Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Commander-in-Chief 'Cross?

So there was some recent Ommegangster banter about President Obama getting a few stitches in his yapper as well as a suggestion that maybe he should consider something "safer" like CX.   After discussing the merits of a "Commander-in Chief" CX event, we decided we might have better luck trying to convince GW Bush to hold a CX event rather than Pres. Obama...... afterall, 'W' did ride MTB on occasion.  We also figured 'W' would like the PR with his new book as well as trying to raise funds and awareness for his memorial library.  This event would be like no other with a list of well known guest appearances by some well known politicos.-- just don't expect Laura to let W have a post race Omme.
Here's the first draft for planning:
-- USA Cycling license or NRA membership card required to race
-- Justice Roberts as the Head Referee/Official
-- A true "open" category following "don't ask/don't tell" criteria
-- Wealthy campaign donors get special access to the course
-- Red course tape would be on your right; blue course tape on your left

-- Dick Cheney would do the start gun
-- Howard Dean as the man in the donkey suit heckling people (yelling "woooyahhh" in a high pitch)
-- John Kerry & Al Gore as the barriers (Gore obviously the much stiffer/wooden-like barrier)
-- Course layout includes a run-up feature where you choose to go right or left -- right carries their own bike, left has another cyclist carry it for you
-- Mission Accomplished banner at the finish


And a little end-of-season limerick from our friend AJ M's wife ....

All you Sunday 'cross widows give a cheer.

The end of cyclocross season is here.
There are no more races.
So husbands trade places,
And toast your race wench with a beer!

Do some laundry, cook a meal, clean the house.
Remember you do have a spouse
Who supports your endeavors
And gets to ride, never
But complains no louder than a mouse.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Racin down Charlotte way

So Drummroll headed down south to combine a little work with some family holiday action but unfortunately missed Powercross in the process.  After a stop in Johnson City, TN for a little work, he arrived at his brothers Mon eve just outside Charlotte.  To make up for missing Powercross, he found a cx training series race held under the lights at a town park on Tues eve.  As he got dressed he realized that the mtb (cx) shoes were still in the garage back home.  In a true show of southern hospitality, the race organizer loaned his shoes & SPD pedals to Drummroll.  Drummroll found the pedals a little tough to clip into and struggled on a wicked off camber that popped up right after some barriers -- it was a repeated struggle to get clipped in while riding the offcamber.  Anyway, the southern boys can hammer too as Drummroll was a bit humbled despite the shoe situation (4th of 5 in his group).

But that wasn't the end of the racing action; the next venue on Friday was the Charlotte (Lowes) Motor Speedway (CMS).  The waiver was signed and the shoe situation was not an issue as this only required a street car (read rental car in this case).  Drummroll's brother hooked him up with a free pass for three laps at the track. Apparently this is a quasi-Black Friday tradition down Charlotte way.   In groups of about 10 street cars (including Mr. and Ms. Drummroll in a rental, his brother and family in their brand new Tahoe, and parents in ma's Buick) were allowed to circle the track at a pretty good clip (as far as street cars go).  We were able to briefly hit the 85-90 mph range a couple times... and you could even pass (and get passed) if you were being "careful" about it.   The banking was pretty wild to wind through and it was really fun.  Ms. Drummroll even said she wished she could drive which was a surprise cause racing/NASCAR is not her thing by any means.  Hope everyone had a great T-giving.   A little pic of the weekend action below: 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Power Cross

Yesterday was the inaugural edition of MaxPower's Power Cross. All in all they put on a great race with a tough course, good atmosphere, quick results, etc. As a late season race it essentially extended the CNY CX season by an extra week which was pretty sweet.

Rolling into the venue, it didn't take long to realize that the big hill was going to be a big deal. I got to the race well before the Masters race, so I could check out the course well in advance of my Open race. Tim O. and I hopped on the course and hit the hill section first. We slowly walked up the hill deciding that there was no benefit to running it an hour and a half before our race. After two recon laps we decided that there wasn't much left to see. There weren't any major technical sections and it was essentially going to be a big hill run up married to a tractor pull on the lower section. Actually, I was pretty pumped. When I have decent form, that kind of slog suits me. Mmmm tractor pull.

We watched the Masters race and it was amazing how slowly some people were going up the hill. Actually it was amazing how slowly everyone was going up the hill. Faso was moving pretty good but the hill was named after him for a reason.

The Open race started off fast on pavement and then we hit the mud. It was rough going. The mud was drive drain eating muck. Mud tires weren't much help since the mud was thick and caked right into them. Then we hit the hill. Now I knew why everyone was going so slowly in the Masters race. I'm a recovering runner, so I actually loved the hill and used it to do a lot of passing. That said, it was insane and a couple of times I found myself light headed and weaving off course. On the 5th or 6th lap up the hill I collected what little spit I could pull together and let it fly at the Faso Hill sign. I shot high by about 3 inches, but the crowd on the hill went nuts and it was probably my fastest run up.

I've been waiting for a REALLY muddy race all season. I sold my motorcycle for two identical bikes and I hadn't gotten to use both of them in one race yet. Well I got my monies worth yesterday. At the end of my first lap, Jeremy Clay from Bike Loft East asked if I wanted a bike change. I was too late that lap, but told him I'd catch him on the next lap. Changing bikes was life altering and my bike felt 5 pounds lighter which was a huge physical and mental boost. Two laps later another change, two laps later another change, two laps later another change. Jeremy and local good guy Fizz were awesome. They didn't have a hose, so Fizz was dipping bikes in a pond, Jeremy was cleaning the tires off with a Dura-Ace BB tool and I have no idea how they kept up with it all. They were moving fast and were coordinating the bike changes flawlessly. Fizz would grab the incoming bike and Jeremy had the clean bike ready to grab at full gas. It was a tremendous advantage over those that didn't have spare bikes and I almost felt like I was cheating. The good news for me was that I wasn't cheating and I don't feel that bad! 5th place in the open in a strong field.

I beat some solid guys and they clearly had a tough time with their bikes in the mud, but that's 'cross. Like I said last week, the course is neutral. The Power Cross course brought some challenges, and it was great to see some people rise to the occasion and have their best performances of the season. Jason D, Neil H and my teammate Adam all put the power to the mud and killed it. Course variety is good and hopefully the MaxPower team will make the race part of the annual schedule. The King has spirals in Greene, Kirkland had the sand pit, and Max Power has their signature hill. Oh yeah, Ommegang has beer. If the course was dry, Max Power might need to tighten up some of the turns, but in late November we're almost guaranteed the mud. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Awwh, sorry baby, it's me not you . . .

Well, if I said that in college, it was probably a load of crap and I was just trying to ditch a needy goth chick and trying to avoid being killed in my sleep. More recently it's been in reference to CX courses.

Twice this year I've gotten to courses, done my warm up laps and started the race thinking that the course was too hilly, too technical, too blah blah blah. After the first couple of laps though, I realized that it was me, not the course. The Dave Panella Memorial in Greene was a perfect example of it being me. I got to the race, rode the course, listened to a few people gripe about all of the turns and spirals and started to go to a dark place. I'd also been sick all week, so I was probably already half way to dark.

Anyway, the race starts, I slot in conservatively because I can't breath through my left nostril and I have no idea how my lungs are going to respond to the effort. The first couple of laps I'm a hot mess, I'm blowing lines and I almost crash. Then all of a sudden, the course gets tacky, I can breath and the lines start to come together. I also get extremely pissed that I'm riding like a 3 year old girl who's been mainlining pixie sticks all day (read spaz). I turn around to Bryan Blake and shout "Let's catch the final gentleman in front of us who on occasion make sweet love to their mothers." Or something to that effect. From that point on, the course is fine, I'm fine, and I more or less ride my ride.

My point to all of this rambling is to say this: The courses are neutral. Variety is good and if every course was like my home course, I'd be bored. I tell this story sometimes, so maybe some of you have already heard it, but here goes: The Jungle is Neutral. There's a book by that title. The bottom line is that the jungle isn't out to get you and neither is the 'Cross course. The jungle is what you make of it. Granted there are bad things around you, but snakes can bite you or snakes can be dinner. Rain can get you wet, but you have something to drink. That's the short version, but the bottom line is that if you ride the course thinking that it's out to get you, it probably will. If you ride the course knowing that it's neutral, you can turn the snakes into dinner. It took me a few laps to realize it, but the course was great. It was me.

Last but certainly not least, here's one last piece of advice to keep the course neutral. If the course builder uses flags instead of tape, you can follow Adam Myerson's rule on flags: "Flags are only a guideline." If they wanted you to color inside the lines, they'd have made the lines out of course tape. I'm assuming I wasn't alone in that sentiment given the number of flags that were run over. King Karl built us quite a castle out of flags this weekend. I did my best to stay within the lines. Seriously.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2 F-Us

Being in the somewhat enviable/awkward position of either donating vacation time to the man or bugging out early from work at noon on a pretty dang nice mid-November day ... I chose the latter. 

Found myself rolling up Rte 13 past the falls on up to Caz -- west on 20, up the biggggg hill and drop back down towards Manlius.  Figured I'd take Salt Springs Rd on into Chittenango and was simply cruising away and got to the last sharp descent before Rte 5.  As I get half way down,  I note a car blowing out a driveway on my right not too far ahead and low and behold, they're not just pulling out in front of me, they're turning left up the hill.  I'm doing well over 30 mph, probably near 40 and the car (which had a Critter Sitters logo on it) is getting real close.  I shift my weight way back on the seat and grab a handful of brakes trying not to lock up the wheels in a skid while still getting maximum stopping power as I evaluated escape  routes/options vs. t-boning the car..  I was so hard trying to get slowed down I could not even take a  hand off the bars to indicate to the butthole in the Critter Sitters-mobile that they were #1 in my books.   The driver may have noted I was rather displeased with a few mouthed f-bombs directed their way.  So there we have it -- FU-1.

Oddly enough, FU-2 occured just minutes after FU-1.  After turning onto Rte 5 and cruising past the school into Chittenago, I take a left and head down the main drag.  Gee look, a green pick, and yes, he is actually gonna pull out from the left right in front of me -- I should note that at this point I'm moving quite briskly from the down hill into town coupled with a bit of left over adrenalin from FU-1.  Gee look, if I don't accelerate and thread the needle between green truck's front fender and the parked cars, I'll get smushed.  I did resist pounding on his hood at about 28 mph as I was too focused on just getting out of his way.  I'm not sure if green truck d-bag could read lips either but by the look on his face, I think got a basic understanding of what I was trying to express.  So that was FU-2.  

Call me crazy but did motorists forget that people ride bikes ... on the road .. even in November?  Be careful out there kids.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New Belgium

Tim O and I headed out to New Belgium this weekend for the Cycle-Smart International races in Northampton. Aside from an early season race a few years ago at Blunt Park, this was my first foray into the depth of racing that is the New England scene. Last year, Drumroll, Eric G. and Bryan B. took a trip and all returned with tales of fast deep fields.

After a season spent chasing upgrade points in the NYCROSS series last year, I've taken this year to travel around some and finally had the opportunity to hit up a Verge race. The obvious first: These races are huge, mature, highly organized and well attended. Everything about the Cycle-Smart International was top notch, but the purpose of this post isn't to write about what a great venue Noho was or what a great job they did with the race. I'm sure you can read about that elsewhere or simply take my word for it and check it out yourself next year.

The purpose of this post is to talk about the depth of talent in New England. Apparently I've led a very sheltered life here in CNY. I've always said that the further east you go, the deeper the talent pool goes and this weekend further illustrated the point. We certainly have some very strong racers, but they simply have more of them. Many more.

I didn't feel right about jumping in with the Elite's. I figure a bunch of those guys are racing professionally and I simply didn't want to get in the way. At best I would have been pack fill in that race and at worst I would have been in a pro's way, so Tim and I both opted for the Masters 35+ races. I knew the competition would be strong, but I really had no idea. Ignorance is bliss as they say. 46th on day 1 and 52nd on day 2. On day 1 I crashed pretty hard. On day 2 I rode well and felt much stronger. If someone had told me that I was in 52nd place I would have laughed in their face. I was riding hard, chasing people down and handled my bike much better than I did on day 1. Apparently everyone did.

I must admit that initially I was really bummed about my results. For good or bad I had 4 hours to think and talk about it with Tim O. on the way home. Below are my conclusions (not to be confused with excuses):

In CNY there are some very strong masters racers, but not a lot of them. The masters races locally tend to be raced by racers that are 35+ but with a wide variety of skill sets and talent. In New England the Masters races appear to be a completely different animal. There are 60+ guys, all of whom are strong. Most of them are Cat 1 or Cat 2's and they are only racing Masters because they are just one step off of the Elite pace. Both of my races included two current national champions. Most of them have been racing a long time, have great handling skills and can fly. If you're 35+ and new to the sport you can still race with the Cat 3's or 4's, so the people that choose to race 35+ are strong. Bottom line is these dudes are fast and I highly recommend making a trip to check out their scene if you haven't already.

It bears repeating that these are my conclusions, I could be wrong. Maybe someone that lives in New Belgium would have a different perspective. Maybe I just suck, but I'd like to think that it's the overwhelming depth of talent the area has. It's evident that I still have a lot of room for improvement in the bike handling department, and I still need to get used to starting a race with 60 fast strangers. I know this, I'm not done with New England . . .

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mental Gymnastics

This is a post that has been rattling around my brain for a few weeks now. Between racing, training, working on bikes, working, and trying to keep things borderline acceptable on the home front, time has conspired against me. A lunchtime post will have to do. My posts tend to be cynical or humorous at times, so I’ll forewarn you that this one is meant to be more serious. Motivational even.

I was introduced to the concept I’m about to explain at work this year. For those that don’t know, I sell crack to kids, and we’re always looking for ways to improve sales by improving ourselves first.

In any event, the concept is this: There are three kinds of people in life, in this case three kinds of racers.

There are Winners. Winners may or may not be genetically gifted, but they have the psychology of a winner and they tend to perform well week in and week out. They know how to win, they win regularly and they expect to win. Regardless of who is on the start line, they know and BELIEVE they have a shot at winning.

There are Non-Winners. These are people that are there every week, but are always saying things like “it’ll be fun until I get dropped.” They have no expectations whatsoever. For the most part they don’t care who beats them. Don’t get me wrong, maybe they are there for exercise or camaraderie, but they will never win. They probably won’t even try to out sprint a buddy. They don’t believe they should do well, and they won’t.

Then there are the At leasters. Most of us fall into this category and we have the most to gain from changing our mindset. We’re decent racers, genetically middle of the road, but we tend to let our minds limit our performance. We may win or place in an occasional race, or we may get blown out in a race, but we tend to finish mid pack. When we win a race we’re super pumped and start to dream big. The problem is that after another race or two our mind gets the best of us and we slip back into our old mindset of mediocrity. We start to think “I’m good, but not that good.” The opposite occurs when we get blown out. “I not great, but I shouldn’t get beaten by Insert Name.” Your mind saves you from complete loserdom, but just enough to get your mind and body back to your comfort zone.

I find it interesting that when I race with people I know, there are certain people that I accept losing to and people that I refuse to lose to. Winners never accept a loss. Non-Winners accept nothing else. Those of us in the middle ground are the ones that need to talk ourselves up. Channel your inner Stuart Smalley if you have to. Treat everyone in front of you like they are someone you should never lose to. If a dude you don’t know passes you, he is the enemy. He’s a Non Winner and doesn’t deserve to be in front of you. There is no room for complacency in ‘Cross and the CX gods know that I have had moments of complacency. Bad days are bad days and there will be some, but accepting mediocrity will get you exactly that. Mediocrity. The mind of a racer can be a fragile thing, but at the end of the day if you win or lose a CX race, no one at work or the grocery store will be asking for your autograph. Our drive to race is motivated by something entirely different, so unless you’re already a winner, change your mindset and go for the win. Sometimes it will take mental gymnastics to trick yourself into believing that you deserve it, but whatever it takes.

Race fast . . . take chances.