Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Off Season!

If it's the "off season", how come I seem to be busier now than normal? Hibernation maybe? It seems I've been eating enough to increase my energy stores... actually, I've been trying to get the rest of life back on track, trying to get ready for the holidays and such.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this article about MIT students power supercomputer with bicycles. The article isn't too technical, it's very readable and short. They effectively are running almost 700 computers (specially packaged to use very little power) with 10 cyclists on trainers. Each cyclist only needs to generate about 120 watts for 20 minutes at a time.

I'm a experienced double counter... I counted some of my undergrad classes toward my graduate degree. I commute to work to use travel time as training time... and I'm currently using my work time toward my next degree.... I figure this might be a way for me triple count that! I can ride my trainer to get my work outs in and be getting work done that also counts to my degree!

How many hours of computing will I need? Long, slow distance! Maybe I can hook up a monitor to help my motivation! 20,000,000 more calculations in this set! Can I recruit some riders to help me out? I can do anything with enough time and/or money... now to figure out how to double count my bank account. I wonder how much this computer would cost me?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Boughton Farm #2 - 12/9/2007

The last race of the year, ahhh yes. Another season draws to a close. Typical for the last week, I'm on rivet between family and finals. The weather isn't cooperating either, so I need to take even more time to get on the trainer. All part of my life though.

Last week we expected epic conditions, and didn't get them exactly. There was mud though... This week, we've had snow, and cold... the forecast calls for slightly warmer temperatures... and freezing rain. This week should be epic.

I'm really hoping to put in a good performance to finish out the season. This is all about today, since the series places are pretty well set. I'm sitting in third place in the A Master's series, and since they are not awarding double points for the final this year, I don't think there are enough points available for Bill to make up the 8 points to catch me. Derrick is 21 points ahead of me... so as long as I finish the race, the places will stay static... unless a lot of new Master's decide to race A and come between us. Not very likely with this weather.

The Course

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The course is very similar to last week. Same first field crossing around the cabbage patch. Then loop back for one barrier crossing before hitting a lot of the same wooded sections backwards. Around the long field, and after the short woods, we head out toward a long road section. Back around the barns and through the start finish. 2.2 miles again, with lots of snow and mud.

I did pretty well getting to the farm early enough to get ready and get some laps in. I took the pit bike around twice, and found things reasonable... lots of icy turns would be interesting, there were many snow free sections, and the woods were pretty muddy. I fully expected the course to deteriorate by the time my race started.

The B's started and near the end the rain started. I got some trainer warm up, but wanted to take the race bike around to see how the tubbies would hook up. I got one lap in and was bounced around pretty thoroughly in the cabbage field. I let some more air out of the tires and was probably running between 25 and 30. I finished the lap, and went to change into some dry/race clothes. I would have liked to take another lap on the muds, but only had time for another trip around the cabbage field. I switched back to the tubbies, and was still caught out when they started lining up for the start.

Right before the race, Rudy asked a few of us how many laps we wanted to do. The B's had done 3 laps, and I thought it would be sporting if we did one more than they did... I seem to remember this happening in the past, probably the last race of the season last year. At the start, Rudy then blames me for distance... HEY!

The Race

I wasn't the last one to the line, but I was on the second row. 21 crazies lined up for what we all agreed would be a stupid race.

This week I decided to run the start, instead of riding. On the wistle the run didn't help much, but it put me into the top half of the field. As we made the first traversal of the cabbage patch, I was bounced all over the place! I'd done this thing four times in warm up, but could not get a clean line... and was loosing places like crazy. Especially when the bike went sideways and I was pitched off the trail and into the cabbage! Horrendous! I was swearing like a sailor as I saw the front bunch of guys just ride away... and I nearly took out Ernesto in the process.

I make the next turn, and try to find the lines I like.... Ernie totally yard sales it before the next set of turns. So I'm by him, and I start to pick up some places where it's not icy. I'm fine until we get through the two rises leading back to the cabbage patch field, and again... I flail. Ernesto squeezes through a gap that I thought was tight heading into the barriers. I ended up leaning in on him again, that guy was solid though and we both made it upright. I've never leaned that hard before.. I'm glad I didn't screw him up again... I'm he was motivated to stay away from me for a while.

Once away from the cabbage, I started to get a rhythm. I was through the woods alright, and drilling it past as many people as possible on the straight sections. I need to go really hard every chance I can to make up the space I lost on the start. I'm still really far back... though I have no idea how far.

Through the start/finish I hit the cabbage patch again, thinking I'm on my own, I have to do better than last lap when I was in traffic... but I don't. It's terrible again. Steiner and Quinlin come by me at the edge of the field. Dave says "RIDE YOUR DAMN BIKE! I've caught you now..." as they put in a small gap. I make the turn and then totally sprawl out on the next icy section. I'm flailing, and I know it. So, I need to adjust my tactics.

Into chase mode! The gap is large, but I can't let them go. I'm closeing slowly through the woods. Quinlin is having trouble in the woods, and I get by him before the last section. I catch Dave as Chip Meeks is passing him heading into in the last section, and I get both of them before the exit and then drill it through the mud corner and up the muddy rise to put in the gap. Ahead of me is Derrick, Rudy and Bill... in that order. Bill is about 500meters up the road. Woah! I've been behind Rudy every race this year, but Derrick and Bill have never been in front of me after the first lap. I've got some work to do now.

I hit the road, I need to get to Derrick... I close, the gap down to about 100 meters as we head into the cabbage patch again. Now it's a defensive rideto not loose anything more. I make it through reasonably well. Not great, but I don't loose the distance like the other two laps. Once away from my bad spots, I work to close the gap down some more. Through the woods and on the road, I close the gap down a bit.

As I'm coming through the finish, Brent is running his bike and his chain is dangling. That's going to change the order. I need to catch Derrick! Brent is close behind as I start the last pass on the cabbage patch... and I blow it again and end up in the muck, and Derrick opens the gap some more. ARRRGGHH!! I close some heading to the woods, but I screw up through some of the sections. Brent catches and leaves Derrick, I have little time left. Leave it all out here!

Some quick calculating says I'm REALLY glad they aren't doing double points, I'm still committed to catching Derrick. I'm still sprinting as well as I can after this effort, and the gap is coming down....but not fast enough. I know it's over when he beats me to the end of the road section. I just didn't ride the course clean enough to make up any more spots.

Post Race
Congrats to Bill who won the A Master's race. It's been a while since he won. Before the race, he joked that we should just run this course and leave the bikes behind. My reply was that he'd beat me for sure in a running race, and so it was. After the race, he said he ran a good portion of the cabbage patch crossing every lap... maybe I should have run more.

Brent was able to race past his chain problems. He ended up catching Rudy and pulling him away from Derrick and I. In the end they went shoulder to shoulder at the end of the road section with Brent taking second, Rudy third. Derrick was fourth and I was fifth. I ended up thirteenth overall, my worst finish this season... and yet, probably the best race effort I've done. The cabbage patch was my demise, I lost everything there and even though I raced very well everywhere else, I could not get out of the hole I dug in the patch in 3 of the 4 laps.

Epic for sure. Though I didn't really see it, the rain didn't let up all race. I rolled around a little after the race, then had a really hard time getting into dry clothes. 30+ degrees and rainy. That is 'cross weather, I hope the NATZ don't see this stuff, but our guys will be ready after today's battles.

That's it for my season. Overall I'm pretty happy with the year. I didn't get the cross results I was hoping for, but I learned a lot about racing. I'm looking forward to putting all this together next year.

Special thanks to the Lake Effect guys for another great series. The courses were well done again, and it's always fun. Thanks also my team mates for sticking around and cheering, screaming and flogging me this year. Gary and Rick both have pics up for this week. Snow and Mud. YEAH!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Boughton Farm #1 - 12/2/2007

After last weekends mudfest, the weather promised more of the same at Boughton Farm this weekend. Freezing rain on Saturday night, leading to rain forecast all day on Sunday. It could be a real Portland, OR mud soup race, no telling with this venue. In the past, the farm has delivered both wet bogs, and fast dry hardpack... both in the same year.

This week, I've tried a new approach to course description. If a picture tells 1000 words, this may be a short report. MapMyRide profile and hitting the Satellite view. I'll poke around and see if I can find a better solution for this next week... if I have time.

Lots of long stretches of wet grass, or wet mud, Soft mud and dryer mud and even wet sandy mud in some corners, then a long twisty wooded section with lots of peanut butter mud leading to two very compact barrier sets (through wet mud) before the sloppy slippery start finish. Total length is about 2.2+miles.... long laps for sure. Did I mention mud?

Car trouble this week, so I overloaded Don's new SUV with more stuff than I would need. Plus it got Don out to the race, maybe I'd have some pit help.... We arrived early so I could do some prelaps to check out the course. I was able to get three in before the B race, spent some trainer time, then took the race bike out to see how the new tubbies would do on in the mud. Another learning experience, so now I can get lower pressure, but I still need to learn how to dial that in.

It was fun to listen to most of the A race guys say they weren't going to preride the course. It was pretty well marked, but I was still glad I'd seen it all.

Normal faces on the start, 13 A's and 6 masters. I predicted it would be fast, since it was so wide open. I lined up on front row since there was a space that needed filling, and we were off.

Again, the runners did a good job getting off the line, and I didn't. Brent, Brett and Dave all ran ahead of me before the first turn, which had more guys getting in front of me before I wound everything up. It was a reasonable start but not great, I picked off a few spots and I was about 8th at the end of the first field crossing. Not happy, but sitting on a Lake Effect Wheel. I didn't know who, but I'm hoping it was Rudy. Then Jeff Craft came by me in the grass section heading to the next field length. I wanted to answer that, but hesitated... I don't know why, I just didn't go.

I was well on my way to having my typical "5 guys come by me" when Zak came around, I just said "NO" and jumped on his wheel, leaving my Lake Effect guy (Bill) behind. I did my best to hold onto Zak's wheel, and though a gap opened it was a slow opening, and the gap behind me seemed to be opening faster. Coming into the last field I had about 50 meters to the next group of Rudy, Matt, Jeff, Brent, Ross and Zak. Steve Twinning and Shawn Adams had already opened up a pretty large gap that totally surprised me, but I figured I could work to close the gap to the next group.

The gap was reasonably constant as we made our way into the woods for the first time. Some how Brent and Matt got tangled up, and I closed my gap to them while they sorted it out. Jeff, Rudy, Ross and Zak now had a nice gap... then Matt and Brent, with me dangling a few meters back. In and out of the twisty wood sections, I maintained my gap, closing a bit here, opening a bit there, until I hooked some vines on the left shifter exiting one of the wood sections, bringing the bike to a quick halt. I pushed, and it wouldn't let go, so I pushed again... nothing. I was getting ready to panic... this would let the gap to Brent and Matt open up. So I pushed really hard and got it free, but I lost precious seconds, and indeed the gap had at least doubled in size.

I'm not even a lap in, and I'm letting that front group go. Coming through the second barrier set right before the finish, I totally misjudge the remount, and land with the seat in my stomach. Somewhere someone has to have a photo of that. In my shame, there was a guy right there with a lens point at me.... oh the humanity.

I make it through to the long field, with a reasonable gap behind me, so I must have gone to sleep for a bit. When I go to the top of the rise in the long field, the gap to Brent and Matt is huge! They've recaught Jeff, Rudy, Ross and Zak. I decide I need to start really working again, and see what I can do.

Matt must have had some trouble, either a bad lap, or dropped another corner, because I can see him when I get to the woods. I just decide that I am going to use the single track to bring him back. Every section clean, and I'm closing the gap. Heading through the first barriers, Ross is coming back fast, he drops his bike and runs to the pit. There's another spot for me. One of the spectator yells that I'm eight heading to the next lap.

As we come through the start/finish the team cheering section erupts, as I'm only 10m behind Matt. I make the catch around the barns, and attack as we start the next field cross, and get a gap. Now to work! This is how I want to be racing cross!

I've taken care of Matt, now I need to catch the next guy. Zak is in my sites. Jeff, Rudy and Brent are working together ahead of him. So how am I going to get to Zak? Matt is falling further behind, and I drop him from my focus to concentrate on the race ahead of me as I hit the mud climb towards the woods for the third time.

Then my own small disaster. The tubbies are a bit slippery, and I'm still figuring out how they drift in the corners. I slid the bike out on one of the twisty sections heading into the woods, and the chain came off the front ring on the outside. I was still pedaling, so it got wrapped around the crank... I hopped back on quickly, but I couldn't get the chain engaged, so I stopped and had to hop off the bike to take it off, straighten it out, and put it back on. 20seconds standing on the trail plus the time of the wreck and figuring out what to do let Matt catch me and pass me and put in a small gap.

I get the bike working again. So now I have to go catch Matt again. I've done it once, I will do it again. Race! I'm clean through the remainder of the woods, and close it down a bit. Through the large field the gap is closing, I end up catching Matt in the grass field, and attack him again. I get a little gap, but this time he responds and closes it down. He tried to come around me heading to the woods crossing before the long field, but I want to lead through the mud in that field crossing, so I attack him again to get the lead I want. I'm holding it until the rise on the long end, when he comes around me. He gets the gap and leads it through the small wooded section. I don't want to give this spot up though, so I attack him again on the grass and get the lead heading back to the woods.

On the rise going back toward the woods, Matt comes around me again and gets a gap. I cannot let this open, I'm going to have to work though, because he is motoring. I'm hoping for a clean ride through the woods to get back to him. In the woods, Zak is also coming back to us. This is good, maybe I can get them both.

The gap seems manageable heading through the finish to start the last lap. Time to get to work, but I must have fallen asleep again. By the time I get to the top of the rise in the long field, Matt has opened a hug gap again. I'm again stunned at how fast that opened up. I was totally committed to my effort, and was found wanting.

I still buckled down, since I did not want anyone else to catch me, and it was still possible to capitalize on a mistake. Plus you have to finish hard. It's CYCLOCROSS! Though in the end, Matt closed to with 5 seconds of Zak, while I was more than a minute down on Matt. Still good enough for 4th in the Master's field, and 8th overall.

Post Race
Overall I'm very happy that I was actually racing this week. I probably lost a minute or more to getting tangled up in the brush on lap 1, and the wreck/mechanical issue in the woods in lap 3. Still that led to one of the most fun laps I've had all year going head to head with Matt. I must have had a bad line in the long field, because I lost so much time there twice, once to the chase group of 6 on lap 2, and once to Matt and Zak on lap 5. It also had to be the main contributor to my 3 minute gap to the front three in the Master's field. I guess I need to find another level to get up to those goes next week.

I again have to give props to the SBR team for hanging out after the B race and cheering us on. Rick is well on his way to second place in the B master's field. Gary put in a stellar effort (his kind of course this week) for another 9th place to solidify his sixth place B standing. Sadie worked her race for the first female C, and she picked up my glasses when they became more trouble than they were worth. Also in the A race, Dave had an epic battle with Eric Lesko... and like me came up on the short end. Still it's more fun than racing alone.

Special thanks for Donny's appearance. Beside giving me first chance to Mud the interior of his new SUV, I love having Donny at the CX race. SBR has the best CX cheering section I've seen when our B racers hang out and scream for the A's... but I have to say that Donny takes the game up at least one if not two notches. I could hear him screaming for me through the stadium horn at the furthest reaches of the course. I'm sure it was getting to Matt having all those guys screaming for me throughout the course.

Dave turned out some good shots of the B race in support of them before his race. It's tough to get ready for your race, and still support the troops... and yes, that's a picture of Shrek. Don took some more shots on Rick's camera, we have no idea where they'll be posted yet. Gary did another stand up job in the photog role of catching the mud that we saw in the As.

The tubbies were nice, but I'm not sure they were the best choice in the mud. I still need to get the feel for them, and determine how much pressure to run. I get another chance to test tire selection next week, because we return to the farm for the season finale. Temperatures have fallen, snow is on the ground with more promised over the week... and the forecast for race day is exactly the same as for this race. Second verse, same as the first.