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


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.


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.