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 ...you 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..... http://cxmagazine.com/blog/?p=87#more-87

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: http://web.mac.com/chrismac456/iWeb/chrismac%20site/blog/blog.html

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: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gburkhol/sets/72157603070203756/

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!!