The Peloton of Despair

Refrain from throwing your bicycle in public. It shows poor upbringing.
-Jacquie Phelan

I guess it takes time to accomplish something, no matter what that something is...but that does not make it any less easier or less you get older, you feel things should happen much more quickly since time is a much more obvious and precious to me it is difficult to not feel a sense of despair...despair because while you are more conscious of time and try to figure out ways to accomplish something more quickly, the reality is that it still takes there no way around this, I don't have that much time to spare...

I have started doing a weekly group ride in order to help bridge the time to become a stronger faster rider...the hope is that apart from my team training, riding at a race pace with a competitive group of strangers will help to develop the skills I need to make bike racing more fun and less frustrating...this ride advertises itself as a weekly fast paced competitive fun ride...yes it meets weekly, yes it is fast, yes it is very competitive, but I am still waiting for Fun...where is the godamn Fun...I have cussed, cried, sweated, and bled in these races, team and group rides, but am starting to think that Fun does not is elusive at best...perhaps Fun is there but it is at the front of the pack urging me to ride harder...but wait, if Fun is already up in front, what is the use of waiting...since I still get dropped on the big climbs, and fall off the back when the pace really picks up, perhaps the reality is that I will never get to where Fun is...Fun is with the breakaway or just over the top of the hill drafting the leaders, not even looking back over its should to see where I am... so those of us left behind will never bridge the gap...we may as well just sit-up and wait to be swept up by the peloton of despair...

arrgghhh...these are the thoughts that make you want to un-clip from the pedals and toss your bike into the grass much like Bjarne Riis did in the 1997 Tour De France...maybe Fun is hiding in the brush and my one chance to catch it is to knock it out with my ultra-light bike that in concept was suppose to help me have Fun...well for Bjarne, he is a pro and this stopped being fun for him years ago...maybe he too is searching for the same thing...but every time I see that video clip I can't think how silly he looks...

but I guess this is where you take a few breaths and become a bit more takes time to be able to assemble and develop the attributes required to accomplish anything of lasting is the time it takes to learn something that gives it meaning as well as making it more precious over time...this is where the Fun is...all these cats have already figured this out...there is no magic here...they know it is all about the time...there is no other is the time spent doing it that is the apart from the odd twenty year old freak riding a $10K bike, everyone else you are riding with has been in your place at one time or another and knows that Fun can be caught just by enjoying your time on the bike...

Repeat that? No way...

“I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle."
-- Zen proverb

This is exactly why I do it...really no other reason is needed. All of the so-called training and goal setting is all just a ruse to ride my bike....sure I dig it when people tell me I am looking fit...or are impressed when I say I am racing or just rode 100 miles...but would I still ride my bicycle if nobody noticed or cared...damn straight I fact I just kind of gives it a sense of purpose and heightened level of excitement...but it is not is this underlying desire just to ride that will make me try to avoid intervals and hill-repeats and all of those repetitive exercises people use when training to race...I think routines like that kind of suck most of the fun out of riding, and I kind of feel prevented me from racing in the first place...I always assumed that you had to do those things to race...but you can race to race...just like riding to ride, or eating to eat...working to work is dumb, that one I will avoid...but to quote DJ "The circuit to me is better than repeats as repeats give no rhythm relative to riding...too monotonous..." so work it all in to the ride...I get it...don't have to repeat that to me a second time.

After the race is before the race...

"Don't be afraid of going fast and getting hurt. (You can always wear black stockings to cover up the scars!)." — Marla Streb

Race #2 is history, time to prepare for Race #3.

The Team rides and trains together during the week, but to meet at 5:50am (yes AM) in Central Park...that is rough...that requires a big life change to be able to make those sessions...I am not ready for that yet...I work in White Plains, so I will have to get a bit crafty on how to make this training thing work with a mix of weekend team rides and weekday solo...over the past couple of years I have been bringing my bike to work and try to ride 2-3 days/week...but now I have to make those rides count not so much in miles, but intensity...simply I have to learn to ride faster...

Tuesday: Hill circuit...hills keep you honest...
  • option 1: 7 mile loop with 1200' of climbing...two hills  are over 2 miles in length and have a grade of 4-11%...more 14 miles would be 2400' of climbing, lap takes 25-30 minutes.
  • option 2: Whipperwill road....1900' of climbing over 28 miles...a longer climb (5 miles)

    Wednesday: Recovery...either ride or run...
    Thursday: Group ride with the Westchester Cycle Club...a fun but aggressive ride...some hard efforts and sprints and a few climbs...some efforts on the flats are at race pace (24mph) but they regroup on the climbs
    Saturday: Race or hard ride...or both
    Sunday: Ride to Piermont for coffee and muffins (recovery with some effort)

    Will do this a few weeks and see how it helps...

    Race #2

    "When the pack breaks, and it will break, it is better to be the weakest rider in the first group then the strongest rider in the second.” – Anon.

    24 miles around Central Park (4 laps) ...a tad faster than last week...still did not finish with the main group, but it was is how it unfolded:

    Getting to the park in the wee hours of the morning is kind of surreal...streets are very quiet except for the cabs racing each other for the remaining fares of the night...the only people on the streets are dog walkers and the dirty stayouts from Friday night trying to catch those cabs...and they love to slur words of encouragement as you ride by...and you get to play the ever popular game pothole, puddle, manhole cover...I was on this morning and got them all right.

    Race starts and the dude in front can't clip in...I have to unclip so to avoid hitting I have to sprint out of the gate to catch up to the field...first lap takes 15:51 minutes, avg 22mph...not too bad...I hung in the middle, not very eventful...second lap the pace picks up to 15:15 @23mph...I felt a bit bolder this morning being a veteran now with one race behind me...I actually moved up to the is a lot safer up there, especially if you keep in amongst the NYVelocity squad...there are certainly a lot of them...I was able to keep that position for the duration of the lap...third lap seems to be my pitfall...on the descent past the skating rink I was hugging the outside corner coming into Harlem Hill, trying to keep my position, when I hit a patch of gravel@30mph...the back wheel slid to the left and I went into a skid then a wobble...this sucks I thought to myself...but I should probably try not my brain made an SOS call to fire off the synapses that hopefully would help me not crash...I wound up in the joggers lane with the curb looming to my left and cones to my right and a sharp left turn a few seconds away...not a whole lot of room to work with the brain recommended that I ease off the brakes and just let the bike settle itself...voila...good job brain...I managed to pull it together and get back on the road proper and most importantly, not crash...but I lost a lot of speed coming into the hill and once again missed the back of the pack on the climb...I was able to power my way up, but I was dropped...oh well, I knew the drill so started to get into my own rhythm and do my customary solo lap and a half to the finish...but this time on my way I kept passing other dropped rides and using my best organizing skills assembled a group of 10 or so riders...after a bit of coercing I was able to get them into a semi-functional pace line and we actually worked together for the remainder of the race...our pace was about 15 minutes/lap or 22mph and we managed to stay together...I did have to shout for them to rotate off the front, but it all worked out int he end...the 10 grew to about 16 or so as we headed around...we even picked up a couple of dudes from the B we approached the line the group started to break apart and jockey for position... we were going to have our own mini-race to the line...what guy jumped (FDNY squad) and I grabbed his wheel...two other guys pulled to the right of us and took off as well...I went too soon, pulled ahead only to have FDNY and NYVelocity go and get a couple of bike lengths in front of me...damn...I finished 3rd...what fun. Can't wait for next time...

    Race #1

    “Am I off the front, or off the back?” – Anon.
    First, it was sofa-king cold this morning...I picked the worst day for my first race of the season...but I said I was going to do it…was signed up…I could not not do it...I finished, and was not so egregiously dropped at the end...and there was no DNF in my racing is how it unfolded:

    Butterflies in my stomach the night before, it took some time to fall asleep...had to wake up at 5am to be at the start line and sign in by 6am...race start was at 6:30am...four laps around CP.
    First lap was not so bad...was in the middle of the pack on the flats and was able to get decent position on the climbs, especially Harlem Hill...I am still weak on the flats and need to really learn how to hold a wheel, and what I learned towards the end, to pick a good person to be behind on a climb...
    After the first lap the race settled a bit and I was just trying to get a feel of things and keep an eye out for any problems...AHR was at was on the next to last lap that things fell apart for me...the dude I was pacing behind up Harlem Hill had a bad shift...he slowed abruptly, the sound of his chain stubbornly searching for a smaller gear on his rear cassette sent shivers down my already frozen spine...he veered to the left, and a few of us shot to the right to avoid hitting him which forced us to slow down...that was all it took for me to no longer be part of the soon as I had my wheel facing back up the hill I stood on the pedals to pick up some speed, I looked up to see the peloton disappear around the corner...I tried to quickly recover lost ground but I felt like I was standing still as the group ebbed out of my sight...I was riding as fast as I could, but I was the crest of the hill I looked down and saw a roadkill squirrel and thought yup, you and I both left for thing I knew I had four riders around me, all victims of the guy with the yellow CRCA jersey...and he even had the nerve to join up with our group of new found friends and I worked together for about a lap and as we approached Harlem Hill again for the last time, they decided they were going to cut across and bypass the hill...screw that I told them, I am going to finish my last lap was was very windy but I soldiered on...Was lapped by the  Cat Pro-1-2-3 group about a mile before the finish, so pulled to the right to let the lead riders through, then caught the last wheel and finished with the A field and passed the dude in the yellow CRCA jersey and the other stragglers who bypassed Harlem Hill...but it was still a marvelous day...I raced, and can't wait for the next one...hopefully it will be a tad bit warmer.

    Getting Ready for Race #1 part B

    "When pedaling, think fast feet.  Make sure your feet are moving fast" -LL

    Genius advice...I am not kidding.

    Getting Ready for Race #1 part A

    "Enough with this Sunday stroll...let's hurt a little bit." — American Flyers

     Everyone is asking me when I am going to answer is ambiguous...I am not sure...I have to admit I am scared...the training rides are hard...riding in a group is hard...riding in a group fast is hard...riding in a group fast with everyone trying to get in front of you is even harder...I want to at least be able to finish...I do not want a DNF as my first race statistic...I want to be ready...So I want my first race to be in June...preferably in 2011 (that was a joke)...after much mental torture I decided March 23rd would be as good a day as any...racers are telling me that the best way to prepare for racing is to race...fine...I have 4 weeks to prepare...first thing I realized is that my riding to this point was at a recreational pace...that would not cut now each ride has a goal...determine before the ride what the point of the ride is...keep the HR in the correct zones...if it is a recovery ride, recover...if it is tempo or above, it better feel like it.  No more Sunday strolls, unless of course it is Sunday.

    I am going to race...

    So i start telling Everyone that I am going to race...Everyone is aware of my obsession with cycling so it comes as no surprise to some,  but probably best I don't know what Everyone is thinking...but Everyone is very that Everyone knows, I can't back out now...what would Everyone say?...that was part of the plan...

    Team Jordan-Zephyr

    BY: "if you want to race, I know a guy who is putting together a race development team.
    EW: " wow, that could be think I could get in?"
    BY: "Not sure...give him a call"

    EW: " DJ?  Hi, I am EW.  BY told me you are putting together a dev team...any more room"
    DJ: " Sure, come on our next team ride this Saturday...and what size are you? I am ordering the team kits"

    9am on Jan 23 on the west side of the GWB...just above freezing...a group of about 8 riders, most meeting for the very first face greetings...DJ tells us what the ride will be for the day...TT up River Road, sprint to the State Line, race pace up Ashburn Road, some other thing up some other road then back to Alpine for another sprint to the State Line...none of this really registers to me...I am starting to realize that I am out of my league so I just nod in agreement...I'm just hoping I can find my way back to 9W once I am dropped from the ride...what happened next was the fastest 31 mile bike ride I was ever heart spent 90% of its time at 90% of its capacity...I sucked wheel for most of the ride...and yes, I was dropped on the Alpine climb and sprint to the state line...but I did not care...I was having a great time...

    Bike Nostalgia

    The Past
    • 1973 Raleigh Grand Prix  with Suntour gruppo…acquired in 1977 stolen in Prospect Park 1979
    • 1977 Raleigh Team with Suntour gruppo…hit by car…acquired in 1979…broken frame 1983
    • 1975 Raleigh Cartlon track bike…acquired in 1983…left it somewhere in 1983
    • 1980 Centurion LeMans with Shimano gruppo…acquired in 1985…hit by forklift…broken frame in 1991
    • 1991 Bianchi Argentin  with Shimano gruppo (my first new bike ever)…acquired in 1991…sold in 2004
    • 2005 Bianchi Giro with Shimano gruppo…acquired in 2004 sold in 2009

    The Present
    • 2009 Tommasini Sintesi with Campy Super Record 11 gruppo…acquired in 2009
    • 2003 Pinarello Prince with Campy Pro-fit Record…my “race bike”…acquired in 2010

    The Plan

    SImple, I will just do what the master said to do:

    "Ride lots." — Eddy Merckx

    The rationale

    #1 (romantic) My Uncle raced.  He and his brother raced for the Long Island Wheelmen’s Association and from what he told me, did quite well.  The only ones I can document now are his 1940 win of the GBSC 100 mile road race and the 1945 50-miler CRCA scratch race.  As a kid I spent lots of time with him in his crazy basement with his collection of news articles, photos, jerseys, and especially the bikes.  He had several that were kept hanging on the basement wall, just begging for someone to ride them…he also had a collection of 16mm films from some of the European races in places with names I was convinced he was making up (Ghent?  Wevelgem?  Vlaanderen?)…and of course my favorite, Paris Roubaix…the mud, the dirty faces, the clenched teeth, the suffering...I want to suffer.

    #2 (fatalistic):  I am getting old and this is my midlife crisis…

    I think it was something I read

    “Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.”  Tim Krabbe

     Why do I want to race?  I think it was something I read.  Several years ago I picked up a copy of Tim Krabbe's 'The Rider' and it made me want to ride again...actually, I wanted to race again, but this time for real.  What is the best way to get started?...duh, buy a bike and start riding...

    fast forward seven  years...

    2009 I logged over 3,000 miles on the bike...rode more centuries then I can remember but all recreational rides...they were fun, but something was still missing...

    I want to race…I am tired of being a non-racer.  I was almost a racer...over twenty years ago I rode in a couple of races in Prospect Park with some was fun, I think...I may be getting old, but I am in decent shape...i can ride faster now then I could back why not?

    …I have been riding bikes almost as long as I can walk…from pretend motorcycle bike riding, to epic rides through the Gunks in New York, I have always loved bicycles.  I have ridden for pleasure, for commuting, to get away, I even spent a summer working as a NYC bike messenger, but never raced against a bunch of people...well what I really mean is that I never raced against someone who actually knew I was racing them….Why haven’t I?  What have I been waiting for...Too many excuses…until now.  Now that I am 44 I figure if I really want to do this, this could be the last opportunity to try …so you know what?  I am going to do it.