Cross Crusade #8 2010 - Barton Park

Barton Park is my favorite race venue, and it did not disappoint this year. 

barton1All season long, I've just wanted to improve my finish places and feel more like a bike racer out there.  I've made some improvements, and for the past month, I've been hoping to crack the top 10 at this race. 

But then I ran into a little hiccup.  I got sick.  Food poising, I reckon.  I didn't ride my bike at all since the race at Hillsboro last Sunday.  Not once!   I had no idea what was going to happen, but I figured I'd just relax, ease into it and enjoy.

Enjoy I did.  The course was really quite fast this year.  The gravel sections were slippery but totally manageable.  The paved sections were not as bad for me as in years past, too.  The run-ups were even run-able.  So after I got going, I felt pretty great out there. 

I was sitting 16th or so in the second lap.  I just kept at it and eventually hooked up with this guy "TJ" from Iowa.  We rode well together, and having him on my wheel helped me make sure to keep the pressure on.  We eventually passed a few more riders, exchanging the lead throughout several laps.  As we got towards the end of the race, I just lead the whole way around.  I was feeling great, leading a group of at least three guys when I got a front tire puncture.  The sealant I had in there plugged the hole, but not until I was down to almost zero pressure. 

I didn't realize the front tire was gone until after I passed the pit.  I went through a bumpy technical section and almost crashed a few times, so I knew the front tire was gone.  Then came a fast, curvy paved section, and riding that with a flat front was scary as hell.  But I didn't want to loose too much so I just did whatever I could to stay upright and keep at it.  I eventually made it to the pit again and Jason Pfiefer dug out my spare bike for me.  I got passed by a few more guys while that happened, and I don't know if I caught any of them.  But I finished the race feeling strong and ended up 17th.  The two guys I was riding with got 11th and 12th, so I am pretty confident I could have at least got 11th out there.  That's not top 10, so I guess it makes no difference.    Oh well.  Close, but it wasn't meant to be. 

Now I guess it's USGP up next, followed by Nationals in Bend.  I hope to keep improving.  The next fields I compete against will be deeper and faster than our local scene.  And from now on, the races will only be 45 minutes long (rather than the hour I'm used to).  Usually, the last 15 minutes of the race are my best, so I'm going to have to ride with a little more abandon to leave it all out there on the course.  It will be hard with a long break of racing in between but I will do what I can do.

Photo courtesy Dave Roth.  Thanks.

Sicky McSickenhiemer

I have been sick this week.  Not sure if it was food poisoning or what, but I was hit pretty hard.

Started Tuesday evening, just before I was going to go do a roller workout.  I rode around the block on Wednesday, and immediately had to lie down for an hour.  Took me out.   Yesterday was the worst day yet and I spent a good deal of it trying to sleep.  So that means I haven't ridden since the race last weekend.  Dang.

I might try to ride lightly today if I feel up for it.   I think I'll be okay by Sunday for Barton.

I am really disappointed I got hit so hard, right before my favorite race of the year.  I'll just have to adjust my expectations and have fun with it.

Cross Crusade #7, 2010: Washington Country Fairgrounds

fairgrounds1 Another muddy race.  It was awesome.  It didn't rain for most of the day, so I was worried we'd get stuck with one day old peanut butter mud.  But things were still plenty slippery, and it worked out okay.   I would have preferred a little more wet stuff that doesn't stick to the bike so much, but it was pretty good anyway.

I left off at PIR two weeks ago.  I think I got 18th in that race.  Since race number one, I've been improving in the results slowly but surely.    45th, 37th, 18th and now 14th.  I got a fabulous starting position today in the third row and was in the hunt for a top 10, but I was just not able to ride as hard as I wanted.   I probably would have placed a few spots back, had some of my competition not had mechanical failures, but that's racing.  I'll take it.  I had a better ride at PIR, but I started so far back I still ended up 18th.  I still haven't placed in the top 10 this year, but if I'm going to do it, there is no better time and place than this weekend at my favorite race course, Barton Park.   We'll see.

My pit bike was not running well and my SS had two flat tires, so I just left them all home and came with the A bike.  I was confident the bike would last a whole hour, for better or worse.   That was stupid.  While riding around in circles, minutes before my race, I heard a loud SNAP.  I got off the bike and found a seat rail was broken.  I just stood there, bewildered.  Broken seat.  Really?  I didn't have a spare, and I certainly didn't have any time to deal with it.  I still kind of worked, so just hoped it would last the whole race.  I tried to ride on the nose as much as possible, and I did a stutter step remount every time to make sure the landing didn't break that one remaining rail.  It worked.  Felt a little weird riding a slanted seat, but I made it to the finish. 

I usually like to get in a couple of preview laps so I know what's coming.  I only got half a lap in today, though.  There was a little ditch kind of thing that was pretty tough to ride.  I knew I could ride it, but I just couldn't figure it out during the race.  I should have tried it a few times during the pre-ride.  Oh well.  The six pack of barriers was back.  I usually enjoy those, but the bike must have weighed 40+ pounds with all that mud, and they spaced them out such that there was no rhythm to your running.  It was actually kind of tough. 

There was plenty of slippery mud, and it really challenged my technical skills.  I was able to not use my brakes as much but then I lost traction around a few sharp turns, saved by a quick foot to the ground.   Other corners I was too tentative.  It was a good experience going into what's sure to be a messy course next week. 

I'm looking forward to racing at Barton Park.  I got a 10th place last year, despite some mechanical mishaps.  If I have a clean race and a good start, who knows?  I'll see what I can do. 

Photo courtesy David Roth.

Took a break

I missed the Cross Crusade's double header Halloween weekend.  So much to do around here, I could not even spare the time to drive down for a day-of race.  That's okay, I was planning it that way from the beginning.

So now we've got Washington Country Fairgrounds coming up this weekend.  That's a good one for mud.  Fairly flat with a lot of fun twisty turns if I remember right.  And the forecast says RAIN.  Sweet.

It's feels like it's been forever since I've raced, so I hope I can pick up where I left off.

When the forecast says rain,
or the doctor says pain,
I'm telling 'em just to give 'er.

-The Deaner

Getting Harder

2010 Cross Crusade #3 (Sherwood) I'm starting to understand just how hard cyclocross is.  I've kind of known all along, but Wednesday night, I was actually able to push hard enough to comprehend it. 

Concentration is so important, and you can't loose discipline even when you're exhausted.  Every single inch of the course matters.  If you lose just 3 seconds in a certain spot, that's 30 seconds over 10 laps.  Little mistakes and hesitations could easily add up to five minutes over an hour long race.  Any time you use the brakes, it's just going to make it harder to get back up to speed.  Any time you can use your strength to gain on your competition, you need to do it without hesitation.  It's easier said than done, but I am starting to clue in.  I'm one of the guys loosing those minutes, but I didn't really get it.  It's a race, and it's not easy.  Like any sport, it's as hard as you make it. 

I think cyclocross just got harder for me, and that's progress.

photo David Hanes

Cross Crusade #4, 2010: PIR

PIR2The mud at PIR is the best cyclocross mud in the world.  For real.  So when it started pouring rain on Saturday, I was very happy. 

This was the first race of the year where I've arrived at the venue during a downpour.  It takes a lot more planning (and clothing) for races like that, and I was not well prepared.  It was cold.  I swear I saw little pieces of snow hitting the ground.  I put on every piece of clothing I had and got in a good preview lap. 

Next, I went to the car and changed everything.  Shoes, socks, everything.  It's a lot nicer to warm up in dry clothes.  But I didn't bring my trainer, so I just rode around in the rain.  The weather let up a bit so it was not bad at all.  Before I knew it, it was time to line up.

I started DFL.  Decided to do a couple extra warm up efforts on my way back from the car and completely missed the starting callup.  So I just asked Brad Ross what chute to go in and lined up behind everybody.  I was kind of bummed about that, but there were other things to be happy about.

Anyway, the whistle blew and we squished off into the mud.  If there is a nice thing about starting behind everyone, it's that you can only move forward.  I passed a lot of people, moving up from group to group.  The mud was awesome.  I was totally in my happy place.  The bike performed perfectly, so all I had to do was focus on moving up.

After the traffic thinned out, things were pretty smooth.  I was moving forward and gaining ground throughout the entire race.  I sure wish I'd had one more lap to catch the next big group up ahead of me.  With a little more effort, I could have been several places higher up in the finish.  I wasn't sure I could put out much more, but I think I could of.  So I'm encouraged by the result, and hope I'll keep improving with my next race at Washington Country Fairgrounds in two weeks.  It's getting better.

photo courtesy sosovelo.

Cross Crusade #3 2010 - Sherwood

I've raced at Sherwood before, and the two things I remember most where:

  1. Super Bumpy
  2. Super Ouchy Hill

Sherwood CyclocrossThe bumps were better this year, but still a defining characteristic of the venue.  The hill was most certainly still there.  This course was fun.  Not well suited for me but I had a really good time.

I was near the back for the start, and I lined up along the left and tried to pass as many people as I could before a run-up that would certainly be a bottle neck.  I got going pretty fast just in time for a little traffic jam.  I ran into the guy in front of me and then hit a pole that was surprisingly well planted in the ground, feet on the ground, rear tire in the air at eye level to anyone behind me.  I don't think I was last after that but any passing I did was certainly undone.

Down and around some loose, twisty turns and into a canopy of trees, we did a hard right turn into the run-up hill.  It was possible to ride it if you were alone and had the strength/gumption to do it, but not on the first lap.  Bikes tangled, bodies on the ground, what a mess.

Out of the canopy, squinting into the sun and a left hand turn that led to a fast, loose and bumpy rolling section.  Transition to a fast downhill, the same place as the bump-fest we had last year.  It was way nicer this time around, but still pretty jarring. 

Sharp left turn at the bottom of the hill into another shaded climb, this one quite ridable.   Flow into a bumpy plateau with a couple of barriers, followed by another section of rolling, bumpy terrain.

100_2770Quick dismount to get through a little creek crossing, followed by the hill.  The ouchy hill.  Just go up, and up, and up.  There was a slight flat section and even a little down hill for respite, but it still stung.  The hill led us to a sharp left turn into a pasture and the finish line, where we (or at least the race leaders) must have crossed a good 10 times.  It was tough but I really enjoyed it.

This was my first race of the season running tubeless again.  I overdid it on the pressure and went really low, a little too soft for the hard bumpy stuff.  With about four to go, I hit something hard after drifting sideways and I went over the bars.  Pine needles ground their way in between the front tire and rim, and air started hissing out. 

I cleaned out the dirt and pine needles, but the tire was flat by then.  I limped over to the neutral pit and pumped it up.  The bead snapped back but I decided I'd take a spare just in case.   I lost a few minutes there but was able to finish the race.

The big hill was still ouchy but not as bad as last year.  So maybe things are coming around a little, but still nothing great.  I really don't like riding in the hard dry stuff, but at least it makes cool dust clouds when you ride through it.

PIR next weekend.  And rain is in the forecast.  PIR has the best damn mud in the world.  Can't wait.

Photos are from Craig Ruby's Flikr Set.  Thanks for sharing.

No race report

No race report this week.  I did not race.  I do not want to talk about it. 

Stayed up late dialing my bike in for the mud.  Got the new rear wheel built, mounted some Racing Ralphs.  Rode it today in Forest Park and it's fantastic.  So the bike is ready, finally.  Can't wait to race with some softer (tubeless) tires.

And that's it, friends.  Nothing to report, so here's something interesting instead:

 

Something clicked, maybe

I made a last minute decision to hit Blind Date #2 tonight, a night-time cyclocross race at Alpenrose.

The first half of the race was pretty lame, just like last time.  Then, with maybe 20 minutes left, somebody passed me and something clicked.  I passed him back going over the barriers, and then rode away from him.  I tried to catch the next guy up ahead, but he already had a huge gap and I couldn't do it.  At first I couldn't even see him.  Then he was leaving the velodrome as I was coming in.  I could see him on the last lap but there was no catching him.  I could have used a couple more laps.

Anyway, it felt good to feel like a racer again.  It's been a long time since I've raced the bike so I guess it takes time to adapt.  I hope it's a sign of improvement.

On the last lap, going through the twisty grass turns near the finish line, I think I slid out and then clipped a pedal on the ground.  Back wheel went up in the air and I ended up sideways with one arm and one leg off the bike.  Funny I didn't crash, I'm not sure how I managed to stay upright.  But I rode it through the finish line, and moments later my tube exploded.  Turns out the bead of my clincher came undone from that sideways hit.  But everything held together until I was done racing.  Barely.

Cross Crusade 2010 #1 - Alpenrose


Photo by Thomas Good


I've been so excited for the 'cross season to get underway. For me, that was today. I know I'm not in prime shape, but I really enjoy getting out there anyway. Of course, it'd be great riding in the front of the race, but you get what you get.

We're just finishing off a big home improvement project, and this weekend was crunch time. I was painting windows and didn't leave my house until 2:00...for a 3:00 race. No time to do anything to the bike, like swap out the training wheels. Just grabbed the bike, threw it in the car, and drove to Alpenrose in my kit and MTB shoes ready to ride.

I arrived and was happy registration was still open. Guess what? No lines at 2:20, just so you know. My race number is 399, which I bet is the biggest one issued in my category right now.

I got a short warmup in, but a short warmup is oh so much better than no warmup. I didn't pre-ride or even see the course but figured it'd be about the same as previous years. Sure enough, there were several elements from years past.

The route through the velodrome is always great, and I really enjoyed the winding grassy turns in what used to be the horse arena. I went backwards on the bumpy grass sections, especially when climbing. Maybe my tires were just too hard, or maybe it was something else. My back was pretty cooked half way through, and once that goes, everything else suffers too.

In the end, I felt tired and lacking in power but I certainly had fun out there. Finished way back in the field but that just leaves more room for improvement. I had to pull an all-nighter to finish the house work before the appraisers arrived on Monday morning, but I managed to fit everything in. Barely.

I hope next week is a little more relaxed and I can focus on race day. We'll see!

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