29 September 2007

So it's not all work ...

This is too funny!

http://www.cyclingnews.com/photos.php?id=/photos/2007/sep07/usacritsfinal07/mark_johnson_interbike_crit_01

My Vegas experience is coming to a close, none too soon if you ask me. I'm sitting here at the cafe again, only this time it's 6:30 on Saturday morning, and the place is packed -- every person here has been up all night, and the guys at the table next to me are catcalling at every woman walking by out in the casino area. They hassled the hostess, already had the manager over, and it's only just begun ...

Good sushi last night over at Ceasar's, then a bit more gelato to top off the week. What an incredible Interbike it's been, I certainly never expected it to turn out like this! If you're going to go, go big!

28 September 2007

VeloNews love

Check it: http://www.velonews.com/tech/report/articles/13405.0.html

Fraud

Damn. My credit card number was stolen the week before Interbike, so I got a new one three days before. And now it's been rejected -- someone tried to charge $300 at RiteAid. Time to cut it up and get another new one. Not my month for credit cards, I guess.

Final day going well. I've got a few minutes for lunch, then it's back in the booth to close out the show. Most everyone is/has going/gone home, so it's pretty quiet, but I also have very few hands on deck. No worries, though -- the booth is pretty simple, and the message is great!

I'm pretty fried. The air here is terrible, inside and out, and I had massive crit cough after the race last night. I'm still pretty congested today, and I pretty much have no voice left. Well, almost none -- I just interviewed Tom Ritchey, Jock Boyer and Hans Rey on Interbike TV -- watch the Bicycling Magazine website soon!

I think Jim said it best -- the gear is cool, but this show is about meeting people. Heck, here I am at lunch, making appointments for 2 weeks out on my cell phone like some sort of super-philanthropic Yuppie ...

Seriously, though, the industry is really taking this on, and it's pretty cool. Jeremiah Bishop spent 5 hours on Tuesday and another few yesterday in the booth -- just because he knows the power of bicycles. Shop owners from around the country are embracing our message and asking for ways to help. It's full on, and an exciting time to be here!

I hear the gelato at the Wynn is pretty impressive ... I think I know where I'm headed this evening ...

Crash-terium

Another awesome day at the show -- I've been able to make more contacts in the past 48 hours than in the past 9 months of meet-and-greets! From Gary Fisher in his outlandish, reflective purple suit to super-nice semi-pro athletes to retailers from around the country asking for point-of-purchase display materials, the reception in Vegas for World Bicycle Relief and what we're doing has been fantastic. I'm sure it will take me weeks to fully appreciate it all, but in the meantime, it's pretty cool when folks are seeking me out to talk about the work we're doing ...

The 20-hour days aren't all work, though! Last night was the "USA Criterium Finals" at Mandalay Bay, and as a prologue to the pro men's 60km crit, Interbike put together an "Industry Cup" -- 40 laps of the 1km course, under the lights, crowds cheering and flashbulbs popping -- it was crazy!

Now, normally industry-type events are pretty low-key. The winnings go to charity, CEOs and mail-room types alike line up for good sport, it's all in good fun. But yesterday, when I lined up to get my number from the registration desk and had to show my USA Cycling license, I knew something else would be in store ...

Rumors were flying all day ... Mark McCormick ... Ned Overend (signed up by his company, but didn't race) ... trash-talking from Pacific in the form of a press release calling out Charles and Stephen Balsley ... oh, yeah, this was on!

Got trapped in the crowd leaving the show, rode the Strip down to Mandalay with Zellmann, got to see the end of the women's race. Parking-lot crit in Vegas style, only a couple of corners and a funky "traffic circle"-type thing, good pavement but lots of strange bumps (especially when it was off-camber!) Killer downhill, tailwind finish that was sure to be INSANE ... rolled up to the SRAM support car to get some new-brotherly love in the form of a set of ZIPP 404s for the race ... yeah baby!

That's when things got interesting. Zellmann and I rolled to the back of the building to hit the parking lot ramp for some warmup, and as I rolled back in I heard the first whispers ... "Cipo's signing up." "They signed up Cipo." "Cipo is going to race." Wtf? I roll onto the course, and sure enough, there's Mario Cippolini with a huge crowd of ga-ga bike geeks around him ... they're killing themselves and he's just meandering along without a helmet to muss his hair ... Holy crap!
We roll to the line SUPER early, all of a sudden this has become Superweek. I look around, and realize it's full-on -- industry or not, these guys are ringers, and most of the first three rows could be contesting the pro crit immediately afterward. But, just like home, we're too early -- they force us to take a lap. I jam it, make it in the second row, stand there a minute and then hear my name. "Strout." I turn to my left. Macedon is pointing to my right, just behind me. Huh? Oh. Wow. Cipo is lined up on my wheel!

A few minutes of waiting, and then the call-ups begin. It really was just like Superweek, except halfway through I managed to get my name called, and there I was rolling up to the second row! Sweet! Then, saving the best for last, we make a bit of room for a certain Italian World Champion ...

Go time. And it's GO TIME from the gun! We're FLYING around the kilomter-long course, single-file and getting drilled into the ground by a front-row train that had McCormick up there, Cipo sitting third wheel, and the rest of us trying desperately to hang on. Around the final bend, probably somewhere in the 30s (placing and speed), and all of a sudden we're coming in super-hot on turn 1 and the guy to my left is locking them up and sliding diagonally straight through the apexandintothebarriersohcrapohcrapgoleftDIVELEFT!

And that's sort of how the next 29 laps went. Sketchy riding, superfast speeds, lined out and in the gutter on a "nontechnical," technical course. Guys were dropping like flies around me, from the obvious slide-outs across the turns to the front-tire blowout that happened right next to me in the middle of the traffic circle, sending the guy to the deck and me jumping around him ... the worst were the straightaway crashes, guys taking themselves and others out for no particular reason ...

I decided to hold out to 10 to go, and call it a night, rolling a few more laps until it was over but not getting aggressive. That would be the only way to survive, since the last few laps were sure to be insane (what I didn't know then ...) But then, just about halfway through, just as the guy next to me was exploding his tire and I was bouncing around him, I realized that my handlebars had come completely loose. They were rotating forward, and it was all I could do to keep myself riding straight. Oh, CRAP! I let myself roll to the back of the field -- WTF? Where was the field? There were only about 30 guys left! They were pulling lapped riders, and I had managed to hang in long enough to make it this far ... Into the pits, grab a 5mm, get them set, roll to the official, get ready and GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO!!!!

Ohgodithurtsthissuckswhydidihavetostopthisguyispoppinggoaroundowowowowow ... I struggle to get the muscles to re-engage, working my way through backmarkers who are popping left and right and finally making contact. Zellmann is there, great position, and I sit on him for a couple of laps as he starts to work his way to the front. 20 laps becomes 16 becomes 12, and I re-think my plan ... maybe I'll push to 8 to go, since I had to pit ... Cipo is there, third wheel, sitting pretty as something happens ... the race gets easier?

From 10 to go to 6 to go, all of a sudden the dynamic changed. Guys got tired, and moving up became a breeze. Hmmm ... maybe I will stay aggressive! How about an attack with 4 to go? Primes are getting called, pace is yo-yoing, I've got Uncle Gary's voice in my head as I move up, move around, get into position ... 5 to go has me sitting about 10th wheel, Zellmann just ahead and to my right ... 4 to go isn't going to happen, there's a prime and the pace has picked up ... but I can move around, and 3 to go I'm in about 7th whell ... holy CRAP THERE'S CIPO JUST IN FRONT OF ME! ... guys fighting for his wheel ... stay out of that carnage ... just ride my race ... move around ... CIPO IS RIGHT NEXT TO ME! ... 3 to go ... PRIME PRIME PRIME! ... backstraight, they're right, go up the inside ... door closes, opens, closes ...

GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO!!! A small gap, and there's the straight ATTACKATTACK!! I go left with everything I've got ... I sense more than see Cipo going on the right ... I'm driving for the line, trying to get a gap and stay out of the sprint of death ... flashbulbs popping, lights swirling ... movement to my right and DAMN! A bike throw ... a guy in black and green ... and BAM!!!!!!!! ohshitcrash GO!

I had forgotten there was a prime, so when the guy next to me threw his bike I was momentarily confused ... until I heard the tell-tale sound of metal on pavement behind me. That clarified everything, and it was go time -- one to go is not the place to lead out a sprint, but I had no choice and so I just drilled it ... for about 800m I was in front, lining out a small group of about 15 behind m who had survived the front-row carnage ... swamped at the final corner (of course!), and roll it in to the finish. Whew. Survived. (Funny, the pro race ended with similar tactics ...)

In the meantime, what had happened: me and the other guy hit the line. Somehow, someway, Cipo went down right behind us, and there, on the ground, Zellmann t-boned him at probably 30+mph. That sent Michael into a cartwheel, bouncing down the front straightaway, flashbulbs popping, as his bike flew high into the air and spun the 50 meters down the front straight and out over the crowd. He tweaked his back, hit his head, and lay there for a moment as the crash demolished what was left of the field. This was carnage with a capital C, with Cipo and Michael at the bottom ...

Thankfully, he was alright, and Cipo stopped a couple of times to make sure he was OK, and to apologize. Class act, but what a way to go down. It was Michael's last ride of the season, and it will definitely be one to remember! As for me, I shared a hacking cough with everyone else, thanks to the harsh Vegas air, but was otherwise unscathed. I rolled home with Zellmann, making sure he was OK, before heading to dinner with Macedon ... mmm ... gelato ...

So Interbike has been interesting ... talk about a Vegas-style send-off!!!!

27 September 2007

Non-stop

It's 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, and this is the first quiet moment I've had in the past two days. Ahhh ... I'm sitting at the Grand Lux cafe, enjoying my coffee and OJ, and my pain au chocolat and a big bowl of oatmeal ... ahhhhh ....





What a fantastic show! Yesterday went awesome, with a standing-room-only crowd at our morning forum and incredible booth traffic all day. There's a definite buzz in the air about the work we're all doing -- advocacy efforts are alive and well, and the industry is really beginning to understand the humanitarian efforts as well. A lot of talking, a lot of handshakes, a lot of business cards passed ...





There's time for some fun too, in the form of Vegas 'cross baby! I haven't said much about 'cross yet this year, as my season doesn't start for a few more weeks ... not wanting to get too excited, I've kept it on the back-burner ... but last night got me ready to go again, watching the first-ever UCI race at Interbike -- awesome! Bjorn looked strong early, and watching Tree Farm launch attack after attack -- in the same place, so you knew it was coming! -- just to ride away from Jon, was awesome. Pure clinic! Hit the Sinclair party but had to bail to eat ... Denny's at midnight is how I roll ... Now I'm ready for 'cross ... well, almost ...





Today should be a little more low-key, with booth duty all day (Dan and Brad are pulling overtime, good thing pay for volunteers is double-time in Vegas), followed by the Industry Cup criterium this evening. Macedon, Zellmann and I are looking to make some magic ...





I'm hoping to get out and around a bit today, but no gaurantees. Not sure I'll have my camera with me, so check out cyclingnews or Velonews for pics of all the cool stuff ... I did have a camera yesterday -- check it:



This pic is really from Tuesday -- it's the view on the way back into town from the Outdoor Demo area. Fun riding, I was able to get 2 hours on Monday and almost 4 on Tuesday. Perfect crit training!



Joe and Kurt did an amazing job with the signage, and it pulled double-duty yesterday, in the booth and as enticement for the forum. They look great!

Speaking of double duty, Jeremiah Bishop of Trek/VW (right) attended the forum at 9 a.m. and then spent FIVE HOURS in the booth! He's awesome! This is him with Ned Overend (left middle) and Hans Rey in the mid-afternoon, signing autographs to raise awareness ... very cool!

24 September 2007

Ah, Venice

Sometimes it's fun to go ga-ga ... we may not be in Italy, but Cipo looks right at home walking the halls of the Venetian ... and yes, he's even better looking in person!

Just another trade show

I made it -- no worries, no hassles, bada-bing I'm in Vegas. Not my favorite place in the world, sort of like Disneyland without the mouse. Nothing is real -- it's all just a Mirage ... I keep waiting to run into Gil Grissom or Sarah Sidle somewhere out on the Strip ...

So I keep trying to tell myself that this is just another show. And while it's got it's little issues (still no electricity in our booth, which means no set-up yet), it's INTERBIKE. I mean, c'mon -- as I type this, I'm staring at display cases from Specialized, Fuji, Felt and Zipp, and when I walk through the doors I'm overwhelmed with SRAM, QBP, Louis Garneau ... and that's just the view from our space! I'm sure by the end it will be just another week of work, but I've still got the new-guy shine, and I'm still pretty geed to be here ...

Outdoor Demo today and tomorrow -- I rode up there this morning with Zellmann and Macedon, but had to turn early to make it to the convention center. Tomorrow I may get a chance to actually ride with some editors, before the final push to get everything ready for Wednesday's opening forum and the show. In the meantime, I'm wandering the halls between the Venetian and the Sands -- if I wanted to, I'd never have to go outside -- and trying to avoid the crazy pull of the Deloitte Consulting meetings happening around us ... that used to be my world, and now I'm in a jeans and t-shirt, sipping coffee and blogging ... yeah baby!

Great weekend at Palos before I left -- well, sort of great. I flatted my rear wheel both days, on Saturday a complete blowout that ripped the sidewall open, and a looooong walk back to the car; on Sunday a minor flat, quickly changed, and I was on my way. Fun rides both days -- I managed to clean Cemetery Hill! Woo-hoo! And I rode the new connector backward from Old Country Lane to the parking lot -- it's so sweet in that (downhill) direction!

Anyway, I should probably go do something productive, if I can figure out what that it. Fun stuff, keep your eyes peeled for some updates and photos if I can!

21 September 2007

20 September 2007

Today feels like Friday

I swear this week should be ending. It's nearly 6 p.m. on Thursday, and my mind keeps thinking tomorrow is the weekend. And for the first time in my life, I'm saying thank god it's not -- I need one more day!!!

This week should have been all Interbike, all the time. Instead, we had a fantastic press opportunity with our Sri Lanka measurement and evaluation, we jammed through our new brochure to get it to the printer, I had a presentation with the Evanston Bicycle Club on Tuesday (that went VERY well, great group of riders!), a conference call with another nonprofit, and the chance to get some adverts into VeloNews, due date tomorrow. I also had to fight a million little fires for Vegas, making for a wild week! It's not over yet, but the plane leaves at 3 p.m. on Sunday ...

In the meantime, I did manage to officially kick off my 'cross season last night with my first full 'cross practice at Mt. Trashmore. It went well -- muscle memory is there, so I'm not starting from scratch like in years past. It was also tough -- five running climbs of the toboggan hill and I was DONE. Except I had a 15-minute run scheduled today too ... ouch!

So anyway, I'm going to head home now and chill for a bit. Tomorrow is just one more day, but it's also the last day to do anything for Vegas, so I'm going to be dotting my i's and crossing my t's, fueled by Starbucks premium blend ...

17 September 2007

Fat Tire

In the week leading up to Chequamegon, I had very little desire to race. Things are super-busy at work, I leave for Interbike this weekend, and 14 hours of driving for a 2-1/2 hour race just didn’t seem like all that much fun. Add to that all the unknowns -- uncertain start procedure, weather, course, field – and my Type A personality was bursting at the seams. Sure, I’m trying to relax and take things as they come, but c’mon, it’s a race!

One other factor weighed heavily: I don’t have the WORS results I need to get a preferred start. So that means lining up with the hoi polloi, waking up pre-5 a.m. and hoping for a good spot. Among 1,800 people. Yikes. Gary tells me he expects preferred starters to finish top 70. That becomes my goal: finish top 70, prove it can be done, and never return.

Rachael kept telling me not to worry, just go with it. She also suggested that we skip riding the end of the course and just ride the singletrack at Telemark as our pre-ride on Friday. I compromised: after 7 hours in the car with Kim and coworker John, we head out and hit the last 7 miles uphill with Rachael’s John, drop down fast to the base, and then I do a quick out-and-back on the narrow stuff. The course is rough but not technical, the singletrack is sweet. Remind me again why I’m racing a wide-open ski trail for 2 hours?

Dinner is late, bed later, and 4:45 is all too soon.


Set-up

Coworker John, Kim and I leave the cabin at 4:59 and drive 70 miles an hour down Hwy 63 to Hayward. We turn right onto Main Street, drive three blocks to the school, and there it is: row upon row already set up. At 5:20 in the morning. We grab the bikes and wade in – we’re probably 7th or 8th row, toward the right of the chute. Damn, it’s early.

We head over to a local diner that opened at 5 a.m. Coffee, English muffins, muesli and chocolate milk later, and I’m making trips to the rest room every 5 minutes as my system kicks into gear. We waste a few more minutes in the attached grocery store before heading back to the school. We find parking and alternate between blowing the heater on setting 4 and running to the porta-johns. Damn, it’s still early.

Finally it’s time to warm up. Which is hard to do, considering it’s only about 35 degrees, and there’s frost on our tires in the chute! I saddle up for about 40 minutes of hill climbing, hit the embrocation for the first time this season, and dive into the melee with my race bike, switching out the placeholder (Kim’s bike). I vow to beat the WORS guy lined up on the front line (what time did he get there?) and the guy warming up on the trainer next to me. There's a large contingent from Alberto's -- maybe I can keep up with Brian and Brendan?

Fifteen minutes to go becomes five becomes two. Deep breath. Cannon shot.


The opening salvo

This is my kind of start. Mostly neutral, basically a Superweek roll-out. Up Main Street, I’m using all my roadie mojo to stay upright and miss the traffic furniture. I plug a few gaps, move up through the field, and grab onto some trains trying to bridge up to the preferred riders. All of a sudden everyone is locked up, and we’re turning left and then right onto nice blacktop. The whirr of mountain bike tires on pavement is foreign as I notice my heart rate monitor isn’t working and Jerry is spinning 1,000 rpm trying to keep up. I shift into a bigger gear as I pass him, give a shout and keep working my way up.

I feel it before I hear it; I smell it before I see it. BLAM!!! A huge pile-up in the middle of the straight stretch of road, bikes and bodies flying everywhere. I dive left, looking for a gap, and barely make it by as the guy in front of me falls over to the right. I’m on the gravel shoulder, then I’m through with daylight – too much of it, in fact, as the front of the race is all of a sudden 200 meters or more ahead. CRAP!!

I jam, pushing as hard as I can and flying up the road in a blitz of anaerobic fury. Is this a match burning too soon, too bright? Can’t think of that now, I just need to stay ahead of the carnage. People are catching back on, small groups are forming, and then cop car and TURN LEFT, TURN LEFT! All of a sudden we’re diving into the ditch as a wave of riders rises in front of me, it’s Rosie’s Field!

Down, up, and then up some more. Zack Vestal, Trek/VW manager (and Masters 30-34 Super D National Champ) goes flying by me on the right. Must’ve gotten caught behind the crash. Scott warned me about Rosie’s, but I’m floating along in the big ring – I feel good, no – great. I should be hurting more than this. I buzz past some folks, latch onto a train. Scott comes by me telling me to get on, but I’m too focused and miss my window. This was my biggest mistake of the race – I felt good, and should have gone. Instead, I settled into a rhythm, grabbing groups here and there and just kept trying to move forward.


The race

The race for me is mostly impressions. The downhills were scary-fast, nothing technical but a lot of loose stuff at insane speeds. I stayed with several groups, but managed to work my way forward – I was out-climbing almost everyone I was with, spinning the big ring in places that had other guys giving up for dead. We pass Doug Swanson, “Doug, are you all right?” “NO!” A few minutes later, he passes back with two guys in tow – I’m on the back of the group and can’t bridge. Mistake #2. But I pass him again later, he's done.

Up and down and up some more. Eat when you can, stand, sit, grind. Open sections where I can recover and drill it. I integrate a small group with a whole lot of red and white – I think every Trek/VW woman on the planet is here. Sue, Lea, Sarah – I can’t tell them apart. I latch onto the back and stay out of their way – if you read Sarah’s report, she can attest to the sketchiness of the guys around them. Stupid racing, and I want no part. Because of that, the group falls apart and I’m sort of nowhere. I pass through OO getting counted in 72nd or so.

On a long gravel climb, I pull away from whomever I was with. I bridge to another group, and then keep on going. Somewhere in there I meet up with another small group of about 6, including Dave Eckel – I know Fire Tower is coming, so I draft for a few minutes and hope these guys can pull it together enough to catch the small group in front of us. No dice. They’re not working – Dave and I and one other guy try, but it isn’t happening. Finally, we hit a hill and I keep on going. I’m alone – 3 miles around the lakes, no idea what’s coming next. And then I turn right.


The finish

I saw the sign, and I’d been warned. But nothing prepared me for the Fire Tower. Holy crap. I get halfway up the first pitch and shift my chain into my spokes. Damn! As I hop off, a huge group of riders surges past me – the same group I had dropped, plus more, had been pulled the past 4 miles by a tandem. In the span of 30 meters, I lost probably 15 places. But with dreams of breaking 70, I pushed on, walk/run/hobbling as my legs wanted to cramp, and finally making it up the last pitch with granny. I crest, take stock, and hit the big ring.

I’m with a couple of guys, and we try to catch the group that just dropped us. I’m feeling the effort, and can’t quite seal the deal myself – on every downhill, every small rise I’m only a second or two behind, but as the pitches get longer and we climb our way to the 7-mile mark, I can’t fully latch on. Somewhere in there I pass Tristan Schouten. I was warned about the last climb, but didn’t realize just how tough it would be … after this, though, it’s all downhill, so I’m busting a gut to make something happen. Pitch after pitch, progressively getting higher and higher on my cassette, until at last I’m in the middle ring and standing, clawing my way to the food station. Whew. Almost there.

One, no two bodies in front of me. Big ring. I’m flying on the gravel. I pass a guy, and the next person is a woman. Damn. I’m getting girled – is she the first? She’s in red and white, it’s a Trek rider. Big gear, churning it over, we’re diving down as fast as I can make my legs go, trying to catch the guy ahead. She latches on – thank goodness I know this section from Friday. We approach the left turn, I shout a warning, we turn. Road goes up, I keep pushing – and then she’s gone. When will I ever have a chance to pull Sue Haywood in a race again?

Two and a half brutal miles to go. One guy ahead of me, I’m pushing hard to try to catch. It just isn’t happening. Each successive uphill is killing me slowly. I’m looking for the 1-mile to go marker, which means just two more hills. Two guys come FLYING by me, I can’t latch on but I raise the pace. And then, daylight, we’re dropping, dropping and I’m turning, turning … up into the bowl, the crowd is cheering, no time to glance behind, SRAM fencing everywhere, and then a body! A Short & Fat competitor just finishing! Watch out! Go left! Finish!!!


Post-race

I roll around for a few minutes before catching up with Amy, who’s talking with Travis Brown. Sue is over in the medical area, looking dazed after having just lost in the last half-mile – with no food or drink, they finally hook her up to an IV. The crowd is enormous, and I’m feeling really good – I drink it all in before setting out to find Kim and a hot shower at the cabin.

After a good clean-up, I wander back over and hang out in the expo area. SRAM is there, the Trek guys have the truck set up, the festival is in full swing. The brats smell fantastic, but I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that just yet ... Instead, we hang out around the Clif tent, grabbing sample Builder Bars for a couple of hours …

Finally, it’s the end of the day. SRAM is breaking down, and the crowd has thinned out. I wander over to the Trek truck and check in with Zack, who is giving me some posters for Interbike. That done, I grab Sue’s attention.

“Hi, Sue, I wanted to introduce myself.”

“Oh, are you that guy in blue?”

“Well, yes, but that’s not why I’m here!”

It was so funny. Here I am, wanting to invite her to the Interbike booth for World Bicycle Relief, and she already knows me because of my team kit!

“My name is Chris, I work for World Bicycle Relief. I just wanted to invite you to the booth at Interbike.”

“Well, I’m not going to be there, but do you want a signed jersey or something?”

And, without missing a beat, she grabs a NATIONAL CHAMPION jersey and dedicates it to World Bicycle Relief! How cool is that?!?! (We’ll be auctioning it off along with some other stuff later this year.) And I checked – the World Bicycle Relief logo is on the Champions jersey!

We talked for a few more minutes, and then it was time to head out. What a class act.


Sunday Funday

Saturday night’s awards got kind of long, and mad props to Jesse and Marko for their single-speed domination this year. So awesome. Big shout-outs too to Nate and Renee for bringing home hardware – Nate absolutely killed it in the Short and Fat (who really pulled whom? Congrats to Jay on some hardware too!), and Renee was rocking it. Even though she’s not a mountain bike racer any more. Nate was super-cool when we stopped by the Hayes cabin on Saturday afternoon, just walked right out and started talking to Kim and me like he was 33, not 13. Classy and mature.

We hung out at the SRAM/Trek bonfire for a while with the Hayes guys until I just about fell asleep on my feet. I had 9 a.m. plans to skip the crit and head out on the Ojibwa Trail with Scott – that 7 a.m. alarm was WAY too early. As I ate breakfast, I tried to track them down in their room … hmmm … they’re not answering my calls …

I rolled down to the lodge as Kim headed out on her ride, and I searched around until I found their room. Scott and Mark are there with Don, just getting ready … “Oh, Gary Fisher joined us for breakfast, so we ran a bit late.” It was just that kind of weekend! One more great ride later, and it was time to roll on home …


Aftermath

Well, I didn’t quite make it. I finished 74th overall, coming in just ahead of the lead women. I’m not totally satisfied with my result, but had I held on in the closing miles to finish 71st, that may have been more painful. On the positive side, I raced the full 2:25 – even into the last 1000 meters, I was pushing to catch the guy in front of me and hold off the hard-charging group behind. Rachael’s John finished just a minute behind me – and 16 places later. That’s how close this race can get.

Overall, it was a good experience, and I’m glad I can say I’ve done it. Even though the course is “my” kind of course, I’m not sure how much I want to return – there’s just too many unknowns for my taste, so unless I was riding it for fun, I’m not sure I want to go back. And “fun” for me, right now at least, includes pouring over the results and thinking through the race to find those extra minutes that may have put me in the top 70 … or 50 … hmmm … maybe if I get a preferred start next year …

Chequame-lama-ding-dong

Report to come; it may be a day or two. Good weekend, interesting race, good atmosphere.

Sue Haywood rocks.

13 September 2007

It's not supposed to be like this

Thoughts with XXX Racing-AthletiCo this week, as they once again mourn the loss of one of their own.

http://www.xxxracing.org/

12 September 2007

What more could I do?

I give myself a few minutes to beat myself up after every race.

Matt and I were less than a minute behind Mike for the top 5 -- Matt at 27 seconds, me another 21 behind that. Mike was the rider behind me when I stacked it into the tree; he had a front-row seat, and I hear it freaked him out just a little bit.

I will admit, I was cooked when Matt caught me. I wasn't at the point where I was feeling sorry for myself and just trying to finish (I get that way in MTB races for some reason, off on my own so much), but I also wasn't able to raise my game enough to go with him on the final two climbs. For the first time I feel like I really raced rather than just rode around as hard as I could ... it's a subtle difference, but a big one, when it finally clicks and you feel like you are doing something rather than just riding. I really wanted that top 5 placing, though, and to see that it was hanging there, just 48 seconds ahead, kills me. Especially when I can tell you exactly where I lost each of those 48 seconds.

It's all fuel for the fire.

One shout-out I missed -- Big congrats to Mark McCrimmon for his win in the 40-49 group and 11th place overall. Mark and his teammates have been terrorizing the WEMS crowd all season with their winning ways, and it's great to see him flying the flag on his own every once in a while, and being successful at it! This dude knows how to race a mountain bike ...

10 September 2007

Overwhelmed

Oh! Almost forgot. Congrats to Jim on his first mountain bike race, great job.

I know I left a bunch of shout-outs out of my race report -- My mind is just overwhelmed right now and I can't seem to process yesterday for some reason.

PALOS!!

Pre-ride: Start delayed by 30 min, grab a quick extra run down Gravity Cavity and up Ho Chi Mihn despite having done a full loop and several grass hill sprints. It was funny -- none of the volunteers seemed to understand the need to warm up, I even had someone ask me if I was going to be too tired to race. Organization seemed to be pretty good, especially for a first-time race. BIG kudos to CAMBR for pulling this one off. Course is FAST. Two changes: an extra run up the grass hill, and we skip Stair Steps for the singletrack bypass. Only thing, they haven't cleaned up the horse poop at the end of the first gravel multitrack. D'oh!



Lap 1: Up-down-up the Grass Hill, and I jam past a guy on the long gravel run-out. As we approach GC, I'm in a group of three, probably 7-8-9th places, with Matt Silvia from Killjoy leading my group. I see Jeremy in first or second down into the chute, and then we hit it. Matt's a bit cautious, the guy in between us is anxious, and we make it down in one piece with a bit of space opening in front of us. A bit more caution through One-Day, and the guy in the middle is ready to go. But then Matt drills it up the climb out, and we stay together with him still leading. Into 3 Ravines, and the guy in the middle is going nuts. He finally tries to jump past on a turn, and bounces off a tree. Whoa, I'm going to sit this one out. He makes it by, and I follow Matt up and out, and then into Psycho Path.

I probably waited too long, but it was nice to follow his lines down the hill. Into Turf 1, and more time is opening, but we're doing OK and he sees lines I haven't yet (in pre-ride). I'm climbing stronger but there's no room to pass, so I bide my time until the pavement and then GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO! Lock the fork, jam the pedals, and I'm gone. Up, up up, then start dropping down the multitrack and there's another rider ahead of me. Oh, yeah! Down the chute, perfect turn onto the bridge, he goes right and I grab the inside line I learned from Goat last weekend. As we come up the rise, he comes over on me, but I hold my own and attack up the second step. I crest and have a gap, and jam it through the rest of the singletrack ... we hit the Grass Hill and I increase my gap.


Lap 2: Kim gives me a perfect feed, and Rachael is there telling me to "Pedal pedal pedal!" There's someone in front of me on the multitrack. Racer? Just riding? Whatever, I go around and make the turn around the parking lot with an even bigger gap. Jamjamjam, and drop into Gravity realizing that I've been over my limit a bit too much, and I'm starting to lose it. I'm not fluid on the turns, and my upper body is getting sluggish. Oh, crap. Not a place for this to happen.

Through One-Day, couple of minor mistakes through some turns and I lose some momentum and time. Try to relax on the climb, and as I turn into Psycho Path I can hear someone not far behind. I drop down, and just as I come to the first log jump he's there. "Keep it going, man." Dropping, faster, jump, faster, dropping, up over air, right turn and OHCRAPOHCRAPOHCRAP ... the bail-out isn't the one I thought it was, and a fistfull of both brakes has me endo-ing into the tree in the middle of the apex. Holy crap did that hurt. Braking fingers and wrist on left hand are out, left knee is banged, and a HUGE welt is instantly developing on my right calf. But my mind is on overdrive, and I only lost one position ... jump back on and dive-bomb the end of the trail, trying to recover some composure through Turf 1. Adrenaline on high, it's a bit too much, and I overcook the 180 at the end, plowing through the foliage. OK. Chill. No more mistakes.

Up the pavement in the middle ring, just trying to recover, and miracle of miracles I'm gaining on someone. Same scenario, drop down just a bit behind, clean the turn onto the bridge, and jam my way up Bad-Ass ... the race and heat are taking their toll, though, and this attack is middle ring territory. But I get a gap and hold it, dropping down and around the parking lot, up the grass hill, down, and up again -- Kim is there with a bottle, which I dump on me and drain into my mouth as I realize I underestimated the heat.


Lap 3: Fast down the multitrack, increase the lead into Gravity, and I'm doing OK. Someone has lit a fire in 3 Ravines, trying to smoke out the bees, and I get confused with a lungfull of crap. Not fun on the last lap. I'm not climbing as well, but I've recovered enough to corner OK. I'm also not descending as well, fatigue has set in and my log jumps aren't as clean down Psycho Path. Turf 1 goes OK this time, but I'm suffering up the pavement. OK, rest and recover as I drop down to the bridge ... is that someone behind me? Grind my way up Bad-Ass, and by the top it's confirmed: Matt has come back, and is gaining on me. OHCRAP, GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO! I big-ring it and start driving, pushing as hard as I can out the singletrack and dropping down past the parking lot. Steady, steady ... he catches me just as the climb starts, and I'm with him for 100 meters ... and then he's gone. I'm done. Fried. I crest the hill alone, drop down, and then climb back up into the finishing chute. It's all I can do to climb off the bike and find a chair. Ouch.

What an awesome race. I ended up 8th overall I think, with Goat taking the win (which I called on the start line!) In the end, I think I was only about 3-4 minutes behind him, which for me isn't too bad on such a technical course. And were it not for a couple of small mistakes (and one huge one), I think I had a decent shot at top 5. Not my cleanest race, but definitely my strongest.

Big congrats to Rachael for winning the Women's Sport, and Paul from SRAM who took 2nd in Sport on a single speed.

And again, huge hats off to CAMBR. This was SO much fun, on an absolutely awesome course. Can't wait to tell my children someday that I raced the Olympic course long before it was the Olympic course!

08 September 2007

Palos III: Pre-ride

Hit the trails butt-crack early this morning with this guy, even though he haunted my dreams last night. We weren't the first ones there, though -- a high school cross country meet was going on around Bullfrog Lake, which made it a bit funny when it came time to drop trou ...

One easy loop of the course, hammering the paved climb, Bad-Ass Hill out to the parking lot, and the Grass Hill to Gravity Cavity. Trails in amazing shape, given that they got 2" of rain yesterday morning -- just a few wet spots, no big deal, and the course is riding SO much faster because of the tackiness. Totally different than last week, and Bad-Ass Hill is fast now. Only issue is all the wet roots, especially the ones that cut diagonally across the trail, but no worries.

Then we hit the new connector out to Old Country Lane and back via PLT. Couple of sprints on OCL, and then we did one last hammer up the grass hill. Legs are open, bike is clean, time to just chill and get ready. Tomorrow's going to be FUN.

Strange

Woke up in the middle of the night from a dream in which Rachael and I were driving out West to a ski area in Arizona to go riding, only to arrive and be confronted by Jim, who was the guy in charge, who told us we had to register across the street before we could ride. Funny thing was, I didn't even have my mountain bike, rather had my old Miyata "hybrid" with 700c wheels (sort of a 29er before there were 29ers) and when we came into the ski area from the back way, I told Rachael the best trails were in the area across the street, rather than on that mountain. There was a big crowd across the street and everything looked like Sea Otter. I woke up before we could ride.

I'm sure this is way too deep, but all I can think of is that my psyche is overloaded right now: I'm about to head down to pre-ride with Jim; I've been bugging the heck out of Rachael about the Palos course, which will have off-site registration; Kewaskum is this weekend on a bland ski hill; 24-Hour Worlds was last weekend at Laguna Seca, site of Sea Otter; and we had a big discussion yesterday at work about 29er wheels, which included Rachael. Oh! and Kim and I head to Arizona in a few weeks to visit family. Weird.

07 September 2007

What she said

Check it out: Learn to speak Wisconsin

Rain last night and early this morning, but clearing out sooner than they had predicted. The course should be absolutely *perfect.*

At dinner tonight, I'll be sure to pray to the 7lb., 8oz. Baby Jesus, lying in his manger watching his Baby Einstein videos, because I like to picture Jesus as a small child, rather than a mischevious badger ...

06 September 2007

The newest monkey!

I love being a monkey's uncle!
Welcome to Peyton Olivia, born yesterday at 7 p.m., 7 lbs. even, 19-1/2 in. long. She's a feisty one!

05 September 2007

Palos II: The Hardtail

Another great day on the trails Monday, this time trying out the hardtail to decide which one I want to race. My back was still a bit tight, but once we got going all was good.

Big group again, with more people joining as the day went on -- every time Jeremy or I would tell oncoming traffic "Eleven back," they just sort of gasped. We started out with a race loop, showing the folks from Janesville around, since we were informed that the National Champion from Kenosha knew where he was going. The course is FAST with a capital F, and predicted rain this week will make it even more so. The hardtail is perfect, since the trails are packed down so well -- my only disadvantage will be on some of the superfast, rutted, jumpy downhills (Gravity Cavity and the descents to Turf 1 and Bad-Ass Hill), but the weight savings will more than make up for it as we climb (Grass Hill, up from One-Day, 3 Ravines, climb out from 3 Ravines, the road, Bad-Ass Hill).

It helps that I know the course so well, but I have to say, this is going to be SO much fun. The opening climb will be super-tough, but then there's a long fire road to recover before bombing Gravity Cavity. (The fire road has a ton of gravel, so you have to stay on your line.) One-Day rides faster this direction and with better flow, then you have to hammer the climb into 3 Ravines or you'll get passed big-time. 3 Ravines is tough from this direction, but still big-ring if you know the lines and are willing to suffer. Then you climb out from 3 Ravines before another bombing descent to Turf 1 -- this one with two log hops at speed, that because of rain last week are pretty exposed, and will send a few guys flying with their rear ends in mid-air. And did I mention one of them is blind?

Turf 1 is fun, curvy and swoopy and super-fast right now. Only real thing is the log crossing -- some sport guys will get hung up, but it's not a big deal if you roll it. The other problem may be traffic: I pray CAMBR posts someone at the trailhead (exit on the racecourse) to warn people, since we're going opposite our normal way. Then you have to hammer the road climb HARD, before a long up-and-down descent that leads to a superfast, rutted, gravel-infested erosion rut at the bottom of which you make a hard right -- ON SAND -- and hammer up Bad-Ass Hill. The first two steps will be hard, but you can roll the third if you know what you're doing. B-A Hill is tough right now, very full of gravel, so picking the line will be critical and some guys will get hung up. After that, it's a fun, rolling recovery until you bomb the parking lot back to the bottom of Grass Hill.

I hear 30 or so Experts, and 125 Sport -- holy crap, I think I may just skip my warmup to watch the carnage on Turf 1 and at the base of B-A Hill. It's going to be brutal for those guys, unless they're in the top 5 or 10, in which case they should be racing expert anyway, right?

After that, John and Rachael took us out on the new connector trail all the way to Old Country Lane. What a fun trail! CAMBR did a really good job building it, just hope they figure out the intersection of Willow Springs at some time in the future -- that could be dangerous. We came back via Pretty Little Trail, before coming down Burrito Hill to Out n' Back, then hitting 3 Ravines and One-Day from the normal direction (opposite race course). A fun climb up Gravity Cavity, and our day was done.

Couple of easy rides to recover, probably a trip to the suburbs tonight or tomorrow (Kim and I will be aunt and uncle again!), and then getting ready for Sunday. Crazy week!

03 September 2007

Palos I

Super-awesome day at Palos yesterday. Big crowd -- me plus three carloads of folks from across the Cheddar Curtain. Jeremy, Jay, Eric, two brothers (damn, names escaping me ...), Gage, Nate, Mitch, Katie, another kid or two -- it was way cool.

The first half of the day was course preview -- beginner loop first, which is basically around Bullfrog anti-clockwise, starting at the base of the Grass Hill. Then we did the full course -- grass hill to Wolf Road Woods parking lot, down Gravity Cavity, up One-Day Trail, to Three Ravines (uphill!), up and then down to Turf 1, up up up the road, then down Stair Steps to the bridge, then up up up Bad Ass Hill, before swooping around to the top of Bullfrog and dropping down to the Grass Hill, which you then go up to start your next lap. Did I mention that we went up? A lot???

I grabbed the Rush to give my back a bit of a break, which was a good choice for a fairly low-key first pre-ride. I'll take the hardtail today -- with that much climbing, it will probably be the better choice, although the Rush would give me an advantage on some of the fast, bouncy downhills. So we'll see. We should have a good group out there again today, and I'm sure we'll put in a couple of efforts here and there ...

I also had a chance to ride the first part of the new connector trail, way cool. I'll need to get back there with someone who knows where they're going to get me all the way over to the east. Fun stuff, well built.

Let's see ... I didn't do my back any favors, but Kim and I lugged a ton of boxes from our storage area up to our third-floor home. I started going through all these books that I was just SURE I was going to read again ... our local Salvation Army is about to turn into a library, if you're interested. And then we watched Premonition -- 90 minutes of Sandra Bullock, ahhhhh. It was good for about 70 minutes, then it got strange. And if you watch it, don't watch the gag reel on the DVD right away -- it was funny, but VERY disturbing, given the context of the movie.

So Palos is happening and the house is getting clean ... not bad for our first Labor Day at home in 9 years!

02 September 2007

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?

Stump Farm was everything I remembered from the WORS marathon there, and more. The course was incredible -- imagine all the funnest swoopy parts of 9 Mile, sans rock gardens, linked by short but tough fire road sections. Sure, I missed the rocks a bit, but the awesome singletrack made up for it. The climbs weren't as long, either, but the race director managed to string together every "hill" in the place for a nice, challenging, super-fun day on the bike.

It was also a bit of a lesson in humility. I went into it thinking thoughts of victory, and didn't even manage to make the podium. I was first on the bike, and first through the first 2/3 of the first lap, and then a kid from UW on a single speed attacked up a hill and I couldn't go with him. I figured there was enough pedaling sections that he would come back, and by the end of the lap we did all clock in within seconds of each other. By that time, I had moved over to let someone else lead the chase ... and about halfway through the second lap, one of the guys I was with went to the front and just drilled it. Game over for me.

I stayed with him and the third-place rider for a few minutes, but we got to the longer climbing section just before some singletrack, and I was done. When I looked at my heart-rate monitor, it was showing 177, and this guy was just riding away from me. Crap. I did what I could to chase, and managed to hold third place to a minute over the next two laps, but I just couldn't close the gap. Not the result I had in mind, but I suppose it was great training for Chequamegon, etc. 36 miles of hammering will do that for you.

The thing that pisses me off is that this keeps happening. I had an awesome first lap, perfect in every way, and managed to detonate the front of the field to bring it down to just four of us. I know these guys aren't that much more fit than I am, but unlike road racing where I know what I need to do to hang on, I haven't yet figured it out on the dirt. When "pucker time" came (thanks, Uncle Gary), I didn't have it. And I need to figure out why.

Awards went 6 deep, however, so I did come home with a bit of "hardware" -- these really cool SF [Stump Farm] pint glasses. Other sports race for belt buckles, we race for pint glasses. I also won a gift certificate to Stadium Bike (very cool!), and in the raffle scored a certificate to Mackinaws, an upscale grill and bar in Green Bay. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the Stadium Bike certificate, but we stopped at Mackinaws on the way home and had the most incredible, cheesy bruchetta I've ever had, and while my tuna was OK, Kim had a very good buffalo burger. And we both went for the homemade thick chips ... YUM.

Kim drove all the way to Milwaukee, since my back was a bit tight. That's where we upheld our once-a-year pilgrimage ... Kopp's Frozen Custard up near Silver Spring Road. Oh, man ... Chocolate Chunk Bannana Walnut ... ooooooooooohhhhhhhh ... real Chiquita bannanas, Hersey's chocolate chunks ... HEAVEN ...