Friday, October 28, 2011

Two Days in Dublin – Ohio State Cyclocross Championships, 2011

Last weekend was THEE weekend to be in Central Ohio if you’re a cyclocrosser, bike geek who likes to get a bit dirty or just a spectator who enjoys good, hard racing.  Being that I am a budding middle-aged cyclocrosser and a bike geek, guess where I was?  Yup.  In Dublin, Ohio at the Ohio State Cyclocross Championships. Two days of bike abuse and self-imposed leg-pain-laden hypoxia. Sounds grand, right?
Actually it was. After so many years of the State Championship being held at John Bryan State Park in Yellowsprings, OH it was moved to Dublin (a suburb of Columbus if you’re not from the area) as well as moved up about a month on the calendar. I think it was a good move as Dublin is a much more central location. There are also hotels and restaurants and all such amenities much much closer to the track making it better for people who are traveling from out of town and spending a night or two. The Championship races were also spread out to two days. This I think helped spread out the age group races to be more in line with Nationals although I am not certain. The results I believe were a well-attended, well-run event. I certainly hope to see it repeat next year. Thanks go to Ohio Cycling, the City of Dublin, all the crew who stepped in and stepped up as well as all the sponsors. It was a genuine first-class event. 

Surveying the course with the world-renown Mark Farmer
Photo copyright 2011 Chris Freter 
The course was what seems to my inexperienced mind a mid-length course. Which was, as seems to be the case for us, mostly in the grass. I don’t know how long it really was. Long enough, to my legs. It certainly was a pretty flat course but that did not make it easy. If there was a slight edge of a hill, culvert or slope it was used. We had a sand pit! Not often there’s a sand pit to slow us down and test our bike-handling skills. Steps were built into the course, too. Hop off, run up, remount! And to add another edge to slow things down was mud. Yes, it had rained several days prior to this event. So it certain low-lying areas retained water. What I thought of when cleaning off the bikes later: Didn’t ancient peoples make bricks out of compacted grass and mud? And what did we just compact on our bicycles?
But that came later. The first race for us was the first race on Saturday, a Cat 3-4 non-championship race. I know, to those who aren’t regular cyclist, you’ve heard me describe the different groups as “C”, “B” & “A”. Now I’m talking Category (or Cat for short) “3”, “4”, “2”, “1”… what? Let’s say that A)I’m not in charge of how these groups are labeled, and II) The smaller the number or letter, the better grade of athlete. Cat 1 is equivalent to the A group, and down the line. Being a non-championship race also meant there was no state medals on the line, so the winners were free to go for prizes. Which also mean sandbaggers galore. Which in turn mean Jovid wasn’t going to have much of a chance at getting to the front. So it goes. After the first lap Jovid seemed content to hang out at the back with Ben Ross. Jovid made a friend and rode his bike around. He did alright and hey, all is good in the world.

Jovid and Emily looking at all the mud that belongs on the race course.

Before Jovid’s race most of the race course that wasn’t barriers or stairs was rideable. But the increased traffic just made the ground rutted up, fill with water and get much muddier. During a pre-race warm-up lap I found that out the hard way. On my first pass through a sketchy muddy tight left handed turn I found that while most people were trying to stay close to the inside of the corner they were getting bogged down. If I took the corner wide I could get through the corner faster. Good to know for the race. But on my second pass through this corner on the pre-ride I endo-ed in spectacular fashion. Slow-motion ass-over-tea kettle plop into the muck. Not the way I wanted to start the day *but* better to get it out of the way before the race. Dig the bike out of the mud, wash it off real quick, straighten up the handlebars and go get ready. I also adjusted the race plan to run that section instead of trying to ride it. Better muddy feet with some forward momentum than risking a complete halt.
My race on Saturday was the Men’s 45-49, which is odd given that I’m only 44 this year. Another thing that I can’t quite explain right now. C’est la vie. Now this is the State Champion race for this age group only, not broken out into what class or Cat you are. Which mean that some of the guys in my age group were “Former National Champ this” or “Former World Champ that”. Crap. And yesterday I was thinking I had a chance since the age groups were broken into five year intervals. OK, all I can do is run my race the best I can. Which for the most part went pretty well. I had a decent starting spot, slid backwards at the start and just rode it out as the first 1/3 lap was everyone locked together. Not much room to maneuver.  We get to the barriers and things stretch out a bit, I’m able to move up a tick and the race is on. There were some good battles and slowly I was able to make my way past a few gentlemen. I also chopped Chris Freter in one corner – I’m sorry Chris. I did apologize to Chris during the race as well. From there our plan was to reel in the two men in front of us which I eventually did but Chris couldn’t stay with me. Dang. The last guy I got past on the last third of the last lap and when I went I thought I had a comfortable gap on him. But right before the end he made a great effort and closed that gap on me. Then it was a straight up sprint to the finish. I think I barely managed to hold on to the lead in our little battle but I’m not certain as it turned out we were in different age groups and scored differently. Nonetheless it was a good hard race and  didn’t leave anything on the table. And muddy – I was definitely muddy. I left with a 14th place finish for my age group. Not where I wanted to be. I had honestly hoped to place higher. But taking all factors into consideration I am content with my finish but not happy.

See Mom, I go fast!
Photo copyright 2011 Chris Freter 

Day Two brought the general Category races, so I was going to race in the Cat 4 group. A category where I thought I was going to be semi-competitive but guys who didn’t have enough points with USA Cycling or who normally race a different discipline automatically got bumped down to Cat 4. Forced sandbagging as it were. Well, same thing as yesterday it seemed. So it goes. Then I got the first call-up. What?!?!? That can’t be right. But I’ve got to make the most of it. I launched at the whistle trying to keep my heart rate from doing the usual zero-2,756 bpm that seems to happen at starts. As will happen guys started sliding past me on the first half of a lap, and then as I start to settle into race pace my rear tire folds over in a tight corner and I loose most of the air. Luckily I was close to the pits AND luckily I had brought Jovid’s bike as a back-up. Catie wasn’t sure what to expect as we hadn’t rehearsed this move let alone even talk about it. But she was great. Held the bike up as I rode in, dropped the main bike, two steps, grab Jovid’s bike and I’m gone. I lost a couple of positions but still pretty fast change. The race is going well and I’m racing a bit above my head trying to gain ground and just as I had gotten past Mark and Dominic I bite the dust on a short steep drop into a small loop. Scramble, get up and go and … crap. The handlebars are pointed in the wrong direction. I get to the short paved section to get off the bike and straighten the bars and as I try to stand I feel like I’m going to pass out. Honestly I was trying to not hit the deck. I was about to call it and Catie kept urging me on. And I wasn’t dead so, according to our motto, I had to keep going. Two and a half more laps of trying to gain ground I lost and I couldn’t do it. I slowly made time on Ben, putting in small sprints when I could and trying to make up time in the running sections but we were too evenly matched to gain much.

Shortly before I crashed. This shot makes me look much better that I was.
Photo copyright 2011 Chris Freter 

All poise, no giddyup
Lessons learned this past weekend: I have got to work on my starts. I have to put in some of that dreaded interval training so when I put in a hard effort to open a gap on someone I can make it stick. And I had to rework my racing wheel/tire setup. Well, that one is easy enough.
Onwards and upwards, tomorrow is Uncle Steve’s Halloween race which has not been my focus as a race I planned on doing well at so it’ll be more relaxed.  Hope you have a good weekend as well. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'M ...huff, huff, huff... NOT... huff, huff... DEAD.... gasp, wheeze... YET...

Sunday turned out to be an excellent day for CapCity Cross's second race of the season at Big Run Park in Columbus, OH. It started off a bit cool but the sun came out, things warmed up nicely and we got to see a lot of good bicycle racing. The course was well laid out to be a heck of a challenge. Lots of climbing. Lots of tight windy sections. There were no "easy" parts to this course.

First off was the C race - the newbies, slower folks, the less coordinated - in short, NOT the Elites. Which of course means me. Because I usually get off to a slow start and then start to claw my way back into the pack I was thinking this time if I start faster than usual, I'll work hard to hold on and then instead of coming back to the pack at mid-race, I'll be riding away from it.  Great idea. In THEORY. In practice what this meant was I took off like a shot. For the first 30 yards. Then guys started coming around me. So I was riding a bit above my head to not lose them. Which mean I was burning too many matches too early. But I dug in and kept going. Also for a few laps I had a good race going with a guy I'd jostled with a  bit last year - Kelly. He got close to me several times throughout the race and I thought he was going to get by me but I wasn't going to just give it to him. Well, that worked. I managed to hold him off. Kelly, if you're reading this, great race! It is hard to back off when so many people are yelling your name and cheering you on - my lovely bride was especially good at that. On the last lap I headed up this long hill to the finish line (backwards up a soap box derby race hill) she's running beside me yelling that I can't let her beat me up the hill. Last straw, I stood on the pedals and went as hard as I could until the finish line. Then I cramped up so bad in my legs and hands I didn't think I'd be able to control my bike.

I ended up with a solid 6th place finish - not my best placing, but my best for a field this size (about 40 riders). Last year I typically finished mid pack so I have to be happy with my results. I have raced hard before but never had I raced that hard.

Which in turn meant that when I toed the line for the Master's race I could not hang with the guys. I continued to make fast laps but I wasn't going to be in much contention. Then most of the way through the first lap I got a flat in the front. So I lost a bit of ground by heading to the pits and swapping wheels but at this point it was about getting time on the course at race pace. Three laps later the rear tire starts to go low *right after* I get around a guy who it seemed had just cracked. Do I go into the pits and swap the rear and lose the position I had just gained, or keep going and hope it holds? Keep going and hope it holds, which it did. Not a stellar finish, but I'll take it.

Race two, down. Rest and recovery for the Ohio State Championships this upcoming weekend!

On Monday I spent some time in the woods, like at the newly-opened Chestnut Ridge mountain bike trail.

Monday I headed out to this trail, as I finished work early (for once!) and it was a great fall day. I wasn't the only one with that idea as the parking lot was almost full when I finished my laps.

I hope you had a chance to get outside and enjoy and if not, hope you do soon.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Race one recap and Introduction to our Charity

All set for the race now.

Our first venture on to the track this year has come to pass and what can I say?
First of all, T.J. Turner and the entire crew that puts on the John Bryan Cyclocross Classic did an awesome job. It was a long course. Mostly flat, but that did not mean it wasn’t challenging. I think when they laid out the course they found every ditch and side of a hill and made a corner on it. And that long drag from the starting line looks mostly flat but with the soggy grass and it’s upwards tilt made your legs hurt (if you were trying, or in better shape than I). Lots of turns, some small sections on pavement or gravel to give you a boost of speed and a couple of nice wooded single track bits. It was fun but not easy.  If that wasn’t enough, The Lionhearts Racing Team was selling hot apple cider and waffles! Waffles and you get to put on the topping of your choice, including Nutella. My wife topped that by putting Nutella and strawberry jam on a waffle. Oooh, that was like chocolate-covered strawberries. Glad I raced first.
Can we get this race started? I've got waffles to go eat!

So how did we do? Well, we aim to not disappoint so I clocked a steady mid-pack placing in the Cat 4 (Beginners, basically) Masters, just behind one of my steady CapCity racing compatriots Duncan Spillman. Crap. I had hoped to actually do better than mid-pack BUT this is a joint effort with OVCX and they draw a LOT of folks out so I can't be too dissapointed. Besides it was a great race with Duncan. He got away from me halfway through lap one and by the beginning of lap four (last lap) I had him in my sights. Right on his tail shortly after that until that long off-camber turn in the wet grass. He got a good line through the turn, I did not. I spent the rest of that lap chasing him down and came close at the finish line sprint but he held me off. Good on you, Duncan. I’ve got work to do.  As for Jovid, he raced for not last! There were two guys behind him and five that pulled out for whatever reason. Which may sound less-than-stellar but considering Jovid hasn’t really ridden the bike much at all. No training, no coaching, he just jumped on the bike at the race and went to town. So actually I’m pleased with his results.
Last lap, Jovid is NOT giving up.

I think the coolest part was once again running into all the friends I made last year racing cyclocross and watching them race. Next race is Big Run Park in Columbus, OH on the 16th of October. We look forward to seeing you out there!
We’ve got a bit of time before the next race, so I want to introduce you to the charity that we are working to raise money for. It is the  Central Ohio Leathernecks Nation Memorial Fund. “What is that?,” you may ask? From their  Mission Statement: The “Central Ohio Leathernecks Nation Memorial Fund” is a non-profit charity set up to support veterans, in honor of our chapter members who have proudly and honorably served our country and passed away. The Memorial Fund is our way of showing all veterans they continue to make a difference and will never be forgotten.
"Saepe Expertus... Semper Fidelis... Frateres Aeterni"
“Often Tested... Always Faithful... Brothers Forever”
How are your donations used?  Funds are used for various projects such as to purchase items for the veterans at the Chillicothe VA hospital that the VA isn’t able to provide for the veterans. We provide support for homeless veterans and other veterans in need. We also make sizeable contributions to larger veteran’s charities such as the Wounded Warrior project that are able to directly aid our veterans in other ways.
There are no administrative fees with this charity either – 100% of contributions go back to the vets that need it. We believe very strongly in this project and hope that you do, too. We look forward to your support.
Thanks for reading.