Thursday, May 24, 2012

Two towers RR and Wheels on Willy Criterium

Hilly. That one little word pretty much sums this race course up. So many hills, It makes me cringe. Two laps of pain in the cat 4s. This is the most well suited race I have done so far this year, and I'm a little nervous. Nothing like the all consuming, flat out fear I used to experiance. But I do recognize that I have a good shot at this. I wait at the start, anticipating the pain I will experiance, and the pain I hope to inflict.

Right off the bat, it's a downhill. A good downhill, fast, but not too steep, and no really dangerous corners. It's a good warm up and we soon end up on the only "flat" section on the course. The pace is not slow but no one wants to do anything drastic, this is the only place on the course where no one will be in pain and everyone wants it to stay that way. I don't hear as much of the usual chitter chatter in the pack, everyone is looking at the first little hill in the distance. It's only the first hill, but some one decides to drill it anyways. I quickly react an place my self in second wheel right behind him. The hill is short and soon over. The racer backs off and sinks into the field as we roll through the last remaining flat stretch.

We approach the corner, and he attacks again. I react too slow. As we come around the corner and up a short rise I bridge the gap. I grimace, It's going to be a long day. The rollers come one after another. Short, steep, brutal affairs that punch you in the gut. Each time over the top some get back up, and some don't. After the last and worst roller, we get a long slightly uphill drag into the lap/finish hill. A rider with a yellow jersey (who later introduced himself as Andrew) goes to the front and drills it. It's a leg breaking move and lasts for a long time. He lets up just before the finish/lap hill to survey the damage.

As we hit the hill, Two strong riders go to the front and I sit behind them. This hill is way more suited to me than the others but still really hard. The leading rider attacks and after a short hesitation I follow. I've been watching him and he is one of the strongest climbers in the group. If he gets away we won't catch him. Despite my effort, I fail to catch him before the top of the climb. As soon as we get too the downhill I get to the front and drill it. I don't want him getting away without me and I certainly don't want a dropped riders catching back on. However I'm on junior gears and no matter how fast I spin I can't catch him. We reach the bottom of the hill and roll into the flats.

The climbs proceed much the same on this lap. Andrew gets on the front at the top of every hill to to keep the pace high. Soon there is only about a dozen riders left in the group. as I look around while we come into the finish, I reflect that I know many of them. I raced David in cross last year and lacrosse. Chris, a fellow junior has been at almost every race I have done this year, And I know Everett from junior development camp.

We hit the bottom of the hill, and to my surprise David goes to the front. I hang on his wheel as the last remnants of the pack is shattered. In the chaos, I make my move to soon and blow up with 200 meters to go. I finish 8 in the sprint, 9th place because that guy stayed away and won.

The next day it's a criterium and I'm doubling up. The first race is Juniors. I'm excited to race with my team! Its super high speed right off the gun. The pace yo-yo's back and forth as attacks are made and chased down. after a while Max and Pete get off the front, and Theo bridges up. Its a short race, only 25 minutes long. The finish is there before I know it, and I lead out my team mate Garret to round out the top five. IScorp got 1-2-4-5 and super preem. I finished 8th out of 20 or so.

The next race is 4/5s. I'm tired from juniors but once the race starts and my legs warm up I start to feel really good. My Dad is racing with me this time. Part way through the race two riders attack and go off the front. There Is preems being thrown out left and right, and I manage to get third in one. Then, there is a crash! I look back, Dad went down in it! He ended up ok, but dropped out of the race and did better in the Master 35+ cat 4/5s. I come around the lap next time and the announcer tells us there is going to be a preem, I decide I am going for this one, so I position myself. We come around the corner and I go for it! I win the sprint and start to back off, Then hear Max and garret screaming at me from the sidelines to "GO FOR IT! you got a gap, get that break!" I get in to gear and go.

After a few laps, I have shattered the field, only 3 riders managed to stay on my wheel. After a lap or two of me driving the pace (without help from the others) we catch the break away of two. After that we start working together well, and establish a large gap from the field. Being in a break of 6, knowing I have a good chance at winning was pretty crazy, almost surreal. With two laps to go, I held back and did no work. I positioned myself second wheel coming into the corner. The guy in front, who had been in the break away, stood up with a vicious acceleration and I was forced to start sprinting before I came around him. The other guy who had been in the two man break, Andrew, came around me as I fought to accelerate into first. I bike threw at the line for third place. My first cat 4 podium!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Life on the farm

It’s spring and things are gettin’ going out here on YKer Acres. There are starter plants in the house, seeds in the field, chickens laying on eggs, and a field that’s ready for piglets. That’s right, I live on a farm. An organic vegetable farm. It’s a CSA, which stands for community supported agriculture. Basically how it works is you buy a “share” then we come and deliver you delicious veggies every week at a drop off site. There are a lot of veggies on this farm. Heirloom tomatoes, onions, carrots, beets, potatoes, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, swiss chard, winter squash, summer squash, parsnips, rutabagas, melons, corn, turnips, asian greens, kohlrabi, broccoli, eggplant, beans, peas, kale, radishes, ground cherries, and huckleberries.

It’s not a farm without farm animals, right? We have those too. I raise chickens as a hobby, and for my summer job I raise pastured pigs. The money I earn from the pigs all goes straight to funding my racing season. Parts, entry fees, gas money, clothes, etcetera. My chickens are completely free range, and roam around the yard, keeping ticks and other pests away. I feed them supplemental grains, but they mostly forage for food. My pigs are raised in 300 by 300 pens out in the field. Once they are done with one, we move them to another, that pen will be used to grow vegetables in the future, as it is the most fertile soil on the farm, and the pigs are VERY good weeders. Like my chickens, their major food source is foraging. We also plant grains like oats and barley in their field for them to eat.

It’s a cruel fact, but pigs are very intelligent and do have feelings. Part of our philosophy is if we are going to eat meat, we want those animals to live the happiest and healthiest life possible. Most meat you buy at the store is raised in confinement, shoved into a space too small for the pigs to even move. “Cage-free” just means that they are free to roam around in the tiny building, but still are packed too tight to move. “Free-range” means that they have a door to the outside opened in the last few weeks of their life; however most are too scared to go outside. Even “organic” only means that their food is grown without pesticides, which is great, but they still wallow in their own feces with a thousand other animals for their entire life.

Animals love being outside. It’s also by far the healthiest way for them too live. Everyone who has had my pork or eggs says it’s the best they have ever had in their life. Which makes sense, my pigs have access to all kinds of vitamins and minerals, free range pigs eat up to five pounds of soil a day, which makes their meat EXTREMLY vitamin and mineral rich. Plus they run around and exercise every day. Which would you rather eat, a obese, depressed animal that has never seen the light of day and has spent its entire life wallowing in its own feces with thousands of others, or a happy, lean pig that has been eating grasses, bugs, roots and dirt, running around, and rolling in the dirt for its entire life?

Eating organic vegetables, pastured pork, and free-range eggs has taught me so much about good nutrition. The food I eat gives me the nutrients I need to recover from my training, build up for my racing, and grow faster and stronger!

You can find more information and pictures about my pigs and our farm on face book, at Yker Acres. I still have many pork shares available, and will deliver wherever there is a good Cyclocross race. I will be traveling to Cincinnati, Madison, Fort Collins, Louisville, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Iowa city, and all over Minnesota. Please help support me in achieving my bike racing dreams, while feeding you and your family healthy food!

Monday, May 14, 2012

La Crosse uphill Time Trial and Criterium

It's later in the day after the Road race, I just got up from taking a nap, and I'm ready to crush it. There is a Time trail now, it's short and uphill. The course goes up a brutal hill called grandads bluff. This photo doesn't do the hill justice, but it does give you an idea of just how hard it is.

We are staying with some people who live just a few blocks away from the bluff, so we ride over to the course. Its raining, and there is a chance of thunderstorms so the judges postpone the start by a half hour. My warm up is is screwed up a little bit by this, but nothing I can't handle. I'm racing cat 4's and I'm the first one to start. I still start after all the juniors though, so one by one I watch my team mates go. Finally, it's my turn, and I come up to the line. I tensely wait as the official counts down. 30 seconds... 15... 10... 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!

I concentrate on getting my momentum up, and in my focus to get going I overshoot my speed a little bit. I look down and my speed is at 28kph. Too fast for my sloppy warm up to handle, so I sit down and reign in the pace a little bit as my legs start to burn. After I get over the first little steep section and around the corner I start to speed up again. It's down to about 5-6% now. I feel like I'm pedaling boxes though, so I stand up. Still feels a little bit funny... I shift into my big ring and everything clicks. I go from 22kph to 25kph (12-15mph). I feel really good, I'm completely in control and this hill is perfect for me. I keep on increasing my pace, trying to see how far I can push it before it starts to hurt. It still doesn't hurt, I wonder if maybe I'm not going fast enough... so I keep speeding up.

As I get closer to the top, I can hear people cheering loudly. It's the corner by the bar, and a lot of slightly intoxicated people are making some noise. I come into the corner, and pound up the steep 10% pitch, still in my big ring and spinning. I get to the top and in to the roller section. Downhill, accelerate! 30k, 35k, 40k!  I come into the next rise and concentrate on keeping as much of my momentum as possible. I accelerate off the top again. I see some of my team mates, coming down after their race. "GO JOSEY!" "Aiiiieee!" they shout. Soon I can see the finish line, I put a HUGE effort in and pound it into the finish, going 52kph on a slight uphill! I look down as I cross, 9:14. The record time (set by a national Time Trial Champ) is 8:20! I come back down, feeling very good about my time. Later I find out that I won cat 4's! I also would have placed 6th in cat 3's. The results had my time down as 9:19, which is a little longer than it was, but that's ok.

The next day was the Criterium. I felt a little tired from the previous day, so I did a good long warm up. I lined up with my one team mate in cat 4s, Joe. The official runs us through the rules, and its go time! right off the bat, on the second lap there is a attack. I chase it down, I don't want anyone getting away unless it has me or Joe in it.

At first I'm a little slow to respond on the attacks, but after a while I start to warm up and feel good. Every lap I come around in second wheel. I want to stay up here where I have the most reaction time for attacks, and where there is less chance of crashing. The rest of the 40 minute Crit goes well, I feel strong and reacting to the attacks is easy. A few of them are particularly fast, and I have to dig deep, but I soon recover. Coming in with three laps to go on the 1 mile or so course, it starts to get chaotic. Everyone wants to be in the front, but no one wants to go fast enough to string people out. I try to choose the right wheel, but get boxed in. Coming around the final corner I manage to get a few spots, and I gain a few in the sprint to get 10th by a tire width. However, Joe managed to win the sprint!

Thanks to Joe Horvath for the awesome picture, here is his website.

Friday, May 11, 2012

La Crosse Omnium Road race

Last weekend I did my first road race of the year. "Road race" is a confusing term, it is usually used as a term for bike racing on "roads" in general. More specifically, it means a mass start race that goes for a certain distance (other types include: a Criterium, which is a mass start race done around a short course for a certain amount of time, and a Time trial, which is a individual race where you are timed on a course, usually out and back or point to point). Technically, it has to be "point to point" to be a Road race, if it's on a loop more than 10 miles it's called a "Circuit race". However, most Road races are Circuit races due to different categories racing different lengths and the expenses of closing down large amounts of road. Thus, the term "Road race" has become synonym for "Circuit race" unless specified as "point to point" in amateur racing. Unlike Criteriums (unless the race is a really major one) roads will not be fully closed. The pack is subject to the "yellow line rule", which simply means we have to stay on our side of the road, and not cross the yellow line. this rule is strictly enforced by a official on a motorcycle, who rides behind the pack.

Although there is a Criterium nearly every weekend, not many road races are put on in the Midwest. As a result, I do not have much experience with Road races. This made me a little nervous at the start. At first, the pace was very chill.You could hear people chit-chatting with each other. It's a 43 mile race, and no one will get away, and stay away this early. After the first few miles, attacks start happening. I and a few others react to them, and pull them back. After a few tries, I get away with one other rider.

"You want to go for it?" he says. "Sure." I say, "Why not." We stay away long enough to lead into the long, 45 mph downhill. It's VERY important to be at the front on a fast downhill, especially in the low categories, as a crash can have serious consequences at such high speeds. We get to the bottom without incident, everyone is fine. As we get closer and closer to the uphill, I can detect nervousness in the pack. It's a long one, its going to hurt, people will get dropped, and a attack could get a big enough gap to stay away for the three lap race.

As we reach the bottom of the climb, a rider goes to the front and drills it. If he can keep the pace high enough here, at his strong point, he can put pressure on his competition, shave off the weak riders, and maybe even split the field. However, he misjudged his effort. He starts to slow down, and falls back. this is my strong area as well, so I take to the front and do the pace making for the rest of the hill. I am strong enough to string out the field, and even drop a few riders. Once the front of the pack makes it to the top, we try and organize a pace line to prevent riders who have been dropped catching back on. However most of these riders are inexperienced, so despite my and a few others efforts, the pace line falls apart and everyone re-groups.

The next time up goes much the same, I got to the front and drilled it and some more damage was done to the field, dropping more riders. Once we get close to the third time up, I make a attack, and get away with a small gap, but my inexperience cost me, I attacked in the wrong spot, and was caught shortly. The third time up the hill more riders are dropped, and the field has gone from 60 riders to about 25. I position myself well coming in to the sprint, but a crash happens in the final quarter mile. I narrowly avoid going down as riders go over the bars and get run over by others right in front of me. I lost all my momentum, and I am the last rider in the group to reach the line who avoided the crash. I still place 16th.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Colorado rocky mountain high!

Sixteen hours is a long time to spend in a car. I am very experienced with long car drives but the drive to Colorado always gets me. First off, you go through pretty much the most boring part of America for almost the entire trip. Don't get me wrong, I love Iowa! There is some really amazing (and unfortunately polluted) crick bottoms, groves,  and old homesteads. However on the free way you don't get to see this side of Iowa, just the "new and improved" look, (and smell) of corporate America shoved in your face for 8 hours, which stinks. Literally. Of course, after you get through Iowa, it only gets worse in Nebraska.
However, the last few hours of the drive puts you in eastern Colorado. At first its just cows and empty space. A literal and cultural desert. However our shortcut takes us through a giant protected grasslands, which is absolutely mind blowing. Golden prairie stretched over flowing hills for farther than the eye can see. If we time it right, we even get to see the sun setting behind the mountains in the distance. Once we finally arrive in Fort Collins Colorado, its usually eight or ten 'o clock.

The first day in Colorado, I just did a recovery ride and chilled. We do the the testing right away, on the second full day in Colorado, before my body has time to "freak out" about being at five thousand feet where the oxygen level is much lower than I'm used to. This time, Inigo has moved to a new building, a Wellness center. Its still not fully finished, but as Andy shows me around, I'm amazed. the place is awesome! The first thing I notice is the floating stairs. structural concrete allows them to have no supports, which looks pretty cool.  There is a kitchen classroom for teaching healthy cooking, a fully organic mini-restaurant, a hydroponic herb garden, a indoor running track with paneling around it that changes color from peoples body heat as they run by, windows that let light in but not heat, and a bunch of other really cool stuff that I don't have time to mention. I step into Inigo's office/lab, and look at the familiar memorabilia in a unfamiliar room. Inigo is still getting used to the new set up, therefor things are a bit clumsy, but the whole set up is much nicer.

After we get the Ergometer set up and I change, I get on and warm up. Inigo begins the test. I concentrate on getting into a rhythm. Last time I wasted energy by flailing around and I'm determined not to do that this time. Once I'm in the zone, my perception of time changes. Everything happens slower, but passes quickly. After a while, he ramps it up to a level where it starts to hurt. I just concentrate on keeping my technique smooth. I hear a lot of encouragement, Inigo saying "good job Joey, keep pedaling, dah, dah, dah." Andy saying "come on Josey, great job, your doing really good, stay smooth, keep that cadence up!". eventually it gets to a level were I start to lose my control over myself. I slow down, then speed back up as I try to keep at it. About a minute after this starts, Inigo says "Ok, that's enough, he's done." and switches off the machine. I practically collapse with exhaustion as Inigo keeps my legs pedaling in circles. "Great job Josey! that was a awesome test!" says Andy. "you KILLED it man!".

After I'm changed and cleaned up with a recovery bottle in hand, I sit down as Inigo explains what happened. So the whole basis of this test is I'm measuring the amount of lactate in my blood at different efforts, and comparing it to my heart rate to determine training zones. I start out on the stationary bike pedaling 1.5 watts per kilogram or so (watts are a measurement of how much force your putting into the pedals). Inigo pricks my ear for blood, then measures the amount of lactate in my blood. Then he ramps it up to 2 watt per kilogram, where I pedal that for 5 minutes at 85-95 rpm. He then pricks my ear again, ramps it up to 2.5 watts per kilogram, and so on. I keep pedaling until I get to my threshold. So, you ask, how did I improve? Well, here is what happened. When I reached 3.5 watts per kilogram, I was at half the amount of lactate I had been at last time I tested. So Inigo extended my length in 3.5 to ten minutes, the "big boy length". I then proceeded to make it all the way to the level I did last time, while doing ten minute intervals instead of five. Most importantly however, the amount of lactate that I increased by after each ramp-up was dramatically decreased. I also improved other things, like my Vo2 max and fat/cho oxidation rate, but I won't go into that.
After the test, It was time to let it rip!

I did a epic mountain bike ride with friends:

And then got sick... which sucked... a lot...

However I took really good care of my self (not to mention got taken care of, thank you Dad and Andy!), and recovered soon enough to also do a epic road bike ride. It stinked that I got sick, but I accomplished everything I wanted to, and had another really fun Colorado trip!

P.S, sorry about the red sections, Blogger was glitching out and not displaying those sections of font, so I had to change the color.