In 2007, I was racing for a new team, Northeastern Hardware. Awesome team, gracious sponsor, admirably strong riders. I was introduced to a plethora of fast, motivated athletes during the team rides, and three guys immediately come to mind.
Raffy Urzedowski, one of the state’s strongest and an all-around beast, on par with an Aspholm, a European hammerhead who will outwork you. He makes certain you will hit the wall before he will.
Former Junior National Champion in Mike Rosenhaus, who at 47, outclimbs all of us on the team rides. Stunning. He has unbelievable ability to up the effort when already redlined. He won the first race of the year in crushing fashion down at Pine Cone, fantastic day for the team.
And Danny Stewart, Cat-5 to Cat-1 in two years, possesses one of the finest the sprints I’ve ever witnessed. Pure trackie from T-Town. We do the team ride sprints, and Stewart is SCARY, makes that Madone look like it’s five pounds as he tosses it around, launching and then gone. Just gone. No, no chance to even stay on his wheel. Very admirable. Makes us all look testosteroneless.
Our team won the Garden State Cup for the sixth consecutive year and podiumed and got 2 guys into the top-5 of almost every race we entered. 1st at Pine Cone. 1st and 5th at Palmer. 1st at High Point, 4 guys in top-5. 1st and 2nd at Marlton. 2nd and 3rd at Hills of Somerset. 2nd and 7th at Ronde van Mullica, 3rd and 4th at Velocity Sports. 3rd at High Bridge. 2nd at Corner House. 3rd in State Road Race. 3rd and 6th in State Crit. 2nd, 3rd, and 5th at Tour de Medford. 4th at Freedom Tour. 2nd at Denville Criterium. 4th at Basking Ridge. 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th at Philipsburg Criterium. This is just off the top of my head. The team is stacked and I’m very proud to help contribute to this wide success. Racing as a team has allowed me to enjoy this sport on a new level.
In 2007, I planned my entire season around the Hills of Somerset and the State Road Race Time Trial Weekend. At the Sandy Hook Time Trial, I was logging long, heavy miles and felt absolutely great during the event, taking 6th. Although my time was 30 seconds off O’Donnell’s, I was very, very surprised with how GOOD I felt, and it showed the following week as I dug 100% to take 3rd at the Readington Time Trial. I had electric legs and wish the event was longer… Although not the fastest, I felt downright terrific in TT mode on that TT bike and was more happy with the physical sensations than with the results. I’m an anaerobic junkie!
I yearned to win the High Point Uphill Time Trial, but the problem was so did three of my strongest teammates! The team put on a stunning performance, claiming the top-4 overall places, all within 14 seconds of each other and all within 30 seconds of the course record. Sebastian, Raffy, Mike, and I all had super days. I remember zooming up the hill, bogged down in my 25. How is this? I glanced down and realized I was in the big ring! Rookie mistake!
At the Somerset Time Trial, I had probably the best legs of my life. Of course, I snapped my PowerTap mount in the parking lot. So, I could either take it off and race blindly, or I could hold it in my hand. With 1 minute to decide, I opted to hold the stupid thing in my hand. A little awkward to say the least. I ended up losing to THE GISLER by 5 seconds, but we put considerable time into everyone else. I was very, very happy. I really thought I could’ve won my first time trial, but it wasn’t meant to be. Hats off to Mike. I sincerely hate him.
The legs were really coming around, as planned. At 149 pounds, I put out 340w during a 40-minute test, figuring my FT come peak time would be around 345 watts, easy, up 25w from 2006. I did another test at 397w for 9 minutes, very, very, very good numbers for me.
And the numbers weren’t lying. At the Marlton Criterium, I had a perfect day. I was in all the early breakaways, really powering it to the max. Rosey and Raffy eventually got into a dangerous move, and I covered everything all race, hyper active, riding like a certified lunatic. Felt like strongest in peloton. Just one of those magical days. Norm watts for 90 minutes was 330w. After the race, Tyler Wren of Colavita came up to me and said I raced every second, a good teammate. I took that as a compliment!
This was seven days before Somerset, and the preparation had gone perfectly. I was happy to see the plan yield solid data and was very excited to have great legs at one of the state’s biggest road races, but that Monday I woke up and my throat was raw. I was empty. Shot. I used to never get sick, never missed a day of school K-12, but my immune system apparently took a dump! I was annihilated, ready slam my head into a wall. By Wednesday, I decided to go to the doctor, got the antibiotics. Like a professional moron, I still did Hills of Somerset, as I was so focused on it. On the first climb, it was embarrasingly apparent I shouldn’t be there, as Raffy, THE TEAM CAPTAIN, was pushing ME to the top of the hill! I remember Raffy looking at me, knowing how much this race meant to me, very heartfelt. Hey, that’s a team for you. But into the sag wagon I went. Sorry, guys!
The following weekend, which was truly my season focus, I was feeling better, but I still was not there. I was doing 8 minute intervals at 290w! Good grief. But I went down to States and helped the team in the road race, then showed up at the TT and really gritted my teeth, suffering doggedly to finish 6th. Not great, but not terrible. I have never suffered on a bike like that. Never. Not even close.
Mike Gisler won the overall Championship. Hats off. He’s a great friend of mine, perhaps my best, and when it comes time to turn it on, this guy knows how to do it. Simply inspiring. Succinctly, he knows how to dig deep, probably deeper than I can dig, and perhaps that’s why he has my deep respect. Congrats to our State Champion.
From there on out, the season was pretty uneventful. I think I peaked so hard for that first taper, when I got sick I never really recovered from it, mentally or physically. I was never there, never the same. The legs just never really came back. I got some good results, but the disappointments stick out and sting. I prepared very well for Park Ridge but only lasted 14 laps. Just quit. Then I was certifiably throttled TWICE at the Kingwood TT, first by THE GISLER, then by Goldman and Cosgrove in the team TT.
At this point in August, I really dialed everything back, concentrating more on aerobic work, doing longer stuff on the TT bike, hoping to log some steady intervals before Silver Mine. And I think it helped. I was again cut to bloody pieces at the Philipsburg Criterium, but the following weekend I was able to put together a decent effort to take 2nd at the Silver Mine Time Trial, claiming 2nd overall in the TT Cup. Although I was up and down during the season and posted poor data before Silver Mine, I was very, very happy to finish the season well and “ante up.”
This winter, I bulked up to 166 pounds, doing a ton of gym work, lotsa force work, steady mountain biking all over the state. PowerCranking out the arse, too. I thought being a little bigger would help me stay healthy. I would be sacrificing some climbing prowess, but I would gain considerably in the TTs. I would be able to push a bigger gear. Historically, I am strong in long, hilly TTs, but I am AVERAGE AT BEST in flat, boring TTs. I just can’t power that bigger gear to get the top speed up. Well, I want to change that. I time trial at around 108 rpms, and I am hoping to drop that to around 100?
This winter, off the bike I felt like a fat fock waddling around at 166, but on the bike I felt super. I was putting out terrific watts and speeds at Tempo and Ultra Tempo HRs. Data-wise, the weight was certainly beneficial. Even on the team rides, I was able to do long, long pulls on the front without cooking it, still strong on the climbs. My plan was making for a good reality. Goal was to specialize the training more and maximize my strengths. Last year I trained more for everything, and this year that’s not going to be the case.
Spring 2008, the plan was to come out violently for Sandy Hook and Readington, hoping to get top-2 at both in hopes of staying near top of TT Cup Leaderboard. Then come back again for States, then Nationals. Nice three-pronged effort, evenly spaced peaks. I was especially looking forward to locking horns with Mr. O’Donnell at the first events, the guy I deem as the most dangerous time trialist in the state. Must be them tatts. O?Donnell on form on TT bike scares me. So locking horns would make for sweet pain.
But, yup, off Ken goes and gets sick. Really, really bad hit. The flu, then progression into a sinus infection, blowing bloody ectoplasm all over. I mean literally blood. I have priceless luck! I mean it’s special luck I have. I lost the battle and hit up the doc for more antibiotics. I was off the bike for almost two weeks. But this time I was smart and actually RESTED!
But, as I sit here and write this, I realize it wouldn’t be smart for me to rush back and still try to peak for early-April.
I could never TRULY focus on the State TT. I have Bike Attention Deficit Disorder. States are too long, too flat. Flat pavement flat pavement flat pavement dead squirrel flat pavement turnaround more flat pavement flat pavement? I need the arduous courses to separate myself from the field. My high cadence is really beneficial here, allowing me to accelerate out of turns, climb more efficiently, recover faster? In my heart, I feel Goldman and O’Donnell are better time-trialists than me, Goldman more diesel and O’Donnell more top end, but on harder courses I can go faster.
So Plan B: see if I can realize my potential at States and pump out a podium time. I know it’s in me. Just gotta buckle down and make it happen. The time trial bike is completely dialed in. I am 2 cm higher than I was at Silver Mine, which was 2 cm higher than States. I?m not as aero as I can be, but I’m okay with that. I just feel super powerful, and to me that’s more important. I’m a different rider on that bike.
Weight still at 165-ish. No belly, the weight in my legs. Finished a solid winter of progressive lifting, still doing a ton of core work. The diet is there. Lotsa orange juice, baby carrots (biting Goldman?s steeze!), eggs, strawberries, bananas, Kashi cereal. Trying to include a ton of whole foods and limit refined sugar, trying to eat with the Glycemic Index. And, post-asinine-flu-curse, I feel great, have never felt better energy-wise.
For me, I think this could be my best year. The body is maturing. Most important, the focus is there. I think these two weeks off the bike really put my head in the right place. Now, I’m actually HUNGRY to get on the bike. It’s been a lonnnnnnnnnnnng time since I could sincerely say that. I actually missed the bike, missed it, yearned for it. Now I look forward to doing all the little things right. I?m going to bed earlier, eating smart meals according to the next day’s training, getting the bike (PowerCrank, TT, or Madone) prepared the night before, laying everything out. To be among the fastest, I must do these little things. The 6 Ps of Success: Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
Hey, my girlfriend got me a basket of Lindor chocolates for Valentine’s Day. Anybody want them? Because KL is on knock-off!
The small things, this is what counts. Me, Gisler, Troy, Goldman, O’Donnell, Gui: we all have very, very similar power-to-weight ratios. What it comes down to is who does the small things better. Who does the most, other than putting out the wattage, to ensure maximum success? 3 seconds here, 10 seconds there, the little things done throughout the day, the week, this leads to success, can be the difference between 1st, 4th, and 10th. Absolutely. If you can?t afford a P3 or the fastest wheels or wind tunnel testing, then you train to your borders and race harder than the others. You have to live a cleaner life and lay it all out there. This motivates you even more to get out there and reach beyond your potential…
Tonight 2/16/08 middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik is fighting Jermain Taylor. If you want excitement, WATCH THIS FIGHT. In September, Taylor had Pavlik down and almost out in the 2nd, only for Pavlik to come roaring back to win by KO in the 7th. Awesome, simply awesome display of power and determination. This kid, he looks like nobody, a skinny whiteboy with a shaved head, but he wants it. He wants it so bad, his eyes throwing this steely gaze. YouTube him. It’s magic watching him perform. Kelly Pavlik. This fighter is the truth, very humble but swings a mean stick. I won $300 that first fight. Pavlik was huge underdog, but sometimes you just know. And tonight he fights again.
At Manhattan’s B.B. King’s in December, I did an interview with him for Moves magazine, at the first press conference for the rematch. The interview went very well and now I’m poised to write a book about him. I plan to follow him for 30 days before a Championship Bout, then report the fight, then report the aftermath. Kinda like Coyle’s book on Armstrong. In life, my talent is writing, so time to get it on. Would make for terrific reading. I talked to an old professor friend who has important connections and I’m hoping for some good news next week, then readying to drive out to Ohio after the Readington TT to talk to Pavlik himself. People have always told me to write my first book, and this epiphany hit me like a cement truck about 30 days ago?
I admire Pavlik. Not a ton of natural ability. Just keeps coming at you. He?s a hard worker in top physical condition, a heavy hitter who doesn’t stop throwing punches. Reminds me a lot of our high school wrestling team. We were top-10 in state every year. Nothing flashy about the way we wrestled. Just skinny kids in incredible condition who kept coming, shooting doubles, always coming off the mat when down, just kept coming and coming and coming. I have fond, fond memories of wrestling in high school. Intensity. Total Commitment. This was all Coach Smith talked about. We stalked our opposition, broke them down. If you weren’t ready to fight, we would break you. The confidence we had back then, it’s quite possibly the greatest thing I’ve ever experienced. It didn’t matter how talented the other guys were, how much bigger they were. If we outworked you, we would win.
These memories are flooding me again, watching Pavlik, watching today’s Pequannock team go 20-5 and getting ready for Districts. But I remember never giving a true 100% in high school, going to Duva’s boxing gym in the summer or playing baseball in the spring, never entirely focused. Now, I like to utter Raffy Urzedowski’s current favorite aphorism, “No more bullshyt.” No more bullshyt, Raffy. Let’s go out there and get it.
These last two days, I’ve been doing easy Tempo rides, nothing great, 215w for 2h and 248w for 90 minutes, and the sensations were off and the speeds weren’t fast, but I’m enjoying pedaling my bicycle and am very, very hungry. I’m almost smiling, waiting to lick my own blood. For me, this is happiness on the bike.
I’m back in Stalker Mode. But this time it’s Kenneth Lundgren I’m out to break.