Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Weekend Update: First Time Crosser

Life has been super hectic lately and I can't seem to get caught up with anything. Every time I turn around there is something new staring me in the face that needs to get done, things are piling up badly! This past weekend was supposed to be an opportunity for me to get caught up a little but that didn't work out the way I had hoped.

First let me take a step back and talk about the week prior...

We had a mid week trip to Inter Bike...

Got a autograph with a cycling LEGEND.

(Happy) Mann Sandwich

... it didn't provide any solid leads on additional support for Allison's racing though. Not to let that dampen our spirits we seized the opportunity to cut loose on Wednesday night.

Got to mingle with the fast and famous.

Allison and I can ride bikes, but you won't see us on "So you think you can dance"

I drank way too much and Thursday was hurting, but I was all better by the weekend...

Saturday I had a BIG list of stuff to get done. Unfortunately I only checked a few items off. Allison and I did a great ride together on SJT (2.5hrs with some good efforts, around 58 minutes to Cocktail Rock, then the loop and down), visited 3 of the 4 Rock N' Road locations (bought many items, got the CruX fixed and ready for racing), and had a generally good day that ended with Mannimal Dan coming up to spend the night before the race in the morning.

Sunday was to be our first CX race (not just this season, ever.) Actually I wasn't sure I was going to race at all because A) I don't own a CX bike, and B) I have never ridden one before. Allison insisted that I race and borrow her sweet CruX Pro so that I don't feel left out of all the racing action and I gave in. I felt like a shit show in the morning, we arrived a bit later and I strained my neck/shoulder carrying the tent and other items down to the expo area. Pain and anxiety then took over and I was very short with Allison (sorry boos!).

I wanted to get a feel for a completely foreign bike/discipline so I suited up and jumped into the warm up for the race before mine. Luckily for me Ben Jones was rolling around on course as well and that set my mind at ease a bit, I have enjoyed racing with him and reading his blog. We were rolling around and chatting until I put a kink in things. I was trying to figure things out on the course/bike and decided to pass him on the outside going into a corner. The next thing I know there is a horrible spoke clanging on metal sound and we were both on the ground. (Sorry Ben, I am such a newb!) I kept a bit of distance after that...

My race time came around and Allison let me know that she needed her bike back ASAP after my race for her warm up (no pressure). I felt super awkward on the barriers, the run-up wasn't very long, my knee feels okay going uphill (flat ground or going downhill is not so bueno!). I know nothing about CX so I guess I missed the "staging" time. I had to work my way back to my group (Master's 35+ 3/4) through the Master's 35+ 1/2/3's. I picked a spot near the back and joked with the guys around me about not having a clue.

The start of CX is not what I am used to. In MTB we get a 30 second warning, then 15, then 5, then GO. CX was way different because I was standing there wondering if they were going to give us a warning, then a beep and I was left by myself wondering WTF... :) Needless to say I didn't have a good start position!

I was at least 20 spots back and had no idea what I was doing so I played it cool. I mostly sat in, got a feel for how others were riding, figured out race pace in a strange discipline on a strange bike, and tried not to fall on my face over the barriers.

While still on the first lap I figured out that I could save a lot of energy if I could get away from the roadies that couldn't rail the corners (they have more fitness than me and could afford to sprint out of every corner). I also figured out that people weren't going to be friendly as I got squeezed to the tape (both inside and out) several times.

By the end of the first lap I was getting comfortable, felt like I could actually race, was a bit peeved by the tactics, so I put the hammer down. I started making passes.

Anyone that tried to squeeze me would get it right back as soon as I was past them. I took one guy right to the tape after he spent several corners squeezing and blocking.

I was super stoked that I hadn't fallen over a barrier yet!

I had no idea where I was at in the field and just kept on the gas to move up as much as possible.

My cornering skills from MTB XC and DH racing definitely helped. I was able to close gaps in the corners and save energy not having to sprint out of them!

Coming to the finish on the last lap I had closed a gap on another rider and could have sprinted to the line but sat up instead. I figured that he was in a podium spot with the way he sprinted. I guessed maybe I was just outside the podium spots...

Wrong! I had won Master's 35+ 3/4. Big shocker for sure!

After the race I felt like I had given a good hard effort, but it didn't hurt like a MTB race even though I had picked up some goosebumps in the heat. The race just wasn't as long as I am used to working. I was no where near cramping.

So now I am requesting an upgrade. I want to race with the 1/2/3 guys. Not because I can do well, but because I like the challenge. I guess I should also look into a bike, not sure Allison will continue to be so kind loaning me her bike. She doesn't always share so well.... :)

Monday, September 13, 2010


Or maybe more aptly titled "Looking back, Looking ahead".

2010 has been a year of incredible highs and terrible lows (that could no doubt have been worse). Lady luck had my back and I have had the opportunity to make a shot at recovering from a dumb mistake that could have taken me out of the game for good. My good fortune didn't stop there, I've had some of the most amazing people around me all along and they have certainly propped me up through the lows and boosted my highs. So despite the fact that I am quick to quip that I am anxious to put 2010 behind me, or that it has been a very rough year for me, I have also been fortunate beyond measure.

I achieved the most amazing fitness of my entire life early this year. At 35 years old I was ripped and healthy. I then learned that looking ahead both literally and figuratively is the most important thing one can do in life as looking down knocked me off my perch. I have not blogged much since my accident for various reasons and feel that a hearty "Thank You" to those that have helped me this year is much overdue.

It isn't in my nature to give up or go lightly on myself. Anyone that knows me well knows that I demand the most of those I choose to keep around me and anything less than 100% from myself is unacceptable. When Allison received an email from USA Cycling informing her that she had been selected to represent her country at MTB World Championships I felt like I was getting a chance to redeem myself for my early season mistake that left me riding the couch for most of the season. I pulled the throttle wide fucking open and ignored the pain to help her prepare. I didn't ease up on myself when my broken knee protested, and I worked through my neck locking up on longer rides.

Going to Worlds meant so much to both of us. The experience itself didn't disappoint. Every aspect of the trip was epic and we embraced the ebb and flow of emotion and memories. The preparatory training with Allison stripped about 10 lbs. from my couch riding fitness level and made me hungry for a return to competition. This past weekend presented a great opportunity at State Championships. I didn't have any high expectations for a stellar finish, only a desire to compete, to not stand on the sideline.

On the drive up to Bonelli Sunday morning I was anxious. We cranked some music and my arousal level was high. I struggled to quell my emotions and excitement. I didn't know how many others would toe the line with me but after 6 months between races I had more questions than answers. Shortly after we arrived the CAT2 races started and I felt the urge to go cheer for the racers challenging themselves and shredding the course. I took a few photos and did my best to help motivate. Before I knew it, the time had arrived for me to warm up. I rolled around with Allison and it seemed like every single person in attendance not only knew who we were but were happy to see us warming up together again. Most shared their sentiments verbally, everyone gave a friendly smile. It was awesome! Thanks!

I got my "7" on my right calf and resisted the urge to push toward the front of the group as we staged for the start. I had a game plan, to race my own race no matter what, I didn't want to start too hard or get in the way of the amazing athletes that were starting with me. Some deep breaths and we were off. I slotted in somewhere near the back and did my best to exercise patience. On the first single track descent the pace was painfully slow and I voiced my opinion loudly, "Come on guys, my wife rides faster than this!" By some crazy stroke of luck she was going the opposite way about 10 yards to my left on the single track climb and let out a yell after hearing my comment.

The first two laps I suppressed my desire to dig deep into my shallow pool of fitness. I sat in and rode wheels as much as possible. I down shifted to turn easier gears when I could have cranked it up the short steep climbs in my current gear. I didn't know how far back I was but I knew the leaders were long gone as I caught a glimpse of Ty Kady going the opposite direction on one section of the course. I was encouraged however because I would occasionally pick up and pass a rider that had slowed from the opening pace and brutal sun. I soon found myself in a scary place. I was in no-mann's land between the fastest amateurs (read semi-pro's) in the nation up front and the chasing athletes behind on a super fast course where drafting provided significant advantage.

I worked to keep my pace up and drain my water bottle every lap, loving every minute of the battles that took place between me and some of the riders that I have loved racing with over the last year or so: awesome athletes each and every one. I had a song stuck in my head that Allison has been listening to of late, "Not Afraid" by Eminem. I battled my demons and felt the presence of so many great people that had taken my hand and were supporting me in my effort, my return to racing, the end of the 2010 MTB racing season.

In the end I finished fourth. I had fought hard and earned a spot on the lower steps of the podium exceeding my pre-race expectations by leaps and bounds. I was totally spent and cramping, but absolutely elated. It was a great day. My "gimp" status has been revoked. No more excuses. Hold the throttle wide fucking open, BRAAAAAAP.

Looking back, this year was not a year of defeat, it was one of spectacular victories. I hope to not be quite so challenged in the future, but I also hope that I can share as many triumphs and continue to surround myself with stellar people.

So happy to be here! So glad to share it!