Monday, July 22, 2013

Utah's MTB Nationals Recap - Cat 1 35-39


And we're back.

Life has been pretty ridiculous lately, so much so that I forgot to recap my Lewis Morris race....So lets get that out of the way was hot, I had a good lap in a half, then I over heated and melted down in spectacular fashion...I made it to the finish line at walking speed. The usual result in the heat.

So moving on. Once the heat arrives, its time for retirement. But this year since the nationals were at Bear Creek and I just so happened to qualify for them last year, I figured it was a good excuse to extend the season a wee bit longer. I mentioned my desire to be able to throw down for this race to Mr Myagi....He was not pleased, but he never seems to run out of cars that need waxing...So back to work. After Lewis Morris I pretty much have had 1 or 2 quality training rides where I walked away feeling happy with my performance. The heat combined with hard efforts just does not work for me. Same results...good for an hour or so, then I begin to overheat, get dizzy, black out, cramp, shit the bed. So while my body might not be in May form, the Nationals course seems right up my alley.

I had never been to bear creek PA before outside of wedding, but yRob once told me the they built this course just for me...Which I assumed he meant, crazy technical and completely flat. He was correct about the technical bit, but unfortunately bear creek is about as flat as a ski hill....which it just so happens to be. Tad bit of climbing, like 1000' every 6.5 mile lap. Last week Kirt and I decided to head out for a pre-ride and have a look for ourselves. The course lived up to yRobs description....pretty sure it is one of the most challenging XC courses I have ever raced in terms of rocks and technical bits. It bascily goes like this....Climb for 20 straight minutes, then descend for 10, climb again for 5, then descend for another 10min. I gave this course a rating of "goddam fantastic" Maybe the best xc course I have done. The climbing involves many rocky sections, switchbacks, roots and only short fire road stretches. Its about as pleasant as riding a bike up a ski hill gets. The descending...thats where it gets awesome. Its brutal rocky hell that reminds me alot of jungle, but more technical. Great stuff!

So after 3 laps, I felt much better about this race. It may be July and I'm burnt out, but I'm 100% confident that I can ride this course at a speed that will keep me in the game. Plus of the 42 racers in my cat 1 class, there only only a handful from this area. Many are from all over the country and I think that will most certainly work in my favor.

Finally, the preface....

Since the race is at 8am and the drive is 2ish hrs, I decided to get a hotel and stay nearby. Paul and I drove out on Friday and decided to stop in and check out the scene. I run into many of my fellow racers from the area...we are all pretty stoked about the how tough this course is, but not about the fact that its 119 degrees in the shade.

So after wiping out the Hampton Inn buffet, Paul wiped out dunkin donuts, then we made our way over. We met Kirt who thankfully decided to spectate, feed me bottle and help out.

After some warm up, I make my way to the line. The crowd is staggering....

42 guys just in my 35-39 class and then there are at least 25-50 in every other group. Sadly, I have not earned enough points for a call up, so I proceed to line up tail end charlie. This sucks, but its going to be a long race, so I figure it will be ok in the end. I make it the first 100 yards clean and avoid any pile ups, but the leaders are just blazing away. Its not always a bad thing if you are like me and subject to overheating....I have killed myself several times trying to match a sprint out of gate. So I just try to keep the bike upright and make my way through the crowd. Its quite a spectacle I must say. It rained the night before, so everything was greasy, people were riding in every possible direction. I have never tested my ability to track stand so much in a race. So I make the first few switch backs and get a look up the mountain.....Its depressing how far back I am now. Ah well, too late to worry about it. I just keep driving though the pack. Thankfully I'm quite certain that the guys I was with were not locals...They seemed to always pick the bad line, leaving the good line open for me to pass. I look down at 13min in and see the leaders coming out of the woods on a different part of the course. I marked the time and figure out that in less than 20min, they now have 3min on me. Its depressing, but whatever, ill just hope to be there in the end.

Near the top of the mountain on lap 1 I catch up to Steve mancuso. This is good since steve is a great ambulance driver and moves people out the way. I decided to stay with him and try to burn too many matches on the first lap. Pace was good and with Steve's help we were making steady progress cutting through the piles of bodies all over the place. Its very difficult to pass on the last half of this course, so many people off the trail, blowing lines, the really technical bits, I'm basically just standing there waiting. But despite all of the bodies, I will say that most guys were pretty good about moving over and letting me pass in a timely fashion. Something new and unexpected was the massive crowds of spectators cheering in the tough sections...So awesome, it was a first for me. People calling out my name and cheering me on...Loved every second of it.

I cruise though on lap 1 already feeling the heat and the effort. I find Kirt in the sea of hundreds of people feeding riders and grab a bottle that is ice cold. I dont ever do this, im usually 100% camelback now....I have to say, the bottles do have a few nice advantages when its blazing hot. Not carrying the weight, extra cooling on your back, and downing something ice cold was awesome.

Lap 2

Im still with Steve more or less and still trying to make my way through a mass of people. There is great uphill run in this part of the course that is about 100yards of rocks, covered in mud on a decent gradient. It was a good spectator spot...I see a few guys already walking it and as I approach and spectator yells to me "just run it man"...I erupt in laughter...."RUN IT???" It lit a fire under me and I plowed though this section like it was pavement. I passed Steve here and just try to find a comfortable pace for the next 20min of uphill. Im feeling the heat now, the dizziness is starting to creep up and im definitely losing steam. At the top I finally have a little bit of daylight on the downhill and I take full advantage. For the first part of the decent i drill it and try to make up as much time as I can. Works great, but at the switchbacks I again ran into a massive dogpile and have to more or less stop. I noticed there was a guy yelling at everyone from behind me to move....he was yelling as if someone had set him on fire....He finally makes it around me, then crashes. On one of the off camber turns I noticed someone walking...I called out "rider up" as i approached...I then hit a root that introduced my face to the dirt in a fraction of a second...I poped up and told the walker "rider down" ...We had a good laugh before I rode off. Somewhere in here Lombardo passed me and the timing could not have been better. I really made a point to try and stay with John and keep the pace up. John gives me the pro tip of opening my jersey...Normally this isnt something i would do to the rest of the world, but its hot, fuck it. People run away screaming, but man did it feel nice.

1speed got a shot of me in the switchbacks

Finish lap 2 in about the same time as lap 1, Kirt again finds me and delivers me a bottle and I try to imagine how im going to get up this mountain one last time. After the first pitch I start thinking about how I took my small ring off Ted (my Scalpel) and replaced it with one 38T single ring....good idea dick head. Im still moving, but myself and everyone around me were all pretty whipped and fighting the heat. Thankfully at two locations on this climb were stations that had cups of ice cold water....I took the opportunity to drown myself and it was amazing how effective it was. At the top finally I tried to prep my brain for what would be one last decent...this time with more daylight than the first two laps. Its good and bad...good in that nobody is holding me up, bad in that im dizzy as hell and riding over my head. I hit the crowd of spectators near the tricky spots and it was a shot in arm. I take it that many people were not making these since they being screaming at me when I cleared both of them...Not sure..but man it was a real highlight in my time of XC racing. So awesome. All of the pain of this race was worth it for that few min of people yelling at me, really cool.

For the rest of the lap I try to keep John in sight and stay as clean as possible. the cramps are biting hard and im really cooked. Finally make it to the finish line in longest mountain bike race of 2013.

Kirt and Paul find me to let me know that I was in the top 10 somewhere which was great news...In the end, i was 8th in my group. I believe it was 42 or so starters, 28 finishers. I think I passed 100 people with flat tires. I would have really loved a top 5, but in the end im pretty happy with the day. Maybe with a better start I could have made up the couple of minutes that would have gotten me there, or maybe I would just blown up sooner, who knows. But it was a great race. Course was fantastic, well organized, competition was top notch and the spectators really took this race to another level of awesome. I would do it again next week.

Very special thanks to my man Kirt for driving to PA at 5am and making sure that I had a cold bottle of water every lap...this was absolutely key to my race. Thanks again buddy!

Also would like to send a shot out to Mr Myagi for keeping me going and in the best form I can expect for July. Its a shitty job but he always keeps me on track. If he had come to the race, I would have dumped a gatorade cooler on his head. And this really goes for my whole team. I'm fortunate to ride with some great people who all support me.

And that's most likely a wrap to 2013 mountain bike racing season...I may do another race or two, but anything else is just for fun. Ok, where's my cross bike? 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Woody's Bearscat 50 Recap

Big thanks to Black Bear for putting on an outstanding event!
- Super fun course
- Excellent course marking
- Well-stocked aid station
- Best parking/pit config in the universe
- Awesome support crew all-around!

Congrats to all who finished or blew up trying! Great recaps!

Is it too late for one more recap?...

My ride started in mellow Tour de Fat fashion with the one & only MattyB. We stuck together and chatted it up for the first few congested miles, but his roadie ass was having some trouble in the rocks, so he eventually dropped back in the traffic and I lost track of him.

Soon came upon teammate Ilya at the side of the trail around mile 5 with a bloody face and his bike in pieces, so I stopped to lend a hand. He had gone OTB multiple times already and broke his derailleur hanger on the most recent. Magically, a fellow racer had given him a spare hanger, so Ilya was scrambling to get back in the game.

Matty rolled up while we were wrenching and offered to help, but the job was nearly done so I encouraged him to keep chugging along.

Ilya and I got back on the trail and rolled together for the next mile or so up Rattlesnake (I think). I couldn't resist hitting the optional 3-step-up rock face line - my favorite feature of the whole course. It burns a match, but well worth it for the fun challenge!

We popped out on the fire road and I rejoined Matty while Ilya charged on ahead. Then I realized that we were at the one hour mark, and had only covered 6 miles, so I decided to step it up a notch and wished Matty well. He seemed a bit frustrated and defeated, and I thought for sure he would pull the plug or run out of time.

The next 40 miles I was mostly solo, just bopping along at an all-day pace, enjoying every mile of incredible singletrack and socializing with whoever was willing to gab.
Rolled up behind Craig (Nomad) at some point and enjoyed spinning with him for a while until he insisted that I should be riding faster, so I reluctantly pulled ahead.
Then I caught up to Jorba Norm who was riding as smoothly as humanly possible while I was bumbling in the rock gardens, so I followed his lead and we yakked about trail building.

Eventually made it to the pit area, and was surprised at how many people were hanging around, already out of the race. Including a bunch of my teammates; Iggy, Rob, Dave, Utah, Bill... Bummer! I grabbed fresh bottles, filled my pockets with goodies, and was eager to get out for another lap of kick-ass Waway trails.

2nd lap was relatively lonely, but totally enjoyable. Plenty of gas in the tank after the casual first lap, and there was zero trail traffic, so I twisted the throttle a bit more this time around and pegged the fun-o-meter. I alternated between salty chips and sugary Chomps, so my taste buds were having a great ride too.

Of course, had to hit the 3-step-up line on Rattlesnake again. 

Eventually caught up to Pearl and he was looking strong, but he said his arms were toast.
We rolled together for a short time and then he disappeared.
Ditto with Dustin.

I finished my 2nd bottle just in time to arrive at the aid station and the crew there was amazing! "What do you need, how can we help you?" The snacks were delicious and the gatorade was icy cold. It felt great to charge ahead with 2 full bottles and a belly full of grub, knowing I had plenty to sustain me to the finish.

Around mile 40 my hands were getting pretty raw with painful blisters, and I cussed myself for forgetting to use chamois butter in my gloves, but it was bearable. If that was the worst of my woes, I've had no right to complain.

At some point, I grabbed some chips from my pocket and bit down on something way harder than any potato. Apparently I had tossed Ilya's broken hanger into that pocket a while back.

Towards the end, I 'battled it out' for a few miles with a very strong woman who I think ended up on the podium. She dusted me on the flatter fire roads and some of the descents, and she was a total master of the gnarly stuff, but I was able to get ahead on the steeper climbs. I finished a little ahead of her, but she started 5 minutes after me, so she totally won. Mad props to her.

Yeah, that's right, the only person who I actually 'raced' against was a woman.

Arriving at the finish was a mix of emotions...
- Relieved to be done.
- Proud to have finished and enjoyed the whole ride.
- Cheated that it was only 46ish miles, not 50.
- Excited to smell the food, hear the band playing and see the party getting into full swing.
- Refreshed by the little rain spritz and wind that kicked up for a few minutes just as I pulled across the line.
- Happy to see Liong the Legend, who had also just finished (but I would have pushed a little harder if I knew he was so close ahead )
- Thankful for the cold chocolate milk that Chris Shilling handed me out of nowhere. (Congrats to the Southie for killing it in the northern rocks!)

Rolled back to the pit and started to get the scoop on how the race went for others...
- Impressed that Ilya not only finished, but got 7th place.
- Surprised that Kirt managed to blow himself up and pulled the plug.
- Not remotely surprised that Chris26er had a strong finish.
- Psyched to hear that Matty was still out pedaling on his 2nd lap, and soon he rolled through the finish.

Got cleaned up & joined the party,
Enjoyed hanging out with everyone in the perfect weather,
Applauded the well-earned podiums,
Called it a day.

Monday, February 4, 2013

End of January, a Blog Post!

Happy 2013 fellow riders! Hope everyone has had a stellar start to 2013!

For MTBNJ, January hasn’t been as quiet as you might think.  We’ve been busy planning out our 2013 race season.  If you haven’t marked your calendar yet, here are our races and dates.
3/2: Short Track Race #13/9: Short Track Race #23/16: Short Track Race #33/23: Short Track Race #46/30: Stewart Super Six Pack8/24: Mooch Madness
Registration for the Stewart Super Six Pack is open! We are closing registration at 250, so don’t wait too long and miss out on the fun.
Here’s a video of last year’s Six Pack incase you’re wondering what fun you’ll be missing out on...
We are working out details for the Short Track series - and will update once registration is open and we have confirmed the courses/location.
In other news, we’ve been busy riding, both road and trails.  Some team members will be participating in the Hell of Hunterdon and Battenkill - so putting in miles now.

We remind all riders to choose their riding locations appropriate for the weather conditions.  Keep in mind that warmer temps can cause the trails to become rutted and sloppy.  Help preserve the hard work our volunteers have done to make our trails what they are - choose the road or tow path instead.
That’s it for January - see you next month!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Get your Calendars Out...

Confirmed dates for our races - go ahead and "pen" them in. 

3/2: Short Track Race #1
3/9: Short Track Race #2
3/16: Short Track Race #3
3/23: Short Track Race #4
6/30: Stewart Super Six Pack
8/24: Mooch Madness

See you then!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Year in Review

We’re sorry there’s some dust collecting on our blog but don’t think we’ve gone into hiding.  We’ve just been busy riding, racing, partying, having babies, and getting hitched (not necessarily in that order).  Since 2012 is wrapping up, it might be nice to look back over the year and what went on with MTBNJ.

With a mild winter, many of us enjoyed warmer temps and building our base miles.  We also started up the season in March with our Walt’s No-Frills Short Track Series.  We’d like to think this was a hit as each race we saw more people coming out for a fun ride and awesome prizes.

Spring was full of mountain bike and road races for the team, with lots of podiums and superb finishes.  We were also busy planning our two summer races - Stewart Super Six Pack (SSSP) in July and Mooch Madness in August.  

We earned a scorching day for our 2nd annual SSSP but that didn’t scare too many people away.  

Following the SSSP, we were introduced to guest team member, The Chair.  So the story goes, Jeremy accidently left The Chair behind at the SSSP race, and some other teammates gladly took The Chair in.  The Chair really got around during the month of July...

We are happy to report that the Chair and Jeremy were reunited at the Darkhorse 40.

August we were able to host our 2nd annual Mooch Madness...sans hurricane this year.  

As the season changed to fall, some of us continued riding the trails and others raced CX.  Lots of CX actually.  We have been drafting ideas for the upcoming 2013 season and looking forward to it!
From everyone at MTBNJ, we wish you a Happy New Year! Thanks for reading and we’ll see you (more often) in 2013.

Monday, October 29, 2012

HPCX & the Hurricane that Wasn't

Hurricane Sandy & HPCX: A Love Story.

(not really)

I'm not going to tell you anything you don't already know about weather systems off the East Coast of the US right now. So I won't bother trying. Where we're at: As the week wore on it became abundantly clear from Al Roker & the Media Circus that there would be rain on Sunday. Or there wouldn't. They pretty much nail it with those kinds of predictions, which is why I guess it's easy to keep your job as long as you sound like you know what you're talking about. I don't know, didn't know, but now I do. There wasn't rain. But it was sort of almost chilly and there was a slight breeze coming off the lake near the race. Not exactly the epic conditions that the weather drones would have you believe, but not a sunny June morning either.

Fairly typical cross weather, I'd say.

It's nice to have the MAC series right in your backyard for this stop on the 8 race tour. For once, I didn't have to get a hotel the night before, or wake up at some absurd time and drive 2 hours to be there. The race was a mere hop down the NJ Turnpike, a small price to pay when some of the other races are in Baltimore, or Providence, or Mars, or what have you. Nice and close. I mean, relatively.

So naturally I spent the night in Pennsylvania.

When I woke up, it was chilly, then it was chilly and raining. Then it was chilly and pouring. So it goes. Bring on the mud. But as I drove over Jugtown Mountain, speeding down 78 to the East, the rain stopped, the skies...well, they stayed gray, and the ground was dry. Totally dry. Bonus, maybe it won't rain today? One can hope. As entertaining as it is to watch others race in the mud, it's not actually as awesome when you're in it. Maybe I'm soft.

Anyway, fast forward 4 hours and I'm lining up in the second row. I drew #910, which means that 5 people did not show up who are ahead of me in the standings. It also means that I still sort of have a shot at top 10 overall if I have a good race today. Those of you following at home know that I've set this top 10 thing as a goal of mine this year. Why? Dunno. Why not? Because it's something to aim for. A good race at HPCX means I have a fair shot at that goal. A bad race means I don't have to trek down to Maryland in 2 weeks. I think I'm ok with either of these at this point.

As we line up, I'm talking to the guys next to me. Eric (Kissena) introduces himself, and we talk out the majority of the line-up wait. He's a good sport, and answers my dumb questions in stride (do you mind if I clip in both feet and lean on you? etc). Chuck also introduces himself, and asks if I was the one who did the recap after Whirlybird for CX Magazine.

Look ma! I'm famous!

I know before the whistle blows I'm going to have a poor start to this race. So of course, the whistle blows and I have my best race start of the year. Up the hill, I'm sitting in a good place, maybe around 15th or so. Things shake out a bit and I'm sitting in 16th, feeling pretty good, not great, but pretty good. I like this course, all except for that climb part of it at the S/F. I'm sitting on wheels, finding a comfort zone, feeling solid and liking the course and how the day feels.

Feeling good that I might end up with one of my better races of the year here. Like. I like this.

So this is where we flashback to before the race...

...Eric has built me some wheels this week and shows with them on race day. Nice new stiff carbon wheels with the Clement PDXs on there. We throw the cassette on but find that it needs a spacer. A spacer? Really? What gives here? No big deal. We go with the new Clement on the front and stay with the Limus on the rear. It's a Franken-combo just like this Franken-storm we have coming up the coast, or down the coast, or out of the closet...

Everyone's got that, right?

Naturally, after 1 lap my rear tire starts to feel soft. Ok, it's ok, This is cross. THIS IS CROSS! We bottom out once in a while. Ok...maybe not this much. And boy these tires are washing out like crazy on the turns. Crap, the bike isn't going to work. Losing too much air. Maybe a lap goes by as the tire slowly bleeds out everything it has. Bumps are bumpier, and I start to come close to riding the rim. Turns are totally sketchy, and I feel like I'm on the verge of rolling the tire off at any second. Not good, this is not good.

So I come up to the barrier area where the team tent is setup and I start yelling "pit bike!"

Nothing. I'm looking at Utah and he has this look on his face like, "I see you saying something, but I have no idea what."

Pit bike!
Pit bike!
Pit bike!
Pit bike!
Pit bike!

Finally, I think Brad or Pearl or maybe Utah figures it out and Utah runs over to the pit. Unfortunately I am past the pit by the time he gets there, and I have to go another 1/3 of a lp before I get to the other side. This is where we coin the term "bleeding". 

Bleeding: Dropping from 16th to 22nd in 1/3 of a lap when riding on a mostly flat tire. However, I will say that we executed one of the cleanest pits in the history of MTBNJ, at least when not involving Fred and Ben. Well Fred riding, and Ben pitting. This was a solid pit, and I felt like we got this as right as we could. I get back on the bike and hear Mandi yell for me to get back up there. 

I try. I really do. As you can see, I'm in a No Man's Land here...

But it's hard, I'm sort of sitting in this purgatory where you can't gain on anyone and nobody can gain on you and you're starting to hurt but it still feels good and you're having fun but you want to try to get that guy but he's just out of reach and this hill leading up to the S/F is so damn steep and...

4 laps to go? Ugh. 

So we go 4 more laps. I try to ride at this point with no brakes most of the time. While this is undoubtedly fun, I almost eat it several times before I come to the conclusion that I need to be a little more selective in how I apply, or do not apply, my brakes. This is all well and good until I wind up finally washing out my front and landing in the dirt right before the barriers. Naturally this is where everyone is spectating, and everyone loves this, and yells at me. I get up and do my best to run it out through the barriers and up the hill.

At the top, Rich Bauch (Colavita) tells me I might not want to do that so often. I reply, "I'm here for your entertainment." Someone laughs somewhere. 

In the last lap I am trying to catch the guy in 21st and also hold off 2 of the guys behind me. I am giving it all I have, and I think I have it covered. Not sure if I can catch 21 but as I round the corner to the end of the race, I tap the brakes brake pads overshoot the brake track, get locked underneath it, and my bike promptly goes from 15 to 2 mph. I lightly pedal the bike, do more or less nothing, then say screw it and get off. I get passed by 3 more people.

I throw the bike on my shoulder and run the rest of the race. I cross the line, drop the bike, and stop right there. This isn't exactly how the race is supposed to go. But sometimes it does. I look up, and Kelly Cline is sitting there looking at me with that face, that one that sort of says, "Been there, at least you finished. What can you do?" I shrug my shoulders and mention something about the brake. As much as I want to throw the bike, it won't help. So I don't.

Overall, 25th. Given that I dropped 6 spots before the pit and 3 at the end, I'll take it. Not an ideal race but if you're going to have a mechanical, might as well line them all up in 1 day and get them out of the way. 

So...Fair Hill? I guess we'll see. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Providence 2 Day CX Festival, by Norm

Here I am, back for another cross recap. I won't be the first nor the last person to talk about the Providence weekend. But I may very well be the most mediocre, at least this week. Let me say, cross racing in the NJ series is fun and playful. The MAC is business. This like international politics, or more specifically, like 1980's Cold War Era politics. Hard, fast, and intense.

Ok, so that analogy isn't really very airtight. But I think you get what I'm saying. If they remake Red Dawn into a movie about cross races, this is where they'll be for field research. What I'm trying to say is this. This #^@% is real. No, I mean like for real.

Why go?

The short answer to this question is either "just because" or "why not?" The long answer to this question is because Eric & Allison invited me up, as they occasionally go to this race. And really I have no reason not to. Well, the driving, the tiring weekend, the expense...but you have to live a little, which is what this season is all about. Plus, once in a while it's nice to line up against national-level racers and see what you bring to the table.

As you'll soon see, in this metaphor I bring very little. Maybe like a napkin, or a pepper shaker, to the King's feast. Maybe I'm the meal.

So Friday night I pack up the car and start my journey to Providence. To be exact, we were going past Providence to the Cape, to our secret weekend hideout where Allison's family occasionally spends the summer weekends. I planned on talking about the wonderful phenomenon that is Connecticut traffic. But, you know, I'm not going to outline something that is already well-known, which is that 95 stinks. Traffic is a given, like dung heaps in a cow pasture.

Late Friday night, we get to our destination. A foreshadowing note: I have not had to pee in at least 6 hours. So I re-hydrate with 3 beers. This makes sense, right? I also have a PBJ sandwich right before bed. I'm a pro at this. Trust me.

Day 1

I wake up and this is what I see out the back window:

In the end, one could make an argument that I should have stayed right there. But I don't, and we are off to the races a bit after 7:00, which brings us to the venue at a very early 7:53, at which point Allison rushes out to do a pre-ride lap, as her race is at 10:00. I don't remember if I did a lap then or not. But in all, I do 4 laps, and sit on the trainer for a bit. See last week's recap for my thoughts on how exciting this is.

How do I feel today? Flat. Just like Baltimore day #1. These long drives seem to leave me wrung out, and spit to the curb. Not a great way to start a race against the toughest field I have ever done. I am lining up with guys who are competitive in the MAC UCI races. Why am I here? I...don't have a good answer to that question.

Recently we have been talking about race starts on the team forum, and I am generally of the opinion that how you feel that day more or less dictates how you will start. Feel good? You'll easily sit in the envelope and hit the first turn. Feel like crap? You'll hang on like some tin cans tied to the bumper of the El Camino after a low-rent wedding.

Today, I am the tin can. All I am missing in this pic is the string attaching me to the bumper. Witness:

This was a tough race for me. One can only be left to wonder why, but things are what they are. At one point, the guy numbered 509 (9th seed in the race) is in front of me and I am about to pass. He decides he has had enough, and pulls off the course. To use the word jealous here does not do justice to how much I wanted to follow him. Again, witness that wonderful picture above to get an idea.

The course has 4 things of note. The first is a flyover, which you can see here. That's Fat Marc at the top:

Marc races the MAC 35+ with me, and we often spend some of the race together. In general, it goes like this:

* Marc starts fast, I do not
* In about 3 laps, I start to reel him in for good
* I pass him and sometimes make it stick, depending how I feel

Today I made it stick, but barely. The other course features were a set of man-made barriers, a set of 2 steps that were possibly rideable (I ran them in day 1, rode in day 2), and some concrete steps. The course was a mix of many things, some fun flow, punchy climbs, and of course turns and grass and painful accelerations out of the corners.

In the end, I am almost lapped by the junior winner, who started a few minutes before us. I cross the line before him but they pull me anyway. This is all well & good, since everyone behind me got lapped and the last lap would have been some form of torture as devised at Guantanamo Bay. I am content to not add a gratuitous lap to my race to prolong my agony.

I finish 39th, but they do not officially score me for whatever reason. That's fine, since nobody needs to know how badly I did. We can just keep that between you & I, dear reader.

That night, we eat lots of wonderful food, have a few drinks, and I saw a small mini-pint of ice cream in half to enjoy with Allison. Eric was too busy checking to pay much mind to our ice cream needs. So he lost out.

Day 2

Day 2 always begs some tough questions like... I really want to get out of bed?
...where am I again?
...why do I do this to myself?
...wait, really, where am I?

...and so on. Sunday morning brings nothing new in this front. But I sleep in a little bit, then eat some apple pie for breakfast. I drop some Greek yogurt on top to give it the ice cream effect. It's good. I highly recommend pie for breakfast. This is cross after all, it totally goes. I decided to skip the beer for breakfast. Too Jim Morrison-ish.

Despite the dire forecast of cold, rain, mud, and general carnage, the day is crisp, clear, and beautiful.

I do feel better this morning. I don't know what that means, given the nature of these fields. Something I forgot to mention yesterday is this. The fields here are way stronger, but for some reason not nearly as deep. It's sort of like Battenkill in a way. People don't show up to race unless they belong, or have delusions that they think they belong. The top 50 guys are strong, then there are a few end-pack guys. But the usual pack fodder does not show, so you don't have the luxury of beating 50+ guys by default who don't belong. It's like every one of these guys is a seasoned cross racer.

Anyway, my start is better today, and I'm with the envelope fairly easily. I see Eric a few racers ahead, Marc, and...wait, who is this on the ground? Maurice? That's so odd. I pass him. So in consecutive weekends I have been ahead of both Roger Aspholm and Maurice. Odd, but I'll take it.

Like last week, he shortly passes me. And like last week, I try to stay on his wheel. I do a reasonable job for a while, but then...

My chain falls. This is kind of a mistake on my part. On the concrete steps I was in the small ring, and accidentally knocked it off on the run-up. This costs me 5 spots, and of course buckets of lost dignity as this is a crossing/observing spot. And given the road section is right here, I should have pre-shifted to the big ring to be ready for it. I won't call it a rookie mistake. But this is not something you should be doing in the 35+.

I felt good in this one. So then my chain fell off again, but this time got wedged between the chainring and frame. That was awesome. I'm pretty sure at least 618 people passed me here. I am frustrated now, but really there's not a lot I can do. I swear a few times, which does nothing. Eventually I get the chain out and back on, after swearing a few more times. I think swearing at bicycle parts, especially on a cross bike, is like playing classical music to your plants to help make them grow.

I then ride it out and try to catch a guy who I have already passed twice. Where is the justice in this? I don't manage to catch him, but we do sprint at the end of the race. I have to qualify the word "sprint" here, as what we were doing likely looked similar to the old people who walk the mall in the morning. I'm sure my average speed went down on the sprint. It was laughable.

Anyway, I finish 33rd, and actually get scored in this one. If I give myself a minute for the 2 dropped chains, that would get me to 20th, which is where I would have hoped to be. But I can't give myself a minute, so for the sake of making myself feel better, I'll say the dropped chain cost me 5 minutes, and I should have won the race.

Seems fair, no?

In the end, I never did get to meet Molly, which is a shame because I was looking forward to it. But it turns out that we went to the same college and grew up like 5 miles from each other, albeit 16 years apart, roughly. Small world, when it comes down to it. Though like some famous comic once said, I wouldn't want to paint it.