Monday, November 26, 2007

MRC Cross Race - Sunday

Get off your ass and register for the MRC cross race this Sunday in Wrentham, MA. Same location as last year and same as the very popular training race series from back in September. You get two unique opportunities at this race: 1) you get to see if you've got the stones to ride The Log (I don't), 2) you get to blame Colin if your start position sucks. The latter is only true if you pre-reg otherwise it's an automatic seat on the back of the short bus. Do it... you know you want to...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Not quite A-list

The past few weeks I've started to feel a little like I've become the Joe Piscopo of cross racing... somewhat well known and accomplished, but not what anyone would consider top shelf. The good news is that I'm getting better results and winning the races within the race, but I've got a bit more work to do.

The site of today's almost spectacular race was the Verge race at Sterling. The forecast called for ridiculous cold at 7 when I planned to get there and ma nature did not disappoint. I had about 5 layers on for warmups and I think I needed every one of them. A quick spin around showed that the course was a good bit different than last year. The staircase on the up-n-down was gone since they had to ditch it last year to be UCI legal anyways. They also broken up the long straights along the driveway near the pits with some additional turns and up-n-down fun. Lastly the approach to the run up was very different and made it almost rideable for those better than me (note: I saw Luke Keough go up it in the juniors race and almost fell over). I registered sorta late so I lined up 5th row or something like that. Fortunately with the cinder track at the start there was lots of room to move up and I had it in my head all week that I had to bust the start to make up a few spots. Well I could have done it better, but I did get an OK start and did pass some guys. Into the dip before the runup some guy(s) ate it and there was a good bit of chaos. Fortunately I only got hung up a little and was able to get back in it. After that, the story is really pretty typical for me. I got passed by almost nobody, blew past some of the quick starters, and spent the whole race chasing Cookie (passed him with a lap to go). I rode semi-clean, but did have a couple of bobbles, one of which cost me. On the big up-n-down on the final lap I could tell I had a guy right with me and that I was somewhere in the top 20. I had ridden the hill all but one lap where there was some traffic and I had it set up well again until a guy I was lapping dismounted right in front of me and I was forced off. The guy behind me was able to go wide, power over the top, and get a gap. Try as I might, I just couldn't get him back. Turns out that was the race for 10th... dammit.

I really can't be all that disappointed with 11th in a bigger race, especially one where I finished an unimpressive 31st last year, but I still want to reach that next level. At this point in the season, it's just tuneup for my quest to not get lapped at Nats. Seeing that I didn't ride for July, August, and the beginning of September, I should take what I can get and be happy with it.

Oh, and the MRC crew continued to rock the cat 4 race... I think today it was 3rd, 5th, 11th, 13th, and 21st with the comeback kid Manny Goguen coming in 21st after riding the first few laps in the lead pack. Great to see him back out there!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

So much for that plan

So Tuesday's plan went to hell in a handbasket thanks to New England's finest weather casters. I need a job where I can be wrong on a regular basis and just explain why I was wrong after the fact. With the unexpected snow (whatever happened to the 40% chance of showers in the evening) and the mercury hovering in the mid-thirties, I decided to double-lock the giANT bike in the cage at work, grab a Zipcar and join the mess that I had so hoped to avoid. By the way, if you've never checked out Zipcar I highly recommend it (assuming you live or work in an area where cars are available). I signed up back this summer when we had to get some car repairs and I split time between biking and borrowed wheels. I kept the membership for occasions like yesterday when I had biked and needed a car. Anywho, enough unpaid advertisements...

So the ride home was tolerable since I avoided the 45 mile backup on the Pike, but still not much fun. This also meant I got to drive it back in this morning and ride home tonight instead. Perfect, the weather nerds are calling for mid to high 40's and cloudy. Ok, I can do that. I got up at the ass crack o dawn so I could roll out early and have a little bit of daylight to play with. I hoped to make it to the townie part of the ride (past Waltham and into Weston) before all traces of daylight were gone. Well I almost made it, but as I was crossing into Waltham the water came. Now it wasn't rain, but it certainly went from comfortably cool to damp and gross. About 2 miles later I had to make a decision... keep my glasses on and get blinded completely by the combination of headlights and water on them, or take them off and ride nearsighted the rest of the way. Well there was plenty more traffic to come so I chose some vision over none most of the time. Ok, now we're really having fun... it's around 40 degrees, I'm not wearing any sort of vision correcting device which is what gives me enough warning to avoid potholes, it's really dark, it's misting, and low areas have become foggy. I really wish I could have gotten pictures of some of the looks I must have gotten. To all those who saw me, yes, I am crazy, thanks for asking. Anywho... I eventually made it back here to the land of far far away. By the time I did it was 39 degrees, I was good and soggy, and I had been on very limited vision for about half the ride. Thanks to whatever force it was that got me here in one piece...

Good news is I got 3.5 hours of saddle time in 2 days. I raced Sunday and I'm racing Saturday. I guess this week is a final training push before nationals... maybe I can squeak a couple more places out of it yet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Aw dammit...

I knew I spoke too soon... results are up and the hand written ones race day were wrong... 8th instead of 7th. Oh well... 2 top 10's this year is a start... sort of...

Beating the traffic

Working in the big city for almost 12 years has taught me that despite the media hype about Wednesday before Thanksgiving travel, the Tuesday before Turkey day is the worst day of the year to drive west out of the city. My theory is that it's because all the colleges close down today for the break, but it could just be that everyone thinks they're being clever and beating all that Wednesday traffic. To try and combat what I believe to be a truism about today, I biked in today. It's been forever since I have so it felt a little weird, but it was kinda nice. I did ride the cross bike with the Vittoria EVO cross tires pumped to 80 so it was a pretty slow trip. I can also say it was freaking chilly when I left the house. Roadside thermometer out in the burbs said 24. I was well bundled so I warmed up pretty well, but I could always tell the chill was there. Now I'm just waiting for G's story about today...

"Hell yah, it was finally chilly for a change. I debated whether I should put on the arm warmers, but I just said eff it and figured I'd prolly be warm enough if I zipped up the jersey for a change. Stuck with the shorts too and just threw some embrocation on my junk for effect and to keep Solo happy so he can talk about my junk..."

Anywho... enough blog humor for the morning. Back to work. If this morning's snow and this afternoon's rain materialize it could be a hairy ride home...

Monday, November 19, 2007

The bike needed a bath

Just a few pics post race of the rig covered in slop

I'll call this one "Mud and Cowbells" :)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I GOT POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, so it was A point, but still... I finished high enough up in a bike race that it gets recognized by people other than me. Ok... I'll take it down a notch now...

BRC cross race at Lowell was this morning. I went to this race last year and it was the first day out for the SS which subsequently ate itself and I walked off the course half way through the race. I have trained so little on my bike since NoHo that it's almost laughable, but I have been running some so I haven't been totally idle. I think I rode once last week so I really was going today for the mental release and had no expectations. Got there super early and got ready in the nice chilly weather. I did in fact finally have my tubular act together and I'll say in advance that they were awesome now that I've actually finished a race on them :) Warmups revealed that some sections of the course were nearly identical to last year and the upper half was quite a bit different due to construction on the park. Everything was very crunchy and frozen due to the temps, but you could tell it was going to thaw out quite a bit as we got going... did it ever. The dirt track on the lower half ended up with about 150 yards of mud/dirt soup that was doing a good job of getting all over everything and everyone throughout the race. The start line location was a bit of a mystery up until the last second so we all sort of rushed over there at once and I found myself front and center... woo hoo! We got rolling and I got an ok start, but I went the first 100m clipped into only one pedal and then when I got the other I skidded my front tire along the side of some guy's rear tire for a second. Didn't panic so no big deal. First turn was an up and down 180 and somehow the guy in like 10th ate it and it stacked up. I got through quick and then the barriers were right after it which I got through ok. The interesting part of the course for me came on the ride/run up. There was a sharp right into it so you couldn't get much momentum and it was long, but most guys were riding it (slowly). I chose to run every lap of the race and I honestly can't say I lost any spots on it. In fact I passed a bunch of people. Throughout the race it seemed like I just kept catching guys and then dropping them very quickly. I was riding pretty clean, but was being too much of a pansy on some spots and having to catch back up to other guys. Late in the race I started to catch Cookie who finishing top 10 at NoHo and is a good benchmark for me. Next to last lap I caught him at the barriers and then somehow got ahead of him on the run up while chasing an MIT guy. Well, I spent the rest of the race chasing said MIT guy and never did get him. I knew I was pretty high up since I had a decent start and also because I was reeling in Steve who I heard over the PA was 4th at one point. I busted it across the line, went and wiped some mud off, and then walked over to find the results. Turned out the MRC crew bagged 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th with yours truly in the coveted 1 point spot. Watch out mofos... 30 more races like this and I'll be taking a whooping from Zank and CCC ;) Pictures of the mud covered bike later.

Ok, I think I was supposed to have been doing something else all this time... oh yah, homework... dammit.

Sterling next week... here's hoping for another good day.

Friday, November 16, 2007


I'm not really one for excuses. Sure, I'll joke about the wheel of excuses when something doesn't go right, but I typically know the real reason behind things. I'm stuck in a complete mountain of excuses right now and it's coming close to my head exploding. Anywho... I try to avoid talking about work here so I'll stop.

Got to ride the gerbil wheel last night. Maybe MTB in the dark tomorrow. Lowell Sunday. I need the exercise more so I can forget everything for a while than anything...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

In for Lowell

OK, the wheel of schedule juggling landed on the 4's race at Lowell on Sunday. I figured I'd go with closest location and the most people I know. Plus I have a score to settle because the SS came apart on me at this race last year. Sadly I'll have to boogie immediately after finishing, but at least I get to be there.

Just lips and a nose...

Some friends of mine took scuba classes in the pool on campus while we were in college. One of the tests they had to do was tread water with no hands for something like 5 minutes. By the end of it, there'd always be a lot of people with their heads tilted all the way back and you could just see their nose and lips above the surface. That's always the image I get when I'm severely overloaded... just another half inch of water (or crap as the case may be) and I'm gonna need a big straw...

I'm racing this weekend for mental relief only. I have no idea where yet. I registered for Sterling already so I don't have to start DFL, although that track at the start lets you move up if you want to burn several matches at the start. I may just show up and reg wherever I go this weekend.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Another week winds down

Ever notice how when you are outrageously busy you somehow get from the weekend to the next Friday in disturbingly blurred fashion? That's the way it's been for over a month now... Somehow it's Friday morning again, I'm behind on a lot of stuff, and another week is gone. Oh well... my group at work regularly says that "busy is good" which is typically true, but there are limits...

This is a weekend off from racing. I really did want to do at least one day in Plymouth, but school work for both me and SuperMom have to take priority this week. I got management approval for Lowell and Sterling last night so those will be fun. MRC race is the week after Sterling I think and then probably one more before the big one. Travel plans are coming together so now it's just a matter of not getting hurt or fat. My training schedule right now isn't really going to get me much better, but I definitely shouldn't get worse. Now if all the other tall mofos out there would just stay the hell off ebay maybe I could pick up a crankset with 180mm arms for my road bike so I can just leave that set up on the trainer. After making the switch to longer arms on the cross bike it's definitely the way to go for me so I need to get one for the road bike. The switch down to shorter arms just feels weird now.

Ok, back to work. Another crazy day on tap...

Oh, and how could I forget... it seems that some better quality valve extensions and some Tufo tire sealant may have remedied my bleeding tubular problems. My guess from having gone through this is that the valve cores were never in tight enough. Both of them basically spun right out with essentially no resistance to get them started. Here's hoping...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ryan Shay

I've had this in my head for a couple days, but haven't had time to get it down. For those who missed it, and shame on the media for making this no more than a passing mention, a promising young US marathoner, Ryan Shay, passed away during Saturday's Olympic marathon trials. This is an incredibly sad story for a lot of reasons and I think should serve as a good reminder to all of us that we're not invincible.

I was that athlete that for a long time that assumed I was the picture of health and fitness. I did something athletic 6 or 7 times a week, I raced regularly, my resting heart rate was below 40, I never got sick... there was no need to go to the doctor... nothing to see here. When I turned 30, I promised myself I'd go just because it had been so long and it was the right thing to do. Once I finally got around to going about 6 months later, my blood pressure was something like 180 over 115. There's a very good chance that I was well on my way to being that distance runner that just dropped one day without warning. My wife hates when I say that, but there's some family history to back up the fact that it definitely could have happened. Fortunately now I know and things are well under control. Now I'm in no way trying to say that Ryan Shay was irresponsible with his health because all reports are that it was quite the opposite. He knew about a heart condition, but was cleared to run because they thought they understood the reasons for his enlarged heart. Who knows if they missed something. Now it's probably not worth arguing about whether they did. The point is though that being able to push your body as an athlete does not mean that your body wants you to. The best you can do is not just assume everything is fine and make sure you know. Be proactive about your health and your body because knowing what's going on is never a bad thing.

Monday, November 05, 2007

2 Blogs

Just a quick note for anyone interested that missed the memo... I've started up another blog to track progress on some home improvement projects being done by dear ole Dad. Click here to check it out.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

These tubulars are cursed...

I made a realization today... if I do no other good, I at least serve as a way for the rest of the bike racing community to feel better about themselves. With all my crashes, mishaps, and general suckitude this season, I just hope that after that bad race you can say "Man, at least I'm not Rich."

Today could have been the big one I've been trying to pull off. The scene was Northampton for the big Verge race. I'm a big fan of this course since it gives you a little of everything. Fortunately I stayed over in Western Mass last night so the drive was less than half of what it could have been. I was there super early anyways so I had plenty of time to prep. I was also giving the tubulars another try after having the front re-glued and the rear checked out. I hadn't had a chance to test them yet so I wanted to do lots of laps. I had pumped them up yesterday and then they stayed in the car overnight. When I took them out they were both basically flat. I was worried, but they held new air so I wrote it off to the cold. What I noticed though was that throughout warmups, the rear kept losing a little air. The front had a little too, but not as much and they seemed to be getting better as I rode more. One last check and a top-off of the rear 15 minutes before race start and I headed up there.

Had a fairly early signup so I think I was in the 4th row. The race starts and for a change I got it right (mostly). Didn't find my pedal instantly, but quick enough and I was off. I will note I practiced this on Friday night and I think it really did help. Basically nobody went by me before turn 1 and I was actually riding well. I was maybe 15th and I didn't really know what to do with myself :) I felt GOOD and I blew threw a few guys running the sandpit and then busted up the runup to stay in great shape. I was right around a guy from the team who eventually finished 12th and is a good gauge for me so I was just a happy guy. Then it happened. I noticed all of a sudden that the rear wheel felt a little squishy. Then I came off the fast ugly downhill and knew something was wrong. The rear was all over the place, but wasn't quite flat. I had to make a choice... the pits were right there so I could take a wheel and then try to chase back or I could see if the tire held. Into the pits it was. Fortunately Bill D was there and helped me with the change which felt like it took forever, but was probably actually quite admirable. Out of the pits and I wasn't DFL so I had to get to business. What I noticed shortly though was that I could hear some brake rub so something wasn't right. It didn't feel like it was too bad though I so decided not to stop again and check it and just put my head down. I did ride fairly well for the rest of the race, but I was just way in the hole. Then on the next to last lap I sort of slid out on an easy turn and went down on one knee. I had just made contact with a huge group that I was going to work through, and then I lost contact so I basically packed it in. Rolled home in some meaningless mid-pack position although I did manage to gap a guy over the barriers and ride away for that one meaningless spot. By the way, after the race I checked the rear wheel and if I gave it a light spin, it wouldn't even go around twice. The left brake pad was basically ON the rim so I had ridden all but half a lap of the race with my rear brakes half on. I better get payback for that unnecessary workout at a future race.

2 major points of excitement from the B-Masters was G getting the hole shot and then Coley taking second in a 2 up sprint. I think Gary was top 10 and Bill D was up there too.

So the tires... I dunno. Next step is that some proper valve extenders and some Tufo sealant are on order. I was talking to Tommy Mannion after the race and he was saying he also had some problems like this and it turned out to be an issue with the valve stems/cores not being tight. I'm going to tinker a little and try to get this figured out. This keeps going and maybe I'll be donating to the "Bad Brad wants tubies" fund. Maybe I can call it a positive that I started and finished on the front which peeled off last week. Kudos to Landry's for doing it right which I obviously couldn't do.