Saturday, October 18, 2014

Music and cycling


November 2014 issue of Cycle Sport came in the mail the other day.  I especially enjoyed the short piece on "Manuel Quinziato's Love of Music". 
 
Of special interest to me was this line: "It can lift you up when you are down and helps me to train".  I glammed onto that gem because there are so many articles written about riders and celebrities "favorites".  Favored books, movies, places to go and music.  My preference is to read what drives a rider more than a referral to their favorite.  This article does not bring out Manuel's reasons but it does hint to the emotional charge that riders get out of their favored tunes. 
 
I won't list my favorites, but I will admit that a 140 beat per minute song can get me fired up, a classical song can calm me down, and a good blues song actually makes me feel better about my day.  What does music do for you?  Do you have an emotional tie to what you are listening to?
 
Larry Nolan, Team Specialized Junior Director

Monday, October 13, 2014

Keeping it real...

Debbie and I will celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary in November.  She is my love, my rock, and she helps me to keep a realistic perspective.  I just finished up a memorable 2014 racing season with four USA masters national championships and three masters world titles in the UK and then came home to her welcoming poster on the garage door.  What a sweetie!  On the other side of the door is a pile of laundry and a floor that needs my attention.  Keeping it real...

Living with Debbie helps to keep me grounded and helps me better direct the junior team.  Every junior teammate has either won a national championship and/ or raced internationally with USA Cycling.  Yet that fact entitles them to nothing.  No promise of a professional contract, no free lunch, and never a sense of entitlement!

I race my bike because I love to stay fit, commute to work and clear my head, keep it social and fun, plus the challenges of competition, and trying to stay fast as I age.  I am not competing with the juniors but we go through similar tests.  I need to look beyond peer racing and race with really fast people so that I can compete at nationals and worlds, not just follow.  I need to continually recreate who I am with my training, life balance and recovery.  I'm up for the challenge and I am so very thankful that Debbie allows me to reach for these goals, race my bike and help juniors as much as I am able.  Thanks babe.  Lar

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The journey is the reward

I worked at Apple for 14 years and the marketing folks started using "The journey is the reward" with much success.  I thought I would borrow the notion on the eve of my long flight from California to Manchester, England.  Tomorrow's trip is not the journey I want to write about.  I hope its uneventful. 

I attended my first UCI Masters Track World Championships in 1999, then again in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2009.  I turned 55 in 2013, so my goal was to go to worlds and break a new world record.

Three weeks before the big event I was taken down in a track race and broke four ribs and my pelvis.  The road back to fitness, strength and speed has been a long one, but the journey has been the reward for many reasons. 

Truthfully, I wasn't going to break a world record last year.  I just wasn't fit enough and my head wasn't on right.  My father passed away and I lacked focus and purpose.  I also made the rookie mistake of thinking I could hold good fitness for a long racing season (wrong!) 

For my 2014 comeback, I looked for patterns in my past training and quickly realized that when I set  "big hairy audacious goals", then every training session and every race had a purpose.  I carefully laid out these stepping stones to help me get to Masters Track Worlds. 
My BHAG is to win a world championship with a new world record on Monday, 6 October in the 2,000meter pursuit. 
 
A special thank you goes out to friend, teammate, 1988 and 1996 USA Olympian Mike McCarthy for teaching me to dream big.  And, the reason I am dreaming so big is because of my competition.  The current world record holder (James Host) returns to Manchester after breaking his hip last year, so he will be highly motivated.  Plus, silver medalist (Stephane LeBeau) from last years 50-54 age group turns 55+ this year.  Because I haven't attended since 2009 James and Stephane will have the advantage of starting after me and knowing my time.  If I don't place top two I don't earn the chance to race for the gold medal.  Knowing this, it's only logical to try to break the old world record.  That way I'm assured the gold medal ride.
 
Finally, even if I race poorly at this years worlds, I can look back at the path that got me here with pride... a much longer recovery than I ever expected, helping new racers at the Early Birds in January, off to camps, Valley of the Sun, San Dimas, Sea Otter and nationals with the juniors, then the build up to worlds through elite and masters state track, masters track nationals, masters road nationals (with my 2nd criterium title and 50th national championship) to the last three weeks of motorpacing and tapering.  The Journey has been the reward!
 
Thanks for supporting the NCCF Team Specialized Juniors and Masters, Larry Nolan
 
 
"Innovate or die" the inside of my 2009 Specialized SL2 fork




Saturday, September 20, 2014

what were they thinking?

The other day I read how many views Nicki Minja's Anaconda has on YouTube.  I watched it.  I contributed one of the 180 million views.

While in YouTube I re-watched both the men's and women's 2012 London Olympic Points Race.  Sadly, that's 75K and 10K views respectively as compared to 180M.  Thankfully, we can learn a LOT more when we watch the Olympic points races! 

10,000 to 180,000,000!  Our sport is either incredibly small, or cyclist don't understand just how much they can learn from these videos. 

For me, the most exciting bits of a points race is that you are thinking the entire time.  Observing, judging, calculating, positioning, gambling, reacting, initiating, lighting it up, or recovering before the next explosive effort.  You're breathing through every pore in your body, yet asking the blood pumping through your body to drive your speed -and- help your brain process a bunch of information that comes at you so very quickly.  That's the beauty of this bike racing discipline.  At first is can seem confusing because riders are all over the track, but the event is absolutely beautiful if you are catching the nuances of the race.  There's riders in over their head, and opening gaps.  There's riders that are strong, but not picking up points.  And, there are even a few riders taking a full lap on their competitors to rack up an extra 20 points.  Most points wins!  In three weeks I get to compete in the points race at the UCI masters world championship.  I'll keep studying the videos, practicing my instinctiveness and hope for the best. 

So, what's the next video you'll watch? 

Women's 2012 Olympic Points Race - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7evNInPvaE
Men's 2012 Olympic Points Race - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy3a9ivesQ0

Larry Nolan, Team Specialized Juniors Director

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The people behind the scenes

It's been a little over 2 weeks now since my return to the states from my 5 week race block in Europe. Since I've been back, I've been able to reminisce on all the great experiences, all the great memories made, and all of the people that I am so grateful for who helped support me to get to where I am now. Sometimes though we tend to forget the people that do just as an important job as the people we regularly talk about. During my European racing experience, I came to a realization that there are so many unsung heroes behind the scenes that do whatever it takes to help provide opportunities such as this one. From the USA Cycling European Technical Coordinator, Andrew Hawkes, to the experienced Junior and U23 Directors to the multiple USA Cycling mechanics and soigneurs that are all based in Sittard. Without this big group of USA Cycling staff members, these opportunities to race in Europe just would not be the same. I'd like to extend a special thank you to the USA Cycling staff in Europe for helping make my first trip to race in Europe one that I will never forget.

A HUGE thank you to the NCCF board members for their generous support, thank you to Larry Nolan for your guidance and keeping it real, thank you to my parents, family, and friends for their continued support, to my coach Mike McKovich for helping to reach my potential, and to Billy Innes and all of USA Cycling for providing this opportunity to me and all the juniors that participated for a trip of a lifetime!

Keep on pedaling,
Nick Castellano

Saturday, September 13, 2014

MTB Epic

Last Sunday, I decided to do an all day ride; one from sunrise to sunset. It turned out to be a crazy day to say the least. Around 11 hours of riding, 13 hours being outside the house, and a whole lot of water (phew! The previous night I actually bought a camelbak in preparation for this ride and hopefully for more in the future like it!). I packed 5 Shot Blok packages, 3 Kits Organic bars, and 2 Clif bars into my Camelbak, which was also full of 3 liters of water, to eat throughout the day! I also put 20 dollars in the jersey pocket that had my phone in it; it was not a wise decision as you will find out later. I started the ride from my house Sunday morning at around 6:45 and rode the Kettle Ride (a group road ride) all the way up to the Santa Monica mountains. I passed a lot of hikers climbing up the first (and one of the hardest/steepest) fire road in the mountains, and finally made it to the top. I hit some fun singletrack on the sides of the fire road until I hit a hiking trail going down. There was a sign that said no bikes, but I figured I could get down it without too many hikers going up it (It was only around 10 am at the time). In no way could I have been more wrong. I raced down the first part, only to find hiker after hiker trudging up the narrow singletrack trail. I would pass a group of 2-5 only to find another group 5 seconds farther down the trail. I felt like I was a robot that was only programmed to say the word "sorry". After a painfully slow hour or so of descending, I made it to the bottom. It was actually a really fun trail and had some sick drops in it due to it being for hikers, so it wasn't all bad. I rode to a subway at the base of the mountains, and went in and refilled my Camelbak. I then reached into my pocket with the 20 bucks in it and to my horror, found it wasn't there. BUMMER! I ended up not eating real food for the whole 13 hour ride! Lesson learned: don't keep money in the pocket you keep your phone in! After eating some Clif product, I headed back up to the trails and went up the fire road that has the only water fountain in the entire mountain range at the summit. I reached the summit then refilled my water and headed down a trail I had never gone down before. It turns out it was a trail that I had seen Curtis Keene, a professional Enduro mountainbiker, ride in a youtube episode of "On Track with Curtis Keene". So many fun jumps, berms, and rock drops! Halfway down that trail, I decided to take the fast jump line on the right side and got up to nearly full speed. Suddenly I looked ahead and screamed as I found myself speeding toward a 10-15 foot ditch gap that wasn't even a jump! I slammed incredibly hard on both brakes, skidded for 5 feet or so, which caused my back wheel to come off the ground and up over my head. I stopped right before the edge doing a sort of front wheelie and it felt like I was looking death right in the face as I peered over the ledge. I then clipped out and jumped off my bike, which landed in a heap right in front of the ledge of the mini cliff. I remember getting off the ground feeling more alive and alert than I ever had. I filmed the aftermath of the crazy scene using my phone, then continued down the trail a bit more cautiously. The trail was so fun that I decided to climb up the fire road next to it and do it two more times before heading down farther on the trail. Now as I went farther down, I saw an interesting side run off to the left of the road and decided to go up it; I even had to clip out to climb some of the parts. On the way down it, I descended this switchback set of stairs in the middle of the woods, but came to a dead end at a gate that said "Private Property". So I had to trudge back up this incredibly twisty and crazy flight of wooden/dirt stairs back to the top of the trail that met with the fire road. After finally making it back onto the main fire road, I descended a little bit farther and found ANOTHER fun looking trail off to the side of the main fire road. I was thinking about skipping it because of what had just happened on the other trail I had decided to do, but then I knew I would regret not doing it later. So like the fool I was, I descended about 1000 feet and hit the bottom of the canyon, only to find that the only way out was this intense river trail. I didn't want to have to ride all the way back up the other way so I decided to do it. I literally had to ride and walk down a stream for half of it, and the other half was this wacked out hiking trail that consisted of tree branches, steep drops, slippery rocks, and huge boulders blocking the way that I had to carry my bike over. At last I came to a sign that declared "trail end". It might have been the single happiest moment of my life. It took me about an hour and a half to get out! I was muddy and very tired so I traveled down to the subway and literally just sat down, put my head on the table, and just fell into a deep nap. I awoke, refilled my water pack for the third time, then headed back up to the trails for my final climb of the day. Halfway up the fire road, my bottom bracket became loose and I stopped and tried to use one of my flat changing tools and eventually my house key to screw it back in. Nothing worked, so I just decided to deal with it, hoping my bike wouldn't fall apart. Luckily at the top of the trail, there was a kind man that had an allen wrench that I could borrow. After fixing my bike and thanking him, I set off for my last descent of the day. I realized I only had an hour and a half left of daylight, so I raced down a trail called Backbone that I've ridden many times. I reached speeds up to 35 mph on that singletrack and had an epic time doing it. I reached the bottom and proceeded to race the sun home. I arrived a little bit after dark and ate pretty much everything in the house (I had no real food the whole day!). I ascended 11,000 plus feet of climbing, rode 101 miles, ended up eating all the food I had brought, and drank around 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of water! I named the ride MTB Epic on strava, yet that still barely described how awesome it turned out to be. I can't wait to go on another adventure with my bike soon!
Middle of first ascent

Enduro trail

Nice view

Start of river trail in canyon
Thanks for reading,
Jules Gilliam

Monday, September 8, 2014

A maelstrom in Norway or should I say a mael-storm in Norway

Although this took place a few weeks ago, here is a quick synopsis of my latest attempt at another world championship. I wrote this for my coach shortly after I finished the masters mountain bike cross country world championships in Lillehammer.

I think the best way to look at this is I persevered and finished the race. I didn't crash so I got through it without injury although my elbow right now is almost useless. I can't think of more opposite racing conditions than what I am capable of competing in than in today's race. It rained off and on all day and about 35 minutes before the race started a torrential downpour hit the venue including thunder, lightning and hail, a literal deluge. Daryl, my brother who was there supporting me for the week, said there was a puddle by the car that was 40 wide and came half way up the wheels of the car. When looking at my power file I was off the bike almost an uncountable number of times walking/trying to run a bit.

I got a bad start, I was on the back row of the start grid and didn't clip in right away so was dfl going into the first short climb onto the first rooted section of the course. Everyone was off their bikes in front of me so within 3 minutes of the start, the front of the race was gone. I passed several riders over the next 5 minutes but that was it and I was left in a place where I passed one more guy although he passed me back in a section I had to walk while he rode away. I came within 50 feet of him by the finish but that was it. This was my little race within the race that kept me going.

I haven't seen the results but I probably was something like 15th. My lap times, about 35 to 36 minutes were 3 to 4 minutes slower than my pre-race hot lap on Friday when I rode a step below race pace. It was certainly disappointing but not discouraging. Very much out of my element but I will look for redemption against these guys when I can race them on a course on which I can really race as oppose to just survive. Hopefully there will be a next time for many years to come.

One important take away from this experience is a need to be more prepared for radically changing conditions in climates where such things are common. Maybe a little more east coast racing will help should such conditions confront me again in a world championship. That said, I’ll eventually get another world championship race where all the ingredients are there for me to win. It took me nine tries to win my first world championship and I expect the next dirt one won't take quite so long.