28 October 2009

Turn the page

Almost exactly three years ago, I had a hex placed upon me by a witch -- no lie, I have a lot of respect for witches, but this lady fit every stereotype from every B-grade horror movie you ever saw. And she hated me. There may have been some lead-in, but I can point to the day I fired her as the start of a very long, very downward spiral in my life. There have been some amazing moments, and great successes in the past three years, but there have also been some pretty dark times.

Until now.

Coming out of Interbike, I turned a page. Something just clicked, and I realized I wasn't who I want to be. I wasn't who I was 4 years ago. I was a shadow of that person, and was clearly not living up to my potential.

The change was sealed last evening. See, three years ago -- almost to the day -- I fired the witch, and that night was hit by a car on my ride home. I was already frazzled from needing to fire an employee, and that impact completely fried my nerves -- especially so, since it wasn't my fault and I did everything I could to avoid it.

In a sweet bookmark to the end of that chapter of my life, yesterday I completed a perfect commute -- on city streets. That's right, 9 miles of Chicago traffic and traffic devices, never put a foot down. I've done it via the LFP, but never in traffic -- I can't think of a better way to mark the closing of a chapter that began with being hit. And it happened yesterday, of all days.

So what's next? I honestly have no idea, but it's going to be great. This morning a black cat crossed my path, which thanks to Valya I know is a good omen. I'm a new person -- well, I'm re-newed. I'm ready. Bring it on!

27 October 2009

Before you leap

I have. Have you?


23 October 2009

Pretty please?!

It's even a Exclusive Anniversary Edition!


22 October 2009

Left out?

Today is maybe the second time where I'm acutely feeling the difference between my previous 30+ years of existence and the past 10-1/2 months.

For those of you not in the cycling world, tonight is the premier of "Race Across the Sky" -- a one-time "happening" in theaters across the country. It documents this year's Leadville 100 race, a 100-mile mountain bike trek in the Rockies won by Lance Armstrong. Facebook is all a-twitter with updates from folks who are going.

I'm not a huge Armstrong fan (there, I said it. Love what he's doing with LiveSTRONG for cancer patients and survivors, but as a rider and person? Respect? Yes. Like? Not the right word.). I wouldn't be going to see him win. Rather, I'd be going to see some pretty amazing scenery in one of the storied (albeit boring, from a course perspective) epic races of current-day mountain biking. Run at altitude, this race demands physcial abilities unlike any others, and maybe -- just maybe -- I may do it someday. So call it course intel? (Funny aside, I've been asked more about doing Leadville than any other race ever, since Armstrong's win this summer.)

But ... I'm not going. If I really wanted to, I'm sure we could find a sitter, or I could go alone ... but I'm not. Instead, it's just another routine night of bottle-book-& bed. Two years ago, heck, even a year ago, Kim and I may have gone to the theater, stood on line, and watched the movie, even if we hadn't planned it until today. Now? Notsomuch. Funny how things change.

So have fun everyone, can't wait to hear about it!

(Rant on/ I have one other issue with this film, and with so many that are coming out about our sport. "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should." I'm not ashamed to admit that Jason Berry's work is a huge inspiration to me, and is really the reason I'm a) a mountain biker; and b) an endurance racer. But now that pretty much everyone has access to an HD camera and editing software, at what point does an artform become a commodity? /rant off.)

X12 6266

This post is mostly a hedge, because as we're learning in California, prior douche-bag-like behavior can, in fact, be an indicator of future, dangerous, harmful events.

So here it is: Businessman driver of dark-colored Infinity SUV with license plate X12 6266, traveling northbound on Clark last night, Wednesday, 10/21/09, just north of Touhy at about 6:35 p.m.:

GET OFF YOUR DAMN PHONE AND PAY ATTENTION WHEN YOU DRIVE! YOUR (ILLEGAL) TEXT IS NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN MY LIFE!
Oh, and don't mess with a cyclist with a near-photographic memory.

19 October 2009

Uno más

If you had asked me last Thursday whether I would spend yesterday at a kitschy art fair or racing at Rock Cut, I'm not sure I could have told you. Neither sounded particularly appealing, as the thought of crowds made me shudder and the racing bug sort of went into hibernation.

But then the sun came out on Friday, and I had a good ride home from work, so I thought maybe, just maybe, I'd be up for one more go-round on the pain train this year. After a fantastic pre-race workout on Saturday, I confirmed it: Do the Rock was a go!

I lined up with about 20 other folks for the 3-lap, 36-mile "OUCH" class, enjoying a beautful day and ready to go all-out on some (OK, just about all) of Rock Cut State Park's best trails. Any ambitions I had for this race were sort of dashed in warmup, when I discovered my the chain I put on the night before just didn't want to settle down on the chainring, and I couldn't apply power while standing. Oh well, I thought, these are my home trails, let's just have fun!

(I don't normally like to do drivetrain overhauls the night before a race, but in this case the sand in the chain from Moab was just too much and it needed to happen!)

Sure enough, I lost the front group before we even got to the road, and I found myself alone, dangling in 5th ... going about the same speed, but unable to really push it lest I kill my bike. At some point early on, my shift lever got screwy, so I stopped to fix it ... only 10 minutes or so into the race, I was probably in last place, so I resolved to just push it as hard as I could and have fun out there!

I managed to catch back most of the field, digging deep where I needed to and having a blast on some of the cool route choices. It definitely helped that I knew the trails -- at least once or twice, a guy I was chasing mis-timed a shift or blew a corner, while I knew exactly what to expect, giving me an advantage. By the start of the second lap, I was closing on one guy, until I messed up a bunny hop and landed on my knee. D'oh! Chase, chase, chase ... thankfully, a season of enduros meant that as hour 2 began, my fitness was in high gear, as guys in front of me started to pop.

The third lap was my cleanest, no stops for mechanicals and I was as smooth as I'd been all day. My chain had settled in, and I was having so much fun, especially in the rollercoaster down by the river. As I entered the finishing field, I could see one guy in front of me ... into the singletrack, turn, up the finish hill, and if only the course were 50 meters longer, I might have taken him ...

Anyway, I finished 7th on the day, closing in on 6th, as Ronsta ran away with it in something like 2:04. For 36 miles! In fact, the "largest state park in Northern Illinois" fell victim to a full-on invasion from across the Cheddar Curtain, as Regina took 1st in the 2-lap race, and it sounded like most of the podium placers had Wisconsin hometowns. Very cool to see such a good turnout at the Cut!

So that's it for me in terms of racing, and I closed out the year with a delicious treat from the Big S. And then Kim and I stopped at Diary Mart in Huntley on the way home, the first time we've been there in years ... Oh yeah, the off-season has begun!

16 October 2009

Signs

As many of you may know, I'm a big believer that the universe is constantly telling us something. It's all some sort of cosmic Force (minus the stupid Midi-chlorians of course) that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together. Call it Karma, call it Kismet, call it what you will, my take is that if you're really open to it, you can see "signs" all around -- they may not point the way forward, but they sure as heck give you a heads up that something is going on.

So without getting all hocus-pocus and Hollyweird, I just have to say this: things are happening. I have a feeling this winter will be a time of transition, and the "signs" I'm seeing point to some pretty dramatic changes for 2010. In this case, change is a really good thing -- sure, it's a little scary, but the last buildup like this changed my life trajectory so completely, and for the better, that this time around I'm embracing it, throwing on a lasso, guiding it when I can and hanging on. Pretty exciting!

15 October 2009

Highs and lows

I'm still trying to process the past week ... month ... half-year ... but I figured now would be a good time to get a few words down about Moab.

First, an enormous thank you to Kim and Kate. This year has been one of very high highs and very low lows, and both of them have been there with smiles and a level of understanding that is so deep it's unbelievable. I know in my heart you two are the best!

Second, big thanks to Sean, Todd A., Bonnie and Finn for joining Kim and Kate in making up the best pit crew ever ... it says a lot when a "non-teammate" makes a comment about feeling super-pro because of all the awesome support in our pits. And speaking of that non-teammate, thanks to Charly and Sean for all your help this weekend!

So what am I thinking? I will admit, I am disappointed. Moab is not a race to be taken lightly, and as both Charly and I discovered, it's more or less an all-or-nothing proposition. I had a solid race and a top-10 finish there last year with no expectations; this year with no expectations, I fell apart. Being 50-50 at Moab is nothing to be ashamed of -- stronger men than me dropped out this year -- but there is a small bit of me that is sad at the way things turned out.

What happened? Blow-by-blow it went down like this: Woke up Saturday just not feeling it. Tried to take an extra nap, but even getting dressed I was questioning in my head whether I should start. Set up my bike on the rack in perfect position. Had a decent run, trudging through the sand and passing a bunch of people on the return leg. Hit the road and move up. And up. And up -- the lead-out was longer this year than last.

Had a decent lap, sticking with a group that starts to spread on the rocks. Get passed by Ernesto and then Charly. Still feeling strong, I roll through in 10th place solo.

Quick pit, in and out, and down the singletrack. Hit the sandpit and bam, I'm down. Not a big deal, back up and over and bam, down in the next sandpit. Crap. Still OK, onto the rocks and get a little sideways, and freeze. Lock up. Check out.

I have a few ideas on what happened, but the truth is, I only know how I reacted. My heartrate skyrocketed, my breathing quickened into hyperventilation, and I was so overwhelmed that I had to stop and put my head down, trying to take back control of my body and mind. I got to the top of the climb and started pedaling, feeling OK until the next rock section -- on approach, I started hyperventilating again, and my heartrate shot up. I could not get my body to relax, could not calm down, and ultimately could not focus enough to ride anything even remotely technical.

I spent the rest of the lap alternating between walking the rocks, riding where I could and standing in the shade trying to breathe. Brad and Todd caught me and offered help, but I needed to work this out on my own. I was pretty cooked, and on the long downhill stretch to the rock I decided to pull the plug. So I turned left instead of right, and headed downhill to the pits.

Kim did her best to get me back on the bike, but I was having none of it. I tried to have a rational conversation, but was just overwhelmed. I ate a bit and chilled out in the car for a few minutes ... when Kate woke up from her nap and gave me a big, sloppy smile, my day became much brighter. Things started to look up, and I figured I'd at least finish my lap and see how I felt.

So I headed back out. Up the downhill, back to the turn around the rock, and into the most fun part of the course. I was relaxed and having fun, and by the time I hit the gap in the drop, I was ready for it. Only the guy ahead of me wasn't, and pulled an awesome endo! So I walked it, but bombed the descent and had a really good climb back to the top.

Roll into the pits, feeling 100% better, and off I go for lap 3. At this point, I'm doing the math in my head, and realizing that although I effectively destroyed my race, I could still have fun with it, and my average lap times would even themselves out. There was still a long way to go, and I was up for it -- I figured I'd at least equal last year's 13 laps, and maybe, just maybe, be able to go for 14.

Laps 3 and 4 were a ton of fun. My lap times don't really reflect it, but I was flying -- riding sections I'd never cleaned before (pre-rides nor last year's race!) and railing the tech sections like I should. I pulled some pretty great moves, if I do say so myself -- I had found a zone, and I was enjoying every minute of it!

I did have a couple of small issues that added time to the laps -- mainly, I spent some time trying to figure out my helmet light strap, and adjusting some of my equipment as night fell. These were minor things though, and I kept my eyes on the prize as I rode, working out average lap times in my head and keeping a good rhythm. I caught and passed a few solos whom I recognized, and started to entertain thoughts of taking back my lost lap as I rode away from them.

I switched bikes for lap 4, heading out on my red Song while the white one got worked up for lighting. I was a bit nervous as I had endoed the red one at the notch on Thursday, landing on my chin, but with the right tire pressures and a ton more confidence, I made the notch my b-eatch and FLEW down the last part of the course. I love that section!

Roll in to start lap 5, grab the white Song and head out. Had to stop again for some light adjustments, no biggie, but realized I wasn't riding so hot in the sand all of a sudden. Hmm ... The final straw was going down sideways in the sandy chute, and I had to stop to fix my handlebars which had gotten sideways. I suffered a huge crisis of confidence at this point -- crashing and dumping the bike a few times in a half-lap after a bad lap 2 will do that to you! I took a deep breath, though, and thought it through, realizing that my bike switch meant that there was probably more air in my tires, I dropped the pressures and rode it out. Perfecto!

(I love my tire pump in that it works really well, but the gauge is off by 4-5 psi. So even though the crew put the pressures exactly where I told them to, I should have remembered to drop some air before I rolled out on the lap!)

So things are good, my lap time will still be OK, and I rail the notch on the first night lap -- always a good indicator of the way things will go for the rest of the night. Whew! Drop down, speed up, fly through the corkscrew, start to climb, up, up, up, there's the sand, push it, time to walk, and HOLYCRAPWHATTHEHELL!?!!?!?!?!!!

I put my left foot down in the sand, and an incredible, sharp pain shot through my knee. I couldn't stand on my left leg, and I limped it over to the rock where I could start riding again. I flexed it a few times, trying to loosen it up -- it had gotten tight the week before the race during a workout, and I had dinged it when I crashed on lap 2, but this was *really* painful. Throughout the race, my left cleat had been filled with sand and I had trouble unclipping, and something in the twisting, or the pre-race or the crash just made my knee not want to work right. And it HURT!

I started to roll, slowly, and although I wasn't feeling a ton of pain while riding, it didn't feel good either. At the top of the hill was some sand, requiring a good line choice and some judicious application of power, and my knee just didn't want to push that hard. Crap. OK, long downhill, enjoy it, roll it in, let's see how it feels when I get to the pits.

I took some Aleve and threw on knee warmers, hoping the extra support may help. I rolled out, and made it to the first sand pit, where the line had changed yet again, and I got sideways. I went to unclip and YEE-OW! that just wasn't happening. My knee was done, and so was I. I limped out to the road, and rolled back downhill to the pits. My race was over.

So, I'm bummed. Given the minor swelling on the knee that I've experienced since, I think I made the right call. But I also think back to 9 Mile 07, where Dan Brennan rode it out with microtears in his meniscus, and I wonder if I could have done more. Like, if I were in a better mental state going into the race -- and especially on lap 2 -- would it have turned out differently? But I'm also not too worked up about it, more philosophical than anything.

We spent the rest of the night worrying about Charly, who had "disappeared" from the course when the EMS guys at Nosedive didn't call him in. Four hours later, he rolled into the pits, and we could concentrate again on Brad and Todd. Keeping it steady and strong, the guys rolled lap after lap, eventually finishing and putting Brad into 2nd place for the National Points Series. Huge congrats for a great finish to the season!

As for me? As Todd says on his blog, I think things will be different next year. I'm sort of tuning out the racing bug for a few weeks while I get some other things in order, and although I'm riding to and from work every day, I've got other things to do on the weekends right now. Then again, we are signed up for Old Pueblo in February, and long autumn mountain bike rides are pretty awesome ...

09 October 2009

(Not) According to plan

If you asked me a week ago what my favorite part of the Moab course is, I would have told you about this awesome, super-sonic, big-ring downhill into a 6-foot cliff that has but two lines, only one of them really good. Then you drop into this crazy rocky/sandy chute that spits you out onto this further downhill section of rollers into a sandy, twisty drop, before you start the last climb on the course.

Today? Not so much.

Charly and I drove through the night before posting up just outside of Grand Junction, switching off sleeping and driving, feeling good the whole way. Quick breakfast in GJ, and we were on the Moab course by noon -- easy pre-ride before the "real" pre-ride today. Only "easy" is relative at Moab, and sho-nuff, I managed to get stupid and miss the aforementioned "good" line on the cliff face. Last year during the race I split 50-50 walking and riding it; this is where I put the gigantic dent into my top tube. This year I was determined to ride it, only after being in the car for 29 hours straight, I wasn't very loose, I was hesitant all around the course, I didn't get back far enough, and there I was suspended in mid-air with my bike behind me (?!) in the most amazing nose wheelie before landing on my chin and dragging my body through the sand and gravel as my bike landed on top of me.

Oh yeah, *this* is my favorite part of the course.

Anyway, I feel good today and am looking forward to some race-paced riding out there today. And that drop? It's mine, no hesitation, no fear. Bring it!

05 October 2009

Work inappropriate

Have you ever noticed that in cycling, it's all about the shirt? Just ask Lance ...

Just received this goody in the mail. Sweet! Get your own here ...

XXC!

I caught wind of a new e-zine a while back dedicated to the ultra-endurance crowd ... oddly enough, I had no idea that this year's 12 Hours of Stump Farm was featured in issue 2 until just recently!

Anyway, Brad and I had been discussing the "XXC" prowess of Chicago-based riders despite our lack of mountains and relative lack of singletrack. Out of that, a story was born, and published today!

Check it out here: http://xxcmag.com/site/eMag.html

And the web extra here: http://xxcmag.com/site/Windy_City_Training_1.html

HUGE thanks to everyone who helped with the story!

02 October 2009

10 months!



... and helping dad pack for Moab!

Check out more Kate luv here, public album so the link should work:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=154430&id=811368326&l=62ac473269