Friday, November 23, 2007

caught by the cold

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom

The entire house has been fighting a relentless cold for over a week now. We had been planning on doing the big Thanksgiving Day ride at Avalon, but there was no way we could make it work in our condition.

60+ degree temperatures at 8am made it tough to stay inside and the jones to ride on such days is a powerful force. After our midday Thanksgiving meal, Mel's Mom agreed to stick around so that we could get out for some sort of ride.

We weren't moving fast and we left a trail of snot behind us, but we had a nice time out in the woods. The colorful display of Fall foliage was split between the trees and the trail making for a visual treat that Hunter S. Thompson might have envisioned on a psychadelic excursion. Our timing was perfect as a cold front blew in towards the end of our ride. Cold wind and drizzle chased us back to the warm phlegm-factory that is our home.

Later that evening while exploring the internets Thor and I put away some chips and salsa with an orange juice (him) and a Clipper City Heavy Seas Category 5 Winter Storm Ale. (me) The kid has a strong appreciation for the finer things in life.


This morning we rallied to make the trip into Charm City for the Holiday Festival of Trains (and arrival of Santa) at the B&O Rail Museum. We had a ball watching Santa arrive by train and even got to take a train ride ourselves.


The B&O is a fantastic museum housed in an old roundhouse full of a variety of vintage trains.
Good stuff.

Now, back to being sick...but I can't help but get out for some kind of ride on the trails today. The rain never really happened so conditions are still excellent. I think I'll take the geared mountain bike out for the first time in months so that I can take it easy.

Probably no racing for me this weekend since we're all under the weather, but I'll be back for Reston and Rockburn to close out my season.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom
Here's our butterball.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Originally uploaded by cbnystrom

fun time at the playground racing down the tunnel slide and throwing rocks in the creek.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What makes a 'cross course?

One of my favorite things about cyclocross is the diversity of race courses. Each race has it's own personality and challenges. Different features favor different riders. Each race is different.

Are you a mudder? A runner? A good bike driver? A diesel? A climber? A technician?

A cyclocross course exposes your strengths and your weaknesses. A good 'crosser will work hard to improve weaknesses and become well-rounded. Your strengths will always be your strengths, but improving your weaknesses is satisfying and beneficial.

I like the fact that there are many ways that you can improve. It's not just about putting out more power, though that usually helps!

Sunday's race has me thinking about what makes a cyclocross course. The Race Pace track had zero dismounts. Are dismounts absolutely necessary? No. However, I would prefer that racers have to get off their bikes at least once per lap.

Well executed dismounts, remounts, and bike handling are a thing of beauty, balletic in my mind. They are the ARTISTIC part of 'cross. Power and speed are the science. The combination of the two creates an allure that gets my juices flowing.

Race Pace Promoter Rodger Carter wanted a faster, less technical course and that's cool. I really enjoyed the race and the changes made from last year. His explanation of why they didn't include any dismounts is interesting. He says that when 'cross was developed the running part was intended to keep the racers warm since the races were run in the cold, wet winters of northern Europe.

Since our races are run under much milder temperatures there isn't the same need to keep the racers warm. So, an Autumn race season and global warming are the reasons for the decline of dismounts and running in cyclocross? Interesting theory, but I'm not buying.

He also argues that a racer should be able to do well on all types of courses and I totally agree there. However, I think you can throw in a set of planks or force a run-up and still have a fast, non-technical course. If you're going to forgo any forced dismounts you should incorporate more technical sections (like the off-cambers at Race Pace).

That said, a rainy day would have made this track very tough...I'm thinking 3 dismounts and some very slippery grassy sections. If that happens you can always remove the planks. Anyway, I'm not bitching...just contemplating what makes a 'cross.

Diversity in cylcocross courses is a GREAT THING. I had a blast at the Guy's/Evo MAC mud-fest weekend last year where there was a shitload of running per lap and I also enjoyed Race Pace where I never had to get off my bike. It's all racing and none of it is easy.

While I think that most 'cross races should be more in the middle of the ride-run spectrum, it's fun do one at the extreme from time to time.

The season is nearing it's end, but my enthusiasm is still boundless.

Off-topic, but good reading:
Michael Lewis on what really drives Wall St. and much of the business world.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Race Pace CX

Race Pace Cross
Masters 3/4
Sykesville, MD

My original plan was to do Beacon, but we had some stuff come up with work, etc. and my schedule got messed up so I opted to stay local.

This was my third time doing this race and the course has changed every year. I'd say this was the best yet and with a few tweaks it could be a super track. The best way to describe it is fast and conducive to group racing. It has some bumpy grass sections, a few tricky turns, a decent little climb, and one technical off-camber section. Mostly you are just flying around with nothing to slow you down. Zero dismounts. Just one small log that is easy to hop. With a set of planks at the base of one of the short, steep rises you'd have a nice run-up.

Bernie and I lined up front row with the rest of the crew. I got the hole shot and punched it on the first climb. Matt Michel went with me and I pulled him around the first lap. The course had a lot of drafting sections and he was content to sit on even though we had a decent little gap.

Coming up the finish straight of lap one he was still on my wheel and started to sprint for the bikereg prime. I was hoping to just keep a steady tempo, but I also didn't want to give away the prime so I jumped and beat him to the line.

After that I needed to recover. There was a big group of about 6 or 8 guys chasing and I knew I had a choice of blowing up or recovering. Easy choice. I slowed and recovered.

When that group made contact I could see Bernie dangling just off the back so I went really slow through the next few turns to help him make him contact with the group. As soon as Bernie got back on Karl Konnelly from LSV attacked.

I went with him and Barry Holman and Ron Huebner tagged on too. That strung out the group and Roger Masse was a few more wheels back. Seeing that Roger was not with us the four of us decided to work together to keep him from bridging. We drilled it the next two laps and just rolled it really well trading pulls. Karl took some monster pulls and really made the difference in us getting a solid lead. Huebner was getting gapped and just dangling a few seconds back the whole time.

With 2 to go I worked my way to the front by working some cornering mojo to get past Barry and then Karl. There was a bunny-hoppable log late each lap followed by a grassy rise up to the finishing straight. On the penultimate lap I took the log at speed and sprinted up the rise. Behind me Holman had a little trouble on the log and lost momentum. That held up the other guys too.

Seeing that I had a gap I went all out and buried myself to make it stick. I made myself truly hurt the first half of the last lap before I looked back and saw that I had the winning gap. Then I just made sure I rode it cleanly. I came up the finishing straight and had time to zip up the skinsuit and raise my arms across the line.

race pace cx 07 finish

That gives me the points to upgrade to cat 2 which I hope to do at the end of the season. Then I'll be able to get my ass kicked in elite masters next year.

It felt awesome winning again. The cool thing is that Melanie and the boys were there cheering me on. Thor was yelling "go Dada" each time I came by. That gave me a tremendous boost each lap. I may never win another bike race so I'm really happy that they got to see me win this one.



Post-race some buddies from The Morning Ride busted out a big bottle of Brooklyn Local One for a celebratory recovery beverage. That capped off a fun race in style!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Not quite

Thanks to some excellent photographic work by Dennis Smith we see that I wasn't quite on Kelly's wheel coming out of the final 180 degree turn. Note to self, stick to that wheel!


But I did try really really hard to get back up there before I ran out of race course.


Good stuff. I love cyclo-cross!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Isn't it a bit early to be anaerobic?

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom
Yeah, it's early but this is ~my~ time. "My time" being defined as when everyone else is asleep. Damn that hurt, but I feel good and I feel alive...although I could use a cup of coffee. Life is good.

Monday, November 05, 2007


This is cool.

Get your 'cross video fix at Crosstube.

Fair Hill (Wayne Scott Memorial) 'Cross

Wayne Scott 'Memorial' Cross at Fair Hill
Masters 3/4

fairhill 256

Normally a thorough course inspection to dial in the good lines is one way that I can make up for lack of talent and training time. Learning the best speed and lines through turns, proper tire pressure, and the spots on the course where you can rest or attack is a fun challenge and it can make a big difference in my racing.

However, if time is tight or circumstances dictate you do the best you can with what you have. That was my story on Saturday morning. I arrived in time to get one lap on the track so that it wasn't a complete surprise. On many courses this would have been ok, but on a Tom McDaniel track it's not enough.

The course was outstanding with many technical turns, a soul-draining sand section, and some tricky dismounts to test your CX skills. There wasn't a lot of climbing, but the wind made up for that.

Starting on the front row I got off the line quickly establishing an immediate gap. I kept the lead for a while but I didn't have the course dialed in so I wasn't riding the course all that cleanly. I was slowing for turns where I would normally go a lot faster. Bike driving is usually one of my few strengths but yesterday I couldn't figure out the correct line and speed for many of the turns.

fairhill 196

The chasers caught me, but not before I got the lap 1 prime ($25 cash and a bikereg t-shirt!). That was a nice bonus!

fairhill 004
fairhill 005
fairhill 007
fairhill 038

I settled into second place on the wheel of der Jan. I felt fine since I had stayed within my limit for the start and lap 1. In my mind we were going to work together to establish a gap and then battle it out.

fairhill 097

Then I f-ed it up. Jan gapped me very slightly when I flubbed a turn but I wasn't worried as it was only a gap of a few feet. But then I had to slow for the next turn while he flowed through without touching the brakes.

Now the gap was about 5 seconds. That doesn't sound like much but in a 'cross race that's a real gap! I kept the gap in check for a while until I crashed coming out of one of the horse corrals. I tried to go fast through a loose turn and found myself on the deck. That sucked. Now I was really sketched out about turning my bike. I was choking worse than a rookie pole smoker!

3rd place (course designer Tom McDaniel) passed me and I had a tough next lap as I was frustrated from the fall and my inability to drive my bike! Then a group of 3 caught me...all strong dudes: Roger Masse, John Miller, and Kelly Cline. Behind them there was a big gap. I sat on this group for a while but then 2 of the guys attacked after I messed up yet another turn!

I ~did~ manage to stay with the wily Kelly Cline and we had an intense battle the last few laps! We took turns marking, attacking, and counter-attacking. I was feeling good now, but I was still a little hesitant in some of the turns.

Early in the last lap I got in front and attacked him again and again! I was sprinting out of every turn and letting it all hang out. I figured he would crack, but each time he rode right back to my wheel.

It was going to come down to a sprint and the finishing straight was a short stretch of road out of a tricky 180 degree turn. I wanted to lead it out but he made an agressive (and awesome!) pass just before the last turn. When he came by his rear wheel fishtailed as he avoided a tree but he kept it upright. It was impressive.

I stayed on his wheel out of the 180 but there wasn't enough road for me to even attempt coming around him. I got beat by a strong dude that is also a very smart bike racer. He played me that last lap, but I learned a few tricks in the process. It was excellent racing and yet another reminder of why I love 'cross. Yeah, it hurts, but it's strangely satisfying.

So I finished in 6th, one spot off the podium. That's probably a good thing because I had to head home immediately so I would not have been able to stay for the podium anyway. Jan took another impressive victory. He a strong dude and a great guy. I owe him a thank you for hooking me up with a cup of coffee pre-race. Without that I probably would not have finished the race. 8-)

I'm happy with my race. If I had arrived earlier and gotten more time pre-riding the course and learning the lines like I normally do I would have been a lot more comfortable in the race and perhaps would have been able to stay out front a while longer or at least held onto Jan's wheel. But that's neither here nor there. I'm just glad I was able to get out and race my bike!

Congrats to FSVS and the DCCofD for another first class race. That's two in one season. My hat is off to them. They do a ton for the cyclocross community and it is appreciated.

Next up...I don't know, but I'm racing somewhere this weekend!


Narcissistic, vanity photo spread courtesy of the talented Kevin Dillard!
The other photo links are from Anthony Skorochod.
Thank you to all the photographers out there.