Sunday, March 25, 2012

Off to the races...

So far 2012 is kicking off to be amazing.  1st race I did, I won.  It was a 2 lap sport class race at Bloomer Park in Rochester.  This was my first mountain bike race ever so I was a bit nervous.  My original plan was to just sit back and watch and see what happened on then on the last lap make a move if I felt confident.  Well the plan changed in the first turn.  I was sitting in 2nd and the guy in front of me crashed going from pavement to dirt.  I took the lead and didn't look back.  He got up pretty quick and was blocking the trail so we had to wait for him.  But as the race went on, my distance between him and I grew.  He stayed in 2nd and my lead kept increasing.  I ended up winning the race by a few minutes.  My lap times were good enough to get me 3rd in the Expert class.  After the race, I looked up the person that got 2nd in my race.  I found out he was actually a Cat 1 and was sort of cheating by riding that class.  So beating him made me feel pretty good about the race I had.There's a video a company of the race.  You can view it here.  I'm the guy in the Castelli gear.  The course was very technical.  A lot of up and down and winding all over the place.  Also much of it was new so the dirt was very soft in those sections.   

Here's a pic of me after the race with my winnings.  The one thing I really like about mountain bike races is the obsession with beer.  These guys are amazing.  They will kick your ass on the trail and then everyone parties and drinks beer.  These racers are great athlete's too, trust me.  After the race, I contacted USA Cycling and requested an Cat 1 Offroad license.  They approved it.

This weekend I competed in a race called Barry-Roubaix, The Killer Gravel Road Race.  Let me tell you, it lives up to it's name.  What a race.  It's a very challenging gravel road race with over 1000ft of climbing per hour and your doing this on gravel.  It's like doing Ironman Lake Placid on a gravel road.  Just not as long.  To make matters worse, they have a couple of sections of about .5 miles that are just all sand.  The point is to get you off your bike.  Technically, this is a Cyclocross race, but I don't have a cross bike so I did the best I could on my mountain bike with cross tires.  The biggest problem I had was running out of gear.  I would draft off of someone but I would spin out and they would ride away because they are on a cross bike with 48t and I'm riding my mountain bike with a 40.  It makes a large difference.  Plus I have suspension fork and they are all rigid.  So while I have the best fork on the market with a lockout, it's still not the same.  I ended up like 22nd in my age group.  Not too bad but I could have done better.  In the 2nd sand section coming back, I also collided with another rider.  After picking my bike up I realized the rear wheel had fallen out of the bike.  I panicked trying to get the wheel back in but had to flip the bike over and get it back in.  I probably lost about 3-4 minutes in that whole fiasco. I also have a bunch of scratches and cuts all over my legs.  

This was also the first race I did with some members of my new team, Team Sandbag.   I met them when I riding one day.  They were out for a group ride at the park I was riding.  They noticed my Ironman stickers and we talked a bit.  As it turns out, the team manager Todd Powers, is looking to do some triathlons this year so we are sort of swapping mountain bike and triathlon stories.  So a group of us were in attendance at the Barry Roubaix this weekend.  From right to left, Me, Todd Powers, John Osgood, Kevin Nolly, and Brad Dunkin.
After the race the party begins.  Not only was my teammates from Sandbag there, but so was Kevin Neumann or as he is better known as @ironmanbythirty.   It was great to meet  him and hang out in person as we've chatted so much online.  I also got to meet Jason Mahonky, the main and pretty much only, guy at XXC Mag. Jason is a great guy.  He writes awesome stories about endurance mountain bike racing, and just general offroad awesomeness.  Give his magazine a look.  There's more to this than just racing and he really captures that in his magazine.  Also in attendance the badass physical therapist who can also run and ride a bike pretty darn good, Clint Verran.  This guy is a genius in so many ways.  I don't trust very many people but Clint I trust.  So far everything he has ever told me has come true.  All throughout my knee surgery recovery, he's told me the truth and what to expect and he's been dead on.  He also gave me some tips going into the Barry Roubaix that helped out a lot.  And of course, we both enjoyed the post race festivities!
 So cheers!  The 2012 season is officially underway.  I am restarting my training plan from Curt Wilhelm the Mountain bike coach, in prep for my A race the Lumberjack 100.  I have a couple weeks off to pack in some miles before my next race which is the Yankee Springs time trial.  It will be my first race as a Cat 1.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Confessions of a two wheel addict

Hello, my name is Alex Gonzalez and I am addict.  No, not a drug addict, well maybe, but I am addicted to bikes.  Doesn't matter what type of bike, but if it has 2 wheels, a seat and handlebars, I probably want to ride it.  Yesterday I took my time trial bike out for the first time since last fall. I only rode the bike 20 minutes because I have a race today so I didn't want to over do it.  I had a blast.  I had to force myself to stop.  All my life the one thing that I have always done is ride a bike. 

I'm blessed to actually remember being in diapers so it goes without saying that I remember when i started riding a bike as a kid.  I had a blue bike that had tassels hanging out of the handlebars.  It had a coaster brake, white grips, and some sort of writing on the chainguard.  Unfortunately I couldn't read so I don't know what it said but I do remember what it looked like.  I would ride that bike for hours around the driveway.  Then eventually I was allowed to ride to the next door neighbors driveway.  Then 2 doors down driveway etc.  Then one day, my uncle came over with a Suzuki 2 stroke dirt bike.  I was hooked.  I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life.  He took me for a ride in the backyard and I was amazed at how cool it was to not have to pedal and fast it was.  I told my grandma I want a motorcycle.  She told me that I needed to learn how to ride the bike without training wheels first and we'd see about.  Well didn't me long and before you know it, I was showing off on my bike with no training wheels.  And guess what I got?
Yep, I got a motorcycle.  As you can probably tell we had a big yard so I could ride it all over back there. I would build jumps and go bashing through the grapevines in the back.  I had a blast.  I was allowed to burn 1 tank of gas a day so I had to limit my riding.  So I still spent quite a bit of time on my pedal bike. 

As I got older I got different bikes.  I was really into flatland BMX freestyle as a kid.  We would go across the street to the high school parking lot where they had a pretty steep slope up to another buildings lot.  We would ride up the slope and then try to jump the top of it and do 180's.  Or the front of the school had a lot of stair cases and we would go ride them and try to jump off them.  All in all, I might spend 8 or 9 hours a day on a bike in the summer.  I didn't have any money so I always had to go home for food or something to drink.  No fancy carbon fiber water bottle holders back then.  But I wouldn't be home for long before I was back out on the bike. 

Around 18 years old, I got into mountain biking.  I had a Specialized Rockhopper FS.  I was constantly going to Pontiac Lake riding it.  I was sort of chubby at this point but I was amazed at how much weight I could lose by mountain bike riding.  I loved how I could go into the woods and hit all the obstacles and how much fun it was going down the hills.  It was like mixing freestyle BMX and motocross together. 

The next couple years of my life, well, we won't go there.  But let's jump ahead to 22 years old.  I'm now married and I wanted to get back into motocross.  I started with a old Suzuki that fell apart pretty quick so I bought a YZ400F.  This thing was a beast.  A 4-stroke motocross bike that had torque and power in everything.  I started riding again at my cousins track Baja MX in Birch Run, MI. 

Unfortunately, I wasn't the greatest of riders.  I did ok and raced my age group and the B class but I wasn't a standout rider.  I think mostly because I let my physical fitness go to shit.  I started mountain biking again as a way to get into better shape. On July 4th, 2005, I collided with a little dumbshit rider on an 80 going over the jump I'm going over in the picture above.  He was spooked by a rider coming up on his right side and decided to go left just as I was passing him and we collided in the air.  This is where all my knee problems start.  I tore my ACL that day.  I didn't do much about it because it didn't really hurt that bad.  A few weeks later I was at a race there and I was heading over to the starting line.  I stepped out of my friends trailer and as I was stepping down my knee popped out.  Now, a normal person would have stopped and not raced that day.  Not me, I popped it back into place and went to the line anyway like an idiot.  See, all I wanted to do was race my 2nd moto, I didn't care about my knee.  Well 3 laps in, I landed a bit flat after a 60 foot double jump and my knee just literally went sideways.  I landed fine and didn't crash, but I looked down and my knee was popped out.  It was pretty nasty.  I popped it back and then rolled off the track and laid the bike down and waited for medical to get me.  This picture was taken on the last lap.
After that, things never seemed the same.  I took the rest of the summer off and got the knee repaired and I started riding in the spring but now I was scared.  I didn't want to crash and tear something again.  So now my performance went to shit.  I was horrible at races and I was too afraid to hit the bigger jumps.  I ended up quitting because once you get like that and lose confidence, your asking for trouble if you stay in it.  Your better off finding another hobby.

Enter triathlon.  In 2007 I started road cycling.  It was something different that I had never tried so I bought a Specialized Roubaix and headed out on the roads.  All the riding I did before this was on the sidewalk so riding on the roads freaked me out at first.  It took a while for me to get used to the cars.  Where I live we don't have a lot of shoulders or the shoulders are dirt and you can't exactly ride on them on a road bike.  In May of 2007, someone I worked with mentioned that they were doing a Team in Training event that was a triathlon.  She told me that I should do a triathlon because I was a cyclist.  I told her I didn't know how to swim and and I hated running.  Well I figured I'd give it a try.  She the swim was real short and if I had to, I could walk the run.   I went out and I learned how swim by watching YouTube videos and swimming in the lake. I also started running and found that I sort of liked it.  I kept going farther and farther with my runs.  Then I found stories on the internet like the story of Jon Blais who died of ALS and I saw that he did an Ironman with ALS. I was very impressed by the story and I wanted to do more than just train for myself.  I signed up for a sprint race in August that year.  I did that race and I was hooked.  All downhill from there.  I ended up doing 4 races in 5 weeks time.  The off week I actually did a crit race.  I got 8th in that bike race but I didn't like it as much as the triathlon.  The riders were all over the place. 

That winter I signed up for the Florida 70.3.  I also signed up to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.  After that race, I wanted to go farther. I had some good success at half distance that year. I did 2 more including taking the overall victory at the Tawas Half Ironman.  I also set my Half Ironman bike PR of 2:11 that year at Steelhead.  I started to have some really good success in triathlon.  Mostly because of my bike performances.  I am usually the first off the bike unless I had a really bad swim.  This pic is me coming into transition at the Rev3 Cedar Point race.  This was the half distance race.  There was 850 athletes in that race and you can see there is no one else in transition but me.  I was the first on the run course.  They even announced it as I was running out how I was the first person ever on that run course.  I later faded to 7th OA unfortunately.  
 The last couple of years I've had some subpar results at triathlon. I tried a coach, not to blame him, in 2010 and ever since then I started changing things a lot and sort of lost my groove.  So last fall I decided to just put triathlon out of my head for a while and try something that I haven't done in a while.  I took my 2003 Gary Fisher off the wall and headed out to Pontiac Lake.  I had a great time riding and started to ride more.  In October I bought my Specialized Stumpjumper HT.  It's a thing of beauty.  I've spent a lot to get it to where I want it but I love it so it's ok.  I also started having knee problems again last summer so I decided to back off of running and spend more time on the bike.  We were fortunate to have a mild winter so I was able to ride my bike outdoors most of it.  There were some snow days but the mountain bike handles that pretty good. 
 So here I am, 34 years old and all I want to do is ride my bike.  Not much has changed since I was a little kid.  The bikes have changed for sure, but not my love for riding anything with 2 wheels.  This year I plan on racing in long distance endurance mountain bike events as well as some shorter road triathlons.  I don't know if I can do Ironman anymore with my knee.  I've had 4 knee surgeries already, I really don't need anymore but I love triathlon and I am not going to give it up. In fact, I am doing some Xterra races this summer as well.  I want to qualify for Ogden, UT and race the nationals.  I'm a bit torn with where to put my focus now.  I love road triathlon and riding my TT bike 120 miles but I also really enjoy my mountain bike and riding the singletrack or just some endless dirt roads.  Either way, I will still be on a bike and enjoying it until I'm dead. 


Monday, March 12, 2012

2012 Race Schedule...again

So things are changing and fast. I've gone from doom and gloom and not racing to mountain bike only to Xterra for sure starting in May. I'm very pleased with the recovery and thankful for a body that can bounce back so well.

As for the training, the bike going awesome. I rode 50 miles yesterday on gravel and some horse trails, that hadn't been pooped on yet. I had a blast doing that and took a few pictures since I had my phone.

So the 2012 schedule is changing again. I'm doing more long distance mountain bike races the edition of the Mohican 100 and Ruby 50. Although my wife is a little upset with all the racing. But here's the thing, when you have the fitness, you should use it. You can't keep it forever so you should capitalize on it. This approached worked very well for Ironman races. My first race went ok but the 2nd one went even better. I'm expecting these to be the same.

Race Schedule 2012
March 24th - Barry Roubaix Gravel Road Race
April 22nd - Yankee Springs Mountain bike TT
May 20th - Last Stand Xterra
May 26th – Hanson Hills 100
June 2nd - Mohican 100k
June 16th – Lumberjack100
July 7th – Stony Creek MTB marathon
July 21 - Xterra Versailles Indiana
August 5th - Ruby Campground XC
August 19th – Ruby 50
September 9th – Addison oaks Mtb
September 22nd - Xterra National Championships Ogden, UT
October 6th - 6 hours of Addison Oaks
November 3rd - Iceman Cometh

So there it is. One of the 2 Ruby races might not happen but at this point, they're on the schedule.

These are the pics I took on my ride yesterday.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

6 week update

It's been a few weeks since I've updated my progress. For the most part, things are going well. As a matter of fact I am in NYC right now celebrating my birthday and I am thinking about going for a run, except it's freezing and I don't have pants. I'm up to 85% comfortably on the AlterG treadmill in PT. I actually ran at 100% for a couple minutes the other day just to see. The knee felt pretty good but oddly, I feel like I am heavier than 100% when I run on the AlterG at 100%. Maybe its the device and where it sits on me that I am holding up the device. I have to run with it pretty low on my hips as it kills my internal organs pushing against my stomach. So when I try to run to my mailbox or something like that, I actually feel lighter than running on the AlterG. So I'm running at about 7mph on the treadmill. Not really concerned about the speed. I can run comfortable at 8.5 if I want to but I noticed that I was pounding down harder on the treadmill and speed is not important right now, getting the weight back is. I am turning out to be a very lucky MFX patient I think. Given the odd location and the small size of the lesion, I am recovering about 100x's faster than most that have had this surgery. My injury was 1.2cm and it's on the back (posterior) of my outside (lateral) femoral condyle. So it doesn't really make contact during weight bearing exercises. The only time I make contact is when I try to squat. Still doesn't hurt then though because there is no gravitational pressure on the injury.

From a bike standpoint, things are coming back. I'm still a bit down from where I was but my power profile is moving back up. I'm into the Cat4 range now for 20 minute power and getting close to Cat3 for 5 minute power. I should get back to Cat2 for 5 minute power and mid to upper Cat3 for 20 minute and 60 minute power.

The other point, is that these are numbers off the trainer. On the road I'm about 10-15% higher on the road than I am on the trainer. It's not a cooling issue for me. I think I'm paranoid about breaking my bike so I don't move around as much on the trainer as I do on the road. I stand up and crank going up hills and push harder when I'm on the road and I don't do as much on the trainer. The weather should be breaking soon so I should be able to get out to Indian Springs and do a real FTP test. Indian Springs has an 8 mile paved loop that is basically flat and it's the perfect place for an FTP test. Last year I was at 4.38w/kg FTP, this year should be higher. I am putting a much larger focus in cycling with all the mountain bike racing I am doing this year. I am following a plan from Curt Wilhelm for 100 mile mtb racing. The plan goes up to about 15 hours a week in just cycling. I am going to integrate swimming and running into the plan too but I will be mostly bike focused. I'm not planning on even breaking double digits on the run for a while and I swim in the mornings before work so it won't impact the bike training. At this point I'm signed up for 2 100 mile mtb races. They are 3 weeks apart so the timing should work well.

I'm extremely happy about the fact that I will be racing Xterra for sure now and that I will racing in May. My wife and I are planning a road trip to the nationals in Ogden, UT. We're going to drive and take our 2 Siberian Huskies. So I've updated my race schedule to reflect some of the changes of for the season. My first race is going to be a gravel road race on March 24th. I'm looking forward to this race. It's sponsored by my favorite beer company Founders so I am looking forward to the post race festivities. Luckily for me I live in the country so I have access to a lot of gravel roads to train on. I really like riding the gravel roads. You can still ride fast and who doesn't like getting dirty!

Swimming is the sore point for me. Not that I am not swimming ok, but I'm just not motivated to do it. I'm swimming maybe twice a week if I'm lucky. My pace and endurance is fine though so I'm not sure if I'm going to put much more focus on it. The longest swim I will do is in September and it's only a 1500. The other Xterra races I'm doing are only 800m swims. I did a 1000y warm up the other day and it took 14:05 so 800 is probably around 11 minutes so that should be fine for the short Xterra races. I may race an Olympic on an off weekend but I'm not really worried about 1500m swim. If I was doing IM, then I'd have to put more focus on the swim. Big difference between 800 and 3800m.

Well off to the city to enjoy the last day here in NYC. Talk to you later.