Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Rain in Maine Falls Mainly in the Bike Race

Verge NECCS Race #7: Long drive, cold rain, more cold rain, sloppy-slip-slop course conditions, warm-up in the car, shivering, line up, race, crash, race, pass guys, get passed, ride clean lines, fall down some, finish 16th. Pineland Farms is pretty.

Not my best ride today, and not my worst. Given the conditions, I'll take it. The victory for me was keeping my head in the race and being competitive enough to keep at it and finish the durned thing. I felt like I had more in me, and I was riding the slop well, but I couldn't run up those hills AT ALL. My legs got so cold I felt like I was dragging cinder blocks around. Then there was a badly timed chain drop and when I took big risks on the sketchy descent to try to make it up, I got stuck in a bad rut and crashed pretty spectacularly. Slightly bruised back, no big deal, keep it movin'. Some good guys dropped out of the race today, so I felt pretty good, given my recent failures and tantrums, that I found a place in my head I could go to have fun and stay mentally present. Small victories.

It's still raining, I'm huddled in a hotel room at the Super 8 Motel in Lewiston, Maine, and they don't have a laundromat. Off to find one in the car tomorrow morning...too tired to do it tonight, and we already murdered the bathtub. So much mud!

Tomorrow? We'll see.


Toronto #2: Better

I sat on that last post for awhile before I put it up, and although my mood has improved considerably since then, I feel like the hard times are as blogworthy as the good times; it's the arc of the whole experience, the whole season, that creates any sort of story at all.

So Sunday in Toronto was much better. The result(a lackluster 24th) doesn't reflect it, but I had a solid start, worked my way up to 15th, and was racing well in a shape-shifting group of 3-5 guys for most of the race. With 2&1/2 to go I got a shifter caught in some course tape when I came wide through a turn and I spent the next couple of minutes wrestling with my bike/chain drop/tape wrap/shit storm. Needless to say a mess of guys passed me while I was doing this and the gap quickly got too big for me to catch them back. That was a bummer, because I was having the first reasonably good ride I've had in weeks...and I still managed to screw it up. Oh well, at least I had fun this time, and Charmaine was skulking around the course, popping out from behind trees, smiling cheerfully, taking pictures and being awesome, which helped. And how about that sunshine? It was a really fantastic weekend, and the Midweek Cycling club is to be commended.

Still not there yet, but I'm getting a little closer.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Toronto #1: Again

I'm running out of ways to describe bad races. I suppose that considering the burnout, and the fact that I only rode my bike on Wednesday and Friday (for 45 minutes) this week, and the cracked rib and the sore throat I've been walking around with...well, I suppose the real surprise is that I actually felt good on my wee spin last night and was looking forward to racing today.

Long story short, I was having a tough day following a solid first couple of laps when I slid out on an off-camber and dropped my chain. I was in a hard-earned 25th place out of about 40 guys and I was sliding backwards like a stone, the ski hill was killing me. Putting the chain back on took longer than it should have and I was stuck in the middle of the damn hill, or more accurately, right at the bottom of the final pitch. When I contemplated running to the top or trying to remount mid-hill, I just couldn't bring myself to do it, so I quit.

I'll start tomorrow and try to have fun and re-discover the reasons that I do this. It's funny how when things are going well with racing it all seems so self-evident, and when it's like it has been for me this past month, well, all of the positive stuff seems pretty far away.

Better days.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It's cold in here. I can see my breath, actually, in my apartment. Yes I have spoken to my landlord, no I am not confident she will figure out before the day is over.

On a lighter note I actually finished a bike race on Sunday with no crashes or mechanicals. I did stack it pretty hard in warm-up trying to get used to riding clinchers again, and I bruised a couple of ribs, but what can you do.

So yeah, day 2 in Providence was a lot of fun even though I had a pretty mediocre ride. The depth of North American 'cross is getting really impressive, though, which is both encouraging and discouraging all at once.

And this week I finally committed to getting all of the rest I actually need and not trying to squeeze in confidence building, energy draining workouts between race weekends anymore. Hopefully my good legs will show up in time for Toronto this coming weekend.

That's it for now, back to work.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Divine Providence Part 1

I quit bike racing yesterday. It didn't take, though, probably because I was actually riding my bike at the time, and I had to ride for at least long enough to get home, or else ditch the bike and hitch-hike home in my superhero costume. And I thought about it, believe me. I have been slightly sick, and really tired, and awfully frustrated in my last few races. I've been worrying about UCI points, series standings, prize money, sponsor expectations ans a host of other shit that I would really like to think I had evolved beyond the need to measure myself by. And the beauty part is, for today, I have. I had fun racing my bike today, which is a hell of an accomplishment considering that I wasn't convinced I would even start today when I woke up this morning, and I got two flat tires in the race and DNF'd.

Last night I got a solid pep-talk from my amazing, brilliant, sexy and fun partner, Charmaine, and that helped me feel like all answers were right answers. Thanks, Baby! Whatever happens in the races, I have an amazing woman to come home to, and that's really as much as I could hope for. If I have to be a head case, and apparently I do, at least I bounce back quickly.

So yup, another DNF. The difference was that today I felt like a bike racer again, and I felt pretty snappy, which was a nice surprise. Good enough start, not so good I was likely to get myself in trouble trying to hang with my betters, but just good enough that as the first lap shook out I was comfortably top-20 with good guys all around me, and I was completely confident that I would settle into a group of guys who would race hard for the full hour. And really, that's all you want out of the start. It's a race, and you have to let it happen. But racing close enough to the front that all of those intangibles like UCI points and simple accomplishment are actually within sight produces something my friend Al Donahue refers to as "awesomeness". When you're in among the awesomeness, you keep going fast. When you're in the weeds with the back-markers, it tends to slow you down a little bit, in mind, body and spirit.

So why did I DNF? 2/3 of the way through the first lap I got a squishy tire, due either to the fact that the course was paved with glass, or to a sharp curb we had to ride every lap. I rode the tire flat for as long as I could, ran some technical stuff, and rode some technical stuff, which was actually pretty cool in its own disappointing way. Unfortunately I don't have a pit bike yet (this week, I'm hoping) so I got a super fast wheel change from Joe and Joe's Garage stalwart, Doug Aspinwall (thanks guys!) and got rolling again but I was nearly dead last at this point. Bummer.

One thing I have learned is that early bad luck in a race takes all the pressure off, if nothing else. So I resigned myself to a race of catch-up and settled into a groove. I was picking guys off at a pretty good clip and steadily moving up. My friend and teammate, Justin Lindine suffered a mechanical, as well, and I caught up to him just as he swung into the pit for a bike change. We were together for a bit but he dropped me pretty quickly. Nevertheless, seeing him killing it kept me motivated and I started to see a pretty large group of guys about 2 sections in front of me, which looked attainable. And then I got the second flat tire, in just about the same place as the first one...

I was half a lap or more from the pit, and I really couldn't see what was to be gained by running another half a lap just to try to spend the rest of the race fighting for the lead lap, so I pulled the plug.

At least I was mad about it, though. If I was as burned out as I thought I was yesterday then I would have been secretly happy. Sometimes mechanicals are like that: a relief. Not today, though. Today I wanted to race my bike, I was hungry for it. And that was a victory in itself .

So tomorrow is another day, and another race down here in Roger Williams park in Providence, RI, which I have to say is still one of my favorite cyclocross venues. And whether I head to Toronto next weekend or stay at home and race in Troy, I'll be more focused on the simple joy and effort of racing than on the outcome. Because, really? I am a pretty lucky human being.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Gloucester Race Reports, Etc.

There were 'cross races in Gloucester, MA this past weekend, so I hear. I was near them, and I had numbers pinned on, but I couldn't really see the racing from where I was. For the interested, there are a mess of really cool videos over on Cyclingdirt, including the infamous and highly entertaining one. Intentional or not, professional or not, grudge matches can only be good for spectating and sponsorship dollars. But I digress.

Saturday at Gloucester was ludicrously muddy. I rode well in the mud, better than I ever used to in fact. But an overly aggressive start combined with some mistakes relegated me to racing somewhere in the high-20's, where I stayed, and that was that. I don't have a pit bike yet (next week?) so I pitted onto Joe's 52cm bike with the saddle 3cm too short, which was pretty entertaining. But that has nothing to do with my result. I think my suckiness is attributable to a little fatigue and the need to do some engine work. It's hard to get the balance right between high-end training and maintenance/recovery. With 2 'crosses per weekend it's really easy to overdo it, and the racing pretty much takes care of the high-end work on the weekends. So this week is diesel week, and hopefully I can participate in the races in Providence next weekend.

Sunday was just frustrating. I had a better and more reasonable start where I avoided blowing myself up and I was in and around a respectable group racing for 20th or so, with good prospects for moving up when a series of bobbles and dropped chains, some mine, some others', cost me a mess of time. I hate to admit it, but my core is weak, and my back hurt on the bumpy ground, so crunches here I come. After having resigned myself to another ignominious day in the high-20's, I had a final bobble in the buttonhook coming into the barriers with 2 to go and I just couldn't make myself care enough to run. Off came the helmet, exit smoothly under the tape, rest forehead on handlebars for a couple of minutes over by the gazebo, roll to the car, get a drink. Sometimes a little "wasn't-there-didn't-happen" is preferable to actually finding out how bad the result would have been if I had stuck it out. And sometimes not, for sure. But when I come unglued mentally, and the riding stops being fun, it's usually time to bail for the day. No sense getting hurt or breaking the bike when you can't keep your head in the game. So, better days.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed with where my form seems to be, but the 'cross season is still relatively young. I do seem to be yards better at driving my bike than I used to be, and it is a definite confidence builder to know that I can drop people who are stronger than me in the mud or in technical sections. But it seems like there are a lot of people stronger than me, and that's a little hard to take. I know my body pretty well at this point, though, and I know that I won't be worse than this a month or even 2 months from now, and a lot of guys will be once road and mountain bike season fitness is a distant memory. The 'cross season itself is like a race in a lot of ways, and while a good start is key, steady consistency can pay off, as well. So I'll be tuning my engine, building my threshold and hoping for better results. If I could just get my 2nd lap fitness to match my starts I would be all set, and that has to be coming. Hope so.

And in other news I teach English, do awesome dad stuff, and have started to do some freelance editing as well as coaching a few bike racers. Doing knowledge work feels good, making a reasonable living would feel even better.

So now that I have caught up on several months worth of navel-gazing, race report style blogging, I will leave you to your workday. Don't forget to check out my articles over on Embrocation Cycling Journal. I get paid by the hit, true story. So click early and often.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 1, 2009

I Miss You Guys...

It's been like that for a few weeks, and I miss blogging. True, I have been writing and if you're curious you can see what about at Embrocation Cycling Journal.

But writing here is different, and you folks who read this are my friends. So, an apology for being absent, and a brief account of why, to be followed by more interesting stories.

- Teaching is a new challenge. Sometimes rewarding, sometimes maddening.
- One win in a local 'cross race
- 2 good-enough-but-kinda-disappointing rides in the first Verge Series UCI races of the season last week in Vermont.
- Gloucester coming up this weekend
- Silas's new school: The good, the pretty damn good, and the unintentional comedy of 21st century liberal intellectualism.

Off I go, looking forward to getting back on a blogging schedule.