Monday, March 24, 2014

The Process

S - 21,300 yards
B - 141 miles (2hrs MTB)
R - 54.5 miles

Time - 21.32 hours

The process of getting better can really drag on you. I think that's why I sometimes try so hard to find positives in what is really a pretty mundane and boring existence.  I wake up and go to the pool.  I swim. I eat breakfast.  I go to work.  I workout after work.  I eat dinner. I go to bed. The weekends are not weekends because I just remove the "job" element and spend both days training.  Or driving to training.  Or driving from training. Or eating. Maybe napping.

It's a lot of work to get better.  I've watched people that are really good become incapable of handling the mental strain of the "process."  The knowledge that to really improve takes a LOT of work and takes a LONG time is too much for some people.  They need to get better NOW.  I need to be training for my September Ironman NOW. Or my November half. Or whatever.  Insert random-key-race-a-long-time-from-now.

Mid-ride aerobar semi-selfie

I've written this before, but my training in 2011 is impacting my training now.  My biking in 2012 is helping me bike now.  The amount I swam in 2013 is helping my swim pace now.

There is a big difference between acute training load and chronic training load.  CTL is what really makes the differences year after year.  Day after day, month after month, year after year of consistent training.

So this week was just another step in the process.  I had some great swim workouts, some mediocre run workouts and some good biking.  I broke my first ever chain on Sunday out at the Whitewater Center, which was most unfortunate only because it shortened my ride.  I was shooting for some Strava PR's on my second lap but 'twas not to be.

I actually find Strava quite useful for trail riding.  I do not have a powermeter on my mountain bike (ultimate #firstworldproblems whine right there) so being able to track lap/segment times is actually pretty useful.  For example, on this particular ride I pushed the Lake Loop pretty hard and was rewarded with a good segment time.  I can then compare it to previous times I've had on that particular loop and guess that: "hey, I WAS actually working pretty hard."

On another note, I got some coffee this morning.  I was fresh out of a 5000+ yard workout (fresh being a relative term) and had just popped into the grocery store.  I went to a coffee shop in "Dilworth" that share that namesake.  I am not a fan of coffee shop attitude.  Like your coffee is sooOOOoo much better and your location is SOOOooooOOO much better.  I do enjoy the coffee, but don't act like your beans and brews are God's gift to humans.  I then went home for a bit to do some work and when the appointed time arrived headed in to the store.  I stopped at Dunkin Donuts.

100 times better.

Took some video this weekend.  My fit looks pretty good.  I am pleased with the switch to 165mm crankarms and overall I'd say I look comfortable, fast and powerful.

Jenny's fit also looks good, although she probably needs a bit more reach.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Garmin Vector Review

Bicycling is expensive. Stating the obvious is only necessary in this context because we're talking about one of the most expensive gadgets you can buy in this sport.  Other than the bikes and the wheels, the powermeter is the most ridiculous option you can add to your bike.

First and foremost, for the most ridiculous and in-depth product reviews on the internet, point your mouse over to DC Rainmaker's review of the Vector Pedals and all his other reviews; you will not be disappointed. I cannot offer that kind of detailed perspective and analysis that he can.  It's pretty incredible.

Why should you want to train with power, you ask? Well, there are a myriad of reasons.  Any time you are NOT training with power, you are simply guessing.  If you use heart rate you are still mostly guessing. If you are using rate of perceived exertion (RPE) you are still just guessing.  If you want to DIRECTLY measure effort, the powermeter is the only way to fly.  Being able to, through testing and accumulated training, exactly determine your power capabilities over varying lengths of time (for example, knowing what you can sustain for 2.5hrs for when you are planning a 70.3 race plan) is invaluable when it comes to racing.  As Brian says, proper pacing is racing.

I've also encountered some people who TRAIN with power (i.e. computrainer programs but JUST indoor training or powertap for training but no race wheel setup or option) but do not race with power.  That is like brushing your teeth but with no toothpaste.  It is like making a sandwich but with no filling.  It's like having wheat without the germ. It is like a pen with no ink. It just doesn't make sense.  What is the point of such precise training without being able to prescribe it to your racing?

Well, for a lot of people they don't have that many options.  Crank-based power "seems" too expensive (and you have to buy a whole new crankset), crankarm based power readings seem suspect (Stages, looking at you), hub options mean racing wheels are "compromised."  So the Garmin Vector pedals have long been awaited with much anticipation.

A pedal system seems like an ideal solution to many issues.

1) Easy to swap between bikes
2) Lightweight
3) Can use whatever crank (with one or two exceptions) and wheels desired
4) A Garmin product, so must be legit
5) TRUE left/right balance (not calculated)

There is also the possibility of other cool things due to the nature of being able to apply updates:

1) Being able to apply firmware updates as they are released

This is pretty huge.  Garmin updates firmware for its various products on a relatively consistent basis and for the most part dramatically improves the user interface and analysis metrics.  For example, earlier this month Garmin released a big update for the Vector pedals and created, among other things, two new power metrics:

1) Torque Effectiveness
2) Pedal smoothness

Whether or not those are useful metrics is relatively irrelevant to the VALUE of the pedals, it is relevant to the fact that as Garmin Software Developers continue to create new and better ways of using the pedals (or anything Garmin related, i.e. head units and Garmin Connect software) the users can actually take advantage of that in-house.  No sending in of the powermeter is necessary as with (as far as I know) all other power options.

All that is hypothetical however.  What really matters is whether or not they WORK.  Before the pedals were actually released and as I watched the first couple of pairs get installed for customers at Inside Out Sports I was a bit apprehensive as to the aforementioned workability/livability/usability.  I worried that the average customer/user would be overwhelmed by the "swappability" of pedals and assume that it was as "easy" as swapping a normal set of pedals between bikes.  It is imperative to the function of the powermeter IN the pedals that torque be applied evenly and appropriately to the pedal tightening.  In doing so, one must also have the correct number of pedal washers installed, such that the pedal pod does not contact any part of the crankarm.

The slightly dirty crankarm/pod/spindle interface

 So while that sounds somewhat complicated (it isn't) and intimidating (it isn't in reality) if the user follows the great step-by-step directions in the user manual and/or references helpful videos online the process is extremely simple and straightforward.

I have become more mechanically inclined over the past two years.  I used the Powertap system for 2 years (swapping between bikes, installed disc covers, removing and installing cassettes), and a Quarq system currently for ~16 months (swapping crankset between road and tri bikes with different bottom bracket standards, become more familiar with adapter products and proper install procedures).  I have built my own bikes and worked on them for the past couple of years as well.  So I am fairly familiar with modern bicycles and their mechanics (to a degree).  The Garmin Vector pedal set is NOT difficult to install.  Be careful, follow directions, and swapping between bikes is a cinch.

Once installed (and assuming you have a nearly ubiquitous Garmin head unit) set up and calibration is very simple.  It is similar to other powermeters and is completely straightforward.  Following on-screen prompts (and again, reading the manual!) makes it quick and you are very rapidly on your way.

Now the important part: does it work for its intended use?

The short answer is yes.

The long(er) answer is to suggest heading over to DC Rainmaker's full on review to get an idea of EXACTLY why it works.  All I can provide is a little more user experience than the average power user and a willingness to blog about it...

You're basically going to have a couple of different ways of looking at this.  The Vector pedals are MOST similar in terms of watt number to a crank-based system.  A powertap is going to read a bit lower than both.  This is simply because the powertap (hub) is further "downstream."  It is reading power at the hub versus power at the crank versus power at the pedals.  This makes sense then, that the Vector PEDALS and the Quarq CRANK (spider) will read extremely close.  They are both the "nearest" to the actual source of the power (your legs).  What the Vector offers that the Quarq cannot is the ability to truly MEASURE both sides of your power production.  The Quarq basically divides the pedal stroke into halves and assumes that one half is due to your left leg and one half is due to your right.  This CAN be correct, but it can also not be correct.

As you can see, it provides a scatter plot representation of your L/R balance over the duration of the ride. According to this chart, I slightly bias my pedal stroke to the left (it also gives it to you as a % i.e. L/R 52%/48%).  What do I do with this information? To be honest, nothing really.  I am not going to change the way I pedal to try and get 50/50 or do one-legged drills to "bring my other leg up to strength." That is simply not going to change no matter how hard you work.  But that's bringing in a whole other argument.  Do your one-legged drills if you want or your big gear work; it doesn't really help you physiologically.

Is it reliable?

Yes, yes it is. Other than changing the batteries (which, like the Quarq, is extremely simple; I had the older version of the PT and it was definitely more involved - 5mins vs 2mins haha) I have had zero issues over 6+ weeks of use.  The pedals have been consistently recognized (the pods, basically) by the head unit, the pedals have transmitted properly to the head unit, the head unit has read what seem to be "correct" wattages.
I haven't had any issues with dropouts and if I didn't tell you (or, for example, coach Brian), nobody would know I am using a different power measurement device than my Quarq).  Readings are steady and reliable and the data has been completely perfect.  Well, I'd like to have MORE watts but hey, it's March!

Another great thing about the Vector pedals is the fact that they are, by and large, replaceable.  In any crash, the things most likely to hit the ground and suffer the result of an impact are:

1) You (expensive)
2) Handlebars (can be expensive, can be cheap)
3) Pedals (not expensive with Shimanos...)
4) Skewers (not expensive)
5) Rear Derailleur (can be expensive, can be cheap)

Now, in the context of this review, we want to focus on #3.  Pedals. Garmin Vector pedals are expensive; there is no doubt about that.  At $1699 they represent the "middle of the road" in terms of powermeter price spectrum.  A lot of potential users balked at the idea of a pedal based power system because of # 3 mentioned above.

First, lettuce go to the Vector page on Garmin's website.  As you can see, they are already changing the way you buy the pedals.  The drop-down menu only has one option (for now) of what has heretofore been the sole option from a crankarm thickness standpoint.  But soon they will offer two options that should encompass ALL crankarm thicknesses (Specialized, Rotor Flow, etc).

You may worry that you will hit your pedal.  Well, not to worry, the pedal body is replaceable! Any Look pedal system would suffer the same risk and be replaced at roughly the same cost.

You may worry that you will hit your pod.  Well, if you installed them wrong this is a much bigger risk than it has to be.  But if you installed them right and STILL hit it and/or crack it upon assembly...GUESS WHAT!? Replaceable!!

You worry that your cleats will wear out...REPLACEABLE! Plus, they are Look system compatible.

I have done "normal" riding with the pedals and have also done some bike racing with the pedals.  In both situations the pedals performed flawlessly and I experienced no issues with "clipping" (racing leads to more aggressive situations and less attention to detail) as some have been worried about...

In the end, the Vector pedal system IS expensive.  But to me, it is the NORM for powermeter systems.  Insofar as you are concerned with an ACCURATE AND RELIABLE powermeter anyway, they are the norm (from an expense standpoint).

From a cost to benefit ratio, I would rank them very highly.  I only have experience with 3 systems so far in my career, but I really like these.  Ultimately, weighing the pros and cons of each system is imperative before making your choice.

Sram Quarq (Riken/Elsa/Red) $1599 - $2045

1) Crank-based
2) Limited crank arm length options (Riken model only goes to 170, no shorter)
3) Entirely new crankset
4) Use any wheels
5) Fits any bike

Garmin Vector Pedal System $1699

1) Pedal based
2) Any crank arm length (pending crankset choice...)
3) New pedals, only LOOK compatible
4) Use any wheels
5) Fits MOST bikes (fits ALL bikes soon)

Powertap (hub only/wheelset) $789 - $999

1) Hub based
2) Any crank arm length (pending crankset choice)
3) New rear wheel/wheelset
4) Must train AND race on rear wheel OR have a race PT rear wheel (if you want to actually have useful data)
5) Fits all bikes

There are other options out there.  SRM has been the "gold standard" for decades (two decades yet?) but is extremely expensive (and massively over-priced and over-valued in my opinion). Power2Max is a relative newcomer to the NA distribution network but has proven to be a good option (although no dealer sells them, which is a bit of a con in my biased opinion).  Stages is another option, but I would never personally consider it to be in league with any of the other aforementioned systems.

I would definitely purchase a Vector power pedal set.  I think it is a great option. I love the future-proof nature of its update system.  I love that various parts are replaceable. I love that it's accurate.  I love that it's consistent. I love that it's reliable. If you already have a good crankset (or are happy with your crankarm length) I think it's a fantastic option.

If you have any questions that I can try and answer, don't hesitate to ask them!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Burning the candle at both ends

S - 20,300 yards
B - 78 miles (1 very long mtb ride)
R - 51.9 miles

Time - 18.08 hours

Thankfully (at least, as of this moment in time) the title of this blog-post is not self-reflective.  It has, at various points in time, been a true statement in the context of the way I felt I was treating triathlon.  Now, however, I feel as though what I do is "manageable."

I remember when I first started the coaching relationship with Brian back in 2011 I was getting some serious work done.  From January to late March I was averaging ~20 hours a week (that is a true average, not a skewed average like a lot of people throw out) for 12+ straight weeks.  I remarked on this fact on facebook with something along the lines of:

"Total hours for the last 4 weeks: 90 hours" (or something like that)

My comment was probably generally perceived to be bragging and/or arrogant.  I understand where those people were coming from but they were wrong.  I was PROUD. If being proud of something means that mentioning it is taken as braggadocio or arrogance then I am not really sure what to tell those people that think that way.  It would be obvious that they do not really KNOW me, but that's ok.  Only a few people really get to know ME.

The point, however, of mentioning the hours total in this particular context was to remark on a comment that was made about it.  It was something along the lines of "Wow! Sounds like someone is headed for a June burnout!" I don't really remember who made the comment or what it was, specifically, but it has stuck with me for three years because it bothered me so much.

High volume (20+ hours a week) training requires, simply, a few things:

1) Consistency
2) Commitment
3) Availability

For the past 3+ years I have had all of those things.  I had (and still have) the available time to train 20 hours a week.  I have the available time to train 25 hours a week.  But somewhere in that spectrum I start to lose #2, a little bit of #3 and then #1 suffers.  If I didn't work, or just worked part-time, I'd have TIME for 30 hours a week.  But what would that do to #2? The idea of training full-time SOUNDS great, but then training becomes your job. Would I like it as much if it were ALL I did? Would you?

If you are smart (or have a smart coach), a burnout is not going to happen from a physical standpoint. A mental burnout is very possible.  Guess what happened in June? I didn't burn out, I just kept getting better.  I had enough time and sleep that my body could absorb that training load and improve, slowly, over long periods of time.  The same has been true for the last 3 years.

Each week brings with it an "adequate" training load that leaves me fatigued but in a "manageable" way.  If I felt overwhelmed I would talk about it with my coach.  I go through ebbs and flows from a mental/motivation standpoint but there are little things I do that make each day a little more enjoyable as a consequence of those actions...

1) ACT like I am having fun.  Sometimes this is forced, sometimes it is not forced.  Sometimes I do not act like I am having fun and maybe I am not.  But the point is that I generally TRY to have fun.

2) Do stuff that's different.  Lately that's been mountain biking.  Signing up for a mountain bike endurance event, signing up for my first XTERRA, etc.  Maybe for many triathletes it's a single sport event: swim meets, bike racing, run racing, etc.  Just do something DIFFERENT. Chances are that if you are reading this triathlon is not paying you a lot of money (guess what, I'm reading this myself too) so don't act like it is. It's NOT your job until you start making more money from triathlon racing than you do from your "real" job.

3) Wear fun clothes

4) I try to take each day as it comes from a workout standpoint.  There is no point in "pre-worrying" about training. The only thing it does is stress me out; I don't really like that. Manage your days, not your months or years.

One thing to keep in mind: I am 29 years old. I have not yet developed the full weight of "responsibilities" that can - and frequently do - exist for an "adult." I think my #4 would change "slightly" if I were in a different life situation. But I am not. I am who I am. You are reading this so you must have an idea of what my life is about, otherwise you wouldn't have found yourself here.  Everybody's #4 will be different depending on their life context.

When you start to burn your candle at both ends, life becomes a lot more stressful.  Managing your own expectations, plans, etc is imperative to maintaining a healthy life balance. I still do triathlons because they are fun.  I have gotten a lot faster and my goals have shifted slightly to accommodate my changes in speed but ultimately if I stopped having fun and enjoying the process I would stop racing triathlons. I do not view being good as validation.  I view it as important because I have shifted my life "track" to allow for the availability from a time perspective to be good.  But I wouldn't trade that for anything.

I don't have many friends outside of triathlon.  My work revolves around triathlon.  My mind revolves around triathlon. So yea, I'm pretty obsessive about it but I do my level best to not let it be all consuming.  I haven't burned out in 4 years and don't plan on doing it anytime soon. I try not to let my success or failure in workouts and races dictate my level of happiness.  Not always possible, but it helps to not think of them as "win or lose" events. Everything is a learning experience and the "business of life is the acquisition of memories."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Close Encounters of the Third-ish Kind

S - 19,400 yards
B - 159.9 miles
R - 46.7 miles

Time - 19.73 hours

Not a bad week, all in all. I had a widduw case of da snuffews towards the end of the week which meant I missed a bike ride but I swam one extra workout so I suppose in some ways it all works out in the end.

I am going to write about my week by writing about how much I hate ignorance.  Ignorance is NOT bliss.  Being ignorant or intolerant are inexcusable in today's world of immediate and readily accessible information.

That is a preface to my story.  I was in the process of completing the last 15 minutes of my Sunday ride (had been riding for ~3.5hrs at this point).  I was traveling along Selwyn Avenue in front of Queens University.

For those not familiar with this point here is what it looks like with no cars:

You can see the "sharrow" adjacent to the lane of travel adjacent to the parking lane (which is usually quite full of cars in the parking spots you can see on the screen shot.  Sharrows are designed to give a car and a cyclist proper indication of where the cyclist CAN ride.  When cars are parked on the right it is recommended that a cyclist travel at LEAST a door's width away from the parked car (in the sharrow).

It is the responsibility of the driver in the traveling vehicle to know that a cyclist is allowed to do that (ride the "red" line).  I was following this methodology and had gotten past the end of these parked cars to the point where the sharrows end (because the parking lane ends) and moved over to the right.

Basically as seen in the picture above.  Once that "lane" ends it is the responsibility of the cyclist to move to the right (as much as is safe).  The road out past the crosswalk is actually quite wide (1.75-2 lanes worth probably) so there is usually quite ample room for both cyclists and cars (even if cyclists choose to ride side-by side which IS NOT permissible under Mecklenburg County Laws but NCDOT does not designate specifically).

I was past the cross walk when I heard a loud acceleration and was passed extremely closely by a large white truck.  It seemed quite intentional (or a bad mistake) given that the other lane of travel was quite clear (as a sidenote, it is technically illegal to pass a cyclist and cross solid yellow lines) so I got a little upset about this.

My reaction was to accelerate and catch up to the vehicle when it arrived at a stop light at Selwyn and Queens Rd. I was aggravated and (while slightly "ahead" of the offending vehicle, who was 2nd or 3rd in line at the stoplight to cross Queens Rd) yelled at the driver (who had his windows down) to the effect of "You only gave me this much space!!! While holding my hands ~1ft apart.  I was upset and the driver yelled back at me something along the lines of "You only deserve THIS much space," while holding his hands a couple of inches of space.

That made me annoyed (to put it mildly) and when the light turned green I went across the intersection to continue on my way home down Selwyn.  As I reached the other side of Queens (on Selwyn, which now has a bike lane) I heard another loud engine acceleration and looked over my left shoulder to see the truck's front panel over my shoulder.

The intersection of Selwyn (southbound) and Queens Rd - red represents my line of travel
I yelled at the driver: "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT HAPPENS TO ME IF YOU HIT ME WITH YOUR TRUCK!?" and he responded by swerving (noticeably swerving) into me in the bike lane.  I put my left hand on his wheel-well panel as he "pushed" me further towards the curb.  At this point, his right wheel was easily half-way into the bike lane and I was riding that concrete "apron" you can see ~12'' of in the picture above.  We were not traveling fast at this point, but I was yelling pretty vociferously at this guy who was yelling back at me.  I could literally not believe this was actually happening in the middle of one of the most ridden intersections in Charlotte.  He eventually pulled off and accelerated south on Selwyn.

I was then passed by an SUV with the windows down who gave me a very wide berth (thank you) and I really wanted to ask him if he'd be a witness but he did not look at me at all or offer any kind of acknowledgement.

In another bright moment I managed to catch back up to the vehicle in question while stopped at the red light on Selwyn at Woodlawn.  The driver was continuing straight on Selwyn and I pulled in behind him and took out my camera.  Unfortunately my phone/camera was in a zip-loc bag but I pretended like I was taking a picture of his vehicle from behind while also memorizing his license plate number.

As I was looking at my phone behind him he opened the sliding rear window of his truck and say "This is for you mother f***er" as he gave me (and the camera he was assuming) the middle finger.  I told him he had a nice license plate number and that he was a big guy in that big truck.  He responded by saying I was giving cyclists a bad name and that he had video of me too (as a sitenote, video of me what...obeying the rules of the road?? wtf? and ME giving CYCLISTS a bad name? I'll admit cyclists can be ridiculous when it comes to cars but I was doing NOTHING that could resemble pushing the envelope of the law).  I was sure he was lying but I was kind of in disbelief at the whole situation.

Just before the green light he ended our wonderful interaction with a:

"Suck my d*** you fa****"

I found it interesting THAT is what he said at the very end.  Some latent homophobic tendencies come out and all of a sudden this turns attempted assault with a deadly weapon (his vehicle) into a hate crime.

All in all, I was pretty mad about this.  I don't generally get particularly confrontational and a cyclist never wins against a car but it is just SO FRUSTRATING the number of drivers who are completely ignorant of the rules of the road as it relates to cyclists. I have the RIGHT to my space on the road whereas they simply have the PRIVILEGE of driving.  Driving a vehicle is not a right they/we are owed.  It is something you EARN.  Clearly, a majority of the population do not deserve that privilege.

I went through the proper steps online to report an aggressive driver but there is not much else I can do since I have no video evidence or witness testimony.

It was a white quad-cab/crew-cab Chevrolet Silverado (late model) with the license plate number CP-8086 Weighted in the state of NC.  The drive was a middle aged Caucasian with long, dark hair and sunglasses.  He also had a fat middle finger.

Moving on is usually the best option.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Some stones are best left...turned

I was thinking about this yesterday after YET ANOTHER example of what I consider to be completely unacceptable male behavior.  I say "male behavior" because this "stone" is one I have only experienced around other dudes.  I have never had the great mis-fortune (or maybe it can be fortunate? I suppose it depends) to experience this among the ladies.

I am speaking to the locker room behavior of guys.  Altogether too often I have been forced to have conversations with a naked dude.  Some guys seem to think it is appropriate to converse with my while standing completely nude.  Chattering away like some sort of weird naked chatter box while I am forced to look everywhere but down does NOT make for a pleasant conversation.

There are situations where nudity and conversations is somewhat "acceptable." If you and I are changing clothes and conversing about something and, as it so happens, during the course of that conversation nudity happens due to the changing of the clothes than that is a perfectly acceptable case of "nude convo."

Those types of situations are innocent and as a consequence not regarded as a breaking of the James Nudity Law.  What are NOT innocent, however, are the face to face interactions where one person (or one side of the conversation) is completely nude.

What's even more incredible is when the person has a towel, but refused to use it to cover themselves.  The towel is placed over a shoulder while the hands are placed on the hips and the conversation is about some mundane topic and all I want to say is "PUT YOUR DAMN TOWEL ON!"

It's almost like a challenge. Maybe the other guy is challenging me to look down.  Saying (with his eyes): "I DARE you to look down. I'm talking about baseball but I am DARING you to look below my nose."

Let's all change this behavior.  Modesty is appreciated. I don't need or WANT to see full frontal male nudity during a conversation. I'm not avoiding you, it's just rude.

Challenge the norm. Don't let things be kept down just because they aren't talked about. Don't leave stones unturned. Turn those b*tches over and look at what's underneath.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The other side of the bike racing coin

S - 21,800 yards
B - 170.7 miles (1 mtb ride)
R - 48.3 miles

Time - 21.64 hours

Last week I joyously blogged about (some of) the glories of bicycle racing.  I was on a euphoric high having won my first cat 3 race.  No doubt about it, I raced smart and executed well.  I was rewarded with a win at the finish line.  Those are facts I can't argue.  Nor can you.

Now this most recent week I wanted to try my hand again.  The course this time would be 9 loops of a ~5.5 mile course with a wicked power climb at the end of each lap (.6mi @ avg 6% gradient).  My plan going into the race was the same as last week, although the populated-with-collegiate-teams start list was a bit more intimidating than last week.

Right in the first loop I noticed problem #1 with my strategy: there was no room to move up anywhere on the course. The roads were relatively narrow, the field was huge, and the route had a fair number of curves and twists.  As a consequence, the lane was full the entire race (even later on up the climb).  That was my mistake at the beginning, setting myself up at the back.  I had figured it would be like last week with plenty of opportunities throughout the race to move up in the field.  I was sadly mistaken.

Too far back
Then, we got to the final climb.  The first time up and over it was 2:14 of 391 watts.  That's a lot of juice.  But, I thought to myself, I've done ~20' worth of VO2 watts before (350ish), surely the pace will drop and I'll be able to move up...right?

Well, lap 2 came around and that was not the case.  The wattage dropped a bit but the combination of yo-yoing on the back of the group (my own fault due to placement) and the resulting sprints/spikes in power and the hill was doing some serious damage to my legs.

Laps 3-6 passed uneventfully other than the extreme pain the climb was causing me.  At one point we were going downhill (fairly quickly) and I watched a guy ~20' in front of me grab a bunch of rear brake on a right hand bend and go cartwheeling down the hill.  He bounced back up at the end of the crash but was clearly disheveled.  It wasn't tough to avoid it but it made me a bit nervous about the size of the group and the narrow, fast turns.

Later the P12 field came by us and the motos forced us over to the right side of the road, which caused a pretty big pile-up in the middle of the field.  Worth noting, the moto refs were in the right but it would seem that people weren't paying enough attention to get the job done and get single file without cutting each other off.  They even, once the field passed, forced us into a stand-down for 1.5-2 minutes (a couple of guys peed).  I've never had that happen in a bike race before.

Once we were coming over the top of the climb with 2 laps to go I was getting dropped a bit over the top of the climb and was catching back up with some others on the downhill/flat section.  It was clear to me at this point that just finishing was going to be my goal unless I could find a sterile but discarded epi pen lying somewhere along the route.

So basically that was the story; over the top of the penultimate ascension of the climb I just noodled up and crossed the line.  Somewhere well back of the front group.  I had managed to get in a great workout, fried my legs, and quelled a lot of my desire to do a bunch of bike racing this year.

All in all, I'd consider that a win!

Other than that it was a good week.  Consistent training with some fantastic weekend weather leaves me tired but ready for more.