Monday, November 26, 2007

Coming to the end of the line

My body is still hurting from Sterling. Tripped over the barriers warming up and bruised my hip. Tripped again during the race and thought my wrist was broken for a moment. Altogether, the race was not fun. My head wasn't in it, and cross isn't a sport you can pay lip service to during competition. I think that the nearly 11 months of racing I have done are finally taking their toll, meaning my season is probably done.

All of that aside, it was a great ride for me, and not because I earned a result I'm happy with (I'll get you next time Eager). Every time I bobbled, slipped, caught my shorts on the saddle and launched the bike out from under me, or made some other stupid mistake, I chased back on. Instead of letting the group get away and riding my own race, I'd grit my teeth and fight my way back up.

Great races aren't about the result, but how you get it. Cross taught me that. My best result last year was a 3rd place, but it was a hard fought fight to get it. I rate that among my top-5 races of all time.

Now, for something fun. After doing some digging, I've found some sweet pictures (of me) from the Mercer Cup. I'll be back to update this to give credit to the photographers, but here they are in the meantime.

First up, a sweet black & white of me chasing Zank down during Sunday's race. Notice the almost smile on Zank's face. The chubby dude in the middle is from Washington, but doesn't know how to ride. He's one of those "I'm gonna pass you in this turn, then go slow," guys. He also told Jamner that he was "On your [Jamner's] right" going into the finishing sprint.

Next up, a fine shot from a member of the Rutgers crew. That's me descending from the flyover, silhouetted against the sky. I almost look like an action hero or something. Cyclocross MAN! Da da da daaaa!

I took this awesome shot of Tim Johnson with my phone. While it's not as artistic as the two above (and doesn't feature me) there's a good story here. Jamner and I were standing at that very corner cheering. Trebon and Wicks come through, no prob. Johnson comes though and I cheer "Go Tim!" Right after this photo was taken, he hit the deck. Whoops! That was a fluke though, and it couldn't happen twice.

After Johnson, Jesse Anthony comes through the corner. I keep my mouth shut, but Jamner cheers and down goes Anthony. At that point, not wanting to get our asses kicked, we bolted.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Falling in love again

I have been at these bike racing shenanigans since March. It all started with Wells Ave and my spiffy new white Sidis (got them on sale). The season was mine to own. After some major ups and downs that occurred on and off the bike, I arrived at the GMSR.

GMSR how I love to hate thee. In my second appearance, I definitely put my best foot forward. With the exception of day 2, where my drive train acted up, it was some of my best riding to date, even if the results don't really show it. But GMSR was just the last stop on the road circuit while the cyclocross circuit lay in waiting.

Amesbury wasn't fun for me. Neither was the Maine weekend or Gloucester. A few things were at play; racing at a new level, the heat of early fall and, dare I say it, burnout. Could it be? The sport I love was becoming less than fun. Ever since those early races, training and racing has been a struggle. And even when good results came in Plymouth and NJ, it has still been hard.

That's where Thanksgiving comes in. I decided to give thanks to the gods of cycling with a couple of masters 55+ riders. I struck out early, around 8 AM. It was foggy and cool, perfect cross weather. Despite that, I took out the skinny tires knowing I was in for a long ride.

Now, it's been awhile since I have done any serious distance on a bike. On this day, I was revisiting roads I haven't seen since late August. The scenes had changed due to the changing seasons. I could see deep into the woods with all of the leaves on the ground. The reservoir I ride through was low, exposing features I had never seen. Some homes had struck up fires in their homes, filling the air with that wonderful aroma. The smell of fall was in the air.

I met up with my ride partners and spent 2 hours riding with them. We talked about how long the season was and our plans for next, family, margaritas, and our favorite off season booze.

As we parted ways, the sun started to come out. Instead of making a straight shot home, I opted for a longer route. Why? Because I had fallen back in love with my bike. Through all the training, racing, results, disappointments, getting out and riding my bike is simply awesome. If my body allowed, I could go on forever listening to the wind rush by and my tires sing across the pavement. The thrill of conquering a hill, no matter how small, is rewarding. Traveling at speed, knowing you're the engine is inspiring. Flying down a decent is thrilling. Instead of whipping past homes and fields as one would in a car, you can see the bees being kept just under the stand of trees in a field and the multi-colored stone walking path leading up to a front door. It's no wonder that these masters have been doing it for so long. They're in love with it, and so am I.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Racing in a new land...

A few weeks ago, I decided that it would be fun to race against some new people in a new place. The result? A trip to New Jersey to race the USGP of Cyclocross at Mercer Park. Regrettably, I did have to miss the Shedd Park race.

Much to my relief, I wasn't the only New Englander in this new land. HUP United was well represented by Mike Zanconato, Josh Jamner, Kenny Ambach and more. Cambridge Cycle sent a strong contingent that finished in the top-20, including a strong top-5 by Jeremy Dunn.

After two days of racing, I'm beat. I'm happy with the results I earned and had a blast racing in the tough conditions Sunday. I think I wore a Chris Horner type grin for the entire race, resulting in the consumption of copious amounts of mud. My drivetrain is less than happy with me though. Turkey day will allow me to give it the spa treatment ahead of Sterling.

Now for some general wisdom gleaned from my travels:
- The Garden State Parkway is not fun during rush hour.
- Flyovers are freaking awesome. Just don't fall off or slide down it on your ass. They are the only course feature where you are as fast as the pros.

- Locate the Dunkin Donuts before heading to the race. If you fail to do so, keep an eye out and execute action hero driving moves when you see one.
- Staging by random sort is cool. Gives slackers like me a shot at a good starting position.
- Starting guns; cool but bad. I thought someone had been shot. Others thought a tire exploded. I don't think anyone knew that we were supposed to go.
- Bring your own coffee. Even the ever trustworthy Dunkin Donuts will let you down once you travel far from its homeland.
- Pros are fast, and cheering them on can:
- Make them go fast
- Yell at you
- Crash
- Margaritas and burritos make for good recovery, but only in moderation.
- If you're going to pass, DO NOT pass then let a gap go. That just pisses people (me) off.
- Long sandpits suck, but decide races.