Valley of the Sun – 2011

Today was the 15 mile Time Trial.

I did everything right. Had a light breakfast three hours prior. Foam rolled, stretched a little, did 40 minutes on the wind trainer and did three hard intervals to open up the legs. The weather was perfect and I was right on time to climb on to the starting gate.

The course suited me perfectly. 15 miles, out and back. No steep hills, but instead, a straight road with some rises; almost false flats. There was a little wind so I paced myself. I went out hard but not too hard. I could tell I was moving. Within about 8-10 minutes I was catching my .30 second guy (they stagger the racers in .30 second intervals) who was catching my 1:00 guy. All of sudden something happened that has never happened in all the years I’ve been cycling. My calf crinkled! I could visually see it shrivel up! I’ve cramped before but never, ever, at five miles. I couldn’t believe it. When I had warmed up there had been no sign, not even a hint of a sign that I might cramp and I had gone hard three times. I didn’t bring that much water because for such a short distance I didn’t think I would need to drink at all. I backed off for a few seconds and hoped it might have been just some freaky thing. Unfortunately, it kept coming back. I had no choice but to back off and slowly; both of the guys in front of me started to pull away. It just wouldn’t subside. I tried to pull with my right leg in order to fire the anterior tibialis which might stretch the calf. Didn’t work. I had no choice but to pedal with my left leg only. That’s how it went for a while until I approached the turn-around. I saw a volunteer and slowed down and asked for water. He said he didn’t have any “fresh water?” What? I guess that meant no. I continued to the turn-around and had to physically stop. I yelled “Does anyone have any water?” Luckily I nice state trooper said “I have some.” I had to wait for him to go to his car, come back and pour it in my bottle. Because I have a special aerodynamic water-bottle holder I couldn’t just take his Arrowhead bottle and put it on my bike.

I still had 7.5 to go, so I drank just a little bit and then hauled ass. About 100 meters later my bottle fell off my bike. Jeesh! Because the rear disc wheel I was using is thicker than my training wheel, I totally disconnect my back brake. I keep my front brake pretty squishy because in reality, you don’t need brakes on a time trial bike. You can’t draft and no one is allowed to be near you so you only have to slow down for the corners or the turn-around. As a result, it took me longer to slow down, and then, I had to turn around and go back and get my bottle! Now I’m pissed. I’m going as hard as I can go now, but I still have to keep coming out of my aero position to drink. In another mile or so, my bottle falls out again!!! I’m yelling at the universe now. I didn’t want to stop because now I was flying. This time it took me even longer to slow down and I tried to make a U-turn to return to get the bottle. Unfortunately, the course was open to traffic and there was a truck coming so I had to stop again, flip my back wheel around and go backwards on the course AGAIN to get my bottle. Normally, I would’ve left that bottle the first time, but I had to keep drinking so the cramp wouldn’t come back. No such luck. My right calf started to cramp again. I tried to ignore but it, but I could see it crinkling up. I had no choice but to pedal with my left leg again and this is how it went until about a mile and half to the finish. By then, my left leg started to cramp as well. I could see the finish up ahead. I either had to go hard and maybe lose it and have to walk, or instead, soft-pedal all the way in; which is exactly what I did. This had to be the worst time trial I’ve ever done. The only cause I could think of, is, that all week I’ve been thirsty and at night I was waking up three or four times with a dry throat. I guess Arizona is so dry, it crept up on me.

Road Race

I was pretty concerned about cramping, since the race was 73 miles long. Four and half laps of a 16 mile course with an uphill finish. I drank a bottle of Cytomax/water every hour until I went to bed and kept waking and drinking through the night. Repeated the same ritual until I got to the race. Warmed up for a half an hour on my trainer and did three leg openers. The weather was spectacular except it was really windy. I could barely control my bike as I rode with my wheel bag with my spare wheels to the start line to put in the follow-car.

Of course some loco went off like a bat out of hell at the gun. If he can stay off on his own for 73 miles he deserves to win!

The pack was pretty mellow for the first lap until the hill, which was about 3km long. We went pretty hard up that hill but, I could stay in the front. The true climbers hadn’t really drawn their swords yet.

On the second lap, three guys got away and eventually got four minutes up on us. I got a bottle from my friend Karen in the feed zone and drank the whole thing. I was also pounding down salt pills every 30 minutes, plus, some nuts, raisins, a banana and some GU. My plan was to get my mueset bag with another bottle of water and more food on lap three. We weren’t allowed to feed on lap four.

The racers that were in contention now got serious about the break-a-way and organized a chase at the front. On the third lap up the 3k hill the climbers drew their swords and we were flying. No talking could be heard, only the whirring of the chains. I came unhooked at the top, but lucky for me, there was a descent which suits me fine. Dense muscle always descends faster than skin and bones. Unfortunately for us, we were neutralized (made to slow down) as the pro peloton lapped us. Good for the break-a-way though. Now we had to really cook. As we came to the feed zone I knew someone might attack, so I moved up to the way to the front to find Karen. Unfortunately she wasn’t ready and I could see her running to get the Mueset bag as I went through. Bummer….. Down the hill, right turn into a head wind for about four miles and then a right had turn to the hill. Ouch, now it was bloody. I did the best I could and came unhooked again, but so did a bunch of people. We worked together on the descent and caught the leaders.

We had now swallowed up the three man break and we were all back together for the last lap. On the descent we were neutralized again and the race was starting to seem very long. The dry heat was getting to all of us as you could see white salt cached on everyone’s faces. Into the head wind for the last time and three guys just slipped off the front. No attack; just slipped off the front. I was at the front and didn’t see a reaction from any of the racers in contention. (I had written all their numbers on a piece of paper that was taped to my top-tube.) Before you know it, they have a minute as we make a right turn before the hill. It got faster and faster. I got to the front to fulfill my promise to my buddy Mike who was in second place overall to keep him at the front. At 3k to go I was in front of him and said “stay on my wheel.” Just then some little squirt decided to turn it up three notches and attacked. I did everything I could to stay on his wheel, but ever so slowly started to unhook. I looked back and said “sorry” as Mike and the leaders passed me. I felt like I was trying to drink air. Tongue wagging, I somewhat recovered with 1k to go and started to reel some people in to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. Long day…


A perfect day for a race. We were supposed to start at 12:05 but because of a crash in the race before us, there was a delay and we didn’t start until almost 1pm. By then there was a serious malaise setting in. However once the race started, that went away in about three seconds. The course was technical; a 1.2 course with a four lane home stretch that went into a one lane left-hander, sweeping right hand into a tight 90-degree right hander for about 50 meters into another 90-degree right hand turn which was a wide four lane street into a one lane tight chicane (s-turn) with a bunch of debris and road reflectors, to a slight four lane descent to another 90-degree right hand turn for 50 meters to the last 90-degree right turn, to the four lane home stretch to the start-finish.

I got to the front immediately and stayed there. Went for the first $50 prime and some 23-something-kid-going-on-12 snapped it at the line. That pissed me off. Two or three laps later I went for a $100 prime and didn’t get that either. Bummer. Got knocked once by some kid on the back stretch, but heh, that’s racing. We were never even were properly introduced! Somewhere in the middle of the race, I was about three back and I could sense a lull. A slight opening appeared so I jumped and barely slipped through it and scared the kid who took my $50. Hah. They pack eventually got me, but right before the chicane I attacked and got away alone for almost a lap until another guy caught me. It was him and I for a bit, but I was too tired from the day before so I sat up and waited for the pack. As we crossed the finish line the announcer yelled “five laps to go!” Argh… Anyone who races knows what happens when they yell that. Needless to say, I went from the front, to the middle of the pack, in about two seconds. It took me another two laps to get back to the front. One lap to go…. I’m in a good position but I wish I could feel my legs. As 45 guys want to somehow make it to the single lane left-hander the speed increases and you have to fight. I’m in a good position and make it through all the corners and the chicane. It’s the straight-a-way and it’s now or never. The attacks start flying up the left and the right. You can hear them coming; so, when they go, I go. On the left, some guy bumps into me. Whatever…. That doesn’t phase me; I just keep going. I get knocked back a few places into the second to the last right-hander. I didn’t have the snap to make up the ground in just 50 meters and rolled into the last turn in about 20th place. I got out of the saddle and gave it everything I had for about 400 meters to the line in 16th place.

I ended up 33rd overall out of 78 racers. My buddy Mike got third overall. He had only beaten me by 14 seconds at the road race but I had a better finish today. It was all about the first Time Trial. If only I hadn’t cramped……

Nothing beats experience. That won’t ever happen to me again

Moving from Zero

“Hey Uncle John, what if we just got one hamburger and split it between the two of us?” “Well Joseph, let’s think about that. If we eat that hamburger, will it bring us closer to our goal or further away from our goal?” He thought about it for a second and replied “it will take us further away.” “Exactly, in order to be extraordinary, you must make an extra ordinary effort.”

My 17-year old nephew was trying to lose weight after a football injury had derailed him from his season causing him to gain over 18 pounds. He is an all-star kicker and has aspirations to be a professional football player. I was trying to drop weight to win a gold medal in cycling at the Master’s Pan American games in Cuba. We had different reasons, but we were both on a quest to lose weight. Lofty goals for us, but no less challenging for those who incorporate little or no exercise in their life.

Why don’t we exercise?

There are many excuses for not exercising. Let me rephrase that. There are many reasons why people do not exercise. No one to go with, lack of time, money, consistency, desire, energy or motivation are the most common. However, the human body thrives on movement. Without movement, the body starts to wither. Let me be clear about something. Movement is not the solution to good health. It’s only part of the solution. Your health is dependent on four main components: Exercise, Nutrition, Rest and Genetics. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something. This article is going to focus on only one component, movement.

What if you don’t like to exercise? Be honest, is it because you’re not that good at exercise; you don’t have the energy, or, you don’t like to exert yourself? Ask yourself these questions? Are you happy with the way you look and feel, or do you hate the way you look and feel? Be honest with yourself. No one else needs to know. What do you hate more, the way you look or feel, or exercise? Which of the two evils would you choose? Whatever decisions you’ve made so far has gotten you the body you have now. Do you wish to continue? Exercise has been proven to help with a host of ailments: obesity, sleep apnea, hypertension, high cholesterol, low self-esteem, confidence and self worth. Remember, your physical health affects your spiritual emotional and mental health. They are all tied in with one another.

Unless you’re gifted or talented, any new endeavor will be challenging. You have to stick with it for awhile and then you’ll get better at it. I hear many people complain they have no one to exercise with. Start exercising at a particular place and time; you’ll eventually meet people who are doing the same.

A New Mindset.

If you haven’t been moving at all, then the first step is to establish a new mindset. Once the mind is set, the body will follow.Your present is the window to your future. This is extremely important. Your health is cumulative; each decision of your day affects your cumulative health. However, a misguided present, without direction or a plan to accomplish a goal, can easily go array. I want you to write down this goal, I will start to include exercise or movement in my daily life. This is very important. Write it down. You must also announce it to the universe. State the previous sentence out loud. Once you’ve done this, we can proceed.

Opportunity Cost.
For every decision there is an opportunity cost. If you choose to watch television for an hour, you lose the opportunity to work, study or spend time with your family and of course, exercise. This is where your past decisions must change. This is another important step. Unless you change, nothing will change.

Support Systems.

Be careful of your friends and family. If they truly care for you they will support you. If they don’t support you, seek others that are like-minded who will support you. Maybe your family and friends were supportive, but you weren’t listening. They may now even seem uninterested or just ignore the problem. At some point, you, and only you alone are accountable for your decisions.

Give hope; you will find support systems. Yesterday morning, I cycled at 5:30am in the dark and it was only 33 degrees. Not, ideal conditions to say the least. If I hadn’t met up with seven other lunatics on the ride, I might have gone home.

How to start.

There are many ways to integrate exercise, but you must always keep your goal present in mind. For example, after picking up your children from school and arriving home, most people go off to their rooms. Instead, hold a mandatory 10-minute activity session in your yard or living room. Better yet, play with your children. You don’t stop playing when you get old, you get old when you stop playing. Skate, cycle, play catch, jump rope, etc. Even dance for 10 minutes. If you attend your children’s’ sporting events don’t sit and watch. Walk around the field as you watch them. You’ll be active and as an added bonus you’ll get different viewpoints of the game. Elevators and escalators don’t exist. Take the stairs. If you can’t make the whole distance, stop a few floors before and walk the rest. Plan ahead and bring a change of shoes. Never, ever leave a shopping cart in the parking lot again. Make the effort to walk it back. If you work at a desk, make a pact with yourself to stand up and stretch every hour, 90 minutes or two hours. No more television. It will still be there, you’re just going to limit it for a while. Television will not help you get healthy. It is a mindset. Again, your present is the window into your future!

A Daily Plan.

The plan actually starts the night before. Rest is essential. You have to plan your next day by the time of night you go to sleep. If you wake up at 7am, then you can’t go to sleep any later than 11pm. You can list all the reasons or excuses you want, but your health doesn’t really care. If you ignore or put it off, you will pay the consequences, unless of course you’re a genetic freak. I would not want take that gamble.

Upon waking, go through your normal bathroom etiquette but add these few steps.

  1. Drink a full glass of water.
  2. Stand in front of a mirror and spend five minutes doing these few movements
  3. Reach for the sky and then chop wood – with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent and the hips back, reach as high as you can with both hands towards the ceiling. Now, reverse this movement; descend as if you were chopping wood; bend your knees and sticking your butt out, bring both of your hands between your legs. Inhale deeply as you rise up and exhale deeply as you descend. Do this a few times.
  4. From the same position, tilt your body side to side, bringing the left hand over the right side and then the right hand over the left side. Do this a few times.
  5. Same position. Twist like a washing machine.

When you get in the shower, stretch a little more. Squat down to get the soap. It may sound silly, but do it three or four times. Our joint integrity depends almost solely on movement. Stretch your neck as well.

Now go about your day. Keep your mind focused on your goal. Walk at lunch whenever you can. When you get home, walk, do some activity or play with your children. Even 10 minutes will make a difference. Before you go to bed, repeat the same few steps you started your day with. It’s not going to be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. Your health is worth the effort. You’ll probably stumble and even fail sometimes. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We all fail. I’ve done over 150 bike races in the last three years and maybe won only 20 or 30 times. In essence, I’ve failed over 80% of the time. Persevere; it’s how you deal with the failures and disappointments that make you exceptional. It’s really a test of will. Your will must be challenged and exercised just like the rest of your body.

Do you want to be ordinary or extraordinary? Remember, extra ordinary effort will bring extraordinary results!

Boulevard Road Race and Haus Criterium – 2011

Boulevard Road Race

When I arrived at Boulevard Road Race I made the wrong turn and ended up driving up the climb. I measured it from the car. It was about 5 miles long. Two miles then a dip, then up again, another dip and then it rose to the steepest part at the feed zone which was right after the start/finish. I knew there was no way I could hang on for that long of a climb.

The race started uphill for about a mile and then we made a right turn. I didn’t know it, but there was a descent for about 10 miles. You know me, on a descent I’m close to the front. As we initially descended we could see off in the distance a big flat bed truck loaded with bales of hay. Remember, this a two lane, winding highway. One of the guys commented “we’re going to catch that truck and it’s going to be a problem.” I thought to myself, “this is an opportunity.” If I could get to the truck alone, I would be able to get around it myself but the pack would be stuck. I attacked immediately and within about a mile I caught the truck. No one had come with me. HAH. I’m now flying at 42 miles an hour drafting the truck. After six or eight miles I’m gone! I mean the pack was nowhere in sight. This was my chance. If I could make it up the climb by myself for the first lap, it was very possible they would go slower on the second lap which would leave the last lap. One problem though. I was going so fast I never saw the cone to make a right hand turn and I was so close to the back of the truck that the volunteer never even knew there was a cyclist behind the truck plus, there was no pack in sight. Needless to say, I blew by the turn and about a mile down the road I noticed an orange sign on the opposite side of the road. After I passed the sign, I looked back and it said “Special Event Ahead.” Damn, I had passed it. I had to stop, go back uphill and by the time I got to the corner I could see the pack coming.

I made the right hand turn and for the next five miles or so it was rollers. The pack caught me and passed me. I got dropped. I fought my way back until the start of the climb where I got dropped again. However, I caught them again on the downhill only to get dropped again on the last climb. Some big dude and another guy caught me on the last climb as well, but we dropped the one kid and the bidg dude and I hammered the second lap. He would lead on the descent and I would lead on the climbs. At the descent from the climb on the second lap we could see the pack about ¾ of a mile ahead. We had to catch them before the descent or we were done. We tried but the wind had picked up and it wasn’t to be. I dropped the big guy and went at it alone for the third lap until I passed some other kid who had been dropped and finished. At least I wasn’t last. 67 miles and 5999 ft of climbing.

Haus Criterium

After Boulevard I got in the van and drove 5 hours to Phoenix. Legs were killing me and I felt stiff all over. Knee was swollen, so I iced, stretched and went to bed. Got up and went to the crit in Chandler, Az. A 1.2 mile course with 13 turns on a speedway. Perfect for me; the more technical the better. There were two teams with about four riders each who were racing smart. I couldn’t contest the primes because I had so much fatigue in my legs, but I know how to corner so I stayed in the front. The two teams battled it out and eventually two guys stayed slightly away for first and second and I got 5th in the field.