31 December 2006

Regression analysis

So thanks to Jim, I spent all day Friday -- my last day of "freedom" -- cruising iTunes and listening to NOFX, Black Flag, and other influential bands from the past ... now we've got Q101's "Retro Brunch" going on as we do our house cleaning ... the one Sunday of the year I'm not riding my bike and we have no plans ...

That NIN sticker on that minivan seems all too real now -- we had to go mall shopping yesterday (don't ask), and the Golf Mill mall in Niles has a retro/punk shop. In a mall! The combat boots in the window caught my eye, but what really drew me in was the vintage Def Leppard Pyromania shirt (seriously!), followed by more silver chains than I could count, other vintage (and not-so-vintage) concert shirts, and more or less a capitalist shrine to Che next to a rack full of those puffy jackets with the zipper pockets on the sleeves ... it was all so surreal as I stepped back out and looked across the mall to Lane Bryant ...

Check it out: JP podiums in Belgium!

And how's this for a sugar daddy?

ONLY 349 DAYS TO NATZ!!

29 December 2006

A new link

One of the first things I wanted to do when I accepted FK's offer last week was to start a journal of this new phase in my life. I've never been very good at keeping track of my comings and goings on paper, but as you may have noticed, I've found a bit of a niche in blogging ...

So in the spirit of separation of powers, I decided to start another blog: www.sharethepower.blogspot.com. This will be my take on my new adventure with World Bicycle Relief, hopefully capturing some of the inspiration and perspiration that are sure to be ahead as we make a meaningful impact on this world.

I'll definitely keep this site up-to-date with everything else that comes and goes, and I'm sure there will be some crossover; I really want the world to know what a difference we're having, and I think chronicling it is a great way to do so. Happy reading!

Lost ... and found

So last night I was continuing my Matrix-style crash course in not-for-profit management and took a quick break about 12:30 or so. Hopped on the computer to check e-mails, see if anyone was awake ... and noticed the comment in the last blog posting from someone I knew in high school. Holy crap!

It's kind of amazing how powerful the Internet can be. Meredith is the fourth or fifth person who has tracked me down -- two from high school in the past 3 weeks. It's kind of fun -- not that I'm pining away at all for high school -- I hated my teen years with a passion -- but it's good to know that people have turned out alright. I had lunch last week with a woman whom I haven't seen since graduation 15+ years ago, and now Meredith is filling me in on old friends and old flames ... Funny how time flies!

Let's see what else ... broke my enforced off-season thanks to him. Just couldn't pass up the invitation to hit new roads with 45+ degree weather and no wind in late December! And it's good to know that I'm better company than an electronic music device!

And, as noted, I am knee-deep in not-for-profit management "training." Thankfully much of it is common sense gleaned from being a donor to various organizations for many years, but some of the nuances of communications and PR plans are beyond the scope of my past experiences. I find that even just cracking open a book or two helps get the creative juices flowing, and I have 8 or 9 notebook pages filled with ideas ...

If you get a chance, and are at all interested in nonprofit work, check out Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. (I thought it was appropriate, given the circumstances!) It's not your typical "management-style" book; instead, it's a well-written narrative of one man's move from very high-powered corporate life to a life spent helping others in need. I'm about 50 pages in, and have spent half my reading time underlining passages that help me understand my own mentality at this stage of my career!

Hope everyone has really awesome New Years Eve plans! Happy 2007!

ONLY 351 DAYS TO KC!!

28 December 2006

Divine Providence -- The Masters

All the fun kicked off Friday with a whole 'lotta Masters racing ... I picked Kim up at the airport at about 11, took her straight to the venue, and started getting ready. We were set to go off at 3 p.m., just as dusk was starting to fall ...

A short pre-ride at 12:30, a few minutes of recovery, then jump back in the car for a few minutes before the actual warmup. We're sitting there, Kim in the driver's seat, me in the passenger's, Kurt and Beth on the floor ... and my phone rings! Hmmm ... maybe someone back home wishing me good luck?

Nope! It was a job interview! Kim, Kurt and Beth were silent as church mice as I ended up talking to the guy for 20 minutes ... he even wanted to keep talking, but I finally had to tell him that I had a National Championship in a few minutes! It totally took my mind off the upcoming race, so I guess that was good!

Finally, Kurt and I got out together to warm up a bit (he was just getting a feel for the area in anticipation of racing Saturday), and took some trails around the lake to get some off-roading in. Then it was time to stage! I rushed over to staging, met Kim there and dropped off my jacket ...

Video is finally available: http://www.cyclocrossvideos.com/master_men_30-34.html Check out the Cane Creek guy on the front row -- he was totally gunning for the win, and when I saw him on Saturday, he wouldn't even talk about the race ... Oh, and the Fiordifruitti guy is Johannes Huseby, you can hear his supporters cheering him on!

I get some encouragement in seeing just how many places I made up from the first pass by the pits to the second ... just gotta' work on that start!

The start of the Masters 30-34 race. Ours was one of the smaller fields of the day!
This was sort of how I started ... totally unprepared! They weren't even finished with the announcing yet when they blew the whistle!
Most of Kim's photos didn't turn out, as it was getting dark and we just have a point-and-shoot camera. For better photos, check out here and here and here. This is me hitting the Clif Bar run-up, chasing after that guy -- the story of my day!
More chasing ... after a horrible start, I pulled myself inside-out to move from about 70th to finish 30th; a strong move on the last pavement section got me away from the 5 guys I was racing ... not a bad way to end a season!
ONLY 352 DAYS TO KC!

27 December 2006

Divine Providence -- The Fruit Loops

Sunday afternoon was the "fun" race in Providence -- the Strawberry Cup. This elite race featured all the Stars-n-Stripes jerseys on the front line, and a fair number of competitors vying for something like $2,000 ... but of course, it's not about the money!

My legs were still beaten down badly from Friday and Saturday, so I chose to spectate instead -- what a race!

Here's the start line -- a lot of stars, a lot of stripes!
Kyle and Kurt going at it toward the back -- rough race for Kurt, as he had just finished the Collegiate race in 7th place! Kyle took some time getting his engine going, but eventually rode strong late in the race.
Tim Johnson, proving that pancakes and chocolate chips are the way to go in 'cross!
TONKIN!
TILFORD!
ONLY 353 DAYS TO NATZ!!

26 December 2006

Divine Providence -- Colorado Style

Wow! Hard to believe Christmas has come and gone. I hope everyone had a great holiday!

We spent some great time with our families -- mine on Sunday and early Monday, Kim's the rest of the time. That, of course, meant watching our nephew CJ delight in flaming saginaki cheese and crashing Hot Wheels cars, and some very quality K time for Uncle Chris!

We went out on Saturday, and before she went to bed, Kaylie was concerned that Kim and I would leave in the middle of the night. It was so cute when she opened the door on Sunday morning just to peek out and see if Unc Chris was still there ...

Oh! And her mom took her to Wal-Mart last week. She asked for a bike. When mom said "Honey, you already have a bike," Kaylie -- in her 3-year-old wisdom -- looked Kari in the eye and said "It's OK to have two bikes mommy!" WOOO-HOOO! You go girlie!

Here are a couple of more photos from Natz. Hard to believe it was only a week ago! I have a few more that I'll post in the next couple of days. Enjoy!

Here's Beth, rocking it out in the Women's Collegiate race. She helped her school bring home a bronze medal in the overall! Go Beth!
Here's Beth again, crossing the finish line strong at the end of the Women's B race on Sunday morning. She may not have been totally into racing that day, but she didn't show it, and she blew away the competition, great race!
And here's Kurt, flying high in the Collegiate race for C-U Boulder. I got to work the pits for him, it was sooooo cool. He was fighting for 8-10th for much of the race, until someone up ahead flatted, and he was all alone in 7th ... what a strong finish! 4th place individual for D1 schools, and Boulder brings home a 5th in the overall ... awesome!
ONLY 354 DAYS TO KC!!

22 December 2006

WOOOO-HOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

So, I was out of a job for ... 3 hours! I left my old job at about 11, headed to Kim's work for free pizza lunch, and was driving back to Evanston for a meeting about another job opportunity, sort of dejected, not expecting to hear anything and knowing that if I didn't get a call by 2 p.m., I would have to wait until the new year ...

2:02 p.m., my phone rings, and it's the job! Not just any job, though, THE job ... the job I was meant to do. I get to use my communications experience and skills for good, to help people help themselves lift out of the poverty and lack of healthcare that is endemic on the African continent. And the way in which they will do it? By bicycle of course!

As of January 2, I am the Communications Manager for World Bicycle Relief, the charity founded by SRAM co-founder FK Day. WBR was started in response to the Tsunami disaster two years ago, and has matured into a not-for-profit that currently is helping HIV/AIDS workers and families in Zambia. There are nearly 1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, and more than 800,000 orphans -- by providing bicycles, WBR is helping aid workers reach more people, more efficiently, and helping families by providing transportation to schools, jobs, and elsewhere.

We're headquartered (co-located) at SRAM world HQ in Chicago, so I'll even know some of my co-workers once I get there. This was the interview I had on Wednesday morning, and it apparently went pretty well! This whole opportunity has been a series of serendipitous accidents: I got the e-mail just minutes after the job became public; I know a couple of people at SRAM who served as cover-letter references; turns out, I know the HR person from my Aon days ... pretty awesome!

This is going to be a demanding, difficult, challenging job -- but it will be one of the most rewarding things I've ever done in my life. We've got big plans to make this a sustainable solution to help people throughout the world -- Bring it on!

21 December 2006

Divine Providence -- The Master Bs

Wow. Last day at work. Everyone here is wearing jeans except me -- I'm psuedo-dressed up since I have another job interview this afternoon. It's an interesting opportunity to work in an agency/consultancy environment with a vendor I hired back in my Aon days ... and they found me through this blog!

Double wow. First, I walk in and the executive assistant to the CEO is in my office, wondering if I were gone already. Now, the CEO himself just stopped by ... gulp!

Anyhoo, on to fun stuff!!!

In case you hadn't heard, this year's Natz not only had the best weather in like a decade (since Baltimore, I heard), but it also had the biggest field -- more than 1,900 registered racers. (OK, 1,898 since I bailed early on Saturday and skipped on Sunday!) The biggest of the big were in the Masters B events -- under 35 with 170 or so racers, and over 35 with 240!!!!

This is what it looked like in the off-camber section after the start ... can you say MOOOOOO!




Local hero Brian Conant once again had a stellar day, not letting 239 other guys get in his way ... here's the start of the 35+ B race, you can see Brian already doing a Kamikazi run to the left of the photo (blue and white: far, far left). By Turn 1, off the pavement and over the curb, he was in about 15th place -- by Turn 3, just 100 meters later, he was in 8th -- by the off-camber, just 100 meters later, he was in 2nd!!!!! Man, do I need to learn how to start FAST if I'm going to compete with him in the 35+ races next year!


Brian was clearly the strongest on the day as a lead group of six established itself. He attacked non-stop, only pausing when he could tell he wasn't going to get away ... at which time one of his breakaway mates would counter ... forcing Brian to react, and ultimately pulll the rest of the group back to the wheel of the front guy ... at which time Brian would go again ... but ... just ... could ... not ... quite ... get ... away ...


Eventually, the group started working it for the win, and Brian put in a lap-and-a-half attack (we're talking like 10 minutes SOLID of riding on the front!!) in his bid to finally win the $andbagger Jersey. Unfortunately, his efforts were for naught, as he got gapped slightly on the downhill behind the ampitheater, and ended up losing a couple of seconds to the eventual winner. The guy with the disk -- who has won something like 1,000 national championships -- pushed Brian to the line for 2nd place, with Brian's sprinting prevailing on the long uphill dreag ... 2nd place, twice in a row. Doesn't that mean an automatic upgrade to Elites?

Elsewhere in the massive field, Dave was out there having fun, as always, only his second or third race on his new 'cross rig ... this is Dave, BIG smile on his face, showing what 'cross is all about!


So that's it for me from Donlen-land ... I'm heading over to Kim's office for free pizza lunch, after a well-earned (and free, since I found a gift certificate as I cleaned out my desk) peppermint mocha from Starbucks. Yummm!

Happy Final Friday everyone! Woo-hoo!

ONLY 359 DAYS TO KC!!

Divine Providence -- The Elites

I've got a ton of photos from this weekend -- I'll post phlogs of the events I wasn't in, and put together a narrative of the 30+ Masters race here pretty soon ...


In the meantime, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Dr. Holmes (Monday) and Ann Knapp (Tuesday). Sorry I missed you Jim -- I was getting a haircut and making my way back to Chicago ...


First up, the Men's Elite race -- I think Kim may have something for Tree Farm, as there were more photos of Ryan on our camera than there were of me ...


The start line of the Elite race. Major firepower.
Tree Farm diving into the barriers. Free Sager!
Everyone else was chasing, including BJM and JPows.
Ryan leading the way.
Wells and Wicks.
Trebon hits the Clif Bar run-up, all alone.
BJM as porn star. Must be a trackie thing.
Kurt on the run-up. Go Kurt!
You know Horner was just thankful it wasn't muddy ...
TONKIN!
TILLY!
MEEHAN!
And (MORE) TREE FARM!
ONLY 360 DAYS TO KC!

20 December 2006

This is it!!

Well, wish me luck -- my first face-to-face interview is in 90 minutes. Gulp. Pulled out the suit, found some wrinkles, Kim nicely ironed them while I did some last-minute research ... shoes are polished ... tie picked out ... and did I mention that I'm going to a place with casual dress? Can you say sore thumb?! The hiring manager has a pony tail and a cool-looking beard, and here's me looking as clean-cut as I've ever looked in my life!

I'll have pics and stories from Natz soon -- after all, I'm out of a job as of about 1 p.m. on Friday. In the meantime, fingers crossed that things go well ... so far, this job search has been very fruitful, BIG thanks to everyone out there who has called, e-mailed, or otherwise sent along positive energy and job leads!

Oh! and I was all about not doing a countdown this year. Then Tristan called me out at the party on Sunday -- "oh, you're the guy who has that countdown on your blog?" -- and I realized on Monday that no matter how sore my legs feel right now, Kansas City is calling. So on that note ...

ONLY 361 DAYS TO KC!!

17 December 2006

2 laps 2 many

So I tried to extend my season just 2 laps too many.

I did start the elite race yesterday, but by the end of the first lap my efforts in the 30+ race, my long season, my lack of a job, and the probability of an oncoming freight train of a head cold all decided to land in my legs and I went from starting halfway on the grid to racing for the last 5 spots in line. Not good. I rolled for 2 laps, still sort of thinking I'd make halfway and be classified, and then decided to pull the plug. I need to rest.

Funny thing is, even though I only raced for like 20 minutes, I'm still more sore today than any time in recent memory. So I made the smart, albeit mentally depressing, decision to skip the final race today too -- instead, I concentrated my efforts on cheering on Kurt (7th overall and 4th D1 in the Collegiate race!!), Beth, Luca, Al, Tristan, Kyle, Sam, and a ton of other Midwest and West riders. And just having fun watching Tim Johnson first make me pancakes and then demolish the field in the Berry Cup. And wow, Katie is FAST.

Funny moment 1: One hour before the 30+ National Championship, my phone rings. Seeing a 312 number, I think it's someone calling to wish me well ... uh, no, it's a job interview! So I spend the next 20 minutes talking to this nice HR guy while Beth, Kurt, and Kim are absolutely silent sitting in the van next to me ... so much for a warmup!

Funny moment 2: Tim Johnson, cooking me chocolate-chip pancakes, wearing his name ski cap, the same one I bought in Boulder. Thanks me for flying the colors. Flash forward to the last lap of the Berry Cup, he comes up on Kurt in the finishing stretch, about to lap ... Kurt, who had made fun of my Tim Johnson hat, was cooked from doing the preceding Collegiate race, and invited TJ to pass him. "No way," TJ says, "Have fun on your last lap!" Touche!

So that's the end of that. A great season -- a win, a bunch of podiums, a mountain bike, an upgrade, a qualification to Nationals next year, and a gaggle of 'cross races including my first top 5 in Wisconsin. Wow. Hard to believe it all started back in February with Groundhog in 12-degree weather ...

One more year in the books. Just 364 days to Natz!

15 December 2006

Oh, yeah

Kurt says I was more like 70th at the start. Wow. That sucked.

A BIG THANKS to all the cheering fans out there -- I heard my name more times than I can count, it was almost as if we were in Madison or Chicago! WOO-HOOO!!!!!

Just real quick

It's 10:30 p.m., we're sitting in the parking lot of the Fairfield Inn in Warwick, R.I., and I'm on Renee's computer. Beth is passed out in the back of the van, Kurt is next to me reading cyclingnews.com and returning student e-mails, and Renee has zonked out back at the hotel. It's nutty here, and we only have dial-up in our hotel -- but who has dial-up access numbers anymore?

30th today, surprise start and lost a ton of places. 115 or so starters. Probably ended up back near 45th at one point. Mostly rode in 35th-ish. Dropped my chain halfway, lost one spot. Attacked on the last section, last lap and picked up 5 spots, lost one on the last run-up. Not too bad considering the start!

Course is awesome, conditions a lot like Devil's Head this year. A bit slick in spots, mostly just nice and peanut-buttery. Warm and moist. Mmmmmm ... Oh! And Dunkin' Donuts EVERYWHERE.

Conant pulled out 17th in the 35+ race; Jeff Weinert was 11th. Renee and Dave looked good, we haven't checked results for all the rest of the Midwest folks. Oh! Linda from St. Paul got 2nd! She's a motor!

Elite race tomorrow, money race on Sunday. I start 60-something tomorrow, and 3rd row again on Sunday. Kurt is primed and ready, although he's wasting too much time reading my blog right now, and Beth just wants to go back and rest -- she races early tomorrow.

Oops, the Fairfield Shuttle just pulled in and gave us a dirty look. Gotta run.

0 days to natz!!

13 December 2006

Can it be?

Wow. Can you really call it a Cyclocross National Championship with weather like this?


2 days?!

Oh, wow. 2 days to go. I have everything gathered, just need to put it into the suitcase and bike box. I'm actually ready ... all except for my legs. I ran yesterday morning, felt good, and then last night just couldn't bring myself to ride the trainer. I made it all of 15 minutes before bailing. Thankfully no rain today, so I'll spin down the lakefront tonight -- my last Chicago training ride until "next season"!

Am I ready? Hell yeah baby!

In other news: ABD has announced its new lineup for next year. Frankie, Bryce and Reid have all moved on to bigger and better things (the only confirmation is Bryce, riding for Jelly Belly, but Reid is definitely going pro), and the orange and blue is reloading. Puffer is undecided, so next year the ABD squad is ... the Josh Carter show! Josh and Jeff Schroetlin have made the move, and now form the backbone of a young-look team ... I'll be interested to see if Jeff makes the long trek north each week for all the ABD time trials ...

JUST 2 DAYS TO GO!!

12 December 2006

Strange days

I noted earlier that I thankfully wasn't shown the door last week -- they decided to keep me around for a bit to tie up some loose ends. Well, there's a big management meeting going on right now, and I'm not invited -- it feels strange. And good. I'm happy to be excluded on this one!

On a complete other note HUGE CONGRATS are in order over in Bdog's world -- confirming that once again, there is a reason to believe in humanity. WOO-HOO!!

Weather wuss

I have been decidedly ambivalent about my training this week. I realize that Natz is only 3 days away, but it's been tougher than I'd like to admit getting out on the bike ... the energy is there in my head (sort of), and physically I feel fine ... I just can't seem to get going.

Sunday was a perfect example -- supposed to do 2 hours, with 30 minutes race-pace practice. Where do I end up? 1 hour easy, spin down the lakefront and home. No wonder I feel like a slug!

All that changed this morning ... walked out the door for an easy run, and it's 50 degrees! All of a sudden, my head cleared, my spirits rose, and I was gliding along the sidewalk oblivious to the sensations in my legs! Woo-hoo!

On the positive side, this is how I should feel before Natz. On the other hand, have I become that much of a weather wimp that a bit of snow and cold turns me off?

Job hunt update: Thanks again to everyone who has e-mailed with ideas and openings they've seen out there. As Uncle Gary would say "things are popping!", so please send supportive and encouraging thoughts my way over the next week or so! Thanks!

Natz weather update: They're still saying mid-50s and slight chances of rain for Natz this weekend -- can it be true? Will this really be the only non-epic-weather Natz in recent memory? Will it be historical for that very reason?

Natz prediction time: If it really stays dry, or even mostly dry, can anyone see any reason to bet against Ryan and Katie? Unless Trebon pulls a Page and gets himself sick on his trip across the pond, no one else stands a chance ... I just wonder how long he'll give the rest of us until he laps us if he's going that fast?

ONY 3 DAYS TO NATZ!!

10 December 2006

W O W

Check out the results from today's UCI race in Rhode Island:
  1. Tim Johnson
  2. Tristan Schouten
  3. Mark McCormick

Tristan is en fuego!

Lay-Z!

I was supposed to ride for 2 hours today, with 30 minutes "mock race" down at Montrose. This was meant to keep me on my toes for Natz ... that kind of effort every couple of days (twice a week) is all you need this time of year to stay sharp.

Well, I'm feeling dull. I got up, ate breakfast, and then went back to bed. Kim headed out to visit Grandma in the hospital, and when I woke up I found myself staring at a clock that was telling me it was already noon. Nothing to do at that point but eat lunch, watch a bit of television, and then suit up ...

I did manage to make it down to Montrose, where the warming temps have made the ground a bit soggy. There was a guy down there doing laps backward, and after seeing his bike I decided today would be better spent at the keyboard, a hot cup of decaf by my side. I'm really not in the mood to do a major cleaning, so I caught the next breeze out of there and rode the tailwind back home.

Hmmmm ... time for a nap?

ONLY 5 DAYS TO GO!!

08 December 2006

Only a week to go!

Wow. When I started the countdown 365+ days ago, it was hard to imagine what it would be like with just a week to go. Now we know -- no job, tons of snow on the ground, some unfulfilled goals and objectives from the year behind me ... and, oh yeah, feeling the best I've felt in a long time! My tempo trainer ride last night had me pushing some decent wattage, nothing too hard, just enough to stimulate ... and the numbers were very encouraging!


Also encouraging is this forecast ... a far cry from the bombogenesis of a year ago!


ONLY 7 DAYS TO GO!!!

07 December 2006

Don't light a match

First off, thanks to everyone who has offered help and suggestions for the job search -- you know who you are! The comments section of my blog has been quiet, but dont' be fooled ... someday you may be busted for aiding and abetting ...

On a more serious note, let this news story be a lesson for you. We all know what happens after chugging a post-race Endurox, and those flights back from Providence are going to be long ...

And if that wasn't weird enough for you, check this out. Kim's little sister used to work at the Wild West Town, and we've eaten at their all-you-can-eat buffet many times ... if I get there soon enough, maybe I can get my birthday Poloroid taken on the gallows!

ONLY 8 DAYS TO GO!!!!

06 December 2006

"A different direction"

As many of you know, it's been a rough few month on the job scene for me. So rough, in fact, that I more or less quit two weeks ago, the day after the Wisco State Championships. I had spent that weekend crafting a really well-written, honest resignation letter ... and then my boss talked me down from the ledge.

Well ... the other shoe dropped last night. Turns out my instincts were correct, and I was working on borrowed time. I'm on my way out, all that's left to do is set an end date -- the company is "going in a different direction." (Truth be told, the company and I have been going in different directions for about 6 months now.)

My only regret is that I've lost a bit of search time and Kim had to put up with a pretty serious emotional roller coaster the past couple of months. But hey, I lasted longer than my two predecessors!

Anyway, I'm on the job hunt. Kim and I would like to relocate maybe, Midwest is close to family -- we love Madison, and even Milwaukee -- and I'm also looking to see what else is out there. That Colorado sunshine was hard to leave! Staying in Chicago isn't a bad option either.

Qualifications: I'm a writer at heart, with some pretty strong layout/design skills to back it up. Extensive newsletter, brochure, advertising, etc. experience. Very (very) good in PowerPoint, strong in Word, decent in Excel. I have business managed a Fortune 250 company web site (not IT, more content management/information architecture, with experience in HTML). Several years of management experience.

What I'm looking for: At this point, I'd like one of two things: 1) Find a job using my writing and/or design skills, but not necessarily management, at a good-to-work-for company; or 2) Get out of the rat race entirely and move on to a second career.

Either way, I'm placing a high premium on bike industry job openings -- ultimately, I'd love to combine my passion and my expertise. (Yes, I realize the earnings potential isn't as strong. I'm OK with that -- I need to feel good about what I do for a living.) So all you folks in Madison who know someone who knows someone, you Hayes folks over in Milwaukee, Chicago SRAMies, or for that matter anyone who may have a lead somewhere, please let me know -- any help is appreciated! Best bet is probably email: scstrout [at] yahoo.com.

Thanks!

ONLY 9 DAYS TO NATZ!!

05 December 2006

12-21-6

They finally published the confirmed rider list for Natz, and if I were as fast on a 'cross bike as I am with a computer mouse, I'd be ... well, faster than I am now!

I was fully registered in all of 4.0 minutes once on-line registration opened way back when. It helped that I blew off the first 4 minutes of a scheduled conference call to register ... and my boss wonders where my priorities lie?

Anyway, I managed to sneak into 12th place in the Elite race, which in reality puts me about 9000th row anyway, since they stage by UCI points first. I will be the second row of non-UCI people, as opposed to DFL as I was last year. Jeffweinert.blogspot.com, who is faster than me on and off the bike, managed to beat me by 6 places or so. Damn him.

There are 127 people registered for the Elite race. Damn. I didn't know there were that many Cat. 1/2 'cross racers in the country!

(There are currently 69 folks in the U.S. with UCI points. That puts me 81st on the grid ... 9th row if one or two folks DNS, 2/3 of the way back. Ouch.)

Better news in the Masters 30-34 race, as I will be starting 4th or 5th row. I'm registered 21st, and since seeding is mainly by results from last year, 21st is not a bad place to be. Not great, but definitely not horrible either. It's my first race of the weekend, too, so I'll have fresh legs ... if the conditions are right I'll be able to make up some spots on the open runs that will punctuate all the off-camber stuff. Even so, with 105 guys on the line, it's going to be tough!

For the money race on Sunday I'm registered 6th of 60, which doesn't mean squat since it's an invitational and all the jersey winners from Friday and Saturday will be put on the front row. Plus it's Sunday, I've never tripled, and it's the last race of the season. Let's have some FUNNNNNNN!!!!!

ONLY 10 DAYS TO GO!!

04 December 2006

Good news (hopefully!)

So it turns out that Steve isn't as defective as we all thought. That's good news for him!

Just as we'll be lining up for the Masters Natz race in Providence, Steve will be going under the knife (AGAIN!) for his 107th or so surgery. This is the guy who won the Pro race at Sherman Park a couple of years back and then got creamed by a Buick the next day on his recovery ride. Still looking for a comeback, he will NOT give up ...

... how's that for every-day inspiration?! GO STEVE!!!!

ONLY 11 DAYS TO NATZ!!

03 December 2006

Surreality

It's so strange to already be home, lunched, re-warmed up, unpacked, and sitting here writing ... it feels like the State Championships were just a dream this morning, except for the soreness in my legs!

I hate to be negative, but I have to admit to being pretty disappointed in my result today. I set out to make the podium and earn a state medal, and, well, mission not accomplished. I managed to ride fairly well in the loose snow and ice, with no crashes and only one unplanned dab/bike drop, but when the smack went down I was standing in the passing lane trying to fix a dropped chain. Truth be told, it would have been a tall order to be fighting for third anyway as the course got faster each lap, and the reality is that the folks ahead of me put time on me every lap after the first.

I was in the hunt at first, with a decent start that put me in fourth place for most of the lap. Mr. Crowley (Alistair Sponsel, a transplant from Jersey riding for Colavita and a really nice guy) and I were trading places at the back of the lead group, and I had the edge at first ... from the gun, we settled into status quo as Sachs laid down the power, Brian followed, Lou opened up a small gap on me in the technical stuff, and Al and I traded places, with me in fourth toward the end of the lap.

Then we hit the flat barriers at the end of the lap, and as I dismounted I hit my left pedal with my shin. That caused a backpedal, and my finnicky rear Ksyrium freehub would have none of it ... and so the chain dropped, again between the Keeper and the frame. Mr. Crowley passed me immediately, and Chris Dimmick from Turin (the course designer) sneaked by just as I re-railed. I caught and blew past Dimmick on the long headwind pavement stretch, but Mr. Crowley was gone, gone, gone, well on his way to catching Lou and fighting it out for the podium.

In fact, that was the race, right there at the end of the first lap. Sachs and Brian would go on to fight out the win, with Brian tripping over a barrier at halfway and dropping his bike in the last corner ... a tough way to settle for second when he's riding so fast right now. (Brian did the 35+ race before-hand, as there was a mathematical chance that he wouldn't win the overall series title ... of course, he did, congrats!) Lou and Mr. Crowley had a ding-dong battle going on for that last podium spot, and each lap after halfway they put 10-15 seconds in me until they were out of sight. In the end, Al got the better of Lou, and took the final podium spot and State Championship medal.

I, on the other hand, was laboring on -- alone, as usual -- in fifth place, managing to hold off Dimmick lap after lap. He would come on strong through the second half of the course, but I would attack and dig on the front part ... At one point I committed a bunch of errors in a row -- missed a slick corner and brushed the course-marking stake, then slipped on a run-up, then dropped the bike on the second transition into the tunnel -- and all of a sudden he was on me, just 5 seconds back. I buried myself into the headwind, opening the gap a bit, and then really powered the upside of Cricket Hill to keep him at bay. It worked, and each lap after that I put time into him, managing to put The Pony Shop into 4th and 5th, and 3rd and 4th overall in the series.

So a disappointing but not horrible day. I made some mistakes, and I learned -- I should have left my Michelin Mud on the front for the snow as it loosened up through the race; when my freehub acts up in warmup, it's not a good thing; warming up means warming up, as I couldn't feel my face, hands or feet for the first two-three laps (it was 15 degrees at race time!) -- but all in all, I had my best snow race ever, I managed a top 5 and had decent legs at the end, and I took 4th in the series despite missing a race. Not too shabby, as Mr. Sandler might say ...

BIG thanks to Chris Dimmick for another awesome course, and for all the extra work last night to get it ready despite the snow and ice ... thanks to Kim for all the hard work, photos, and love and support ... thanks to Lou for sponsoring such a fun team (CONGRATS to State Champion and series winner Josh Mallan, an absolute motor on the bike) ... and thanks to all the supporters out there cheering my name -- it made a huge difference when push came to shove and it was time to put the power down ... Andy, Ted, Kerry and the dogs; Chris; Josh; Franco (welcome back!); Rich; Fast Jim; Radio Freddy; and everyone else, sorry I couldn't see you, that snow required focus!

Without further ado, on to the phlogging ...

Where else can you get views like this when suffering so much? If the Chi Cross Cup has one advantage over Wisco, it's the urban backdrops ...
Michele gets series bonus points for racing today. Not only was it, like, 14 degrees at start time, but her Nats happened months ago; her States were weeks ago; she slept on a couch last night; and by all rights her season should be over. Instead, she's out there with a big smile on her face. Way to go Michele!
On the other hand, the reason Michele was suited up and ready to ride is because of this guy, her husband JPE. Who was throwing gang signs at me in my rear-view mirror on the drive to the course. I swear it was a mix-up when he put blue Gatorade into his coffee instead of sugar ... honest! (Seriously, this guy is awesome, as he's one of the promoters of the Wisco series and course designer of their State Championships. Good race, John!)
The start of the Cat. 1/2 State Championship. 3rd place, Al Sponsel. 5th place, me. 1st, Dave Sachs. 2nd, Brian Conant. 4th, Lou Kuhn. Who says front-row starts don't mean anything?
Thank god for youtube. This was a feature Dimmick copied from Gloucester, a long uphill drag into a downhill right turn, with a 180-degree left uphill into double barriers. I've watched Tree Farm navigate the Gloucester version over and over, and knew the fastest way to hit it.
Conant and Sachs, Sachs and Conant. Power on, dudes.
Lou and Mr. Crowley.
This is the end of the lap -- first a short downhill on the snow ...
... then a quick left and POWER into the headwind. Thank goodness Dimmick is a true 'crosser at heart and wanted a pavement section: it may have been his undoing, but it was a chance for me to use my TT experience!

ONLY 12 DAYS TO CHRISTMAS (NATZ)!!!

Inspiration

It's too bad we got such cold weather -- I think Chris Dimmick was planning on giving us a bunch of sand today, but the beach is so frozen it won't be worth it. Bums me out -- I got a link to the perfect inspiration for a sandy race ...

http://youtube.com/watch?v=rsUXwL_cl0M

It's a 10-minute video of the World Cup race in Koksijde, Belgium, which resulted in yet another win by Sven Nys. It's how he does it that's so impressive -- if you don't have 10 minutes, at least fast forward to about 8:30 and watch his move through the sand as the chasers just detonate ... impressive stuff! (Nys is in all-white, and yes, he gets a gap THAT BIG on the sand run-up.)

One advantage of living along the lakefront is that Lake Michigan moderates our weather somewhat ... for instance, right now it's 14 degress vs. just 8 at O'Hare ... but doesn't it all start to feel the same when you're below 20?

ONLY 5 HOURS TO MONTROSE!!!

02 December 2006

Mmmmm ... just like Providence!

Went down to the course before it got dark this afternoon. Icy, hardpack, and it's gonna be coooooolllllllddddddd ... Just like last year's master's race at Providence! BRING IT ON!!!!!

Kudos to Dimmick for getting out there and pulling a few tricks from his sleeves -- it's gonna' be sweet. Oh, and they're saying 49 degrees for Natz in 2 weeks ... how will I prepare?

BIG thanks to Kim for all her work around the house today. The JPEs will be here in a while, and she's gone above and beyond ...

Oh, and the City of Evanston is finally towing all the jerks who aren't obeying the parking restrictions ... ha! Justice, finally!

ONLY 13 DAYS TO NATZ!!

01 December 2006

You are hear

As a journalism major and writer, Im apaled bi this sord of ding.

Maybe that's it?

Whew. It's not just me. Must be something in the air.

Check it out ...

Baring some disaster, we should have a Pony Shop rider on the Chicago Cross Cup Series podium, and one on the extended podium ...

Really, the only question is how I do against Matt Stewart -- I need to beat him by 7 points (one or two places) to take 4th overall; with Kyle out in K.C. Lou should finish in 3rd overall with a shot at 2nd, and I suppose I mathematically have a shot at 3rd (but only at Lou's expense) ...

Now we just need to put someone on the State Championship podium!!!!!!!

I was in a similar position against John Gatto last year and did alright ... here's hoping the legs are better this year!

Updates

Crazy morning in cyber-land.

Weather: No official word yet from race organizers, but Evanston has gotten about 6 inches of snow (according to city officials) and Montrose can't be far behind. Says one of the Turin-ites:
Cancel? Cancel???? BWaaaaaaahahahahaHAHAHAHAAA!!!
No surrender!!!!!!! No prisoners!!!!!!! The WEak will be killed and EATEN!!!
Good on ya' Ben Raby! Raby is wicked fast. And skinny. And a nice guy. Good to see him get picked up next year ... and on Tree Farm's team, no less!

Crock o' bullshit: USADA chief says Jeanson deal reflects 'most likely outcome' of case

But what if the idiot just isn't looking? The importance of being conspicuous

If my coach can do it, why can't I? Armstrong targets Leadville MTB race

This just in: OK, it's official. Dimmick is off his rocker. The race organizer for Montrose says he'll be out tomorrow (Saturday) with his snowblower so we'll have a course. He just didn't get enough last year at Natz! THANK YOU CHRIS! (I still like Anne's suggestion of making the Cat. 4s race first to trample down the track ...)

Rock and Roll Never Forgets ...

So just minutes after I posted my last two blog entries, I get this e-mail from Kim. "You wouldn't be interested in seeing Bob Seger tonight, would you?"

Ummm ... hell yeah! Who better than Seger to assuage my mid-life angst? Mr. Sweet Sixteen-turns-Thirty-One himself! I grew up listening to WCKG when they still played music, and Seger was in constant rotation though the 80s and early 90s. I still remember the first time I heard "Turn the Page;" I couldn't wait to tell my long-haired-rock-guitarist best friend about it.

After taking a decade off to raise his children, Seger has returned to the road with his Silver Bullet Band, and let me tell you: this guy ROCKS. Sweet Sixteen has turned sixty-one, but from the opening "Roll Me Away" to the double encore with "Katmandu," "Sunspot Baby" and "Hollywood Nights," the 2-1/2 hour show was awesome. Yes, they took an intermission (a whole 8 minutes). Yes, things slowed down a bit in the second set, as he worked through a lot of his newer stuff and some slower tunes. But when his piano player of 25+ years hit those opening notes of "Old Time Rock & Roll," or his incredible sax player went on long solo binges from one side of the stage to the other, this older-than-my-father rocker brought an absolutely packed Allstate Arena to its feet.

What's more, it was clear that he was out there having fun. He spent the whole night with a huge, gap-toothed grin on his face, pumping his arms and grooving along to classic hit after classic hit. Sure, the Midwest is his fanbase (as evidenced by his tour schedule), but when the audience went on an extended (very extended) ovation after "Page," it was clear that he and his songs are still relevant, still loved, and that he's just happy making music that makes other people happy.

(By the way, I know about the grin because of our seats ... Kim's boss had some people back out at the last minute, so we ended up 8th row, dead center, close enough to see the salt stains on Seger's shirt. It was so cool ... the Arena was completely filled, but being so close it felt like we were at some small, intimate venue and the band was playing for only a couple hundred people. It was ironic, really -- at first I thought the show was at the Rosemont Theater; I even said to Kim, "do you really mean the Allstate Arena? Are they big enough now for an arena show?")

I was right there cheering along -- the last time I heard "Page" live was in the same arena, only sung by James Hetfield backed by Kirk Hammett ... as much as I love the Metallica version of the song, I can now say definitively that no one compares to the original!

One thing -- I hope USADA doesn't show up to the state championships on Sunday. Let me tell you, the contact high from medicinal marijuana being smoked by geriatric audience members far outdoes anything I've experienced from the young punks at System of a Down or Green Day!

Feeding the angst: I went searching for a review of last night's show on Metromix this morning, and came across a concert listing for Josh Caterer ... as if my own, self-imposed midlife anxiety wasn't enough, this is the guy for whom my middle-school girlfriend Jenny broke up with me. Here I am in a never-ending, work-related hell, while he's got a friggin' Wikipedia entry and the Popes played Lollapalooza last summer in Grant Park. (Wikipedia is admittedly slanted, but does paint a good picture of what life was like at good-ol' Harry D. high school. And Josh was really, really cool. Eli too. God damn, that was a long time ago.)

Weather update: Well, if it were all about experience, I'd win on Sunday hands down. We've gotten dumped on, from 10+ inches in Rockford to blizzard conditions in Kenosha. In Evanston we have about 4-6 inches, so Montrose should be close ... and now they're calling for 12 degree highs on Sunday. If you add up my racing at Providence and Groundhog, that makes me the most experienced ...

For real, though, the weather has made this a wide-open race. Brian has to be the favorite after his race in Providence last year, and we'll see how Sachs can handle the rough stuff. (His power output may be nullified depending on the course.) The snow gives Lou a huge advantage as well; his handling skills are legendary in the snow. The big question ... Will RV take to the start in epic conditions? Will his facial hair serve as a sufficient buffer against the cold?

GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE IN K.C. ... SHOW THEM HOW IT'S DONE!
ONLY 49 HOURS TO MONTROSE!!!