Monday, September 29, 2008

Wendy Park Cross A-Race

Its Monday and I am SO SORE today. I feel it in my lower back and left knee, but sore everywhere. I thought all that running and some mountain biking (and crashing) would have saved me this day's discomfort!

SO I am torn on how to blog about this seasons cyclo cross. I could do full out race reports, just do the high and low lights or ??? I guess I'll just start typing and see what happens.

Wendy Park I am told is a landfill park. It has some elevation change and some odd bumps which Lake Effect used to great effect for off camber obstacles. I congratulate them on making a first race course that was fun and challenging enough to make you pucker a bit at times. but not so tough that newbies would be afraid to come out again. Read Gary's blog for a good description.

I lined up in the 2nd row for the A's on my Dieringer Single Speed. I got some looks for it with guys wondering if I was nuts. But i think running a SS on most courses this year will allow me to be a stronger time trialist next summer, but mainly to allow me to concentrate solely on one thing, bike handling skills. Not worrying about what gear to be in or bad shifting problems when the ice starts to form on our spokes and fill our multi-speed drivetrains. I guess you could say I am trying to get cyclocross down to its barest elements which are going as hard as you can for an hour and getting through the technical bits cleanly and hopefully quickly.

I always start a bit slowly in cross. It takes me a few laps to figure out how fast I can go and not fall or to start taking elements quicker or sometimes slower. Or to just get off the brakes entirely and let sections flow. I was having issues in warm-up with toe overlap in the 180 downhills, but by race team I figured out to ride them with my toe a bit down and turned in. Problem solved.

The single speed really makes you look at the course in a different way. You have to maximize your advantage where you can. But I realized that I was actually quiet fast on it in some sections. A lot of sections actually. For example on the gravel at start finish and believe it or not up all of the short climbs and out of corners, even though my cadence would drop I was still strong and could make up the time I lost in other sections.

But I lost most of my time with the tailwind on the road section and up the climb after the big tall concrete curb. Had I been able to hop it like Greg Jackson and Ernesto I could have ridden up it, but one tiny mistake and I would have had to hop off mid way up losing gobs of time. A 42/17 was rideable, but only with both feet clipped in already and some forward momentum. So I had to run, which wasnt that much slower. What was slower was hopping back on at the top and starting in that 42/17 still going up!!

One thing I learned last year, my first try at cross is to know your limitations and then dont try and do things your not capable of. Lost time in cross race is so hard to make up, especially at the sharper end of the field against strong guys. My point being was that I can hop a curb like that maybe 1 in every 5 tries, but I know I cannot do it in a race with pressure on even once so I had to commit to running up that hill as hard as I could 8 times and NOT try to jump back on and ride up it.

The race got interesting with two to go when I was following Rudy who was way out ahead of the A-Masters. I was hoping to learn some new lines and looking back I had a big gap on Thom behind and was falling pretty far behind Matt Weeks. But all of a sudden I hear someone and its Thom. We hit the downhill and I botch the right hander onto the gravel and hes right on me now and as we head around the grass to the asphalt hes right there. We sprint down the boardwalk and he eventually blows by and goes after Rudy and passes him too.

He nails the hill this lap and the whole lap we are close. I have to chase really hard through the grass and after the beach. I catch him and pass him after the beach and we run through the railroad ties almost side by side. We hit the bell lap and my back is screaming in pain probably from pushing that big gear on the SS hard in slow sections and the bumpiness of this course. But i can ignore the pain out of the corners in the fast sections. Its in the serpentine sections through the trees that it really hurts.

Again I am slow through the right hander at the bottom of the hill and I lose time to Thom, but I nail the corners before the asphalt (which is so much fun to come fying off the gravel and then lean it hard through grassy corners). Thom knows he has to be fast here so he pulls away on the asphalt and again he nails the hill by getting right back on his bike afte r jumping the curb (he told me later). I late brake and fly over the curb almost falling forward and run up HARD and this time I run about 10' more to get on flatter ground and I am off in pursuit.

Thom told me after wards he knew where I was stronger, but he had the gap from the boardwalk and hill so he knew all he had to do was go harder where he knew I was faster to maintain the gap. I got a good run through the beach and up and around the picnic tables but Thom was flying too. One last time through the railroad ties and around to the last few corners. Rear slides out hardcore on the gravel road, but I just keep hammering and around the fun sweeper down to the finish straight and Thom takes 6th and I take 7th 5 seconds later.

I ride off to the pits and when I get there I put down my bike and lay down on my back, knees up. What a hard race!! I stay there awhile hoping the back spasms will stop. But a top 10 in the A's with a SS!! The bike handled great and the gearing really couldnt have been better. During the race I heard a guy yelling encouragement then he sees its a SS and goes nuts!! One tactical error in not going harder for two laps near the end and letting Thom back in the fight, but otherwise a great race. You can never let your guard down on Thom because at the end of the race he will find a way to beat you.

Thanks to to the guys with cowbells and the spectators yelling for everyone. Got to love cross for the amazing support we give each other.

And thanks again to the Lake Effect crew for all the hard work and for setting up such an amazing course Sunday.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

20 words to say ouch

Potentially urban legend, but the Eskimos are rumored to have many words for Snow. I have got to think that mountain bikers must have a lot of words for Ouch!!

I went on a balls out fun, but damned aggravating mountain bike ride tonight that was technical with descents and really tough short steep climbs and narrow paths between trees and on the side of some steep hills (walked that one). Rock gardens, stream crossings after a steep drop, so many whoop de doo type terrain over rutted, rocky paths. Like ot hop over logs? Theres plenty and even some on the tops of the hills to add that extra bit of challenge. Ridge running then turn and drop down a steep hill in a narrow little ditch, wheels locking and unlocking then power up the next hill. Some new climbs with switchbacks were just man made last week by the curator of this amazing string of singletrack by the name of Chris.

Chris has this place nailed and Josh is really learning it so although they seemed very sincere that they did not mind waiting for me, they (Josh and Chris) could have easily done loops in the time it took me to do one. I was stopping and walking a lot.

And yes, as always I had a silly little crash that ended up hurting really bad. I hit a log too hard with the front wheel popping the front up and me bailing. Everything was cool till the handlebar got behind my knee and as I landed the wheel hit the log turning the handlebar and I got my right knee squished between bar and frame.

They were very nice to tell me that I did clear some pretty scary stuff and I looked like I knew how to ride a mountain bike, but was just rusty. Thank you.

I did clear a rocky descent, but at the top I almost endoed, but my brain actually made the right decision for once and i got off the front brake and bumbled down past all the jagged rocks. I was admittedly terrified when I thought I was going over because it was steep and nothing but uneven big rocks to hit. The ouch word for that would not be fit to print.

I am not a mountain biker, we know that and I havent been to West branch or Mohican, but guys and gals I know quality and I know challenging and this place has it in spades.

I was even taken away from some really technical sections. I would love to practice daily down there till I could clear the descents as well as all of those steep climbs, but sadly with my nearly 100% chance of crashing everytime I ride my Epic (or go to Ray's mtb park) I cannot ride it alone. Hence the secluded nature plays against me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ray the Welder

In an article in Velo News (I think) a pro rider (Vande Velde?) coined a term I thought was pretty funny and quite perfect. There is always a Welder in a race. Thats the guy who doesnt attack or try to get away, just brings back everything for no reason.

We also call that negative racing too. But in essence that was my job tonight at Westlake. I wasnt sure where my fitness was so I didnt think I could do anything special myself so Brian and I decided that it would be best if I took some pressure off of him (since hes been doing the Westlake thing solo for awhile now). So anytime he was off in a break, as soon as he came back it was my job to bring back the field to the next break.

Fast forward to 2 laps to go and I think I am "welding" the pack back to an attacking Shawn Adams. But i guess I went a bit too hard so they let me go and I catch Shawn, take a pull or two, but we get caught. I didnt expect anything else, but I kept Brian drafting. Then Riccardi went, then Rudy got off the front and I went after him too.

Now that in retrospect was kind of dumb. I should have let RGF chase them down and just stayed near the front and rested. But tired form my move with Shawn I go after Rudy and bring us back.

Then its one to go and off the front just a bit is an RGF and maybe a Lake Effect as we come around the 2nd turn. Ive got Brian behind me so I pick it up and as we catch the two we blow right past. I glance back and see weve got a little gap so I keep pulling to the corner and past the baseball fields.

At the cop turn I am already whipped and I slow down a bit, but no noe comes by. I take that breather then puush again really hard and as we hit the last two turns Brian is encouraging me to keep pulling, but onto the finish straight guys start to come around on the inside, then the outside and I put my hand up so I dont get run over. I delivered Brian to the last corner.

Rolling in dead last I see a white car pulls out in front of the field and some guys sit-up and some keep digging. Brian hesitates not wanting to sprint into the back of a car and comes in out of the points!!

In retrospect number 2 I started my leadout for Brian too soon. Too soon for my fitness anyways. Thought thats a long max effort let me tell you, especially unrecovered from two previous hard efforts.. Especially having not done a hard ride since Sept. 7th.

All in all it was a really fun race. It was pretty fast, there was always some action and I got to do some really hard riding and even try my hand at a leadout. And most importantly I didnt suck!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Omme GAWD!!!

OH my look at what daddy found at the grocery store this afternoon shopping for the big OSU game tonight. GO BUCKS!!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Totally zoned out!!

Euphoria cross series was cancelled (or postponed) today. Really bummed out I decided to go to the secret eastside training grounds for cross. SOme singletrack in a few hidden places and miles and miles of groomed paths that have some fun corners (if your going fast enough) and enough elevation change to get you puffing should you choose to do intervals.

But I am still on cyclevation so I rode easy. It was so gorgeous with small clouds dotting a blue sky. Temps in the mid 60's put a slight chill (especially riding easy)and it really smelled sooo good out there.

It was the smell that really hit me. I got to thinking about the "old days" when people would travel the countryside walking or on horseback and the books I have read recently in the times of King Arthur. Maybe it was just a bit like this. Traveling Not in a car but one with nature. Just a tiny bit like me on the bike out there.

I was so zoned out for so long that an hour or more passed like minutes and I came around a bend and almost ran over a family walking. I apologized and rode off almost laughing. Not at them but at myself.

I was laughing because I was happy in a way that was different from the usual things. My daughter, bike racing and a good training session, a good micro brew and ice cream or a good pizza or grilled steak. This was different. This was just me and a bit of nature, me on my new cross bike that was feeling so awesome under me, getting some exercise and feeling grateful that the world still has places to find some peace of mind.

What a joyful experience. Its okay that they come only once n a blue moon. It really makes you slow down and take it all in and enjoy it. Just dont run anyone over while in that drunk on sweet breeze stupor ok?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

First boo boo

Last two days I rode a bit offroad. Yesterday on my SS cross bike and today I went back to try and clear a lot of the fun stair step type drops and rooty uphills i didnt dare even try on my cross bike. IN other words I ran a lot yeterday, which was fine.

Man theirs good riding by my house. Maybe you dont think so mon ami Mr. Absalon, but for a complete worthless mtb rider like myself, my oh-shit-o-meter is already pretty well pegged. I am so pathetic. But lets face it on a Specialized Epic full suspension bike and hydraulic brakes the only thing holding me back is lack of approach velocity and lack of cahonies.

First blood was drawn swiping a rose bush or something then approaching a true concrete or limestone broken up stair step I thought i took a good line and had some speed, but I think when the speed dropped quickly due to hitting the face of a step I didnt hammer on the pedals hard enough and fell right over. Fell on the step, handlebar jammed me in the thigh bruising and cutting.

OH well, got the first one out of the way already. It never takes me long. Its funny how in some things in life you get to have some innate ability and other things your just left clueless. Was I supposed to get out of the saddle and shift weight forward when I hit the step face or was it a time to put the weight back? Was I doomed by lack of speed or wrong gear from the get go?? Maybe I was supposed to lift the front wheel, weight back, but really jam the pedals to pop over?

I guess the things is the learning curve is what it is except while mountain biking when you screw up your usually gonna get a little hurt. There was the satisfaction of looking down a section of roots and drop offs and making it to the bottom, if not with style at least with my dignity in tact. Ditto for the same area in reverse.

But road racing season is over and I already got the first email for Audrey's Hilltoppers Cross Country ski team today!! Its time to have fun and see if maybe I can acquire some skills offroad this winter. Maybe I should buy that downhill racers body armour and some BMX pants and a full face helmet and full finger gloves. You know to ride single track at sub 10mph speeds!!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Presque Isle TT, Fall 2008

I am starting to see a pattern here at Presque Isle. Its a dirt simple course, ever so flat, but slightly down to the turnaround and ever so slightly up on the way home, but still flat. He (or she) who maximizes the headwind section at each event does the best. Which way is the headwind (or cross or swirl)?? Show up and then you'll know. sometimes your not sure even after the finish.

I arrived extra early for a 8:01:45 start (8th starter). I hate being so early. Not only because it rushes the start I get a lot less potential rabbits to chase, whihc become really essential late in the run here as the legs always seem to tighten up with about 3 to go and the motivation starts to waiver.

No drama as I start with a good burst out of the gate and look down and realize my speed is not reading. I bumped the speed sensor mounting my disc and now I have HR, time and cadence. OH did I mention my goal for this race was to break 28mph ave speed? I also forgot to start an interval on my Powertap (PT) so now I dont have an accurate race time too. Bummer.

But I hammer away at a 53x13 at 92 cadence for miles. In fact I would spend 95% of the race in one guessed it 53x13. I fell to about 87 cadence for almost the entire rest of the race too, but when I did the math in my head I realized shifting down to raise cadence I would need to average 105 cadence to go about the same speed and i know that was not possible. So I kept it in one gear as that was what my legs would pull.

Without a speedo I couldnt shift to the 12 and see if I could hold that a few tenths higher. It would have been a guessing game.

I had wanted to do a TT with no data and just go as hard as I could, but I didnt plan on doing this at PI. I had planned on it for Jim Behren's Leroy TT after PI.

I guess what I am trying to say in a round about way that had I known I was 0.1mph off of a 28mph run the whole run I know I could have stepped it up. Call me data dependent, that's fine. Whatever or wherever you find the motivation I always say!!

Are you saying i am making excuses? I am sure your right. I didnt have a very good week of training either, but that's something you just have to deal with. I was well rested anyways.

But I am still happy with a personal best 26:52 and 5th overall and 1st in the 40-44 age group. Dave Thornton from Erie, Pa whom you guys will recognize from the Team Lake Effect cross races last year was 2nd only 30 some seconds behind so I need to get my bootie in gear. Hell be in the 26's soon too.

Some locals really tore it up this morning too. Team mate Brian Batke went 25:5X!!! He won fastest time of day (I want one of those FTD t-shirts someday) and Rudy Sroka got 3rd Overall at 26:3X!!! Combined with the time set by his under the weather son Robert they won the Family division again. Great job guys!! Too bad Robert was sick because I think a few of us were hoping wed see him go 23mph or faster average speed on his cross bike no less. Next Spring Robert you'll go 24mph and I'll go 28+!! OK, deal? Young Austin Diffenbacher also improved his time from the Spring about 5minutes too and he hasnt been training on the bike either.

So I feel a I have fallen a bit flat in the time trials lately, but at the same time I did win JCB Biathlon mostly due to the bike so the TT hasnt been all bad. I enjoyed riding my P2SL so much this year I did the entire course again today at Endurance pace and just enjoyed maybe one of my last rides on it on the roads till 2009. I really didnt want to stop riding it this morning. hahaha..there goes Ray riding into the sunset on his trusty steed.....

Now thats a sight!! Till Presque Isle 2009!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Electric Bicycles

What have you been up to? Me, Ive been busy (and stressed out) and not riding my bike as I should with Presque Isle in 2 days. I rode Monday for an hour and half and then Thursday night on the trainer for 39 minutes!! Ive gained 1.5 lbs since my season low at the Greenford RR too. Uuuughhh...but thats life.

Ive got some big goals for presque isle so hopefully a good ride tomorrow will open up the lungs and jump start the legs so I can really fly on my favorite TT course. Why is it my favorite? Well when the winds are right you can fly at 28 to 32mph for miles on flat ground. Thats why I ride my bike, to go fast!!

But I have been up to something very exciting. I dont want to get too deep inot it right now, but I have imported some very nice electric bicycles and after many shipping delays they finally arrived to Cleveland and were finally unloaded form the truck and ready for pick-up at 5pm. Hence why i rode the trainer for 39 minutes at 8:30pm last night.

One quick pic of the mountain bike model. Its more torque with this motor than speedy like the folding model and the 3-wheeler models (pics soon), but it definitely is fun to ride and Easy!!

one of four unique models