Monday, December 24, 2007

Catch Up

Way behind on this...

So cross season is over. Yep. The second Rhode Island race (NBX cross) was an even better race than the day before. I managed to pull out a 5th place finish. No hole shot glory, but a good performance overall. Of course now I realize that when I weigh 158 pounds, (only 4 more than when I finished the long trail, and equal to when I was hospitalized way back for kidney failure) my strength to weight ratio is pretty solid. Anyway, I have some upgrade points - If I kill it at the beginning of next season I can move on to being pack fodder in the B's - or I can time it right and try to sandbag Gloucester... Decisions, decisions.

So what now? There's that whole notion of winter training, assessing goals, and all those other motivational time-wasters. I'll get to it eventually. For now, however, I'm mucking about in Vermont for the next few weeks. Grabbed some new telemark skis, so I'll be climbing that learning curve for the next few weeks. I may try to find a nordic race here or there. Maybe climb some snowy mountains.

I'll drop in more often with something more.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Morning Commutes and an Open Letter to Dudebro

What is it about morning commutes?

As I rolled up behind my building at BU this morning I prepared to make my usual right hand turn into the parking lot. One of the brilliant grounds crew was creeping slowly out of the driveway in his red truck-of-death so I was obliged to slow down through the apex of my turn and engage in the usual bike / idiot driver game of right-of-way-chicken.

Out of nowhere enters one of my perennial favorites: Boston Dude Bro on a Mountain Bike.

He let's out a jager-bomb fueled "ON YOUR LEFT, WATCH OUT!" as he cuts a sharp turn into the parking lot ... a sharp, right turn, on my right side.

I calmly reply "Pretty sure that's my right."

His alpha collar immediately pop's: "Why don't you signal where you're going, you dick"

Amused, I respond: "Are you serious?"

He continues his hair gel fueled fit: "I'm gonna slap the stupid off your face!"

He proceeds to narrowly miss getting struck by a car, and mashes his pedals away.

I offer this open note:


Chill out, chief! I realize that you're in the zone, cruising along the sidewalk on 26" tires at 20 psi. Sure your back wheel washes out whenever you hit a puddle - its tough to be the man when you're riding your sister's purple Magna and swallowing your knees. 34x24 is a blistering gear ratio, and the wattage you were putting out surely could've lit an incandescent light bulb - or at least a few compact fluorescents.

I know, its never easy when the world gets in your way when you're cruising to GNC for your muscle milk. I can only imagine what would have happened had we collided (can you even get those GAP girl-flare jeans anymore?) but I'm confident your tough guy leather jacket would've saved your axe shower gel covered skin.

See you around the squat rack,


Monday, December 10, 2007

W.E. Steadman Grand Prix of Cross

This weekend marked the end of my first season of cyclocross. For once, the weather bordered on Belgian, with an Alberta clipper rolling through and dropping some serious cold weather precipitation across New England.

The prospect of two 630 am departures was enough to make me fork out the dough for some plush accommodations at the Best Western in West Greenwich, which, along with the Super 8 that occupies the same terribly named road, win the prize for being situated on New England's worst-named roadway - Nooseneck Hill Road.

I digress.

I arrived to cold weather and snow on the ground. I settled into my usual pre race panic routine of getting from parking lot to start line in 45 minutes. CB was on the ball (trolling the net) for the pre-registration, so Erik, Nick, and myself were able to line up in the front row. The usual pre race nervous chit chat gave way to the minute of silence, or rather, minute of Richard Fries babbling about some nonsense, before the whistle. I had a good jump, was clicked in, and began working the gears on the extremely long uphill paved start. The pace gradually increased as I worked around a few riders and settled into the front group.

This idea of "racing" wore of rather quickly as most everyone decided that the big ring was off limits. So I was faced with a decision. Sitting there in the draft this was far too painless for a cross start. I drifted a bit out of the draft to test the wind. Yep, that has the potential to hurt.

So I went for it.

I came around the left hand side of the group as another rider came around the right. He and I hit the hole neck and neck. I wasn't about to let some snot nosed cat 4 brat steal my glory. After all, this was the ultimate goal - the Verge Hole Shot. I made one move to cut the kid off on the first turn.

There I was - leading the race.

This oddity lasted about 2 minutes, long enough for me to assert some sort of dominance on the field, but not so long as to put any real gap on the field.

Soon enough I fell to the back of the group of the top 4. I held the group for a while until a few guys, including CB teammate Erik, got past me, leaving me in 7th. On the last lap the sand pit decide to swallow my front wheel during my dismount, effectively pile driving me into the ground, and eliminating my hopes of reclaiming any places.

The good news? I got a point! 7th place gets me my first upgrade point (finally) of the season. 30 seconds off of first ain't bad either.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Minuteman Road Club Cyclocross - Wrentham

The past few weeks have been a bit of a blur. An unnecessarily drawn out move to an apartment down the street, thanksgiving in VT, and a completely useless cold have taken up most of my time. The rundown:

What happens in Vermont, stays in Vermont:

..but nothing much happens here.

I got some cold weather acclimation training in, and also began my pattented "intensive immune system intensity training block." Its best to schedule these training blocks before important events, and with the final Verge races around the corner it was high time I caught up on some serious T-cell work. The workout itself is fairly simple. The trick is to get a bit of a sore throat going - once you feel the burn put in some 2 x 2am nights, and finish with some jager sprints to really get everything moving. You know its working when the burn in the throat reaches the upper respiratory track. We're working towards the kind of cough that says "I'm a homeless man sketching you out on the bus."

MRC Cyclocross - Wrentham
Partially recovered, and feeling wholly unfit, I signed up for Sunday's race at Wrentham. Get good sleep? Eat well? Fuck that. What good would racing in 20 degree weather be with fresh legs. Can't feel anything at that temperature anyway.

Thanks to colin and his work down in the nerdatorium, I was seeded fairly well based on my points. Do I get credit for all the referrals I just gave? So a 7th place seed, puts me on the second line of a 5 wide start.... ok. That's fine. 45 seconds to go. Someone asks "how much time do we have." The whistle blows. Cross is great.

Slow start into a series of S-turns. One thing you learn in cross, is that you don't "keep a line," there's a competitive advantage to cutting off your opponent in a series of turns. However, the next time a cyfac kid almost wrecks me in two subsequent turns, the story is gonna be me putting him through the tape. So we roll on - and I'm feeling surprisingly good. The cold weather has left the mostly grass course incredibly bumpy, but I feel like I made a good tire pressure course, and for the first lap I stay closed onto the back end of the front group of six - first place is clearly within my view.

As the second lap progresses, I become aware of a bit of a rattle. These things are hard to notice in these conditions, or at least to identify with any degree of certainty. But still, I was certain that I was rattling more on the course as time went by. I lost two spots in the second lap, but was still holding my own. A primordial ooze was excreting out of my face - a thick amalgam brought on by the cold temperatures. While I am no medical doctor, I'm certain that at least some part of that cold weather snot is liquefied brain, most likely the bit of sensibility that every cross racer must kill on a regular basis. Snot rockets were all the rage.

But the rattling. It got worse. Soon I noticed that I was having to rotate my right heel quite a bit to disengage from my pedal. I soon realized my cleat was loosening. My release angle was about 100 degrees. Three dismounts per lap, three remounts, and I could feel my cleat sliding each time I ran. Pretty awesome.

Not worth quitting for, not many things are, so I pressed on, fearing the inevitable endo (do people still say endo?) at each barrier. I held it together though, lost a few spots, and came in 10th. You know, the usual - slowest of the fastest group of the slowest racers. Upgrades are lame anyway - too much pressure. Plus, I'll be laughing on the front line in RI next week.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

On Training...

Recently I purchased Joe Friel's book - mostly for that false sense of achievement of reading about and planning about the "training" that you "will do." But the book has some interesting points, and should provide useful in planning out next season.

Mostly it reminded me that I need to start lifting again. I knew this. After stumbling out of the woods, about 8 pounds underweight, i looked like this:

Vermont Refugee.

I got like three feet of air that time....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

South Plymouth Cyclocross

Sunday morning, like most cyclocross mornings, arrived with the best intentions. Despite a few hours of inhaling VOC's while painting the new apartment the night before, I awoke feeling rested and ready to get back on the bike. I'll spare the details for the lot of you, but some are already aware of my unfortunate remounting incident that has put a little swagger in my step, and kept me off the bike for the past few days.

Corner Cycle paid some respect to the cat 4 fodder and offered a 10 am start time, which allowed the temperature to rise, slightly... maybe. The air was bone dry, and after the first warm up lap I was already feeling the deep burn of the New England air. It felt like nordic skiing. It felt good.

I got to staging and found myself an outside position on the front line. The whistle blew and for once it was perfect. Gear choice was superb, feet clipped in -- I began to run through a few gears before the first 90 degree to the left. Another 90 degree over a sloping curb (less of a pinch-flat-waiting-to-happen then Chainbiter) and we were in the grass. And I was in second.

Here's where I made my first mistake. At this point, Todd Burns, who after today needs an upgrade, let up a bit. The first lap should be an all out war to drop the guys behind you, allowing you to "cruise" the last few laps. That is, of course, unless you've been dominating the cat 4 field the past few races and know you're fine where you're at, eg. you're last name is Burns.

So I held this pace through th first few turns, sitting in second. In hindsight I should have pushed him harder - yeah I wasn't going to drop him, or even the guys right on my wheel, but it would've given me a better cushion. And in about two laps I really would've appreciated a cushion.

We hit the first technical single track section, which featured a sweeping right hand turn into the woods, then a 90 degree left into a loamy uphill that you could push through in the right gear. Burns shifts poorly, drops his chain and comes to a stop, all over the course. I lose momentum, and hop off.

"I dropped my chain," he mutters, with a hefty column of air.

"mneph," I reply, as tiny bits of lung tissue get caught in my teeth.

This gave enough time for 3,4, and 5 to nip our heels. Two of them get me in the flats, and as we hit the second single track section, I'm sitting in 4th.

This section featured large cement slabs that kind of resembled stairs, running across the course about every 10 to 20 yards. There were about 6 spread out through the course. At the start a guy standing next to me voiced his concern over them. I told him they weren't as scary as they looked.

And they weren't... the first time. We came through fast, and I cut around the ones I could, and hopped the others. I was determined not to lose sight of second and third place. The course then ran into a pretty solid ascent. It was totally rideable, but if you slipped too much you were done. I made it through and came out of the woods ready to come through lap one in 4th place.

But what about the barriers? Let me preface this by saying, this course was almost, almost a great cyclocross course. The only problem was that as you came through to lap, with less than 200 meters to go, you had a sand pit, followed by barriers 25 feet later, followed by another sand pit 25 feet further. It was a tough section, I'll give them that, but the barriers could've been moved to a more suitable place - they were kind of an afterthought.

Second lap goes by without much incident, and I'm still with this group. We're pulling off 6 minute laps.

And then came the third lap. I was pushing hard through the second single track section, and I was losing my focus, and my finesse. As I hopped the last piece of cement my front wheel turned 90 degrees to my direction of travel. As soon as that tire hit the ground, I hit the ground -- fast and hard. Within 5 seconds I had six guys around me. With no momentum to carry me up the hill I was forced into a 30 second run up. My heart rate hit the roof and I was done.

From there on it was just damage control. Struggling to keep my place and not take out any of the juniors or 3/4 women who were all over the course. As I rode there was the obnoxious rustling of a leaf in my tire that I couldn't find. Turns out that when my tire struck the ground, it rolled off the bead, a leaf got stuck in the bead, and the tire sealed back up, without flatting. At least I had the perfect pressure.

I've got the classic hip scrapes, some minor leg cuts, and a very unhappy rib that revolts every time I cough up a bit of lung. I actually left before results came up, but I hear I was about 12th - I'll update this when I get the official results.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sunday: Cycle Smart Cyclocross Northampton MA

Saturday after the race we made our way up to Springfield MA, undoubtedly one of the most depressing places in the world. We split our recovery time between our luxurious accommodations at the HoJo Express, breadsticks at Olive Garden, and cruising the strip at the local mall.

Sunday we made our way into NoHo. Registration didn't open until 8 am - a bad move when you have 100 over zealous cat 4's set to go of at 9 am. The course was a bit of a disappointment during the pre ride, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that you had to hop on mid-course to pre ride.

In classic a Jordan-hurts-himself-in-the-warmup moment, I took a softball sized rock to the shin on the run up. I'd like to send a personal thank you to masters riders who kick their feet like their warming up for the 100 meter, and adrenaline, for negating any damage to my body I sustain prior to a race.

Got staged about 6 rows back. The start lane was narrower than I'm used to, and led about 75 yards into a 90 degree right hand turn. I assumed that unless I somehow made it out front in those first 75 yards there was no reason to worry too much about this start.

Well, that mentality was just what I needed for a mediocre start. Made it without trouble in the first few turns without much room to pass. The course shot down into the fields and over the first railroad track crossing. Here riders got to choose their adventure:

a) Ride it like its 1986 with all the ground hugging physics knowledge of a pro BMXer

b) make it all Hans "No Way" Rey and take it like a car on a LA freeway. Did someone way Pacific Blue?

c) Break that tape like you finally won something!

I read Mountain Bike Action, I oogled over the first Y frames - I took option B. Yeah, there's nothing like catching air into a 90 degree left hand sweeper. But hey, if we really cared that much about that kind of stuff we wouldn't race cross.

So then the course got a little frustrating. 300 feet of flat grass, 180, rinse, repeat. In the sand pit I had plenty of time to analyze the tread patterns of the riders in front of me; hmm, chevrons or tiny circles? Is this a conga line?

The run up was a clusterfuck, and it started to string out a little when we got through the barriers. As we came into the second lap I realized I was a lot further up than I thought - top 15 or so. Here we go again with this whole achieving goals routine.

So there was some jockeying for a few laps. Each time that I came through the boring 180's with a group I would pull some annoying move and try to cut them on the turns, only to fall back, then get them on the pavement. Finally I was able to drop a group and came through the finish alone in 13th. Not too shabby - at least the officials got my placement right.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Chainbiter 9.0

Two back to back VERGE races this past weekend meant it was time to pack up and head out for a good old fashioned race weekend. Its been over two years since I've traveled all weekend for races, and while sketchy hotel rooms and restaurant meals can get old, it was a good escape from the daily grind back in Boston.

I headed down to CT on Friday night with my support crew in tow to meet up with Brian and another Cornell rider at a hotel in New Britain. By the time we rolled in it was about 930 and we were all in need of some food so we headed to the adjacent BBQ restaurant for some late dinner. Note: the consumptions of large quantities of pork within a 12 hour window of racing is not recommended.

Despite mediocre sleep and a stomach full of pig flesh we made it out the next morning to the course. The weather forecast was horrific, with predictions of massive wind gusts and torrential rain from a northbound hurricane system. Luckily it held off, and instead we enjoyed balmy temps in the mid 40's, and only a limited amount of airborne objects - more on that later.

Warm up was a little frantic, but I got in a couple of laps and headed to staging. I had learned my lesson at gloucester, and had signed up early enough to get about a 4th row spot. Once a few of us shouted about how we were supposed to line up, the officials got their act together and staged us by number.

The start was a fairly steep uphill pitch into a right hand sweeping turn (the first hole shot) that sent us down a paved section into a 90 degree left and then a 180 degree left over a curb with about 3 feet of non-curb trail (second hole shot). I got pinched in the first few seconds but made it to the outside and worked through some gears before we hit the right sweeper. Down the pavement I moved along the left hand side to clip off a good glob of riders and hit the curb-shot in about 20th.

The course shot through a rocky, loose dirt section before the first sand pit. Not too much mayhem here, and I continued to move forward a bit. The course climbed through a false flat, before swung down an off camber downhill into some fields, some 180's and barriers in the woods, back to the field around to a straight shot deeper sand pit, some curbs, a tennis court that apparently killed someone(or hurt enough so they were there the whole race - whatever) through a run up, more curbs, pavement uphill finish.

OK, its a reasonable course. There's rests, some grinds, opportunity to float or lose it through the sand. Once the first few laps settled down I was cruising somewhere between 12th and 15th. On the paved downhill I made a big move and knocked off a group of about 5 guys. I came past Sarah and she said I was in 8th.

So there I was. Sitting two places inside my goal, a top 10 Verge finish. What now? I've got 5 ticked off guys coming up behind me, and I'm running the redline every time I hit the false flat, which is totally screwing my control on the off camber. I'm losing time. Within a lap I've fallen back out of the top 10.

So I'm clinging on. Last lap, and I'm holding back too much. I make the effort where I can, but its sloppy. I've got a guy sucking my wheel when I come to the off camber. There's a dumpy guy about to get lapped, spinning circles in my line. As I choke on breath to make the obligatory "on your ____" call, the wheelsuck behind me lets out a startling "On your right!" pushing country crock across my front wheel and me into to the brush. Now I'm pissed.

I recover my terrible line, but now I'm stalling cause I'm shifted to deep. I pop some hard gears and wince as my derailleur threatens a bloody coup.

Somehow though, I'm closing on some guys. I see Matt from Green Mountain Rehab as I come into the final pavement. This sprint thing is getting sort of familiar. I have no idea what position I'm in, but I begin the routine.

Click. Click. Deep breath, and gun it. I nab one guy by a bike length and I'm even with Matt going into the last 25 yards. With all the precision and timing of a much more experienced cyclist, I throw the bike forward at the line and nip him by half a wheel.

Good move, right? Would've been great if the officials had counted, oh, I don't know, either of the two riders I passed. Apparently having cyclists between you and the officials equals being behind them. Now, normally I wouldn't care. Come on, cat 4 cross? Well, they have me as 11th. I'll let you figure out where I actually finished.

Oh, and those airborne objects I alluded to earlier? PA loudspeakers are not nearly as stable as you would like, and a fierce gust of wind knocked a speaker over onto my right knee and ankle. Thanks a lot Connecticut.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

At least someone has faith in cycling...

Usually when the names of any pro cycling fodder grace the page of the mainstream media I expect to see some doping scandal. That being said, i was pleased when Brian brought it to my attention that the New York Post (I know) is reporting a budding relationship between Lance Amstrong and one of the Olsen Twins... Say what you want about Landis' testosterone, but its very clear that our boy Lance isn't lacking in that department.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Canton Cup Cyclocross Photos

A few photos from the event:

Brisk Commutes and Morning Revelations

First brisk bike commute of the year this morning. As I got ready to leave the house, the thought of freezing hands drove me to my sprawling explosion of a race bag in search of my gloves. I found them, stuffed in a jersey pocket, with just enough vomit residue to keep me bare-handed for the morning. ah, bike racing.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Another week has passed, and along with it has come the stark reminder that the real world, replete with homework, papers to grade, and grant proposals, does not often mesh kindly with the fantasy world of cat 4 cross racing. Some seriously late nights and "PhD stress" (excuses excuses) kept me off the bike most of the week, though I did manage to get a session on the trainer (see also: make-you-hate-your-bike machine) long enough to remember that a) I sweat a lot, and b) things hurt a lot more when you're staring at a hard wood floor.

Needless to say I felt good coming into this weekends event at Canton, Mass. I had signed up for the race on Tuesday, and was excited to see a solid field of 45 racers. By Saturday evening there were 94 pre-registered cat 4's. Race directors take note: 10:00 am start times will double your cat 4 field.

After a luxurious 7:00 AM wake up, and a real breakfast, I was off to the races. I had absolutely no idea of what kind of a goal to set for this race. 95 racers is a lot of riders. At Gloucester, even with my 90th starting position, I was in contact with the top 15 at one point - so assuming a reasonable start I was looking for a top 20 finish. Reasonable enough to inflate my self-esteem if I got it, but enough of a stretch that a mechanical would provide adequate excuse for failure.

On the first warm up lap, a little colin-esque voice in the back of my head was screaming "Grass Crit!" The course had a uphill pavement start into a fire road, back and forth through some grass, uphill UCI barriers, short single track, lots more grass, the sketchiest pavement-covered-with-deadly-but-lovely-autumn-leaves, some off camber, some tiny barriers (less than 8 inches), a mildly technical downhill into a run up onto a running track, more grass, fast barriers, and finally back to the start to lap through. Yeah, it was long. It was flat. I wasn't digging it after the first warm up lap, when, blinded by the sun, I struck a pedal coming out of the technical downhill and shot my right pedal into my quad right above my knee. Great way to start the day. Warm up lap 2, crazy old cat 4 on a cannondale wipes out on the paved section and slides 15 feet across a turn in front of me - Totally worth it. I got over myself, and quickly decided that the course was fun.

Somehow I made it to the start line an got a reasonable position in the front row. They staged up the race with about 5 feet of space between rows, which was pretty nice. At the whistle I immediately fumbled with my pedal, and watched the entire front row engulf me. This did, however, open up a substantial gap on the left side which Tyler took like a madman, and sealed himself the hole shot. On the first barrier I nailed my remount. I mean, I didn't stutter step, I just had the incredibly goofy leap-of-faith, in the air long enough to contemplate how ridiculously high you've jumped, remount. This resulted in the nose of my saddle dropping about 2 inches. It remained that way until another matrix-style remount put it into correct position.

The first lap was the usual jockeying, passing, getting passed, until I settled into about 10th place. Thus began my mind-fuck. Thoughts of last weekend haunted me. Though I didn't blog about it, day two of catamount saw me move from 3rd to 9th at one point. The classic blow-up. I needed to keep this race under control and work on a steady pace that would hold a gap behind me. I got passed and held on to 11th for a lap, with a pesky rider on my wheel the whole time.

After a majority of a lap of me pulling this kid he decides that he's gonna do some "work."

see also: pull in front, tell me to hang on, and slow down like crazy.

This back and forth went on, and the top-ten slipped away. Last lap, coming around the track, I see a flash of red out of the corner of my eye. Instantly I knew... Eric Edlund, MIT, fast as hell sprinter. If I came into the finish stretch with him, I was losing my 11th. The little wheelsuck pulled ahead a bit, so I had no more tiny draft - this was gonna be all me. Get over the last set of barriers, and put it in the big ring. Tiny is spinning ahead on the hill. I put my head down and jump on it - coming along his left side out of no where, frantically looking back to see Edlund charging up the hill. I crossed the line, a triumphant 11th, and after emptying the tank on the course, emptied my stomach on the grass.

Next weekend should be interesting, two big verge races, and the reasonable possibility of a top 10 finish, and maybe some elusive upgrade points. Cross is addicting.

Cross gets me to normal.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Catamount Cross Weekend - Day 1

I made sure to secure my outer spot at the line, even in the front row this time, but a guy squeezed in next to me - no big deal. Whistle blows and I got a good start along the gradual grass uphill. No real hole shot on this course, just a sweeping left hand 180 turn. I cut into a line of guys on the turn and settled into 4th place. Nice! We were cruising along.

At the first set of barriers, a 180 down and up routine similar to Gloucester-except followed by a short run up. I quickly realized that if these guys were going to hold this pace, I was going to blow up. I figured - first lap, its gonna hurt, it's supposed to hurt, let's ride it out.

The course carved around some good sweeping grass turns, nothing too terribly off camber, and most of it had a dirt track down the middle about 4 inches wide. The second run-up posed a bit more of a problem for me. It was a 90 degree right hand turn into a barrier, then about an 80-100 ft run up, with three large birch trees across the trail. The course wound down through similar turns as the majority of the rest of the course into a quick downhill on a fire road. After a very tight set of S turns, the course hit the muddy section (I'll be getting some clear eye protection for tomorrow) the course wound into the set of triple barriers, made a few more turns and come through the lap.

Somewhere at the beginning of the 2nd lap I was passed by a GMBC guy and was sitting in fifth. The lead 4 started to pull away (Damn roadies who race beginner races) and I began my two laps in the pain cave in no-mans land. I was having a hard time getting my breathing under control, but I was still able to push on the false flats and try to keep my distance from the group behind me. With 2 to go I got passed on the run up by another GMBC guy (these guys are everywhere). After the technical S turns another GMBC guy got around me but I grabbed his wheel and held him through the mud. In a moment of true cross glory I passed him on the triple barriers, hit a perfect remount, found the pedals, clipped, and blasted away.

Ok. Sixth place isn't bad, I can't get greedy, need to hold my own and not blow up. As I come through for 1 to go the uphill is noticeably slower, and my legs are burning. I'm wobbling all over the bike, looking like a mess. I'm not sure when he got around me, but he did, so I was back in 7th. 7th is ok... I mean, there was merch for top 5 and I was just in 6th so I wasn't getting that anyway. So I decided to hold in and not risk blowing it and losing places to the two guys about 15 seconds back.

At least that was my plan. As I came down the fire road for the last time I noticed a woman's racer who I was about to lap. Somehow in my paranoia about hitting her or passing or something, I missed my line through this small rocky section, and got all messed up going through the S turn. As I set my bike down to remount, I noticed it felt a little weird. Pinch Flat. Dammit.

Since there really wasn't a pit, and I was quite far away from the place that it wasn't at, I just decided to roll on it. I was pretty impressed actually - I kept my speed up, with the exception of the corners. The two guys behind me got around me, and I was tempted to run the last 50 feet to look badass, but decided to save it for tomorrow. So i rolled through the line in 9th place.

Some Photo's Below:

Living in No Man's Land

S Turns

Getting Chased Down

Flat Tire Fun

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gloucester - Part 2

When I woke up on Sunday morning I realized how long it had been since I'd competed in two races in one weekend. Needless to say we had a slightly more relaxed morning, knowing that we had plenty of time to get to the races.

The atmosphere at the course felt a lot more relaxed on Sunday, and we quickly got settled in with registration and got out on the course. Though the route was unchanged, the surface had changed substantially - the course was much drier and smoother after 1100 riders hit it the day before. I decided to up the tire pressure about 5 psi in hopes of gaining a little speed on the pavement section and the long flat sections. Once around the course felt like a sufficient warm up.

Staging was the same, though I took McCormack's advice and chose the right hand side of the line in hopes of coming around the first turn in a better position. At the whistle the start felt slower than the day before, but soon I was making my way up the right hand side of the field. I hit the hole shot in about 40th or so, and began to chip away at groups. By the second lap both colin and thayne told me I was sitting in about 25th place. As I came around the the 180 by the pits I could count out at least 10 guys in a group, no more than 10 seconds up on me. There it was, my top 10 finish, right there.

Easier said than done. Turns out that while having an aggressive start can put you in a great position for the first two laps, it also has the potential to totally zap your energy for the rest of the race. I knew I needed to be smart about this, and try to carve down the gap slowly in order to not blow up. However, this doesn't really work. I lost sight of the group in the next 2 laps. With 2 to go I faltered on the barriers and a group got past me. I manage to nip 1 of them, but he got back in front with 1 to go and was gone.

As I came through the SRAM hairpin for the last time I saw a Minuteman rider in my peripheral vision, about 2 seconds behind me, and knew I was in for a fight. as we hit the grass I put it into the big ring and took a deep breath. We took the right hand onto the pavement and he cut it inside, pulling even with me. Here it goes.

Downshift, head down, lets go. I pulled hard, desperately trying to keep my back wheel on the ground while he came around to my left hand side. About halfway up the hill to the finish our acceleration dropped and we were dead even. I thought I had lost it until he drifted back about 5 inches. That was all I needed. I dropped a gear and gave it one last push to get him by a wheel at the line.

I stuck it out for a 31st place finish, one spot out of my reach goal of the top 30. I came away from the weekend completely satisfied with my results and efforts, but ready to put some effort into the next few weeks to get into that elusive top 20 at a Verge race, and top 10 in a local.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gloucester - Part 1

The big weekend has come and gone - and after all the hype I'm quite satisfied with my first experience at New England World Championships. Brian came up for the races, and proved that its not possible for him to take any sort of cycling lightly.

We were both registered for the men's 4 race, which went off at 9 am both days. Friday night I begrudgingly set the alarm for 5:30 and reminded myself why I should train and move up to B's and get some freakin' sleep.

I awoke on Saturday morning out of frustration for the MBTA Bus barrier in the cross race during my REM. When I rolled over to check the time I saw it was 6:30 - the classic set-the-alarm-for-PM-instead-of-AM mistake had gotten me again! Despite our panicked departure we arrived with plenty of time to get our numbers and preview the course.

As I got to staging I was a little uneasy about the start - an uphill pavement stretch with a slight left hand turn, oh, and 124 other cat 4's. We were staged by registration order, and I was about 90th. The whistle blew and there was a good 5 seconds before I was in the saddle. I knew the only hope was to burn it for this first lap or the front of the pack would be gone. I made my way through the pack, picking off riders in groups of 5 or 10, sometimes taking my track experience and squeezing through some fairly tight spots, much to the dismay of the other riders.

When we hit the hole shot I had probably moved up about 35-40 places, puting me around 50th. Through the first lap I picked off enough riders to get up to about 35th place. Things were feeling really good - I wasn't going under, still had some gas in the tank. Turns out taking 2 weeks off with a head cold left me well rested and ready to go.

On lap three coming into the run up I discovered that my new pedals and shoes weren't exactly dialed in, and the resulting 35 degree release angle on my left foot sent me nearly through the tape at the bottom of the barrier run up. Frazzled as I was, I made my way over the barriers, which felt like they were about 4 feet tall, and into the SRAM switchback section. Made it through the 180, but the off camber wet grass got the better of me, and I went down hard on my left side, sliding across the grass.

Shit. I dropped my chain, my brain wasn't working, I had no idea what I was doing. Maybe it was the lactic acid getting between the neurons. I fumbled for a minute with the chain, until I was yelled at for standing on the turn. I snapped to, and ran the rest of the turn as about 10 guys, including Brian, got past me. Up until then I held on to a shred of hope that maybe, just maybe, I'd beat Brian in a cycling race. Not going to happen. Finally I got the chain on and headed back up the pavement.

Despite the embarrassing chain debacle, I held on for a 43rd place finish, which was good enough for me given the crash and my terrible barrier traverse.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Goals: Part 1

Low key weekend. Last weeks efforts left me with a nagging head cold that I've been unable to shake. I got out on the bike once and managed to shake my fears that I would forget how to remount. The true test will be when I'm shoulder to shoulder with 124 other Cat 4's. This weekend will be ridiculous.

And since nothing brings on motivation like being sick (and thus having an excuse to not act upon that motivation) I've been pondering some goal setting. It is, after all, all the rage.

While it is true that thanks to Mark McCormack I finally can remount the bike, it has yet to be race proven. I'd like to remounting without a stutter-step 100% of the time by the end of the season. Similarly I would like to be able to be 100% comfortable with the 2 step, 4 step, 4 step routine for the double barriers, such that I'm always jumping off of, and landing on, the same foot.

I would like to gather the points to upgrade to a 3 from a 4. This should be attainable, considering I actually get my ass out of bed early enough to race in the 4's, and am also succesful at the next goal, which is:

Strong Starts
Yeah, I've only raced two races, and yeah, the second race was a 3/4 that I had no business being in so I sheepishly lined up at the back of the group for a 50 foot coast to a stop, but the only way to get top 10 finishes is to seal the deal in the first two laps, which means a solid start. At Bedford I was caught in the pile up in the first turn, and left the carnage in last place, at which point i made up about half the field to get into 19th. Looking at the results I was 30 seconds out of the top 10, something I totally could've closed. This also means being at the line 25 minutes before the gun, and being (be - be) agressive.

Tokyo Drift:
Cause how do you corner, anyway?

And the requisite "reach" goal:
would probably be a top 50% finish in the 3/4. I figure that since the long trail killed all my bike fitness, and I'm likely not going to gain much in the next two months given my work/school schedule, this is a bit of a reach.

Thats it for now..

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I can remount!!

most of the time... Basically in 2 1/2 hours I went from never properly remounting a cross race, to remounting in the drops after double barriers. Whats the trick? Mark McCormack. The former national champion held a private clinic for the Cambridge Bicycle Cyclocross Team tonight, and everything came together. My goal is to be 100 percent with it by Gloucester, so at least I can look like I'm going fast.

In other non-cyclocross news, I got a phone call today from my attorney. He informed me that he had a case similar enough to mine that he dug up my file, and was encouraging me to piggy back on it. So here we go, back in the legal game.

Now that I've got cross on the brain I've got to set some goals, including mastering the McCormack 2-4-4 barrier dance.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Amesbury Cross

What a ridiculous course. Amesbury combined roots and sand into a dusty clusterfuck in the Men's B.

First off, I have no business riding in the B's - this was my second cross race, and I spent the month of August completely off my bike. But somehow the idea of not waking up at 530 am to make it for the C's appealed to me, and I justified it as "more training time."

I lined up 20 minutes prior to the start in the back 20% of the group. Hard to say what row I was in, as people were pretty much just jammed in almost perpendicular to each other. The whistle goes and take what space I can for about 100 feet until the course bottlenecks 50+ guys into a 6 foot wide trail. Dead stop. I scooter around some kids and enter root city. I was running my tires at about 45 psi and still bouncing around substantially, but didn't want to risk a pinch flat.

After the barriers the course went back into the woods. At each corner I was stuck behind riders taking terrible lines. I finally got a chance to make a move when a guy in front of me goes down hard and my front tire hits his torso dead on. For the first time in years I was up and over the bars. It was good, I needed that. At least 10 guys got by at that point, but I was up and moving.

The rest of the race was gritty and rough. I ran the steep descent each lap, and maintained the same pace as those who rode it - sometimes even passed them. I took one hard crash on the off camber and sent my knee into my drops. Doesn't feel so hot today.

Despite finishing in the last 5% of the pack, I met my goal, which was to not get lapped, and I wasn't DFL. Given the racquetball sized contusion on my left leg, I feel pretty good about it.

Gotta love those shoes...

Next weekend off I suspect, Gloucester after that.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

new seasons

Well I'm officially terrible at updating. Let's see...

Track season ended with, well, not so much a bang, but it did hurt. Turns out that 23 days in the woods destroys what little track sprinting ability you may have. Needless to say, I lost my last match sprint of the season by no less than 3 inches.

So what now?

Cyclocross, obviously. Last weekend I hit up Bedford for my first cross experience. I'm quite late on the race report. Its best summed up as I line up in the second row, and notice that the guy directly in front of me is in his granny gear. It only got more interesting from there, as the entire field piled up in the first 180 degree turn, leaving me in last place out of the start. I scraped my way through the rest of the race and managed to pull off a reasonable enough mid pack finish.

So what does a mid-pack finish in a C race mean? Do a B race, obviously. Yeah, somehow I signed myself up, fully conscious, for the men's 3/4 race up at Amesbury tomorrow. The goal of tomorrow is to not get lapped.

In other news, my wrist is still potentially broken from my mishap on the Long Trail, which obviously means that I have not seen a physician. Why would I do that?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Out of the woods

Actually for a week now. Last Saturday, on my 24th birthday no less, Sarah and I found ourselves standing at the Canadian at the northern terminus of the Long Trail. After 23 days of roots, rocks, mud, and trail magic we had completed our 273 mile journey. Even a week later its difficult to find much to say about the trip, knowing that it takes someone who has done a thru hike to understand a thru hike. I know that getting into this I had no idea what it would be like. I'll get some pictures up soon - and tell a story or two when the time is right (read: when I'm less lazy).

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A walk in the woods

I thought I would have had more time in the past weeks to write about the prep for the long trail, but I didn't.

We leave in the morning.

I think we're ready - the bags are packed to the brim with probably too much food, and not enough of something that I'll know what it is in a few more days. My pack is heavy - lightweight gear doesn't make up for 20 pounds of food.

Well, 270 miles to go. Wish us luck.

Monday, July 30, 2007

I am a speed demon....allegedly

I just got off the phone with my lawyer and it turns out that Hanover Insurance is continuing to claim that I was operating my bicycle in a negligent manner when I was cut off by their insured.

The newest argument, which is one that I'm particularly fond of, is an assertion that I was traveling at an unsafe speed. Initially I was denied for passing on the right. When I pointed out the explicit language in the Massachusetts General Laws that allows just that, the story was changed to the tune of "the cars were stopped, so passing on the right is still illegal."

Their new tune is that I'm an incredible cyclist, who despite limited bike time at that point, is able to exceed the legal speed limit of 35 mph on the road where the accident occurred.

In 1984 Greg Lemond's record breaking average speed in the final time trial of the Tour de France was an eye-watering 54 kmph. That translates roughly to 33.5 mph - at least 1.5 mph slower than my alleged speed. Move over Levi, Jordan's coming to pass you on the shoulder.

Tour wrap up

As I sat on my bed last night and watched the cycling's greatest riders make one final push down the cobbles of the champs elysees, I couldn't help but wonder why it is that we've chosen to become to so hard on dopers in the recent years. People rhetorically ask "what has happened to cycling?" or "will cycling ever be clean?" Perhaps a better question is, "has it ever been clean?"

In the early days of the tour riders consumed alcohol and even ether to dull the pain of the then nearly 400 kilometer stages that kept competitors riding well into the night. A recent article in the Times quotes Fausto Coppi, the Italian who rode to yellow in 1949 and 1952, on his response to being asked if he had ever used amphetamines in the tour:

“Only when necessary,” he said.

How often was that?

“Most of the time,” Coppi replied.

There is the infamous Tom Simpson, who in 1967 collapsed dead on Mount Venoux from a combination of amphetamines and alcohol. He had amphetamines in his jersey. Doping control promptly began the next year.

To think that the tour will ever be clean is to deny a characteristic that has been with it from the beginning. I don't take it personally, drugs or not I'll never be there. And I'll still lose 3 hours a day in July religiously watching.

Friday, July 27, 2007

NH Amateur State Games Race Report

On Wednesday I was finally able to get back up to the track and compete in the New Hampshire Amateur state games - which was essentially the same as every other night at the track, with the exception of a higher race fee and medals.

The night started off with the Kilo - a one kilometer race against the clock. I had already announced to my fellow Cambridge Bicycle teammates before I left the shop that I was coming home with a medal in the kilo, so I knew I had to throw down. Needless to say I was not nearly warmed up enough when events got under way. I elected to go early in the race to give me time to recover before the other events. You start the Kilo fully clipped in with someone holding your bike - which can be a little nerve wracking when they neglect to hold you straight. I got off to a decent start but swung too wide on turns 1 and 2 in the first lap. The banking is minimal on this track, only 14 degrees, so you have to really keep on your inside bar to stay in the pole. I held it together for a 1:24 finish - I had hoped to be under 1:20 - but it was good enough for a silver medal in the C race.

In the points race we did what we could to utilize some team tactics, however much of the race was spent avoiding the erratic moves of some newbies. I wasn't able to pull much together so I worked as a rabbit for Aaron and Erik. Erik ended up in silver.

The Olympic Sprint ( a three man race, raced in a paceline with 1 man pulling off each lap, time is taken as the anchor man crosses the line). I elected to ride second behind Aaron and in front of Erik. We had a smooth start, and were right up together until turn 4 on the first lap when I heard the smack of metal on pavement and expletives behind me. Turns out Erik had a pedal strike on his new IF. Luckily he stayed up, but had dropped out of my draft. I had no idea and continued to ride furiously. Somehow Erik pulled it together and we took Gold.

Last was the Match Sprint. Four guys start at the line, foot down, and there's 2 laps to go from the line - anything goes. I never thought this would be my event - I'm not exactly of the track sprinter build and on top of that I'm down about 12 pounds off of my winter weight-lifting weight (huge). Race starts fast, I've yet to be in a match sprint that utilizes a track stand, but given that there's 4 people to contend with its not the best strategy choice. As we come around to the bell lap I'm sitting in 2nd, and I decide to make a move. I come around to the front and drop all I've got, as I crest turn 4 I'm peddling far to fast to look back so i just hold it through the line, keeping about 2 bike lengths on second place. I was pretty impressed with myself, and ready to vomit, then I realized I had to go to the finals. So what do I do? Exact same thing - only this time, no one goes with me, thinking I can't hold the break twice, and I cruise into Gold. Except by cruise into gold I mean my heart rate hit 212.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Paint on Solar Cells

Its time for my first eco related post. Though I haven't offered a purpose for this blog yet, this sort of thing fits right in.

I have to hand it to New Jersey on this one - Researchers at NJIT have come up with a design for paint on solar cells. The technique relies on carbon nanotubes and buckyballs instead of the common silicon process, resulting in a drastically reduced cost of production. The inventors are envisioning a future where consumers could print out their own solar panels on ink jet printers.

The implications of this sort of technology are massive, taking us one step closer to widespread micro generation, where consumers produce their own electricity for their own needs. Technological advancement coupled with self-reliance - sounds good to me.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

legal babble

Its been a month and a half since I met the side of a Subaru Legacy wagon while riding in Stoneham around The Fells. After Hanover insurance denied the claim for damages to my Roubaix RC I sought out the legal advice of Andrew Fischer, a Boston area cycling advocate and lawyer. We decided then that we would pursue an unfair settlement suit, a consumer protection that prevents insurance companies from doing what they do best: not paying.

Some time had gone by since I met with the lawyer, and I had convinced myself that I wasn't going to see that money or my lawyers fees back in my pocket. (As a side note - thanks to those who contributed to the fee). Yesterday I received the draft of the letter to be sent.

First off, lawyers are completely ridiculous. Some quotes:

Despite the clear and indisputable liability of Hanover's insured, Hanover has denied Mr. Winkler's claim, asserting, contrary to indisputable evidence, that the accident was caused by the supposed negligence of Mr. Winkler, who did nothing but proceed lawfully along the roadway where he had the right of way, and where he should have been, according to Massachusetts law.

7. Having received no offer of settlement, let alone a reasonable offer, in response to his claim, Mr. Winkler is now compelled to institute litigation to recover the damages he sustained as a result of your insured’s negligence.

Indisputable evidence! I'm already convinced, but then it gets better:

8. Hanover's claims department has clearly failed to read and comprehend the applicable sections of the Massachusetts General Laws. Hanover wrote, in a letter to Mr. Winkler on June 21, 2007 (attached hereto as Exhibit B), "When operating a bicycle in Massachusetts, it is said to use the same rules and regulations as of a vehicle [sic]". Hanover proceeded to make reference to M.G.L. ch. 85 § 11B, the very section that explicitly permits the operation of a bicycle to the right of motor vehicles in the same lane when passing. The statute reads, "[T]he bicycle operator may keep to the right when passing a motor vehicle which is moving in the travel lane of the way". M.G.L. ch. 85 § 11B.


12. As a result of the above described bad faith settlement practices, Mr. Winkler has suffered undue delays in resolving his claims, as well as other damages. This has caused Mr. Winkler anguish and mental suffering and has prevented him from engaging in his usual life’s activities. In addition, the undue delay caused by Hanover's bad faith has caused Mr. Winkler to incur substantial legal fees which would otherwise have been unnecessary. Further, by delaying payment to Mr. Winkler, Hanover can continue to earn interest for a prolonged additional period of time on the money it should be promptly paying to Mr. Winkler.

Anguish? Mental suffering? I must really love that bike. I think if this goes to court I'll come up with some sort of tee shirt depicting the demise of my

Thursday, July 19, 2007

photoshop phun

Finally starting to get some personal touches on the blog. Photos above come from my trek up Mt. Kenya last September. More adjustments to come.

To Protect and Swerve

I was riding home from SEI over on the Tuft's campus today for lunch when I was passed on Cameron Ave by a black Jeep. It was your standard car-pass-bike maneuver that puts you on guard for the impending stupidity of the driver. Sure enough my instincts were correct, as said drive made an attempt to make an abrupt right hand turn in front of me. As I swerved to avoid the collision I offered a firm open hand to the rear quarter panel of the jeep. As I got within view of the driver, fully prepared for an angry confrontation - "Hey you hit my car, wtf??" - I was surprised (but not really) to find the driver wearing the uniform of a Boston Police Officer.

Now I remember why I didn't call the cops when I was hit in June. If you ride in Boston be sure you're familiar with Massachusetts' General Laws Chapter 85 section 11b, so when a cop, or in my case Hanover Insurance, tries to claim you were breaking the law when you're cut off by a car, you can calmly tell them exactly why they're wrong. And when they still deny your claim, which they will, then you hire a lawyer.

long walks and sketchy cities

Yesterday's rainy weather forced the cancellation of the New Hampshire Amateur Games, and coerced me out for a much-needed run. Took an easy pace near fresh pond for a 45 min effort. Not quite where I was a few weeks back, but that happens. Why concern myself with running? I often ask myself that question. There are a few answers: First off, I'm terrible at it--always have been. Secondly, in less than two weeks we depart for a 270 mile backpacking trip along the Long Trail in Vermont.

For the uninitiated, the Long Trail traverses the length of Vermont crossing the largest peaks of the Green Mountains. The trail starts just north of Williamstown, MA, and ends in North Troy, VT, and was the first wilderness trail in the US. We're shooting for a leisurely 22 to 25 day itinerary (which I still need to figure out) with one stop at Sarah's in Warren as we come through the Lincoln Gap. I'm hoping that I glean some sort of fitness benefit from the 8 hours a day of level 1 work, and manage to keep some weight on my bones. I'll post more about the prep as it happens.

The tour moved into Marseille yesterday - and Versus spent a good portion of their coverage spewing flattery for a city that is in the top 3 sketchiest places I've ever visited in my life. While the harbor islands are beautiful, the city is full of beggars - often proudly displaying open, rotting wounds, or lacking limbs all together.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Busy past few weeks

Crazy past 10 days. I've finally rid myself of the Grand Prix - anyone who had ridden in it was made very aware of my distaste with that automobile. When you can finally bring yourself to get over the embarrassment of being an environmental academic who drives a car, you at least want that car to fit your lifestyle. Not to say that the Pontiac wasn't off entirely - the car was given to me (I'm opportunistic), and the peripherals constantly broke, giving me constant inspiration for complaint (I'm a cynic). Its the end of an era. I'm now the proud owner of a 2002 Subaru Outback, slightly more suited to the better parts of my lifestyle, and less likely to leave me stranded on 89.

The Pontiac did go out with a bang - not just the blown out tire on the way home to get the outback - but a good 1000 miles of driving in a week or so. The 4th was spent in Warren enjoying a pleasant amount of political dissonance at the annual 4th of July parade. On the 5th we were able to drag Kyle up to the top of Camel's Hump on a slightly epic hike.

The 6th saw us spend one night in Boston before departing for the Catskills for a party with our friends the Tarlofsky's (NYC residing film producer) at their house near Kingston. Simply put, there were many characters (think San Fernando Valley), and a good time was had.

Back to reality for a few days now as I try to catch up on this consulting gig for the World Bank (it likely sounds more exciting than it is). Biggest news of the week is the official beginning of the Cambridge Bicycle Track Team. Tomorrow will be my first week back to the track in quite a while for the NH State Amateur Games, race report to come.

By the way - I've got a blog now.