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.