Sunday, November 28, 2010

Giving Thanks

After 10 solid weekends of racing, this weekend was an appropriate time as ever to hang up the spikes for the weekend. Jen and loaded up the Subaru and headed East out to Kansas where my two older sisters have put down roots with their families. My Mom and her husband came West from Missouri so we could share a nice meal and fill in the gaps between haphazard e-mails and phone calls spread out over the past 12 months.

Thanksgiving rates highest on my list of favorite holidays, there are limited opportunities for excessive consumerism and it's worth gathering among family and friends to share a meal together. Thursday morning broke clear and cold in Salina and I wanted to pull off another "tour de turkey", 56 miles span the distance between my sisters homes with Salina in the North and Newton down South, Wichita way. Not surprisingly, it's flat with a few rollers in the middle but deceivingly difficult as there are no opportunities to just coast, perhaps carve a few turns, etc. It just turning over the pedals constantly.

It was 22 degrees out when I threw a leg over the Jamis with a heap of cold weather gear on. Jen purposefully left late and met me about halfway down where I quickly pulled over for a wardrobe exchange as the day was heating up. Exactly 3 hours later, I arrived in Newton where it was a balmy 35 by the time I arrived. By then, I was ready to put some food away ! The next day, as our family tradition dictates we avoid Black Friday and someone generates a "work list" . Both live on farms ( small by Kansas standards) so inevitably there are projects to be completed. We spent most of the afternoon, hauling and burning brush and checking off a few indoor items as well.

We arrived back to the Front Range late Saturday afternoon, I had a few thoughts about running up to Westminster for Boulder series #4 but couldn't muster up the motivation to drive. As I mentioned above after 10 solid weeks of racing and driving from the Springs, by this time of the season, the interest in racing is peaking yet the desire to sit in the car for at least 2-3 hours per day or weekend is waning.

Looking forward to States, see you there

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Grand Illusion

Saturday at Alpha cross in Centennial. Jim and I arrived with time to spare and set up trainers (the new ACA warm-up rules must be a boon to the makers of trainers and rollers !) while watching a huge fog bank lie to the North and feeling the cold winds blow off it. I was digging deep into the gear bag looking for any spares of hats, gloves, arm leg warmers etc. I misjudged my attire based on the forecast. Thankfully by the time we lined up, that great big ball of fire that rotates around our flat earth warmed things up nicely; the Mad Alchemy on the legs was doing it's trick as well. I got in a good 2 laps of reconnaissance and loved the course. A lot of creativity for somewhat of a blank canvas. Super fast, 90% cropped grass with more than a few brutal grinders of climbs to make things interesting. Many of these had some longish false flats on top so even through your were past the steep part, you weren't done. There were even some soggy spots just to pull any residual leftover power from the legs.

Typically in the past, this is not the type of course I excel on. However, the lack of moisture on here on the Front Range has turned most races into ferociously fast crits on grass/sand/wood chips requiring heaps of wattage and perhaps that's what my bodies adapted to. I was feeling
really good, able to move up through the field, trying to limit losing places. I was slightly ahead of those that I'm typically mingling with on the course and I figured I am headed for a stellar day. Not making any (huge)mistakes with lines, I was going cross eyed on the last 2 laps as I could see Leonard Zinn from VeloNews and a Great Divide rider exchanging attacks behind me and making forward progress. Lee from Green Mtn Sports came by me through the Start Finish, I hung on his wheel until the run ups and make a valiant effort to pass, we were side by side on the remount and straightaway heading to an uphill, off camber left hand turn where I tried to sneak in inside and pimp him in the turn but it was not to be and ended up pushing the limits of traction on the slick grass, sliding out. I rolled through in 30th out of 46 something starters. Dang, I am so stoked on my effort but frustrated in that I like to get a mid pack finish. This 45+ group is tough and mighty humbling, but I'm enjoying it more than ever and I know it's making me a better racer. I'll take solace in the fact that I was the 2nd Cat 4 guy to finish and the first one won State Championships last year in the 35+4 group.

Thanks to all for vocalizing their support out there, especially the Frites clan. This poor group was resembling an infirmary outing with all the injuries sustained as of late. I hope you guys are on the mend. Great job to all who volunteered and put on a fine event. I hope next year for a few more food/beer vendors. By the time we finished our race, the parking lot had completely emptied and we found that most everyone had migrated down to the Chipotle down the road. It'd be nice to be able to linger at the site and pick up a brat and/or a waffle and yell at the pro field or least watch how it's really done.

The plan is to take next week off, we're traveling for Thanksgiving and I'll do my best to not load on all things tasty in order to be somewhat prepared for our state championships on the 5th. Then a quick bike and gear wash before everything gets packed up for Bend. I'm booked and looking forward to trying not to embarrass myself too badly.

Thanks for reading


Monday, November 15, 2010

New Belgium USGP

Timing couldn't have been better. Finally some decent snowfall just in time for the USGP circus to arrive on the Front Range. A super challeging course carved out what looked to be a vacant farm field with a decent amount of elevation gain and loss, slippery off camber turns, and mud...and that was just the parking lot. The actual race course was all that and more with a super fun stair climb flyover.
I decided to drive up Saturday morning, waking super early with my bride as she was prepping for her first half marathon in South Denver. The drive up was uneventful, but a low hanging light mist settling over the fields transformed our eastern plains into something resembling the Flemmish region. ( OK, I was daydreaming while driving ).I arrived plenty early for a little course recon and warm up prep. I quickly suited up and jumped on the course prior to the Cat2/3 race and found the course to be mostly treacherous but found if I had just loosened up a bit and gave the bike a little freedom to wander in the frozen deep ruts that it was do-able. Then the sun came out.

By our race time, the course had turned into a quagmire with the classic mix of clay and prairie grass that sicks to anything in sight and makes for great frontier style adobe homes. I was privy to a 4th row starting position and had one of the best starts I've had this season. A huge hole opened up before we even hit dirt and I was able to make some serious forward progress. First left corner into the mud, I see a number of guys go down on my left and now I'm well in the top third of the field. Bike is feeling good, loving the conditions, I'm getting great traction with the Rhino's and then a push super hard into a right hander only to feel the front end push..and push..and push. and finally I go down in a heap. My heart rate is pegged and I make a feeble attempt to mount the bike from the right (something I've never even tried to do in the best of conditions). I completely shank the remount, then run around the bike to the proper side and get back on with a stutter start. For whatever reason, that was it, I was completely redlined, head down, watching heaps of riders pass without any power to make chase. The course had beat me down and I muddled through in 41st position out of some 60 starters.
I spent my evening time prior to dinner cleaning junk out of my drivetrain after a thorough washing at the venue. I was having serious doubts about my decision to travel to Bend this year after turning in a performance like Saturday. Granted most of you know that I don't obsess about podium placements but I do very much care about trying to put out a decent effort on the course and I felt that I've been denied of that during the past 2 races. I just had one speed and that one was slow. Had I been racing too much ? Is there some virus lurking in my system that hasn't morphed into something larger yet ? Part of me wanted pack it in and head South just to not have to deal with a repeat of Saturday.
I spent a good long time sitting on my trainer Sunday morning patiently looking for some energy, I woke up pretty stiff and sore and wanted to take my own sweet time to stoke the engine. I didn't do any openers during the warmup, no test of the system to make sure I had a green light mostly because I figured I'd see a yellow or red light show up. Start time arrived with sunny skies and warming temps. I didn't pre-ride the course but heard about a couple of re-routes and a little less mud than yesterday. The gun went off and again, I had decent start and steered clear of trouble as again riders were hitting the deck left and right. My compadre, Matt Klick who typically sits in the top 5 in the Cat 3's was continually yelling at me on Saturday to just be smooth, stay upright, don't be a spaz. I kept these words in my head all day Sunday and it paid off in spades. I had dumped a bit more pressure out of the tires and the course was definitely faster, but Sunday was pure cross heaven. Railing turns, tons of power, feeling spry, avoiding pileups and having an absolute blast racing my bike. On a double weekend of racing, I typically benefit from Saturdays effort on Sunday and this weekend was no exception. Best I've felt in a long time and rolled through in 29th. Go figure.

For the most part, a fantastic weekend with old and new friends, can't wait until next weekend for the next opportunity test ourselves, against ourselves. Thanks for reading, thanks for a great USGP event, and thanks for everyone showing up to either yell from the tape or pin on a number in support of US cyclocross


Monday, November 8, 2010

Parallel Universe

OK, so no one had goatees but what a bizarro day at Castle Cross; which may go down as one my worst performances of the year ( I said "may"..stay tuned, there could be more !). Another 70 degree day and dry as a bone with some fierce winds from the South. In fact, here's a dad running to sign up his kids for the junior races.Anyway, I'm not sure what led to what would be a challenging day on the bike but I was barely able to maintain my position in the race, I just felt pooped and unable to respond to any kind of chase. I was sticking my lines just fine and pulling a few aggressive maneuvers here and there but mostly watching everyone ride away from me. Yet (and here's bizarre part) I've been in this 45+ group long enough to recognize where riders sit typically and yesterday was the complete reversal of that pecking order. I've seen the guys who've been handing it to me a regular basis behind me and pack fodder like myself way out in front.

Perhaps I was feeling nostalgic about last years conditions which were pure Colorado cross. A decent snowfall had graced our presence and race day was bright and sunny and quickly turned the entire course into a fast soupy mess. Yesterday was just hot. dry, dusty and fast. Ended up 30th in a starting field of 45 or so. So what now, I'm self prescribing a week off the bike because I feel as though I might have just raced myself into a hole. I'd like to go into this weekends USGP with some fresh legs, especially with (gasp!!) real weather forecasted ! Thanks to Mountain Moon Photography for the free uploads and Green Mtn Sports for putting on a fine race.
Thanks for reading,

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Morale Boost ! After digging into results from this past weekends crosscapades. I realized that I'm fairing better than I thought as there are very few Cat 4 guys in front of me. If fact, I'd been duking it out with a Cat 2 all day Sunday....poor guy..must have been suffering from some ailment, virus, muscle strain, flat tire, missed call-up,and a skipping chain.

As I've only allotted myself one trip to the Boulder Reservoir per year, I will be skipping Schoolyard Cross on Saturday (a real shame as last years course at the schoolyard was super fun with it's self-imposed mud pit). So, I'll see you at Green Mountains Sports race in Castle Rock on Sunday.

Also scheming to hatch a plan for Nationals again...I hear Bend calling me

Monday, November 1, 2010


Spoiler Alert ! at no time in the near future will you read enthusiastically about my new fitness/training regimen that has me climbing to the top step of the podium every weekend !!

Whew ! now that we have that out of the way, if you'd like to read more about the view from the back row, then please kick back and enjoy !

This simple exchange before the start of Sundays race summed up the weekend for me. At about the 30 secs to go announcement, someone in our crusty old coots class spoke up and wished everyone good luck and a clean race in which another replied " I love you all, individually and as a group!" It was brilliant timing and definitely broke any start line jitters. As funny as that was, it was perfectly suited to describing a weekend spent immersed with my cyclocross family at large. We are already at the teetering point in our season and hopefully looking at the looming darker and wetter half from here on out.

Saturday at the Boulder Reservoir nearly didn't happen after (another) wildfire broke out on the edge of town. Thankfully the organizers were granted a last minute green light from officials and it was game on. While I've never been a huge fan of the course at the Reservoir, Pete Webber and crew put together what I would characterize as the best yet, not too much sand where I usually resemble an extra from Lawrence of Arabia stumbling across a searing expanse of desert after weeks spent astray and lost without water. The course also featured turns galore, and with the lack of moisture that we're experiencing this fall, the grass is wicked dry and becoming very slippery after pairs and pairs of skinny knobs continually run across it at 28psi. With the new warm-up rules being enforced I brought along a trainer and manged to get a so-so spin in and then checked out about two-thirds of a lap before realizing that I was out of time and made a sprint for the line so I wouldn't miss my start. Arrived in time to pitch my jacket to Jen and literally the whistle blew and off we went into a blind start that I had no preview of. I spent the next 45 minutes trying hard not to suck too bad and rolled across in a mid pack 32nd place, besting the previous weekend by one place. And as my friend Matt reminded me ( tongue in cheek) that success in cross is linear, so at this rate all I need is 32 more races before I get the big W.

Jen also decided to race the one-lap fun run and how better to do that on Halloween weekend then to bust out your Sunday best.....OK, well this isn't exactly her Sunday best and I offered a suggestion that she go as a zombie school girl, She wanted nothing of it and opted for cute. I had to give a Rico handup as our dog was going nuts as a spectator.

During Saturday race, when I wasn't trying to keep my bike upright, I was thinking about Sundays course preview that had been posted on the interweb drawing all kinds of criticism and concern ( myself included )about the inordinate amount of pavement, whether is was cruising through the mall parking lot of jumping onto concrete sidewalks and how it looked as though it didn't really feature anything technical. Saturdays requirements were taking their toll on me and I serious reservations about what I'd have left for Sunday.

Well major kudos go out to Chris Grealish and his crew because Sundays course in my mind was superb. The course was the perfect example of an equalizer, the perfect mix of power and finesse. During the entire 45 minutes I shared an amazing duel with Charles Brown who would power away from me every single lap on the long grassy straightway grinder of a climb out of the lowest section of the course. He would easily put 10 to 15 seconds on me and I would be able to bridge back up and pass on the off camber downhill turns and runups back to the start finish area. We'd roll though the start/finish area along side one another each perhaps trying not to reveal too much even though all the shut down alarm bells were going off in my head. Charles punched it past me on the last lap and I couldn't close the gap on the last climb out, In fact 2 more guys came by me on either side as soon as we hit the concrete, I'm thinking there's no way I'm losing this many places on the last lap but as the 2 came past they manged to tangle bars and crashed themselves out of contention nearly taking me with them. I finished the day in much for the linear success theory. I magically migrated my way directly into the Frites guys during cool down and they immediately offered up an adult recovery beverage from the Czech Republic which was very refreshing and followed by a brat and waffle. Another fitting end to a perfect weekend.

As far as passing judgement on video previews, I've learned my lesson, although perhaps not because I did the same thing for Bend Nationals last year, sitting at my computer and wondering why at had spent so much money and planned to go ride through sage weeds in the back of some some office park. I actually wished we take an alpine ski racing approach to these weekends. Go in "blind" in come prepared. I'd vote for text descriptions only.

See you next weekend, and as always thanks for reading