Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Final Race Report!

This past weekend ended my cycling season. I decided to go out with a bang and I had the weekend. So I decided to fill full a promise I made to Spencer Hackett and attend a Cap City Cross race. It just seemed to work that I had the weekend off and Cap City on Saturday and NEOCX on Sunday.

photo Luckily, my teammate Bill joined me on the drive down and we both did the cat 3/4. I have to say the course was a great classic course. It was set on the side of a Soapbox derby hill. The start was at the bottom and the finish was at the top. In between there was a ton of off camber turns and technical descents. On the back side there was a large run up with a technical rutted descent. Overall, I would rate it a good course. It kept everyone on their toes.
photoThe race started at the bottom of the hill, and everyone bolted out of the start. I was really surprised. I just didn't expect a full on sprint up the hill the first time. I immediately went straight to the back of the pack. I got the last persons wheel and decided to conserve some energy, hoping some of the riders had blown up after the hill. I picked my way up to fourth and then my body got apathetic. I didn't blow up and I wasn't tired my legs just wouldn't push. Didn't really bother me as I was just trying to have fun on the course and open my legs for the next day. I ended up finishing 8th by half a wheel over 9th. He passed me at the bottom of the hill, and I stayed behind him up the hill and timed my sprint perfectly. 

Sunday was the return of the Broadview Heights course to the NEOCX. I was never able to race this race so it was interesting for me to see how it was. I know it was going to be an epic course cause John Proppe was designing it. I was right! The course was your traditional Ohio style cross race but this course had 2 huge technical downhills and a run up to end all run ups. These were difficult as is but what made them stand out was the cheering section that formed at the top of the run up. I've never had an experience like that before. It's hard to explain the feeling of getting up a run up and having to go through a barrier of sound. 

Coming into the race that my third place position was in serious threat as a rider could make up enough points by just finishing the race and there would be nothing I could do. He was also the first person I saw when I pulled in. Heading over to the start and he was still in jeans and a coat. I went over and asked why he wasn't racing and if he knew he how close he was. Apparently, he had no clue he was that close. 
Well anyway, at the point no one could take my third place and I couldn't pick up any more positions so I was just going to see how well I could do. After a botched started, I was midpack. I ended up next to Ian Broadhead and we stayed close together. He would pull away on the front side of the course and I was faster on the backside. So we were riding around together. On the run up, well it turned into a walk up for us we were talking and having fun. Joking about how this was the most non epic looking thing if anyone actually saw us walking up this hill chatting. We had no clue where we were in the placings. I figured 7th or 8th and I had no clue until two to go that I was in fourth and only 30 seconds from third and pulling them back. I tried pushing at that point but it was too late. Still more than happy to finish the final race close to the points. 
Now I get to enjoy the offseason and eating cookies. I'll take a couple days off and then start base training again, trying to curb all I'll lost in January on my vacation. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Surprises, Donuts, and something else.

 Or at least you came for the pretty pictures.

This week has been not a good one for me. I'm on a new medication and one of the side effects is drowsiness. So this week I've been feeling sluggish and tired. I only on the bike twice, once for a 90 minute road ride and then half an hour of skills work. So very low work load on my part. It wasn't like I was feeling good and not going out, I would come home from work exhausted and vege out until I went to bed at a grandfatherly hour. Coming into this weekends race I was very unmotivated, at one point almost talking myself into sitting this one out. I know that I would never live with myself if I did that, and I'm happy that I didn't.

First off the course was amazing. Right now it's my favorite course. It had a ton of elevation, as it was set entirely on the side of a hill. You spent the first half of the lap climbing and I mean you really climbed the entire time, including a long slightly uphill. At the top of the climb there was a nice respite on pavement before the fun began as the second half of the course was a ripping fast twisting downhill. Which in turn suited me well, the climb of course was were I gained a lot of time, but then on the downhill my mountain bike training came back in.

So I lined up on the start with no aspirations. I didn't push hard off the start and was well down the field. I was happy to be the "party section of the mullet." What I didn't expect was how many people I would pass on the uphill. I took the outside, rougher  lane that no one was using. While everyone was slowly fading from the start, only 30 seconds before, I was still strong. I had my way up to 8th or 9th position. By the top of the hill I had slotted in behind my old nemesis Chris Nicula. And I knew at that point it was going to be, as no one says, a barn burner! I always love racing with Chris, we are usually about the same fitness and it's just good clean fun racing. I grabbed his rear wheel and followed him the remaining part of the the hill, passing him on the pavement at the top. I start putting on the gas and getting a small lead. To my dismay I missed a turn, said a few curse words and got back onto his wheel.  I stuck on his wheel and repassed him. From here on out Chris would stick on my wheel and push me hard, which in turn meant I was able to pick off two more positions.

On the third lap I missed my donut hand up, something I missed at the Orrville race. Luckily, we had two more laps to go so on the next lap I finally got my donut hand up. Which could be the worst thing to hand up during a race. They dry up your already parched mouth. Coming into the last lap I knew that it would probably come into a sprint. I knew I was stronger coming up the last incline to the start finish line, but as the course twisted and turned before that I knew I need to make sure he didn't get into my before that last hill. I figured he'd attack on the pavement straight right before the last twisty bit. So as soon as I got on that straight I attacked, keeping him behind me. With that I kept that position and took fifth overall, picking up more points towards the overall. Big thanks to everyone that cheered for me this week. Every part of the course someone was yelling at me.

Finally, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I'm thinking of a word that begins with F and U and isn't fun!

Today's race was the Solon cx race. I've had to work hard in a race whether it's something stupid I did or if it was just nasty weather, but I've never had to work so hard over making up ground for stupid mistakes. I've had an up and down season, I've had great results and not so great ones. This one I'm most unhappy about, because everything I did was my own fault and mistakes that I should know better than to have done. From the too low tire pressure, to lining up on the left knowing that it tightens on that side. But we'll get into that in a second.

So the Solon cross race is the same as always, on a property that isn't big enough to hold a cross race, so it's a maze of 100 plus turns, the pinnacle is the pinwheel after the finish line. The pinwheel had it's height about 3 years ago, and it was at numerous races. Over the past two seasons it has been taken out of almost every course but this one. I find them entirely pointless as they don't add anything to the course. The course was such a maze to get anywhere you had to cross the course multiple times. To get from the parking lot to registration you crossed the course in 10 different spots, and five of them where right next to each other. Don't get me wrong Chagrin River Cycling put on a great race, there was a food truck (that ran out of food after 40 minutes) a DJ, and there were cool features and everything ran smooth. I can only imagine what they could do with an actual park! To be clear, I'm not blaming CRC or saying they did a bad job, they put on the best cross race that could be staged in the restrictions they had.

SOOO, back to the racing. Like I said earlier I picked the wrong side to start on (even though I was first to line up and had my choice.) I had a bad start, missing my pedal when I went to click in and got pinched right away. Missed a pedal stroke and moved down the order. I did get to fulfill I life long dream of putting Ian Broadhead into the tape. I'm sure Molly Hurford would be proud of me. After a bad start and putting myself in a bad position I was starting to get frustrated and started charging to the front. Taking every chance to pass I could and taking risks to get back up to the front. This is the one thing I'm happy with. I was able to get through the field being able to see where the holes were and taking them. I've also gotten a lot more comfortable being physical in a race. Being of small stature, I've been reluctant to push and shove, but I'm getting more comfortable putting my shoulder in and not backing off.

After all that work, my tire starts to roll over in the corners. I had taken to much pressure out at the start and didn't factor in the extra forces that race speeds will bring. I wasn't far from the pit, luckily, but to my dismay my pit helper hadn't made it over to the pit after watching the start. So, after a clumsy bike change I was on my pit bike. The one nice thing about this course is that since it does snake around I got to past by the pits numerous times and was able to communicate with Zac what the problem was. So after a lap on the pit bike that turned like a wet fish, I was back on my "A" bike with a higher PSI.

This was were I started cramping worse than I have ever in a race. It was completely unbearable with every bump and every time I got out of the saddle. I wasn't going to give up, so I know the best I could do was ride as hard as I could but give myself a chance to recuperate. All I could think was how bad I was suffering, so that's how I came up with the title of my blog. I don't think I lost any positions but I did lose a lot of time to the riders in front of me. It's the best possible situation though in a state like that. I did start to feel better as the race went on but as there was no one around I cruised in in 9th place.

Not overly happy with my finish. I actually lost places in the overall and now I sit 5th overall. I need to figure out why I'm so up and done with my results. Though, historically I've never done well at a race after time off of the bike. I do much better racing each week. So here's hoping to a better race next week.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ohio State CX State's day 1

State's is always a great time for me. I look forward to go down and "live like a pro" for a couple days. Last year I placed 3rd in my age class on Saturday and 10th in Cat 4 on Sunday. I truthfully had no goals for the weekend, I just wanted to go down and race as hard as I could. Oh, and beat Russell and Marshall.

I drove down through a pretty steady rain that last most of the night on Friday, which ruined any chance of getting a pre-ride of the course. So after hauling in everything from my car, and yes in hindsight I overpacked. I set up my trainer turned on the tv and and did a warm up.

Woke up and had some biscuits and gravy, the breakfast of champions! I showed up and we had a nice NEOCX area along the course with Snakebite nestled in between Stark Velo and Waslab. It was a small community and it was a blast cheering on everyone as they came through and hanging out with some great people.

My race started late in the day and they had put the half the masters field in my race. I got a first row starting position since they put the 30-34 year old up front. I know from last year started where going to be semi important because of some tight turns near the start. So the gun went off and I slotted into the top 5-10 of the field and made it through the tight turns safely. I then got into my rhythm a lot sooner than I have yet this season. My team mate Chris Huck came through and I jumped on his wheel. I figured I'd get a lap at most out of him, especially as this course was a power course. It was flat with large straight and a lot of false flats. To my amazement I stuck with him and the entire time I felt good, I didn't feel like I was just holding on. It ended up being a decent pairing with me being more proficient in the technical sections and Chris had me on the straights.

We rode together for the entire race, and to tell you the truth this was a huge boost to the ego for me. Chris has been winning a lot this year and I haven't so to be able to hang was huge to me. At that point I was thrilled with my race and I would be ecstatic if I could beat him. So I picked my place to attack on a light downhill with a tailwind as it led through a tight twisty section. I was able to make my attack and came in ahead of Chris.

I came back and changed and was happy with my race. I went over to the scoring table to see where I ended up in my age class as I figured I got top 5. Went over and I was third! Just as I was celebrating our winner came over and told the officials that he was scored in the wrong age group. With the correction I ended up second! A place up from last year, and with more racers in my race.

I'll update later with a recap of Sundays race.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ride On CX

This Sunday's race was in Orrville at the Stark campus of the University of Akron. I must say it was a great course. Luckily the rain held off and we were rewarded with a dry and extremely fast course. Add on to that we had a beautiful day, 70 degrees but with high winds, which made a few headwinds straight but also added a bit of rest area on the backstretch with a nice tailwind. You were able to catch a good bit of speed going into a blind corner at the end of the straight which led to many a rider going to wide on the exit and straight into a corn field. Myself included.

Now on to the race. Each week I'm gaining fitness. After a summer of not being able to race nonetheless ride my bike, I knew coming into the season I wouldn't be in my perfect fitness. So I've been working hard and my fitness has somewhat been getting better each week as you can see from my power chart for the year. Each week I get stronger, but it's not showing at races yet.

So on to the race. I've learned from my mistakes of past and didn't go crazy off the line. I slotted nicely into about third wheel. Got held up a little as two people went down in front of me. The first went down around the pavement turn around. The second went down on a off camber turn shortly after. Didn't get crash but each of these slowed me down a second, which let my competitors get further ahead.

I did slot nicely into a nice chase group of 4-5 people including some people I need to be around for the overall. Coming around to finish the first lap my teammate Zac yells at me that his wheel has burped and he needs a tire. Luckily, I'm slightly ahead of him and I'm able to call out to Mike and hopefully make his wheel change a little quicker. I start to lost the wheel of my group as we climb up the hill. I hate to say this but this is my first year racing cross with a double chainring and I'm slowly learning what gear to be in. So for the first couple laps I'm pushing myself way to hard in my big chain ring up the hill. I guess I'm in the mood for some self flagellation since I'm also going to say I suck at J-hopping anything! I can do it in practice but race day just can't do it.

The one good thing I did do was my tire choice. At the last minute I decided to bring my file treads and with the dry grass and pavement it was a great choice. The one or two corners it may have slowed me down I made up for in the straights. So after I losing touch with my group I was in no man's land with no one in sight behind me and no one with in reach in front of me. I did catch one person but we didn't stay together long as he looked dead.

So I rode the rest of the race completely alone and talking to the spectators as I went by. Well nest week I have states so hopefully things will finally come together.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Blue Sky OR NOT cx

I've had some cold races before, from the snowstorm ruined Hardesty Park race to Boughton farms in 2009. Today's race slots right into 3rd coldest. I arrived at the start and it had already been raining. With temperatures reaching a high of 50 and having the course situated on the lake, I knew it was going to be a cold day. Part of me wanting to turn around and go home, but I knew I had made the hour drive and I'm not a baby so I got ready. Angie was awesome and brought a canopy out to the race, and thank Thor the god of thunder that she did. This became the hangout out place for the team and our sanctuary. I brought the pump sprayer to clean our bikes.

So to the start, after last weeks explosion, I decided to make a more metered start. So off the line I lined up in about fifth wheel and started riding my race from the start. The hope was to ride within my means, pit twice for clean bikes and pick off as many positions as I could. And that's what happened. Truthfully, it was a pretty uneventful race for me. I rode smart stayed rubber side down and picked up the positions I could. I was lucky to have my teammate Angie in the pits after her race came undone to clean my bike and with the help of Micheal Adams do a perfect bike handoff. The one fun thing was reverse heckling with Russell Lee. It was fun to hear him crack up after each of my retorts. Here's a few of them:

Russel- What kind of line is that? (as I took a corner)
Me- It was a decent line!

Russel- Why are you so clean? 
Me- Cause I ride so clean!

The race ended with me in 6th place with no one in sight behind or in front of me, so I was able to semi cruise into the finish. Angie again to help me out and grab my stuff from the pits. She was a huge help and can't thank her enough. The finish puts me at 2nd overall in the series. Overall, I'm really happy and need a nap. So that's what I'm going to do.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Liberty Park CX (photos added)

Well another race is in the books! This was a special one as Stark Velo went all out and put on an amazing race and course. I've been talking to them about this race and their plans for it and they definitely pulled through and I know that each year it's going to be bigger and better!

The course was set in an open field, with a couple mounds and a decent size climb and a treacherous sand pit. Overall, it was a more open course then previous courses but 3 barriers and a log made kept the difficulty high. There would be nowhere to hide and no place to rest on the course.

Made it to the course early to check out the early action and make sure I was ready and warmed up before the start (wasn't going to make that mistake again!) Went and picked up my packet and saw Molly Hurford selling her new book Mud, Snow, and Cyclocross: How 'Cross Took Over US Cycling and The Girl With the Cowbell Tattoo fame. She was super nice and really enjoying herself and spoke highly of our series. We had a nice talk about our cyclocross racing and she threatened to put me into the tape if she passed me. It was really nice that she came down to our little race series and took time out of her busy schedule to make an appearance! We also had Scott Mares from crossbikereview.com who emceed the race!

Well now on to the racing bit. After the "Little Belgian" race Scott, Zac and I went out on the course to do a preview lap. I was feeling really good and liking the course. On the second lap I decided I'd try hopping the log. Well, this didn't go well as I caught my chaingaurd and put a huge dent in it. Which kept throwing the chain. Luckily this was my pit bike, (gives reason why I warmup on the pit bike!) so it wasn't a huge deal since today would be a dry day. I went back to my car and pulled out my tool kit and bent it back enough so it wouldn't interfere with the chain.

After getting that sorted out, I dropped off my bike and spare wheels in the pit and caught my mom as she was pulling in. It's always nice to have friend and family come out. It gives you extra motivation and I always enjoy it because they can be a part of something they've been so supportive with.

Got on the trainer and warmed up, went around and talked to the other racers, blah blah blah. Now to the race, what the three of you came here for! I got called up third and choose my normal far right position against the barriers. The gun went off and I was third wheel into the first turn. I quickly passed second and then hammered past the leader and just put the hammer down. I had planned that all week as the beginning of my races haven't gone to plan as of lately. I call it my end of first lap curse. I always bombed the last part of the first lap, lose places and then move back up. This week I thought I'd get to the very front and hopefully not lose as many places and have a chance to fight back. My teammate latches onto my front wheel and we start getting a sizable gap on the field. I startled to feel the bad feelings coming and then we hit the sand pit, which zapped any energy that I might have had. I got off the bike and ran up the hill because I had lost all my energy and watched a place after place went by me. I knew I was in a bad way, but I knew the only thing to do was to race my race and it would turn around.

I started to feel better and when the leader of the womens race Sally Price passed me I jumped on her wheel and started to pick off positions again. I passed 3-4 people but I'm still not sure where I finished as the three fields mixed and I didn't realize they had posted the results but just our numbers and not our names. Overall,  a great weekend and kudos to all my teammates who races hard and we had a number in the prize money!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Looking forward to the future of NEOCX

So as I get more into the cyclocross scene and become more a part of it, I've started thinking about what I want from a cross series. We all of course want a competitive series, with great courses. That's a given, what becomes harder is all the little amenities that make it feel more professional. Obviously, lines of cheering fans would be amazing, but we are pretty damn close. Riding through the pavilion at Brooklyn as people cheered you on and rang cowbells was an amazing feeling. We have a great series and a great group of riders who come out the the racers. I started racing 4 years ago and in those four years I've seen our series grow. We are going through a transition from a fringe sport that a few diehards participated in to a full fledge series. It's been great to watch, and I'm excited to see where it goes. Below is just my thoughts on where I'd like to see this series head.

The first is a standard for courses. We've had some great courses but there is not a standard for courses. This can be as simple as having a shared start finish complex. I've been to many courses where racers have asked where the start is. This seems simple, but having a true start finish complex sets the tone for the race. This can be as simple as a banner over the start finish line and snow fencing along the start/finish line. Along those same lines all courses should follow a set standard, the easiest would be to follow USAC rules. I understand some rules will be hard to follow, like the 3 meter rule for the full course but promoters should try their hardest to follow a set of standards so racers can go to a course knowing that the course will fit standards. With this also means that the courses should be kept on the schedule because they are great venues. I'd rather have great courses than more course and half being no fun. To tell you the truth, if I have to skip a course I'll always choose a lesser course than a great course.

Next, the names of the races should switch from the A,B,C, standard and follow the Cat system. It would be in line with all other series and make it line up when racers our racers travel to or when an out of town racer travels to our races. We already do this by placing the Cat's next to the A,B,C on most fliers. Group rides and training races are broke into A,B,C but not for races. Also, it would be great to get call ups at least in the 3-4 race and 1-2-3 races by series. This benefits those racers who show up each week and fight hard. Why can't we reward them and recognize them for their racing. Plus, it keeps those who are fighting for series points fighting each other, instead of getting stuck in the back.

One last thing, results need to be turned in in a timely manner. Every promoter should turn in the results to USAC in a timely manner. We shouldn't have to wait 2 weeks for our points to show up. Clearly, it is possible as Brooklyn was on USAC the day after.

This is not to say I'm unhappy in the series. I love the series and part of the charm is it's grassroots nature. We are a cross series put on by cross racers. It's amazing what each promoter does each week and we have arguably the best racers in the most competitive series in the state. I just see us at a turning point and I'm excited to see how we build our scene. We should be proud of what we do, and we should strive to be the best. We should never think we are the best, but always strive to be the best. I'm really looking forward to the our series being a truly first class series!