Rapha Rising – Circle of Death Challenge

Rapha Rising - The Circle of Death

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but I’m addicted to Strava.  For those of you unfamiliar with Strava, it’s a cycling/running program that you track ride/run statistics with, and you can use it to compare stats and compete with friends.  You may have seen the television commercials on during the Tour de France coverage, featuring Tim Johnson (Cyclocross stud, multi-time National Champ, and one of my former riders on the Jittery Joe’s Team when I wrenched for them), Jesse Anthony (Optum p/b KBS rider), and others.

The cool thing about Strava is that you can set particular segments of road or trail, and the program keeps track of your times via your mobile phone or GPS-based computer.  I find it extremely fun to challenge myself on particular segments (mostly uphill), and see how this 200+ pounder compares to his 170 pound counterparts.  I’ve pushed myself harder to compete on climbs, even though I’m not a natural climber, and it’s been a good training tool for me, since I’ve started riding seriously again.

Last month, Rapha posted a challenge to Strava users that was to take place last week called the “Rapha Rising Challenge.”  The challenge was to climb 6,881 meters (22,575 feet) over the course of last week, which was equivalent to the “queen stage” of the Tour de France, which took place last Wednesday.  Basically, you had to climb, in one week, the same amount the pros did in one day…

I wasn’t planning on completing the challenge, but I got a good start, getting several thousand feet of climbing in on Monday of last week.  On Tuesday, I pounded out a big ride with the Free-Flite Canton group ride, where I pulled a lot, we broke some records (collectively), and after splitting from the group, I tacked on a few more miles.  Wednesday and Thursday, I figured I’d add a couple of extra rides and see how my climbing was adding up.  We took off for the beach this weekend, so I got a long climbing ride in on Friday morning (3 hours, 3700 feet of climbing) before we took off for Myrtle Beach, SC.

Myrtle Beach is obviously flat, which was not conducive to setting any climbing records.  I was going to do laps in the parking garage to get a little bit of climbing, but I didn’t have any expectations of getting the remainder of my climbing – around 4400 feet) finished by Sunday at Midnight, so I just canned that idea.  We enjoyed our time at the beach and headed home on Sunday.

We rolled into my parents’ house for the night around 6:30pm on Sunday.  I talked my wife into letting me ride some more and see how much climbing I could finish before it got too dark.  I rode about 3/4 mile down the road to Old Six Mile Road, where I did repeats until 9pm.  I rode to my parents’ house and had close to 1200 feet of climbing left to go… only 3 more repeats.

After much sweet-talking and a few bottles of Gatorade, I headed back down the road with Niki in the van behind me, shining headlights so I could see where I was going.  Together, we knocked out three more hill repeats, and finished up with 56.3 miles and 4236 feet of climbing for the evening, all on Old Six Mile Road… and I was cooked.  We got home and I uploaded the data to Strava, and… I was around 15o FEET SHORT!  99% complete with the challenge was not going to cut it…

Since it was only 10:45pm at that point, I jammed my bike back in the van and drove down to Clemson.  It’s a pretty well-lit town, so I felt comfortable riding downtown and around the university for a few miles to tack on the extra few feet I needed to finish the challenge.  I completed an extra 3.8 miles and 259 feet of climbing, and FINALLY finished the challenge with 6,917 meters of climbing for the week.

I had to take a day off after completing the challenge, especially after the strong finish on Sunday.  Would I do the challenge again?  Absolutely, except next time, I won’t plan a beach trip in the middle of it, so I can space out the climbing better.  I think because of the climbing that I had to seek out to complete the challenge, I’m actually enjoying climbing a little more.  I’ve kind of honed some of my techniques and I now look forward to the hills a little more.

Down Time

I’ve had the last few weeks off, and I’ve been collecting my thoughts and trying to figure out what’s next for me.  Last week, Niki and I dropped the kids off at my folks’ house and we spent a couple of days in Asheville, NC.  She surprised me with a ziplining trip at Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures.  I wasn’t expecting it, but enjoyed it thoroughly.  Our guides, Joe and Jamie were AMAZING!  If you’re ever in Asheville, visit the Crowne Plaza Resort and check them out!

The next day, we visited my buddy Andy Grabowski’s shop, Chainheart Cycling Studio, on Riverside Drive in Asheville.  I’ve been telling him for the last several years that I would come up and visit, and I finally made good on my threat!  Andy and his partner, Chad, run a sweet little cycling studio (not your ordinary bike shop…) that caters to higher-end and professional clients from all over.  Andy’s been a good friend since he worked for SRAM and I was Head Mechanic for the Aaron’s Women’s Team.  The last time I saw him was this year at USPRO Championships, where he and Chad worked for Team Liquigas riders Ted King, and eventual USPRO Champion, Timmy Duggan.  Andy’s work wins races… big ones.  If you’re ever in Asheville, go see Andy.

We had to drive home quickly, because the following day was the Georgia Games Road Race.  It was the Georgia State Championship Road Race this year, and it was the goal I set for riding and getting back into some form of shape lately.  The most fun part for me was that it was going to be my wife’s first bike race… EVER!  We met as a result of cycling and she’s been involved with it for 9 years, but had never done a bike race herself.  She was extremely nervous, but I was proud of her for just starting the race.  The first one is definitely the hardest.  She finished one of two laps, with a very strong women’s field (they averaged 21mph for Cat 4 Women!!!), and I was super-proud.

My race (Cat 4 Men) was a decent race for me.  I was riding with my friend Harvey’s Lifetime Bikes/Loganville Ford team.  Since I left my previous shop, I had no real team affiliation, so Harvey brought me a kit for the day’s racing.  I missed my start by a few seconds because I had forgotten my energy gels, but was able to catch the peloton within the first half mile, so no reason for panic.  We started out with a really fast first lap, in which my teammate and friend, Stephen Baxter, was taken out by a crash.  He survived, but had to pop his shoulder back in place before his race on Sunday…

It was a pretty quick pace throughout the race, and got progressively hotter as the race went on.  At the start of lap 3, one of our Lifetime Bikes/Loganville Ford teammates attacked right before the start/finish, and I was sitting about 4th wheel.  I tried to get on the front and slow down the pace, but he didn’t have the energy to sustain a solo break with 45 other riders chasing not too far behind him.  Right after the last turn on the last lap, some idiot decided to take a drink from his bottle and hit a reflector in the road, causing a massive crash.  We were less than 2 miles from the finish at that point… any smart racer would have already fueled up for the finish by that point and been ready to turn on the gas.  As we neared the finish, our aggressive motoref pulled EXTREMELY close to the field with less than 500m to go and tried to start relegating more people.  It got too dangerous for my tastes, and my legs were worked from the race, so I pedaled across the line for 28th place out of 65 racers.  My goals were accomplished:  Finish with the field, and don’t crash.

A good friend I made at the Carmichael Training Systems Tour of California Race Experience, Will Williamson, came up and raced his first road race and criterium over the weekend.  He and his wife, Jenny, came up from Alabama the previous weekend with the kids to hang out and for us to pre-ride the race course.  They left the kids at home with the grandparents, so we had a chance to hang out with them after the road race.  We didn’t really have any plans on Saturday, so we went down to East Point and watched the action at the Dick Lane Velodrome.  They were having a big race weekend, and Outback Bikes had free tickets available, so we got the chance to introduce them to the track.  Bumped into Jeff Hopkins (one of my former Jittery Joe’s riders, and track operator), Scott Patton (race announcer, and overall good guy), Joe Eldridge (Racer and Friend, Team Type 1), and Jon Woodroof (TwoToneATL.com, Bike Blogger, Instagram hero).  Good times had by all.

Since Monday, I’ve been helping Harvey out over at Lifetime Bikes in Loganville, GA.  One of his mechanics is on vacation, so I’ve been getting my hands dirty a little bit.  If you haven’t made the trek over to Loganville, you most definitely should.  The shop does a little bit of everything, but based on the cyclists coming in the door, I’d say it’s mostly a road shop.  There are LOTS of group road rides that leave FROM THE SHOP (key to a successful road following), and Harvey’s got a passion for getting out there and cycling, himself.  He competed in the road race and criterium this past weekend and pulled off a 2nd place in the Cat 5 crit at West Oak.  Not bad for the owner of the bike shop, huh?

I’ve had a great time over here, and I’ve got one day left.  Tomorrow is my 32nd birthday, and I get to spend it doing something I love.  Working on bikes.  I’ve said enough for now.  I’ll catch up later.

Training Time!

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For the last few weeks, I’ve been getting back in the swing of things.  My traveling mechanic gigs are over for a while, and I’m finally settling back into the rhythm of the daily grind again.  Family, church, work, and school, are all becoming the norm again.  One thing I’ve been missing out on for the last year and a half, though, is my bike riding.

Since I started back to school last January, I’ve really neglected the time I’ve spent on my bike.  I’m not saying that all that other stuff shouldn’t take a priority, but without an outlet like cycling, I’ve been frustrated, bitter, unhappy at times, and had just gotten out of shape.  Something had to change.

After hanging out with performance athletes for two weeks at the Amgen Tour of California Experience with CTS and sitting in the Team Exergy car during the USPRO Championships, I kind of got the bug to get back out on the bike again.  After Greenville, I kicked it into gear and… signed up for a race.  Why would I do such a thing?  To motivate myself to get in gear, get some miles in my legs, and actually give it a go.

I signed up for the State Road Race Championships on July 7th.  It’s a course I’m familiar with, one I’ve raced before, and a course that suits me: rolling hills and power climbs.  I’m not a skinny little climber… I’m a big dude that does good on flats and downhills.  This course is okay for my strengths.

I’ve been putting in a lot of riding the last few weeks.  I started writing courses to my Garmin Edge 500, and started uploading them to Strava, which is a very addictive training tool.  It’s been fun so far.  Last week, I put in close to 10 hours on the bike, which is unheard of for me over the last few years.  I’ve been riding a lot, and I can feel myself getting stronger.

Meanwhile, I’m missing the 2012 SC Ride 4 Life, which started today in Seneca, SC.  There’s around 60 cyclists and 25 support staff making their way across the state of South Carolina to raise money to help the Foothills Pregnancy Care Center.  It’s a ride that I’ve ridden and supported over the years, and I wish those guys and gals the best of luck as they make their way to the coast.  Right now, I’m going to go ahead and clear the schedule to do the ride next year… that’s a promise.

Got some other cool things in the works, which I’ll talk about later.  Got a ride with a good friend early in the morning, so I’ve gotta get some rest.  I don’t necessarily think that he’s gonna hammer me in the ground, but it is getting late, and I’ve been at it all day, so… goodnight.

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CTS Amgen Tour of California Race Experience

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Still in the process of getting back home, but wanted to say that the week spent with Carmichael Training Systems at the Tour of California was amazing! I had three great mechanics working for me, and we knocked it out of the park!

A special thanks goes out to Mike Hetrick (http://www.mrgoodbike.com, Gainesville, FL, @mikehetrick1), Steve Donovan (Turin Bicycles, Denver, @bikemechsteve), and Doug Chambers (Golden Belt Bicycle, Great Bend, Kansas). They made my job easy and have all become good friends, who I would LOVE to work with again.

The best compliment I got over the week was “I’ve been to several CTS camps, and you guys are, BY FAR, the best mechanic crew I’ve seen.” Makes you feel really good about your team and that, at least to that client, our mission was accomplished.

I’m going to do more detailed stage re-caps in the next few days, but I’ve got some catching up to do, and I’ve got another gig with Team Exergy next weekend on Memorial Day at USPRO Championships in Greenville, SC.

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