Tag Archives: teamquad

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.

Lake Auburn Road Race 2009 Recap

Yesterday, I raced in the Cat 4 men’s field of the Lake Auburn Road Race. Unlike last year, the weather was much better and I had a much better result.

Instead of going up the day before, I woke up extra early to drive up. Picked Kate up and got on the road basically on time. The roads were empty and as it got light, there was quite a bit of clouds. Right as we crossed into Maine, there was a little bit of drizzle and I was worried that we were going to have a repeat of the rain from last year. But it let up after about five minutes and then the sun came out and the cloud cover burned off.

We got to the course start with lots of time to spare and actually had the time to pre-ride a lap of the route. Even more shockingly, the rest of the team (minus one person) had made it there with plenty of time to spare as well. So we headed off as a team to recon the course and jog our memories from last year. It was good to do as little things like “landmark for the turn before the hill” doesn’t stick with you for a year… but half an hour before the race start it certainly does.

The race itself was to be three laps of an 11.5 mile circuit. It started with a quick downhill followed by a little bump and then a steeper little climb. Then a few turns and a mile or so with a slight downward grade to the back half of the course which was about six miles and pretty much flat. This was thus a bit on the fast side. The course then took another turn and began going back up towards the finish with one steeper and then one longer and more shallow section to a bit of false flats for the final kilometer or so. Total of about 600 feet of climbing a lap. Pretty much good pavement for the entirety of it, well marshalled, etc. Honestly, it’s a great course and I was looking forward to coming back and doing better.

Map of the Race
Map of the Race
Course Profile
Course Profile

In the Men’s Cat 4 field, we had six people in the field out of a total of somewhere between fifty and sixty — myself, Jim Gomez, Charles Wescott, Nessim Mezrahi, Kenton Eash and Andy Tucker. My personal goal was to finish with whatever the main pack ended up being and from a team perspective, we were hoping to get someone at least in the top ten. The race started on time and it started out pretty quick. I was at the front and was able to maintain my position through the fast descent in a nice improvement from last year. The first lap continued pretty quickly; I know I saw an average speed of above 25 mph at one point on the back stretch. When we hit the big hill up to the finish, that dropped a bit. We had definitely started to drop some riders off the back, though.

The second lap was much of the same and I realized that hanging on was really about all I was going to be good for. I did get in some good work with moving up in the pack and raising my comfort in doing so. It helped that the peloton for the field was pretty smooth overall. The exception was that for every corner, the speed dropped somewhat dramatically and then people accelerated like hell on the other side of the corner only to let up after 100-200 meters. A little annoying, but I kept with it. Andy and Nessim spent some time during the lap attacking and trying to weaken some of the stronger riders in the field. I was content to just sit in and let things happen.

By the third lap, I realized that the only Quaddies who were left were Nessim, Andy and myself. I talked briefly with Andy and he said that Nessim was going to try to set him up with a lead-out. I didn’t really have anything to add to the effort, so just was going to keep my head down. I also noticed at this point (not far into the lap really), that there was a rider a little ways up the road and that the pace car seemed a little further away. Not that I was going to be able to do anything about it. As we started up the hill for the finish, though, the gap dropped — by the time we were cresting the second hill up to the finishing flats, we passed the guy who had jumped off the front and this was when people really cranked it up a notch.

With a little more than a 1km ago, someone decided to start pushing for the sprint and I decided I had done enough to accomplish my goal. So I sat up and got passed by 6 or 8 people coming across the line about 26th although I did make it look like I was sprinting for something. Andy ended up with 7th and Nessim was somewhere in the pack between 15th and 20th. All in all, a respectable day by the Quaddies.

A sprint for the photo at least
A sprint for the photo at least (photo courtesy Charles Wescott)

By the numbers:

  • 34.7 miles, overall average of 24 mph
  • Second lap was the slowest by a small margin, first and then the third was the fastest
  • Pretty usual race heart rate for me averaging 170. Max was only 193, though, which is a little lower than usual for me in races
  • Cadence only averaged 80, although maxed out at 132. Low average is probably as I got to do some decent coasting sitting in the pack and the Garmin averages in those zeros
  • 1750-ish feet of climbing and some of that was serious grades. Not long climbs though

So overall, a very satisfying result from my point of view. I finally feel like I’m getting back the right level of fitness for racing. Also, a pretty good team result with the seventh place plus we also had two women in the Cat 4 women’s field (Nancy Labbe-Giguere and Kate Leppanen) who finished fifth and sixth out of a field that was probably about twenty deep.

Back to Myles Standish

The Myles Standish Road Race was my first race last season and so after having circumstances keep me from going to Dartmouth for the weekend, I decided to sign up for the Cat 4 race there this year. Unfortunately, due to the road conditions, they weren’t able to run it on the road race course (~ 7 miles) and instead had to run it on the Charge Pond course that I raced on earlier this year. So basically a crit. Okay. Not what I was hoping for, but you deal with the cards you’re dealt.

Given that and the fact that I had crashed on the course a month ago, I went in with very simple goals. Stay upright, get in a speed workout, and get past any lingering anxiety in the pack after the crash. With those, I’d say I succeeded. Another win of the day was that I didn’t forget anything I intended to bring with me. The race results were a little less great

Anyway, the race started off fast. Very fast. I didn’t have a good position at the line and so was struggling with the rubber band effect from the go. After a couple of laps, the pace cooled down a little bit, but not too much. The corner and hill before the finish line had a strong impact on every lap but with the pace immediately following it, I never managed to pull myself far enough forward to make a difference going into the next lap. After about half the laps, I snapped a little as we went around the backside and fell a little off the back. I kept driving on and pushing for another few laps but knew I was falling further and further back. I decided to pull out before getting lapped since I expected at that point there was a break which had gotten away that would be closing in. As it turns out, no break had gotten away and so I don’t think I would have been lapped. I wouldn’t have caught the pack though.

Next weekend, heading out with the MIT team for the MIT sponsored race, X-Pot 3D. I can only do the road race on Saturday (and the TTT if another man is needed) as Sunday is my niece’s baptism. But hopefully the road race there will be a little bit better for me.

First race of the season

Made a last minute decision (yesterday) that I wanted to go ahead and get some racing in, so went down today to Plymouth to race in the 4/5 field at Charge Pond. The race is held in the same state park as the Myles Standish Road Race that was my first race of the season last year but it’s a month earlier, it’s a 4/5 field and it’s a much shorter circuit (1.1 miles vs 7-ish miles). Kara had class today, so I talked Kate into going down and she talked Jon into driving for us which was awfully nice — he also played the role of photographer for the day.

We got started early enough and pulled into the parking lot at the park right after 9 for the 10 am race start. I got out and registered and pulled on the appropriate clothing for the fact that it was about 35 degrees out. We went for a few laps around the course to warm up and also do a bit of recon work. Overall, the road was in good shape; there was some sand on the edges, but that was about it. The end of the course had a pretty good corner after a downhill that was a little tricky… it was even trickier in the pack as everyone slowed down for it (including me) — definitely need to work on cornering more.

As we lined up at the race, there were about 8 other Quaddies present as well as 4 other guys from the MIT cycling team in the field of 50+. So went in with a good number of friends in the field. The first lap was very very mellow. Not sure how mellow, as the one thing I left at home was my GPS/computer. On the second lap, Kenton came up around the outside and began pushing the pace. That set the tone for pretty much the rest of the race. Someone would go up the side, push the pace, and then things would pull back together. I tried staying in the front part of the pack to varying degrees of success but it was good to get back to riding in a pack.

With what ended up being seven laps to go (wasn’t sure, they weren’t showing lap cards yet), Charles decided to follow a guy up the road and tried to get me to go with him. My legs didn’t feel like they could bridge the gap, so I instead stuck back and tried to control the pace of the pack so that he could get away. It was successful for a little bit, but then Charles ran out of steam. Was fun to try to do, though. The effort sent me to the back of the pack, though, to regain something for the end

Coming up the hill on the back side of the course with just over two laps to go, the guy in front of me had someone cut in front of him and he then went down. I was right behind him and so had no choice but to slow down a lot and then basically go over the guy. I went over the handlebars but the only real damage was biting my lip, a little bit of skin on my left knee, a bruise on the right knee and the nose of my saddle coming off (that may have been from the guy behind me who also went over us). Shook me up a little, though. So I mostly got out of the way and tried to calm down until the race ended not long after. Then I did a cooldown lap slow and relaxed with Kenton and also to stretch out the muscles.

Overall, a fun time even with the jarring and unintended ending. The big positive is that my legs mostly felt pretty good keeping up in the pack, so hopefully that can continue and translate into having a good time the rest of the racing season. I’m definitely getting more into the racing spirit, which has been a little bit of a hurdle. Hopefully the new bike will help get me the rest of the way there.

I am though now looking at saddles to replace what I was using (a Specialized Toupe). I’d been thinking about trying something new so this seems like a reasonable excuse. Suggestions welcome. Right now, I’m trying out a Fi’zi:k Antares and from the two miles I did on it, it seems okay but the real test will come tomorrow when I put 50-60 miles on it.

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.