Monday, November 22, 2004

Midpack Mayhem in Highland Park

Highland Park Cyclocross
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Highland Park, NJ
B Race, ~70 starters

HP cross me hurdles
Over the hurdles

The Course

~150 meter flat road section, hard left onto soft grass, short/steep muddy run-up, right back down on soft grass to a relatively high speed double hurdle. ankle deep mud past the pits and onto a wet sand baseball infield, back onto more deep muddy grass. paved walking path, 180 degree right onto combo of slick dirt singletrack and soft grass. soft grass winding back by the pits, more soft grass onto a short stretch of road to more soft grass to a chicane at the base of another short/steep muddy run-up on the same hill. steep muddy rutted drop back onto soft grass winding around to the road for the finishing straight. i was off the bike 5 times per lap.

The Race

It's a double race weekend...
so I'm drinking lots saturday evening to stay hydrated
Sleeping on an air mattress on the floor makes standing up for the late night pee's
agonizing after those steps at beacon! Yikes, the quad demons are haunting me!

Wake up, take stock of body and mind...
Mind strong & motivated to race. Legs shaky and look like they've been at it with a
cheese grater, but they're still there!
The stomach is another story.
I'm questioning eating TWO french dinners, especially gallette # 8.
The vittles were good, but sacre bleu dem belly is bubbly!

Time to check bike and gear.
There's no mud, just sand everywhere.
A quick 'n e-z clean and we're ready to roll.

Warming up I see the course morphing before my eyes.
First time around everything is ridable, even the hills.
This doesn't last for long as the combination of wet turf and bike tires turns things
pear shaped in a hurry.
The deterioration is quick as the course goes from nondescript to epic within an hour.

I head to the road to continue the warm-up as more laps on the course will only drain the
already shaky legs.

It's almost time to start and I score a spot mid-bunch and anticipate the brutality that
will soon follow. All of a sudden we get the 15 second warning and we're off!
I spy a gap immediately and zip up onto the wheels of the leaders.
Seconds later i'm spinning out my 39x12 as we approach the left turn.

Knowing the first hill will be FUBAR i give it full gas on the lead-up to the slop.
Things get surreal now as the guy on my left goes over the bars on the uphill! wtf!
That was sweet! A massive traffic jam ensues, but i find a clear lane up the inside.

I'm back on and closing in on the leading group.
Over the barriers and ready to close it down.
But wait, I'm not going anywhere in this muck!
Stubbornly I continue to grind past the pits and into more muck, going nowhere fast.
Awwww muck! the leading group of 15 or so is just ahead but i feel like i'm sinking!
Note to self: run this mess from now on, and I do.

Onto the paved path and i'm at the front of the second group, just seconds behind the
tempting draft of the front runners.
This is the part of the course where i need to get a quick recovery but it's not
happening this lap. As we make the turn around the tree I'm starting to go from
redlined to meltdown mode...not good.

I back it off just a touch and immediately I'm passed by two or three groups. I try to
latch on, but I've started too fast and need to settle in.

Dusty comes by and I ramp it up again to get his wheel. Riding with someone you know
makes the pain more bearable. We get into a good rhythm and start to pick off riders.
We're flowing now, measuring our hard efforts and taking what the course gives us.

HP cross me run up
Dusty and I on the run-up

HP cross me slop
And on the soft grass

Now we've caught a good group and make continued progress, but the group is a little big.
FJ drills it along the river every lap and it's back to survival mode.

Our group has splintered and I'm gapped as we come by the pit. In a last ditch effort to
maintain contact I take the left line after the pit and all of a sudden I'm back at the
front of the group. Yeah!

HP cross my group
The group

The adrenaline boost from that bit of luck gives me the juice I need for the last lap.
Over the barriers I really focus on taking long strides and breathing as I lope through
the ankle deep mud and goose dung. I have about 5 pounds of it on my bike, not to
mention in my eyes, ears, and mouth...mmmmm organic foie gras.

It's the last lap and I'm hanging on as our group keeps the heat on and eyes each other.
Down the trail and onto the soft grass we push, chests heaving and legs mashing the
pedals without elegance. The left line does the trick again and I move up to second
wheel as we hit the short stretch of road.

Back onto the grass and I move to front, but slide and almost go down in the process.
I try to keep the pace high as I consider my options. Undergeared with a 39T single
chainring I'm thinking that I don't have the winning hand in a sprint.

HP cross me group 2
Last lap as I'm moving to the front of the group

That leaves a late attack. The chicane leading into the final run-up seems like a good
place to get a gap as it squeezes everyone into a single file line. I gear up and give
it a last burst into the dismount and get the bike shouldered cleanly.

The legs are screaming, but the toe spikes gain traction and I'm really moving up the
muddy slope. Back on the bike and I'm back in my pedals immediately (love the Candy
SL's!). I'm committed now so I start pedalling and drop down the hill fishtailing, but
making it through the ruts cleanly.

I'm really hurting now, but I know I have a small gap so I keep giving it full stick.
A quick look back and I see the others are driving it, but the gap should be enough.

I make the transition back to the road without going down and now I'm giving it one more
effort up the road to hold the gap to the line. As I approach the finish Richard Fries
is making a wisecrack at my expense, but it's all good. I love ya Richard!

Crossing the line I'm exhausted and elated at once. I finish 24th, so why am I so happy?
Yeah, I scored my first MAC series points in the B's (woohoo!), but it's really just the
joy of racing and competing.

In 'cross, no matter where you are in the pack you're still racing, trying to catch the
rider in front or hold off someone behind. All race long you're locked into these
intense micro-battles. The combination of this level of competition and the wonderful
community that comes together for the season makes 'cross the best thing on two wheels.

Thanks to everyone that makes it happen and extra respect to my fellow mid-pack dwellers
who race with such passion and intensity week after week.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Beacon 'Cross

Beacon Cyclocross
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Bridgton, NJ
B race, ~65 racers

Beacon 04 Sand
The Sand Pit

The Course

The start was up a nice slightly uphill road stretch of about 300 meters before a sweeping right onto the hardpacked sand trail system, wide enough for passing but pretty crowded on the first lap. The trails were fast and twisty with loose sandy turns that were fun to slide through at high speed.

The high speed trails dumped you down a fast hill leading onto a lakefront beach. This was about a 100 meter running section of deep sand ending with a tall step to exit the beach.

Beacon 04 me beach
Me and Sean exiting the beach run.

Beacon 04 Beach
This is how the pro's do it.

This brought you by the double-sided pit before bending right and heading onto another section of fast and fun trails. At the end of a particularly fast stretch a 180 degree left fed into a 180 degree right and a set of double hurdles. Once back on the bike you hit a steep off-camber drop onto a short section of road running parallel to the finishing straight.

This was downhill and led you back onto the turf for a quick run down to a hard left turn into a sand pit. When entered at speed this was ridable, however most of your momentum was taken by the end making it faster to run for some.

Beacon 04 more sand
First lap traffic in the sand pit. I'm about to dismount.

Exiting the sand pit brought you past the pit before a left turn into a short, steep dirt climb. At the top you did a 180 and dropped back down into a hard left into the "Amphitheatre of Pain". This was a series of 8 'steps' each roughly 16 inches high. This was painful for everyone and doubly so for those with short legs.

Beacon 04 me stairs
Sean and I on the stairs.

After the remount and a short trail section you dropped down a steep dirt embankment immediately into a paved right hand turn back onto the finishing straight of road.

The Race

I got a spot about 4 row back and worked hard to move up on the road section. I made pretty good progress, but ran into trouble as we approached the right turn. The line of guys I was following got cut off and had to slow dramatically. After watching riders pass me on both sides I found a hole jumped to the right. This got me moving again for about 5 seconds before we hit another logjam at the first tight left turn. By this point the front group was gone.

Once through the turn I got out of the saddle and hammered in an effort to improve my position. I saw Sean and Dusty up ahead and set my sights on making up to them.
By the time we hit the beach the first time I could see them just up ahead. I gave it all I had on the run and made it up to them as we exited the sand. This was a big boost psychologically.

We ended up with a big group barrelling through the sandy trails picking off riders one by one. Dusty, Sean, and I were all staying near the front trying to keep the pace high to whittle down the group. John was also in the group, but further back, and eventually got gapped by another rider messing up one of the sandy turns.

After a while we looked back to see that the group had disintegrated. It was just me, Sean, and another guy. Dusty had been the victim of another blown turn by another rider. Sean and I kept the pace high and worked really well together to share the work. We kept it together very well until Sean dropped his bike at the start of the stairs. I was leading and didn't realize that he had bobbled until we hit the road.

I eased up to get the other guy on the front and left him to pull up the road section to start the final lap. I was hoping that Sean would catch back on, but at the least I was getting a little recovery. Unfortunately the guy got a gap when we hit the trail and I didn't respond. I had him in sight the rest of the way, but finished 6 seconds back in 26th place. Sean rolled in for 27th.

This was my best finish yet in a MAC B race, though 1 spot out of the series points that go 25 deep. The race was very fast from start to finish and a whole lot of fun. After our race we watched the Elite Men's and Women's races. These were part of the Crank Brothers US Grand Prix of Cyclocross and they attracted the top riders from across the country. Read about those races at

At the end of the day we drove to Sean's cousin Phil's house in Northern NJ and ate two dinners before falling asleep!

Monday, November 15, 2004

Baby Outfits

Yesterday we ordered a crib, glider, and footrest. It was actually pretty cool.
We also picked up some baby clothes...

baby clothes

Friday, November 12, 2004

Another cool day

It's a boy! Posted by Hello

We had our 17 week sonogram today and learned that our baby is a boy! He was really moving around in there. What a cool experience.

Making the most of days

Yesterday we had the day off for Veteran's Day so we honored our Veteran's by enjoying our freedom in the outdoors. The weather was wonderful with sunshine and temps in the 50's.

Mel, Bob, and I met up at Loch Raven for a nice, relaxing Fall mountain bike ride. The trails are very tame up there, relatively smooth and flat. This is a perfect spot for a mellow ride. Mel did the first two hours with us as we cruised some gorgeous single track along the water, before winding our way out to Providence Rd. and looping back to link up with another nice stretch of narrow twistyness.

After Mel headed home for a nap Bob and I explored the other side of Providence, getting a good workout on the fire roads before dropping down a stairstep descent that dumped us out below the dam. From there we climbed back up to the T-intersection via the road. We decided to explore a lollypop loop that was marked on the map, however this ended up being pretty dull as the trail was not only superhighway wide, but completely covered in leaves. Nevertheless we got more miles into the legs and enjoyed the outdoors, which was the goal in the first place.

After this excursion into the trail equivalent of Soviet apartment blocks we needed a hit of something stylish and interesting. That meant another run through the singletrack of the Sam's Grave loop. Perfect! This is the essense of mountain biking! We looped back out and decided to hit Sam's Grave again on the way out. Usually repeating sections of trail is a bit dull, however this was just as fun and exciting as the first run through. In a way it was even better as we could anticipate a lot of the tight turns, and thus carry more speed. I got a little carried away with this and clipped my handlebar while squeezing between two trees. This led to a quick spill into a soft bed of pine needles. Allgood.

In the end we were out for 4 hours, an excellent day of riding. Our legs and backs were ready for a break since we had been on the singlespeeds. This was a fantastic way to enjoy the day that honors the men and women that have served to ensure our freedom.

Today we awoke to a steady rain outdoors. Sometimes the weather works out just right to allow us to make the most of days.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Faces of Pain

Here are some photos from Saturday's race in Camp Hill, PA. As you can see, I was suffering...c'est cyclisme.

The Run-Up

Negotiating the steep off-camber switchback

Looking for traction on the off-camber

Grimacing at the top of the run-up

Digging on the run-up to hold off the group behind

"When will it end?" Another time up the run-up

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Lower Allen Classic 2004

Lower Allen Classic 2004

Troy Wells, Jeff Weinert, & Josh Snead rock the off-camber in pursuit of Jed Schneider and Todd Wells.

Saturday, November 6, 2004
Camp Hill, PA

The B race had over 70 racers and as usual it was chaos from the start.
I didn't have great legs, but I kept riding hard to the finish.
In the end I finished 32nd after huge amounts of suffering for 45 minutes.
The course suited me well with numerous tight turns and off-cambers, but I never had the power to do anything other than defend my position.

After the race I felt awful, tasting blood and fighting nausea. As usual, 30 minutes later I felt fine and had forgotten how hard the race had been.

Take a look at this photo from early in the B race!

Lower Allen Classic 2004 B's

Monday, November 01, 2004

Evolution Cross Start

Evolution Cross Start

I'm on the far right side of the photo about to make my way to the front.
From there I dropped my chain about a minute later. 8-(