Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Upside of Sandy: Happy Hallowski!

I just had to share this quickly, because it's amazing.  While Sandy has brought devestation to many parts of the country, and our thoughts are with those affected, there is an upside to the storm here in WV.

I just Nordic skied for TWO HOURS at Coopers Rock State Park, which is only about 10 minutes from my house.  And its Halloween.  So to all those folks up North, just itching to get out and ski, look what you're missing out on.

Yes, I'm not exactly ready for winter and snow, but today was a great day.  I love to Nordic ski, and I couldn't have asked for better conditions!

Cyclocross Season So Far

As so far, I have competed in the first two races of my second cyclocross season.  Last year, I raced juniors in cyclocross, but having aged out, I had to race Cat4 for this season.  Unfortunately, Cat4 is the lowest category, if there was a Cat6, I would race it, I'm much more comfortable on the pavement.  You don't have to be good at cross to have a good time at the race though.

Running Up the Hill of Death
For the first race of the season; Kickoff Cross, I pulled a hip flexor on my first remount and had a truly miserable race, I couldn't generate any torque without hurting my hip flexor further.  Because of this, I finished the race in last place, not a good way to start the season.

The second race went considerably better though.  Marilla Park Cyclocross, AKA Carrera a de los Muertos, is a great course, very technical in parts (to me at least), but it also has some fast flat sections.  I started the race in one of the last call up positions, but was soon overtaken by many riders who started in the very back, I also passed a few riders who started in front of me.  

I kept a pretty even pace throughout the race, and didn't really feel held back due to my lack of gears.  I had a rather embarrassing crash before the first set of barriers, but teammate Ben, standing by with a camera, was kind enough to not photograph me in such a position.

I finished the race in 20th place out of thirty-some riders, which, for me, is simply miraculous.  Hopefully I'll be able to follow up that result further into the season.

Also, if any of you were wondering, Carly Audet claimed the prize of one delicious Honey Stinger Waffle, for recognizing that all of my previous post titles were REO Speedwagon song titles.  Now I'm out of REO titles, but I'll think up something new...

Thanks for reading,


Cross Season: off with a BANG!

I apologize ahead of time to those not using Google Chrome, the videos apparently won't work in Internet Explorer.  If you would like to see them, CLICK HERE

September wrapped up my tri and road cycling season, and after 19 races, it's now onto the next thing: Cyclocross.

I just wrote up another blog post about USAT Nationals, but it's fairly depressing, and cyclocross is much more exciting.  So, if you're interested, you can read.  But let's move on to something more interesting...

 I was hesitant to say it last year, since it was only my first year doing cyclocross and road racing, but I can say it for sure now: cyclocross has become my favorite cycling pastime.  Even compared to triathlon, cyclocross has quickly become one of my favorite sports.

I moved up from a Cat 4 to a Cat 3 this year after some urging from my team mates, and I was more than a little apprehensive about the move into the Cat 3/4 race.  I decide this year would be about learning and building, and next year could be more about accomplishments.

Still, I decided that I should do a little specific training for cyclocross since I did 0 last year.  In fact, last year I'd basically race on the weekends, and then during the week I might ride once and run once.  I was so drained in between I could barely do anything else!

But not this season.  With all the races and the determination to building on last year, I decided to start just a little training in September, even before Savageman had happened.  I did some 5x30:30's, which were shockingly hard, and also did a couple sets of 10 minute hill climbs.  I figured I needed to work on my power and threshold work, rather than my aerobic or tempo fitness, since I was hoping that would carry over from the rest of the season.

But all in all, I actually didn't get to do as much as I was hoping.  Next year, tri season will end in August, and I will start training for 'cross in September.  This year, it just didn't happen.

The first race, as others have already discussed, was Kick-off in Pt Marion, PA.  Unfortunately, I was at a scientific meeting in Westminster, CO and had to miss it.  Before I left I did get in one of JR's famous rail-jam workouts (riding, running, and sprinting on the desolate portions on the rail trail) and I was very sad I was going to miss out on the first race.  However, I did get in some nice runs while I was there...and at 5000+ feet I was hoping I gained a little hematocrit too!

When I came back, I was exhausted from lack of sleep, but eager to get my season underway.  I took 2 days completely off, and then did a couple hard workouts, including 3 repeats of Wymps Gap.  If you're in the area and haven't ridden wymps, you should check it out (Wymps).

I took it easy towards the end of the week, and felt good.  I wasn't completely rested, but was so excited to race, it didn't matter.

I competed in the Military Cross (results) as my first 'cross race of the season.  I decided to race single speed (SS) this year, as well as the Cat 3/4 race.  I figured I'd just gain even more fitness and experience.

After many workshops and discussions with local guru Gunnar Shrogen, I decided on a 36x18 gearing, classic 2:1.  For this first course, I wasn't too worried about my result, I just wanted to see if the bike would hold up and and if I could ride some of the tougher terrain with said gearing.

As I toed the line, I was nervous!  I had wrecked only minutes early, ripping my tire of the front wheel, and giving myself some back road rash on my elbow.  I also hadn't been able to warm up for as long as I had liked, because I was unorganized and kept getting distracted.

Anyways, the SS race is an "elite-open" race with guys from Cat 1 though Cat 4.  I knew I was in for it, but was excited no the less.

The whistle blew and I took off, hard, as I had been instructed.  I slotted into 6th position, and tried to hold onto the front guys.

They quickly started to gap me, and I realized I was probably going a bit too hard.  I backed off just a tiny bit, and was passed by another racer.  I was now in 7th, and hoped to hold off any other racers.

The first few laps flew by, but by the third, I kept catching a rider coming up behind me.  Turns out, it was Betsy Shogren.  The women race at the same time as the SS...and she was chasing me down!

I worked hard to try and stay in front, but she reeled me in, and eventually passed me when I had to run a section that she could ride.  After following her for sometime, I tried an attack on a pavement section, and got by.

But it didn't last.  She got me on a long(ish) climb, and I couldn't react.  I closed the gap again as we got close to the finish line, but she stayed away.

In all the fervor of battling it out with her, I had sorta forgot that I was racing against other men in the SS.  She's just so freaking fast, I got distracted!

But no other guys had passed.  So I ended up 7th.  I guess they messed up the result though, as they have me as 10th (some guys we lapped got put in front of us).  Bummer!

Then, an hour and half later was the Cat 3/4 race.  I got a 2nd line call-up, and knew I needed a good start to get by some folks in the front line.

At the whistle, I blew by some folks, and got right into 5th place.  I worked hard in the beginning again, trying to stay with some guys I knew from other teams.

Fellow team mate and team manager JR was also in front of me, in the 4th place position.   After only a lap or two, as I was reeling him in, all of a sudden he veered off into the pit, and I blew by!  I was now in 4th.

No time to think about my team mate, I noticed another rider closing in fast behind me.  Every turn he'd be another 10 feet closer.  Then, as we hit the pavement- CRASH! I heard it as I rounded a 180 degree corner, and saw the guy face plant into the pavement.  Yikes.  I was confident in my Kenda tires, and was happy with how well my Happy Mediums (35cc) were handling the corners and the straights.  MUCH better cornering than I had even guessed!

The rest of the race, I basically tried to just hang on.  I felt the SS race in my legs, and made a couple mistakes that cost me time.  One time, I spun out and had to run a long section that was rideable every other lap.  That's where things got interesting.

I could then see JR and fellow team mate Ben chasing me down.  Every corner they'd be a little closer.  While I don't want to compete, per say, with my team mates....I wanted that podium spot!

So I dug deep on the final lap.  As we rounded the final couple of corners, JR yelled "Don't let him by on your inside!".  What?

Then a guy, which I hadn't noticed because I was so concerned with JR and Ben, tried to pass!  Not so fast!

I blocked him, and when he tried to go again, I blocked again.  Then we came to the final run-up no further than 200 yards from the finish.  At the top, I jumped on my bike...and missed my pedals.  Twice.

In talking with this guy after the race, he said "I saw you bobble your pedals, and I nailed mine, and I knew I had you".

Still it came down to a photo sprint finish.  I was in slightly too high a gear, and he got me.  I was nosed out of 4th and into 5th by no more than half a wheel!

Still, I was pretty happy, and I won my first prize money ever!

Then, the next day, I started to feel awful- my throat hurt, my head hurt.  I ended up getting a cold from my wife, and had to miss a couple days of work.  I slept 10 hours every night, and I only got 2 rides in all week: 1 on the rail trail on my SS for 30 minutes, and the other trying to ride my new Cannondale Flash on Thursday, but I felt so awful I ended up mostly just coasting around for 30 minutes.

On Friday, I decided to take another day off from work.  I slept 10:30-10:15, and felt even worse.  I helped set-up the course for the Marilla Cyclocross on Saturday since it is only 5 miles from my house, and rode the course a few times with fellow team mates Derek and Anne.  I didn't feel stellar, but I was definitely much better.  1 more good nights sleep and I figured I'd be at least able to do 1 race, even if I didn't do it at 100%.

Well of course, anyone who knows me won't be surprised that come Sunday I decided to do both races.  It's our hometown race, and I am just dying to get in as much 'cross racing as possible!

I got there early, and got to watch some teammates race, including the Chip N Clydesdales (see video at the bottom of the blog).

I dressed up this time for the SS race as Elliot from E.T.- complete with E.T. on the front of my bike!

 This time I was in the front row of the race, next to the real fast guys.  I felt funny, standing there in my red hooded sweat-shirt, throwing Reese's Pieces at people, while these guys stood there looking at me like I WAS E.T.!

The whistle blew again, and I was off.  I sprinted hard, and team mate Mike pulled in front of me- and then something happened and he swerved and slowed down.  I veered around him as his legs spun against no resistance- chain dropped.

I jumped in behind Gunnar and Gerry Pflug and knew I was in over my head but just kept working.  Gunnar suddenly started to slow, and I passed him.  What was going on!?!?!?!

The course at Marilla is really fun.  Not a lot of elevation change, but fairly technical.  Lots of little touches that make it fun.  And of course the Hill of Death (See other video at the end).

Half way through the 40 minutes, I was in 5th place, with a huge gap to 6th...Mike had caught up and blew by me in the first lap...and Betsy was in front of me again!  I was trying to chase her, but she's so freaking fast!  And I wiped out once too.  But otherwise uneventful.

I kept racing, and throwing my reeses at folks on course, but I was getting over heated in my sweatshirt.  And I could feel the sickness, I usually fade a little at the end of races, but it was much more severe today.

And just as I was about to let up, only a couple tenths of a mile from the finish, solidly in 5th place, I saw something that made me panic- Gunnar.  And he was hell bent.  FLYING around the corners behind me.

Carly started SCREAMING for me, even more than normal.  I went into hyper mode, stood up and hammered.

I actually closed down the gap on Betsy, and as we went around the last little horseshoe before the finish, she yelled back "you got him Jerry", and I glanced back and he was no more than 30 or 40 feet behind me.  When I saw him only a minute or two previously, he was probably 150.  Yikes.

But anyways, I got 5th and got to stand on the podium!

Then, after some standing around cheering, I got to race again.  The course conditions had changed a bit, and I needed my mud tires.  It wasn't horrible (I was able to run 40psi) but it was much slicker than during the SS race now that another 100 racers had ridden over the course.

I was feeling like crap as I warmed up for the next race.  I had a slight headache, and my throat was sore from both sickness and yelling.  I just took a couple Honey Stinger gels and a Raw Rev bar and focused on getting really warmed up.  As I got close to start time, I was feeling marginally better.  At least no headache.

As I rode down to the start, folks were already lining up.  I got a nice call up and was on the front line.  Right next to team mate JR and 2011 Cat 4 Arch-Nemesis Jeff Curry (hahaha Jeff's a great guy).

Before the start, race director Gary said there would be a half lap prime for the first to make it from the start (which is half way through the lap) to where the finish is.  Since I had already podiumed, and I wasn't feeling stellar, I thought...why not?  I'm going for it.

So at the whistle, I unleashed fury.  I hammered the pedals as hard as I could, and at the first corner, I had a nice 10 foot gap on the rest of the field.  I pushed hard in those first few minutes and tried to be defensive through the corners, but no one tried to pass, and I got the prime- a $20 gift certificate to Pathfinder!

After that, I backed off significantly.  I didn't want to be the rabbit.  In retrospect, I should have just kept pushing, I think it would have paid off.  But hindsight is 20/20, and I didn't.  It took a couple more corners, but a couple guys passed me and I slid in behind them.  For the next couple of laps, I did well in sticking with them, even though they have all traditionally been much faster than I.

Going up the hill of death, I actually got in front of them again.  I had practiced that part of the course a fair bit, and I was efficient at it.  But shortly after, I dropped back again as they slowly pulled away.

Once it was clear they were dropping me, I think my body started to revolt against my mind.  I started to really sag.  I was in 4th, and I was happy with that, and I started to settle.  Rookie mistake.

Teammate JR started coming up from behind, along with 2 other riders, and I got a new wind of motivation.  I tried to hold them off, but they slowly moved in and got on my wheel.  The first guy passed on a long flat pavement section.  And then JR passed.  Now I was in 6th, and off the podium.  I tried VERY hard to stay on JR's wheel, and I think normally I could have, and it would have been really fun racing with him.  But unfortunately, on this day, I just continued to fade, and he slowly slowly got away.

Half way through the last lap I realized I was all alone- JR was about 25 feet in front of me, and the next guy behind me was at least 150.  It was clear JR was going to stay away, and I felt little threat from the guys behind.  I backed off again, and crossed the line in 6th place.  Bummer, just off the podium, the worst place to be!

But- there is good news even here!  The race directors decided to pay out to 6th place, so I got a prize even thought I didn't make the podium.

All in all, it's been a great start to the season.  Next weekend is a Non-ABRA race on Sunday, and then the following week is Monster Cross.  I really want to do well for Monster cross since it's also the WV state championship.  Thanks to all our sponsors for the support, and stay tuned!

Indian Summer

On a day which now seems like a lifetime ago, but was actually only last Friday, I rushed home from work, pumped up my almost entirely deflated road tires, threw my bike in my car, and drove up to Mt. Morris.

Summer was taking her final, gasping breaths for the year. Eighty degrees or so, partly sunny skies, and dry roads.

I rode up Hobbs Run Rd, and then back down when I saw that Bacon Run had been very recently tarred and chipped. Then I went down Big Shannon to Mile Climb, all the while pleading with the sun to stay in the sky a little longer. I accidentally went down Church Run Rd because Mt. Morris is a labyrinth. When I got down to the doberman (the minotaur?) who is one day going to rip free of his chains and rip my legs off of my body I realized my mistake. What's one more hill?! I turned around and went back up, then down Little Shannon, eventually back to my car at Rising Creek Bakery. I bought a loaf of salt-rising bread to take to my parents house, and bid adieu to pleasant weather.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Carrera De Los Muertos

To say that Marilla 'Cross is one of my favorite races of the entire year would be a complete understatement. In fact, saying that its and understatement, is in and of it self a complete understatement. The 2012 edition is in the books and I am here to tell you, if you missed it, shame on you.  But guess what, you'll only have to feel sorry for yourself for a year, because you can plan now to to make up for your mistake and mark your calendars as booked for next year's event.

Every year, the A double U E awesome folks of Breakaway Velo find a way to tweak the course to make it just a little different but a whole lot of fun. And the hill of death is always a favorite vantage point for the spectators and most of the riders. Someday, I will ride that hill during a race. I almost did it this year early in the 3/4 race but I just caught my right foot outside a stake and I got ensnared in the tape and had to stop and get off (is that a "thats what she said moment?). I thought I'd have a better shot the next time around but the drizzle we were in caused the ground to get greasier and I just couldn't find a good line to get a run up to it going. 2 hours later during the heart of the heaviest rain, I saw Mike Mihalik still able to ride it, despite the deplorable conditions, so I still have a long way to go to be a CX bad ass. 
Running the Hill O' Death
One of the new features added to the course was a set three 8" tall barriers nicknamed the baby barriers. I originally thought they were named as such because they are so short in stature, but it dawned on my that they probably got their name because the separated the men from the babies. The true 'crossers manned up and rode the barriers and the wimps like me ran them. I had visions of riding them but every time I approached them, I pussed out. I just don't spend enough time riding off road to have the confidence to try bunny hopping them. Maybe next year... then again, maybe not.
Running the Baby Barriers
The best part of the Baby Barriers is that they were place right in front of the Dynamic Physical Therapy powered by Pathfinder team tents. When we weren't racing, it gave us a great vantage point to watch the racing unfold and to offer encouragement and/or heckle the riders. You have to admit, our pit area was looking sharp! Thanks JR... I will step it up for next weekend.
Looking Pro
So, no update would be complete without touching on my favorite class... the Tandems.  Rick Plowman and I raced the Cannondale tandem again. We did experience a little difficulty on the first lap though. As we remounted at the top to the Hill O'Death, the back tire felt unusually squishy, even for having a 1/4 ton pushing down on it. About 3 turns later, the inevitable happened and the tire went flat. We could have given up, but we start running and before we knew it, we were met in the pit by teammate Mike Vanderberg and all around good guy Gunnar Shogren. They set to work changing our tube and that left Rick and I to dance for the other racers. That doesn't sound so bad until you learn that in honor of Halloween, we decided to dress as ChippenClydesdales. The funny thing is that all the other racers REFUSED to make eye contact with us. Not sure why they were being so rude, we were just having some fun.
My sincere apologies to all the parents who brought their kids out to Marilla Park for  the day.
May they find the counselling they need to recover from such a traumatic experience.

Supposedly thanks to Frankenstorm and the anticipated slop its expected to bring on this week, the 4th race of the ABRA Cyclocross Series has been postponed until mid November. At least thats what the race promoter wants us to believe. I am quite certain that he is really just fearful that Rick and I might try to top the outlandish costumes that we wore, since it was originally only 3 days after Halloween. Don't worry Mr. Grimm, that wasn't the plan but maybe we will need to reconsider just because you tried to hide from us.  Speaking of hiding from us, Chief Referee surely went into hiding after we took a mid race break to give him a lap dance of sorts. The look on his face was priceless.  Again, my apologies to anyone who had to witness this but it JUST HAD TO BE DONE!

The bikes have been cleaned and lubed, the clothes are in the laundry, and its time to start focusing on Murrysville. Hope to see yinz out there!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

One Year with Performance Coaching Services

This October marked a full calendar year since I started working with team sponsor, Rob Acciavatti of Performance Coaching Services. The training year covered mostly all of the targeted specifics, such as prep work, off-season, building up, peaking and recovery. Since this was my first year training with an actual coach (as opposed to using a book) and since I often am asked how things are going with Rob, I wanted to take a moment to perform a review of his services and what it was like for me to be on his plans for a full season.

In short, here were some of the advantages and disadvantages I found while working with Rob.

  • You will get faster. Period.
  • Flexibility to holiday and work-related travel.
  • Structure. 
  • Structure. 
Obviously anyone who trains with some sort of plan does so to get faster. With a plan with Rob, there is no doubt, as long as you follow the plan, you will get faster. In my case, i noticed significant increases in top-end power in the past season. As such, I was able to earn about half of the upgrade points towards a Cat 2, in my first year as a Cat 3, which isn't too shabby. Nowhere was this most evident than in my finishes in sprints and criteriums this past season. More to the point, I had stated beforehand that I felt one of my perceived weaknesses was sprinting and ramping up even higher during a hard effort. Now, I feel very confident in these areas.

Additionally, for me, the added structure of not having to come up with the plan by myself, was a huge help. Contrast to working from a book (which I had done in the year prior), I was often left wondering what workouts should go where and if I was truly planning efficiently. I found myself understanding the purpose and progression of workouts better by putting my faith in the plan from Rob and see it deliver over time. Rob was also tremendously helpful in dealing with travel plans from for personal or work related reasons, such that these days would be built in for rest. 

Structure however, is a two-way street. Over the course of the spring and summer months, I lost the ability to do a lot of social or local rides that really make the Morgantown cycling community what it is. In particular, I rarely was able to ride pedal for pints (only on recovery weeks) and had to stop attending the hammer ride because it was too exhausting. While in theory, I could still attend these events and tone it down, lets be realistic - its incredibly hard for any cyclist to truly ride below their capabilities and call it an "easy" day. It's just not smart. That being said, I really felt that Rob does a great job of mixing things up so you aren't doing the same type of ride or intervals all the time. Even then, I grew to love some workouts just to geek out on numbers, no matter how exhausting they were.

In summary, if anyone is serious about riding faster, developing strengths, and limiting weaknesses, Rob and Performance Coaching Services is a great resource to consider. Highly recommended. But, you need to be not just prepared for physical pain, but honest with yourself to prevent mental burnout. If you only have X hours to train over a week, don't say you can do more. In fact, assume less. As a Ph.D student, I don't have 15+ hours a week to train. Rarely do I even have 10. But you can accomplish a lot in the time you do have, by following the plan. If you need to have a social ride built in, make it known beforehand rather than trying to fit it in. Otherwise you run the risk of physical or mental burnout, which can ruin months of work, both past and future. But if you do it right, you'll always be ready (and eager) for more.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tandem Family Fun

Since my road race season has ended and since I do not race cyclocross I have been searching for ways to keep myself somewhat in shape and have fun doing it.  I wanted to take a break from the road bike, but I didn't really feel like lacing up running shoes since I have been running since high school and just have not been able to get into it the last few years.  So lately I have been trying something new to me and my family.  Tandem bike riding.  I do not own a tandem and because of how much they cost I do not plan to anytime soon.  However, I have a couple friends who do own tandems and they our nice enough to let my wife, daughter and myself take it for a spin while they laugh and make fun of us. 

 Now please understand that these tandems are not fancy $10,000 road bike tandems.  These tandems have seats the size of my toilet seat and handlebars that appear to be off of my grandma's townie.  However, we seem to have fun tandem riding and it has been a way to get my family into cycling and that is the best part.

Oh yeah, and Mr. Gernert if you are ever in need of a stoker call me up.  :)

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

UltraCross Series wrap-up (and some other goodies)

Not too long ago, I was writing about racing bikes in West Virginia from my new home in Arizona. Well, it just so happens that's what's happening again as I recently got back from a 27-day trip to the Mountain State filled with the bicycle racing and racing-type bicycling events. First, though, I'd like to give a brief report on the Bear Jaw Groove 12-hour mountain bike race that I attended on a whim here in Flagstaff.

The Bear Jaw is a trail on the northern slopes of the San Francisco Peaks, but it's wilderness and not navigable by bike. The Bear Jaw Groove makes use of some trails in the general vicinity, which are a real blast to ride. Something like 400 hours of trail work were put in prior to the event, and it showed. It needed to, because a lap was around 9 miles and generally took less than an hour to complete. So the trails were ridden A LOT, and them being fun was a real bonus (although I did wish that the final grassy road was a bit smoother - my kidneys hurt for days afterwards). I wanted to get some good ultracross training in, and it was a local event, so I signed up solo on the singlespeed with the goal of getting 80 miles or so and a heap of climbing. Long story short - it was a nice race. DeJay Birtch won the SS category and I got seventh, which wasn't bad for taking an hour lunch and pulling the plug and going home with some 5 hours remaining.

Moving on...ever since JR, James, Jeff, and I travelled down to Georgia to do Southern Cross this year I've been pondering the American UltraCross Championship Series. I had a relatively bad luck HillyBilly Roubaix, and with the move to Arizona the situation looked bleak. However, I had to come back to West Virginia for work and such, so I thought I'd give the rest of the series a go. I flew into Pittsburgh on September 20 and then travelled to Banner Elk, North Carolina on the 22nd to race Three Peaks USA the next day. In the morning, 130 or so of us headed out for 50 miles and a bunch of climbing - some say it was around 10,000' when all said and done (I was pretty happy that teammate Jerry had loaned me an 11-28t cassette). I had an okay ride - battled some eye problems early on with the dust and lost my front brake a short time later, but finished in the top 10 overall and fairly satisfied.

Here's a little Dynamic descending @ the 1:00 mark...

Watch more videos on CyclingDirt

Three Peaks USA Highlights...and wheelies!

Watch more videos on Big Bikes Media & cyclingdirt

That left Iron Cross X on the calendar two weeks later. I did my best to prepare for it with all the other goings-on. We even had a Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder cyclocross day at Marilla Park in Morgantown, which Jeff has chronicled here: BIKINI SEASON. I had a great time, and I want to personally thank everyone who came out and enjoyed the weather and also single out JR for having the foresight to bring barriers and course tape. THANK YOU!! We have a great cyclocross squad this year, and I'm really proud to be part of the fun, pain, and suffering. The next day, while other teammates were out becoming state TT and TTT champs, I decided to take the day and get another long ride in. Ended up doing the Cheat-Big Sandy Loop, complete with hour-long rainstorm while climbing up to Chestnut Ridge. It was cold. And wet.

Iron Cross Race Highlights

Watch more videos on CyclingDirt

Anyway, back to Iron Cross. The forecast was ominous, but over 300 racers toed the start line under cloudy skies and light precipitation. The day ended up being great for course conditions, and I was plenty warm in my Champion System Neoprene Tech Fleece jacket, even with just Nalini bibshorts from Red Rose Imports. I had a slow start, but munched on carrots the whole race to finish in the top 10 again. That was enough to secure the final podium position for the series overall, and I can't wait to hang up my 3rd place series award plaque.

Congratulations to: race winner Adam Farabaugh, 2012 U23 Criterium National Champion, for his well-earned (and deserved) victory; to Brian Rogers and Brian Patton, Ultracross Series Champ, and runner-up, respectively; Dan Rapp and Eric Drummer for rounding out the open men's podium; Garth Prosser and Gerry Pflug for going 1-2 in the 40+; and of course Stephanie Swan for winning the series two years in a row! Iron Cross is awesome and you really should go do it next year. PS - Thanks to Jerry for the 11-28t, which I used again at Iron Cross. That was really nice to have.

Singlespeed race @ Kickoff Cross (photo by Fred Jordan)

The next weekend was the first cyclocross races of the season for me at ABRA Kickoff Cross. I lined up for the singlespeed race and the 1/2/3, which ended up being a bit much for the first weekend of cross, but I really thought the venue was excellent and the turnout was great. Next up is Marilla Cross, or Carrera de los Muertos, this coming weekend and is basically in my backyard. Of course you should register! I'm flying in on Thursday and am hoping for rain for this weekend and for sunny skies next weekend while I'm getting married!

1/2/3 race @ Kickoff Cross (photo by Fred Jordan)

 'Til next time - may you only pedal in circles and not squares.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's 'cross season baby!

     This past weekend, I decided at the last minute to do the first cyclocross race of the season in Point Marion, PA.  I was too late to pre-register, so I had to do it day-of, knowing I would start at the back of the field.  Having just bought my first ever 'cross bike, I was comfortable starting off the back, not knowing what my level of fitness or skill would be against the other 37 racers.  I literally started at the back of the field, being the very last person to register!  The weather was perfect and the course was very smooth - not perfect 'cross weather, but I surely didn't complain!
     I got a good warm-up on my trainer, did 2 laps of the course, and was eager to get things started.  From the gun, I felt good - after the first 180, I started gradually passing racers, hoping not to embarrass myself on the barriers or the run-up on the back side of the course.  As it would turn out, I would only have a poor re-mount once and actually passed quite a few riders during the barrier and run-up transitions!  I am proud to say that I ended up 10th out of 38, very much exceeding my best expectations!  The spectators were great - whether they were team-mates or simply other racers or their families - every turn had someone cheering every racer on!  A special thanks to my parents who made the short drive up from Morgantown to see me race!

Thanks for reading,


And we're off

After 2 years of racing cyclocross, I FINALLY bagged my first win. The fact that it came on a tandem and we were the only entrant in the race didn't diminish the excitement in the least. It wasn't fun because we won, it was fun because we did it. I've ridden a tandem a few times (I have a vintage three speed tandem with drum brakes that I've cruised around the neighborhood with a time or two) and Rick Plowman (my stoker) had ridden one on the rail trail with a friend, but we had never ridden together, prior to Saturday morning.  And if our first ride was any indication of things to come, I should have put 911 on speed dial. Right out of the box on our test ride, less than 2 pedal strokes in, I snapped the seat post and went crashing backwards into Rick's lap. I grabbed the seat post off my pit bike, made the quick swap, and we got rolling again. About a quarter mile into the second attempt, the rear tire was getting squishy and by the time we got back to the truck the tire was flat. A quick change of the tube and we were back in business but racing to make the starting line in time.

To be honest, I fully expected to pile the bike up and end up headed to the ER with some kind of major injury. But God smiled upon us as we not only avoided any injuries, but we actually avoided crashing all together. Thanks to the location, the topography made things bearable as the course was mostly flat with only 2 short steep descents and 1 run up and 1 rideable (on a normal bike) switch-backed climb. But where the course lacked difficulty in elevation change, JR sure put the screws to us with a fairly technical race course. Next week will sure be a different story...

My second race of the day was the Master 40+. Surprisingly, after the Tadem ride, I wasn't nearly as tired as I thought I would be. And to stay a little fresher, I opted to not really warmup for it since my motor was already running. I pedaled around the infield a little and at start time, headed to the staging area, and this turned out to be a mistake. Although I had pre ridden the course the night before, something seriously changed between the night before and the morning of... As started racing around the course, both front and back tires started feeling soft. I could feel them bottoming out on roots and other obstacles that the other night had felt fine. I thought I maybe had a flat, and contemplated pitting and switching bikes real quick but just kept on riding. Each sharp turn, I could feel either the front or the rear tire wanting to roll off the rim, and in hindsight, probably should have swapped rides but I just love my new Cannondale CAAD X so much that I didn't want to ride anything else. I ended up finishing 17th in a field of 20 (and I beat Gerry Pflug because he had a mechanical but I am 1-0 against him this season).

Immediately following the Master's 40+ race was the Mens 3/4 race. I had just enough time to check my tires and reinflate them to 45/55psi. Yeah, I know that seams very high, but I'm a big boy (228#'s the morning of the race) and I feel like I ride "heavy". Some people seem to glide along when they ride... Watch Gunnar Shogren, Jerry Pflug, and of course Steevo Cummings. When they ride, they seem to float along with their wheels barely touching the ground. I on the other hand feel like every pedal stroke pushes the bike deeper into the surface rather than further along. Roots that they'd skip over, I seem to have to plow through.   Once I got my Cannondale's tires pumped up, I ran to the pit and checked the tires on my pit bike and spare set of wheels. I went back and ate a pack of Honey Stinger Energy Chews and washed it down with a bottle of water and headed back over to the staging area. I wasn't going to take my call up because I had already done 2 races and was feeling tired but seeing my other two teammates up on the line, I thought it might just make for a great photo for Fred Jordan. When the  race started I immediately knew that I had made a poor decision to start up front and quickly made my way to the outside of the first turn and let as many go by as could. The rest of the field was just going to have to make their way past me as the opportunity presented itself and wish that they had pre-registered. Finally everyone got around me and as everyone started settling into their groove, I started catching riders who went out a little harder than they should have. I eventually caught up to Rick Plowman and we were being heckled about not still being on the tandem together. I finally found enough gas to get around him and kept finding riders to pass.  All told I caught 7 of the riders who had passed me early on and I ended up 28th out of 35.

I was completely spent but I was as happy as I've ever been at a race. The whole day was great and I got to spend it with great friends, great teammates, and a couple of very special fans. I can't wait to repeat the whole thing on the 20th at the APCXS #2 Military Cross

Friday, October 5, 2012

That will do it...

So the official end to road racing has finally come and gone with the completion of the Appalachian Time Trial in Rowelsburg, WV.  Its been a long summer and I have to admit that I am really happy the racing is over and now its time to enjoy Cross season. When everything finally gets posted to Road Results website, Im going to have almost 75 races under my belt for the year. I figure I will do another 16-20 cross races and will be REAL close to completing 100 races this season. Not bad for someone who less than 3 years ago had never raced a bicycle before in their life.

Looking back at my results, its easy to see that I peaked very early in the season. Probably with the second training race way back on March 25th. On that day, Mike Vanderberg, Jonathan Suite, and I missed the start of the 4/5  race and tried, unsuccessfully, to catch the field, although we cut the gap from 3 minutes to 45 seconds when all was said and done. Later that day, I managed a win over Gunnar Shogren and Gary Rodosta in the Masters 40+ race. I can't tell you how much respect I have for both Gunnar and Gary, and beating them, even if only in a training race, was such an honor. (put it this way, I hold them in such high regards, that I half accused them of letting me win because in my mind, it just shouldn't have happened)

The rest of the season was so-so. I managed a couple of wins during the ACA Tuesday Night Criterium Series , and actually won the overall series (thanks to nemesis, Rick Plowman, for forgetting how to get to the oval after about 4 weeks of racing). Its a nice cherry on my sundae, but I was really hoping to pull out the team championship title which Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder eventually lost to Pro Bikes on the last race of the year. Congrats to Aaron Stein and Kris Powell for a great season at the oval and I look forward to seeing you all in the B's next season. I also want to thank Shawn Geiger and JR Petsko who both helped me clinch the individual title and helped try to make a run at the team title. Maybe next year for that goal....

Aside from winning the ACA C's series, I finished well in most of the Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association's series that I participated in.

2012 Cat 4/5 Road Race Series                        5th
2012 Masters 40+ Crit Series                           4th (tied for 3rd but finished 4th on tiebreaker)
2012 Cat 3/4 Crit Series                                    25th (man this felt like a stacked field)
2012 Masters 40+ Oval Series                          6th
2012 Cat 4/5 Oval Series                                  5th
2012 Clydesdales MTB Series                          2nd
4/5 Oval Series
Congrats to Jeff Beyer (1st), Birk McGilvery (2nd), Todd Hauber (3rd), and Duncan Oliver (4th)
4/5 road Series
David Cornett (1st), Caleb Smith (2nd), David Short (not pictured 3rd), Steve Antonishen (not pictured 4th) and Mike Janeiro (6th and still made it onto the podium for the photo purposes)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

its almost bikini season....

I hope that mental image from last season didn't just cause you to throw up a little in your mounth, but its hard to think about cyclecross and not think about that fall day at Marilla Park. And this past Saturday I found myself in Marilla Park again, practicing 'cross with teammates JR Petsko, Jerry Audet, Shawn Geiger, Jonathan Suite, Chris Jones, and Brian Decann as our own resident expert, Mike Vanderberg shared his wealth of knowledge about the sport/art of cyclecross racing. As much as I've loved racing cross the past 2 seasons, Mike made me realize just how little preparation and practice I had actually put into getting ready for it.

I used to just show up, pump my tires, go for a preride lap or two, race, and then share a beer or two with my friends. In 4 hours under Mike's watchful eye, I gained a new insight into bike/tire setups, off camber cornering, mounts and dismounts, runups, and just being fast, in general. Lets just say that I will have my work cut out for me this season to practice all that was presented to me.

Thanks Mike for taking time out of your weekend to share your knowledge.

Marilla Parks, Hill o' Death shoulder/run up demonstrated by Shawn Geiger

Magic Mike sharing his insight on proper shouldering techniques (who knew water bottle cages on a cross bike were such a pain in the butt... or should I say back, am I right Brian?)

Holding class and kicking @$$

Moments later, Magic Mike brought us out of the dark and showed us the light, and we all became better Crossers as a result....

If I didn't know better, that white van matches thedescription of the last 10 child abductions in Central West Virginia....