Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Muscle Works

I should have known something was up when the receptionist asked me if I needed any gym shorts. For a massage? I'm comfortable enough with my own bare ass that a towel is just fine.

Then I walked into the room. There were no candles, no mood music, just a softball on the bookshelf and some posters from Bob's company showing what the various muscles in the human body are named. The blinds were open, the lights were on. I began second guessing my decision not to accept the gym shorts.

A couple minutes later, Stacy came in with a clipboard in her hand and asked me about problem areas. I explained that I had crashed in a bike race and landed on my head and now my neck hurt. I also told her I have chronic back spasms from an auto accident but that those had disappeared for some reason after my crash.

She explained that they don't mess around with full body stuff, they just go to work on the problem areas. And then she proceeded to beat the shit out of me for 45 minutes. She didn't tell me to relax or to stop crying or to hold still. When she saw that it hurt, she just made it hurt more. Which kind of sucked at the time, but now I feel much better.

Enough better that when she said I needed to come back on Friday, I didn't even hesitate. I've been led to believe I'll be ready to race on Saturday.

Monday, November 28, 2011

36 out of 37

Saturday was Clammy Cross #3. Josh, the promoter, indicated that there would be prizes for hopping the barriers. I am not typically a barrier hopping kind of guy, so I figured I'd skip that competition. Until I got to the venue, that is.

Josh had set up five barriers--two short barriers in sequence with a brief gap before two more short barriers, and then a slightly longer gap before a 40 cm, UCI regulation height barrier. The gap between the first two sets wasn't enough to be worth remounting. Remounting between the fourth and the fifth made sense, but hopping the first four and dismounting for the fifth seemed like it would be the fastest way to go. In practice I attempted the shorter barriers with enough success that I decided I'd give them a go during the race if I was feeling good.

I got my typical fast start on the first lap, second into the hole shot, then got around the leader on the first technical move only to have Rick and one other racer pass me on the climb. I held their wheels on the climb and descent and into the grassy turns, then came around before heading into more technical goodness in the woods.

I had a decent gap on the field without digging too deep. This was uncharted territory for me. Usually if I'm on the front after a lap, it's because I've been pinning it and am well into oxygen debt and ripe for an implosion. The barriers were situated at the end of the lap near the start/finish, and I decided to try hopping. I cleared the first four cleanly and with little effort. I made the mistake of thinking about the glory of hopping the fifth.

In the brief seconds I had to dismount before the 40cm, repurposed steel scaffolding barrier, I thought of nothing other than the glory of hopping the big one as well. I stayed on my bike.

Momentarily, at least. I got my front wheel up and over only to be catapulted into the air when my rear wheel struck the barrier. I saw my bike fly over the top of me before I landed squarely on my head and heard a crunching sound in my neck.

I was surprised at how long it took for the field to catch and pass me while I picked myself up, put my chain back on, and remounted. In hindsight I could have put that gap to good use on the ensuing laps. Instead, I was playing catch up and dug a pretty deep hole in that process.

Nominally, I had my best result ever in a cross race - 5th place (likely would have been one place lower had Rick not ripped a sidewall). I was hoping for a top five going in, so I should be pleased with that. I cleared all four short barriers on each of the subsequent eight laps. 36 barriers is 36 more barriers than I've ever hopped in a cross race. I should be pleased with that. Instead, all I can think of is how good I felt on lap one and what might have been. I'm also left with a nasty case of whiplash, bruised hands, scabs on my forehead, and a broken helmet. At least the X-rays were negative.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Two races left

At the beginning of the season, I bought the eight race pass for the 12 event UTCX series. I didn't buy the 12 pass because I figured there would be some weekends when I wanted a break. So far I have missed one race, day two of the Halloween double cross weekend, and that was only because I had an all-day class on Sunday. I would have preferred to skip the class and race.

We have two races left, and the only question is whether I will limit myself to just one race per day at each of the last two. The decision is a matter of affecting my result in the 35A race in order to double up and race single speed. I probably won't do it. Perhaps I'm taking things too seriously. I'm sure nobody but me thinks of eighth place as being much different than tenth place, but it feels like progress. And progress is a big part of what makes racing fun.

Speaking of progress, Saturday's eighth place was one short of my best placing of the season. I felt like I raced well and felt especially good the last two laps. It was muddy for the third week in a row, and I was in the top 10 for the third week in a row. I love racing in the mud. I also benefited from two guys having mechanicals that otherwise would have finished ahead of me. But that's 'cross--crashes and mechanicals will get you for a couple positions one week, so you take the positions back when you can.

There's been a fair bit of discussion about sandbagging, much of that driven by a very tight three-way race in the team competition. Some of the people that are consistently winning or placing in the lower categories feel as though they can't move up because their team needs their points. When I was a junior in high school, I really enjoyed winning JV football games.

I really don't care who races where, as we're all doing this for fun. All I know is that I have a lot of fun racing with the group of guys I race with, and it's only become more fun since Grizzly Adam joined us. Thomas and Tim lay waste to the rest of the field every week. They are a class apart, to the point that there have been suggestions that they try racing A rather than 35A. One of them will likely win the state championships next weekend. And the overall for the season will probably come down to double points in the finale. If either changes categories, it takes something away from the other and from the rest of us who have been chasing them all year.

Friday, November 11, 2011


One of my pet peeves in the popular cycling media is the misappropriation of the word "PRO" (in all caps, no less), especially when one uses that term to describe one's self for having accomplished the singular task of donning expensive Italian-made clothing for the Sunday morning group ride. Perhaps my annoyance derives from the implication, intentional or not, that the career cat. 3s using this term are just one degree removed from actual professionals just because they've managed to minimize the unsightly bulges in their snappy red, black, and white kit.

While I will be the first to admit that a nice looking kit and a fast looking bike provide motivation to get out and ride, let's not fool ourselves into thinking that top shelf stuff puts us anywhere near the status of a true professional. In the first USGP event of 2011, Ryan Trebon averaged 472 watts over 60 minutes en route to victory. No kit in the world will even put you in the same area code as that kind of an effort.

"Pro" should be used to describe actual professionals, whether that's the journeyman domestic pro who doesn't know if his team will even exist next year, the rookie that blazed through the amateur ranks en route to his first contract (congratulations, Nate!), or the reigning world champion.

But "PRO" should be reserved for the type of athlete who, while holding both yellow jersey and rainbow stripes of world champion, provides the leadout for a teammate. Or who, while marked by every team in the race, manages to solo to victory anyway in two consecutive monuments. PRO athletes are the guys and gals that transcend their discipline, the people who are admired by pros within their sport and others, the athletes like Kelly Slater.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Saturday we raced at Wasatch County Fairgrounds. It snowed a couple times during the week, so I was excited for a race that wouldn't be on a fast, dry course. When I arrived at the venue and pre-rode the course, I was even more excited--lots of turns and very punchy with no long straights of more than 200 meters or so.

I got a decent start, fourth place into the first turn and the muddiest section of the course. I gave up a couple more spots as the lap went on but never went too deep and was feeling good. Over the next couple of laps, I lost a few more spots until I finally settled into a back and forth with Seth.

For the last half of the race, Seth would pass me on a paved section, and I would pass him back on a 180 in the grass. Neither of us managed to gap the other until the last lap when, in his usual passing spot, Seth got a gap of about five seconds. I tried to bring it back, but the best I could do was hold it steady into the final turn.

In the final straight, I went as hard as I could hoping I could catch Seth. With about 50 meters to go, Seth looked back again and realized I was getting close. He got up on the pedals, but I had the momentum. I got around him with about 10 to go.

Sprinting it out at the end of a race is always fun--regardless of outcome, it's one of my favorite things about racing. But the outcome in this case had no bearing on how much fun I had racing. Between the course setup and the conditions, I don't think I could have possibly enjoyed myself more. And while 10th place may not be anything to write home about, it was my best result since UTCX #1, so I'll take it. It came after my first week of quality training since the beginning of the season. Wonder if there's any correlation?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

96 minutes

Spent 96 minutes riding the trainer last night. That equals two episodes of Breaking Bad. During that 96 minutes, I had two flat tires. On the trainer. I know.

Lemme 'splain. My road tubulars are shot. Like almost down to the casing shot. So I have been riding them on the trainer. Last night the rear finally gave up the ghost. So I grabbed my clinchers from the garage, which are currently acting as my spares for cyclocross, which meant either riding a 'cross tire on the trainer or swapping to a road tire. I swapped. And in my haste didn't check for a pinched tube. Which worked its way flat in about 20 minutes.

I had about 15 minutes left and ordinarily would have just called it a night. But here's the thing about Breaking Bad--it's so good that I had to finish the episode. And if I was going to finish, I may as well get more ride time. So I put in a new tube and kept pedaling. The only question is whether this is my secret to maintaining fitness over the winter, or if I will just get lazy and watch Breaking Bad without riding once cyclocross season ends. Place your bets.