Of Steel

True bike frame builders are artisans that can transform parts and pieces into a thing of beauty.  A hand crafted frame has it’s own energy and vibration that is unlike any other frame out there.  I’m not sure if the energy is of the frame itself, put into it by the builder as it is transformed, or a combination of the two.  I do know that it is there though.  One day when I build frames, I may find out.

Earlier this week I wandered on to the  Steep Planet Blog and the video below was on their site.  I love the video.  For some it may be boring or too long, others more of an “eh”; but there are those that it will strike a chord with and I am one of those.

Of Steel From YouTube

Yearning for my College Days

I wonder if I’ll ever be able to get some things from college out of my veins?

Now that it’s full fledged fall here in Colorado complete with a snow fall today, the overcast, wet, and nippy air has me excited for many reasons.  One of the biggest pulls though is to hang out with good friends listening to chill music and talking/ BS’n into the wee morning hours with studying interspersed (yes, I actually miss studying in a twisted way).  Sometimes over a good beer, a good cup of coffee or just hot chocolate / cider; others with nothing special to drink,  just appreciating a great sound system.   These weren’t the parties, planned or random – those I do miss, but the discussions where we talked about life, spirituality, religion, women, cars, travel, etc were really the great ones.  It may have been 2-3 of us in a study room, general area, on the roof, on the side of a mountain or 15 of us in various areas – the key always being great camaraderie and respect for each other.

I look back on those times quite fondly, almost with reverence, as much of what was discussed in one way or another very much shaped much of my thinking today.  There is just something about great music, great friends, and “nasty” weather that led to some of the most memorable times.

Schoolyard Cross ’10

This past Saturday was the Schoolyard cyclocross race at Boulder reservoir. I had actually thought about skipping races this weekend after having the crud I’d somewhat had for the past several weeks really hit after last Sunday’s race. However, by Wednesday I was feeling ok and by Thursday I was itching to get out again, so I figured I might as well. Since the race was at the Boulder Res, I thought that would be a good way to have a smoother race than at the Colorado Cross Classic; and have more fun passing people in the sand! Everything was working out well the morning of the race. We (two daughters, Hill, and I) got to the res. an hour and thirty minutes before my race; giving myself plenty of time to hit the restrooms, get registered, and get a ride on the course for pre-ride/course recon at the end of the 9am race. I liked the way the course was laid out, but was bummed there wasn’t more sand; and really bummed there were some tight technical and off camber turns throughout the course (after last week, I’m still chicken on tight and off camber)- figured I’d just have to pull up the big boy pants and get over the fear… Overall, I thought it would be a good course for me.

After my pre-ride, I went back to our truck and setup the trainer for a warm up. I am completely convinced this is the proper way for me to warm up; riding around before the race just never seemed to get me ready to race as well. On the trainer, I tend to get a bit more warmed up temperature wise in the muscles, I can much more easily control my effort level, and I can completely zone out and visualize the course while listening to some good music with completely isolating headphones (not a good idea for riding in traffic or among other riders).

After my warm-up – I headed over to the corral area for pre-race staging. This time I was a bit more confident and lined up at the front to try and be in the first row behind those with CO Cup points. It turns out that they did call-ups by race number blocks after the CO Cup points call-ups and I was in the second group called; still not too bad of a starting point. I counted myself in the middle of the 4th row with 9-10 guys per row. At the whistle, I got clipped in quickly and started moving forward in the pack. I knew the lines I needed to take the early corners well and was able to maneuver as needed in the pack to take them and generally move up some more on each one. As we went through the back section of the course, my lines were working out very well and I was somewhere in the 20’s as far as position. The other thing I noticed was that I wasn’t right on the edge of blowing up either; I was actually semi comfortable with my effort level!

As we came into an area that I knew I would have an advantage on (barrier followed by short run and then sand), I was hugging the inside line of a corner when we hit a small sand section and the line previous to me had gone to the left. The problem with that line is it lead straight to a wooden post that was cabled to a couple other posts. I fought it, but I came in too fast and it was too late to correct out of.  BAM! The left  handle bar hit the stump, which started me going over the bars, but I noticed that I had somehow been bounced back some. I tried to recover from it, but no luck, my front wheel hit the stump just to the left of center and tossed me into the air. I landed right in the middle of the pack and I think I was actually run over by a couple other racers, but I never really felt it. As I got up, I was sure I had broken something on me or the bike – I could see the posts and the cable in mid flight along with a couple rocks and wasn’t sure if I had missed them or not. At the time nothing hurt, so I grabbed my bike and kept going, or at least tried too. I got over the barrier and went to ride the sand, but nothing happened when I turned the pedals. Turned out my chain was off the crank and needed to be put back on.

Once back on my bike, I noticed I was having issues steering, as I looked down at my bike, it was pretty apparent why; my handle bars were about 10+ degrees off of center to the right! I didn’t have any tools on me or in the pit, so I rode the rest of the race that way. My bar position turned out to do me no favors as it made all the tight corners a lot more tricky adding to my hesitation on really tight corners (next year, I will be spending a lot of time every week working on handling skills!). As I’m writing this and remembering how I was racing, I just realized that I was doing zero hip steering in the tight sections…guess what I’ll be working on this week?
The rest of the race went pretty well, no more crashes and started picking people off. Final placing was ~50th. Another lesson I learned was that I need more air pressure in my tubulars for dry hard packs races like this; the slight roll over in all the tight corners was a bit too disconcerting.

Boulder Cup Cyclocross Race 2010

The final run up

This past weekend was a double dip race weekend – the Colorado Cross Classic on Saturday and then the Boulder Cup race on Sunday. I had registered for the double months ago and had planned on doing at least one other double weekend to prep for it before the actual weekend, however the crud I got made me think twice about it.  I did a pretty good job of mind over body for Saturday’s race – Sunday morning however, I was really wondering if I was going to make it to the start line as I had a deep dry cough,sore chest,  sore throat, absolutely packed sinuses and felt completely dehydrated and hungry (not the way to wake up race morning 3hrs before your race!).  Several cups of hot tea later and a peanut butter bagel and I was feeling a bit more human.

When I got to the race venue, I knew I was going to be racing.   I was feeling better and the course was just too nice to be missed.  As I got there, the race before mine was just starting to line up, so I knew I had to hurry if I was going to preview the course.  ACA rules changed last week only allowing pre-rides during the first two laps of a race behind all the racers or at the very end after the winner has crossed the finish line.  I knew the course was going to be mostly grass with a healthy dose of concrete and pavement thrown in as well – I didn’t however plan for the dew on the grass.  During my first pre-ride lap, I was going down a technical section of switchbacks that went down hill.  On three of the corners, my rear wheel broke loose on the grass and whipped around, with me ending up sprawled on the ground for two of them.  As I got to the bottom for the last turn, my front wheel washed out and I went through the course tape, once again on the ground and covered in grass.  Not the best way to start out a race as I was now chicken in the corners and riding rigid.  To get over my hesitation some, I swapped out rear wheels telling myself that my more knobby rear wheel would get better traction so I wouldn’t have to worry as much. The reality was that it was probably worse, but sometimes you have to be irrational to convince yourself to quit being chicken.

Once I had psyched myself up a bit more and made a mental game plan – it was time to get to the starting corral.  I really wished I had had time to warm up more on the trainer, but there was no use in lamenting it then.   There were quite a few call ups and then the rest of us rolled forward to our starting positions – I was somewhere around row 10 or 11 (at least that’s what it felt like if not reality).  I was talking with those around me when all of a sudden we started our race; never heard the 1 min to go, much less the 30sec, 15, sec and whistle.  Somehow I managed to get into the groove of racing pretty quick and picked my way up the peloton fairly well in the opening meters of our race.  We had a fairly straight paved section under the finishing banner and then around a 180 degree turn and back across the parking lot, over a grass divider, and then onto the grass landscaped area.  This had a nice easy right hand corner on the grass followed by a straight and then a another 180 on an uphill off camber; this is where the pile ups started.  Rather than waiting for the masses to get moving on their bikes, quite a few of us jumped off our bikes and ran around the corner carrying our bikes and continued for the next straight and around another 180 before remounting our bikes.

The section that followed turned out to be the favorite part of the course for me.  We went down a descending straight that was slightly off camber with the fall line going to our right.  As we neared a small pond the course turned to the right along a hillside/berm, this allowed the use of the berm to turn the corner without touching your brakes (if you had the guts to do so).  Once I braved the line brakes-less, it was an absolute blast allowing me to rip down the hill in my top gear and whip around the corner and over the hill, catching a bit of air as I crested the top, and back down to the rest of the course.  A few corners and a couple dips later it was a mini-time trial (TT) up hill along a concrete path and then grass; by the time I got to the top of the climb, my legs were screaming at me so badly that I thought (hoped)  they were going to quit talking to me for a bit.  Then down another off camber corner, up another hill, more off camber decent and then a climb that was almost ride-able, but not quite for non-pro mortals. After the climb, there was a slight reprieve on pavement (with a great cheering section from my daughters and wife) before going down the wicked off-camber switchbacks followed by a few more corners, a short steep climb, then an almost 180 degree turn off of the berm and back up which led into the long run up with barriers.

Who could ask fro a better cheering crowd than this on Halloween?

During our race, the run up had double barriers that were quite tall, too tall for me to feel comfortable running over so I stepped over them and ran the rest of the way. (later on the first barrier was lowered some and the second barrier was lowered significantly, so quite a few pros bunny hopped it and road the hill – still quite an impressive feat!).   Once at the top of that hill, it was 100m to the finish line.

The race was going well and I was slowly moving my up the field until the third lap.  Just past the mini-TT area, the tolls of a low sleep week, having a cold, and racing the day before hit – my legs turned to bricks and it was taking myself massive effort to only be dropped by the group I had been mixing it up with.  I knew it was a bonk about to hit, so I backed off a little bit hoping to stave it off at least some – it worked, but there was a very fine line I had to walk for the rest of the race.  Looking back over my heart rate date from the race tells the story pretty well too – for the power I was putting out, my heart rate was about 20-30bpm higher than normal; a sure sign I was pretty cooked.   At this point I just focused on keeping in the narrow zone I had to work with and being as smooth as possible on the bike.  As the bell lap (final lap) came around, I was finally starting to feel a bit more power return so I was able to give it a good push up the final climbs on the bike and then sprint up the hill climb – once again putting me neck and neck with two other racers.  The only problem is in my hypoxia, I wasn’t sure if it really was the final lap, or if we still had one to go.  As I got back on my bike I started to sprint out, but the other two didn’t follow suit right away.  I immediately though ” oh damn, maybe there was still one lap!” , in that case, I needed to conserve energy, so I backed off a bit – and right then the other two took off full bore!  Back on the power and the race was on!  We could hear Dave Towle booming over the mic calling out the sprint, and I even heard him mention my name for being in a tight sprint both days (pretty cool having the voice of cycling talking about you!) As we crossed the finish line, I had beaten one of the guys for sure, but it was too close for me to tell if I had beaten them both; at that time I was too busy trying to stay on top of my bike and not puke from the effort.   As I came back around to the finish line, I learned that I was edged out by less than a tire width!  Dang, going to have to work on that some more.

After the race and some much needed recovery food and hydration – it was off to play with the kids as there were quite few things to entertain the kids as well.  I love that most all cyclocross races are very family friendly!   There was a mtn bike course setup by Avid4Adventure that Tana absolutely loved.  I think she spent the better part of 2 hrs running around that area on her push bike – no race for her this weekend, but I don’t think she was too bummed about it.

Going up the obstical

whats next dad?

Colorado Cross Classic Race Report

It was a great race today at Boulder reservoir for the Colorado Classic Cross race! The 35+ Cat4 field was sold out as usual, so there was a lot of good competition.  I have figured out how to ride sand this year so I was really looking forward to this course.

On the first lap riding by many as they ran the sand (photo from Mountain Moon Photography)

My start was ok as I was about row 6 and was able to move up some as the field started the race; however on the ~5th turn of the race, I was basically T-boned by another racer that drove me from one side of the course clear to the other side and into the safety fence.  Luckily I was able to push off of the fence, stay upright and continue on. I was dead set to make sure to pass that guy during the race, but then I hit a goat head that punctured my tubular tire! The sealant I was using did its job, but didn’t close up the puncture until I had lost ~7-10psi making the wheel too squirly to continue with for the entire race.

This situation is the entire reason why I had spare wheels in the pit,  so I did a quick stop by the pits to grab a spare wheel. Unfortunately, my spare wheel suffered the same fate, so I had to make another stop in the pits and was going to beg a pump off someone to get back up to the correct pressure.  It turns out that we had neutral support from Mavic wheels for the race, so I was able to swap out to one of their wheels and continue on.   I am so very thankful for the wheel!! The tire ended up being a bit hard and not too good in the sand for me; but racing is better than not finishing so I was just happy to be back out in the pack.

As I finally made a full lap without issue, I ended up in a pack of about 5 other racers, all of which had had issues at one time or other and were trying to make it back up to the rest of the field.  This was great as we traded back and forth trying to get the best of each other and, in turn, getting the whole group to go harder than we would on a solo effort.  Every time I was thinking that I was in a section where I could back off a little bit to recover some, I realized there was a guy right on my back wheel, so there was no way I was going to let up and let him pass me easily.

Sometime during the second to last lap (insert Dave Towle – two to go!! two to go!! two to go!!) I decided that there was no need to be chicken in the corners and just stopped grabbing the brakes; and rather than focusing on the corner, looked towards the exit and beyond.  Gee, guess what happened? – I started railing the corners and putting space between me and the racers around me allowing me to bridge up to the next group in front.  About time I got over that cornering fear!  Combining the re-found cornering ability with my ability to quickly get over barriers and ride sand decently, and I moved up at least another 10 spots on that lap alone.

Up until that point I realized that I had also be doing a “plodding” run through the long section of sand that I was now having to run – a really horrible run actually; stiff, locked legs landing very much heal first, like I was trying to walk in my road bike shoes on ice or something.  The voice in my head all of a sudden spoke up saying – um, hello!  you know how to run, you have good running fitness, your mtn bike shoes have great tread and toe spikes in them – use them!!  So on the last lap I did, and huge difference!  Still hurt like a son-of-a-gun, but I was more than twice as  fast and a little less spent at the end of the run section,  so I was able to really accelerate on the following section.  – Like I said in my previous post, this year has been and continues to be a good learning experience.

As we went down the second to last paved section, there were three of us in near proximity.  I was tail end charlie with the middle guy ~25yrds in front and the lead guy about another 25yrds.  The last part of the course, I knew I could rail at full out speed, so I figured I would do my best to beat both of them; as it goes in racing, they all had the same idea however.   As we dropped off the pavement, the gaps where down to about 15yrds; through a chicane and the lead guy kept the 15yrds, but I had narrowed to 10yrds on the middle guy.  A hard right turn and still 15yrds to lead, but 5yrsds to middle guy.  Final left turn up a gravel hill and onto the pavement and we were almost neck and neck, but the lead and middle guys took much better lines than I did, so we came out onto the straight with about 5yrds to lead guy and two yards to the middle guy and only about 30yrds to the finish line.  We all threw down as much power as we could muster, working our  bikes side to side for every last bit of speed we could; at the line the lead guy crossed first with my front wheel right on his rear and the middle guy about a half wheel behind me.  Having a full on sprint to the finish was a great way to end the race!

Ended the race in 66th place and a huge grin on my face; I love cyclocross racing!

It is what it is…and it’s mostly good

This weekend was a series of ups and downs.

Friday afternoon, quite a few of us from Blue Sky Velo Club took the afternoon off and helped set up the course for the Blue Sky Velo Cup cyclocross race.  This is always one of the highlights of the CX season for me as I love the courses at Xilinx ( and am very grateful for their allowing us to use their property) along with the courses that Blue Sky Velo put together are always a great time.  There were quite a few of us helping out so we somewhat broke off into groups to tackle different sections.  Several hours of manual labor later,   I got to ride a couple sections of the course so I could get a feel for it; one of the perks of being a volunteer!

As the finishing touches were being put into the course, I excused myself to head up to Estes Park to join the rest of my family along with Hill’s parents for some time in the mountains.  On the way up, I noticed that my battery light on the truck was lighting up when my engine rpm’s dropped below 1700 (diesel engine, so I rarely go over 2500rpm), a pretty good sign that the alternator was going out.  Luckily nothing quit working, however to be on the safe side, after getting to the house we were staying at in Estes, I plugged in a trickle charger for the truck.  I wanted to actually figure out what was going on, but in the absence of my tools back home, I couldn’t do much about it.

After a good nights sleep, and an early wake up – I was heading back down the mountain to Longmont for the race.  By the time I got back into the town of Estes Park proper, the battery light was on full time, when I got into the canyon between Estes and Lyons, the radio turned itself off and at Lyons the gauges quit working…all I wanted was for the truck to just keep running long enough to get me to my race…
Nope- the truck died just before St. Vrain road on 75th.  At this point I was roughly 8 miles from the race, it was 8:30am, my race was at 10:40 and I wanted to be there by 9:30 to be able to get a good warmup in.  I thought about calling AAA for a jump, however I figured there was a very slim chance of getting AAA to me and everything done in an hour.  Was my race over? Heck no – I loaded up my cycling backpack (very glad I had it with me!), found two bungie straps to strap my race wheels to my backpack, and off I went on my bike  (looking a bit like a Clampett on two wheels).

All in all, the ride from the truck to the race wasn’t bad as it allowed me to great a warmup done; best of the season so far actually. Another of my “good things” was I decided to put some embrocation on my legs before leaving the house in the morning so it would have some time to soak in.  It was a double good thing – the extra time got my muscles all nice, warm, and loose; and since it was already on, my legs were warm for the ride to the race which allowed for an even better warmup as I didn’t start with brick legs from driving.

Near the end of the race and well into the hypoxic pain cave

When I got to Xilinx, it was packed with people getting ready to race.  It didn’t rain as was expected, and many hoped, so rather than a very technical race, it was a fast race with some good technical sections.   My start was less than stellar, started around row eight or nine and tried to make some headway in the pack off the start, but there were a lot of people riding a bit too aggressive and more than once someone almost went down.  As we got off the starting drag and onto the course, I was able to start picking people off; however on every really tight turn, I would end up getting a ~5sec gap between me and the person that was in front of me.  Conversely, I’d make up ~8sec every time we had to go over barriers.  This had me moving up bit  by bit for the first several laps.  As the laps went on, I started to make more and more mistakes in the technical sections until I started having mini crashes to full blown ones – just too hypoxic to think straight and then got timid which made it worse (not nearly enough practice as the technical aspects aren’t instinctual yet).  I thought about getting off the gas, but decided not to and kept attacking the group I was in and at least held my position in average as I moved up in the power sections and got passed in the technical sections.

I ended up 69th after starting ~85th or so, not stellar, but actually one of my more fulfilling races of the season.   I was able to push hard the entire race, minimized my crashes (compared to other races) and didn’t let up and soft pedal many times when I had every opportunity to do so.  I had hopped that this year I would be in the top 20 finishing positions, but life and many things have contributed to where I am, and that is without the fitness and skill to be there; and that’s ok, it is what it is- I’m having one heck of a fun time and I’m learning a lot along the way.

I honestly think the realization of where I am in reality vs where I was envisioning myself was the best part as I’ll be able to put together a much better training program now.  The truck did make it home after a visit from AAA.  The alternator is definitely shot and maybe one of the batteries; just another couple things to add to the “to do” list.

The next day was spent with family up in Rocky Mountain National Park hiking around, though much of it was more helping my daughters climb all over the rocks as each outcropping begged to be climbed as far as they were concerned.

Nice fall day in RMNP

one of many rocks climbed

Frisco Cross

This weekend was the Frisco Cross cyclocross race – I hadn’t planned on racing in this race, but with the way the leaves were changing and the fact that we hadn’t been up to the Breckenridge area for years; we decided to head on up.

The scenery for the race was great! (will add a gallery with pictures soon). The race was fun, but brutal too. The start of the race was up a long paved hill that was ~150yrds too long for me as I hit the wall heading up it. Luckily right after the climb was a very sweet downhill section on wood chips that was a dream to ride. I think I was going well above 30mph each time I went down it and was grinning ear to ear as I was cranking the power out and railing the corners; I think that downhill section was the only reason I pushed it up the hill on each lap.
After that downhill though it was a lot of tough technical and energy sapping sections. For some reason, I managed to forget how to ride sand for the first 3 of 5 laps and wasted a lot of energy. At the end I was too hypoxic to remember to check out the results, so I have no idea where I ended up.

After the race, I met back up with my family and some friends that happened to be staying up in the area for the weekend; it was quite nice getting to hang out with them for a bit. We all decided to wait it out for the kids race to start as Tana was super excited for it. In the mean time, I partook of some of the free beer for racers along with the rest of my recovery food and liquids.  After a couple hours, our friends had to take off, which as Murphy would have it, meant the race started right after they left.  A couple bits of a chocolate bar later and Tana was off and tearing up the course with a huge grin.  She handled lugging her push bike over the log barrier pretty well too!

Once Tana had her race – all bazillion laps of it (she wanted to have a very good warm up and then didn’t quite want to stop), we all headed back to the car for some lunch and then the trek home.  Right as we were leaving Frisco, a not so welcome thing happened – my HAPE started to go into effect. HAPE is, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, and really not pleasant.  I first had it several years ago while backpacking after I had pushed it really hard to get to camp before a storm hit while carrying a pack that was way too heavy.   We got snowed in and while we were hunkered down, I had some scotch with some hot coco and then it hit.  Long story short, after not sleeping and somehow not dying, we made it out about 30hrs later.
Luckily it was a short bout this time, as we started towards Georgetown on the other side of the Eisenhower tunnel, it started going away.  A not so genital reminder that for me at least – hard strenuous activity above 9000ft and alcohol do not mix well.

Dear Starbucks, it’s definitely you

I’m leaving you Starbucks.
I can’t even  say the standard ” don’t take it personal, it’s me, not you” line either, as it’s definitely you.  I used to enjoy the occasional jolt of caffeine provided by a visit to you. These days though, either your coffee has changed quite a bit, or as I’m eating cleaner, I’m actually fully tasting your coffee.  Rather than a good cup of flavorful coffee (generally espresso) with some whipped up milk and chocolate (mochas area a weak point); I’m getting a massively over sweetened cup of Hersey’s syrup with some milk and hints of coffee added.  Worse yet; the headache!  For what ever reason, every time I get a coffee drink from you, especially a mocha, I get a massive headache that takes hours to get rid of and lately a bit of gut rot as well.

I’ll admit I have found others – several small local shops with very good coffee beans and well trained baristas that can pull a delectable espresso, then perfectly tend to the milk and then mix in some real chocolate, not some high chemical liquid made to taste like chocolate, but actual real chocolate!No added sweetening needed.  Ah, that’s what coffee is supposed to taste like!  I can now see why so many think coffee is bad; while good coffee can be a divine drink, even mediocre coffee is horrible.

Today was the last straw;  I had an all morning meeting and free starbucks was offered, so I figured- it’s free, heck yea, I’ll take a mocha!….ugh, now I sit here with a splitting headache and a gut that is doing backflips wondering why the heck I did that. I knew better, and have even advised others as of late, however the pull is strong (hats off to massively effective marketing).
Next time I’ll stick with a chai or tea as those seem to still be on the good side; though opting for water would probably be best.

Not Going to Stop

Heart slamming in my chest, sight greyed out beyond 50ft with pin hole vision starting to creep in, legs and lungs were searing but now are silent – I think the nerves signaling pain overheated and had to shut down for a bit.   Pick myself up off the ground and start to run with my bike, ditch coming up,  jump the ditch, get back on my bike, pedal like heck,  dart around flailing guy in front of me as he slips off his pedal.  Look up to see next guy ~20ft ahead, head down and focus on getting more power out of legs that long ago realized complaining was fruitless, head up, hard corner to the left in soft dirt feeling the tires bite, start to slide, and bite again; put in more power.  Sand section – shift weight back and hit the gas; feel the tires hop up on the surface and whole bike accelerate.  Slight left hand turn on soft dirt off-camber section, ride lightly to not slip down into ditch.  Exit soft dirt with 90 degree turn and back to the sand drag strip – I swear I need a turbo or something to get more air in my lungs; hang a hard right and keep accelerating. Log barriers coming up, line up to the left where the logs are a bit lower. Bam!!, dust everywhere, bike tires in the air, legs above heads – crash!  Oh boy, I’m going way too fast and way too close; oooph, hit the dirt and see my bike careening off to the side.  Get legs back up under me and look for bike; crack – sproing, oh man someone just broke some spokes!  Find my bike………..  those were my spokes! barely done with the first lap and now my race is over?!!….

Yep, cyclocross season is here!

Backing up a bit to start closer to the beginning – I decided to start off my cyclocross racing season yesterday at the first of the Boulder CX series races.  I was pretty psyched all week for this race as it was at one of my favorite venues in Colorado, Xilinx!   This course has lots of possibilities for technical riding with a lot of single track, sand, off-camber, dirt, grass, ditches, logs , stairs, pavement, and if it’s snowing or raining some great mud!   Yesterday however was a dry sunny early fall day, luckily at the start of my race it was ~65F so it was comfortable without being too hot.

log barriers on warmup lap

For once I actually got in a good warm-up!  I found quite a few surprises on a warm-up lap as the promoter found some ditches and other areas that we hadn’t raced on before, providing numerous areas for miscalculations and crashes (or seen from the other view point, many areas to pass other riders that aren’t ready).  After previewing the course; I knew that I needed to be toward the front early in the race as the masses would get tied up behind crashes, causing some major splits in the group.  I was also given some tips by a teammate as to where some of the major log jams would be and some tactics to help out (thank you Blue Sky!).  Since I wasn’t likely to get a call up, this meant I needed to redline it with a full out sprint as much as possible from the start to get up the field.

At the lineup before the start, we all got a pleasant surprise in that most of those with a call up had upgraded (or not shown up) so instead of 7 -9 rows of racers called up, there are only 2.5 rows.  Those that helped setup were next and then we filled in by race number.  I lucked out and made it into row 4 of the start!  I lined up to the right as the start was an uphill section of pavement that made a sweeping turn to the right before heading into the woods (had to have good position before here).

As the whistle was blown, the guy in front of me barely went anywhere, so I was watching guy after guy going ahead on the left side, finally the road opened up and I took off with all I had.  Made it from ~40th position into ~20th by the  hop into the woods.  The curbing there had a section of sandbags allowing an easier transition over a curb, however that was clogged with racers, so I took a line to the right and bunny hopped the curb, gaining a few places.  Next was a short uphill of dirt to the left and then a right turn around a tree – the course narrowed a good bit here and three of us all locked shoulders to squeeze through, barely missing the tree; luckily no one panicked and we all stayed upright.  Then hammer down to move up some more through a slight depression and come to a hard right dirt corner that leads downhill around another tree with a barrier at the exit of the turn.  Lots of people were sketchy in their balance here and further down the hill;  so I picked my bike up and shouldered it over the barrier, keeping the bike on the shoulder all the way down the hill and around the next corner to the bridge (Thanks for the tip John!).  By doing that, I passed at least another 6 people.  As I went to get back on my bike, I was hit right as I commited for the remount causing me to hit the back of my seat and land on my tire; oh boy, not a good way to start the first lap!  As I extricated myself, I’m passed by at least 6 other racers, dangit!

Ok, time to gather myself and stay in the race.  As I got back on my bike there was a group of six of us all vying for a line through the trees in a nice s-turn single track section that barely fits two – I decided to let the guy right next to me go ahead and then followed his wheel, ensuring my position through the slot between two aspen trees.  The course then darted out of the trees with a hard left turn that required us to hug the last tree to hit a path of grass, or fly out on a concrete sidewalk and be forced to slow down.  As the turn exited, we were faced with an uphill climb of ~50ft that is ~8ft tall, then another left turn in loose dirt and then an uphill  right hand turn in the Aspens with a barrier in the middle of the climb requiring another carry of the bike.  Once we got over the barrier and toped the hill, there was a loose dirt ditch that the course went diagonally though; its rideable, but if you miss the line, then you are going down.  I chose to ride it and made the line, allowing me to pass some more.  I was starting to feel the effects of my effort here as the pain in my lungs and legs was starting to go numb.

The course made a slight right onto a ridgeline with course tape to the left and a soft dirt embankment to the right;  all of a sudden dust was everywhere and the people in front of me were stopping, so I decided to try my luck on the off camber embankment.  Turns out the side is too loose of dirt and I tumbled off my bike quickly, then barely scrambled back up to the course at the end of the ridgeline.   The course then exited the forested area with a slight left hander down a grassy, bumpy hill and onto a driveway.  Somehow after all this, I was still around the top 20!

Rather than providing a break, the driveway and following parking lot were really a drag race to go absolutely all out (like we haven’t been doing that already!) and get good position for the run onto a quasi grassy dirt lot .  The bumps here were of the magical variety – hit them with speed and you skip across the top of the bumps and are able to accelerate; hit them slowly and all of your speed is sucked out of you worse than hitting quicksand.  After the lot was a small bridge over a ditch and then a sweet downhill path of crushed red rock that flows back and forth beautifully;  this part rips!  On the exit of the path is dirt single track that flows nicely down a small hill and then across a rise and around a tree to the left (hug the tree tight as there is a concrete culvert if you swing wide), then a hard right and down into the sage grass. All of this section was a dream!  I had ridden this section many time before and knew it well, allowing me to rest a bit while sticking to the wheel of those working much harder in front of me.

The course then did a couple nearly 160degree turns in the field grass with an exit across a ditch, another great place to gain position as one line was very ride-able and that line was open for me! After a couple more corners we hit a double ditch section that was evil – fast run up then corner to the right to a ditch that looks ride able, but rarely was for me and then a second ditch that could swallow an entire bike; I chose the conservative way and ran both of them.  Then there was a hill in about 20feet, so you had to get on the bike quickly, power up the hill, down to the left and then come to the double ditches again.  For some reason I tried to ride the first one and superman’d over the handlebars – huh, didn’t really feel the impact; gotta love hypoxia!  As I got back up and grab my bike – that’s where I was at the point of the intro to this post..

….circling back to where we left off..

Dangit – I have a wheel that is non-ride able, a mouth full of dirt, my eyes are still crossed from the effort (which way does the course go again?) and I’m about three quarters a mile of a soft dirt and heavily weeded  course from the pit where my spare wheel is. No chance of wining for sure, heck chances of top 20 much less top 50% are gone, is anything other than a DFL (dead fracken last) possible? Son of a monkey; my race is over…..

Wait – I entered this race to race and I’m going to race!  I raced duathlons this spring and summer and have been wishing for a bike -run-bike version; guess I got my wish – just didn’t really envision it in soft dirt, carrying a bike with spokes that occasionally stick my thigh and carbon cycling shoes that aren’t really the best for running in.  Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers – So I picked up my bike, put it on my shoulder, and started to run.   For some extra motivation, I had some Ozzy Osborne playing in my head; “I don’t want to stop” and “never going to stop”, I’ve used those before during hard sections of duathlons, so it fit here.   Metal goes well with cyclocross, especially hard stuff with a lot of distortion, it kinda mimics the brain with hypoxia…ok, well, enough of that tangent, and back to the  race..

I had to do some cross country running to stay out of the way of those that were actually still riding their bikes in this bike race.  After what seemed like 20 minutes, I came to the final switchback before the pavement stretch to the pits – here a course marshal took pity on me and instructed me to cut the last switchback and head straight to the pit.  Small victory, though the last guy in the race was already close to a quarter mile ahead of me.

After getting my spare front wheel on, I head back out on the course; riding my bike (novel idea, I know)! As I’m going up the pavement, I see the back end of the race heading down the hill on that sweet red crushed path; that makes me roughly a half lap behind.  Oh well, head down and race my race – bad situation as I don’t have others to push me, great situation as I get to pick my own lines and don’t have to deal with other’s bobbles.  Several other racers are on the course warming up and all pull over nicely allowing me to continue my solo flogging session.

Another pass by the pits and I hear three to go called out right as I spot another racer from my wave in front of me.  I used that as more incentive to accelerate and am able to pick off a couple more by the time I head into the woods.  At the back of the pack, the racers are pretty well spread out and with some heads up racing , I time it so I come on each next racer as I’m able to pass so I can take all my lines through the technical sessions and not worry about another crash.

The lead racer passes me right before the logs where I crashed and had to start my run.  I had hoped to hold them off, but considering how long I had to run, I’m ok with being a lap down.  For the next lap, two more from the lead  group pass me, but I hold it at that and hang with them all the way around.  I finished the race in 84th out of 96th. (official results showed 86, but chip showed 84??)

I’m actually pretty dang happy with my placing; by all rights, I had every reason to call it a race and quit, but I decided that I wasn’t going to stop and fought my way back to the field and even up the field some.

As I sat in the grass eating a Belgian waffle covered in Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut butter (umm, recovery food), my body started regaining sensation.  Oh, ouch – apparently I had cuts and scrapes all over, some bloody and some not; a couple good bruises forming; dirt still in my mouth, sand in my hair, and one heck of a dirt tan making some of the still trickling blood a very dark shade of reddish brown.  Just about every muscle is sore and a few joints are getting stiff as I sit here with a big ol’ dumb grin on my face. I realize how much fun it was and ride the exercise induced high that is flowing pretty good by now.

Yup, it’s cyclocross season, and I love it!

(pictures to be added tomorrow)

Spring and mid summer update part 1

Wholly moly its been too long since an update, I’ll break a catch up into two (or more) parts so as to not overload you. Then I will get a couple more current posts up as well that I’ve been working on…

The good news is that I’m running again and the knee seems 100% recovered from the  sprain earlier this year!  I did end up playing soccer again this spring, though I wore my knee brace to help me mentally.  I really didn’t want to hang up my soccer cleats, but not being able to run at all, or worse, is not an option I could actively take.  I’m planning on playing soccer this fall again, though it may be a while before I clear the ball with the outside of my foot, while at full sprint.

I decided that the best course was to skip the Atomic Man Duathlon in entirety as my knee was still a bit sore.  I was only going to be able to run lightly and not race; I can do that on my own and save money, no sense in paying money to enter a race and not fully race.

My next race was the Barking Dog Duathlon, in Denver.  It is a part of the Mile Hi Duathlon Series.  I did quite well and placed 4th in my division.

full race Division place: 4,  Gender place: 100,  Place overall: 133,  overall time: 1:53:45
Run 1–  rank: 263,  time: 25:23,  pace: 8:28
T1–  1:45 – ugh!
Bikerank: 64, time: 59:43, mph avg: 20.7
t2 – 0:57
run 2rank:222, time: 25:59, pace: 8:40

The course was completely different from  the years past.  It was on the other side of Cherry Creek State Park and entirely contained within the park, instead of going up on the Dam road.  As per my SOP, I either get to races quite early with plenty of time to get everything in order, or I get there barely in time.  I managed the latter this time- got my transition setup and number pinned on right as transition closed, then off to the bathroom line and finally out with 5min to warm up before my wave went off…
The run was semi-brutal with a hill right out from the start that really wasn’t that bad as far as incline, but it seemed like all of us really wanted to walk it.  I had problems getting into my “conquer the mountain” frame of mind and was more in “a look for the end and wish it closer” frame of mind. The nice part of the run was it went on some of the dirt trails that I had run/biked on earlier in the year when Sonja was out training for her 100mi Ultra race.  That gave a lot of inspiration to me as I could channel her drive a bit and get myself to pick up the pace and forget what my legs and lungs were telling me.
The first transition was a comedy at best, never got a chance to orient myself to the entrances and exits from where my spot was so I had no idea where my stuff was.  When I got there it had been knocked about a bit.  I couldn’t find some stuff, completely took stuff off and put other stuff on in the wrong order and then barely remembered to stick my quads out (found out from going to TriMassage that some of my leg tightness issues with running and cycling has been due to tight quads).  All this ended up with a nearly 2 minute transition rather than my more normal 30sec or so transition.

The bike ride was a semi clover leaf,  setup with a single lap for the sprint distance crew and two laps for the rest of us.  It started out quite nice on a fairly straight road with nice tall trees on both sides.  As we neared the first real turn in the road the trees opened up a bit and the wind hit – first from the side, and then became a bit of a headwind as we went on.  With the way the trees were, there was never really a full headwind, which meant there was never really a tailwind either.  Luckily, I had been spending a lot of time in my aero bars during my training rides and had gotten a bike fit, so I was able to do almost the entire ride with good power and economy.   Per my usual, I passed quite a few people, and was not passed myself at all.
T2 (second transition) was a comedy once again.  as I hadn’t scoped out the course in a pre-ride of any sorts, I had no idea the final part of the ride was a ~150yrd ride up a 3ft wide sidewalk.  As Murphy would have it, there were three much slower sprint course people in front of me on the side walk and no where to pass; to top it off, since it was uphill, narrow, etc – it was a whole lot harder to undo my shoes and pull out of them for a fast transition.  In the end I was able to make a decent transition, but it was in no way a quick one.
Run number two followed most of the same course as the first one, only with more uphill to start as we left transition from a different point.  This time however, I was in a bit better mental spot for the run.  The only problem came in at about the halfway mark as I started to cramp up a bit due to pushing it a bit too hard on the bike.  About the time I was having a really hard time focusing on getting my form and pace back – I saw Brenda and got a nice hi-5 and cheer from her; that’s what I needed to pick myself out of the slump and get cranking again.

Biggest  “to improve on” from this race – get to the race on time!

Unfortunately, I don’t have photo’s to add as we forgot the camera in the rush out the door.  There were a few good shots from the event photographer, but this is so delinquent, they are no longer available…