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.