Monday, November 1, 2010

My stomach is full of…sand?

Saturday morning, I woke up—an hour late—feeling like my stomach was full of lava. Or magma. Or maybe just hot pumice. Not making excuses for my poor result in the race, just trying to set up a video.

One of the guys I work had some Naga jolokia, also known as ghost chilis. They are the spiciest chilis in the world—401.5 times hotter than tabasco sauce (not a misprint—four hundred one point five times). Or roughly half as hot as Mad Alchemy medium cold weather embrocation. In conjunction with our Halloween chili cookoff at work, this colleague brought some of these chilis in case anyone was game to eat one straight up.

After coaxing some people to open their wallets ever so slightly (they’re nowhere near as generous as the guys at Adobe, but this was also nowhere near as hard as downing two 10-patty cheeseburgers and a gallon of milk), two of us each ate one. Here’s the footage.

As a result, I had a bit of indigestion. Going to a Halloween party Friday night and chasing it with party food and drink and then dancing with the wife (in my Paul Stanley platform boots) for several hours probably didn’t help. But it was all fun. And fun is what cross racing is about, even if I never really felt good racing.

Then again, I never feel good while I’m racing. I hate cyclocross racing while I’m actually racing. But the rest of the time I love it. The course at Wheeler Farm was awesome, too. If by awesome, you mean “insanely hard with no place to recover.”

Speaking of places to recover, during the B race on Sunday, I had just drilled it through the tight, twisty trail trying to bridge up to the leaders. When we got onto the wide open dirt road, a fine young gentleman in UVU kit who’s drafting behind me starts yelling at me to go faster. Seriously? WTF? Yell at me if you want to pass, yell at me for not pulling through. But when you’re sucking my wheel, don’t yell at me to go faster—come to the front and take a pull. He’s very lucky I’m not the kind of racer to close the door on him coming around a corner and put him in the trees.

That effort chasing the leaders was all for naught, unfortunately. Steve and I were together and in pretty good position coming around a 180 off camber turn. Steve was looking to take a pull on the front, so I went wide to let him through then turned the wheel sharp to get back on line. I should have used a lot more finesse because I rolled my tire. It was my second race of the day and third of the weekend, so I thought real hard about abandoning. But I couldn’t bring myself to quit. I ran back to the pit and got another wheel. Then proceeded to flatten it in almost the same spot two laps later. I ran back and got a neutral spare. It was a file tread. On a muddy course. Not the best combination.

Not that it would have mattered. Steve and I working together with no flats would have never caught Nate Drozd (Salt Cycling) who won convincingly. The announcers said that the lap times for the top five B racers would have put them in the middle of the A field. This was Nate’s third win in five races, and it wasn’t even close. He’s finished second a couple other times, never worse than that. Perhaps he’s in the wrong category?

In the 35B field, it’s even worse. As we approached the barriers on the first lap Sunday morning, Art O’Connor said from the announcer’s booth “this does not look like the front of a B race.” Denny Kalar (Cole Sport) has won three times and finished on the podium two more. John Uibel (3B Yoga-Parks) has lined up for three races. He’s won two and finished second in the third. Travis Mickelson (Contender) has won one and finished on the podium four other times, which wouldn’t be so bad, except that he was top 5 for the season in 35B last year. Kevin Gardner and Cortlan Brown are similarly dominating the C flight.

I get that winning is fun. I love to win. You owe it to yourself to race to win (even if you have no chance of crossing the line first) every time you put on a number. But if you’re racing for nothing more than a number, what are you going to do when the inevitable happens and someone faster comes along? You owe it to yourself to truly compete. And since we’re not sanctioned and people don’t face mandatory upgrades after two wins like they would in a sanctioned race, it’s up to racers to self-select (and up to fellow competitors and organizers to apply pressure if they don’t, natch).

Sure, this is coming off as sour grapes. I’ll freely admit there’s an element of that. I expected at the start of the season to race a few B races just to get the hang of cross and then move up to A. I was self-conscious about racing B at all and told myself as soon as I won a race, I was moving up. It’s a short season, so it’s not very sporting to drag your feet about moving up. Obviously I vastly overestimated my own abilities, but perhaps I underestimated the propensity for sandbagging as well.

If you haven’t moved up but should, what are you afraid of? AnneMarie White won the first two races in Women C, moved up to B, and was on the podium within a couple weeks. Tim Az (Church of the Big Ring) and Peter Archambault (RMCC) duked it out for supremacy in the 35B field last year (until Peter moved to A, that is). This year, Tim has been on the podium in 35A, while Peter has been throwing down in the elite field and finishing top 10. Cody Haroldson never finished better than sixth racing B last year and is racing elite this year. Talk about sacking up.

In road racing, I moved from four to three this year right before the state championship races. I failed miserably in the state crit championship where I thought I could win as a four, but I applied what I learned to come within half a wheel of the state road race podium. Next year, I’ll enter those races in the Pro/1/2 field. I raced with the elites in the Raleigh cross series, even though I finished DFL.

My hat is off to guys like Todd Neumarker (Biker’s Edge), who had never raced cross before this season, and lined up in the elite race his very first time. Todd is an outstanding bike racer and wanted a fair fight. Single speed is an open category, Rick is new to cross, but he’s still willing to throw down with the likes of Rico (Kuhl-Specialized), Matt Ohran (Cannondale), and Bo Pitkin (Church of the Big Ring), all guys who are experienced cross racers and make it the focus of their season.

Even my little JunkieBoy at age six, in his second cross race ever, wasn’t content to fill his bag with sand. He rides a 16 inch kids’ bike that weighs more than my cross bike. It has one gear and a coaster brake in the rear only. We lined up for the kids race, which is divided into A for older kids (two laps) and B for young ones (one lap). He was up front with the A kids, and I started moving us back but paused to ask him if he wanted to ride one lap or two. “Two,” he said. If he wasn’t last, he was close, but I don’t think any of the other six-year-olds did two (if they did, kudos to them, too).

Even in the elite category, where Bart has dominated nearly every week (rumor has it his bike handling skills were had by making a deal with the devil), he’s not content to just win. After Sunday’s race, he told me that this was the kind of course where he could have sat in and then made a late move. “But it doesn’t feel like a bike race if I don’t have to suffer.” So he went early and soloed to the win. Daren, who finally lost Sunday to John McCone (Cole Sport) in the open Masters 45 category, had shifted his focus from just racing to racing the first lap and a half as hard as possible, even if it means blowing up and losing, in order to better prepare himself for nationals. In both cases, even though they’re racing open categories, they’re taking risks rather than getting a win however they can.

As for me, well I’m in no way a dominant B flight racer, yet I still feel like I should be racing with the big boys. It’s just that if I should be in the A’s, so should a lot of other guys. I’m thinking about moving up even if it means getting lapped by Bart and half a dozen others. If I’m going to get my ass kicked anyway, I’d rather have it be by the best than by a JV superstar.


  1. This is my first five races of cyclocross, in fact I just got my own bike last week.Nate Drozd

  2. so someone you named, who now races and does well in an A category, complained about being asked to upgrade, really, awesome.

    I expect mandatory upgrades for many soon. I have won one, count it one CX race ever, A UTCX B flight race in 2003, on my MTB. Matt forced me up after that.

    I always tell people to not move up too soon, but then again, it is all relative.

    I just wanna quit getting beat by people who are on there 2nd race of the day or 4th of the weekend. That is up to me and my legs.

  3. Nate: And that Gin and Trombones you're riding is awesome. It will look really awesome in the start field of the A flight, which is where you belong, fifth race ever notwithstanding.

    Bob: I'm not one to force people to move up too soon. But I didn't name any names of people for whom it seems too soon.

  4. When I watch the A races, all I can think is that "that's the race to be in". I'm a long way from being ready for that. But still, that's the goal. I had some far-off hopes of being ready this year. But perhaps a more reasonable goal is to get into that 35A group. Which would give me 2 seasons to figure this all out.

    Nate's a good guy, and someone I've been chasing around in the ICUP all year. He'll be a solid addition to the A flight when he moves up, but he's no sandbagger.

    I've had some similar thoughts, but the season is only 6 races old, (2 of those races coming in the last 2 days) and so before tis last weekend, it's still been pretty early to tell who should be racing where, especially with so many people trying this out for the first time.

  5. Grizzly: I'm sure Nate is a good guy. And his wins have been nothing short of spectacular. I wish I could ride like that. But as to whether or not he's a sandbagger, that question will be answered based on what race he lines up in going forward.

  6. I say Nate needs to learn how to bunny hop the barriers (on a hill) before he can upgrade to the A flight. Until then, I wouldn't call him a sandbagger.

    Nate- I'd take this as a compliment. I'd love to be invited to race the A flight.

  7. Rick: Anyone called out herein should absolutely take it as a compliment. It means you've kicked some serious ass. Tanner C jumps barriers only slightly better than I do (which is to say not at all) and still does just fine in the A races. Oh yeah, and he's only 18. Noah Talley is 15, was racing junior 10-14 and then C flight last year, and is now holding his own in the A's.

  8. i'm just messing around. I really don't give a crap who races in what cat. I just want more mud races.

  9. Sandbagger? In my limited racing career (this year only) I have been fortunate. Is some experience 3-4 races a bad idea before an upgrade to the A's? I was also told not to upgrade yet to gain more experience (i may have 10 race days this year on all types of bikes.) Maybe you should downgrade and you may see some podium time or be more competitve. J/K

    In all seriousness we are all amatures either trying to gain some experience or have fun and all enjoy ourselves.

    p.s I am not looking for a internet fight just defending my starting in your chosen field 3 times. email me if you have any questions,



  10. You downed a ghost pepper for only a little cash? Uh, don't you have some training in finance, you know, ROI and such?

    My friend ate a Habanero pepper once for a raffle ticket. He had his face in the drinking fountain for half an hour and it didn't help. He said the worse part was when it came out. I believe he called it the ring of fire.

  11. ANd really, re the video, tell Nielson to cut that damn hair.

  12. John: Actually, getting my face out of the feed trough would probably lead to more podium time than a downgrade, but you were too polite to call me out on that.

    Your handle of "Luckyride" is interesting. You and I both know you're a strong racer and you work hard at it. Luck's got nothing to do with it. Good fortune's got nothing to do with it (beyond genetics at least). Hard work and training have everything to do with it. So don't discount what you've worked hard to achieve with words like "luck" and "fortune."

    I really don't care where you race. Like I said, I'd rather get my ass kicked by the best. I've already spent more time in the B races than I planned on, it's just taken me longer than anticipated to figure this damned sport out.

    As for when to upgrade, that's up to you. FWIW, I've done six MTB races in my entire life. Got 3rd as a beginner, moved to sport (five years and 0 races later), got first and third in two sport races, moved to expert and got my ass kicked. I won my first crit in a C flight race at RMR last summer. Moved to B the next week. But if winning two and getting second in another (not to mention winning the only road race you entered this year) leaves you feeling as if you've still got more to learn about racing your bike, by all means, stay where you are.

    (And unlike you, I wanna ride (or ski) all morning long and internet fight every day. You stepped right into this one. Thanks for playing.)

  13. Kris: I was going to eat the pepper anyway, out of curiosity. Given that I would have done it for free, coaxing some cash out of my colleagues seems like a pretty good ROI to me.

    As for the ring of fire, I spent two years as a missionary eating arbol chiles and jalepenos on a thrice daily basis. My butt hole was pretty well cauterized within a couple of weeks. The ghost pepper bore that out. Indigestion, yes. Burning exit, no.

  14. Dear officer Albrecht,
    Hi, my name is Hugh Jass and I would like to thank you for policing the local cyclocross scene. I am also a mid pack racer like yourself and I just want to let you know how much I appreciate your efforts to rid each class of the JV Superstars. I will feel a lot better about myself and where I finish once these guys move up. Take Saturday for instance, maybe you could have finished in 15th or 16th without all these sandbaggers. Unless of course the two guys from the C flight move up then you're right back to the same finish, oh well.
    Anyway, keep up the good police work and good luck on becoming lap traffic in the A class.

    Sincerely, Hugh

  15. SBJ: In my limited knowledge and quest for more racing experience I guess I was always under the wrong impression that the race is always at the FRONT. Maybe I will "sack" up and race with the A's if I race again (wheeler was going to be my 2010 retirement race.)

    In my 25 years of riding on the side of the road I have seen alot of changes in the attitude of bike riders. People are not happy for others success as much. I have no problem getting worked as long as I feel competitive. I dont think upgrading as quickly as possible to be a pack-filler in the results works for me. albeit it may be time to uprgrade. As I said I enjoy training MUCH more than racing likey resulting in why i dont race much. love to do training rides with you.

  16. Upgrade to the A's you get more for your moneys worth with 60 mins of hell instead of 45. I play UNO with my kids when i want a "W". I race with the 35 A's when i want a hard fun race where i get me ass kicked.

  17. Hugh: You're welcome. And thanks for the well wishes. Also thanks for coming to visit. Traffic has been approaching all-time highs.

    Luckyride: The race is at the front, to be certain. Having raced against Art, Bo, and Sam on the road, I wouldn't have called you out if I didn't think you could hang at the front of the A race. I race bikes because I like to push myself to see what I can accomplish. Once I succeed at one level, I'm anxious to see how that translates at the next. YMMV.

    Seth: I'll sign up for A's if your kids will invite me over to play UNO.

  18. That was probably the dumbest thing I have ever watched. What was up with the milk? That should be against the rules. You would have had to say no to the liquids then I would have thrown $20 to watch.

  19. Yo BDog, milk tranquilizes the spicy. Haven't you sprayed yourself with pepper spray before? Gotta wash the eyes out with milk or it will burn for years.

    (I can't believe I just admitted that.)

    Your little video, makes me yearn 'n burn (har har) for the days when I worked in an office. With people.

  20. Thanks for the kudos, but I am pretty sure I don't deserve it. Signing up for the A Flight is as easy as saying "A Flight" when the girl at the registration booth asks you what category. Flatting twice and crashing because the pit wheel wasn't on all the way and then nursing a slow leak and bleeding elbow actually wasn't all that difficult either.

    As for categories, whatever gets attendance up at races, I am all for. If people like to win, and that gets them out to the races, great. We all have different goals as riders, and if you think someone is sandbagging in your category, work on beating him/her and at least you will have a more constant gauge of your own performance.

  21. Todd: You're absolutely right. All you have to do is sign up to race in the A flight. Only thing holding me back is that I'm so slow I'd get lapped. If racing in a lower category gets people out to races, then great. But we had 70+ C flight racers on Saturday versus 30 some in the A's. A lot of those C's would be competitive B's. A lot of the B's would be competitive A's. Once you've proven you can win at the JV level, what's left to stick around for? Move up and prove yourself against the best.

  22. Oh, and he is only 18. Noah Talley is 15, was the junior 10-14 race, then fly C last year and is currently holding its own in the early.
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  23. I'm also a half-pack runner like you and I just want you to know how much we appreciate their efforts to deliver to each class of superstars JV. I feel much better about myself and where I will end once these guys move up.


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