Monthly Archives: April 2016

Vision Elite Team Illiniwek Abermination Race Report: April 17th, 2016

For a few, the 2016 season kicked off a little earlier than normal with the Illiniwek Abermination at Illiniwek Forest Preserve in Hampton, Illinois.  The first race in the Illinois State Championship Race Series of the year and a few weeks before WORS, what better way to shake off the winter rust then to do a little racing?

Even though we live in northern Illinois, Brian and I rarely race in this state as our main focus has always been WORS.  Outside of a handful of races over the years, we almost exclusively travel to Wisconsin for all competing, so it was exciting to see what our state’s series has to offer!  Being only mid April we were lucky to have warm, dry and all around perfect weather on Sunday, but perhaps that’s the added bonus of being a few hours south of our normal venues.  With temperatures in the 80s at the start of the Elite race, the well shaded and nicely flowing trail was shaping up to be a great start to the season.

Being the first race of the year and in Elite, with a brand new bike that I rode for the first time during the pre-ride and after some knee difficulties earlier in the year – I really had no idea what to expect from the day.  Warming up I focused a little more loosening up then I normally do since I didn’t want to re-injure anything in my knee.  Luckily, between the warmth and possibly the adrenaline, I was feeling very comfortable and ready by the time I hit the start shoot.

After what can only be described as a really poor start where I couldn’t find my pedal (did I mention it was the first race of the year?), I found myself easily catching up to the back of the sprint pack before the first turn.  By the time we were leaving the lead out and dipping into the single track I was only a single rider behind Brian.  The comfortable pace grew my confidence a bit and seeing Brian was riding strong making several passes, I did my best to stay close behind.  At the peak of one of the climbs, a rider directly in front of us fumbled at a well-marked turn and slowed the pack just enough that I was able to pop ahead for the descent.  At the flat lap point Brian regained the lead of our pack for a pull and started to make some ground on me.

My first hard effort on a brand new bike, I just wasn’t feeling very dialed in after about a lap.  My saddle was too low, a fact made apparent mid second lap when my lower back started to feel very tired.  By laps three and four I was doing a lot of standing to compensate for the lack of power being generated and to rest my aching muscles.  By the last time through lapping I was internally chanting that “It’s only pain, what’s one lap?! Don’t get caught!”  I was able to see glimpses of Brian through the switchbacks and I estimated he was making about 30-40 seconds on me each lap.

Results

Riding by myself for the last three laps and despite struggling to not lose too much momentum to a bad bike fit, my legs were feeling surprisingly great! Even being this early in the season, I felt like my training was popping nicely and power was with me.  Sprinting against only myself to the finish line, I took 14th with a time of 1:56:10. Only three minutes behind Brian’s 12th, a great result, at 1:53.13.  Having completed our first Elite race, we’re feeling more focused then ever and really excited for what this year will bring!

Nathan Guerra, also wanting to get some race time in before WORS, got to start the year on a win with a time of 1:43:12 (and got to pick up some sweet swag).

Nathan starting the season with a win!

Nathan starting the season with a win!

Prepping for Elite

With 2016 being Brian’s and my 8th year racing WORS, I’m finding it hard to believe we’ve been at it this long.  It really only feels like it’s been a couple of seasons since I started racing!  2015 proved to be our best year yet, a very big thanks to Nathan Guerra’s coaching in getting us there!  Brian and myself took 1st and 2nd (respectively) in Category 2 Comp overall.  With those results in mind, we wanted to take our training to the next level for 2016 and make the most of the year.

Photo credit to WORS.org.

Zwifting Through Winter

Again with Nathan’s guidance we’ve been more focused on really making the most of the colder months.  Illinois winters lead to, and I’m not shy to admit, far more “drainer” miles then I’d like to ride.  Past training seasons were spent staring at a wall in a garage or maybe, if I was lucky, swiping around on a tablet.  But feeling inspired by Nathan’s excitement with Zwift, we set up our own little indoor zwifting cockpit.  Starting with a couple box fans, laptop podiums, smart trainers and a subscription to Zwift we were ready to enjoy a bit more exciting indoor training experience.

Logging hours in the garage.

Logging hours in the garage.

Without a doubt, the social aspect of dropping and catching riders on screen (and when I’m not feeling it, seeing Brian’s metrics when he is going harder than me) forced me to stay focused and really nail the workouts.  In the past, when I would be grinding in the garage, it was easy to phone it in and just “do the time” rather than focusing on the effort for that day.  With zwift, my efforts are right in front of me and it kept me honest about them.  I’m not payed to say it, but at the small price, I can’t recommend Zwift highly enough if you’re looking to turn boring indoor hours into something to look forward to!

Pain’n’gain Training

At the beginning of the year, after a particularly hard ride in a very cold garage, I developed pain in my left knee.  I think it was a combination of pushing a high wattage, letting my body temperature get too low and too low of a saddle height (apparently a reoccurring problem for me).  I remember stepping off the bike with numb wrists (should have worn thermals!) and next to no dexterity in my fingers. I figured since I was in the garage it wasn’t a big deal, but apparently my body had other plans.

The entire next week my left knee felt so tired and painful that even going down stairs worried me that it might buckle.  I had hoped it wasn’t anything more than some pulled muscles and that I’d be feeling fine in a few days’ time, but it was a bit more lasting then that.  After taking a very, very easy week to recover, the pain stuck with me on and off for a month.  Having stolen a couple hard efforts early on, it was still early enough in the training season that I figured I hoped it wouldn’t hold back my season.

Focusing on stretching thoroughly and knowing my limits, I’ve been able to perform just about all Nathan’s prescribed workouts properly for a couple months now.  There’s still some pain on colder days and I have to be mindful of that, it keeps getting stronger and feels like less of an issue.  But still a bit loose at the hardest efforts and not quite 100%, up until a week or so before my first race of the season, I really didn’t know what to expect.

Lining up, there was some lingering fear in the back of my mind that I might re-injure it and that maybe I’ve not been training as hard as I should!  (Ok, some of that is probably more just some self-doubt because it’s my first year in Cat1…)  With all of this, I just didn’t know what to expect, but was hoping for the best!  Luckily, I am very happy to report that my knee and my training felt great on race day! Perhaps this was due to the warmer weather or maybe it was all more in my head then I thought.  Unfortunately I can’t say the same for my bike fit, but that’s easily fixed.  For more details, see the full Illiniwek Abermination Race Report here.

Looking Ahead at 2016

With a strong start to the season and our first Cat1 race behind us, Brian and I are more excited than ever to continue nailing our training and to have a great 2016.  We’re still remaining focused primarily on WORS results, but we’re also planning on picking up a few extra races again such as Ore2Shore, Chequamegon and some WEMS.  Looking forward to the start of WORS in just a few short weeks, see you out there soon!