Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tour of St. Louis- a week late

Well, I actually raced my bike last week. It was kind of an accident... that is I was in St. Louis and I had my bike and there was a race.

The race was the Carondelet Circuit Race- the Saturday morning race in the Tour of St Louis. I was really not looking forward to it. I had been sick all week, not sleeping and coughing compulsively. However, I had preregistered and I couldn't bare to let that $30.00 go to waste.

I'm going to be honest, I sort of shocked myself. I was in good enough shape cold or no to be a part of the race the whole time. I even tried a solo breakaway after a couple other teammates were brought back. Its always far far more fun in a road race to participate than to just hang on.

The last two laps I was actually trying to move up to the front. I even had the legs to do it, but the holes kept closing. Oh well. Who knew, I enjoyed racing my road bike cold or no cold.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I have heard rumors about this thing called spring

Yep, its here. I am realizing that I had not updated this blog since December when I did my last cross race. I would like to say that there is a good reason for that, but really it just has to do with not having anything to say.

This winter has been spent trying to finish my phd and get the hell out of Champaign. Its looking like this might actually happen... although I probably won't be the hell out of here until the end of the summer. Due to the odd place my life is in I have really just been riding or running periodically with no real "training plan". For the last few years I have focused on running until the middle of April and the St. Louis Marathon. I didn't sign up for it this year so I've just been tooling around.

The weird thing is that I am actually in pretty decent shape. My power data seems to indicate that I am already riding around where I was the middle of last summer! This is a little confusing, the only think I can figure is that since I have been riding fairly regularly when I normally would just be running I managed to keep some cyclocross fitness- who knows. Regardless, I am happy about it. I am thinking that this unstructured crap is going to have to go away soon... Perhaps May. We'll see.

Anyway, I have been thinking about when to start my season. I have missed two MTB races already due to 1) it getting cancelled and 2) my being lazy. I am thinking I might hit up some of the Tour of St. Louis races in two weeks, but for some reason I'm just not at all excited about road racing this year.

I don't know. I am scaling back my expectations this year in terms of volume and what I hope for from myself, and honestly the bikings been treating me well so far... I guess only time will tell whether or not that continues on with racing as well.

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...