Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Jingle Cross (Did Not Rock)...

There are a bunch of fun challenging weekends across the midwest, but for me Jingle Cross in Iowa City, IA has always been top shelf quality (along with Louisville and now Cincy) and it's obvious more and more racers are figuring this out.  The numbers across the board not to mention the quality depth in each field was by far the best I've seen at this event since I started coming.

Let me back up; after Hanna's Hope I was still battling a chest and head cold, but it seemed like I was on the mend and while I didn't hit any super intensity training during the week I felt way good enough to feel confident for the weekend in IA.  Yes, temps were cold (really cold), but everyone had to battle the elements just like the next guy, just didn't realize how this would affect me.

Friday early Dale, Ira, and I loaded up and made the six hour trek north to Jingle Cross.  Uneventful drive (always good) found us at the race site a couple hours before start time which gave us plenty of time to throw up the KUAT canopy and walls (slight issue as only three were packed leaving us exposed) and get prep'ed for our 4:20pm start. 

Eric Burch, KC guy, and the Bowes' shared the tent for the weekend and I hope it was adequate for them to somewhat keep warmish and have a place to warm up.  Always good folks.

Took in a couple warm up laps and was amazed at how fast it was going to be.  Totally dry and the course was ripping.  This did not play to my strengths, but with the run up Mt Krumpet it might be the element that kept me competitive.

Lots of fast guys in our deep 45+ field and after a good start and 25 minutes comfortably in the top 10 I started struggling to get a full breath and felt like my throat was closing up.  I did what I could for the remainder and with guys passing me left and right in the last lap had no idea how I managed to even finish 13th.  It was bad, but I thought maybe Saturday would be better (spoiler alert - it wasn't).

Mt Krumpet run up is a strong section for me and
the more we hit it the better my results historically
Course the first two days were the fastest I've experienced at Jingle
Hung out and watched the rest of the evening events and cheered for our local guys before turning in for the night.

Saturday came and while my chest felt tight it didn't seem bad enough not to race.  Pre-ride found another day of fast dry conditions with limited slippage down the face of Mt Krumpet.  Going to be another fast race.  It was cold and felt very similar to Friday's race.

Whistle goes off, missed a pedal and quickly was moving backwards but by the time the 45+ hit the back of the 35+ at a tough bottleneck section I made a pretty stinking good dismounted move actually on the low side and moved right near the front of the race (honestly, it was awesome!).  As we manuvered to the long steep unjulating climb of Mt Krumpet I knew I was toast by the top.  I was not struggling, but literally gasping trying to get air.  I should have stopped right then, but the competitive nature wouldn't let that happen and as the race went on I wheezed my way to a brutal 21st place.  I was frustrated as my weekend was falling apart.

Not sure if this was day 1 or 2, but it didn't take long to
 run into the 35+ group (numbers starting with 300)
Punchy climbs on day 2
Cal-Giant brought a solid masters team from California

Packed up, headed to the hotel for lunch and clean up, before returning to watch the rest of the races.  I knew I was in trouble and decided then to pull the plug on Sunday.

Saturday afternoon the snow moved in and Sunday's course was exactly what I was hoping the entire weekend would have been - a drivers course.  It was tough watching, but got chance to cheer on teammates (Rick Mosley killing it Sunday with a 6th place) and friends before loading up and heading home.  Another Jingle done and dusted...

Recover seems to be the recent theme as I haven't kicked my head/chest cold for a week prior.  Tuesday my doc set me up with some meds to mend my chest and decided to put me on a daily inhaler (during season) to combat my asthma.  Taking some down days (when I should be full on intensity) to get healthy before stoking the fires again.  Looks like up next is Ruts N Guts in a couple weeks then MO State race on December 13th.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Supporting Local Racing (BTW - The End is Near)...

It must be as SW MO actually had a 'cross race and honestly, it was a great layout and fun challenging course.  Now, the reason I make such a big deal is historically 'cross just never caught on here and too many 'heros of the road' shrug it off as something to avoid and thus their 'minions' do the same.  Too many times in the past a 'cross' race was put on but in reality it was designed and intended for mtb'ers, which is fine to have a short track race, but don't call it a 'cross race.  I put on a little four week 'cross practice/mini race deal in August but attendance was low and not much interest was expressed.

Luckily that all changed this past weekend as Robert Ellis and his Cox Health crew put in a ton of work and effort and put on Hanna's Hope CX race Sunday.  Based on a cancer foundation the event was trying to raise money for it's cause.  I was on the fence about doing the event as KC had Sat/Sun events, but you know what I am a 'cross racer in the SW MO area and if there is an event then I should support it (and so I did).

The day after Cincy3 a massive head cold attacked me (cat1 style) and kept me off the bike until a light spin on Thursday.  That makes to bouts of sickness in three weeks (arg), but maybe that was not such a bad thing as I am feeling really physically recovered and ready for a good push of racing this month and early next. 

Friday got the HR elevated for a decent set of intervals on the rollers, Saturday pre-rode the Hanna's course several times before heading over to Two Rivers MTB Park and knocking out a couple hours of 'cross bike riding the trails and getting in a handful of solid climbing repeats (Jingle is coming), and so that brought me to Sunday morning toeing the line at a local event (only a 55 minute drive one way). 

Let me back up to the pre-ride:  Good course layout with three barrier sections (each unique in number and height) a short single track drop to a gravel road, fast open field sections, and then the sketchy parts where it went into the wood on some freshly brushhogged 'paths'.  These were rough, and rough, and then mostly rough.  Enough so I was on the fence about using a 'cross bike, but after four laps I found a little line that would work each time.  Aluminum tubies for sure as the carbons were staying at home.  Robert told me he and crew would work on the wooded sections to make them better. 

So back to race morning; pre-rode and sure enough they had killed it in the wooded sections and a great ridable wide path was there and this was going to be legit and fun.  Not a big field as I figured it would be small, with maybe seven starters.  UP ON A SOAPBOX HERE:  great to see OCC riders out in mass even though they primarily are a road team.  Tons of noticeable folks missing which is total BS and...  Never mind, I will walk away from that.

53 minutes of racing and by the end finished with a sizable gap on 2nd.  Pretty cool that all the podium guys kicked the winnings back to the race's cancer foundation.  It was a great event and lots of hard work and time resulted in SGF's best day of 'cross racing in many MANY years. 

Small field, but hey it is a start to hopefully more

Right after the race I headed toward the SGF trailhead of the Frisco Highline Trail to do a little ride support for Jake and his SBU Cycling club.  He and his girlfriend started this a handful of months back and Sunday was the club's big ride; 35 miles Bolivar to SGF on the trail.  They (a group of maybe 9) left at 1pm and I hit the trail at 3pm riding toward them.  Rode a good pace and after an hour I met the crew, feed them a bunch of energy food along with reloaded on water, and sagged them back.  That was a long slow ride as it was apparent several were in over their heads (which is normal).  Jake was herding them along like a good shepard tending a flock and as the last bits of light disappeared we got everyone to the finish.  Way cool to see the satisfaction and triumph the same as I do at races.  So that got me an extra 2:45 hrs on the bike spinning.  Good day.
Now a couple days of lighting the torch in the legs and off to Jingle Cross Friday morning.  Jingle is always a great weekend. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cincy3 Weekend; Devou Park the new Standard

Never been to Cincy3 in Cincinnati OH before, but now that I've experienced it I can't imagine not going every year from now on.  Big quality fields and well layed out courses very unique to the other every day.

So Thursday evening I hooked up with Jay Strothman in STL and we made the 7hr cruise to Cincy.  Temps were a little chilly, but nothing too bad when we arrived.  That all changes the following day as by my 1pm start time at Harbin Park the core temp was low 40's (feels like mid-30's) and raining... 

Got in a couple laps pre-ride before finishing out warming up on the trainer under the roof of a dry pavilion.  Course was constantly rolling and turny.  Ran low psi in the PDX's and headed to the start line.  In my race start (intermingled and not staggered) were the 45+, 55+, SS, and U19 (there are some freaking studs in this).  Needless to say it was wall to wall racing early on.  I started 2nd row and got off to an OK start and immediately concentrated on staying upright and punching it in the few places available.  By the end of the 45 minute effort I had only hit the deck once and felt pretty good about my 6th place finish in the 45+ (no idea placing overall).  I froze during this race and my fingers felt horrible for the rest of the weekend.  At one point mid-race we were pelted by sleet and that actually hurt.  Course ended up being crazy slick, but not muddy if that makes sense.

All weekend long I chased the guy behind
me in this pic; no idea who he is

Right gloves for grip, wrong
protection and density

J Card is quite the card and stupid fast.  Missed his call up
and started DFL and finished 4th

After warming up (actually never warmed up until I hit the bed that night) it was time to work the pits for Jay in the Elite race.  Crazy fast kids in that event and the bike control is awesome

Hit the bed kind of late as there was no hurry as Saturday's race didn't start until 3pm.

Well 3pm showed up way too quick and this time we were at Kings Park for a dry tough pedaling course.  Even though it was dry the temps were in the mid-30s (feels like mid-20's) with high winds.  Got in several laps on the course and it would be full gas the entire time with zero places to recover.  Same mix of categories for my race, but each field was way bigger and deeper quality as several opted not to race Friday.  Still a 2nd row start and 45 minutes of pain ensued.  Legs felt pretty good and was handling the technical aspects of the course (long sandpit, low stairs, double barriers, big freaking ditch, and two short, but crazy tough climbs back to back) but for the life of me couldn't grab a deep breath and felt like I was gasping way more than normal.  By the end I was 9th in the 45+ and that was probably where I belonged (maybe up or down a couple).  For how I felt I was fine with that. 

It was the coldest of all days but at least dry

So many fast juniors in our race; impressive numbers and skill

This is a small slice of the 'lump' at Kings, but after going up it four
different times each lap (two of which went straight up) it took its
 toll early especially with so many on course at once

Changed up and got to the pits for Jay's Elite race (started at 8pm) and like always - stupid fast.  Late to bed and an earlier rise as Sunday my race was at 11am.

Arrived at the Devou Park course a couple hours early and got in several laps on what we all though was the course...  Dry conditions and chilly, but not cold.  As I was finishing up some trainer time Jay zipped in and asked about a couple sections of the course and I had no idea what he was talking about.  Turns out we all were pre-riding the juniors course and there were significant sections opened after I was done previewing.  Did make it to one significant section of downhill, technical climb/run up/and steep run up before it was start time.  Today was the same mix of racers with the addition of the 35+ group who have a ton of fast guys aboard.  This game me a 5th row start but by the end of the pavement I had moved through several and was well placed heading onto the never ending climbing course.  Well, that didn't last too long as another 'newly opened' section was right away (a crazy off-camber long section that was pretty wet from dew) and I was totally unprepared.  I got tangled up with several others and before I could get clear I was way in the back.  It was so early in the race, but mentally I lost it a bit.  My legs were feeling the days of racing, but I kept going at a decent clip really enjoying the crazy technical aspects of each lap.  By 25 minutes in I sort of shut down the racing inside me as I didn't feel like I was 'on it' and decided to ride out the rest of the race.  I know better than this and hardly ever have shut down so I was absolutely frustrated to find out I actually was well placed finishing 7th in the 45+ (argggg!!!)  Turns out I was riding better than I thought and I know of at least 2 in my category who were just ahead of me and racing till the finish might have moved me up at least a couple.  Oh well, live (race) and learn... 

If you read or watch interviews of the pro's who raced Devou all will say the US needs more courses similar to this if our juniors want to compete on the Euro scene.  Very technical aspects (not mountain biking types like local events think is cool), but cross specific sections requiring great handling skills and focus (vertically, horizontally, and descending).  It is hands down the best (and super tough) cross course I have ever raced.  Find it on youtube or somewhere but check it out.

I do have to say I was cooked by the end and was happy to have those races in the books.  Each one was uniquely challenging far apart for the other.  I'll be back for sure.

Watched Jay's Elite race then we hit the road for home.  Got into STL late so I crashed for the night and drove the rest of the way home Monday morning. 

On the drive Sunday night I noticed a slight head cold settling in and here it is Thursday and I finally got out on the bike for an easy 2hr spin after being destroyed by a massive cold that settled in my sinuses and chest.  Zero energy and constant sniffling and coughing (on a side note great ab work).  Laying low from racing this weekend as the following is Jingle Cross in IA and a 10 day forecast showed a 'wintery mix' on Saturday and a high in the 30's; it is Jingle Cross after all in mid-November...