30 December 2005

That wasn't a smile

Turns out, JP wasn't smiling on the podium the other day ... more like grimacing in absolute pain! Check out this news from across the pond, courtesy Saturday's edition of cyclingnews.com:

Bad luck also for Jonathan Page: Racing strongly in Middelkerke on December 29, the American rider achieved a great third placing with a rusty piece of metal in the sole of his shoe, which caused a wound in his foot. As the pain worsened in the evening, Page had to go to hospital in Oudenaarde where he was treated, but he will not be able to prove his good form in the next few days as he is reported not being able to even stand on his foot.

Will this guy ever catch a break?

Page podiums!

I'm probably the last 'crosser to know, but wanted to give a HUGE shout-out to Jonathan Page for a third-place ride at the Middelkerke C2 race yesterday. This is a great result for an American 'crosser in Belgium, coming on the heels as it did of JP's stomach virus that prevented him from repeating as National Champion. (That dude gets sick every time he flys across the Atlantic.)

Be sure to take a look at the results ... look at the time gaps back to the next "groups" ... and who was in them! 1:24 to Frischy, nearly 2 minutes to Nys and Wellens!

And check this out -- he's still sick! (Link not for the faint of heart.) They're culturing his stool to figure out what he's got so they can kill it ... at the same time he's out there "killing it!" These guys sign appearance contracts to get paid to race, so that's why he's riding -- one heck of a way to make good ...

Also big props to Bjorn Selander, who has been tearing it up in the Junior ranks over there. Unfortunately, he crashed hard the other day, and may have messed something up. I think the Juniors are off until tomorrow ... how do you say good luck in Flemish/Dutch?

And in case you didn't know, all these guys are living on credit cards ... USA Cycling has seen fit to categorize our sport, but because it's not in the Olympics, it doesn't qualify for funding to the Worlds. There are various fundraising opportunities out there, but Renee has organized a fun one that includes photos and calendars ... I've done my part, have you?


Second verse, same as the first?

I was looking back at last year, and one year ago today it was 60 degrees here in Chicago. After the brutal December we've had this year, that seems pretty hard to believe! Then again, this past Tuesday was our warmest day all month, topping out at just 47!

New Years is a great time to start thinking about the upcoming season. Before I started racing 'cross, I would begin training in November, and so Nov. 1 would be my "new year." But now there's a certain amount of symmetry to the calendar -- I race until mid-December, get to relax during the holidays, and have a couple of days off from work to ease back into riding once I start to feel super-fat and lazy. Then it's a couple of weeks of no-pressure riding, whenever it's nice enough, plus time to get back into the weight room. It makes it easier to stomach for me and Kim when the days and rides get longer toward February …

First, a look back: 2005 was an awesome season for me. I was more than happy at many of my results -- I started off with a win at the Groundhog 'Cross in February and capped it with consecutive weekends in the money before having a lot of fun in Providence. But it was also a tough year, as I experienced the worst form I've ever had in August, just in time for some of my key events. But a low-key September translated into an absolute blast once the leaves started falling on the trails of Wisconsin and Illinois …

It will be hard to top that next year. In fact, I'm not even going to try. After two seasons of 80 races each, I'm stepping it back … I've retired from the track (probably forever), and will use the summer to gear up for an all-out assault on the 'cross calendar next fall. That's not to say I won't be out on the roads -- far from it! -- but what I will do, for once, is target certain events and even take a weekend off here or there. I'm still looking forward to the road season, but don't feel nearly the pressure that I have in the past … who knows? With fresher legs I may even be able to do something?

So where am I at? I started riding last Monday, getting out when the weather has been halfway decent and not trying to "force" anything. In fact -- GASP! -- I haven't even hooked up my PowerTap yet, preferring to go by feel for now. I also started serious weight-lifting last week, nearly 2 full months later than before. And I'm still running, which by last year I was done with.

I'm about 4-1/2 lbs. heavier than this time last year, but am happy to say that I only gained those this month. That may sound crazy, but I have a habit of gaining up to 12 lbs. in a very short span of time, so it's a victory of sorts. All told, I'd like to lose between 6 and 8 lbs. by April … plenty of time, if I play it smart!

Above all, though, I'm motivated -- my goals are pretty far off, not really coming until October, but I feel like I'm having fun again, and I'm excited to get out and start playing as soon as possible. Not needing to do intervals when it's still icy out is a luxury to me, one that I am very much looking forward to! There are a lot of good things coming together, and I anticipate another great year in 2006!

Happy New Year everyone!


29 December 2005

What have I done?

Now "it" is sitting in my newly converted bike (dining) room. I have to say, it's even more lovely in person than on the web … all white and shiny, with a fresh coat of wax to help protect it from the elements. At least for now … after all, it's a 'cross bike!

I pulled no punches with this one, and I'll be the first to admit that I went more than a little overboard -- 'cross bikes are built to be abused, so every piece of advice I've ever heard about picking components, etc. has basically been "no need to go Record, no need for the trickest brakes, no need for the best frame. Get what works, and will last through a couple of seasons of mud and muck." Then how come all the pros ride Ridleys or Empellas with D/A 10 speed?

So here's what's got me all excited, and ready to hit the trails as soon as they dry out:

What you see here is the basis for my future, the investment in 'cross that I never expected to make. The Cannondale that has served me so faithfully for three seasons will now be my pit bike/commuter/salty road steed, while this new beauty will become the white horse that has me galloping to victory. Or something like that!

Seriously, though -- until this year, I never really upgraded the Cannondale, and once I moved away from the stock Tiagra/105 mix component set, I started to get a glimpse of the future. Not that the new ride will instantly make me faster or a better bike handler, but something has to be said for a bike that will build up around 17 lbs. vs. one that came in at 20-3/4 … nearly 4 lbs. less per barrier section, per run-up, per acceleration will certainly add up!

Of course, Lou is on a C-50 that comes in just over 16 lbs. … only now I'll have no excuses if he spanks me again next year!


28 December 2005


So what is it? Thanks to a conflux of good fortune and good circumstance, "it" is my first ever no-compromises, anything I could dream up, built-to-my-specs, totally pimped-out, ready to fly, race bike! It's not completely built yet, but I visited the frame yesterday, and picked it up last night, and I have to say it's pretty spectacular!

I was pretty set after last year not to buy another bike for a long time -- I have what I need, and between Kim and I, we just don't have the room to store what we've got. It's not like we have an extravagant amount -- in any given week, I'm liable to ride each of my bikes at least once, depending on the situation and the circumstances. But we've got enough, or at least that's what I thought until 'cross season came along.

It was some time in October or early November when I decided once and for all that I needed another 'cross bike. It's been an idea in my head for a while, but I think the deal was sealed at the first Challenge Park race -- on a day when I had decent legs, I lost everything thanks to a crash that led to a loooong wait in the pits while someone dug up an allen wrench, only to flat on the next lap. The flat may not have been preventable, but having a pit bike may have changed the outcome of the race for me!

So with the seed planted, the siren song began … and before I knew it, I was ordering parts and picking a color -- and now, several weeks later, it's here!


27 December 2005

It's here! It's here!


So this is Christmas

It's hard to believe it's been 25 years since John Lennon was killed. My in-laws gave me the commemorative edition of Life that was just released as a gift on Sunday, and although I have seen much of the content elsewhere, it was pretty moving to page through the photos and stories of one of the most influential men of the 20th century.

That's sort of how this holiday season has been for me: a little bittersweet. My relatives have a habit of passing away in December, and so although Christmas is my family's biggest holiday, it is also a bit sad as we remember those who have gone. But it's always fun to gather around the tree and tell the same stories we tell every year, like the time my Dad and Grandfather used old combat boots to put ashy footprints near the fireplace on Christmas Eve ...

But this is a happy time as well, and a time of transition. Kim is off school for a couple of weeks, and since I'm only just starting to ride again (more on that another time), we've been able to get some "spring cleaning" done. We also decided to create some minor chaos by rearranging our dining room, but just one trip to Home Depot later and we're ready to go ...

And in another passing of sorts, I finally got rid of my first "real" bike -- the bike itself died 3 years ago in a spectacular freewheel failure that had bearings flying everywhere in the snow, but I couldn't bring myself to get rid of the frame. This powder-blue Miyata Triple-Cross and I spent many happy miles on the Fox River Trail for many, many years ... I'm mostly at peace with it, but did have a hard time as I paged through The Noblest Invention, a gift from a coworker, this morning ...

I hope everyone out there had a wonderful holiday weekend, or a wonderful week depending on who you are ... this is truly a time to reflect, but it's also a time to be super-excited about what's to come. The future will be here before you know it!


24 December 2005

They thought of everything!

Ok. This falls under the category of "just 'cause you can, doesn't mean you should." At this very moment, I am lounging at my in-laws' house, TYPING MY BLOG WITH MY THUMBS!! That's right, the genius braintrust behind Blogger.com have optimized it for mobile devices. So instead of helping clean house for the Christmas Eve party tonight, I am blogging ON MY CRACKBERRY! Kim hasn't caught me yet ...

Oh, and never mind that it's not mine, it's my company's ...

Anyway, Happy Holidays everyone! I swear I will put this away now, and go celebrate ... Just as soon as I check that one last email ...


23 December 2005

Killing time

Today is one of those days at work where you want to do anything but actually do something. So I was checking out the Chicago Tribune site, and came across a couple of links that really made my day ...

I'm all for a Chicago Olympics, but I have a feeling this is a story plant to gauge public opinion to what it may take. And where the heck would they be able to have a challenging bike course? Milwaukee? Madison?

I loved this story as a kid, before I ever knew what "allegory" meant. Lewis may have become a Christian crackpot (albeit a very well-respected one!), but I still want to see this in the theater.

If you've never seen Arrested Development, go out and get the first-season DVD now. I've heard Season II isn't as good, but this gives you a good idea of what the jokes are like ... a lawyer named Bob Loblaw? Brilliant! (Seriously, say it fast and you'll get it.)

And finally, to put everyone in the Holiday spirit, here's a collection of some of the best Santa photos I've ever seen! Merry Christmas!


22 December 2005

Kicking and screaming

The bottom fell out about 90 minutes ago, and I can just feel some sort of bug grabbing hold of my immune system and dragging me down. Maybe I can sleep it off, but I doubt it -- I've managed to fight off a bunch of crap for the past 2-3 weeks, but that was before I weight-lifted myself into oblivion while running outside twice this week. But I feel good that I at least did something -- I'm pretty prone to gaining weight easily, and I was starting to feel it!

In the meantime, I have finally succumbed to the Information Age, me who had put off even owning a cell phone until just before 9/11. My company has provided a CrackBerry for my use, and in the midst of a busy e-mail day, I'm vibrating almost constantly ...

This is the middle/end of week 2 of my "off-season" -- last week was the first time in a long time where I had two zeros for my training -- no riding and no cross-training. That's really unusual; even last year, during my first week of off-season, I did some weight-lifting. This year I took a full week completely off, giving in to work priorities, before finally getting to the YMCA for weights and doing a bit of running this week. I'm sure my cardio system is detraining even as I write this (after 10 days or so), but that's sort of OK I think. Especially if I'm getting sick. My limiter is my muscle strength, not my cardio capacity.

Of course, almost everyone else is riding and/or skiing ...


21 December 2005

'Crossing categories

As much as I may not like the idea of 'cross categories, I'll obviously be abiding by the USA Cycling rules next season. And honestly, by introducing upgrading to 'cross, it may make the racing that much more interesting to watch -- at the very least, it will weed out some of the sandbaggers in the Bs who should be racing in the A category already. At least I'll have a 3-season head start on them!

Anyway, one of the things that struck me as a bit odd was that I am a Cat. 1 in Cyclocross. While I'm honored to have this distinction, I'm not entirely sure it's fair. Any look at the results of local Chicago and Wisconsin 'cross races will tell you -- there are about 15 regular racers, and I'm probably only about 8th or 9th best out of them. On a great day with a super-small field, I have won (twice); and on the best 'cross day of my life I was battling for a podium; but for the most part, I'm just hammering away, hoping not to get lapped before the bell for the final lap.

And the Chicago Cup and WCA have nothing on the depth in the hotbeds of 'cross on the East and West Coasts. (OK, that's not entirely true. We have Matt Kelly, Kurt Refsnider, Jim Holmes, Bobby Williamson and a few others.) So in the grand scheme of the domestic 'cross scene, I'm a nobody. But I'm a Cat. 1.

So what to do? I think USA Cycling should have done this a bit differently. At the top level of the sport, anyone with UCI points or high placings in the National Championships should be Cat. 1s. The rest of us -- the NORBA Experts, the USCF road Cat. 1s and 2s -- should start off as Cat. 2s, and battle for Cat. 1 status. Run all the Cat. 1s and 2s together in the same race -- including the Championships -- and score us appropriately based on the upgrade points system. (Heck, you could even score us separately within the same race if you wanted to ensure parity.) I think this would make the racing just that much more exciting, and would reserve the Cat. 1 status for the elite of the elite, the way it should be.

I suppose ultimately it doesn't matter, as the 1s and 2s will all be racing together, at least for the foreseeable future. But won't it be cool if we get such huge fields that it has to be split? At that point, can I really say I'm on the same level is Tree Farm, or Gulli, or Matt Kelly?


20 December 2005

Brian's Day Out

So I'm really lame and have gotten all caught up in doing work at work this week ... but our e-mail server just crashed, so I can't even check my new CrackBerry ...

... so I thought I'd post these pics of Brian Conant from Natz. I feel so behind on writing a race report and all that, but while my races were nothing to write home about, Brian had an awesome ride to take second in the Masters 35+ B race on Sunday. He raced pretty conservatively after a couple of slips, but still powered home for the podium on the finishing stretch.

In fact, the first photo is Brian going through the barriers in first! early in the race. The second is right after the race, when even his teeth were pretty gross. And finally, this is him hamming it up on the podium (he's on the left) -- the winner got a nice $andbagger jersey for his efforts!

I also hear that his nice, beautiful scandium Colnago looks like someone took a belt sander to it, and that one chainstay is pretty well scratched to hell. My Cannondale looks the same way, that's what you get from black bikes ... (hint, hint)

19 December 2005


Why is it that Bill Cosby could make even the dentist sound funny? I have to get a root canal on Wednesday afternoon, and somehow I don't think even he can make that fun ...

Nothin' much to update right now. Have had one week off, and have eaten way too much, although the turtle sundae last night was to die for! I've also had a couple of peppermint mochas -- Wes would be proud. So tonight I'm going to the YMCA to weight-lift. I swear I will not get on the bike for another week, at least, although I may do a bit of running. But I have to do something, or I will just get moody and annoying.

Oh, wait, too late.


18 December 2005

For the record

Hey -- sorry for the lack of posting this week, was off-site for work every day except for Wednesday. Whew. Now it's on to the craziness of the holidays! But it's all good, I'm now officially fat and lazy ... no less than 9-1/2 hours of sleep each night for the past 5, and too many calories to count ... Kim says my body is "healing;" I say it's just getting pudgy!

I did want to give props to USA Cycling -- within 90 minutes of my forwarding my United e-mail to Colorado Springs last Wednesday, Susan Diller (the Member Services Manager) had forwarded my e-mail to the Chief of Staff, who said he will talk to United about the issue. I received an e-mail from Ms. Diller (with a copy of the e-mail from the Chief of Staff) within 22 hours of my original e-mail.

On the other hand, that afternoon I had received only an automated e-mail from United. To their credit, I did receive my $25 off voucher in the mail yesterday, which was pretty quick. That said, I'm glad I didn't have to fly a couple of days ago -- there was some sort of "sick-out" and their agent staff at O'Hare didn't report for work!

16 December 2005

Famous last words

Ryan Trebon pre-rode the course last Thursday ... mind you that it didn't start snowing until 6:30 a.m. on Friday, and didn't stop until 4:30 p.m., after they cancelled two races:

Trebon pre-rode the course Thursday, and found it just to his liking, albeit in vastly different conditions. "When it was dry it was fast, easy, hilly and not too technical, not a lot of slow turns," Trebon said. "There are three run-up sections. I like courses where you have to get off the bike and run."

These are two photos from Friday -- the first is during the blizzard; the second is later, a beautiful shot from our hotel window.

Also, a couple of links to photos found on the 'net (thanks Renee and Lou!):



Only 364 days to Natz!!
(Just found out it's a week later next year.)

14 December 2005

Horses for courses

So what was it like in Roger Williams Park? I think "epic" begins to describe it, but doesn't do it justice! Really, this would be a super-fast course, if it weren't hit with up to 8" of snow/rain/sleet the first day of racing! In fact, I heard that on Thursday, all the little uphills were ridable -- not so on Friday through Sunday!

The start was on road, on an uphill, slightly curving drag. For Saturday and Sunday, it was 2/3 covered with ice, which made things interesting ... the hole shot was a couple hundred meters down, into a 180-degree turn that put you into an off-camber ice slide, back downhill into a quagmire and on to the first pit entrance ...

Which was itself a 180-degree turn, that if you went wide you were in the pits -- so it was super-slow. That didn't stop a bunch of people from going down hard as they tried to negotiate the turn!

Then it was through another short stretch that stayed icy all weekend, around a tree and the backside of the tents, and into the flat barriers, watched over by the 'Cross Pope. By Saturday afternoon, this was a quagmire ... From the barriers, it was into the bowl, where a series of loop-de-loops took you over some small hills and back up to the road on the other side. It made for some great spectating, as the guts of the course were laid out for everyone to see ... it also made it super-difficult to get going, and in both races I ran ... and ran ... and ran on the first lap before it stretched out enough to ride.

Super-short road section into a curb hop into a 180 around a tree, into a short sweeping left downhill to the base of the stairs. Of course, the downhill was all mud by Saturday morning!

Up the stairs, and then a long, long pavement section (where I managed to make up a lot of time/space on guys who didn't know how to hammer), into another curb hop and yet another 180-degree tree negotiation. You couldn't come in too hot, lest you push yourself off the one line that was ridable -- the snow and mud was that thick off the line.

Then it was singletrack along the top of the ridge -- not because it was singletrack, but because of the snow, there were no other lines. I tried like hell to get around guys in this section, with no luck ...

At the end of it, we turned left into a steep mudslide, which featured an off-camber (even in the mud) right turn around a tree and into the barriered run-up.

Once at the top of the hill, it was an immediate drop down and another steep uphill into a turn into a long straightaway ... again riding like singletrack, even though it wasn't!

At the top of the straight, we turned right (again around a tree!), and dropped down a screaming hill next to the "Music Temple", the fastest point on the course. But true to fashion, there was soupy, thick mud at the base, and if you got even a little off-track, you were screwed ... the rapid deceleration of a front wheel as it hit the muck sent more than a few riders flying!

After passing the pit entrance, it was a long, snaking section next to the lake, into a short pavement, into another mucky runup, another snaking section along an isthmus (my word for the weekend), and into the last obstacle: a horrible, deep, muddy, barriered runup, remount, slide downhill and back to the pavement for the uphill to the start/finish. This hill was my nemesis -- in the Masters race, I was at the tail end of the group when I got sideways on the hill, went into the tree to the right of the picture, and dropped my chain ...

Although I'm not a big fan of the mud and muck, this was an awesome course and a fun experience -- I can't wait to see what next year brings!

Only 359 days to Natz!!

Re: Travel on United Airlines utilizing bike vouchers

To: United Airlines Customer Service
CC: Susan Diller, Membership Manager; Matt Lindsay, Membership Services Representative; Terris Tiller, Membership Services Representative, USA Cycling; cstrout.blogspot.com

Re: Travel on United Airlines utilizing bike vouchers

United Airlines Customer Service:

I recently completed travel with your airline to and from the National Cyclocross Championships, and found your staff at both O'Hare and Providence was -- to put it kindly -- challenged. I traveled with a hard-shell bicycle case, which somehow made everything much more complicated than it needed to be. I traveled from O'Hare on Thursday, December 8, and returned on Sunday, December 11.

It began when I checked in at O'Hare, using a self-service kiosk and putting myself on standby for an earlier flight, only to be told by the agent who was to take my baggage that I was required to pass through the oversized luggage line. I did so, spending more than an hour in line (as one of the two agents was on break), only to be told 1) that I did not actually need to stand in that line; and 2) that my bike box was too large to fit on the plane. The agent said that I should have known that the regional jet would be too small when I put myself on standby. I used a voucher, supplied by USA Cycling, to travel for free with the bicycle case.

(I will point out here that there was no way of knowing via the kiosk that the earlier flight could not accommodate me. I will also point out that I spoke to four other racers, all of whom had hard-shell bicycle cases, that were scheduled for that very same flight but had missed it due to weather. How would they have fit if my one case could not?)

I was instead put on standby for the next flight, and thankfully the gate agent was very friendly and funny, taking the edge off of what had become a 4+-hour check-in. The flight was uneventful, and I had no problems receiving my bike in Providence.

I arrived at the Providence airport on Sunday more than 2 hours before my scheduled flight. There I encountered a ticket agent who was less than helpful -- in fact, he was downright rude to me. (I did not get his name, but according to my receipt his number was U173201.) I placed my bicycle case on the scale, and it showed 67 lbs. The agent told me I was required to pay a $25 overweight fee.

When presented with the bike voucher, which on the back clearly stated that it was good for one bike case up to 70 lbs. in weight, he reiterated that I was required to pay a $25 oversized fee, "because the voucher was created before the rules changed in September." I tried to politely point out that the voucher had just been created two weeks before, but he rudely told me I didn't have a choice, and if I had a problem I would have to take it up with United's Customer Service department.

Rather than argue, I paid the fee with my credit card and made my way through security. Once at the gate, I took a moment to check my ticket folder, which includes the 50 lb. language but which clearly states that it was printed in April.

I just now, Wednesday afternoon, December 14, was able to complete a phone call to your Customer Service phone line. I spoke to Paula, who because of the misunderstanding has issued me a travel voucher for $25 good on any United flight. While this is an acceptable resolution, it is not ideal -- at this point, I am honestly frustrated enough to spend the extra baggage costs I may incur with my bicycle to fly another carrier.

Furthermore, I am concerned about it happening again: I have copied several representatives of the USA Cycling Member Services team on this e-mail, to ensure that they are aware of the issue. If United has changed the overweight rules, USA Cycling needs to be aware of it -- if not, then United needs to train its agents to accept vouchers at face value, based on what is printed, and not try to gouge unsuspecting passengers.

Steven C. "Chris" Strout
USCF# B0177553

13 December 2005

Random Phlogging

If a Web log is a blog, is a photo web log a Phlog? Here are some random photos from Natz ... full course photo montage/description and more to come ...

My minipump is smaller than my shoe. For some reason, that just amazed me as I packed.

Dave Grohl (aka Kurt Refsnider) has a secret weapon: Oatmeal. For Women. (Seriously, the label said "Nutrition for women." We just hope the beard growth doesn't come standard.)
In this age of technology, you can never have enough to do ... Renee blogs as Kurt reads ... thank goodness for wireless!
Dave always has a smile on his face, even after flatting out of his race! (Hey, that rhymes!)
Like I said, always a smile! This time, Renee refused to be his pincushion ...
Another guy who always seems to be smiling -- John Meehan, super-stoked after a crazy race! (John is the organizer of the Jingle Cross race in Iowa.)
It's pretty telling about tough course conditions when a newly crowned National Champion goes down on a straightaway! This during the Liberty Cup on Sunday ...
And finally, you know you're in heaven when the 'Cross Pope is performing benedictions on your barriers!

Only 360 days 'till Natz!

12 December 2005

David Letterman

I'm in Kohler, Wisconsin for two days, but I figured I needed a list:

Top 10 reasons you know 'Cross Nats in Providence was a success:
10. Your toenails are still black around the edges
9. When you blow your nose, a little mud comes out ... two days after you raced!
8. Your body is bruised in places you didn't know you bumped
7. Your body is bruised in places you didn't know could bruise
6. You're so tired that you don't remember how you got home from Roger Williams Park
5. You're already looking at online registration for Kansas City ... in 2007!*
4. Your bike is in a million pieces ... in your living room ... and you don't care
3. Your shoes are still wet and your skinsuit is caked in half-dry muck
2. Since the season is over, the cyclists at Dunkin Donuts were actually ordering donuts

And the number one reason 'Cross Nats was a success:
1. It's only been 24 hours, and you can't wait to do it again next year!

* Online registration for KC is already open, but with no schedule posted. And by the way, has anyone noticed that they pushed it back a week for 2007?

Renee was traveling today, but I'm sure will have Madcross updated pretty soon, complete with photos, etc. And I've got a bunch of photos that I'll be able to post in a couple of days. In the meantime, here are two that Lou found:

This was me, looking very lonely, as I tried to fix my chain after crashing in the Masters race:

This was Brian Conant on his way to a stellar 2nd place in the Men's 35+ B race:

Only 361 days 'till Natz!

11 December 2005

Sorry for the delay ...

Quick update -- just got home. We were able to figure out logistics (thanks to Dave and Renee!), so I spent the day cheering for Dave in the Masters 35+ B race and pitting for Jim and Kurt in the Liberty Cup! I have a 2-day management meeting starting first thing tomorrow (and going overnight), so not sure I'll have a chance to fill in with all the stories until later. But I got some great photos of the course and the races, yeah photos!

Race reports, course description, and general good stuff on the way, I promise! So tired now ... going to find the flannel sheets ...

10 December 2005

Auntie Em! Auntie Em! It's a bombogenesis!

bom * bo * gen * e * sis: Bombogenesis is cyclogenesis taken to the extreme. Bombogenesis is defined as a mid-latitude cyclone that drops in surface barometric pressure by 24 or more millibars in a 24-hour period. Bombogenesis typically occurs between a cold continental air mass and warm ocean waters or between a cold polar air mass and a much warmer air mass. Many Nor-easters are the product of bombs. The contrast in temperature between polar air spilling over the eastern U.S. and the warm Gulf Stream waters sets the stage for cyclogenesis on the boundary between these air masses.

That's what hit us yesterday, according to The Providence Journal. I've never even heard Tom Skilling use the word!

Mostly just photos tonight. I can't really move too well, and can just feel the energy draining out of me. I don't feel like my results speak for the racing I did: 43rd in the Masters 30-34 race at 11:30 a.m. and a couple of laps of the Elite race (120+ riders) at 3 p.m.

I took a header/endo into a tree on a mud downhill (the same one Mark McCormick crashed on in the Elite race later) at the end of lap 1 of the Masters race at the back of the main field, dropped my chain and was fighting to finish for the rest of the race ... and in the Elite race went 30 meters only to header/endo into a massive pileup at the start line!, leaving me with my leg somehow wrapped into my handlebars and again fighting ...

In both cases, I was able to make up ground/places, and was really riding "well" considering that the track was riding like an MTB course because of the snow/mud -- that is, I was running a heck of a lot on the first laps of each race, but powering where I could, and doing fairly well (and improving!) on the off-camber stuff. Most importantly, though, I finished the day with a HUGE smile on my face! (... and a mud moustache!)
No race photos unfortunately, but Renee got quite a few, and has extensively covered the awesome work done by Midwest riders on Madcross.org. What a day! Race reports to come ...

And a BIG thank you to all the folks on the course shouting my name, and the ones back home following along on the live webcast/via the Internet -- this has been such an awesome experience, and it's made even better by being able to share it with all of you ... great energy to end the season!

(Big thanks to Renee and Dave, and Jim and Kurt also for putting up with my extreme caffinated state as well, especially today with Renee getting sick and Jim operating on not enough sleep and me having two ventis, a ClifShot and a Coke ... it's a huge testiment to their great personalities and patience that we haven't gotten on each other's nerves at all [or at least they haven't shown it!] Didn't Ben Franklin once say that "Fish and visitors smell after three days"? Today was Day Three ...)

This is the view from our hotel after we got back yesterday afternoon (parts of the course got 8" of snow!), and the view an hour later after the storm passed ...

And this is what you do when you haven't ridden enough, and your clothes are drying upstairs in your room ...
We arrived early on Saturday for Kurt's 9 a.m. Collegiate start ... they did an amazing amount of work on the course starting at 5:30 a.m., but especially in the last 90 minutes before they got the racing started, only just minutes late!

You'll never see this at Le Tour!
And finally, I'll leave you all pondering just what it is that you're supposed to do when USA Cycling doesn't want you to fold your numbers, but when they're bigger than you are!
I'm going to have to skip the Liberty Cup tomorrow due to logistics getting to the airport, so I'll scope for photos to try to give you all a flavor of what it's like here ... SO AWESOME!! I'm done for tonight, pull-out mattress has my name on it ...

09 December 2005

Race cancelled

Both the afternoon races were cancelled today because of a blizzard that blew in and was creating rivers through the main tents ... right underneath all the electrical equipment ...

... but not until we had started "warming up" on the course -- COLD AND WET does not even begin to describe it ... I'm still not warm, 3 hours later ... the cassettes weren't getting clogged on the course, but were unridable after sitting still for 15 minutes -- that's how wet the snow was!!!!

Not sure yet what's going to happen tomorrow, maybe a double day? Maybe a choice of which race to ride? Totally sucks for the guys who are taking these races seriously!

Course was tough today, should be interesting if it gets above freezing tomorrow -- with enough rain/snow today, it could be a quagmire, a LOT of off-camber stuff, even worse than Chicago was last weekend! But more pavement too, good power false flats, so we'll see. Conditions are the same for everyone!

Maybe more later, be sure to check out www.madcross.org for updates too ... Renee is keeping on top of stuff (and this is her computer I'm using ...)

Randomness in Providence

Oh the weather outside is frightful ... 5 hours to the Masters race:

As Robin Williams said in Good Morning Vietnam: "Are you the enemy? If they say yes, we shoot them ..."

And finally, it's pretty cool that Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl (aka Kurt Refsnider) has decided to start racing 'cross!

Time to go find my eating schedule ...

08 December 2005

Counting down the hours!

So today was insane -- decided to switch flights to miss the weather I hear is in Chicago now, when I should have been in the air ... total cluster in the United terminal, but I made it, along with the bike, AND AM NOW IN PROVIDENCE!!!! Thanfully a huge room, as Kurt and Jim are putting their bikes together ...

... weather calls for snow and cold tomorrow -- yeah baby! JUST HOURS TO NATZ!!!

07 December 2005

I'm screwed

Every year, Crain's Chicago Business releases their list of "40 Under 40" -- forty people under the age of forty that are "making it" in business today. This year, they are the "climbers," portrayed as already on their way to the "corner office." Even more telling, though, is their supposed balance of work and life.

I like to think I'm fairly successful, although not in the I'm-a-consultant-clearing-six-figures-at-thirty kind of way. I worked with those people for years, and I gotta say, it's definitely not for me. Hell, my parents can't even talk me into going back to school for an advanced degree, although I admire my wife for doing so.

But here's the most damning reason I will never be a 40 Under 40: Kim got me hooked on a TV show that I now watch religiously. In fact, I watch it every night on Spike TV reruns, sometimes for up to 3 hours at a time. And I can't get enough of it!

But according to Crain's, that's why I'll never be a 40U40:

"There are people 'who are unusually successful at both love and work,' says Robert M. Galatzer-Levy, a Chicago psychiatrist whose practice includes more than a few overachievers. They don't waste time 'filling out forms or watching reruns of "CSI",' he says.

So that's why I'm screwed. I refused to watch "CSI" for the first 5 seasons, but now I can't stop. Sometimes I spend that time watching with Kim, which I suppose fulfills some of the work/life balance issues. But for the most part, this is my time -- I don't consider it a waste, though, since you'll never know when you need to know that striations on the fingernails are indicative of heavy metal poisoning! Or that snake venom fed via coffee to an ulcer sufferer can kill them …

And I'm OK with that. In 20 years, when me and the 40U40s are approaching 60, I don't want to have to worry that a) someone is feeding me lead or snake venom because I was some sort of bastard businessman; or b) that I have so much stress that I'm suffering from an ulcer! Instead of climbing toward the corner office, point me the way to Alpe d'Huez any day …


06 December 2005

At the end of the day ...

... you're another year older!

I'm not so good in math, and it took until today to finally figure out my "racing age" for cyclocross. It doesn't matter for this year or next, but in '07, the first year Natz are in Kansas City, I'll be in another age bracket for the Masters races ... and I'll be eligible to double up and race Masters in the Chicago series ...

I wonder if they'll DQ me in Providence for putting down the wrong age? I know some officials who are just that pendantic ...

Three days to Natz!!!!!!

Lance Armstrong = White Goodman?

I came across this report about the current Austin training camp on the Lance Armstrong/Discovery Channel fan site, www.ThePaceLine.com. Has Lance let his short appearance in Dodgeball go to his head?!? (emphasis added ...)

The guys woke up to a sunny but even colder day than yesterday, and 2 workouts on the schedule. After another buffet breakfast they piled into the rental vans and headed a little north to one of the Lance Armstrong 24 Hour Fitness Centers. This very nicely equipped gym has - as you might recall - a total Lance theme. So in addition to the usual aerobic equipment, free weights, and workout machines the entire facility is peppered with Lance images and gear, right down to framed TdF yellow jerseys and a "reserved" locker complete with a full Discovery Channel kit (encased in plexiglass, just in case).

05 December 2005

Illinois State CX Championship II

I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about yesterday's Illinois State Championship race. I mean, it was a vast improvement over last year, I preserved my spot in the Cup overall, and I managed to do a lot of the little things that make up a 'cross race right. But the big one -- my bike handling on sketchy turf -- got away, costing me the top-5 finish I was gunning for, and know that I'm capable of. And I made mistakes -- a lot of them -- that I just shouldn't be making.

Give me a year … give me a year on the dirt … give me a year to prep for 'cross …

We were hearing gloom-and-doom scenarios all last week in Chicago about the first "big" snowstorm rolling in on Saturday afternoon; instead, the north side of the city had maybe an inch coating the ground at Montrose Harbor. But it was cold, with starting temps in the mid-20s under clouds, and a biting wind that seemed to come from every direction. I had pretty good prep in the days leading up to the race, including an awesome practice barrier section on Saturday where I really felt like I was flying over the hurdles … of which there were none on Sunday!

I also picked up new clinchers for the trip to Nats, giving me at least some tire choice for Providence. Because of the snow, I decided to run them instead of my cushy Tufo tubulars or my overlarge Maxxis 35s -- I'm still not sure I made the right decision about the Tufos, but I don't think it cost me, either. I have an old set of Ksyriums that I run, and I threw on the Ritchey tires, 30 in front and 32 in the year, in anticipation of the slippery conditions but with the ability to slice through the snow …

Waking up race morning was weird -- we had only a 15-minute drive to the course, and a whole lot of time to kill. So I did my self-massage, drank my coffee, packed a boatload of extra clothes into my bag, and tried to relax. It was fun, and I alternated between listening to The Offspring's Greatest Hits (awesome album!) and watching taped OLN coverage of this year's Tour. Sort of felt like a "normal" Sunday?

We got there mega-early, and it was nice to already be dressed and ready to go. I started my course preview when Kim went to register me -- bib No. 1! -- and was pretty glad I had my knobbier tires. At this stage, before any of the races, the ground was bumpy and frozen-hard, with a layer of clean snow obscuring the lines. As I rolled slowly, getting a feel for the tough parts, I saw guys sliding all over the place … with my lack of handling skills, I figured the more grip, the better …

Chris Henning and I discussed the choice of Tufos or not as we previewed the tough, off-camber sections the crew had laid out. Because of Chicago Park District snow fencing cordoning off the local soccer pitches, the layout was somewhat limited -- but course designers made the most of it. A long straightaway, headwind start into a slick right-left-uphill-right buttonhook; drop down the embankment, bunnyhop the curb, and up the other side; short straight followed by a few twists through some trees to a left-hand, massively off-camber drop into an uphill-180, and down into an underpass tunnel; up the bank on the other side, which had zero traction; straight onto the edge of the beach (incidentally providing great lake views); loop-de-loop and turn on the sand, and straight back at the opposite embankment; another downhill, off-camber 180, with another 180 at the base; back through the tunnel, up the other side, and a looooong crosswind straight; two quick, slick rights and around the base of Cricket Hill; two hurdles means a dismount, and then it was run or ride, which was faster?; and then, THEN, the "Zig-Zag of Death," an off-camber, roped-off descent of the north face of the hill that had our rear ends sliding all over the place. A short straight at the base, a few turns through the trees, and another 180 took us back to the finish line …

It was enough to make your head spin!

I hit the trainer for the last of my warmup, and then got ready and tried to stay warm. We had an OK field, 15 guys, with most of the top Chicago-area racers there. David Sachs and Bobby Williamson were locked in a death match for the top spot in the Cup; Lou has been flying since missing the last Joliet race; John Gatto and I were fighting for 5th overall in the Cup; National Track qualifier Chris Mosk was there; Andy joined the As for his third-ever 'cross race; and the rest were there to play spoiler or die trying. We got our final instructions, and the whistle blew …


Not spectacular, but as the first three guys took off, with Lou chasing, I was right there in 5th, not far behind … until we hit the consecutive off-camber stuff before the beach, and I was fighting to stay upright. Me and an Alberto's rider were in 5th and 6th, and when I dropped my chain into my spokes after coming off the beach, he grabbed the advantage and took off chasing. We had enough of an advantage that I was all alone, and I set off in pursuit.

For the next couple of laps, I would inch closer to him on the straights, while he would move away on the slick. Especially on Cricket Hill, where we would hit the barriers in tandem and equally crest, I was losing precious time and energy as he moved faster through the Zig Zag and I was chasing into the wind afterward. On one lap, I blew any advantage I had, as I made mistake after mistake, screwing up every single technical section in quick succession. It was all I could do to calm down and get it back in control … just as Alberto's guy had a mechanical!

Meanwhile, the sun had come out, turning the slick into pure mud, and behind us J.D. from Turin and John Gatto were closing the gap. About halfway through the race they joined up and we formed a group of four: I could hear J.D. before I saw them, telling Gatto to keep pedaling up the embankments … I decided to rest up, and settled into fourth, losing the wheel a bit in the mud and ice and catching up on the straight. All was well until J.D. slid out down the second embankment, forcing me to stop and track-stand in the muck at the base, fighting to get going again …

That was it, and although I caught up to the Alberto's guy again due to his repeated bike changes, I was using too much energy just to try to keep pace, and was unable to take an advantage. Gatto rode away, finishing in that top-5 place I wanted, and by the end my legs were starting to lose power and the Alberto's rode away to take 6th. I finished in the money, 7th place, knowing that I have a lot to work on next year …

So I'm of two minds. Considering that I wasn't going to take this 'cross season seriously, and considering how awful last year's race at Montrose was, I'm happy. But I'm far from satisfied, and will most definitely be shooting for that podium in 12 months …


04 December 2005

Illinois State CX Championship

Congrats to David Sachs for his win, and for moving past Bobby Williamson in the overall for the Cup ... here's a few photos (that's Dave in the yellow and blue next to me), race report to come ...

This is Lou, on the double barriers at the base of Cricket Hill, on his way to an awesome 4th place! Congrats to him ... he definitely proved he has my number on a tough, off-camber course ...

... and Andy, in his first A race. Great finish for him, in only his 3rd race ...

... and here's me trying to hold John Gatto's wheel midway through the race ... I was able to power the straights, even into the wind, but lost the wheel on the slick ... I managed to hold onto 7th place, just two places behind John -- putting me in 5th overall for the series! It was nice to finish the year as it began in April with consecutive weekends in the money!

A big congrats to Jim Holmes, too, who scored some much-needed UCI points down in Kansas City. Only a few days to Nats!