Monday, November 09, 2009

Season 6 Episodes 10 and 11

The soap opera of my ‘cross life continues to unfold. Although I guess if it were a real soap opera it would have been canceled a long time ago. Can’t see the adventures of a 38 year-old bike racer even getting in the door for a pitch.

As mentioned in the preview from last week’s entry, this weekend was another double race adventure. Saturday was the Oregon State Championships race in Salem, fittingly the State’s Capital, also fittingly for the cross racing as of late, it was the third straight week racing at a fairground. Excluding the fact that the course terrain was so flat, the course designers made a pretty fun course, with lots of variety from dry dusty barns, running through a sand volleyball court, a motocross course and of course lots of muddy grass. Being the defending Masters 35 champion I chose to defend my title and race the Masters race. It was fun lining up with some of the guys I had raced with for the past two years. Erik Schultz has been killing it in the Masters this year so I expected him to be the main person to stick with, as well as Tim Butler, Tim Jones and John McCaffrey. Sure enough, from the start it looked like most of the above were in the front along with Doug Reid from Seattle who made the drive down for the race. After about 3/4 of a lap, Erik, Doug and I were a bit off the front heading into the barns. Surprisingly, the slipperiest part of the whole course was also the driest. The course wound through the Fairgrounds main arena that had about 4” of dry dirt on the floor, if you went the slightest bit off the main track you were bound to wash out. Even knowing this going in, I still lost a little in the first barn, then on to the moto cross track where I found out my front brake wasn’t working so good, resulting in me crashing in the first sharp turn and Tim Butler and Joel Wilson catching me. Over the next lap I almost got back up to Erik and Doug, when I almost crashed on the moto cross track again. For the rest of the race it was more of the same, I would open a gap on Tim and Joel and then screw up the moto-cross section were-in they would gain on me. Meanwhile Erik slowly separated from Doug who I never seemed to gain on. Finally I managed to open a bit of a gap on Tim who had gotten away from Joel. Feeling like I could ride it in on the last lap, Margi yells to me that Doug just had a mechanical and is just ahead. So I high tail it and catch him just as he goes in to the pit for a new bike with less than a lap to go. Fortunately I held him off to steal 2nd place.

The rain continued to fall Saturday night, setting Sunday up for some real cross. Throw in that Sunday was also the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championship (SSCXWC) and it was a heck of a day of racing. Too bad my racing didn’t live up to it. Had another miserable start as I found my rear wheel spinning when the whistle blew. I was about to call it quits after the first 1/4 lap, but seeing some Weaver and Steven Hunter in front of me kept me racing. The first lap was crazy, all the off-camber sections were just slick as can be. There was a lake of a puddle to ride through that had some bump in the middle of it that you couldn’t see but made it feel like you were riding a bucking bronco (Margi actually got bucked on her first lap). The race quickly turned into a race of attrition, and I felt like one of the attritioners (not a word is it?).

I managed to get away from Weaver and some others, and found myself on my own. In my effort to make up time on the paved straight, I had my head down and looked up too late to see a pothole. I pulled the front wheel up but the back wheel slammed it.

Score: Pothole 1; Carbon rim 0.

That made a crappy race, crappier, and really expensive. I could hear the rim creaking as I kept riding it, but I unfortunately missed the pit entrance, and as I cursed it out loud, Patrick Wilder heard and asked if I needed a new bike, I told him I had a green Kona and sure enough, next time around he was standing there with my pit bike ready for me and gave me a PRO hand-off to boot. On top of that he went and got a replacement wheel for the A bike in case I needed it again. What a guy. Didn’t get a chance to thank him after the race, so if you’re reading this PW, thanks! About this time Matt Fox had caught up to me so I had something to race for. We went back and forth for a couple laps. The last time he got up to me, he says “lets go get ‘em Scott”, then three seconds later I hear a grunt and crash and look back to see him down. I dug in and cruised to the finish to get pulled early so they could start the SSCXWC on time. For the first time I was happy to be yanked early. In the end I was 20th place. So sad.

A bright point of the weekend was Margi taking 2nd in the Women’s B State Championship race, she then went on to race the A women race on Sunday. Her result wasn’t as good but she was smiling the whole time. I give her a lot of credit, that was one of the hardest races of the year, not an easy one to have to as your first foray into the A’s. She’ll be killing soon enough.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Astoria, oh how I love to hate you

Or is it how I hate to love you?

Yes this past weekend was the Halloween double race weekend extravaganza at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds in Astoria. After a storm late last week, Saturday’s race was a good old muddy mess. Not the epic powering through ankle deep mud, but more of the slick as snot corners and rutted wet grass kind of mud. The type of race where you are riding along at a good pace and WHAM! Your front wheel slips out and you are sliding across the ground as the guy behind you yells out “Oh-Shit” as he tries to avoid running over you (Thanks Aaron!). I wasn’t thrilled with my race. After getting caught behind a crash in the first half lap and a couple other mishaps, I found myself in a similar position, on the outside of the points looking in. Spent the rest of the race chasing guys down and trying to keep it upright to come in at 17th. Not pretty, but fun none the less.

We spent the night at a hotel in Seaside, the Inn at Seaside to be precise. Got a good deal, $55 for a king bed and a kitchenette. We decide to bring Quinn the hyper-dog with us for the weekend since the hotel allows them. After a day of trying to chase bike racers he seemed pretty chill so we left him in the room to go get some dinner. (Note: While one would think that sushi 2 blocks from the Ocean would be fresh, it aint. ‘nough said) Anyway, we get back to the room and no dog! Seriously, we have a small room with 3 bikes. It’s not easy for an 85 pound dog to hide. We’re also on the 2nd floor, window was closed. What the? I head to the front desk and as I get there, sure enough, there’s Quinn tied up behind the desk! Turns out he freaked after we left and started barking and throwing himself against the door. Luckily for us the lady at the front desk was not only the nicest person ever, but also a dog obedience trainer! Seriously, I ain’t making this up. She went up, opened the door a crack, told Quinn to sit, he did, and she brought him down to the front desk where he was an angel, hanging out greeting all the guests. What an attention whore of a dog we have. But if you're heading to the coast, I definitely recommend the Inn at Seaside.

Back to the races. In the tradition of Sunday ‘Cross racing, it was decided to make Sunday’s race the Costume day, even though it was the day after Halloween. Wouldn’t expect anything else from Brad Ross. I had had great visions of being a Great White Shark, until I ran into technical issues on Thursday night. I knew that showing up to the Halloween race without a costume would garner the wrath of the drunken fans, so I had to scramble for a costume. I checked out Margi’s costume boxes (yes boxes) and found a pink long sleeve shirt that said Snow Bunny. Just add in a bunny tail and ears, and voila, lamest costume ever is born.

Luckily it was good enough to satisfy the blood thirsty drunken masses and even garnered me some ‘go Snow Bunny’ cheering. Unfortunately it wasn’t good enough to get me anything more than 16th place. The only thing I will say about the race is that I was having a great start, best first 50 yards EVER! Until I blew the first corner rode out of bounds and lost a good 10-15 spots. What makes it even funnier is that before the race Mike Benno was asking me if I preferred to be a starter or behinder, meaning do I like to get out in front right away or fight from behind. I said I prefer to start ahead but seem to keep killing myself and fighting from behind. Another self full filling prophecy! At least the race was a blast with all the mayhem and costumes.

This weekend is the Oregon State Championships on Saturday where I will try to defend my title. But to be honest with all the attention it has brought I will be glad to give it up. It gets old not being able to go out in public without people asking for my autograph or women throwing themselves at me. I won’t even go into the paparazzi. It’s a heavy burden being the masters state champ. So think twice boys before you try to take it from me ;)

On Sunday we are racing at PIR, the North Course. That will be fun if for no other reason than after my race is the Single Speed CycloCross World Championships, which means I can hang out, watch some racing eat some fries and drink a beer. Should be fun. Oh that and Margi is Racing A’s after her upgrade! Nice job babe! If you get slapped on the ass while being passed, it isn’t me, promise!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hillsboro Fairgrounds

Ok, a little late for this past Sunday’s race report. It has been a busy week at work but don’t tell my boss, that’s where I like to draft my blogs. I try not to write for free so I will make this quick.

We were back at Hillsboro fair grounds this past Sunday, which is the site of my State Championship victory. Yes, I am still basking in that one. As I’ve gotten older, I have learned that you need to hold on to the past as you’re quickly running out of future. Anyway, I was hoping that maybe this course was “my” course and I would have another amazing race here. Then reality set in, and all the good karma I used up last year was finally paid off on Sunday.

With the recent rain, we were finally treated to some slick conditions. Well maybe some people were treated, I was more accurately tricked. I had a great call-up, second row. Followed by a good start, going into the first corner inside the top 10. And then I went backwards. I lost a few spots here and there, and started to panic a bit, resulting in forcing a bunch of corners, which made things worse, and cost me a few more spots, which resulted in me panicking and forcing a few corners which made things even worse. As I was about to loose a few more spots I pulled my head out of the arse it had been hiding and started to ride smarter; relaxing through the corners and saving my energy for the straights. I pulled back a spot or two and was sitting in 11th, closing in on David Roth and Steven Hunter. Then I was surprised to hear the bell lap. I am never surprised by that, so I am pretty sure it was early. As I tried to give everything I had left I realized my rear tire was going flat. I thought about pitting but thought I could squeeze out the remainder of the lap on my flat tire. I did, but lost 3 spots in the last ¼ of the lap to finish 14th.

Overall 14th is a great result I would be thrilled with if I had ridden a solid race. But I know I could have done better and rode pretty poorly, so I’m still a little bitter over it. Oh well. I’ll get to race again soon enough. As a matter of fact this weekend is the double race Halloween weekend in Astoria. Now I need a costume. It never ends.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wild Horses

Friday night I joined some friends to hear Joe Parkin give a talk at the Oregon Manifest show. At one point he was talking about racing on the infamous cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix. While he said there is no way to express what it is like riding over these massive cobblestones, he did say that the sections of pavement in between the cobbles would feel like the smoothest pavement in the world, like riding on glass. So while I am sure yesterday’s course doesn’t compare to the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, the bumps and holes of the horse pastures at the Sherwood Equestrian Center we raced on sure made the gravel roads feel like smooth asphalt under my wheels, and a welcome, if not short, respite for my aching back and blistered palms. Too bad the gravel section also happened to be an uphill, not quite a respite for my aching and burning legs. And so it was Sunday, a course of pain no matter how you sliced it.

Despite a week of promising forecasts calling for rain, complete with the remnants of a typhoon on Saturday, it turned out to be another warm dry day. The only dirt on me was from the dust kicked up in the fields. Which of course explains the rough and tumble course. And being on the side of a hill, there was plenty of climbing. Maybe not all at once like last week at Rainier, but more broken up, interspersed with life sucking bumpy meadows and bone jarring descents. Have I mentioned it was bumpy?

For yesterday’s race I had the luxury of being the last guy called up before the random number staging thanks to the one series point I scored the week before with an 18th place. This put me in about the 3rd or 4th row. Which was good as the start straight was short followed by a lot of turns and single track that would make moving up hard for the first half of a lap. My start was decent and I felt like I made the cut into the front clump of riders. From there all I could do was try to move up and get some more series points. After a lap or so I was told I was in the top 15. Sweet. A couple more laps and I am just outside the top 10! Are you kidding me? I so wanted to just ease up at that point, but to be honest I never thought I could ever stand a chance at a top 10 in a Crusade A race, I couldn't blow a good opportunity. So I just dug in and kept plugging away. Got to 9th place with 2 laps to go and no one right behind me, so at that point I was pretty content to just hold my spot. But no, both Gant and Margi had to tell me that Mike Benno was just ahead of me, and since he just beat me the past few races I had to at least try. I got on his wheel at the barriers for the second to last time when lady luck would take my side, as he dropped his chain. He gracefully got out of way and encouraged me on. I just kept a solid pace for the last lap to be sure no one caught me, and came across the line in 8th! Really? This is a joke right? I just couldn't beleive it until I saw the results posted. I finished ahead of or right behind a lot of guys I have always looked to as the fast guys. I just don’t consider myself as one of them. I’m supposed to be pack fodder, a 'have not', a 'never was'. Certainly not a fast guy. As psyched as I am for my fitness right now, it will take a few more similar results before I can begin to think I am in the same zip code as some of these guys.

Maybe Margi's speed is rubbing off on to me, as she finished 2nd for the 2nd week in a row! She is tearing it up on these hilly courses. The lady likes her some hills.

Me, not so much...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Doing all the wrong things in the right way

If I could make a list of all the things you shouldn’t do before a race, it might look something like this:

- Get drunk at a wedding the night before, standing around in really uncomfortable shoes that hurt your back.
- Only get three hours of sleep.
- Wake-up at quarter to 4am to spend all morning on a plane with a woman who had some sort of plague that required paramedics to take her off at the destination.
- Rush home to load the car and drive an hour to the race.
- Have a warm-up that consists of riding around the course and watching races.
- Get lined up at the back of the pack.

(Cue mellowdramatic music)

That is EXACTLY what my pre-race looked like. I know, I know, poor me, eh? Even more amazing was that I had a solid race. Steadily moving up to finish 18th. The race was hard, really hard. And I really have to thank Ian Leitheiser for working with me and keeping me motivated to keep moving up. It was a good time considering all the suffering. I was pretty amazed I finished so well as I don’t remember passing half those people. It was really dusty out there so my vision was like looking through Vaseline smeared glasses. In hindsight the race is literally just a big blur to me.

I was so exhausted after the race, I went to bed at 9pm and slept like a rock, except for when I was woken up by Margi trying to push me off the bed because she was dreaming that I was our dog Quinn trying to climb on the bed! Hilarious.

The best part of finishing 18th is that it gives me one point in the Crusade series, and I believe when they do call-ups they call-up everyone who has any points. However, even if I get bumped in the final results, being the “beer number*” this week means I will get to line-up right behind all the riders who get a call-up. We’ll see if I can turn it into something good.

And if anyone is wondering, the Paul’s chain watcher really works, neither me nor Margi had any dropped chains yesterday. (knock on wood) And Margi had an awesome race, finishing 2nd in the Women B's. She sure does love hills.

Looks like we may see some real ‘cross next week too, the 7 day forecast is for rain and showers nearly every day. Though I will believe it when I see it.

*beer number: every week, staging for racers with no series points is done by a random order of numbers 0-9, where riders are called to the line in that order based on the last digit of their race number. The last number is the “beer number”, entitling all such riders to a six-pack of beer from series sponsor Deschutes. And the following week that number is automatically called first. This week that last number was 4, my race number is 44, so I get a sixer of Deschutes.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nats Pre-qualifiers

Or, why I hate and USAC.

For those of you unfamiliar, the Cyclocross National Championships are being held in Bend, OR for the next two years. With Nationals being so close to home, one of my main goals for the season is to have a good result in the Masters 35-39 race. Of course, to have a good result, you need a good starting position. And that is where my hate for USAC and comes in. The USAC determines start order for the National Masters races based on order of registration through an on-line registration program. So a podium spot at nationals could be determined by your internet access and registration savy. There-in a race with-in a race, or e-pre-qualifiers if you will. Welcome to the virtual generation

A couple months ago, it was announced that registration for Nationals would be done through sometime in October. For two months there was no additional word on when registration would open, until, out of the blue on Friday they announce that it will open that night at midnight Eastern time! Yeah, the national governing body for cycling decides registration will be a pop quiz! It also just so happens that Margi and I were traveling to Denver for a wedding on Friday. Luckily I brought my laptop and happened to check the OBRA e-mail list Friday afternoon when we landed. I was also lucky in that I had already set-up an account with sportsbaseonline (a warm-up lap if you will) so I felt ready for it. I got back to the hotel in time, and with a few minutes to go I was all logged-in and one click away from the registration page. I even got so geeky as to have the Atomic Clock website up so I knew exactly when it was 12:01 eastern standard time. So at the exact moment I click the “masters” button and voila……nothing……still nothing…..nope still nothing….five minutes later still nothing. Waiting….waiting…..I open a new browser window and go to Sportsbaseonline and get a “cannot reach the server error”…yup, the rush to register crashed the site. I spend the next half hour refreshing and clicking, to no avail. At one point I actually get to the registration page to be told it won’t open until after October 10th! WTF? I check all the interwebs sites and I hear the same thing from all over, seems no one can get in. For the next two and a half hours I keep trying. I tried it all, pulling up page visits from my history, fresh browser windows etc..nothing. Eventually I just had to go to bed. After about an hour of sleep at 2am Mountain time I wake up to go to the bathroom and decide to check the site. Finally, I am in and registered. In the morning I take a look at the registered riders page and, assuming they are listing riders in order of registration, I am listed around 25-30th on the list. Throw in the automatic front row call-ups of the last years top 7 and that puts me around the 4-5th row. Not so hot.

However, I may have one ace up my sleeve, I hope. With this system in the past years, a Cat 3 or even Cat 4 rider could register first and get a second row line-up. So for this year they are still doing order of registration, but by Category, all Cat 1s before Cat 2, before Cat 3 etc… So my ace is that last week I had requested and received (barely) my Cat 1 up grade from USAC. I could be wrong, but I don’t think too many Masters have a Cat 1 license as it takes some work to ask for it, and besides Nationals there really isn’t much reason to request it. But I could be wrong. I guess we will see in December.

No matter where I end up, the whole thing just ticks me off. USAC is the National organization that is supposed to promote and manage our sport. I think it says a lot about an organization that only provides 12 hours notice for a National Championship series event registration that can determine your placing. And on top of it, chooses a vendor that isn’t capable of managing the registration. And since this has been the format for the past few years, there is no reason why USAC and Sportsbaseonline couldn’t have known that there was going to be the response there was. But in the end, I and 99% of the rest of the participants, are really just amateurs participating in a hobby. Luckily no-one’s life is relying on this and probably none of the racer’s careers. So it really isn’t worth getting too worked up about, it’s just a race. That said, it still won’t keep me from being a little pissed off all day though.

Completely unrelated, it has been snowing in Denver all morning and the airport was shut down for a while this morning (note: there was only a dusting, so it isn’t just Portland that shuts down at the sign of a flake). While it is nice to see some snow, we are flying out at 8:30 tomorrow morning to try to get home in time for tomorrows race at Rainier. It’s gonna be close.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Took a Bruising

As most of the free world was completely un-aware, Sunday was the start of the 2009 Cyclocross Crusade series. Advertised as the largest cyclcocross series in the world, it did not disappoint, with over 1400 racers showing up at the Alpenrose Dairy for the 2009 inaugural event. Compare that to Alpenrose back in 2004, the first ‘cross race I ever did, when there were 600 plus racers, or even to the 300 racers in 2001. At this rate, there will be over 3000 racers in 2012! God help us.

As for my race....meh. Not horrible, not great. For a variety of reasons (preparing for nats, peer pressure, guilt, stupidity) I am racing in the A Men category this year, instead of the Master A 35+. So I get to race against (or maore accurately behind) all the young fast kids, and some really fast older guys too. There’s Not just faster guys, but more of them. Being the first race of the year, staging was done randomly except for some visiting pros/celebrities and top ten or so from last year. I still can’t figure out why I, the reigning Masters State Champ, didn’t qualify for an automatic call-up and was forced to line up with the rest of the civilians. Come-on Brad, you give Trebon a call-up for his National Championship, why not me? Just another instance of the man trying to keep me down. I am so sick of it. I'm calling my AARP rep over this one. Age discrimination.

Anyway, so yeah, there I am, in the middle of the pack for the start. And, unfortunately, that is about where I finished, mid-pack. I was actually moving up a bit after the first lap sorted things out a bit. I think I was even closing in on the group that was fighting for the back of the top 20. That is, until I dropped my chain. I knew it was going to happen. After dropping it three times last week, I tried altering a chain watcher to do a better job. But I learned during warm-up that it wasn’t as bomber as I had hoped. Luckily it happened right before the pits and I was able to run there and change bikes, only losing 3-4 spots. The down side, is I learned the hard way that I don’t like how my B bike handles compared to my A bike. The saddle is a tad higher, the bars feel different and the tubeless tires just can’t compare to the carbon tubulars. They handled like crap. Not that I am a good cornerer (is that a word?) to begin with, but on the B bike I was pathetic, over cooking corners left and right. Coming out of the velodrome on one lap I had to take the turn so wide I crossed over into the on coming lane and scared the heck out of an A woman coming down the hill, sorry. So I spent the rest of the race duking it out with Teammates Neal Bibler and Chad Swanson, and Ian Leitheiser from team Cyclepath. On the bright side, I managed to finish ahead of all of them and hold off a few fast charging guys. So I guess I have that going for me. On the down side, I fought like hell for 28th place or so. A far cry from 9th a week earlier.

Despite all the bumps on the course, the biggest bruise I suffered from yesterday is the one to my Ego. I certainly don’t feel like a Cat 1 that's for sure.

Now that I joined Facebook, I see Margi is threatening a "sit down" with her mechanic about dropping chains, so I'm gonna set both mine and Margi's bike up with a Paul's Chain keeper. We'll see how that works. Hopefully it keeps me from getting a "sit down" conversation. But then again, you get what you pay for. I hope to try it out tomorrow at the blind date at the dairy, if not I'm going back to 2x9.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Back to School

Just like when I was a kid, going back to school meant the end of summer, and so did this past Sunday’s cross race at Sam Barlow High School. Only when I was a kid I never looked forward to the end of summer, much less going back to school. If going to school was this much fun, or if I had put in as much time preparing for school as I do for ‘cross, who knows, I may have actually learned something. But High School, at least Morris Knolls High School, was never this much fun, although it may have been just as painful; My ass hurt just like it did when the varsity football team gave me a wedgie, I dropped my chain at the wrong times, just like I dropped my books just when the cool kids were passing by, and the warm weather left my mouth just as dry as it would get when I tried to talk to that really hot chick that sat next to me in Geometry. That about sums it up really. It was a hot dry course, fast, and bumpy with a brutal giant sized stepped run-up. But it was also a lot of fun.

For this week’s race I lined up with the really fast Sr Men A category instead of normal Master 35+ A’s. Out of the start I was somewhere in the middle of the pack. I got lucky and avoided a couple early crashes that probably helped me gap some of the guys chasing behind me. After a few laps of riding through some guys I started to find myself somewhat alone. Then Margi told me I was in 10th place. I couldn’t believe it. I had no clue I was in such a good position. I had to make sure that I kept up the pace and didn’t let anyone catch me from behind. Luckily we were moving through the back of the Masters riders so I had people to pass to keep my pace up. Then I noticed that I was gaining on Mike Benno and Cary Miller. That really got me motivated. With two laps to go, I got to where I about two bike lengths off of Cary when I dropped my chain and lost some ground. After another lap I was reeling them back in when Mike rolled his front tubular. I caught up to him and then got past him in the run-up. He told me he wasn’t going to try to get back around with the bum tubular so with him encouraging me on, I tried to chase down Cary while I held off a fast charging Mike Gallagher and Evan Plews on the last half lap. In the end I pulled it out and finished a few seconds behind Cary in 9th place.

If Barlow marked the end of summer than this weekend marks the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season with the first Cross Crusade Race at Alpenrose Dairy. Rumor has it that Ryan Trebon and Adam Craig will be there. Man it is going to be a fast race. If I can manage not to get lapped I will be thrilled.

And just on cue for the fall:

Scattered Showers
Hi 63 °F

Slight Chc Rain
Lo 49 °F

Chance Rain
Hi 64 °F

Thursday Night
Chance Rain
Lo 52 °F

Chance Showers
Hi 63 °F

Friday Night
Chance Showers
Lo 48 °F

Chance Showers
Hi 62 °F

Saturday Night
Chance Showers
Lo 48 °F

Slight Chc Showers
Hi 62 °F

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The past weekend marked the start of yet another ‘Cross season, my sixth, which I guess means I am no longer a rookie, too bad I still tend to race like one at times. It wasn’t that bad, actually, the weekend was down right good for me. There being two pretty competitive races, I had my best overall weekend of racing.

Saturday was the now world famous Star Crossed Cyclocross race at the Marymoore Velodrome outside Seattle. Sometimes billed as a party with a Cyclocross race, it is a pretty boisterous event in and around the velodrome. The day culminates with the Elite Women’s and Men’s races after dark under the lights. My race was a little earlier in the evening during the daylight hours. I was lucky to get a good start number and lined up on the front row. Even luckier was being able to get off the line quick and up near the front going into the first corner. It didn’t take long for Richard Feldman to break off the front and ride away solo to victory in first class style. Meanwhile I was back in business class with three other guys. The announcers and spectators may have called us the chase group, but I can tell you there wasn’t much chasing going on. It was much more of a battle for 2nd and 3rd place. We were eventually joined by two others and spent a good part of the race testing each other, trying to break away and figuring out how to pull off a spot on the podium. That’s where I raced like a rookie, being beat at the line by Rich McClung to come in 6th overall. Still, my best finish at Star Crossed, and within seconds of 3rd. So I have nothing to complain about.

Sunday was the Rad Racing Grand Prix of Cyclocross at Steilacoom State Park near Tacoma Wa. The day started with Margi’s race at 9am. She was looking to improve upon an already impressive finish the day before at Star Crossed. She had a great start and made the cut to the lead group of six or so ladies. They spent pretty much the whole race battling it out. With a couple laps to go Margi went down, and even though she was back quick it was enough to gap her off just a bit. But she fought back on the last lap, getting back on the group on the famous Knapp time run-up and the climb after it. She was in great position coming into the final sprint finish and came in for 2nd place! Sweet!

I was the unfortunate victim of spectating and somehow tweaked my back while running around the course cheering for Margi (how pathetic, but worth it). Since my race wasn’t for another four hours I had plenty of time to warm up and loosen it up. Some ibuprofen and embrocation later, it felt pretty good to go for the race. I was lucky once again to get the last spot on the Second Row right behind Sean Kelsey, former Oregon racer now up in Wa. My start was pretty good once again, and I was in the lead group first time up the run-up. From there the race was like a do-over from the day before. Richard Feldman rode away from us all. Initially Sean and I were a bit off the rest, but were eventually joined by two others. Our group of four turned into six. I was having a hard time keeping on during the descents (I hate loose gravel descending with too low a pressure in the tubulars) and had to chase back on after each time down. But on the flip side I was feeling pretty good on the run-up and climb, even though it was killing my back. As we came in to the run-up on the last lap I was sitting second wheel and planning to give it all I had and try to get a bit of a gap and ride away for second. Unfortunately when I hit the run-up it felt like I dropped anchor. Between my back and two days of racing, I was the one that got gapped. Add in my poor descending, and I found myself way off the back and rolled in alone in 6th place for the second race in a row.

All things considered, two sixth placed finishes in some big marquee races to start the season is awesome. But I can’t help but feel a little disappointed being so close to a spot on the podium both times. But looking at the big picture, I raced real strong and feel like I am just getting going and still have a lot of room for more fitness. Of course I bet there were 80 other guys in each of those races who feel the same way. The real question will be if I can turn it all into results. Fist things first though, I have to get this back of mine sorted out. By Sunday night it was killing me. I could hardly roll over in bed, and each time I did it woke me up. I did manage to see Kurt Marion at PACE yesterday and he did a good job of working some of the spasm out of my back. Luckily it doesn’t seem to hurt when I am on the bike, and it was much better last night. Hopefully I will have it worked out by the start of the Cross Crusade.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Winter Update, Part II: Quit While You’re Ahead

First race of the season: dry course, sunny, 75 degrees, I came in first in the Cat 1 35-44 category. That’s it. The pinnacle of my cycling career, it can’t get any better than that.

So yeah, I’ve been doing some training. Back in December I didn’t intend to be training this hard. After ‘cross ended I was feeling pretty done with racing and training for awhile. That, and overstretched finances lead me to stop working with my coach, Adnan Kadir. I took up watching Battlestar Galactica, drinking lots of beer and just an occasional run here or there, but that was no fun, turns out it hurts, so I didn’t do that much. Just ski. And drink. And watch Battlestar. Until one night drinking a few beers at Ira Ryan’s shop, a few of us started reminiscing about last year’s Cream Puff 100. Next thing I know I wake up in the morning to this in my inbox:

You are registered for the 2009 CCP.
Eventually you will see your name on the official site as a registered racer.
I'm looking forward to seeing each of you this July.

Oh Crap. Stupid beer and good memories. Since then I have been spending my weekends riding my Mt bike in the rain at Scapoose and Forest Park, gotta get those miles in.

Which brings me to this weekend. For the third year in a row, the first weekend of April has brought the double header of the Ronde de Oeste Portlandia (Tour of West Portland) on Saturday and the Horning’s Hustle Mt Bike Race at the local Jam Band, Hippydom of Horning’s Hideout about an hour from town.

The Ronde is an un-official ride ‘organized’ by Brad Ross (Cross Crusade fame). The ride is based on the Tour of Flanders, one of road racing’s most prestigious Spring classics. Every year, on the Saturday before the Tour of Flanders, part of the course is open for the amateurs and public to experience part of the famous race. And from what I gather it is quite the event. Brad wanted to do something similar in Portland, hence the Ronde. He made up a route in the west hills that has some of the hardest climbs around. He appropriately marks the course with the Lion of Flanders. So on Saturday morning, around 600 people met up to do the ride. It was pretty amazing to just witness such a large group riding out Highway 30 to the start of the first climb, up Saltzman Rd. I can only imagine what the poor drivers on Highway 30 were thinking at the time. Overall it is just an amazing event, if you can even call it an event. It truly is an unorganized ride, no registration, waivers, fees, permits, support, nothing but the spray painted markers to mark the way, some other crazy cyclists to ride with, and the occasional house that has some water (or beer) at the end of the driveway. Overall it’s a 47 mile course, with 5400’ of climbing. So it is no picnic by any means.

(Margi climbing College Ave, pic by Dave Roth)

Being a glutton for punishment, I reluctantly decided to also do the Mt Bike race on Sunday. I must have fried some brain cells on Saturday, as I decided that the Mt Bike race would be even better if I took the light rail to the end of the line in Hillsboro, then do the hour ride up to the race on my Mt Bike. I did the same thing last year, and it sucked. Somehow that lesson didn’t quite set in. On the bright side, I was warmed up by the time I got to the race. Long story short, it was a 4-lap, 20 mile race. And it hurt, after one lap my legs were on the edge of cramping. I had no idea how I was going to finish. I kept waiting for the masses to catch and pass me, but they never came. I guess the early season and heat had us all feeling it. Somehow, when it was all said and done I came in first for the 35-44, and fourth overall in the Cat 1. Not bad. This year they were having a special award for the riders who did both the Ronde and had the best finish in the Mt Bike race. I figured being in first I had it. Nope. Carl Dekker, the overall and pro winner, did both as well, and beat me by about 30 mins in the Mt Bike race, ouch.

Three days later and I am feeling mostly recovered from the weekend. Overall, I feel pretty good about my form right now. It has been a bit different this year. As I mentioned, I haven’t been working with Adnan, and have been trying to apply what I learned from him over the past couple seasons and develop my own training plan. If money wasn’t an issue, I would definitely continue to work with him, and I have been fortunate that he has been so awesome to continue to give me some advice and guidance. And if things work out, I hope to have him back in my corner for ‘Cross season. If you have ever thought about working with a coach, I definitely recommend it. Give Adnan a call, he will hook you up. Unless of course you race in my category, in which case, I recommend drinking some more beer and watching Battlestar Galactica.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Winter Update (part I)

Now that the time has changed and I’ve somewhat adjusted to getting up even an hour earlier, I guess it is time to come out of hibernation. That and my mom has been asking me to update this blog and post some photos from the trips.

I have had a pretty good winter so far. After taking a few weeks off and just lounging around after the end of the ‘cross season, Margi and I went on a great ski trip up to Canada. As a Christmas gift to each other, we had 4 nights/5 days at the SOL Mountain Lodge in the Monashee Mountains in Central BC. It was definitely the most posh backcountry ski trip either of us had been on. It started with an incredible Helicopter ride in to the lodge (my first), and was followed by 5 days of hilarity thanks to a bunch of wacky Canadians. Even with temps dropping near -20 F (that's not a typo) we had a great time, and got in some really good skiing. Some photos.

After Christmas I headed off to the Wallowas and Halfway Oregon for a Level II avalanche safety course. It was great course, got to learn a lot and get in some good skiing in beautiful terrain. And as a bonus, one of the instructors was Allen O’Bannon, co-author of Allen and Mike’s Really Cool Telemark Tips. Sadly though, Allen wasn’t even on Telemark gear, he was (gasp) on Dynafits!

That trip was followed by six weeks of unusually cold and dry weather. The lack of new snow forced me back on the bike. Luckily we had planned yet another trip, this one to a yurt in the Smokey Mountains in Central Idaho. It was a reunion trip of sorts, with myself Margi and our friends Beth, Ryan, Ben and Celia (of Wild Heart Cycling) and their friend Matt. All of us, except Matt, had gone on a trip together to the Wallowas 3 years ago, hence the reunion theme. It was a great trip. We got lucky with the weather, as the that pesky high pressure that was responsible for the previous dry weather was starting to budge allowing some storms to make their way from N. Cali up to Idaho. We had several dumps of 4-6” with around a foot total during the trip. Enough to make for some great skiing but not so much that the avy conditions got out of hand. Even if the snow hadn’t been good, the company would have easily made up for it. Had lots of laughs, and got in a lot of skiing, close to 9 hours each day. Even got to name a few new ski runs: Socks on Fire (in honor of Ben’s sock that fell on the stove at 2am and stunk the hell out of the place) and Yum-Yum, Ha-Ha (after the newest backcountry game). One added bonus of the trip is that our friend Ryan is also a professional photographer, so we got some great photo documentation from the trip. Check ‘em out here. And if you’re getting married, or know someone who is, you should check him out, he does great work and is a great guy. I took a few shots, so did Margi, and Matt.

On the way home from Idaho we made an impulsive stop at the Anthony Lakes ski area. A classic local ski hill with one 900’ foot lift. Even though it was a Friday, the 9” of fresh snow meant the place was packed, with a full parking lot. Ok, so that really meant there were 30 cars there. Pretty funny. One of the best parts of Anthony lakes is that they let you buy a one ride ticket for $6. Since we had all our backcountry gear with us, we went for the one-ride ticket, rode up and headed out of bounds for some fresh turns. Extra double bonus? It was a bluebird day and we had a professional photographer. Yup, photoshoot day. Overall a pretty sweet trip, the sign pretty much sums it up:

(The Obama admin should look into Haines for some economic recovery)

Now that the winter trips are over, we’re balancing time on the bike with some time taking advantage of the late winter dumps we have been getting these past few weeks. And just enjoying some time at home.