Flipping through my Flipboard, I flipped to a pretty flippin’ funny article from Bicycling Magazine, The Bicycling Rites of Passage. Of the 109 momentous occasions listed, about 100 of them applied to me, and a few stood out above the rest. Especially number 81:
Explicating your training in exquisite detail on a blog, then realizing nobody cares.
Somebody cares . . . I know my wife cares . . . my mom cares . . . my sister cares . . . someone else must care, too . . . right? You must care . . . you’re reading it now . . . Are you my mom? It’s a fun read, especially if you’re “a cyclist,” but I must admit I’ve never fallen asleep while stopping for a break on a mountain bike ride and although I’m not superstitious, I dare not say that I’ve never suffered No. 55 for fear I may jinx myself. I fear not, however, explicating my training in exquisite detail, so here goes. By far, the biggest change in my training has not come from the bike; in fact, my bike training is probably suffering because of the dreaded pneumonia that won’t go away. There are two important factors that I believe have made a big difference: 1) food and 2) running.
Justin Mann suggested I check out the Paleo Diet and I did and it worked. It’s basically fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats; having gone through a very Mexican upbringing, however, the absence of maíz (more specifically: tortillas) and frijoles and queso has been a bit of a challenge. I’m doing my best to stick to it because it’s worked for me so far. I’ve dropped almost 20 pounds and I’ve noticed it on the bike. Trying to convince Claire (Pinay) that I shouldn’t be eating rice wasn’t easy either, but I’ve been doing some of the cooking, which Claire loves, I’m liking it, too, and it’s made it easy to eat what I want to eat.
Yes, I know cheese is not Paleo, but it sure tastes good and I rarely use it. Someone said that what I’m doing sounded like the Atkins diet, which may be true, but I don’t know anything about Atkins. What I do know is that I’m hungry all the time. Luckily, we’re stocked up on apples and oranges, which are better than protein bars as a snack, I’m sure.
I committed back in January to running the Pasadena Half Marathon in May. I’d been running a little last year, and now I’ve been running much more. I’m up to about 8 miles on a single run, working my way up to 13.1. Last year I signed up for the Seal Beach 5k and that kept me running regularly so I thought I’d give myself a little better challenge this year. I think that running really helped strengthen my legs when I got back on the bike after the pneumonia; my legs hurt pretty bad when I first started riding again and the lactic acid built up quickly and painfully. Getting my legs strong again was key, I think. I’m not running to break records or win races, I’m simply running for fitness and to help me on the bike.
To recap, then, my training is something along these lines:
I ride or I run and I rest and I eat.
That’s my training in some detail . . . perhaps exquisite was overreaching a little and painful is more accurate.
Oh yeah! The race!
I skipped Fontana: Stevo of The Cyclery Bike Shop broke his wrist there and his Expert skills are way better than my Beginner skills, then there was the threat of rain and I didn’t want to give Ms. Pneumonia any excuse to come back, or my poor skills an excuse to knock me off my bike, so I decided to stay local instead. It was a great ride to Turnbull with Dave Williams and he said he was glad he skipped the race because his legs were not feeling their best. Sycamore Canyon, however, was another story.
I convinced Dave while riding at Turnbull that it would be worth getting out of work early one day to pre-ride the course. I got the time off from work and Thursday afternoon we were out riding. The catalyst was a tricky rocky technical descent in the first three miles of the course. I had crashed there last year, which cost me a place or two and I didn’t want a repeat of that. Dave remembered that section because he crashed there last year as well and had thoughts about dismounting and running it this year. I had hopes of successfully negotiating through that section without losing too much time and that I could recover any lost time on the subsequent climbs, just like I did in 2011. Crazy Dave took us around 4 times, and I think the results of my negotiating that section are worth mentioning:
Lap 1: I was on Dave’s wheel when we came to the top, and in the little technical parts at the top Dave was way off the front. I came to the pair of boulders sitting next to each other enjoying the sunshine and hit the brakes.
“How’d you do it? What line did you take?”
“Oh was that the section I was supposed to walk? I don’t know, I just went.”
“Pinchi Dave you’re no help!”
Lap 2: Dave was ahead again but paid attention. I stopped again and asked about what line he took.
“I went over the right side!”
I debated for a long time whether I should try it and the more I stared at that section I realized that I had ridden other places like this one and decided to ride. One other guy rode by and I watched closely to see how he did it and felt a little better about going. I went over the boulder on the right, as Dave suggested, then went straight into the rut that followed and I stopped and walked down the next part.
Lap 3: Dave waited for me to go first this time, and I didn’t stop at the boulder; I missed the rut this time, went down the rocky step section to the bottom and tried to turn but couldn’t and I crashed into the bushes.
Lap 4: Over the boulder into the rut and stop and run. I felt like I wasn’t in control of the bike so I decided it was better not to crash.
I went home a little disheartened and contemplating that stupid descent the next two days, without ever figuring out the best thing to do: Ride it or run it?
The night before the race I had made the decision that if I did poorly there, then I would Cat-up to Sport. I figured I’d be getting more race for the same price. Alejandro Medina of Team Velocity first mentioned that to me last year when he was going to the races with us, but I wasn’t thinking of ever Catting-up to Sport last year. This time it made sense because I might have Catted-up had I not gotten sick in February, and if I wasn’t going to be in contention in the 3s then I might as well get in some good training in the 2s. I’m not sure what kind of logic that is, but it’s some kind. I explained it to Dave during the drive to Riverside and he seemed to agree with me.
We got to the venue early enough to register and hang out for a minute and still get in a good warm up. Dave was set to start about 20 minutes ahead of me so I took an extra lap before staging and was still contemplating that descent, still undecided as to how to best negotiate that descent. I decided to ride it, then decided not to ride it. My thoughts were that I knew I couldn’t ride it so why try. Just then I saw Justin Mann and rode over to talk to him.
He asked how I was doing and I told him I was going to try to push it just a little to see how I feel. I also told him about my fear of that descent (someone told me the name of it, but I can’t remember who or what the name is). Justin told me to have fun and enjoy it and then he said something simple enough that it should have been obvious but wasn’t, and it helped me finally decide what to do.
“A planned dismount is faster than an unplanned dismount.”
Here I was thinking that “It’s faster to get off and run than it is to crash” was smart, this took it to the next level. The decision was made and it made sense. I knew I couldn’t ride it without crashing and now I had a plan . . . a planned dismount.
When we staged I saw the same usual characters from the previous races, Bryan the sandbagger, Jerry from SC Velo, Carlos from San Diego, Eric from Sho-air, among others. Eric bickered with the lady about the number of laps we were doing, it was rather amusing.
Right from the start I had trouble. Carlos was in the wrong gear and stalled and I was stuck behind him. When I finally managed to get around on his right I said, “C’mon rookie!” I tried to move up, hoping to catch up to the front group before we hit the single track. I moved up quite a bit, but never caught Bryan and Jerry. I felt good about where I was when we hit the single track and was able to stay pretty close to the guy in front of me. Dave really opened up a gap on Thursday during the pre-ride in that section, so keeping this other guy close was a relief. I passed more people on the next climb and caught the next guy on the first descent.
When we hit that technical part I went with my plan to ride down to the boulders and dismount. As it got a little more technical I slowed and I could hear Eric behind hitting his brakes hard because I was going so slow. I picked a spot to dismount and as I did, Eric shot by and I ran down after him. I definitely slowed him down, which is fine because I got there first, but if I could go as fast as he on those descents. . . it’d be a completely different race.
We climbed out and I passed more people; I paced myself the first lap still unsure how much I would push myself or even if I would push myself at all.
The pre-ride paid off because I always knew what was coming next and how long the climbs were. By the end of the first lap I felt like I had passed everyone that I was going to pass so I thought it was a good idea to push myself just a little on the climbs.
There were already a few of the Sport racers passing just after the end of the first lap and when I hit that technical descent I decided I could run down faster than I could ride it, so I ran from the top. Unfortunately, I got caught at the bottom trying to remount as a bunch of Sport racers, men and women, rode by. I hate to interfere so I let them pass. I jumped on the last girl’s wheel and she led me up the rest of the way until the fire road climb and I passed her and a bunch of others, but no one was in my race. I even chased one other guy down only to find out he wasn’t in my race either.
I finished in 5th place, 1 minute behind the fourth place guy and 5 whole minutes behind the winner. That makes it 3 consecutive 5th place finishes in the series with a DNS at Fontana. I’m not sure what that means as far as the overall standings, but I plan on pushing myself to the limit at Santa Ynez. That course is more my style, with no technical sections that I can remember. Although, the technical sections were the least of my worries last year.
What I hope to be the final X-ray of this whole pneumonia saga will take place this week and I have to say that I don’t feel like I have pneumonia anymore. Then it’s Sea Otter before Santa Ynez.