Wednesday, December 30, 2009


It's a draft, and I'm looking for comments, or help from someone more graphically inclined than myself...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ice Weasels--and the end of CX for 2009...

Yep, this past weekend was the last race of CX season for me. It was perfect 'cross race--frigid, snowy, slippery, and fun.

Before I get into the details, here are some pertinent numbers regarding the race:

  • 6: the time, AM, I was up to get ready to leave.
  • 9: the "real feel" temp, in Fahrenheit, according to
  • 2: the number of bikes I brought with me.
  • 2: the number of bikes I needed in the race.
  • 4: the number of pedals I left home with.
  • 3: the total number of pedals I came home with.
  • 12: the "real feel" temp, in Fahrenheit, of the plastic toilet seat in the port-0-let, according to my butt cheeks.
  • 95: the number of confirmed riders registered for my race category.
  • 55: my starting position.
  • 1: the number of laps I had done before I realized that I hadn't hit the start button on my HRM (I HATE losing that VERY important data!).
  • 178: my average heart rate.
  • 186: my maximum heart rate.
So, I'll start with one video and see how long it takes to cut & edit more... (I'll also see how long it takes to upload!)

Now, some details of my race day...

It was an uneventful drive to Wrentham... Somewhere along the way, I hooked in to a paceline of other racers from my neck of the woods (Chris, Dan, Stu, et al). Yeah, I know, I should have car-pooled, but I had a tight timeline and essentially boogied right after the race. Anyway, we hit the iced over parking lot, walked over to the freezing shed to pick up race numbers, and all went back to our respective cars to be warm for just a little bit longer.

After figuring out what would be an appropriate amount of layers, it was time for a pre-ride. The course was twisty and turny with either snow--just deep enough to put you off track, ice, or rough frozen ground. Yeah!

I put my Motobecane in the pit and made my way around to the start.

The start was interesting, and by "interesting," I mean "narrow," allowing only about 5 riders per row, and we were staged by starting number. I was in something like the 10th row back. Far enough back so that when the starting whistle was whistled, I was standing still for about 10 seconds. D'oh!

Anyway, we took off at a gentlemanly pace, rounding turns with breath held in anticipation of washing out with both wheels. Fortunately, that didn't happen to me, but I saw MANY riders hit the deck.

The first lap was spent trying to pick my way further towards the front, and also trying to figure out what that terrible creaking sound was coming from my cranks or pedals. Anytime I put in a hard effort, it sounded like my bike was going to break.

Eventually, it did break, or at least the pedal did. And while that, in and of itself doesn't sound fortunate, the timing was. When my wouldn't foot connect, I looked down and saw nothing but pedal spindle. Then, I looked up and saw the entrance to the pit area. Sweet! I swept in, spent a few seconds trying to check the bottom of my shoe to see if the pedal body was stuck to the cleat (it wasn't), and hopped on my pit bike. I was back in the race!

After that, it was just a matter of trying to pass riders when I could, trying to stay upright, and looking for ice weasels.

Before I knew it, the bell lap was at hand, and it was time for one last push to the finish. All in all, it was a good time. I wish I could have stuck around to check out the other races, but I had time to grab a few quick pics and then I was on my way back home.

According to the friendly folks at, my effort earned me a 36th or so out of 87...

And so ends the 2009 cyclocross season, but NOT the biking season. I'll be on the trails by Tuesday!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

BayState Bonanza!

Well, it was another weekend of cyclocross... that means another weekend of fun and of sucking.

I think that racing is super fun, but it would probably be a whole lot more fun if I could just get a little more "oomph," a little more Eye of the Tiger..

I've got a plan to do just that, but that's for NEXT season...

Focusing on this season, this past weekend's BayState 'cross race (full name: BayState Cyclocross, Round 12 of the Verge New England Cyclocross Championship Series, UCI Cat 2, Presented by Spin Arts/Stevens Cycles, Gear Works Cyclery, and The Mid State Cycling Club) was another opportunity for me to push the limits of human athleticism. Instead, I found myself pushing my bike up a sloppy, muddy hill. But, I'm getting ahead of myself (something many of the people I raced against also did... get ahead of me... that's almost a pun).

I was originally signed up to race both Saturday and Sunday-an ambitious agenda, my wife thought. She's right, Anyway, due to a confluence of factors, not the least of which was the torrential downpour I heard as my alarm went off dark and early on Saturday morning, I skipped out on Day 1. Ironically, by the time I did roll out of bed, the skies had cleared and I heard that the start of my race was bone dry. D'oh. That's okay. I had a little more time to get my stuff together for Sunday's race (Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!), so I was able to get to bed at a decent time and hopefully be well rested.

Sunday morning came early (as almost all of my mornings do), and G-Roll (AKA G-Money, AKA G-Rad, AKA Glen) arrived at my front door so we could carpool to the race. We had our directions spot-on this time and didn't waste any time on any wild goose chases. In fact, thanks to Glen's driving tip, by taking a few extra turns-we shaved about 10 minutes off the drive time. Bizarre!

Glen's race was much later in the day, so he had plenty of time to chill. I, on the other hand, had to sign-in, get my number, and take a quick warm-up spin. I don't typically warm up before a race, and I think that's going to change...Anyway, this time around, I did a half-lap of the course and found my way to the BACK of the staging area.

My primary goal with any race start is to avoid any crashes or mishaps, and I was able to do that once again. The course started on a fast crushed stone track... we went around about 1/2 of the track then made a tight hairpin turn onto the grass. From there, it was a typical 'cross course, with plenty of tight turns, grassy straight-aways, a couple of run-ups. One of the "run ups" was sort of a "slog-up" as it was a slick, slippery, muddy hill. SOME riders were able to ride up, but most did not.

Overall, the course was fast and fun. Unfortunately, I was neither. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I was fun! It's the "fast" I've got to work on. Although, depending on how you look at the results, I didn't do that poorly. I did CRUSH five other racers. And, in my class, I was the top finisher from Massachusetts' "North Shore" region. It also appears that of all the men's classes, I was the highest placed racer with a hyphenated last name. I can only imagine that the sponsorship offers will be rolling in any minute now...

Thanks to Glen for documenting my efforts photographically. I look fast, don't I?

After my race, it was time to hang out and watch Glen get ready for his race. I ran up and down the course shooting my trusty Canon G10 and I'll be posting a little slide show once I sort through the pics and eliminate the crap...

With this race done, it appears that there is only one more race on the calendar for this season that I can get to-the Ice Weasel! See ya in Wrentham!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Plymouth Festival of CX - my P.O.V.

3+ hours from start of warm up to completion of 2nd race (in a row)? Must be nuts - or looking to make a full blown training adventure out of one day of 'cross racing! The ever patient and gracious Dave agreed to come out to Marblehead and pick me up - then truck us and our gear down to Plymouth for a day of racing. As a CAT3 - we race late in the day. As a CAT4 - Dave races early. What to do in between? Race together, of course! So I signed up not only for the CAT3 race, but for the Masters 35+ (M35+) version too. The promoter was VERY cool in giving a discount on additional races - making them only $10 a pop. TWO was plenty, I knew - and was not at all tempted by the 'A' Race after thew CAT3 one!

XC Style Section near end of lap(s):

Anyhow - driving south made it clear that it'd be a gray - albeit mild - day. Rain, drizzle, fog, clouds. Temps in the high 50's kept it comfortable. Only problem we had was arriving on time (just) to Plymouth North HS - as there was no event to be found. Hmmm. After the 3rd check of the flyer, I noticed day 2 said 'SOUTH' High School.... whoops! Once we were headed the right way, we knew Dave would have little time to prep and get to his race start!

His race took off - well, some of them, Dave included did, as the rest were either in, or stuck behind a nasty pile up off the line. He seemed to settle in and rode well. I bopped around the course yelling and snapping my lame photos - and took notes on different lines. When he was done, I started suiting up, and easing into a SLOW warm up for the 12PM M35+ race start. I felt strangely good - a bad sign when I'd not ridden much, as it means I'm more than 'recovered', but likely stale. No worries, as that is why we're here - to race into shape, of course!

I pre-ride one lap of the course and find one HELLACIOUS muddy climb to a bog-like traverse at the top of said climb. The high line sucks, the center is sticky, gloopy, awful stuff - but the 'lower line' - basically through some bushes and weeds - is ride-able. It's a long course - with 8 to 9 minute laps likely. The other techy section is a fun sandy climb up a small ridge. I make it fine, but know in the heat of a race, and with traffic - it may not go so well.

As 12 noon approaches, I head over to staging. Dave *ahems* me as I weave my way, instinctively - to a start position at the front. I move back, as this is my 'warm up' race and I had insisted I would take it easy. So I back it on up. We get ready, get set - and GO! Nice to just ride at a race start - even though we accelerate fast. Aside from the first lap and associated traffic, I ride all the sections on all subsequent laps. I'm pretty sure I was last - or near last, as when I rolled through for my bell lap - I heard the finish over the PA a minute later.


Damn. At the end of the last lap I realize that even "taking it easy" for 45 minutes is no way to warm-up, as I'm pretty worked already - and my bike is thrashed! With 10 minutes before the CAT3 race start, I rinse off the big chunks, drizzle heavy-duty motor oil like lube on my chain, and head back to staging. No surprise everyone else is fresh and clean! As I walk up, folks back away ever so slightly.

I punch it as best I can, but have a harder time clipping in than usual due to residual gunk in show/pedal from the last race - but get 'er going anyhow. By the end of the start area straight away, I'm already in pain! I do not contest too many spots as we turn abruptly onto singletrack (!) and know it'll be a dogfight here.


The first lap is full of the usual traffic since I'm not out near the front - so we plug away and get around to the start of the second lap and the real race settles in. Over the next 20 minutes I start feeling better, and pass the random guy here and there - especially when it gets steep, technical, or over at the barriers - where I seem to be making VERY good time dismounting, doing the 'cross boogie - and re-mounting. This is new, and perhaps due to actually practicing it a few times recently. I'm still taking up duties as a rear-guard, but not DFL. I think. I hope!

On the 2nd to last lap, however, I crack harder than I have in a long time - and like I never have in a (short) CX race. Granted I was in past 3 hours at this point (since start of warm-up), when I stood up to grind up the steep parts, my right quad sent a white-hot blazing jolt of pain up my body. Well, that'll teach me to stand up! I sit and hammer the rest of the race - losing 2-3 spots due to inability to stand, and general bonked/cramped state. I did clean the two hard steep (sandy and muddy) spots while seated - as I was terrified to get off and try and "run" with my bike, knowing I'd collapse on that right leg.

Scramble up that last climb onto pavement, and head for Miller Time.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Plymouth Festival of Cyclocross

There comes a time in a race when you know you're pushing as hard as you can. Your heart rate is at the max, you're legs are pumping, and you can't hear over the rush of blood pounding through your ears. You take a moment to look behind you, and see... no one. At this point, you can glean one of two things. Either you've made a break that no one can match, you're in front and your gap is growing. or, in my case, you know that you're probably in DFL.

I wish I could blame my bike-but it was working fairly well. I wish I could blame the course, but it was fast and fun (an no one else seemed to be hindered). I wish I could blame the big crash at the start line, but fortunately, I was in front of that mess, implying that I got a great start (which I did). Nay, blame lies sadly in one spot-that's right, the Spanish Inquisition.

Okay, here's how things went down. I picked up my buddy Glen at about 7:00am and made the hour or so drive to Plymouth, MA. In case you didn't know, Plymouth has TWO high schools, so if you plug Plymouth High School into GoogleMaps, you've got a 50/50 shot of getting the right one. As usual, the odds were against me and we arrived at the high school without a single course marker, port-o-let, or person. Incidentally, as this weekend was a two-day race in Plymouth, the race promoters used the north high school for day one and the south high school on day two (which would have been apparent to me if I had read the flyer). You can imagine our confusion at seeing clear signs of a recent race (tire tracks in the mud), but not another soul.

Anyway, after some BlackBerry and iPhone maneuvering, we found the correct location. The delay did however give me a simple answer to the question of "should I pre-ride the course?" We got there in just enough time for me to pin my number on, sign my one-day license and find the staging area. I muscled my ironic flat bar 'cross bike to the start line and within a few minutes, the start whistle had been whistled.

After a few hard pedal strokes I heard the unmistakable sound of knobby tires meeting knobby tires, followed by some crashing. Fortunately, this occurred behind me. Unfortunately, everyone that was held up with that calamity seemed pass me not too much later. I felt great heading into the woods on the singletrack, but as soon as we hit the huge field of grass, I felt like I was riding on two flat tires.

The remainder of the race was mostly unremarkable. I kept up the effort, and pretty much settled in to my approximately 30th place spot. I made sure I didn't lose any spots, but I couldn't seem to bridge up any further... until the final climb up to the finish.

I came up behind another rider that seemed to feel about as fresh as I did (not). I hung in behind him down a slick, off-camber, wet, grassy downhill and put the hammer down on the last climb. I passed him, but then exploded. And I do mean exploded. I honestly don't know what happened. Did my chain skip or slip? Did my back wheel spin out? Did someone shoot me from a grassy knoll? I don't know. But what I do know is that I was suddenly falling face first into a large rock. I was able to keep my pretty face from making contact, but I was totally off my bike, and oddly enough, out of one of my shoes. Needless to say, that guy passed me. With the reflexes of a ninja, I jumped back on my bike and finished the race doing a one-legged sprint to the line. Check out GPS data from the course here.

And while I didn't have to wait around for a medal, I did wait around to put another effort out on the course. I raced again at noon (this time with my buddy Glen), both in the Master 35+. I over estimated my athletic prowess as I was caught by the leaders by the third or fourth lap. I decided to drop out, get cleaned up, and take some pics of Glen's race.

All in all, the day was a good beating. That cheeseburger on the way home and the beer later that night tasted so good though! Next up, Sterling, MA, Thanksgiving weekend!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009