Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 YIR Part 1

For me 2011 will always be the year of "The Comeback".  If I close my eyes I can still feel my body shatter against cold hard steel, hear the bone snapping collision in head, taste the blood that flowed freely from my face.  I don't know if time will ever smooth over the broken jagged edges of my memories of April 2, 2010 or the days and weeks that followed.  Those memories propelled me.  Death is a stationary immovable object but I plan to move, till I can't move anymore.  Sure my neck and my knee still hurt, living is hurting though and is better than the alternative.  I charged into 2011 with my best friend and partner by my side.

New Years Eve, Allison's foot went bad that day.
Her presence by my side though was short lived in 2011.  Black Death Foot knocked her clean off the track that she was racing on.  In her absence I envisioned myself left on the field of battle.  Alone I was left to guard our flag.  I don't have many pictures from the seemingly endless hours of training in the cold and wet that followed but my skin grew thinner showing more of the sinew and muscle below than ever before.  I did get to ride a couple times on the dirt with friends and they were not just great times, it really helped keep me going to ride with someone else.

Singletrack riding with Weeger, one of the best rides of  January.

In February Allison tried to train again despite her injury.  The excitement over the 2011 race bikes fueled us along with the refusal to give up hope that she could get back on track and continue her ascent in racing. She  was, actually we both were, desperately groping at the edge of an icy crevasse of unknown depth that neither of us wanted to admit she had slid into without warning.

The new race bikes ready to rumble.
I love riding with this girl!
After the short ride together I rode home solo from Escondido.
Soon enough though the slow pace of the Winter picked up and going fast would be the name of the game in the Spring.  I was up to the challenge.  Winning races started in February at SRC.

There was no winning at Sagebrush, only suffering and cold.

March was a new month and the disappointment of Sagebrush pushed me to a higher level.  I am not sure if there was another race in 2011 where I was so much "in the zone" as I was at Bonelli.

Shortly afterward Fontana brought one of the most memorable and closest races I have ever had on a mountain bike.
Special thanks to Brian for making this race amazing. 
The "Top Step" at Fontana, a dream come true.
April brought a whole new race venue with Sycamore Canyon.  Again I reaped the benefit of all my hard work and mounted the top step.

Joking with Sheek off the start line.
"Tower, requesting a flyby."

 While I was getting practice climbing to the top step Allison was practicing her photography skills.  They would come in handy during what would become the most amazing Summer ever.

To be continued...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa Cross

I have really been feeling the fatigue of ramping up Base training lately.  Unfortunately my training induced stress is being compounded by other issues.  It seems that Allison's training has diverged from mine significantly enough that we aren't able to train together much.  She has been doing some trainer workouts after work which makes scheduling the day difficult (I really don't like doing indoor work if I don't absolutely have to).

The stress has gotten to me and I have been a jerk, which doesn't help things.  Sometimes it is important to remind myself that being a team means that although we aren't necessarily working side by side we are still working together.  We both need to stay focused to have a good season next year and we need each other to make that happen.

This last weekend was the Griffith Park double header known as Santa Cross.  Since Allison is done racing for the season doing the double header just wasn't going to happen.  Since I am still leading the points series I wanted to make it up for one of the days, but felt that putting in some solid riding with Allison on Saturday followed by a hard race effort on Sunday was my best option.

Saturday we rolled out into the cool morning air and put in a very good Base ride.

I really love riding with my wife.  

I took a short nap after the ride and tried to ensure that I would be as rested as possible for Sunday's race.  I know I am not on peak form so it is tough to head to a race with high expectations.

Since Allison wasn't racing on Sunday I dropped her off for a ride in The Gabes with Tonya.  A big part of me really wanted to be heading out on a rad mountain bike ride instead of racing 'cross.  About the only thing that helped me follow through was the promise of a sweet course at Griffith Park!

The course was challenging with a significant amount of climbing and some great technical stuff!  I however was not really up to the challenge on the day.  My hands and wrists have been getting worse and worse through the season and warming up on the course I knew I was going to suffer horribly in the bumpy sections.  My left hand was so bad I couldn't really hold the hoods to bunny hop.  This made for really slow going through the smaller barriers as I then was super worried about pinch flatting with no spare wheels!  I told myself to suck it up and thought of the text message I got from my mom who suffered through radiation therapy for her cancer this past week, "Pedal your ass off!".

Race recap...
First lap:  Decent start, didn't want to be on the front but was very close.  Hime swerved right going through the barriers and pushed me through the tape on the right.  I had to fight to stay with the group.  Then I made a really dumb mistake on a tight turn folding my front tire and pushing it out.  Remounting my bike the chain had fallen off.  I was no longer in contact with the chase group, Hime was off the front with a good sized gap.  I chased.

Middle of the race:  I chased hard.  Caught and passed people moving myself into second place.  Hime had what looked like an insurmountable gap.  I chased harder.  With about four laps to go Hime started making mistakes.  He crashed on a grass corner.  The gap was coming down as I was drilling it with Dave McNeal on my wheel.  I am pretty sure that at one point Hime had to pit and we had now formed a group of three.  I could now sit in some.

Two to go:  I attack going through the Start/Finish and take the lead.  It was mostly to see if I could gap them off in the corners.  I knew they would match my pace on the straight climbs by drafting.  Hime took the lead back going over the small barriers and threw a shoulder at me as he went by.  My ultra conservative approach to the barriers section was costing me a couple seconds every lap but I couldn't afford to pinch flat and my left hand was totally useless and could hardly work the brakes let alone bunny hop.  It looked like it was going to come down to a sprint finish.

Last lap:  Hime attacked brutally going through Start/Finish.  I matched it.  Going through the barriers he had about 2 meters on me.  Remounting I missed my pedal and it looked like I might have lost it at that point.  He had probably 10 meters after the barriers and I cut that in half by the top of the course.  I closed a bit more going through the tight grass turns and was within 2 meters again as we hit a high speed gravel right hand sweeper.  This corner seemed to be getting looser as the race went on for some reason and Hime pushed it too hard.  He went down hard.  The attacks had opened a small gap to Dave McNeal so from that point I just tried to stay smooth and mistake free.  I crossed the line a few seconds up on second and nearly 15 up on third, double fist pump, another win!

Race Results

Huge thanks to all the people that cheer for me.  Hime had a huge cheering section, but people like Carolyn Reeves and Brent Prenzlow were reminding me that there are people in my corner too.  I appreciate it very much!!!!!

This has been a very long season and it has taken it's toll.  I am tired and sore and nursing injuries while trying to start Base and finish the CX season with a SoCal Prestige Series Title.  Not sure how all this is going to effect me going into 2012.  I really hope I can carry momentum, get some solid base, and race well in the early season.  If that works out I think I will try to schedule a lull and then get back on form for Nationals.  Sounds like a plan, but I am not all that great with plans so who knows what to expect!  :)

Hopefully I can put together a "Year in Review" blog soon.  I think I know what I want to do with it, unfortunately these things often look better in my mind than they do on the interwebs...  If it doesn't get out before Christmas, hope everyone has a very merry one!

Till then, rubber side down and shredding (or rolling super steady, Base you know)!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Good Weekends tend to lead to Bummer Mondays.

This past weekend was pretty great!  Saturday Allison and I got up early and headed over to Orange County to donate some cans and go for a sweet ride with a hundred or so other people.  This was our third year going to the Hunger Ride and this year the weather man smiled on us again, last year it rained!  Instead of hammering myself into the ground on the ride I hung out with Mammograms In Action founder Zionna.  She is a kick ass Cross Fit athlete and Olympic Lifter but is new to the bike thing and I had a great time showing her the ropes and escorting her on her longest ride to date (30 miles on her 3rd ride!).

Sunday Allison and I got out on the mountain bikes and rode Trabuco - Holy Jim.  This route is a Santa Ana's classic and one of my favorites!

It was a beautiful day!

Monday is as always a "rest" day, but I went to the gym and did some plyos anyway.  :)

Unfortunately during the day a major bummer struck and I got an email from Google stating that my Adsense account was terminated.  This was a major bummer but it seems that along the way I had "promoted" the ads on my blog and that is forbidden.  All funds I had earned ($104) were refunded to the advertisers.

I was really looking forward to donating that money to Bikes for Boobs so it hit me pretty hard.  I now plan to still make that donation, but from my own pocket to honor my promise to my blog readers and their cooperation with clicking on the ads.

So there you have it, another update from The Mann Show.  Training is going well, work is hard, living the life...

See you on the road or trail!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hunger Ride and Stolen Shoes

Anyone in Southern California that rides a bike should "Bring your can" and join us for the Rock N' Road Cyclery Hunger Ride!

It is a fun ride, and a good cause!  We have been there the past two years, and I am looking forward to meeting and riding with some new people!

Now to something not so cool...

Sometimes I am reminded of how much I really hate people.  Yesterday my cherished black leather Vibrams that I wear to work were stolen from the locker room at work along with my Injinji socks, my Specialized shoe bag, and the "glove dogs" I put in my cycling shoes to help them dry out.  What is wrong with people?!?!  They were sitting under the bench in front of my locker and someone decided that I shouldn't have them anymore.  Such is life, from now on I will have to lock my shoes inside my locker with my other stuff...

In other news the "Leader board" was updated and I am still leading the points for the SoCalCross Prestige Series in Master's A 35+!  This title will make a nice ending to a winning year for me!

Have a good weekend!!!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A late Thanks-giving and Shades of Grey

The past couple weeks since my last post have been crazy.  It seems that is a fairly common occurrence in our house, though this time it might be a little more than usual.  The Thanksgiving portion of the title on this post is self-explanatory but the "Shades of Grey" is not.  You will soon find out the details but basically it is a combination of things that has seemed to create a fog in my mind.  My original title was "Not Winning, Not Losing" which is also accurate but wasn't as all encompassing.

Rewinding a bit we traveled to North Mexico to celebrate Thanksgiving with the duo-Mac.  Stephanie is an amazing cook and I love her food.  I love it so much that I nearly ate myself sick.  That is what T-day is all about right?  Eating so much you have to roll yourself away from the table is normal right?  I kid, we have much to be thankful for and many things went through my mind that make me very thankful indeed.  I will save most of them for my Year In Review post that will come some time in the near future.  Suffice it to say that I am very grateful that we have such wonderful friends to share some time with!

Around that time I got a phone call from my Dad.  I don't talk to him much and for the most part he is a non-factor in my life as it seems he prefers it that way.  Lots of history there for sure, and it doesn't really belong on my blog.  I wish that meant I felt completely ambivalent to the news that he delivered but I do not.  In any case he called to inform me that he had cancer in his throat and a mass in his lung.  Officially both my parents are now fighting cancer.

The day after Turkey Day Allison and I headed to Noble Canyon for some sweet trail action.  As luck would have it we ran into our buddy Jens and the three of us had a fantastic time.  With SCNCA Divisional/State CX Championships on Sunday it was a pretty big bummer that Allison was having some issues riding.  She poked herself in the ribs with her handlebar in a low speed crash and it is STILL haunting her.  I feel for her struggles on the bike and hope that this time of struggle is followed by a time of "hot nasty sexy speed".  I had a good ride with no major carnage though I definitely went down and certainly pussy footed about a few times.  I really wish we had more "trail" type bikes to train on at times!  I came out of the day with a bit of a sore right knee and some pain in my left palm.

Saturday we did an easy road spin.  I keep battling with myself between racing well in Cyclocross and putting in my base miles for Mountain Bike racing next year.  On this day base miles won out and I rode "bonus" time to meet Allison at her G-parents house.  Certainly not the best preparation for the following day's race, but again I am conflicted.

Sunday's race was a very fun course with some good challenges.  I had crashed a couple times in last year's race and managed to finish better despite repeating the crash-happy theme.  Several guys that normally race the Elite category raced down for the "Bear Jersey" so I was not too upset with my finish position, especially considering I had two get-offs on a stupid 180 corner, the first of which occurred while I was leading the race on Lap 2.  I did appreciate the racing experience though and am always learning more about tactics and how to race better.  On the last lap I was in third, stuck in a Felt sandwich of Sheek and Fritz.  Sheek managed to pull away a bit due to a bobble on my part and Fritz put in a brutal attack from the tail gunner position shortly after that left me in fourth.  Allison again won the title/jersey which was a nice consolation prize for me.

As if the whole training/racing stuff and both parents ill with cancer wasn't enough, work has really been turning the screws on me hence no time to blog during the week.  I have been trying to follow Allison's training schedule but her coach isn't giving her much base work.  Fearing a downward spiral of mediocrity when faced with racing the two fastest amateur XC racers in the nation at a local level next year I am having to strike out on my own already.  This is disconcerting as I learned early in 2011 that I didn't like riding all those endless hours alone, but I don't want to be under-prepared.  In 2011 the average differential between me and the Marco/Ty battle was 3-4 minutes.  I am not going to bridge that gap with a weak base!

This past weekend we did another Cyclocross race.  This time a double header UCI race in Downtown Los Angeles.  Again my race preparation was less than optimal as I had done a 4 mile trail run with Allison on Friday.  The course was good even though it didn't have much in the way of technical challenges and it turned out that tactical racing was the order of the day.  Saturday the Lap 1 attack of Tim Butler (Sue Butler's husband) left me and the rest of the 35+ Men's field scratching for second.  I didn't know my competition for sure and didn't actually know the identity of the man in the black kit with the big W on the back, though in retrospect it is a tad bit of foreshadowing as he wound up Winning both days.  I also didn't know Kenny Wehn of the "Stan's No-Tubes Elite" team was sitting in and waiting for the kill along with Bailey Bikes owner John Bailey.  All I knew was I was in second with one guy up the road and drilling it till I dropped dead seemed like the order of the day.  I rolled across the line in fourth losing a sprint to John after Kenny pulled away through the barriers.


Sunday's race was a lot different.  I played a more tactical game and was happy to not sit with my nose in the wind.  I spent pretty much the whole race in third tucked behind Tim and Kenny and trying to learn from their actions.  A pack of 5 of us ripped around the course and several times I was unsure of how exactly I was managing to hang in there.  Donny put a pass on me at one point and it made me very nervous to have him between me and the lead pair.  I didn't want to have a gap form and know that if there is a roadie in there I would be more likely to get yo-yo'd than if I can shred the corners at my own risk filled pace.  I picked a superior line through a corner and had a clear path through the next chicane when Donny leaned on me some.  I didn't want to give up my line so I said "Make a little room" and held my ground.  Unfortunately Donny then went through the tape on the opposite side of the course.  I definitely didn't mean for that to happen.  Our little squabble for third meant that I then had to bridge back to the lead pair and that cost me valuable energy!  On the back straight they accelerated and I couldn't match it.  Again I was left in the wind and towing another rider.  This time I tried to use my corner speed and got a small gap going onto the finish straight.  I sprinted with all I had and when my legs gave up I sat down and looked back.  Fourth place was coming fast but I took third by a few inches.  It was CLOSE!  Another foot and I would have been fourth.

So as you can see I have not been winning, and not really losing either.  Working hard for sure though!  Looking forward to next year already!  Since you invested this much time in reading my dumb blog, go check out the sweet new website for our new team, Bikes for Boobs!  If you are so inclined please feel free to donate to the cause!  Save a pair, save a life!!!