Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tuesday Night at the Oval (to steal subject lines from other people)

I had a good night at the Oval on Tuesday. 17th out of 32 riders. I'm pretty sure that's my best finish so far, and at no time did I feel like I was going to get dropped or lose sight of the main group.

I was a little nervous about heading down. I hadn't raced since June 24th and I was really worried that any sort of experience I had gained from the first few times racing would be long gone. I'm glad that wasn't the case.

One of the things that seemed to keep happening over the course of the race was that I would move to the outside to move up a little bit, get behind someone else, and then they would basically just stop pedaling.

At that point, I'd be stuck behind them and everyone on the inside (who I had just been trying to pass) would creep up past me. I was starting to think that there was a conspiracy afoot to keep me from advancing toward the front of the pack.

With maybe eight laps to go, I did find myself at the front of the group (not including the two or three other guys who were way further ahead of anyone else) for close to a lap, and as I expected, when we pushed through the fourth turn, and I started to get a little fatigued, almost everyone passed me by.

Even so, I was able to hang on and work my way back toward the middle of the group, which is about where I stayed for the rest of the race. I'd rate last night's race a pretty solid "pass". I never felt winded, never felt like I was going to die.

Of course, with all of this racing, I've started to wonder whether or not I should seriously consider getting an actual road bike. The Portland is a great bike, and as far as I can tell I'm not breaking any rules by racing with disc brakes (if these were UCI events, that'd be a different story), but I wonder if I'd get a tougher time with that if I ever moved up to the B races (not that there's any threat of me doing that any time soon).

I've been looking at the Felt F-75 and the Specialized Allez Elite Compact. They're essentially the same bike, as far as the build and all of that, and given that I really like the guys at Pro Bikes, I'd be more likely to get the Allez.

At the same time, it's not like I'm going to start winning races just because my bike is three or four pounds lighter. What I should probably do is just go take one for a test-ride to see if I can even feel any sort of major difference, and then go from there.

If I were to do something ridiculous like buy a new bike, where does that leave the Portland? Well, if that does happen, I'll most likely put the rack back on the Portland so that it can serve as the long-distance/utility bike.

The Portland will also be a great cyclocross bike, and cyclocross season starts in the fall. I would imagine that the Portland would also be better for the Dirty Dozen, with the granny gear and all. So it's not like I'd stop riding/using it. We'd just have to make more room in the garage somehow.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hi. How are you?

I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever ride my bike again. I haven't been out since Monday morning before work. I wanted to race on Tuesday night, but it was just way too busy at work again. That's three weeks in a row that I haven't been down to the Oval. If I ever do make it back there, it's going to be like starting over again.

Since I couldn't get to the Oval on Tuesday, I figured I might as well at least take the bike in for some maintenance. Shifting had been getting really sloppy/slow. Pittsburgh winters can do that to you.

So yeah, we left the house on Tuesday at 7:35 or 7:40 and made it to Pro Bikes at the very last minute. After the last minute, actually. They had turned off the automatic door, but waved me inside (I had to push the door open from the side. It took me a little while to figure that out).

I got the Portland all signed up for new cables and housing to go along with a regular tune-up. It's still there now. I really hope they call tomorrow and say that it's ready for pick-up. If they do, I really hope that I can get there before they close at 6:00. I might have to send Heather to go pick it up for me.

Wow. It's been like a month since I've bother/had time to sit down and write anything. That's terrible. Let's see... since June 17th, I've not done anything too terribly exciting in terms of riding.

Actually, the week after that last post, I went to the Oval for Tuesday's C race and did (by my own low standards) pretty well. I finished 21st of 35 (full field again, as I'm sure it's been over the last few weeks, too) and didn't really have any trouble keeping up with the group.

There were times there when I was with a group of five or six guys near the front, but then we'd go around a turn and everyone I had just passed would be in front of me again. Still, I was able to hang in there, and probably could have done better than 21st if I'd been thinking about what I was doing for the entire final lap instead of just after the fourth turn.

After that fourth turn, I crushed it as much as I could. I might have even been up out of my saddle for a little bit there. On the whole, pretty satisfying. If I can actually get myself back down there for a few weeks in a row, I might actually be able to move up a little bit further and see my name on the results sheet.

Like the Pirates finishing a season above .500, that'd be a pretty major victory. I think I have a better chance of doing that than the Pirates do of having a winning season.

Beyond that, nothing too crazy. Did the beginner ride with PORC again last Friday at Frick. I didn't really wreck and didn't hardly hurt myself at all. The bike came out unscathed. Another small victory! The nice thing about that beginner ride is that it's not really all that beginner. The ride leaders go all over the place and do all sorts of different stuff.

For example, I'm still pretty terrified of really steep downhills. I can't get my head around them. I can't convince myself that it makes sense for me to even think about doing some of them. We did a couple on Friday. The first one went really well. I just stuck my ass out, laid off of the brakes and did it.

We came up on another one not too much later, and I wasn't ready for it. I saw it and went tharn. Just stopped. And walked my bike down the hill. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Two days later, I rode through Frick on my Portland, on the general purpose trails. Although I wasn't really surprised, I was still amazed at the difference in feeling between a fully rigid road/cross bike with 28mm tires inflated to 120psi and a full-suspension mountain bike with 2.1" tires running at 32psi. Crazy!

I really need to get out again soon. Even if I'm able to get the Portland back tomorrow, I won't be able to ride tomorrow evening. We're helping my parents move some furniture around in their house while they have the living room and dining room floors refinished.

Also, my grandma's in the hospital right now after having a bad stroke yesterday, so we'll be spending some time with her over the weekend. She can't talk right now, and you can see how frustrating it is for her. We were there last night and I know she was trying to tell us stuff that we weren't able to understand from the limited gesturing she was able to do. I hope she's able to get some more functionality back.

Sunday we have a family reunion out at my uncle's place in New Kensington. I think that Heather thinks I'm joking, but I plan on riding out there. She can drive the Fit and we can throw the bike in the back of the car for the ride home. Yes, I'll take a shower and get changed out of my nasty bike clothes once I get there.

I really need to string together some days and days in a row in the saddle. I feel like it hasn't happened at all yet this year. I'm going to have to make it happen.

One other small piece of news/upheaval: we adopted three kittens. We'll have had them three weeks this coming Saturday, and I think they're probably about nine weeks old.

Our neighbor's mom's friend's son found them while driving home on a farm road the same night that Eve died. We heard about them two weeks after they had been caring for them. They weren't able to keep them because they were getting a new puppy, so we went to meet the people and the kitties.

At first we thought we might only get one of the three, but we told them that if any of the other potential parents backed out, we'd take any or all of them.

After the kitties passed their feline leukemia/HIV screenings, they called us to let us know that they really wanted to keep all three of them together and asked if we were still interested in taking all of them. Umm. Of course!

After three weeks, I think the kitties are really happy living with us, and I know they love being together. They play together, eat together, and sleep together. They've already had to go through a lot.

We've had to treat them for coccidia and giardia, and Mona, the smallest of the three (and the only girl) had a really tough weekend. We had to take her in to get fluids on Saturday and Monday. She seems to be doing much better now, and I hope they're all out of the woods as far as early potential perils go.

Maybe instead of just talking about bikes all the time, I'll start talking about bikes and kitties.