Monday, December 31, 2007

Hard work feels good

Thanks to my parents (two of the hardest working people you'll ever meet), I've always appreciated an honest day's work and having something to show for your efforts at the end of the day. It's always satisfying to be able to point to or hold something and say "I did that". I certainly got my share of satisfaction this weekend as I tried to put in a surge to get the basement finished and into move-in condition. To the casual observer, the only glaring things to be finished were the carpet tiles and some stick down vinyl tiles outside the bathroom, but there were loads of other odds and ends that added up to tons of work. I probably spent 5 or 6 hours Saturday and another 9 or so yesterday trying to get things finished and I came oh so close. At around 11:20 last night as I realized that I had been on my knees for about 4 hours (insert juvenile joke here) doing carpeting and floor tiles and I also realized I was maybe 3 carpet tiles short of having enough, I packed it in with maybe an hour's worth of work left (once I get more carpet).

On the more athletic side, I think I ran 3 days last week including 45 minutes Friday and 30 hilly minutes on Saturday. It felt good and my stride seems to be fairly smooth right now so I hope I can keep it going for the next couple months with some biking added in. Speaking of the 2 wheeled things... I'm unloading what was my first racing bike that I've accepted is way too small for me (custom bikes tend to spoil you like that). Amazingly I've gotten 5 hits off craigslist since Saturday so there are plenty of us vertically gifted types out there. I've also started bringing together pieces to do some significant fit changes to my newer road bike since it was thrown together last year with whatever I had and never really thought through. I've certainly got plenty of maintenance to do during the dark and cold days in the next couple months.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Reflection (and lots of food)

First I must start out by declaring that I am The Iron Chef... Yesterday I pulled off another one of my stellar turkey dinners without any major hitches. I tend to make the dinner for my wife's family on Xmas day and yesterday was larger than normal with a total of 14 planned diners (2 last minute no-shows). Thank goodness for my father-in-law who manages the carving and serving of the bird once I have cooked it, but otherwise it's all me. Any I have a really tiny kitchen so this is no small feat. A small part of me thinks I could enjoy cooking if I had the time to do it. It'd also give me more motivation to train since I'd be fattening myself up...

Ok, the reflection part... Hey, everyone's doing it... I wanna be one of the cool kids. It's the end of the season so it's time to look back and think ahead. I've got plenty to look back on and some permanent reminders of the season that was...

This was definitely a season of painful and expensive lessons. I trashed one helmet, one frame, 4 wheels, 2 or 3 sets of bars, a few components, and my body. The crashology went like this:

1/10 - Highly dramatic faceplant while mountain biking

4/26 - Sentra vs. Commuter

4/28 - Sturbridge. I should be far more grateful than I am that I didn't break anything and that my ruptured groin tendon/muscle thing didn't keep me down for longer

6/17 - The Father's Day Wells crash. At least I wasn't the guy who lost his teeth. I walked away from my bike for about 10 days after this

7/8 - The broken hand the day before family vacation ultimately resulting in 3 titanium screws and 9 weeks without riding. At least I got in 90 minutes of riding between breaking it and packing it in for the day

So what is there that's positive about this trainwreck of a season? Well, for starters, I did 14 cross races without a noteable incident. Sure there were a few of the silly fallover types of things that are just part of the game, but nothing worth noting. Secondly, the few races I did complete taught me so much more than I knew... hell, even a couple of the races I crashed out of taught me a lot. I can now recognize much better where to be, when to go, when to sit back, etc. The game of road racing makes a little more sense now so it's just a shame that I'm going to be pack shy for a bit until I make it through a few races in one piece. I also know a lot more about what I am able to do. I hung in a couple of road races much better than expected and I still think I could have won Sturbridge. I podiumed in a MTB race which I still think I suck at. I know that in a cross race everyone in front of me better watch out in the final couple of laps because I'm coming to get ya (lord know what would happen if I knew how to start and there was nobody to catch). So trying to ignore the scars and look forward, I think these are my goals:

- Not crash. Sure this is partially joking, but I think what I mean is to be smarter about where I am and what I'm doing so that I minimize my chances of getting taken out. If I was at fault in my road crashes this year, it was because I put myself in a less than optimal position. Any offroad crashes were pure operator error.

- Suck less off-road. This will be a matter of practice and building confidence for me. I find that a lot of off-road crashes can be caused by being too careful (braking when you don't need too, etc).

- Win a race. Road, MTB, Cross... doesn't matter.

- Finish Great Glen... and despite CTodd's urging, no, it won't be solo. Having retired from Reach the Beach, this will be my bout with epic stupidity for this year.

- Bike to work at least once a week for the entire duration of daylight savings. Target will be 2-3 times, but I'd like to make once a requirement.

So that's my line in the sand subject to being crossed or erased by the tides. Let's hope blogger doesn't eat the post so I can go back next year and see how I did.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Here's hoping the jolly man is good to you and your families are happy and well. Spend these next days forgetting about all the day to day nonsense and enjoying the company of good friends and family... that's the stuff that matters. I'm as guilty as the next of forgetting that sometimes so my wish is that I can really take in the raw joy and excitement that kids always know how to add to the day.

Oh, and Santa just had a close call with the oldest in our house... phew...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

That's all folks...

Well the racing season has ended so of course it's time for reflection and goal setting. I have a lot in my head about this season so I'll probably keep this short and do the long rambling post later. If I'm counting right, I lined up for 4 road races (2 crashes/DNF's), 2 MTB races (1 broken hand/DNF), and 14 cross races (2 races @ -1 lap). That's probably about half of what I hoped for, but 9 weeks of no riding will do that to you. I definitely have a lot I've learned this season about racing and I know I don't know 1/100th of what there is to know. One benefit of racing less than planned is that I'm not really tired or burned out. I'll take some time off from riding, but really I'm going to keep going with other stuff while I set goals for next year. I'm likely to open with the Tufts Crit again, but it's too early to think about specific events. I've tossed around the idea of a team for 24 Hours of GG, but we'll see (anyone interested?). For now it's time to do some bike tear-downs, wheel truing, and probably e-baying (buying and selling).

I'd be a jerk if I didn't publicly admit that I owe my wife and kids huge for letting me escape for the hours of racing and training and for all the cheers from the boys. Even if I'm slow and fat, I can always go faster when they're screaming their heads off at me. Of course after watching the 10-12 year olds at Nationals I started thinking that the oldest is only 2 years off from being able to compete. How cool will it be to be able to return the cheers...

Saturday, December 15, 2007


The overnight temps in the teens with 10-20 mile an hour winds and snow meant that all of the soupy goodness from yesterday turned into frozen ruts for today. Just picture riding the most root-laden trails you can think of, but turn all the roots parallel to the direction you are going and space them 32mm apart... oh, and don't really make them straight... they have to wander around a bit and cross each other now and then. It was REALLY cold at the start and I was heavily bundled. I missed a pedal at the start, but found it quickly and was flying up the hill with the horses. We hit the dip and bang... I took a bad line, hit a rut, and down I went. One guy clipped my head with something and another guy hit my bike. It turned out later that it also mangled a spoke on my front wheel so that was all out of whack (At one point I thought about grabbing a neutral wheel, but knew I wouldn't be out there long enough for it to matter). After that incident, I basically checked out. With all the ruts and ice, you really had to be aggressive, carry some momentum, and bounce over everything and I just wasn't doing it. I think a pre-ride today would have done me a lot of good, but it was too frickin cold to get there for 8 to get on course. I sort of survived two laps before the leaders came by me and that was the day. My bruised elbow, cut knuckle, warped front wheel, and frozen bike hung around to see the finish and then I hurried off to the car to get warm. I would have gladly taken yesterdays mud over this mess... mud is tiring, but way more predictable. This pictures sums up the conditions fairly well:

Friday, December 14, 2007

Natz day 2

Big day for the east coasters in the mud today out here in KC. The youngins tore it up this morning on some frozen rutted stuff and then the sun took hold and the course turned into 1.9 miles of dirt soup. The Goguens represented with Peter taking 5th place, Tommy taking 8th (after the race he was telling his brothers he crashed 7 times), and Manny taking 20th in the oldest juniors. Luke Keough rode away with the 17-18 y.o. race, but the more impressive performance was Gavin Mannion running about half a lap carrying a busted bike and then fighting back to 6th place. Local hero Steve Tillson destroyed the 45+field, but Kevin Hines rolled home with an easy second place. We have no idea what to expect from the course tomorrow with a prediction for 4+ inches of snow tonight and temps in the mid 20's tomorrow with 10-20 mph winds. Epic may not even begin to describe it.

Here's a few shots of the youngsters and some soupy goodness:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Now that's a cross race

Greetings all from KC. It's crazy being out here to race and we're having a blast so far (despite not crashing until about 1:30 last night due to travel delays and a need to eat). Today's B races were a total mudfest. There were way over 100 people registered for the 30-39 and only like 72 started. Of that there were a few who DNF'd. CCC took the hole shot and I got a pretty good start, hitting the grass in maybe 20th. I bobbled the first couple corners and was feeling things out since I never got to pre-ride. Very very quickly, the race just turned into a slog fest. I just tried to keep it upright in all the corners and ride strong through the mud. I gave it just about all I had and was hurting at the end. Rolled home 41st which is a nice upgrade from my 123rd or whatever it was last year in Providence. Here's a few pics of the muddy carnage:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My powers are restored

Now that it's too late to back out, I can let the cat out of the bag for all those traveling to KS... the weather is my fault and as soon as I signed up, you should have backed out in expectation. You see, I have a long history of truly epic weather at events I plan long in advance. The 1998 Detroit Marathon which I trained over 6 months for (and PR'd) was run in torrential rain and 30-45 mph winds. The 2003(might have been 04) Mt Washington Hillclimb was run in weather so bad most wondered why they didn't cancel. I trained for a year for that. I went to so many running and bike races in downpours that I finally bought my own tent to bring to events. Of the 5 Reach the Beach relays I have done, 2 were in hurricanes and 2 more had only short stints of rain, of course while I was on the course. KC could now top them all. So my apologies to crossers everywhere. I still have the ability to bring epic weather events with me to athletic contests. Next time ask me first if I'm planning to register before you do.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Am I even going to get there?

I'll be honest, I'm starting to worry a bit about the weather in KC:

I guess I don't even know what to expect. Later this week looks to be sunny to partly sunny with temps similar to here. So I guess that means we should be either be expecting mud or to be having a pool party in the Tilly Zone. I guess for starters I'll hope my flight gets there and that my bike gets there. You're going to have 20+ people severly bumming if weather holds up the bike transport trailer. For now, I have too much to do before I leave to let it get to me. I'll start panicking on Wednesday...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Just keep the round side down

And no I don't mean my sort of round head...

Today was the last tuneup before the big dance and my only goal was to not injure myself or my bike. Unfortunately I was riding sans-tubulars since they were off being reglued and I definitely could have used them. After a 5:45 pickup by GD, we made the long trek to Warwick to discover that they had a nice dusting of crunchy snow everywhere. I had no idea what to expect for the course except I knew there'd be some beach and some woods at the venue. The heated indoor bathrooms were a nice treat when we got there (although the high heat added to an unpleasant smell by the time we left) and then it was off to explore. Temps were cold but seemed very tolerable esp compared to Sunday. The course was, well, interesting. Uphill pavement for a long stretch, onto the grass, through a fun little corkscrew thingy in a bowl on the grass, into the woods, onto the beach, some dirt path, a tricky down/up(run)/down through a mulched hillside, long pavement, more woods, a grass off-camber that got real greasy later, back on the pavement, wipe hands on pants, repeat. Note that there were NO barriers. They put them up right before the grassy off-camber, and promptly had to take them down when they realized that whole patch where they were was frozen solid and icy. No idea if they went back up later when it warmed up, but they were gone for the 9, 10, and 11 start times.

The course changed continually during warmups as the snow and ice got ridden on and the sun came out. Very few sections were treacherous, but lots would smack you off your bike if you weren't paying attention. My clinchers sucked on the stuff so I knew I'd have to pay close attention and probably had to be more cautious in the turns. One thing that really sucked was that as the thaw started, my shoes got real wet and it was cold enough that by the end of the race, my feet were totally numb. I was pegged for the 5th row, but with the wide road, it was more like second as people fanned out. Whistle blew and I was off like... well... . I've had 2 races this year where mentally and physically I was somewhere else at the start: Canton and today. At Canton, I didn't feel like I started racing until lap 2 and then I was flying. Today, I felt like I took the first 1/2 lap off which hurt me because we only did 4 (GD only rode for like 33 minutes in his schooling of the B masters). Not sure what it is, but I know part of it today was that I'm still a little gun-shy in a pack from the year I've had and I don't trust crossers in a pack jockeying for the hole shot. Knowing that I almost NEVER get passed in a race, I decided to just sit and take my chances.

With my 1/2 lap parade, about 1/3 of the way through lap 2 I hear "on your left" and some dude in blue flies past. 2 seconds later "Sorry Rich, on your left" and there goes Gary. For a second I was like "He rocks" then I was like "Wait you a-hole, get on his wheel". I tried desperately and held a little contact and then Gary got taken out just before the mulch pit. We made the runup together and when he got to the top, his rear wheel was out of whack so he got stalled. Over by where the barriers should have been he catches up again and I offered him a pull when we hit the pavement... my offer must have sounded like that siren reverb you get when an ambulance speeds by because he passed me that fast... ok, I guess Gary feels good. Rest of the race was fairly non-descript... passed people as usual, but not tons. Rode ok on the turns and hammered the straights. Didn't do anything stupid and kept it upright (goal achieved). I was around the grass off camber when I heard Fries yelling "And here's Gary David and he's the A-student today" which pumped me up to dust a few guys on the finish stretch. I have NO CLUE where I finished... might have been top 20, but barely. Nothing special about my finish except for having fun, getting dirty, and coming home safe.

I'm going to try and blog daily from KS... my kids want to see pictures anyways so I'll see what I can do. Hope to see many of you there.

Results are posted (good to see them get them on the web already despite not being able to get the paper copies up for over an hour after the race) and I came in 15th. With all due respect to the other 4's that busted ass today, I kinda took today off so I'm taking this as a good sign for The Big Show...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

CTodd is so cool, I want to be JUST like him

I was giving the bike a nice drivetrain cleaning and a good once over tonight since it was about my last chance before it heads to KS and I decided it would be a good idea to check how the glue is holding up on the bubulars. The good news is, I probably would have been a CTodd copycat this weekend when I peeled both tires off if I hadn't checked. The bad news is I've got spots all over both wheels where the glue is cracking and letting go at the edges. My guess is the combo of the super cold and the wet muck from Lowell worked in and weakened up the weaker spots. Now I have to see if I can get them in the shop tomorrow at opening and get them back in time to put them in the Goguen's rig for the trip. I'll definitely be slumming on the clinchers Saturday. I really didn't need this this week...

I was asking myself if these things are worth the aggravation. From having finished 3 or 4 races on them now, I have to say yes...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The frozen tundra of Wrentham

The day has finally come and gone and it was as kick ass as expected... that's right kids, the very popular, exciting, beer fueled, painful, log hopping experience that is the MRC Wrentham Cross Race. Course setup was due to start around 5 and I planned to leave the house around 4:30, but my brain vetoed itself and I didn't drag my butt out of bed until like 4:35. It worked out because I got there around 5:35 and things were just really kicking off. I'll tell ya crossers (or bike racers of all types), if you've never set up a cross course, you should try it. If you get enough people, it only takes like an hour to 90 minutes, and you get to see the intent of the designer as you go through it. It's little things like "make them make a decision if they're going to ride the berm or try the narrow lane inside", but it does give you an appreciation for their sick little minds. So we had really pretty much finished up by just after 7 and then it was time to start thinking about racing.

I had warmed up nice while working and wearing 5 or 6 layers, but stripping down to put on the race clothes was quite the shocker. I managed to get in maybe 5 laps for warmup and felt ok, but nothing spectacular and it was freaking cold. Race time, strip off the jacket and extra pants... damn! It's REALLY cold. Ah well... reason to race harder. Fortunately I didn't suck too much in the eyes of Colin so I was lined up in the third row. Whistle goes... crap... where's my pedal? I actually seem to be having some pedal issues lately so I need to check out the cleats and pedals. Found the pedal and was in my usual ok-but-not-great position. Through all the turns, nothing exciting. We get to the barriers and chaos breaks out. One guy clips his front wheel and drops his bike. Another guy trying to avoid it clips someone and swings his bike sideways. Snaked my way through, but then both those guys clogged things a little more when they remounted without checking their chains first and had to hop right back off. Into the woods and tried to hammer on the road in there. I came through the Landry's pit and one of the guys told me "11 in front of you"... cool... I thought I was further back. Kept hammering just trying to hold position and finally found a good line/dismount plan on the down and up into the barriers. Cool part of lap one was having a front (ok rear) row view of Andy P styling over The Log. After that, the race turned into the usual chase and drop exercise. By 3 to go I had a group of 3 with Steen leading in distant view and they became my new goal. FINALLY on the final lap I made contact after going through the gate and just as I did one of them jumped. I hung on as much as I could and planned to get them in the down and up into the barriers. I did get right in the middle of the group running up the hill, but we had also just lapped someone and he got in the mix. The traffic coupled with a poor remount meant I was still chasing and then one guy who had sucked Steen's wheel for 2 full laps jumped going up the last hill and that blew apart the group. I had burned so much chasing them back that I never passed any of them and came home 8th. Brad and Cookie were flying up front and I think were 3 and 4. Steen was 6th. Hooray for the MRC 4's again.

It was a hard fought 8th today and I really felt like I raced all I could so I'll take it even though I was one out of the points again. Much of blog land was out today and I got to chat with G and Ctodd (by the way, never have that man or his mechanic glue your bubulars), and I finally got to meet the one and only man who breaks Solo styling in his oh so pro contractor glasses and duck taped rain jacket :) Congrats to him on his 5k PR yesterday and then coming back today and tearing it up.

Now if I only had put down this many words in my school paper for the past 20 minutes I'd be better off...