Thursday, December 17, 2009

since you're not gettin'it from me.....

Go here and read Jonny Bolds report on winning the 45-49 CX national championship. Not only was it an impressive come-from-45th place-to-win effort, but it's written very well too. If you've ever raced bikes, it's an edge-of-your-seat story.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Why I'm Not Like You....

.....or anyone, for that matter.

For any of you that may have come to this blog hoping to see what new feats of athletic endurance I may have accomplished recently, you won't find it in this post. This post will have nothing to do with athleticism, and will probably be very long (I really don't know yet, I just started writing).

Any of you that know me personally know I don't quite fit into any sort of mold (eeww). Many times in my life, people have asked me "what the fuck is wrong with you?".

Where do I begin........

I decided to write this post after I found BRATS: Our Journey Home, a documentary about military brats - the children of active duty military. Please keep in mind, I'm not using my upbringing as an excuse for past rash behaviour, or for any sort of sympathy. I think I had it pretty good, and I thoroughly appreciated the lifestyle experiences, it was just very different from anyone you've ever met. This documentary goes so far as to refer to us as 'third culture kids'. I'm not so sure I agree with much of the sentiment of the film, but I'll go into that later.

It's funny how a persons world view is so specific. Up until the time I was 15, I had never spent more than three years in any one place. People have asked me, "how could you stand moving all the time?".

I would always reply "how could you stand staying in one place your whole life?" Indeed, when I was 15, and we had been at Fort Devens for three years, I asked my father "can we move?" I had been there, done that, and had more than just a fucking t-shirt.

Sadly, no. I was doomed to _another_ three years on this tiny military base, where I would graduate from the local public high school, and my father would eventually retire from the army after 21 years of service. My hope of living in europe - preferably germany - dashed with the revelation that my father had full intentions of finishing out his 20 years in the army in two years at this installation, and we would most likely 'retire' locally, in Ayer or Shirley....from the frying pan, to the fire.

But, The US military being what they are, had other plans. He filed for his retirement six months before his 20th anniversary in the army, which would have been at the beginning of my senior year in high school. His requested was rejected, and he was instead given orders to prepare for a one-year hardship tour to a remote military outpost at Sinop, Turkey. A small base with a few hundred soldiers overlooking the black sea with large radio arrays for the purpose of listening to soviet russian communications. Families not allowed. He would be forced to delay his retirement for at least 18 months past his intended date.

This wasn't the first time he left for long periods. My father was gone alot. This would be his second year-long hardship tour. The first was in 1972 to another small outpost in shemya, alaska. A rock at the end of the aluetian chain, about 500 miles from the Kamchatka pinnensula. He couldn't quite see russia from his house, but he got a much better look at it than sarah palin ever did, that is, when he could actually venture outside. At least Turkey would be warm.

He also did three tours of vietnam between 1969 and 1972, about three months each. But then he was rewarded with two three-month tours of Kwadjeline in the '70s. It was defined as a hardship tour, but it was quite like tahiti. There were some remote installations where the military went out of their way to create amenities for the soldiers and their families. They _did_ have dependent housing (family housing), but his tours were only three months long, so he went alone. Dad got 2 three month trips to almost-tahiti, and my mother, sister and I were left to contend with new england winters. (oh, I didn't mention I have an older sister yet? yeah, by two years, She was born in clinton Massachusetts, when my parents were at fort devens for their first tour after my father graduated basic training in 1959. She's a christian fundamentalist redneck living in Georgia now). But then, we never had to deal with aleution storms, or getting shot at by the viet cong. Let's just say it was a well-earned perk.

I wrote those three paragraphs as a precurser to _my_ experiences. After all, this blog is about me.

I was born in Ethiopia. Really. There used to be a US military installation called Kagnew Station at the city of Asmara high in the mountains of Eritrea, then a province of Ethiopia. Kagnew was another 'hardship' post, and the military went out of their way here as well to make life more comfortable for the few thousand soldiers and their dependents. From here:

"On the positive side, a tour at Kagnew Station offered houseboys and housegirls, a chance to save a few dollars in the low cost of living, and the opportunity to capitalize on the Command's endorsement of higher education and take some University of Maryland or University of Oklahoma courses. For some, the cultural setting was a matchless experience in itself. For others, it may have been Red Sea lunkers, the challenge of the Prince Makonnen Golf Course, Italian food or Ethiopian gold jewelry that kept the personnel office flooded with extension requests. Perhaps it was the 12 months of sunshine that made an assignment to Ethiopia a memorable one. But probably above all, and especially for the first-termer anxiously awaiting ETS, Kagnew's relaxed military routine made it an optimum assignment"

To this day, my mother waxes romantically about the weather. We were fortunate enough to be there during the 'golden period' of Kagnew station, with the army granting excesses in the forms of entertainment venues, vacations on the red sea, and relaxed dress/discipline codes. It was short lived though. We left in late 1963, I was only a year old and don't remember a thing about it. In the late '60s political strife overtook the country, and in the early 70's the centrist emperor and US ally Haile Selassie (whom Rastafarians consider a demigod) was overthrown in a soviet communist backed coup. The Army bugged out before it got too hairy, and there's a darkly humourous story about the one time they actually had to scramble to arms, the key line being: "My God, they're giving us real bullets!".

From there, we moved to Vint Hill Farms, Virginia where my father attended a cryptology school. We left there after about one year, when my father was transferred to Hokkaido, the northern-most island of japan, Chitose Army-Air field, now a commercial airport. I'm told we flew across country to san francisco and boarded a marine troop ship for passage across the pacific. The ship had been retrofitted to carry non-military dependent families, so it had larger rooms and better food and mattresses but it was still a marine troop ship, with 200 marines on board. I don't remember that either.

I have a few memories from chitose, the very first ones, in fact. One involves watching my father use his lighter (he used to smoke a pipe) to burn a big fucking black spider off its web that it had built overnight outside our front doorway. I asked him recently if it was as big as I remember it. He closed his eyes, nodded his head, and said "oooo yah. It was big". My mother nodded in agreement.

They used to get multiple snowfalls of several feet deep in the winter, and the famous Sapporo Snow Festival is a few miles away. Now, there are no blonde japanese children, and both my sister and I were almost nordic in appearance. The japanese tourists took as many pictures of me and my sister as they did the 20 foot tall ice sculptures. A number of them asked my parents for permission to touch our hair. We have 8mm video of my sister and I being surrounded by a small group of japanese school children. It was as if they had never seen a blonde child. Wanna know something? They hadn't.

Incidents like this are what shape the attitude and sensibilities of people, and why it's so critically important to understand and embrace the diversity in cultures of the world around us. I learned at a very young age that people aren't just a little different from us, they're _alot_ different from us. People are murdered and wars are started because of people abject willful ignorance about others that are different. It isn't to be feared, but embraced.

I started kindergarten here, in a quonset hut. My teacher was mean, though I don't remember it, but my mother said so.

Halfway through kindergarten my father pulled his second tour of Fort Devens. We left Chitose in the late fall of '67. We flew back this time instead of a US marine-hosted cruise, and I have vague recollections of of a four-engined commercial passenger airliner with turbo-props. Yes, a propeller driven trans-pacific flight. We stopped over at my grandparents house in Binghampton, NY for a few days. This was the first time I ever remember meeting my grand parents.

Here's where I began to become cognizant that my life wasn't the norm. Most of you probably can't ever remember your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins _not_ being there. For all intents and purposes, I didn't even understand the concept of extended family - beyond my mother, father, and older sister.

For all I knew, my grandparents were just some other people we were going to meet, get to know for a while, then move and never see again. Sure, I got cards and presents from them, these people I had never met...they may as well have been Mr and Mrs Clause. I actually had a stronger bond with the japanese house-keeper we had in chitose. My sister of course had the same feelings, or lack thereof. She _did_ remember them from when we visited before we left for japan. Though here member was simply a fleeting visual image, emotionally insignificant.

I had no idea anyone actually lived in one place their entire lives. I banal. In the military, you could tell people anything about your extended family. They could be doctors, statesmen, eminent religious or political figures... They would never know, or have reason to doubt you. (this was something my ex-wife never quite out-grew - more on that later). Hell, I was in school with ambassadors kids more than once, took gym class with kids whose fathers were two and three star generals, and most of us had no clue of "family" beyond our parents and siblings.

Now, here these two old people were, enthusiastically hugging and kissing a completely bewildered 5 year old. We may have spent a couple weeks there until our housing was ready, but then we would leave there too.

That's enough for now. I'm thinking this will end up being in three parts....if you, or I, make it that far.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"your problem is, you just don't ride fast enough"

Yeah, someone actually said that to me this weekend. The Irony is, he was spectating and I was racing. I was just this side of 02 debt, then this fucker lobs _that_ grenade at me. I laughed. I actually laughed while gasping for air. It was the funniest fucking thing I had heard in days, and he's right. I've had many people over the years tell me I could be a lot better at this bike racing thing if I just got serious for a change.

I've done more 'cross racing this fall than I've done in the past 8 years. The last time I raced this much 'cross was in the fall of 2001. I was actually doing well that year (for me) and that was the only time I've ever been in the top ten when there were more than ten riders.

So, I raced the Shedd Park race a couple weeks ago. I was hung over. That's not an uncommon occurrence, though it happens significantly less than it used to. Chronoman once quipped 'you can tell how good jay will do by how many cuervo shots he did the night before'. Other than a headache, I didn't feel all that bad. The race started by taking a promenade lap around the running track. I burned a match going around the outside and found myself just out of the top ten heading onto the first turn. I took the outside again - the smooth line, and passed a few riders that bobbled over the roots trying to ride the inside, one of whom went down. I was exiting the turn in the top ten, when the dude that crashed hopped back on his bike, pushed me off the course, and tangled my bike up in the course tape.

That's right, the second best 'cross start I've ever had and the jackass knocks me off my bike. He's a big dude, maybe 6'2" and probably 185 when he's fit. I'm a little dude. Unless I'm prepared to bump someone that big, I'm probably going down. The entire field passed me as I tried to get my bike untangled.

I know the dude well. He's been racing longer than I have, though he rarely beats me in any discipline except maybe the occasional TT. I now had mission to chase him down.

He ended up midfield because of his crash, and I caught him on the second lap. But the effort was too hard, I was too hung over, and started tasting bile on the 3rd lap. He passed me, then shortly after I bobbled a hairpin just before a steep ride-up and had to run the bike up (I rode it every other lap) which gave him a good 15 second gap that he held. He finished a few places ahead.

(stay with me here, this isn't as much of a non-sequitur as it seems)
I hadn't planned on racing any verge races this year - I'm on a personal boycott. Not against the promoters or sponsors, but against the riders. More appropriately, the hype. These guys take this shit way too seriously, and I can't be bothered to set aside time specific races for the whole cross season. I want to race when I want to race, and don't like the idea that I'm going to get stuffed into the back row because I have a fucking life and don't have any series points.

But, Shedd Park changed things. Now I had to go and beat the dude. I knew he would be there, he's one of those serious series racers. All about points, series results, etc. I seriously wish he didn't make me have to do that, but sometimes things just can't be helped. So, I went home that day and registered on line, in-hopes that I wouldn't be in the last row (they stage verge races by points, then order of registration, no mad dash for the front line). I ate well during the week, trained (actually rode the 'cross bike), and slept well.

Saturday came. I got there early to register, ride the course, and warm-up a bit. As we staged, the dude was in the 3rd row, I was in the last row (shit!), next to two mountain bikes and a few guys from the guys-who-get-fat-in-the-winter cycling team (you know who they are). Already, I had 30 spots I had to make up.

First lap, I'm just making up time, jumping around guys, I couldn't see the dude. Second lap, Shit! he's less than ten seconds up! I gradually caught onto him, and passed him on the long gradual climb. The dude ain't no climber. He never was. He wasn't giving up easy though. He tried a few times to get back on terms, and stayed less than a few seconds behind me for almost two laps before he finally faded. I beat him by about two minute and and two places.

I wouldn't have gone sunday if I didn't pre-reg. These series races are bit expensive for my taste, and it was a shame to waste the $35 bucks, so I went. The sunday course was more about power, compared to the saturday course which was more technical. I'm definitely a technical course guy, but sundays course was very comfortable and I felt quite good. I lined up in pretty much the position, around the same hacks. This time though, I caught and passed the dude before the end of the 1st lap. At every corner, he was further and further back, though he never dropped off like a lead weight as he had done the day before. I beat him by a bit under a minute, but there were 7 places between us.

I finished about the same these two days that I've done all year....about halfway down, and even at shedd park with the hangover and the crash I finished smack in the middle. But you know what? I'm ok with that. I don't train for 'cross and I don't take it seriously. I have a 22 pound ten-year-old bike. With these last two races, that makes a grand total of ten times I've ridden my 'cross bike this year, _including_ 'training' rides. I know what I'll have to do to get good at Cx, and until I start doing that I have no cause for complaint. I _do_ have cause for enjoyment though, Cx is fun, and I don't want to pollute that with serious training.

So that's probably a wrap for season for me this year. There's one more local race that sounds like fun, and rumor has it there's going to be free beer.

The Ice Weasels Cometh.

Don't be surprised if I go, but then don't be surprised if I don't.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Where to begin?

ok, it's been over two weeks. my bad. been busy. I've actually had some shit at work that interests me, for the first time in about two years.

So here I am, on a saturday night, near midnight, blogging. Damn, that's lame. ok, I'm buzzed. My Lovely and Talented Young Wife and I have a standing monthly dinner party with two other couples. Tonight was our night to host. My wife is a fabulous cook, and I am the stereotypical "the way to a mans heart is through his stomach" kind of guy. Top it off with a half dozen glasses of Shiraz, and you have a more lame blog post than the last one.

But that's not what i'm writing about tonight

Here I am, feeling 50 pushing on me ever so slightly, seeing the guys in the 55+ category still mixing it up, and hoping, against all hope, I can push on.

I think I can.

I see Julie Lockhart showing up each and every race. yeh, I hope I'm still out mixing it up, or even have the desire to do so, at her age.

I sit here tonight, listening to The Cure. I've been a fan since Boys Don't Cry, destroyed a vinyl version of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me in 1987 (dance mix of Hot Hot Hot is one of my desert island CDs), and despaired at Robert Smiths coronation of The King Of Pain, when Robert Morrisey made him look like a fucking disney character. I remember calling a local radio station 18 years ago to complain about The Mighty Mighty Bosstones really lame version of Pink Floyds 'brain damage', and 'Love Cats' came on the air when I was on the phone with the DJ. My Lovely And Talented young bride was with with me at the time (though we weren't married at the time) and said into the phone "oh honey, they're playin' love cats!!!".

The DJ was thoroughly amused.

So what I'm listening to as I write this, is not the original releases of the cure, or even some live version. No, it's an MTV "acoustic" "unplugged" CD......

shit, man, give it up.....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

After the Storm Passed

The 'storm' being the reviews of The Canton Cup Cx. You know that everyone that went there had to blog something about it, and if you live in new england and you read _this_ blog, then you know someone that has blogged about it, if you haven't yourself.

So sit right back and you'll hear a tale.....

Yes, I did the first two-Cx-Race-weekend in several years. I had planned to race canton and Orchard cross, so the night before I called my good friend and way-better-than-me Cx'r Bangin' Billy Bad Balls (Bigring) to see if he wanted to ride down to canton together, since I saw he had pre-regd. It turned out, that very afternoon, BadBalls was out on a training ride, something happened, then something else happened, and BadBalls banged up his Balls, Bike, and Brain. Broke his helmet too. Suffered a temporary loss of vision in his right eye. No cars were involved. Billy was a bit hazy about the sequence of events himself but he managed to convey something about pulling out of his pedal while sprinting on rough pavement. Sounded kind of like a Jens Voight scenario, without the road rash.

So BadBalls said I could have his entries both days. I'm going to repay him in the form of a case of finely crafted Snob Beers. Yes, hes as much of a beer snob as I am.

I was a bit anxious going to canton for a couple reasons. One was The Great Pint Glass controversy of '07 - still unresolved issues there. The other was that I had decided to finally set up my Cx bike for _me_. I bought my Cx bike about 5 years ago, I got it _wicked_ cheap. It's a Bontrager, one of the last of the real hand-mades from bontrager, before he sold out to trek. It came with ultegra 9sp drivetrain and brakes, a USE shockpost, Matrix rims and Vittoria Tigre tires.

I rode it a few times, and immediately swapped out the ultegra for chorus. It gave no tactile feed back from the dual levers on the STI, and the thicker the gloves the harder it was to discern between upshift and downshift. Everything I own is campy anyways, and the idea of the thumb lever for downshifting makes way more sense in a cross bike, no fumbling for the little paddle on choppy terrain while wearing thick gloves.

Anyways, I hadn't ridden the bike in 4 years. It turns out it came with a 110mm stem, and I can't remember if I ever thought I should change it. I rode it at the Velocross, and the inability to slide back on the technical stuff was highly detrimental, so I replaced it with the shortest one I could find - a 50mm.

That's better. Canton isn't exactly a technical course, but it just felt so much better being able to shift my weight further back. I raced the 3/4 45+ and did well (for me). I hit the deck once when a dude swung his bike to the right as I was approaching the run up at the track while I was dismounting. He probably shouldn't have changed his line like that, but then I was coming into the corner way to hot for the amount of traffic that was there. Hey, this is 'cross, a few bump and grinds are gonna happen. I had hoped to stay up with Solobreak, but canton is a power course, and solo has way more power than me. Not to mention, he's still training. I've just been running, and my training for Cx consists solely of going to Cx races. Still, I would gain on him through the winding sections, but he would distance me on all the open stuff. I ended up 13th out of 60something. After the race Solo and I went out for buhrgahs and Beahs at some irish joint in nohwood.

Me rounding the 180 before the pit at canton

Sunday was the Orchard Cross in Hampton Falls, NH. It's about 15 miles from my house, and put on by the same crew that used to put on the Amesbury 'cross race. This was a great course. Old school style. I've always thought apple orchards would make great cross courses and this just confirmed my suspicion. They didn't have to make abstract serpentine tape labyrinths in open fields, the rows of trees made perfect, sort-of natural switchbacks and turns. there was also way more climbing than pretty much any cross course I've ever done. OK, I'm not exactly a prolific 'crosser, but I _have_ been racing 'cross since around '97, so I've seen a few courses. There was a _very_ fast downhill farm road, followed by a similar uphill topped of with a barrier. 1/2 the course was _very_ smooth grass serpentine between the apple trees. There was a several inch deep mud section about 100 feet long with a downhill leading into it. Over all, this was even more of a power course than canton, but some the two climbs on the course balanced out the course for riders like me that have reasonable power/weight against the straight power riders.

I loved the course, and it will definitely be on my schedule for next year. Funny thing is, I didn't do any better than the day before. I got 12th/26 overall, and 4th/6 in the 45+. Well, this _was_ a 1/2/3 instead of a 3/4 like canton. I felt good, never laid the bike down, and could have done another lap.

Me coming out of a 180 into a mud pit at orchard cross

Well, that's it for another lame-assed bloggers lame-assed race report. Now go do something useful for a change.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fucktitude back in the day

This originally started as a comment to another blogger commenting on the fuckeditude of fixed gear mtb'rs, but morphed into a blog post.

Fixed gear mtb'rs are an odd bunch, even more odd than single speed mtb'rs. I'm going to relate a 'back in the day story' but first we need to define 'back in the day'.

'Back in the day' wasn't when they had a B cyclocross category instead of the cat 3's, that was last fucking week. Back in the day the only people that had ever even _heard_ of cyclocross were people that had lived in belgium. Back in the day, mountain bikes were a novelty, and no one had a 'cross frame that was designed and built as a 'cross frame. We had road frames that were modified by a local frame builder by welding on canti brake bosses, pinching the chainstays by the bottom bracket and moving the rear brake bridge a bit higher on the seat stays. My first CX bike started life as a Schwinn Tempo .

Back in the day was when guys still raced with toe clips (yeah, 'cross racing with toe clips!). Index shifting was considered effeminate, there were more five speed freewheels (not freehubs) than six speed freewheels, and you would see an itinerant racer with a set of chainwhips removing the 13t from his freewheel so he could put on a 21 for the putney road race in the parking lot of the west hill shop. The longsjo classic was a one day crit on lower main street (even now, longsjo was a one-day crit longer than it's been a stage race).

Back in the day, we rode fixed gears for early season training. If you didn't have a bike you could leave set up as a fixed gear, you were cajoled into removing your derailleurs, buying a track cog, lock nut, and track chain. This was a point of discipline. No sprinting for town lines in your big chainring in february (they wore ski clothing back then, some guys even wore ski goggles on really cold days, and no one had bike helmets, I remember one brisk morning wearing a ski mask and safety glasses). The idea was to force you to ride for 5 hours in an easy gear to build your base fitness. There's a good reason for junior gear restrictions, the guys from 'back in the day' figured out the damage that pushing big gears did without base mileage without having the help of sports physiology. Fixed gear riding was never intended to be the domain of the urban hipster, once Tullio invented the derailleur, fixed gears became the domain of track racers and spartanites.

Back in the day there was a local bike club called The Sons Of Italy Road Club. You won't find too much about them, they went defunct somewhere around 2001, but they were pretty active in the area in the 80s and 90s. They used to hold an annual banquet in the fall, I could be mistaken but I believe the seeds of NE-BRA were sown here. This was the first time I met Chronoman, he was wearing a nametag that said "hello, my name is Terry Bradshaw". They used to have guest speakers at these banquets, the most notable of whom was Chris Carmichael. Chris talked alot about training, and of course, about his most famous client - Lance Armstrong. I don't remember what year that was, but it was pre-cancer and post world championship. During the q&a, I asked Chris if he thought lance would ever win the TdF. Chris answered 'I think he has the potential. Barring any accidents, yes, I think he will win the tour one day'.

Now, back to where I was heading when I first started writing this epic. Another guest speaker they had was Paul Curley (HEY!). This, if I remember correctly was the last banquet they had. Paul spoke a bit on his rather extensive racing career and then dedicated the rest of his address to his training philosophy. At one point, he mentioned 'fixed-gear' and 'mountain biking' in the same sentence. They served beer at the SoI hall, and I wasn't quite sure that I had heard him correctly. So I raised my hand and asked "did you just say you went mountain biking on a fixed gear?"
He replied "yes".
Again, having made a few trips to the bar, I'm not exactly sure what I said, but I know it was something along the lines of "that's fucked!"
This flustered Paul somewhat, but he continued with his presentation. I'm sure I feel asleep.

Fast forward about 17 years. MTB racing has peaked and declined. If you have a single speed mtb, you're cool. If you have a single speed 29'r, you're _uber_ cool. And, I guess now, if you have a _fixed_ 29'r, you're so fucking cool that thick mud solidifies as you approach allowing you to glide effortlessly through, coors light cans turn blue as you ride by, and hot chicks nipples stand out when you're in the vicinity.

I say this only partially toungue in cheek. Back in the day I was thoroughly ridiculed for wearing black/brown/beige dress socks when arriving for afternoon rides after work, even though I folded them over to resemble 'crew' socks (I remember a clause in the USCF manual as late as 1989 stating "socks will be white, shorts will be black. A thigh panel with the sponsors name will be allowed"). Now, white socks are totally gay, and the uber cool wear fucking argyle.

Now, certain bloggers fully embrace the off-road fixed-gear trend. These people are far more prolific as bloggers, racers, and slackers than I. While I ridicule the off-road fixed-gear rider for coming to the party 20 years after paul curley was using it as a spartan training regimen, I envy them for my inability to jump in with both feet due to pragmatic commitments of my own doing.

I sincerely hope that off-road fixed-gear competition becomes at least as successful as off-road single-speed competition has become. I won't be doing it, I'll have respect for those that _do_ embrace it, but I still think it's fucked.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I hope no one is buyin' this shit.......


"The Quick Step rider blamed his positive doping controls on his drinking; indicating that he drank so much that he did not know what later happened. "I was very drunk. I do not know what happened, but the next day I tested positive for cocaine," he said.....Quick Step later accepted Boonen's explanation that his positive test had come as a result of contact with other cocaine users, rather than direct ingestion of the drug......"Hair samples proved that there was no cocaine in his system for more than four months," said Lefevere. "The amount of cocaine present [at the time of his positive test] was enough to say that there was someone with him who was using it, and he came close to those people.""

Really, a contact high from blow?

Right - Sorry Boom Boom, the only way to test positive for blow is to do blow. Being in the same room with it doen't set off the catalyst.

(posted by a survivor of many a lost weekend)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

26 Reds and A Bottle of Wine

more like 26 miles and a 5K race....well, more like 27 miles, but who's counting....

I had too much shit to do this past weekend around my house, so getting away to maine for one (or both) of the verge races wasn't really feasible. It just so happened that The Cider Hill Farm in amesbury mass was holding the "5K Cider Mash Orchard Run" cross country running race. Amesbury is about ten miles from me, though it turned out the actual race venue was 13.6 miles (hence the 27 miles reference).

The ride there was actually nice, it was relatively warm, and there was a solid southwest wind, so I had a tailwind all the way there. The race flier promised "real cross country". I had thought of riding my bike over the course, but the first thing you see from the registration table was the first climb, up the side of the apple grove, allegedly up an old ski run. I had my road bike, no way I was going to make it up that.

Eh, I'll just wing it. I wasn't here to set a PR. My knee was still acting up from the crash at the pinnacle challenge three weeks earlier. In fact, this past week was the first time I was able to run for 30 minutes without my right knee feeling a severe tendinitis type of pain (A/M/P CL? I dunno, it just fucking hurts). Besides, if I wanted to go for a PR, I wouldn't have ridden my bike over. I've already learned that drains many seconds per mile from me.

Anyways, it turns out we're going over that big hill twice, and we were warned at the line of a long section of deep thick mud - no pr's for _anyone_ today.

It looked like there was reasonable talent there - lots of people in club jerseys, most WCRC. No MVS. Indeed, both Craig Fram and his son were there. Not knowing the personalities, I guessed the race was for 2nd.

The horn went off and it was a mad dash for the 178 runners to get across a short single lane bridge less than 100 yards from the start. I sprinted at the beginning to avoid the bottle neck, and made the top fifteen coming across the bridge. Then next 1/4 mile was a hard-packed flat dirt farm road. Take a right to go between rows of apple trees where we were greeted by the sweet pungent smell of dropped, fermenting apples for another 100 yards. Take left, and start going up




Seriously, wet grass with saturated ground underneath. Without a good shoe, the only people getting up this without slipping were the most surefooted of runners. The first 100 yards was the steepest, I'm estimating over 15% grade. After that is 'leveled' out to about 5% to the top of the hill.

I crested the top in what I thought was 10th spot. I looked behind me and saw one person. that hill really thinned things out. "Those were people who died". Running down the other side on a farm road, I passed one runner, Kurt Mullen, before hitting the mud bog. First mile in 6:30. Later analysis showed 175 feet of climbing, all in about 1/4 mile (see graph below)

Yup, lots 'o mud. This stuff was more than ankle deep. they had gone though and spread hay, so you sank in and couldn't keep your speed up, but at least you weren't pulling ten pounds of mud out with each step. They had cleverly placed little signs along the mud bogs - "CAUTION, WORM PIT" and "DRY SOCKS?", there were more.

I started to feel the tendinitis in my knee. It was only hurting on the up sections, so I let loose on every downhill and nursed the up sections. Kurt caught me on the up sections in the second mile, and I would close the gap to him on the downhills. Towards the end of the second mile, they run you back and forth between rows of apple trees in about 100 yard sections, up and over a small hill each time. I started to hear cheers for "YEA, FIRST WOMAN" getting closer and closer behind me. Coming out of the grove and back onto a farm road we headed up again. Yup, way up. Not as steep, and this time on hardpacked dirt.

I could hear the woman (later identified as Kelly Jenkins of West Newbury, or as I saw her "The Ab Queen" - her abdominal muscles were simply fantastic) breathing behind me getting closer. I pushed off hard with my left leg and just soft-legged with my right going up the steep climb.

End of second mile - 7:10/11:40. Graph shows 115 feet of climbing in this section, not bad considering I ran _down_ the 145 foot climb I went up in the first mile.

The second steep climb peaked well past the 2 mile mark. The graph shows this one climb to be 150 feet. Kelly didn't catch me before the top, so I pushed the pace back over the top and started to distance her, while gaining back on Kurt. I was way faster than him on the downhills. I caught him through the last section of orchard just as we came back out on the dirt road we started on. I was holding his pace, but it was hard. I was faster than him on the downhills, but he clearly had the stronger uphill and flat pace. He slowly pulled away, beating me by three seconds over the last 1/4 mile. I'm usually good for a sprint, and normally I would have turned it in the last 100 yards, but today I had no lungs left. My legs were good, but no fuel. Kelly came in 6 seconds later.

(clickie = biggie)

My time - 20:20/6:33 pace. Before I saw the course I was hoping for 6:30, because I haven't been running due to my knee pain. So, I'm pretty happy with a 6:33 pace, it got me 11th overall and 4th on the 40's age group.

I'll tell ya, the 40's age group is without a doubt the most competitive. In the top ten at this race there were 5 age group winners and three finishers in the 40's age group. The top two on the 40's got 2nd and 3rd overall. You had to go down to 8th place to get a second place from any other group, Greg Balog got 8th over all and 2nd in the 30's. Craig Fram won in a 17:42/5:42. Just to give you an indication of the toughness of this course, that's the slowest 5K Craig has run this year.

So, now I had to ride 13 miles home, into a headwind the whole way, over the many rolling hills on rte 110 between amesbury and haverhill. I got home just in time to see the Patriots spank Tampa Bay.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Race Across The Sky

Yes, I went to see it last night.

Let's get one thing straight right away. I'm a lance fan. Not a lance fan-atic, just a fan. I truly appreciate what he's accomplished, how he's impacted cycling in the united states, how he's used his fame and fortune to advance the cause of cancer research, and the inspiration he's given people towards becoming cyclists and getting involved in the LAF. I'm also exceptionally dubious over the doper allegations, and fuck off if you're a lance hater (I have no patience for it).

Anyways, Race Across The Sky wasn't about lance. It was about the Leadville 100, a 100 mile MTB race centered in leadville colorado. Lance won this year, and they decided to use his fame as a vehicle to launch the film. Lance wasn't a minor character, but how could he be? He won the fucking thing, so of course he would be prominent. But shown just as prominently in the film is Dave Wiens, the founder of the event Kenneth Chlouber, as well as Travis Brown and Matt Shriver. Susan Demattei even had a good amount of face time. I make this point to make the distinction clear: Race Across The Sky was a movie about the Leadville 100 that had lance armstrong in it, much in the same way that Breaking Away wasn't really about cycling, it was a movie about a teenager coming of age with cycling in it.

Turn out was good, the theater was about half full. The manager was quite surprised, as he had to come out and help take/sell tickets. When he came out and saw the line at the ticket kiosk he actually said "wow!".

The movie was broken up into 3 parts - two panel discussions, before and after the actual movie, and then the movie about the race.

The panel discussions were poorly edited and hosted by a total putz (didn't even bother to look his name up). The low points of his performance were:

In the first segment - the 'panel' were all seated on wooden stools, the MC placed one foot on a stool rung and broke the rung. They didn't bother to cut away or get him another stool. As the discussion went on, the legs of the stool were noticeably widening as he shifted his position

Second segment - With a new stool, he asked Travis Brown if the fact that Travis was riding a 29er was beneficial. Travis replied "um, I wasn't riding a 29er, I had 26" wheels. My bike had drop bars".


The panel discussions were in fact interesting - if you're a cyclist and you knew the characters. I wasn't riveted, but light jokes were made (the theater audience laughed several times), and all the participants came off as friendly and relaxed in both segments. What made it difficult was the hacked editing I mentioned earlier. The flow of conversation was disrupted to the point that you felt like you had to mentally shift gears as the topic changed with the camera angle. Clearly, not much skill went into the transitions. The first segment went on too long, and if you aren't involved in sports as more than a fan, it will probably be the thing that turns off the majority of potential viewers. If this ever makes it to broadcast/cable/satellite network, the length of the first panel segment will have the cycling layperson switching over to survivor re-runs ten minutes in.

The movie - Pleasantly surprised to hear Bob Roll as the narrator. I don't know if this was shot in HD, but it wasn't shown in HD. It _should_ have been shot and shown in HD (a big fat fucking 'F' if it wasn't). The motorcycle camera shots and helicopter shots were spectacular. Shots showing the riders at the top of the course (Mount Columbine) rivaled any european racing footage I've ever seen. The footage of the actual race was excellent. Good camera shots, music not too overdone, the editing was done so that you actually felt a sense of the dramatic nature of the event. Little interviews with riders who had stopped for whatever reason, added a good feel to the difficulty, though a bit too much was spent on the people who didn't make the first time check. I suppose it was necessary to show the frustration and anguish of people who were actually turned back because they didn't make the first aid station in a reasonable time, but it was just a bit much for my taste.

Then there were the obligatory racer profiles. One woman racer had been hit by a car years earlier and suffered a broken back (five individual spinal fractures), two shattered legs, massive internal injuries, of course was shown in tears describing her comeback, (as was her husband). Curiously though, only about 30 seconds was spent on a woman racer who has MS (maybe she declined a more detailed interview?). I think that story would have been just as compelling, if not more. Alot of time was spent on Dave Wiens and his family, with his wife Susan Demattei given alot of camera time. If there was any question that this movie was a lance fest, these segments put it to rest. Time spent on lance's personal life or off the bike during the movie? Almost zero (exactly two mentions of his Gfriend and son in attendance with no interview, one short segment of him leaning on his bike and talking about the race). Third place rider Matt Shriver was actually interviewed off the bike as part of the movie, with significantly more time than armstrong.

As the race wore down and the movie came to a close, I would have liked a better choice of music. It was the same cheezy solo piano crap they have every year when they show the end of the ironman hawaii with the late finishers coming across the finish line. That said, I suppose it was a necessary addition to give the movie a slightly broader audience appeal. But you know us racers, we want to see racing. As empathetic as I am to the person just barely making the cutoff, it just isn't interesting to me, but that's just me.

I'm not going to go into the race details - all that information is on-line - except for one thing. Lance gets a flat about 7 miles from the finish. He has no clue how to change a tubeless tire (he admits this in the panel discussion after the movie). He spends his CO2 cartridges just pumping the tire back up then riding as far as he can until it was flat again, and rode the last three miles completely flat. One comment I've read today was "now we know lance is a litterbug". Well, we didn't see lance tossing his CO2 and not picking it up, and in fact the first time he stops to service the flat, he _does_ in fact pick the cartridge up, and Bob Roll even states, something to the effect of 'lance is clearly frustrated as he retrieves the spent CO2 cartridge'. I suppose the comment could have been about whatever happened to all the fuel packages he used - the same argument could be made for _all_ the elite racers. I'm pretty sure they had a crew go over the course the next day and pick up as much as they could. Does that excuse tossing wrappers off the bike? IMO no, but I don't know what they had said about such things, maybe they said "we'll have clean up crews".

Movies like this are necessary. Sure, the editing and directing left a little to be desired, but anything to raise awareness and un-marginalize our sport is good effort. It wasn't a lance propaganda piece, and it wasn't a smaltzy effort by a studio noob with delusions of coppola. It was done by a group of people who feel emotion for the sport and are obviously working towards greater acceptance. I'm sure there are other people out there that feel the movie was expertly edited and directed. I _know_ there are people out there that will lambaste the entire effort.

I'll probably buy the DVD. Hopefully it will be in high def.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happy Thursday

So, I figured it out. I lamented my downward trend in my last post. Last night, on the way home, it became obvious.

I don't know how many of you have had this happen - you're riding along, and all of a sudden you 'wake up'. You ask "how the hell did I get here". You can't remember a large chunk of your ride.

That happened last night. I remember riding north on main street in boxford and taking a right on lakeshore rd. Then I suddenly realized I was in haverhill on boxford road approaching chadwick road. Boxford road isn't some straight flat road. It's windy, twisty, and hilly (well, just little short rises).

For the first mile, the road has no flat sections, and no straight sections, and you can see for more than 100 feet in one spot - though even there a small car can be obscured by the dip in the road. Two SUV's cannot pass here without one going off the pavement. Many times I have had to brush the edge of the pavement on my bike for an f-350 (this is farm/horse country) that refused to take a bit of dirt on his right.

Yet this is where I went 'out'. This means one thing - I'm tired. I was looking forward to riding in today, quite possibly one of the last 'shorts only' days of the year. Instead, I'll be taking a nap in my car at lunch. Dreaming of days gone by:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The downward trend

I'm losing it.

I was riding to work this morning, watching my HR spike as I was watching my speed drop over a small incline. Granted, it was 32 degrees at the start for the second day in a row, and I'm wearing an extra 42 pounds of clothing, but I wasn't overheating, just hyperventilating.

It occurred to me how much work I need to do on a regular basis, just to keep up in the masters. Last weekend was a good example. I "raced" the New England Velo-Cross Challenge, mechanical-ed in the first 1/4 mile, then crashed half a dozen times times just trying not to get lapped. The last crash resulted in me jamming my left rear canti underneath the rim with my right leg on a run-up. I had to deflate the tire and open the skewer to get it free. I DNFd with about 2 to go.

I sense myself getting slower and slower, and I'm not sure why. I did a 5 K road race about a month ago, and had the slowest time I've had all year (including the second 5 k of a duathlon in may). Then at the pinnacle challenge I ran even slower. I _haven't_ been over training, if anything I've been taking it easy for the past few weeks.

That's when I started thinking about the time I need to put in on the bike just to stay with the genetic freaks in the masters field. Freaks like this guy:

He rides a few dozen times a year, and rarely races any more. He showed up Saturday on his old 'cross bike that he hasn't ridden in three years and got 3rd in the master 35+ (ok, there were only like 6 guys, but he was in like second for a long time before he faded). This same guy, at the CX national championships at fort devens in '96 (?) had never raced 'cross before in his life, showed up on a borrowed bike, and got 3rd in the "B" field. He made a comment after wards something like, 'I was wondering when anyone was going to chase the two leaders down and no one did, so I attacked'. Then there was the time in 2001 that he had the flu for a week, was running a fever of 102 on saturday, got up on sunday for a 3 hour drive to race the jiminy peak road race, and got 10th in the masters 1/2/3 (full field, btw). Don't get me wrong, I like the dude, he's friendly, humble, and genuinely a nice person. He's just a genetic freak.

I can train all year, and just barely keep up with guys like him.

So I'm riding to work this morning, numb fingers and toes, wondering why I do it. I started thinking about all the guys I've known over the years that claim undying passion for the sport of cycling, that I haven't seen at a race in years. Of course their excuse is always the same, 'family/job'.

Hmmm....Me too. I have a family, a job, I even own a triple-decker rental in a a city 40 miles away that I have to maintain (it sucks, I hate it, I never wanted it, and I'd be just as happy to let the fucking bank have it, but I have a wife who is deeply concerned about the credit rating implications. She's right, but my emotion of the whole fucking thing is enough to let it go and deal with the fallout).

But I ride, I train, and I race. I can't let it go. When my wife and I first started discussing long term 'arrangements', I made the point clear that the racing will continue. She would have to accept it as part of me and who I am, or the deal is off. I was racing 30 times a year when we met, and our second date was to one of the first iterations of the Watershed Wahoo MTB races in new hampshire. So far, so good. It seems she's glad sometimes to get me the hell out of her face (like that wasn't predictable). However, I get _no_ sympathy for injuries related to bike racing. She's helped scrub out a few wounds over the years, but I better be able to move those 5 yards of loam the next day, whether I'm nursing a case of road rash or not.

By the same token, a rather common critique of my training and racing is "you know, if you took it seriously, you'd be pretty good".

what a conundrum...I enjoy riding and racing so much that accepting it was a prerequisite to get married, but I don't take it seriously enough to really post any decent results. This is true.

Many years ago a local former pro offered to take me under his wing - "I could definitely get you riding as a good cat two". He wasn't asking for money, and I knew him well enough to know he was serious. I didn't take him up on it, because I knew how much work I was already putting in as 3, and I really didn't want to work that hard - yeah, it was the slacker in me. I had a full time job, had been recently married to my _first_ wife, and was enjoying life. I enjoyed getting out on training rides a mixing it up, not worrying about 'training', just interested in having fun. Making me a 2 would have been a _lot_ of work. Besides, it would have interfered with my drinking.

It won't be getting any easier. I'm getting older and I have more non-cycling distractions in my life. But I just can't see giving up on it. I feel it pulling at me in the winter months. I get bitchy when I don't ride enough. I have to keep at it.

So The next time you see me, don't hesitate to yell out "slacker".

(Did you ever feel like you've just wasted five minutes of your life? If you've made it this far, you have a lot more patience than I do.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Consummate Pro - Redux

A Consummate professional is one that seeks to grant their profession a sense of tact and dignity, and to avert conflagrations that would pall themselves, their profession, or their peers.

Matt O'Keefe, in his most recent correspondence to me, has shown exactly those qualities. It is for that reason that I have taken yesterdays rant down, his actions in the Topsfield Road Race not withstanding.

His professionalism can be succinctly realized in the last two sentences of his message

"I respect what you have done for the sport and I hope guys like you rub off on the younger crop. Respect is important, to disagree on circumstances is part of life."

Geeze, doesn't even sound like the same guy, does it......

The only caveat I would add is that, yes, I hope more people participate at _least_ to the level I have * , but I shudder to think future generations might look to me as a fucking role model.

Thank you for demonstrating the dignity worthy of a professional, Matt.

(* I know those who don't know me very well have a hard time believing this, but I _do_ have a rather strong sense of humility. I'm often an asshole, but I'm a humble asshole. I've contributed significant portions of my time _off_ the bike so that others can spend time _on_ the bike, but there are many more that have much more than me. Being involved in local club administration for 15 years, I've seen the _lack_ of participation first hand, as well as the efforts of those who seem to make time out of thin air. However, I've never sought to have my efforts acknowledged with more than a 'thank you' from the people I've worked with, and I'm not looking to change that now.)

Now, everyone, do yourselves a favor and go here and or here, and especially here. It's time we lightened up a bit.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pinnacle Challenge 2009

The turnout was light for the double duathlon this year. There were only 20 solo entries, as opposed to 40 the last time I did it ('07), though there were only 23 solo entries last year in _much_ better weather conditions.

This day, the weather looked good, but it rained like a mother fucker the day before, so things promised to be wet, especially in the woods. The major mistake I made in setting up was _not_ considering the wet woods when prepping my MTB. I pumped the tires up for a dry course.

Other than that, I felt good. I knew I wasn't as fit as the last time I did it, but I had been running significantly more since then and was hoping that would translate into a better time: my goal - 2:25. My previous PR was 2:33, but that was with losing a good five minutes from an MTB flat tire, and trying to change a tubeless tire. (tubeless tires are almost impossible to remove, since the seal is achieved by a super tight fit. The only thing that enabled me to continue at all was knowing I would need a tube to fix it (and having one), since getting the tire bead to reseal on the trail is _not_ possible.)

I had big hopes to be able to run a 6:30 pace on the first leg, a road run. All my runs this year have been well under that. Since the 'road' run is really 4.8 miles (as noted here, though it's backwards from the race) a 6:30 pace would get me in the transition area in 31 minutes, and keep me in good contention.

The 'road' run starts out in a dirt parking lot, runs through a stand of trees, across a steep off-camber slope (freshly mowed wet grass, did I mention this is the road run?) then across an ATV bridge, through a lumpy field, then up a steep embankment onto a rail trail (this _is_ the road run, right?). That's the first 1/4 mile. We stay on the rail trail up until about the 2 mile point, where we finally turn onto a pave road. It's paved the rest of the way from here.

As soon as I hit the rail trail, I could hear myself breathing - raspy congestion. This ain't gonna be good. Checking my HRM, I settled into a pace where I could breathe well. I was hitting my target HR for this section, but was feeling slow. About halfway through, I realized I was feeling significant lactic acid buildup in my lower legs. This _sucks_! I've been running about 15 miles a week, entering races, done two duathlons this year, and had nothing like this happen this year. WTF!?!?!

Checking my watch as we got back towards the transition area, I realized I wasn't that far off my goal, but I was working way harder than I had planned. I was thinking a solid effort without red-lining would get me 31 minutes. Not red-lining was the important goal, and pushing as hard as I dared got me back in 32:19. It beat my previous best on the first leg by 20 seconds, but was still disappointing from my goal. I ranked 3rd in my age group for the 1st run (out of 7, yippie....)

Getting on the MTB, I was still recovering, and not well. My legs were still killing me, they wouldn't recover until half-way through the MTB leg. The MTB was supposed to be my best performance. I soon found out today wasn't going to cooperate. this MTB course uses a lot of the same sections that the Eastern FuckTard Association courses here use. It's steep, windy, rocky, rooty, single track (~ 500' of climbing in the first two miles). At first I couldn't figure out why I kept falling down. That is _not_ typical for me. One fall, maybe two, sure, because I'm of the school of thought that if you didn't fall, you haven't ridden hard enough, but I was dabbing and slipping all over the place. Near the top it dawned on me - too much tire pressure. That's how clouded my mind was from the run, It should have been obvious the first time I spun out on a set of roots. The first time it happened I was going up a section of double track where there just happened to be a photographer. I asked if I was the first one that fell and he replied only a couple of guys made it, and I made it further than most. Fuck it, too late now that all the steep up is done. Dropping tire pressure now wouldn't save me any time now and might cause a pinch flat since it was all downhill from here. As I was riding the only flat section on the top of the hill I finally started to feel good. I felt better and better all the way down, and even passed a few people. I blew by one guy on a downhill section of fire road like he was standing still. sweet! I passed as many people that passed me, and from my experience racing MTBs the guys passing me were all _good_. They obviously had experience - and full suspension....hmmmmm.

My MTB fork is in rough shape. It's a good fork, a rockshox SID dual air. But it's beat. The bike is an IF custom deluxe Ti. Damn good bike, worthy of a good fork. I noticed some wear on the right stanchion early this year. I haven't ridden it much, but the times I've ridden it I haven't noticed any problems - until the thursday before the pinnacle. I went out on a 'tune-up' ride and noticed the lock out wasn't working. Next thing I noticed was the fork was riding very hard. I almost got tossed in a couple of section that the bike should have glided over. After the ride, I saw that the travel was down to about 1 1/2 inches, and sticky. Even worse was that the anodization was worn completely off the right stanchion. This wasn't the reason that I kept falling going _up_ hill, but it certainly would have made the downhill stuff more comfortable. I didn't have time to change it before the race, and even if I did I wouldn't have had time to ride it. Not good to try a new fork the day of a race - go with what you know. I ended up with a PR for the MTB leg nonetheless, though it's tough to qualify that. The course changes from year to year, and the last time I did it I lost 5 minutes on the tire change. The first time I did it I got the 3rd fastest time _overall_, and it took be 5 minutes longer. Today I had the 3rd best time in my age group (again) and 7th best in the solos (out of 20). I'm thinking the right tire pressure would have saved me more than a couple of minutes.

OK, back into the transition are. Last year Solo commented on people congregating at the entrance. This year, not _too_ bad, but I started yelling "CLEAR OUT" as I was heading for the mtb to rb change, and still bumped one dude from a team who just got done with the MTB leg and was pretty toasted.

Hop on the road bike, time to eat. This is a fun balance - keep a steady, competitive pace while trying to eat a power bar. At least on the TT bike I can rest on the pads and have my hands kind of free. I kept a decent pace up to the hill (first six miles). One rider came by me pretty quickly - a team rider - and I paced him up to the bottom of the hill (no, I didn't draft). I paced him all the way up the hill but he drilled it over the top and I lost him. A rider on a nice pinarello road bike (sans aerobars) caught me right at the top. The hill climbs 300 feet in .8 miles (~7%), so it isn't trivial. Once I got to the top, I dropped right back into the bars and blasted my way down. I hit 38 mph at one point without pushing too hard and left the guy that just caught me behind. At the bottom of the hill there's a 90 degree left, but the road is wide, and there are marshals. I went way to the right and swooped into the left, downshifting to keep in the 'power band'.

If the road was flat, taking the corner pushing 30 mph wouldn't have been an issue. If I had gotten off the aerobars and rode the bull horns through the corner, taking the corner pushing 30 mph wouldn't have been an issue. But, staying in the aerobars and pushing 30 mph into the corner was an issue. Since my weight was forward on the bike, when I went over the crown of the road leaning the bike, the rear wheel unweighted and started to drift. In a effort to stop the drift I had to steer/lean the bike upright, which set me on a course directly for the trees. The brakes on my TT bike aren't on the aero bars, so now I'm careening toward the trees probably somewhere around 30 MPH, unable to move my hands to the brakes.

Nothing to do but hope.

I hit the shoulder, the front wheel digs in the soft ground, and I launch off into the woods. I hit a stand of saplings which acted sort of like a bungee net, and prevented me from hitting the 2 foot wide maple tree. My polar data - only able to record in 5 second intervals - shows me going from 29 mph to zero in one of those intervals. Laying in the bushes completely upside down, I did a quick check of my limbs, struggled back to my feet, and staggered to my bike. The marshal came running over to help, and after a few seconds of forcing my back to straighten out and checking out the bike, I said to her,"wow, I'll bet that was pretty spectacular", and started to push the bike to remount.

She said, "oh my god, are you ok?"
I replied, "well, there's only one way to find out" and rode off.

I had a trickle of blood from my right knee and a good sized knot popping up on my right shin. My left quad felt like I may have pulled it. I had a spot in the middle of my back that felt like I got hit with a baseball bat, but I was actually recovering, and picking up speed. My breathing was labored from the pain in my back. This section was about 3/4 of a mile up hill, but not a tough grade, so I could still make decent time and not push it aerobically. I could see the guy I passed on the downhill about 30 seconds ahead. I ended up passing someone just before the top of the next hill, but then the guy on the pinarello was out of sight. It's all downhill from here and I wasn't too confident of catching him. Back in the aero bars, heading downhill I got my speed back up to the low 30's and was gaining on someone else. I couldn't believe how fast I passed him, a quick check of my speed at that point shows me hitting 40. At the bottom of this hill, there is a sharp left followed buy a hairpin right. Yes, I learned my lesson. It's better to lug the gear out of the corner than to ride the aero bars through the corner. However, I could see the guy I had passed not to far in front of me as he exited out of the hairpin onto the main road. I caught him about a mile out of the transition area and he said "Damn, I can't believe you got up" as I went by.

So, even with the crash, I was the fastest in my age group, 2nd fastest of the solos. I beat the #2 in my age group by 2 minutes. To be fair, Solobreak won the age group bike 2 split last year, and bested #2 by 3 1/2 minutes.

Time for the trail run. I still felt good, but now I my mind was swirling about the possible effects of my flying wallendas audition. I concentrated on pace. The trail run uses some of the same single track trails that the MTB course uses, except that they use shortcuts - the stuff that's too steep for mortals to ride an MTB up, including things like this glacially deposited boulder:

(Yes, that's Our Solobreak in 2008)

Think of running up stairs for two miles. I was limping slightly from the minor quad pull, but not so much that it was slowing me down - my pace was being dictated by fatigue. I passed two people on the uphill. and thought I would end up running alone for the whole downhill section. I got passed on the downhill by three guys, all team runners. I could tell from how clean they were. This helped me set my pace better. Towards the bottom there is a steep drop off - same as on the mtb leg. I ran down this, and my left leg nearly buckled. I recovered, and was thankful I was near the end. The course ends up on a section of fire road, just before dropping down another small hill into the field for the flat finish. I kept checking behind me. I knew I had something left for a good finish if necessary, but really didn't want to use it if I didn't have to. The next person to finish after me came in over 4 minutes later.

Monday morning: I got no sleep because my left quad pull meant I couldn't shift my position in bed without extreme pain, and I couldn't lie on my back because of the bruise from hitting the trees. My right shoulder had some sort of deep bruise, I can't see it but I couldn't raise my elbow higher than my chest, and couldn't lift anything heavier than a coffee cup. Both lower legs were so sore that I had to walk up and down stairs flat footed, one at a time

As of now, my quad is better and the cuts and bruises on my legs are negligible. I still have a big bruise in the middle of my back which makes sitting for long periods uncomfortable, and I can run with only minor twinges in my calves. I have full range of motion in my shoulder but feel a sting when lifting anything of weight.

The finish? 3/7 in my age group, 6/20 of the solos. I missed 2nd in my age group by 4 1/2 minutes. I'm thinking with the MTB set up right, and not crashing the road bike, I might have been able to pull back 3 minutes.

Well, I have no target events for the rest of the year. I'll do some 'cross races, and I'm toying with the jamestown race this weekend since I'm going to newport ri for the long weekend as my 15th wedding anniversary. They may get closed out because of the bump from the verge races. As of now the 45+ already has 61 pre-reg. I don't want to pre-reg since I don't know if I'll be in any shape to race that morning, and quite frankly if I don't race it I won't lose any sleep. I won't be doing the verge races though, those people are too wound up.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Zen Pulls A Hat Trick

Not much time right now to get into the nitty gritty details, but I PR'd the pinnacle challenge course, with PR's on each leg of the course as well. The Hat Trick was yet another 3rd place in my age group. This with some MTB misshaps, and a road bike crash

More to follow!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yet Another Lame Sucker Brook 'Cross Report

Yes, I know, the Sucker Brook Cyclocross Race in Auburn, New Hampshire is one of the more well attended races in New England (392 starters this day). It's a well laid out course in a good location, early enough in the year that the weather is usually not a deterrent.

I like to take credit for some of the early success of this race. The promoter Jack Chapman is a friend of mine. A few years ago at the first or second running of the event I thought the race was on a saturday instead of sunday. I showed up and jack said 'hey, we need someone with some racing experience to ride the course.' They had it staked out but no tape, so I took a spin.

For some reason Jack thinks I'm a good racer. I know this is because I won the first race in the EFTA series as a sprt vet about a decade ago, and he had the unfortunate task of telling me I was DQ'd because a couple of years earlier - when I wasn't a member of efta and had only done one MTB race all season - I did a race in the expert class.

NHTMF rant -

It turns out they have a rule that if you _EVER_ do a race in one class, you can _NEVER_ drop down to the lower class. I remember that expert race, I got there too late to enter the sport class and had driven almost two hours, so I waited around for the expert race. I hadn't been racing much that year and had no license so I did a day-of. I ended up almost getting lapped and dropped out.

So two years after racing _one_ race all season and not racing _since_ then I'm told I can't _ever_ race as a sport with EFTA again. Sure, force an upgrade after a few wins, but to DQ someone for a rule they didn't know existed when they weren't even a member of the organisation?

Fuck EFTA - should mean "Eastern FuckTards Association".

I've done one EFTA event since then. They had a cyclocross class at the Watershed Wahoo one year and I got second out of about 40 guys. It's the only 'cross race that I ever beat Chronoman and that was because he flatted a few miles before the finish. They couldn't exclude me from that race because they had no category breakdown, and didn't even award prizes. I think I remember it only cost $10, and I wouldn't even have done that except Chronoman knew I had ridden that course half a dozen times and wanted some company and intell.

If any 'friend of EFTA' reads this and feels compelled to comment, this is my pre-emptive response: fuck you you fucking efta fuck.

- end NHTMF rant

So the year I showed up at jacks race and pre-rode the course, I made a couple of recommendations. You know the stairs? Those weren't there. They just had an off camber ride up. I told him to build a 180. Yeah, that was my idea. Now they have the stairs, which is better anyways.

Anyways, The weather was fantastic. Warm and dry. I actually like sloppy rainy courses, but warm dry is a good second choice. I have no illusions that I'm going to podium in a 'cross race. It's not why I do it. I race 'cross because I enjoy the style and I want to support the sport. (another mini NHTMF rant - Yeah, I don't prereg on purpose. I don't mind paying the $5 late fee because I know it helps support the promoter of a class event, so to all of you ignorant fucktards that think I'm a cheap SOB, fuck you you fucking NAV fucks). So I line up at the back because I don't want to get in the way of the guys that focus on 'cross racing as their main sport. It's better training to ride through traffic anyways, and if I ever start seeing myself consistently in the top ten I'll consider pushing my way up to Chronoman at the start line.

They do a great job setting this course up. Lot's of good places to pass, wide corners, nothing you would need an MTB for. If there was any one change I would make it would be just a bit more pavement. So I start off working my way up from the back. There are a few guys I like to mark in 'cross races because I know they race all the time but don't usually podium. Tom Stevens is one, Dave Leedburg is another. I passed Stevens in pretty short order and saw that he was was falling further back with each lap. Leedburg started out behind me, but pretty much paced me up until the last lap, maybe only 10 seconds behind. With 3 laps to go I started doing a lot of trading places with two guys from bike link. It turns out the stronger of the two was Paul Lynch, but he wasn't to quick in the corners. The other was Dan Russell, who was not as fast in the straights as paul but better in the technical sections.

I had trouble in the sand pit. It was rideable, but keeping the bike straight was a problem for me. Here's a good picture of me almost bailing on one lap (though I never did bail in the sand):

And another once I figured it out:

Lynch would catch me and pass me in the straight fast sections (once in the sand as well). I would come back up to him in the corners and technical parts. At one point I finally got enough of a gap where I passed him and left him, but dropped my chain and he came back up to me. He knew he wasn't cornering well though, and twice he swung way wide and waved me by.

On the penultimate lap, I was behind him and decided to draft through the start line all the way until after the stairs. He's a big guy and pulls a decent draft. Russel was behind us. When Lynch pulled off and waved me through, both russell and I went through, then russell passed me through the barriers. I stayed with him then passed him on the fire road before the sand. Coming out of the sand I shifted to get around the 180 on-camber turn (by the ball field fence) but my chain dropped in the spokes. Both russell and lynch came by here, as lynch had used his power through the whole fire road section to bridge back up to us. I got things running again to - you guessed it - draft lynch all the way to the stairs. I passed him on the 180 after the stairs and russell was in my sights. I managed to close the gap on him through the twisty up-n-down and fire road, and passed him just before we hit the sand again. He muttered "shit" as i went by. He latched onto me as we passed the ball field again, and now we were catching someone from the 35+ field. I jumped around the 35+ guy just as we hit the pavement and went into full crit mode, holding off Russell for 15th place (yay! 15th fucking place!). Still, it was fun actually having someone to race with for the last couple of laps rather than just riding alone.

I didn't know who the two bikelink guys were at the time. I saw another masters racer of great repute afterwards and described the guys. He said, 'geeze, that sounds like lynchie, he waved you by? I'm surprised you and your bike are in one piece, lynchie never lets anyone by'. This sentiment was echoed by chronoman, who quipped 'I've seen lynch take on a stand of trees and the trees did _not_ come out on top'.

It was a fun day on a great course. After, I picked up a 24 serving tub of Gu drink mix for $5 (SCORE!) at the Naults table.

My next event is the Pinnacle Challenge, a focus event for me that I hope to do well at.

I'll let you know.

(If you repeated hit the refresh key on that pinnacle link, you'll eventually see a guy in a bright yellow BOB kit coming out of the covered bridge. That's me at the race in '06).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Go Thataway

I had to get this one up. It's of a construction zone at the rte 125 end of the ward hill connector in haverhill.

Salemfest 5k

The weather conditions for the Salemfest 5k on september 19th couldn't have been better. Clear blue skis and a bit chilly at the start. I was just on the verge of goosebumps in a technical long-sleeve and shorts before warming up. Registration was in an industrial condo park, on a hill. I was told the finish line was at the top of the hill, and I could see the staging. The start, though, was at the entrance to the park, a good 1/2 mile away,and at the bottom of the hill.

Turn out was light. Coolrunning shows just over 100 runners. I didn't see any of the 'usual suspects', though there were quite a few very fit people, and a number of people that looked like serious runners. The promos for the race mentioned hills. I saw the finish and that was certainly on a hill, and the start took a right out of the industrial park and went up a short steep hill. Once we took off, we hit that little hill, crested it, and started a long gradual downhill. I immediately found myself running in 4th spot. I wasn't pushing the pace, and was actually looking for a pacer. One guy, later identified as craig fram jr. took off (yes, the son of the local legend craig
fram, who was in attendance but chose not to run). He was clearly running a well-under six minute fast for me. But, the two right in front of me soon dropped their pace and I was running in second from about the first 1/4 mile to about 3/4 mile, when one other runner came by. I paced him for a bit until the one mile marker. I looked back and we had a good 15 second gap on 4th place. First place was long gone.

From the 3/4 mile point to probably the half-way point the course was uphill. Not by much, no way would I call the course 'hilly'. It was enough though, that the runner now in second was able to distance me by a solid 20 seconds by the 1/2 way point. The course runs an incomplete figure 8. We head out pelham road, take 3 left turns and come back out on pelham road and take a right to go the other direction (back towards the start) and predominantly downhill. To make the figure 8 path, we then took a left on commercial drive.

So far, I haven't seen any hills that would be worthy of mentioning.

I'm running completely alone now. Second place is out of sight, and 4th place is nowhere to be seen. Looking at my watch, I'm thinking I should be approaching the finish, but wait, the finish was at the top of a hill.....hmmmm

I come around a right hand bend....oh, my.....yup, that's a hill. I'm guessing about 200 yards long, and at the time I was thinking about 10%. Checking the course on, it shows 100 feet of elevation gain in the last 3/10 of a mile, with the pitch varying between 6 and 11%. I could see second place almost at the top, where he took a right.

Hills kill me. I'm not sure why. On a bike, hills are my strength. Running, I always lose ground. I wish someonecould tell me why this is. I like hills, I've never seen a long climb and felt a sense of dread. But for some reason, running them slows me down like an extra large philly cheese steak.

I know I'm near the finish, so I dig deep. I get to the top, take a right, and it keeps going up but at a significantly shallower grade. I still don't see the finish, but I keep plugging away. Finally, just over the crest of the hill, I see it, and cross the line in 19:54.

I know I ran the first mile in 6:10. I didn't catch the second mile marker, but I'm sure it was similar or better since it was downhill. My aggregate pace was 6:25. I'm thinking that last hill added 40 seconds to my overall time.

The lesson was learned - preview the course. I'm not sure I would have had a better time if I had known about the hill, but I certainly would have been more comfortable.

After the race, they had the kids races. They set up a 200 yard loop behind the building where registration was held, and had them run laps.

Here's the visual. 10 5-7 year olds, let loose for one lap, while the PA system plays Yakety Sax (aka The Benny Hill Theme). It couldn't have been anymore appropriate. Half the kids didn't know what they were supposed to do and just ran, in what ever direction they were facing when they were let loose - "no, no, tommy, run that way, tommy, over here...over here". It was hilarious.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Apology

Over the past few months I have forwarded some inappropriate pictures and jokes to friends whom I thought shared the same sense of humor. Unfortunately this wasn't the case and I seem to have upset quite a few people who have accused me of being sexist and shallow. If you were one of these people, please accept my sincerest apologies.

From now on I will only post or send e-mail with a cultural or educational content such as old monuments, nature and other interesting topics.

Below is a picture of the Pont Neuf Bridge in Paris. It is the oldest bridge in Paris and took 26 years to build. It was completed in 1604.

(yes, I shamelessly copied this from an email I got today)