Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Years!!

Reset those odometers!! I am not exactly sure, in fact I am definately not sure how many miles I had this year, but it was more then 7000 and quite possibly 8000!! Wow.

See ya in 2008!!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Whats new pussycat?

Hey all. Its been a rough 17 days off the bike. Not really because of not riding, but my back decided to take a crap on me and then add to that all I seemed to eat for two weeks was cookies and delicious, but unhealthy food. I threatened to thrwo away all the sweets in my house this morning and I am the guy who believes in trying to never throw any food away!!

The back is just annoying, not a real problem. I just got used to having no back problems for a few wonderful months of my life!! Todd Palmer and I are working on it and I now do a 40 minute exercise routine (every day-Yuck!!). But now that I am back to riding I am going to find it VERY hard to stay motivated and keep up the exercises AND riding.

As for Christmas I got a Nikon D40 camera and zoom lens. I so wish I had it for Cross season so I could have contributed to the photo sharing. Tonight I took it to my daughter's friends birthday party and shot a zillion pics and even a whole bunch on the ice as we skated. I was a bit scared of falling and breaking the camera, but I skate ok I guess. I loved photography in my youth so this is another flame reignited.

Thom Domonic and I finally got together and he went to town with his gauges and measuring devices and we came up with an extreme set-up to see what it was like, then we backed it down to what is a reasonable change. All in the name of science and I do mean that. I am a strong proponent of the Wobblenaught fit done for me by Mike Vannuci at Bike Authority. But we learned some great stuff that I can say that after just one ride will be a benefit. We made great strides in aligning my knee via the use of the BG footbeds in my Sidi's and the use of the Varus shims. Thom could see it and i could feel how much easier pedaling in a smooth vertical arc is with some changes. Whats of great interest to me is that at a certain height above my current saddle height (a few mm to compensate for the shims and footbeds) and a few extra and my knee alignment improves again.

Time will tell if there is any benefit or (eek) a loss in power at threshold with a slightly higher saddle height. But the changes in the shoes is very welcome.

I guess thats it. Looking forward to some LSD!! OK now you know what that is. Long Slow Distance!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Holidays

Now this is the way to do it!! Enjoy and I really do mean Happy Holidays to all my friends straight form the heart!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas List

Happy Holidays Everyone!!

Did you ask Santa Claus for anything bicycle related? But how about if you could have an ANYTHING bicycle related Christmas list? What would you ask for?

Heres mine (today at 12:21pm, tomorrow or even in 20 minutes it could change dramatically).

Zipp 404 rims with DT 240 hubs, CX Ray spokes.
Zipp 808 rim with DT 240 front hub and CX Ray spokes
HED 100mm or Zipp 1080 rim with Powertap SL hub and CX Ray spokes
Zipp Sub 9 disc Wheel

Box full of tubies to try!!

Oval A900 JetStream Carbon TT Fork

Easton Attack bars for TT bike

Two SRAM Red Grouppos with Zipp Vuma Quad Cranks or Campy record UT cranks.

and a partridge in a pear tree...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sidialized or Specialidis??

Hey, wanna know how to kill two birds with one stone? Well first youve got to be in my position which I'll try to explain. Again and again I talk about the "old" days, but when I bought my Sidis (size 44.5) I was 30 lbs heavier and even then I was amazed at how much my feet had grown and flattened after so many years in the hotel and restaurant business. I used to wear 42 Time shoes. Man I loved those shoes AND my Time Mag pedals (have three sets too). But also I couldn't find new cleats and I didn't want to add adapter shims and plates even if I could find them. Anyways imagine my surprise when I tried to put them on and I couldn't even get my feet all the way in.

So I bought some Sidi Geniuses and the size that fit was 44.5. Well fast forward to this past summer and my feet wallow in them. I am sure its costing me bit of power when I need it the most. So I know I am going to buy a pair of Specialized S-Works shoes before racing season starts (size 42.5 or 43), but in the meantime its annoying how loose my Sidis are.

Oh-yeah-also in the meantime I buy some $79 Nike (I think) mountain bike (mtb) shoes when I buy my cheap Cannondale F5 mountain bike. Well-two cyclo cross races lugging these heavy shoes(and no spikes) I buy some Specialized mtb shoes (half the price of equivalent in my eyes Sidi Dominators). They have the Body Geometry (BG) foot beds. So much stiffer, lighter and the BG footbeds are amazing. I swear I am spinning better and putting big power down seems easier. The latch for the buckle? Well lets say Specialized needs to go back to the drawing board there.

So Thom Domonic has gone and got some expert knowledge about the BG footbeds. If you know Thom hes the real deal. Hes not marketing hype and he believes what HE believes. So we talk a bit about them and the advantages of the footbeds and BG shims co-designed by Andy Pruitt Ed.d Director of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. The BG footbeds bring a new meaning to arch support to cycling shoes. I cannot really explain how it works, except its odd and dramatic feeling when standing in your shoes, but feels natural when pedaling.

The shims I have NOT played with, but before I ever knew about shims for shoes I have always believed I could benefit from custom footbeds, but never wanted to spend the money. I felt this way because I have always felt some funny friction or tension n my pedal stroke (especially my left knee) and I sometimes kick out with my right knee as well.

So for less then $50 I got the BG Green (highest arch) footbeds for my Sidis. Not only does the extra arch support and thickness of the footbeds fill up the extra room in my Sidis I can (with Thom's help) play with the shims and see if we can achieve an even smoother, more efficient pedal stroke. My Specialized mtb shoes come with the equivalent of Red BG footbeds (lowest arch). Blue is medium arch, but I dont have those...yet.

In my mind I am thinking already about the benefits it will pay in Time Trialling especially the 40k ones. NO matter how small it matters. But I dont think it will be a small thing. I can also move the BG footbeds and shims from shoe to shoe as well to dial in the best feel and snuggest, but comfortable fit. From the Sidi's to the Spec. mtb to the Spec S-work road shoes and maybe even to the Nike's.

But hey-thats three birds with one stone right? Better pedal stroke, big shoes fit better and can easily move the shims and footbeds from shoe to shoe.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Day Six

So here I am 7 days after the last race and 6 days since my last ride or aerobic activity...... You'd think I'd have nothing to say, but I do. I feel like crap and am running out of bike things to do (oh no-should I start stripping more wallpaper, re-grout the tub, sand and paint the bathroom, put the lawn furniture, Audrey's bicycle and toys in the basement so I can park in my garage again?).

Ive taken off the Muds from my race wheels and hung them in the basement for 2008. Switched tires around on rims, worked on getting the shifting better on the cross bike, mountain bike, road bike. Ive washed and waxed the cross frame, washed the road bike, wiped down the mountain bike, oiled all of the cables, cleaned the cassettes, cleaned the chains, scrubbed the rims of all of the dried and baked in mud and grime. Ive oiled the chains with a thicker winter lube one link at a time. I'm actually thinking when I get back to riding I wont because my bikes are all so damn clean and working so damn quietly...blimey-I don't want to get-em dirty!!

Its amazing, but even without riding i am spending money on bikes and fitness. How can that be? Well theres fenders for when I hopefully start commuting in January, new tires for the mountain bike (made out of Black Chili no less-ok not real chili), new gloves, thicker/warmer socks, used rollers. And then theres buying a medicine ball to expand my core workouts.

But I also might get to try my new Fischer SCS Skate skis this week with the new snowfall today. On Saturday we had some beers (theres been a lot of beer lately) and John Reade showed Audrey and I how to wax and we took turns scrapping and brushing. Talking about snow, I felt so Blah today, had a headache and my backs been hurting (can I say I felt bloaty all day, or is that TMI-hah-too late I said it) I went out during the mini blizzard hitting Cleveland to shovel and take our two dogs on short, but separate walks just to get outside and try and burn off a teensie bit of the good food and beer Ive been consuming.

Oh the guilt and the blah feeling of no exercise. Hopefully I'll get some light exercise in this week with the snow falling. I cannot stand this feeling.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

KC Nationals Update!!!

Julie Lewis-Sroka gets 13th int he Womens B race!!

My coach Brent Evans gets a close 4th after running third and Rudy gets 8th while Jeff Craft also nets a top 15 spot in the b mENS 40+ race!! Way to go everyone!! More racing and updates on Saturday.

Drew Bercaw also a 13th spot!! Great job!!

Julie gets a Bronze medal in the 45049 Masters race!! Yahoo!!

Video of first half lap:

Video of 2nd half of lap:

Rudy and Jeff Craft rock the 50 up Masters races against that guy names Ned Overand..

Brent finishes 26th in the 40-44 Masters field.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A few cherished moments

And into the hall of memories of 2007 I go.....

-Mid-Ohio Grand Prix I race up in the Cat3/4 race, my first race in forever. Remembering how I used to race crits (not well) I am aggressive from the get go, bridge to breaks that look good and am near the front on the last lap and take 10th.

-At RATL on Team Snake Bite we had Gary Burkholder in the breakaway with Noah, and two Stark Velo riders. The gap is somewhere between 30 to 45 seconds (maybe more?) and the race is coming to an end. We decide I am less likely to be marked then John Ehrlinger as he's won one and been 2nd already so off I go up the climb really hard, no one tries to go with me and I close the gap solo and then take 3rd out of the 5 man break in the sprint. Better timing and it could have been a Snake Bite 1-2 as Gary wins the sprint with a LONG sprint!! What a feeling and boy did I go all out.

-Again at RATL I watched in amusement as a rider attempted a breakaway up the climb, but due to the gear he chose he was sprinting like a mad man, bike swaying back and forth, arms flexing, face contorted in the effort and he wasnt going any faster then the peloton!!

-My first Time Trial in 17 years at Presque Isle and I am on my Cannondale with clip-ons. Mike Vannuci gave me an interim set-up and I am going 27 to 30mph on the out. I get 5th out of 170 or so and win my age group. What a feeliing of freedom to rip along at that speed again.

-Chippewa Creek as a Cat.4. I remember this course from doing club races on it back in the day, but who cut off the last mile of the climb? I swear it was a lot steeper and went on a lot longer. Snake Bite had a good team race, controlling the pace and trying to make it hard. Pete Scacheri and I pushed the pace on the climb and I tried a solo breakaway (to my demise), but I still took 3rd.

-I decided to Cat. up early (after Chippewa Creek) and got my Cat.3 license so I could do Cat1-3 races instead of Cat3/4.

-At the Team Lake Effect hilly Hinckly Time Trial I go out too hard on lap one and swear I am going to die the whole lap 2. I have never wanted to stop pedaling so much in my life. I am rewarded with 2nd place overall that day for the pain (and some cash to spend at Bike Authority).

-State Time Trial. Nearly 40k (37.9km) and I lose my 40-44 age group by 1 lousy second. 23.5 mile Time Trials are insanely hard both mentally and physically and this course never let you get in a rhythm. This reminds me that everything and every second counts in a race against he clock. I get 10th overall too.

-In the blisteringly hot and hilly Cat.3 State Road race I have a great race tactically and make the winning break of 3!! I only go hard once and that was to make the break away, but I dehydrate with no one to hand up bottles and not taking enough with me at the start and I bonk in the breakaway!! I struggle to finish and get 5th after getting passed by 2 guys. I was probably the last finisher too-almost everyone else abandoned.

-At one particular Westlake A race Tom Frueh and Paul Martin have made a gap. In the chase group are guys like Jeff Braumberger, Rudy, Tris, Dave Chernosky. I am taking monster 29mph pulls and closing the gap to PM and TF, but alas no one else is pulling through as hard to close the gap. In the sprint I know I need to be no lower then 3rd to be top 5, but Rudy gets me before the line and I am 6th. But it was a big day for me as I was really strong with strong riders. Some guys said I could upgrade to Cat.2 this season with a race like that (cat 4 to 2 in one summer). I am still a cat.3.

-ZOAR was a wet and cold race this year. I got dropped every lap on the climb and every lap I stuck it in the 53-11 and chased the front group down. A lot of guys should have thanked me that day. I got off the front group on the last lap with Batke and Quinlan way up ahead. After being solo for a few miles I am slow again up the climb and get caught near the top. If I could have stayed away just over the top I really had a shot at soloing in for 3rd I thought. I contested the wet and fast bunch sprint which was crazy and exhilarating and got 8th overall.

-I go to the TOP Time Trial in August to try and snag a 19 minute solo run. Anything 19 minute would have been fine. I find on warm-up the course isnt as fast as a previous time I was there with Thom winning a 2-man TT in 19:45, but I will go all out, especially up the hilly 2nd half. Its quite humid so humid air isn't fast. I roll across the line and see 19 flash by and think Ive just gone from 19 to 20 minutes (lack of oxygen to the brain!!), but in fact I set a new course record at 19:05. My first and only course record!! It felt great then and still does as I type this.

-Team work is what it was about at the Summit Freewheelers Fall Challenge. After being aggressive early and being in the small front group, I get dropped out of the break when Dan Quinlan ramps it up on the climb and my legs are screaming and wont respond. The rest of the race saw Snake Bite team mate John Ehrlinger yelling and encouraging and orchestrating the peloton to chase, chase and chase for two laps. We lose time and the lead group loses time due to cars, but some solid pulls by different riders and John and I and we actually make contact with the strong breakaway group (Quinlan, Batke, Tris, Evans, etc.). Almost unheard of in Cat1-3 racing, at least in Ohio. I try a solo from about 1.5km to go, but I go pop up the last roller and roll slowly in for 10th.

-I time trial like mad all late summer to prepare for Presque Isle. I go to Jim Behrens Thursday night time trials to try different pacing strategies as well as test new positions on the bike to get more speed. Then I go to Presque Isle feeling cocky and ready to go and I miss my start by a minute and 9 seconds(I was real early like top 10)!! I am instructed to just go and with a borrowed Zipp dimpled disc wheel from Bike Authority I want to make the best of my equipment, but I find myself getting and losing motivation the whole run. Its cross windy and so its hard both on the out and in and theres no ripping along at 30mph, instead its a hard 23 to 28mph all the way. It feels like pedaling in mollasses all the way, but I still end up 9th overall with the added time, but my real time put me 4th overall, 2 seconds and possibly less out of 3rd!! A nice improvement over the spring PI TT and a good way to close out the TT season.

-The rest has recently been blogged about and thats cyclocross. I am now on a cyclevation till December 27th. No riding for 16 days?? I honestly am scared about one thing at this point. Weight gain!! How sad, next thing I'll start worrying about how I look in jeans and asking things like "Do these lycra shorts make my butt look big?" Yikes!! Well, no worries, I am off to have a couple Belgian style Ales tonight!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

A 1000 Words

Hey-I have no problems typing a 1000 words (or emails), but truly a picture is worth a 1000 words!! Thanks Julie for capturing what I felt. I was miserably cold, in pain and still smiling.

OH-Crap-I almost forget-thanks Mark, Gary and Dave for helping me get off my left shoe while I was a popsicle.... LOL!! yes-it took 4 of us!!

Boughton Farms, The Ice Age 2

You've heard the saying be careful what you wish for right? Well, I wished for one cross race that was awful in weather, epic even and although I know it can get worse, the conditions were pretty darn hard Sunday at Team Lake Effects Boughton Farm race. Mid 30 degree temps and on and off again rain was the weather of the day. But what was more important was last weeks weather had snow and 25 degree temperatures which hardened some of the course so that there were still grooves from car tires as well as bicycles left in the ground with a slippery coating of mud, snow, ice and slush on top.

When the B's raced (congrats Tony on the win) they raced mostly on snow ice and a bit of mud I believe, but of course when we hit the course it had been raining lightly for a half hour or so. Also areas that may have been wet before were turning into ice cold bogs lap after lap (and there were only 4 long laps in the race).

After a nice warm up on the trainer I went for a lap of the course, but after a half lap I was frozen (especially my toes and fingers) and just rode back to the start. I usually go hard enough in the races that staying warm is not an issue so I left my wet thin gloves on and went without booties in case I needed to run (I wanted my toe spikes exposed) and two thin shirts. What a Mistake on all 3 parts!!

I went straight to the back for the start because I already knew I'd be the slowest across the open field. It was slippery and your bike would be taken off line at any instant and I wasnt going to go flying across the first lap. I actually stayed up the whole first lap, but I got too close to the guy in front of me and when he slipped I may have hit my brakes and my bike went out from underneath me. I didnt fall then or any other time in the race, but I just dropped the bike, picked it up and got going again.

This went on for 2 laps and I knew I was in last place and although it wasnt ideal I actually didnt really care. I didnt do that bad attitude didnt care , wanna quit sort of thing, I was just going at my pace and thats all I could do. The guys and gals around the course were great and yelling like madmen too. Especially at start finish-LOVE YOU GUYS AND GALS!!! I was just laughing at myself and it all.

On lap 3 I had a good lap and passed the poor guy in front of me who now had to take last place. I got to the road and put the hammer down, but it hurt so bad to shift that eventually I just got down to some gear and spun it out. I could have gotten to the 12 no problem and hammered it, but the wind chill factor at 25mph or whatever I was doing was just adding to my pain. My fingers would go from pain to Uber pain depending on where on the course I was. I relished the mud because it meant going slow and going hard which helped my hands and feet and body. Seriousely people, how do you dress for a day like today? My only intuition was to go hard and warm up, but I felt like I was ability and traction limited. There was only so hard I could go on the course and it wasn't enough to generate heat. But I didnt quit, though I did contemplate riding to my car, changing gloves and putting on my rain jacket and gettig back in the race to finish.

So really thats about it. Sorry-not much to tell. I did put in a last lap charge on Greg Jackson, but I unclipped 3 times and the gap opened up and that was that. What I should say was I was having a blast like a kid. I was having so much fun that it was a shame that I was racing so poorly!! I mean I wasnt really racing racing after the first 1/2 mile!! But I hope my brain has stored away the 3rd and 4th laps for 2008!!

Thanks to the whole Team Lake Effect and Bike Authority crew for a great year of cross. I loved every minute of it (the good, the bad and the ugly). Thank you to the owner of Boughton Farms and the guys who set-up two awesome courses for us there.

Its very sad its all over now for me (No Nats), but it has certainly lit a fire under my derrier for next year. Nice to be done with racing though! OHHhhh, I dont doubt next year will be very similar to this year, more learning and not a whole lot of placings, but who knows. One of my favorite sayings goes "even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes." Maybe next year I'll find a nut, or maybe were all just nuts for doing cross at all. I mean it was 30 degrees and raining and we were racing on rutted farm fields, on ice and snow and lots and lots of mud and through ice cold puddles of dirty water!! Yeah I found a nut, ME!!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

It's Over!! Thank you Brent Evans

My Thank you-O-Meter is about to blow sky high. I want to thank everyone for a great year of training and racing and loads of friendship and laughs, but no one more then my coach Brent Evans. We started in July or August of 2006 and he painstakingly slowly brought me back into cycling.

He made a great read on my type A training personality and kept me from burning out in June. I followed almost everything and when I say almost I mean almost down to the minute of this and the number of that.

So thanks Brent and keep up the great work!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Cross Training Time!!

What are you all planning on doing this winter? For me bicycle racing is done in 5 days. On the one hand I will miss the competition and no more chances to improve on desperately needed skills in race conditions, but it will be nice to take a week or two off and start to rebuild (hopefully stronger) for 2008.

But you know what? I think I will race anyways. I am going to learn to skate ski while my daughter learns to classic ski with the

If you have children I cannot recommend the excellent Hilltoppers XC program enough. I watched as neighbor children learned to cross country ski and have a fun time while doing it. The cost is minimal as well. Please feel free to email me at if you have any questions.

I already know I will be signing up for races (beginner mind you) at Chapin.

Wish me luck,

Monday, December 3, 2007

Pictures from, Boughton Farms

In all its goooey brown, dreary glory!!

Thanks again to Gary Burkholder for catching the intensity and action so well.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Boughton Farms #1 100 words for mud

I believe the Eskimos have a plethora of ways to describe snow and of course they would. After today I have a few more ways to describe mud and not all of them are good. I realize it can get a whole lot muddier and wetter, but this was a good add on to the mud that we had last week.

I brought my big fat tired Epic to warm up on and left my trainer at home. After one slow lap and getting bogged down with the big tires I was regretting it. I am not kidding when I say the Epic picked up a minimum of 10 lbs of mud, grass and leaves in one lap. It was amazing. I almost gave birth when I tried to lift it over a barrier. Rick dropped off his trainer, but by the time I had returned from my second warm-up (on the road) the start was getting close.

I took my clean CSK Cross bike to the line and lined up on the inside of the 2nd row. We were off and again I got a horrible start and faded to the back as we negotiated the muddy first left and right. I was tentative in the mud as we crossed the open field, made the right and into some pretty hard packed grass. I looked forward, too many to count. I looked back and there was no one behind me. Dead last again. I almost smiled and maybe I did, but it wasnt a smile of happiness. More like "Your a freakin idiot you know that, now you've got to chase all race long again, have fun!!"

I'll tell you a secret. I need a few laps to get my head around all this new stuff like sand, off camber descents, soupy muddy corners, sticky muddy single track, picking lines. Next year I hope to be up in the top 3 or 4 when we take off in these A races.

So anyways I start to pick off guys like I usually do by hammering in any grass I can find. I am turd slow in all of the single track and even the sweeping corners then I have to go even harder again in the long stretches of mud. Luckily theres no shortage of guys to watch lines of and I pick up a thing or two. After everything settles itself out the first guy I catch is BIll Marut and hes real smooth so I follow him the best I can and it helps. But when I am ahead of him he catches me in the single tracks and I repass out in the open. Next I slowly and painfully catch Derek Wilford who is just flying in the really deep muddy grass where I think I am usually at my best.

Turns out he had a flat tire and he says his bike was actually faster in the mud with the flat. We go back and forth doing the open field/single track dance. But somehow I manage to fall down or come to a dead stop multiple times while leading him and Bill. The falls were ridiculous even for me. One time I went into the single track and chose to ride the center of a bump and slid off and fell on my right side. Another time on the muddy road I was trying to miss a puddle and somehow fell right over going in a straight line. And again once I drifted into a puddle and that lead me left into a soft muddy rut and I had to stop, hobble to the right and get going. Another time I hit a rut and almost T-boned it and went off course.

But even with all these trials and having to re catch Derek and try and drop him I was still catching John Ehrlinger and whomever Team Lake Effect he was racing. I believe it was Matt Weeks. The gap sometimes got tantalizingly close, but still along way. But I make a lot of the mistakes I described above on laps 3 and 4 for some reason.

So anyways, its lap 3 or 4 (not that I know it at the time) and I make a mess of every single wooded section. I stop and grab trees to not fall over, I stop in deep mud mid way through, stop in a rut on an open road and Derek is by between singletrack sections and establishes a gap as I flounder. Also for the first time I don't see John and TLE anymore. I am actually wondering whats wrong with my bike, are the tires so loaded up with mud its not handling right? Turns out it was all in my head!

Also-as is the case with everyone, the effort to push in this mud and out of all of the 180's out of the single track is making my knees really ache. And then pushing like mad all around the course to keep trying to open a gap and chase the two ahead-wow was that a Huge load on the muscles. Not to mention after the race my drive train was so locked up with mud and debris it would not free spin and in fact there was a little rock stuck between a derailleur pulley and the cage!!! If your cyclist then you know what this was like, but if your not-imagine tightening the strap on that exercycle at the gym down hard then pedal like mad for an hour!!

I am now trailing Derek and have lost contact with John so I sat formulating different strategies in my head. When I come to the pits Derek screams out on a fresh bike and he is flying. I am going like hell too and hes pulling away across the field. I take a second to look at my bike and its a mass of mud around the tires, brakes, front chain ring and chain stays. I am envious of Derek and his clean drive train and much lighter bike. I know were just amateurs, but on a day like today a pit crew and bike change per lap would definitely be the way to go. I catch him in the grass and get ahead, but he and his his bike are just screaming in the mud and I am passed in an open muddy field pass. Sounds arrogant, but I am kind of amazed. I am usually the passer in the open stuff and the passee in the technical stuff.

So I had listened for last lap as we crossed start finish, and if they said it I am sure I didnt hear it. I had at least an inkling that we were close to 5 laps. No big deal. I am so on the rivet the whole time in these races I can barely think straight so I am not capable of counting laps and my glasses are so muddy I cannot see my computer (not that I thought of it anyways). Turns out its lap 5 and again I dont know. I am such an idiot!! Derek if you read this-by all means leave a comment as to the right chronological order of these events....

So my strategy now that there was no catching John was to drop Derek if I can , try and be clean in the woods and come out ahead. But when Derek passes me I think, I'll sit on him through the woods like I did earlier and learn some new lines. Well any thoughts or ideas of tire problems goes away on the last lap as I stay really close to Derek through all the single track and his gap at best grows to 40' and thats in only the 2nd to last section. I close the gap and I am past Derek by coming out of the slightly uphill 180 before the last open road to the barriers tighter and with more momentum. I clear the barriers well as I had all race long (I was waiting till the last second to dismount and try for no more then a step or two before the barriers).

So now were approaching the line and Derek comes whizzing past. I dont really react except to stay close, but when I look up and hear the cheering and the bigger crowd at the start line I realize too late its the last lap!! I lose to Derek Wilford in a great race!! He is in Masters, but it doesnt matter. It would have been a lot more exciting for me to have raced to the finish instead of getting passed in the last corner like a sitting duck. I wasnt even breathing that hard after the race because I was in a whole different strategy. But I am not taking anything away from Derek.He rode a clean race, rode so strong and he was superb in the technical sections. So much faster and smoother except the very last lap when I finally got my crap together.

In fact that last lap was awesome for me. I was having a blast carving clean lines in all those thick muddy curves, maintaining monentum up and out of the woods into the soupy grass and back into the single track and sweeping around corners one foot clipped out. I wish I was that good every lap. Maybe next year or maybe in a few years. Felt great to get it all right once!!

I got 5th in the A race too!! Overall I don't know yet, but 9th or 10th or so I am thinking as there was some attrition up front. My best BA TLE A race effort yet all around considering the awful conditions. I am pretty darn happy with it. I'll admit its awesome to be racing pretty competitively in the A races in my first year, especially considering all the time and energy wasting mistakes I make every lap and how slow I am on the starts and technically the first lap or two or three sometimes. My coach Brent told me in a few years I'll look back at how I rode these first cross races and just have to laugh. I know exactly what he means. Great fun cross. Huge learning curve!! But on the flip side I sure wish I was scrapping it out on lap one like I did at Orrville every race. Granted that was in gorgeous weather and a course that suited me to a T.

I also know I should keep my mouth shut about whining and complaining about results, So I must say now I am very aware of what a GREAT year ive had, but I dont think I would had had this great of a year if I wasnt so hard on myself to do well. Deep down I think I let myself down all those years ago by not chasing certain dreams of mine, quitting cycling and not capitalizing then. I am not trying to say that I would be a Semi Pro or a Cat 1/2, but that I didnt try hard enough and I didn't make good decisions. I had great results in college despite myself.

I am older now and I don't want to make that mistake again and be full of regrets. I want to race for years to come and I want to always strive to be better every single time I hit the starting line. I want the utmost knowledge, equipment, diet and training (while still being a good husband and father). Theres plenty of Masters racers to idolize or maybe mimic in northern Ohio too. I'd name names, but then I'd forget someone and feel like a heel.

I'm getting a bit off track because of a great thing that happened after the race..Don Frey of Team Snake Bite had a fun little awards ceremony where I got an awesome hand made and very ingenious trophy for moving up to the A's as quickly as I did instead of staying in the B's till I started racking up wins. Not that I would have (Tony Marut, Cameron Jackson and many more are studs of the future). This is what got me typing about results in the A's being great, but maybe a bit lower then I would desire deep down inside of me.

Well, my bike was a complete mess and as I sprayed it off with about 300 gallons of cold water I realized the amazing variety of different colors, textured muds that were all over it. Sticky mud, mud with pebbles, mud that rinsed right off, compacted black mud so hard as a rock it took a screwdriver to pry it out between chain rings. And just think after stripping my bike down this week to clean all the grass and goop out of all the spinning components, we get to do it all again after the 9th. So till next week, heres black sticky grass infused, clay like textured mud in your eye!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

B B B B B BEER, I love Beer!!

There was a time when i was disillusioned that I was a wine drinker. I was in the fine dining business so you have to forgive me. But I am Back!! Well been back for quite some time. Then there was the decade of Budweiser and the occasional micro brew. I remember some tasty brews at Rock Bottom Brewery in the flats (when the flats were alive and fun) and a trip for my best friends wedding in California and my first taste of wheat beers ( 14 years ago?).

But now I am older and skinnier (yet no wiser, huh that sucks). Thanks to the guilt associated with trying to be a roadie you see. So now I restrict my self to one or maybe two tasty brews once in awhile.

So I raise a pilsner glass to those many skinny roadies who like me succumb to the guilt of the all mighty scale and say....."If your only going to drink One beer, what will it be?"

Hey and look what a fine fellow I am...I'll start with a few choices:

Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat-such a boom baby wheat with a citrus kick and maybe ginger?

Ommegang Three Philsophers Quadrupel-dark, rich Belgian ale!! 9.6abv-it will knock you down skinny boy. abv is alcohol by volume

Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale-tastes like pumpkin pie in a bottle. Great for the fall, like duh.

P.S. if you haven't guessed already, this is a participation thing!! So lets hear what brewskies have been chilling in your icebox.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Fields, #2, A-Race-Holy Mud Batman

What can I say about today? A lot actually. It was a sloppy mudfest almost all the way around the course with a fun gravel descent and two ascents (one on the gravel after the descent and one up the asphalt road). The single track like the rest of the course was reversed and compared to last week it was almost easy. Even the mud soup that awaited us in the trees was easier to do. To show how good of a day I had I even started hopping the easy log the 2nd lap. If your wondering I did not fall once all day.

I finally not only brought my trainer today, but I used it. I decided that after one lap before the B/C race turned my bike into a popsicle with wheels that I could possibly do more harm then good to pre-ride it too much. A second bike or my mountain bike would have been smart. But, and this si the truth, I didnt bring my mountain bike for two reasons, the first that I didnt want to carry two muddy bikes home, but more importantly I didn't want to be tempted to race it instead of my cross bike, even though It may have been significantly faster. Thats the truth.

I learned that the descent though fast and potentially slippery was fun and easy. I got out of the two jackets, balaclava, shoe covers and headed to the line. I was happy with my position, but when they said go I took off and I seemed to be the only one who couldnt get going forward. I was just sitting there spinning my tire. I was way in the back entering the singletrack and I was butt-slow on lap one and came out probably dead last and a little off the back. What a shame as I felt good and had big-ish plans today. I felt like a complete fool.

Anyways I came out of the single track, down the gravel road and slowed a lot for the left turn before the bridge. I caught a few guys, but I didnt put enough time between myself and the person behind and was re passed in the single track. Out again and this time I was putting in harder efforts to get really clear. This coincided with me being a lot quicker (for me) in the single track this and every other lap. I seemed to find a line and a rythm I could use. I wasnt fast mind you, I was a lot faster if that makes sense.

Anyways I catch and pass John Ehrlinger and in front of him I can see Dan Quinlan, Weeks and Zak. I'll be honest, this made me a bit miffed because I really thought today's course I could hang. So I was catching them, but thats not the same as running with them. John and I sea sawed for a bit. I made a mess of one of the 90 degree open field corners by sliding across the apex instead of curving and John gave me some good advice. he re passed me in the singeltrack and I worked hard to keep the gap within reason. I jumped the log clean and re caught him , passed, he re passed when I got slowed to a crawl in some mud and I re passed across the top to the descent.

I dont know what the big deal is, but as we hit the road John is gaining on my right as we jump off the curb and starts yelling at me angrily to "Turn, Turn, Turn now" which of course just screws me all up. Luckily he leans on me and we both make it. I wont go into details because were not agreeing on the particulars. One of those he has his side and I have my side things.

I dont say a word and just keep riding. I dont know if the yelling takes a bit out of him, but as we cross the socccer field on Lazzaro rd(I think its Lazzaro) I start to open a gap on him finally and I keep looking back to make sure he isnt coming with a second wind.

If it had been the first or maybe even the 2nd lap, John could have easily erased the gap I had on him through the single track and repassed me, but on the bell lap I keep a good amount of speed through all of the corners and I run whats faster to run and I remount quickly and though I had to tap a foot on the last log, it didn't slow me down too much. I came out with some time in hand, but I pushed hard just in case.

So, another Team Lake Effect Bike Authority race in the books. And of course new challenges again. This time in the form of soupy mud and never ending deep wet rutted grass and a bit of snow. The temperature was certainly the coldest all year, but that in itself wasn't a problem, though I was uncomfortably cold the first lap or so. I wish I had a camera, but my bike and body looked like it was dipped in milk chocolate at the end. I even had 1/4" round chocolate covered spokes and a mud encrusted top of my saddle!! What a site. Getting out of the clothes and back into street clothes without trashing out the minivan was an even bigger challenge. Especially since I have a defective buckle on my left shoe making getting out of that shoe a real @$%$@#% fun time. I was trying for 5 or 10 minutes yesterday in the parking lot. Fun!! Got to get a replacement part for that soon.

Anyways, two more shots at the A's. If I can somehow bring a big enough skill set to be effective, not crash 5 times, get a horrid start, stall out in sand, go off course maybe, just maybe I wont have to race catch-up for Another race this year. Its a great workout racing catch-up I'll tell you, but I am getting a bit tired of the same old same old race report, arent you?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Ride.

Two weeks ago I hit a new low of 140.5 lbs. Down from 175 lbs in July of 2006. Last time I hit that weight was post ride mid summer (more due to water weight then actual weight loss). I am happy with that. I go to Disney again in May, but when I went for 10 days last spring I gained 8 lbs. My wife couldn't believe it, but the scale said it in all its digital glory. I sure hope this vacation I am smarter about my eating.

But this isnt really about Thanksgiving gorging like a famished pig and going back for 4 or 5 large servings of scalloped corn ( I love that stuff-and its carbs) and 2 slices of my wife's delicious pumpkin pie (its sugar-I can use that)!!

I wish I had a camera for this mornings 2.5 hour mountain bike ride. Thats what this is about. It was very cold, very wet, raining and sometimes snowing the whole way, big puddles, a steep climb that we crawled up in slimy mud with our bikes on our backs, grabbing at anything for grip and later helping the others ascend and bumpy descents on layers of leaves so thick it nearly rendered hydraulic brakes useless.

I really surprised myself by hopping over almost all of the logs on the path. One funny occasion we were climbing away in the granny gears and there was a log 3/4 of the way up. I got to the log, lifted my front wheel, but my wheel didn't lift even 1mm and I ran into the log head on with the front wheel at a whopping maybe 4mph....boing. Time to walk!!

I relearned that climbing on slippery surfaces isn't about power as much as it is about controlled aggression and a good line. I also went down descents bumpy and steep enough I had to get off the back of the saddle, really modulate the brakes and shift my weight around. I also got to see how amazing just rotating my arms forward motocross style helps in going around corners. Thanks to Mark and Tom for that tip. Road racer style with elbows back and close to the body just doesn't work offroad.

I also learned that some descents others can do scare the crap out of me. I admit it, I walked down one or two. I dont mind fear and like a rollercoaster ride or taking a blind corner flat out in a racing kart its a need. But when you lock up your brakes and start to stare at all of the rocks and roots, sharp corners and mud-its best to walk....for now. Not to mention I have three cross races left on my schedule (and I am not 20 years old anymore-crappy excuse that). One in particular was a drop into a stream , but you had to hit just the right line to go between two tall rocks at speed and get on the only flat rock that helped bounce you back onto the other side. Margin of error? Zero or your falling over in the rocky stream-ouchy and I am sure the water was very c-c-c-cold. I walked across (so did two others) but it was so slippery and hairy bounding from rock to rock with the bike I wonder if I should have tried riding. I got across with my feet only as wet as they were before I started across.

For all that I moan and complain about my poor mountain bike (or cross) skills some may wonder why I bother at all? Why don't you see? It's because of the fear and its because theres so much to be learned that its so attractive to me. Its a strange little cocktail of fear and desire, a bit of stubbornness with a twist of excitement. I plain old suck and I dont think I'll ever get that great at it or be able to pick that perfect line down a rocky descent. But as long as I get to a certain skill level and maybe race again that would be enough. Iceman or Raccoon Rally are my target mountain bike races of 2008. Not to mention its that desire to be a better cyclo cross racer.

But back to today. It was a good morning in miserable conditions. It reminds me of our epic 2 to 4 hour winter mountain bike rides in Brecksville and these same trails in 1991 with Jim Baldesare, Noel Harris, Rick Smith and a bunch of other riders. Those were good times of drinking late into the night, crashing on Ricks floor then waking up hungover and getting on the bikes in freezing cold conditions at the break of dawn. I used to have a Bridgestone MB Zip. A very nice and light no suspension bike that was all light Ritchey and Mavic components. I swore I'd never sell that bike, but I did this year. Fast forward to today and I rode my new/used full suspension 2004 Specialized Epic with a bunch of guys (and a gal) I have never met before and rode with Joe whom I used to race with back in the 80's and 90's before I quit riding. That was cool.

Anyways I had a blast (a few new bruises) and it was good to have that excuse to eat like a pig today. I cannot wait for Thanksgiving 2008.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pictures from BA The Fields

Thanks again to Gary Burkholder for the great pics.

The Real Race Report..yawwnn

I must admit that sick little voice in my head was hoping for bitter cold, rain and mud. Why not? Well it rained all day Saturday, but Sunday was in the 40's and the sun was out. No doubt the course would be sloppy, but having never been to the Fields, I really had no idea what to expect.

After some fun trying to find the parking lot, then driving my minivan up and over a curb and trying to not to disrupt the B, C race going on I got on the course and my first impression was, this place is HUGE!! I rode on and beside the course, stopping often to not get in the racers way and walking the muddiest sections in the singletrack. Wow was it ever muddy in spots and in my first descent of the Cannondale C turn I fell. Not too hard, but not a good way to start the day and I was filthy. I make it no problem the 2nd lap so I am feeling you know 50/50 on the C.

I am really in a quandary about the tire pressure. I am not gentle in my riding style, but I know for a fact if I could run my clinchers at 25 it would help, but with all of the ruts, curbs and wood to hit, I am afraid of taking out more air then I ran at Spin's race last weekend. I do take a little out before the start and I didn't pinch flat and I hit some ruts and logs pretty hard all race long.

What an A field. All the top local guys and then some are here. Look at the race results and the top (including Masters) is pretty hardcore.

I arrive a bit late for the start at the base of the run-up and end up in the middle of the 2nd row with 27 others. A record A field I hear. I feel confident of the run-up if nothing else so I brace for a hard start and again I am a bit slow off the line, but I sprint between the two guys I was lined up with, but they converge to close the door and I just dive right in hoping they will move enough, but it all happens fast and I start to bounce from mr. left to Bill Marut on my right. A few feet of this and I lose the bike underneath me and almost like I am sitting down I fall right into poor Bill's bike.

Enough adrenaline is already pumping I get right up, chain appears to be on and I go, but I see in my peripheral vision that Bills standing and I truly and honestly feel bad and hope he doesnt have a race ending mechanical. The dynamics of crashes are such that I cannot tell you if it was 100%, 0% or 50% my fault. But regardless I hit the climb 2nd to last and make some much needed positions on the run-up.

The first lap is uneventful with me making the C on lap one and slowly picking off places 27 through maybe the top 20 by the end of lap one. Lap two were already really spread out due to the differing skill and speed through not only the open fields, but the long, twisty, rutted singletrack that had two log barriers and probably a 10 to 15' stretch of deep mud out of a slow corner. I tried to stay on my bike except for the log barriers, but Dave Steiner for example would run a large portion of it while guys like Rob Franz cleared the entire single track without dismounting.

On the 2nd lap I put in some big efforts and moved up two more positions, but crashed on the C for the first time. I am up in a flash and figure that wont happen again as I didn't take a very good line at the very top and tried to drop in faster without using any rear brake. I probably lost positions, but in the next run-up I could ride quite a ways up and when I'd dismount I had usually made up a lot of ground on anyone in front.

Up the road are Wilford and Lesco and at first they seem so far away, but a charge across the soccer fields and a fast run across the field off of the asphalt descent and run-up and I am right on Wilford as we hit the top and then I pass Larsen on the sidewalk. But lo and behold i fall again on the C. This time it gets in my head and I am fast to get up to get out of everyones way, but slow to get going.

I dont recall much in the next two laps except that I make the C the next lap and fall really hard while taking out one of the plastic (thank goodness) posts that holds up the perimeter tape on the following lap. At this point I am seriously considering riding to the technical parts of the course and watching guys like Adams and Marenchin and learn something. The wind is out of my sails, but when Rob passes me back I think Ive got to salvage at least this position because there is no catching Lesco and Wilford now. So again I pass Rob in a soccer field and as we approach the disintegrating log by the parking lot I somehow hit the log funny with my front wheel and when my rear wheel hits I tumble over. And poor Rob is another casualty of war and goes down.

When we both get up I apologize and I literally let him go. We've got 1.5 more laps to go and I don't have the stomach to put it down in front of him for the third time. Theres no one behind me after Shawn laps me as we hit the descent. Its fun to see how fast and effortless he can bunny hop off the road into the muddy grass.

So I am just plodding away at the end of a race for the 2nd week. Not happy with myself, but when I hit the C my left foot accidentally or maybe intentionally unclips and low and behold I fly down the descent, I am off the brakes really early and fly down the hill for the first time. I take this mini victory and go hard across the field up the last run-up and across start finish and since I was lapped I forgo the "victory lap".

But after the race I ride back to the descent and do it one more time just like during the last lap of the race and my confidence is restored. A least I can start from a position of confidence next week instead of "my goodness, what am I going to do about the C next week..Waaahhhh". It was pretty slippery already so if it rains next Sunday and the C is part of the course, maybe caution is the better part of valor and I'll dismount and run down it as did some.

Later that evening the wonderful timing and scoring team of Team Lake Effect has the results up in record time again. Major props to everyone who helps put these races on. You guys and gals work your tails off for us and I know all of us (even the ones without blogehrea) appreciate it so much. But wait, this is all about me right?? So I check my results fearing the worst and I am 13th out of 20 in Expert and 18th overall out of 28!! I had made it as far forward as 11th Expert and of course 16th overall. Lets be honest, without 5 crashes thats only two or three posotions back from where i expected to finish anyways. Mark Lopresto was congratulating me for getting so far back up into the race after my pre-race trepidation and quick start crash. I wasn't feeling that worthy then, but I am really happy now.

I was pretty sore last night and today I went to see the Master, Todd Palmer LMT, NMT. For three hours we worked on learning new strengthening exercises, stretches and much needed Masotherapy.
If anything a day like Sunday teaches you that theres so much more to being a complete cyclist then threshold power. There is core strength, technical riding ability and experience, lots of experience. And now if they can find a way to make me bounce like Bumble the abominable snowman I'd be all set!!

Onto the next race with confidence!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Fields, A Race, TKO!!

Alright, use your imagination and as you read imagine a Horse Race announcer and a Boxing match!! That sets the tone.

A Large field of A racers is lined up at the base of the run-up. AAAaand they are off. Ray is in the 2nd row, he gets between two riders and the door closes on both sides. He sprints, but he starts to bounce from the rider on the left to the right and, oh my gosh, hes fallen down 20' from the start line. Who falls 20" from the start line in the A race??? Is this a sign?

Wait, hes back up and rides halfway up the run-up, dismounts and is in almost last place. Oh what a shame. But hes on the attack and slowly reels in a place or two. Thankfully Ray's first lap is clean.

But wait, hes at the slippery downhill on lap 2 and oh my yes, hes down again. What a shame after catching and passing and dropping all those riders. That boys got some spunk or is just plain dumb because hes back up quickly and hes off in pursuit of the two Spin riders.

Through the single track hes much improved this lap, out into the the open fields he catches and drops the two riders and sets off for the next two (Wilford and Lesco) riders. Down the asphalt hill hes WAY behind, but by the top of the run-up hes on there tails and hes by one on the sidewalk and gets the other approaching the downhill. I am sure he will nail it this lap.

And he does, but he nails the ground, but this time he hits hard. Again, spunky boy gets up, but this time he doesn't attack. In fact, hes riding like a guy who should have stayed home!! His buddies watching are trying to encourage him, but hes thinking that maybe he should have ridden his mountain bike.....around the block at home with training wheels.

The two are gone and hes being caught by the Spin rider (Rob Franz) who clearly knows how to ride his bike, clearing the logs in the single track without dismounting and distancing Ray easily the 2nd half of the single track. But wait, Ray's found some motivation and attacks across the open fields and re passes him. He approaches the log that leads across the parking lot and NO WAY, he biffs it and goes over his bars and then Rob goes down too. But not forgetting his manners he apologizes profusely and hes back going, but this time hes not interested in position or getting the max out of himself, hes interested in pain killers for the bumps and bruises and a very sore left hand.

Bell lap and hes not really going anywhere, not fast anyways. Stick a fork in him boys and girls, turn off the lights and shut the curtains...hes done!! But wait, the last lap he Nails the downhill with speed and hes a happy camper people and judging from the "whoop" of enthusiasm that escapes his mud encrusted lips. Across the fields, up the last run up and through the final maze and Mrs. Marut calls "Get off the course and quit stinkin up the joint for the real riders ninny!!!" Alright, she doesnt say that, but she does say your Done, which means hes lapped and doesnt have to endure another lap.

Thats a shame for the spectators by the downhill who surely would like to see some more of the amazing display of technical skill this boy sadly does not posses any of.

Yahhhoooooo......And thats how it was on this 18th day of November, 2007. Thank you and goodnight.

Ray "bruised as hell" Huang

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Race good, train bad

I got all the motivation to race and none to train. I guess it comes with the territory called November. Ive known about cyclo cross since forever, but this is my first season and I love it. But I think with this comes the reality that I have been racing since March when I did the Cat.4 race at Mid-Ohio. My, my , my haven't we come a long way already. March to November and 4 more races to go taking us to mid-December.

That leaves a whopping 3 months to have an off season, rebuild a base and start ot build race fitness!! But, still I want to improve every week in cross much like my drive to improve with every TT last summer. So I guess I still have to train instead of just ride. But its getting harder and harder. For example the week before Spin's race I had a whopping 6.8 hours on the bike. I wont be much better come The Fields.

Add to that I have some issues with my left hip and my sitbones when I am locked into my trainer. Hopefully 2008 I wont be on it for hundreds of hours like 2007, but I probably will. Trainer time sucks, but its damned efficient use of time. An hour to 1.5 on the trainer 3 or 4 days a week is really helpful. But boy do my pieces parts pay for it.

So what to do? Well, just get on the bike and ride. So far, no matter how little I felt like training, once on the bike I am usually motivated. I don't quite know how much longer thats going to last, but once Team Lake Effect is done so am I. Well, at least for 3 or 4 days when I cant wait to get back on my bike again.

Ugly baby!!

We got our low power Miller EconoTIG welder running last night at work. OK, OK, my brother got the TIG welder working and so far no blown breakers. We also have a small mill that we need to get online. Can you guess where I am going with this?? NO?? Well I'll tell ya. I think I am going to try and weld up a frame of my own. Nothing crazy, just something to do for fun and the experience.

The real challenge will of course be that I have dome some MIG and not very much of it and never TIG. It is still going to be a blast and as always I welcome the challenge.

Anyone who wants to try and do the same (and is willing to share some expenses for expendables and maybe some simple jigs) is welcome!! Weve got a fridge that always has some beer in it too. Wait, beer and newbie welding...maybe not!!

It may be days, weeks or even months before I get to it, but it sure will be fun-thats all I know for sure. And the finished product? Something only its mother could love!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Single Speed World Champs

For the Domonic's and Gormon's of the cycling world.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Blogs and Random Stuff!!

Young and fast Robert Sroka has started a blog about his riding and racing exploits. See my sidebar for a link.

Also Chris McIntosh took some panoramic shots of Todd Field that shows some of what Gary, John, Rick and I blogged about. You can see the severity of the run-up and the suffering in our faces. Also the run around the perimeter as well as the dreaded M as Robert put it and I called it the up and down and up and down area. I think M is better don't you?

Heres Chris' Blog:

Also, I ran my Michelin Muds and they worked brilliantly. I was asked what pressure I ran and I don't know, but I took hints from reading others blogs and articles online like race reports and took a little air out every lap of warm-up. By the time the race started I still feel a couple more Pssts of air would have been okay. A Psst is like 0.012 bar and a Pssssst is like 1 bar so be careful....What???

How about you guys? Still sore? My right shoulder is still a bit sore form portaging the bike and my left forearms still a bit raw from using it to brush myself off of the fence one lap in the mud. Outside of that its all good.

I am sure I'll think of more stuff as the day goes on...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Spin Cross my Heart-The Race 8 vs 1

After the shock of the first laps are over and all of the obstacles are cleared I settle in and find that the pace of our group is a tick below what I think I can do. So along the grass perimeter I open it up and go around a couple of the guys. At first I didnt want to lead us around the technical bits, but now I have watched good riders fall and know that I am feeling confident. I dont know when it happens, but our group becomes Zak, Thom and I. Right behind is John and Dave Steiner and up ahead all by himself is Jeremy Grimm.

I am so excited because my wife and daughter, brother and his girlfriend are here and cheering. My brother and I have been racing karts together forever so he gets right down to telling me my place and gaps. He says I am 6th and I am like "HECK YEAH BABY!!-In the top 10!!"

I push the pace for awhile and that gets off the front of my group with Thom and Zak now a few seconds behind. But, I go off course behind the utility buildings and Thom calls out to me. How embarrassing!! And now I am back behind Thom instead of in front and I get back to him, but still in front of Zak and John.

The middle of the race sees Thom, Zak and I go back and forth. Now my bike is only 8 speeds of ancient Ultegra bits, but Thom is on a single speed!! I will admit this course is better then some for a single speed, but 8 speeds is still an advantage over one. Just shows what a stud Thom is being today. In fact, its because of Thom that I learn how I am losing time on the course. By pre-shifting to an easier gear approaching hills and starting out of 180's in such easy gears I am losing a few feet where I should be putting down some power. So I start to leave the bike in bigger gears and my speed increases and clearing the slippery ascents also gets easier because I am arriving a few mph faster.

Eventually the order sorts itself out. Zak motors past me by the river and just flies up onto the fields, through the trees and across to the barriers and his gap is cemented as is my gap to Thom. I am now 7th and my brother says I am catching Grimm so I am hoping i can get back 6th. Then Paul martin whom I wrongly assumed was lapping me (so early too) was actually coming from a mechanical to blast through the field goes by. I try to stay on his wheel, but he is gone in no time.

I also watch Zak catch Grimm and I know it might be over for me and as I predicted Jeremy picks up the pace, dropping Zak and increasing the gap to me. But Zak surges again and drops Grimm as I start to make time on him again.

Now I have to say running up the hill was murder. Not only was I slow, but it hurt like a Mo Fo and trying to run and push as hard as I could was definitely faster then walking up, but by the time i got to the top I usually was walking. Just trying to put the bike down soft so as not to drop the chain was hard!! By contrast Thom and Zak could just fly up that hill. When i was with them I could muster the will to stay on there wheels and re-catch them later in the lap, but once they gapped me I think I was going up that hill at a snails pace. It really had m number mentally and physically.

But regardless I am absolutely fried and on one lap I am sprinting through the start finish and thinking about yelling Ring the bell (for the last lap), but I keep my mouth shut. As it turns out my internal clock was right because we ended up racing something like 75 to 80 minutes and I was probably going through the Start Finish about the hour mark!!! My wife commented after the race that it looked like I gave up with two to go and that was about right. I am not quitter, but this was about as close as I came to it. But heres how this unfolded.

With two to go my gap ahead of Thom is solid and Grimm is probably within reach, but it will take a huge effort I am thinking. An effort i am willing to make, but then the wheels come right off the wagon. As we approach the mud trench I step right in it. No harm done, but what a mess. When I do the up and down and up I decide this lap to ride the last down up, but I dont get clipped in and I grind to a stop. This area is fast for Thom and I know it so I run as hard as I can, remount and get going and push my pace really hard. Then we get to the off camber, a corner I have done better in my opinion then even Zak or Thom who often slip or unclip. I keep making it while clipped in, but this lap, the most critical of all the rear tire snaps right out from under me and I dot catch it and I go right down and lose a few seconds getting up because my right foot is clipped in. I get up and get going, but this is right before the steep run-up and Thom is by and gaps me big time up the hill. I try to chase, but when we get to the short hill behind the utility buildings I stall out again!! Race over. With Zak, Paul and Thom going by I have now dropped from 6th to 9th.

I take a look for John and at first he looks really close so I try and keep the pace up, but when I hit the baseball diamond and go through the mud I see hes quite a bit back. I cannot close the gap to Thom who by the way catches and passes a cramping Grimm. Could that have been me without all of the mistakes? Its hard to say, but its possible.

So I decide a clean, if slow last lap is what I need and of course all I am thinking about is running the trees AgAIN and going up that steep run-up AGAIN. Wow, what a mental mind "screw" those two were!! So through the trees again, running up the hill, across the road then of all the $@#%@*# things I blow the downhill 180 and I go DEEP into the 7' tall weeds!! You'd think I'd have had enough of stupid mistakes after such a clean day of technical riding, but apparently when I screw up I screw up All the Way!! The reeds are so damn long that it takes me a long time to get out of them. Thank goodness I had that gap to John or for sure he would have eaten me alive in the sprint to the line. Then on the run to the fallen tree I jump and hit the face of the tree with my foot, but I just take it in stride and sort of drag my foot over it, land and run to the top.

So once more to the off camber and I clear it better then any previous lap (wahoo-one small victory). Every lap I will my hands off the brake levers here as well as down the sandy 180 to the river. Crazy talk right? Funny the inner monologue that goes on all race long. "Get off the brakes, get off the brakes, RELEASE the BRAKES".

So I sort of run up the hill one last time and scream down the hill. I wonder, from a physiological standpoint what makes Zak, Dave Steiner and Thom so different then me that they can run up hills so fast? I know I don't have much in the way of fast twitch so is it that? Or maybe its the way I use my muscles in my pedal stroke that leaves them to loaded up to run? I don't know, but Thom and I talked about it afterwards and hes always been a good runner. But you'd think a lighter bike and 20 less lbs in weight would help me fly up run-ups. Not so it seems.

Again, my daughter ringing her cowbell and my wife and friends cheering me on, my brother giving gaps made this one special race for me. Its a bummer I had such a miserable last two laps, but hey-the race went long and I left it all on the grass, mud, hills and asphalt!! Add to that a great course, wet and cold conditions I went across the line in 9th very happy and very relieved it was over. If I have one regret its that I got beat by a SINGLE SPEED!! Congrats Thom!!

Bring on Cross my Heart and Hope to Die 2008!! But like I told Greg Jackson after the race at the wonderful award ceremony at Willoughby Brewing Company, lets just add a ski lift for the run-up next year!!

Cross My Heart A Race. First lap and Course

Wow-where to begin? I almost feel like starting at the end and working back to the beginning, but maybe thats just too weird. One thing is for certain, this race Could and Should become a classic cross event for Northern Ohio (and the midwest) and I hope Spin and the City of Willoughby see it that way as well. Todd Field was an exceptional venue and the course laid out by the Spin crew could hardly be improved upon. It was long, tough, technical with lots of running and lots of flat, slow corners and a screaming fast downhill, mushy muddy grass, obstacles and slow bits. Weather was cross like too. As Brent told me after the race, welcome to your first real cross race. In other words-it aint cross till theres mud!!

Lets just jump right in shall we? I got a front row starting position as 22 or 23 A racers lined up. At the start I just didnt go hard enough and found myself being passed by guys in the rows behind me. We swept right along the sidewalk, left uphill and right into the first grassy section. Its narrow so I held position and then its 90 degree left sharply up a short hill to a small telephone pole laying on the ground which I dismounted for, then someone crashed bottlenecking us. Once clear of that mess we sprinted in the parking lot then right and left on more pavement to a muddy ditch then a serpentine and hilly up and down through trees. This area turned out to be my undoing on more then one occasion. Dave Steiner came flying by me like I was standing still here.

Only those on mountian bikes were able to ride this section because it was so slippery and steeply pitched. After the first up and down and up some would remount and then do the last down and up, but if you didnt clip in or slipped a wheel, you were better off running it. I can tell you in all honesty that running downhill hoisting the bike was pure agony. Every lap was pure dread for me as we approached this section. Through here I was behiind Greg Jackson, Dave, John Ehrlinger and others.

After clearing that section it was up a wall of about 3 or 4 feet that was pitched very steeply then across the road into a tight, off-camber 180 degree downhill turn. Then left and across a long straightaway of soft wet grass. Right across a parking lot then inot a fun right left on pavement, across another parking lotl and down into a gravely right hander, onto the sidewalk and then a slight uphill to fun downhill decreasing radius sweeper that lead to the baseball fields. A fast run in the grass then into a tight 90 degree right and then on some sand and ruts into a downhill 180 left. This lead down to the creek or river bed. Another flat, but tight 180 right, between two big trees and then to the 2nd dismount. It was 13 to 15 mph into this and then a big felled tree that was pretty big in diameter and suspended off the ground.

I had to jump onto the tree with one foot and jump off. Now was a time to decide to remount or run to get back up to the field. Either way i sucked here and if I did it running or rode it I wasnt fast!! Once back up to the baseball level it was serpentine through some trees and then blast straight across the outfield into the two barriers, remount and another long flat run to a slow left hander by the pits and then another left.

The next section I have to say I was extremely pleased not only with myself but with my CSK bike. It was a slow rhythm section, which I think all courses should incorporate. It gives the legs and lungs a brief break while still demanding skill and control. We rode, constantly pedaling right and left almost like through a deeply convoluted slalom course then out accelerating hard around the perimeter of the baseball field, then we followed the outline of Todd Field with fast sweeping corners where the ground was a bit soft and muddy at he apexes.

I followed John Ehrlinger through here for the first lap as we moved out to the center of the outfield again then we made the run to this monster of a hill. but first we ride to the base, up a sharp, soft muddy hill into a right and then a tough off camber 180 right. Very reminiscent of Fairport Harbor only very wet and slippery on the exit. Someone at the front fell again bottlenecking us. This was unfortunate because this combined with the previous bottleneck let the top 6 leaders go straight away. Out of this into a fast downhill left, across the field again around a light pole and then to the uphill monster!! At the base of this hill was a barrier, but i dismounted well before it and would run to the barrier, step over then try to run up the hill, which had to be pitched at over 20ยบ grade and of course it was grassy, wet and slippery. How long of a hill? I dont know, but it was nasty. Look at the pics to see what I mean. Notice John at the barrier and then look at the field and rider below!

At the top was the 180, set the bike down, remount and then drop down the hill. Just flying, applying some brakes to make sure you could slow for the 180 in the mud at the bottom. Now are you thinking like I am-when is this description of this first lap gonna end? I am gettting TIRED!!! But wait, theres more!! After the 180 it was a short run behind some utility buildings, across the landing of some steps, into soft mud and tightly between a trash can and I think a fence up a another short, very steep and rutted slippery hill, a downhill right hander and inot a big sweeper to the right, around the perimeter of another baseball field then into the baseball diamonds which was now pure mud, but not too deep with a 90 degree right and a 180 left, under the pavilion where loud music was playing and yes-finally onto the start finish sidewalk where mud would fly off your tires pelting you in the face and sometimes right in the eyes. Ahhh-finally a 1.7 mile lap was complete.

Great pics courtesy of Gray Burkholder are here:

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Weight Weenie my Ride...on a budget!!

So I got some e-bay specials and some parts from Bike Authority like the Cannondale Fire stem to lighten my CSK cross bike. What???? An OEM stem thats Weight Weenie?? Yup-the Dale stems are 117 grams on a 110mm and 135 grams on the 120 version I use and cheap. I picked up a new Easton EA70 42cm bar for $28 last week too. About 235 grams, so not too light, but still 30 grams less then what i took off and a better fit for my hands as well. I took off the heavy left Ultegra brifter (circa 1992) and replaced it with a 105 brake lever (circa 1990??). Saved almost an ounce just from replacing the aluminum headset spacers with carbon fiber ones too!! So for a modest expenditure I lost around 200 grams all in the bars!!

Next I will cut the steerer to length (but not till a few more races to make sure I dont want to make some changes). The seat post has at least 6" of post inside the frame so theres 30 or 40 grams to lose there too (like how I bounce from metric to english??). I still sometimes say my months in french too!?!?!??!

Now onto what should matter the most, rotating mass!! I am running Micheline Muds which I am lead to believe are the shit and I have no reason to doubt it, but they are 380 to 400 gram tires. Oink. There are some tires that have aggressive, deep and wide spaced blocks at 280 grams. But they are easily punctured as a loss in weight has to come from somewhere!! So race day only tires!! Now I am also researching converting to Stans No Tube with the goo. My calculations show a theoretical weight savings if I do lighter tires, no tubes and Stans of about 400 grams!! But the great thing is the weight savings is just the frosting, this change would be done for lowering rolling resistance and increased comfort and handling, especially in crappy conditions. Or just go with the Muds and save the weight of the heavy butyl tubes!!

It is important for me to state that no one is approving the use of Stans No Tube with anything but a tubeless tire so beware!!

Whats left? Well if I were to convert my bike to a SRAM Rival and take off the 8 speed ultegra brifter, cassette and derr. I think there would be a further 150 grams. A 750 gram crank and BB set-up would save a further 145 grams.

But for now I'll take my budget 200 gram savings to the start line this Saturday!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thats what I was thinking!!

A few things on my mind!! First I finally found a fixie frame built exactly like how I envisioned a fixie for roadies should be done. Its not steel sadly (but light), but it has a sporty geometry, but with room for fenders and the proper braze-ons and drilling for racks, fenders, two brakes and is stylish. This is what I was talking about before.

I am still tossing around the idea of my own frame though. I just think it would be cool to have your own frame!! I am so back into cycling and all that that implies!!

Also, don't forget to vote for your favorite bike shop on Fox's Hot list. My votes in for Bike Authority.

Vote here:

Hey, I commuted to day. Not a big deal, but what is is that right now its gonna be a strong tailwind home for a change!! Its funny, the wind doesn't bother me and most of the time I find it a benefit because it applies a force that constantly needs to be overcome. Like a TT effort and now racing on grass. Wow, even I know theres something seriously wrong with me when I say and I guess I mean, "the wind is my friend." Still. its gonna be fun (and real fast) riding home with a tailwind.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Orrville CX, A race-Ive Been Lied Too!!

A sunny 50 to 60 degree day met us at Wayne College for what some were saying (complaining?) was a Euro style course. After the last two great BA courses that offered multitudes of challenges for me it was fun to face a course with simple corners, lots of grass, asphalt and a bit of single track. To be honest I loved the course and I thought it had a great rhythm to some of the sections.

The A's lined up with some fast roadies like Paul Martin, Jeremy Grimm and all rounders Rudy Sroka and John Adams. Also last B race winner at BA Fairport Cameron Jackson has stepped up to the A's for the Orrville races. Mark Lopresto missed his B race so he too was lining up for his first A race.

The ~1.5 mile course starts at the end of a wide blacktop road that leads onto the grass over to a short rise and around a tree for a 180 and down between some evergreens and a long run to the first only set of two barriers. At the whistle I got right into my pedals and was 4th or 5th. I sat down and settled in behind Rudy which was a mistake because Dave Steiner passed me, but I somehow got back around before the 180. Dave got me again as we made our way through the trees , but Dave went a bit wide, I went wide and had to hit my brakes hard. No harm, no foul, but it did open a gap to Dave and Rudy I had to now close.

I got through the first barriers clean (quite tall ones too i think) and then its a long grassy run to an easy 90 to the right. I followed Dave to the corner and re passed on the exit as we headed towards the parking lot again on a long run of grass. This grassy section was harder then the previous and shaded better from the headwind. Another right up a small rise and now your running parallel to the parking lot and again the grass is soft making progress a bit harder. I am breathing hard, everything is burning and the lead group is going away!! So much for my pre-race plan of staying with the leaders for as long as I could. At the end of the run your at the corner of the parking lot into a really fun sweeping 180 down off the grass into the parking lot. No brakes, just turn, lean and get ready to sprint!! The parking lot was quite large and we went end to end right back into the wind.

The next section was really fun too and it was a wide open 90 into a sweeping downhill left hander (decreasing radius) out of the parking lot up into the grass and up around some more evergreens. Think of that section as a fishhook shape and I was leaned over right on the side blocks of my Michelin Muds forever it seemed. From here it was a serpentine run through the trees and roots and pin needles and pine cones. I am hammering and leading my group, but the PM, Grimm, Adams and Sroka group already have an increasing gap.

Out of the trees and up and over two very short whoop de doos like on a motocross course or rollercoaster ride then into this really bumpy hard packed dirt path into a strange little corner. Not more than a slight bend of a turn, but with a fence on the right and soft ruts on the left and bushes and tall grass on the left a smooth line was important. Next up was more soft grass, this time a medium long run to another 90 degree right turn, again with bushes on the exit, around the bushes to the left into some really soft rutted grass and a fast left with a large pond on the right. Fast into a blind left hander that dropped steeply into some single track.

The line was critical here because you could carry a lot of speed, but if you hit enough ruts youd start to drift left instead of making the sweeping right across a wood bridge. Off of the bridge it was more moist dirt, a slight bed to the right with roots, up a short steep dirt hill and back inot what looked like a children's story book backyard. Very scenic if you took the time to look, but grassy and uphill winding to an asphalt path. Through the twisty path up to where you started on the asphalt road (again slightly uphill) past start finish and back into the grass. Did you get that? It was a 5 to 6 minute lap I believe so lots of laps to be done in 60 minutes.

I kept my head down and kept trying to see if I could catch Rudy who was now just off of the lead pack. On the third lap I got stupid and decided I wasn't dismounting like I had practiced and I changed my dismount at the barriers and almost went down. I somehow managed to stay on my feet in a squat, got stood back up and was able to jump the two barriers. Zak said nice save and he had to go around the barriers. I was breathing Heavy and decided to back it off just a bit and to just dismount however I had the first few laps.

I now noticed now that our group wasn't a group at all. Only Zak Dieringer and I were together, but I could see behind, but pretty far back was Cameron and behind him I thought I saw Dave Steiner. I stayed on the front I think, but I was now starting to think strategy. I figured Rudy was too far gone to catch (though he was still very much in sight) and I figured I was setting a pretty hard pace and was hopeful that we would distance ourselves from the rest. So how to play the race? At first I thought I had better let Zak around and I was making it easy by blowing different corners, but he stayed in my draft. Eventually I blew the odd bend, went wide just into the weeds and picked up a branch in my rear triangle. Zak hesitated then started to go (not attacking) while I tried to pull it out. I finally yanked it with all my might and it came out and I sprinted along the grassy path to catch back up to Zak.

Now I decided that this was definitely our race and I wanted to come out ahead. so I didnt come around Zak and I learned. I think it was about 32 minutes in and Zak's pace wasn't bad, but between drafting and being a gear or two lower in the grass I started to feel better and better. But more importantly I studied how to get through the corners so that if I tried to attack him on the last lap, he wouldn't just catch me in the corners. At first he'd open gaps through most of the corners, but after 3 or 4 laps I was the same 3 or 4" behind him all the way around the course.

When i saw 45 minutes tick by across the start finish I decided to test Zak and I opened it up all the way to the barriers, out across the fields and into the parking lot I sprinted and was going 4 mph faster then any previous laps. Zak stayed with me through all of it and I started to back it off a bit because I figured he was strong enough for my attacks, but I kept the pace higher then the last few laps anyways. I was worried that maybe I would tire myself out, but I stuck with my plan. Out of the woods and into the backyard and up the hill I drilled it again and now I could sense he was dropping away by just a few feet (where as he was usually within inches as I had been).

Past the start finish I kept pushing through the grass, around the tree and to the barriers. I nailed the barriers clean with a good remount and sprinted again and noticed it was really quiet. I looked back and Zak was gone. It felt awesome to have made a plan executed and took a gamble. Had I not attacked Zak and pushed him for a whole lap he probably would have made it to the finish with me and who knows who would win the sprint.

But now I had a new problem. As I was running along the parking lot in the grass I noticed John and PM going into the barriers. Still a big gap, but you have to figure they will be gobbling up 30 seconds a lap so I kept on it even though my place wouldn't change. My new goal was to not get lapped!!

I pushed through the finish area one more time hoping to hear the bell, but no bell! But the bell rang for others behind me and the leaders were getting closer. So again I pushed and I worked hard to maximize Smoothness, not speed in the corners and found with every corner I was coming out in more control and with more speed, not less. My go in hard, brake late and hard and turn method was going away and being replaced by earlier, smoother braking (or no braking at all), turn and pedal out. I learned a lot for such simple corners.

So through the start finish area again and its now over an hour I am very happy to be done and I didn't get lapped!! But what is this?? They hold up one finger (not that finger) and say one more lap for me. Turns out I am the last guy on the lead lap and need to go around again. I am sure I'll get lapped now, but I look back and no one. John and PM had there sprint and I was left to go around one more lap. Victory lap for me as far as I am concerned. I beat my guy, got 5th, was ahead of 4 or more guys who had beaten me at other races and I didn't get lapped on a fast , short lap time course. All good for me. Thanks for the guys and gals cheering from the side and thanks to Zak for a really fun race together. I am sure it was a bit scary behind me at first with all my bobbles.

Now to address the lies!! You guys said cyclo cross was 60 minutes of pain!! I know I went all out because mid race I could taste breakfast, but my stopwatch said I did 69 minutes, not 60!!! Lies, lies!! :)

I'm really loving cross regardless and cannot wait for the next race. Thanks to Katie for the great pics yet again.