Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thankful for a "no-chain" ride today

Wow, I had a "no-chain" ride today. They don't happen very often, but when they do it's just like magic. Everything just clicks, your bike feels great, and your legs are turning those pedals like there is "no chain". The ride only lasted 2 hours, but I felt like I could just go all day long. Not sure what it was.....

  • Maybe it was the great sunny crisp fall day.
  • Maybe it was riding my road bike on the road and not a trainer for the 1st time in 3 months.
  • Maybe it was that the Beavers won a great football game last night by determination and not giving up in the last minutes when all looked doom and gloom.
  • Maybe it was not having knobby cross tires under me.
  • Maybe it was the 1st day my legs didn't ache walking up the stairs after my 1st "house of pain" strength class last week.
  • Maybe it was not being in a race.
  • Maybe it was my first road ride on my bike since a bike fit by Russell C. It felt like a rocket ship in the corners (he dropped my handlebars 8mm).
  • Maybe it was my new road shoes feeling good and not getting cold toes.
  • Maybe it was my PV kit - they are know to provide superhuman strength at times.
  • Maybe it was riding some roads in my old stompin' grounds I haven't ridden for 6 months.

Maybe it was all of these, some of these, or just one. It doesn't really matter. The key was that I realized a "no-chain" day was happening and I just enjoyed the ride.

Have a great Turkey Day and remember there are always many things to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Crusade Finale

The final race of the Cross Crusade was at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro. I'm guessing these fairground are just dying for some money, so they turn out to be easy venues for the organizers to setup. It was a "double points" race since it was the last one. I knew I had to do well and get some points this race since I was just out of the points the last 2 races.

I was expecting a flat power course since it was at the fairgrounds and that's what it was. The biggest elevation gain was the bark dust pile they had us ride over in front of the team tent. There was gravel roads, lots of bumpy grass, 1 barn, 1 set of six-pack barriers, and a rodeo pen. The rodeo pen was the highlight since it was full of mud and water. I ran it 3/4 way all the laps, just like everyone else. Luckily, it wasn't the 1/4 mile run that we did the other week at PIR.

I started in the 2nd row of the call up - an excellent spot. It was the same crew at the front of the line. It's fun getting to know these guys, chatting at the lineup, and racing them each week. We're in masters crowd, so all are 35+ probably have a real job, kids, etc. - just like me. Everyone is friendly and out to have a safe and good time racing hard. We're "weekend warriors" that train all week long for this stuff.

I was sitting nicely in the top 5 on the paceline the first part of the lap. I knew I had to "suck some wheel" and just hang in. I was feeling great. However, disaster struck at the first round of the barriers - I caught my foot and fell. Luckily, it was on grass and no pain so I got up and actually recovered really well. We had a good gap so maybe 1 guy passed me. I rode hard to catch up to the paceline and did it.

The 1st round on the rodeo pen was challenging. Rode about 1/4 way and then started running. I know the running is my weakness - I really can't train it much due to my knees. So, my plan was small quick steps and don't pass - just maintain. I did alright. Luckily it was just around the pen and not very far.

The second lap I was hanging with the top 5 crew. However, disaster showed up again after the rodeo pen. I remounted my bike and no chain - must have drop in the pen. Took me way too long to get it back on - a few guys passed me.

Third lap I was needing some recovery so I jumped on the wheel of a guy that passed me. I figured I was sitting in the top 15 at that point. I got some good rest, but probably alittle too much. We weren't making fast enough progress on the guys ahead of us. Third time in the pen and I heard/saw Denise and Luke and they gave me some needed inspiration. I felt good coming out of the pen since I didn't push it too hard running. It was 1 lap to go and it was time to lay down some hammer.

I was in the big ring (cross chaining 48x25) most of the race and it got me over the bumpy section well. I took 1 or 2 guys in that section. I think I got 2 other guys on the final lap. I finished hard as I could running in the pen 1 last time. My goal was to not let anyone pass me in there - goal accomplished.

I missed 10th place by 2 seconds and finished 11th with points. I guess I rested alittle too much that third lap.

Great photos at PDXCROSS. Yes, I'm in #10.

The Crusade is now over. I'm tired, so I'm glad I really don't have to race anymore. I'll probably do the USGP on 12/5-12/6 when the big pros are in town. But, it will be just for fun.

I'm very happy with the progress I made this year. Last year I was 40-60th place and this year I was competing for the top 10. My entire reason for starting road racing this year was to get better fitness for cross season. Well, I'd say it worked.

Road racing is fun, but there is no comparison to cross racing. Cross racing is an amazing scene in PDX. It is popular, fun, addictive, a great social scene after the race. You don't find that in any other bike racing. Yes, it can be a "zoo" out there, but as long as you remember it's for fun - you're going to have a great time and get a good workout also.

Next year, I plan to move up a category to the Master B. These are typically cat 3 road racers and much faster guys. They just started posting times the last few races. My times would put me in the 30-40 range. So, I know I'll need to work hard next road season. Cross is my motivation.

Keep the rubber side down.............

Monday, November 03, 2008

Barton Park EATS You Up

Well, Sunday was the 1st "official" cross race of the season since mother nature finally bestowed conditions worthy of a cross race. Wow, talk about a change to the racing.

I started the day with a pre-ride of the course prior to any racing starting. It had rained the evening before and there was standing water and the dirt sections were soft mud. The course is at Barton Park / gravel quarry next door. There is quite a bit of gravel roads, pavement in the park, single track, and the "pit". The "pit" is inside of the gravel pit and consists of gravel roads, 2 substantial run-ups, 1 straight steep ride down, and 1 off-camber squirrly ride down.

Well, I started at the front of the line today (with about 140 riders behind me - the largest field yet for Master C group). I "lit up" fast and led the group most of the 1st lap. I eased up after the road section since everyone was sucking my wheel and I "broke wind" for the top ten group.

The course was considerably different when we rode after ~300 racers in the previous 2 races. The mud was wetter/slicker and more exciting. A fellow fell right in front of me in the tight tree section. I couldn't avoid him and went down. Took me too long to get up and regroup. I probably lost about 15 spots. My brain wasn't quite in the race after that. I found myself hesitant and lost my "mojo". The rest of the race was "get this thing done" and keep safe.

A couple key lessons learned this race....

1) Don't lead the pack too early. It would make much more sense to pick the top 3 riders and stick with them at all costs. Let them "break the wind" since they are the top dogs. The key to these races is "hanging on" the 1st lap and then being strong the final laps. The race strings out after that 1st lap.

2) To have a top 5 finish, you need to avoid bad luck. However, that's not going to happen every race (especially in slippery conditions). That's OK. The key is to RECOVER from that set-back and get your mind back into the race as quickly as possible. I failed to do that on Sunday. My fitness wasn't the issue - my head was the problem.

Live and learn for next time.

The course got more slippery as the day continued. Looking at OBRA emails, there were 3 broken/separated shoulders and 1 guy got plastic surgery from that off camber descent. The descents on this course are always tricky. The key is to play in safe as possible in these "high risk" areas. Speedy recovery to those fallen racers.

Check out these great photos at pdxcross