Friday, April 17, 2015

Exhilarating

Although it was seemingly just another Wednesday Night Worlds, Jordan Ross opened up a strong attack and gutter-balled the pace line in a 25mph crosswind. This was different. We were normally not so aggressive in our weekly group ride. The force of Jordan's attack snapped the pace line into thirds. I was in the first chase group with Mark Savery and Shim. We bridged up to Jordan, and as soon as we did, Paul Webb countered with a big jump off the front. I sat on while the others chased. Paul dangled out there for 90 seconds before he was brought back. It was my turn. As soon as we were all together, I punched it with all I had. I got away easily, quickly opening up a 50m gap. When I looked back, I saw Jonathan Wait attempting to close it down while pulling Jordan in tow. I mashed away some more. Jordan then jumped Jonathan and bridged up to me. We were both free and clear, and from there, we rotated pulls until we crossed the town sprint sign, two-by-two. 

Shim wheeled up next to me a few moments later and asked, "How do you like road racing now?"

--//--

Last summer, I met Shim and Leah for a coffee the Monday after they returned from the Tulsa Tough races. They both had a great time in Tulsa. In fact, Shim was gushing about the most exhilarating race he'd ever been in as a roadie. The thing was, he didn't have to tell me. You could see it plainly in his eyes. Like the rising coffee steam, his eyes were focused one moment, drifting away in the next. It was clear to me that though he was physically present in front of me, his spirit was still railing the corners in downtown Tulsa.

Then, with clarity he said, "You should join us next year."

I nodded in agreement, but I wasn't so sure. At that time, road racing seemed so distant to me. Back then, I was deep into training for USAT Triathlon Age Group Nationals. Aside from a plea to join them in Tulsa, it was too vague for me to latch on to.

A lot has changed since that coffee break. The biggest of these was when I was invited to join the Harvest Racing Team. Unbeknownst to me, Shim went to bat for my inclusion with the team while it was still forming. He did this despite me being a triathlete and a cat 3/Masters road racer with only a mild interest in road racing.

That I was a triathlete wasn't that big of deal, other than the fact that most road racers think triathletes are dorks. But the latter -- that I am a cat 3/Masters racer -- meant that I would only be able to contribute to team efforts in combined pro 1-2-3 category races, or when the team's other old farts opted to do Master races. But since Harvest is an elite team, combined-field races and Masters events would be a secondary priority.

Anyway, despite being a dorky cat-3 triathlete, the team still took me in.

Since then, I've put in over 2,600 training miles on my road bike, and I've contributed to team podiums in our first three races.

More importantly, my motivation has shifted. Having tasted both success and failures, I've found myself becoming a hungry student of road racing. My individual priorities have been replaced with the mindset of a roadie who is a component of fantastic team with firm road racing goals.

In short, I'm all in.

Of course I wasn't thinking of any of this when Shim asked me how I liked road racing this past Wednesday. No, my eyes were still scanning the tarmac, replaying how my teammates and I had just executed flawless road racing tactics to win a town sign sprint moments before.

It is exhilarating. And I told him so.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Follow Harvest Racing race recaps and other team shenanigans on our new website at HarvestRacing.com

Friday, April 10, 2015

Road Trips

Every summer when I was a kid, our family piled into our 1976 Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon for a road trip to the Murphy family reunion in rural SW Wisconsin. The "Grand Safari" was fitting a fitting moniker for such an experience. With my parents and four siblings, and our luggage, food, etc..it sure had some of the trappings of grand safari through rural mid-America.

I hated road trips back then. Like most kids, I could barely tolerate traveling more than an hour at a time. I was too young to appreciate the stuff that makes the journey, and there were only so many games and stuff that you could do before things went south. Inevitably, we kids just annoyed the hell out of each other. Petty stuff would quickly spill over into pinching and silent games of torture. There was more than once when I wanted to choke the living breath out of my brother Matt during those road trips. I'm sure it was mutual. Sometimes, utter silence was the best policy. Anyway, eventually I’d settle down and quietly stare out the window, watching the rise and fall of the telephone wires from pole to pole while listening to the Safari’s steel belted radials rhythmically thumping the highway expansion joints. It was awful.

I was thinking about those family road trips while en route to the Tour De Husker a couple weeks ago. I was a passenger in Shim’s Honda Odyssey. While the old Pontiac wagon was no match to the comforts of Shim’s modern man-van, the basic elements of a road trip through rural farmlands -- right down to the rhythmic tire thumping on highway expansion joints --  brought me back to those days way back when.

My wife and I have no children, and we never will. We’re good with that. One outcome of this is that our road trips will always be simply the two of us.

I suppose that in a small way, my Harvest Race teammates will fill a void that the Grand Safari road trip from yesteryear has left behind. Sharing racing stories, course tactics, equipment selections, etc... will more than fill the time on the road. And yes, I’m quite sure there will be times when one of us will also want to choke the living daylights out of Shim. But all in all, good times await on the open road for the upcoming road season.

This weekend, the Harvest Racing Team has a single day road trip to Sioux City, Iowa for the Twin Bing Classic. After that, we’ll really get things rolling as we travel to the Chris Lillig Memorial/Old Capitol Crit in Iowa City, April 26-27.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Yips Have Come Roaring Back, Baby!

I don't know about you, but I get the yips. It's been documented.

Dictionary.com describes the yips as "nervous twitching or tension that destroys concentration and spoils performance."

Thankfully, I don't get the yips while literally riding a bicycle. My yips happen several hours afterwards, when I'm asleep and dreaming about riding. The nervous twitching and tension destroys the performance of my sleep. I kick, fidget and toss about until I'm inevitably wide awake. Often, Katherine is too.

My night yips only happen after an intense race, or challenging group ride. 

Take this past Wednesday night. 

Gnarly S/SE winds, and a cutting 35 mph cross wind before we turned north and began motor pacing in the tailwind for the next 20 minutes. I'm at my heart rate threshold when Jordan Ross launches a massive attack. The voice in my brain asks,"how does he do that? Where does he get that extra gear? I have no time to ponder, for Chris Spence and Mark Savery have matched his acceleration, shredding the small peloton in the process. Grant Rotunda, Shim and I jump to bridge across. I don't know about those two, but I am spooling my big ring out to pull the trio back. It takes 800 meters to do so, and from there, it's lights out until the town sign sprint at Ft Calhoun, where I finished third.

You see? I rode well there. No yips.

The problem is that the above dialog was played out in my brain several hours after the ride while I stared at the ceiling and a cheap wall clock slowly marked the time, "TICK TOCK TICK TOCK"

Try as I did, I could not get that ride out of my brain.

In Boyer's Chute, that nasty crosswind has returned, creating havoc on my weary legs. I am struggling to maintain contact with the group's sloppy echelon. 

TICK TOCK TICK TOCK

Do I hang slightly off the back of the group to take a steady, but somewhat turbulent draft, or do I get inside the group and stay tight and smooth until it's my turn to take a beating up front, hoping that I have enough juice in my legs to not get kicked out the back while rotating through?

TICK TOCK TICK TOCK

Oh golly. Stop this insanity. You dummy. Don't you see what's going on here? You've let the 800 pound yips gorilla back into the room and its killing your sleep. Now think of something else -- anything else -- but that damned ride. How about counting sheep? TICK-- one, TOCK-- two, TICK-- Ah, screw the sheep. No! don't screw the sheep -- that sick and wrong!  Ok, ok, just blank your mind. Tabula rasa. There, that's it. Yes, concentrate on the inky blackness of your eyelids. Good, it's working. Black-black, blackity-black blackness. Black like outer space. Now I'm floating in a tin can, far above the moon, planet Earth is blue and there's -- a hill. A hill that looks familiar. Oh I recognize that hill alright. It's Ponca hill, and Jordan is opening another attack with Spence and Mark following. Oh crap! I'm getting popped off the back as we crest it. The gap is too great to overcome..

TICK TOCK TICK TOCK

You see? I get the yips.

Am I the only one of us who has this condition? Please tell me I'm not suffering alone. Maybe we can start a self-help group? Who's up for 12 steps?

TICK TOCK TI --
-- I finally got out of bed and yanked the battery out of that cheap clock. Good riddance. Sleep came about an hour later and at least five more laps around the Wednesday Night Worlds circuit.

Happy Friday and Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Harvest Race Team Tactics Revealed!

During last Friday's lunch ride, colleague Jonathan Wait (Flatwater) sidled up next to me and asked what the Harvest Race Team's plans were for the following weekend's Tour De Husker.

I told him that we were going to run the Statue of Liberty play, followed by a fumblerooski, and if necessary, toss a Hail Mary as the game clock expired.

Jonathan was quiet for a moment. Then, he told me he was going to attack early and hope not to get popped like he did last year.

We had race plans, but I wasn't going to reveal them to Jonathan the day before the race. But now that it's all over, I can tell you all about it.

The team got together for a race meeting at Mark Savery's house. Before everyone arrived, Mark, Jordan Ross, Paul Webb and I were playing Super Mario Brothers on the Wii. Mark (Mario), Jordan (Luigi), Paul (yellow Toad) and I (green Toad) had made it to Bowser's Castle. While we were playing, somebody mentioned that Bowser was like Chris Spence (Kaos). We all agreed on that point: Spence is Bowser.

While we were discussing the Bowser-Spence thing, I ran my little green Toad to the right side of Bowser's lair while the others stayed put on the left. Bowser turned and started spitting fireballs my way. With Bowser's back facing the others, Mario, Luigi and yellow Toad attacked mercilessly. I continued running interference until the attacks took Bowser down. 

We decided right then and there that that's how we'd do it at the road race.

The best of plans -- and that's a doozy -- never play out the way they're drawn up. Here's how the race went down:

Edit: before I go any further, may I suggest playing Super Mario Brothers' Over World Theme in another window while you read it?

The first two laps were a parade. During that time, Greg Hagele (Kaos) rolled away from the pack and soloed up the road. Midway through the third lap, things got spicy. I nearly missed my chance at the break, but caught Jonathan Wait's wheel just in time to chase down Spence as he was getting away. We sat up a few miles up the road to let Jonathan Nelson (SC Velo) bridge up to us. With Greg Hagele (Kaos) now several minutes up the road, Spence said that he wasn't going to pull his teammate back. That meant that the two Jonathans and I spent the next lap reeling Hagele back in. Once we pulled Hagele back, Spence lured us deep into his lair, the pain cave.

Hagele was the first to get popped, followed by Nelson. The attacks were as fierce as the were plenty; at least a dozen teeth grinding efforts.

I remember once yelling, "Spence! Would you stop that? It's really annoying!"

Spence looked at me, flashed a smile and said, "No". Then he punched it again.

When Spence wasn't crushing it on the flats, Wait was drilling it up the long climbs.

That continued for the next hour and 45 minutes. During that period, there were several times that I had wished my mother had never met my father.

The final two miles were a game of cat and mouse as we rolled up to the 200M mark at about 8 mph. Wait got the early jump, Spence and I were just off his lead. It finished in that order. After some 60 miles, only 0.7 seconds separated first from third.

Although the plan did not go as it was drawn up, I learned a lot about my competitors in this race. Even more, I learned a lot about myself.

One more thing. That bit about getting our game plan from Super Mario was all made up. I don't even know if Mark has a Wii.

Regardless, Spence is still Bowser.

♫ Bah -da-do-da, bah-bah ba da
Bah -da-do-da, bah-bah ba da ♫

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Harvest Toadie

By now, many of you have seen the Harvest Racing Team's new duds. Designed by our own Lucas Marshall, in a word, they're smashing.


It takes a lot to get a new team together. I wouldn't pretend to know how much because all the grunt work was done before I ever joined the team. 

Putting together a team kit is one such task. Designing it is only half of the battle. Getting team members to complete the order and getting it to the manufacturer with enough time to have for the first race takes some advanced planning.

Anyway, Kudos to Lucas and Paul for getting it done.

The only problem I have with our kits is our Bontrager Velocis helmets. Let me first qualify that there is nothing wrong with the helmet. At only 249g, it is very light. It is also airy with stylish vents. It fits my head well with plenty of cushy padding. In short: it's the most comfortable helmet I've ever worn. 

Yet I still have a problem with the helmet. Actually, the problem is all me. You see, I have a big ol' melon for head. So much so, that the first time I looked in the mirror while wearing my new helmet, I saw this:
Don't get me wrong. There's nothing more noble than Toad helping Mario and Luigi save Princess Peach from Bowser in Super Mario World. It's just not what I had in mind when I envisioned saddling up with my teammates to vie for cycling glory.

Speaking of that, our first race is this weekend's Tour De Husker. Hopefully by then, the Mario Theme Song will have run its course in my brain. But if not, then you count on me humming along in the peloton while I play the part of the Harvest Toadie :)

♫ Do do do, 
do DO dah-do, 
do do do DO,
dah do-do... ♫

That's all I've got for today. 

 ♫ .. dah do do! ♫

Happy Friday and Thanks for Reading.

♫ ...dah dah dah,
dah-dah de dah-dah,
de dah!