Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Series Final Monroe 2010 Race Report

Clawing my way past Francisco!

Lighting strikes a third time!

I’m not sure what is happening. I really, really want to figure it out, but I also don’t want to mess it up. I finished seventh in my race and an amazing fifth in the series. The final race counted for double points which helped my cause. The racer that has been my nemesis for the past two years, Francisco Pons, is a heck of a nice guy, and while I don’t mean him any ill, I was delighted to beat him for the first time all year. The last time I beat him was also by a single place at this same race last year.

I am scratching my head to understand why I am doing so well all of a sudden. Is it the intervals I have been doing for four months? Is it the weight training I have been doing for ten months? Am I suddenly getting better recovery? I am riding the same bike, with the same tires and the same everything. My two worst finishes this year were on my favorite courses. What the heck?

I am going totally geek trying to repeat the same magic. As one could guess, this is difficult when I can’t determine the source of my magic. I warmed up on a trainer before my first top ten finish, so you better believe I am now doing it before every race. I have been using the same water bottle for my pre-race drink for years for no particular reason. Of course the drink inside is the same as well. The only reason I don’t have lucky underwear is because this is cycling, and you don’t wear any underwear south of the border. There is a fine line between repetition and superstition. What am I doing and can I keep doing it?

At the start my left foot slipped out of my pedal, resulting in a pretty poor start. I guess four years is all I am going to get out of those cleats. I will change the cleats this week. Lucky for me there was a long wide path before the first hard turn so I was able to work my way back up to the top fifteen. After the first turn a long gradual uphill gave me a chance to move up to about eighth place. I lost a couple places as guys forced their way around me in a maze of grassy turns. When we hit the off camber from hell I dismounted early and ran past a couple riders who were struggling on the steep downhill. I lost a spot approaching the super steep run up. The run up was more of a vertical scramble on which most riders clawed their way up digging their free hand into the soft grassy muck. I took an open line and clawed past a rider. A greasy muddy section followed and then a section of gravel road followed by a paved portion and a monster puddle that gave everyone wet, cold feet. I held my spot past the finish line and then around a sandy field and back to the start line. After the first lap, the top nine riders had established a gap and I was the caboose of that train.

On the second lap three riders pulled away and then the remaining riders began to string out as well. I passed a rider on the long starting straightaway and clung to Francisco Pons’ rear wheel. On the third lap I passed Pons on this same straightaway and hit the grassy turns with a small gap. By now we were picking our way through the lapped riders and that always gets weird. My gap continued to grow and looking behind Francisco I couldn’t see the next rider. Halfway through the fourth lap I saw a Cucina Cucina rider and tried to gain some ground. I bobbled the remount after the run up, and any hopes of closing the gap were gone. I went fast on the road and finished strong. I guessed I was seventh or eighth and for the first time all season, I was right.

After donning some dry clothes I discovered they were cooking burgers and dogs for anyone who wanted one. The simple joy of a naked burger on a naked bun was wonderful. I didn’t get any awards or win anything in the raffle but I was on cloud nine with my season. Later in the day one of my teammates won the New Belgium cruiser bike. He is a great guy and I am happy for him. He was one of the riders in our Peloton of Discovery trip in August.

The stars are aligning for Portland and Bend. My dear mum is sticking around through the holidays and has offered to hang at our place with Mr. T (Tux) during the USGP in Portland, and Nats in Bend. We have a place to stay in Bend. Last year Bend was hellishly cold and Hottie was in constant pain (despite a bevy of drugs) with her back one month away from fusion surgery. This year we won’t be rushed, it can’t be that cold again, and Hottie is healthy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sprinker Race Report 2010

I am going to need a bigger helmet

I will just jump to the happy ending. I took sixth. That is the highest finish I have ever had in a Seattle Cyclocross race. I had concluded my eighth place two weeks ago was a fluke because of the very unique course. If ever there is a race where you have to run and carry your bike the whole way, I expect I will do well in that. This season has also seen a higher than usual number of guys race once or twice and disappear, so there are a bunch of guys faster than me that don’t have as many season points because they have missed races. I was fifth in points going into this weekend’s race and I held my spot.

The day was freakishly cold for a Seattle Cyclocross race. Thirty-five degrees was as high as any racer saw the mercury on Sunday. We had some flurries at 9 and again at 2. Everyone was layered up, so I don’t think the temperature had much, if any effect on the finishing positions.

How it happened….
Feel free to skip this part, it won’t hurt my feelings.
It was decided to start the juniors ahead of us this week, so we weren’t the first to go at the whistle. We hit it 30 seconds after the juniors. At fifty yards I was in second place and when the turns started I was fifth. We had some furious passing and a couple crashes in the first two minutes so the first chance to look up and count bikes was about a quarter of the way into the first lap. I counted a breakaway of three, a lone rider, and I was at the back end of a foursome so I figured I was eighth.

I decided to try and hold my position. For the first time (and I don’t know why), I really viewed the course as a set of smaller distinct sections. Usually I think of a course as having two or three sections, but for some reason I viewed each corner as a section, each straight as a section and thought about how best to ride (or even race) each micro section.

I braked hard into the sharp corners and accelerated out. I attacked the hills and got out of the saddle often. On a long section of pavement I got in the drops and dropped down to a high gear. At the end of the second lap three guys passed me just past the finish line. I committed to hang on the back of the last rider or die trying. I held his wheel the whole third lap. I saw my nemeses, Francisco Pons on a corner just a few spots in front of me. Pons has been a consistent top five finisher and he looked to be having a bad race if he was back here by me.

Early on the final lap I pulled alongside the rider I had been following and outran him at the barriers. Then I pushed to get a gap. I held him off through the sand and after the run up I spied a rider in front of me who seemed to be fading. I dug deep and closed the gap. There was a long grass section that followed the outfield fence of a softball field, and I passed him and saw the third guy who had passed me ahead on the pavement. His kit told me he was one of the "Big" names in my category. There were 150 yards of pavement before a hard 90 plus degree turn then a final 100 yard sprint to the line on pavement. I passed this rider well before the turn and he didn’t respond. I took a line into the last corner like I owned the place. I was in the drops and out of the saddle sprinting toward the line. I could hear the announcer getting excited as the two riders behind me were racing each other and I didn’t want them to catch me in the process.

I figured I was around eleventh. The last time I thought I was eleventh I was in fact nineteenth. When the results were posted I was shocked to find I was sixth. Only 32 seconds behind the winner. Pons had a typical race and was in fact, second or third. I was delighted. I still am. I realized that my early count of riders in front of me must have included a few of the juniors. When I thought I was eighth I was probably in fact, fifth or so.

I am not sure what happened. If this sounds like I’m bragging, forgive me; I’m just so pleasantly surprised I can’t contain myself. And this is a time in my life where I needed some good news..

In case anyone is wondering if, like Lance Armstrong, I have my own photographer, yes I do. Hottie and I have a deal. She takes pictures of me when I race and I carry her gear, and when required her umbrella, when she shoots the other races. I think that is a different arrangement than Lance has with his photographer, but that is his business, not mine.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You can make anything with a computer and a printer

Just kidding.
Even Evo has limits...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Just one of many reasons I am going to hell

Hard to resist a handsome pup in uniform...
I've never parked in a handicap spot. I've never taken candy from a baby. My rule following mother has imbedded that German trait into my psyche. Yet every now and then, I color outside the lines. I try to see the big pictrue. I believe that if a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around, it makes no noise. Are you noticing how hard I am working to justify my actions already?

A while back we were at a soccer game. Our niece was playing and we were being good folks just being there. Tux was sleeping, on leash, on his bed at the side of the field. Hottie and I were sitting on lawn chairs. A more peaceful time with a dog in public is hard to imagine. We were told Tux couldn't be there unless he was a service dog and I had to take him out to the car. Tux whines in the car and gets nervous. I ended up walking him around the parking lot for the rest of the game. Shortly afterwards I did some research on service dogs. What I found surprised me, Now I'm paraphrasing here, but pretty much any dog the helps anybody qualifies as a service animal. No test, no certificate, no card for his wallet; just call him a service dog and you're in. Of course, you need one of the cool vests to get everyone else to believe.

Nine bucks later I ordered two patches off eBay and using some scrap fabric and a yard of webbing and two buckles, I made the cool vest you see here on Tux.

If you choose to be impressed that I made this, I'd appreciate it. If you wonder how I am planning to abuse this fraud; I haven't thought that far ahead. For now, we just have a tool that may help a nervous pup enjoy his life a little more. If the purpose of the vest is to help somebody, can that somebody be a Greyhound?

I figure that if I'm going to hell anyway, at least I help a puppy find a little more peace here on earth.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What a long week

A busy week of fighting to stay healthy while maintaining some hint of fitness has left me exhausted. I'm looking forward to some non Cyclocross this weekend. During a road ride on Thursday I was amazed at the power transfer on the road as compared to a slippery Cyclocross course.

Despite my apparent best efforts to the contrary, I am striving to live a well rounded life.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Maris Farm Race Report 2010

Adapt or perish
-H.G. Wells

After off and on rain all day Saturday, and heavy rain overnight, we knew the course would be a mudfest. On the drive down, grey clouds alternated with patches of blue sky. I realized this could be a hopeful omen, or a sarcastic tease.

The course had two distinct parts. From the start you went on what started the day as grass, only to end up a greasy rutted mess. The course snaked up and down a grassy hill multiple times before a final run up brought you to a series of 180’s on the little plateau. We would go up a slope only to make a 180 degree turn and head down and to the right for a hard off camber straight up to another 180 turn. Later in the day these sections got chewed up and most could be almost ridden. For my race these uphill sections were absolutely unridable. Tall, matted grass with just enough mud to make the grass slickerier than oil on glass.

Davo riding in front of faster riders...
The second part of the course was a snaking route through a pumpkin field. This section had degrees of ridability. By the way I’m freaking out my spell check function with words like ”mudfest, slikerier and ridability.” Nearly everyone tried to ride when they should have just run. We are creatures of habit and are therefore slow to adapt. Having bikes clotted with an extra ten pounds of mud made shouldering tougher than usual. Those lithe little guys, who usually zip around me on tight corners, were clearly at a disadvantage as a thirty pound bike was proportionally much heavier for them than it was for me.

Our starting areas was a rutted, muddy bog and I told those around me on the front row (note how casually I slip that in, as if I start there all the time..) that I would start my race running and even told them where I would mount my bike. The other racers politely nodded but none decided to join me.

At the whistle I shot out carrying my bike and I remounted exactly where I said I would. The one non negotiable required to accelerate is traction; and those guys started with very little of that. Thus I had the hole shot. After a long grass straight where I dropped to about fifth we turned and then at the first climb those ahead of me tried to ride and they muscled it until, one by one, they all stalled and dismounted then starting their run from a standstill. I bailed early and ran myself into third and kept that position through the up and downs of the first lap. A couple guys caught me on the plateau and I was about fifth when we entered the pumpkin mud. Again I was quick to dismount while others fought with their bikes while going two miles an hour. Then a gravel road brought us back past the start line and we repeated the grassy section.

Each lap I would lose places on the flat sections only to run past those same guys in the mud or on a climb. On the last lap I held a racers wheel until the last run up and then I just pushed myself to get past him and threw my bike down for the remount and took off hard. I accelerated like we had practiced a few weeks ago only to jam on my brakes in the 180 corner and accelerate again. At one of the corners I could see I had built up a gap of a few seconds and I lined up for the last downhill corner carefully. This corner claimed many victims on Sunday. Then as I approached a sharp, steep uphill corner that I had not ridden well on any previous lap, I took a wider line and pushed hard through the climb and on to the finish line which was at the top of the course where it entered the pumpkin field.

Last lap and number 174 is in my sights...
I slumped over my bars and gasped for air. It had begun raining on the last lap and in a few minutes the downpour began. As I was wiping the mud from my legs Hottie came back to the car and grabbed an umbrella and returned to shoot the next race.

I finished in the top ten for the first time in years. I took 8th in my age group. I credit my head and not my legs for this one. I did well by riding (actually running) smart and adapting to a unique course. The leader in my group was moved up to a higher category, so that move, in combination with my high finish has me sitting 5th on points in the series. That means there are only four guys who have the unusual combination of being faster than me, and at the same time having no friends so they have lots of free time to make all the races. Kind of weird that I’m fifth with only one top ten finish, but I guess attendance really counts.

The bike worked well and while I would like to say the tires worked, they were so caked with mud that I really doubt any tread stuck through the mud on the tire to actually make contact with the mud we rode on. Maybe it was just some strange new mud cross pollination project.

Next Sunday Seattle Cyclocross takes a break. There is a MFG race if I can’t figure out something better to do. Perhaps I’ll ride the Baconator SS again. A week away from cross might be a nice break. But cross is so cool….

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What ? Is it me ?

So Hottie and I love someone who has always seemed a little....on edge. This person seemed to worry about everything. Although we all worry somewhat, we don't make it our life's vocation. I don't know another soul who obsesses over such minutia, studying labels, owner's manuals, warranties, even reading the fine print of insurance policies. You may think nobody has time to do all this. Yes they do. It just takes the time most folks would spend having fun.

Just like many sad people let food become their best friend, some people make having things "in order" their best friend. Once again, to the exclusion of fun, friends and family.

A unusual chain of events led to an opportunity to try some medications that might help.

They did. Birds were chirping, angels singing; it was a Julie Andrews "Sound of Music" moment. It made that much of a difference. This person was happier than we have ever seen her. Her doctor made the same comment. She had a chance...

Hey, this happiness thing isn't all bad..

If we learned anything from Forrest Gump it is that we go to where we are comfortable. Jenny went back to Greenbow. Hard to believe, but some successful athletes miss having conflict and end up throwing away fame and fortune and end up in jail. So too has our loved one. I guess she missed worrying and fretting. Her face is wrinkled and tense and she has stopped noticing the wonderful world around her.

I'm Happy, I'm Happy, Damn it, I'm Happy

So after complaining about non existent symptoms, she talked the doctor into phasing out her medications. I feel like I am watching the end of the movie "Awakenings" with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. The difference is that in the movie the character didn't want to regress and go backward.

Oh, it is amazing the things we can talk ourselves into..

Could I be any cooler ? I didn't think so....

Friday, November 5, 2010

Leaf blowers

Here, you deal with my crap !

Nothing epitomizes modern narcissism quite like leaf blowers. Just starting one up, tells your neighbors I’m making a loud obnoxious noise and I don’t care how it affects you. Then when you (or your paid servant) actually use the smoke belching contraption, instead of gathering up the mess in your yard, you simply push it into someone else’s yard. If you blow the leaves into the street you are just teeing it up for Mother Nature to blow it into your neighbors’ yard. If your neighbor took a shovel and scooped up a big dog turd and flung it on your porch I would think that would a pretty clear violation of our social mores. Organic matter that falls from trees seems more acceptable than the organic matter that falls from the south end of our pets; yet the outcome is the same, “here, you deal with my crap.”

The whole concept of downstream users seems pretty simple to me. How we can push off our messes onto others without blinking is beyond my comprehension. We need to consider that we are all in this together. If you can’t consider others, then just consider me. Thanks.

Race Report Steilacoom 2010

I can see my shadow. Six more weeks of cyclocross ?
We Cyclocrossers like miserable conditions. But to be completely honest, we like it to be somewhat of an exception. Typically seasons start with races in the sunshine and each race the air gets cooler, leaves get brighter and the ground gets wetter. The conditions worsen each week until the lunacy of racing in the mud, wind and rain combine with a season of fatigue, injury, illness and equipment issues to reach a welcomed season ending finale in December.

This year the first race was held in a tropical downpour and every race this season has been a soggy two part event. First is the race to the finish line, the second, and simulations race, is a competition with hypothermia. Battling the cold seems to take an even harder toll on the body. After watching the rain bomb us on Saturday, I was not excited about racing Sunday.

Getting up and brewing coffee and Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats which are awesome with brown sugar and buttermilk, yes buttermilk (forgive the shameless plug for one of the sponsors of our racing series) before dawn I noted our deck was wet. As the light grew in the east, I saw a partly clear sky with friendly clouds. The day turned out to be bright and that was the perfect antidote for my mid season blues.

Since my last two races were on my single speed it took me a few minutes to get used to shifting again. The course was a power course with a long gradual uphill and plenty of grass. Since it was Halloween, I was in the spirit.

I typically get a good start and fade after the first lap. I got my call up to the front row; which is still a thrill, and took my spot. I hit the first corner in the middle of a 55 person pack and then a series of switchback corners on grass gave me no chance to pass. If I could get around one guy, there was another rider next to him in the line I would have used to pass. We then hit the dirt in a line and I moved up a couple spots. A sharp and loose left hand turn signaled the beginning of the climbing. The curvy path was a little wider than singletrack with only one sharp corner; it ascended to the top of the course. I flew past people. I hit the top in much better position and spent the rest of the race moving past people. I thought I finished about 13th, but in fact ended up 19th. I guess the real fast guys just rode off the front and I didn’t see them at all. It was a nice course with four distinct sections so mentally you couldn’t get too far ahead of yourself.

My bike collected some wet mud, but I ended up fairly clean. After washing my face off I went to help Hottie photograph the other races. Since it was sunny I didn’t need to carry an umbrella, so I just carried her bag. She never opened it, so I have no idea what was in it.

I’m still 8th in points in the series, so I should enjoy one more week on the front row. After this weekend there is a break in the series so I can regroup for the final push of the last two Seattle races, Portland and Bend.