Wednesday, March 28, 2012


The other day I was on a training ride on the road and as often happens with "mindless miles" lots of different topics flitted through my head.

I have missed putting my thoughts and race reports on my blog but I have been slammed.  There are lots of things going on and I am trying to make some dramatic changes so a lot of the moments where I would author a blog have been absorbed with research or just some distraction from the stress  of the situation.  In the same stream of consciousness I realized from the casual outside observer who knows I haven't been placing 1st at the races, it might seem like my lack of blogging is sour grapes for not being on top of the podium.  This couldn't be further from the truth!  After an email exchange with Chuy (completely unrelated topic, but likely one of the coolest exchanges I have had with another athlete) I finally got the last bit of motivation to set aside some bandwidth for blogging today.

It has been so long that I don't think I can capture everything I would have wanted to.  I will try to recall some of the highlights...

Vail Lake US Cup:

First race of the year, in our back yard, with the new team and new kits and all the excitement, Vail had a huge buildup for me.

I am still learning lots of things on the training and racing front though and Saturday morning I was alarmed to see the scale reading 146lbs, somehow in the previous two weeks before the race I had lost over 4 pounds.  Uncharted territory for sure.  Looking back, I wasn't fueling sufficiently.

I had been trapped into the idea that since my FTP didn't seem to be increasing that the only way for me to compete would be to get lighter at all costs.  I think that mentality has hurt me some recently and have since made a correction the other way.

Back to my race recap!  The schedule for Vail had Short Track and SuperD on Saturday and XC on Sunday.  Short track was interesting as the field was combined CAT1 and Pro.  The start was typically hard and I was in a pretty good spot.  I managed to not get hung up in a first corner crash which put me close to the leaders.  There were about 5 or 6 of us out near the front on the first lap.

A few of the lead group faded just a bit and the last few laps it was Marco and Jason battling for first and Miguel and I duking it out for third.

Going out on the last lap I had a gap on Miguel but completely ran out of steam.  He caught and passed me on the climb and I was unable to answer his move leaving me in 4th overall and 2nd CAT1.

This race was somewhat demoralizing.  I was stoked on finishing with a good position but having watched Marco racing for the lead from the back seat, and stretching out the gap despite my best efforts, I definitely started to feel that the 4 minute gap from last year in race times was likely to not have changed for this year.  I put in solid training, didn't have any setbacks, I hoped to be closer.

As a great consolation prize I rallied later that day and smashed the entire field in SuperD.  Home course advantage...  but I will take it!

Sunday's XC race was another affair altogether.  Marco attacked right away and gapped everyone on the first climb.  I was buried in the chase group but was somewhat content as I had observed Marco's superiority the previous day.  Slowly the group fell apart and I was sitting third with a small gap to second place.  When I tagged onto his back wheel I called up that I was willing to work with him to try to catch Marco.  I didn't think I could do it alone and was factoring in the higher speed climbing sections where drafting could favor a good working duo.  Unfortunately it didn't pan out, when we started up Ambulance I looked back and there was a good gap.  I figured my best bet at that point was to use my descending to try to close on Marco.

I managed to do just that but a few mistakes (clipped my bars on a bush on Slingshot and flew into the ravine, and made a tactical error near the end of the last lap on BMX) left me in a close second place on the day.

To be honest I wasn't sure what to think of the race afterwards.  In post race analysis it sort of seemed like Marco was playing with me some.  He definitely felt bad for me when my bottle exchange was botched due to some crazy feed zone shenanigans that left me without a bottle for 30 minutes in 95 degree heat.  I rode his wheel for the better part of the race but couldn't figure out if he LET me ride his wheel or if I EARNED it.  I figured it was more of the first option as he certainly showed the previous day that he was stronger.  In any case it was a fun race and it was great to have our new team take so many podium spots!

Allison posts a weekly update on the training stuff and now that I have a Training Peaks account I can review my notes and stuff on there, no need to add training fluff in this blog so on to race number two, Bonelli Park Pro XCT!

Gotta mention, we rode with a really awesome road racer from the Specialized Lululemon squad, she went on to destroy some races recently too!

Bonelli Pro XCT:

Bonelli had a significantly different schedule with XC and SuperD on Saturday, and just Short Track on Sunday.  I picked up a new Sworks 29er HT on Thursday and had ridden it for maybe 2 hours when I lined up to race on Saturday morning.

With the switch to 29er wheels I was somewhat unprepared with respect to tires.  I hoped that I could make it through the race at Bonelli on the stock Sworks Renegade tires.  My hopes were dashed quickly though, while sitting in perfect position on the first lap something sliced the sidewall of the rear tire and I found myself standing on the side while the rest of the race raged on.

After repairing the rear wheel with a tube and CO2 (this was a first for any race) I remounted my steed and started riding.

At first I wasn't very motivated.  I knew I had lost at least 5 minutes.  Almost immediately though other racers and spectators started cheering for me.

It seemed "Go Mann Show!" came flying at me from everywhere!  It was inspiring.

I leaned forward and dug deep, chargeding forward through the field eventually slicing my way back up to 7th position.

I was disappointed by my finish position.  I had been feeling good and hoped to chase Ty and Marco.  I was frustrated, but that is racing!  It didn't last long though as shortly after I finished my race I got to watch Allison dominate and win her first Pro XCT race!

I was pretty wiped out after a long day by the time SuperD rolled around but I still had some hopes for redemption.  I grabbed my trusty 2011 Sworks Epic and set off to see what I could do.  Unfortunately due to the scheduling of the race I started after the sun went down.  Despite a crash in a dark tree covered area I pulled off a second place, not what I had hoped for but a solid showing.

It was going to be a long drive for Short Track on Sunday and Allison had bashed herself up pretty good.

A quick email to her coach confirmed that we would spend Sunday in recovery mode instead of racing.  Next stop, Funtucky!

Fontana City "National" (just a local USAC race now):

Bikes for Boobs Skinsuits!!!!

The schedule for this race conflicted with Allison's plans for training so I was racing this one solo and "training through" the race to continue preparing for the season on her schedule.  No short track, and only SuperD on Saturday meant that I was out in the Santa Anas with Allison for a long 4 hour ride the day before the XC race.

 Not the best race preparation, but it seems for some reason I do well when faced with adverse conditions!  What was perfect about this ride was it gave me the chance to test out my new Specialized 2.2" Fast Track tires!  They worked so well I scrapped my plans of riding my Epic and loaded the new 29er on the truck instead!

Sunday morning I drove to Fontana and Allison rode there (4 hours on the road bike) to support me during my race.  I tried to get a bit longer of a warm up knowing that the fatigue in my legs was going to make them heavy.  The start was a bit different as we went off in a combined 30-39 wave with only the Pro Men and Women ahead of us (30-34 and 35-39 are scored separate but started together).  I am sure this was done to help the leaders of our group not have so much traffic on lap one working through the back of the 30-34 racers.

The start went off well it seemed and I was positioned reasonably in the group.  Unfortunately not far into the lap Ted (SDG/Felt) had an issue of some sort and flew over the bars.  I am pretty sure he was sitting second wheel at the time and managed to take out a significant portion of the lead group.  I lucked out and was offset to his right, easily slipping by despite the fact that his long appendages were flailing across most of the trail.

I was now second wheel headed onto the first climb and knew that as soon as we hit the asphalt the attacks would come.  Ty moved past me but seemed to be content with a fairly casual pace (for him, I was of course running near max and barely hanging on).  Near the cutoff to the single track Eric Bostrom put in a dig and I countered.

For a few seconds I wasn't sure how it was going to play out.  Eric had the inside line on the corner and could have forced the issue and sent us into a game of elbow wars which I am fairly sure I was prepared for, at the last second though he conceded verbally and said I could have it if I wanted it.  I took it and was second wheel to Ty up the first single track.  Again Ty seemed to be setting a nearly human pace and I think that I learned a few things following him for the short time we were together.  He has a vast amount of racing experience compared to me and if I can learn something from him all the better!

Unfortunately we were already working our way through the Pro Women and Men and I got schooled in what happens if you hesitate.  Ty was slashing through the slower riders and I wasn't.  A gap formed.  Then as we crested and started down the first main descent Ty got around a woman and I was trapped!  My focus went to shit, I panicked, I was trying to think ahead on the trail to a spot that would let me make a pass.  I hit the first corner, a loose 180 left, and washed the front end.  Dumb Justin!  I do my best to race clean so called Eric by me as I picked my bike up to resume the chase.  Just my horrible luck, Eric slashed his way past the female rider and again I was left held up.  By the end of that track Eric had established about a 25 second lead and I was never able to bridge even after the conditions shifted in my favor with rain (I love racing in the rain).

Despite a solid race I was left third on the day.

So although I don't have any big victories to blabber about (Allison does!), I have been racing hard.  The difference is that this year I am racing against much tougher competition.  Regardless of finish position I am stoked to be as physically fit and having this much fun on my bike whether racing or training with Allison!  She has made big strides in her comeback this year!

We both have a lot of racing ahead of us and hope that we make everyone at Bikes for Boobs and Rock N' Road proud of our efforts!

Thanks to all the team sponsors and everyone that has aligned themselves with our cause.  We are making an impact outside of racing with 25 cases of cancer detected so far!

Please help us keep fighting cancer.  You can donate through my blog, the Bikes for Boobs website, or by purchasing Bikes for Boobs gear from Rock N' Road Cyclery!  If you are far from one of their four convenient stores in Southern California please contact me for details as to how you can purchase gear and have the proceeds go toward saving boobs!


Chuy said...

Good racing with some tough luck. Glad I could do my part!

The Bikinator said...

Justin, great race recap! I felt like I was right there watching the race.