Doing it all the hard way...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

MFG # 2 Lake Sammamish GP 2013 Race Report and Photos

For photos of everyone else, go to Spotshot !
El Jefe' wrestling in the mud !
Sometimes something is stated so succinctly that you just say, "Amen."   The following race report from El Jefe meets that criteria. So with only the names changes to protect the guilty, here it is.  The photos, in keeping with my extra large ego, are still mostly of Evo.
Evo with his potent Lentil stew
This morning, on the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish, the maglia bruno did battle with the elements, other riders, and themselves.   El Tenté (Evo) had his homemade chili simmering tent side. 
The Beast with a blanket hiding her shotgun.
 His mother (The Beast) sat nearby with a cowbell and 12 gauge to scare away the occasional chili thief.

The early race witnessed the return of El Chefé to the muddy peloton.   From my vantage point he was railing his turns and moving up throughout the race.   Stephen looked to have a good race as well.  

Later during my race I wondered how they had kept such great lines while the slick mud was sending me sideways.  Brother Rich showed up with file treads.  As the team president it was my duty to direct him to the Raleigh demo bikes which had tires which were more appropriate for the conditions.

Yeah, this was the course today..
The race featured Hot Pants and Seph from the west in Cat 3 35+  (Photos on Spotshot)
El Jefe's storming Omaha Beach !!

Cat 3 45+  saw Peter Parker,  El Tenté, Big John (on his classy new white carbon frame), Feral Dave and El Jefe.   The course had turned muddier, roots slippier, and the long sand section more Normandier.  

With 30 seconds until start, Feral Dave stopped doing his Achilles stretches, changed from his dolphin shorts to something with a chamois, giggled about how he was going to 'sprint that sand trap'  and mounted his Belgian steed. 
Early on - The legs are still clean..  
As the race started, I was moving backwards.  Then I was moving sideways.  Then I was being run into.  I was riding at 45 degrees  into other riders.  Bumper pool at its best.  
I settled in and found a group of 5 riders to do battle with.   

More "color" on my legs (and face)
Spiderman, Davo, and Feral Dave were not to be seen.  

The Zen-like focus that says, "Last Lap!"
I focused on the orange beacon which was Big John's helmet and tried to bridge.  When we did hook up on the penultimate lap I had disconnected my rear brake cable on a remount.  I figured this out as I tried to set up a turn that instead deposited me into a post.  I fixed the problem, but the damage had been done. Hot pants and his cronies caught up to me on the finishing straight and I figured I had received full value for my entry. 
Evo about to be ALL DONE !!
Note mud on bike, shoes, Evo as well as puddles in background.  It was wet !

Sunday, September 22, 2013

SCX #1 2013 McCollum Cyclocross Race Report and Photos Wet and WILD ! Seattle Cyclocross

Fair weather cyclocross is OVER.  For photos of everyone else click here.  For the continuing saga of Evo Davo, read on...
Muddy Davo

Rain had been predicted for the whole weekend and Saturday had been surprisingly dry.  My faith in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is strong, so I put the mud tires on the cross bike and loaded it in the war wagon for an early Sunday departe’.

Dark, threatening clouds greeted me as I set up the tent on the grass along the edge of the course.  “This is a pretty prime spot,” I thought to myself. 

My mud tires are on some beat up carbon rims so I had changed out brake pads to yellow carbon friendly ones and was reluctant to take out the bike as I was unsure if I would want the mud tires or my “pretty darn good for just about everything” Challenge Fangos.  After watching a race or two; I put on the Fango and in the process of swapping pads when I ldropped the retention spring for the brake pad in the grass. Gone forever.  Improvising, I clipped a few millimeters off of a spare derailleur cable and pushed it into place and it served me well all day.

Riding laps revealed the course to be a complex assortment of wicked improvisation. 

Fall means Cyclocross here in the Northwest !!

Here is a course description beginning at the starting line:  The starting/finishing straight is actually a gradual left hand arc on parking lot pavement. The bunch is quickly funneled into a puddle that is best ridden to the left just before a nearly 180 degree right hander turn.  Those who bombed it on the right were set up well for the corner, but were also trying to smile while riding with soaking wet shoes.

The right hand turn put you on speed sucking grass that had you trying to figure out if your tires were flat, or if your brakes were rubbing because you couldn’t understand why you were working so hard and going so slow.  After you managed to build up some speed you hit a sloppy left hand turn that again slowed you down requiring you to work to get going again.  Then you were on a short series of off camber slalom turns that claimed more than a few victims during the race.   Then you hit the most unique feature of the racecourse, a couple corners from the BMX park. You hit a series of whoop-de-doos followed by a high banked turn and another set of whoop-de-doos and then a crazy narrow descent over piles of clay and rocks.  The whoop-de-dos saw some riders styling them and others being thrown all over.  Then we went across a road and onto a series of off camber sweepers that were scary when they were dry.  The rains came in force for my race (details to follow) and those corners saw dozens of crashes.

This was followed by a short pavement section that dropped before sending you through some loose gravel (at high speed) and onto more technical grass turns. Then a descent into the forest where we were out of the mud but the loamy duff made cornering a challenge.  Lots of “around this tree, now around that tree” stuff at low speed and some short steep climbs and correspondingly steep drops before more winding around more “this tree, now that tree” wrestling.

A short straight gave you a moment to build requisite speed before a short but steep climb up soft dirt to the parking lot where a mistake would cost you places and perhaps blood. Then across the parking lot and more grass turns and hillside fun before a barrier on a climb at an angle on the hillside.  Hoittie said that spot had the best facial expression as riders (Evo included) would dismount and then our feet would slide to the right as we tried to run uphill to the left.  It took a step or three to over-correct each time and then a remount and sprint to the finish line.

Evo leading Big John

Although I took several warm up laps the variety of features made it really hard to get into any kind of rhythm and I will acknowledge that I although I enjoyed the various parts of the course, during the warm up I never got comfortable linking them together.

As we warmed up for the 12:25 start the skies started to share their hydration bounty. The rain continued to increase in intensity and as we lined up the rain was coming down with near-biblical intensity.  Cyclocross was about to get real.  To ensure we weren’t cheated, they promised us five laps of suffering.

The pre-race rain had driven most of us to hide under the trees that lined the start area so when the start whistle blew many of us had sluggish legs.  I avoided the puddle in the first turn and went wide and was slogging my way up from the back as riders went sideways on the slippery grass. 

I moved up in the grass and likewise in the BMX park until we were funneled down to single file.  I took some initiative and dismounted and carried past a line of riders who had been forced to straddle their bikes as the narrow procession slowed to a walk. It was, after all, a race.

The grassy off camber sweepers were dodgy and I saw I was just behind Big John.  I decided to try and stay on his wheel and let him pull me up into contention. John moved up and so did I. We took some places on the pavement and then more on the grassy turns. In the forest I had to dab and John got a gap on me but nobody filled in the gap so I worked to close it. As I came to the short, steep and soft uphill that led to the parking lot, John lost traction and his bike went sideways. I went left and rode past as he expressed an appropriate level of frustration (no swearing, just some verbalized self-talk and apologies to those around him at conversational level decibels).  What a classy guy.

Banked turns and Evo is moooooving !

Soon I passed the team tent where teammates and relatives were sheltered from the rain.  I hoped they noted I was (for the moment anyway) ahead of Big John. Later when the course switched back on itself, I heard John shouting, “Go Davo.” Man I love that!

I looked ahead and worked to catch and pass the group in front of me.  On the second lap I pushed and continued to pass riders as we were now filtering through the back of the Cat3 35+ field.  You tend to race those around you so I had to concentrate on looking ahead of those I was catching and pushing past when I could.  It would have been easy to settle in with the slower riders, but like I said, it is a race.

When I saw three to go the gaps were growing and the rain had soaked in and the course was changing drastically.  The course was different not only from what it had been when I pre-rode the course, but it was a slip and slide compared to how it had been on the earlier laps.

The BMX course is mostly clay, so it wasn’t too different, but the off cambers were no claiming victims without mercy. Bikes were doing “hook-and-ladder” slides at best and riders going down and tangling in heaps at worst.  The grassy sections on hillsides saw slide outs and a majority of riders had the telltale signs of crashes ranging from torn, flapping numbers to mud covered limbs to bloody knees and shins.

Evo trusted in his tires and his pressure guesses and leaned into the hills.  Aside from a handful of dabs, I kept it upright.  I passed the Pirate at the same spot (each of us going different directions) on each lap indicating that there was some combination of my having a good day or him having a bad day. He later reported crashing seven times.  

With over two hundred racers on course it is almost unfathomable that at times you can’t see anyone in front of you, but that is what happened.  I couldn’t see anyone to chase and Big John had fallen way back deciding not to chance crashing on the slippery course.  I focused on my pedal stroke and taking good lines and kept looking ahead of me.

When I crossed the line with one to go I again celebrated another race where I didn’t get lapped. I looked for riders to pick off and on the speed sucking grass I claimed another place.  There is a point late in races where you avoid eye contact as you pass. The rider getting passed is cooked and eye contact only adds to their misery.  Kind of like when someone yells to a fading rider to close the gap.  If they could, they would.  The fact that they are dropping off is an indication that they gave it all they could and now are paying the price.

The mud was flying and I was glad I was wearing my "working in the factory" safety glasses as they had clumps of mud stuck to them that would have blinded me otherwise.  The best ten bucks I never actually spent (Thanks Bombardier).

Behind me I could see a rider whom I had been chasing on lap four until he crashed twice in fifty feet at which point I passed him.  He wanted to get back in front of me and I liked him behind me.   I was aware that in order to keep those who were behind me to stay behind me, I needed to focus on the course and riders in front of me.  I looked ahead and spotted an Apex rider who became my target.  He was in my category and I was feeling “frisky.”  

I started to close the gap on the grassy portions and held on through the forest. My chaser was closing on us as well.  When we emerged from the forest I surged past the Apex guy right in front of my team’s tent as “The Beast” screamed, “Tear their legs off.”  I kept pushing and after fording the mud bog for the final time I looked up from a loose off camber turn and could see my chaser coming up on the Apex guy.  I knew the gap was such that if I crashed they would be on me in a second.  I rode the slippery stuff conservatively and then pushed where I could get traction.  Up and over the slippery devil barrier one last time, then sprint to the finish and I was ALL DONE.

When you see leaning over the bars after a race you can rest assured I rode hard. When you see me get off and lean over the top tube that is when you can tell that I gave all I had.   Last week we all had dust on our faces and the front of our legs. Today we all had mud from head to toe and front to back.

Because Seattle Cyclocross is a USA cycling event they have to follow a rather rigid protocol regarding upgrading and the result was some of our fast guys had to race down a cat. We had guys who race Cat 3 in the MFG series forced to race Cat 4 and some guys who race as Cat 2’s down in our race.  With Cat 2’s in my race I was pleased with a mid pack result.  

Despite being my biggest fan, Hottie wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of watching the Seahawks this day so she drove separately to the venue that was a short twenty minute drive from Casa de Evo.  After my race she congratulated me and drove off thirty seconds later.  It worked out well for both of us.

As I rode a warm down lap I realized the rain was letting up and by the time I got to the tent and we started to pack up the rain had stopped.  By the time I got home there were even sunbreaks.  I set up the tent in the garage, turned on a fan and hung the team flag to dry.  I hosed the mud off the bike and my clothes.  After lubing the bike and defiling the washing machine I settled down to watch the end of the Seahawk game with Hottie.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shut up but Listen !

Can you read my mind ?

Listen to your body
   Shut up legs!  

Base plus intensity equals success
   Recovery is just as important as any workout

You gotta make those deposits into the pain bank before you can make a withdrawal

Without hesitation I admit to being a middle aged man.  With a façade of bravado I will also admit to being a competitive athlete. The juxtaposition of serious athletic competition and eligibility for AARP membership is a complex and often frustrating place to be.

One day I am flying up the hills as my heart rate climbs through zone four per my workout plan. I am unstoppable and taking on all comers. Two days later I am going to bed exhausted at seven thirty, with a sore back and several hundred milligrams of ibuprofen in my bloodstream.

The training edge is both ragged and sharp. In my current state I am reminded of a passage in “The grapes of wrath,” where the protagonist, Tom Joad is driving the family truck that should have been scrapped years earlier. The section describes how he is using his whole body to monitor the the old truck. As he drives he is feeling the transmission through the floor of the cab while at the same time listening for subtle variances in the rumbling of the struggling engine.  There are times when it feels like my body is that old worn-out truck and I am trying to listen and diagnose meaning from the assortment of creaks and groans that incessantly follow me each day.

My body didn’t come with an owner’s manual, just washing instructions and a warranty that expired when I moved out of my parents’ home. I am generally pretty happy with what I am still able to do at my age.  To my amazement I continue to be surprised as I learn new things about my constantly evolving body.  Stretching, posture, nutrition, sleep, and stress all play their role in my success, or lack thereof.  

My training has gone okay with the typical, “Whoa, that was too much, better back off a bit” episodes where I lose a few days trying to avoid total collapse.  Every year I try to hit the hard days harder and the easy days easier.  I’ve been hitting the hard days pretty hard of late and we’ll see if it pays off.  I refuse to entertain the thought that I am overtraining, but I will say I have been hungry for a month.  It is ironic that the first time I didn’t want to eat anything I could find was late Saturday after getting home from Starcrossed at ten pm.

I will go out on a limb and say that while I didn’t win or anything I am going to declare that I broke my long standing Starcrossed curse and had a decent race.   There were in excess of 200 fast men out on the course (in three groups) when I was racing and I beat a lot and a lot beat me. As I looked around after finishing the guys around me looked fast and I’ll take that as a positive.

A couple years ago at about this point in the season I whined that I felt like I worked harder than anyone else just to be a mediocre rider.  It was as if my lament were a prayer that was heard on high.  My placing improved each week after that and I found myself on the podium at the end of the season. 

It would be nice to be more competitive this season, but this year I don’t seem to mind at all.  When people ask me how my race was I grin and reply with sincere enthusiasm that I had fun. And really, with no Hawaii trip on the line, isn’t that the point?

In 2013 I am the definition of the mid pack racer and without any great rivalries this year I find that I am racing against myself in these cross races. I continue to take particular joy in my racing this season. The well executed barrier, the well ridden corner, and the right tire pressure are all satisfying to my soul. I am enjoying the beauty and poetry of racing Cyclocross this year.  Before you jump to an erroneous conclusion; let me assure you I am suffering out there.  When I cross the line I’m not feeling cheated that there isn’t another lap. I am thanking St. Nys that I managed to finish without my lungs exploding as I gasp for precious air.  My warm down is solely to try and break the Pavlovian response in my brain that riding a cross bike means limitless pain.
Kyson wondering, "is my leg supposed to go that way?"

Summer seems to have left under the cover of darkness and I expect to be pulling off the file tread and slapping on a mud tire up front for my next race.  Summer has been fun but football is underway and it is time for the sweet smell of embrocation to permeate the crisp fall air.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Coffee and Lies #37 We don't all think the same way

Post rides lies are flying !!

For the first time in recent memory, we actual had rode the way we tell people we ride on Sunday mornings. Since we had raced yesterday, late yesterday if it matters, we all took it real easy.

During the post race lies part of our morning, one of our band of merry men asked if we had heard of an episode where a man had exposed himself to school children. It turned out to hit a little closer to home as a family member was one of the children involved.

"I just can't understand the motivation for doing something like that," Evo asked not expecting any answer that would make sense. "You can't understand that because your mind doesn't work that way," KB offered with authority.

I further speculated that a psychiatric community made up of supposedly normal people can't really understand and resolve the issued of non-normal people. My theory met with little resistance.

It reinforced something that I had to learn over time, reversing a belief that I had held since my youth. I had always thought we could always reason things out with those we disagree with. It was only since I interfaced with different cultures did I come to the realization that peoples with different backgrounds think differently. No matter how long I spent talking with and trying to understand pedophiles, I wouldn't think that behavior was okay.

Our nation is involved in "conflicts" around the world. Many want us to avoid the use of force and just reason with those who are doing harm. Just like no amount of conversation with a pedophile will stop their behavior, sometimes people must be compelled to follow the rules. For pedophiles that usually involves restricting their movement. For those who value life less than we do, words alone rarely solve the situation.

We looked down and our plates were empty and we returned to discussing the finer points of bike maintenance.


Starcrossed 2013 Race Report and photos

If you don't care about Davo, you can see photos of everyone else at Spotshot !
They say you can spot a happy motorcyclist by the bugs on their teeth.  
Can you guess how you can spot a happy Cyclocrosser ?

The spectacle of Starcrossed returned to Washington state and was welcomed with open arms. Dirty, sweaty arms throbbing from a pounding on a bumpy course.  Arriving early, Hottie and I set up the tent and settled in for a long afternoon and evening.

My former spin instructor and cyclocross stalker (Spinner John) was entered in my 50+ cat and he was grinning like he smelled blood; my blood.  While I had soundly beaten him last week, he subsequently claimed to be sick and I reluctantly shrugged it off as luck on my part.

The course was bumpy and we joked about expecting to need to get our fillings tightened up following the race. They called us up my race number starting with 130 and Spinner John was 150 and I was 183.  There were 63 of us and I lined up in the back once again. The race in front of us had filled up and we started sixty seconds behind a field of eighty 40+ riders.

At the start a gap opened up in front of my and I quickly filled it. I heard the horrible sound of frames crunching to my left. I kept my eyes forward and forgot the crash one half second later.  I moved up on the loose dusty first corner going wide and keeping up my speed. As we snaked through the next couple corners I was fearless and as we hit the stairs I could see Spinner John was just ahead of me.

After the stairs I remounted and just in front of and below me I saw John sprawled out on his back with his bike on top of him as another rider rode right into him. I could her Spinner John yelling an obscenity.  By my reckoning he has three first lap crashes in the first three races this year. Like the narcissistic racer that I am, I forget his misfortune and returned my focus to the race.  The traffic on the course was problematic and even on the first lap we were catching the stragglers from the race ahead. I had to dap on a short steep climb but I was feeling strong.

Evo chasing Kevin and Peter
On the next lap I was fighting my way through traffic and the course was thick with the back of the race in front of us. I was racing open 50+ so there were some real fast mofos out there.  At the top of the short climb two riders ran into each other in front of me and I had to dismount and run. As I remounted I looked down and saw my chain had come off and my crank had rotated backwards and was only held in place by my chain keeper. I pedaled forward and the chain keeper did it's job and in addition to being grateful for my K-edge chain keeper, I didn't lose a second.

I came around the next lap and saw Spinner John sitting on the side of the course in the classic "broken collar bone" position of having your hand resting on your opposite shoulder with your elbow pressed into your stomach. "Poor guy," I thought for a nanosecond before chasing it out of my mind.

I was right behind a classy Blue Rooster I know named Kevin when he got forced into a course pole which stopped him and therefore it stopped me as well.  When we started up again I have no idea how it happened, but Kevin got away from me and I didn't see him again until after the race.

The dust was picking up and I noticed my arms had acquired a coating of grey that was absorbing the sweat and making me hotter.
It may be short, but it was steep with a contrived approach that made it sketchy.
The laps went quickly and I was able to hear the sweetest of sounds for Mid-pack Evo.  The sound of the UCI official ringing the last lap bell and not pulling Evo had become a bucket list experience.

By now the riders were spread out and I was racing those around me.  After hearing the bell I pushed a little harder and moved up through my group.
Up and..
Check out the quad definition !!
I passed a few guys and built up a bit of a gap and was able to ride smart into the last quarter of a lap.  I checked behind me and got out of the saddle to sprint to the line just in case someone wanted to battle me for 32nd place.  The bumpy course was brutal and I was sore and filthy.
I had a helmet and glasses to keep parts of my head clean...
Once again I had a blast racing and wasn't at all concerned with my placing or who I beat or who beat me.  Traditionally Starcrossed is where I get schooled and this year I was pleased with my ride.  The open 50+ cat meant that some of the slow guys that are usually out there were either not racing or in the 40+ cat.  When the results were finally posted I realized that I was mid pack in a pretty darn good field. I'll take it !
Kind of fitting that Rapha was a sponsor of the event.  
The suffering was so epic, it was underexposed and in black and white !!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Orange Sky

This wasn't the actual sky, but you get the idea

A friend of mine has been kind enough to invite me to join his weekly evening rides on a course known as “The Thrilla.”  It departs from a paved and well travelled bike path on the eastside and ascends a labyrinth of power line access, bridle trails, neighborhood greenbelts, a couple streets, nature trails and what feels like secret passages.  The route feels like a cross between Harrison Ford’s escape in “The Fugative,” and any scene from an Indiana Jones movie that takes place in a cave. The combination of fast and slow, steep and flowing, dirt single track, off camber pavement and loose gravel is perfect for cyclocross practice.  

Because of the contrived nature of the route it is easy to get lost and it is not a situation where all roads lead to the end.  The complexity of the route requires riders to serve what can best be described as an apprenticeship learning the course. For this reason solo cyclists are a rarity on the course. While there is a definite Thrilla course, there are also dozens of potential add-ons along the way.  I have ridden the course five times and in spite of my inflated sense of self, I am not prepared to either ride solo or guide others on the route.  I also think I have a pretty good sense of direction, yet I am absolutely oblivious to north and south on all but the first and last part of this route.

This Thursday I again joined Geoff’s Thursday Thrilla ride.  In addition to Geoff there were two Thrilla veterans and another “follower” like myself. We needed, and brought, headlamps as we were still on course as the sun went down.  When we emerged from the dark forest onto a power line access to begin the westward return trip we found the sun had sunk below the horizon line. As we crested a dark hill the western sky was as bright orange as one can imagine. Riders were silhouetted against the orange sky and the panorama appeared totally photoshopped. 

If I had been with Hottie it could have been an “It doesn’t get any better than this,” moment. As it was it shall be a scene I won’t soon forget.  Three weeks ago the sun was still out at this time and today it was dark.  Summer may or may not be over, but it certainly has packed its bags.  The rain and cold are coming any day and these warm days sure feels like we are riding on borrowed time.  It almost made me feel guilty.

When we made it back to the cars we had a rushed and an almost awkward parting.  The transition from, “Wow, that was so fun I feel like I’m twelve years old” to “Man I’m late, I gotta get home. I got shit to do,” happened so fast we didn’t know what to say.

Today at work I felt a twinge now and then from sore and tight muscles.  While that isn’t what you want to feel the day before a race I smiled and remembered an orange sky.