Saturday, November 27, 2010

Photo Caption Contest! Woo-hoo!

Many of you reading will see this and say "Hey, you're cheating! You're making us do the writing!"  To which I reply "Oh heavens no, I would NEVER do something as lame as that!"

Phht. Anyway... See the photo below. Respond with your bestest, most-inspired caption. Enter multiple times. Have your dog enter. Don't bother with the cats as they don't care unless it's time to feed them. Sorry, it's not cat-feeding time. However, I digress...

With "contest" in the title you'd think you'd win something, right? Yeah, that would be my thought process too. Now, what to give the winner... better think of that part... OK. Because I'm trying to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project by doing this, *I* will make a $25 contribution to WWP in the name of the winner. Sound fair enough? And hey, if YOU want to contribute to the Wounded Warrior Project, too, all the better. In fact, I'm hoping you do. Click on the link HERE or at the top right.

None the less, here's the photo:

On your marks, get set... fire away

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stuff and People we like... yeah, the ol' Thanksgiving post (Part one)

The title was going to have something to do with "our sponsors" but some of these organizations aren't really sponsors in the traditional sense. However, they are all good people and deserve accolades. We're thankful that somehow our orbits have crossed at some point. 

Road ID is one. Why do we like Road ID? For one, I approached them with an unconventional way of doing a fundraiser. While they normally do sponsor many fundraiser/charity events, ours didn't quite fit their program. Road ID saw the value in it and agreed to help us. Granted, their contribution to our fundraising activities isn't any different than the usual for them. But they took the time to listen and said "OK, here you go."  The second reason we like Road ID is that when you purchase a product from them you have the option to have a portion of the proceeds from your purchase go to a charity and Wounded Warrior Project is one of those charities. Excellent! And thirdly, Road ID is just a darn good product.

Westerville Bike Shop is a great place to get  new bicycle our get any repairs done on your bike. If you are in the Westerville or northern Columbus, OH area this is the place to go. One of the two best places I know of to have any work performed on your bike.

Another bike shop we dig is Cyclist Connection in Canal Winchester, OH. Ric and his crew have always treated us really well. They also host a plethora of activities so you certainly won't get bored (I've always wanted to use the word "plethora" in a sentence). If your looking for a bike shop in the southern Columbus/SE Ohio area, you can't go wrong with Cyclist Connection. Great people, great service. Good times. Also the other best place I know for having work performed on your bike.

I have to mention Cap City Cross. We're having a blast in our first year of racing. The Cap City Cross group is a great group of people working hard to put on some fun, challenging races in Central Ohio. When I approached Cap City Cross with our idea of racing to raise funds for Wounded Warrior Project, not only did they say "heck yeah!" but they gave us the opportunity to make the Dec. 5th race at Smith Farms a fundraiser for Wounded Warrior Project as well. And did I mention the fun? Rad Dogs? (Oh, that's good food right there!) Cheering other racers on, heckling your friends? That's good stuff right there.

When I first had the crazy idea to actually put together a fund raising cyclocross race team, I approached the guys at Cyclocross Magazine about it. I turned to them only to get a gauge of how far off kilter I was; after all Cyclocross Magazine is run by people who have had a lot of time and experience in cyclocross. They are THE print mag for cyclocross as well as one of the premier website for all things cyclocross. Not only did they encourage me to pursue this (raising funds by racing bikes) but they also said "Write it up! Get some photos!" Wow, that was encouraging. The result is HERE. Thank you to Cyclocross Magazine.

Once all this was getting put in to motion I realized I was going to need some help. So I turned to shel-shok. Shel-shok helped get the words together in the right order as well as point me in the right direction. Shel-shok provides consultations to provide creative, strategic and interactive solutions to business and marketing problems. Their help has been immeasurable.

Ryan Stubenrauch has been very instrumental as of late, not only by letting us use his photos for our article in Cyclocross Magazine and our blog, but by bringing our message to a new audience. I am glad to have met Ryan and am tremendously grateful. I am also very grateful I don't have to race directly against him - he'd leave me way behind.

Lastly for today, if you're looking to take your bicycle riding off road check out Airborne Bicycles. The name has been around before but this group is looking to not only revive that legacy, but to improve upon it. Airborne Bicycles has a great line of mountain bikes to suit whatever your needs may be. I'm looking toward great products from this Ohio-based company.

That's it for now, but that's not all the people we like or have helped us out. More to come soon. No, really. I mean it! Yeah, honest!

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The good, the bad, and well, I was ugly

Cap City Cross race #4 was held at Infirmary Mound park in Newark, OH. It was a bit of a homecoming for me as this was the location of the very first cyclocross race I raced in last year. I felt I had a bit of a "jump" as I remembered this pretty well. However I was wrong as it turns out.

The track is very long and stretched out compared to the previous races and the front half was changed a bit from last year. None the less we started with a short uphill paved section, turn and hit the barriers right away and we're off. Their are long mostly straight sections of dirt patch wide enough for two-track for a good portion of the race, another short paved chute into a tight left hander headed back to some tight twisty single track, up the steep climb (which last year was a run-up but most people could ride it this day), a few more chicanes and rinse, lather, repeat. On Saturday I thought it was going to be a muddy mess as the forecast called for rain. Which it did, right around midnight, letting up about 7am. However what I found was the grass was wet but most of the rest was in pretty good shape except for the single track, which just had a layer of greasy-slick mud on top but wasn't deep at all. This made for a track that was pretty fast and the gazelles could stretch out their legs on this one.

Jovid leads our group into the woods  © Ryan Stubenrauch

Jovid was back! Yeah! During the first race (C race, or Cat 4/5 -- yeah, I know it gets a bit confusing especially if you're not a bicycle geek) I rode with Jovid. He was trying pretty hard and he learned the lesson I had learned the previous race - don't grab too much rear brake heading into a turn or you'll hit the deck. He recovered quickly and we were back in business. Until we came off the pack paved chute and I turned too sharply after just coming off the concrete and went head over heals.  I dusted off, collected my wits, straightened the handlebars and we're off. Yeah, we were pretty much off the back. I could have raced a bit harder but to tell the truth I enjoyed it more to ride with him. Jovid decided to sprint to the finish line and dang it, I could not get around him.
Jovid accelerating out of the turn © Ryan Stubenrauch

J.D. trying to crest the hill  © Ryan Stubenrauch

Jovid climbing the hill  © Ryan Stubenrauch
 Then it was watching and waiting. The first race we entered started around 10am and went for a bit over 30 minutes. My next race was at 2pm. So what was I to do? Same thing everyone else is doing - grab my cowbell and go cheer on the other racers!  By combining the Cap City Cross series with the OVCX series we now had a decidedly larger group of racers (over 300 I had heard, but don't quote me on it) so a lot of the groups got broken out and raced at different times.

There was also a short Kids course set up nearby! Kids from old enough to straddle a walk-along bike to 7 or 8 I think raced three laps. I thought that this was an awesome idea and a great way to make 'cross even more family-friendly.

Time to line up for my race. What we previously referred to as the B group is on this day the Cat 3 Masters, 35+ and 45+. The old men got to race by themselves. Which I would have thought was a good thing. However, the OVCX guys "took me to school", meaning I got shelled from the starting whistle. Holy crap. My lack of training plan reared it's ugly head that day. I did manage to claw back a few positions so I didn't end up DFL but I felt like it. Without trying hard I'm sure I could come up with a few decent excuses - legs weren't there that day, course didn't suit me - but ultimately there is no excuse. That is just where my fitness and abilities placed me.

So I have a few things to work on. In the short term I have got to really develop my cornering technique as this is one area where I'm losing time and really killing my momentum. Long term is in order to do better I really have to get some sort of training plan together. Now the question is: Do I want to get better bad enough to make changes in my work and life schedule OR am I going to be content with my general abilities and just out there to have fun and challenge myself a bit? To this question I don't have a firm answer but I think I am somewhere in the middle, pointing a bit to making changes. If that is the case I have to figure out how, when, where and STICK WITH IT. (I'm shouting at myself, not you readers).

What I am sticking with is asking new people to contribute to the Wounded Warrior Project. While I'm out riding my bike in the woods wearing goofy spandex, our nation's military men and women are getting injured with life-changing injuries. While I am debating if I can squeeze in a "training plan", our warriors are facing serious life and death situations. I think it's incumbent on us to take care of our fighting men and women. I hope you do as well and will contribute now to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Special thanks to Ryan Stubenrauch for the photos.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A few words on what we are doing

Here's a few paragraphs from our Press Release. I think it illustrates well WHY we are raising money for Wounded Warrior Project.

"To date, over 34,000 members of our nation’s armed forces have been physically wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Studies estimate that more than 300,000 will suffer from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. These injuries are often devastating, leaving a formerly active young man or woman unable to care for themselves. While grateful for their return, the round-the-clock care required to treat these wounded warriors often falls on their families, giving caregivers no choice but to leave their jobs and forego health care of their own.
WWP provides programs and services to assist injured veterans and their families during their recovery, rehabilitation and transition. Whether through caregiver retreats, combat stress programs, career and education services, or adaptive sporting opportunities, Wounded Warrior Project’s vision is to help make this generation of wounded warriors the most successful and well-adjusted in our nation’s history."

I believe it is incumbent upon us to help our wounded, returning from battle. I sincerely hope that you do too, and can contribute (here) to the Wounded Warrior Project.

And how we go about this, as you well know, is by racing bicycles. Why racing bicycles? Most of you already know, but in case you don't or are a new reader, here's an article here. 

Tomorrow is a race at Infirmary Mound Park in Newark, Ohio. It's not the only one, but it'll be a good one. Hope to see you there. At the least, I hope you can contribute to our nation's wounded.

Thanks for  reading.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Today is Veternas Day. Please take a moment. . .

Take a moment to thank any Veteran for giving up some of their prime years of life to serve our country.

Take a moment to think of the Veterans who knowingly put themselves in harm's way so that you don't have to.

Take a moment to remember those Veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for something bigger than themselves.

Take those moments and don't let them just face away.

Please remember all of those who've served our country. And while we'd really like for you to contribute to the Wounded Warrior Project as a means of thanking and honoring our military personnel, just please take a moment to express your gratitude regardless of what form it takes.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, November 8, 2010

MORE COWBELL, LESS BRAKE: Things I'm learning... things I have yet to learn

First: A link to a small photo essay from the Cap City Cross race at Dublin, Ohio by Tim Norman:
Good stuff. Now, on with the rest of our show...

As this is my first full season of cyclocross there's a lot I've been trying to absorb and/or learn. Here's roughly where I am at:

1) More cowbell, less brake: I have a habit of trying to go "deep" into a corner (those familiar with auto racing probably get where I'm coming from), brake, and then have to jump on the pedals to get going again. Watching others who are kicking my butt shows that they ease off a bit sooner but roll through the corner with no brake, or very little. Then they just get through the corner faster than I do leaving me to really huff and puff to try to catch them. And if we are otherwise evenly matched, that's all the advantage they need. Have to work on that

2) Less REAR brake: Ugh. Least weekend I was in second after the first hairpin, down a short fast chute and into the left 180. I grabbed the rear brake and promptly hit the deck, sliding in front of most of the C field. Not a good place to be. I've really had to work on relying more on just the front brake.

3) You can take most corners faster than you thought: If there is some grass, vegetation, or about anything other than loose dirt or stone I'm finding I can really corner faster than I thought possible. Last race I went through the C race and halfway though the B race before I realized I didn't have to swing so wide for a Right to Left set of 90 degree turns. Had I known that sooner I could have held on to a few positions.

4) Look where you want to be, not where you're going: I know, I know. I keep telling this to my teenage boys as they are driving. I should know this. But on the bicycle (not so much on the motorcycle) I have a nasty habit of looking down. STOP I tell myself! By looking further through the track I'm seeing that I can cut corners smoother, more arc and less "sharply". I can anticipate gearing better. Let the peripheral vision take care of the close up stuff. Why I have difficulty with this on the bicycle, I don't know.

5) Gear big for rough ground: I took a page from the roadies who attempt Paris-Roubaix here. When the ground is bumpy, uneven or rough go to a larger gear. You end up supporting more of your weight with your legs, allowing you to flex more. To me, it seems that I am going just as fast as if I'd try to spin like a roadie. As well I find that if I spin on the rough stuff I end up bouncing all over the place.

6) You can go faster for longer than I thought: Right after my first race this year I thought I was done. But after an hour or so afterwards I really felt like I left some cards on the table. So the next race I tried to remember that and went harder; went for the hole shot (did really well until we got off the pavement and then I got shelled!), went after whoever was in front, tried to hold off who ever was behind and generally tried to keep a higher pace throughout the race. It worked - I moved up from mid pack (18th-20th) to just outside the top ten in the last two C races.

7) You may be stronger than you thought: Last year I bough a cyclocross bike and promptly swapped out the rear cassette for something with a wider range, lower low gear because that is what I had been used to riding during my long wandering road rides with the steep climbs in them for years. This year I ended up having to get another bike for myself and didn't have the extra scratch to buy even more stuff to recreate my beloved wide and low range gearing so I ended up riding what came stock on that bike. Even up the long steep climbs near my house. And strike me dead if I didn't make it up those hills with the harder gearing. Wow. This was a major revelation to me. I do end up standing more but I'm no more or less tired when I get up the climbs. Which translates pretty well to the race course.

8) Stuff to work on: Off-camber stuff, how to get through it without wiping out. Still trying to nail down tire pressure which I think has some to do with this but I think it's also a matter of picking the right lines. Speed - I just need to work on being faster. Yeah, when I work on it I don't know but it'd help! And endurance - pushing myself just a little harder for a little longer. Keeping a higher pace in general. Prior to racing this year, I've been happy to tool around at whatever speed. I don't recall what it's close to as I tossed the bike computer years ago. But now, I need to get the acceleration, cruising speed, recovery speed up; all these I need to increase somehow.

Yes, I'm sure intervals and weight lifting and all those sorts of things would help. I'm working on intervals at the local super-secret dirt track that the ATV guys tear up (it's short, about a 2 minute lap depending on how I ride it) with one easy lap, one fast lap, and so on. Or I stitch together a series of steep hills nearby which seems to help some. But most of all, I have to get out there and DO IT.

There is of course more I need to work on than I can identify. So if you race with me and want to point it out, by all means feel free! Hopefully this means I'll do better in the races and that will translate to more contributions to the Wounded Warrior Project! (Look, I guy can dream, can't he?)

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Article in Cyclocross Magazine is here!

Wow, never thought I'd see the day. We are getting some national exposure thanks to the fine folks at Cyclocross Magazine. Our article appears HERE.  Why we can get national exposure while all the local outlets seem not so very interested I'll never know. Ah, so it goes.

Have to say, thanks to Ryan Stubenrauch for some of the photos. That totally made the article.

There are still some photos from last weeks race I'd like to post, I just need to talk with said photographer. My fault, totally. And Ryan said he'd keep tabs on future stuff - thank you Ryan!

Very short today, I'm a bit scatter-brained. I need to get out on the bike and use up some of this daylight we've been saving. Alright, let's go!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Shoot out at the Not-So-OK Corral!

Last week we posted the challenge for Halloween -- make a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project and you get to vote on what costume I wear to race my bike in. The grand winner is . . . the 187s! Chief 187 picked me to dress up as a old-west Marshall, perhaps Wyatt Earp. Well, you asked for it:
Photo ccourtesy my lovely bride
The yellow helmet bag is not exactly period-correct, I grant you. Yes I look like I'm about to reach for my six-shooter but alas I had none. I did have the Sheriff star badge but it kept falling off. And you can plainly see all the tired ponies laying about. More photos exist to prove I actually raced the C race in this get-up (swapping the cowboy had for a helmet) that I am working on getting permission to use. Will post them soon.

Too bad we didn't think to get pictures of my lovely bride. She dressed up as "The Devil as played by Josephine in the theatrical production of "Tombstone"." She looked absolutely stunning. My bride also won the prize for "costume with the longest title." Which I didn't think existed outside of the Halloween party in Athens, OH. But this was instead Uncle Steve's in Marysville, OH. Cap City Cross race #3.

I didn't win any prizes for my costume nor for my riding. I did win the "first guy to wipe out" in the C race. To set the scene: All people wearing costumes got a call-up on the starting line (A call-up meaning you get called to come up to the front of the pack). Heading up the front stretch, through the first turn and down the next stretch it's Scooby Do followed by yours truly. YEAH, alright! But it didn't last so long as going into the left hand 180 I grabbed a bit too much rear brake and slid right at the front of the field. A recipe for disaster as we all can imagine. (Lesson #4: Less rear brake. More Cowbell). However most people were able to avoid me and such falls are pretty common place in a cyclocross race so evasive maneuvering is a quickly mastered skill in this line of racing/havoc. I quickly got back up and back in the race. Which meant I pedalled to the point of oxygen deprivation and tried not to cross that line. I didn't pass out so I guess I succeeded.

The course for the most part was very technical; tight, winding back and forth on itself like a really long, really confused snake. Maybe the snake reached oxygen deprivation and fell over. I don't know. There weren't many long stretches that allowed for a lot of speed and most of the long stretches we had were really bumpy. Wonkers, my shoulders have never hurt so bad from a bike race. And then we went down a STEEP drop off into the creek bed, following the creek bed for a good 75 yards or so. Pure vintage 'cross. The mud was more than ankle deep and halted anyone who attempted to ride it, although many tried and many more would ride just up to the muck. I just hopped off the bike prior to the drop off, jumped down and ran. Run, dumb bike rider guy, run! Then climb back up, hop on and pedal like mad to the start/finish line to do it all again! Not a fast course but that probably suited me OK as I haven't worked on holding a fast pace in the straights.

All in all, I held on for another 11th in the C race. And yes, I did indeed race the B race again. My beautiful bride and those who challenged me at the last race to do it showed me that I can indeed handle it and I increased my placing over last race - 7th place in the B (Masters 35+). Not bad considering I wiped out shortly after the start of the race and was DEAD LAST coming out of the first series of S turns. It was a little further in and was just one of those racing things. We were all wadded up trying to get through the S's and my front wheel overlapped a rider ahead of me with nowhere to go. So it goes. I ended up passing some guys who got me in the C race and now I'm beginning to think that the longer nature of the B race might suit me a bit better. Not the fastest off the start but able to maintain the output a bit longer. And hey, we had beer hand-ups! What's not to love?

We did observe but not participate in the Columbus City Championship race. I can't tell you all the details due to some super-secret double probation but it involved a shortened course, the ability to cheat at will and LOTS of Boon's Farm. Yes, *that* Boon's Farm. It was the scariest thing I saw all Halloween.

Next race is at Infirmary Mound in Newark, OH. It's a great place to race, hope it is laid out like last year. Sort of. However it's an OVCX race and the OVCX group brings some serious guys. So I'm expecting a LOT of riders and might get run over. So it goes. But I'm sore, tired & ready to go again.

Hope you are, too. Or at least ready to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project. What's stopping you?

Thanks for reading.