Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Houston, we have a donut.

Once again it’s been a while since I’ve written much and once again I’m full of lame excuses. Well, I don’t think they are so lame. Nonetheless the fact remains it’s time to get busy going tappy-tappy-tappy on the keyboard with my fat fingers. So here goes.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving was the “Postgiving” race, Cap City Cross #5 at Darree Fields, the return.  I say “the return” because there was a race here the week before as well. Darree Fields is a large park run by the City of Dublin, Ohio & the City has been very helpful and kind to us. They even built a run-up for Cap City Cross even though they knew not of what they were building. Cap City guys just said “Hey, we’d like to do something like this” and the folks at Dublin Parks said “Well, OK”. The part of the park we got to use is pretty flat except for a few dirt mounds that were utilized. Also, most of the course area had been growing wild for some time so it was very bumpy. Sometimes cyclocross courses are not all smooth and groomed. Hey, that’s a part of ‘cross!
Unknown rider on run-up at Darree Fields. Photo courtesy Susan Hackett
I was feeling pretty fair prior to the race, not wonderful. Took off to a great start and only let a few guys slip by. Held on to the wheels of several guys that I normally don’t hold on to (seeing a pattern here?) and came home with an 8th place. It’s better than previous years & judging by the folks I was able to stay with most of the race my overall performance is improving over last year even if the standings don’t really sound like it.
Teammate and bluesman extraordinaire, Rich Hamrick. Photo courtesy Susan Hackett
This past Saturday, the 8th of December 2012, had Cap City Cross returning to Big Run Park once again. Usually Big Run is earlier on the calendar so it was going to be interesting to see what returning to it later in the year meant. This year it meant wet, soggy, muddy conditions. Big Run is hard enough because it’s a hill built to race soap box derby cars on. We, however, had to race our bikes UP the hill. But not just on the pavement. Oh no, those guys who laid out the race course had us coming up the side of that hill straight on, diagonally, across – any which way they could torture us. Add in two days of rain before the race and there was a lot of slipping and grunting to get up that hill multiple times a lap.

Just a small portion of the race course.
Big Run was a race that prior to the start I was ready to blow off. The long & short of it is that I was getting burnt out. Burnt out from helping to set up courses, trying to race, tear down everything afterwards, squeeze in bike maintenance, work some really long hours & maybe get a bit of training in. Oh yeah, there’s this whole family thing.
Chris Knapp and Rick Voithofer coming up the hill. Photo courtesy Susan Hackett
In any event I rolled up to the starting line and… Whoa, hey!... I was off to a great start! Time to get my head back in the game. Go, go, gadget legs! Big Run as a course seems to suit me well with the steep climbs & wide turns where you could ride multiple lines. I was in the top three by the time we crested the soap box derby hill and with some changing places managed to stay there until I hit a slippery spot on the course and fell straight into the course tape. It took a bit of time to get the stake and tape out of my wheel so I lost contact with Jon Clouse and Andy Hague. I tried to get back to them and was making up a bit of time but not enough. Guess I had to settle for third. What? Yeah, finally, after three years of racing I finally hit the podium! Now to win one of these things outright.
For those about to rock...  Photo courtesy Susan Hackett
The season is winding down with only one race left on the Cap City Cross calendar. Sure, there’s Nationals in Madison, WI or I could return to Master’s Worlds on Louisville, KY at the end of January but I think given everything else on my dance card this upcoming Cap City Cross race at Smith Farms will be it for me. Sort of a bummer as I’m really starting to make some improvements. Then again, I need a reason to look forward to next year, right?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Short visit to North Bend Rail Trail

A few weeks ago I had the fortune of being able to stop mid-work travel and put in a short ride on the North Bend Rail Trail. Here's photos of a few of the many tunnels you'll see along the way.

Ooh, it's spooky dark! Tunnel #8 entrance

Don't know who thought spray painting the sign would be cool. Probably some kids. Ugh.

Tunnel #7 entrance is a little cleaner. Wonder who they paid to sweep the leaves from the trail over here?

Nice autumn day. Trail here was built up over a ravine or hollow or whatever they call it around here. Great scenery, whatever it is.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

More racing, more sponsors. More cyclocross goodness!

With more racing and training than the last several years it leaves me less time to pound away at the keyboard like so many monkeys looking to finish that last sequel to Shakespeare. Nonetheless it is my duty to try to keep up so here we go.
The annual Uncle Steve’s Halloween race: As it is with every year, Uncle Steve’s means dressing up in your Halloween costume and having a good time – nay, a great time. The weather never seems to quite cooperate and this year wasn’t much different. Chilly temps started the day with threats of rain that were fulfilled during our race (Masters). It dampened the ground (turning spots into greasy slippery or all out mud-holes) but it didn’t dampen our spirits. My Cyclocrossworld.com teammate Rich Hamrick got halfway through the race and at the far side of the course found he had a completely flat tire. The decision of running with bike back to the pits OR calling it a day and getting to the barley-pop drinking early resulted in NOT running to the pits. 
The CX-Rated Cowboy. Photo courtesy of Meredith Gabriel
I did go out in full regalia, as a CX-Rated Cowboy. It being a play on “CX” being standard abbreviation for “cyclocross” as well as a local band that goes by “The X-Rated Cowboys”.  All was well and good but multiple times I had to stop and fix my chaps until I gave up fixing them and just stopped and took the time to take the chaps off so I could finish the race. This of course did not yield the best finishing results. Nonetheless this was a fun race with full on hand-ups of the adult variety. 
Displaying my assets. Photo courtesy Meredith Gabriel
After that we (Rich Hamrick and I) headed over to participate in the Kings’ Cross/Lionheart Invitational race, part of the Cincinnati UCI3 races. The UCI3 is a full weekend of big-deal racing and are top-notch events. Once again Rich had horrible luck, this time in falling onto a barrier during warm-up. Landed squarely on his thigh and created a huge bruise. He started the race in a massive amount of pain and while he couldn’t generate much power in being so wounded, he never gave up and finished the race. Kudos, mate.
Early in the day, before racing. Love that Unicorn. It's located on Heckle Hill.
I didn’t fully commit until the Thursday night before (about 9pm). I knew this mean I was not going to get a good call-up (starting place was way in the back row). However, on the Friday before I just made up my mind that Saturday was going to be a good day to race. I start in 86th place and it started to rain during my race (Cat 2/3 Masters 45+ & Cat 3 Masters 35+) making the course very slippery in spots. Staying upright was the main plan. I only fell three times. I had a decent start and slowly worked my way up from 86th to a finishing placement of 47th. Now 47th place is normally not something to brag about but having passed almost 40 other racers I’m going to call it a good day. Cold, wet, muddy – that’s a good race day!
The run-up at Heckle Hill. Photo courtesy Julie Sroka
This past weekend was supposed to be back in the Columbus, OH area for Darree Fields #1 on the Cap City Cross schedule. However there were a few issues we ran into while setting up the race course and Cap City Cross felt it best to postpone the Sunday, Nov. 11th event in order to make sure we have all the details squared away.  Please watch the website (www.capcitycross.com) for updates.
In the meantime we’ve also picked up a few more sponsors. Fluid (www.livefluid.com) is a maker of exercise and recovery drink mixes that I buy and am now very happy to be associated with. Beljium Budder (www.beljumbudder.com) are makers of an all-natural anti-chaffing cream. I’m certainly in favor of their all-natural angle but the product has to work which Beljium Budder does well. Along with IgY Nutrition, Feed The Machine and Duro Tires I think this year will finish up quite well.
Next week we may be back to racing, maybe in two weeks. In the meantime, be sure to thank a Veteran for their service on this Veteran’s day. Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 29, 2012

State CX Champs, Uncle Steve's, . . and new sponsors!

Recent recap!
Let's start with Ohio State Championships. Two Days in Dublin, it's called. Because it's held in Dublin, Ohio (a Northwest suburb of Columbus) and because it takes two days. Clever, eh?

Saturday, 20-October was the age group races; Juniors, Masters, that sort of thing. This was one of the main focuses of my race season. Quick summary - while not quite as strong as I had hoped to be I was stronger than last year by far. Several laps in and my rear derailleur decided to not work any more, so to the pits and swap for the pit bike. Chase back on and I'm doing alright. With a quarter of a lap remaining I lose half the air in my rear tire. The back of the bike is squirrelly as all get out. Duncan Spillman, who I just fought so hard to get by, then gets by me. But I'm not giving up, I'm trying to go as fast as the bike will allow. Duncan slows down on the finishing stretch and I put in a hard sprint to try to get around him and the chain breaks. Kaput. At least I can coast through the finish and not have anyone else pass. Finish up 10th place in my age group. Hey, top 10 for the Cyclocrossworld.com team.

Photo courtesy Susan Hackett
Sunday the 21st of October was the Category races. This year I was bumped up from Category 4 (Beginners) to Category 3. That in mind this was my first State Champ race in this group. Started off feeling pretty bad but after a few laps my legs started to come around and carry my sorry butt around the race course. Slowly I was gaining on folks that last year I couldn't hold on to, including being able to pass my coach in the closing laps. Finish with a 16th place. I'm good with that. What floored me was hearing how many people complimented me on how strong I was riding this year. I certainly appreciated how many folks recognized my efforts and really didn't know how to answer it. So, to everyone who noticed - wow, thank you!

Photo courtesy Susan Hackett
 Next race was Uncle Steve's annual Halloween race as held by Cap City Cross. As usual this means folks dressed in costumes, fun and frivolity. Not to mention it's not considered the most serious race of the year. First thing about this is THANK YOU UNCLE STEVE for letting us use your private property to ride our bikes around and tear up your grass. Always the gracious host and we appreciate it.

This year I went as a CX-Rated Cowboy. It is a play on "CX" being commonly used as shorthand for "cyclocross" as well as a reference to a local band called "X-Rated Cowboys". Hopefully I didn't embarrass the Cyclocrossworld.com folks too much. And them chaps I wore proved to cause interference with the chain multiple times until the wardrobe malfunction caused me to just stop and take the chaps off. Yes this means that I lost a bunch of time in the race but again I should remind you that it's not considered the most serious race of the year. Add to this the weather starting as cool with temps falling. The rain started during our race and the track got muddy and very slick in spots.

On the bike displaying my... ahem... assets. Told you I was a CX-rated cowboy! Photo courtesy Meredith Gabriel
Letting it all hand out! Photo courtesy Meredith Gabriel

The tires did the best they could do to hold me upright but there were spots where I could have used more traction. Nonetheless I ended up with a 7th for the day. Better than that was the fact that so many good people were out, dressed up & having fun. To all those folks who came out to race, cheer, heckle - you rock! 
I know, a cowboy with a didgeridoo is a bit disjointed. Photo courtesy Meredith Gabriel.
Next line of business is the new sponsors. I certainly need to say thank you to Igy Nutrition, Duro Tire and Feed the Machine. I'm looking forward to a long working partnership with these fine companies and of course I urge you to check them out. Time to get back on the stick and do well for these fine folks.
As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's the wind up... and the pitch!

Ah yes, cyclocross season in firmly underway! And long time, no update. Gah. I need to stay on top of this…
To sort out the business end of things; I’m racing for the www.Cyclocrossworld.com Grassroots team along with Rich Hamrick for the extent of cyclocross season. A tip of the hat to these gentlemen for opening their door to us as it’s a great program that they have. Rest of the time I’m riding with Cap City Cycling and many thanks to the great guys here also.
First race was Cap City Cross opener at Lobdell Frisbee Park. This is always one I’m on the fence about. It is a fun course to ride because there’s three “tiers” which makes for some hard climbing and some screaming fun downhill. However because it’s so stretched out it’s not the best for spectators. Nonetheless it was time to get to business. Racing in the Masters race I had a great back and forth battle with Scott Murschel (BioWheels). He’d get me on the uphill and I’d make the tires stick on the downhill and get back past him. Then on the flats to the Start/Finish I’d put in an effort to gap him and he’d either jump with me or slowly reel me in on the ascent. Also, I have to thank Rich and his son for one of the most pro-level bike hand ups at a Cap City event. Didn’t like the way the Fuji was handling with the tire setup I had so I went to the backup bike. Great plan because I was really able to rail the downhill bits; including carrying so much speed into the bottom 180 Left-hander that I had my left foot out Moto-X style.  Overall a fun, hard race. While I didn’t have the finish I would have liked I found that I was riding stronger than last year. I guess all this “training” stuff is really helpful after all.
It could be worse...
Second race was at Caser’s Ford Park in Xenia, Ohio. This was the third race in the OVCX series and as always, OVCX works at a high level. Caser’s Ford is a park that hasn’t been used in five years and contains a large outdoor amphitheater. By laying fallow for so long it meant that the ground was not smoothly packed down – a very bumpy course with soft grass that wanted to take whatever strength you *thought* you had in your legs and pull it straight down to the earth. Again I was racing in the Men’s Masters Division, this time it was Category 2/3. As a newly minted Cat. 3 I have a ways to get to the front of this pecking order let alone with the Category above. Ultimately this means “get out there, race your butt off and you’ll get there.” Definitely had me racing above my comfort zone. Again I have several gentlemen that we traded places with throughout the race and in the last three or four laps I was able to reel in some.  I may not always be racing for podium; there is someone that I’m always racing against.  I have to say that in the first two laps there was a section that had my legs hurting so much that I thought this was going to be the race where I pulled the plug. Glad I didn’t. The legs came around. Besides, our slogan is “Die First Then Quit”.  While my finish reflects me being off towards the tail end I can see that I am indeed making progress.

Third was Cap City Cross race #2 at Alum Creek beach area. This ain’t no beach blanket bingo. Annette and Frankie can’t hang. Unfortunately neither could I as I had to catch a flight out to Tucson at the same time that the Masters race was to start. Grrr. So I didn’t get to race but this didn’t mean I stayed away. As part of the Cap City Cross group I wanted to make sure the racing went off well. My lovely bride Catie also stepped up her involvement with Cap City Cross and is now working the registration process.  I’m proud and thankful for her willingness to help. 
While it is a bit painful to watch and not be participating it was fun to watch so many of my friends race so well. It was of course frustrating to seem some good folks not have the race that they were capable of for whatever reason. I enjoyed watching my Cyclocrossworld.com team mate Rich is his back and forth battle, I just wished it would have played out with him coming out ahead. This course had racers hitting the beach area twice. If you thought running was difficult in the sand you ought to try riding your bike in it. And the wind –Holy Wa, the wind! It was brutal. Not to mention when you hit the sandy sections you were headed straight into the gales. Double brutal.
Up next is State Championship races at Coffman Park in Dublin, Ohio. While I am going to miss the age-group races on Saturday, October 20th I will be racing on Sunday the 21st in the Category 3 championship race.  It’ll be demanding and fun I have no doubt. Hope to see you out there as this is a great course to be a spectator at and lots of great people will be there.
Thanks again for reading.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The life of a traveling bike riding monkey

First off, if you want to see what all this madness is about, check out the Cap City Cross website. Come out and watch, heckle, jeer, poke fun at or - *gasp* - even race!  http://www.capcitycross.com/
We look forward to seeing you out there.

The process of being a bike riding guy who has to travel for his job is one I'm trying to figure out. It means bringing the bike, several sets of bike clothing, some bike tools and such. Some days I work from dawn to dusk and don't always know the roads or trails near where I'm staying. So that means I'm bringing the bike trainer with me, too. (For those that don't know, a bike trainer is sort of like a treadmill for your bike. You're getting the workout in, but you're not going anywhere and it does get pretty boring).

Generally I pull up videos of other cyclocross races on the computer to watch while I'm on the trainer. Reminds me of why I'm on this self-inflicted torture item.

Traveling with all this... stuff had been an adjustment. I generally like to pare it down to the bare minimum of things to take with me. Now I am bringing more and more stuff along. It is certainly a learning process. Trying to figure out what I should be taking with me to stay on track for racing and what I can leave home.

Sometimes I end up on the treadmill, too. So I have to bring running shoes, shorts, shirt for that. I'm certainly not running in my work clothes!

It also usually means washing out my stinky, sweaty clothes by hand. Sure I could bring a weeks worth of stuff and have a huge bag of sweaty clothes baking in my car while I'm driving from place to place. But my car smells bad enough and space in the car is getting to a premium. practice seems to dictate workout in the evening when I can wash my clothes afterward, hand them to dry and hopefully all's good by morning so I can pack up and go. This means sometimes I have to get creative with the clothes-drying arrangements. Sometimes I even end up hanging clothes across my bike in the back of the car in order to allow them to finish drying. Yes, it does look weird to have socks draped across the spokes of a wheel or a jersey hanging from the handlebars. So it goes.

Let's see, what else can I stick in there?...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It was the best of times, it was... oh, geez, who are we kidding?

Couple of weeks ago, on a whim, I thought I'd try running a 5K. They were holding a race in a village (Baltimore, Ohio) near ours so what the heck? Let's go pretend to run! I can maintain a decent pace for 4 or 5 miles so I figured I should be able to run a 5K (3.1 something miles. Maybe it's dog miles).
After a half mile or so, I marked a guy who was running a similiar pace to myself. Turns out that staying with him had me run a bit faster than I would have if left to my own devices. Ended up with a time of 23:08. Not bad for my first-ever 5K.

Photo courtesy of Marianne Henderson
The next day was Cap CIty Short Track race #3. Again at Darree Fields in Dublin, Ohio. If the day before was a good race, this was the not-so-good race. It started good. Fought hard to be in the lead group from the gun. Second lap I went too wide going up the big hill, slid down the edge and let a bunch of guys go by me. So I get up and give it all I've got. One big effort, making ground on a couple of guys it seems and then G-GRRR-GA-GRR-GA-GRR >stop<!  I somehow managed to twist the front derailleur around enough to not let the bike be pedalled at all. What to do? Take the bike for a run! I didn't want to just toss in the towel so I kept going. After half of a lap Rich Hamrick saw me running and quickly handed his bike over the course tape to me. Whoah, back in the game! Which lasted for several laps until I got to the tight hairpin in the back section and... HEY! WHERE'D THEY GO? No back brakes. So I grab a handful of front brake and flew over the bars, through the course tape. I gathered up my wits and finished the race to the best of my abilities. In only a 20 minute event I managed to wipe out three times, and breaking two bikes. (On a positive note: Craig's front derailleur was easily fixed by Todd from Cyclist Connection, and Rich's rear brakes seemed to heal themselves when Rich was reviewing the damage at home).

photo by Jamie Clifton/Jamie Clifton Images

Yesterday I went out to my second Warrior Dash. I sort-of talked my brother into it and well, I couldn't really back out. With bad timing on my part I of course do what most people do - drive like hell to get to where you're going. Of course, this does indeed mean I got a speeding ticket. Now I'm REALLY late. Again, of my own doing. I miss my race time (my brother and I were supposed to run at 4pm). My wife is pushing me to get ready because there's one last race at 4:30pm and somehow we get parked, checked in and I'm on the starting line with less than 3 minutes remaining before the last race of the day.

Holy Wa. Just like last time, it was hard. Put in a couple of good efforts. I actually slid in the mud on my back across the finish line. I laughed at that point. But I didn't think I ran as well as last time until later that night when the results were posted online. Almost a full minute faster than my last Warrior Dash. So lessons learned (thanks to my wife): Don't ever ever ever EVER give up. Don't give up on getting to the line. Don't give up during the race. Keep putting in those efforts.

My brother Jeremy had a pretty good race, too. I am really bummed I missed him finishing by getting there so late and having to be at the starting line. This was a race we were supposed to do together and my mistakes prevented that. On the flip side, he's jacked up and ready for the next one which is next year. So next year we'll have another go at running, swimming, climbing and just getting really, really muddy.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The speed of human movement

Last week my bride Catie and I were out in our kayaks paddling around a couple of times. As usual, she seems to be just cruising along and making good time while I keep falling behind. Then I have to really put some effort into it to catch up to her. It is sort of frustrating at times that I have to work so hard to keep up with her seemingly effortless gliding around on the water but I've begun to realize it's probably more to do with technique than brute force. Somehow she naturally has a much better manner in the kayak than I do.

In any event, paddling around got me to thinking: We do manage to make decent time in the kayaks. It's fast enough that you really see and feel like you're covering a pretty fair distance. Yet not so fast that everything off to the side is a blur. Slowing down to look at something, like a heron, is easily accomplished and we can get much closer than if we were in a boat with a motor. It seemed the right speed to be going. The speed of self-propulsion.

Of course I feel the same way about riding the bicycle. Whether I'm trying to prep for a race or if I'm just coasting around the neighborhood, the speed in which I'm able to push myself along seems to be about right.

Which is not to say I'm anti-vehicle. In fact I'd be a hypocrite of the largest order if I did say that. We own several motorcycles as well as my job depending on me driving all over several states. I grew up in a family who worked on, built up and raced vehicles in several venues. Yes I had a great time going fast in motorized vehicle. But when going at the speed at which I am responsible for just seems to be the right speed.

A case can be made for the kayak and bicycle being machines, or tools if you will. If I were to truly mobilize at the speed of human movement it's be by walking or swimming. 

Regardless, the speed of which I can propel myself satisfies my speed desire as well as being relaxing. I'm sure it's not the same for everyone else, nor for anyone else for that matter. It just works for me. Feel free to comment on what goes best for you.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Not a simple man

I'd like to think I'm a simple person. Not simple as in "stupid" but I'm sure that depends on whom you ask. Simple as in not needing much, not much to explain.

If I were honest however, I'd have to say I'm not. I'm a mass of contradictions, fallabilities and insecurities. But I do not think I'm alone in this qualification. I don't know if it's good or bad. I just know that I, and most people, have many many facets. Sometimes we don't see how or why seemingly different pieces are part of the same entirety. We don't know the reasoning, the back story. We just see some oddities. I also think that the older we get, the more pieces there are. Unlike pebbles in a stream that get worn smooth with time I think people get chiseled a bit more and more.

It's not a bad thing. It is just something we have to hold in our mind as we get to know more and more about one another. I believe it is a good thing. Gives people more to talk about. More to discover about themselves.

Nonetheless, I'd like to be a simple person. Honest, direct and always acting in good faith. Guess I need more work.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Recent results, where to get those AWESOME SHIRTS!

It's been a while since posting. No good excuse except the usual - work, work and more work. It's summer time so guys are taking vacation and the remaining folks have to pick up the slack. So it goes.

I'll start with Warrior Dash. Having talked with several bike riding friends and some co-workers about this event I decided that "sure, why not?" was the way to go. It was fun, hot and very muddy. Challenging as well. I wasn't sure how to pace myself for such an event so I think I ran a bit conservatively in some parts but it worked out. I placed 29th out of 620 in my age group on Sunday, 3-June-2012. Which put me the overall standings as 219th out of 6,774. Not bad, I'll take it!

Two weeks ago was the Lake Hope Mountain Bike Race. My first MTB race ever, and I was indeed the only monkey to try it on a cyclocross bike. I cued up with the Novices and took 9th overall with a 5th in my age group. Not bad, I'll take it.

While the results seem pretty decent I also see that I have many areas for me to work on so I'll keep this short as I need to get work and riding done. Well, there'e the coffee-drinking to be done as well.

Last bit of info: Several people have seen me at races or whatever with my "Die First Then Quit" shirt & have asked me where someone would get such a thing. I had them whipped up at CafePress so here's the link:
http://www.cafepress.com/hughjasseclothing . There will be several more designs coming out in the future. It's an idea I've been knocking around for a while. If you need a reminder to get going, or you think other people need a direct form of motivation, then here you go!

Thanks again for reading. I look forward to your photos of what you're doing when wearing these shirts.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Not good enough?

Here’s my little secret for today: I’m not really that good at a lot of things. I was never a great athlete as a kid. Oh, I played a lot of pick up sports and wrestled in High School but I wasn’t great. I never was any good at wearing the “cool” clothes.  I really wanted to look cool and wear that stuff but on me those things just looked… not right. I was a decent student at school but not the best. When it comes to writing I am slow to get started and irregular (if you’ve been keeping up here, you know what I mean). As a person, I have a lot of faults. When it comes to racing bikes I will certainly not be any competition for Lance Armstrong.
In fact, by not thinking I was good enough was my mental block from doing a lot of things. I didn’t jump in to cyclocross or any bike racing for several years because I thought “I’m not good enough”. When I played guitar it took Nick Riff hearing some of my music and asking me to be part of his band – an idea I never would have approached before because I thought my guitar playing was not good enough.  There are a lot of things that I didn’t try or at the least, held off from trying for a long while because I thought I wasn’t good enough.
Don’t let thinking that you are not good enough stop you from doing something you really want to do. It’s been a gradual revelation to me. Once you say “So what?” and do it anyways, you will find out you will probably exceed your expectations. There’s nothing like throwing yourself in a situation where it’s sink or swim. Often times you find that you can swim. Many times you find that you can swim much better that you thought.
And if you don’t perform all that well, what then? Unless you’ve decided to go running with the bulls or naked skydiving with no instruction I think you’ll be fine. Decide to start a band and no one shows up? Or better yet, you start with a bar full of folks and after song number three they all have wandered off? I know that feeling. It’s definitely a bummer but it’s not the end of the world. You didn’t lose a limb. Decide to enter a mud run and realize you just can’t run that much? Guess what? Neither can a lot of people who’ve already entered. Coming in dead last is a blow to the ego but hey, YOU tried. Use it as motivation for the next event. Besides that, even by coming in dead last you are still way ahead of those who did NOT even try.
Don’t think you’re good enough? Need a push? Check out these folks:
Chris, who wrote the book “The $100 start up” that’s been changing many lives has a good starting point here: The Art of Non-Conformity - Qualifications
Need a kick in the pants? Joel is where I turn to when I’m feeling like hanging it up or saying “fuggedaboutit”: The Blog of Impossible Things
How about this? How about “How to stop sucking and be awesome instead”? (geared more toward software writers but as a general idea it’s great stuff)
You might need training or practice. So what. Quit worrying if you’re good enough to accomplish “X”. You already are good enough.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

My first bike

The first bike is usually one where you discover the world at a speed faster than your legs can take you. You can now go further as well. Almost like becoming the Six Million Dollar Man.
Mine was a Murray 20" single-speed designed like a "British three-speed" as we folks in the U.S. dubbed them. I liked it great for the first year (I was 6) but the next year I wanted a BMX bike. All the cool kids had BMX bikes. So what happed? The next year, my Dad made my rather pedestrian bike into a BMX bike. He spread the stays in the back so it had room for a big knobby tire, repainted it black, made me a number plate. He bought motocross (motorcycle) handlebars and cut them down to fit me better. Dad put a lot of effort into transforming this perfectly good bike into something his son wanted.
Bu I was upset when he first showed it to me. I did appreciate what my Dad did (sort of) but it just wasn't the same. I wanted a new bike. This was not a new bike. This was not much like the other kids bikes with the springs on the front forks and such. But as time went on I began to love that bike. It had a bit steeper gearing than the other kids' bikes so I could get a better top-end speed. It also made it easier for me to do wheelies with. I rode that bike everywhere, jumped it over any ramp we could rig up, learned to ride wheelies down the block. I eventually delivered newspapers on it for a couple years.  
We did a lot of tweaks and modifications to that bike. Dad thought it’d be cool to add a 3-speed crank thing to it. It was sort-of cool. Multiple speeds! Go faster! But I don’t think this device was ever designed to take the sort of abuse a boy who’s hero was Evel Knievel. It didn’t always shift right. I broke the right crank arm several times. My father had my uncle weld it together a couple of times but after the third time it was plain to see that we just needed to go back to the original crank. I also had a parade of banana seats, sissy bars, “motocross” seats and such.
When it was time to retire that bike I don’t think I really gave it much thought or appreciation. I had broken the crank once again (but some years later). By this time I had a “real” bike. It was a blazing yellow 10-speed. Hey, I was growing up, I needed a grown-up bike! I was also not far from driving, too. Who needs a bike when you have a totally awesome bone-stock rusty ’73 Nova hatchback? But looking back with all the benefits on hindsight on that bike that my Dad modified for me, that may be what lead me to my passion for being on two wheels.
Dad, I'm sorry I was ungrateful at first. I loved that bike.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cyclocross is for crazy people.

What is cyclocross? What is it about?

For thsoe who don't know much about it, Cyclocross is nuts. In all honesty it really is. The season starts in the fall and runs through the winter. When all the other cyclist are putting their bikes up until the weather gets warm again, cyclocross racers are just starting. Rain? Snow? Mud? C-c-c-cold? Yep, whatever it’s doing outside the ‘cross racers head out into it. Master’s World Championships were held in Louisville this year in the middle of January and the final round of races were held on “frozen muddy ruts”. Cyclocross uses bikes that are pretty much road bikes with tires that are a bit wider – say, 33mm wide instead of 23mm wide with a little bit of tread – and ride mostly off-road. Sure, there’s some pavement but there’s also sand, grass, single-track, hills or stairs steep enough that you are faster to run up and the infamous barriers. Barriers are usually found in groups of two or three forcing most racers off their bikes to hop off, run over the barriers, toss the bike down, hop on and pedal away as fast as you can. All of this done on a course no longer than 2 miles for a time of no more than an hour. The end result is pretty much an all-out sprint. Go right up until you’re about to puke and then back off just enough so you can maintain that effort for 45 minutes to an hour.  Add to this the atmosphere where heckling the racers is encouraged, costumes are common and beer hand ups are practiced (just try chugging a cheap beer while you are so far in the red zone you can hardly see straight). So I think you can see what I mean by “nuts”.
Halloween race at Uncle Steve's. Photo courtesy of Noah Hutson

I tell people that cyclocross can be explained two ways. It’s a lot like when you were 8 or 9 years old and you got together with your friends on your bikes. Someone would say “OK, we go down the sidewalk, up the driveway at Tommy’s house, around the car, around the tree in his front yard, over the fence…”

Or you could explain ‘cross as in the early 1900’s several French guys were drinking too much wine late in one fall and talking “We should host a bicycle race…”
“Yes, let’s do that. It should be really hard”
“Yes, Yes! (Oui! Oui!) We will make them take their bicycles built for the road and race it in the fields and forest. We should also put the logs right in their path.”
“Oh yes, that would be excellent! And it should be when the weather is horrible outside”
“Agreed! But we should get them drunk first so they will be much more agreeable to race.”

So if it could possibly be miserable out why would anyone want to do it? I explain it as being like heroin in this manner: Right after your first race you’ll be sick and want nothing more to do with it. But 20 minutes later you’ll be jonesing for more and more. You may even decide to race in a second category that very same day. You will now be hopelessly addicted. In several months you’ll end up with an identical bike and three sets of wheels for each bike (each set having course-specific tread) as long as your wallet and/or significant other allow.

Larry P at Uncle Steve's Halloween race. Photo courtesy Noah Hutson.
Besides, what drives people to do any sort of activity that is difficult, strenuous, challenging or just plain hard?
Why not?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thank you, father. Thank you, son.

I write this on the anniversary of our son's death (four years ago) and a little over a month since my father has passed.

Dad became quite ill (neuroendocrine cancer) in a short time. Not so sure what to say about it really. All the usual things I'm sure - it sucks. Feels like it shouldn't have happened. He got short-changed. It really does. But he's not the only one to loose his fight with cancer, or another illness. Many people also succumb in auto accidents, earthquakes and other tragedies. No matter how unfair it seems that my Dad is not here, I'm not the only son missing his father.

It seems like most people have one of two stances on their fathers - either the guy was a real jerk or he was a good man. I find myself strongly in the camp of the later. Mind you, I'm not the only one. He was intelligent, thoughtful and very detail-oriented. Calm, rational, and yes I can probably attribute some of my odd sense of humor to him. There is a lot I could say about him (and probably will as time goes on). The world is minus one very good person.

As for James, our son, if you've read much of this blog you probably know his story. If not, feel free to start at the beginning.

Tonight I find myself missing both of these men. I have leaned a tremendous amount from each. Not sure that I could be 1/10th of the man of either James or Dad. Thanks to both for the memories, the lessons, the stories and love.

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's the off season... but I'm always off.

Well, for Cyclocross it's considered the off-season. I thought I was doing pretty good, too. Got Mark Farmer whipping me... er, coaching me. Getting to ride a bit more consistantly. Got a plan this year. Thought I was doing OK and then, one of my nemesis went back to road racing this year. Gasp. But I'm still putting the work in. For a while, that was.

Then we've had some health issues in the family. Something pretty drastic, really. Drastic enough to make you say "The rest of this crap can wait."

It doesn't mean I've stopped riding. I just don't get to ride as often as originally planned. Not a big deal. Family is a much much bigger deal.

So instead of a hard 2 hour ride, I may go for a 2 1/2 hour ride on the bike path through the metroparks with my bride. For example, last Saturday evening when we went by a couple ponds the peepers - frogs - were so loud it was astounding. We get around a bend in the path and she counts a baker's dozen of whitetail in the meadow.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Marietta, OH for a week. The temperatures in Ohio have gotten to what we normally see in June, not the beginning of March. It was interesting to ride around and find pockets of temperature differences. A breeze may blow in and it felt like the temp would drop 10 degrees F. Or I'd make it to the top of a long steep climb and you could feel the temp get warmer and drier where the sun had been beating down on the pavement all day.

So I don't get to ride as often as some of my competitors nor is every ride a full-on training ride. But on and off the bike, I'm going for more memorable moments. I hope you do as as well.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What do we do when we do what we do?

Several photos from a recent ride. Basically, I had the bike in the car with me and was travelling from Morgantown, WV to Parkersburg, WV. It was a rare time when I could take a bit of time to get to where I was going. So I took advantage of the semi-nice weather and pulled off of Route 50, got out of the car and rode some of the North Bend Rail Trail.

With all of the rain we've had in the months prior, the ground was still pretty soft. It was pretty much riding on wet sand. So I guess it was more of a workout than a pleasure ride but it was still cool to get outside. After all, you don't see these things from the highway.
One of many tunnels. This one is 377 ft. long. Bring a light. Pretty cool.

This you don't really see from the trail. You have to wander around a bit.

Different ride. Chestnut Ridge MTB trail. See you out there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Around the world and back

Yeah, not really. But I did go to the Masters Worlds Championships and made it back. A race I was nervous about right up until the whistle blew & then it was another race.

We started of heading down to Louisville, KY on Wednesday because you have to check in and pick up your number the day before you start racing. As well, the course was supposed to be open for a while on Wednesday for pre-riding. Well, in our usual style we didn't make it down in time to pre-ride the course but that was OK as it had rained all day and was a huge mud pit.

Thursday I push my lovely wife into getting to the track hours earlier than needed to get to the qualifying race. That gave me time to watch how other guys were getting around the track, walk the track, and prep for the race. By a stroke of luck we parked two cars down from Jared, CJ and crew from Crossniacs. Nice, good to meet the folks. As for how guys were getting around the track it was just trying to stay upright and get through the mud. It was as much survival as anything else.

When it was time for my race I didn't survive so well. Off the back a bit from the start but not too bad, until chain got stuck between the chain rings in the sand pit. Jump off, watch guys go by as I fix. No problem, I'm thinking. I've got a pit bike ready. I catch the last couple of guys, pass them on the run-up/flyover and head to the pits. Come out with B bike and catch up again. Get past these two guys after a bit of work, then fall in a corner. Get up, chase back on, work to get around them and then fall again. Even more spectacularly. Ugh. Get up, run up the hill, try to run down the hill (no way I was going to chance wrecking again!) and promptly fall. Get up again, try to get going and headed down the steeper hill I fall. AGAIN. By this time I'm laughing because it's better than curling up like a fetus and bawling my eyes out. Get to the pavement and I'm pulled. One of my worst laps of my life. It was like I hadn't ridden in mud before. Oh yeah, temps dropped like 20 degrees between the time we got to the track and the end of my race, which made trying to wash bikes with partially functioning pressure washers a chore. But they did have pressure washers. Can't argue with that. And I made it to the final championship round. Can't argue that, either.

The next day we washed out the clothes - we literally scrapped off 5 lbs. of mud off of my kit before tossing them in the wash. Went out to get better shoes as I saw the benefit on the muddy hillside of having shoes that allowed toe spikes. Ran in to the fabulous Rudy and Julie Lewis-Sroka at On Your Left Cycles. Good folks & good folks at the shop but didn't have what I was looking for. They directed us to Clarksville Schwinn who did have what we were looking for and offered us a great deal. Nice people, treated us great. We also had dinner with the only other Central-Ohioan racing that weekend, Doug Carraway. Good dinner, great company. We didn't race on Friday but the temps had dropped considerably overnight so that those racing had to deal with frozen ruts in the mud we made the day before. One broken wheel that I saw, one broken bone I heard of in those treacherous conditions. Yow.

Saturday was race day. Temps had warmed up some to above freezing. Which meant course conditions were a layer of mud on top of frozen ruts. That was real tricky because with the mud you could slide a bit, get caught in a rut and BOOM right on your butt. Or head. Lots of guys were hitting the deck. My beautiful bride Catie is my pitting for me and I'm thinking I'm going to need her for at least one bike change as muddy as everyone was getting.

Before my race I has seen the parts of the course where a flat-ish patch began to develop. Keep it in mind, new MO is to survive this race more than hammer. Then the whistle blows and we're off. I'm off the back at the start until everyone is trying to stay on the one foot wide path and it all jams up. I can make time up and pass guys if I can "float" over the ruts. Doesn't always work but does well enough at the start. Having a good race, back and forth with Mark Fasczewski. Everyone bobbles but half way through lap two and I catch a rut that sends me right into a course stake that promptly nails me in the jewels as I go ass over teakettle. Oh geez, that hurt. Took me a good minute to recover. Which means Mark got past me and got some distance. When I feel good enough I get on the bike and go go go. At the end of the lap I'm drawing pretty close and I think when we get on to the pavement I'm going to jump. Yeah, well, we got pulled at that lap - Mark, Devon Alvarez and myself. One more lap, I could have gotten by those two is what I'm thinking. Of course, one more lap and I could have bit the dust harder, too. C'est la vie, that's racing. Mark stayed up when I didn't so he's 53rd in the World and I'm 54th.

Afterwards I'm getting changed into not-so-muddy clothes and Beautiful Bride/Pit Crew offers to start washing my bikes. While she's standing in line for the pressure washers I wander off to cheer on my Crossniacs teammates. Then I walk the course cheering for Doug Carraway. Oblivious about the bikes. My wonderful wife takes care of both bikes while wondering where in the hell I went to. Yes, I left her holding the bag... er, bikes.  I owe her big time.

Mud collecting apparatus

Did I ultimately do as well as I hoped the week before? Yes but seeing how things unfolded I could have done better. More things to work on. Was it a once-in-a-lifetime experience? Yeah I suppose you could say that. And I owe my wife one heck of a dinner.

The crew that put on the Masters Worlds did one heck of a job. Each day after racing they were working on the course, trying to make it safer and better for the racers. Check in went easily enough. Podium presentation at Fourth Street Live on Saturday night was a great idea, showcasing to the rest of Louisville what sort of event was going on in their town. Results were almost immediate. I think they are ready for the Elite World Championship next year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Today the neighborhood, tomorrow the World!

Looks like racing season is not quite over. "Really?", you say. Yep. I'm headed down to Louisville tomorrow morning to the UCI Cyclocross Masters World Championships. It's a big name and sounds pretty impressive, doesn't it?

I wish I could say I'd show up and post some impressive results but the reality is I probably won't be top twenty. Not trying to run myself down. I know, I should be more positive with myself and abilities. Self-reinforcing behavior and all that. But I'm trying to be a realist here. I did pretty good in the regular season given how much (or little, really) I got to train. I have been getting after it more in the past two weeks. The motor is there, the skills are coming along, but I didn't spend enough time with the wrench tuning the engine in the prior year.

So why am I doing it? Long answer: At first, good friend and racing nemesis Chris Freter was talking with me about it and said "It's the first time it's been on U.S. soil, it probably won't happen again any time soon. Might as well." Good point. Then we raced the USGP in Louisville and saw about where we stacked up in our age group. Because it cost a fair amount extra to get an International racing license (as opposed to a regular domestic license) and the cost of entry we both figured it wasn't worth the cost to get shelled in the elimination round. And then... and then... I was talking with my father shortly after his surgery and his statement was "Why not?" It is a once-in-a-lifetime event for me (I doubt I'll be flying to Europe even if I do get phenomenally faster) and his thought was there's little reason to not actually race in Worlds. Consulted with several other friends as well and Dad wins out. So packing up our bags and moving to Beverly... er, Louisville. For a short time, that is.

What's the plan? I already said I don't think I'll be top twenty. My smart-aleck answer is "not last". I am hoping to make the top 40  going in to Championship round. That's the main goal for now. If I don't make it, I'll probably be in the consolation round. But top 40 is the goal for now.

Then what? Take a few weeks off. Look at the mountain bike schedule. Probably the Muskingum Mayhem as I did last year. I'd like to hit the Mohican 100 this year. I'd like to do the Pan Ohio Hope Ride with my brother as well. And of course there's the next cyclocross season that I need to start tuning the engine for.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

And the beat goes on

What? Quoting Sonny & Cher? What has gotten in to my little mind?

It (my mind) is probably still a bit frozen over. Yes I ride my bike when it's cold out or when it's snowing. Typically not as long but I still ride.


Because Masters World Championships is coming up. Because I could stand to drop a few pounds. Because I need to get out and ride sometimes.

And because you don't see this from your bedroom window:

And here's the formerly nice bike that's now a single speeder employed to get me out to these parts:

It still needs some tweaking but overall works great. Big thanks to cyclistconnection for building up the rear wheel for me, it's perfect (Paul components flip/flop hub laced to a Velocity Deep V rim). Should stand up to my abuse.

And yes, water bottles don't do so well on the outside of the bike when it's 22 degrees F outside. Doh!

Thanks for reading.