31 December 2007

How I spent Christmas Break

It's hard to believe we're staring 2008 in the face. I mean, 2008! I still remember 1988 as if it were yesterday ... especially given what we've been up to these past 2 weeks. See, it's my off-season, the 2-3 weeks of the year where I'm not training, and the couple of months I'm not racing ... as Kim says, "the 6 weeks I actually get your attention" ... Listening to Q101's "15 Years in 15 Days" hasn't helped with the trip down amnesia lane ...
So we've been cleaning. And cleaning. And organizing. And cleaning some more. After 6-1/2 years in our house, we're finally finding homes for everything! More on that in a minute ...
First, don't forget the clothing drive! Big thanks to The Pony Shop and Turin for serving as collection points, and to those of you who have sent in clothes. I'm going to send a box or two over in about mid-January, so there's still time ... THANK YOU!
And without further ado, on to the phlogging ...
Our holidays usually start with my family, complete with a new addition and a train set!
Then we head over to Kim's family ... 4-year-olds really know how to enjoy Christmas, and did I mention that my mother-in-law is a biker chick? I usually last until about lunch before finding the couch ...
And back home, every year we enjoy Christmas pancakes, thanks to Bekah for new molds! This year they were maple sugar 'cakes ... yeah baby!
Hey, did you hear that The Container Store is having an Elfa sale?
The lady at Sears was a bit freaked out when we told her the new tool chest was going in our dining room ...
But with the season just around the corner, there's a ton of work to do!
OK, so I'm still not done, but this should help ...
And when the season does start, I'm going to be all set thanks to Santa ...
And Kay sure does know how to get an uncle to spoil her!

26 December 2007

Reset

Ah, the reset button. Hitting it couldn't have come at a better time. My body is in full-on rebellion from sugar overload, and today marks the start of 2008. Fourteen weeks to shed a few pounds, and then it'll be April 1 and the real work will begin ...

Christmas was great, low-key and not full of a ton of gifts, just a few thoughtful ones. We spent it with our families, getting a bunch of time with the little ones -- getting to see the holiday through 2-1/2, 12 week and 4-year-old eyes. What a magical way to spend it!

Nothing really bike related to report this week, other than the acquisition of a new workstand for Christmas that, with its quick-release feature, should make the time in the pits so much better for me and my crew. And it's red!

24 December 2007

Happy Christmas everyone!

I'm on my sixth straight day of moving/cleaning/bike work, and tomorrow looks like a great break in the action! What started with the big corporate event last week morphed into a Friday spent rebuilding my bikes at work which then morphed into changing over all my equipment at home this weekend: wheels and tires are prepped for the next 3 months or so of winter riding. There's still a ton of bike cleaning to do too, but that should go relatively quickly ...

In the meantime, I find myself at a nearly-empty office, cleaning my desk and picking up from last week ... the office is moving around this week, so I need to be packed and ready to go by Thursday ... which is to say, today, since Wednesday will be all about moving bikes again ...

The break is starting to take its toll, as I'm finding myself sick of sweets, and feeling bloated and pudgy already ... just one more day until the diet kicks back in ... Spent the easy 30-minute drive into work today thinking about skipping the exit for North Ave and just heading down to Palos ...

Have a happy holidays everyone, and enjoy this wonderful time of the year!

21 December 2007

Kim is awesome

As if you didn't already know! Today Kim made cranberry-date-caramel bars and peanut butter-chocolate bars for SRAM. She's the best!

Moving time at work is coming up, I'm trying hard to work but a bike build calls, and it's a holiday weekend. Can you say DISTRACTED?

20 December 2007

Crazy week

Huge corporate event yesterday for work followed by my first SRAM holiday party. I actually interviewed last year on the Wednesday of the holiday party, and accepted the job that Friday. Crazy!

The event went really well, big connections and hopefully deep pockets. It was a ton of fun.

The holiday party was a blast! Easily the best atmosphere I've ever had at a companywide party like that. So much fun. And the four-inch-tall chocolate chip cookie topped by the scoop of ice cream and hot fudge and caramel was divine ...

Man, I love the off-season!

18 December 2007

Today

Happy birthday Dr. Holmes!
(I couldn't find a photo of the Jim we know and love, so I borrowed this one of Jim Holmes from here ... but he sort of looks like a Dr. Jim Holmes, doesn't he?)

17 December 2007

Underload

Man, on serious underload from the 'cross season. In the few minutes I have to surf today, there's not much coverage! I need more!

Have you ever seen a bruise on the palm of your hand? It's kind of freaky. Really glad I didn't try to race yesterday, seriously doubt I could have gripped the bars.

If you ever get the chance to have the chocolate chip-walnut-coconut bar with ice cream, hot fudge and caramel at Chilis, do so. What a perfect way to cap off the season!

And I said as much yesterday -- next year is looking pretty cloudy as to whether I return to Kansas City. The dates are December 11-14, and believe it or not I already have some stuff on the calendar for around that time. And then there's the pending switch of Natz to January in 2009, so there's a good chance that this year was my last hurrah, at least for a while. Nothing melodramatic about it, just the way it is.

So I'm now in the off-season! Crazy week at work, a relaxing weekend planned with Kim, and then it's the holidays. We'll see how long I can hold out before I put the mountain bike back together and go off in search of some snowy trails ...
... and of course the thoughts turn to 2008 ... we're just a few months away from August 2-3 and then of course 'cross is here!

16 December 2007

For the record

I know I have a weird thing going with Mark McMormack, but I just want to state for the record that I was not the lapped rider he crashed into in the finale. It was the guy behind me, whom I was fending off -- I was safely out of the way against the course tape. It totally sucked to see him lying on the ground, and I can guess what he's saying about it today, but that's racing ...

It's weird sitting here at breakfast with my (small) biscuits and gravy and my two waffles -- there's all these skinny bike racer people, and the question of the day is, "are you racing today?" And for the first time I say no. If it were a smoother course yesterday, and I was fresher today, maybe, but probably not -- I'm nowhere near the shape I need to be in to compete at this level, even for a couple of laps, even if I could grip the bars (my crash did a number on my hand, right where it contacts my shifter). And I gotta' admit, I'm a little sad. It's liberating, but in a don't-I-wish-I-were riding today sort of way. This is probably my last trip to Natz, and today just feels so anticlimatic.

So that's that. We're packing up and heading over to the course to cheer on Jen, Kristin and the women, and to watch Ben "I'm here to kick your ass" Popper, Tristan, Kurt, Marco, Kevin and the rest battle it out for the Stars n' Stripes ... Marco is in the grid right now for the SS race -- good luck to him!

15 December 2007

One for the record books

(Scroll down for the race report in the next entry ...)

Every year, there's always so much emotional investment that goes into finishing a season. There's the preparations for Natz, the travel, the racing. In all of that, one thing seems to get overlooked: the amazing feeling of the last shower of the year. Here I sit in the lobby of the Comfort Suites, nice and toasty warm, basking in the glow of the best shower I've had all year. And another season is in the books.

I owe three huge thank yous this year. First off, Kim was a total rock star, week in and week out, race after race. She dealt with the emotional roller coasters, the endless hours of training, the slacking off of household duties, and she dealth with them in stride. Everyone tells me how amazing she is, and all I can say is, you only know the half of it. She's the reason I'm able to ride like I do. THANK YOU SWEETIE!

The second is to Steve Weller, my coach from Cycle-Smart Coaching. I don't talk much about him, but he managed to take a 'cross-obsessed, unemployed former roadie-turned-mountain biker, and help shape the best season I've ever had -- this despite me completely changing my racing focus -- TWICE -- dealing with a new job with pretty extensive travel (often sans bike), and not quite realizing what a head case I can be. Thanks to Renee for the C-S recommendation, I started working with Steve in January and managed a top-10 finish at 24 Solo Nationals, podiums in all three disciplines I raced, an age group and an overall win in two mountain bike races, more 4th places than I can count (fuel for the fire!), a top 15 finish in a road National Championships in Africa, and several top 'cross finishes including that coveted State Championship medal. And I can honestly say that I'm finishing off feeling better than I've ever felt in December, and am hungry for 2008!

Finally, thanks to Lou Kuhn at the Pony Shop. Lou has been my behind-the-scenes support for years now, and keeps me rolling when the going gets tough. Lou was the driving force behind the Wednesday Night Practices, and his 'cross obsession borders on the psychotic -- but in a good way, that is super-constructive for the sport as it grows in Chicago. Plus, he's a hell of a racer, and probably doesn't realize the level of motivation I get from knowing I'm going to go head-to-head with him. I'm proud to call him my friend, and I look forward to many battles to come.

So after a couple of weeks of well-earned rest, next year promises to serve up just as many unknowns as this year ... but one thing's for certain: it can't come soon enough! Bring it on!

In a rut

Wow. I'm exhausted. Today was a fitting end to a crazy roller coaster of a year -- and what an incredible race it was. Is there ever going to be a Natz where things are "normal?" Oh, wait, it's 'cross -- no such thing!

First off, let me just say I was as prepared as I could be, and was much more ready this year than ever before. The race came down to three things: experience, equipment, and the ability/willingness to take risks. I can honestly say I raced the best I could, but as with so many things 'cross, I spent 45 minutes learning and re-learning how to race my bike. And in the three places it mattered most, I just didn't quite have it.

I finished 45th out of about 160 starters and 90-some finishers. Not a horrible finish by any means, but definitely not what I thought was in the realm of possibility going in. Unfortunately, when push came to shove, I lost position after position to guys who were pushing the envelope more than me ... and I learned from it. Power sections? No problem, I kept up with and passed the best of them. Aggressiveness? Oh, yeah -- easily my most aggressive race ever in a big field. But on a course composed entirely of frozen ruts and chunks of ice that looked as though they fell from the sky, I was just out of my element.

But I had fun! I'm super-tired tonight, happy to have the race and the season done. I don't know that I can give a blow-by-blow, so here's some impressions on the day:
  • The Comfort Suites has good coffee. Suite! (ha, ha)
  • HUGE inspiration as we arrive to hear Bjorn pull out the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP in a killer sprint! ROCK ON! (Somehow this is made more funny after watching Transitions II and hearing him dog on his sprint.)
  • Warmup went well -- thanks JPE, Glen and the team for the pimping tent setup
  • Big thanks to Kim and Jen for pitting for me, even though I never needed the bike. You rock! And thanks for the post-race bike wash!
  • Big thanks to everyone on the course yelling my name -- this may as well have been a local event for all the shouts I heard. I and World Bicycle Relief even got a call out from the announcing stand! Totally kept the motivation high out there, especially when things got scary.
  • Start position was awesome: second row right behind Feldman. Next to him were Travis, Mark and Brandon. Oh, yeah.
  • Good start! Woo-hoo! Probably 15th or so going onto the dirt. The high water mark.
  • First time through corner three and into the ice field -- oh, crap. This is going to get scary.
  • By the pits, awesome shouts from everyone.
  • Losing time and space every corner, killing it when I find the line. Man, I'm feeling good, why won't my front wheel stay going forward?
  • Oh, that's why -- icy, solid ruts EVERYWHERE. Going too slow to float over them like I should. Running the Mud2 up front instead of the tubular was a killer mistake. Oh, well, make the best of it!
  • Totally stupid of me to preride yesterday -- today is a different race. Oh, well, at least I know the course!
  • Trade spots here, there, lose, gain, mostly lose. Close to the 20-30 group through two laps, then start to make mistakes on the ice.
  • POWERPOWERPOWERPOWERPOWERPOWERPOWER! But it only works sometimes! Good times up the front straight, always catch and pass at least one guy.
  • Awesome course, loops back on itself a ton. I start to hear whistles after two laps -- uh, oh. But wait, they're minutes behind me. Whew.
  • Three to go, and Brandon and Mark are killing it, and are starting to close. I'm fighting it out for the top 40s, there's a group on me. I make a couple of slips, and lose some spots. Damn. Make a couple of spots up on a power section, into the stairs, dismount, run, hear Renee shout "Go Chris!" and BAM! face-first into the ground. Oh, crap. That f*ing HURT!
  • It was my only crash (does that mean I wasn't pushing hard enough), and it had to be right in front of Renee. Aw, man!
  • Regroup, head up, digdigdigdig, fighting for space with a couple of guys, they slip away from me. I shouldn't be losing this now! Brandon is closing, Mark is on him ... one guy jumps in front of me, I power back to him, he slips in a divot and dismounts -- I simultaneously hear "GO CHRIS!" from Dave as I try to pull on the rear brake and realize my ceramic rim is FROZEN SOLID NO BRAKES OH CRAP RIDE IT RIDE IT and through! WOO-HOO! Ok, to the stairs, can I make it, can I make it?
  • Up, over, remount, down, around, up, and DAMN! Brandon catches me, Mark is right behind, I pull over and Brandon is past and MARK CRASHES! OH SHIT! He's lying on his side on the hill, what do I do? Gotta' gogogogogogo ... and that's all she wrote. 45th, officially one lap down ... 15 seconds and I would have made it. Arrrrgggghhhh. Time to get warm!

So definitely an experience, and another one to learn from. Heck, with all these snow races, I may just have to start racing 'cross in Alaska!

14 December 2007

I am not Renee

20 minutes and two laps of the course, followed by an hour of bike prep this afternoon. Tomorrow is going to be one for the record books, especially if we get the predicted snow tonight. Bring it on!

Updates may be scarce until tomorrow; I'm pretty wiped tonight, and tomorrow morning will be running around a bit. For the latest -- faster than the KC folks even! -- point your browser over to Madcross ...

13 December 2007

What was I thinking?

48 hours before Natz is probably not the best time to rebuild your pit bike from the ground up in order to toe the corporate line ... but when the result is sub-20 pounds, who's complaining?

Make that leap! See you in KC!

Slot car

On track ... recabled the rear derailleur again last night ... clothes are washed, bikes are prepped, wheels are packed ... by this time tomorrow we should be crossing the Mississippi ... BRING IT ON!

12 December 2007

73 hours

Just 72 hours, 15 minutes until GO TIME ... and just 73 hours until my season is done. As the song says, "Cross is here, cross is here ... it's my all-time favorite time of the year ... and it's almost over!"

Four seconds

Sorry for the delayed posting this week -- several 14-hour days at work aren't the best prep for Natz, but we've got a good thing going!

First off, huge kudos to Chris Dimmick at Turin for another awesome course, and to Lou and the rest of Chris’ crew for getting out there and making it happen in the snow. Chris has been designing courses for a while now, and every year he brings out the best in Montrose Harbor – this was absolutely a state championship-worthy course, and would have been even if dry. That’s the mark of a killer set-up, and Chris deserves all the praise he’s gotten!

Prerace: At least waking up at 1:45 and not being able to get back to sleep means you can review last year’s race notes. Similar conditions this year (albeit warmer!), and knowing that I should have run the Mud2 front last year helps me make some equipment decisions. I finally can’t take it anymore, and shower about 4:30 … just before the alarm goes off, Kim gets her wake-up song!

Getting ready: I make one mistake in the morning, and eat a bit too much for breakfast, given the 10 a.m. start. I don’t realize it at the time, but it comes back to haunt me later … I watch Sven Nys sneak his way to a win on some Belgian course, really watching him this time to see where he's able to take extra pedal strokes to get the lead ... Smooth as silk, we’re out the door and at the course, set up the 10x10 for a bit of shelter and I chill out in the car with the heater going. Conditions are perfect, just above freezing with just a bit of precip, making the freshly plowed course nice and soft but not a slog like last week … Jim shows up and gives us an extra wall for the tent, we’re styling!

Preride: One lap on each bike, and I decide it’s slick enough to run the Mud2 up front again this week, after washing out and landing on my knee at one of the underpasses. This leads to a bit of nervousness, so I make sure to get an extra lap in … and I miscalculate the time. Rolling back to the car with 8 minutes left, needing to pee and completely change my kit, I’m in full-on panic mode. Kim helps me dress and I roll to the line, slotting in second row as the final instructions are given and my heart is racing a million miles a minute … two seconds, deep breath, and GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO!!

The race: I know this is it. My only real goal this year was to get a state medal in 'cross. I also know the course cold. Not a great start, but I’m pushing my way past people on the little grass I could find for traction. Cut inside and around the big tree, and look up – Lou and Kevin, the two guys I know I need to be with – have a couple of seconds and are forming a group of four or five. Oh, crap. I need to be there. GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO!

Hit the barriers and sprint for all I’m worth. I’m still a few seconds off, and lose a few more as some yahoo comes sprinting by me “Let’s see how you suckers can run!” He may be fast on his feet, but as he slides into me on the downhill and then starts to swear, it’s all I can do to keep from laughing. Take that sucka!

I’m gone, pushing hard in no-man’s land and starting to make up ground on the group ahead. Kevin and Lou are clearly the men to beat, and the guys they’re with start to slip off, especially in the twisty off-camber, loose stuff of the first underpass. I pass one on the loose stuff, another on the quick runup, and there’s still a third just ahead with Lou and Kevin pulling away. Crap! I need to be there!

I attack hard through the parts I know I can ride without slipping, and close in on third as the lap comes to a close. The other guy jams through the start/finish, and I’m on him as we jockey for position through the chicane. Kevin and Lou are right there, and I hear them talking – I pretend that they know it’s me, and the motivation goes through the roof. The guy I'm with goes right into the run-up, I go left, and I get an extra pedal stroke into the barriers. That’s all it took, and by the time we’re cresting the hill, I’ve got a small gap and Kevin and Lou are only four seconds ahead. YEAH BABY!

Down, dismount, back up, and four seconds has become five. Down again, sliding sideways, and it becomes six. Oh, crap, digdigdigdigdig – there’s no place to make up time on this course, you have to be on it the whole time. They’re faster through the loose stuff, I attack on the gravel, and five/six holds through the start/finish … I see 12 on the lap counter and think we have 12 laps to go – WTF? Oh, minutes counting up. Whew. Refocus … oh, man, they’re right there, I need to get there, I can’t close, they’re RIGHT THERE!!!

And I couldn’t quite seal the deal. I crested the hill right behind them for the third time, and again lost time on the downhills followed by the loose stuff. Behind me, fourth and fifth were fighting it out, but my whole focus was on the two guys ahead of me … by the third lap, they were stretching the elastic but it was holding, and by lap five it was broken. My extra piece of toast was trying to make a comeback, and I could feel my stomach going nuts. I was in good shape for the bronze medal, just needed to keep it upright, and unfortunately every dig I put in to try to make back time on Lou and Kevin got weaker and weaker. Damn. Four seconds – if I had been able to close, who knows what would have happened.

I keep it steady on the last laps, appreciating the cheers from the crowd, knowing I’m better in the technical sections than the guys behind, and shut it down after the last run-up on the last lap, saving a bit of energy and cruising it in. I roll across the line with a nice thumbs up – I finally have my state medal!

Aftermath: It’s been a few years since I won a state medal in any discipline, and I’m happy that I’ve finally brought my ‘cross racing to the level where I’m in contention. I still have a big gap to close to Lou and Kevin – they fought it out, tooth and nail, for the whole race, with Lou pulling off a stellar sprint to bring home the gold – but I feel as though the improvements I’ve made in my technique and technical skills this year (thanks MTB!) serve as a great base for building on for next year. With 24 Solo Nationals being one week later, followed by a two-week midseason break, that leaves just 8 months and 1 week until ‘cross practice starts again!

Big thanks to Kim, Nancy Majors and Pat McNally for the photos and cheers! I appreciate it!

09 December 2007

Quickie

Just a few quick thoughts from today, full report to come:
  • Big props to State Champion Lou Kuhn, scoring a hard-fought win and locking up the series title to boot. You all may think I get into 'cross, but I got nothin' on him: his passion for and dedication to this sport run deep, and today was the payback. Watch for The Pony Shop jersey sporting the Illinois Eagle in 08!
  • Tristan looked like he was on another Planet today (ha, ha, get it?) Here's hoping he can stay healthy this week (the weather today wasn't the best for that), and kicks some butt down in KC!
  • Speaking of cheese, it seems to best be served cold, as the guys from Madison who couldn't wake up in time for the masters race came down and beat the heck out of the Cat. 3s ...
  • Congrats to SRAMmie Scott McLaughlin (yeah, "that" SRAM guy), who fought it out hard with The Pony Shop's Mike Sherer and ultimately prevailed, breaking the elastic with about a lap and a half to go. It was an awesome race to watch.
  • Speaking of watching -- I got to see Ben Popper take the uphill running barriers faster than anyone but Tristan, lap after lap today. That kid is going to be deadly, just watch ...
  • Kudos to Jim Brady for a well-earned finish with no rear brake! to his first 'cross season ... he just text-messaged me that there's only 10 months until next season ...
  • Couple of guys get the "hardman" awards today -- Bryan Rhuede and Doc Jones for sure, maybe others -- how does back-to-back racing sound on a cold and wet day? OUCH!
  • The "other" Mike from The Pony Shop took home top honors and the jersey in the juniors as well -- it's been so much fun watching him progress from Wednesday night practices to State Champion!
  • There's some serious competition on the way up, if the Cat. 4A and 4B races are any indication. These guys are fast!
  • Huge thanks to everyone for the cheers today, especially Brad and Nancy, and Pat for making the trip down for the 10 a.m. start. Very much appreciated the shouts!
  • I can't forget Kim of course! THANK YOU!!!
  • As for me? I finally earned that state medal I've been coveting, but Lou and Kevin were head and shoulders above me. Just ... couldn't ... catch ... on, and they were gone. Next year guys, next year ...

My all-time favorite time of the year

It's a damn good thing Kim loves me so much since I woke her up at 4:59 this morning by playing "'Cross is here, 'cross is here, it's my all-time favorite time of the year" at full volume. She has her holiday music, I've got mine. I couldn't sleep again last night, full of adrenaline for today's race, so I hit the showers at 4:30 and the Munali shortly afterward. Am I ready? Oh, yeah.

Must have been the gelato: Cyclocrossworld.com rider Jesse Anthony just misses a win out East, losing by a bike throw to Todd Wells after battling it out all day. His placing ahead of Nerac's Chris Jones enables him to keep the Verge Series leader's jersey going into the final round today, but the stage is set -- the final race awards double, and Jones trails Anthony by just 65 points ... I wonder if Jesse went out for gelato last night? (Go SRAM!)

Just a training ride: All due respect to the guys doing the double today at Montrose, but check out who placed second in the 35+ race and then pulled out a top-10 in a strong elite field, despite a disasterous front flat early in the race. Talk about a level set -- sure, McCormick is a monster with a long pedigree in high-level 'cross, but still, those are some pretty impressive results. Anyone want to put money on the 35-39 championship next Saturday? No wonder I get tounge-tied when I talk to him!

Mud and muck: I've got the 2007 Belgian National Championships playing on Windows Media Player right now. Or, at least the first 12 minutes, which is all the video there is, followed by an hour of audio. Still, those 12 minutes are awesome -- all muck and mire as the best of the best slog it out in the opening laps, through hub-deep puddles and wheel-sucking mud ... (caveat emptor on downloading videos from this site -- some of them have definite codec errors and won't play completely through. But they're free! Check out cyclingnews.com for results if you don't get to the end!)

In fact, I think I'm learning Flemish by watching these videos so much. Just mumble along and every few seconds say "svenness," which I think is Dutch for "cyclocross god." Isn't it?

The storm that wasn't: No accumulation last night, and this morning it's wet but doesn't seem too bad. They plowed the course yesterday so it's more of a race and less of a slog ... my home thermometer is showing 34 degrees here near the lakefront, so the track should be nice and soft, with a chance for faaaaaaasssssssttttttt!!!!! Bring it on!

08 December 2007

My new favorite song!

Hours to go. Feeling like a roadie, just a short ride and then nuthin' all day. Even took a nap. Now there's sleet. And dropping temps. 12 hours and I'll be good and caffinated. Bring it on!

This is my new favorite song of all time. (And I dare you to try to get it out of your head!)

07 December 2007

This is SO AWESOME

Is it just me, or does he look a little like JPE when wearing the white frilly hat? And make sure you watch long enough for BOTH song bits! (And yes, this is the fourth entry today.)

Click on the picture:


Edit Saturday afternoon -- sorry the embed didn't work.

I'm a jerk

Killing time as much as possible today, mind in a million places but here. Reminded me of when I was a total pr!ck on the start line at Whitewater to Ben Popper. Sorry, man -- I was injured and in a bad mood, and not having fun, so the high five just wasn't my thing. Didn't realize how big of a day that was for you. I'm really looking forward to your race on Sunday -- if you can pull out an elite State Championship just 13 months after your first 'cross race, that will rock.

10 DAYS!!


06 December 2007

Dial C for CYCLOCROSS!

  • Re-cabled the Colnago last night, and it is sweeeeeet. Not sure it will make a huge difference in the snow, but every little bit helps! D I A L E D ...
  • Check out the VeloNews site of the day, go BKW!
  • Spent another night on the trainer, this time I think I found the magic formula. iPod cranking the tunes with top-level cyclocross racing on the screen. I downloaded this guy's entire site yesterday, and last night watched most of the 2006 race in Niel, the one where Nys lost because of a busted rear wheel. But check it out -- at about 36 minutes in, Wellens attacks Nys up the stairs, and Nys pulls off an amazing ride through the sand to catch back to his wheel, absolutely railing the 90-degree bend without so much as throwing a plume. Now that's racing.
  • And what's he got that I don't? Uh, yeah ...
  • Good on ya' Jon Page! All that crap about "we pay you to race well all season" will be completely forgotten with a few good results in the run-up to Worlds. Now, just don't get sick on your way to Kansas City ...
  • Congrats to Tristan as well, one of only two elites attending Euro Cross Camp in a few weeks. This will be a great opportunity for him to get some high-level racing and continue to build on the experience from last year. If you want to know what it's all about, check out Transitions 2: 'Cross the Pond for a fun view of what it's like in Belgium over Christmastime ...
  • On another note, I was talking to someone last year about 24-9 being Scott Cole's last 24 solo effort. That person laughed, and said, "we'll see." Turns out that person was right ... I'm going to start calling him Scott "MJ" Cole in honor of our bat-weilding friend ... And I agree with him -- what's up with the date for Adrenaline World's next year?
  • However, that date swapping works out particularly well for me. Following my break in a couple of weeks, I'll have a long run-up to Wausau, a short break, and then it'll be CROSS SEASON again. I work better when I have focus! I'll just have to revisit this post in early September next year -- every year I'm never really eager to start 'cross again, and every year I remember how much I love it. Bring it on!

Call to action!

We're trying to spread the word of World Bicycle Relief as far and wide as possible ... one avenue is to get listed on charity giving sites such as TisBest.org ... to get on there we need to get nominated ... please send an email to charitymanager@tisbest.org telling them how much you'd like to see World Bicycle Relief on their list of charities! Thanks!

N U T T Y

Random taper nuttiness:

  • How is it that the Red Line can be broken down TWO mornings in a row? It took me more than 90 minutes to get to work today ... and it's only 9 miles. This is why I ride my bike to work as much as I can!
  • Yesterday evening was no better, as I spent more than 40 minutes at Belmont -- which, because of construction, has only one small heat lamp that's not sheltered. Mind you, it was less than 20 degrees outside last night on my way home!
  • So I rewarded myself for my troubles -- since I just happened to be on the North Ave. bus this morning, I took it an extra stop to Starbucks ... mmmm ... peppermint mocha ...
  • The 50% rule didn't kick in, and we're now looking at 6-8 inches of snow on the ground in Evanston, which by extension means Montrose. And we're expecting another 2-4 inches today. Check it: if we get 3 inches, this will only be the third time in more than 120 years that we've had two, 3-inch snowfalls in the first week of December. I wonder if they were racing the cyclocross State Championships back in December 1887?
  • This weekend is looking even more nasty than last: we've already got 8 inches on the ground, another 3 expected tonight (that's 11 inches), and then SNOW turning to RAIN and SLEET, with a high of 36 both Saturday and Sunday. I'm contemplating switching to the elite race, as the Masters event at 10 a.m. will be solid ice ... and remember studded tires are not allowed in 'cross ...
  • Spent the last several days on the trainer, with a really great multi-zone opener workout last night. Power may not play that much of a factor on Sunday, but when it does, I'm ready. Oh, and this means I'm down to counting on one hand the number of "hard" efforts I have left in the season!
  • I added a link to the Killjoy blog on the right -- don't let their friendly-looking jerseys scare you, they're really mean and nasty folks. Ben Popper has been on an absolute tear this year in the elite ranks (although I can't help but think of another famous Popper every time I hear his name), and Kevin and I have gone a couple of rounds already with even more on the horizon ... not to mention Holly, who may be a mild-mannered schoolteacher by day, but absolutely kills it when the gun goes off ...
  • Speaking of Blues Traveler, I sort of rediscovered them on our trip out to Arizona a few weeks back when they popped up on my SIL's iTunes. Everyone by now knows four pretty well (it was their greatest commercial success), but if you get the chance, check out their older stuff too. I got to see them a couple of times in Milwaukee back in the day (ha, ha, get it?), and man these guys could jam. I spent my 21st birthday at the Rave/Eagles Ballroom in a haze of smoke and hops, still one of the best concerts I've ever seen. (BT encourages their fans to record and share their concerts online, provided no money changes hands. This is a recording of the show I saw that night. God bless the Internet!)

I think I'm done now. I have a ton of work to do, and the effects of the mocha are wearing off. Rest up, and get ready for Sunday Sunday Sunday!

05 December 2007

Remember to live each day

Sad news today: http://www.ambikerace.com/news.htm

Amy's commitment to live her life, compete and succeed is a lesson for all of us.

04 December 2007

Check it!

T-time

I did a great job of staying OFF the trainer last winter. January to March, I think I was on it once.

Which makes today's forecast so much more painful:
Near Lake Michigan, flurries may flutter to earth sporadically into early afternoon. But, snow begins falling more steadily from Tuesday afternoon's thickening overcast, and is likely to fall heaviest at times toward evening and through a good portion of the night. Initially light winds strengthen Tuesday night and gusty NNE winds deliver lake-effect snow showers Wednesday. Snowfalls in the 3-6" range appear a good bet.

Applying the 50% rule, we'll probably only get an inch and a half, but the lake-effect is on my mind a bit. Chief among the issues is 1) riding the trainer for a week in the lead-up to the State Championship can lead to impotence; and 2) if we do get snow, Montrose becomes a sled hill for the city children, which could mean a repeat of last year's ice sheet on the north side of Cricket Hill.

Thankfully, after Sunday, I can definitely say I'm more prepared than ever for a sloppy race! Bring it on!

03 December 2007

Because I have nothing better to do

I just took a few minutes to go through the registration list for KC and the results from last year's Natz, and compare that to the staging rules. At worst, I'll be SECOND ROW in the Masters 35+ race. From what I hear the start is pretty open, which will give me a chance to settle in before the carnage ... yeah baby. Bring it on!

(Yes, I'm getting excited for Natz!)

And since no one guessed on the "Thriller" trivia question ... "See you next Wednesday" was what was scrawled in blood at the site of the gruesome death scene in Vincent Price's Thriller, which Michael and his date were watching before they headed out into the night. It's the last line of dialogue you can hear from the movie before they make their exit.

It's close to midnight ...

02 December 2007

Congrats

By the way, mad props to Nate, Katie, Marko and the rest of the newly crowned Wisconsin State Champions!

Preview

Brian made a great observation about the varying level of abilities in last weekend's elite Jingle Cross race -- I know he didn't mean it about me specifically, nor was it a slight, but I took it to heart. So today I let the Wisconsin elites take it to each other, and I moved myself to the 30+ race -- not a consolation race by any means, these guys are out for blood!

And in a preview of next Sunday's showdown at Montrose, we FIBs seriously brought it today. I took the hole shot before bungling the sandpit and losing a ton of time and places, and soon we were all following Kevin, Lou and a couple of Wisconsin guys as we chased down the back of the 1/2s pack. Kevin managed to distance himself from Lou, and I chugged along, catching Lou just as the guy he was with crashed, and then almost took me out (letting Lou open a big gap), and then chasing him down again before catching on about the halfway mark.

Then it was on, as I attacked Lou a couple of times before opening a small gap, and then he and David Greenblatt, a Wisco powerhouse, were barely seconds back for more than a lap. Every time we turned I could see them, so close that I didn't dare try to calculate gaps -- I just kept my head down and kept on pushing. I put in digs where I could, trying to use my power on short sections where we could get traction, but this was an epic day -- 2-3in. of snow last night, followed by rain, sleet, fog, and first warming then cooling temps during the day. By the time we took to the track, it was slick and nasty, but thankfully for once I had my bike and the course DIALED!

The gaps maintained, I crossed the first bridge with maybe 2-1/2 to go, and all of a sudden I hear BAM! behind me. Lou blew a tire, and holy crap, I've got a gap! The track was getting harder and harder to ride, and with mud and muck flying up in my eyes, I set off in pursuit of the 1/2s just ahead of me. David was closing in, making up a few seconds here and there that I earned back on the flats and runs, and I used all my accumulated 'cross and mountain-bike mojo to keep it upright the whole time, throwing outriggers every time the course turned back on itself. "Smooth, smooth," I talked myself through the chicane at the bottom of the hill, and then POWERPOWERPOWER to the finish to come in 2nd!

So the stage is set for another epic Championship next Sunday at Montrose Harbor. Kevin, Lou, Conant, Rheude -- we're going to be tearing it up for Illinois' top honors come 10 a.m. We each have slight advantages and areas where we struggle, but on the whole this has to be one of the most evenly matched championships we've had in a long time. BRING IT ON!!

Who's laughing now?

Remember this? (Check out number 5)

YEAH BABY!!!

SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!

TJ wins in the slop on Saturday! Snow, sleet and rain last night! 43 degrees in Chicago this morning! "A few showers this morning mixed with rain and snow this afternoon" in Wiscsonsin! ARE YOU READY??????? (Thanks to Lou for the heads up on the link!)

01 December 2007