Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Bad Dude Challenge

I'm thinking about 8 am, meet in the Valley at Lock 29 parking behind the Winking Lizard. Plan on five hours give-or-take, with many options to bail out early for turkey. Anyone down, or am I doing this myself?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kirtland Park

Kirtland Park was awesome.

The weather was perfect, there were a ton of people there, the course was really fun, and super dry to boot.

At least on my end, the race went off without a hitch. The course, for the most part seemed to suit my strengths pretty well. Lots of twists and turns, some tricky off camber sections, and I was probably most pleased with the hills! I love climbing, and it's usually in short supply on cross courses. Not here; there were a few nice short steep climbs that proved nice and tough every lap.

With the conditions as nice as they were, and a big A field, I knew the racing was going to be fast.

Off the bat, it definitely was.

I was up in the lead pack going up to the stair runup/ride up. I knew that'd be a spot to get a gap, provided I could beat the bottleneck and make it up.

Luckily I did, and I was able to hang onto the front group. They then promptly worked to turn me inside out. There were some areas, namely the big open grass starting straight that played into my weakness of not having the motor needed to stay on someone's wheel.

So I'd try to stay consistent through all the climbing and other tricky stuff, and try to catch enough recovery to hang on the grass field dragstrip. It worked for maybe 3 laps, then finally I got spit off the back. It wasn't all bad, as I could keep them in my sights, and did so for the rest of the lap; with big hopes of bridging back up.

Then I dropped my chain...


It was on the really bumpy downhill right after the stair runup. I went to pedal and nothing happened. Sweet. This pretty much plagued me and I dropped it twice more in the race for a grand total of three times. I'm ponying up the cash to buy a Paul Chainkeeper to make sure this never happens again, because my Salsa guard and thirdeye aren't cutting it.

So after chain drop number one I was able to get it fixed, and get onto Steve Twining's wheel to get a tow across the grass field. We rode together for a minute, then he had his own mechanical issues (course tape in the cassette.) I was in no man's land for another lap, until he worked his butt off and bridged back up. Pretty dang impressive.

We pretty much rode together for the rest of the race.

It was awesome seeing the lines he was taking and all that good stuff. He seemed to gain speed out of turns, which is definitely something I need to work on.

When all was said and done I rolled across the line in eighth place, which I'm absolutely astounded by. I think everything in the cosmos just sort of lined up and I lucked out and rolled into my best finish of the year. Wooo!

And for the obligatory Lake Effect Shoutout. Hot damn everyone did awesome today.

Matt Weeks won (again), Robert did awesome in B's (second behind some pretty serious sandbagger), Shawn Adams, Rudy, Scott Garman on a stomach full of burrito, The Maruts, etc etc etc etc.

Good job to everyone that raced!

States are up next, then the series wraps up in Copley at Boughton Farm.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

KSU Cross

The Lake Effect race at Kent State was something I was looking forward to since it has been announced. With Kent being my former stomping grounds up to this May, I figured it'd be fun to relive some old memories and race my bike all in one marvelous day.

The plan was going well. I showed up on race day, the temperatures were great, very unlike Ohio in November. So after all the warm-up nonsense, we line up and off we go. I ended up getting a good start, and went inside on Dan Quinlan on the first turn. I then realized I was out front. Oh shit!

That didn't last too long, as the ultra fast guy train of Shawn, Ernesto, Gerry, Steevo, and others moved on by. That's cool, as it could be expected. I settled in and was hoping to keep them in sight as long as possible. When I settled into a groove, I was racing with Ross Clark for a bit. We'd go back and forth on certain spots, and it's always awesome to race with him.

So I'm feeling good, getting into the groove, and then the problems start.

First problem: bad tire choice. I thought my Grifo XS file treads would work out well for the course. It was wide open, dry, and fast. They worked in my preride, but what do you know; by the time the A's went, the course got slick in spots, and my tires pretty much felt like I was riding on ice.

Second problem: Dropped chain. After the spiral, there was a curb setup with two options on how to ride it. Option one was to take the line that avoided the curb entirely, a hard left and then a hard right. Option two was to bunnyhop them. Bunnyhop it was. During my second lap, my chain fell off. Piss! There went any gap I had, along with my sights on the top five guys.

Third problem was the one that actually screwed me pretty hard. After the steep second run-up hill, there was a nice descent, with a fast right-hander into the log bunnyhop. I figured I'd take the liberty to cut the line a little bit to the inside, as it'd set me up a little better to get over the log in a smooth and momentum saving fashion.

In cutting the line to the inside, there must have been a rock or root or something lurking in the leaves. I was getting aggro and leaning in pretty hard, so that combined with whatever I hit rolled my front tubular and sent me falling as per usual. It was weird, as I was pretty much mid air, and thinking, "Hmm, why am I falling right now, I didn't do anything wrong." When I got up and went to grab my bike, I noticed the culprit, my front tubular. So off I ran to the pits, and pretty much the entire race passed me in the process.

I got to the pit bike (which I quickly realized was wayyyyyyy undergeared) nice and tired, hopped on, and realized I'd suffer out the last 4 laps in style.

So off I went, hoping to make up some spots, and try not to get lapped as long as possible.

I got into my groove on the singlespeed, and realized how fun it was. I'd get absolutely destroyed on the open grassy sections, but once I was in the woods I was having a blast. My gearing was just right that if I gave it a little oomph, I could make it up the first hill, much to the crowd's delight. Like this:

Mid-race shredding the teetertotter was a good way to pass the time also:

I actually caught up with and passed a few people too. Woop!

When all was said and done, I was half a lap back on the leaders. I rolled in in 24th place, oh well. Good job to everyone that raced, it was pretty dang fun.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Iceman Cometh!

So after much ado and anticipation, I rolled out of Berea Friday Morning. The destination: Traverse City, Michigan and Iceman Cometh.

So after a mind-numbingly long drive with Mike, Rusty, and Todd, packets were picked up, food and libations consumed, and to sleep we went.

I woke up the next morning at the god-awful hour of 6am, and we quickly got dressed, packed up, and headed to the little town of Kalkaska for the start of the race.

Staging was like nothing I've ever seen before, mountain bikers as far as the eye could see. Pretty awesome.

Lining up, I think I had the worst case of the pre-race jitters I've ever encountered. My right leg kept shaking, and I had no idea what to do to stop it. Oh well.

Off we went. I got the holeshot. It was the most awesome feeling ever being out in the front: seeing hundreds of people cheering and taking pictures and whatnot. I traded pulls with a racer for a bit, and before you know it, we were in the woods.

The trail was a lot like people said it would be. Wide, for the most part flat, and very sandy. All was going well, and I was feeling great, until I bobbled passing a rider and we got tangled up. Sucks, but that's part of racing. I looked up to see two guys take off past me as I tried to get back up and regain my composure.

So the chase was on. The race gave my big ring a pretty solid workout. I kept the hammer down, probably passed 200 people until I finally caught the rider, Ryan Katulic, about ten miles in.

I was excited to have someone to race with, as it helped me keep my pace consistent. We talked a bit, and traded pulls to open up our gap on the rest of the field. I attacked a few times to see how he was holding up, and he countered every time. The race was going to come down to the last 6 miles, where some sandy, short, steep hills came into play.

Ryan was a strong climber, and we were evenly matched on the hills, but finally luck was on my side. I was starting to notice that he was drifting off my wheel now and then. I used this to my advantage and attacked on one of the monster sandy hills. It was a pretty cool scene with people all around cheering, music playing, etc etc. I got bogged down in some deep sand and didn't clear the hill, but I came dang close :-)

After getting of my bike about 3/4s of the way up this hill, I got back on as quick as humanly possible and took off. Big ring doing its thing.

I opened a gap and couldn't see him anymore. Yes! I rode like a man possessed not knowing if he'd catch me or not. I pushed it, but tried to remain upright and not goof up with a crash or anything like that.

I kept it together the last few miles, and was able to roll across the line at 1:50, first place Sport 19-24. Wooooo!

Now the fun starts...

I cross the line, big smile on my face. The second I get of my bike, my stomach pretty much does a backflip. I think to myself, "Man I don't feel hot," and quickly make my way to some privacy.

Boom. Projectile vomit behind a tree. Nobody saw it, which sucks because it was probably hilarious. But I grabbed a banana and some water and felt fine again.

On a non-puke related note, good job to Chip Meek, Jeff Pendlebury, teammates The Spisaks, Rusty Brown, Todd Turner, Brett Davis, Todd Davis, Mike Kline, and anyone else I forgot for ruling it out there on the trail. Everyone rode really well and showed that Ohio is a secret cycling hot bed with rad dudes.

If anyone is into data related geekery, this will suit you well enough. I forgot to start my Garmin until ten miles into the race :-( but until I find some pictures, I'll put up some data. 173 average heart rate. Ouch. Click it to make it bigger.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I Remember Halloween

First and foremost, a huge thanks goes out to Brett Davis for putting on the races this weekend. It was an absolute blast.

Going to bed Friday night, I was optimistic about conditions being good for Saturday's racing. It was about 60 degrees, and while the threat of rain loomed over us in Northeast Ohio, I had my fingers crossed it was going to blow over.

I was wrong. Waking up Saturday morning and surveying the damage left me looking at some pretty saturated grass and temperatures substantially lower than the night before. Cross weather! Hup hup!

We lined up and all was well. I had a good warmup in, the course was awesome, albeit a bit muddy so I was feeling good. I got an alright start and was working my ass off to not let the really fast guys (Shawn, Ernie, Paul, Matt Weeks, Rudy, Ross, Tony etc...) out of my sight.

All was going well until wham! I overcooked a turn and ate it super bad. My right brifter turned inward about 90 degrees, and messed my brakes up. I didn't know it was fixable, so I goofed around with it for a bit, and lo-and-behold it sorted itself out.

By the time the bike was up and running again, the field was long gone, and I was probably sitting near the back of the pack. Time to do some work and make up some ground. I pretty much kept it pinned for the rest of the race, and tried to get back where I was.

That being said, I raced pretty much the dumbest I possibly could. I was a human yardsale and wiped out a few solid times. Sorry if I scared the crap out of anyone riding behind me.

The struggle was on to make up lots of lost ground. I hurt myself as much as I could to catch up. Here I am turning down a dollar handup, as my vision was getting a bit fuzzy and I couldn't quite make out much besides a blurry shape of a human. Maybe next time.

When I finally got into my groove, I worked my way up to the top ten and was battling it out with Greg Fletcher. We went back and forth for a couple of laps, and it was awesome. I thought I was going to hold him off through the singletrack and up to the finish, but all of the sudden I saw him make his move for the line, and I was too pooped to counter. He took ninth, and I ended up in tenth. Not a bad placing, but hot dang I wish I would have raced cleaner.

Everyone's favorite cyclocross up-and-commerRobert Sroka took his first win in the B's. Good job man!

So after that, I put down a couple of PBRs, shot the shit, and then went home to was the bikes and get ready for Kent's halloween. My King Diamond costume received mixed reviews, but I was pretty happy with it.

Day Two!

Waking up Sunday morning, I was in for a treat. It felt like I had been run over by a car. My 8 million falls the other day combined with a lack of sleep and a few too many heavy-metal falsetto screams the night before left my body a mangled wreck.

I put down a few cups of coffee and headed out to the race.

The course had dried out pretty well, and the reversed version eliminated the run-up by the river, which lead to some fast racing.

The start was hectic. We were into the river-side singletrack in about twenty seconds, so people were all over the place trying to get in and avoid the inevitable bottle-neck. I was able to get a good spot going, and actually was able to hang onto the super fast guys for almost a lap. Then big suprise; they left me in the freakin' dust.

After that, I pretty much focused on riding my own race. Trying not to blow up, maintain my position and most importantly, not fall all over the place. To my dismay, I was pretty successful. I was able to somehow fight off Ross Clark, and Rudy, which I thank the Great Pumpkin for such a miracle.

Lake Effect had a great weekend, with a strong presence on the podium in both the A's and B's both days. Good job to everyone that raced!

I ended up with ninth on the day. Hopefully I can take my excitement about this and use it to bust ass at Iceman this weekend.