Saturday, November 28, 2009


Cyclist are a misunderstood breed. More often than not, the misunderstanding stems from ignorance. Ignorance is such an ugly word, and in this regard, I'm merely referring to the general populace's lack of knowledge about the sport. This lack of knowledge manifests itself in many ways, whether it be a shout from a passing car to "ride on the sidewalk!" an odd look from a co-worker when you head out in your spandex for a lunch-time workout, or a family member commenting that "you look a little gaunt", these are all par for the course.

There's one kernel of cycling knowledge that if conveyed to the masses, would help clear up the misunderstandings and improve cyclist/non-cyclist relations everywhere. That nugget of insight? To truly know how difficult this sport really is. I would want them to experience the suffering and sacrifices that we go through just to be pack fodder in our local race series. They should know what it feels like to physically go above anything you thought you were capable of, just to secure a top ten spot in a cyclocross race. I would like them to know that fifth place is pretty damn good and doesn't even come close to reflecting the time and effort or the sacrifices made for said achievement.

If they could only walk a kilometer or two in our Sidis...

And, as if the physical challenges weren't enough, cycling exists in the U.S. (and, especially here in Michigan) as a fringe sport. If I were playing for a local
(American style) football team and needed some additional time to train for the "Big Game", hell, my boss would be tripping over himself to give me the day off. But, since it's cycling, I have to sneak out the back door to ride on my lunch hour to meet my weekly training goal. This may go beyond misunderstanding and into the realm of cycling being an accepted form of sport here in the U.S., but if people understood the sport, that next step of acceptance isn't that far off.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bloomer Park CX - My Streak Continues

Photo courtesy of Curt Potocki

This was going to be the race. The one where it all starts to come together and I'd see some improvement in my standings. So it was with high hopes but low expectations that I toed the line on this foggy Sunday.

This course is pretty flat overall. There's a downhill section of single track with a sharp little climb after it and another climb on a grassy hill followed by a two off-camber turns, just to make it suspenseful. Throw in two barrier sections with 90 degree approaches and you've got the course highlights. In other words, it's pretty much up my alley.

From the start, I knew it wasn't in the cards. My start was terrible. I tried to clip in not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES before my feeble muscle memory allowed my cleat to find the pedal. That put me at the back of the group by the time we hit the first grass section. Now I had some serious work to do. As everyone started to string out single file, I started passing. I managed to bridge a gap near the middle of lap one and settled in with a group of three. We didn't really work together, I just moved to the front and rode at a tempo just on edge of my threshold. I was feeling great! My legs were there today, no shortage of power and my lungs felt better than they had in about a month. That shitty start must have killed it for me. Our grupetto stuck together until lap 4 or 5 and then I started to pull away.

And that was all she wrote - 11th place. In the last 4 races, I have finished in either 11th or 12th place. Now, I finally feel like my form is coming around, and there's only one race left on the calendar, the State Championship. I've run out of runway...

Photo courtesy of Curt Potocki

Props go out to:
  • Dan G. - another second place! Nice work. Clint better be shaking in his compression socks...
  • Mark C. - for running Bloomer with no brakes (essentially). You are one crazy sonofabitch!!
  • Curt P. - for the nice photo work, making us B racers look better than we actually are...
  • Dude riding the velodrome (I believe your name was Bruce)- you sold me. Next summer, I'm gonna give track riding a shot. Maybe it will be good for the CX...
  • Anne S. - Welcome back, and first place nonetheless!
  • Zdenek Stybar - nope, he wasn't at the race... but just wanted to give him props for his back to back victories this weekend!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Storming the Beaches at Stony Creek CX

Me, soaking up the rays on the beach.

Stony Creek is one of my favorite courses. Last Sunday lived up to my expectations. Sand? Check. Mud? Check. Hairpin turns? Check. Suffering and pain? Absolutely.

Here's how it went down:
Start on a nice, wide paved area (read: lots of speed) followed by a funnel-like procession onto a 6 ft. wide bike path. Then grass, then sand, then mud, then grass and lots of turns, two barriers, then tons o' turns, then two more barriers then the finish. Wash, rinse, repeat - 5 more times. Had a nice little battle for 11th with a fellow teammate, but alas, a mis-handled corner on the second to last lap and I came in 12th. I love that in 'cross there are gut-wrenching battles for 11th place. Awesome.

Some observations/learnings from the race:
  • I'm kinda stagnant right now - 11th or 12th in the last 3 races. Some of the guys I was beating a few races ago are now on the podium. What gives?
  • I actually felt pretty good on the bike for a change. Lungs weren't there though.
  • I'm FINALLY getting used to the "new" pedals - didn't have any issues clipping in (Yee Haw!)
  • The steed is going to need a serious overhaul at the end of the season.
  • I've never thought of myself as a "big guy" but looking at race pictures, I look like a freaking umber-hulk out there. At least, compared to the other more svelte racers.
  • This was confirmed when, at the race conclusion, I was told, "You'd be a lot faster if you could loose 10 - 15 lbs." Time to go on a diet?

The face says it all... Thanks Curt for taking the photos!

In order to keep my fragile ego from totally coming apart, I have also generated a short list of reasons (excuses?) for my stagnant performance:
  • I was in Florida for 6 days. All I did fitness-wise was run for 30 minutes every morning and swim a little. This is comparable to walking around the mall for 20 minutes/day to prepare for the Boston Marathon.
  • Sinusitis - I've got it and it makes it a real bitch to breathe.
  • I got a horrible start.
  • I forgot my lucky cycling cap.
Enough reflection, now we look forward. Bloomer Park CX next weekend. That was the location of my first, and only, podium finish (3rd place C-race, last season). A repeat may not be likely but, who knows?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Few More of My Favorite Things

Sidi Dominator MTB Shoes

I've owned three pairs of Sidi's over the course of my cycling career. My first pair, a pair of road cycling shoes, I purchased in 1996 and had to be retired in 2000 because I had to walk 8 miles back to my apartment when I double flatted in the foothills of the Rockies. This absolutely trashed the soles. The pair I purchased to replace them are still going strong almost a decade later (I've also since learned to carry a patch kit along with a spare tube).

My Sidi Dominators I got right before this 'cross season. They are awesome! Granted I was coming off an old pair of Shimano MTB shoes circa 1994 so you have to consider the basis for comparison...

Smart Wool Socks

These are great for keeping the tootsies warm during those late season cyclocross races. They are soft and cozy, I even wear them off the bike. And they are machine washable. Bonus.

Dumonde Tech Chain Lube

I've tried the gamut of bike lubes and this one is my all-time favorite. It's really long-lasting and it holds up remarkably well in all kinds of conditions. The only thing is, you have to wipe your chain an awful lot after application.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Time Off

A nice week of R&R in sunny Florida. It really couldn't have come at a better time; no races scheduled for me this weekend, just coming off a bad sinus infection and bronchitis, and getting the crap kicked out of me last weekend in Ann Arbor.

So here I am, enjoying a nice family vacation complete with sunny, 75 degree weather and a Mickey Mouse-crazed two year old. I gotta say, it's nice. The odd thing is, as a cyclist, it's really hard to let go of that feeling that, if you aren't constantly training, your fitness will totally fade away. Experience has taught me otherwise, but there's still that nagging in the back of my mind. Last year, I went on a similar trip and my first two races after coming back from vacation were my best of the season. I think the problem is, it's hard to accept that doing nothing may actually help and lead to better fitness. Rest is important too.

Of course, I'm not totally doing nothing. I'm doing a bit of running (3o minutes or so in the AM, when I feel like it) and some swimming, but no bike time. I guess we'll see how the legs feel come Sunday at Stony Creek!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Vets Park Made My Lungs Bleed!

This was a pretty common occurrence for me last weekend. Running... Thanks for the photos Bruce!


That's all I can muster after a tough weekend of racing.

Saturday was a fantastically stereotypical cyclocross day with cold, biting wind and a nice on/off drizzle. Perfect for the embrocation. I laid it on so thick my legs looked like Magda from There's Something About Mary.

The course was set up so there were two pretty decent climbs as the major elements. One was a forced run-up with a set of double barriers at the base of it. The other was steep and a bit soggy so you (or perhaps I should say, "I") had to run it. That made for a lot of running. I hate to run. On about lap 3, I noticed that my lungs weren't really cooperating, in fact, I actually walked one of the run-ups that lap. Not even a slight jog to make it look good, I WALKED. That's humbling, when guys are passing you and you're having troubles putting one foot in front of the other. Oh well, suffering is a good character builder. All that suffering and not even a top ten, I ended the day in 11th place.

The course was basically a reverse of the previous day which meant those hills we were running yesterday, we were bombing today. That also meant a fast course. It had dried out a bit so you could sustain your momentum and the wind had died down. All in all, it was a great day to race. Except I woke up feeling a bit crappy. Regardless, I figured I'd give it the ol' college try. I told myself to focus on one thing, getting a good start. I certain achieved that! I was sitting nicely in 3rd place when I began to fade about 3/4 of a lap in. This trend continued until I got into a group of 4 and we spent the remaining laps battling for 9th-13th place. I ended up in 12th. That's when things got ugly. I had a couple coughing spasms (seemed like your typical CX cough) at the race and on the drive home. No biggie. Later that night, the coughing really hadn't stopped and, not to be gross, but I noticed some blood... Well, long story short, I went to the doc's and I have a nasty bout of bronchitis. Sucks. I'm going to take a bit of a break here and rest up, then it's off to Florida for a little R&R. The humid air will do the battle-scarred lungs some good! Hopefully I will be recovered enough for Stony Creek, cuz I love the sand!

Thanks to the usual cast of photogs for capturing the fun: