Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Well, it was a tough day at the Washington Park cross races. When I have a good day, I stay with the back.. When I don't.. Here's an example of what unfolds.

The Good

Most of my mounts were much smoother than two weeks ago (which left TONS of room for improvement). All the costumage was wild. And the CX atmosphere was nice as usual. $1 brats topped it off as great. I ran into a good crew of bloggers and non-bloggers that didn't turn and run at the notion of sayin' "Hey" to JWM at the races.. Even if I am one of those "get lapped as a cat 4" guys. Skidmark gave me tips on getting the kids into bike racing. Rick listened to me engineer up several possible cheap ways to get a CX geared bike.. Several others too. That sums up the good.

The Bad

This could get kinda long.. So, I'll sum it up. I stuck with the other racers all the way up to the first hill (20-30 seconds into the race). Wherein I learned I should have ran it as my legs weren't ready to climb it on my gear choice. I spent the rest of the lap in visual sight of 2nd to last.. I was even catching him once in a while.. I was red-lined and trying to keep up. At the point of "maintain this and breakfast comes up", I decided to fall back a bit. It was over from there.. It's a nice long course, and it was a good while before I got lapped.. Still a tough day to swallow.

The Ugly

Well, I didn't toss breakfast.. so not much there. Some of the costumes were pretty wild. In comparison, last night I happened to be coming out of the Oriental Theater just before midnight Halloween weekend (think Rocky Horror Picture Show line).. WOW, nutz! And my without my camera. Minus 10,000 cool points for me. Plus, I now know I'm getting old. As I am so far from being in that line...

Ah.. and I stuck around long enough to see the cat 1-2 riders.. Wow! If you have the means, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

Last night I hopped on the rollers the second time "this season". In my head, rollers is one of my key off season things this go around. Last season I used them, I managed. I never felt near good. I could squeak by. I could do it with extreme concentration. I could do it without falling of (except that once). Do not watch Olympic luge while riding rollers your first season.

One hour and ten minutes on rollers. Time is my only quantitative assessment.

The feel. Somehow, I can already say I have a leg up on them. I'm better. Keeping in mind that one can't forget or get complacent with rollers. They will remind you (or at least me). I still have them next to a treadmill for a grip if I need it. I'm nowhere near setting them mid room and hopping on while watching The Matrix.

For those of you who are roller-less.. I'll make an impromptu list of why punks like us can/should do it:

  • Riding in a straight line is free speed.
  • There has to be some intangible we're getting by keeping the bike straight.
  • When the front wheel spins... When you can ride off the side... It's infinitely more exciting than locking the rear wheel onto a dyno-meter, and falling asleep to SNL while pedlin'. I've been there too.
  • I'm sure the biggest baddest 500 dollar rollers on the block are sweet. 60 bux to a coworker that no longer uses his old Minoura's works pretty well too. My personal experience is medium sized Aluminum rollers are fine. I've never used the really cheap poly ones.
  • People think you're some new kind of crazy. (as if they don't already)
  • Smooth, fast circles. Oh the beauty. (x - x')^2 + (y - y')^2 = r^2 (where (x',y') are the center and r is the radius.
  • Because you don't do them now. Adding them will probably help.
  • One day you might be that person. No need for something to balance on mid-room. Watching The Matrix. And just dead center on the rollers.
Enough promo.. you could always check out some drills.

So, pick up a pair. Find a hallway or door way. And have at it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Mud, The Blood, and the Beer (Cyclocross racin')


The Place: Badger Prairie Park (Verona, Wisconsin).. My last race went through Verona too. So, I had to do this one.

The numbers: 20 bux + 10 for 1 day pass. 30 minutes of racin' (or LT testing).

Weather.. 50F 50% chance of rain.. It was at least raining 50% of the time. Woot! Real live CX weather!

Goals: Not lose site of someone. Anyone.. Go home in once piece.

Lined up w/ 60 or so other riders in cat 4. R. Tool man was afraid I'd do too well as one of them "triathletes". So he let the air outta my tires. Right there with me on the bike at the start line. He said something about mud, and I didn't have time to air them back up before the race. They say go! I'm going easy for the first lap to figure out how to ride mud, and because I didn't pre-ride the course.

This was a good single speed course, minus the mud. It woulda been fast if it was dry.

I HAVE TO work on the mounts. I more or less know how to mount. And I'm thankful to Velonews video to explain you are not to jump up in the air and have your feet race your important parts to the bike. I can get off the bike easy.. getting back on.. well I might as well be waiting for someone to give me a push.

Lap 2, I settled into a groove. Three or four of us trade for last place a few times. I was doing pretty well (relative), in front of that gang on lap 3. Near the end of the lap, out of nowhere I was in the mud, sliding on the ground. Second from last yelled, "GET UP!". I did so, but quick. Run, remount.

Having been lapped and near (or over) 30 minutes, I was done at 3 laps.. I was expecting to go around again one more, so I was holding back coming up to the line a bit. Next time.

Special thanks to the announcer who noticed me right about the time I was "practicing" my mount technique on every lap. It was nice to be recognized.

Goal met. I stuck w/ those 3-4 riders and wasn't totally alone at the end. Right now, lapped is just part of the gig, at least until I put together mounting technique.

I will continue to lust for a sweet geared CX bike. I need to pay some dues first.

Tri-heads who aren't with the program. This could be some killa off season training. I'm sure after a few weeks of this, my LT must improve.


Post race: I grabbed a bagel. I stuck the knife in my hand when I cut it up. No big deal. Just a scrape.. But, I like the title.


I fully intend on cracking one of my favorite Lakefront Pumpkin Lager's open tonight post dinner.

The Prizes

Well, 30 bux and 30 minutes of riding hard... and I won a free Giro E2 helmet to show for it. Raffle style. Perfect!

Monday, October 08, 2007

How To Convince Yourself to Do a Cyclocross Race.

Excuse: you don't have the legs to pull off "newbie Singlespeed Cross race"
Fix: Get a smaller gear than you had. Had 42x17, now 38x18. I may not keep up, but it won't be for the same reasons.

Excuse: You just did a 140.6 mile race. And you're supposed to recover.
Fix: It's been a month. Go to a race, get spit out the back. Maintain, "still recovering" as an excuse.
Long shot on this one: Race into shape. Be so so by the time home course (Estabrook) advantage rolls in.

Excuse: Dismounting, mounting speed and/or success rate.
Fix: Practice. I did today at Estabrook Park. Dismounting got better. Mounting most certainly did not.

Excuse: General fear of crashing.
Fix: Keep riding.

Here's to hanging on this year.

Spectating Shevegas Part 3

The is one sweet bike being pushed up that hill! Bring it tool guy.

And here would be the way to get the bike up so you can really run. This is sheer focus within 8 seconds of her rival. Nice work MK!

Side note: Pics never do these extreme hills / dirt walls justice.. but you can tell by the look of those going up, it was not a joke.
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Spectating Shevegas Part 2

How it's done.

The setup for how NOT to do it. (passing on the right)

Turns out the snap noise was indeed the helmet breaking in 3 places. Score one for helmets.

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Be safe.

Spectating Shevegas Part 1

Well, I decided to get out and get some fresh air. I gave my better half the day off. I took the kids over to the final WORS race of the season. I figured I'd haul my new camera along too, while I'm at it. Well, I made a TON of rookie mistakes on the so called photo shoot. But, I got to say "Hi" to some peeps who seldom see proof this blog is written by much other than a computer and a random text generator.

Lesson 1:

I have a TON of photos that look like this. Yes, these bikers are fast. But, dang if I couldn't have looked at some results in between taking 100 bad pics.

This one turned out better than the rest on accident. Next time, crank up the ISO and follow the biker with the lens. Blurry background will look much better than a non-existent rider.

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Thanks TmonT and son for pointing out said sweet location. The kids had a blast following you guys around, even though all they could do was talk about how strong and fast they are. When they get the training wheels off, you will have to tell them to put up!

More lessons to come.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

All This Time

Complete consternation over cyclocross gear choice. And I could have just hit up Sheldon Brown for advice.

"Choose a good gear. This obviously is the key. You want to chose a gear that lets you not get dropped too badly on the flats and allows you to ride as much as possible on the hills. If you have to get off your bike you better be able to run well (see above). I find a 2:1 is best for me. Although I could see going a bit higher as I get faster. Travis Brown runs a much higher than 2:1, but he is a machine and a half. Being a mere machine, 34:17 works well for me, although I am going to try some races in the 34 16 soon. i think if you are running anything less than 2:1 you need to be able to spin like a mad bastard, consistently through the whole race."

Given that and someone told me "Yeah, I rode 42x17 just fine." I take responsibility for listening. But it's time to switch up from 2.5:1 to closer to 2:1.

And, if I don't get sick from this 0 hours of sleep last night for work, I'm recklessly eyeballing the CX races on the 13Th or 14Th.

Please excuse any mistakes made in this post as I have more or less been on a spirit quest since getting off work.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What the heck is cyclocross?

A question from a loyal reader deserves an answer. Unfortunately, I have only limited knowledge on this subject. Here is what I do know:

  • If you wear your HRM, you will learn what your 1 hour threshold is.
  • You must be able to run.
  • You really must be able to bike.
  • Think road bike with knobby tires.
  • Think mud.
  • Think about a 1-2 mile loop with 3-6 opportunities to practice your bike/run/bike transitions on each loop.
  • You're probably racing against good mountain bikers or roadies that had a bad season and want to take it out on the race course. If you don't think this is true, look at their faces.
  • If they didn't have bad seasons.. Well, they are there too.
  • It's all in good clean (usually muddy) fun.
And, since I can't be much help. Here are other resources.

Well that video link didn't work too well on format.. So please go check out Velonews TV and click on "How To" for the CX "How to's".

Then once you learn the technique.. It might look more like this on race day...

At least go watch one!

For the CXers listening.. What's the smallest single speed gear I have a chance at keeping up with anyone in cat4? More gears isn't likely in the budget this year.