Doing it all the hard way...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Inside ! Race Report SCX #1 2011

I was about fifth going into the first corner. After a half a lap I was sitting top ten and feeling solid. The course suited me, it was a combo of tight turns and open straights. In the first set of tight turns I heard someone next to me call, "inside."

In all my years of racing when someone says, "inside, outside, on your left, etc," I nearly always give some room and appreciate the heads up. I guess for this fella, "inside," means I'm cutting inside and using your body as a berm and pushing off. I'm a big camper and this guy drills me to the outside and tosses his body into me like I've stolen food from his children.

Next thing I know I'm on my ass with an orange bike bouncing on top of me. I rolled and was up and remounting as five guys passed me. If I had a yellow card I would have used it.
My left knee hurt and I looked down and didn't see any blood. I drilled it for a minute and was back in the mix.

As the laps added up, my left quad was hurting, and while I didn't think it was slowing me, it was. I finished in the high teens and my nemesis passed me with one lap to go and I couldn't match the power output. After the finish I was cooked. I am satisfied with my place considering the places lost as well as the injury.

The first aid tent cleaned up a scrape and gave me an ice pack for my knee. My doctor was also racing and I asked him how to treat it. He said ice and Aleve. Then he added, this will be bothering you for months.
It feels good to be racing.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The red badges of courage

Scott's legs, post-race

I’ve only done one race and I already have scrapes on both legs. Nothing big or gross, but a couple scrapes of unknown origin. On my right calf there are two lines that are about 5.9mm apart. Since a bike chain is exactly 5.9mm wide, I am guessing the source. When it happened; I have no idea. On my left knee there is a red scrape with an equally dubious pedigree.

My right shoulder had a spot that was tender, and as I was wondering, “what the heck…” I realized it was a bruise from my top tube when I was shouldering the bike running through the never ending sand pit of despair at Lake Sammamish last weekend.

They say that if you like suffering, bike racing is the perfect sport for you. I don’t look forward to getting cuts and scrapes, and my feelings about really suffering are mixed at best. Yet the satisfaction of succeeding at something that is hard is very rewarding. The visible mementos that you get for going to battle tell a story that many are proud to share.

The weather forecast is for possible showers on Sunday. The current chance of rain is 60%. I would not mind if it was dry enough for me to employ my file treads and gain a slight advantage over my nemesis. Historically I have not done well on this course, but history is just history. My only win was on a flat grass course. Hmmm. Stay tuned.

That’s it ?

Like a game show contestant with a parting gift I could not believe my eyes.. – Bare Naked Ladies

Aside from a handful of borrowed moments I feel summer completely missed us this time around. I have little compassion for people who decide to live below airport runways and then complain about the noise. We do live in Seattle, so it can’t be a total surprise; but as far as warm weather goes, this so called “summer” just sucked.

Summer usually starts the weekend after July 4th and ends just before the elite men race in Starcrossed. This year summer began Labor Day weekend and appeared to end right on time the evening of Starcrossed, September 17th. Thirteen days is not the length of summer we dream of around here.

Despite the cool summer I am adjusting to the idea of Cyclocross, sweaters and darkness. Thursday morning I rode to work with a light rain kissing my face. I was warm enough and didn’t push at all and had a pleasant journey. For those of you keeping track, I set a record on my homeward commute last Tuesday with an average pace of 19.8 mph. I don’t plan on challenging that until next spring.

I am still wondering if I am sitting on good form or not. We will find out Sunday. My prediction is that I will be in my usual early season ‘teen finishing position. I said it out loud and I will confess the result after my race in this blog.

A bright spot is that I never actually put pen to paper to make a summer projects list. If I had made such a list, I would be reporting another dismal showing. I never made a list, so no points get deducted.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One of your Teammates...

In addition to competing in my race this weekend, I was spectating and cheering during every other race as well. I was wearing my team jacket, so I was easily identified. In one of the other races I had three teammates competing. As the racers went past us on the first lap, a competitor from another team, who was at the back of the pack said to me, “One of your teammates is a douche bag.”

I knew the three guys competing in that race very well and each one is the kind of guy to stop on the side of the road and help a stranger change a flat tire. I also knew they were each experienced racers who knew the rules and etiquette of cyclocross. I didn’t feel any “us versus them” emotions, but instead thought, “You must have really screwed up to be blaming one of those guys.”

While I do subscribe to the whole autonomy and affiliation needs theory, I think my team does have a defining trait; character. I feel honored to claim these guys as my team and hope they feel the same about me. There are no little league parents screaming at their kids to win at all costs. We don’t win a lot of races, but we do compete and we do have fun. At all times we strive to respect the sport and others.

When someone wearing our colors rode too close to a pedestrian last summer our president received a phone call. He promptly communicated to the whole team a reminder to honor the Maglia Bruno and remember that when you do you represent the entire team.

A post-race email exchange confirmed my belief. There had been a crash at the first corner and our rider was where he was supposed to be, and the other rider was out of control and paid the price with epidermal currency.

I understand crashes, and I understand excitement and adrenalin, so the emotional reaction is easily explained. Besides, if you don’t think we are a bunch of nice guys and gals, we will find where you park at night and slice your tires.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Starcrossed 2011

I don't look fat !!

After a trying week I packed the car as if by rote. Usually I get excited when I load up the war wagon, but not this time. Bikes, wheels, clothes, umbrellas and my trusty XRTATUF boots that Tim bought me were all loaded and ready for action. Despite seeing several of my teammates had signed up, I was the lone wolf wearing the Maglia Bruno. Warming up in my own little world I rode the course and got ready. My back wasn’t a hundred percent and my head just wasn’t in the game.

Just before the gun went off, I looked behind me and thought, “all these guys are going to pass me.” Not only wasn’t there a 50 plus category, there wasn’t even a 45 plus category. I was racing with 35 year olds. These were thirty-five year old cat three racers. What was I thinking? My oldest son is chasing down thirty years of age. Most of my rivals had raced in the cat four masters race earlier in the day. Starcrossed is where I convince myself every September this is NOT the year to move up a category.

Once underway I was freaked at the speed we went into the first turn with. I was getting passed by riders but I wasn’t at my limit or anything; I just wasn’t comfortable going that fast yet. Where the course opened up I powered along and took back a place or two. The bike was great and I have finally found out what it is like to have decent brakes. Maybe anything works when you weigh a buck thirty, but Clydesdales and former Clydesdales need a lot more stopping power.

As the race stretched out I felt good and was able to take some good lines. I started working my way through the stragglers from the Single speed race and felt pretty good, but I wasn’t flying. Then it was over and I thought to myself, “I could go another 45 minutes.” I had not pushed myself very hard. The good news was, I probably rode as well as I had last year, when I was exhausted, so my form looks to be good. After taking my bike back to the car I went to get my single speed which was my pit bike. I had enough energy that I jogged to the pit and when I got the bike I rode the rest of the course while they were staging the next race. It felt good to be on a cross course again.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Reality Check

I have a good friend whom I have known for a few years now. He has been mentioned in this blog as Crash John, and he is a good natured man with self-deprecating humor and integrity that is a benchmark for others. I have turned to him during a couple of my trying times and he shared wisdom and comfort and always left me better than he found me.

We met for lunch today and he confided he was just coming out of the darkest period of his life. His wife had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and because they move pretty fast on those things, this was his first gasp of air. It had been a few weeks since their ordeal started and he related that she had completed surgery and the post-operative tests indicated all should be okay.

We looked each other in the eye and because we are men, we didn’t hug or anything, but I could tell his journey had taken him through the fires of hell. I couldn’t say I knew what he was going through, but I did relate that some of my recent travails had resulted in a limited enthusiasm for the Cyclocross season with the first race almost exactly twenty-four hours away.

Guys don’t share much deep stuff and I was almost shaking as I was driving back to the office. My phone rang and it was Hottie. She knows John, and I had in fact delivered to John some photos Hottie had given me for John. I told her about John’s wife and that John had been off work to care for her. I told her John might be back at work next week and in one millisecond Hottie asked what she could do to help John’s family. I paused for a moment. Her sincere kindness was such a bold contrast to the recent ugliness I have been exposed to, it choked me up. I realized I am the luckiest guy in the world to be married to Hottie. About this same time I arrived back at the parking lot at work. I shut off the car, got out and the bright sun made my eyes water as I walked to the building. At least, that is how I tell the story.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The ever shifting baseline

In my profession the whole point of a baseline is to provide a benchmark that remains constant and that all activity can be measured against. My cyclocross racing life has multiple variables; hence setting a baseline for comparison is next to impossible. If you don’t believe me, see below:


As you can see they are right next to each other.

The start of the Cyclocross season is always a crapshoot for me. Some years I have started and expected dramatic improvement, only to find I am finishing with the same jokers as I was last year. Last year my revelation was how stinking fast my category had become. It took me a few weeks to get moving, but I was very pleased with my campaign.

The baseline part of the equation comes as I try to balance one side of the equation (training, etc) with the other (current injuries/ailments/age). If I have better cornering technique, but lower fitness, then what will be the race outcome? If I have more miles, but less intervals, how will I finish? How can I compare this year to last year when so many variables are in play?

This year I start my season with a different kind of fitness than I have ever had in the past. While I think strengthening my back has been successful, I injured it three weeks ago and it isn’t quite a hundred percent yet. I have a solid base of weight workouts, but my plan to add intervals in September was foiled by the back injury. I have a lot of miles this year, but very few super long rides and that may be good or bad, we will find out. In RAMROD I expected to crash and burn and I flew instead. Since cross is an event lasting thirty-five to fifty minutes, my conditioning might actually be well freakishly well suited to the races ahead.

"El hefe" and Treefarm in 2009

On a personal note (and remember this blog is all about me), the events of the summer have left me emotionally worn down and I sure don’t have the fire in my belly. Old men, racing around in the mud wearing spandex, is in fact as absurd as it sounds. I can usually talk myself into taking it seriously enough, but my head isn’t there just yet. The sounds from the real challenges in life are just too loud for me to tune out right now.

Eye of the tiger ?

Spinner John has been preparing for the season like it is D-Day. He hasn’t said the words, but it is absolutely clear that he is gunning for me, me and only me. At this point I think I would almost rather have him beat me than have to listen to his excuses for not doing so. After finishing a place or two behind him in the first two races last year, I went on to destroy him the rest of the season. The result of this success was enduring an endless string of his reasons why he didn’t beat me every week.

So as I enter my seventh Cyclocross season, I might be in the best racing shape of my life. It is more likely that my fitness is on par, or below par as compared to previous years. In stark contrast to this possible high level of fitness, my hunger to compete is almost nonexistent. While my motivation to win may be in question, I sure hate to lose, so stay tuned to this station.

A very special place

Crimes against the elderly are increasing at an alarming rate. Scams abound that prey on old people. There is a very special place in hell for those who get money by taking it from the aged. Some of those people will find hell is very different from Issaquah.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Zen before Sunrise

Sometimes the same thing can be different. Today the alarm went off about the usual time. For the first time in a long time, it was completely dark when the beeping took me from sleep. As I was fumbling getting my stuff together; phone, keys, bagel and cream cheese, Tux strode in and launched into a perfect down dog. He is, after all, a dog. His body language told me he was ready to eat and I obliged. Ten minutes later I was ready to roll and Tux was firmly planted on my side of the bed keeping Hottie warm.

When I hit the streets it was still dark and my killer light & motion light provided all the visibility I needed. My backside was flashing in a most offensive, but highly visible, array of red. The roads were deserted and it was an unusually warm morning. I wore a cycling cap under my helmet and the morning was still and silent. My bike (photos coming soon) didn’t make a sound other than the tires on the road. There were no rattles or clicking or creaking. Traffic, at least for now, was non-existent. My legs were spinning, but I had almost no sense of speed or resistance. I felt like I could go forever. Lucky for me I hit a light just right, and quickly crossed the first busy street I usually encounter. I continued on silent backstreets and enjoyed the start of the day.

The ride was flowing. My light is mounted to my helmet and if a car is approaching from the right or left, I can turn my head and the innocent drivers find themselves wondering if a lighthouse is moving towards them. In my opinion, the ability to point the light supersedes the level of safety provided by any blinking light with any lumen count that is pointed straight ahead.

The first three quarters of my route has so little traffic it feels serendipitous every day. Today was even more so. I could count the cars that passed me on one hand. When I finally got onto the road that eventually leads me to my office, I was able to drift into the bike lane and quietly make my way north.

Today was more challenging than most at work, but at least I was able to start off with some good mojo.