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.