Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 review Part 1 of 2 (part 1 = verbosity. part 2= numerology)

Note: This post is just here for me to assess my 2010. It is not intended as entertainment value. If you find it entertaining, shut down your computer and go outside for awhile.

2010 The Bad:
Failed Goals:
-Mt. Hamilton Road Race: On the day of this race I simply didn't have enough gas. I was low on endurance, power, and the only time I could manage a good feeling of racing was on the descents. Where I failed was in simply training poorly. I pretty much concentrated on doing as many 3 to 4 hour climbfest rides and, as a result, did too many of them starting too early and by the time Mt. Ham came along, I was in need of rest and a mid-season break. What I should have done was more specific climbing intervals and a better schedule instead of a sloppy plan that resulted in my peaking two or three weeks too early.
-Track Masters Districts: This weekend found me completely low on energy and having no top end speed and I had a hard time dealing with it mentally since it cost me on the homefront to be gone racing that weekend at a bad time to be gone racing. It's painfully easy to see that very poor planning once again screwed me up. Like Mt. Hamilton I simply got way too fit way too early. Yes, I enjoyed some really fantastic days on the track in July but they left me with nothing left in the tank when the peak was supposed to come. Again, better planning and more specified training (as opposed to just racing on the track every chance I got) would have gotten me to the date properly.
-Upgrade to a Cat 3 on the track: I had good results and definitely had the volume of races but in the end I'm not sure I did the right races and had good enough results. It kind of depends on who you talk to what races really count and I'm generally frustrated with the whole mysterious upgrade process but maybe next year I'll just submit an upgrade request and see what happens - IF I can string some good results together.
-Cyclocross Nationals: This was an easy goal to let slide away. Work ate me up in late Summer and I simply went into cyclocross season too far out of shape and not really motivated for anything larger than enjoying some local races. No big deal. This goal was more of a wish anyway.
-Madera Stage race: No biggie again. If you're sick, you're sick. I was better off to scratch this race weekend than to attempt it on the tail end of being sick.
-San Ardo: Again, it simply did not fit in the schedule and I'm not too burned up about it.

2010 The Good:
-Copperopolis: A combination of tenacity and bike handling experience combined for a second place in a well known local race. I'll take it! To duplicate a result like this in 2011 would be sweet.
-Track wins and places: Winning a couple of races on the track and having one pretty solid Friday night race were definitely good memories to take away from the year. Though my current motivation for track racing is low, I'd like to try and build on that in 2011.
-General fitness: January through the beginning of June I enjoyed alot of really great long days on the bike. The hilight would probably be doing the Mt. Hamilton loop but a ride from my house over mt. Diablo and into Danville was also pretty memorable. All Spring I kept marvelling at my own endurance and ability to tackle long climbs and recover so well. But then Summer came and that all went away. Where??? There is a mild correlation with when I finally lost the discipline to keep a diet diary and gained a modest 5 to 7 pounds back again. Can 5 pounds really make that much difference? Hard to believe.
-Taking third in the only mountain bike race of the year was another surprise bonus. I'd definitely like to do more of those in 2011.

In general I'm pretty satisfied with 2010. Coming off of four or five months off at the end of 2009 I actually had alot more fitness, endurance and climbing potential than I expected. And there were days on the track when I felt I could stay with the hardest pace. I really enjoyed the long points races most of all and maybe finally found my niche on the track. I'm holding back on saying anything about 2011. But I will say this. I intend to be a little smarter about races that are goals. If I expect to do well I have to be a little more serious about my schedule, training methods and planning.

MonkeyCross #4 @ Dan Galvin Park, Santa Rosa, Dec 18, 2010 howzthatforalongtitlewithallthedetails?

MUD! This was a very fun race. The course wound around the soccer and softball fields and so was mostly on turf. Well it was turf before all the earlier racers churned it into a sloppy, ankle-deep quagmire. Bring it! The course started on second base (there was literally a second base bag right in the middle of the course at the start/finish). There was a mud/grass section that led to a guttercreek crossing that they rigged with some sort of a bridge with some rubber mats but there was a small muddy hill after that that forced a dismount and runup. Pop back onto the saddle and there was a fun little section that wound through some trees and then had a tricky slippery downhill into another gutter/creek crossing (I saw a surprisingly high number of crashes here). A very brief pavement section sent us back into a grass field for more mud and a long slog around the outside of a grassy field. Then there was a deep puddle crossing that led into a fast double track section with some nice watery puddles to hit at "high" speed to try to clean off some of the mud. Then more mud and a tight turn and a strange section of cement that was beside some sort of shallow lap pool or wading pool or something. By the last lap it was VERY tempting to just ride into the pool but that would have made a big mess (I saw pics from the race where someone DID bunny hop right into the pool, haha!). Anyway there was more mud and a big puddle funneling through a break in the fence back into the softball fields. But first there was a double barrier and a long muddy section before the finish line that was best off taken at a run. This all added up to about seven minute laps with about one to two minutes of running per lap. Oh, and in case you were wondering my average pace for the race was a hair under 7 mph! As fun as these races are this ain't track or criterium racing!

Here's some pics so you get an idea...

With all the mud the tactic of the day seemed to pace things instead of the usual sprint start-recover-survive rhythm of a cyclocross race. I had a slow start and was pretty far back but at the first gutter crossing/runup I dismounted, shouldered my bike and passed at least six guys who were either bogged down trying to ride the little hill or were pushing their bikes instead of carrying. I made another couple of passes and by the time we were out into the open field I counted myself as being in thirteenth. That was the way it stayed until the doubletrack section where a few guys passed and we had a brief paceline going (which is just a whole heckuvalotof fun when you're eating rooster tail...). But back into the thick-slow mud those guys dissappeared again. By the time we crossed the pool, the barriers and ran the loong section to the start/finish I had made a few more passes and was feeling really good since I hadn't really dug in to the max effort reserves yet.

The rest of the race had some good racing and I felt I passed and lost more than I got beat. I was trailing one fellow on the last lap by a few seconds and I was determined to beat him. I kept him in my sights. I was riding alot of the mud that he was running and he was pushing his bike not carrying it so I was feeling very confident that I would be able to out run him on the final section since I'm a carrier and you can run a long section faster carrying your bike than pushing it through the mud. My tactic was to get through the barriers, close the gap, shadow him and then sprint past at the finish.

Usually you "suitcase" your bike over barriers. That's just what it sounds like, you grab the top tube and carry your bike like a suitcase. But if there's a running section after the barriers you have to figure an efficient way to shoulder your bike while hopping the barriers. The best way is to just shoulder your bike right at the start but that dismount-shoulder-barrier hop maneuver is a little clumsy. There is a clever trick where you dismount and as you run hit the front brake hard sending the rear of the bike hopping up into the air where you catch it and send it straight to your shoulder. But you have to be already running a step or two and typically the hop over the barrier comes on your second step after dismounting. So if you're going to hop the bike you have to dismount a little earlier and that's where I screwed up I dismounted and ended up trying to hop the bike, grab it and jump the barrier all at the same time. Well two out of three ain't good and I ended up flying over the barriers and very comically left my bike behind on the first barrier! I've seen funny pictures of cyclocrossers leaping the barriers with their bike ten feet behind them before but that's the first time I managed to do it myself. This was so funny I didn't even care that my plan of attack was all screwed up as I reversed direction grabbed my bike and got going again.

But to my surprise, the guy I was chasing down seemed to have had problems of his own! Maybe he fell down after the second barrier or something because he ended up right in front of me on the run. The long minute of running ended with my digging in an sprinting around him at the finish line. I don't think he was too happy about that since I got a pretty half hearted return on the traditional post finish line handshake from him. But that's racin'.

After the race I hosed off my bike and jumped right into the creek to wash all the mud off my clothes, shoes and socks. That's the funny thing about a wet muddy race. Normally you would look at a running creek on a 50 degree day and think, "no way am I getting in that cold water." But if you're covered head to toe with mud and wet and cold anyway it's no big deal to wade right in and stay there just to get clean.

Man racing is SO much more fun when your feeling a bit more fit and fresh and up to the challenge! Coupled with some fun courses it's been great to have this cyclocross season turned into more fun and less frustration! I'll probably only do one more cross race in January then the traditional Early Bird road race out of Patterson before I turn to a more traditional winter base mileage routine for February and March.

So that's the last race of 2010! I'm going to be doing some boring posts coming up evaluating 2010 - what went wrong what went right- and such here as the year turns and then maybe do the usual post of loose goals for 2011.

Thanks for reading. Even if it's just me reading this a year from now! Ha!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

MonkeyCross CX at Franklin Park, Santa Rosa: Dec 4, 2010 (B 35+)

Overnight and day-of rain made for a fun race that was somehow muddy without being too sloppy. The mud was exactly the kind I like. It wasn't sloppy and deep and splattering all over but it wasn't thick like peanut butter either. It was slippery and on many corners there was a very fine line between control and sliding out.

The rain stopped as I warmed up on my trainer and by the time I had my wheels ready and was all spiffied up in my fancy bike racer togs there was no rain. I took more than a few laps around the grass of the neighboring soccer field and was feeling good enough so I watched the last two laps of the C race and the men's 55. My buddy Ray was having a great duel for first place. Just before the third turn from the finish he made a decisive pass and got a decent gap through the second to last turn. I was prepared to shout up a huge congratulatory whoop when horror of cycling horrors the poor bloke slid out in the final turn going down on his hip and having difficulty freeing his right cleat from the pedal as he was passed. He righted his ship and rolled in for second but damn, that was hard to watch. I can't think of anything worse than having a race end like that. Here's the closest I've ever come:

In the Summer of 1992 I had just gotten back to Maryland for my Summer Co-op education term at Goddard. I entered a three-stage race out in Southern Maryland (Patuxent County Stage Race or something or other). On the initial time trial I rode well enough for a fifth and went into the road race stage fairly confident. There was a stiff wind that day and my Arizona mountain legs were more than up for that and the short climbs that peppered the course. With about eight miles to go I attacked into a headwind and took two guys with me. After about ten minutes I started to get frustrated with my breakaway buddies. I yelled at one of them to put in the effort or we were going to get caught. He just turned to me and had sweat and snot and spit running down his face and I knew he was cooked. So I attacked those meatheads and was solo with no pack in sight behind. I clearly remember repeating "out of sight, out of mind" over and over and over as I drove for all I had toward the finish. As I hit the final 500 meter climb before the finish I could taste my first road victory. I'd been close before but this was IT. I buried myself into the red zone but was fading hard just digging as deeply as possible to get to that damn line. TWENTY feet from the line, two guys sprinted out of nowhere and passed me leaving me slack-jawed, cross-eyed and in complete disbelief that I had come so - damn - close. Believe me, patient reader, it is not easy to live in your own head for awhile after something like that happens. The third and final stage was a silly criterium with no technical challenges to it whatsoever and I must have attacked the field every other lap in order to punish myself and exorcise the demons in my head but I was reeled in time after time. I ended up fifth overall in that race but I would gladly have traded in my winnings for having won that road race stage.

But back to the present (wherein I am sadly just a mere shadow of the guy who once could do things like attack a field and stay away for a significant amount of time in a significant part of a race ...).

The Franklin Park course was the most fun CX race I've done this year. After the start was a steady climb that was deceptively hard for those who were either overgeared or picked a slippery line. A surprisingly high number of people actually dismounted and ran this hill. I seemed to have its number and was able to ride it every lap. After this there was a flat section and a steep short climb that was quite rideable. A short descent following that had
a tricky right-hander at the bottom. As soon as surviving that there was another two-stage hill. The first part was rideable but the second was not. For me the best tactic seemed to be to just go ahead and dismount on the fast flat part at the bottom and used that running momentum to just go ahead and run the entire thing. (Maybe "run" is overstating the waddling I do while using my bike as a walker: seen over there --> photo by john schmier).

Then there was some more winding around on the same little hill. I found I could ride most of the uphills if there was no traffic and that, ultimately, turned out to be good for me.

On the final time down out of the little hill there was a swooping turn around a swing set (I love cyclocross) with some sand followed by some barriers. Then there was some flat-ish winding through some muddy off-camber turns and then back onto the straight. This ended up being about six minute laps. That's more in my comfort zone. I really think sometimes the race organizers go a little overboard with the courses and ultimately the race suffers with a course that just repeats itself without offering any additional challenges. Maybe that's putting too much thought into it but the fact is that I just enjoy the short technical courses MUCH more than the long flat slogs across the grass that most of the Sacto Series races have turned into.

I had an okay start and headed up the first hill maybe eighth wheel. With the traffic, some of the riding sections ended up being dismounts but when I'm fresh I can handle that pretty well. It isn't until later in the race when I start getting clumsy that my dismounts and remounts get slower and slower. There were some good races for position between three or four of us for the first three laps when things finally sorted out. I was happy to catch one rider before the finish but the last three laps were just status quo. Once the traffic was cleared out and I was able to have clear track to ride the climbs I noticed a very large gap behind me and that's how it stayed to the end of the race. My lap time show that I started to fade with my last lap being very slower. But that was more a function of having no one breathing down my back than anything else. I was very happy to stay on the lead lap and despite a not great placing (11th of 16) felt I rode a good race and didn't feel quite so stuffed and frustrated. Maybe things are coming around? Who knows but it was fun and that is the best thing to report. Ray took some video during my race and it's about as entertaining as watching a garbage truck (with a large ass) work its way down and alley but I appreciate it and the link is ...

Two more last things that are probably more entertaining than the previous blahblahblah. The announcer was heckling me for being too clean, which is kind of funny since I kept thinking that I was probably trashing my VSRT whites. As you may hear in the the video, they were playing Weezer's Blue Album during our race. Out of nowhere my brain began to sing

oo wee oo I look just like Muddy Holly
uh oh and you're Muddy Tyler Moore

Despite that ending up on an endless loop in my brain I thought that was pretty funny.