Monday, December 08, 2008

The End Has Come

Monday Morning: Woke up with a hang-over,mud crusted eyes, dirty cross bike in the garage and a sense of freedom mixed with a lack of purpose. Ah yes, the end of Cross season.

This weekend was the last two races of the year for me. The USGP of cyclocross was in town for two days of racing out at PIR. These races, being part of a national series, attract some of the best riders in the country, so it is a good measure of where you stack up. Being December in Portland, it normally means ridiculously muddy courses. Well, Saturday was not the typical December day in Portland. It was a sunny dry day, and with the exception of a big puddle and some nasty thick drying cement like mud in the moto-cross section of the course along with a couple slick corners, it was a pretty straight-forward, yet really fun course. The short and sweet version of my race begins with a horrible start, followed by some hard work all the way to a group of four fighting for 3-6th place. One guy got away with just over a lap to go to take 3rd, and I fought it out with Erik Schultz for 4/5th. In a sprint finish Erik took me by inches. I got Schultzed. Again.

Sunday turned out to be a cloudy day. The course was slightly different with a reroute into a lot more mud in the motorcorss section. Most of it that nasty thick stuff. So bad that I managed to snap my derailleur hanger on my first warm-up lap. Not a good sign. Thanks to some awesome help from Mark Madson at the Kona tent I was quickly hooked up with a new hanger and my race bike was working again. While we were getting ready for the race I said to Brian, who was in town from Kentucky for the races, that it would be perfect if it started raining right as our race started. Sure enough about 15 mins before our race it stared to rain, and continued for a good part of the race. It is amazing how a little bit of rain can change a course from pretty fast grass and tacky mud to an ice rink. As for my race, I had a better start than Saturday, going into the first run-up in 5th place or so. Turns out that was the closest to first I would get all day. Apparently not riding in too many wet courses this year meant I forgot how to race on slick courses. For two laps I struggled to keep my bike upright. I’d make a mistake, loose a bunch of spots, start to make some up and then repeat the process all over. I took one good spill that had me sliding twenty feet on my butt. Dropped my chain, and was passed by what felt like 10 guys. After two laps I remembered to just take it easy in the corners and put all my effort into the straights. That’s when I finally started to make some progress, eventually coming across the finish in 10th place. A very respectable finish to the season.

That all explains the muddy bike and crusty eyelids. As for the hang-over, well it should be obvious that if you haven’t been drinking much for the past three months, then drink three bottles and four pints with no dinner after a race, chances are you’re gonna be pretty drunk. And I was last night. And still was when I woke-up Monday morning. Haven’t felt this miserable in a long time. Yes, serves me right, but I was expecting to eat some food at the awards party but all they had was the meat variety, so I decided to make up the extra calories in alcohol. Needless to say I had a good time at the party. I won a pair of Mavic Mt Bike shoes in the raffle (I never win those things), and I got some SWAG for finishing 2nd overall in the Master A’s. It was also nice to be nominated for best blog post. I didn’t win, but whoever nominated me, thanks!

Now all we need is some snow in the Mountains because ski season has un-officially begun.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kruger’s Crossing

Sunday was the 10th straight weekend of racing, and race number 12 for the season. It sure feels like it has been a long season. This race was out on Sauvie’s Island, so it was close enough to ride out there. Since it was a non-series race, myself, and a few other usual Master A guys all lined up in the regular open A field, aka the really fast guys. Only, as I mentioned, it not being a series race and the 10th weekend of the season, the field was not as deep as a Cross Crusade race. That’s not to say it wasn’t as fast, or at
least it sure didn’t feel any slower.

I lined up in the second row and had a decent start. After a lap or two I settled into a group with Ryan Weaver, Jeff Bannik and Matt Wills. We spent several laps together, while I stupidly spent a lot of time on the front, although I eventually pulled away. I even managed to momentarily get on the wheel of the next rider, but as soon as I got there he turned on the afterburners, and I just couldn’t hang on and blew-up. That allowed Ryan Weaver, on a single speed no less, to take advantage and close back up to me, and then right past me with two laps to go. I was helpless to do anything about it. I dangled there for a lap then fought vainly to get him back on the last lap but just ran out of time and energy. I came across in 9th. Not bad, I was hoping for a top ten, so I can live with it. Just always seems like Weaver finds a way to beat me. One of these days Weaver…one of these days.

I have one free weekend coming up then finish the season with a double race weekend at the Portland Cup, the USGP finale. Always a fun way to end the season.

Hope to see you out there racin’ or cheerin’

Monday, November 17, 2008

State Championships

Finally! I had been trying for this all season long, and it couldn't have been better. Not only was it a race where all the top guys were there and avoided any major mechanicals (as far as I know), it was a neck and neck battle to the final hundred yards. On top of it all, it was the series finale' and the Oregon State (more precisely OBRA) Championships. It also came at a perfect time for me.

With all of the mishaps (colliding with Butler), bad luck (being sick, broken derailleur)and mistakes (hitting the barriers, loose shifter)I was feeling a bit down about my season and feeling like I had lost some of my excitement for cross. I really wasn't even motivated to race on Sunday. The course looked kind of boring; real flat, soft yet bumpy grass, and a livestock corral of nasty mud/manure. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?. But I was there, and I had already paid for the series, plus I had to try to beat Tre to defend my third place series standing.

After a half-hearted warm-up I was off to the line-up. Once I was standing there, I decided I should focus, and thought "what the hell, let's see what we can do". I got off to a good start, somewhere around 3rd going into the first turn. Most of the race is a blurr, but I took the lead for a while having no idea who or what was still behind me. At one point Jeff Bannik, a strong rider who had been racing in the A's, came around me, which was impressive as he was lined up in the back of the field. Once he got on the front, the pace really picked up, shattering the large group at the front, and leaving Tim Butler, me, John McCaffrey and Erik Schultz (maybe Tre was still there?) with him. We kept up for several laps trading off at the front. Slowly, Tim, Jeff and myself opened a gap on Erik and John. The three of us continued to battle, each trying to attack, but unable to shake the others. With two laps to go, I managed a gap in the mud section as we tried to ride through some A riders. I decided this was my chance and I gave it all I could to try to open a lead. No Dice, Tim was able to get back to me near the end of the lap. As he took the lead I remember hearing that voice in my head try to give up, saying, no, more like pleading, to 'just hold off Bannik for second'. Luckily I ignored the pleading and followed Tim's wheel. I caught back on to him as we passed the pits for the second time in the lap. This was a stretch that I felt strong on every lap, and I decided then that if I was with Tim when we came through on the final lap, this is where I was going to make my move, if I could get around him, it would be tough for him to get back in front until we hit the mud corral, and even there, passing would be tough. I might have a chance.

As we passed the finish line for the final lap, I heard the announcer say that Bannik had dropped back a bit, so it seemed like it would come down to Tim and me. As the final lap progressed I tried to get around a few times, but Tim always managed to counter and hold the lead, while at the same time Bannik seemed to be closing. Finally we were approaching the pits for the last time, I carried as much speed as I could through the preceding corner, got out of the saddle and gave it all I had to get past Tim, and hold him off to the next corner. As I came into the corral Margi was at the entrance cheering me on, Tim was on my wheel, with the race on the line. It was like the showdown at the OK Corral. I hit the mud thinking “don’t ‘f this up, just keep pedaling’. Out of the corner of my mind I thought I may have heard Tim bobble, and did I hear someone yell to Tim to run? No time to think, just pedal. I got through the hole in the first puddle, caught the inside line, and had to pedal through 10 feet of very thick mud. As I hit the thick mud it was a grind and I almost came to complete stop, I could hear Tim’s footsteps behind me, and I gave it all I had, I pushed through the last few feet of thick mud and into the easier going puddle. Then like a man posessed, fearing Tim would pass me, I pedaled as hard as I could the whole way to the line, Victory!

Tim came in a few seconds later followed by Bannik, John McCaffrey and Erik Schultz. One hell of a race. Had to be one of the most enjoyable and exciting races of my short career. While Barton was a similar back and forth to the finish race, that seemed to be a cat and mouse sit and wait type if race. This race felt more like 60 minutes of constant battling. And of course, battling it out with Tim made it even better. And hats off to him as well, he was just as congratulatory afterwards as
anyone. I am sure he wanted the win as much as anyone, but you wouldn’t know it after the race. Thanks Tim. And congratulations on the Series win.

With the victory, and double points for theseries final, it looks like I may have moved into second palce for the Cross Crusade series. But most importantly I'll get the all important call-up for the USGP races in December.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Double the Pain, Double the Fun

ed. note: I wrote most of this a week ago and never got around to posting, so here it is, a little late...

My personal crusade to finally get a victory at a Cross Crusade Race continued this past Sunday at the Portland International Raceway. For those of you familiar with the locale, the race took place outside the race track at the site of the 2003 Cyclocross Nationals. I’ve raced here twice before and really liked the course.

The weather leading up to the weekend was good cross weather, nice and rainy. Race day itself was relatively dry, but being that PIR is located on what used to be a huge wetland associated with the Columbia River floodplain, it doesn’t take much rain to saturate the place, and it stays wet for awhile. The result was some sections of really thick peanut butter like mud, and lots of good slick off-camber riding.

Being the same day as the Single Speed Cyclocross Word Championships (SSXCWC) it was quite a bit rowdier than the normal ‘cross race, which is anything but normal.
For some really stupid reason I had signed up for the SSCXWC in addition to my normal race. This meant I would race two races back to back. Yeah, like I said stupid.

With all the excitement, we got there early and had plenty of time to hang out and take in the scene. One thing I couldn’t help but notice before the race was how many broken rear derailleurs I was seeing. My friend Ken Pace, celebrating his 40th birthday, broke his in the Master C race. It was all I could do to not think about it, and hope I wouldn’t suffer a similar fate.

Race 1:
After a seemingly long time, it was finally time to race. Once again I feel the need to apologize to anyone lined up behind me as I managed to screw up my start again. Lately I have been having problems finding my pedals, and yesterday I think I figured it out. A few weeks ago, in response to some back issues, I had a bike fit, and moved my seat forward significantly (about 4cm), the result is no more back pain, and maybe some more power, but with that I think I am missing my pedals. Now that I am more forward I keep overshooting my pedals, not just in the starts, but after many remounts as well. At least I figured it out, so now I just need to spend time practicing.

Anyway, back to racing. I muffed the start was around 15th, Mr. Butler was once again at the front driving the pace, and I was convinced he and a couple others were about to ride away off the front, leaving me stuck behind 10 or so other riders and out of the race. However, a half a lap later I surprisingly found myself in second place sitting on Butler’s wheel. As the laps went on Tim and I slowly pulled away from the rest of the field, while at the same time I was slipping further from Tim. Then with about 3-4 laps to go while riding through the thick peanut butter mud, my pedals came to a dead stop. I instantly knew what happened, my derailleur had snapped off! The most embarrassing part was my behavior right afterward. I cussed up a storm and even threw my bike. If anyone that saw my outburst reads this, I apologize for being a twit. You should have heckled the hell out of me for that, I deserved it.

Shortly after my outburst, I realized that no Master A’s had gone by, and I wasn’t too far from the pits, only a couple hundred yards. I could still salvage some series points if I hustled. I was about halfway there when Tre Hendricks and John McCaffrey passed, and as I entered the pits Erik Schultz passed. Now since I was planning on racing the SSCXWC after my race, my pit bike was set-up as a single speed. The gearing was enough to keep anyone else from catching me, but not enough for me to be able to make up any ground on Schultz, resulting in yet another 5th place finish. That’s my 3rd time finishing 5th this year.

Race 2:
After finishing the Master Race, I collected my dead soldier of a geared bike from the pit and went to line up on the Single Speed. At least I knew it working ok. For those of you unfamiliar with Single Speed racing, it is as much a spectacle, if not more, than actual racing. Single Speed racing likes to think of itself as the James Dean of the cycling world. A bit of a rebel that likes to make a parody of normal racing. To where taking it serious and actually competing is frowned upon by many. To that end, a soap sud machine and giant putt-putt like windmill were added as additional obstacles to the course.

While there would be a handful of guys off the front actually racing for first, the remaining 200 or so participants would be doing nothing but riding for fun, myself included. Even if I hadn't raced already, I wouldn't be able to keep up with the winners, so this was nothing more than a time to have fun. The start was pure pandemonium. We started lined up side by side, 200 wide. It felt like a scene from Braveheart, with a pack wild maniacs charging for the hole shot. It was just crazy, but a blast. Although after about 30 mins, it started to become a more torturous than not, at that point I had been going for an hour and a half, and I was a bit tired of barriers and run-ups. Luckily I got some beer hand-ups to ease the pain and help me finish the race, coming in around 26th.

While I didn't get the victory I have been searching for, and suffered yet another mechanical/mishap, I had a blast, although I think next year I might stick to spectating the SSCXWC. Then again, maybe not.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Barton Park

The weather forecasters got it right for once and we were rewarded with a nice wet day of Cyclocross. It was the annual return to Barton Park, a misleading name as most of the race takes place at the County’s gravel quarry, next to the park. And as you’d expect, there was no shortage of rock. And while there was a good amount of mud, it was more if the gritty, eat your shift housing alive, kind of mud, as opposed to the stick to everything make your bike weigh a ton variety. Either way, it made for an enjoyable ride for some. Unfortunately it was really mean to some others. I think it was at the end of the B/SS race that somebody crashed real hard on an off-camber decent, requiring an ambulance trip, and a change in the course to keep the lawyers at bay. This took out the tricky off-camber and the long run-up afterwards, replacing it with a flat section and another big concrete barrier. The course was also mean to Margi, who crashed hard and wisely dropped out. She has a pretty nasty abdominal bruise. Hopefully she’ll heal quick, or is it quickly…no quick…no quickly….let's just say get well soon.

As for me, I am pleased to say that I didn’t have any mechanicals, flats, loose bolts, slipping breaks or any other of the myriad of maladies that seem to follow me like hippies on tour with the Dead (knock on wood). The course, similar to last year, was a pretty flat and fast course, and before the race I was predicting that the race would become a duel of group riding tactics. With several long flat stretches, any advantage someone could get in the technical parts, could be easily brought back by a couple of chasing riders. That being the case, I felt it was going to be important to be near the front to jump with an early break. Unfortunately I had a bad start, going from the front row to 15th or so. I frantically moved back up to the top 5. Got caught behind a little slip on a slippery slope, losing a little (see the 1’06” mark in the video below). This had me riding fast, fighting back to the front just as Tre made a break. Good timing for me, as I had the momentum to catch up to him quickly and we were able to separate from the pack, with Erik Schultz bridging up to us a half lap later. We opened a pretty sizable gap from the next group behind us, and it quickly became clear it was a battle for 1-2-3, something like a game of 5 card stud, it would be a matter of playing your cards right. To be honest I know less about this type of racing strategy than I do about poker, which is to say absolutely nothing. This is only my 5th year racing cross, and I have only raced MTBs for 4 years. I don’t do the road thing. For this reason, I just don’t get it. So now I find myself racing with 2 other guys and I am trying to figure out how I am going to not finish 3rd, while trying to remember my history of mechanicals on this course and realize I should be glad if I can keep it together and finish 3rd. For the next few laps, every once in awhile one of us would attack, and the others would respond, while alternately accusing the others of doing too much wheel sucking. Then with 3 laps to go, as we got mixed up with a rider from the A field, Tre attacked on a stretch where we couldn’t immediately get around the A rider. Once we got around him, I realized Tre’s lead didn’t seem to be growing too much, so I worked on closing the gap without putting in too much of an effort to kill myself. I guess Tre started losing air in his rear tire (that’s what you get for riding Tufos) and we were able to close the gap within a lap. Sometime later as we were all taking it a bit easy, another A rider caught us from behind, I jumped his wheel then attacked. Tre, with his bad tire couldn’t respond, and Erik and I opened a gap. Now it looked like I wasn’t gonna get 3rd! So, how not to finish 2nd…. Good question. I tried to go too early on the road by going around Erik as he sat on someone else’s wheel. He was able to respond, then went around me on a section I rode a little slower, giving him a small 20 foot gap with a half lap to go. I worked to close the gap, but just couldn’t get the job done and came across for 2nd. Yes, I have every reason to be psyched, unfortunately I am left with a good case of racers remorse, a “what if I had….” feeling, where I sit here and rerun the race in my head like an episode of Twin Peaks, trying to make some sense of it, to figure out what I should have done to pull out the win.

Like I said, I know next to nothing about strategy in these things, but I think it is safe to say, it is more of a fine art, than a science. Too bad I suck at art.

Here’s video from yesterday’s race, you can see me at the 1’05" and 1’36” mark.

Links to a couple photos and if you buy one I’ll autograph it for you :)
Over the barrier:

Into the finish

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

All Dressed-Up and Going Nowhere.

Another weekend or riding around in circles jumping on and off a bike is in the history books. However, this wasn’t your normal weekend of Cyclocross racing, not that such a thing exists. This was the annual Halloween Cyclocross weekend, and for the first time it was also a two-race weekend, guaranteeing lots of pain and mayhem.

While not quite the norm for the Oregon coast in October, or any other month of the year, the weather was sunny and warm, figures. The result was another round of back bruising bumps, and it was brutal. How does dry ground get so bumpy?

Saturday was the ‘non-costume’ race. I was finally feeling better health wise and my legs were real fresh from the rest I had gotten. The course, aside from some gopher holed fields, wasn't too bad and had some good elevation gain, including a brutal barrier at the bottom of a ridable hill, requiring an uphill remount. It was torture, followed by riding through a series of barns then an extended climb up another bumpy hill. Out of the start I was around 5th or so. Moved up a few on the first hill, then went right to the front on the second one and got a great line from the top to open a bit of a lead. I felt great and was ready to just kill it and try to take the race the rest of the way. No such luck. Coming around to the six pack I clipped my bike on the first barrier, but luckily grabbed the front wheel and carried it with me, unluckily the chain fell of. I quickly got it mostly back on as the lead group came through, only to have it come right back off. I got off again, fixed the chain for real and was now way behind the front. I dug as hard as I could and managed to move all the way back up to 3rd place with about 2 or 3 laps to go. By then my legs were telling me they had given me all they could and on top of it my chain wouldn’t stay on the big ring, it kept falling to outside, forcing me to stay in the small ring. Not something I like as I tend to just mash away in a big gear. Either way, the end result was two riders got past me and I came in 5th place. Not bad considering, but I am really sick of all the asterisks I keep putting after my results. I really need to get my crap together and have a solid race from start to finish. Prove to myself what I can do.

Unfortunately Sunday wasn’t the day for that either. It was, however, one heck of a circus atmosphere, with people dressed in all sorts of outfits and costumes. There are really some incredibly creative people out there. There are also some really uncreative people who just ride in their normal team kits. I don’t get it. It’s like going to a costume party in regular street clothes. Lame. OK, I can understand if you have a job and a family. That makes it pretty difficult to keep training, work and fulfill your family responsibilities, but can it really be that hard to go to Goodwill and buy a little skirt and some fairy wings? Wear an old torn-up kit from road crashes with some white face paint and fake blood? Yet I digress. For my costume, I went for a play on my category, Masters A 35+, and dressed as the hip-hop artist known as Mix Master A. This included a white hoodie, gold bling, a dumb hat crooked on my helmet and even taping my MP3 player and speakers to my handlebars and racing with some classic rap music blaring. I actually liked having the music, much better than the garbage they normally play on the PA system. I might just leave the sound system set-up for the rest of the season. On the other hand it probably inspires my competitors as much as me, and they can hear me coming. Maybe not the best idea.

As for the race, the course was altered for the day. A lot of it was run backwards with a stretch of road thrown in to lengthen the laps. But to continue the pain and torture, they put in a good hill right after the six pack. It was brutal, maybe even worse than the day before. I had a slightly better start than Saturday, and was third coming out of the start. I sat there for awhile and waited for my legs to come back to life. Meanwhile I quickly learned that the bill of the hat I was wearing was covering my right eye, taking away my depth perception, maybe I should have warmed-up with it on. Stupid costume, but atleast I wasn't lame unlike most of the other guys in the lead group. I had already ditched the sunglasses and was contemplating ditching the hat. Luckily I was able to rotate the bill a little more to the side. Problem solved, AND I was still stylin'. If only I could do something about wearing a sweatshirt on a warm sunny day. Man I was roasting. Where was the barmaid with a cold beverage?

As we were going through the barriers on the first lap I realized I forgot to downshift before dismounting, meaning I was in a gear that would be way too big to get going again on the uphill remount, so I just ran it up the hill. Eventhough I was heckled mercilessly, it actually paid off as I moved up to second, then took first place on the off-camber after that. By then I was beginning to wonder if my legs were going to come back to me. I was far from feeling as fresh as I had the day before. I decided my best bet to stay at the front was to control the pace as best I could. I had figured out where my strong and weak parts were, so I decided to try to keep the lead to control the pace to my advantage and make it a battle of attrition. Sometime in the 3rd lap maybe, a couple guys got by me, one was Tim Butler. On an off camber rough section I made a desperate attempt to move back to the lead. As I was passing Tim on the left, our lines quickly came together and one of us must have hit a bump resulting in us bumping into each other pretty good. I heard Tim curse and looked back to see him crash. I immediately stopped and got off my bike to see if he was ok. I saw him get up and remount the bike, assuming he was ok, I got back on and cruised along waiting for him to catch up, so I could apologize and hopefully we could work together to bridge back up to the rest of the leaders. Tim was justifiably pissed and only grunted when I apologized and asked if he was ok. In hindsight my move wasn’t the smartest in the world, and I felt real bad about screwing his race. I’m real used to screwing myself, but I really don’t think it’s cool to mess up someone else’s race.

Tim was obviously riding stronger than me and eventually got around me again, which I gladly let him do. I tried to stick on his wheel, but between being physically beat, and having lost some of my mental drive, I just couldn’t find it in me to really dig after him.

Tim was able to get by one more guy and in the end I was 5th once again and Tim took 3rd. Based on how I felt on the day, I am not sure I lost a whole lot on the incident, maybe one spot. On the other hand it may have cost Tim the win. Who knows. Luckily he and his bike are ok. He has since told me he was really ticked because he had a horrible start, got caught behind a crash and was at the end of the field to start the race. The fact that he made it back up to the lead group in three laps is a feat in itself. When we tangled and he went down right as he was about to take over the lead, it was more than he could tolerate and I don’t blame him. Lucky for me I know Tim, and he would never go for revenge. Right Tim?.......Tim?.......hello?

Next week, Barton Park. I’m not sure I have ever had a good race there. Last year I dropped my chain and it got wedged in my crank. The year before I had two flat tires. The year before that I ripped my derailleur out of my frame and ruined my back wheel. Hmmm….maybe I should take a week off. I’m suddenly feeling under the weather.

Speaking of weather, the current forecast is for rain to start on Friday, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Cool vid of the barns:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dropping Anchor

After a week of being sick, I wasn’t feeling so hot today. I had this weird pain in my right lung, whenever I would run it felt like someone was stabbing me on the right side of my chest. Luckily it was a bike race, and except for a couple barriers there wasn’t much runnin. The course, though was a real bruiser. A lot of elevation gain with a big long climb. Normally I like climbing, but with my lungs feeling like they were filled with wet sponges, I wasn’t so sure about this one.

With the call-ups, I was on the front row, so that was somethin. I didn’t get a great start off the line, but quickly killed it up the hill and moved into 3rd or 4th. For the first lap and a half I fluctuated between these spots as Tim Butler was slowly riding away. Then the freight train of Trey, John Bravard and John McCafferty came flying by. I jumped on as the caboose until we hit that brutal hill at which point I dropped my anchor and started moving backwards through the field. It wasn’t pretty, and felt even uglier. Oh well, you can’t be fighting for the podium everyday.

I know, I can blame it on being sick all week. But I also can’t help but feel like I used that as a crutch during the race. As soon as I started to hurt I found myself thinking “I’m suffering from being sick” but I hurt in every race. It’s part of racing. Today I just had a nice excuse to be a big ol wuss. So enough with being sick. I done with it. I actually feel better after the race than I have all week.

I’m looking forward to next week, My ego needs some redemption, and I have two races to try and get some.

On a brighter note today, Margi had a great race, I think she finished 5th in the B’s. I knew she had it in her, and she showed what she can do today. It’s easier when her mechanic isn’t screwing up her bike.

Time to work on my costume for the Halloween race in Astoria, after I finish this beer.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Am My Own Worst Enemy

It’s hard to win a race when you’re out to get yourself. And that is what happened on Sunday. It was race #2 in the Cross Crusade Series, located on the site of the former Damasch Mental Hospital, back in the day it was a beautiful place in a way, flowing fields of grass, trees, birds and various wildlife. A rather nice place to get away from it all, or so I’m told. Since the good old days, the hospital and its grounds have been bulldozed to make room for some quality cookie cutter McMansions. Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?) with the current housing market and economic nightmare, construction is slower than a Clydesdale on a run-up. The resulting site is a pit where the hospital foundation used to be, and a lot of rough ground covered with ruts from heavy machinery, with a bit of road left over from the hospital driveway. On Sunday it probably looked much like it used to, a bunch if crazies running wild all over the place.

After trying to pre-ride the course, I can say I wasn’t too psyched to race. I had been feeling a cold coming on for a couple days, and I wasn’t too thrilled about the course. I think watching the live feed of the Superprestige race in Belgium had me looking forward to a classic Euro-cross course, and this couldn’t have been anything farther than that. Not in a bad way I guess. It just wasn’t what I really like. This week we were called up based on previous results, so I got a nice front row spot. Going into the first corner I was sitting about 4th or 5th. Tim Butler was in the lead, and I remember Tim Jones was there, as was Shane Fletcher and John Mitchem among others, with everyone else strung out close behind. I am pretty sure a group of 4 or 5 of us got some separation sometime in the first lap. I was going back and forth from 2nd to 4th, but was mostly concerned with us keeping on Butler’s wheel. I eventually jumped into the lead for a half lap or so, them Butler took it back. About a lap later I attacked again, trying to get past Butler and an A rider before a tighter stretch of the course so I could get some distance on him. It seemed to work, and I hammered it. For the next 3 laps or so I held the lead, maybe even opened it up some. I heard someone tell me I had 20 seconds on him. With two to go I was feeling confident……Until (there’s always an ‘Until’) I noticed Butler gaining quick. Real quick. A couple A guys I already passed came back by, and I couldn’t figure out why I was riding so slow. I didn’t feel like I was falling apart. But there was Butler, and still closing. Then going around a turn I saw John McCafferty close behind Butler. With the road stretch coming I felt I could open it back up, I put it in my hardest gear and gave it all I had only to have Butler fly past me! I had felt stronger than him on that stretch all day, I knew something was up. John got by me too, now I was in third. The victory I thought I had was gone. We came to the run-up and when I lifted my bike the front wheel came to a dead stop! My front brakes were rubbing! No wonder I felt slow, I was fighting my brakes, not the best time for some resistance training!. I tried to adjust the inline brake adjuster, which helped, but it was too late. I tried to at least catch John but he was flying. In the end I came in 3rd.

Why did my brake rub? Earlier in the week I had a bike fit to deal with some back issues I was having. This resulted in changing seatpost, stem and handlebar position. Turns out I didn’t tighten my left shifter enough, and with such a bumpy course it slipped a little pulling the brake cable tight with it. Even funnier is that before the race I double checked all the bolts on the bike EXCEPT the shifters. Some would say lesson learned, sadly, a similar thing happened to me at Alpenrose last year when my right shifter was loose during the race, distracting me in the barriers leading to my now famous barrier crash thanks to Oregonvelo. What’s the old saying about teaching old dogs new tricks? That’s what I get for being my own mechanic.

Oh and speaking of being a mechanic. Not only am I my own worst enemy, but apparently Margi is sleeping with the enemy. I set her cross rig up as a single ring this year. On Sunday her race was ruined by having her chain drop multiple times, getting wedged between the inner ring and the outer guard ring. The reason? Yup, I put the inner ring on wrong, leaving too much space between the two. Nice one. Fortunately I am lucky to have a very understanding girlfriend. Right babe? Right?

The shifter is on tight and the chainring is on right. Hopefully it will all work out for the next race, Ranier HS, a really fun course last year (except for my broken chain).

Here’s a quick video of me coming through the barriers:

Thanks to Brooke Hoyer for the pics.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Alpenrose 10/5/08

The Crusade Begins

This past Sunday was the first Cyclocross race of the 2008 Cross Crusade Series at what has become the traditional kick-off venue of the Alpenrose Dairy, a favorite course for many. Making it extra special this year was the first real rain of the season. We had a good 3 days of on and off rain leading up to the race. Didn’t quite lead to any epic conditions, as the ground was so hard and dry, but it did soften it up a bit, and provided lots of slick sections, especially after nearly 1300 racers had a chance to tear up the course.

As normal, leading up to the race, I was nervous. I really had myself wishing I could feel eager and excited, instead it is more of a sense of nervousness and even a touch of dread. It really makes me wonder why I do this. I chatted briefly with Dean before his race and he echoed my sentiments, even wistfully wishing he could just retire from the sport. Hearing the same feeling from a guy who has been racing much longer than me helped to ease the pre-race stress, but only a little.

We were there plenty early to cheer on friends, and get in some warm-up laps, plus catch up with all those who we only see in the wet and muddy cross season. Being the fourth race of the year, I am starting to get my pre-race routine down again, but I am still feeling a bit unorganized and rusty. After checking out the course a couple times, it seemed like it would be a good one. For the most part it was rideable, but the slickness kept you on your toes. Pretty much the same course we’ve seen for the past few years, with a few small changes here and there, but nothing major.

After the warm-up laps, I got ready for my race and cheered on Margi a few times. I could tell she wasn’t happy with her race, she had that look of frustration, even though I thought she was doing great. In only her second year she was in the top third of the B’s with an injured shoulder. She’s gonna do great, and I think will be in the top 10 by the end of the season. As for me, my nervousness kept me from doing too much in way of a real pre-race warm-up. I did a loop on the road and a couple laps in the field, then went and hung around the start area. It is a funny dynamic. We all circle the start area ready to jump in and line-up, but no-one wants to be the first! It’s like the swifts at Chapman elementary, circling the chimney, waiting to see who will make the first move, then…Bammm! We’re all lined up.

I, unfortunately, was a bit slow, but still got a second row spot. We were lead to believe we would get called-up but Brad didn’t have a list so that was it. Not a problem. I was real indecisive about my start gear, and slyly kept checking everyone else’s choice. I settled on the 36-21. After waiting for what seemed to be an eternity, and then another two-minutes after the A Men started, we were off!

First, let me apologize to anyone line up behind me. The gear choice was fine, the ability to find a pedal…not so. I mashed on the pedals, got in a few turns trying to get my left foot clicked in. I got a little close to the wheel in front of me, then my left foot slipped off and I had to step down and push off right away, gapping me from the wheel in-front, and I am sure pissing off a person or two behind me, so sorry. When I was finally back on and moving I seemed to be in 20th place or so. Not so good. But I was pissed, which is good, so I just rode real hard. Pushed it more than I would through wet pavement turns and just killed it. I really don’t have any memory of the first 1/3 of a lap. I think someone crashed infront of me on the first muddy corner and was lucky to be the one of the last to sneak around it without slowing. From there I guess I moved up pretty well as by the time I got up to where all the team tents were lined-up along the road, I could see I was in 5th or 6th place (I heard some tell Trey he was 7th). Over the next third of a lap I managed to move up to 2nd. The only thing I remember from that is coming out of the infield at the track, I heard Trey Hendricks go down pretty hard after going wide onto the painted surface. Once things settled down it was me, John McCafferty and Tim Jones fighting for 2nd, 3rd and 4th, while trying to chase down Tim Butler. John and I went back and forth a few times, and, had I been thinking clearly, I should have suggested we work together to real in Butler, but in my blind competitiveness all I could do was try to get ahead of these guys and focus on catching Butler. We stayed close for a few laps, but it seemed like once we hit the riders at the back of the A race, things started to spread out. At the turns I was noticing that I was just as close to Butler as John was to me, and lap by lap that started to spread out even more. I think I kept up with Butler more than the chasers were keeping up with me, but it’s hard to tell. While I like to think I cut a little into Butler’s lead at one point, in the end he continued to pull away. With two laps to go I knew that without a crash or mechanical Butler had first locked up and I would be second. While some epic crash or mechanical allowing me to catch Butler for a sprint at the line would make for a good story, the last few laps were pretty uneventful and I took second. Not too bad.

Not a bad way to start the season, even though I hate getting beat by Tim Butler. Looking at, you would think I would be used to it by now. I guess that is why he is my nemesis. Tim Jones had a great race. I think this was his first race in the Master A field, after putting on a clinic in the singlespeed category last year. He’s gonna be a tough one this year. I do have to admit that I was a little bummed to see Benno, Bannik and Enderle racing Men A’s. They are all tough, and had they raced Masters yesterday I am not so sure I would have been 2nd, as they had great races. So I guess it is a bitter sweet thing.

Next week we’re racing in Wilsonville on the grounds of a former State Mental Hospital. This should be good. I’m gunnin’ for you Butler, and looking out for all the other fast guys that I managed to beat this weekend.

For some really awesome shots from yesterday's race check out if you haven't already. Great stuff there.

Monday, September 29, 2008

They call me MR. Flat

That about sums up my race at the Barlow race yesterday. After squeezing in one last warm-up lap, and showing up late to the line-up, I had a good start. Went from near the back up to the front 3rd of the group. Oh yeah, forgot to mention, that I, along with a lot of the other Master A’s, were racing with the young guys. So I was pretty happy with my start, and was right in with all the Master A’s too. The first three laps were extremely painful. The pace felt brutal. It was a pretty rough course without a lot recovery, especially after the run-up. At the start of the 3rd lap I felt like I was starting to settle in some. Went around Ian Leitheiser and then…..yup got a flat front tire. That stuff isn’t supposed to happen with tubulars, but then again I am not supposed to launch off some roots on a downhill either. I did get to experience the other benefit of tubulars, the ability to ride a flat to the pit. It wasn’t fast, and I fell all the way to the end of the A’s and the front of the Master’s race caught me at the pit. But it was still better than running it the whole way. Trying to keep looking on the bright side, I also got to try my new tubeless set-up on the pit bike. They worked fine, didn’t seem to loose any air. Granted I ran a higher pressure than the tubulars. At least I had something to run. I spent the rest of the race half racing, half riding. It was hard to feel motivated. I would fight off some guys as they would catch up and either drop them or let them pass and then go back to half-ass racing. I would have quit if my mom and sister hadn’t come out to watch. In the end it is probably good I didn’t. It was still some good training. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t totally taking it easy for the remainder of the race, and I am feeling pretty spent today. But I'm probably feeling a bit better than had I not flatted. Looking at the results, the Master A’s that were in the A race all finished between 15 and 20. That is right were I was before I flatted. So in my mind I’m a top 20 finisher. We don’t need to talk about my ability, or lack there of, to keep that pace past three laps, but I guess we will see next week at Alpenrose when we are all back in the Masters race. Add in the guys who won the official Master A race yesterday plus a couple guys that weren’t there and it looks like a really strong field this year.

In the women’s race, Margi had her first race of the year. She has upgraded to the B’s, and she showed why. Taking 4th place, even with a crash and a dropped chain. She’s one heck of a racer.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

2008: A new season begins

After months of anticipation and counting the days until the start of the Cyclocross season, I suddenly find myself wondering how it got here so fast. Has it really been over nine months since that cold wet December day at PIR? Apparently so. It is also amazing to me how quickly I forget what I need to do before a race. By the end of the season I have a routine down. I can wake up race day morning, and without even thinking, get to the start line ready to race. How nine months can wipe the mind clean.

This past Saturday was the un-official start to the national Cyclocross season with the legendary Star-Crossed race at the Marymoor Velodrome in Redmond WA. It originally looked like I was not going to be able to race, as we had a wedding to go to in Seattle that night. But since I am one hell of a lucky guy to be dating Margi, she let me go race instead of attending the ceremony, and only show up at the reception, AND it was even her idea. I am Lucky indeed. For some reason I didn’t check the forecast for Seattle, and as we drove up, or should I say sat in traffic, I watched in disbelief as the rain fell. Normally I am a fan of racing in the mud. Not because I have superior bike handling skills (I don’t), but because I truly enjoy racing in nasty conditions. The nastier the better. But for the first race of the season? With a rear tubular that was pretty worn down? With no rain gear? And with a bike I had to keep in a hotel overnight? I was not prepared in any way. Well, after finally making it to the race venue, I found myself aimlessly wandering around. Trying to decide what to do first. Get dressed? Register? Check out the course? I felt like the amateur I am. Long story short, I managed to register, get dressed and get in a lap on the course. I then proceeded to freeze my ass off riding in circles waiting for to line-up. Speaking of line-up, I was ‘randomly’ assigned number 366 (3 blocks down from the devil). With call-ups beginning at 300 that put me 67th (more or less). Either way I was in the second to last row. Sweet. The good part was that it eliminated any expectations for results, so I felt pretty relaxed. As for the race, it went pretty well. I did ok in the start, avoiding the crash to my left, and Feldman dropping his chain. I surged up a bit and held my ground duking it out with some guys. The first lap was pretty scary, guys were crashing into everything. Each other, fencing, poles, or just the ground. It was obviously the first muddy race of the year. After a lap or so, I remember thinking that I felt like I was just cruising along. I was not being aggressive at all. I picked it up a bit, and started moving my way up. I passed Davinney who looked like he was not having a fun race. Then saw Ian Leithheiser and Bravard. I spent a lap chasing down Bravard and as I caught up to him, he pulled into the pits asking for a front wheel. Suddenly I was pretty much alone. Leithheiser was 10-15 seconds back, and the next guy was equally far in front. It gets pretty hard to keep the effort up when there isn’t a wheel right in front to chase down, and I could feel my effort waning a bit. I think I moved into 20th when I passed by Bravard, and picked off a couple of guys in the two remaining laps to finish 18th. Not bad. For the first race, my bike did ok, I kept it upright and moved up the whole race. I think only a couple guys with a higher numbers finished ahead of me. For the start of the season, I can live with that. The telling point for things to come is that Tim Butler finished 2nd, Bannik was 4th and Patrick Wilder was 11th. Those guys were fast, and unfortunately luckily I’ll be racing these guys all year long in Portland.

After the race I managed to wash off the bike in the pits, and get back to Seattle, gear unloaded showered and to the wedding reception before dinner was even served. And it was a lot better meal than I would have had anywhere else on my own. The downside was that we were staying at the Ace Hotel in Seattle. It’s located above a bar with loud music, and has beds for people that want a Little Pony category for cross. To say I had a good night’s sleep would be like saying I had a good starting position at the race.

Sunday brought drier weather, and race 2 of the season. Racing twice in less than 24 hours is one heck of a way to start the season. The second race, the Rad Racing Grand Prix, was at Steilacoom park in Lakewood WA. This course is best known for the Knapp-Time Run-Up, an 80 meter long run-up that just kills you. It’s named after Dale Knapp, a legend in Cyclocross who also races in my category. After registering, I got number 233, and getting in a couple warm-up laps, and having to rush to get my second bike to the pits, add air in my tires and throw down some gel, I got to the start just in time for the call-ups. My place was a bit better. While still in the second to last row, I was closer to the front in a smaller field. Despite pulling out of my left pedal on that start I had an ok one, hanging on to the back of the main group. Knowing I wasn’t too far off the front I was more motivated at the start and began to move up, attacking whenever I could. The main group was quickly splitting and I was desperately trying to get on the main chase group but I seemed to keep getting caught behind some slower rider in a tight situation and I’d lose contact with chase group. After a couple laps I was just outside the top 10. There were two off the front followed by a group 6-8 and a couple stragglers. The two off the front were Feldman, former national champ, and Doug Reed, races in a Veloce kit and won the night before. Tim Butler, Patrick Wilder and Dale Knapp among others, were in the chase group. A couple times, at the top of the run-up I would get so close to that group, but I would seem to once again get caught behind someone that would let the group get away. With about 2 to go Tim Butler fell off the lead group a bit and I was determined to chase him down. Just before the end of the penultimate lap I got around him. By now the chase group had splintered some with a group of 3 about 15-20 seconds in front of me, with Dale Knapp being the closest to me. I have always wanted to beat Knapp and gave it all I had, but that guy is just too strong and I didn’t gain much on that final lap. I still had a great race, finishing 8th and close enough to watch the finish go down and see Doug Reed beat out Feldman. To show how strong Portland is at Cross, there were four Portland bike shops represented in the top 10, Veloce, Cyclepath, Sellwood Cycle and River City. Not too shabby. Ok, ok, the winner who raced for Veloce really lives in Seattle WA, but obviously still represents. And since he killed us all two nights in a row, I am glad he lives up there.

Overall it was a good weekend for me. I had a great time. After nearly nine months of training, mostly with a focus on cross, you occasionally start to wonder if it is worth all the effort. After your umpteenth interval you forget how fun ‘cross is and question your motivation. I can’t say I wouldn’t have as much fun if I had spent the past 9 months training for the Clydesdale category instead, but at least I can convince myself it was worth it.

Next weekend is the Battle at Barlow.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Who you callin a Cream Puff?

Sunday, June 29th was the 2008 version of the Cascade Creampuff 100, a 100-mile Mountain Bike race in Westfir Or. This was my first time racing the Cream Puff, and my first 100-miler, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but from what I have been told from others, this is one of the hardest 100-mile races around. I was also told by many of the race veterans and regular volunteers that this year’s course was one of the hardest. I think in the end it was 106 miles with somewhere between 16-18,000 feet of climbing, over 50% of that on single track.

All of this begs the question of why in god’s name I would choose to do this race?

While the race takes place on Sunday, it is really a weekend long affair. This year they had taken over the Westfir School, allowing free camping Fri, Sat and Sunday nights, plus access to the school’s showers. With a mandatory pre-race meeting at 4pm followed by a racer dinner at the school, I headed down Saturday afternoon. I’ve been to a couple running Marathons and countless Ultimate tourneys, and attended the meetings and all that. So I thought I had an idea of what to expect. Let me tell you, the Cream Puff is not like anything else. Some one seriously needs to make a documentary of this race. Think Best In Show meets bike racing. No kidding, the entertainment value here is high. But in a good way. The folks who put this together are pretty amazing. It really is a community effort. Even the mayor of Oakridge was there serving dinner. I won’t try to explain it all, you just need to go check it out.

With a 5:15 am start time, and a promised 4am wake-up call from the Race Director, the campground was quiet awful early. The only sounds were the occasional freight train and over-hydrated riders getting out of tents to go pee all night, myself included.

4am came early, and I found myself wandering around aimlessly, trying to figure out what I needed to do. Put on cycling clothes, no wait eat breakfast. That’s right, food, must eat lots of food before 12 hours of riding. That one hour went pretty quick and it was soon time to ride the 2miles to the race start. Yeah, besides riding 106 miles, we also were riding another 4 to get to and from the race. In my book it was the Cascade Cream Puff 110.

Anyhow, the race got going soon enough. I actually started the day with arm warmers as it was a little chilly following some thunderstorms that passed through overnight after a scorching 95 degree day. That would change soon enough, and we all knew it. The race was roughly set-up as a 53-mile “figure 8” loop that we were to do twice. Starting at the bottom of the eight, we rode counter clock-wise up an 8 mile climb to the crossing, to where the famous Aid Station 2 is located. Due to the remoteness of the course, we then did the upper half of the course twice (counterclockwise) finishing with a loop and a half of the lower section. I know, sounds confusing, what can I say, you had to be there. I’ll save you all a mile by mile recount of the race, and since I have blocked some sections out of my mind and others have all melted together, I couldn’t do that if I wanted to. I will say that the single track on this course is absolutely amazing. The work the locals do to maintain these trails is quite envious. We had some incredibly long stretches of just pristine single track, winding through and around old-growth trees, open vistas and fields of wildflowers. Essentially the race went like this:
Neutral” 2-mile paved start
8-mile gravel climb
Aide station 2
Long long long stretch of descending single track with 3 brutal climbs/hike-a-bikes
Aide station 3
11 mile gravel climb
Aid station 4
6 more miles of gravel, mostly climbing
Aid station 2
Long long long stretch of descending single track with 3 soul crushing brutal hike-a-bikes
Aide station 3
11 mile gravel climb baking in the sun
Aid station 4 (thank god)
6 more miles of gravel, mostly climbing in the cursed sun
Aid station 2
Long descent on Alpine trail
Aid station 1
2 miles on riverside trail
8 mile climb sizzling like bacon
Aid station 2
Long descent on Alpine trail

Check the course here

My whole game plan and objective for the race was to pace myself. I really didn’t want to go out too hard and then have hours of suffering to finish the race. I wanted to have some fun. Overall, I think I did a good job. I kept my effort low for the first two climbs and was feeling great. I knew the second time on the long climb from Aid 3 to Aide 2 was going to be the crux of the race. And sure enough, about 4 miles out of aid 3 I started to unravel. My speed dropped to 3-4 mph. as I crawled up the hot muggy valley. Watching guys I had passed early ride by me. I had to be about 6 or 7 hours in by this time and bonked hard. I had a hard time drinking and my stomach wouldn’t let me eat anything. I forced myself to eat a bar and kept trying to drink. It was rough, I could barely see straight, and the theme song to the Odd Couple was caught in my head, it was miserable. I felt as though I was crossing the river Styx and back. But then like a light switch I felt good again, until my hamstrings cramped a mile later. So I walked for a bit until they loosened back up and I was able to ride at a decent pace to Aid 4, which was like an oasis out there. I also found a few of the guys that passed me recovering in chairs, looking as bad as I had felt a short time ago. After cooling off and getting some more food in me, I felt real good (relatively speaking mind you) and rode a good pace up to Aid 2, then had a blast going down the Alpine trail to Aid 1. By the time I got there it was the hottest part of the day. They told me it was about 87 degrees, and the valley was just muggy from the rain the night before. But I knew I had some energy left and some of the guys that passed me while I bonked were up the road, and I figured they would be hurting now. Sure enough, I passed over 5 guys on the final 8-mile climb, which had to be the longest 8-miles of my life, especially miles 2-6. They were just miserable. And it seemed to take forever. By the time I got to aid 2 again, I could barely talk. The folks at the aid station were asking what I wanted for food and water and all I could do was bend over and try to recollect myself. Luckily I knew all I had left were a few short efforts on the Alpine trail and I would be done. Some awesome volunteer put a cold wet towel on my neck and I started to feel human again. Found some food I could stomach for the last 40 minutes, grabbed some water and headed out. I made it all the way to literally the last switch back, and while trying to take it easy I screwed up and crashed for the first time. As I got back up I looked back up the trail and this guy I had been going back and forth with all day was barreling down the trail! With another rider behind him! I grabbed the bike and let ‘er rip for the last 10th of a mile. Literally at the end of the trail is a short 5 foot steep up, and the guy on my wheel broke his chain! I started to look back, heard the other guy go around and tell him to just coast it in, so I kept going and held them off through the finish. I did it!

Even though it was the hardest race I have ever done, I also think it was one of the most fun. Even with all the pain, I had a great time. The single track is amazing, bar none. No matter how tired I was, it put a smile on my face. The support for the race was also amazing. I had heard this before the race, but until you experience it, you just can’t know it. My second time through Aid 2, I had Matt Slaven and Brad Ross taking care of me. They took my bike, lubed the chain, someone gave me bottles, someone else pulled a bunch of GU packs from their pocket and gave them to me. It was great. It was described to me as being similar to a NASCAR pit stop. You roll in and a whole crew runs up and helps you out. Pouring cold water you, and getting you refueled, and then cheer you on as you roll back out. You gotta do it at least once.

It’s not say that the whole thing ran perfectly. After I sent in my registration, I never heard a thing back from the promoter. No e-mails or nothing. I only knew I was in when I saw the check was cashed. The website was also lacking what I would consider timely updates. We didn’t know what the official course was going to be until a week before the race. Granted there was, and still is, a lot of snow from a record year, and he had to do a lot of re-arranging this year, but it would have been nice to hear more about it. But that’s also part of the Cream Puff. If your looking for a fancy race with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, stick to Leadville. But if you want some small town fun and lots of single track, check out the Cream Puff

Will I do it again? I’m not sure, but probably. Rumor has it that Scott has a one-loop course planned out for next year. I also overheard someone say it was 140 miles. Uphill the whole way. Count me in!

Oh, that’s right, how’d I do? I am not sure, but I think I was around 25th at just under 12 hours. I can live with that.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Haven't done this in awhile....

Dang it has been awhile. After the Two Month Storm of December and January, the weather really dried up. Normally in times like this I hit the single track and get in some Mt Biking. Not so much this year. The heavy snows at low elevation managed to leave most of the local trails under snow. I did head out to ride the Wilson River Trail a couple weeks ago. Let’s say I learned that hiking a half mile in snow is not very fun in a pair of Mt Bike shoes with a huge hole in the toe. Oh and wearing socks with holes in the toes doesn’t make it any better.

Last weekend we finally got a decent amount of new snow. I managed to get up for a day and get in some good turns. AND I had the helmet cam with me. If you’re bored, check out my first ski movie.

The above inspired me to go back to some footage from earlier in the season and put together a prequel of sorts. This one, Multopor Mt, is what we ended up doing after getting skunked by a scouting mission on the back side of the Mt. It looked good on Google Earth, but there just wasn’t enough openings in the trees. After a morning of exploring, possibly the first winter ski decent from the summit of Multopor and a practice search and rescue of a ski pole, we came back and took advantage of some closed runs at ski bowl. While not your traditional backcountry experience, thanks to the sno cat grooming the run next to us, the snow was fine.

Unfortunately the weather for the upcoming weekend looks a little poor. We’re finally getting the precip, but it looks like it may be too warm. This is the time of year when everyone else is all happy about sunny 50+ degree days, while I get all grouchy wondering when we will get some more snow. We have already cancelled three trips to Mt Baker, so all I can say is it better snow for our Wallowas trip at the end of the month. Until then I guess I’ll just ride my bikes.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Coming Up for Air

I’m Back! We had a short hiatus due to the whole writers guild strike and all that. Tried using a pack of monkeys chained to a fleet of typewriters but they made a mess, although they could still spell better than me! Finally decided to go it on my own, If jay Leno can do it, so can I. That's a bad example isn't it? Anyway, my dear readers, this is all about you, and you deserve the best!

Let’s play catch-up:
Unless you have been living under a rock you know that it has been dumping in the Cascades like…like…like a lot. [editor’s note: should have stuck with the monkeys]. Unfortunately for the Snow Curmudgeon I have a job that I need to show up for, and have not been able to partake in the snow as much as I would have liked. But the days I have gotten in, have been amazing.

I had written a lengthy C-span version of my season so far. Day-by-day turn by turn. But even I fell asleep proof reading it. So here goes the CNN version:

12/27: Skipped out of work early to night ski SkiBowl with Margi and Broman, it was awesome. Even got free tickets from a nice couple leaving early!

12/29: Went skiing on a new slope. Amazing. The snow was so deep I had a hard time putting in a skin track. Seriously, I almost got out my shovel to clear the snow from on top of my skis, it was that deep.

12/30: Another night ski at skibowl with Margi and Beth. More amazing.

1/1: New Years Day 8 hour epic with Margi to Bonnie Butte. Only to find the slopes we wanted to ski were wind scoured. Salvaged the day in some great trees on the way back.

1/4: Got to ski with Art on his way back through town. Started with rain at the car but climbed up to some great snow. Came back down with Heather creek between us and the Heather Canyon cat track. Had a snow bridge collapse out from under Art. Ski Patrol showed up, and we were ready to get lectured as Heather Canyon was closed, but he ended up being nice and even found us a better snow bridge. Yea ski patrol.

1/6: Margi and I headed back to the trees we skied in New Years and spent the day doing laps there. May have been some of the best snow I have ever skied. Or maybe the best I ever skied such good snow. Either way it was great.

Margi had gotten a helmet cam for x-mas and I was hoping we could have some great footage for the blog, only we have had some problems setting it up right. It keeps pointing towards the ground in front of her, even after we tried to fix it after New Year’s day. Hopefully I will have some video footage for you fine readers in the near future.

That about brings us to today. Some of you may be wondering what is up with the night skiing? I write some little manifesto about being pure and not buying a pass, and then go and ski the resorts. Well, screw you! No, just kiddin’. I feel the same way. I was desperate to get up there the first time, and because of work it was my only chance. The second time Avy danger was ridiculously high. So I decided to play it safe. Either way there are places for resorts I guess. After all if it wasn’t for them, the BC would b crawling with people, and cut me some slack, even Bettie Ford fell off the wagon once in awhile!

I can say that after the second night I had lost the excitement of the resort. The snow looses some of its magic. It’s hard to get excited about linking two fresh turns at the resort after a day of every turn being a fresh one. I will still ski some at resorts. Ski bowl for weeknights can be a nice treat. And hopefully we’ll take some ski trips to check out some other places. I’m like a social smoker, you know, the people that don’t really smoke,lecture about how bad it is until they get drunk at a bar, and then start bumming smokes off of everyone around them. Yup, I’m one of those jerks!

As for the weather, the amount of snow we have gotten really has been unprecedented. Over 10 feet of base since Christmas. And it all fell at really cold temperatures, nice and light. Nothing like the Cascade Concrete we are used to. I hope you were able to get up there and enjoy it. We seem to be coming to the end of the storm cycle. It has warmed up a bit making the snow pack that much more of a mess. Freezing levels are supposed to hit 5000’ this weekend. It also looks like we may hit a week of drier weather. Hard to say but that is what ‘they’ are calling for. Right now though long range is calling for more precip at low freezing levels after MLK Day. Keep your fingers crossed.

We were planning on heading to Baker for MLK day weekend, but with the current forecast we are in a holding pattern, taking a wait and see approach. I know, life is tough being the Weather’s Whipping Post.