Tag Archives: cycling

Looking back on a day in the mud – 2015 Rasputitsa

Back in mid-January, the weather in New England had been unseasonably nice and it was looking like we were going to have a mild winter. I had completed the Rapha Festive 500 at the end of the year and felt like it would be a good winter of riding although it was starting to get cold in January. Someone mentioned the Rasputitsa gravel race (probably Chip) and I thought it looked like it could be fun. There was one little blizzard as we neared the end of January (and the registration increase!) but things still seemed okay. So I signed up, thinking it would help keep me riding even through the cold. Little did I know that we were about to get hit with a record amount of snow basically keeping me off the bike for six weeks. So March rolls around, I’ve barely ridden and Rasputitsa is a month away. Game. On.

I stepped up my riding and by a week ago, I started to feel I’d at least be able to suffer through things. But everyone that I’d been talking with about driving up with was bailing and so I started thinking along the same lines. But on Friday afternoon, I was reminded by my friend Kate that “What would Jens do?”. And that settled it, I was going.

I drove up and spent the night in Lincoln, NH on Friday night to avoid having to do a 3 hour drive on Saturday morning before the race. I woke up Saturday morning, had some hotel breakfast and drove the last hour to Burke. As I stepped out of the car, I was hit by a blast of cold wind and snow flurries were starting to fall. And I realized that my vest and my jacket hadn’t made the trip with me, instead being cozy in my basement. Oops.

I finished getting dressed, spun down to pick up my number and then waited around for the start. It was cold but I tried to at least keep walking around, chatting with folks I knew and considering buying another layer from one of the vendors, although I decided against.

It's overcast and chilly as we line up at the start
It’s overcast and chilly as we line up at the start

But then we lined up and, with what was in retrospect not my wisest choice of the day, I decided to line up with some friends of mine who were near the back. But then we started and I couldn’t just hang out at the back and enjoy a nice ride. Instead, I started picking my way forward through the crowd. My heart rate started to go up, though my Garmin wasn’t picking up the HR strap, just as the road did. The nice thing was that this also had the impact of warming me up and not feel cold. The roads started out smooth but quickly got to washed out dirt, potholes and peanut butter thick mud. But it was fun… I hadn’t spent time on roads like this before but it was good. I got into a rhythm where on the flats and climbs, I would push hard and then on some of the downhills, I would be a little sketched out and take it slower. So I’d pass people going up, they’d pass me going down. But I was making slow progress forward.

Until Cyberia. I was feeling strong. I was 29.3 miles in of 40. And I thought that I was going to end up with a pretty good time. After a section of dirt that was all up-hill, we took a turn to a snow covered hill. I was able to ride about 100 feet before hopping off and starting to walk the bike up hill. And that is when the pain began. My calves pulled and hurt. I couldn’t go that quickly. The ruts were hard to push the bike through. And it kept going. At the bottom of the hill, they had said 1.7 miles to the feed zone… I thought some of it I’d ride. But no, I walked it all. Slowly. Painfully. And bonking while I did it as I was needing to eat as I got there and I couldn’t walk, push my bike and eat at the same time. I made it to the top and thought that maybe I could ride down. But no, more painful walking. It was an hour of suffering. It wasn’t pretty. But I did it. But I was passed by oh so many people. It was three of the hardest miles I’ve ever had.

The slow and painful slog through the snow. Photo courtesy of @jarlathond
The slow and painful slog through the snow.
Photo courtesy of @jarlathond

I reached the bottom where the road began again and I got back on my bike. They said we had 7.5 miles to go but I was delirious. I tried to eat and drink and get back into pedaling.  I couldn’t find my rhythm. I was cold. But I kept going, because suffering is something I can do. So I managed to basically hold on to my position, although I certainly didn’t make up any ground. I took the turn for 1K to go, rode 200 meters and saw the icy, snowy chute down to the finish… I laughed and I carefully worked my way down it and then crossed the finish line. 4:12:54 on the clock… a little above the 4 hours I hoped for but the hour and 8 minutes that I spent on Cyberia didn’t help me.

Yep, ended up with some mud there.
Yep, ended up with some mud there.

I went back to the car, changed and took advantage of the plentiful and wonderful food on offer before getting back in the car and starting the three hour drive back home.

Mmm, all the food
Mmm, all the food

So how was it? AWESOME. One of the most fun days I’ve had on the bike. Incredibly well-organized and run. Great food both on the course (Untappd maple syrup hand up, home made cookie handup, home made doughnuts at the top of Cyberia, Skratch Labs bottle feeds) and after. The people who didn’t come missed out on a great day on a great course put on by great people. I’m already thinking that I probably will have to do the Dirty 40 in September. As for next year? Well, with almost a week behind me, I’m thinking that I’ll probably tackle Rasputitsa again… although I might go for more walkable shoes than the winter boots I wore this year and try to be a bit smarter about Cyberia. But what a great start event for the season!

Fire.  Chainsaws.  Alf. Basically, all of Vermont's finest on offer.
Fire. Chainsaws. Alf.
Basically, all of Vermont’s finest on offer.

My Journey to Becoming a Cyclist

As most who know me know, I consider myself a cyclist. I ride my bike often, do distances that most consider questionable and even at times in pretty unsavory conditions

Eight years ago, this wasn’t the case. I was your typical pretty sedentary software engineer. But I got a bike and started riding a little. I thought that maybe I would get to where I would do a 50 mile ride. Or a metric century (that’s 62 miles/100 km for those not in bike circles). But I was going up and down the bike path so was at 15-20 miles. 25 was long for me.

And then I decided one Saturday morning in May to join the group ride from the bike shop down the street, Quad Cycles. I showed up and it was a little intimidating. There were probably 30-40 people and they all looked like they knew what they were doing. As we hit the time for the ride to start, Bobby yells out asking for anyone who is new. I acknowledge and he describes the ride. I figure I’ll ride to the end of the bike path and then ride home. But we got to the end of the path and Bobby encouraged me to continue and said he would ride with me. I think I rode 30 or so miles that day, all of it with Bobby right with me.

From there, I began riding more. Bobby encouraged me to do the Red Ribbon Ride. He always was encouraging people to do a charity ride to give back for all that we had. But it was a two day ride totaling 175 miles. And it was two months away. A little intimidating for someone who hadn’t been riding at all six months earlier. But he encouraged me and I did it and it was incredible.

The rest, as they say, is history. But I saw the same thing play out many many times over the following years. Someone new to riding encouraged to push themselves, to go further than they thought they could, to give back. And always to be nice to everybody while doing so.

RIP Bobby… you will be missed even more than you could know. I am glad to have called you my friend. I only hope that I can be as encouraging and helpful to others as you once were to me. And I’ll never forget to ride with love in my heart and a smile on my face.

The 2013 Assault on Mt Mitchell

As a kid growing up, one of the things I enjoyed doing was riding my bike.  In the woods, on the road, anywhere.  I even did some group rides at the time although I was on a mountain bike for them. And I remember hearing of some of the bigger rides in western North Carolina at that point… Bridge to Bridge and the Assault on Mt Mitchell, notably.  So when I really started to get back into riding a while ago, I thought about at some point going and doing some of those rides. Since I’m not really doing any road racing this year due to being a bit too busy with work, I decided to try to tackle some of these long and hard rides that I’ve wanted to do for a few years to keep me motivated and riding hard.

First up is the Assault on Mt Mitchell.  For a bit of background, Mt Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi ending up over 6000 ft.  And about an hour from where I grew up.  So starts out sounding a little intimidating.  The ride itself actually starts in Spartanburg, SC and you then spend the first 75 miles riding along rolling hills until you reach Marion, NC.  From Marion, you go up 5000 ft over the remaining 25 miles.  Okay, lots of climbing when you’re already tired.  This sounds awesome.  I’m in.

Preparation and Pre-Ride

I signed up for the ride back when registration opened in March.  From that point, I received a steady stream of emails detailing the training rides that they offered and suggested including things that covered a lot of the route.  Living about 900 miles away, those weren’t an option. So I basically did a pretty typical set of spring riding for me; stretched out some rides a little more to get more rides in the 80+ mile range instead of 50-60s but no real hill work, etc.

Given that my parents still live in NC, we decided to make a family trip down to see them.  So I shipped my bike via FedEx to my dad’s office (unnerving!) and we flew down.  We arrived on Saturday, I put my bike together and did a little loop on Sunday to stretch the legs and shake down the bike after reassembling it.  All good.  I packed everything I needed, the bike survived being shipped, and my legs even felt decent with the lack of riding I had done the week before.

Of course, up until this point, the weather forecast for the ride on Monday was looking less than great.  Showers and thunderstorms through the day.  Because riding 100 miles in the rain is fun.  Ugh.  Luckily, after riding in some sloppy drizzle on Sunday, the forecast for Monday magically got better.  I’ll take it!

The Start

Given it’s about an hour and a half from my parents house to Spartanburg and roll out is at 6:30, we stayed at the Marriott around the corner from the start on Sunday night. So Monday morning, I woke up super early and headed to the start with plenty of time.  Breakfast was my first rice cake of the day (the classic egg + bacon recipe for this batch) although in hindsight I should have gone for something more.  As I had picked up my packet and number the night before, I didn’t really have to do anything other than get to the start which was nice.  As I did so, the size of the event really started to become clear, around 1000 cyclists all told.

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I made my way towards the front of where people were lining up.  We had the entire street (four lanes) and I wasn’t going to get caught up in the back.  I had modest goals for the event — stick with the front as long as I felt comfortable but mostly in it to finish.  Time wasn’t at the front of my mind as I was thinking of it as a ride, not a race really.  As the countdown got to zero, we took off.  And the front went fast… we were going a sprightly 26-27 mph for the first mile or two.  This was made possible largely due to the awesome support the event provided — a police detail at the front, officers at every intersection to let us through.  And this largely continued for the entire route.

To Marion

As we got going, the pace settled somewhat and I just sat in to draft as much as I could.  <rant>There was a ton of just random braking, though. The smell of burning carbon wheels filled the air more often than not. I think a lot of the braking was due to people crossing the yellow line, seeing oncoming traffic and then trying to rejoin the peloton.  It was nerve racking and quite frankly unnecessary.  And I think it was also the cause of the one person that I heard go down at one point behind me.  If event organizers have made it so that we have full use of a lane rather than just two abreast, people should respect that.</rant>  As a result of the pace and the braking, the lead group continued to shed people.  Given that I wasn’t really trying to be in the front, I ended up on the wrong end of those sheds a few times and had to jump hard to close the gap and rejoin the lead group.

Unfortunately, around mile 60, I got gapped and couldn’t close it.  22 mph for that stretch and I was ready to drop.  Was bummed not to hold out until Marion at that point but I also knew I needed to save some energy for the second part of the ride.  So I ended up in a little group of about 8 people and we did a solid bit of effort working together.  But when we got to Marion, my bottles were empty so I stopped to refill and lost my group.  And I then just missed the second big group moving through and couldn’t quite catch them meaning that for the remainder of the ride, I was going to be doing it basically solo.

Marion to the Parkway

As I headed out of Marion after the stop, I had a difficult time finding a rhythm riding alone for the first time of the day.  I think I definitely would have been better in a group in this section as it wasn’t that intense but I definitely wasn’t at my best.  I kept going and didn’t stop at the next rest stop.  And after that is when the climbing really felt like it began.  That section of Rt 80 was grueling. Luckily, I ran into others who said it was the hardest four miles of the ride. So I believed them and just tried to settle in and keep my legs moving.  But looking at the data from the ride, you can see just how slow it was. I just suffered through it and accepted that the rest of the day was going to be hard. And I just kept watching the mileage creep along knowing that the next rest stop wasn’t that far ahead. Switchbacks, steady climbing… you really can’t find anything like it in Massachusetts. On the plus side, the scenery was gorgeous or at least seemed so to my oxygen starved brain.

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Photos courtesy of Blind Kenny

Finally, I reached the rest stop at the 87 mile point where you turn onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I stopped and drank some Coke, ate a cookie and refilled my bottle.  Although I had done the first 75 miles in under 3.5 hours, the next 12 had taken me a little over an hour. Of course, this section was about 2000 ft of vertical gain, mostly in the second half.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

The next section of the route was on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I’d say that the BRP is one of the classic roads for biking with lots of group rides as well as training camps and the like taking part on various chunks of it. And after riding 11.5 miles of it, I see why. The road conditions are great, there isn’t a ton of traffic and it’s a steady, hard effort.  Although I expected a little bit of a respite based on what I was told on my way up Rt 80, it really didn’t come.  But riding along the parkway including the scenic overlooks and the tunnels made it worth it.  On a few occasions, I wanted to stop and take photos just given the sheer beauty of the scenery… but I realized if I did, I would be unable to get started again and so I just kept pedaling.  This became especially true around mile 90 when I cracked kind of hard.  Luckily, that was also when there was the remaining downhill segment of the day. I was soft pedaling down but was getting cold given the cloud cover and the elevation and so ended up picking things back up a little.  Honestly, other than that I remember little of this section.  I know I was being passed by people and also that I was passing people back but it didn’t leave as big of an impression.  It was just more of a steady slog and a mental struggle to reach Mt Mitchell Parkway

Final Stretch

After 11.5 miles on the BRP, you turn onto Mt Mitchell Parkway for the final five miles.  I was starting to feel like it was in the bag and started to relax a little bit at this point, feeling my energy level pick up a little.  The section to the last rest stop was still kind of grueling though. Not as bad as Rt 80 and you know that it’s shorter so that helps a lot. I passed a lot of people cramping on this section, though. I was pretty happy with having stuffed a bunch of single serving Skratch Labs secret drink mixes into my pocket and using them rather than Gatorade, especially as I saw that. A few people who had seemed quite strong earlier on were definitely suffering here. But I felt like I was getting stronger for the first half here.

The final rest stop was at the entrance to the State Park and I quickly stopped for a little more Coke here as I felt the sugar would help on the final little ascent. But it was a super quick little stop and then I was on my way.  The grade here let up a decent amount and so I was able to stand and really kick it a bit.  As I passed the parking lot with the yellow Penske trucks (used for transporting bikes back down the mountain), I knew I was almost there and so of course that was the one point where I got a twinge of crampiness.  I pushed through it, though and finished strong.

I ended up with an official chip time of 6:34:33 and a moving time from my Garmin of about 6:20.  Since I had hoped to end up between 6 and 6.5 hours, that was right on target.  And my time put me at 131st of the 719 people who completed the race and 10th for my age group. Not shabby at all for my first time doing it.

Post-Ride

After crossing the finish line, my bike was immediately whisked away from me and I stumbled up to where our dry bags were. I changed into something that didn’t have a chamois (hooray) and grabbed some of the tomato soup that was there as well as a bag of Doritos (mmm, salt). I then made my way to the bus to start heading back to Marion.  The ride back to Marion was pretty quiet and I caught up on Twitter and chatted with the guy sitting next to me.  He had done the ride a few times before and finished about 10 minutes behind me.

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When we got to Marion, I wandered over and made myself a plate of food and kind of forced myself to eat it even though I was in the “not even hungry any more” state as I waited for my bike to make it down the mountain.  Kara, Madeline and my mom met me there and then I got my bike and it was on our way back to my parents’ house for the rest of my trip.

Closing Thoughts

So after doing all of it, I have a few thoughts about the ride.  First of all, it is very well run. Police escort out of Spartanburg, every turn well attended (with traffic stopped!), good rest stops (at least, the ones I stopped at).  The route was awesome — great roads, low traffic, lots of good hard climbing but also some stuff that in a group can just fly by. Getting people + bikes down from the top of the mountain to Marion also went more smoothly than I expected.

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Really the only bad I can point to is the behavior of some of the other riders. I saw somewhat rampant littering (gu wrappers, bottles, everything) and even with full use of the lane, people were frequently in the left lane when we were in the large group. Kind of disappointing and reflects poorly on cyclists in general.

Will I do it again?  Probably at some point.  The logistics make it difficult to commit to doing regularly but I’d definitely like to make another pass at it and see if I can get my time under six hours.  To do so would require at least some concerted and different training that I’m not 100% sure how I’d get but I do think it’s doable.

Final ride data is up at Strava as usual.  242 suffer score, Training Peaks gave it a TSS of 471 (both based on heart rate, not power at this point). All in all, not a bad day on the bike.

I’ve moved my bike blogging

I’ve been wanting to play with tumblr, so I’ve set up a new blog for my bike blogging to try it out. Check it out for exciting race reports, some video and probably some other random thoughts on cyclocross as I begin my inaugural season of cyclocross racing.

There might be some other reorganization and moving around here as well in the future when I have a little bit of spare time. Which, since I’m racing cross, might not be for a few months ;-)

Trying to get back on the proverbial horse

The past couple of weeks have been pretty bad in terms of my bike training. The weather in the Boston area, for those who are elsewhere, has basically consisted of significant snowfalls followed by days of highs around 20. Not exactly ideal biking weather. And also, making it very hard to get motivated for the trainer. On top of the weather, I’ve been going into the office more during IAP while I don’t have classes to go to. This also ends up cutting out time for training as usually I can get a fair bit in with the commute to Kendall and back. Just going to Alewife to pick up the shuttle just doesn’t get me anywhere near the same amount of time. And the aforementioned conditions make the idea of slogging out to Westford less than appealing… especially since I’d be coming home in the dark. And then with the bus schedule being once a day, I can’t really be flexible enough to get in any real trainer time before going into the office (me get up at 6? hah!) or after coming home (7-7:30… and then need dinner)

So yeah, it’s suffered. But today was almost warm with the temperature above freezing first thing this morning but quickly dropping to hover at around 30. And the sun was out, so I headed out on a ride with some of the other Quadies. Given the weather forecast, we decided to leave a little earlier (9) than the usual ride (10) to try to maximize the warm part of the day. Ended up having about 8 of us heading towards Concord and then 2 split off to Sudbury, 2 split off to head back and the other four of us headed to Harvard, MA. Harvard’s a pretty popular destination for cyclists in the area because you do get to get in some decent hills on the way there. So we made our way at a fairly sedate pace. As we got to Harvard, I was pretty cold — my feet especially. Luckily, the way back at least seemed warmer. The hand warmers in my boots probably helped some and also having the sun out and shining on us certainly did. Plus, we had a tail wind instead of a head wind to cut down on the wind chill a bit.

Overall, a good ride. 56 miles for the latter part of January is certainly nice. But I need to get better about getting in the training time, even if on the trainer, as it gets closer to racing season. At this point, both the collegiate and the NEBRA calendars are set, so I should sit down and figure out exactly what my racing season is going to look like. And probably in a couple of weeks time, it’ll be time to start moving out of base and into a build period so that I can get into appropriate shape. I think that the Base part is actually being pretty effective, though — my heart rate is pretty good about getting back into a low zone after anything resembling an effort, not that I’ve done many of those recently. And also, I pushed a little going up a hill today and I don’t seem to have lost any power to speak of. So hopefully combining the two will let me race a bit harder for longer and maybe have that show with my season.

Winter cycling, NC cycling and a year-end wrap-up

Some people think that the winter is a significant off-season for cyclists especially in New England with the snow and cold. But that's about as far from the truth as you can get as it's important to keep up aerobic fitness during the winter in preparation for the hard efforts of spring and summer. I try to get outside as frequently as I can but this winter I'm forcing myself to get on the trainer sometimes as well if the weather is really bad out (like, for example, today when we're getting like eight inches of snow).

In those cases, I'm realizing that NetFlix is a very good thing and especially the instant watch functionality coupled with a TiVo. Some movies are better than others for riding to and I don't yet have it down to a science. But action movies seem pretty good generally – today's selection was The Fugitive which was a pretty good choice.

Another thing that's helpful is going somewhere warmer for a week. We spent last week at my parents' house in western NC and I took my bike along. Unfortunately there weren't enough great weather days but there were one or two. And I noticed a few things while there and riding

  • While maybe not significantly more vertical gain on a given ride, you are more often going up or down as there is signicosmtlu less flat present
  • Everything is further apart distance wise even if car place to place times aren't significantly different than around here.
  • A dog chasing you can make you ride very fast :)
  • My base training plan seems to at least be somewhat working. I went out with the A group of hickory velo club on Saturday and had no problems keeping ip through the hills and fast straights even though I haven't ridden hard or fast in two months now
  • Defeet is based in western NC and I rode with the founders of the company; very nice and cool people. Shane – thanks for letting me suck your wheel much of the ride :)
  • Not many cyclists on the roads in Hickory but cars give a much wider berth; they fully go into the other lane instead of eying to see how little space they can give you

As far as overall cycling for the year, I didn't do nearly as good of a job of tracking as I did last year and I also had some frustration with my Garmin Edge 305 dying until I found the trick to stop it from doing so, but it looks like I did about 2500 miles on my Redline 9-2-5 and 3500 or so miles on my Merlin. Given how busy the year was, getting 6000 miles is a pretty big accomplishment in my view.

Anyway that's what I've got for today. I'm off until next Monday and then back to work and also going to be helping out with the initiation rites for the SDM 09s :). Classes don't start back until the first of February although I'm going to do a couple of IAP offerings I think. And I still owe a fall semester wrap up post soon. But for now, Happy New Years and if you make resolutions, best of luck with them.

Holiday relaxation

Given just how busy my year has been, I decided that I'd make a very real effort over the holidays to take it easy and relax.  While most of Red Hat is on vacation for a little over a week, I took a couple of extra days to make a solid two weeks. 

For the first part, Kara and I headed down to my parents' for Christmas.  Since flight prices were out of control when we started looking, we decided that we were going to drive down (… flight prices eventually reached more reasonable levels).  This came with a few advantages — one, we can go places in Hickory and two, I could bring my bike without paying exorbitant fees :-)   So on Monday morning, we dug out from the weekend's snow storm and got on the road.  We planned to head west across New York and then get on I-81 to get a somewhat prettier drive and avoid some of the worst traffic.  Unfortunately, the directions we got from google left out an important point for where two roads diverged leading us to go a fair bit out of our way.  We got back on track, though, and then, just outside of Scranton, PA, we got to drive through an unexpected ice or sleet storm and see a couple of cars off the side of the road.  After most of the day on the road, not what you really want to see.  But we kept onwards and stopped for the night after finally reaching Virginia.  Tuesday, we woke up early and hit the road to make it to my parents' house by about lunch time. 

Since we got here, it's been a pretty straight-forward and relaxed time.  We've eaten a lot, I've gotten out for a bike ride each day, we've played some board games, and we've read a bit.  I really have little room at all to complain.  We also got a visit from the incomparable
 today and are catching up with more people the rest of our time here.  Hopefully I'll also continue to get out for some more nice rides.  If the weather could be like today (sunny, low 60s), I would have no complaints at all :-)

Then, once we get back home, it's going to be more relaxing although also trying to do some things around the house like cleaning out some of the cruft that has accumulated in the basement, etc.  And I'll probably eventually get to catching up with my email, although right now, I'm happily ignoring anything that's not directly to me.  And even that is only being looked at infrequently. 

And now, I think I'm going to read a little bit more and then head to bed.

How much can be packed into a weekend?

Busy, busy weekend. One thing which helped to make it more doable is that I finally started feeling better on Thursday of this week. Two weeks is the longest I haven't felt while in a long time. I still have a little bit of a cough, but I'm no longer feeling run down and the cough is far less bad. But getting back to the weekend…

Friday was spent with quite a bit of work being done for school (although Fedora 10 was done, so not much there). Last opportunity set for system architecture is due on Wednesday, so we tried to make some headway on that. Then, I headed home and worked for a while longer. Eventually, Kara and I headed to dinner and then it was a pretty slow evening.

Yesterday morning, woke up to a very cold morning — was just over 20° F and windy. I bundled up and headed down to go out on the Quad ride. It was a cold morning, but there was still a healthy number of people all things considered. Most turned around from Concord Center, but I had one person to continue on with me to get in a good 3 hours of base miles. With the new gloves (Pearl Izumi amphibs), I was able to keep warm except for my toes.

After the ride, came home, grabbed some lunch and then got some work done. Then, headed to poker night with some SDM folks. I had a great time and it was good to see everyone who made it out. Need to be sure that we also arrange some sort of end of semester thing, perhaps for after the last System Architecture class in a couple of weeks. I suspect even more people can be convinced to go for that once there's not a lot of work waiting to be done. Kara and I headed out from there a bit early to meet up with some friends of ours for a bit. Finally headed home about midnight and crashed.

This morning, woke up again to the cold and went out for another healthy set of base miles. Only about ten people, although more continued on for more than 20 miles. Got in about 3 hours again and still only had problems with my feet. After the ride, headed down to MIT for some time in the MIT wind tunnel — one of the perks of being on the MIT team is that we get to have a little bit of time in the wind tunnel to see the impacts of position, etc. It was a pretty cool experience and we made some slight tweaks to my position to improve aerodynamics.

Now trying to catch up on some things to get a head start on the short week beginning tomorrow. Into the final stretch of the semester for real now. And then, I'm halfway done with SDM. Hard to believe — time flies when you're having fun.

Racing season over

As of last Monday, the road racing season is completely over for me for the year. As I did last year, I went back to Jamestown, RI to race in the Jamestown Classic. This year the weather was a lot better than last year and I felt a lot more confident having had some races under my belt. The pace was a little faster but I felt a lot more comfortable hanging in with the pack, but unfortunately, didn't manage to turn it into any results as I fell back a little bit on the final climb and didn't manage to make up the few seconds rounding the corner. Thus, I ended up finishing seven seconds back. But was still a good finish basically with the front of the pack.

That down, I sent in my request to move up to a Cat4 for next season which was approved. And while I'm looking forward to next season and races that start a little bit later in the day, I'm also glad that it's now to sort of the down time. Over the weekend, I rode with Quad on Saturday and did a bit of sweeping and just taking it easy. Then, on Sunday I went out with some of the MIT team to catch some of the 'cross race in Canton and also to just get some riding in. Both days, I rode without my heart rate monitor and just had fun. Especially when we climbed to the weather observatory in Blue Hills ;)

Probably will do a few more weeks of just taking it easy and just making sure I have fun. And then, I'll probably be starting to do some actual base training and get a reasonable overall training plan to maximize how well I do next season, especially given how early the collegiate season starts.

More racing skills

Both days of this weekend had a skills clinic for the MIT racing team and I went to both. Again, the clinics were held down at the Wells Ave office park. I think at this point, I have the way from MIT to that part of Newton etched into my memory. Which also means I can get from MIT to various points around Brookline and Allston with relative ease.

Yesterday's clinic was focused on improving cornering skills. This is something which, especially after going through it, is incredibly useful and an area where I really had no clue what I was doing technique-wise. Sure, you can turn the bike and go around a corner, but being able to do so in a way that's both fast and safe is an entirely different story. There's quite a bit of technique to it. But it's cool to have a better idea of how the pros manage to severely tilt their bikes when going through corners of a crit at speed. It's an area where I'll want to spend some time practicing the technique to really get it down to where I don't have to think about it. After that, we followed up with another rousing game of Death Bike. Which was, again, a good time.

Today was focused on sprinting and riding in a pack. Again, a little bit of being told a “good” way of doing things seems like it will go a long way. But sprinting form feels like it's going to be a lot more difficult for me to get “right” just due to having to break bad habits. Luckily, sprint intervals are a pretty easy thing to do and a good way to work on the form. For riding in a pack, there was a bit of focus on moving up and how to do so quickly and efficiently. The fact that we were doing this at Wells Ave was interesting; I've raced there enough times that I know how various things feel and so it was interesting to do things in a different way. In the past I've mostly moved up by going to the outside, applying some power and getting to the front. While this does work, it's pretty inefficient as it ends up meaning I leave the draft. I've now got a much better idea on how to move up through the pack and save energy. Which should end up helping at the end for the sprint. We finished out the day with a game of Bike Capture the Flag which ended up being pretty fun as well.

All in all, a good two days of work. And although my distances were lower than my normal for a weekend, I feel like I got quite a bit out of both days and am pretty tired from both as well. This week will be an easy-ish week on the riding side so that I can be in good shape for racing at Jamestown next Monday. But that's okay, as it's a busy week on pretty much every other front. Especially since I didn't do any homework this weekend. So, it'll be a bit of a scramble to get that taken care of, but it doesn't look like it'll be too bad.