Monday, January 30, 2012

MTB Race Season Is Right Around The Corner!

For some reason I feel like I have said this before, but I don't feel like searching through my blog history...

"I am not sure I can properly convey the wild swings of the last seven days."

First of all I don't normally blog about work stuff.  There are two main reasons for this:

1) I work in R&D and the stuff I work on is leading the industry and proprietary.  If I leaked something to a competitor I would likely find myself in a legal bind (not to mention feeling like a total ass).

2) I suck bad enough at the political game.  Running my mouth on my blog about work would only draw attention to my political incompetence.

As you can see I have good reason not to post about work stuff.  It is not however any secret that we had a layoff last week, or that there is another one coming mid year.  Very stressful stuff.  Everyone knew it was coming.  I have laid awake at night trying to come up with backup plans.  Despite the fact that I feel I serve a valuable function, in a large company I know I am just a number.  We (The Mann Show) are not wealthy, in fact with the housing market collapse we are likely some of the least wealthy people I know (also not something I blog about, you won't see news articles about us building a custom home!), so having income to support us and to keep Allison's bike racing dreams alive is paramount.  

In any case the layoff happened and I still have a job, for now.  I am grateful.  That doesn't change the stress.  Wednesday I had to double apply my deodorant!

After the negative stress an opportunity came up to put some positive stress on my system on Thursday.

Yep, that is the XC World friggin Champion (adjusting her saddle height)!  We took a vacation day to show her and her band of speedy Canucks around Idyllwild.  Positive stress indeed!  It was amazing to ride with them for so many reasons.  Huge learning experience on top of the simple cool factor.

What a lineup!!!

I don't have many riding pictures because these people mean serious business when riding, but I did my best...

They even offered up some suffer face for the camera!

Three hours of riding with this group on stellar trails was worth a vacation day!!!!

So the awesomeness wasn't entirely just who was on the ride.  Wednesday night I burned the candle late after picking up Allison's new race whip and it was her first day on it!

Sworks 29er HT.  Good stuff!

So it was a good thing to ride with World Cup racers and not feel like a boat anchor.  I mean, Canadians bled on this ride (so did I due to a fatigue induced crash near the end of the ride) so I don't think it was a leisurely ride for anyone.  I really just am lost for words to describe the awesomeness.

Friday was a nice easy recovery spin.  I needed that.  Oh and I was working on bikes again late into the night because Saturday was another stress filled day...

Saturday I had to say good-bye to one of my favorite bikes of all time.

That is right, the Crux has left the building.  Don't fret though, as soon as a carbon disc version of this baby is available I will be adding whatever it costs to the balance of my credit card!  Hopefully the time I go without Crux-ness is short.  The versatility and grin factor were off the charts on that machine.

In the mean time...

I am back on my old Tarmac.  Great bike, just not as great as the Crux.  It was great to have power numbers again though.  Made for an interesting day riding with this one...

It was an amazing day in January to do a 4 hour roadie ride to the beach!

So the last seven days has had tremendous highs and lows.  Hopefully things even out some.  I could use some nice steady even stress so that I can prepare for the racing season.  I am looking forward to racing on the MTB in 2012!  :)

Keep it Rolling!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Smoke Signals

Fire makes such a great analogy for things in life.  It can be amazingly powerful, but fragile at the same time.  Cultivated properly it can sustain, provide warmth for those nearby.  It is useful in so many ways and yet destructive at the same time.  It can be fearsome, or comforting.  Controlling it can be a bit of an illusion at times, snuffing it out can be immediate and harsh.  All kinds of parallels can be drawn between flames and the chemical fire that burns in each one of us.  Some are smoldering, straining to stay alight while others are consuming everything around them, all consuming and destructive in nature.

Allison has been using fire as an analog in many of her posts recently and I like it.  Understanding fire and bridling it's good qualities while avoiding the bad is much like the way an athlete cultivates their ability.  The title of this post was one I thought of on my long drive home this last Saturday evening after the final CX race of the season, following the awards ceremony where I stood on top of the podium as the Series Champion for 35+ A group.

Lots of smoke is usually a bad sign from the fire.  It can mean lots of things, burning too rich or having trouble staying alight...

The past few races I felt like my fire was making too much smoke.  My results have faded some and I have struggled with the race efforts and with the motivation to compete.  It isn't like that is a big surprise.  I have had a lot of racing and stretched my base further than expected, the fire needs to be reformed and rebuilt.  As I started with my YIR post, which turned into a series, and was then never finished; 2011 was one hell of a year for results for me.  I raced more than ever before and was on the podium more than my share.  I won a lot of races, placed third at Nationals, took several jerseys for my collection, and was forced to pick and choose between trophies for the shelf.

At dinner last night with my father-in-law Allison and I agreed that it was probably our best year ever for vacations, and will be one with which many future years will be compared to (with the exception that her whole racing season was destroyed).  So after having a bright, hot, somewhat destructive fire things need to be rearranged, they need to have some order restored.

So that is what I am doing now.  I need to find out if my fire can burn brighter, cleaner, hotter, maybe a tad less destructive and overall more efficient.  I will have more competition, serious wildfires to contend with in 2012.  Fires that left a much bigger swath of destruction behind them than I did last year!

Seeing as how I am not so good with plans I am still playing things by ear.  I am entering the year with diligence and focus but am not expecting results on the same level.  I am looking forward to the epic battles and hope that I am prepared to take part.  Despite where I lay when the dust settles, I hope to have improved in some way.

To this end I am doing some trail running in the hopes of promoting continuous improvement.  I am still very new to all this and have much to learn about sport and myself.  2012 will be an exciting year and I hope to have many fabulous stories to write in my blog.

Till then, a drink to the success that was 2011 (and then a little with the last CX race this last weekend)!

Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 is here!

Since my YIR'11 post has been stymied by my lack of computer/free time I have put it on the back burner to bring my blog up to date for the New Year!

That is right folks!  First race of 2012.  First podiums for Rock N' Road / Bikes for Boobs!!!  I got third (photo below) and the Gritters brothers went 1-2 in Elite!!!!!

Bummed that my report isn't on winning, not even second place, but second loser was all I could muster on the day.  Some days just don't turn out the way you hope they would.

A quick race recap...

Uphill gravel start got me off on the way wrong foot.  My ground foot slipped, my wheel spun, and in a heartbeat I was off the back ruining David Turner's start as well.  The first lap I was pressing hard to move through all the traffic and in my haste made a couple mistakes.  Way up ahead somewhere Phil was in a league of his own on the day bunny hopping barriers, behind him a group of four were drilling it, and way back from them was me chasing like a the loyal dog that got left behind at the last pee stop of the family road trip complete with drool and foaming mouth.

This was the slippy Start/Finish region.  Photo Credit:  Jesus Ortega
Eventually I caught back on and things shuffled a bit.  The group was whittled down to four; Hime, Dave, a rider I don't know, and me.  Other than my stupid mistakes and generally sloppy riding (guessing this is a base fatigue and lack of racing related issue) things were uneventful until the last half of the last lap.

Hime was on the front exiting the "Spy-clone", a spiral-in-spiral-out feature that seemed to just serve as a mid-lap recovery zone, and he stomped on it as soon as the dizziness wore off.  I knew it was coming and followed.  Dave had an issue on the steep spot behind (would have been a run-up if it had stairs) and lost the train.  I was on Hime's wheel as we came out of the uber loose left hand gravel turn and I counter attacked.  I probably should have been patient and saved my attack for after the barriers (learning!).  I led up to the barriers and Hime just edged me out remounting.  This gave him the lead for the rest of the lap and given the extremely loose gravel there really wasn't much of a sprint opportunity.

It was another good close race and hopefully I learned something along the way.

1) File treads are not king.
2) Work on being patient on a loose start, don't get anxious, just be smooth!
3) Be patient on the last lap, plan your attack relative to your weakness, not just the first opportunity.

After the race I coerced Dave to go for an hour long ride with me.  Good times!  I am glad that CX season is just about done but I will miss some of the great people I get to race with during the winter (that don't race MTB during summer).

Speaking of MTB, training is going fairly well.  I have been riding a good amount and my weight is coming back down.  There has been a lot of discussion on The Mann Show lately about bikes and whether "size matters".

You wouldn't think so by the picture, but this innocent looking bike started all this...
Allison demo'd a Specialized Epic Comp 29er 2 weekends ago.  She flew on the descents, it was sweet and I was stoked.   Totally beautiful.  On the other end of the spectrum, I have been training on my 2009 26" Sworks HT.  Yesterday we rode with some team mates who are really looking at stepping it up in 2012 and they spanked my butt going down hill, one of them was on a HT 29er!  Do the "Pros" of big wheels outweigh the "Cons" with the latest tires and wheels and forks?  Now the pressure is on.  I can't be giving up time on descents if I want to be on the podium at all.

What does all this mean?  Well after two weekends of testing it seems Allison's cockpit was too stretched out.  Size does matter!  Wider flat bars and a shorter inverted stem seemed to help her descending on the 26" FS, but is that even relevant if we consider the 29er FS as an option?  (then there is the task of figuring out whether a size Small is necessary, or if a Medium with a shorty stem is a better option).  The concept of changing race bike platform has my head spinning and my wallet cringing, not to mention me having to swallow my pride and revoke all the negative commentary on "wagon wheels".  Oh the horror...  :)

Beer doesn't help ease the pain.
With only one more 'Cross race on my schedule, and MTB racing creeping up on us, gearing up for 2012 and training consume us entirely.  Such is the life of the "wanna be pro" and "wish I could be fast CAT1" MTB racing duo known as The Mann Show.  We are so simple.

See you on the trails!