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...