Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wanton Randomness

I have had a rough week. I haven't done a damn thing since Sunday. I have been healing from the crash I had at the NCGP and let's just say I handle training and racing a lot better than doing nothing. So since I don't have much to post about anything, I thought I'd post some random stuff.

I have made it through nearly an entire racing season without a single mechanical failure (in competition). In just riding however, I haven't been so lucky. I went on a much needed ride recently and it really felt good to just go ride, not train, just ride for riding's sake. I got about as far away from the car as I could get and was just coming out of a short, steep uphill switchback and "POP".

I was surprised to find my bottom bracket broken. I have been riding for 20 years and I have seen a lot of freaky crap but this was the first time I have seen a bottom bracket break (unless it was abused). I'd like to attribute it to my massiveness but I believe it was a defect. So I ended up running with my bike for a couple of miles to get out of the woods before dark. Fun times.

Another funny thing I found recently is just how tough supposedly weak lightweight 29'er rims are. I use Stan's rims exclusively (and he doesn't even sponsor me) because I like the way they hold tires tight on the bead and how easy it is to seal up a tubeless tire on them. Upon cleaning my Optimus a couple of weeks ago, I discovered one of my Stan's 355 rims got in a fight with a rock.

I'd have to say it was a draw. I know the rock is fine and after a few minutes with some vice grips, the rim is fine too. The funny thing is it still sealed the tire and I rode it like this for about 2 months which included a couple of races.

Since it is cold and dark outside now during the time when I used to train, I have to do other things to get my fitness fix. Things like ride in the dark (that's fun) and ride inside on my trainer (that sucks). But what's a junior hammerhead gonna do? Since we are in a new home for now, I had to set up a new training area. The new place is a bit smaller than the old place in that regard but I got it going on pretty well.

Bike and trainer go in the middle. I also have rollers for variety and a fan for ventilation when it's needed.

I have a few workouts downloaded on my laptop that range from mild to hand me a puke bucket.

Behind me is the main quiver of bikes. The other bikes are in the storage building outside.

It ain't like riding outside but it beats the hell out of getting out of shape in the winter.

Say 'ello to my little friend. This is Crackers the farting dog. He was graciously ripped from death's doorstep and rescued from the pound.

I am pretty sure he ended up at the pound because of the toxic fumes he regularly emits from his butt. Don't let his small size fool you, he can clear a room without even straining.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

North Carolina Grand Prix

I headed out early Sunday and picked up some new friends -Ginger and her boyfriend Nick and we headed for Hendersonville North Carolina and the UCI Cat 2 NCGP Cyclocross race. I was excited to do some extra curricular suffering between rounds of the MSG Cross series that's going on at home. It's interesting to me to look back and see how cross has worked its way into my riding.

2004 - MSG was new and I did one race just to say I did and to support a local series.
2005 - Two races.
2006 - Two races. Cross was still a novelty and not something I really felt a need to do much of.
2007 - Five races. Uh, would have been six but I got sick. I went to the sixth race and stood in the rain to watch.
2008 - I have done 8 races so far (two classes at most MSG series events) and the season isn't over yet. Already thinking about "next year".

Yeah, I guess I am hooked.

This was the first road trip to do a cross race for me and I was excited to see a different venue and some different faces to race with. It was cold but sunny and the venue was fantastic. We got there and after getting registered, I headed out on a few hot laps to check out the course and get warm. It was a long course with some really nice features like fast, swoopy turns, lotsa flat "roadie" stuff and even a little pseudo singletrack. Oh and a really neat feature called "the wall" - a short, steep climb that was all power. Don't have enough and to you it would be another run-up.
When I went to the start, I was in the third row and had someone in each armpit and a couple of front wheels rubbing my legs. Hmmmm, wonder how this is gonna work. I looked around for Ginger (we raced a the same time) and couldn't see her anywhere. There must have been about 50 CX4's and with the juniors and women, there was probably 75 or 80 people jammed in there.

Good thing we started in waves.

I rarely get nervous at the start of a race but today I was a little jumpy. I felt better when I heard "GO" and I managed to slip inside a few racers and get some clear pavement to sprint towards the front before the first turn. By the first turn, I was in a real crappy position on the extreme inside and was going to have to brake hard and then sprint hard again to maintain my position. Just as I started to brake, I heard "I'm passing on your left". Uh, dude there's a fence there and then there's me and I ain't moving. He hit me and as I went through the corner, I looked over and saw him on his back with his bike up in the air.


I was in about 15th place and the pace was really hard, really hard. I got passed and passed some back and forth through the first lap and coming through the finish, I saw 3 laps to go. Cool. I love long courses.

I didn't love what happened next though. Going through the barriers, I tripped over my bike on the remount like a dork and twisted my knee really bad. I had a sharp pain through it and considered quitting but rode easy instead to see what was going to happen. I got passed by pretty much everyone, I thought. I was surprised to later see I finished 31st.
Yeah, whatever dude. I had fun but was disappointed. I wanted to do better.

After my race, we all hung out and watched the Elite men and women. The men's race was won by Jeremiah Bishop in an impressive display of tactics and sheer strength. Equally impressive was Steve Tilford who at 48, was the protagonist of the break that would decide the race and plum whupped all but two of the elite field.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words

I just got this pic from my buddy Bart and it captures exactly what I was feeling on Saturday during MSG #4. I was in a bad place for sure.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Humility Training

It is rare, if ever that someone says "I think I'll practice being humble today". We train our weaknesses except for the biggest weakness of all - humility.

I had a bad week last week, at least in regard to riding or training so by the time round #4 of the Mud, Sweat and Gears Cross series rolled around on Saturday, I was ready to ride. I put together a temporary geared CX bike (my Vassago Fisticuff isn't quite ready) for use in the Master's race and even though I rode it some before the race, I really hadn't ridden it yet. The weather forecast was nasty - rain and falling temps throughout the day. Considering that most of the MSG races for the past 3 years have been under ideal conditions, I think many people were ready for some good, old fashioned Northern Belgium type cyclocross weather.
I got dressed and began to warm up for the Masters race. The ground was soft and muddy in places but not bad, the temps held in the 50s and it wasn't bad once you started pedaling.

That would change as the day progressed.

Almost immediately after the start of the Masters race, I didn't feel so great. The course was really tight in places and required a lot of sprinting out of corners. Going into the first set of barriers, someone tripped and I almost stepped on him. I remounted near the back of the field and put my head down and tried to have a go. It wasn't happening. After what seemed like forever, I came around and saw 6 laps to go. Shit! I thought and I felt like quitting. By then, I was in what I assumed was last place and couldn't hold anybody's wheel. I felt bad. Somewere along the backside of the course, I decided that there was no way in hell I was going to stop, I was going to ride as fast as I could and let the chips fall where they may. After all, this is just training for me anyway. I am not competitive in Masters - yet....

Six laps took an eternity to complete but I did complete them and I was surprised later when I found out I got 14th which was one up from DFL. Still not what I wanted though, I headed off to think about what just happened and get ready for the Singlespeed race that was coming up. It was getting colder and raining off and on. It started raining as I began to warm-up for the Singlespeed race and I really wasn't happy. I considered not taking the starting line but like in the Masters race earlier, I made myself go. I actually got a great start and came around the first set of corners in about 5th or 6th place, right behind Andy Applegate who just got second in the Pro 1/2 race. I knew I wouldn't be around that neighborhood for long though so I tried to hang in as long as I could.

To add insult to injury, on the 4th lap of the race, a rain drop hit me square in the eye and knocked out one of my contacts. Confirmation that this was some kind of cosmic Punk Duckman day. I had a hard time with only one contact. It drove me nuts.
I did fade but not as bad as I did in the Masters race and ended up somewhere around 15th or 16th by the end of the race. Cold and frustrated, I returned to my pits to pack up and go home.

I don't really know what happened although I can point to about 5 things that contributed to a bad day at the races but I think I got the take home lesson. Bicycle racing is tough and you may have one good day out of plenty. You have to deal with failure for more than success (unless you are extremely gifted - I am not) and that's just the way it is.

In the end, I am thankful that I am able to do the things I do and even though the day didn't go the way I would have wanted, it was still a good day.

Next week: The UCI CX race in Hendersonville, NC.

I am a glutton for punishment.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Devil Is In The Details

Being a self-coached athlete is sometimes like pissing in the wind in a typhoon. Sure, I'd probably do better by getting an actual coach and laying down a solid training plan with consults, feedback and all the bells and whistles but that costs more money than I can really put into it and with my schedule being what it is, I just don't feel like I need to do that right now. Besides, I have accumulated nearly 20 years of empirical data on how not to do things and I'd hate to waste all that research.
I have been putting together some stuff over the last few weeks and plan to start with the new program on Dec 1. My main goals for the winter are to lose some weight (yeah I know that's gonna be hard to do but I gotta try) and to maintain most of the fitness I built this season to give me a solid base for more fitness next year. In the past, some of my main limiters have been inconsistent training and poor eating habits. I made a big mistake this year with doing mostly endurance rides with little high intensity stuff. I found out when cyclocross started that I made a big mistake in not including some high-end suffering with my regular suffering.
To remedy that, I have included with the training I will be doing, several shorter, high-intensity type races into my schedule. The best training for racing is racing and I made dramatic changes to my schedule over what it has been for the past few years to include a variety of pain-inflicting events. I still suck at climbing so you can bet I will be doing a lot of it over the next few months. I am also making a huge effort to be more consistent with training and trying my best to not have huge gaps in my training days.

As for the diet part...

Some days I really eat like a saint and those days will stay what they are. Other days however, I eat like a Saint Bernard and that's what I will be working on. I have already made a few painful adjustments to my diet and can see the positive effects from them which makes breaking bad habits easier. The bottom line for me is this:

I gotta lose some weight to improve my climbing. That's all there is to say.

It's not going to be easy but the things I like to do never are............

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I Was A Singlespeeder Before It Was Cool

Round three of the Mud, Sweat and Gears Cyclocross series was today and at a different venue this time. Steele Creek Park in Bristol, Tennessee and another Dwayne Letterman designed course greeted all that showed up for a beautiful day for a race (actually it was hot by the time I raced, too hot!). I missed the Masters race because I had to work so I only did the singlespeed race. It was all for the best since I didn't feel so good in the first place.
Did I mention it was Scary Cross too? Yeah just race in a costume and you get 25 points plus everyone around gets cheap entertainment for the day. I brought out a toned down version of the costume I wore at the Hill Of Truth the week before:

I don't see what the big deal is. Some pay thousands of dollars for boobs like this, I only paid $17.99.

Uh, yeah. Well I rode around to warm up and scope out the course. It was going to be a tough one with lotsa climbing and very little place to recover. After the Pro 1/2 race, it was time to lime up. Dang, the singlespeed class was the biggest one of the day (with exception maybe, of the CX4s). There was about 25 lined up, a good third of them came out of the Pro 1/2 and CX3 race. This was going to hurt.

I was in the third row and when the word go came, nothing happened for a moment. I got around the ones in front of me and sprinted like a madman. I made it into decent position by the second turn and tried to keep my pace high. I managed to do ok for the first lap but then began to drift backwards. I don't know what happened. I just faded. I wasn't feeling good. It was frustrating but I have learned to deal with it and use days like today to make me better.

I ended up 18th. Even though my race sucked, I still had fun and it was good to just get out and put the hammer down for awhile.