Friday, July 29, 2016

The Monkey On My Back

Yes, I raced with a little monkey in my speedsuit's back pocket this past Tuesday night. Thanks for noticing, Bryan Redemske.

The monkey was there to cheer me up. Not that I really needed cheering up, because bikes are fun. But I've been feeling off my game lately: fatigued, turning squares on a weary crank, and having very low motivation. I'm at a loss for an explanation for my general malaise. I've stayed very consistent in my training this year, and my ride log suggests that I should be on form right now. Yet this is hardly the case. Even worse is that there have been several times where I did not feel like riding recently. Last Saturday's pre ride pep talk included convincing myself that I'd feel better afterwards having completed the workout than blowing it off altogether. This is not a good place to be in.

I suppose I'm feeling this way because the end of the road season is upon me. I hit it hard for several months this spring and summer, and the miles have finally caught up to my legs and my mind. I'm simply tired. As Forrest Gump said after the end of his long run, "I'm pretty tired. I think I'll go home now." I'm not quite there, but something like that. Anyway, it's August.

So the monkey. Yeah. I can't recall exactly when or where, but I think I found that chimp abandoned along the roadside during a winter ride years ago. For the rest of the season, I had that little feller dangling from one hand from the back of my saddle. I even made him a winter weather outfit for him out of an old glove, complete with pants, jacket even a little skull cap. He was a happy monkey. You want your monkey happy.

Since then, the monkey's mostly been hanging around our home. Every so often, he migrates from place to place, like our own version of elf on shelf. He's randomly appeared on window sills, on book shelves, dangling from a lamp, and on night stands. Every now and then, he still accompanies me on a bike ride. It's usually reserved for a special occasion, like the first Spring ride when it's warm enough for short sleeves, or the first WNW or cyclocross group ride of the year.

Last Tuesday, it was to remind me to have fun. I did have a good time despite not racing well. Thank you monkey.

He's off my back now and currently sitting on a shelf in the laundry room, probably dreaming about his next bike riding adventure.

A video posted by Brady Murphy (@brady.murphy) on

Friday, July 1, 2016

Messin Around

We ride for all kinds of reasons, but it mostly comes down to transportation or recreation/racing. You could probably guess that I prefer the latter, but someday when I don't (can't) race my bike anymore, I sure hope that I'll be able to ride for transportation and just riding around (JRA), you know, for tacos and stuff.

Yesterday, I was riding for racing. I was doing a hot and spicy anaerobic workout that Mark Savery gave me. Anaerobic repeats are not fun, but they are mercifully short due totally blowing up while doing each effort. Short bursts are important in racing. A good example is when one needs to bridge to a breakaway, like when Lee Bumgarner attacks so hard that when he achieves escape velocity, and he has entered into a super-aero tucked position, his bike continues to accelerate. Meanwhile, those left in his wake are throwing down copious amounts of wattage trying to catch back on his wheel. I'm one of those guys, and I'll only catch him if I'm prepared to do so. This is why I was doing anaerobic repeats yesterday. Honestly, it was because of Lee Bumgarner. Thank you Lee, and Mark Savery, for making me faster.

My buddy Fred Hinsley happened to be riding nearby when I was doing these repeats. Having spotted the familiar high-vis green kit and red Bontrager XXX shoes of Harvest Racing, Fred paid me a visit. I had just completed my sixth of nine anaerobic efforts, and I was a little breathy when he wheeled up next to me.

Brady:
Huff huff huff huff...

Fred:
I saw the Harvest kit and thought to myself, 'whatever Shim is doing over there looks crazy'.

Brady:
Huff huff -- Un huh, yeah -- huff-huff -- what are you -- huff-huff -- up to?

Fred:
Messing around.

Brady:
Huff huff huff huff. Yeah, me too. I'm just -- huff-huff -- messin' around.

Fred:
Ha! I can see that.

It turns out that Fred was on a recovery day, spending some time working on turning skills in the parking lot. I liked the idea and made a mental note of using my next recovery ride to also do some turning skills. We talked a little more, then I completed my workout as he did his turns. Since we're neighbors, we  rode home afterwards, just shooting the breeze.

We ride bikes for all kinds of reasons, whether it's for transportation or recreation/racing.

But really, it all comes down to just messin' around.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Snake Alley Recap

This past Memorial day weekend I raced the Pro 1-2 race at Snake Alley in Burlington Iowa. Built by German immigrants in 1894, "Snake Alley" features 1100 degrees of turning while climbing the 60 feet at a 21% grade. The road was intended to be a shortcut to the main street below in Burlington, with bricks being laid at an angle to allow horses better footing as they descended. It's also been the setting for a unique bicycle criterium race for the past 34 years.

I raced this event for the first time last year. Later that evening, I watched the Pro 1-2 race with anticipation of racing it with the big boys this year. The Pro 1-2 field's size was larger (100+) and longer (5+) laps than any race I did. It also had a steep attrition rate, with officials culling nearly half of the field after five of 20 laps, and then gradually pairing it down to the top 20 with about five to go.

When planning my 2016 season, Snake Alley got an "A" race designation. I worked with my coach, Mark Savery, to focus on very specific high-intensity intervals to mimic the up-over-down-and-around required at this race. Several weeks of these painful efforts helped my mind and body adapt to the stress of racing Snake Alley.

Over several months, I also moderated my diet by waging a war on added sugars, placing myself on ice cream and beer embargoes, and only allowing extra carbs to pre-load before long workouts or races. The results: I haven't seen this weight since high school.

Since Snake Alley seeds riders by order of registration, I made sure to sign up early. I was assigned bib #20. Having a low starting number on this course increases one's chance of staying up near the front at the start of the race, which is important considering the half of the field would be whistled off the course within 15 minutes.

The Race
The start was like a cyclocross race, full-bore from the whistle. Despite being in the fourth row, and getting a good start, the outsides swarmed inward and I got pushed back to about 35-40th position by the time we entered the snake. We rode three abreast going up the blue-clay bricks, which required full concentration to manage holding position, adjusting for speed to keep from overlapping wheels, and keeping an eye up the hill for trouble.

After exiting the snake, I put in a few extra pedal strokes to accelerate past those who sat up after cresting the hill. Then came the first harrowing descent over some of the *finest* Midwest concrete, which includes two off camber 90 degree turns, and a final turn at the bottom where cracks and broken concrete are tagged with neon-orange spray paint in several places. All this, while descending at 38 mph, in traffic. By the way, these precious seconds of descent also double as the only recovery section on the course, so don't forget to relax and enjoy the view.

After exiting the descent, a flat headwind required ramping up the power once more through three 90 degree turns, then a false-flat to the 200m straight-away to the start/finish. As we approached the start/finish, I shifted into the small ring and spun up the cadence to get up the hill efficiently while accelerating around others mashing it.

The next few laps were pretty much the same. Then around lap five, a couple of riders got tangled up on the snake a few places ahead of me. The ensuing chaos resulted in snapping the string of riders in several places. I was sitting pretty far back and had to get to work, or risk being pulled. Over the next several laps, I moved up by passing one or two at a time.

I made a final move to secure my spot in the selection with about ten to go. At that point, one rider was in a solo breakaway, I could see the main chase group of about dozen on the snake itself, and another medium sized group approaching its mouth. I escaped my group by punching it up the first hill and entering the snake at full steam. I stayed on the gas while climbing the cobbles, catching the second chase pack as they were exiting the top. As soon as we exited the snake, our group split into two as I watched the first three ride away. I was gassed and had to sit on for a bit to recover. From there, it was a race of attrition to the finish, where I ultimately crossed the line 20th uncontested and feeling both relieved and elated.

For many, finishing 20th wouldn't be much to write home about. Not me. I spent a lot of time and energy preparing for this race. This goal stretched me. I worked for it, and as a result, it gives me a lot of personal satisfaction in achieving it.

Here's to season's goals. May you get yours.

Cheers

photo: Big Country 1031

Friday, April 29, 2016

Harvest Racing Weekend: Iowa City, Madison

This weekend, the Harvest team is split squad: half of us will be in Iowa city, while the other will be in Madison, Wisconsin. Here's are the lineup:

Chris Lillig/Old Capitol Criterium:
Lucas Marshall (P 1-2)
Brady Murphy (P1-2)
Jordan Ross (P1-2)
Greg Shimonek (P1-2)
Paul Webb (P1-2)
Tyler Reynolds (M3)
Cole Limpach (M4)

Rapha Prestige: Madison, WI
Ryan Atkinson
Mark Savery
Matt Tillinghast

Wish us luck!

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading

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