Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sucker Brook Cross

The week leading into this race did not treat me well. On Tuesday after my training session, I dumped my bike hard on some pavement, tearing a hole in both my brand new bib shorts and myself. This left me with a raw patch on my hip roughly the size of my palm, and a bruise considerably larger. It was nowhere near healed by the time I raced on Sunday, but the pain was manageable enough to still race. The one good thing that happened, was that my order from Firehouse Mustache Wax arrived in time for the race.

The day was unseasonably warm, hitting a record high for the day somewhere in the low 80's, which was accompanied by some gnarly humidity. I was happy to hear that they were using points to stage, avoiding the "race to the race" of the year prior. This let me get in a decent warm up without having to worry about being last to stage. I had a really good start from the third row, and was sitting about 12th wheel out of 50 or so starters, by the time we hit the first big bottleneck. I slid a few more spots over the course of the next few laps, but I wasn't too bothered by it, since the guys passing me I knew to be much stronger riders.
Charlie from the Bikes not Bombs/Circle A team even gave me some encouragement as pulled past me. I was feeling pretty good at this point, and then I flatted 100 yards after passing the pit. While I did have my single speed rig in the pit, I knew I had to run almost a whole lap to get it. I knew that I was going to get lapped, so I was about to throw in the towel, but Cindy, one of the nicest women's riders I know in the NECX scene,  offered me some encouragement. I really didn't want to get a DNF, so I figured I may as well at least try, so off I "ran". Running in super stiff carbon soled MTB shoes for a mile in 80+ degree heat, while your nasty road rash is bleeding through the bandage, is not what I would call a pleasant experience. All along the way, spectators cheered me on, which kept me going. I made it back around, and finished out the last two laps on my SS, ending up 1 lap down and  DFL for my effort. I was proud that I finished, but a little depressed to find out that they didn't count the other people who DNF'ed, which sort of negated my effort a bit.

Talking to folks after the race, I was pleasantly surprised that people appreciated my effort to finish my race.  Who knows, maybe I can be the "hardest" slow guy in the 3's. They also seemed to really enjoy my nicely waxed mustache. The wax held up ridiculously well despite the humidity.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Photo: Russ Campbell @
I kicked off my cyclocross season at Quadcross on Sunday. With zero cx practice leading up to the race, I was keeping my expectations low. I doubled up, racing in both the Cat.3 and the SS open, and I'm not sure which was harder.
This was my first Cat.3 since upgrading at the end of last season, and it was punishing. The course was well designed, making good use of the available terrain. It included several punchy climbs, some sketchy descents, and tight single track, as well as some open grassy sections, and a long straightaway on double track. I lined up at 43 out of 77, and that was exactly where I finished up as well (crossresults race predictor is scary). The pace was much higher than what I remember from the 4's, and I was constantly battling the guys around me. My top end isn't that great, so I would get passed on the long straightaway back stretch, and then regain position on the ride/run-up, only to be passed again on the grass after the barriers, and then regain it again on the hill. I had one minor crash in the sand pit, where PJ left me in the dust. I need to remember how to handle smoothly again, and not try to force it as much. Maybe I can get some handling pointers from the crew that went to Adam's clinic. I had great last lap, and picked up a few places, gunning for Brier, who John Plump yelled at me to catch. I caught on to his group right before the finishing hill, only to have the folks in front of me crash right as I was about to punch past. I narrowly avoided get caught up in it myself, but had to scrub speed to do it. 

Photo: Tom Gumbart
The SS race made the Cat. 3 seem pleasant. I had recovered pretty well from my first race, with the exception of my lower back, which ended up slowing me down a bit in this race. This was my first real ride on my new SS bike, and it was a blast. I went with my stock 36x16 gearing, which could have been slightly easier, but I was able to ride almost everything. I had a bad start, getting caught behind the guy in the first row who mis-clipped, and gave up any unrealistic sliver of hope I had of destroying myself in the first lap for the beer prime. So I went with my next more realistic goal, which was to avoid getting lapped. I went into the woods roughly 13th out 30 guys, and eventually got passed by Conor from Geekhouse, and Mark Bernard in a Zanc kit. My back was really bothering me by the 3rd lap, and I was having to stand up at times to try and stretch it out, keeping me from really gaining back much time. The small amount of time I was able to pickup running up the hill after the Newbury Comics barriers, would evaporate by the time I hit the starting area. Every time up the finishing hill, I kept hoping to hear that lovely bell, and actually managed to get out a gasping, "thank you!" when they did finally ring it. I really appreciated the cheering from the MRC crew in this race, it kept me working hard through this suffer fest. I finished 15/30, which I am happy with.

-I need to work on my handling, and try to set up tubeless soon, as I can't afford to lose any time through loose sections.
-Looking at the data from both races, I averaged the same speed on my SS as I did on the geared bike. 
-SS seems to play to my advantage, since you have to run a bit more. I was faster off the bike than most. 
-Try to avoid getting such bad tunnel vision, that I don't acknowledge the folks cheering/heckling me on, with at least a smile.
-People would cheer for my mustache, even if I wasn't attached to it .

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Start of season panic.

Heading into my second season of cross I find myself very excited, and very unprepared. I have a much better idea of what to expect from the races, and how to handle myself on the bike, than I did last year in my inaugural season. I upgraded at the end of last year, moving into the Cat. 3's. I've made some great new friends in the NECX community, and feel more comfortable knowing what a great group of people race here. However, it seems the more I know, the more worried I get about how I am not doing enough. I should be increasing my training, getting better gear, practicing my skills, and improving my nutrition. I feel like I let my off season get away from me a little, and now am doing the scramble to get my bike and myself ready.

My bike has seen a lot of use, I commuted on it all year, and now it needs some love. It probably won't see much of that needed love until the end of the month though, since I've been spending most of my time fixing bikes for other people. I have parts on order, as well as a second SS specific rig being shipped to me. None of which will be here in time for my season opener at Quadcross. Being a glutton for punishment, as a lot cx'ers are, I doubled up with the Cat.3 men's and Singles-speed open races. I am really a tad nervous about my move up to the 3's this year, but I figure that the only way I will get faster, is to race faster people. It was time to leave the warm, safe, snuggly place that was the Cat.4 field, and play with the "Killer B's". The SS race should also be making me nervous, since I will be racing higher cat guys, but it really isn't bothering me at all. I think my personal challenge there will be trying to avoid getting lapped.

In the end I just need to remind myself not to worry too much, and remember why I'm excited for 'cross. I get to race around in the mud, take waffle hand-ups, give and take some friendly heckling, bring back Team Mario Party, and hang out with a great group of folks.