Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nine days four races sun rain grey mud

Cyclocross is Sarajevo ?
My Cyclocross odyssey fittingly began on the grounds of the former Washington State Mental Hospital outside of Sedro Woolley Washington.  The inmates patients cared for animals in between experiments (the hospital was a pioneer in lobotomies).  It looks and feels as creepy as a Stephen King novel.  It was fun racing there, but I wouldn't spend the night there for a million bucks.

As we drove north for the Saturday race the skies were so dark it was scary.  We arrived to find damp ground and a cool welcoming vibe. The race "Woolley Cross" is part of the Cascade Cross series and was a fun, informal day of racing.
The course featured long (3.4K) laps on a mix of speed sucking grass and soft gravel.  There was one switchback on the whole course.  I think the laps included three, no maybe four zip codes.  This was the only cyclocross course where I should have worn my RoadID.  I think I saw a polar bear near the run up.
Evo loving the mud in the hinterlands of Sedro Woolley
I had to race as a 40+ master.  It gave me a chance to mix it up with a few of the guys I raced with back when I first started.  I beat them, which made me happy.  By the last lap we were so strung out I considered stopping and asking directions to make sure I was still on course.
The next day dawned with the best light Hottie had seen in years at a Cyclocross race.
I felt pretty good the second day of the weekend. Legs not fresh, but not hurting either.
Racing through "the crack"
I was worried the course would be a flat grass crit. The MFG race had a creative mix of pavement, grassy chicanes and two sustained power climbs and a loose gravel downhill.  On the first lap I felt my right quad bark, and in true Jens-like fashion, I ignored my legs.  I kept El Jefe in my sight as the laps ticked by.  He slowly pulled away but I was finding other riders to chase.  I would pass riders on the climbs and power sections and try to hang on during the technical sections.
Evo cresting the climb and claiming another victim
The day was long as Hottie and I stayed for the last race. The team broke down the tent and it was laid beside the war wagon awaiting loading.  I was happy with my race as I felt stronger each lap.  It made for a long weekend.

After the only regular work week of October (business travel has been killing me) we were back racing on Saturday at the MFG race at Marymoor.  It was bombing rain and we were promised a muddy party.
The sharp eye will note the MUD on my bike.
The rain reminded me of some things I had almost forgotten.  How exhilarating it is to have your back wheel sliding around "hook and ladder" style, how slow you can go when pushing hard on level ground and how useless your brakes can be when wet.  The race was a combination of tractor pull mud sections and and endless selection of greasy off camber sections. "Low pressure" was the phrase whispered between friends.
Out of the mud mines and into your dreams !  The Three Mudsketers !
I busted out the embrocation and the smell of cyclocross was in the air.  In the starting straight a rider in front of me went sideways and although he kept it upright, I was nervous. I was  cautious and near the back and then I started moving up as we strung out.  I settled in and looked ahead on a switchback laden section for El Jefe, and spotted him behind me. The laps ticked on and I kept my gap on him.  It wasn't my plan or ambition to beat him, but I was ahead and wanted to stay there.

On the fourth lap a rider went down in front of me on a short climb and I had to dab and claw the last bit. Then, because I was still huffing from the climb I tried to ride a section I had run (very successfully) on earlier laps. I slid around and lost momentum.  Then on an endless off camber I ran outrigger style (shoe unclipped) and slid off the other side. When I finally got going after a sharp turn I noted my huge gap on El Jefe was down to almost nothing. I got out of the saddle and cranked.  To my surprise I had some power and held my spot.

The final chapter in my epic was the 2012 version of Seattle Cyclocross at Sprinker park. Sprinker has always been good to me and I was up for a fine finale to our race fest. We brought Tux and hoped for good weather.
The announcer gave me some shout outs as "head-wound guy"
I was distracted before my race and didn't ride a full lap of warmup.  I rode a couple sections, but my haste would cost me.  On the first lap I was caught off guard by a couple new twists as compared to the courses of prior years.  The grass was fairly tacky and then you hit a slippery off camber and all bets are off. Then we hit a section that was new in this year's edition that had some loose loamy dirt in an "S" curve that caused me to stop cold to avoid going off course. 

A long power section that allowed me to open up was welcome and the laps started ticking past. I didn't have a ton of power and the course had a herd of short power sections followed by tight corners so your efforts to generate speed were all capped with hard braking.   I was glad to see the words, "You are DONE" on the lap board.  Tux was so well behaved it is hard to relate. When he was on leash on the course he didn't react to the cowbells or riders.  When it was time to sit in the car during my race he settled in like he had been looking forward to the break.  What a pup!
Tux was looking for a place to donate his "sample"
When the racing was done on Sunday I had over fifty miles of twisty turning races in nine days.  Hottie had a few thousand pictures up on Smugmug and there was plenty of laundry and one dirty bike.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hair club for men drops Lance Armstrong

Thanks for the dope Dr Ferrari...

The only thing worse than people sucking up to celebrities is how fast, and how loudly, they desert those same celebrities when it suits them.

I'm not defending Lance by any means, but I am condemning how visibly these companies are deserting a person who made them millions of dollars.

The other aspect of this that is making Evo choke on his Steel cut oats is the perception that Lance and US Postal were different than every other team. The code of silence is still in effect. Aside from the riders on the team that is run by an ex US Postal doper (JV) every one who testified has been fired by their employers. Levi, Matt White, etc. are all looking for work.

Think about it..


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Timbuk2 Messenger bag Review

This is my travel set up. Timbuk2 messenger bag, Lands' End roll on with initials so I know it's mine (and the middle initial keeps people from asking me for soft serve ice cream) and a light jacket.

Looking at my messenger bag and noting this is a review, you might think the bag is new. While this is obviously a review, I have been dragging this bag to work every day for four and a half years. What it takes for the bag to look worn I have yet to comprehend.

Just like the number of four wheel drive vehicles that actually spend time off road is minuscule, so too is the number of messenger bags that have been slung over a shoulder whilst riding a bike on city streets. I have used this bag at times as my only bike bag with lunch, clothes and work stuff all packed inside. I have also used it to carry just work stuff (laptop, iPad, files, phone, glasses, etc.), with clothes and lunch in a pannier.

The bag layout is mature and I gladly accept the benefit of years of trial and error and design evolution. The shoulder strap works, the chest strap works. The buckles are a back up to the Velcro for big loads or critical cargo. The interior pockets hold what you need, but are not so voluminous as to allow you to over pack. a few extra tabs allow you to add a carabiner to hold a water bottle or blinky light for commuting. The fabric wears like iron and keeps stuff dry.

As my loyal readers know, I don't bike commute every day and on those when I drive the bag is my briefcase. Can you imagine walking into a meeting with Airline Vice Presidents with this bright beast hanging from your shoulder? That is how Evo rolls. If I get a stare I comment that it the bright color means it never gets left behind and nobody mistakes it for their bag.

This bag was made in the USA by non union folks at a cool company. While sometimes Timbuk2 crosses the line of trying to be cute, they seem to have it together and they are one of the few companies that I don't mind paying retail for their products.

If you had X-ray vision you would see a Timbuk2 luggage tag on my black roller and a Timbuk2 case for my electronics inside my messenger bag. This bag was a gift from Hottie for Valentine's day back in 2008 and I think of her each time I sling it over my shoulder.

This bag gets a full five out of five Evos.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Seven thousand

....and kilometers to go before I sleep...
Seven thousand meters is a long way. It is well over four miles.  Seven thousand kilometers is a thousand times longer.  I hit seven thousand kilometers last Saturday.  Ride Evo ride !!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

In the Trenches MFG #3 Starcrossed race report 2012

Note the dirt on the face of El Hefe.  It was a  L O N G  day in the trenches.
Our dry stretch of weather continues with no end it sight.  If this is what global warming means in Seattle, bring it on !!  Starcrossed has traditionally been the first North American cross race with UCI points up for grabs.  It has also traditionally had biblical downpours during the pros race in the evening.  This year no points, no pros and no rain.  What we did have was dust and bumps.

My race was scheduled to go at 4:35.  Hottie and I slept in and took Tux to the beach and then prepped for a day at the races. We set up the tent and settled in for a long day of fall racing.  We were greeted by a long hot afternoon with a perpetual cloud of dust that kept the pavement dicey and our lungs dirty.

The start was as crazy as always and in the words of Ricky Bobby, "If you're not first, you're last." Last year with a consistent call up I was happy to enter the first corner in the top five. This year hitting it twentieth or thirty-fifth is simply a matter of how much risk you feel like taking.  I'm not in any points hunt, so my motivation to risk injury is significantly tempered.  These races are also longer, so I have time to move up if I start slowly.
Traffic and logs and dust oh my !
The course was a mix of tight grassy turns a long bumpy power straights punctuated by a handful of dusty sharp turns on pavement.  I did fine on the turns and moved up on the power straights.  With the bumpy grass getting your tire pressure dialed was a key.  To keep moving on the bumpy stuff, you kept your weight back, picked a high gear and just cranked.
Everything looks worse in black and white. - Paul Simon
The dust was everywhere and when I swallowed and my throat burned as if I had been gargling with broken glass. As the sweat dripped on my glasses the sweat attracted dust like a magnet and I was losing my vision. I didn't dare wipe the glasses, nor could I pull them off.  Oh well, just keep pedaling.
There was a short steep uphill that followed a tight turn that robbed your speed.
On the second lap El Hefe passed me and I tried to hold his wheel.  I kept it close for two laps and then he slipped away.  I felt like I was going fast and kept a wary eye on the lap count.  When I saw two to go, I figured I would get caught and so I took a gamble that (for me), it would be one to go and I tried to push a little harder.  I caught the rider who won my old category two years ago and I opened up a gap on him and pushed and pushed.
Make it done, please make it done.
I was listening to the PA to expecting to hear something like, "Entering the stadium is the leader of the Master Mens 35 plus cat 3."  I heard nothing of the sort.  I also realized no women had caught me and I was catching male riders and lapping female riders.  I would get full value for my money today. I saw one to go for the first time all year.  I pushed but there wasn't much left in the tank.
I passed a couple more riders and nobody caught me! I ended up 35th in a field of fifty. After I crossed the line I kept riding as I didn't know what else to do.  I was cooked and my mind was fuzzy.

Sometimes you replay a race in your mind and think, "I should have gone faster on the...."  Not this time.  I didn't win or anything but this was a complete effort on my part.  I downloaded my data and my heart rate went to 179 two minutes in and was between 179 and 181 for forty-five minutes. My max heart rate is 180-182.  I don't know how I kept it that high for so long.  I'm not a big fan of the heat and maybe that had something to do with it but I was spent.
Yes, it was a long day down in the mine.  
I went so hard that not only was Tux tired all day, he was still tired the next day as well.
As for Evo, I worked up an enormous Nappetite.

Happy birthday to Crash John !!