Wednesday, May 30, 2012

US Pro Championships and the Stars and Stripes Challenge

Monday was Memorial Day, a day I have been looking forward to for months now.  But instead of sleeping in and having a cookout, it was time to get up early and head downtown for the US Pro Cycling Championship road race.  It was also time to get to ride the pro course on the Stars and Stripes Challenge!

I have to say that the event actually lived up to the hype.  I got there and got the bike all set up, and rolled over to the starting area.  We had the national anthem played for the group, and even a gunshot as we took off.  Many of the roads were not closed off, but several of the busier ones were.  The course was extremely well marked, and with the number of riders on the course it was really easy to know where the turns were, even if you weren't familiar with the roads.  I was familiar with at least 2/3 of the course already, although I had not been on US276 before on the bike (for good reason!).

The halfway point of the loop is Paris Mountain, which has a 2.2 mile rated climb.  While I conquered it back in January is not a challenge I deem I have mastered anytime soon.  Paris Mountain a strong climb, and really tests to see if you can keep to your own pace and gameplan, especially in a group.  By the time we started up, the ride had thinned into much smaller packs, but there were still at least a dozen folks nearby as I made my ascent.  It was a perfect time of day to ride up, with a slight fog/cloud cover that we rode through.  Nothing thick enough to really coat you with water, but it was a nice mist that kept you cool.  When I reached the final tenth of a mile, I decided it was time to give it all I had and sprint to the top, passing 3 or 4 people that were ahead of me while I was at it.  I still struggle with going "over the top" during efforts like this (I think it's a mental thing of once I get 90% of the way up I slow down too much), but I love having the power at the end of a climb like that to just give everything in the tank to finish really strong.

The way down Paris Mountain may have actually been more fun than the trip up, though.  Typically I have kept my speed down while decending for multiple reasons, the least of which is control.  Going 40mph on a bike can be pretty frightening if you aren't very familiar with the turn ahead of you.  Heck, it can be frightening knowing the turn ahead of you!  I had spent some time over the weekend learning the proper way to take corners, so I was eager to test it out.  I was still keeping a pace on my speed, but being able to up the pace slightly as we descended was nice.  What was a blast was blowing through the intersection that the police had blocked off at the bottom going ~40mph, though.  Typically we have to stop there and wait for the light before going through to Piney Mountain, but with the traffic stopped we could go all out.

The rest of the trip downtown was pretty uneventful.  I can't say I love the climbs on Main Street (to be honest the longer flat climbs are probably my least favorite, because I get stuck between pushing hard and finding a pace.  I typically gas out about 3/4 of the way up them and have to just spin the best I can through it.  We went around Cleveland Park, by the Zoo and the Dog park, and back up to downtown.  Coming back through the start/finish line was something special.  I had decided beforehand that I really wanted to attempt 2 laps of the circuit, even though I knew that I couldn't complete the 2nd lap by 10am, which was when they were closing off the start/finish line to start staging the pro's.  Mentally I had told myself that I had to finish the first lap in under 2 hours to attempt the 2nd lap.  I actually finished it in 01:25:54.  I had plenty of time to run a second lap up to but not including the start/finish line!  This second lap was more for "me", something I could enjoy and take in more of what was going on than trying to keep a pace or worry about times.  The second time of Paris mountain I wasn't pushing for a person record, but I just enjoyed the fellowship, and got to notice the signs that P3Group put out along the route for all the reasons people rode.  I even saw the sign we made in honor of my Grandfather, which was about 2/3 of the way up the climb.

Once I got back and changed, I had a chance to watch the Pro's take on the course.  It was awesome to understand the course and know the challenges, and see the Pro's just tear it up.  Watching them make moves and play off each other was just spectacular.  The crowds were out in force, and there was plenty to do in between the laps when the riders would make it back around the circuit.  It made for a fantastic finish to a great day!  I got to learn a lot more about more of the Pro riders than I knew before, and so many of them I have so much respect for.  I'm sad to see the US Championships leave Greenville this year, but I feel blessed that I got to take part in it and that it got to be here for as long as it did.  Next year the Championships are in Chattanooga, which is only a few hours away.  It will definitely be worth the road trip!

2012 US Pro Cycling Championships

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Trying to reason with Hurricane Season (will get you very wet)

Since "Hurricane Season" is only a week away, and we already have our first named storm in the Atlantic (I think the Hurricanes are stalking us right now, to be honest), I thought it very fitting to use the Buffett song as a tribute to the ride from last night.

As I have been told already, the weather forecast in the upstate is extremely volatile.  It can change at a complete moments notice.  Growing up on the barrier island in Florida I'm somewhat used to this phenomenon, as it can be raining on one side of the street while being sunny and dry on the other side at times.  The problem is that I haven't gotten accustomed to scouting out how long between "oh it's just drizzling a little bit" and "you'll want to wring out those clothes before washing them" is right now.  Thus what happened last night.

Around 3pm 7am I start checking the weather.  It's Tuesday, so it means SC-TAC rides out in the country.  This was one of the events that I look forward to every week, and really is a baseline for my fitness routines.  I see a high chance of rain, getting worse as the evening goes along.  The trick is that at 6pm there is only around a 25% chance of rain, but it gets higher by 7:30 or so.  I decide it's worth the risk, and thus after work I get changed and head over to the meeting spot.  I had already decided I really didn't want to do a major warm up like I had the last few weeks, because I wanted to do the entire 30 mile loop instead of cutting it short at the end and not riding Perimeter Road afterwards.  It gets to be about 5:30 and while doing a small warm up to make sure everything is good on the bike we learn that because of the rain the official rides are canceled.  It had started to drizzle at this point, but the roads weren't wet and it was tolerable.  Thus I talked both myself and Paul into doing at least one loop of Perimeter road.  It's only a 7 mile loop, thus at any point we're only 5 or 10 minutes from being back to the parking area, right?

We start out, and we get about 1/3 of the way around the loop, and the rain starts to pick up some.  It's now getting to the "it's going to be uncomfortable" level, but we're keeping a good pace, and while my glasses are starting to get wet the water isn't really impacting my vision and the wind isn't horrid.  Honestly I didn't even consider turning around at this point.  I was already wet at this point, I might as well get the loop in.  At this point Paul's comment to me was "who's idea was it do to this loop, anyway?".  I acknowledged it was my bright idea and some references to a company I formerly worked for were made, and we kept moving on.

By the time we got to the golf course, the wind was starting to pick up.  As a note, the golf course is at about the halfway point on the loop, and also starts the area with most of the climbing.  Not a great place for the wind to be picking up, but it was still somewhat manageable.  Since it's the halfway point, there was nothing really to do but keep moving and get back to the vehicles as fast as we could.  Then, we got to the "last little climb".

I call it "the last little hill" because that's the name of the segment inside of Strava.  It's a half mile stretch on the back side of the road that has a nice 85 ft climb.  For me it was one of the first segments I ever "attacked" while using strava, so it has become one of the markers by which I determine how I'm doing riding.  It's not vicious, in fact I've taken it as a pretty decent clip in the past.  This time was definitely an adventure, though.  The first quarter mile is the real climb of the segment, and it's a place you can really attack.  When I got to the start of the segment I had a decent speed going, and I wasn't completely gassed out, so I took it as strong as I could.  Just about the time I got past the main climb to the "false flat" at the top, the wind decided it was time to give me a real challenge.  The rain turned from being just wet to being sharp (and wet).  Sharp like needles, and it managed to find every possible way to get past my glasses and attack my eyes directly.  At this point my glasses were slightly fogged up as well, but the push on the bike from the wind wasn't bad, it just slowed me down.  After attempting multiple times to determine how to actually see while moving on, I determined that looking mostly down so I could just watch the white stripe was my best bet.  I kept my speed down to a manageable level, and just did the best I could.

At this point I made the turn that marks the end of the segment.  I was dealing with a cross wind, but I also knew that I had one more turn and then it would be a tailwind.  At this point I figured I was dealing with the worst of the weather I'd have to struggle through, because once the wind was pushing me the water should be mostly out of my face and I could concentrate on getting back to the van.  Outside of just keeping my head down to keep the still sharp water out of my eyes, this segment was mostly uneventful.  We made it to the turn for the last stretch on perimeter road before the parking area.  This is where Mother Nature decided to have a real sense of humor.

We made the turn, and we were dealing with mostly a tail wind (somehow wind never really acts like you think it should on the bike), but the rain changed from the sharp little droplets into entire buckets at a time being dumped in a single drop.  At the same time the wind seemed to increase in speed and visibility was not improving at all.  My shoes quickly transformed from light and breathable into bailing buckets for the air.  I think I had an extra 15-20 lbs of water soaked into my clothes, and I was extremely happy that I had decided to put my wallet and phone into a ziplock bag before we left.  Up to this point, while I'm sure I was wet to the core, I had not really considered the wet to be a real negative.  It was something I had to deal with.  Now, it was uncomfortable.  My socks were now soaked, my body was soaked from top to bottom, the water was just dripping from everywhere while more was being poured onto me.  I started feeling like Mickey from "the Sorcerer's Apprentice".  All I was missing were brooms carrying buckets.

I finally made it back to the van, and had to figure out how to get everything into the van without needing to bail water once I was done.  The best I could do was do everything quickly, getting the bike, my shoes, helmet, socks, hat and gloves thrown into the back, and myself as quickly into the front as possible.  I removed what I could of the drenched clothing to not soak the upholstery any more than I had to, and started off for home.  It might have only been 7 miles, but it will probably be the most interesting ride of the week.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cancer's Impact (or Why the Fundraising for P3 is important to me)

Benedict Kupchunos was my Grandfather.  The first born of immigrant farmers from Eastern Europe, his mother could not Speak English fluently.  His father had an alcohol problem, and left the family when he was in the 6th Grade.  He ended up dropping out of school and working in the textile mills at night (along with working the fields during the day) in order to support his family.  He ended up getting married and having two daughters.  He was known for being a strong individual, and one that had a strong moral standing.  His family survived moving to a new country, the harshness of being immigrants in the Northeast United States during the turn of the century, being a single parent family at a time when it was unheard of, along with the Great Depression and the daily toils of being a farmer.  He was forced to be a Man well before any of us would want our kids to have to deal with the realities of earning a living, and helped to raise his younger brothers and sisters so they could live a better life.  The one thing that he could not overcome was the fight with cancer.  He went home in September 1977.  I was not quite 3 at the time.  I never got to really "know" my grandfather.  Pictures like this are how I remember him.

In the past 35 years, cancer research has come a long way.  I know of countless cancer survivors, and the chances of early detection and treatment are significantly better than they were back in the 70's.  I have known friends, coworkers and other family members that have been blessed to have cancer detected at early stages and to have been able to get quick treatment to be able to move on.  Just in my extended family I am blessed to know people that have been cancer survivors for decades.  Without the efforts that are put in every day to improve our ability to combat cancer, though, these people wouldn't have had a fighting chance.

It is estimated that this year 1.4 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer.  35% of them will not make it 5 years past the time that they are diagnosed.  I have an opportunity to help in the fight against cancer in a way that I have never been able to before.  I've been blessed with the opportunity to be in the upstate of South Carolina, and to have been introduced to cycling.  I've been able to improve my fitness so I can take on the Stars and Stripes Challenge.  This is a way for me to honor the memory of my Grandfather and to help others both past, present and future in their fight against cancer.  The funds that the P3 group collect as a part of the fundraising for the Stars and Stripes Challenge goes to cancer research as a part of the Greenville Hospital System's Cancer Research Center as well as to Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer.

I have already had several others willing to help support me in my fundraising goal, but I'm still short of the $500 that I wanted to raise to help.  If you are able to donate to help me reach my goal, I'd be honored.  If you want me to remember someone you love that has fallen to cancer or is battling with it, let me know in the comments or in a private message.  I'm planning on finding a way to remember those that have been touched by cancer ride with me during the ride in some fashion, along with being in my prayers this Memorial Day.

Palmetto Peloton Project's Donation Page

Monday, May 7, 2012

Run, Bike. Zipline?!?

Yes, I think that would be the strangest triathlon ever.  It would also sum up one of the busiest weekends that I have been through in a VERY long time.

It started Friday evening with the 2012 Swamp Rabbit 5k. This would be the rest of the family's first 5k that they participated in, along with over 4,000 other people.  To say it was crowded would be an understatement.

Yes, that's the starting line way up there!

Even with the massive crowds, we had a good walk through Traveler's Rest and on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  We ended up walking at the back of the pack, and had times near the 1 hour mark, but the goal was to enjoy the event instead of posting up record speeds.  I found out later that this is one of the biggest running events in the state, as well.  It also was interesting because of the climb that you have to do about 1/3 of the way through the course, as well as the hairpin turn around mile 2.  Afterwards I treated the girls to an ice cream cone and dinner at the cafe inside the hardware store.  It made for a late night for everyone, and I had an early day 2 the next morning!

What was day 2, you may ask?  It was a 30-mile charity cycling event for LLS that Ride-On Bicycles hosted!  I spend a lot of time in Matt's shop, and I feel that they are one of the best places in Greenville to get a bike, as well as get it serviced.  When they posted up that they were hosting a charity event, I knew that I wanted to support them.  Even if that meant that I would have an event packed weekend.  The ride was spectacular, as it was only my second time through the vineyards over in Laurens County, and I put forth several very good efforts.  I was glad to participate and help out a great shop and a great cause.

After the ride we ended up going to Free Comic Book day and just having a little more relaxing time at the house.  I really needed that because Day 3 of the weekend was another big event for us:  YMCA Camp Greenville Family Fun on the Mountain Day!  This year marks Camp Greenville's 100th anniversary (a Centennial, even), and I was very grateful to be able to spend the time up there.  They had so many activities going on that we couldn't even remotely do them all, but we managed to go to the horseback riding, zipline, birthday party for the park (with candy drop!) as well as Archery and spending some time at Pretty Place Chapel.  My only regret from yesterday was that we didn't get to do more in the day.  I found out that the Y has 6 volunteer days throughout the year to help with Camp Greenville.  I will definitely be putting as many of those as I can onto the calendar to help out whenever we can.  Hopefully we can send the girls to summer camp up there soon, although the price is rather prohibitive to us this year :(

FFotMD photos!

By the time we got home we were exhausted.  That said, there isn't a single event of the weekend that I would have not done.

Friday, May 4, 2012

USA Championships to leave Greenville

I picked up the newspaper this morning, and my wife looks at one of the headlines and was shocked to read this, but it looks like this is the last year for the USA Cycling Pro Championships in Greenville, SC.

USA Cycling announced today that after seven years in Greenville, South Carolina, the USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial National Championships will move to Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2013, as part of a new four-year partnership with Volkswagen of America. In addition to venue change, the championship event will at long last bring the professional women's national title race into the fold beginning next year.
While this makes me sad, it also means that this year is even more special for me as this will be the only time I get to ride the pro course here as a part of the Stars and Stripes Challenge.  I know that physically I can complete the course, and that I should be able to put in a good time, but now the real challenge of the fundraising becomes the key for me.  For this, I'm going to need help.

I have a goal set up of $500 that I need to finish raising between now and May 28th.   I'm still right at 50% of the way to the goal, and I hope I can get the rest of the way there.  The money raised is given to the Greenville Hospital System's Oncology Research Department as well as Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer. If you can help support me with a donation, I'd be completely honored.  I'm including the letter that I've sent out to several folks with more information as a quote on here as well.  To make a donation online, use the following information:

P3Ride's Donation Page
Select "Brian Lube" from the rider list

Some of the finest research in the war against cancer is taking place because of people like you and me. This year I am signing on to participate in the Palmetto Peleton Project’s Stars and Stripes Challenge Presented by Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer. The event is part of an exciting weekend at the USA Cycling Professional Championships and I need your help.

Over the last 5 years, the Palmetto Peloton Project (P3) has raised over $1 million dollars for cancer research and advocacy and contributed these dollars to such programs as:

• Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center’s Institute for Translational Oncology Research (ITOR)
• And this year’s Amgen Breakaway from Cancer partnership

As I ride to honor friends, family members and colleagues touched by cancer, our dollars raised will make a significant contribution in shorter recovery times and better programming to support that recovery. Pedaling a course designed for professional cycling competition will put me to the test. But just consider what others have been through who have experienced a cancer diagnosis.

Over 3,500 Americans are diagnosed with cancer each day. In fact, 1.5 million new cases were expected to be diagnosed in 2010. The National Institutes of Health estimates the overall costs of cancer to be $263.8 BILLION dollars last year.

This event is very important to me because nearly everyone I know has been touched by cancer. Please join me as I participate in this significant event to raise awareness to the importance of advocacy, outreach, and research towards treatment and cure.

I am asking for your support. Your tax-deductible cash donation would help me reach my fundraising goal of $500. You can make your contribution in support of my efforts on line at (Click Donate under the Stars and Stripes logo, and find my name in the drop down menu there). Then follow the prompts to complete your transaction.

The battle against cancer is significant and grows every day. Whatever your desire or ability to contribute it will be meaningful. The Palmetto Peloton Project (P3) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization making your donation tax deductible to the extent of the law.

Thank you for your support.