Monday, December 16, 2013

MO State Champs and Cruising

Last race of my '13 season was the Missouri State Championships held at St. Vincent Park in STL.  Had never been there, but heard it was an 'awesome' place (no description ever given just 'awesome'?!?!?).  Seriously, would ask around and all I heard was AWESOME.   

Light snow and freezing temps held right up to race day so it was going to be interesting as this was truly my first race of the year at cold temps.  So far in '13 I had good results on sloppy/slick courses and likewise historically so a little challenge from mother nature was fine by me.  The week leading to the race I had done several training sessions outside dialing in my kit and accessories for sub-20* conditions and felt confident I was prepared. 

Dale and loaded up the 'secret weapon' Saturday morning and headed to STL to get in a little pre-ride.  Found our way to the course and took in a handful of laps at 22*.  Did quite a bit of surveying the sand pits and after numerous passes dialed in my lines for the following day.  Rode the 'stair climb' several times along with the 'single track' decent immediately after until I was comfortable with all.  Always interested to see how many people simply ride thru these sections during warmup/pre-rides and don't really explore 'lines' and various options; what is a pre-ride for???? 

Course was pretty cool with several 'crossy elements and none leaning toward one type of rider over another; great mix (I'll be back next year).  Slick on and off-road corners, some from snow/ice but a lot from leaves and some walnuts, frozen fast ground, couple decent climbs (one paved and one not); it was all good except not a single place requiring dismount from the bike (I was bummed, as that's a strong suit for me).  A ton of the course was going to come down to handling your bike consistently, not over riding (too fast) the corners, and drilling it on the couple of open sections; figured those who made the fewest mistakes would do well.  All in all I was looking forward to the next day.

Race morning comes and our Masters 45+ had a small field, but a quality one. Was really disappointed numerous KC guys did not attend the race, but deep down I know only a couple guys from each 'coast' actually drive outside their city limits to event so was not surprised.  In essence it was an STL race and that was ok as I hardly race against these guys and didn't really know who was the one's to watch outside of STL mtb guru Tim Kakouris.  Leading into the race the great debate was flat bar vs. cross bikes on a local forum and Tim's name was definitely being thrown out there as the favorite for the course and conditions.  I was looking forward to the challenge.  The way I see it is this:  USA Cycling doesn't prevent mtb's from non-UCI races so let them ride and stop griping.  Now that said, it's a 'cross race and not a mtb race so bring a 'cross bike and race.  Either way didn't matter as I liked my fitness, my driving abilities, and one type of bike over another was not going to be the difference (in the Open race however... HA!)

It was cold out for our 10am start, but had the kit dialed in pretty well.  Spun a couple laps in one set of clothes and swapped out to dry warm ones right before my start.  The 'secret weapon' earlier referenced was awesome - Dale's enclosed box trailer (12' x 6') with a propane heater (left door open a bit not to overheat and choke on inhalation) was a perfect spot to sit on the trainer for 30+ minutes warming up the legs and body out of the elements.  Dialed to perfection and honestly think this was a huge advantage to doing it outside in the frigid conditions!!!!  Clothing of choice was Castelli thermal skinsuit with a thermal long sleeve base layer and a windproof vest (under the skinsuit) for the core.  Castelli Nanoflex leg warmers, Giro winter wool socks (not too thick) and Specialized insulated Defroster boots (they are sweet) took care of the pistons.  Specialized lightweight base thermal gloves with a no-name thin shell kept the fingers working and lightweight skull cap under a full head cover and Giro Air Attack kept my brain cool and operational.  OuterEdge full-zip thermal tights and Showers Pass Jacket peeled off with 2 minutes to start.  Cold on the line, but cool (never cold nor warm) during the 45 minute race - perfection. 

Off to the line for the start.  35+ took off, wait 1 minute, 40+ go, wait 1 minute, then off we go.  First half of the lap pretty much went as I expected:  Tim took the quick lead with a mtb guy (think it was Sam Moore) and myself slotted in behind.  Pace was not too fast as it seemed we were getting a feel for things before the hammer drop.  Through the first sand pit I took my line (from the day before) and quickly moved to the front where I kept a moderate tempo until the bottom of the paved climb.  Tim jumped up the pace and I slotted in behind liking that it seemed the racing was about to get started.  At the top of the incline the transition from pavement to grass had a curb; the day prior I pre-rode this a handful of time and got my line figured out, wasn't hard just had to either take it straight on or 'hop' your wheels as it was icy and slick.  Not sure if Tim hadn't pre-rode this or simply made a bad choice as he went at it at a shallow angle and immediately slid his back tire (actually his whole bike) around harshly and landed on the ground right in front of me (I took the lip wide and hopped it head on) leaving me no place to go but on top of him.  As I was un-tangling us I saw on his face he was hurting.  Got back on my bike after a bit and by then Sam had passed me and as began my pursuit I looked back a couple times and Tim was not following (he was screaming though, but at the time I figured he was just mad).  Turns out he broke his ankle.  Wishing him a quick recovery! 

Quickly caught up with Sam and set on him for quite a while until the 3rd placed guy (Cleeland) bridged to us.  The pace during this time was quite a bit slower so once the three of us were together I upped it and one by one gaps opened.  We ended up riding five laps and I only really made a big effort on number four to ensure my gap was big.  The last lap was making sure I stayed upright and under control.  Mission accomplished and finished comfortably for the win. 

Course was super fun and like I figured less mistakes would trump power/over riding.  Disappointed not being able to battle with Tim for the win as I think it would have been a fun go for both of us the entire way.  Heal up Tim!!!

Did a bit of tripod'ing just in case...
Snow and ice added to the fun of this course
Clement PDX at 24 and 25lbs were my
choice of tread for the day and they performed
as expected - great

***Above photos from Mike Dawson*** 
3rd place (Sam Moore) must have been warming up somewhere as he was
AWOL on the podium
Swag for the day with a State Champ jersey coming later
So with the season a wrap it was time to shift focus to warmer temps.  Deb was heading to STL to pick me up and head to the airport as we were heading to Miami, FL to catch a cruise to Mexico the next morning. 
Five day cruise hitting Key West and Cozumel in mid 80 degree temps with my best friend was awesome; did a ton of nothing the entire time.  Deb and a book, me and a deck lounger (never too far from the ice cream machine) was just what old man winter ordered. 

The scale showed I did way too much of this during the week
That week vacation went entirely too fast!  Landed back in STL, stepped outside, and was immediately reminded where we were and wondered where the heck was my coat!?!?!?!

So it started Sept 14th and 21 races later 'cross for 2013 is done.  Maybe in a day or two I'll do a quick recap, but for now I have a couple things that stand out: 1) after missing all of last year its hard to describe how happy (and I mean it) to simply line up each time and compete in a discipline I love so much no matter the outcome, 2) very happy with my season to include not only my results, but only having one mechanical, the selection of events and schedule, only getting sick once... and lastly 3) already itching and can not wait until 2014 as I have a couple serious tweaks that no doubt will have me riding faster and sharper then this year. 

The question probably asked then if I am 'itching' is why not keep it going into Nationals?  Simple answer: Deb is incredibly generous and supportive from Sept thru mid-December and to train focused into and at Christmas and New Years is asking too much of my family and I see no reason for it (plus I have no desire to race at Boulder altitude and who knows what kind of conditions in January).  There you go: simple.

Parted ways with the MWI crew as it's tough being so far separated from the main group in Wisco and now am looking for maybe something more regional (who knows might race solo for a bit).  MWI was a great time with super folks and good support and I hope they can keep things going.

Laying low off the bike until January 1 and then it's mtb racing and gravel events all spring and early summer (skipping crits from here on out as it's never a question of if, but when...).

Lastly, thanks to all who in some way supported, trained with, heckled, or simply waved or said hello sometime this season; you guys (the 'cross community in general) are great and enjoy each and every one of you. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Penn Valley Cross

After taking last weekend off from racing I was already itching to toe a line and get it going again and KC was having a full weekend with races on Saturday and Sunday.  While I was planning to stay overnight in KC Dale was interested in Saturday only so I opted to drive up and back with him on Saturday and then drive back up on Sunday (after all, it's local racing for us and only a 2hr drive one way).
Got to the venue at Penn Valley Park, located in what I call mid-town, with plenty of time to register and warm up.  Surveyed the course and it is a hilly son of a gun.  Super short loop that has you either climbing or descending and both are at the end of a ton of 180*s and two creek crossing (one potentially rideable) were the only dismounts.
So warm ups turned out to be non-existent as registration was running behind and the course was being finished off pretty much as the Masters (my first race) were lining up.  I get pre-ride one lap prior to the start, but for whatever reason I was not prepared/warmed up leading into the start.
Start was pretty sluggish as maybe folks were not willing to burn candles early on the 'hill repeat' course and this was fine with me as it took a couple laps to actually 'warm up' and have the legs open in a pretty light Masters field.  By that time I increased the tempo on the climbs and opened a significant gap and held it comfortably for the win.  Tough loop as it was a constant sprint up a climb, shoot back straight down into sharp turns to do it again.  Truly a 45 minute hill repeat workout.  Rode the 2nd creek crossing three or four times, but stopped that (opting to run them) after bottoming out each time hard on rocks under the water (little slower, but the risk/reward was worth it).
 ***All below pictures from Roger Harrison; click here to check out his handy work***
First race in the Air Attack and I liked it plenty.
 Good 'winter' helmet
Cool overlook of downtown from the venue. 
Kuat NV as usual!

Course had a couple dicey off-camber 180s; drive that bike son!

Cooled down a bit, kicked back for a couple hours, and jump in the Open race.  Not hearing the greatest things about the following day's course I opted for the 'daily double' and decided to not make the Sunday drive to KC. 

Small (have no idea where folks were) group lined up for the Open and although I actually got in a warm up for this race I knew I would need to meter my efforts early to make the hour race since I was still feeling the Masters efforts from earlier.  First lap I was floating along in 7th and little by little started increasing the efforts and before you know it I was in 3rd with 1st long gone (nice work Travis) and 2nd not too far ahead, but enough contact was not obtainable.  Ended with a healthy gap on 4th place.  Felt really good the longer the race went, but by the end the ol' legs were pretty cooked.  Like how it all went, but always leave the 'double up' wishing I would have made a better effort earlier in the 2nd race to get closer to the front group, but it is what it is...

Temps for both races were great
Closing in...
Mid-race Britton and I working a handful of laps together

Course was pretty dry overall and the Clement MXP's were spot on digging out of what felt like a million high speed 180s.  Can't say enough how I love the fit and feel of my Blue Norcross SL.

Skipping Sunday's race turned out great on the training and homefront as many positive things were accomplished on and off the bike.  Really happy with my fitness right now.

So it's one to go (one to go, one to go) for my 'cross season with the Missouri State race this Sunday in STL.  Never been to or raced the St. Vincent venue, but from how folks are describing it I think it will be a blast.  Weather forecast has the temps for STL in the 20's with snow and rain for a couple days leading up to Sunday and 30* is the high (18* overnight low) and with the Masters going to 10am it will be chilly).  I will take whatever comes our way, but deep down inside I would love a slop/mud fest with as many opportunities of forced dismounts as possible.  Have no idea what the Masters field will look like (how many from KC will make the trip), but always fun to visit and race with STL folks as I don't run across them too often during my season.  No Nationals for me this year as Boulder's elevation and training thru Christmas and New Years is simply not appealing to me.  Next year in Austin, TX is golden!

Sunday's race will be fun I am sure, but what I am really stoked about is right after the race Deb and I are hopping a flight to Miami, FL and from there a week cruise to some sunny (and warm) beaches in the Caribbean (similar to what we did in 2011).  Love our winter get-a-ways! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jingle Cross is the Measure...

...against what all other Midwest venues, courses, and fun are compared (IMO).  Hands down my favorite with L'ville snugged right behind.

So after a pretty easy week of training Friday morning Dale and I loaded up with Focus for another three day race weekend, but this time we headed northeast in the opposite direction of last week.  Six hours later we pull into the Jingle Cross venue which always brings a smile to my face as these guys believe in getting off your bikes multiple times during races.

I was looking forward to racing, but also seeing long time friend Ira Brown who moved to Montana what seems like 20 years ago (actually only 1, but you know what I mean).  He was stopping in for the race weekend en route to seeing family in SE MO.  After a bunch of hugs (that's right, almost kissed him too) we unloaded and set up camp.  Got a prime spot on the start line next the KS Energy guys from Wisco who were super all weekend.  Big (no, make that HUGE) thanks as always to the guys at ..Kuat.. who provide not only the best bike transportation devices on the planet, but also shelter for a demanding 'cross season.  Neither I, nor MWI, are 'sponsored' by them, but they love to take care of cyclist and I am fortunate enough to call these guys friends.  Can't say it enough, but thanks!

Home for the weekend at race site; canopy with walls are a must
at Jingle Cross as the wind and weather are always a factor

For all conditions, but especially mud caked/coated a Kuat NV
is the freaking best rack on the market

After a couple pre-race laps the recon found a new section added to the weekend which changed up things just enough to keep it interesting, but not stray too far from Jingle Cross at it's best.  Day 1 we were headed up the 'run-up' of Mt. Krumpet, but with dry conditions I imagined some would be able to ride it in my Masters 45+ race.  Not me; it was much quicker and steadier to simply shoulder and run (relative term) it.

With number 820 figured I would get a third row start and sure enough there I was... until for some unknown reason an empty spot on the 2nd row grid opened and the official told me to hop in - sweet!  Gun goes off and so do we.  The start is wide open and goes for quite a ways before a gentle right hander so there was plenty of time to position well.  Turn, go, turn, go, over the flyover, and before I knew it we were heading up Krumpet.  Ran next to a guy who rode it, but he was fried after that effort and dropped way off (I'm sure it was impressive for the crowd, but not for his results I imagine).  Back onto the bike and found myself in the top 7 or so and feeling really good.  Couple laps went by and I was in a three-man chase group in 3rd.  Made a silly bobble in the cattle barn and a Cal Giant rider went clear getting a gap on us.  I recovered and put the gas down (dropped the guy in our initial group) trying to bridge back, but little by little he was pulling away.  Going into the last lap I was in 4th with the Cal Giant guy out of reach and after a quick inventory behind figured I had my spot sewn up so I backed of pace just a tad knowing the weekend would be long.  Almost on the finishing straight and out of no where JW Miller passes me with the hammer down.  What the heck, I knew there was a guy kind of close, but thought he was in the masters 35+ race (tons of people all over the course)?!?!?!  Having not buried myself on the last lap I had more than enough to jump on his wheel and take him in the sprint to the line finishing 4th (which snagged a little cash).  Legs, lungs, and body felt great and knew this weekend was going to be fun.

Cleaned up, caught Ira racing the 3's, then we all hung out and spectated the rest of the races that evening.  So much fun catching up with Ira and watching the big boys making it all look so easy.

Ira, myself, and Dale inside the Sand Barn.  If you haven't been
here some things on the course are hard to explain

After a late dinner we all crashed knowing the morning races were not far away.

Relaxed early morning as I didn't race until 11:15am.  Headed over to the fairgrounds (race site) and took in a couple warm up laps checking out the changes.  All was the same except the new southwest side of the course had a new climb taking us to the top of Krumpet.  The new section was pretty cool as it dove back into the wood over a bridge then there were a series of short steep punches up each followed by a short decent then up again (rinse and repeat)...  demanding to say the least and with my lack of climbing ability I knew this would suck.  Once on top it was THE classic switchback decent on the east face of Krumpet.  Hard to explain how 'off camber' the straights and the extreme drops of each turn.  You quickly can see how can 'drive' a bike and who 'rides' a bike.  The rest of the course was standard Jingle.

With my top 8 finish I earned a front row start which is always nice and beneficial.  Gun goes off and day 2 is under way.  Felt solid again and surprising after the first time up the climbing sections I am in the top 10 (way better than expected).  Continued to ride at a pace within myself and by the last lap I was in 6th with 5th place just in front of me (the Cal Giant guy from the day before).  He was struggling up with climb so by the top I made contact and set in until we hit the lower north infield.  Figured I would let him pull me to the line, but as we entered the long open straight he look back and looked cooked; I jumped hard around him and his tank was empty leaving me to finish 5th (another day in the $$$).

Like the day before we caught Ira's race then hung out spectating the fast kids (and gals).  After that it was an early dinner and hanging out in the room taking it easy. 

Day three was another 11:15am start which gave us time to leisurely grab breakfast and take in most of the Sven doing his thing at the Super Prestige.

Over to the venue which found it soaked from the night's rain, but not near as bad as I've seen in the past.  Got out on course to check out the changes; was happy to see the 'run-up' back in play with a little bit of climbing on to the top before a fun decent to the floor.  Pretty straight forward and similar to days prior but with the muddy condition I opted for the Dugast Rhino's with a couple lbs's dropped instead of the Clement MXPs.  Warmed up while Dale did his thing in the 55+ event and before you know it we were at it again.

My best start of the weekend slotted me in 2nd after the gun and maintained it thru the first passing of the pits before a handful went by and I latched on.  By the time we hit mid-way up the slop of Krumpet I knew I had solid legs again and as before reminded myself to 'ride within my abilities' and not go into the RED (yet).  After two laps I was in 5th with 4th (Cal Giant guy) repeating Saturday's race and coming back; front two were gone and 3rd with a healthy gap.  On the third lap I made huge inroads toward him up Krumpet and actually smiled a bit knowing the next lap I could pass him, but then it happened on the north infield... my first 'mechanical' of the season; rear tire went immediately flat and it was way to long from the pits to reach and still compete so with a smile on my face I called it a day.  Bummed for about 30 seconds then satisfaction of a solid weekend took over and all was OK; I mean with this being my 1st bike issue in 18 'CROSS races its hard to be upset.

Mid-climb looking down (notice how small the folks are by the barn)
 and the below pic is midway up and yes, it is as steep as it appears

Prior to hearing the POP and below is
afterward doing the 'walk of shame'

Loaded up, said quick goodbyes to friends, and six hours later pulled into the homestead in Bolivar.  As always tons of hugs and love from my crew as I came into the house; that never gets old!

So races 16, 17, and 18 are in the books.  Roughly one month to go in my season which will get a couple events in the KC area in a couple weeks and then the MO State race in STL on Dec 8th.  Having way too much fun again and so thankful being able to race a full season so far.

So on the family front:  last night Darion participated in his 2nd grade musical and was fantastic.  He and Deb picked out clothes for it over the weekend and he just had to wear a tie (funny stuff). 

I have got to work on my 'smile'...

Ian is a week away from his basketball season opener and as expected loves practicing everyday.  It's not uncommon for me to run him up to SBU in the evening where he plays with the college kids for a couple hours.  Pretty cool seeing these guys 'request' a 12 year old play on their team.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ruts N Guts and on the mend...

So a handful of weekends ago was Gateway Cup in STL; I felt pretty strong coming into it, but Saturday morning I felt the onset of either sinus or head cold issues early and during day one racing simply the energy level tanked quick after 30 minutes (it was weird).  So go to sleep that night with a bit of a hack and snort and by morning I felt miserable.  Told Dale I would pre-ride, but didn't expect to race.  Well, as you know from the last post I did race, finishing spot was solid, but physically I was a wreck. 
Not a big deal as I simply moved my recovery week up one thinking in a couple days it would pass and back to grindstone I'd be.  By day five I am feeling worse and worse (and that's with total 100% rest) and finally by day ten (that's right 10, which is some folks entire off season) I am back on the bike for some decent riding feeling better, but still nothing of interval status.
So that's two days before Ruts N Guts in Oklahoma which is a decently large attended three day event.  I knew this was going to be a 'character builder', but necessary to get back up to speed; I mean if three days in a row is not a jump start what is????
Dale and I load up and head southwest Friday late morning.  Show up to the event pretty early and have ample time to survey the course and unwind.  Good layout with a nice mix of a lot of various features including elevation change, mud crossing with immediate run up, railroad tie run/ride ups (depending on ability), plenty of turning, and open power pedaling sections.  Temps were spot on for cross as I believe mid-50s with quite a breeze. 
Warm up and head to the start to see who's lining up in the Masters 40+.  Shadd and Bill, a couple other familiar ones, and several faces I'd never seen.  Official does the stupidest start leaving half of us still wondering what just happened, but off we go.  Pace is decent and I am feeling pretty good until Shadd goes through and breaks up everything with a higher pace and I start suffering...  45 minutes later I was surprised I lasted to the end and nabbed 4th place.  Way better than I expected, but also felt the effects of no intensity for the last couple weeks as the punch in the legs were gone and my breathing was super shallow. 

Podium Friday night; think I photo-bombed this as they announced the top 5
so I thought we were all going to be in the pic - maybe not...

 So we stuck around and watched the other races before heading out.  So this is pretty cool: a couple weeks ago I contacted the promoter who hooked us up with a host home in Tulsa.  Made contact with the couple and they had a couple open beds waiting for Dale and I.  Jeff and Jeannie Moon - awesome family who took wonderful care of us all weekend.  We'll be back!

Since day 2 didn't start until 4:30pm Dale and I yack'ed it up with Jeff and Jeannie before heading out for a couple errands before going to the venue.  Arrived to find a non-technical (but lots of turning) flat grass (and a bit of asphalt) course - this was going to hurt. 

Toed the start and found the same guys minus Shadd, but add Jeff Park, a fast (FAST) guy I knew from living in San Antonio who wrecked in the Open race the night before and decided to punish the masters Saturday and Sunday.  And that's just what he did...

For the first half of the race the pace was controlled and six of us all rode together.  Then Park and Bill, along with Ian Moore (from Texas) whipped up the pace with various attacks and I was out the back.  Rode the rest going hard, but not killing it as no one was close behind and 5th was not obtainable - finished 6th.  Legs felt better, but still unable to open my lungs fully; anyway  I'll take it!

Day 2 racing with Jeff Park from San Antonio (right most in pic)
who took the win
Another relaxing evening at the Moon's and before you know it morning was there and back to the same course we did Friday night.  Legs and body felt tired at first, but as I warmed up I was happy with my condition. 

Back to the start at 10am and off we go.  Maintained a decent spot for the first four laps then started to feel labored and dropped back a bit from Bill and two others (two guys were off the front with a decent gap), but then there was some confusion from the race official.  I won't go into the entire thing, but at one point the lap card said 2 (to go) so I upped my effort, bridged on the back of Bill's group and was hoping for the best on the last lap.  Well as we came through (for what we figured was the bell lap) the official was standing in front of the lap card telling us 3 to go.  I took a quick assessment of my physical status and knew I had to back off the pace a little now as I think the others did also, but Bill was on the attack, burying himself that lap.  He went clear and as we rolled though with 2 to go he was pulled off on the side (not riding).  I thought maybe he was injured or something, but the race was still on so head down...  Couldn't make it up to the couple ahead of me and finished 5th.

Trickly little crossing before a set of railroad ties; never
got it dialed in comfortably

Afterwards Bill recounted he thought the race was over and stopped.  He got back after 'discussing' it with the official and finished 6th.  It was a screwed up Officiating weekend as results and their general lack of 'officialness' was embarrassing.  Results took FOREVER Sunday and I felt bad for the promoter but honestly that why you spend a little more money and bring it quality groups like OneToGo and such.

For where I had been the last couple weeks I was happy with how the weekend went and actually finished 4th in the weekend Omnium.  The head cold is gone and now am looking forward to a couple good solid weeks of training and racing without coughing and snorting.

Oh, and ride of the weekend was the guy (not sure of name) from Soundpony killing it on a single speed each day in the Open - crazy power!  Think he was in the top 5 each day.

Up next is Jingle Cross in Iowa Friday for three more days of goodness.  It's a big and super fast race and an awesome course(s).  Forecast has it typical Jingle weather = cold, wet, and cold...

On the family front being sick meant good quality time with Deb and the boys on Halloween and the weekend.  Did a bunch of fun stuff to include Ian, myself, and Deb's dad (Jim) hitting the walnut trail.  Ian wanted some extra spending money, said he would work for it, so we picked walnuts all Sunday morning in a farmer's field outside of Bolivar.  By the end we had a small trailer load (one tree we hit the mother-load) and Ian pocketed $55.  That was a fun day.

That was a good day
Grandpa pitched in to help and had a ball; these
guys are great pals

The crew showed up to see the hulling

At the hullers waiting to get paid

I am coaching Darion's 2nd grade YMCA basketball team and to put it mildly, we are 'skill challenged' as a group and the highlights are probably the snacks after the games, which is perfectly fine.  I am a huge believer at this level score and winning are insignificant as long as fundamentals and FUN is obtained every practice and game.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gateway Cross Cup Weekend

With a routine week of training behind me it was time to load up the Focus Saturday morning with Dale and head off to STL for the Gateway Cup weekend.  In the past the event was a single evening affair on a Wednesday, but it was nicely moved to a weekend for double the pleasure (or mostly pain).

I have a hate-hate relation with this race as the first year I raced horribly and last year was the morning of the back implosion and subsequently warm up laps just made things much worse and that day was end of my 2012-13 season.  Put on top of this the $45 entry (with no discount for a second race) and the somewhat of a grass crit with little to no technical skills required and it's just not my favorite of races (I will be so bold as to say it is by far my least fav I will do all year).  But... now that my little rant is over it does bring typically a decent masters field and so I toe the line and will continue to do so. 

Got to the race venue with plenty of time to unwind and catch up with a couple MWI kids who made the trek south as well as our Commander and Chief (Mike H.) over that the Rapha-Focus mini-compound. 

Temps were pretty nice during warm ups and the pre-ride found about the same setup as past years which meant fast with not too many places at all to recover.  Got a front row position between Bill Marshall (#2) and Tom Price (#1) which the USAC rankings had me 6th in this race, but didn't recognize anyone else on the front row.  Whistle/light goes and it was on for 40 minutes of racing.  Tucked behind Price the first lap until he slid out (eventually dropped out) near the end of the lap and then I was on my own for a couple until reality set in and a guy came around me quick enough that I was unable to hold his wheel (off he went) and with one lap to go a guy from Trek Midwest passes me and I was able to hold on for a bit before a bobble had him going up the course without me.  At this point I was having some real problems getting a full breath (worse than regular) and my power/energy was dropping.  Bill Marshall, who had a mechanical on lap one was charging from behind, but I was pretty confident I could hold him off until I made a stupid error and overshot a corner with less than 800 meters of racing and by the time I got back on course and started again he came by with enough momentum I couldn't get to his wheel and so there I was finishing 4th 3 seconds behind him... and off the podium. 

**Above photos from Eville Mike (STL Biking)

Pretty concerned with how my body dropped on the last lap and frustrated at such a stupid simple mistake, but after a couple hours of thought my attitude changed 180 as I actually had a solid ride on a wide open course that I had dreaded leading into the weekend.  Collected some 'coin' and kicked back with Dale the rest of the day enjoying the races.

Patrick getting kitted up for his Open race (in which he did great)
I know the Cardinals were playing in the WS in STL, but the fan turnout for the afternoon/evening was nutty low for a C2 event.  Will be interested to see if this event continues in the future.  Always amazing to watch the pros/elites totally flow the same course we armatures bounce around on; and that's why they are elites...

Crashed at Jay and Cory's for the night (super huge thanks for the beds) and before you know it off for day two.  Fought a little bit of a head cold/sniffle during the night and was unsure about racing Sunday morning, but figured I would ride a couple warm up laps and see how I felt.

Deb had a fun day while Ian was off with friends she and Darion hit the local pumpkin patch for quite the outting.  They had a great day.

Chilly start to the morning during pre-ride and found the course changed up in a couple places requiring a tad more turning (which is good) breaking up some of the open sections and actually giving a slight reprieve to catch a breath.  Didn't feel too bad and the breathing was decent so I figured I'd give it a go. 

There we were again toeing the line for another 40 minutes.  Decent start again as I slotted behind Marshall, Price, and one other ahead of them for 1/2 of the first lap.  Tom and Bill moved off the front and I pursued keeping them within reach for the first lap, but after that it was decision time: get to them and burn a big match or settle into my tempo and be realistic... Easy choice - #2.  Half way though came upon Tom laying on the ground not moving or looking good (but being attended to) and so I was in 2nd 14 seconds behind Bill (now solo) and four or five guys 10 seconds back.  Continued to ride my tempo and by the end was able to hold off the pursuers and finish 2nd. 


Myself, Bill, and Randy Murdock

All in all a solid weekend of racing on a course I'd been dreading for some time with the exception of a significant loss of energy and a stupid bobble on the last lap Saturday. 

Loaded up and headed home where I found Deb had homemade peanut butter cookies freshly out of the oven... have I mentioned lately her awesomeness?!?!?!?

Up next is Colavita Cup (Saturday) and Blvd Cup (Sunday) both in KC.  These are typically larger events with quality big and fast fields.  Looks like a new venue so who knows what to expect.  Taking the family for a KC weekend so I'll jump in the later Open race then the earlier masters on Sunday. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Oakley Nightcap and Joules Cross

Fun filled (and driving filled) weekend of 'cross as I took in the Oakley Night Cap in Des Moines, IA Saturday evening and then hit day two of Joules Cross in Lawrence, KS.  Ended up around 12.5 of windshield time, but that's why invented NPR and PRI, right?
First and foremost Deb is awesome!  From Sept thru Dec she pretty much lets me set my own race schedule and typically gives me a smooch goodbye either Friday afternoon (or Saturday morning) and has some kind of baked goods waiting late Sunday afternoons when I pull back into home.  The boys have pretty much grown up with this as a way of life so it's just kind of what happens in the Fall.  That being said it provides an opportunity to take in several different races in various locations within a 7 to 8 state region and that's a great thing as it would drive me nuts to week after week line up against the same guys and do the same 'dance' typically knowing who is finishing where and so on and so on.  I know most don't have this flexibility but have no idea how that could be fun.  So...
Take in Darion's soccer game early Saturday morning then off to KC to snag my weekend companion (will remain nameless) en route to Des Moines for the Oakley Night Cap race.  The event has always been on my radar and it just worked out that I could make it.  Pull in to pick up un-named person and he tells me he is bailing and that I am on my own.  HUH???  Ok, so since he was the one hooking us up with a place to stay in DM I know need to re-think racing the Open (after the masters) which starts at 10pm... Hmmm.  Drive passes easy and arrived to find a pretty cool venue and a turny (really turny) course. 
Snag my number, change up, warm up and before you know it we are on the start line.  Pretty solid turnout in the masters fields as the grouped the 35+ in the front, 45+ (my group) second with a slight gap, and 55+ behind us.  I get a kick out of not knowing a single person on the start line as it makes it much more interesting then 'ok, follow so and so'.  Did snag front row in my group and looking over the  35+  who probably had 30+ racers of varying ability it's then the official tells us we are all going off together without any gaps.  Lots of traffic from the gun...
Solid start as a hole opened up on the right and myself and two others quickly move though most of the 35+.  Before you know it an Atlas rider in my class jumps away and I am not able to cover it.  Spent the rest of the race battling with a Trek Midwest guy from Omaha as we moved through the fields.  Came down to a sprint at the line and I came up short to get 3rd (and actually 4th in all masters classes).   Fun racing to say the least.
Photo snagged from the one and only Eric Burch (pictured above)
Barrier sequence
Hard to sprint for a line with a bike throw when the officials don't
have an actual LINE for a finish - pretty weak stuff
Snagged the swag (Oakley and Primal gear, an eatery gift card which I gave to a local, and 6 of beer) and decided to book it back to KC instead of being homeless for the night.  Snagged a warm bed with the nameless (which was great) and the next morning on a whim decided to take in Joules Cross over in Lawrence, KS.  After a short drive with coffee and I'm warming up on a grass crit course with a couple of deceptively tough climbs, but nothing at all technical with only 1 set of double barriers. 

Some of the regular KC crew is on the line along with Bill Marshall (just got faster) and a guy who, for the lack of better description, just looked fast as he was drilling it in warm ups. 
Whistle goes and Bill takes it out fast, but not lung popping fast.  Shortly after I move to the front and keep the pressure for the first lap just to see who is who.  Small gaps but shortly after lap 1 Bill is glued to me and the 'other guy' is not far off.  Three of us get together while Bill and I pull and eventually Bill lets the guy know he's got to contribute so he does and the pace immediately goes up (crap, I am in trouble here as the climbs have been giving me fits)...  With two to go a small gap opens and I am dangling, but 1/2 way though close it back up just in time to see Bill and the other guy fly away to start the last lap.  Finished the last lap steady and ended up 3rd (theme for the weekend) while Bill was gaped at the finish to get 2nd.  Fastest I've ever seen Joules but that's good as STL next weekend is another grass crit.
Chatted with the winner, John Nelson from Sioux City, IA after the race and hopefully will see him again at Jingle Cross; nice guy and strong on the uphills.  Collected swag (socks and beer) and headed home.
Roger Harrison pics below:

I have no idea what my stance is all about here?!?!?!  Photo fom B Marshall

Pulled in to see the crew out back picking up walnuts (we have two huge w trees) in the backyard so before I unpacked I jumped in the work.  Afterwards it was backyard football with the neighbor kids jumping in, basketball with Ian at the gym, Deb's homemade Taco soup (which was great) and topped it off with Sunday night football while folding laundry (and sampling some of my winnings).  Not exactly Lake Woebegone, but it does just fine by me...

Next weekend is Gateway Cup on Saturday and Sunday.  Looks like a fast and decent sized masters field on another grass crit course (at least this on has you on and off the bike more which is good for me).  Will be nice catching up with a couple of the MWI 'yanks' who are heading south.