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.