31 August 2009

Meltdown

Photos: Goat

I'm not much for race-day excuses, but when I woke up last Tuesday feeling like I'd been run over by a steamroller, I have to admit I was a bit worried about this weekend's Chicago-area Local MTB XC World Championships. Thankfully a wonderfully relaxing day spent at home on Saturday and a strong ride that afternoon helped, and by Sunday the fam and I were rolling down to Palos ...

I remembered about the Chicago Tri, but forgot about construction on the Kennedy, so we were a bit late arriving. Thankfully scored an awesome parking spot, and it was a quick change, packet pickup and out to pre-ride part of the course.

I'll say this here: Sorry to everyone if I wasn't too social yesterday. I'm still not feeling 100%, and was more than a bit scattered throughout the day. It was good to see so many people, I was just sort of focused!

Then it was go time -- I had a decent start, slotting in behind Ben Popper and Mike Hemme somewhere near 10th. Stayed that way through Turf and onto Psycho Path, with Ben opening a nice gap, but then he took himself out on a corner and Mike and I kept rolling. Then someone else got behind us, then passed, then crashed, so Mike and rolled on -- I briefly took the lead after Ho Chi Minh, but then Mike took over and we came through the start/finish chasing after John Gatto with Ben closing fast.

I know Mike is a powerhouse, so I let him lead for the first part of the course -- I felt good, but was pretty happy just to be able to hold his wheel. Into the woods and I let Ben come past, knowing he would rail the gravel that I would take too conservatively every lap. Onto the climb, and I came up fast on Mike ... hmmm ... can I do it? Go! (dontlookback, dontlookback, dontlookback, dontlookback) ... had a slight gap through Stair Steps and knew I had a chance to get away if I could rail Turf ... down, left, and swooping fun through Turf, then I was climbing with Gatto and another guy just ahead -- damn if I couldn't ever close that gap, John's just too good on the singletrack in the middle of the course. Hung out there alone for the rest of the lap, only to see the guy with John start to fade on the grass hill just as Carlos attacked the group behind me.

Used that guy as a rabbit, hitting the start of the last lap pretty hard. Passed him the ugly way up the climb to Stair Steps, taking a nasty line but getting the gap I wanted. Kept it rolling, on the verge of cramping, and saw John again ahead at the top of Psycho Path. But through the Ravines he was gone, while I managed to hold the gap and rest the legs for the last assault up Gravity Cavity. Giving it everything I had left, I made the top with no one in sight, and kept it smooth back, around, and to the base of the hill. As with every year, that was the end of me, as I barely ground it up to finish 7th overall, just lapping Mr. Harris at the end (note his big smile vs. my blank look of death ...)

In all, I was pretty happy for my first race back in a month, and my lap times were super-consistent, which meant I dosed the efforts exactly right to be completely done at the finish. Klug and Silvia just killed it (holy cow Silvia looks good -- I hear he's lost 15lbs?), it was good to see Ben Raby flying the SRAM/World Bicycle Relief colors out there, and I'll say it again: hats off to John Gatto. I could just see him at the top of each climb, but with enough singletrack between climbs, could never close the gap. Great race!

29 August 2009

Pre-ride ...

... didn't happen on the course. Instead, I spent the morning sleeping in and hanging with my girls, until one of them took a nap and the other went for a bike ride. I'll let you guess which one did what. We even ate breakfast at the table together as a family for the first time.

Then it was my turn, saddling up and heading north on Sheridan until I ran into B-rad up at Tower. Stopped to chat for a few minutes, then I had a "multi-zone" warmup for tomorrow's Chicago World's. Felt good into the cross-headwind, felt better with the cross-tail, and before I knew it I was jamming down the bike path into Wilmette and around the bend to Ryan Field. The last of the lingering congestion is fighting its way out, but the legs feel good and a good night of sleep tonight will do wonders.

A few minutes at home and then we're going for a walk to pick up dinner -- I can't for the life of me remember the last weekend I had at home. This is fun.

27 August 2009

Can't wait

Looking out the window at the low cloud ceiling obscuring the Sears Willis Tower, I can't help but dream of Virginia. I flip over to Sue's blog, and I see she's out there doing pre-race trail maintenance. Word is Chris E. was out there all alone clearing brush on the back of Chestnut Ridge yesterday too. Sue's pics make my soul ache. If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with.

25 August 2009

Run-d over

Woke up this morning feeling like a truck had run me over while I was asleep. Thought I could avoid Kate's cold last week ... guess not. Darn. I've been awake for about 2 of the past 19 hours ... dang I love to sleep.

24 August 2009

Rock'n out

Just a quick post in between everything going on ... great weekend camping with the K clan -- started out with "indoor camping" on Friday b/c of the rain, and by the time we got to Rock Cut on Saturday, things were drying out and it became a perfect weekend of campfires (tee-hee!), relaxing, and eating. And eating. And eating! (Why does *everything* taste better when you're camping?)

I got in some riding too -- because of all the rock, the trails at RC dry out pretty quickly, and by Saturday afternoon there were a few slick spots but otherwise everything was *pristine.* In fact, without even trying, I pulled one of my fastest loops ever out there. There's not that much, but what's there is a ton of fun ... Sunday I put together a nice spaghetti bowl of flow that had me hit everything at least twice but never got boring. Very fun!

Oh! And "Do the Rock" is on this year -- moved to an October date to not mess up the trails. Sure, it's the week after Moab, but maybe if my legs are feeling good ...

21 August 2009

Adrenaline

Blood boiling a bit this morning, in a good way. Maybe I am finally getting caught up on sleep from last weekend?

Huge shot of adrenaline when I realized we'll be driving to Virginia 2 weeks from right now. Maybe it's all the time off from racing since 24-9; all I know is I'm REALLY looking forward to Shenandoah. It'll be Kate's longest car trip, but otherwise everything is familiar and easy ... oh, and there's a true Waffle House experience awaiting us across from the hotel! (just ask Brad ...)

But first, there's the Chicago MTB Worlds to contest next weekend. Let's face it: I'm not in XC shape, and there are some guys out there who are flying in preparation for 'cross this year. I'm just looking to have a good ride and shake off some of the cobwebs in preparation for the hundie. And having a weekend at home will be awesome.

Camping this weekend with the Ks and the other Ks -- hoping for enough dry hours that I'll get some trail time tomorrow and Sunday, but not sure at this point. At any rate, it'll be a fantastic, relaxing way to spend one of these last summer weekends ...


A sign of things to come: Kim returned the caterpillar and the blue bouncy chair this morning. (Yes, Liz, you can shed a tear -- I am.) Kate LOVED the caterpillar for a long, long time -- she's outgrown it, and it's going back to the family that gave it to us ... since they're expecting another! The last 10 days or so have been really transitional -- she's growing out of her QBP onesie (the snaps are coming undone when she moves! This photo is from April ...), she's taking baths in the "big" bathtub, she's in her last days in her first classroom at daycare, and she's "talking" up a storm. We're in a comfortable groove and it's a lot of fun, but dang, does she have to grow up?

And finally, flipping through the blogosphere last night I hit Regina's blog ... I've been thinking about the next one for a loooong time, and her suggestion to head to Milwaukee sounds like just the ticket to make it happen! So now I have a design idea and a place, just need to pick when ...

19 August 2009

... off again. (Probably. Maybe.)

It was bittersweet to find out the Ks and I weren't headed to Africa in November after all -- it meant I could mix things up a bit and hit the Chi Cross Cup before taking a break around Kate's birthday (after Montrose) and ramping back up in the new year. (No 'cross nats for me.)

Except ... only ... well ... See, there's this little race in Tucson that I've wanted to do for a couple of years now. And every February, it's been on the same weekend as the Frostbike trade show. Which meant instead of heading down to Arizona and celebrating my nephew's birthday and riding my bike around the desert for 24 hours, I've been freezing my butt off in Minneapolis playing broomball and eating Perkins. Fun times for sure, but it's just not the same.

So when Brendan strongly hinted that he'd like to see the WBR-Siren Solo Pain Train in Tucson next year, it didn't take me long to drop a line to the fine folks at QBP to find out the dates for Frostbike 2010 ... and lo and behold, they don't conflict! 24HOP is Valentine's Day weekend (the days before my nephew's birthday), and Frostbike is the weekend after. Can I get an "amen?!"

Except ... only ... well ... See, I know my body. I have a choice: Race Moab, take a short rest, and then finish out the 'cross season with 5 weeks or so of racing, rest, and start training again at New Year's; or, race Moab, extend the rest, and start up training again in late November, skipping 'cross. I also have to add in the wrinkle that Kim counts on my participation in household improvements during my "off season"/ramp up for 6 or so weeks a year -- traditionally December/January, smack dab when I'd need to be in training mode for a February 13 race.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that if I want to get what I want out of Old Pueblo, I need to take the second option. Which means no 'cross for me this year. As much as I don't want to take that longer, single break, I know I need it -- this has been a looooong season already, and we're still several weeks out from Moab. (Registration completed today, by the way!) And to be completely, brutally honest: I have my best seasons when I don't race in November, and start training again on December 1, instead of January 1. And it means I don't have to build up two 'cross bikes in September, when I'm just barely hanging on to work/riding/life before Interbike.

So ... what was off, then on, is now off again. Maybe. Probably. Perhaps 2009 is the year I learn to spectate and heckle instead?

18 August 2009

Follow the bouncing ball

Is today really Tuesday?

What a crazy few days lately. Start at the end -- huge World Bicycle Relief benefit with the KBS Pro Cycling team last night, bouncing between talking with Gary Fisher, Jake Keough, WBR volunteers and the dessert table ... hand-made by the mom of the Executive Chef at the Columbia Yacht Club. Mini cheesecakes with M&Ms anyone?

This after a fun lunch with Brad and Todd over at Water Tower Place -- a farewell meal before Todd makes the trek back West this weekend. (Just in time for Brendan to get into town for a few days!)

Sunday was my first double round trip at Kettle since they put in all the new trail. On the second pass I ran into these guys: http://thebonebell.com/2009/08/17/elvis-is-back-on-the-dirt/ Definitely a welcome reprieve from the solitude! Then family time with my side, a nice dinner with the Ps and my brother's family.

Saturday was a single round trip + an extra Emma with some 3-to-6-hour race pace work thrown in. Not feeling it until I hit Muir, once I got really rolling life was good. Followed it up with a full-on family picnic ho-down ... the fun started at noon while I was on the trails, and the last guests didn't leave until midnight as I was trying to fall asleep in the living room. Fun to see all the cousins together once again.

On Friday I took my mom to a lunch in Milwaukee that included a performance by two of the cast members from the current tour of Phantom. Wow. I haven't heard voices like that since the first tour, 18 years ago. Unbelievable. A follow-up visit to the Sprecher brewery was a nice way to cap an afternoon finally celebrating her birthday!

Enough of the recap -- as my coworker would say, "I buried the lead." See, yesterday as I was on my way out the door, Kate waved and said bye-bye to me! Holy cow, I just about melted right there. It was so super-duper cute. And made it SO hard to get out the door to work on time!

And last but certainly not least: check out the expansion of the Siren team! OK, I'll admit, it's not a surprise to Kim and me, but that doesn't make us any less happy for Mary and Brendan!

12 August 2009

A little help?

WGN is looking for "normal cyclists" and kids who maybe can't ride yet for a segment tomorrow morning ... Reporter Anna Belaval is going to learn to ride! If you're interested, WGN Studios lawn starting about 6:45 ... be there!

11 August 2009

Never-never man

First, let me say I have a lot of respect for George Hincapie's strength as a rider.

It's his head I have issues with.

There's a scene in 2001's Road to Paris in which Hincapie just barely crosses the line first at Gent-Wevelgem, his first win in a semi-Classic. The photo finish is too close to call, and the television crew is the first to know.

"George, you win," the reporter says to him.

"No, they're looking at the photo," he replies.

"No, George, you win. One hundred percent," the reporter says.

George looks at his teammate, who has come to congratulate him. "He [the reporter] says I won. [To the camera] If that's true, then ... I've really needed to win ..."

I've always said that reaction -- that moment -- is not the mark of a great champion.

Don't get me wrong -- George is an amazing talent. He's clearly one of the strongest of the strong. He's a great teammate: first to Lance, later to Cav. He has an incredible palmares.

But truly great champions don't doubt the outcome. Especially when they win.

Why do I bring this up? News reports this morning link Hincapie (and Levi Leipheimer) to the BMC sqad. This Continental Professional team, based in Santa Rosa, California, is one step below the top-tiered Pro Tour teams -- which means they get invites to certain events, but are not guaranteed entry.

This year, and presumably next, they were (will be) invited to some of the big Classics. Anyone who has followed cycling in the past decade knows that Hincapie was born to race these monuments of the sport. Paris-Roubaix in particular is his playground, with several top-10 finishes ... and several amazing defeats. It's his goal in life to win P-R -- he has said so for years.

Unfortunately, I just don't see it happening. First, it takes a truly great champion -- or an incredibly lucky domestique (cough, Servais Knaven, cough, Dirk Demol) -- to win P-R. Either way, you almost have to have the strongest team in the race around you, or you have to be head and shoulders above everyone else, mind and body. And as much as I respect what BMC has built, it's just not a Pro Tour team. Leipheimer is not the guy you want crushing the cobbles in front of you -- he's too small. You need depth, you need strength, you need size ... and you need a leader who knows he will win.

So George, good luck next year. I'm sure the change of team will help you get your head in the game. But I just don't see your dreams coming true. Again. Sorry.

07 August 2009

Glass half full

Just hit "Register" for the Meltdown -- was seriously contemplating heading up to Suamico instead, but a weekend (mostly) at home is appealing the week before SM100. Bums me out -- Stump Farm is one of my favorite courses, even in the WORS configuration. That long lead-out had me just behind the front group two years ago before I destroyed my front wheel with my foot when I hit a stump ...

And in the "glass half full" category: Found out yesterday that our possible trip to Africa in November is off. Which means ... Chi Cross! Depending on how Moab goes, could be starting up as early as Bartlett on 10/25, which still gives me six races (out of a possible 10), without even going up to Wisco. And if I'm really on the ball, C'ville and DeKalb are possibilities ...

Self aware

I dislike dysfunction. The irony is, my reaction to it – I shut down, hide out, become surly – only adds to it. I know this, and yet do it anyway. To which I ask: Must I always be the better person? Why should I be made to suffer fools?

06 August 2009

Moab starts now

Hard to believe that 9 weeks from right now, we should be somewhere around Grand Junction. Although I couldn't remember it last weekend when we were talking about our trip, I think we made it to Kearny or North Platte on Wednesday, and maybe near there on the way back on Sunday. Sunday was hard driving, but I was in and out of sleep only long enough to eat, so it was all good. That was maybe the only good thing to come out of the crashes on the course, we had fresh drivers. (And I returned the favor a bit after Big Bear.)

And we got a late start on Wednesday, so maybe this year we'll make it nearer to Denver? Heck, there's not much between North Platte and the Front Range, so we'll see ...

Highlight had to be Thursday, bombing down from Vail Pass only to slog back up. On a bike trail. Surrounded by mountains. So different than the LFP.

All systems are go, the switches are being flipped and the subroutines are coming on-line. First workouts yesterday and today, pleasantly surprised at the results. Ready to ride myself into the ground for the next 6 weeks, "recover" at Interbike, and then fine-tune ... Plans become reality all too quickly. Superheated Kettle run this weekend, hopefully with Brad and Todd. Oh yeah, it's on.

04 August 2009

238 Mile

I’ve been trying to figure out what to say about the 24 Hours of 9 Mile – with everything that’s been going on outside of racing and work, my thoughts are pretty jumbled. Do I write about the “bad” stuff, the learning opportunities I want to be sure to capture for future reference? Or do I pull myself out of this mental slump and only focus on the positive? Maybe a bit of thinking-out-loud therapy will help with both …

The “Bad” (and some “Ugly”)

  • Waking up at 1 a.m. on Saturday, 10 hours before the race, after only 3 hours of sleep with horrible acid stomach. Dozing off and on for the next 3-1/2 hours until it was finally time to eat, but dealing with the acid for the next 36 hours despite handfuls of Tums mixed in my oatmeal. Definitely have to be more careful with pre-race eating the week before.
  • Having a great start, hitting Ho Chi Minh just a bit behind Ronsta, only to hang up my front wheel on a rock I had cleared a dozen times in practice three weeks earlier. Twisting the bars and being unused to my new saddle pack to get out my multi-tool. Need to remember that great starts only are great when you keep it rolling! (OTOH, this meant that Brad and Scott caught up to me, and I ended up rolling with Brad for the next 18 hours.)
  • Asking Brad about his goals for his race one lap, and then the very next lap yelling at him for telling me! This was my lowest point, and I give Brad a lot of credit for putting up with me and continuing to ride. I need to remember how nasty I get when my blood sugar gets low – one gel (and an argument) later and I was feeling so much better. (This was the point where I was fighting my food – almost everything I ate made my stomach burn, so I was trying to balance that with intake, not an easy job. Sorry Brad!)
  • Not being super-nice to announcer Bruce Hildenbrand after all he does to promote World Bicycle Relief over the PA. Sorry about that! I owe you a beer sometime …
  • Self-defeating talk when Todd caught up to us. Todd had an absolutely stunning ride, given the injuries he sustained at Big Bear, and as it turned out my head was feeling a lot worse than my legs when I told Brad I was just going to try to hang on.
  • More self-defeating talk when Robert Anderson caught us – he closed something like 12 minutes in one lap, at the exact moment that my gut decided to explode. For the first time ever in a race, I desperately needed to find a porta-john, and Kim had to bear the brunt of my discomfort (head and body). It sort of just went downhill from there, except that I got faster on the bike!

The “Good” (and this stuff was REALLY good!)

  • Brad was incredible. Not only did he put up with me for more than 18 hours of riding side-by-side, he stopped to help when I had three more minor crashes and stayed super-positive all night long. Riding Patty out of Red Bud when he lost his lights was a class decision I’m not sure I had the capacity to make. I can’t wait to see Brad on the Series podium after Moab, he’s earned it!
  • I’ve said it before, but Todd put in a killer ride. Not even sure he’d be able to do it, Todd stayed steady at the start and just kept on making up time. Finally, when he caught us, he took over pacemaking duties without a complaint, and just kept it rolling. It was an honor to finish together with these two awesome teammates.
  • Our combined crew was simply amazing. Kim (& Kate!), Ian (coming straight off of Badwater!), my Dad, Kari, Dennis, Bonnie (& Finn!), Shannon, Taylor – you guys were awesome, it was SO COOL to roll into the pits each lap knowing that you’d be there cheering for us, ready with food and other needed supplies. And to the rest of the crew, both expected and unexpected – Scott & Scott, Mark, Sean, Marissa, Sean’s other crew guy (sorry, can’t remember his name!), Justin and others who cycled in and out: THANK YOU. I think I speak on behalf of Todd, Brad and myself when I tell you that knowing you all together would keep us rolling for 24 hours was a HUGE lift of mental energy that kept us going!
  • I especially want to thank the Scotts for their mechanical work – I know from ‘cross just how important it is to have a clean, working bike when you need it, and you two pulled out an amazing tour of duty that kept our chains lubed and our handlebars straight (multiple times!) We couldn’t have done it without you!
  • And to Scott Cole: Thank you. I’m not sure if you know it, and I’ll say it publicly – I’ve been looking up to you now for 3 years, ever since I met you and started mountain biking, and your class really showed through both in the run-up to and during the race. I know we’re competitors and all, but I really appreciate everything you did/do/have done – it was an honor to have you in our corner. (And don’t tell Laura, but maybe we’ll get a chance to ride together in a future 24?)
  • Special thanks too to Brendan and Siren Bicycles: This was the first race I had two solid bikes I could choose from, and it was a peace of mind I didn’t know I needed. Knowing I could switch at a given moment between two slightly different but both equally awesome rides was an enormous benefit. Both Songs performed flawlessly, and were perfect for a full 24 hours!
  • I don’t talk about him much, but Steve at Bell Lap Coaching once again set me up perfectly. It’s been 2 years now since I told him I wanted to do a 24, and each time we’ve refined and adapted to the point where my body and mind are primed and as ready as they can be going into each event. No, scratch that – they get better and better each time. I’m riding stronger now than I ever have, and I credit Steve for getting me here.
  • To the other racers out on course: I know this year was a transition year for 24-9, and I appreciate that we make this event what it is. Ron, great ride and way to erase the demons from last year. Paddy, it was so cool to hear “Hey Fella’” coming up behind me knowing that you were putting in a strong ride and that we could be a part of it. Expo juniors: Wow. Goat and the Expo cheering crowd – thank you, all night long! And to everyone shouting my/Brad/Todd’s names as we rounded the course, thank you – this was home-town advantage to the fullest!
  • To everyone who wasn’t there but passed along good wishes and encouragement, I say thank you. Knowing you were behind me, behind us, even remotely was really incredible.
  • To my family, thank you. These past few weeks haven’t been easy, and I really appreciate the opportunity you gave to us. There’s a very special note that I laminated and tucked into the seatpost of each of my bikes from my mother-in-law, a reminder of why we do these crazy things. Thank you.
  • Last, and certainly not least, Kim continues to amaze me. I try to “fit in” my training and racing around our “lives,” but let’s face it: Endurance racing is a lifestyle unto itself, and she didn’t sign up for this 13 years ago. It gets even more interesting when you add a child to the mix, and for the past 8 months (and the 9 months before that!), Kim has done more to support me and our little family than I even know how to describe. Thank you for all you do, I love you!

OK, whew! I wasn’t sure where this was going to go, but I definitely feel better. Thanks for reading along – I hope I haven’t forgotten to thank anyone, if I have, I’m sorry. I think the overwhelming support we received is the prime reason I started doing the math in my head last week … we’re just 9-1/2 weeks from Moab!