.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crust turns golden


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