Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Natz Schmatz Winter 'Cross

I just saw this on Bikereg:
they say it won't happen unless 50 folks preregister,
so I'm doing my part to spread the word. I'm not going to Nationals and if you aren't either you should come down. The fact that they mention BEER on the registration page
probably means that they won't be DISQUALIFYING RIDERS FOR BEER FEEDS, like a bunch of silly, sally, morons.

And Justice For Some

Every day I commute to work by bike, every day at least three incidents occur which completely piss me off, usually two of these are life threatening. I take a deep breath every morning and get on my bike with a positive mental attitude, within a few minutes a motorist has done something stupid or insane and my PMA (Bad Brains-speak, not Myspace acronym jibberish)is completely blown. By the third such incident I am a fire-breathing hell-monkey. But that's beside the point.
This morning I was ten minutes into the ride on Huron Ave. where are there many residential side streets opening up onto a kind of main drag. Often (very) folks come jamming out of this streets, not really wanting to stop at the stop sign at the end. Sometimes (not often) they see me and come to a screeching halt, other times they blaze into my path causing me to swerve to the center line and tap their window. Invariably they scream at me and flip me off because I am obviously a bad person doing bad things and breaking laws. This very thing happened this AM, but in a pretty extreme manner, this woman came flying up to the stop sign, I anticipated that there was no chance she was stopping, I swerved wide, gave her a bit of reprimand (understatement), and hoped to catch her at the light and realy let loose. This turned out to be unnecessary as Cambridge cop in a Bronco came careening out of the street behind her. No way, I thought, he can't possibly be about to pull this person over, not in my world, but he did.
Instead of hollering bloody murder at her all I had to to do at this point to make her week suck more was to give her a thumbs up and smile as I rode past. I found all of this so awesome, I was happy riding into a brutal headwind all the way to work.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New England Verge Series #5 Sterling, MA Cat 2/3

This was the first truly cold race of the season but it was a gorgeous day and I was feeling good as I spilled oatmeal and coffee all over the interior of the car rolling up route 2. At first glance the venue looked like your typical grass crit based around a middle school athletic field. Upon closer inspection I realized that this was not the case at all, this course was damn interesting with lots of tricky bits. I found this out the hard way on my first pre-ride. First off I come to the run up, I’m wearing road booties, I dismount, when my foot hits the ground I slip, slamming my knee into the frozen ground. I then tried to run up this thing which must have looked like something from the Ice Skate chase scene in Blades of Glory, I had all the traction of Formula One car in the snow. Eventually I summited the run up by using my bike as an ice axe, turning it cross ways to the pitch with the brakes locked. This took three hours and I missed my race, thank you, good night! I joke, the funny part is coming up. So then I start riding down the hill and is often the case when I begin riding in cold weather my eyes welled up with tears, blinding me temporarily, just temporarily enough to keep me from realizing that I was now plummeting toward a corner at Mach McCormack (that’s really f-in’ fast). When I started to lean into the corner I found that the ground was comprised of ice and lumpy grass much like the run up, both wheels began sliding, I corrected, riding straight through the tape in front of a bunch of folks. “Nice One Lance!” Jerry Hughes yelled back at me. Always good to have that guy around.
I survived the pre-ride and hit the road for a spin, getting back to the car just in time to balm it up, grab my coffee and head to the start line. Somehow, even with the two and a half hours of lead time before the race I got the start with four minutes to spare, barely made the call up for my last row slot (second to last really, but there were only a handful of guys in the true last row so I was assimilated into that group) because I was peeing behind a shed. Jerry Hughes lined up next to me, I shared the last of my coffee with him and left him holding my bike as I looked for a trashcan, telling him I’d be back in five minutes with three minutes to go.
And we were off, I hadn’t ridden the track during warm up and it was GREASY, I also didn’t know we were going twice around before the hole shot. “Um guys, you’re going the wrong way…all seventy two of you, huh, I guess I’ll come to”. There were crashes before we even made it the hole shot, then more when we hit the run up. If I wasn’t in dead last after the track, I was now. I made the downhill corner this time, didn’t wreck on the horse jump barrier thingy, and began the process of clawing my way out of the back of the pack.
This is where details such as names and chronology will suffer due to low altitude self-induced Hypoxia. There was some jumping between groups going on, the legs were happy, the lungs were working hard, the cold air was painful to get down, but all systems were go. I do recall nutting (yes it’s a word spellcheck, Wiki it you burk!) myself when I didn’t clip in after the uphill/downhill hairpin dealy. There were only a few spots on the course I could make a pass and have it stick. One of these was the slight grade up the track area, I’d recover through the corners leading up to it, maybe squeak a pass in before the gravel section, but then when I got to the little hill I’d rail it on the tops then look for a wheel to take me around the track.
It took nearly half the race to gap up the Reuter group (sounds prestigious doesn’t it?) he swiftly went down in a corner just like we Mountain bikers tend to do. I think we feel that it is expected of us to corner well so we over do it, often with hilarious results. Ahead I could see Scott Rosenthal and some other dudes I didn’t know, they were the next target. I don’t know what was going on but tons of fast guys were getting popped, maybe they tried too hard to match the pace set by guys like John Peterson, Brendan Cornett, and R. Grizzly Adams. Whatever was going on I soon realized that the only group between me and the unattainable actual chase group containing Todd Rowell was a group of five or s made up of Ryan Rumsey, Mark Bavineau, and some others. Again I made my move on the small hill and closed most of the remainder of the gap before the run up.
Now this crew was tough, any attempt I made to shake things up was rendered useless as gaps got shut down, a sense of complacency set in, I was pretty sure I was in the points and I was hurting, I didn’t feel like going anywhere. The words of a Sea Otter competitor from ’06 echoed in my bobbling head “Be happy when you’re done. Now get the fuck Up there!”. I began scheming, O.K. I can’t gap to Rowell, my best bet is to sit in, recover and attack that climb before the finish. Although my shrinking brain didn’t know how the finish even worked, “Do we just go the start line or do we go all the way around the track (into oncoming traffic…entertaining yes, but likely NO. You god damn moron) and then finish?” “I don’t know, go ask your liver”. I was in about third or fourth wheel, as we rounded the loose corner into the hill, first wheel already had a gap, so I blasted out around the right side into the chop, passing everyone else and closing down on him. As we hit the track there was no chanced of catching him so I just drilled it, looking back to see where Bavineau was, as I did this I caught a muddy rut which damn near sent me into the crowd, I totally lost control of my bike but righted it and came across the line in one piece.
The results say I was 10th but given the fact that they had second place finihser Brendan Cornett down in 62nd I do believe I will get bumped to TOP ELEVEN. Just where I like to be. Gee, does this mean I’ll get a call up in Warwick?

Thursday, November 22, 2007


On Saturday night a driver, in all likelihood a drunk one ran into the rear wheel of my girlfriend’s bike sending her flying face first into the pavement then drove off. That night I sat up thinking about what I could do, she didn’t really see the car, no one saw what happened, no one stopped to help, to see if she was o.k.. If you saw her face you would have called 911 and waited with her until the ambulance got there, she was hurt that bad, she looked like she’d fought Tyson in the eighties.
In the days that have elapsed since the incident I have thought of all sorts of venomous, horrible, bile-ridden things to say about drivers and their general disconnect when it comes to navigating thousands of pounds of metal around unprotected beings made of flesh and blood with total disregard for their well being, but I’m not going that route. What I want to do is to say how thankful I am for the fact that she came home alive, banged up, but alive, with all her faculties intact, she is lucky and so am I.

Since I’m doing the silly thanksgiving themed deal here I’ll also say that I feel pretty lucky that I woke up this morning and went for a foggy, slippery, hoot of a ride in The Fells with a small posse of friends. I then had a huge dinner with my family who I genuinely do love down to my Aunt’s Jack Russell Terrier, Pickles. Tomorrow I’ll go to my job where I work with a great group of folks who give me nothing but support for my racing endeavors. Saturday I’ll race my bike (hopefully on a nice wet course). Sunday I’ll spend the day with my girlfriend who’s not dead, and then Monday I “Manny” for my sister’s kids Noah and Lyla who are a big part of why I love spending time on this planet. Hopefully by the time they’re riding bikes on the road we’ll have run out of fossil fuels and all cars will be the size of shopping carts and entirely made out of plastic and down pillows.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sometime last winter on an incredibly, brutally, cold, windy day I went and met Chris Milliman for an Ibex Clothing photo shoot. Aside from the fact that I couldn't feel my face or my my feet it was pretty fun. I guess the part of my brain that housed the memory of this event was frozen as well because I forgot all about it until soemone sent me the link for the photo. This was the first appearance of "Mr. Pink" as a commuter not a 'Cross racin' machine, he's served me well in that role for many months now. Amazingly enough I don't get too many Newton townies in Nonantum yelling out epithets questioning my sexual preference. Of course I do wear headphones.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Plymouth South Cyclocross

“Mom I don’t wanna go to the race today, I want to stay home and watch cartoons all day…and drink beer”.

The alarm cycled three times before I was able to open one eye, then the other a moment later, rolling to my stomach, then into a push up position, a while later into a downward dog Yoga pose. From there I backed my way off the bed, pulling my ear plugs out as I went, shutting down the alarm once and for all. I stumbled heavy-footed to the bathroom, splashed cold water on my face, something I call “The Sploosh”, without which I cannot start my day. The coffee maker was set to brew on timer, I filled a mug and padded into the living room to sit on the couch and contemplate the absurdity and futility of racing in the state that I was in. This was the first time all season that I didn’t want to race, I wasn’t feeling it, I wish I could tell you what motivated me to grab my milk crate of race accoutrements and get in the car but I can’t.
After I got to the venue and had a pre-ride on the course I was psyched I’d made it, it was killer, a few good corners, some singletracky bits, two sand pits, and one set of barriers. There was an actual climb, way too steep to ride up comfortably on the single speed, I thought I’d be running it, it was nasty. This was just my second Elite race so I was taking a relaxed attitude toward it, “I just don’t want to get lapped ha, ha (Mark McCormack rides by) heh, um, ya…not get lapped”. I lined up in the back, took the Lantern Rouge going into the hole shot, and tried to settle in.
Going through the first couple corners Todd Wheelden laid his bike down on a paved section, he remounted and ended up one rider in front of me, this rider wasn’t going super good so I came around him as things opened up. There was this little uphill deal with a sharp, loose corner at the top, Todd crashed again, forcing me off course, I rode it out through the brush and high grass, hopping the tape and coming back on course at the bottom. Now I had a gap on Todd and the other rider.
Things had already spread out ahead of us, this was course was ideal for seeing just how badly you were getting your ass kicked and I could tell McCormack wasn’t riding just as fast as he needed to, he had dropped pretty much everyone and was well on his way to lapping me. I was catching other riders though, John Peterson pulled off to the side, possibly with a mechanical, then I caught Patrick Goguen, he dropped out as we passed through the start/finish area. Nice I was still beating one guy…who just caught me, that’s just swell. Wheelden caught back on then promptly dropped my ass, gapping up to Pete Smith. Luckily I had a Popeet container of courage in my back pocket, I took the courage out, closed the gap to Pete, then collapsed the amazing telescopic, accordian type device back to a very small size and stashed it my jersey. Of course Pete dropped out as well, leaving me dangling in the breeze, between Mark The Shark and my first ‘Cross lapping. The last time I got lapped was at The Massachusetts State Mt. Bike Championships in 2003. I was fat and out of shape, riding like crap, and Jonathan Page showed up, he came by me like a ton of bricks in the trunk of a Lamborghini (no need to point out that Lambos don’t have trunks because even if they did they certainly couldn’t hold a ton of bricks).
A big problem I was having was recovering after the climb, I’d have to tack up half the thing, using all the strength I had in my legs, at the top I’d have nothing, I’d gasp my way to the next little descent, never really getting over it. The laps were so fast, we probably hit that thing about twelve times. Then the sandpits came at you, the first was unrideable most of the time, it was in a corner, then you’d run over the barriers, remount and do the straight shot sandpit. One lap there’d be line, the next it would be buggered and you’d get knocked off. I was so spent half way through the race that these things were eating me alive.
During the last couple laps I could see the gap to McCormack coming down in reverse, he was eating up ground like Takeru Kobayashi goes through hot dogs.
The lapping was imminent. For whatever reason I drilled it, laying it down, looking over my shoulder every two seconds, as I came onto the pavement, Mark was coming out of the sandpit, he was less than ten seconds behind me. The announcer said as I passed the start/finish “Thom Parsons riding for International Bicycle Center…if he’d just slow down a little bit he’d save himself another lap…but he’s not going to”. Not getting lapped felt like a huge victory at that point.
The lap was basically my cool down, my body shut down after I crossed the line, it was incredibly hard to get up the slightest rise. It would take two donuts, a large coffee, and three hours on the couch before I was ready to take my cool down ride to the bar on the Schwinn Varsity.

The shot at the top of this post is actually a Michelle Hurley photo from Northampton, but it portrays the effort I had to use to get up the hill so well I thought I'd use it here (that and I had no photos from this race).

Monday, November 05, 2007

Verge Cycle-Smart International
Northampton, MA

To a perpetually sleep deprived insomniac like myself daylight savings makes about as much difference as shooting a squirt gun at a California wildfire. I woke up feeling like death over hard, despite the “extra” hour of sleep. The IPAs from the night before haunting me, the fact that I’d stayed up watching Wilco on Austin City Limits at The Holiday Inn instead of counting sheep jumping over UCI regulation size barriers now seemed like a mistake. We called in room service and got ourselves some Friendly’s egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches. Butter was not one of the listed ingredients, but as I gripped the soggy, yellow bread and grease ran down my arm I was pretty sure that one of Elvis’ old chefs had found his way into the kitchen over there. When I’m racing mountain bikes I wouldn’t dream of eating any dairy in the AM, but since ‘Cross, for me is entirely about having fun and suffering immensely while doing it I wolfed down this cheese and butter bomb and it was GOOD. As if this wasn’t a dumb enough thing to do I followed it with home fries, fried food…not something I usually eat anywhere near a race. Each piece of deep-fried goodness a seed of regret being planted in my stomach.
We were only about fifteen minutes from Look Park, so I was there nice and early to warm up for my “12 O’clock start”. Miriam took off for a road ride, as I pre-rode the course and chatted to too many people as usual. The warm up was spot on, I rode into Northampton with a ripping tailwind, spinning madly, getting nice and loose, then I hammered back against the wind, getting my heart rate nice and high. I showed up to the line sweaty and breathless and ready to go…only there were women and small boys on the line, this was not my race, had my race already happened while I was out warming up? For the sake of my sanity I hoped otherwise, if I’d thrown a bike the day before during that tantrum there was no telling how I’d react to missing my race. I went up to the tent where Jon Lewis had his Cycle-Ops trainer demo set up, there were bunch of IBCers there, I asked what was going on, was there a delay again? Everyone else was clear on the One O’clock start time for the 2/3’s…I am, apparently a raging lunkhead. Could have been worse, I could have thought my race was later and missed it. So I went off and dorked around for a while then reinitiated warm up procedures, wasn’t sure what my body was going to say to all this.
Despite the fact that I was incredibly early, then my race was an hour later than anticipated I was at the car drinking the last of my Starbucks Redeye and taking off my leg warmers as the final call up occurred. I’d registered early for this one so if I couldn’t claim my spot at the line I was going to be an unhappy camper, I dashed through the course, up the ride-up/run-up dealy, hurdling the course tape with bike in hand. When I got to the line I dropped my bike against the hurricane fencing and ran off in the woods to have a piss, two of my teammates standing behind the group shouted “Thom what ARE you doing?”. Hey, pee weighs a pound or more, I don’t want to be carrying around a pound of pee, people pay over a dollar per gram to get a bike down from 18 to 17lbs and I’m going to carry a pound of something I can get rid of for free? No way Hans Rey. I settled into the back, asked someone what my number was, looked ahead to where I should be, but didn’t deserve to be after my shenanigans, then I said “F that, I’m getting up there”. I squeezed up, no one gave me any crap except for Big Sean Cavanaugh but he was just messing with me, and about two seconds after that we were off.
Things went well initially, we hit the first corner, there was some clatter to my right, I stayed clear, getting good lines through the first few tricky curves leading up the first of three mini-railroad track jumps. My method for the track wasn’t to be all Mt. Biker on them, skying out, or table topping, I stayed grounded, letting my super-over-glued tubulars (I wasn’t faffing about after Canton) just suck it up, beginning to corner while still on the tracks. The field section was windy as all hell, I tried to stay out of it as much as possible, trying not to ride like a bonehead. Things were fast, I haven’t spun this much during any race all year, I was pinned, then we hit the sand pit which unlike last year was absolutely unrideable, the running killed me, I was sucking wind and eating sand. Getting on top of the gear and catching back on after the pit was brutal. My stomach and chest started to ache, I’m sure it had nothing to do with the mass of butter, eggs, and cheese in my distended gut,
I wanted to puke. I think I was about half way back at this point, I had to just settle in and recover, try to work this stuff out, bide my time hoping that a late surge might be salvageable.

I think I'm going to be sick

The ooky feeling subsided and I began to close gaps and jump from group to group, I knew I wasn’t that far off the front, about a minute or so, I could see Peterson and the other super fast dudes on the pavement as I exited the barriers, this seemed like a good sign. One funny thing about ‘Cross is that from one day to the next riders can perform in entirely different fashions, you have to have a combination of fitness, perfect preparation, and luck to get over on the rest of the field on any given day. Finally I bridge up to the group being driven by a brutal task master by the name of Colin Reuter, he was having a break out ride, just killing it. I rode with that group for a while then tried to bridge to the next, details are foggy, I think I left that crew, but Colin held on, maybe check his blog for his side of the story.

This is the corner that took me out

I found myself in a group of three with Brian Keegan and Steve Roszko, I knew Keegan was fast so this I thought was good. Up ahead was a group containing Todd Rowell and Ryan Rumsey, I wanted to get up there but it wasn’t happening. Maybe one lap to go we three came into the run up Roszko bobbled allowing me to come around, then Keegan dropped a chain or had some type of mechanical, I took advantage, attacking into the rooty corner past the gazebo…and ate it, big time. It was like I hit a patch of ice, my tire slid out so fast on those pine needles, I didn’t even know what hit me. Roszko passed me back, I never did close the gap to him and rolled in safely in fifteenth place, scoring my first and only Verge point which I think at this point in the season is virtually useless.

The "ride up" hurt bad on the S.S.

To continue the theme of my bike racing/culinary blog…M and I stopped off at La Veracruzana in Northampton for the best burritos this side of Valencia St. then grabbed an exceptionally good cup of coffee and a mini pumpkin pie at Haymarket and the weekend was complete. Haven’t decided on Plymouth or Putney next week, I know I love the Putney course but Plymouth is so damn close, maybe I’ll stay home and eat all day, we’ll see.

All Photos and video Taken by Miriam Kornitzer

Verge Chainbiter 9.0
Farmington, CT

Alright, let’s get this one over with, not my finest hour…er, more like ten minutes. This’ll be over quick, just like a swift kick in the nuts and just about as fun. It was a whacky weather day with the hurricane passing through New England, never did really do anything spectacular, except for nearly blowing my Ridley off the roof rack on 91 after the race. Caught a glimpse of it flopping out at a 45° angle through the sun roof A.K.A. “The Bike Viewing Window”. My old Thule trays are clapped out as all hell, this is not the first time this has happened. Thankfully this time the drop out didn’t break off the fork, I moved the bike to one of the Yakima trays and we were good.
There was a huge IBC presence at the event, I won’t try to name everyone because I’ll forget someone and then they’ll hate me forever. The start was delayed due to a medical emergency, turned out that Lea Papas-Barnes had gone down in a bad crash during the women’s 4 race. Her boyfriend Peter Bradshaw (wicked fast Cambridge Bike rider) left the start line to be with her, he is a stand up guy, class act all the way. I’d pre-ridden the course and I was psyched, it was a rollercoaster, incredibly fun stuff, there was even a legitimate climb in there, a single speeder’s dream. Unfortunately, after what seemed like a not-total-crap start my right cleat decided to loosen and then give out completely at the most inopportune of moments. There was this ride/run up, the way I was going at it I’d stay clipped in to the last possible second then unclip and run the last little bit to the top. First lap I hit it hard, went to unclip, my foot pivoted as I twisted my body weight to the left, resulting in me hurling myself to the ground like John Belushi doing a Joe Cocker impression, then I got run over. The best part of it was that my bars became entangled in the other rider’s bars like two Elk trying to assert their dominance over one another, only I didn’t want to assert my dominance, I just wanted to not completely screw up this guy’s day as well, I was sunk, he didn’t have to be. I apologized up and down as we detangled the bars and got going again. I clipped in, knowing that if I had to unclip my right foot the same situation would ensue.
Just after passing through the start/finish the cleat let go completely, preferable to being locked to my bike like a kitten super-glued to a ceiling fan but still sucky nonetheless. I hobbled on, riders passing me left and right, me actually waving them past, I was hating life. I made it through most of the second lap then as we were about to descend down toward the tennis courts, a pretty rough little chute, I bailed, I decided that my result was guaranteed to be total shite and I was quite likely going to get maimed trying to finish. Here’s the part I’m not real proud of…I went prima donna, hurling my bike over the tape, catching the tape and ripping it. It took me exactly two nano-seconds to begin regretting my behavior , maybe the regret began as the bike was still hurtling through the air. Ass. I helped fix the tape, then hopped on my bike and rode down an uninhabited corridor between two hedge rows back to the parking lot , stopping to cheer people on as I went, trying to get my head back on straight. As if I didn’t feel like a complete and utter dick already I then noticed that my bars were cocked to one side by about 5°. I had bent my brand new, not cheap bars, now my self-loathing was off the Prick-ter scale. But wait…under closer inspection I discovered that it was not my bars but my stem that was twisted, torsionally twisted by 5°, truly bizarre, I have never seen anything like it. The funny thing is that I had brought a back up stem because the carbon face plate on my Deda Newton stem was developing hairline fissures, yes it was unbelievably sketchy for me to be using this stem in the state it was in, I’m lucky I didn’t take a steerer tube to the sternum.
Eventually I cheered up, had some cocoa and some veggie chili and after a stop at Competitive Edge Bike and Ski in Northampton for some new cleats I’d be ready to roll the next day at Cycle-Smart International. The latter part of the day and evening went much better than the earlier part. Dinner at The Sierra Grill in Northampton was really good, killer spot there. I prepped for the morrow with Belgian fries complete with Aioli and although I prefer west coast IPAs to Belgians I did sip on Miriam’s Chimay between my several pints of Bear Republic Racer 5. During dinner we were trying to remember the name of the bar an ex-local had given us, we could only come up with the first part of the name. We asked the couple next to us if they knew where a place called “the Dirty, er something” was. This got a laugh, in some towns you might end up at an entirely different type of place than “The Dirty Truth” which turned out to be one of the finest pubs I’ve ever been to, the draft selection was frickin’ overwhelming. Bike racing is dumb, I’m just going to drink beer and eat food and write about that from here on out, how about that?