Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Daylight Saving Time

I hate the longer DST year. Sunrise today was 7:22 which means that it's just getting light as I'm leaving coffee after my morning ride. That's OK for December, but it just shouldn't happen in October. Especially since we are having a nice Indian summer. Anyway, on my way home, I stopped and took this picture. Something good has to come of this.

And for Fritz, a baiku:
Daylight Saving Time.
Post Morning Bike Ride Coffee.
It's Still Dark Outside.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sunrise Park Race

My next adventure in bike racing was the ABD Sunrise Park race in Bartlett. This was another Chicrosscup race and again I raced in the Cat 4 A group. It was a beautiful day and when I left my house, weather.com reported that it was going to be sunny, windy and in the low 50s. I stocked up on a variety of base layers, arm warmers and gloves in an effort to be prepared for the actual conditions upon arrival.

Well all my planning wasn’t enough. When I got there, it was nearly 60 degrees and with the sun out, all I needed was shorts and my short sleeve jersey. Unfortunately, I was convinced that it was going to be colder and had already dressed in knickers (which wasn’t a bad idea--protect the knees and all). Worse, somehow I didn’t bring a pair of summer gloves so I decided to go bare handed.

Fashion and technical wear decisions out of the way, I rode along the trail from the school parking lot to the registration area. I signed in and said hello to a couple of fellow Alberto’s teammates and warmed up. The course consisted of two sections of double barriers both ending on hills, a number of long straight sections, a number of sharp turns that seemed awfully narrow to my rookie eyes and a short, but very steep hill that came after a sharp right turn. I'll have to remember to get in to my lowest gear in advance for this.


This time I decided to take a practice lap and, of course, wound up starting in the back of the field of 44 racers. This did give me a much needed look at the course, but cost me a decent early field position. The race began into a long straight section which then stacked up at the first sharp turn. I’m going to have to change my strategy for the next race.

I felt better in this race than the previous ones which I am chalking up to experience (80%) and improved fitness (20%). I handled the barriers well, running to the top of the hills and passing a couple of riders who were remounting their bikes on the incline. I was also able to pass several riders on the long gentle inclined section. I ascended that short steep hill each lap without having to dismount as a few riders in front of me were forced to do when they ran out of forward momentum. During the second lap, I took a fall on one of those tight turns and this made me more tentative in the turns for the rest of the race which I’m sure cost me a few places. On the plus side, for the first time I actually remembered to check to see how many laps were left. On the last lap, I set a goal to pass the six riders in front of me, two close and four further ahead. On the incline, I overtook the duo and, with three quarters of a lap to go, started to close in on the group of four. At one point, I was right on the wheel of the fourth rider, but my tentativeness in the turns allowed them to gap me enough that I couldn’t catch them. I made a final effort over the short, steep hill and a final sprint, but it wasn’t enough. Still, this was my best race yet and I took 27th place, good enough for 4 points in the standings. These were my first race points ever and it felt good to achieve that goal.

Next up is Campton Cross in St. Charles. And a new goal...crack the top 20.

Monday, October 29, 2007

News of the Weird

Man who had sex with bike in court.

The headline is a little misleading. A quick read of the article and we learn that the incident happened in a hostel, not the court. We also learn that the sex with the bike was "simulated" (as opposed to...what?) and the accused was placed on the sex offenders’ register. Is that because the bike was underage or didn't give consent? And if it was this bike, does that make it a crime of passion?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Carpenter Park Race

(photo by Carolyn)
After hosting 79 of us in the Cat 4 race in Jackson Park four weeks ago, the Chicago Cyclocross Cup committee decided to split the men’s 4 into an “A” and “B” race. Since this was my first year racing cross, I qualified for “B”, but I decided to race “A” for no other reason than stubbornness. Or maybe it was pride. Either way I get to lower my expectations of grandeur.

On the drive to the race, I got a call from Barry who had raced the Masters 40+ that morning. He warned me that this was going to be a lot more difficult than Jackson Park, telling me tales of ravines I would have to jump across and about the sand pit where just yesterday they held a monster truck competition. I gritted my teeth and drove on.

As soon as I arrived, I could tell that this was going to be a different experience than racing the Trash Dash the previous day. The park was beautiful and there was music playing, giving this race a festive, party-like atmosphere. Unlike the gritty prelude-to-pain of the previous day, today was inviting in the same way a bear seems to smile at you before the mauling.

On the way to the bandstand where I would sign in, I ran into another Alberto’s rider, Debbie, who had been tearing up the Cat 4 races and had just upgraded and raced 1/2/3 where she took 5th. She wished me luck.

A quick ride around the perimeter of the course showed me just what I had signed up for. This was going to be far more challenging than either Jackson Park or Whitewater. In addition to the sand pit, there were other added attractions like the two small ravines. The first had a barrier in front of it and required a dismount and carry/jump across while the other was more of a deep “V” and could be ridden (more on that later). There was a double barrier into a climb up a short steep hill and then around you go to ride up and down that same hill.

I took a few easy laps around the park on the road to warm up and met up with Franco, a strong Masters rider that I’ve ridden with on the occasional weekday morning. Knowing I was new at this, he passed on some words of advice that wound up saving me some time. First, he showed me that on the first ravine that it was better to carry (or roll) the bike around the tree so the remount can be done on ground that was flat or slightly downward sloping. If you remount too soon, it’s on an uphill and you lose time. During the race, I actually passed two guys on two separate laps this way. Franco also made sure I knew proper shoulder carry form and that I shouldn’t try to ride the sand pit. I thanked him and continued on my warm up.

I couldn’t resist snapping a few pictures, but time was short so it was just a few shots of the sand pit before returning the camera to the car and making my way over to where the riders were lining up by the start line. After the Cat 1/2s were done they let us onto the course and we lined up at the start. At this point, I could either keep my position in the front line, or preride the course and wind up in the back. This was bad decision #1. The lap would have given me some much-needed practice on the course and saved me the embarrassment of starting up front and having nearly everyone pass me long before the first barrier.

A few final announcements and the race was on. It was a fast start and I fell through the pack like a salmon coming up lame halfway upstream. One advantage of this was that by the time I reached the first barrier, I had plenty of room to clear it. Hey look, one bike, no waiting.

My first near-crash-experience was with the crossing of the “V” ravine. All the racing before me had carved two deep channels across it and I saw that the 1/2 racers were able to ride into it, lift their front wheel and ride out at a pretty good clip. Thinking I could duplicate their skill was bad decision #2 and I hit the opposite side hard, but kept the bike upright and was able to continue on. I diagnosed the problem as not enough wheelie and vowed to do better the next time around. My next challenge was the sand pit which I cleared beautifully. Remount the bike, zoom around the curve, downshift, accelerate up the hill click down three cogs to continue to accelerate down the hill and I was feeling good.

On the next lap, I attempted to ride through the “V” ravine again. This was bad decision #3 and my unpracticed wheelie skills resulted in a crash and a dropped chain, but no damage to either man (alleged) or machine. Dismount, replace chain, remount and go. Second crossing of the sand pit was a little harder, but I was still looking good. Around the tree, up over the hill and down and I began to get into a rhythm.

With a little time to think before the next barrier, I decided to carry the bike across the “V” ravine this lap. OK. Dismount, jump, run, remount and ride. Hey, I thought, maybe my problem was I was going too fast. Yeah. That’s it. Ooops, coming up fast, brake, turn into the “V” ravine, shift my weight back and voila! Success. Now I’m racing. Now I’m thinking. Here comes the sand. Dismount, shoulder carry and I’m through. A little slower, but my skills feel good. Around the tree and…that’s funny...I’m on the ground. Never mind. Get up remount, over the hill and go. I figure that I must have caught my pedal on the ground sloping away from the tree. I must not have had enough clearance (Clarence). Roger that, Roger.

Around again and it’s a clean lap. No hits, decent runs and no errors. I’m just getting slower (and Leon is getting larger). The sand is getting deeper and I pass a guy who makes the identical error on that turn around the tree that I did. I clear the hill and pass the band stand and, the race is over. All this time that I was concentrating on what’s coming up I never thought to look to see how many laps were left. I thought there might have been one more, but I’m cooked. I gratefully pull over to the side get off the bike and gracefully drop to the ground and lay there on my back spread eagled and breathing hard. I open my eyes to an Alberto’s jersey asking me how I felt. I managed a “Next time, Lucy, don’t take the football away.”

Erik wound up coming in just ahead of me. I placed 35 out of 45. Of course, I raced the day before, so I was pretty tired going in.

I cleaned up, changed, put the bike on the car and headed home with one thought on my mind. Can salmon really pull up lame?

Your Bike is Hot

While putting off finishing my blog post on the Carpenters Park race, I found this cool web site. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Trash Dash Rehash

Via the MadCross website, I was able to locate some pictures of me during the Whitewater Trash Dash. In case you're interested, the whole picture gallery is here.

Looking fully color coordinated and like I know what I'm doing.




That face. An impervious mask of concentration hiding all the suffering and pain. And humiliation. Hmmm...some company is going to have to make arm warmers that stay up. Either that or I'm going to have to get some of those, what do you call them? Oh yeah, biceps.



And the results are in. Turns out I beat every other entrant in my race from Illinois. Both of them. I also beat three guys from Wisconsin including someone named, I kid you not, Uphill. There were also 14 guys I didn't beat including more unattached riders than a CBF Veggie Bike and Dine. 15th out of 20. Of course that's because I was saving myself for the Carpentersville race the next day. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Trash Dash at Whitewater

decided to do the Trash Dash cyclocross race in Whitewater. Even though I was planning to race the next day in Carpentersville, and I knew this would be hard on my body, I figured I could use the skills practice and it would be a kick. After all, I'm only in this for fun (not that a podium finish seems to be in my near, or any other future) and this would be an adventure, something to tell the grandkids someday (you know, while they're playing 4-D interactive holographic games and not paying any attention to me) and, most importantly, a chance to race against Cat 4 riders in my age group. In the Chicrosscup, there are Cat 4 races and Masters races, and since I give away age to the former and ability to the latter, I thought, why not give this a shot. To top it off, the race was less than two hours away and the weather report was unseasonably beautiful. Sounds great.

Mine was the first race of the day so I set out bright and early packed up with food (both pre- and post-race), water, ice (there's that thinking ahead stuff) and the needed clothing and gear. With the bike secured to the hitch rack, I set out for fun, adventure and glory. The ride up was uneventful, taking just an hour and 40 minutes, beating the GoogleMaps estimate by 15 minutes without speeding (honestly).

I registered, and had mild success with the first challenge, attaching my number to my jersey. Then, being an hour early, I warmed up by pre-riding the course. This may not be the best way to warm up, but I got to know the course very well. Essentially, we were riding on a grassy field that was as smooth as a freshly harvested cornfield (yeah, I used the word field twice in that sentence, deal with it). The course started out on a long bumpy straight away into a single barrier, then a hard left turn. Next, it's down a small hill and a 180 turn into a barrier, drag the bike up the hill and remount. After a couple of turns, dismount, over the barrier and a decision to either roll or carry the bike down the short slope and gentle curve up the short steep hill and over another barrier or remount and coast to the second barrier. I tried both and liked the second idea best. It didn't seem to cost me any time and saved me some energy. From there you ride up a gentle incline, and eventually get to the staked off left turn, right turn, left turn that I'm sure there is a technical cyclocross term for, but it just reminded me of a maze. Exit, turn left and repeat. On the last lap, after the exit you continue straight to the finish line. As I understand it, not a very technical or interesting course, but it's a beautiful day, right?

I began my last preride loop and I see two people carrying an additional barrier and stakes towards the first barrier. Even my newbie brain understands that they are adding a barrier, not attempting some kind of repair. I finish the lap, more than warmed up, and it's nearly race time, but I want to see what I'm going to face, so I begin another lap. The barriers are spaced such that you just lift the bike and roll between them or just suitcase it. I decide to use a shoulder carry, as it seems the fastest way to do this and it will give me some needed practice and it will also impress my rivals so much that they will award me the podium on style points.

At the start, I see a mix of cross bikes, several mountain bikes with front suspension and one fully suspended. What a doofus, I think. The loss of pedal power transfer efficiency plus the increased weight will put him at a real disadvantage.

The race officials offer their pre race announcements and encouragements. Oh, and one more thing they say. "We added an additional barrier in front of the first one." Groans by a number of racers who ended their prerides before seeing the addition. Advantage me. I'm so cool.

The race starts and quickly I find myself in the back third of the pack. No one has any trouble with the new set up (rats). My first racing shoulder carry lies somewhere along the continuum of elegant grace and a drunk farmer moving irrigation pipe. About halfway between, I'd say. No matter, it's fast and I settle into the pain and rhythm of the race.

I'm about an hour into the race and I check my watch and see that only five minutes has passed. I'm feeling fully anaerobic, my mouth is a dry as a sand martini with no vermouth, my legs are screaming, it seems like 100 miles to the end and I'm not passing anyone. But I'm having fun, right?

After a while, I find myself in a game of pass and be passed by the guy on the fully suspended Klein mountain bike. The jaw-rattling course is taking it out of me and isn't attenuated at all by my laterally stiff, yet vertically compliant Aluminum frame or the 45 psi I put in my 35c wheels. It makes me long for rides on smooth roads like Sheridan in Wilmette, or maybe on the cobblestones in Kenilworth. It occurs to me that the guy on the Klein is a genius.

Second to last lap, I pass the Klein hard. Take that suspension-man! I'm feeling good, relatively speaking. Hey, look at me! I passed someone. Out of the maze and just as I turn left, they open up the finish line for the winner. So I get beat by nearly a full lap, but at least I didn't get lapped. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

Last lap. Klein passes me and I never see him again. So he either gave up and snuck off the course to abandon after the huge effort it took him to catch me or I was so cooked at the end that I really didn't see anything. Yeah, it's probably one of those.

Into the maze and I'm gaining on a guy in a red jersey. We exit and I launch a sprint and blow past him guaranteeing that I don't come in last. Hooray for me.

I wobble over to my car and lean on the bike rack, just breathing. Hard. I'm tired, sore, crushed and strangely euphoric. Or is that delirious? Who knows or cares. I had fun. At least I remember it as being fun. It helps me to remember that cyclocross is one of the most difficult forms of bicycle racing. Did I mention it was a beautiful day?

I don't know where I placed. The results aren't up yet, but will be here when they are. I drink, change, eat, drink some more and head home where I take a quick nap and then mow the lawn. Carpentersville is next. Can't wait.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Accessories

Not sure how to complete that Campy Record-equipped Meivici with Lew wheels? How about one of these lights? And while you're at it, get one of these phones. My guess is that you'll be driving one of these.

Ten Ways to Not Get Hit by Cars

This is worth reading, if only to review what we already know.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New StreetView Contest

Cyclelicious is running another Google StreetView contest. I posted a few links there that undoubtedly will win me the prize, but in case you want to enter, you have until Saturday. Oh, and here's another one. And one more.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Inaugural Chicago Criterium

Chicago Athlete has this story that the Inaugural Chicago Criterium will be held Sunday, July 27, 2008. This is great news for cycling fans. The rest of you should also come out. It's going to be fun.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Bean

I had a chance to walk around Millennium Park last Sunday and, with Google Street View coming to Chicago I just had to see if I could find "The Bean" on it. And yes, I can.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Vegas Sucks


Vegas Sucks
Originally uploaded by richardmasoner

Sticker on sign spotted at Interbike. I'd put in a vote for moving it to Chicago (Interbike, not the sticker). More discussion on this at Cyclelicious.