Monday, December 27, 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2010 Cyclocross National Championships

Last year as I sat in front of my computer watching the elite national championships unfold in Bend, Oregon, I thought to myself "I really want to go to that next year". After a stopover in Columbia this September for lunch with our good friends the Millers, the discussion of feasibility began and, after some good results in Hermann for Dan and I, the appeal grew and grew. I never thought it would actually happen until Lizz gifted me plane tickets for my birthday, thus confirming that the trip which had lingered in my mind for the better part of a year was now a reality. As the oddity of the 2010 season pressed on, Bend sat on the horizon as an incentive to keep pushing through the ups and downs with the promise that if nothing else, a truly memorable experience awaited.

After a lengthy day of travel topped off with a harrowing drive over Mt. Hood, Lizz, Dan, Maggie and I made our way to our modest housing and tried to get as much rest as possible for the seeding time trial the next day. After getting our bikes for the weekend squared away from the kind folks at the Specialized demo trailer (thanks Richard and Rita!), we waited anxiously for our six-ish minutes of pain to determine which row we would start on for the following day. The time trial was reasonably uneventful. A lack of familiarity with both the course and the equipment meant that I was unwilling to take too many risks on the thawing and icy course. Maximum effort with minimal risk was delivered and slotted me right in the middle of the field. With only fifteen or twenty seconds keeping me out of the top 17, I felt satisfied. Dan finished about ten spots ahead of me and we were both set for a fifth and fourth row start, respectively. After the time trial, a preride showcased a truly wonderful and legitimate cross course that had turned into a soupy swamp from the week's snowmelt. The remainder of the day was spent with rest at the forefront. An amazing meal at Jackson's Corner in town and a single sampling of delicious Oregon IPA rounded out the evening.

The next morning we woke to intermittent rain and heavy, wet snow. My apprehension was high as I watched the seemingly unending precipitation. If nothing else, there was little chance of the mud thickening so I felt good about the course conditions if not the atmospheric conditions. By the time we rode to the course, the sun had made a brief appearance for the U23 race but it quickly retreated behind a black cloud as we warmed up on the trainer stage.

The details of the race aren't that important but it went a little like this. I missed my pedal at the start but didn't really mind as we sprinted down the pavement, spraying each other with slush from our wheels onto the grease bog that made up the course. I managed to avoid the multitude of crashes in the opening swamp and stayed steady through the six inch deep lakes by the pits. Grinding through the thick bog thereafter was draining but the following off camber hillside 180 was a great time and put a smile on my face every lap. This led into some greasy twists and turns through the woods and was followed by another extended drag strip of deep mud before a few soupy 180's and a short, grunt run up. A few more grunts and turns and lakes took us across the road and into a soaking wet bowl of zoiza by the Deschutes brewery for the barriers, flyover and stairs. This section was particularly painful and sapped me every lap. I felt good on the first two laps, riding close to or with Dan but had a bit of stomach turning pain on the third lap before finally finding my rhythm again for the last two rounds. I battled it out with small groups of people, eventually finishing 41st overall out of eighty people. Not spectacular numbers wise, but I was right in the middle and on the lead lap. Results aside, I can honestly say I have never had so much fun on a cross bike before. It was like being a kid again playing in the mud for an hour. In reality, the fun is why I do this in the first place and it's refreshingly to have such a memorable reminder after a season of taking things a bit too seriously.

Throughout the race, there was an unending wall of noise and support from every part of the course, delivered from both the fans and the drum corps lining the brewery. As I drilled myself with the knowledge that it was the last cross effort of the year, it was truly inspirational to hear such support from old and new friends in the pits, complete strangers and most importantly of all, from my wife and Maggie who managed to cover an impressive amount of real estate as the race went on. Lizz's tireless support of my somewhat frivolous passion throughout these years has been one of the prime enabling factors and has given me the drive and motivation to finish many a races and make whatever personal improvements I can in between. I can honestly say that I couldn't do it without her and I likely do not express near enough gratitude for her contributions.

With that, the 2010 cross season is in the books. It certainly had its ups and downs for me and an overall odd tone persisted throughout. However, I couldn't imagine a better way to close it out. My enthusiasm for the sport is higher than it's been in years and this weekend cemented it as my most loved of all forms of competitive cycling. The trip wouldn't have been possible without the equipment support from Richard and Rita with the Specialized demo program, I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for the help all weekend as they juggled the needs of pros and amateurs alike. Lastly, being able to share the experience with great friends and my amazing wife was the icing on the cake and made the whole thing much more than a simple bike race. Who knows what the future holds for forthcoming seasons, but to end 2010 on such a high is truly magical and reminds me of how lucky I am to have everything that I have in my life. Until next time...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Superprestige Gieten 2010

Spanish Lake

It's hard to really recount the race from this past weekend at Spanish Lake. It rained a lot the week before, but given fact that the ground has been concrete for the last three months, there was little chance that the course would qualify as muddy. Instead, it was simply the energy sponge I remember so well from last year. Additionally, the course featured primarily long soft drags that would require immense power, something I seem to be lacking at the moment.

I had a bad start and managed to get behind some people who nearly came to a stop on the course's initial chicane, allowing a small gap to those up front with energy to burn. With the nature of the course there was no chance for me to wind it up and get back on the wheel. Instead, a slow painful grind for 60 minutes began where I found myself passing some people, but mostly going backwards from those in front as the gaps opened more and more. I botched a remount on the second lap, slid out somewhere in the middle of the race and mostly felt deep in the red the whole time. Overall, it was a disappointment given the fact that I know that I had some good fitness just two weeks prior and that it would be the last race before flying to Bend. I recognize that there are good days and bad days, but two bad days for the last two Bubba races of the season was certainly less than ideal. Hopefully some rest will bring things around a bit, but I plan to simply enjoy the experience that lies ahead and soak up everything about cross that I love in the process.

Looking back, there are some things I could have done differently throughout the season, but I can feel satisfied overall with some standout rides on a personal level despite some occasional bad luck and bad legs mixed in. This season felt even stranger than last with the rush to pack up and leave each race accelerated even more so with the 3pm start time. Adding in the fact that all of my teammates either never showed up or didn't seem to care made for an emotional non-starter. No banter at the shop the day after the race or shared enthusiasm leading up to each event definitely made it all seem like I was perpetually waiting for it to get started. Regardless, this season saw a marked improvement for me (last two weeks notwithstanding) and I've managed to solidify some quality friendships along the way. It's probably time to accept the fact that 2008 will likely not repeat itself and to just take each year for what it is.

I've decided to take a week off and not travel, with the hopes that some rest will bring back some legs for Bend in two weeks. Whatever happens there, it promises to be a great time in a new place with some very good friends. I won't be going to the MO state race for the first time since I started racing cross (thanks KC) so I just have to hope that the enjoyment that awaits in the northwest will provide the positivity to carry me through to next year. In the end, it's only bike racing and there are surely many more important things in life. I aim to take all of those in and milk everything I can out of the chances that I am given.

Major congratulations to my good friend Dan Miller on his dominating season and overall win in the Bubba Cup. It's truly deserved and it makes me very happy that it went to such a quality individual. Thanks to anyone who reads and let's all close out 2010 in whatever manner brings the most satisfaction. Cheers.