Friday, June 29, 2007

Fitchburg Longsjo Classic
Day Two - The Circuit Race

Another awesome early start, 5:15, so glad the next two days of racing start after noon. Coffee was had, rice and eggs and a small amount of oatmeal were eaten, I then proceeded to do some silly yoga-type contortions which seem to help my rickety-ass back and wait for IBC teammate C Todd to pick me up. We made it to Fitchburg without any run ins with the law and took a lap of the course, at warm up pace it didn’t seem so bad, I knew this would change after a few laps at full speed.
Me and the other IBC crew lined up in good position behind the junior field which was leaving two minutes ahead of us. I guess I had some nerves going on because I peed twice before the start (that and I have the bladder of a tree shrew), the second trip cost me my semi-decent position in the field as they moved up the line without me. My old pal Jerry Hughes dragging my bike along with him, probably costing him a spot or twelve, big ups to him for looking after my clapped out rig and not dropping her on the ground.
As we rolled out I got shot to the back as expected, I knew I had to move up but dudes were sketchy and all agro, it wasn’t going to be easy. The chicane after the start was most nightmarish the first lap sitting toward the back of those 120 riders, then everyone tried to move up on the slight grade around the corner, problem was if everyone moved up there’d be no one behind them, it was kind of mayhem, I decided all I had to do was survive.
The first time down John Fitch Highway I realized this might be a tall order as we clattered along en mass at forty plus miles per hour, the sound of carbon rims thudding over manhole covers, the pack suddenly splitting as we came flying up on a traffic island. If someone had slapped a heart rate monitor on me I’m sure my heart rate would have been significantly higher during this section than on the uphill bit.
I was finally able to move up the first time up the climb and each time after that, I even spent some time riding in the top ten, sometimes in the wind just to avoid backsliding. I had a nice introduction to pack riding by some large CCB rider who brushed/bumped up against me as he tried to pass. Like I needed to be made more nervous.
By the last couple laps I was maintaining my position toward the front a lot better, I thought this boded well for the final ascent up the finishing climb…no such dice. I got totally swamped going into the turn, I tried to shoot up the right side like I had done the other laps but got shut down and blocked. I clawed my way past as many guys as possible to finish an unremarkable 38th place, luckily we were all given the same time so my “GC hopes” are still intact. My teammate Mike Troisi pulled off 7th place and John Laupheimer 20th and both of these guys are racing well below their age class, they are a couple of bad dudes.

After the race Miriam and I went in search of a good diner breakfast, me being the guy thought we should drive around aimlessly until we happened upon a place, Miriam thought we should ask a local (it’s what Rachel Ray would do). The first local we asked was wearing a shirt with a mathematical equation on the front, it had a picture of a beer with the word “beer” on it, a plus sign, an image of a pair of breasts, an equals sign, and an image of a smiley face. He was really fixated on how many overpasses we had to pass under on our way to the diner. The second local we asked had a severely deformed earlobe and was visibly inebriated (it was 10AM). He told us there was a place down the way “The 50/50” which had a “diner atmosphere” but that there was another spot in the center that was nicer “it’s got waitresses and tables and everything”. We chose the former hoping that it wasn’t one of those diners where you sit on milk crates while rejects from the helper monkey college hurl handfuls of home fries and scrambled eggs at your open mouth. We found the 50/50, it was great, highly recommend it.

Miriam wanted to get a ride in so I dropped her in Harvard with a map of the first five miles of her route (she ended up back where she started in forty five minutes). I proceeded to THE swimming hole for a little recovery swim.

The day before it had been guarded by a giant Tom Turkey who came right for me, the only thing standing between me and finding out what it’s like to get pecked by a huge bird was my Cannondale. Apparently the sentries had changed overnight and now there was a family of Canada Geese with a belligerent papa goose hissing at me, I took the high road because I know what a goose wound looks like (a pie plate sized bruise, ya see they can’t actually bite a piece of you off, they just clamp down and pull as hard as they can) I didn’t want to know what one feels like. Can’t be worse than riding up Mt . Wachusett at the end of a forty six mile race, I guess I’ll know more about that tomorrow.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fitchburg Longsjo Classic Day One
The Time Trial

“standing on the board
board is on the wheels
wheels are on the ground
zoomin round and round”

-The Go! Team

I’m not an early riser, I am genetically predisposed to suffer physical pain when forced to awake prior to 8AM so waking up at 6AM for a 9:30 start is not exactly my cup of tea. And I got lucky, I had one of the latest Cat 4 start times. My attitude leading up to what is probably my 5th road race was laid back…up until tuesday night when I watched the Tour De Suisse Time Trial, which appeared fairly technical, a few guys had to jam on the brakes to avoid slamming into curbs. The plan was not to pre-ride or even pre-look-at the TT course, after having nightmares about technical tt courses I chose to at least check it out after I picked up my race packet wednesday night. We drove it in the dark with a light rain coming down, I really don’t know how helpful this was but I got the idea and I knew I wouldn’t die on some hairpin turn into an alley way.

Didn’t feel too great in the AM, the nine day work week had bitten me in the ass and I never did get a chance to catch up on that elusive sleep, but we (Miriam and I) grabbed our ice coffees and bagels and started motoring out to Fitchburg. I was sweating the warm up so I had M drop me somewhere down on scenic Route 12 so I could ride the rest of the way in. It was already hot and balmy out, with the wind whipping (mostly in the right direction) and thunder storms looming. I spun up to the start ramp about a half hour before my time looking to get an idea of how one deals with the whole start ramp thing. Is it like a ski lift? The first time you try to get off you end up sliding on your ass or just riding the chair back down again? I hoped not. Here I ran into my old buddy Jerry Hughes, I asked him why no one was up on the ramp. He informed me that a guy had just ridden off the side and knocked himself out cold. Until they got whatever issues they were having sorted out they were going to start people just up the road a bit to compensate for the added momentum the ramp would have given them. Yikes. I was happy that I wouldn’t have to deal with the ramp on this day, leave that for a later date.

While warming up I ran into another mountain biker, Tim Halliday, a super fast youngin’, he asked me how it went, thinking I’d already gone, I told him I was merely warming up. “Oh, you just look so tired”. Thanks. That’s what happens when you’re in your near-mid-thirties and you sleep for five hours the night before a race…whippersnapper.
As per usual I arrived at the line when I was supposed to go not a second sooner, I went, middle ring to start, I was really taking all this talk I’d heard of taking it slow from the start seriously. I saw my 30 second man just ahead, but the grade was steep enough that he was not really so “just ahead” at all. I did reel him in pretty shortly then went to work on minute man, got him, and minute and a half man. I was almost made it up to my two minute man but we hit the downhill to the finish section and he and his proper TT bike were able to hold me off by a few seconds. I felt like I was able to drill it to the end but when I finished I didn’t feel like I worked the hill hard enough. By my count I came in under twenty minutes which I was surprised at, and given the estimates by folks that had preridden it I knew it wasn’t so bad.
Post race M and I headed down to South Natick to visit my niece and nephew, when I checked my messages I heard from my friend Greg that I’d ridden to 15th place, I guess I’m pretty happy with that. Now what? I really don’t know, try not to die navigating the circuit race with 139 other Cat 4s, hopefully they ride better than this guy right here.

“get all your loser heads up
try to pick up the junk


-The Go! Team

Monday, June 18, 2007

Housatonic Hills Report

Waking up is hard to do, especially when it's two days in a row of arising pre-dawn, feeling like your eyes are bleeding and you got put to bed with a shovel to the face. I picked up Hannah and Stephanie at 5:20 in Arlington and we struck out for Southington, CT, we made it there in no time, it helped that all the sane people were still asleep not out clogging up the highways at 6Am on a sunday. I always wonder who those people are, the ones that are actually out at that hour, they're not fishermen, those guys are already out in their boats, on their fourth beer. Are they serial killers out looking for a good spot to dump a body? Who knows, but being up driving around at that hour on the weekend without a bicycle on your roof is highly suspect.
The venue was gorgeous, the day was lovely, (this is where David Lynch would pan from an idealic scene of a white picket fenced yard to a subterranean nest of insects swarming beneath it all).
We had arrived so early I felt this overwhelming sense that I had all the time in the world so I went off to warm up by riding straight up the finishing climb. I didn't have a watch and no one I asked knew the 4 Men start time so I went back up registration and asked them, "ya between 9:20 and 9:30...ya you proably want to get down there now". When I got down there my group was on the line, I situated myself in the back to the outside as Cat 3 racer Greg Martin had instructed me to do because "when there's a crash you'll have somewhere to go". Awesome.
I guess I should have prefaced this story by telling you that I don't road race, I've done it a couple times in the past but it's still all new to me and I don't know what the hell I'm doing out there. The inexplicable slow downs, the yelling, the whining, the detonations of over pressurized tires, this stuff is all weird to a mountain biker. Also I don't really know the rules, I knew one rule...the yellow line rule, can't cross the yellow line, right? I thought if I rode the yellow line no one would pass me on the left and I could prevent my slide to the back of the pack, not right. Apparently the yellow line rule is for nancy boys who play jazz flute. So I hovered at the back, trying not to die too much, then I discovered the gutter, roadies aren't afraid of crossing a yellow line around a blind corner on a backroad with monster trucks blazing down it in the opposite direction but they ARE afraid of riding within two feet of a curb, some grass, or the occasional stick. When we hit the first climbs I was able to move right up along the right side, by the time we had finished all the significant climbs the first lap I was in the front group (remember the foreshadowing with the bustling insects?). As we went through the feed zone I flatted, maybe shooting the gutter with XXX lite tubes isn't such a great idea after all, or maybe I should run Stan's sealant in my road tires. The wheel change took a bit, and by a bit I mean that I whipped out my copy of The Icelandic Sagas and had nearly finished it when the Wheel truck pulled up."Let's see here, ten speed, how many speeds does this wheel have? 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9...nope. Hmmm, how about his one? 1,2,3..." AAAH! Then dude insisted upon doing the wheel change, eventually I did wrestle it away from him and get going. This was no Todd Downs SRAM race support 18 second job, I lost over two minutes, my race was over, it was time to go a training ride in the beautiful Connecticut hills. Not before I put my head down and hammered away for a while trying to catch back on, all into a headwind, alone, as the the thermostat kept rocketing upwards. Eventually I realized I wasn't going to make it back on my own so I sat up and waited for two guys who turned out to be a breakaway from the 50-55's. I wasn't sure what the rules say regarding mixing with other categories but they seemed to think that it would be alright if I sat on and didn't work. Sounded good to me. Still, they were hauling ass on the flats, the climbs were actually easier for me, go figure.
I did the rest of the first lap with those mean old bastards then we got caught by the break from the 45's, it was maybe a half dozen guys. I wouldn't be at all surprised if my recollection of these events was severely flawed. My memory of it all is similar to flashes of consciousness had while sleeping on a long train ride. It might not have been the 45's, it might have been the junior women or the kid's fun race for all I know. I tried to stay with each passing group but I had shelled myself trying to get back, before long I was in no man's land, still riding hard, running out of water, licking my lips, thinking about coke machines and lime rickies. I saw a group approaching behind, I sat up completely and spun my legs to prepare myself to jump on. It was the Autobus of the 3's, the pace was tolerable, and after sitting in for a bit I was able to pull through. Greg Martin from IF was the bus driver, singing and encouraging decimated riders to hop on and hitch a ride home, good guy. Inevitably things got aggresive toward the end with a CCB rider who wasn't taking pulls at all jumping away on the downhills, we'd bring him back, he'd go again. At that point I decided I was just going to beat that guy, that would be my victory.
I was having such a pleasant time chatting with Greg and chasing down CCB boy that I didn't notice we were almost home, just that 1.8 mile climb to ther finish in the 85 degree heat and we were done, woo-frickin'-hoo. Who went first up the climb? Pink and blue, you know who, a couple guys went for it as well, I just stayed on this 18 year old Cat 3 guy who I knew was the strongest of the bunch. In no time we dropped everyone else and hammmered to the top.

Once across the line I grabbed a couple cold waters, then I looked around, it appeared that the entire 4 field was in, I felt like such a LOSER. It wasn't until the next day that I saw that I was in reality 50th place out of 82 finishers. I have no idea how I passed that many 4s, they must have been ducking into the bushes as I came past. Things didn't go as planned but it was a nice day on the bike, oh well.
Afterward I went to return the neutral support wheel and get mine back, it was nowhere to be found, I sat around for over an hour trying to find out what happened. It turned out the wheel I had belonged to a rider who got hurt and had gone off to the hospital, I didn't have the heart to keep it until my wheel was located and mailed to me. After giving the officials all my info and resigning myself to the fact that I would probably never see my very new American Classic rear wheel, Ultegra cassette, and brand new Michelin R2 again I nearly walked over it. It had been tossed in the middle of a field behind what had been shortly before a large crowd of spectators. The official I'd been dealing with was super apologetic, I told him this was really pretty minor stuff, what counted was the fact that their race was well run, safe, and supported, unlike some other races which were held that weekend (hmm, don't know who I might be slagging there cough!Mike Norton-cough!).
All in all, good day, great race, and later on I was able to defy inertia and sleep deprivation to make my way to Shay's for beers on the patio and a bit of trivia at Charlie's. That is as Adrian Fletcher would say (quoting Black Flag) the way to "Rise Above". Did that sentence make any sense? I don't care, that's it for me.

Monday, June 11, 2007

NORBA Root 66 Holiday Farm

My mountain bike has been gathering dust since I wiped off the Tennesee mud from The Cohutta, I literally have not ridden it since I hobbled in from that hundred-miler after laying it down at 30+ MPH, that was nearly two months ago. The Dalton Holiday Farm race is one of the best events around and I was damned if I was going to miss it even if my shoulder was not a 100% (I wrecked my shoulder and badly tore my right Lat in the crash). Either my head was going to explode from boredom and frustration or I would go out there and race and my shoulder would explode leaving me back at square one of the recovery process.

People who always weigh out every decision carefully (and while sober), consult GPS systems on road trips, and wait half an hour after they eat before swimming seldom find themselves in an adventurous situation. I know all my favorite novels and films depict events that went really, really well, came off without a hitch, and everyone lives happily ever after, that’s what makes a great story.

The morning began with me leaving late to because I was in a debilitated state due to five hours of sleep, then I blew my Google Maps directions, which caused me take half an hour navigating a 9 minute drive, the punchline was me blazing by IBC Teammate Rebecca who I was attempting to pick up as she stood on the curb with her bike and all her gear as she looked on in bemusement. Then as we were within 15 minutes of the venue we took a wrong turn (we actually took the right turn then “untook it”) and overshot our destination by forty minutes roundtrip. This I blame on a state I like to call “Temporary Pee-Blindness”, me and my navigator were both so overcome by the need to pee that we couldn’t think or see straight, this had something to do with none of the many gas stations having bathrooms and the one that did being staffed by a malevolent , sad, little woman who’s only pleasure in life is looking up from her Danielle Steele novel just long enough to deny travelers the use of the station’s bathrooms. If Darfur were inhabited solely by contemptible creatures like this woman I would be sending checks The Janjaweed militia weekly.

Eventually we did make it to Holiday Farm with about twenty minutes to spare, registered, warmed up by running back to the car to pin numbers on bikes, and went to staging. I registered for the Semi-Pro/Pro race only because it was the longest event that day and I knew after month of road riding I’d be lacking that anaerobic snap I would need to hang from the gun in a short race, I would have to fall back on aerobic base, just riding my own pace and trying not to crack and fall apart, hopefully reeling some guys in by the end. There were a whole lot of guys doing the Open Pro race including one of my favorite single speeders Paul Simoes, this guy is force, he pushes a huge gear, climbs really well, and his technical and descending skills are truly terrifying, I was glad to see him on the line.
As is my style I was last into the woods, if I wanted to fight over it I could have maybe been second, but who wants to fight for second to DFL? If you’re that close you just have to embrace your lastness. I hadn’t pre-ridden the course but after doing the last year’s race and the 24 hours of Adrenalin I was pretty familiar with many of the sections and any surprises were welcome, the trail system out there is sweet. One reason why I had such high regard for this race was the monster climb which was featured in the other events I’d done at Holiday Farm. Word was it was out, this was true, I lamented this, but it turned out there was plenty of climbing, it was just more interesting varied stuff, not just a fire road grind, I definitely wasn’t begging for more climbing by the end of this thing.
First lap I was thinking “I can’t do this, my legs are crap, I can’t believe I came all the way out here just to drop out, this was not my plan, this sucks, aaah!”. No warm up was not working for me, by the second lap I felt better, third lap better still, and fourth lap I knew I could pedal home. It also didn’t help that I started the race with my saddle two inches too low, my thought was that during the month or so my bike was hanging around the shop some(short)one took it for a test ride, not marking my saddle height or even trying to put it back where it was like it was a coffee shop cruiser not a meticulously dialed-in race machine. Grounds for murder if you ask me. So I spent much of the first lap messing with my seatpost, I was relaxed enough about this event that I wasn’t sweating it, and when I finally got the height where it was supposed to be my legs felt a hell of a lot better.
Maybe second lap I started catching dudes, I passed a couple of the truly fast guys sidelined with technicals, one came back, Andrew Freye who I have never had the opportunity to ride with (he’s way faster than me from the gun and the rest of the time), he scared me a little on the descents but I stuck with him, thinking he would ultimately drop me, he didn’t, and after he stopped to play with a loose quick release I rode on and never saw him again. I kept on catching people, I came upon John Rowe who gave chase up the climbs, closing down gaps I’d create in the twisty stuff, I thought he’d get me in the end as well, but again I was able to get away. Last lap I went down a couple times, both in soft mud, I was running the Stan’s Crow 29er with it’s sublimated image of tread patter, like the painted on grill marks of a Burger King burger, they may be getting retired. Ha! Re-tired, get it? With jokes like that told in a loud, obnoxious voice, a $300 pair of jeans, some contrived stubble, and the ability to fall down on stage a lot I’d be the next Dane Cook.

Going into the last grind of the last lap I saw the tell-tale sign of another single-speeder ahead, the low cadence standing and rocking climbing style, could it be Paul? It was, I steadily tractor beamed up to him, he was pushing to stay away, he didn’t want to get got, I realized that I was running out of trail and if I didn’t pass and gap him by the top of the climb he would dust me in the technical stuff. I put in a brutal effort to accomplish this and didn’t look back, going as hard and fast as I could while trying not to die.
Astonishingly enough I landed 6th out of 14 finishing Semi-Pro/Pros, I was shocked and pleased and I won Five bucks, and you know I only do this for the cheddar.
Big ups to the rest of the IBC posse, Rebecca, Hannah, and Rachel(who podiumed in Expert class!) for getting the better of this grueling slog of a race.
I’ve said this before but every race should be held by a body of water like the icy stream which runs through Holiday Farm, cooling your feet, knees, lower back, and washing the grime off before getting back in the car is so key. I might even say it’s mint.
Since my shoulder didn’t blow up looks like I’ll be up at Putney in a couple weeks,
I feel like sally for not getting out there sooner, I also just found out that I’m doing Fitchburg and Housatonic Hills, yikes.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Rants and Stark Raving Rants

I haven't been racing my bike, I have begun training again, on the road exclusively...and commuting, always commuting. Obviously I haven't been blogging, I am remiss, it's just that aside from racing my bike my life is extraordinarily, profoundly, uninteresting.
Today I was riding along to work, just spinning, making no efforts, I'm sitting at a light and this, how you say? Jack...Ass comes barreling through the light on his mountain bike, veers and zig-zags through cross-traffic and hammers away. Eventually I spin up to him, we hit a hill and I gently pass him, he decides to cross two lanes of traffic and swerve onto the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. I thought, "O.k. he must be making a left turn". Nope, he appeared a couple minutes later at another light, blazing down the sidewalk, hurtling into the street against traffic, against the light, against all laws of man, and common sense, and self-preservation. Idiot. Each time I sat at a light listening to my Neil Young, "keep me mellow no matter what during my morning commute" music I would witness this prick threading the needle through the intersection like a rookie messenger, like a crackhead on a little girl's Huffy, no style, but this guy is forty years old at least. I was almost to work, I had forgotten all about Einstein on wheels, and then at the junction of Centre St. and Rt. 9 he comes by on the sidewalk, defying death like Robbie Knievel, shooting across the off and on ramps for 9 in a place where no one is expecting to see him. And that was it, I bellowed "Dude, you are a F-ing kucklehead!", and pedaled away. That'll teach me to be on the road during peak commuting hours.

I'll preface my next rant by saying that I drive a Volvo, I am not tough, I have a big mouth on the bike, but I will run/ride to the hills when it comes to a physical confrontation. We're riding up to Concord the other day and a this post-Middle-Aged Geoffrey decides to swerve his Swedish Safety wagon at our pace-line in an aggresive manner while honking his horn. As we approached the rotary in Concord center I came along side him, tapped on his window, and said loudly "When you act like a tough guy while driving a Volvo it looks like you're trying to be deeply ironic". And he went home and beat his wife an kids while I chuckled through the rest of my ride.
While I'm at it, Recumbents, they shouldn't be sold at bike shops, they should be sold at furniture stores, they have as much to do with bicycles as Rollerblades do. Don't get me wrong, Recumbents are a great way for handicapped people to enjoy cycling, I might even get one when I'm say, I don't know, seventy-eight, or sooner if I decide suddenly to entirely give up on fun. If I waved to Recumbenters while out on rides then I'd have to wave to joggers, dog walkers, and guys with shopping carts full of recycyclable bottles. They call conventional bicycles "Wedgies", a conventional bicycle seat does not give you a Wedgie if your ass isn't the size of a First Class airline seat. Maybe it's just that I wish their short shorts were longer than their long long unkempt beards.

Cadence computers, people with $300 hybrids that top out at 8 MPH on the bike path always want cadence computers. In perfect world one would get to ask then one question before they were allowed to do such a pointless thing. "What is cadence?", the dictionary wouldn't help them out "A modulation or inflection of the voice" how does that help you out while cycling? How about asking them what's a good cadence? 5?
9? 10,000? What does it even mean? If they can't answer they don't need it and even if they could they probably still don't.
This is what happens when I don't race my bike and then decide to sit down at the keyboard, badness...nothing but badness, pray that I get back racing soon, it will be better for all of us.