Monday, December 14, 2009

Washington MO CX

So... I'll be honest here. I was kind of on the fence as to whether or not to go to this. I was kind of feeling like I was getting sick. I had felt like crap running and mountain biking the two previous days. A combination of already having registered, not wanting to miss out on something awesome and finally not really having anything better to do conspired to get me out to Washington Sunday morning. Long story short- I'm glad I did.



The field was fairly small. I think something like 15 people maybe. I actually got lined up in the front row! This was exciting. I was second or third wheel at the start... which was largely determined not by sprinting but by who managed to get traction in the mud. At one point I actually was riding in the lead of a cyclocross race... this felt both mysterious and good. There was a brief moment when I was thinking I could win.

This feeling was promptly mitigated by several big shark dudes passing me. I kept them in sight for about two laps, but there was no closing the gap for me in these conditions. I honestly had never spent so much time in my granny gear and ended up that spent. I distinctly recall a period during the second half of the third lap when I felt good- other than that it was pure CX hell (mostly in a good way).

The layout of the course seemed like it had the potential to be awesome. Lots of short rollers, reasonable twists, and some fun features like stairs and runups. This is the reality of it though. I was going like 6 mph the whole race. There was a long section that I ran simply because it was faster than trying to maintain traction. I had a foot out in a ton of corners, but realistically never really got up enough speed to fall.

I am pretty sure it was a good time... or at least I'm glad I did it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Missouri State CX Championships

I spent quite a while this fall trying to decide whether I was going to go to the Illinois state championships (where I live) or the Missouri state championships (where I have been racing all year). I couldn't really make up my mind until I did my second "Chi Cross Cup" race. I think they have a really well run series up there, but I think that there is a touch too much hipster douchebag one uppery going on. Most important though is the fact that they run their 4's races at 30 minutes... the last one I did I finished in ~26 minutes if I remember correctly. If nothing else, they should at least make sure the leaders race the whole 30 minutes. Regardless, it seems like a waste of time to drive for that short of a race. Mind made up, go to Missouri.

I don't even vaguely regret the decision. Jeff Yielding crafted an amazing course out in Hermann MO. Honestly, it would definitely be in the competition with the Louisville GP for best course of the year. The fact that the weather conspired to get some slick muddy grass helped a lot.

That said. I think I had an "OK" race. Not great... I felt like crap the 3rd lap and lost some places. I think it had something to do with the booze consumed the night before and the breakfast of donettes Oh well. At least I had a decent start



I thought it was a really good start, but reviewing photos from the race seem to indicate that there were 14 or 15 people in front of me (two guys were in the front of this picture). Still, I was pretty happy. I felt like I was able to see the leaders for the first 2 laps, which is a testament to how wide open this course was, and that I wasn't sucking too hard.

Basically, I was just having fun. I tried bunny hopping the 5 inch barriers a few times. I was feeling good every time running up the hill or the stairs, actually passing people or gapping. My only real complaint was that looking back I think I was a bit cowardly in the corners. For some reason I was really concerned with riding the course clean... I am pretty sure I would have been faster if I didn't worry about it.

As far as I can tell, the only picture of me was at the top of the stairs.


Honestly, I run... as the weather gets colder my motivation to log miles on the road bike declines. As such, I run to stay in shape. Stairs don't bother me. In fact, I kind of like them.

Well. 2 more races for me this year. Washinton MO (no national championships here), then Concordia (about 100 ft from my parents house) the 19th. Then what the hell, I might even do the Team Seagal CXMAS non-race.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mount Pleasant Winery Cyclocross.

Normally I would take this moment to make fun of the label "mount" placed onto this place. However, after having ridden 8 (I think? I honestly lost track of how many) laps of this course, I feel I am in no place to make light of the elevation change here. I was physically and mentally drained... completely. light headed and confused for the majority of it.

Mount Pleasant is in Missouri "Wine Country" which surprisingly makes
some decent wine
. The majority of the course seems to have been set up on a "scenic hillside" where tourists were meant to sit and enjoy their Norton. This made for a very unpleasant "mount" (yes, I am aware of the over use of this word play at the race).



This picture seems to portray how the course was on a hillside. It was almost always going up or down. The largest problem was this was that the ground was soft and almost every "down" section ended in a 180 that required all the gained speed to be scrubbed off. All sorts of cyclocross pain and anger was induced.

The race started out as per normal. I was mid back pack. The first time around it didn't really seem that soul sucking. I even rode the runup hill. I was feeling pretty good about myself. Then suddenly about halfway through the second lap my body hit a wall, almost like it was saying "what the fuck are you doing enjoying this"- there was no further enjoyment. I fell back to about midpack with all of the other people hating their lives.

I really wish I could write a more complete writeup, but I honestly don't really remember most of the race. My head was numb. One of the more amusing bits of the course was that it was routed through the bar... I was so crosseyed at that point in the course I don't think I ever remember what it looked like.

Like this apparently



Somewhere toward the last third of the race I crashed pretty hard on one of the many off camber downhills. This might or might not have been when my front tire came so close to rolling that it picked up grass between the rim and base tape.




When I picked myself up off the ground I had dropped another 5 places or so and was feeling all the fight gone from my legs. My goal at this point was to finish without looking too pathetic. I honestly have no idea whether I succeeded or not in that goal... I am guessing not. I didn't linger at the finish. I rode straight to my car and gulped down water and attempted to regain sanity.

I did eventually gain it with the aid of several Augusta Brewing Company beers. I'll probably need a few days to say for sure, but I am thinking that it was a good time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Indian Lakes Chicago/ St Vincent St Louis

For some reason I have been having as much trouble motivating myself to write about cyclocross races as I have to write about my dissertation... interesting how that is working out. Both topics have several incomplete drafts saved. However, I think I might just never finish past writeups of cross races... I am really hoping that's not the case with the dissertation.

So... I had been getting kind of used to doing races on Saturday and Sunday this fall. If nothing else, its been good training. My schedule has looked like this for the last month:
10/17 -"Night of the Living Bubba", St. Louis 10/18 - "Dawn of the Bubba", St. Louis
10/24 and 10/25 US Grand Prix, Louisville
10/31 - "Sprints of Darkness", St. Louis 11/1 - "Daylight Savings Bubba", St. Louis
11/7 - PICX #4, Alton 11/8 - "Harvest Bubba", St. Louis
11/14 - Indian Lakes Resort, Chicago 11/15 - "The Ides of Bubba", St. Louis

So yeah... you get the point. Thats 5 weekends in a row of Saturday/Sunday racing. Over this time I have definitely started feeling like I am in decent shape. I haven't actually been riding all that much in the week. My goal has been to get at least one decent ride in and hopefully get out and run with the dog 12-15miles in the week. Much to my surprise, power data seems to show that the two a week racing has made me stronger. Say what you will about CX, if nothing else its a damn good 60 minute LT workout.

Last weekend was arguably my most ambitious 2 a week race schedule. The Chicago Cross Cup race happened to fall on a Saturday last weekend. For some reason, I decided it would be a good idea to drive up there, do that race, then drive to St. Louis and do theirs on Sunday. It was fun, but A LOT of driving. Plus, legs that have just raced really don't feel good after having sat in a car for over 4 hours.

The Chicago race Saturday was surreal. It took place at the Hilton Indian Lakes golf resort. Not only was the course on very well groomed grass fairways and through golf course sandpits and over (what appeared to be) an enormous mound of excavated dirt, the resort gave the race access to their "dressing room". The race itself was pretty awesome. But seriously, the dressing room was the story of the day. Not only was it the greatest race bathroom I had ever seen (even with showers) but the mens dressing room seemed to have a huge lounge with a bar. Presumably where the men are meant to smoke cigars and drink brandy and talk about "events of the day".





A few actual notes on the day. The Chicago course was easily the smoothest, fastest course I have ridden this year. It was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the Chicago racers are vicious about their starting position, and when I got to the line I had to start dead last (no hyperbole, literally nobody behind me)... I guess people start lining up like 30 minutes early. This sucked hard. The traffic had me basically at a standstill for a lot of the first lap (75 rider field). The race was only 4 laps, apparently I finished in 27minutes. This was ridiculously short. The length of these races alone is enough to keep me from the Chicago races. Anyway, I managed to work my way up to 31st. However, I think given another 2 laps or so I could have been top 20... I was still actively catching and passing people and feeling good when the race was over.

Some mexican food and a 4 hour car ride put me and Nick Dornik in St. Louis. I was kind of concerned as to how this race would go given how stiff I was after the drive. Since I am a "B" racer and don't even really expect to win that race I wasn't too worried. The scene at St. Vincent Park in St. Louis suggested that it would be the exact opposite of the Chicago course. Lots of elevation change on soft ground and some proper mud. I got a decent warmup on the trainer and was feeling ok. I think I was about midpack at the start. I had one HUGE fuckup when I attempted to take the line to the left of a long concrete staircase leading up to the ex-mental hospital (seriously). That line completely disappeared halfway up, and I couldn't get back into the field. I ended up running up the stairs, getting passed by most of the field and seriously putting myself in the red. Oh well... I am getting used to the feeling of working my way back up to the middle of the field. One of the things that made me feel pretty good about the race was how fresh I seemed on one climb adjacent to the road. I was consistently passing people who were gassed here.



I'm not 100% sure, but I think I finished like 20th out of about 50. I am not really unhappy about the result or how I felt, but I feel disappointed about how I raced. I was talking with Nick afterward about the fact that I am yet to actually feel like I am "racing" with the people around me. By the end of races I distinctly feel like I am catching and passing people. The conclusion is that I need to go harder and be more aggressive at the start. We'll see if I can actually do it.

One final note. Something I think St. Louis could take from Chicago is the fact that they spread the organization responsibilities around. I hate seeing what is distinctly burnout in the faces of some of the people that put on the races in the Bubba series by the end of the year.

Wow... I actually finished a writeup.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Last weeks Bubbas and more Cyclocrossing...

Well, last week came and went. It was fun, but it was probably one of my worst weekends of racing for quite a while...

Saturday night was a night race celebrating halloween. I decided, since this was the first time in years I had not planned on attending a conference on Oct. 31st, I would dress up as Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia character Charlie as Greenman. Yes, this did involve me racing in a green full body suit. Even covering my face. Suffice it to say that I underestimated how much one needs to "see" and "breath" in order to race ones bike. It was a good time all the same. I realized the mistake I had made when on the first lap I was passed by the entire field as I fumbled around trying not to run off the course or into anybody. Things worsened when I ate it on a wet off camber right turn, coating the right side of the body suit with mud (did I mention the whole course was mud?). From that point on I realized that I was going to get last, and just had fun with it. Much to my surprise I actually passed some people (I think they may have just had mechanicals).

Since I had attributed all of the lack of success Saturday night to my green body suit, I assumed that I would have a good race on Sunday. This was not the case. I started slow, and settled into the bottom quarter of the field in the first lap. My legs felt dead and I generally felt like I had no energy. About halfway through the race I started feeling OK and felt like I was noticeably picking up the pace... more accurately I was riding faster and not feeling quite as miserable. I had already fallen back far enough in the race that I couldn't really muster the effort to push that hard.

Oh well. I am looking forward to this weekend. If nothing else, this is at least good training...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Louisville USGP CX

So... I think cyclocross season has officially kicked off for me. Well... mentally I had slated last weekends Saturday/Sunday combo. However, after last week I was really too tired to write anything blogwise about it.

This weekend had been in my sites for a while. Well, at least since toward the end of summer when I really started thinking about cyclocross. This weekend the US Grand Prix of Cyclocross series was in Louisville KY (the announcer did at one point ask if anyone had ever heard of a "petite prix"- although the joke was lame I must admit that I had not). Louisville is about 3:45 from Champaign, so I figured it was my best chance to do some large scale cyclocross racing. Plus, with racing Saturday and Sunday it seemed like it would be worth the drive.

I drove up Friday afternoon, hoping to get to the "number presentation party". Unfortunately I did not remember the hour time change until about 5 minutes after I got into the car. So I got to Louisville too late and was left to find something to do with myself until the guys from St. Louis I was staying with showed up. I promptly found a bar... The first place was named O'Sheas and had a band named "Rocktimus Prime" playing. They were the presumably self proclaimed "best cover band in Louisville". I didn't stay long enough to confirm or deny this statement. I moved down the street to an establishment that was willing to sell me $1.50 PBR. Winner.

Seeing as I am a lowly Cat 4 cyclocross racer I had to race at 8:30am. We needed to get our numbers and timing chips by 7:30 (remember in 1 hour time change). I am not a morning person, I was not happy about this. The sun finally came up around 8am and I was beginning to get motivation to get on the bike. I had about 5 minutes of warming up before the race- not good.

The course was really muddy... like the muddiest I had seen a CX course. It was either sloppy, or sticky and always difficult to ride in. I got a bad start and probably slipped to like 50th or so... I felt terrible on the first lap, but slowly warmed up and picked some people off. Overall, I felt good and enjoyed myself. I ended up 31st out of 104. Not bad, but I really wasn't too happy with the result.


postrace muddiness.


Luckily I was so exhausted that plenty of sleep was obtained Saturday night. Waking up Sunday was not quite as miserable. I once again didn't have the motivation to warm up in the dark. The race started and I felt like CRAP. I actually had a decent start... probably in the 30s somewhere. But it took all my will power not to lose a ton of places. I went through the start and noticed that they had shortened our race to 3 laps? Anyway, second lap I started actually passing some people and feeling a bit better. I actually felt good by the third lap, but was so disappointed in how the race had gone to this point I really just didn't care that much anymore. The highlight was deciding at the last minute I was going to ride the railroad tie runup. Unfortunately Casey didn't get a picture of me fucking that up. Much to my surprise, I finished 22nd... I thought I was much worse than the day before. Particularly since I wasn't really warmed up and not cramping until the third and final lap.



Basically I've got to do a better job of preparing myself. I feel like I'm not doing a good job of leaving it all on the course. Maybe not the night race this weekend (since I will be in costume and possibly won't be able to see) but my goal for Sunday is to at least make a go at being in the front at the start... We'll see.

So... As opposed to including all these sundries in the text, I decided I would include a list of things I learned this weekend.

  • I remembered how little White Castle cheeseburgers resemble cheeseburgers, or really food in general
  • If you are a hipstery dude with a Chrome bag on a fixie with a cycling cap kinda sideways, it doesn't matter if the two cars behind you are full of cyclists (some of whom own chrome bags) you will incite road rage in them if you ride at 12 miles an hour taking up the whole lane with your douchey friend.
  • The Stanley USGP thermos really does keep your coffee hot for 6 hours... impressive.
  • Horny goat weed is not on the WADA list of banned substances, yet according to advertisements "increases circulation".
  • Mexican restaurants attached to Best Westerns by airports are, generally speaking, a bad idea... Even if Ernesto sounds like a reputable gentleman.
  • "Rocktimus Prime" is Louisville's premier cover band... and a lot of their following is composed of "Dudes" and larger than average women.
  • You are capable of finding free wireless internet pretty much anywhere... including parks in Louisville
  • Seeing pros race their bikes is AWESOME, and very humbling... Its shocking how much more accessible they are in CX than any other type of biking (or sport in general)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Its officially time to start cyclocrossing

Well, if I am going to be technical, I have already done 3 races this year. However, none of them have really felt like it was really CX season.
1. Ronde Von Evergreen in Carbondale IL... it was still September, there weren't a ton of people there, and I felt really sick in the race.
2. Dekalb Chicago Cross Cup race... seemed like a decent showing, but I had to race the "4b" category and as such drank some PBR before the race. I started at the back of the pack, and worked my way to 10th out of 70... I felt good about myself.
3. Pride Inc race in Alton IL. Flat but hard course, not a ton of people, a lot of CAT 1s 2s and 3s lined up in the "CAT 3/4" race. I got lapped at the end of the race by the leaders, was scored as "DNF" and felt shitty about my form...

Regardless... for me the season starts this weekend.

I'm excited, the St. Louis series officially kicks off with a night race Saturday followed by a day race Sunday... hopefully I at least represent the middle of the pack in the "B" race. Low expectations are good.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Not much to blog about

That is to say I have been doing little to nothing. The traditional lack of paycheck in August has only intensified my work/ bike/ sleep lifestyle of this summer. I tried to get out to k-poo as much as I could trying to be fast for the race out there last weekend. As it turned out, the race was nothing really to write home about. I was marginally fast (3rd in my age group in a pretty large field). However, my "fastness" was tempered by frequent falling down.

I fell on my right side twice hard. My right leg from knee up is one large bruise. My right shoulder is very sore... I was honestly kind of worried I had fractured my collarbone last night, consumed 2 vicodin (ironically held over from when I broke my left collarbone). Luckily it felt a bit better today so I think its just badly bruised or slightly separated regardless, bad race.

Next weekend (labor day) is Gateway Cup in St. Louis. However, to be honest, I am not really that excited about it. My mind is really already focused on cross. I can't wait for the Bailey-Bikes "Obrien" to arrive and get to building it up. I think I am going to skip the REALLY early season CX races and shoot for late September start. We'll see. I am throwing some running back into the weekly workout schedule in anticipation.

Although this is where the excitement lies, I still have a few mtb races coming up keeping me interesting... I'm just hoping I don't break myself doing it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Urban Assault Racing

So... I have been doing a lot of "serious" racing this year. Its been a lot of fun, but was kind of getting ready for something different. My head has already left the road racing scene. I really still want to race my mountain bike, but my heart has really already left for cyclocross season.

In the meantime, I found myself entered in an "Urban Assault Ride". Its a team event sponsored by New Belgium beer. Basically you bike around the city and complete absurd obstacles at various checkpoints. My sister and I entered the very competitive coed division as team "Golden Star Fireballs" We put on our racing kit and got down to business:



We started off to the mystery checkpoint first... The clue was emailed out a few days earlier and was an color coded anagram. We sorted the two words "botanical" and "gardens" but couldn't get the first word... luckily there were enough people to follow that we found the "climatron".

The second checkpoint we hit was "Bike Works" where Leah and I had to navigate a twisting course on modified big-wheels. I think we rocked it. From there we headed over to Tower Grove park and did some kind of three legged tennis ball balancing on a frisbee challenge. We didn't lose any balls and took off for the city museum.

As we arrived we saw some people we knew informing us it was "a long way"... not knowing what that meant I went up to the checkpoint to find out that we had to run up 15 flights of stairs then negotiate our way up an incline to a large slide. This was made less fun by the fact that someone had puked in the stairwell.

A long ride down delmar to Big Shark had us on a plunger powered longboard collecting different colored cans. Due to our team work and Leah's longboarding experience we zipped right through while others were struggling. Down delmar to big bend and on to Mesa where I had to catch Leah thrown sponges in a basket on my head... it took us 4 chances to get the required 3- not our best preformance, but still not bad. From there it was on to the final mystery point.

Leah knew where it was, but I will choose not to embarrass her and keep quiet about the reasons why.

At the end of the day we were told we placed 3rd... I was excited. It was the first "podium" I had gotten all year. Well, we were actually 4th. I have been 1 place off the podium quite a bit this year- even in Urban Assault Racing.

Luckily, I was able to redeem myself by dancing on stage for a Rudy Project helmet:



Good times.

Another relaxing weekend of mt bike demoing and bike riding before I have to worry about racing again. August it working out pretty well.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

8 days in St Louis.

After I skipped the Chicago Criterium a few weeks ago, I decided I kind of needed a break from racing my road bike. I was realizing that some weekends I was only doing it because it was available, not really because I was excited about it (Soulard excepted- it was awesome).

So... it was all coming together at the beginning of August. I was going to have a questionable living situation and was planning on staying with the family in St. Louis. This was great timing since the first two weekends in August had Mountain bike races more or less in the city. I had made the decision to avoid road races until the Gateway Cup.

Anyway- a week in St. Louis

Sunday 9/2- MWFTCS race at Castlewood St Park.

I headed down to STL on Saturday evening. I knew the race on Sunday was going to be tough. Castlewood is the "home turf" to a ton of very fast St. Louis guys. Knowing every turn and feature of a trail is a very good thing is a race. I made my first mistake right at the start. I was charging past a ton of dudes trying to make up for a mediocre start on a climb wondering why everyone was taking it so conservatively. Well... the reason was that this climb at the start of the race just kept going up for the first mile or so of the trail. Ugh. I was way past redlining when I hit the top. This over exertion caused a stupid crash on a slightly off camber section that resulting in me losing a lot of the positions I gained on the climb.

This very quickly became irrelevant when I flatted on a loose rocky climb later in the lap. Since I had forgotten my CO2, I was left with my shitty minipump. It took me like 15 minutes to change the tire. Race more or less over.

I kept riding though. Only to flat again on a rough downhill section. After much swearing I began walking back to the start. I decided to quell my grumpiness by fixing the flat and riding another lap just for fun. This turned out to be a good moral boost. My lap time was similar to the winners of the sport class, and lower middle for experts.

Tuesday 9/4- St Louis Tuesday Night World Championships

This is the St. Louis training race. However, training is mostly just a state of mind. The weekly race is actually licensed by USCF and properly officiated. The course was 0.7 mile circuit that involved a climb, a quick downhill and a flat section around the start/finish. Here is my power data to give an idea of the profile:



The race started with Dogfish guy Chris on the front and me at second wheel. I think both of us were kind of interested in this positioning. After 1 or 2 laps he motioned me to pull through, I moved past and he slowed down the field I very quickly had about a 50ft gap... wow. how did that happen? I was confused and uncomfortable never really having been in this position in a race. I put my head down and rode (realizing full well I couldn't hold this for the whole race but decided to ride while I could). To my surprise, I was strong enough/ group moving slow enough to stay out for a few laps. Some fellow bridged, and rode with him briefly. Then a group bridged, I looked back and saw the whole race wasn't far behind. I was kind of cooked, so I fell back into the pack.

I rode the rest of the race amazed by the facts that. 1. there was such a huge field in a "training race" 2. that the pace of the B race was so high. The second was explained when I was informed that a lot of A-Game masters and cat 2/3 guys were in the field. 1. is simply explained by good the race was.

Wednesday 9/5- The Hub ride

Short story, I got to the shop about 45 seconds too late. Good to know that group rides leave promptly the world over. I rode about 27 miles from the shop west, then north. They have something around there that I think people refer to as "hills". Seeing that I don't see them that often, I might be using the word wrong. However, there was a particular bit that took 5+ minutes to climb at over 350-450 watts. I think that qualifies.

Thursday 9/6- Castlewood Revenge

I decided to head out and hit up the race course again. I got 20+ miles in with no flats on very nice FAST singletrack. I am glad I went back in a better mood. These trails dry and hard. Occasionally tight trails, occasionally rooty, occasionally techy downhills and some extended climbs. Castlewood is far from the hardest trail I have ridden, but I think it ranks real high on the fun meter. It flows nicely and is just tricky enough in places that you don't completely zone out. I think its the type of course I normally would have done well on.

Sunday 9/9- Spanish Lake Race

This course is notorious for its lack of extended hills and large quantity of gravel roads. This year there were several new sections of trail to add some intrigue. Over 100 degree temperatures made me fairly thankful that the climbs were as short as they were.

To make a long story short, I actually had a good race! I got a crappy start (as per usual- I really need to work on that). Luckily, the course was open enough that the front of the race never really got a chance to truly escape. I was loving the fact that I was in good enough shape to pick people off every time the trail pointed up at all. I also gapped a few dudes in the single track! Nice, I might actually be a mountain bike racer after all. By the 3rd of 5 laps I had no idea where I was in the race, but knew I had passed a lot of dudes and had not been passed.



When I came through on the 4th lap I was rather crestfallen when the official told me I had one more to go (MWFTCS races are done by time). Luckily my Dad was sat by the side of the course handing me up bottles after every lap. I think I poured about as much of it on me as I drank. I had one more bottle in the cooler, grabbed it from my Dad, and attempted to finish one more lap. I think I ran into every tree possible... not a good lap but still fun. There was one humbling moment when on a gravelly uphill drag Chris Ploch flew past lapping me- shows how far there is to go.

On finishing, I slammed down 2 cans of coke started feeling slightly less lightheaded and looked at my results. 4th in my age group. 5th overall- apparently 30-39 is on average the fastest group out there. The fastest dude was either a 40-49 or 50+ racer, hardcore. Well, apparently I have decent races when the conditions truly suck. Or it was just a coincidence.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Moving makes me grumpy.

It really does. It seems like every time I do it, it takes longer. After every move I swear I am not going to do it again until I leave Champaign. For some reason this never works. I have officially moved almost exactly 1 mile away from where I previously lived. Although all of my things have technically been moved from point A to point B, it barely seems likes its over. At the moment it is almost impossible to get into my bedroom due to the large amount of unpacked boxes. I am trying to do anything (including write blog entries) to distract me from the inevitable puzzle of making everything fit into a new and distinctly different living space. Its odd, I think I remember kind of being excited about this years ago... now it just pisses me off.

I plan on racing my mountain bike in St. Louis on Sunday. I am feeling like I am in pretty good shape and have been riding fairly quickly. I had high hopes for this race, and wanted to head out and pre-ride the course tomorrow. Sadly, I am just too exhausted to make the trip early. Yeah, I hate moving.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Another week goes by.

So here was the decision:
A. Wake up at 4:00 am drive 3 hours, find parking, maybe have enough time to warm up, hopefully find the one teammate I had in the race before the start, then race against a field that probably contained like 40 dudes from XXX racing. Then I would get to drive home trying my hardest not to pass out.

B. Go drink Miller High Life and Tullamore Dew at Mike n' Molly's then ride my mountain bike with Nick all day Sunday.

As I am sure you can gather from my phrasing, I chose option B.


Its weird that this is an abnormal situation for me this summer. I was registered to do the Chicago Criterium on Sunday, but as the time approached, the logistics just seemed too complicated. This was also coupled with the fact that I didn't know hardly anyone who was going to be there and that I wasn't really feeling that excited about racing in general.

I think I might be finally suffering from a bit of burn out. Luckily for me, almost all August has to offer are MTB races and fun stuff like the Mesa Cycles St Louis Urban Assault Race. I think August couldn't have come at a better time.

As for not racing over the course of a weekend? I think it was a success. I hit the trails at k-poo Saturday and Sunday. Nick and I were accompanied by a first timer- John Henry. He was predictably slow. I took advantage of this and doubled up on a few tough sections like the new downhill/ climb. There is one obnoxious switchback that continues to have my number...

Sunday Nick and I intended to head back for some fast ~1 hour laps. This did not happen. Both of us were feeling fairly tired. On top of that, the mechanical problems kept piling up. I had 2 flat tires (only had one tube with me) and picked up a stick of about 1 inch diameter in my rear wheel. Not fun.

Nick had some chain dropping issues and a couple nice ending up a long ways from the trail and bike crashes.

Sunday was not a win. I am sure that reaquainting myself with hangovers this weekend didn't help matters.

Monday, July 20, 2009

10 Turns- Yeah, it worked pretty well.

Last weekend I was planning on heading up to Wisconsin and do the WORS race at Sunburst. I am sure that it was fantastic, but my plans ended up falling through for a number of reasons. Aside from the fact that I am looking for more starts at MTB races this summer to get upgrade points, I really wasn't too disappointed (particularly considering that I probably would have entered the "Comp" category and not gotten a top 5 anyway).

The main reason I wasn't really heartbroken was that this Sunday was the Tour of Soulard. People had been telling me how awesome this race was for quite a while now. Honestly, if it weren't for the lure of a WORS race I don't think anything else would have kept me away.

So I show up having no idea what to expect aside from the awesomeness everyone had described. Needless to say, expectations were high. At first there was the confusion that the course was said to have 10 turns and was run clockwise. Fwiw, it looks like this:



Needless to say some preriding would have been useful. Unfortunately my recon consisted of that map and the knowledge that one bit was a "climb" gleened from message boards. I was running a bit late due to the fact that I am not at all used to racing as late in the day as 1pm. Additionally, I was kind of confused by the race running late then mysteriously getting back on track. To add fun and excitement, I noticed my front tire was flat on the startline. Luckily I was able to get my spare on right before the gun. This resulted in a poor start position, but whatever.

The race itself was a lot of fun. I would like to be more descriptive, but with 10 turns I was largely clueless as to when anything was happening. All I know is that somewhere around halfway through the race I was caught behind a crash (I think) and a group of 6-10 depending on the point in the race got caught out. I felt really strong and led the chase group for quite a while. Word on the street was that we were pretty much holding on to a 10 second deficit to the lead group. This also made me feel pretty good about myself.

At some point I dropped to the back of the chase group and held on for a couple laps. My one highlight was when a $50 prime was announced for our group. I attacked the group going up the hill on the back part of the course and shot past everyone from last position. I had about 20 feet at the top of the hill and didn't look back again. Somebody passed me after the last turn before the finish... oh well. After chasing for so long it felt good to actually race a bit.

A note. I was told much later that I came in 15th or 16th. I rode the whole race thinking a huge group was up the road. As it turns out it was only about 20. The main group, and in turn us ended up dropping additional people. That was a nice surprise.

Anyway, one of the amazing things about this race was that there were people (drinking booze) around the entire course. Seriously, Soulard appeared to use this race as an excuse to get Sunday day drunk. It was great... having people cheering you on over the entire course makes you feel very PRO- good times.

Theoretically I am going to the "Chicago Criterium"- where there are going to be actual pros- next weekend. I still haven't worked out the logistics yet unfortunately.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Admirable Cyclists?

I am what I believe to be a very amateur athlete. From my understanding of being such a person is that I am supposed to idolize/look up to professionals. I have found this fairly easy to do with mountain biking seeing as there are truly awesome guys like Adam Craig out there. Cyclocross is similarly stacked with amusing fellows.

Oddly enough (with a few exceptions) I have never really related to an road cyclists.

That is until I started hearing more about Bradley Wiggins in this year's tour. There are plenty of guys out there that are really strong. I tend to admire professionals for more personal reason... that is to say that I find them amusing. That said, I was liking the fact that he tried to remake himself as a serious road cyclist (from track) and appears to be succeeding at age 29. Also he is riding for Garmin this year which doesn't hurt.

However, there are plenty of riders that fit this type of description. What really amused me was that this dopey looking fellow:

Is a huge fan of 70s British punk. In fact, he is known to blast "The Jam" while preparing for a race- something I have been known to do in the past.

I love it. I would suggest following him on twitter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Radios, racing and sundries

Yesterday I gave myself an ill-deserved "rest day". That is to say I did not ride my bike. Today it was back to "training" (I believe the use of quotations is appropriate). The plan was to wake up and do my 2x20s early in the morning. However, my body apparently wanted _more_ rest. I slept for like 10 hours. After finally dragging myself out of bed after multiple alarm resets I started watching the recording of today's stage of the tour- note: also not my intervals. I watched about an hour or so before heading out to ride at like 11:00 or something.

I found myself riding with thoughts about today's stage on my mind.

First off- no radios today. My first feeling about this was more power to Garmin and the French teams that didn't protest this. Whatever, right? I still kind of thing that all the teams that complained and protested are a lot of little bitches.

That said, as I was thinking about it, I couldn't figure out why they were removing radios from the race. I remember hearing some vague argument that the added information takes suspense out of the race. Examples being breakaway's being chased down 300 meters from the line. This was the only thing I remember having heard. How does this hurt the race? Bike racing is supposed to be tactical. In addition, if a sprinters team wants a break to be chased down, they still have to do it. Not knowing time splits every 30 seconds doesn't change this. Honestly, I think that the more information riders have the more exciting and tactical a race can be. This is bike racing as the sport is right now. We are not going to harken back to the days of Eddie Merchx by removing radios, and why would we want to? Seriously, cycling is a technological sport these days... I think most of us involved actually kind of like that.

I had left the last 45 minutes of the race to watch when I got home. I was really amused to see that in the end the break was caught and the sprinters teams lined up their leadouts... and Mark Cavendish won. That is to say, the race played out pretty much exactly like it would have either way.



That said, I thought the finish was amazing. The sprint was won by Cavendish- no surprise there. However, the perfection of the Columbia-HTC leadout was nothing short of awesome to watch. This was punctuated when Garmin tried to move in and disrupt the Columbia-HTC leadout and George Hincapie shouldered him off (apparently they don't know you are supposed to hold your line while racing). The Columbia leadout put Cavendish right in front of Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar... and neither of them has the power to pass. It was a great 25 seconds of bike racing...

Also, where is Tom Boonen? Is he planning to show up at all this race? Is Quick Step not doing a good enough job getting him to the front? I don't know. Its like he's not even there.

As a side note, I must be getting faster. I thought that I felt like crap and had done worthless intervals. I looked at my power after the workout and it was nearly identical to last week when I was feeling really good...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

At least my tanlines are slightly more rediculous.

Well... I have had several good weekends of racing in a row, so I suppose I was due for a downer.

Let me first reiterate the fact that I was truly confused by a series of races taking place only minutes away from my house. I didn't really know just how dependent I had become on a routine. I tried to compensate for this by driving to the races and pretending that I was several hours from home. Of course the fact that I continuously left things at home did not really help.

Saturday was the criterium downtown Champaign. It has some clever "bike racey" name, but I don't remember what it was. I drove all of about 5 blocks so that I could warm up on a trainer next to my car. I lined up with a pathetic field of like 15. After an epic quantity of warm up laps the race started- then the rain started. It seemed like every lap someone else was falling or otherwise dropping out. I don't think it was actually that bad. The race sucked. It was single file nearly the whole time. It started pouring halfway through. Then, there was lightning, then our race was paused. After a restart as XxX guy went off the front (who I later heard was dropped before the restart?) Myself and the other two non-wildcard guys in the race tried to chase. I was very uncertain where the wildcard guys were. Then I started cramping and pulled from the front. The wildcard guys then complained at me for trying to grab like the 5th wheel. Seriously? You weren't going to let me into the paceline? I was pissed off and soaked at this point and dropped out on the next lap.

I was angry at the race and the day. I was pissed off when the announcer kept talking about how the Cat 3s were so much better at handling their bikes and thats why there were fewer crashes. Nevermind the fact that it was not pouring down rain... additionally, I can point him in the direction of several people in the Cat 3 race that will inform him that there were in fact crashes.

So... regardless of the fact that I was planning on going out for multiple beers Saturday night, I decided I needed to race Sunday since Saturday went so poorly. As it turns out, waking up late not eating breakfast and being a bit hungover is not a good combination for doing well in a bike race. The first problem was that I thought the race started an hour later than it actually did... bad start. Then there was the headache/ lightheadedness. I felt miserable the first 10 minutes or so then started to settle in. Around 20 minutes into the race there was an attack (by a wildcard guy) then about 15 seconds later there was a chase (by another wildcard guy) the field (of 15 people) accelerated. I felt nauseous and paused briefly. The field got a gap and I rode the rest of the race with Sam Wilson from U of I.

Moral of the story, I have had better weekends. Next week is back to the training regime and hope for some better times, albeit farther from home.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Confused.

So unaccustomed am I do going to a race that I don't have to travel to, I am not entirely sure what to do with myself.

First I go for a longish hard ride the evening before a race...

Now I have decided to dismantle clean and reassemble my drivetrain.

Finally, I am seriously considering getting up early and driving the 4 blocks to the race just so I don't feel too out of sorts tomorrow... Perhaps if I try hard enough I can pretend I have a 3 hour drive home.

Friday is boring.

So I am sitting here at work listening to the cubs get beaten by the Cardinal and drinking a "Vault" soda (the vending machine was out of everything else). I am amazingly bored and thinking that leaving to go on an ill advised bike ride is in my near future.


***Edit***

I really need someone to join me on "endurance" paced rides, I don't seem to have the will power to do it on my own. I really did not intend to ride 40+ miles 39% of which was at threshold. I don't think thats what you are supposed to do the day before a weekend of races in your home town. Good times.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I love racing my mountain bike...

I am looking forward to the fact that as the summer wears on the mountain bike racing is going to start coming more frequently and overtaken then road races and crits I have been lining up for. Its not that I don't enjoy racing my road bike, I just can't bring myself to really take it seriously. After ~45 minutes its normally over. Often times I finish midpack, and don't even really feel that tired. Oh well. In a mountain bike race, you KNOW you raced. If you do poorly its because your body gave out on you. If you did well it is an amazing feeling. If you did mediocre you still know that you gave it everything you had.

Whatever... I just find it infinitely more rewarding. As much as I sometimes enjoy racing my road bike I always find that I don't really have as much of a competitive desire. Oh well... I guess the moral of what I have written so far is that I like racing mountain bikes more than road bikes.

That said, last Sunday was almost the epitome of what a mountain bike race should be. And lets be clear... up to, and until it started it seemed like it was going to be shit, and a mud fest. We were meant to drive down to southern Indiana earlyish Saturday to preride the course and make a weekend out of the race. Due to rain all of Saturday we waited until the last minuted to make sure that the race was even still going to be on (preriding clearly out of the question at this point).

Armed with a weather forcast that predicted nice weather Sunday and a "hotline" message making no reference to cancellations we headed out in the rain Saturday night to my pre-paid for hotel room.

Sunday morning was still overcast, but luckily not raining. The officials were requesting that people minimize their recon of the trail to keep it in as good of shape as possible. I rode about a mile into it and saw both slick and fast, and a creek crossing with a sloppy/ rocky climb.

If you have spent much time on a mountain bike, you know that there is "shitty muddy" and "fun muddy". Shitty muddy courses have a lot of soupy sticky stuff that makes you constantly feel like you are putting out a ton of watts and not moving. The course is bad enough that you are forced to dismount in places that aren't even that techy. Fun muddy is when it is just muddy enough to make the course kind of slick and slightly more technical than it originally was. Additionally its sloppy but still kinda fast and makes you feel like a kid playing in the dirt.

This course was DEFINITELY the later. To put it in perspective, I am a "Cat 2" mountain biker and was doing 30 minute laps on a ~5.5mile course. 11mph average speed isn't bad for a dry course for me. Actually, I was commenting after the course that without the mud, it might have been kind of boring. The slipperiness added some complexity to what would have normally been a rather fast/ unremarkable trail.

[as a side note, this is kind of my general feeling about the southern IN trails so far. Given the terrain they have to work with I'm confused]


As for the race. The first lap started by my just getting beat out to the single track by a guy that on the start line was complaining about "just getting back from a broken collarbone" and "was going to be really slow". I thought I was third wheel and only one guy was up the trail, I guess I was fourth. This guy was rather slow, and scary sketchy. It was about 5 minutes before he managed to let me (and I think the rest of the field) by. I was happy to look back and realize that I had gapped the rest of my group quickly after... good times. I guess I am getting a bit faster. For the rest of the first lap, I was catching stragglers from previous starts and riding with them for a bit before passing... I think this maybe slowed me down a bit but I didn't want to blow up too early. In the second lap fast guys from starting waves after mine started passing me, and it was a touch confusing to pay attention to who was in my race and who wasn't. I basically kept the same pacing through this lap. Some trouble started when I ran out of water (forgot to grab a fresh bottle after lap 1)... oh well. I was a bit dehydrated/ needing some sugar. I grabbed my bottle with clif shot energy drink (I strongly recommend it, but its not the equal to a gel in terms of energy). Sucking down this, helped my fend off bonking. However, it didn't stop me from noticing a guy in my race passed me and finished 10 seconds (or something) in front of me in the last quarter mile.

Well... 4= no prizes but I do get upgrade points.

Finally, if you are forced to dismount because people in front of you are off their bikes, don't swear at them. It makes you sound like a douche. Particularly if the section you are swearing in 95% of people were dismounting. Extra particularly if you were riding in front of me for 10 minutes or so not letting me pass, and forcing me to dismount like 6 times. I would have made fun of you at the time if there weren't like 10 people watching the race at that point who already were.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

damn you rain.

I was feeling really good all week. I was really looking forward to racing my mountain bike this weekend. Of course, I still am. However, I was also happy I was going to get there early to pre-ride the course. Now its looking like this won't happen AND the course will be wet tomorrow.



Oh well. I am still hoping for the best.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A new title, and hopefully some mountain bike racing

So I got sick of my title... it occurred to me that the combination of beer and bikes in my blog was neither healthy or at all equitable. All told I imagine people would be even less likely to read about my drinking Miller High Life than they would about me riding my bike. I don't know, maybe not.

Anyway, "An Incurable"- From a Guided By Voices song. I think it fits... If I knew how to do such things, I would post a link to the song here. I don't though, so I will just post this image:


This has been an interesting week for me. I have done almost nothing but go to work and ride my bike. I guess its been good, but I am getting a bit sick of being in my office until midnight. Biking has been surprisingly good this week. My 2x20s monday were at about an average of 20watts higher than last week? Wednesday night I was kind of shocked to find myself hanging with the front group, and occasionally driving the pace. This afternoon Nick and I headed out to the poo. We did a full lap in 1:04 (my fastest this year by quite a bit). This was a 10.9 mph average, again about a mph faster than my fastest lap.

Given this information, I am thrilled to be racing my mountain bike this weekend in Indiana... Now I am going to go finish up working at the wholly respectable time of around 10pm and am probably going to drink High Life.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Racing and Resting

This year has been rather interesting. For some reason I have been out racing my bike nearly every weekend. The even more intriguing thing is that I am not at all burnt out at the moment. In fact, with every passing week I seem to be structuring my training even more. I was addressing this fact with my parents this weekend, and was trying to find some reason for it. I think its a combination of my actually being in better shape than I expected this summer and having far more/ better friends that enjoy racing their bikes... hence, less going to races by myself and less getting dropped= more fun.

Last weekend was my first race as a Cat 4. As much as everyone told me that it was not a ton faster than the front of Cat 5 races, I was still a bit nervous. Luckily for me, this race took place at the Webster Groves Criterium. Although I got dropped last year, this was still one of my favorite races.

All that aside, there were a few things that were immediately different in the Cat 4 race. First, the field was MUCH larger... nice.



Additionally, there was far less stupid chatter in the pack... I had been informed that this would be the case, but was happy to be in the middle of it. By stupid chatter I mean crap like "on you left" or "inside" or "hold your line".

As for how the race went... well. My goal was to make sure I was mid pack the whole time. This was not entirely trivial since one of the interesting features of the course was that it widened an narrowed often making moving up difficult. Also, some of the wider sections were also very exposed to wind making advancing in these sections rather taxing.




Well... there was not much of any note that occurred over the course of the race. I heard tale of some crashes behind me. Nothing major I don't think. One interesting note was that a section of course that I could have sworn I remembered being kind of tough and a hill last year was really more like a block long short grade and a good place to gain some position this year. I guess I must be in better shape.

Anyway, the coming into the final corner before the last lap I hit a large pothole. I stayed upright, carbon wheels were intact, but somehow my handlebars got jarred loose. I tried to keep riding, but by the time I got to the first turn on the final lap I could feel the bars still slipping. I decided at this point to sit up and avoid crashing... oh well. Such is bike racing.

I sat at the bar across the street and watched the elite Dogfish team attempt to tear it up. Unfortunately a strong break of 5 got away early in the race.



Then I had some additional beers at the Dogfish tent while learning a very important lesson about what my Shimano SPD SL pedals are good for. I am seriously going to have to rethink my plan to get speedplays (or at least keep the old pedals around).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Interval music, and the world's fastest color.

Last night at Mike and Molly's, Ellen asked me "what music did I listen to on my ipod while biking". I don't think she really cared about my bike music listening habits, but was rather insinuating that I didn't like any music. Regardless, when I was heading out today I put on an old playlist I made for my 8 mile runs last winter. The playlist is more or less exactly an hour long making it more or less perfect for a 2x20 workout.

Yeah, after yesterday's failed attempt at 2x20s I decided to give it another go. As far as the workout went, at least it happened this time. My average power was a bit lower than I though it should have been but at least I managed to squeak it out... perhaps I need a better playlist.



Anyway... as far as I am concerned all of these songs are awesome. Some hysterically, some just awesome, some manage to be both.

Barry Manilow- Copacabana
BOC- Burnin' For You
Cheap Trick- Dream Police
Genesis- Invisible Touch
Lovin' Spoonful- Summer in the City
Rush- Limelight
Brian Eno- Baby's of Fire
Billy Idol- White Wedding
Cheap Trick- Surrender
Magazine- Because You're Frightened
Old 97s- Murder (or a Heart Attack)
Peter Gabriel- In Your Eyes
The Outfield- Your Love
REO Speedwagon- Time For Me To Fly
Apples in Stereo- Energy

This is to say, music for this sort of workout really needs to amuse me because its a serious pain in the ass to do. As a side note, I used to hesitate to listen to music while biking. I kind of decided though that whether I heard the cars coming or not it really has no impact on how I am riding. Even when not listening to music I rarely notice them until they are passing me anyway.


Perhaps some of my motivation to ride today came from the fact that I finally got around to putting the new Ritchey "Wet White" stem on my bike. Not to toot my own bikes horn, but it looks pretty sweet.



I have to believe that looking down at a stem in the world's fastest color is going to improve my riding.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

49.8 miles

This is what my computer read when I got back to my house from the Wednesday night ride. I was almost tempted to ride around the block to get that bad boy to an even 50, but oh well. It was an interesting day. I felt like crap in the heat but was actually riding fairly well. Unlike most weeks, I actually found myself in the front group on the way back. Eventually this frightened me as I anticipated dehydration and misery- so I dropped back. After 15 minutes of riding alone I eventually caught up to (or they were waiting for me) a group of 5 or so... it was then soft pedaling most of the way home. I felt tired by not in intense pain like typical after Wednesday night. I am either getting into better shape or last night's ride was easy... I have no idea.

Oh well. I am out for some 2x20s. I am hoping those poached eggs I ate a little while ago weren't a terrible idea... my guess is that they will be.


**Edit**

Well, that didn't work. Most miserable 25 miles ever. I started my first 20min threshold interval at only about 90% threshold and cracked after ~6 minutes. Not fun. I then spent the rest of the ride dehydrated and working very hard to maintain a "recovery" level effort. ugh.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Its too damned hot.

I have now been sitting in my house for about 2 hours trying to work up the nerve to go and ride my bike. So far, it hasn't worked.

This might also have something to do with the excessive debacle that was last night with my friend Mike in town that ended like this:



Last weekend I was in St. Louis with Alex Dan and Anona for the Winghaven NRC race. I managed to miss out on registering so there was no racing for me, also it was hot as hell and I left before the actual NRC race... oh well. I took a few pictures, but honestly, Winghaven is kind of a boring looking place.




Driving through Winghaven to the race was honestly kind of frightening. Matt James described it as being like the Truman Show. Its surreal just how true that was.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My minds made up.

Last night I chose to tip the balance unhealthily in the "beer" direction. I was thrilled to wake up and see that Karl had tweeted this link:

Beer Hydration?

I guess I hadn't been that unhealthy as I thought? Good times.

Anyway... looks like Anona Dan and Alex will be joining me in St Louis for Winghaven. I guess I'm going to skip mountain biking then. To be honest I don't really mind. This will give me a good chance to hang out and take some pictures. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm headed out to Kickapoo with Steven in an hour or so. It rained a lot this morning and Steven was looking pretty damned fast on the wednesday night rides... we'll see how this goes.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What to do?

I have had an oddly productive few days. I have been going to bed and waking up early (for me at least). I attempted to get up and ride Tuesday morning, unfortunately it was raining. So... just work for me. Up early and working again today. Yay for productivity?

Anyway, when I took off early to "reward" myself with the Wednesday night ride, I felt like I'd earned it.

Tonight was an odd ride. I was feeling good, kinda kept up with a few attacks, then started cramping badly in the quad region... thats new. Its typically the calves for me. Oh well... yet another week, yet another time getting dropped. I think I need to work on my muscular endurance. The one thing I have been missing this year is any longer zone 2/3 rides. I think my longest rides this year have been around 55 miles. Oh well.

I'm planning on heading to St. Louis this weekend. Unfortunately, my race at Winghaven is full so I would just be spectating. This should be kind of cool. A lot of friends racing, also some big name pros are going to be in attendance.

That said... there is also a mtb race. So decisions.

Winghaven

or

St. Joe MTB Challenge

Tough call... I'll probably end up just staying in the lou. I have the feeling I am not going to want to do the extra hour and a half drive. Also, I was kind of looking forward to spectating and taking a weekend off from racing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Steel Cut Oats and Hills

So... last weekend my epic run of racing every weekend continued. I had previously been hoping to go to a DINO race in Fort Wayne IN, but couldn't convince anyone to go and split the gas. I kind of thought that I was going to take the weekend off until Becky and Anona reminded me of a road race south of St. Louis. Although my history with road races has been miserable, riding my bike in that area of Missouri is one of my favorite things to do. They have hills and trees there!

Anyway, it was on. I convinced them that if I was going I was not going to be leaving at 4am, and we were going to be staying at my parents house in St. Louis. I am pretty sure that was a good idea. After the previous weekend's bonking debacle, I swore that I was going to force myself to eat a decent breakfast. In Saint Louis, my Dad and I put some steel cut oats in the slow cooker for the next morning. I ended up eating that with a few tablespoons of peanut butter and some toast. We then headed the hour south to Saint Genevieve for the road race.

As previously mentioned, my experience with road races involves flat tires and DNFs. I was a bit apprehensive about starting another one... but there I was. Additionally, I have had an epic run of disappointing races this year (yet for some reason I keep doing it?). Again, I was nervous. Whatever, I lined up and we started.



This was a 4/5 race and damn near full at a field limit of 75 riders. I was kind of excited about this fact. I had never been in a field of this side before. To start, we were somewhere between slow and fast. On the early rollers the effort got ramped up a bit, but I don't think anyone was really willing to risk anything too early. I had tried to place myself somewhere between 5th and 20th wheel. I think this kept me out of trouble, but I was probably putting out a bit more effort on the hills than if I'd been further back. Regardless, this was essentially my plan for the whole race. Stay near the front, watch the action, if I was feeling good try to participate. I could probably go into surprising detail about the whole race, but that would be horribly boring (even for me to write let alone for anyone to read). So I think I can boil the race down to three points.

1. I thought after the finish that this was one of the more boneheaded things I did in the race. However, the more and more I ran over it in my head afterward it actually seemed like a good move.

It kind of went like this... there was a team of ~6 people (Metro East) who was controlling the race early on (yeah I know, in a Cat 4/5 race weird). So about 12 miles or so into the race I am still sitting around 10th and look up to see that one of the guys from their team has headed up the road. I watch it for a while, he is getting further out, and Metro East has about 5 guys at the front of the field controlling the pace. I am feeling good, and also getting concerned/ interested in this solo break. I move up and talk to the other strong looking non-metro east guy at the front and ask if he's interested in trying to bridge. He tells me that he is unsure that he is strong enough, but says he'll go with me if I go.

After several seconds of thinking about it, I decide that its now or never. The guy is about 200 meters up the road, and the gap is just getting bigger. I put my head down and go. Briefly I look over my shoulder and see that this other fellow has gone with me (Big Shark I think). I think its about a 5ish minute chase, and about 20 meters behind the dude who is out front I am feeling gassed and let the other guy come around. We hook onto the back of the Metro East guy and and turn around to see if anyone else has come with us. This is when I notice that Metro East has upped the tempo and brought most everyone up to us... oh well. I drop to about mid-pack and recover.

My thought was that Metro East would stay at the front, keep blocking and be kind of happy that their teammate had some help to stay away from the field. Apparently instead they thought that it would be better to keep the whole field together than have a group of 3 up the road. Either that or they actually had no idea what they were doing.

2. "The Hill" Since deciding to do this race, I had been staring at the topographic profile of the race.



As one can see, there are several pretty serious climbs on this course. The second to last one with some steep grades was getting a lot of message board attention and was even given a "KOM" distinction (Congratulations to Anona for winning it in her race). I don't really fancy myself a climber and was appropriately nervous coming up to it. I had decided I would "ride within myself" I dropped down to an easy gear and was spinning up trying to hold wheels, but not willing to kill myself to do it. I saw the 400m to KOM sign and was a bit confused... Then I passed the KOM point and realized that unlike most of the people around me, and luckily the first group up the hill I was fairly fresh. I came over with another Dogfish guy and yelled at him to grab my wheel, we were chasing back on. I felt pretty cool being fairly strong at that moment.

So we actually got back to the lead group. Unfortunately the other Dogfish guy (Aaron) didn't make it all the way up.



3. So we were in a lead group of ~17. I heard someone say something like "here we go last turn" I looked up and saw the pace car turning onto a wide road that looked a lot like it would be a finishing straight. I took the inside line and tried to attack the group (I don't particularly like sprint finishes). Anyway, apparently I was so thrilled to have made it over "the hill" feeling good that I forgot all that staring at the topo that I had done... there is another hill before the finish. I looked up from my effort to see not a finishing straight, but a hill. I looked over my shoulder to see not a gap but ~16 guys about to pass me. Oh well... I limped to 15th place.


Messing up the finish or not, I was actually thrilled. The race was well within my abilities and made me feel far less scared about the cat 4 upgrade I was about to get. I couldn't help remarking on the way home with Becky and Anona that it was the first drive back from a race I think I had ever done where everyone was happy with what they had done.

I now officially swear by steel cut oats and will be buying a slow cooker...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Intervals

This is the first year I have tried to do them consistently.



I think it might be helping. As odd as it seems to say after getting completely shelled on Wednesday, I actually kind of feel like I'm getting into decent shape.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ha

The Rhett's Run lap times were just posted...
First lap- 29:30
Second lap- 34:06
Third lap- 42:27

Wow... I really faded hard.

*I should point out that the race winner's lap times were ~25 minutes. And Dave Breslin's Expert winning lap times were ~22 minutes. This is to say that even in the beginning I wasn't really fast enough.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Vegetable and Mahi Biryani

Since I started this blog a month or so ago, I have pretty much only written about biking. One post was tangentially about beer consumption. Occasionally I mention beer consumption when also talking about biking. I suppose given what I chose to name this, that all makes perfect sense.

I have always wanted to come up with something else to write about. I will go ahead and take writing about biophysics off the table, as little as I imagine people wanting to read about my biking/ beer biophysics I think would be exponentially worse... This does not of course mean I won't change my mind about that. Getting to the point, I also enjoy cooking sundry things for myself. Although these days I find it kind of depressing to cook for only myself I still do it.

Tonight, as this post title suggests, I made myself a vegetable and mahi biryani (indian rice pilaf). I got the idea from perusing an old cooking light magazine and using what I had at home.

Anyway, I thought I would share... be forwarned, its a bit spicy as I made it.

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp black pepper corns
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 dried red chilies
1 bay leaf
1 fresh serrano chili (finely diced)
1 red potato (about 1/2 inch pieces)
1 small yellow onion (diced)
1 carrot (about 1/2 pieces)
1 handful frozen peas
1 handful frozen green beans
1 Mahi Mahi filet
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
1 tspsalt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

To start warm some olive oil in a dutch oven type pot (I'm a fan of this one) and toss in 1/2 tsp of the cumin seeds, the coriander seeds and the black pepper corns. Wait until the cumin is browned and add the onion after the onion begins to soften, add the carrot and potato and dried chilies. Allow it to cook for another 5 minutes or so, then grind the remaining tsp of cumin seed in a coffee grinder (you could use already ground cumin, but use about half as much). Add the cumin, cayenne, tumeric, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Allow everything to saute for another 5 minutes or so until everything begins to soften. Now, add the serrano chili frozen peas and green beans. When the peas and green beans are about thawed, stir in the rice. when the rice is coated with spice and add the water. Bring to boil then reduce heat and cover. After 10 minutes, stir in 1 inch pieces of Mahi. Recover and allow to cook for another 5 minutes then turn off the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

To be honest, I think it would be just as good without the fish if you are of the vegetarian persuasion.

If anyone actually tries this, let me know what you think!

Monday, June 8, 2009

A race is bound to go well eventually?

Right?

I guess there are two ways I could respond if someone asked me how the race in Columbia MO went Sunday.
1. Shitty, I felt terrible and raced stupidly.
2. It was fun and course was awesome.

These are really two different things, so I suppose I will address them separately.

1. Dear god, why am I riding like an ass every time I line up for a race? I somehow missed the front going into the singletrack and got bogged down in some wet stuff starting out, then was forced to ride quite slowly through areas that should have been really fast. It is one of those frustrating features of mountain bike racing where you just kind of know a race is riding away from you. Luckily (said facetiously) I found out in the second lap that it really didn't matter.

It would appear that the one Clif bar I had consumed around 8:00 am was not enough energy for my 12:30 pm race. Go figure right? ~45 minutes or so into the race I started feeling lightheaded and periodically completely devoid of energy... conspicuous bonking symptoms. Luckily I had told me dad to hand me up energy drink after the first lap, so I was sucking that down and holding it off temporarily. By about 1 hour and into the third lap I was done. It was at this point that I decided that my goal was just to live to the finish line.

I knew if I rode slowly enough I wouldn't have to do another lap and also finish :). This was when I got a flat. As I sat by the side of the trail watching another 10 or so people ride past me while I fixed the flat I officially gave up (a second time). I finished feeling worse than I had after any ride for quite some time. I was quite amused by all the sport beans and gels in my bag that I had not put in a jersey pocket before the race.

2. All that said, poor performance aside, the course was awesome. Some parts kind of wet but manageable, most kind of tacky, some downright rocky. The downhills provided a good challenge. I felt I rode them with more confidence and speed than last week, even though at times they were definitely more techy. The climbs were very challenging. Some in a fun way, some in a painful way. I remember one particular left turn on a climb that proceeded to kick up steeper while the ground was rocky and muddy... I had trouble running up it. Also a lot of fun, steep switchbacks, good good times.

As a side note, I put the 2006 Marzocchi Marathon XC on my Giant before the race. It was kind of exciting to have a fork that actually provided suspension. For the first few miles I was actually kind of confused and unnerved by it. After getting used to a working fork, it was definitely a nice improvement. I can't wait for my Corsa to get back. Unfortunately I forgot to check the front derailleur after putting the bike back together. I have apparently shoved the brake lever against the shifter it took me struggling most of the first lap to shift out of the 44t chainring... I did not risk shifting back up.

It was good being back in St Louis this weekend hanging out with my Dad and the sick Sidney the dog. I hung around with Sidney for most of monday before heading back to Champaign, so I guess today is a "rest day" tomorrow, and the rest of the week is bound to be long in response.

Next weekend there is a DINO race in Ft Wayne IN. Part of me wants to take a weekend off of racing, however I know that the only way I am going to get better is to keep doing it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A tale of 2 rides.

I hit up Mike and Molly's last night, and consumed multiple pints of Miller High Life. This resulted in a rather late morning. After sitting around trying to motivate myself to get out on my bike for several hours, I finally managed it around 1pm. My plan was a shortish easy spin, so I took my camera out with me.



Its always amusing to attempt to take photos of a ride... particularly in central Illinois where most of the pictures just involve corn fields. Oh well, I have come to accept this


I have actually obtained a new Ritchey WCS "Wet White" stem for the bike. Sadly, I found my top cap to be stripped and haven't gotten a chance to put it on yet.



Anyway, mysteriously, I felt really good going out. I ended up doing a few hard efforts and much to my surprise set a new 5 minute power record for the year (~330 Watts, but still good for me). Who knows, maybe I am actually starting to get into decent shape again.



On the way home at around the corner of 1200E and 400N I decided I wanted to ride home through Philo. I sent Matt Gambino a text asking what the "main street" was. He told me a group was heading out on a ride that direction later in the evening and I agreed to go. I sort of forgot about this on the way home.

As an interesting aside... I got stopped by a train. This hasn't happened to me in quite a while.



So.... I get home make myself some protein filled smoothie and sit down to do my traditional obsessive examination of my power data. This is when Gambino sends me a text reminding me of the ride to Philo... in like 45 minutes.

I am home just long enough to see Thomas harass a snake and change out of the spandex into some more casual riding apparel.




Then off again on the second ride of the day. This was bound to be phenomenally more low key then earlier in the day, I was fine with that. The whole point (as far as I knew) was to drink beer at the Philo Tavern.

Here we are on the way out:


The surprising thing is that I managed to get some pretty damned decent efforts in.

The several 1min - 30sec spikes were what I like to refer to as "Where is Gambino going, he's gotten like 100 yards ahead. I guess I should probably catch up" spikes. They managed a 450 Watt 1 minute and a 620 Watt 30 second. Not bad for a casual ride I did in "Knickers".

The Philo Tavern was surprisingly cleaner and more food serving that I expected. Regardless, the served me a couple pints of Sam Adams to replenish some carbs.


Good times... In order to sum things up lets look at the details of the two rides

Ride 1
02:00:39, 30.6 Miles, 1,203 KJ of work.

Ride 2
02:08:26, 28.8 Miles, 828 KJ of work.

All in all, I think I have earned tonight's dose of Miller High Life.

This weekend is Rhetts Run MTB race in Columbia MO. I am not going to lie. I am very excited about this fact.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ouch.

Well... The wednesday night Wildcard ride continues to be a humbling experience for me. I honestly have no idea what sort of shape I am in. Sometimes hard efforts seem easy, sometimes my heart rate gets to like 175/180 and I suddenly feel like I can't breath. I am thinking this is residual effects of my cold, but regardless, its annoying.

The first town line sprint into Flatville kind of took me by surprise. This is of course because I had absolutely no idea where I was at the time. I had just moved up to the front for my turn to pull, and noticed that instead of the guy that was previously next to me in the dual pace line Dave Stone had replaced him. I became a touch confused that he also kept ramping the pace up... When I looked back to realize that we had gapped a number of people and had a few single file stragglers I began to understand what was going on. At this point, I promptly pulled off and dropped back... all the way back. I rolled into Flatville with fellow mountain biker Gene.

Amusement also ensued on the way back when Becky and I accidentally attacked the group. Somehow the two of us were at the front and got a gap (unintentionally) Becky suggested we attack, this was a bad idea. We were out alone for about 10 mintutes, got caught passed and dropped.

Oh well, It was a good 50+ miles of riding. I am off to hit up some intervals in about an hour. Hopefully I won't die.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I gotta do better than that.

Last weekend I headed down to Brown County Indiana for a DINO race. I have to be honest, I was a lot of excited about it. This was going to be my first mountain bike race since the mud filled disaster that was the Matson Hill race in St. Louis last year. For reasons unknown to me, I started racing my road bike last year, then sort of stopped racing altogether. Anyway, I have given myself the goal of upgrading to mtb Cat 1 by the end of the summer and was interested to see where I stood in sport after not racing for ages.

The short answer is: Not so good.

Also- Indiana has hills.


I felt like I was riding fairly fast. I never really felt out of my league or uncomfortable. I am fairly certain that I was riding better sunday than I was last year, but its still not good enough. I ended up somewhere in the middle of the field... like 60 out of about 100 in the Cat 2. I guess this is somewhat skewed, since I started with my age wave like 5 minutes back on the first Cat 2 wave... This of course did not stop the 50+ dude that started a minute after me and finished 7th.

The day started well enough. Nick, Dan Eton and Anona and I got to the trail a good hour and fifteen minutes before the race. I like that, I am a huge fan of being able to dick around before my races. I prerode about 2 miles of the 8 mile course and realized that it was absurdly hard dry and fast. This made me very happy that I had decided to throw my maxxis oriflammes in the back of the car before leaving.

These tires are one of my favorites and I love occasions to use them:

They hook up surprisingly well on a wide array of terrain.

The race started up a ~3/4 mile pavement climb- Houffalize style.


I was kind of scared that everyone was in much better shape then me as they went sprinting up the first pitch... Then it seemed that everyone kind of cracked and I began picking people off. I would guess I was 2nd or 3rd in my wave entering the singletrack. Little did I know that this was going to be a theme for the whole race. I would make up ground going uphill and get owned on the downhills. This was quite depressing. I am not strong enough to get enough of a gap on the climbs to make up for my apparently embarrassingly bad decending skills. It is further discouraging in that as nice as our trails at Kickapoo are, there really is no downhill to practice.

As a side note, my fork got sent back to Marzocchi yesterday. Hopefully having working front suspension will give me a touch more confidence. This also means that there will be no mountain biking for me until next weekend when I hit up the Rhetts Run race in Columbia MO. I am still unsure if I am going to ride that race on the singlespeed, or move the fork over...

Friday, May 29, 2009

A New Day.

As of around yesterday afternoon I finally seemed to be kicking the cold I was suffering with. I decided to celebrate by going to a show at The Highdive (I know, that doesn't happen that often). John Hoeffleur was quite good as a solo act playing some Beauty Shop greatest hits and other sundries.

I had high hopes for the band Hopewell seeing as the guitarist/singer played some bass for Mercury Rev- who I am a big fan of. I was actually quite impressed, which is something I don't get to say about shows in Champaign very often



The last band was Elsinor... I can't stand them. I left and went to celebrate Becky Chan's birthday at the Blind Pig. Alex, Becky, Anona and Dan left to go to Merry Anns around 12:30 and I went to Mike and Mollys... As one can assume, this evening seemed to escalate to the point where I consumed quite a bit of cheap beer.

(and a shot from the ceramic tequila man thanks to Gambino)


I was greeted this morning with the old friend "hangover". Sigh... I still managed to enjoy the mountain biking with Dornik this afternoon. I only managed to slightly mess up my shifting when I fell down the side of the hill on the new section. This was a large victory for me given the quantity of things that had been breaking on that bike.

I had a fleeting desire to race at the O'Fallon road race tomorrow, but don't really want to drive myself. Oh well, I guess its just the DINO race for me this weekend. Should be fun.