Thursday, April 30, 2009 we come

This past week I paid my monthly homage to Empfield's Xantusia compound in the San Gabriel Mtns east of LA. The first three days were dedicated to bike fitting during Empfield's popular FIST-certification course and now this morning a crew of us are driving up to Wildflower.

I never thought I would race out at Wildflower. I liked the course and the overall vibe of the half-ironman race in St. Croix and went down there in both '05 and '06. The course was hot, hilly, and very laid back. In '07 I raced the Tour of the Gila bike stage race down in New Mexico and last year I decided on Wildflower so I could race for an upgrade and get my pro card. Despite being on opposite sides of the North America, St. Croix and Wildflower share more similarities than differences. Wildflower too is laid back, very hilly, and easy going.

The folks who live here at Xantusia compose a "who's who" in the history of Wildflower. Yesterday after a noon swim break from the bike fitting workshop, Mark "Monty" Montgomery took me and Bjorn to a small, family-run Mexican joint before heading back to the house. While munching down our burritos, he told how he had been directed off course in the very first running of the event while holding a massive lead off the bike. The winner listed in the history books was the second best man on the day, Dean Harper, but Monty has the lifelong sympathy of race director Terry Davis who acknowledged the course direction mishap. Incredibly, Monty went on to race in at least 20 consecutive Wildflowers until his heart went bad. However, not being able to race hasn't slowed him down and this year he will be driving up to Lake San Antonio to provide LIVE feeds to Empfield who will provide color commentary on Make sure to check it out!

The Bjorn in the paragraph above is legendary Swedish-über-biker Bjorn Andersson. He won the race two years ago and finished in the top 7 again last year. This is a testament to the difficulty of the bike course. In a day now when many former short-course athletes from the ITU and non-drafting classics are turning over to half-ironman racing, to have a cyclist winning these races is in many ways a flashback in time to the days of Wolfgang Dittrich and Jurgen Zack.

Jordan "Rappstar" Rapp will round out our possé driving up to the race. This guy has been a constant mover in the long-course world this past year. Most recently, he captured 3rd place at Ironman Arizona last November and won the SuperSeal race in late March on the Navy SEALs base. He is looking lean and fit and will likely have a great performance in the hills of Wildflower.

I'm excited about the possibilities this weekend. I'm coming off three good cycling weekends and am feeling strong on the bike. This run course is very tough and not for the faint of heart. I raced last year as an elite amateur and finished second overall to Nick Thompson, but now this year we will both toe the line in the pro race. I am just looking forward to putting my head down and working hard all race and see how I have improved over the last year.

It's been hard being away from Em and the pups this past week and I wish she could have been out here to race this weekend too. I really wish she could have acted as my swimmer on Saturday as she is tearing up the fast lane at Flatirons these days.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Deer Trail RR

I'll post more later but currently I am not listed in the race results from yesterday's Deer Trail road race. It's nearly a two hour drive back to Boulder so Em and I didn't stay around for the results to be posted after the race yesterday so I only found out now.

It was a tough race yesterday, lots of exposure over terrain similar to Iowa and Minnesota, and that means lots of rolling hills. A group of nine of us managed to pull away from the peloton and with 20-k to go, a group of five of us broke away. We worked together until the last kilometer, said good race to one another and then sprinted up the final hill to find out the final pecking order. I launched the early sprint and then let up to give up the lead out to another rider. Greg Kraus, who did a lot of work out there on the road today, put in a great effort and jumped too far ahead to pick up his wheel. Another former pro triathlete, Nate Llerandi, also put in a lot of hard work on the road, grabbed Greg's wheel and crossed in second. I managed to pick off two of the riders and crossed in third place.

Today is the Haystack TT in town, a 16.5-mile course. I did some good recovery last night using the NormaTec MVP, a compression recovery tool popularized by the Garmin Slipstream and Astana cycling teams. My legs are feeling a bit tired from all the work in yesterday's race, but I'm going to give the TT a good go today.

Em is off to the pool now for Jane Scott's 1.5-hour Sunday swim practice. It should be a quieter crowd today with a lot of the usual suspects racing at St. Anthony's today.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Lab Rat

Two weeks ago I scheduled an appointment to visit Dr. Inigo San Millan, to run a series of human performance standard tests at his CU-Denver lab. Wednesday was my day with Dr. San Millan and I learned a lot from the US-educated, Basque-native former medical director for pro cycling teams including Astana, Saunier-Duval, ONCE and individual riders like TdF winner Alberto Contedor.

The last time I had performed any lab tests was nearly six years ago when I was living in Belgium and was required to get a battery of tests completed to participate in Belgian Tri Federation races. Dr. San Millan administered a similar test in terms of the equipment used, and parameters measured, however his protocol for testing was far different from the cardiology-based test I had received years earlier.

The biggest difference was the length of time during the test at which he kept me cycling under specific watts/kilogram loads. He explained his reason for keeping this level at 10 minutes was because at 4 or 6 minute intervals, few distinctions could be made between Rider A and Rider B. However, you can see distinct differences when the intervals near 10 minutes in length.

I can't give out all the secrets on the values we found or his recommendations as to my current fitness levels, but I will say it was quite an enlightening process. His major goals with each athlete are to ensure an athlete is not overtraining or drastically underperforming and he does this by closely monitoring blood. He suggested two tests each season for any athletes, serious or rec, as he nearly always sees athletic performance diminish during the summer months during the peak months of the racing season.

I've posted a short video of my test you can see by clicking on the title of this blog entry.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Front Range Cycling Classic

"Be a short dog in tall grass until last climb."

Those were the last words of wisdom I was texted by a friend before yesterday's 51-mile road race down on the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

I call him a friend because he knows my methods all too well. I'm a triathlete by nature, what can I say! I get a bit antsy when the peloton is too big, especially when there are hills involved in the course and I like to break things up.

Halfway through the 4-loop rolling hill course, that also hosted the '86 world championship road race, I forgot this wisdom, got on the front of the peloton and drove hard up the steepest climb. Even though the group shattered and dissolved from 90-plus riders down to a select group of 11, I likely extended myself too much. Throughout the next 1.5 laps, I continued to antagonize the remaining riders with perky efforts in both the flats and on the climbs, even convincing fellow triathlete, XTERRA pro Brandon Rakita, to take stabs at the front with me in an effort to further splinter the remaining front group.

During these efforts and within the last five miles, I started cramping pretty bad. It was probably a combination of the 5 hour energy shot, the pot of coffee, the lack of water, and the Red Bull I had on the drive down from Boulder, but nonetheless, it was happening. My legs locked when the winning move was made and I played the part of a cracked rider trying to hold his s*&t together. I did manage to recover in the lead up to the final three climbs towards the finish and worked together with another Boulder local from the Excel team to pick off a few riders who started to fade. In the end, a group of four, including Brandon, stayed away and I crossed the line in 8th or 9th (results aren't posted yet).

Talking with Brandon after the race, he mentioned the course is part of their local Sunday group ride and it was obvious he was strong and knew the course well. He finished 4th on the day and shows he will be ready for a good showing on the XTERRA tour this year.

A quick shout out to another former XTERRA pro Greg Kraus who let me stash my car keys and passport in his car after the guards at the base gate wouldn't let my car on since I had left my license at home (shhhhh). Instead, I got a nice three mile uphill warm up ride to the starting area, thinking I was going to have to race with constant rattling in my pockets. Greg showed he is back and riding strong after breaking his collarbone in the final 200 meters at Valley of the Sun in Phoenix in February while leading in the GC standings. Like many other XTERRA pros, he has decided to focus on bike racing this year as the racing organization has changed their allocation of prize money, spreading it thin and expanding their US race tour, forcing athletes to spend more money on traveling with less available money to earn.

Next up is Deer Trail road race next weekend (hopefully some of my VeloNews team members will show up to race) and then Wildflower 1/2. I need to start running!!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

one day in Fruita

This is one BAMF! He's my old (and yes, he is old!) colleague from my previous working stint at Inside Communications, which is now Competitor Group. At the time, Mark Gouge (Gougie) and I were the ad sales team for Inside Triathlon magazine. We shared office space with the ad sales guys at Velo News magazine and so the crew of us become a tight knit group. Once each year, typically in the spring, we ventured off the beaten path and took an ad pit retreat into the mountains in hopes of finding warmer weather and some sweet singletrack.

The pic above shows Gougie standing by the site of the most horrifying crash I have witnessed in person. Me, Gougie and Nick Ramey were all jostling for position and doing what guys do best and trying to drop one another out on the trail. Gougie pecked his way in front of Nick and I and was tearing through the singletrack like a man possessed until he jumped off a rock ledge with too much gusto and smacked head first into the stone wall he is standing in front of in this picture. Nick and I were only 5 to 10 meters behind but we halted at the ledge and watched in horror as we thought we had just witnessed Gougie end his life.

We rushed down to him and Nick bent down and picked him up by his shoulder...POP. The good news was Gougie was alive and without any head or spine trauma. The bad news, he had severely separated his shoulder and broken his collar bone.

As the 6 or 7 other riders trickled in and saw Gougie cussing up a storm (not to mention he was trying to convince anyone who would listen that he could mount his bike again and ride it back to the trailhead), we knew he had to get back and get medical attention before he lost his mind.

Enter Saint Greg Thomas. Greg was Gougie's ex-teammate during their adventure racing days and had competed in an Eco Challenge so we gave him the task of ushering Gougie back to the trailhead where our cars were parked. This was only two or three miles, but walking along while tending to a gimpy arm and balancing two mountain bikes would take them over an hour.

For better or worse, Gougie made the rest of us finish the rest of our scheduled loop, and we not only finished it, but still caught them before they reached the cars.

Fast forward nearly three years and this BAMF had the cojones to travel back to the site of his crash with his remarkable better-half, Beth, on their mountain bike vacation to Fruita this past week. I hope he shuddered when he saw this spot, but knowing Gougie, he was thinking how he wished Nick and I were there riding with him so he could outsprint us to the ledge before jumping and making a clean landing.**

Gougie, I'm eating another bowl of Jamaican Coconut ice cream in honor of you and your BAMF-ness!


** I just received a message from Beth on Facebook that Gougie crashed again this past weekend and may have broken a rib. No sympathy from this guy (or from Beth as far as I could tell)!