31 October 2006

Rough day

I still owe JPE a rah-rah post about the upcoming Wiscosin State Championships, but I just can't get in the mood right now. I'm having a rough day -- jammed my finger on the shower door this morning, found out my Yahoo! mail account is bouncing all the group e-mails from MadCross and others, had some business issues come up that I had to deal with, and then I just dropped my Clif Bar into the locked shredder bin at work.

Happy frickin' Halloween.

OK, time to turn the beat around.

ONLY 45 DAYS TO NATZ!!

30 October 2006

Yeah Kim!

Check out the super-cool photos of Washington Park on Madcross ... Kim got recruited to shoot the Women's 1/2 and Men's 40 and 50+ races and did a fantastic job! There are some really cool shots in there!

I think Renee may have created a monster, though -- all of a sudden, Kim is thinking digital SLR is in our future maybe ...

It's kind of weird when e-life mixes with real-life; turns out the Alterra guy has a blog that I read pretty regularly ... small world! The Wisconsin guys are pretty prolific all-around -- it seems like everyone in WORS and most of the 'cross world has a blog these days, and they make for fun reading ... I'm thinking Sun Prairie will need to be the first-ever unofficial Cyclocross Blogger Midwest Championships -- JPE, what do you think?

Speaking of blogs, HUGE PROPS to Tristan for his first-ever UCI win! Awesome!


ONLY 46 DAYS TO NATZ!!

29 October 2006

Top 5!

What a day! It all came together ... the weather, the bikes, the course ... and I scored my first-ever Top 5 finish in Wisconsin!

After the rains on Thursday, Washington Park had just enough time to dry out and stay soft (especially with all the geese in the area). It made the course super-fast and just enough of a power course to play to my strengths ...

I did end up having to do a bike clean yesterday -- the Cannondale found its way into a massive mud bog out at one of the Cook County Forest Preserves. Plus I checked the tension on the Colnago, and it was time to replace the chain. So I did a bit more work than I wanted, but thanks to Renee was able to recycle my drivetrain!

I was up early (see my post from 4 a.m.), but then managed to get a bit of sleep again before getting up for real. That extra hour made a huge difference, and I felt much better at 6 a.m. than I did at 5 ...

There was no traffic through Waukegan, so we got there early to get registered and set up. This course was a lot like Natz in Providence -- only without stairs and without any snow. It would be a perfect UCI venue (hint! hint!) ... large areas, lots of grass, a bit of elevation change, a bit of pavement, and a wide-open feel with lots of great vantage points ...

Before too long it was time to warm up, and Lou, his brother-in-law Mark, Jim Holmes, Brian Conant and a host of Wisco folks were rolling around getting ready. The start was a bit delayed, just enough time to "cool down" a bit too much ... This week it was a split start, the 15 Cat. 1/2s ahead of the big 30+ field.

We got lined up and BAM! off the line, through the finish area, up the hill, and I'm in 3rd place? WTF? Down the hill, into the barriers, I'm falling back ... just a bit, cut off in the corner ... 4th ... 5th ... Jesse jumps past ... Jim gets in there ... 7th ... 8th ... OK, we're settling in.

Through the very cool ampitheater, around to the run-up, I'm following the guys in front of me to figure out the best lines. Very cool shortcuts, awesome "jump" on the backside, so glad I prerode ... just hanging on through the S curves and tagged onto the back on the pavement uphill ... but it's OK, it's into the wind ...

Down and around, still hanging on lap 2. Not going too hard, trying to conserve just a bit, up the run-up, through the S curves, to the pavement and CRAP! There goes Holmes! No one is chasing! He's getting a gap!

I'm hanging on, knowing I should go but too scared or something to try. So I hide out from the wind and am happy that I'm in the chase group. Will he last? Can he?

Around and up, down and over, around and up again, a few small attacks, nothing major, guy from Alterra on a MTB is making my life rough by bunny-hopping the barriers after the start and taking bad lines into the corners. I try to surge past him, but can't quite make it, so I settle on his wheel ... only he's opening small gaps ... and then it's back into the headwind and the front two guys are going! CRAP! Not again! I'm out of position! Go! Go!

Jesse's going, JESSE'S GOING! GET ON HIS WHEEL! DIG! DIG! DIG!

Top 3 are gone, second group forming ... four of us? Five? Not sure just stay with them, stay with them ... Jesse's not bunny hopping? Alterra is ... stay out of his way ... get in front of him ... 5 to go ... Around, up, feeling OK, still have top 3 in sight ... you're in 6th, don't slip back to 7th or 8th, 8th is chasing hard ... someone yells for the markness ... there! Move up! OK, you're in 5th. Sit on Jesse ... sit on Jesse ...

Four to go ... down and around ... Jesse still not hopping? Huh? Still small group but Alterra is huffing ... through the ampitheater ... go! NOW! GO! Up to the front, push it, there's Jim ... he's still in 3rd ... drill it, DRILL IT!

I led for a full lap, from the ampitheater to the run-up with 2-1/2 laps to go, when Jesse (aka "The Last Boy Scout" for Halloween) and the Alterra guy got around me at the barriers. I pulled a huge chunk of time back on Jim, and all of a sudden we were in the game. Jesse surged at the top as Alterra was to my left, and I dug deep, surprising Jesse when he surged toward the uphill, and dropping the Alterra guy as we saw 2 to go. Surging, slowing, cornering, surging ... we were catching Jim in 3rd, as he was getting close to catching Kyle, who was fading in 2nd ...

I finally lost the wheel just as we caught Jim on the run-up with a lap and a half to go. They were just out of reach in the uphill into the wind, and by the time we hit the barriers my part was settled ... Jesse would fight valiantly for 4th, with Jim just holding on, as I rolled in about 10 or 15 seconds later for 5th, losing the most on the final run-in to the line from the run-up to the finish.

This was, by far, the best race I've ever had in Wisconsin. Everything just clicked, and for once I had the presence of mind to actually make part of the race -- just like C'ville, I maybe could have tried a bit harder sooner to go with the leaders, which I will take away as a major learning opportunity. But to finish top 5 in a field like that, midway through the WCA Series, after never finishing better than fourth or fifth from last ever before ... wow. Can't wait to take on the rest of the season!!

Major kudos to Jesse for a race well-fought. And to Jim for another podium -- he's in the hunt for the overall WCA now. And to Lou and his brother-in-law Mark for tearing it up in the 30+! (Brian too -- I hear he rode away from the field and was just playing with them.) Thanks to Dave and Renee and Shannon for the cheers, which were especially helpful! (Good racing by them as well today!) Kudos, too, to MountainGoat, who finally found out what real racing is all about ... there's no substitute for 'cross baby! And finally, thanks to Kim for the encouragement and the great photos ...

... honey, I didn't end up in the graveyard!!!

Falling back

If only falling back meant falling back to sleep!

It's 4 a.m. but my body thinks it's 5, so I'm super-hungry and wide awake. I'm not so sure Renee and Dave really want to share a room with me at Jingle Cross or Natz -- I can be super quiet, but they may want to bring ear plugs!

Kim and I had a great "falling back" party last night. Every year we end up getting a movie or two and staying up later than we had anticipated -- this year it was Munich and The Lake House. We also did Nacho Libre on Friday night.

Munich was incredible. Horrible, violent, sad, and scary. Spielberg has a way of telling a story ... his body of work will stand the test of time. It was particularly moving for us, having been there just a few months ago -- not so much for the scenes of Munich, of which there aren't that many, but because of the tapestry of history that is revealed. Without Dachau the Holocaust is different; a different Holocaust means Israel may not have been created; without Israel, Palestine continues as a geopolitical entity; with a viable Palastine the world may be a different place. Or not ... the final shot in Munich speaks silent volumes to the interconnectivity of voilence spawning violence.

The Lake House was much lighter fare, 90 minutes of Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves eye candy. Sort of like Somwhere in Time meets You've Got Mail. What was cool was that it was shot at Palos, mostly in autumn and winter, which is when I was first introduced to the area. So every shot with leaves and snow on the ground sent a sort of jolt of recognition through my body -- there's this interesting scene with Reeves and his father in which they discuss the quality of light and how it's different everywhere ... I think there's a quality of light to Palos (Chicago?) that is captured in the film that just felt right. I can't wait to get back down there.

Oh! Fantastic news. The Waukegan Toll Plaza is opening for open road tolling this morning. That will cut almost 45 minutes from our commute up to Milwaukee vs. with construction -- WOOOOO-HOOOOOO!!!!!!

OK, breakfast is done. I'm going to try to get some more sleep ... falling back ... falling back ...

ONLY 47 DAYS TO NATZ!!

27 October 2006

Washington phlog

Woo-hoo! I totally caved, and set myself up on Blogger Beta (read: Google) while at the same time running Picasa on our home machine. But hey, I can finally post photos!

Here's our trip to Washington earlier this month -- it was such a beautiful day!


This is me driving through D.C. If you look closely, the White House is in the background. We even saw Marine One come and go as we were getting to town!
After spending several hours at the Holocaust Museum, we decided to wander around the Tidal Basin. We had absolutely perfect weather!
We visited the Jefferson Memorial, first time for both of us.
And saw the man himself. Well, sort of. It was weird -- there's this huge subterrainean basement with a bookstore and other stuff inside the monument.
We then wandered over to the FDR Memorial, which was under construction last time we were there 10 years ago.
It was pretty cool to see the Fireside Chat part. Check out the inscription -- Do you think Bush has ever read it?
And our current government should think about heading across the Basin themselves for a history lesson.
We then hit the Korean War Memorial, which wasn't built last time.
And the Lincoln Memorial, which is always a breathtaking stop.
And of course, we had to check out the Gettysburg Address!
After that, Kim and her family picked us up for dinner. We had a lot of fun meeting her husband and daughter.
Look at those eyes! She's a cutie!

OK, that's all for now. I still have photos from Gettysburg, and will update when I get a chance. Over and out!

Clean

They say a clean bike is a happy bike. As of last evening, I have a couple of happy bikes. But does that apply to 'cross bikes? Or are they only happy when they get to play in the mud?

I have to say, it was kind of nice after C'ville to have both bikes ready to go by Monday night. So far this season, it's been one cleaning after another -- it took 2 weeks after Detroit; thankfully this week was only 5 days until both were done. That gives me tonight to just chill, and all day tomorrow to do all the house stuff we haven't done in a couple of months.

Truth be told, I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do tomorrow. I've only slept in my own bed on one other Saturday night since August 12, and it was the weekend I went up to Kettle with Mountaingoat and drove to KISSCross the next day. So I really haven't been home on a Saturday in nearly 3 months. Crazy.

(OK, wow. It goes back further than that -- we've only been home on one other Saturday night since Memorial Day. What a crazy summer!)

Since this is National Massage Therapy Week, Kim and I are celebrating by visiting our favorite masseuse tomorrow. Then I'll ride, and then I have some quality time to spend with my bike room -- it's a disaster! We rented a couple of movies, too, so a nice, relaxing day before the craziness of Halloween cyclocross ...

Oh! One other thing on my to-do list. I am going to cave and download Google's photo software to my home computer. Hopefully that will allow me to upload photos to Blogger, since I currently cannot. Damn corporate megalomania!

ONLY 49 DAYS TO NATZ!!

26 October 2006

Picture pages

Renee has photos up from Whitewater. Do I always look this pained when I ride? And check out that mud!

Less than halfway

Anyone who has known me for a while has heard my "world revolves around Chris" theory. See, there's this strange phenomenon in which I do/see/hear/become interested in something, and all of a sudden everyone is doing it. Or even just some people. I don't believe in coincidence, so that's why I think I'm the center of the universe. Some call it narcisism; I call it trendsetting.

Anyway, just last evening I was doing the math during my long ride, and realized that the 'cross season isn't even half over for me yet. And then this morning, I told that to Kim. (She groaned.) Then, just a few minutes ago, JPE sends out an e-mail that the WCA season is half-over, but that there are other Midwest options to extend the season ...

Coincidence? I think not ...

Seriously, though, I figured out that my season won't hit halfway until after Boulder. Which is encouraging -- I was feeling a little down after last weekend, but then the official results came out and I feel better. See, I didn't crack the top 10 in the 1/2s, but I was 11th -- and as it turns out, 12th overall, as only one 30+ rider beat me.

That means two things: 1) I was only 2 spots out of the money. And 2) I really am further along than I thought, and much further than last year. See, last year the 30+ racers started a full minute behind the 1/2s. And even as late as mid-November, at the Wisconsin State Championship race, the top three or four 30+ guys were passing me. And sometimes even lapping me. So to have beaten them with an even start is a good sign.

And because I'm not at halfway, there's still a ton of racing to go.

Nice easy/endurance rides the past couple of days, starting a mini-taper heading into Boulder. Good skillz practice this morning at Montrose: I went stealth once I got there, and had fun feeling my way around in the dark. It's been 2 weeks since we had any high-speed barriers, so I needed to get some movement going ... Easy ride tomorrow, pre-race on Saturday, and then Sunday is go-time in Milwaukee! Sorry, Renee, looks like it will be dryer than you want it, but give me my 44 and turn me loose!

Big dilemma right now, though -- the promoter in KC is trying to entice me to come down for the UCI race with host housing and the chance to earn some points ahead of Natz ... problem is, it's the same day as the Illinois State Championship, and I have a real chance at a medal this year ... plus the JPEs are going to be staying at our place and maybe I shouldn't leave Kim all to herself to entertain people she's only met twice ... on the positive side, UCI points don't matter for the masters race ...

ONLY 50 DAYS TO NATZ!!

25 October 2006

(600/10 = 60)/60 = 1

One registration per second. That's how fast 'crossers can be when start placings are on the line. I'm hoping that multiple registrations are truly multiple; that is, of the 600, how many actual racers are there? (I'm registered for three events, for instance, so am I 3 registrations or 1?) Thankfully that's across all races as well; whichever way you look at it, I'm just ahead of the middle of the pack.

Huge congrats to Pony Shop teammate Mike Sherer on taking the win in his first 'cross race! Whitewater was a slog, but he made the most of it ... I'm thinking a little more "fun in the back" on his hairstyle and he starts looking like Tom Boonen ... and by the way, he rides like it too!

Also, big props to Ryan "Tree Farm" Trebon. Cracked the Top 10 in the world based on UCI points. He's my pick for Natz unless something really bad happens -- in the videos I've seen, he is looking super-smooth. I guess I'll find out first-hand in a few days!

ONLY 51 DAYS TO NATZ!!

24 October 2006

That felt weird

I passed out last night at 7:30 and snoozed through my alarm three or four times this morning ... more than 10 hours of sleep felt SO good! It meant that I didn't get my bike(s) clean though, so I rode to work today on a road bike -- wow, did it feel weird! I was all stretched out, and the brakes were backwards ... very strange.

Check out this item from Automotive News: (emphasis mine)
Popular Trend
The U.S. population is growing faster than the new-vehicle market. The national head count passed 300 million last week. If new cars and trucks were selling at the same ratio to population as in 2000, we would reach 18.5 million this year. Instead, we'll come in at about 16.9 million. It is taking more people to buy the same number of vehicles.

I'd like to think it has something to do with more bikes on the road, but I'm realistic. It probably has more to do with the fact that our vehicles are more reliable and last longer (heck, my Subaru is at 90,000 miles!). Whatever the reason, though, it's good news that there are fewer vehicles on the road than there could be!

ONLY 52 DAYS TO NATZ!!

23 October 2006

4 minutes

Wow. I thought I was fast until I read this. So I'm already starting 2.44 minutes behind Jeff. Crap. At least it's better than last year!

Actually, he's in a different category. I completed my registration at 12:04:00 Eastern. We'll see what that means in a few weeks!

Um, yeah ...

So how's this for perspective? A not-100% Jesse Lalonde was bunny-hopping the barrier at the top of the hill where Ron dropped me. I'm sure he and everyone else up front were hopping the tripple trees on the backside too. Sure, Cam-Rock is a mountain bike course, but come on! Where's the love for us power guys?

Perspective

First off, BIG CONGRATS to Jim Holmes, who came out of nowhere to challenge for 2nd on Saturday and then TOOK THE WIN!!! on Sunday at Cam-Rock. He's been gunning for that for a looooong time, and Sunday was perfect for him. Way to go!

Second, HUGE THANK-YOU to Kim for the hard work yesterday. We've never really done bike exchanges/cleanings before, and she did awesome. You rock!

Finally, if you happen to know where my wind jacket is from Saturday, can you let me know? I forgot it at the start after suffering through the mud ...

If there's one thing 'cross gives you, it's perspective. It's such a raw, physical, almost animal sport that there's nowhere to hide and nothing you can do other than go as hard as you can for as long as you can, hoping your body will respond.

And boy did I get some perspective this weekend.

On the plus side, I'm tons better than I've ever been. Yesterday's course would have scared the heck out of me a year ago, and I would have been cursing and crying as I slid and slammed into trees and fence posts all along the course. Instead, I had a great start and hung onto the lead group for the first lap, until my legs gave out from Saturday's effort, and for the rest of the race I kept it upright and had fun picking decent lines in the peanut butter. I'm not allergic any more!

On the other side, holy crap did I get killed yesterday. Yes, I hung on for the first lap. But after that my body shut down from Saturday's effort as the leaders got faster and I kept going backwards. Once I settled in, I managed to hold off everyone except Ronsta, who caught me as we got the bell for one to go, dropped me on the uphill at half-lap, and managed to hold me off to the pavement at the finish. I was coming back hard in the grass, but it just wasn't to be ...

I missed the top 10 thanks to that, coming in 11th in the 1/2s and close to that in the combined field with the 30+. It was the classiest field I've faced locally all year, and from my perspective I just didn't have it. I like being able to take away some positives (like my start), but I'd also like to be able to take away some cash ...

So what does it all mean? I know I'm going to get killed at Boulder. My only hope is for some semblance of a dry course where I can run wide open, but they've been getting rain and snow at elevation so it will probably be another slogger. I still want to go, I still want the exposure and experience of a big, fast field before natz, but from my perspective it's going to be painful and very, very humbling. And probably short, since they pull lapped riders and I'll be staged in the back!

I know Boulder is biting off more than I can chew. I said it last year -- what amI thinking, going to national-level races when I can't even podium in Chicago? This year I've stepped up my game, but it's still lacking ... when I read Tristan saying he's getting passed like he's lapped, wow. On the other hand, the experience gained in a fight like Boulder will translate immediately to Sun Prairie, Jingle Cross, and -- ultimately -- the Illinois state championships ... not to mention Natz ...

Call this Year 1 of my "Three-Year Plan." With Natz in KC in '07 and '08, I have a couple more years to really prove myself ... at least that's the perspective I've got right now!

ONLY 53 DAYS TO NATZ!!
And only 90 minutes until registration opens!

22 October 2006

At least it was 'cross weather

My race lasted about 50 meters. That's how long it was from the start line to the course. I was 4th or 5th off the line, and then I stupidly tried to stay on the course while everyone else went into the grass/weeds on either side. See, there was no course, just one long, looping mud pit. And there was me, sunk up to my axles.

So it became practice. I haven't had a race like that since Estabrook 3 years ago. Which, in a cruel twist of fate, I just saw on DVD for the first time this week. I've been spoiled. Give me firm and grassy, and watch out! I ran the B bike, with the B wheels -- it added probably 6-7lbs. to my dilemma, but at least my A drivetrain didn't get ruined.

I actually kept pace with Matt Brandt for about 2 laps, but then wondered aloud to Dave Bell why he was so much faster than me as I started to lose time. Then I realized -- both my brakes were completely clogged. So I stopped and undid them, and all was better. Is it really racing when you can do it with no brakes?

I got lapped with 1 to go, and then 2-3-4th passed me with about 300 meters left. At least I was able to learn from my mistakes -- oh, and I climbed the small mud hill pretty well each lap.

Today should be interesting -- it snowed in Madison last night. I kind of wish I had the Rush ...

Good luck to Lynne at the Chicago Marathon today!!

ONLY 54 DAYS TO NATZ!!

21 October 2006

Rep night

How awesome is this? MetCycling had its first "Rep Night" last night at the Shop ... how many amateur programs in the country do that?

Basically, it was kind of like a pro team does, where they have all the sponsors in to talk about their products and demonstrate what they're all about. We had awesome representation from Cannondale, SRAM, Continental, Trialtir, Craft, Giro, PowerBar, SportLegs, MetLife, and others, with incredible food provided by team sponsor EJ's Place ... if you ever want to experience cycling through the ages, check out EJ's back room if you get a chance ... more signed jerseys in one place than anywhere outside the Maddonna Ghisallo church ...

And check this out: next year we'll be rocking it on Cannondales, meaning that for the first time in my career I'll have same-sponsor coverage on road and dirt -- both my road and MTB race rigs will be sporting C'dale frames with SRAM components and Fi'zi:k saddles ... they gonna be wicked fast!

OK, time for me to start getting my grove on. It's 6:45; I got 3-1/2 hours of good sleep before dozing off-and-on for 3 more hours, and I've been up since 6 ... and it was a good night ... Whitewater awaits!

ONLY 55 DAYS TO NATZ!!

20 October 2006

The Omens

First it was a visit from Val and Paul. Then an e-mail from them with an offer of housing. Then it was Dog: The Bounty Hunter. Then it was Cheyenne Mountain.

Why are all the signs pointing to Colorado?

Sweet dreams are made of this

Woke up at 4:30 this morning from a dream in which Jeff Weinert and I were 1st and 2nd place in a cyclocross-style running race, with barriers, etc. ... I think the course was like Natz last year ... Anyway, we had a good lead on 3rd place but we were throwing elbows and beating each other up before we called a truce because there was one lap to go and 3rd place was catching up ... Maybe I could have taken him?

Looks like el Goat will be joining us soon? I seek my revenge for the Kettles ... you're on my turf now, boyo!

That fits in with the discussion I've been having with a few folks: It's fun to ride road. It's fun to ride trails. It's OK to ride and not race either of them. Cyclocross is not fun. If you're doing it, you're doing it to race and you're doing it because you love it. You don't just "ride" cyclocross. Welcome to hell, my friend!

Just found out that one of my employees Googled me last night. It was bound to happen, which is why I don't write much about work in this space. But since I only blog at lunch or before or after work, it doesn't matter, right? Right?


ONLY 56 DAYS TO NATZ!!

19 October 2006

You've come a long way, baby

This could come back to haunt me.

I finally broke down last evening and did a trainer ride -- it wasn't raining that much, but after a morning commute in which my back tire slid out a couple of times, I just wasn't in the mood to mess around. Cross practice was cancelled due to the conditions (don't want to tear up the grass), so it was just me and the TV ...

I queued up the last of the MadCross videos that I purchased, the only one I haven't seen before: 2003. And, oh man, was it painful to watch.

There's me, fighting girth and gravity through the barriers at Lapham Peak in my first race. Or going wheel-for-wheel with Dave Bell at Cam-Rock: he looks so much smoother than me. Or in my first "A" race at Whitewater, where Tristan and others are killing the group and I'm floundering on the super-tough run-up. Or my personal favorite, getting stuck in the mud, right in front of the camera, at Estabrook in the second-worst 'cross race I've ever had.

It's a good thing Renee is so nice (ha, ha), otherwise these images could be out on the Internet somewhere. Oh, wait -- I think they are!

There were some pretty cool moments on the DVD: Rebecca Much in her 'cross debut; JPE suffering over the barriers at Lapham II while the front As were bunny-hopping them; poor Marcie Weiss doing the Whitewater run-up with her BMX bike ...

All in all, it was a great video, and a fun way to pass the trainer time. I just hope the 2006 DVD is more kind to me and my butt!

ONLY 57 DAYS TO NATZ!!

17 October 2006

"There is no fate but what we make for ourselves"

Do you remember the scene in T3: Rise of the Machines when John Connor and his future wife get tricked into hiding out at "Crystal Peak" to wait out the nuclear attack that changes the world? Do you remember how basically the entire Terminator franchise was based on time travel, and thus a prediction of future events?

Well you heard it here first: the prophecy is coming true.

When Connor and his chick arrive at "Crystal Peak," they find a completely closed-down, old-school fallout-shelter/command center without so much as a Windows operating system to be found. The blast doors are operational, as is the communications system, and after they lock themselves in, they are forced to just listen as Skynet launches a massive attack that virtually wipes out the human race.

Well, the U.S. Government has announced that it is mothballing Cheyenne Mountain. Do military officials not go to the movies? Doesn't anyone else think this is an early warning sign of impending doom?

Other news of the day: The C'ville race made VeloNews! Very cool, and good job to Imelda for getting the word out -- apparently we were in the Daily Herald as well ... Should we get this book for Kaylie for Christmas? I think it's long overdue, and makes a lot of sense -- it will be interesting to see where the pendulum of history puts tattoos in 15 or 20 years ... and finally, even if we can feed ourselves, does that make it a good idea?

ONLY 59 DAYS TO NATZ!!

16 October 2006

Bad neighborhood

I’m spending way too much time in the wrong place.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m encouraged by yesterday’s effort, and I’m excited to see where I’ll be after a couple more weeks, a bit more rest, and some good race intensity.

But I’m getting sick of hanging out in 4th place.

Fourth equals my best Chicago Cross Cup finish from years past. Fourth is where I ended up down at Groundhog in February (twice, and for the omnium). Fourth is where I came in at KISSCross in Michigan.

Fourth isn’t where I want to be.

I made a couple of tactical errors yesterday that cost me. After our group of four established itself, I hung on the back, hiding out and sheltering from the wind. It wasn’t the best position to be in, but it worked for a while. When the guy from SRAM started to bobble, though, I should have moved into third immediately, and stayed there.

Instead, I hung back, and let him close the gaps he was opening. Still not horrible. With about seven or eight laps to go, though, as David Sachs was putting the screws to us for nearly two full laps, SRAM was getting really sloppy – I attacked him into the sand pit and opened a gap, but Sachs and the California guy were already just out of reach. Damn. I had waited just a bit too long.

SRAM guy chased me for a couple of laps as I chased California guy. Eventually SRAM was closer than California, so I eased up just a bit – SRAM attacked me as he went by, but I hung tight and hid out from the wind. (I think he was a little surprised when he looked back and I was there!) He kept going hard, we saw four to go, and then he absolutely face-planted into the barriers. OUCH!

This was my golden opportunity to make the podium, but it was not to be. I dropped down off the hill, must have hit a bad bump, and my chain dropped. Not only did it drop – it got stuck underneath the “chain-keeper.” Nuthin’ I could do. I had to twist the chain-keeper around, had to stop twice before I really got going, and I then dropped my chain again later in the lap. SRAM was gone, and with it my golden chance.

Mechanicals happen, it’s part of racing. I’m a little bummed, but I also recognize that I made some mistakes earlier in the race that cost me. I mean, if SRAM was going so hard to catch me that he took himself out (the bike was flying through the air!), what would have happened if I had attacked him sooner? If I had been in third when Sachs and California went? These are the things I’ll never know, but I will learn from them …

Race notes: To those of you who saw a bit of blood on my knee, it was nothing serious. I missed the ditch crossing on my first pre-ride lap, and put my knee into my handlebars, where it just happened to dig into the backside of my cheater levers. A bit of gauze and a band-aid, and I’m good to go today … Big thanks to everyone out there cheering – I lost count how many times I heard my name or “Go Pony Shop!”, very cool … Serious kudos to the Main Street Bicycles crew, the course was a ton of fun, and the event was a blast! … Looking forward to Whitewater …

ONLY 60 DAYS TO NATZ!!

15 October 2006

Redemption

Good day today. Made the 4-man split, hung on in 4th place most of the race, attacked into 3rd with 6 to go, got caught back to 4th with four to go, the guy in third place face-planted on the barriers, HERE'S MY CHANCE!!! Attacked into 3rd and ... dropped my chain. Twice. Finished 4th to banish the ghosts of girlfriends past. (And bad races. Especially in front of my parents.)

Major kudos to a bunch of Pony Shop/MetLife/James Park practice folks -- Josh won the 45+, Tommy looked super-strong, Brian was cruising, and welcome (sometimes back) to the pain for Jason and the rest of the "entry-level" Cat. 4s as they battled the Super-Sandbaggers ...

Looking forward to Wednesday again (it's open to EVERYONE!!!), with Whitewater and Cam-Rock next weekend ... details from today later, probably tomorrow ...

Check this out

Yesterday was fun. We got out to the 'burbs early, and I did two loops of Bull Valley before heading down and meeting Kim to pick up my Colnago for a spin in Veteran's Acres. I'm a little worried because I hit some of the road hills pretty hard, driving my heart rate WAY up, but wasn't able to bring it back down that quickly -- I think it may have been the coffee I drank beforehand, hoping it's nothing more ...

I got out on the Grifos at VA, and they are sweeeeet! I should have listened to Jim two years ago! I can't wait to run them today -- I'm out for blood!

We had a fun time with Kim's family yesterday afternoon, watching the kids paint and carve pumpkins. I was good (mostly) and stayed away from the dessert table ... well, mostly anyway. The concert last night was a lot of fun, short (they only have two albums out), and Amy Lee's voice was incredible live. They opened their encore with "My Immortal," just her at a piano, and it was a fantastic end to a great evening. It was weird being back at The Rave, I think it's been 12 years? And what a great place to see a band like this -- the place was packed to the rafters, and everyone was really into the show.

So I'm really not into masochism, but I came across this little tidbit on cyclingnews.com this morning. The Roc d'Azur 58km MTB Marathon is run in front of 130,000 spectators, as it's combined with France's largest bike show ... Alison Sydor is a legend in her home country of Canada and throughout the MTB world:
"Sydor took her third consecutive victory at the race ... She won in spite of an early crash that separated her from her lead group of four. After convincing medical personnel to return her bike so she could continue racing, she caught back the group before outsprinting them to the finish."

That's some serious guts! Also, more info and a trailer is now available on the 24-Solo movie ... I can't wait! Off-Road to Athens is largely responsible for why I ride mountain now ...

OK, time to get some Tiger Balm going. Only 4-1/2 hours to race time. I'm bringing it today, and if I don't have it, I'm piling it on. BRING IT BABY!!

ONLY 61 DAYS TO NATZ!!

13 October 2006

A new standard

Ever since I read this quote in Mastering Mountain Bike Skills, I considered it the gold standard for how hard to push yourself. Heck, I almost made it there this weekend.

"At the Sea Otter dirt criterium, Matt Gerken climbed so hard that he passed out on the descent. Dude, I want that gene that makes me go so hard that I don't care."

– Mark Weir

That was, until I read this. Craig Gordon, congratulations. As Pre once said, "Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it." Chris Eatough now knows what that means.

I can't wait to see the movie.

Two down, one to go

I got the Rush cleaned yesterday, finally. Of course, now it goes into a bit of hibernation -- not sure the next time I'll get out on the trails. Maybe sometime in November?

The Colnago is almost set. It's clean and lubed, just need to plug in the wheels -- which were just re-shod yesterday, thanks to Lou. I'm running Challenge Grifos for the first time this weekend, on the recommendation of Jim Holmes and others ... I need all the help I can get in the corners, so this should be good.

I'm riding home from work tonight, with the light on my head just in case. Then it's heavy-duty cleaning of the pit bike: it was nearly perfect until 'cross practice on Wednesday, when we rode through the wet gravel. I'm getting sort of tired of having to clean bikes every day ... maybe if this weekend is dry, I'll only have a minor cleanup next week?

The stars are starting to align for Boulder I think. I'm still torn -- is it worth 30 hours of driving and 2 vacation days just to get pulled 2/3 of the way through the race? Two hours ago, I would have said no, but then some housing came through, my boss said yes ... maybe the long drive will do me good. Still need to talk to Kim for sure.

Oh! Check this out -- I was listening to 95.1 yesterday, and their community news had bike content! If you're in Lake Geneva this weekend, check out the Fat Tire Memorial Tour -- sounds like a good time for a couple of good causes!

ONLY 63 DAYS TO NATZ!!

12 October 2006

Just in time

The 30% chance of snow flurries this morning has turned into a full-on shower -- I got to work just in time! Today was breakout day -- break out the jacket, gloves, shoe covers, winter cap, long-sleeve undershirt, etc., etc. ... I forgot how long it takes to get dressed in the winter! Thankfully I stayed dry, and can now enjoy my coffee watching the flakes fly ...

Last night was an awesome 'cross practice. We had a big group, doing laps around the ball fields in James Park. Lou finally hit the perfect rhythm on the barriers and was just FLYING -- he's going to be one to watch this weekend. I, on the other hand, flailed around like a small child, having done a running workout on Tuesday and a 20-min LT-plus on the way home from work -- my legs were burning! Consequently, my attempts at making it over the barriers were rather embarassing and I felt like a rag doll out there.

It was good to see such a crowd -- did someone say there's a race on Sunday? Everyone kind of came out of the woodwork, and it will be fun to see everyone at Carpenter Park!

Natz schedule has been posted ... Page is likely out for the season ... lots going on in the 'cross world ...

ONLY 64 DAYS TO NATZ!!

11 October 2006

Oh, YESSSSSSSSS!

From WORS.org:

Planning for next year’s Wisconsin Off Road Series is progressing and WORS 2007 Schedule is now ready for release as it is approximately 95% confirmed. WORS will present a new format and events at four new venues in 2007. Details are still being worked out, but WORS currently plans to promote two separate but integrated series in 2007. WORS traditional cross-country series will include nine events and WORS will also introduce a three event marathon series. Please visit WORS website in the coming months as specifics for 2007 become available.

Happy b-day!

First, a big shout-out to my dad, who turned 60 yesterday! This is the guy who has beaten cancer, ridden a ton of centuries, and traveled the world ... and he's now counting down to retirement. Any bets on how long that will last?

Second, happy b-day to my blog. It's been a year, and I think I'm averaging almost a post per day. Am I really that full of hot air? Wait -- don't answer that.

No Ohio UCI for me this weekend. The decision was made a couple of weeks ago; instead, I'll hit C'ville and celebrate my dad's birthday. We also get some K-time on Saturday, as Kim's family is having a Halloween pumpkin get-together. With all the travel I'm contemplating in the next few weeks, I can't say I'll miss the carnage in Ohio!

(It also means I get to use the Evanescence tickets I won a few weeks back. I don't think I've been to a general admission show at the Rave since I turned 21, Blues Traveler with a still-overlarge John Popper. That was an awesome show!)

Good luck to everyone behind the Cheddar Curtain this Sunday -- Lapham Peak isn't the best of venues, but it holds a special place in my heart -- it's the only place (other than Sheboygan this weekend) where I almost passed out on a bike, in my very first 'cross race!

Fingers crossed that I still have a job by the end of today -- there's this super-nasty project that has been eating away at my psyche, and today was the "next" phase deliverable. If it doesn't go well, this afternoon could be very short ... or very long, depending how you look at it!

ONLY 65 DAYS TO NATZ!!

10 October 2006

Silliness!

There’s some sort of poetic justice in being able to write this entry today. Just a couple of days shy of my blanniversary, here I am talking about the “silly season” again …

But this time, instead of lamenting, I’m excited to report that I’m moving to a new team! The Pony Shop has picked up the sponsorship of the MetLife Cycling Team, and I have been invited to join!

Also making the move will be Andy Anderson, who made huge progress in his first year of being a Cat. 2. It will be cool to have him join as well, and we have a lot of strong teammates to race with!

First, let me say “thank you” publicly to Team Mack. It was a great three years, and I got to do a lot of cool stuff, and exceed my cycling dreams. It’s not every day you meet a group of people who are supportive and take you further than you ever thought possible. Lots of great stories and memories …

That said, I am really happy about this move. First, I’ll get to continue my association with The Pony Shop, and I am proud to be able to represent one of the best shops in the country on a daily basis. Second, the core of the team is based in northern Chicagoland, which means I’ll have teammates around every day – many of whom are friends I’ve ridden and raced with for years. And finally, my mom loves Snoopy, and I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to see our jerseys! (Hey, anything to get her to support my racing!)

All kidding aside, Pat and Chris McNally have put together an awesome program, building on the long history of True Value, Higher Gear and Vox to create a MetCycling team that will have a huge impact on the Midwest scene. They have been busting their butts to get structure in place even as 2006 is just ending, and their diligence is paying off with some pretty sweet sponsorships.

It’s an exciting time to be a part of Met – look for me in the blue and white in ’07!!

ONLY 66 DAYS TO NATZ!!

09 October 2006

Sheboygan Slickrock

I’m not really sure what I want to say about yesterday’s race – on the one hand, I’m super-excited about how I did; on the other, I’m so physically tired that simple things like words and thoughts escape me. At least I’m not the only one!

First, a big shout-out to my next-door neighbor Ernie, who made it up to Sheboygan and rode the Sport class blind to a top-half finish. Considering he hasn’t raced all year, that’s a great result! Also to Dave Bell, thanks for the shout-out and great ride! I will have a few words with Renee, however, who told me "it will be fun" to upgrade for this race! Fun???? And to the fans up at Sheboygan -- Jeremy told me the Equalizer "would be like Houffalize," and he was right -- it was so cool!

So what did happen this weekend? First, on Saturday, I was able to get four full laps in, plus some specific work on a couple of the technical sections. I have to give a big thanks to Mountaingoat for letting me hang with him a couple of weeks back – a month ago, a course as tough as Sheboygan would have scared the crap out of me. Instead, I was nearly perfect even on my first practice lap, and rolled into the parking lot with a HUGE smile on my face! It was so much fun!

(This would come back to haunt said Mountaingoat … more on that later …)

You really get to know a rider when you spend some time on their home turf. I got some good insight into Mark Schwartzendruber a couple of years back, riding in the desolate, windy wasteland of Champaign, Illinois … on Saturday I began to better understand the skill and fluidity of Schouten and Matter. Man, if I had trails like that in my back yard, I would have gotten dirty years ago!

Kim and I camped at Kohler-Andrae State Park, and enjoyed an awesome full-moon-lit walk on the beach Saturday night. It was so cool! Then, I finally got the monkey off my back, and had a nearly full night’s sleep before the race – and I needed it!

Let’s see … race day … This was only my third mountain bike race, and it was a doozy. I told Kim that I really wanted to get a NORBA Nationals qualifier – I was able to do it in NORBA Sport at Devil’s Head, but WORS Elite/NORBA Expert is a whole ‘nother thing. I “only” needed to place top 10 in my age group … easier said than done! But I felt confident after Saturday’s pre-ride, so there was a chance …

I staged in the first row of the Elites, only to have a huge group of guys “back in” in front of me. By the time we started, Mountaingoat and I were about 5th row – not so good! It was a long, uphill, mostly pavement start to the hole shot prime, and I hit the singletrack in about 30th, not bad, not great, stacked up behind a HUGE bottleneck.

Gaps started to open on the trails, but I stayed with my group(!) through the first section. Then we dropped down to the river, where the dipsh*t in front of me decides to do a trackstand, waiting until the opposite bank cleared so he could try to clean it. IDIOT!!! A huge gap opens to the guys in front of us, and then he proceeds to stack it in the mud! DUMBA$$! I’m off my bike and running, but the ship had sailed and I spent the rest of the time seeing faces fleeting through the pine trees …

At some point I pass John Gatto and a Polska dude. When I rode past Gatto on a hill, all I could think of was that I want to beat him next week in Carpentersville … I only dabbed once the first lap, and only because the guy in front of me stalled on the Roots of All Evil. Which I cleaned on every other lap. Every lap!

I rode alone for the next lap and a half, until I was catching a guy as we dropped down to the river. I felt OK, but could hear people behind me (I may have been hallucinating), and I really wanted to get this guy. So, of course, I had my one screwup! I hit the river crossing, my rear wheel slipped out, and – in a strange sort of slow-speed movie – I toppled over backward into the water! Brrrrrrrr!!!! My left leg was still clipped in, my handlebars were covered in muck, and I had to run the hill – at least I was no longer overheating!

That did allow the guy in front of me some breathing room, although I caught him another 2-3 minutes down the line. Unfortunately, Gatto had recovered and was bringing Mountaingoat with him – they caught me soon after. And here’s where Jeremy paid for letting me ride with him at Kettle – I stayed on their wheels! I wasn’t perfect (far from it), but two months ago, when I christened the Rush at Palos, I would never have dreamed that I’d be able to hang with Mountaingoat and Gatto on a super-tight, technical, wicked-fast, tough MTB course. No way!

To be fair, Jeremy was cramping (as was I), but the three of us flowed through the singletrack all the way around until the Equalizer, which I ran and Gatto rode, and then through the start/finish where Kim laughed at me when I told her I fell in the river. (Thanks honey!) I lost their wheel a bit on the uphill, caught up and stayed in the singletrack, and was doing OK until we hit the gravel uphill behind the start/finish where Gatto attacked and I almost passed out as we crested. I was cooked, and I knew it. I held on through the drop, ran the river and caught Jeremy as he cramped on the uphill, I cramped and barely held on, and pushed myself deeper than I’ve ever been through the pine forest, almost passing out again and seeing stars through the small root section. Somewhere in there I puked a little bit too, for the second time in the race.

I managed to stay with Jeremy close enough to follow his line along the river, but then we both locked up on the climb and were passed by Polska and one or two others. We all cleaned the river drop, but at the Equalizer Jeremy and I were left behind … I followed him up the Equalizer and through the slickrock (the line I was using all other laps was better, sorry mate!), and he pushed the pace again through the start/finish and I was gapped, as a small child rode across the course in front of me …

With another two Elites on our heels, I dug deep again to stay with him. I again almost passed out as we crested the hill and entered the singletrack; this time, I used the slight downhill to catch my breath and hope for the best. I was cramping, I was dying, but Jeremy wasn’t doing too much better … An Elite who had a mechanical earlier came by us just before the river, and the two of them took off. I struggled a bit, but when the other Elite had another mechanical and Jeremy cramped up on the uphill, I had a chance. As my vision went black, I caught him on the uphill, chased him down to the pine forest, and was on his heels as we came to the gravel climb … we crested together, but that was it for him. I jumped ahead into the Roots of All Evil, cleaned it, and somehow managed to put a full minute into Jeremy in the last half lap! Although I was cramping, and virtually walked the last time up the Equalizer, I rode a smooth last lap, and in reality felt pretty good. I dug really deep to keep #236 off my butt (Jeremy beat him by 2 seconds), and rolled into the finish in 32nd place overall, 8th in the age group – a National qualifier!

That was when the pain hit. I crossed the line and my entire field of vision was covered in stars. All the blood in my body rushed to my head, as I went virtually deaf and nearly fell off my bike. I had accomplished my goal, but holy crap did it hurt! Dave gave me a shout, but I was too shattered to acknowledge him … I rolled a bit away from the crowd, and eventually circled back to find Kim. It was about 15 minutes later before I was able to stand!

This race was so much fun, and I’m really happy I upgraded to experience the pain – my lap times would have put me in the top 5 overall (and winner of my age group) in Comp, but there’s something extremely satisfying about doing that extra lap and qualifying in the next higher category. Heck, I may not even go to Nationals next year, but at least I can if I want!

After I clean it tonight, it’s time to put away the mountain bike for a while. We’ve got ‘cross races galore for the next 10 weeks or so, including the Chicago Cross Cup opener this weekend in Carpentersville … time to exorcise the demons!!!

ONLY 67 DAYS TO NATZ!!

08 October 2006

I did it!

It was only my third mountain bike race, and I qualified for Expert Nats next year!

It was the hardest race I've ever done from a physical standpoint, gory details to come. For now, I'm just really, really happy. And really, really tired. Good night.

ONLY 68 DAYS TO (CROSS) NATZ!!

06 October 2006

70 days

My math is messed up. Just figured out it's only ...

70 DAYS TO NATZ!!!

Down on the farm

Can someone explain to me how it is that I can upload a photo of a weedwacker but can't get my last two photos from Washington onto Blogger? This is insane! (But it's free ... it's free ... it's free ...)

Anyhoo, here are some photos from the spectacular B&B we stayed at, out in Orrtanna, PA. I orginally found it through a AAA book "back in the day," and we were so happy that the reality 10 years later was even better than our memories! We're not going to wait 10 years to go back ...

The clouds as we left Chicago were pretty cool. We had storms both ways, but pretty good weather while we were there!
This is the farmhouse where they serve breakfast every day except Sunday. There are also rooms in the house in which to stay.
This is one of the barns on the property. We were in the foothills of the Appalachians (ask me about the 90-minute climb straight out our front door), and scenes like this were everywhere!
We even had a fireplace in our cabin! This is the obligatory Kim "Kennedy Onasis" shot -- check out those cyclist's legs!!
This was breakfast served to the cabin on Sunday, complete with homemade blueberry muffins and pecan coffee cake. Mmmmm ... coffee ...
This is the stream that ran in front of our cabin (which you can see over Kim's shoulder through the trees). Needless to say, we weren't ready to come back to the concrete jungle of Chicago!
ONLY 72 DAYS TO NATZ!!
And check back Monday for some big news ...

05 October 2006

Weed wacking

Between our trip and this crazy week at work, I haven't had a chance to shave my legs since last Friday. Normally that's not such a bad thing, but with it being our National Sales Meeting week, I've had a lot of "rest" (i.e., not a lot of bike time), and my leg hair has grown super-fast. I have a massage scheduled for Saturday morning ... I'm not really looking forward to digging through the undergrowth before then!

Sheboygan should be interesting. It's finally stopped raining, and a couple of days of sun should help -- I'm hoping for some of that "peanut butter" since I don't have real mud tires. The preride on Saturday afternoon should dry it some, so we'll see! Whatever happens, I'm praying for a miracle -- the aforementioned travel and National Sales Meeting has meant a huge dip in my riding time that, in addition to an accompanying increase in calorie intake, means I'll be heading north with a nice bit of extra flab and very, ahem, "fresh" legs. At least this year I'm not running, unlike before Carpentersville last year ...

Blogger has been persnickity with photos, so I'm not quite done uploading our vacation shots. Look for them soon ...

ONLY 73 DAYS TO NATZ!!

04 October 2006

Michaux State Forest Phlog

Our little getaway to Gettysburg was incredible -- it's not often that you build up an event for 10 years in your head that exceeds your expectations! I've got more photos than I know what to do with, we'll kind of go in chronological order the next couple of days ...

On Friday afternoon, Kim and I headed up to the Michaux State Forest for a little MTB action ... holy cow! It had rained the day before -- 4 inches in some areas -- but by 11 a.m., the trails were bone dry -- it was that rocky! I only ran through one puddle all day! We split up, and Kim did some huge climbing (long, long, long climbs on forest roads) while I hit the singletrack ...

The trails were a tough mixture of extreme climbs/descents and massive rock gardens. Perfect training for me -- descending and rocks aren't exactly my forté ...

The entire forest is criss-crossed with forest roads and singletrack -- Kim's fully rigid hybrid wasn't well suited to the rough stuff, but even the widetrack was fun!

I dedicate this photo to
the Mountaingoat ... I found out later that this trail was for hikers only! Even though it was off-limits, it was one of the sweetest trails I rode all day ...

Another view of the trail -- yes, that's the trail off to the right, look closely! This was also the least rocky place in the entire forest, as it was right along a reservoir.
NOW we're talking!
Remember I mentioned the rock gardens?
(OK, not really. This was the dam at one end of the reservoir. I did hike-a-bike down it though, through the no trespassing zone, only to have to try to climb a 20%+ grassy hill to get out ...)

This was the reservoir. Beautiful.
How many couples do you know who look this happy after 10 years of marriage?

ONLY 74 DAYS TO NATZ!!

03 October 2006

Chris and Kim went to Baltimore ...

... and all we got was this lousy T-shirt! Pastafarians unite!!!!