Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, November 26, 2012

CX 2012..... I hear the fat lady singing

My teammate and fellow Belgian Thug, Big John at the exact moment he realizes he can't fly.      
Can Hottie take good photos or what ?

Coffee in the morning; Cocaine afternoon..
   - Jackson Browne
Embrocation in the morning; Antibiotic cream afternoon....
   - Evo Davo
Check all the photos and see if you can figure what Evo did for the first time in a cross race.

The routine has become so entrenched in our weekends it happens almost without effort.  "What time do we need to leave in the morning?" Hottie asks dreading the answer. Whatever my reply, it is followed by a pause, a sigh and then she says, "okay."  Camera batteries are charged and lenses and umbrellas are packed and I stuff my bike clothes into a bag.

Well before the sun is up my alarm goes off and I brew up coffee and we chase it down with some corn grits.  I load up the war wagon and pretty much on time, we are off.  This morning took a little longer as I had to scrape the ice off the windshield.  Yep, as male cyclists say, "it was going to be a shrinker."

I knew exactly where I wanted to put up the tent and we got that prime spot.  There was thick milky fog and everything was wet or icy.  We had epic rains all week and the course was as muddy as promised.  For the first races there was a stretch of dry mud alternating with puddles. After three races it had turned into one long brown milkshake of mud.
If is was less grey and had whip cream on it you would be looking for a straw..
This course was similar to years past. A long flat start that takes you full speed into loose gravel (yeah, I know) that takes you into a one eighty turn for a steady uphill climb.  After the long grassy climb you snake, in typical Seattle Cyclocross fashion, back and forth, scrubbing speed into and accelerating out of one corner after another until you are dumped onto the course's marquee feature, the steep drop and hard right turn (with no let up on the slope) and a traversing off camber climb that then drops you down on the same steep grade a hundred meters further on. Then across a ditch and some rubble (the image that comes to your mind is accurate) and a run up that is really and claw up.
Clawing up the run up. The words of the day were "Toe Spikes".
After climbing the run up you had to either wade or hurdle a puddle and then a short slippery climb that punished those with bad tires or too much pressure. Your reward was being dropped into the milkshake mud avenue.  Exiting the bog you had a slippery downhill and soon you were on asphalt and churning out speed. Then onto the sand which the rain had packed into a very rideable single track. Finally a little mud to slow you down and a sharp turn before spilling onto the finishing straight of loose gravel.
Have you made your guess on what Evo did different this race ?
One of our team members was in contention for the 35 plus Cat 4's and suffered a horrible race. Three crashes and two mechanicals contributed to the mayhem. The look on his face told the story.  When it goes a little wrong, it often goes a lot wrong.  After a season of top five finishes he ended up 30th.

The fog was sticking around and I was putting on more and more layers.  I took some laps wearing full tights and rain pants on my bottom and a wicking long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, fleece jacket, team jacket and plastic rain jacket and a beanie and I did not overheat.  I did succeed in warming up.  We also had Mr. Heater working all day.

By race time the fog was gone and it was a tad warmer.  I applied some embrocation and chomped down some shot bloks.  My plea for some medical help earlier in the week had yielded some results and I was finally feeling better.  I tried to not think about the week I took off trying to recover...

McWoodie came to cheer us on and gladly collected clothing at the start allowing us to delay the chill as long as possible.  At the whistle I took off more aggressively than I have most of this season.  I fought for my spot and jumped ahead of El Jefe and took a deep breath as we approached the gravel.  I made the corner and took the right side while almost everyone else took the left. I gained a few spots and felt like I was racing again.

At this point I realized how much my head had been affected by my heath this season. In some races I just put in the effort and waited to be passed. This day I was pushing.  In the maze at the top I held my spot. I took the conservative, but smart, path and ran the downhill/uphill feature. I passed four riders on the first lap and felt good. I also took the left line on the run up and gained a spot there.

In the mud I applied my Portland experience and took the center line and did just fine.
At the starting line they told us probably five laps, but be prepared for six. After three laps I saw four to go.  Assuming the top single speeders caught me, that meant six laps for Evo. I kept churning. I wasn't too far behind Big John and El Jefe hadn't caught me yet. Some of the guys who had beat me for the first time at Woodland Park were behind me where I like to think they belong (in an elitist kind of way).

The laps stretched out and I was holding my ground. With one to go and deciding this was the last race for me, I was pushing and pushing hard.  The first couple single speeders caught me and I was keeping a good pace. I continued to run the down/up and then slide my back wheel on the following descent.

A spill on my next to last lap gave me some blood on my knee and put a smile on my face as I didn't loose a spot because I sprang up like I had planned the crash all along.

 Note the blood on the knee and mud on my backside
All too soon it was over and I was dropping my head and coasting.  In cleaning off the mud I felt like I had been deep fried as the mud was crispy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside.

The pirate took forth on the day and managed to take second in the series and a ticket to race with the Cat 1/2's next year.  Big John had another mechanical and El Jefe never caught me so I was the top Thug for our team.  I took 24th out of 43 which I am counting as a victory and calling it a season.

We cheered on our teammate Hot Pants in the final race as we broke down the tent and packed up.  On our way home we were treated to a beautiful sunset.  I washed the bike and clothes in the dark.

Next week is the Washington State Championship and our team is one of the sponsors so I'll be there working.  There is an off chance I could ride so I didn't do my final bike cleaning and storage preparation.  I sure enjoy the shower when I get home.  I find blood in places and I have no idea how it got there. I did smear antibiotic cream on my knee, fingers and hip.  I didn't have a medal around my next, but I did enjoy this season.

I warmed up wearing shoe covers that were so tight I had to fight to get them on. They kept my feet so dry that for the first time ever, I raced in shoe covers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Into the sphincter of the storm

After a string of storms that deluged Seattle I awoke to find it wasn't raining for my bike commute. I departed in the dark and as the first strains of light illuminated the sky I noted a break in the clouds. I looked around and I was surrounded by clouds. The only clear spot was over me. As I rode in the opening grew smaller and smaller.

Had the opening closed like an eye, with two opposite side converging, I would have said I had ridden through the eye of the storm. This morning all sides closed in at once so the circle just shrank until it was gone and then sprinkles began to hit me in the parking lot.

I can draw no other conclusion other than to say I rode though the sphincter of the storm.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reality came a calling Woodland Park Race Report 2012 MFG #6

If you're been following my blog you know what I look like in a race.  I'm wearing the same brown skinsuit (or unitard as Hottie likes to say), I squint and my mouth gapes open. It is November so I'm also usually sporting some mud on my face and body.

Note the definition in my quad.  Impressed ?  Just wait....

My four trips in October left me staggering into the November races tired and not real sharp. I continued to fight off the sinus infection and some days I was ahead and some days I was behind.  I rode home from work Thursday and felt like I was watching the commute on TV, it felt unsettlingly surreal. Friday night I slept ten and a half hours. Saturday I added another nine plus.  I always have felt I could sleep off cancer if needed, yet Sunday morning I knew I was on borrowed time.

The sky was grey and the course tacky. Not enough for file treads, but the Grifo/Fango combo was well suited for the course.  I got my pressure dialed in and the course suited me.  I allowed myself a flicker of hope.  It was pretty darn cold so I dipped into the embrocation and sincerely believed the smell alone would give me superpowers.

I did my usual start near the back and then begin moving up.  I was starting to look ahead to see whom I could pick off. This could be a good race for me. El Jefe was ahead and moving up and I was passing the same guys a couple minutes later so I was starting to think big.

With three to go I passed the finish line and went to power up a short climb and my head started to throb.  I felt like I was riding good lines but the power wasn't there.  I tried to push, but my body complained. It wasn't the screaming that I pride myself on ignoring; it was a quiet voice that kind of asked how stupid did I want to be?

I hung on until the board said "All DONE" and perfectly executed a pathetic sprint and bike throw at the line for 32nd place.

After the race it started to rain and I changed clothes.

Tyler Farrar is a Tour de France stage winner from Wenatchee Washington who rides for Garmin. He winters in Seattle and he came out and raced with the Cat 1/2 riders.  In these races your starting position is determined by your standing in the series.  Since Tyler hadn't raced any previous races he didn't get a call up. The riders graciously parted and offered him a front row spot.

Tyler's specialty is sprinting and so we all expected him to take the hole shot.  By accident I was perfectly positioned to see his expression as the race started.  His legs may have been saying "I can beat Mark Cavendish," but his face was saying, "This is crazy fast on grass!"

Halfway through the first lap he was hanging on the back of a group of six.  His skinsuit looked flawless. No wrinkles, no flapping, no stretching, it looked perfect.  As the race wore on the riders strung out. Tyler looked like he was both having fun and working harder than he had planned.

He finished tenth on the day and a couple of the 35 plus Cat 1/2 guys caught him.  He was a class act and after the race I was heading to Hottie with some frites and Tyler was astride his bike talking with friends.  I thanked him for coming out and offered him a frite and he thanked me and took a fry.

I finished 32nd of 44 but based on who was around me I did poorly.

A) Tyler being a good sport.  B) LOOK AT THOSE FREAKIN' LEG MUSCLES !!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Feel free to call him Richard

But to me, the guy in the Bicycle Center kit (on the right) will always be known as Dick

George, the guy on the left, was running between the stairs and the logs (as was nearly everyone) and his back wheel accidentally hit the guy in the green kit. The guy on the right takes his revenge by..

Slamming his bike into George and pushing him into the log. George gets to ride to the hospital in an ambulance. Dude, I don't yet know your name. Even after I do, I'll call you Dick.

UPDATE: With the end of year bird eating holidays fast approaching, I have added a new word to the lexicon of Evo. This guy deserves to to Spatchcocked! Enough said......

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Baby it's cold outside

Perhaps I exaggerate ?

Only days ago I was waxing poetic trying to decide how to describe the fallen leaves. In bright sunlight the colors filled the spectrum from golden to rust. Under grey skies and a dark attitude the colors ranged from vomit to yesterday's Raisin Bran.

Tuesday's morning commute was greeted by forty six degrees (or 11C for my metric minded friends). My return that evening was into a gale. This morning the gauge said thirty five (3C) when I stepped out into the starry darkness.

As I rode I noted the frost on rooftops, then the unmistakable sound of a woman scraping a windshield. Cars warming up in driveways while drivers waited patiently.

A neck gaitor and the usual warm duds made my ride pleasant, albeit slow. Cyclocross isn't over, but the slow base miles of winter aren't far off either. Besides, even after the most stressful day at work, by the time I'm home and greeted warmly by Hottie and Tux I'm feeling pretty good.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bike commuting...uphill both ways

Although I didn't have any barriers, I did have rain, wind, mud and an angry peloton on my way home...

My bike commute to work gains a little over two hundred meters. This time of year it is dark going in and dark coming home. My commute home has a hundred and twenty-five meters of climbing and those two hundred meters of descents. My times are usually about ten minutes faster coming home.

Yesterday we had a headwind and a hard rain. It felt uphill the whole way. After a frustrating day at the office, it took a long ride before Evo could be pleasant. Thank goodness for bikes..


Monday, November 5, 2012

Mud and Gherkins SCX #5 2012 Race Report Enumclaw

I'm not sure of his category, but he appears to be a National Champion, so you have to respect him!

After last weekend I had yet another freakin trip to Montreal.  As a Masters cyclist I realize I am the target demographic for ads for erectile disfunction, which in turn tell me that I have attained the age of making things happen.  I tried to make things happen by booking a mid day flight so I could sneak in a ride before strapping myself into a flying germ tube.  It sounded like a plan.

When I awoke Tuesday morning the rain wasn't quite inspiring me to build an Arc, but it was raining pretty hard.  Not be be denied I dressed and was off for some K's.  It felt good to be out and despite the deluge I had a nice ride.  A little more than an hour into it I ate a banana and turned around.  Despite starting a tad later and going a tad farther than a normally conservative Evo would have, I still figured I had plenty of time.  On the final climb I noticed my rear tire feeling a little squishy.

Like everyone else, I tried to convince myself that the tire had been this way and I had only recently realized it. I pushed my powers of denial as far as I could before stopping to meet reality head on.  A quick change and I was off again, later and dirtier, but fully inflated.

I got home, wiped down the chain and jumped in the shower.  I made my flight and I smiled as I settled into my seat with sixty K in my legs.

By the way, in Canada they have a different name for Starbucks, they call them "Tim Horton's."

The trip was uneventful and I made it home early Friday morning.

Saturday Hottie and I were able to sleep in and enjoy some of the best scones Evo has ever made. We took Tux to the beach and he showed me what real speed looks like.  The rain that had been here all week took only a short break.

Sunday dawned with big puddles and the promise of mud in Enumclaw.  Like last week, we squeezed Tux into the war wagon and made our way to the race.

As promised, the mud was present in a full variety of flavors.  Depending on the mud, sometimes it is wise to wear glasses and sometimes not. A few weeks ago at Sedro Woolley I elected not to wear glasses and I was puling grit (in ever decreasing size) out of my eyes for days.  That decision was based on the combination of mud on the ground and rain in the air.  The skies this day were grey, but no rain was falling so I opted to wear my glasses.
I guess contorting my face makes me LOOK faster.

After several warm up laps I had my tires and pressure dialed in.  I knew the course and was looking forward to the race. It was absurdly warm and as we waited at the start I noted riders wearing clothing for all conditions. Some had on short sleeved jerseys, some long sleeve and some were wearing arm warmers for the battle. Likewise on the legs.  Shorts, leg warmers, and knickers abounded as well.

Everyone who had ridden the course knew what was in store. On the starting line one rider summed it up best when he said, "The forecast calls for pain."

The start was on grass and only went thirty meters (are you noting my liberal use of the metric system? Viva la France!) and then a sweeping right hander and fifty meters more brought a one-eighty also to the right.  This was so much better than a longer straight where you could really be moving when you crashed...

We strung out and soon we were on the run up.  I usually do well on run ups but I didn't gain ground like I typically do. This was the biggest run up of the season and I was glad to reach the top every time. Following the climb we had single track where you held your spot and prayed nobody in front of you crashed.

Then we made our way down a slippery curvy downhill. This was the part of the course that separated the riders with awesome tires and brakes from those who were forced to rely only on talent, bike handling skills and training.  Evo stayed upright and let it fly. Then near the bottom I grabbed a handful every lap and then it was onto the mud museum.
Yeah, I'm tripoding, but I had just passed this poor guy and crashing would have been in poor taste.

First up was dry cloddy mud with deep tracks. Then a brief respite followed by marshy grassy mud bog that led to the Portland PIR-like slop that sucked your strength as your momentum died its slow death.  Then you hit some tacky cream cheese-like mud that let you get some traction without sinking too deep.

Then you hit a short grass section followed by a dicey loose uphill with babyheads and loose dirt leading to a sustained climb that drained the life out of your dying legs.  Once you're spent, how about a downhill slalom around trees to test your reflexes? Done !

Now onto an extended off camber that took down unsuspecting riders seemingly at random.  Then onto a short section of slick pave where you gained some speed only to scrub it as you entered the grassy chicane of pain.

When the going gets slick the slick get going !

The infield had a series of switchbacks that climbed and dropped up the side of a small rise no less than five times per lap. You could ride the first two (although even these claimed many a rider) and then the smart money was to dismount on the third unless you got a great line (more of a result of chance than skill) in which case you could ride one more before running. If you bogged and lost your momentum, you dismounted and started running. Accelerating from a stop in mud is as tough as it sounds.

I should have sprayed my frame with PAM !

After this they threw in four barriers followed my a long slog around the barns and then the return on the opposite side of the barns back to the starting line. Kind of a "who has any power left?" king of the mountain kind of game.

After the first lap I found myself ahead of El Jefe' and behind big John and I kept pushing. Traffic was thick as single speed riders were dropping (back) like flies and we were working our way through the pack.

I kept plugging away and I was moving up.  El Jefe nearly caught me and we hit some traffic and I took a crappy line and then a stall/crash split us and I went right and El Jefe went left. He was forced into a chain link fence which he hit making an awful sound. He dropped a chain, but said he was okay. I slogged onward and soon I had Spinner John in my sights.

In the words of the race announcer, this was a cyclocross race and not a pickle fight, so I drilled it. Spinner John had started a minute ahead of my in the single speed race and when I passed him he was his usual vocal self.  I let him know I was passing. "On your left, John," I said, trying not to gasp.  Then I could hear him for half a lap. "Damn....On your..Whoa...sorry..Oh crap!" I braced for the excuses that he would be offering after the race.

The laps ticked by and we battled on.  All too soon we finished the day and slumped over our bars.

Once again Tux was a wonder dog and we were glad he came along.

After a muddy epic I can't help but sing the praises for Lizardskins bar tape. It was sticky in the race and washed up clean as a whistle with water and a quick pass of the brush at days end. My eggbeater pedals are still the best. I passed a rider who was kicking his pedals to try and chase out some mud so he could clip in. "Crank Brothers" was all I said as I rode past.  Toe spikes were required this day.  My Limus tire kept me moving forward at all times.

With the end of daylight savings time I was cleaning my bike in my driveway in the dark. I lubed the chain and hung it back in the garage.  Cyclocross laundry followed (hose down the clothes in the driveway, then spray them with stain remover, into the wash with an extra rinse cycle and repeat individual steps as necessary) and then a welcomed hot shower.

The day was fun, and while Hottie and I are having fun, this has been a long season and we won't cry when the last race is done.