Friday, November 19, 2010


In the comments of my last post, I was anonymously accused of cheating in what I called the best race of my season.

I heard when you flatted at Brett's day one you just cut the course to get to the pits. That is called cheating.

From the quote it sounds like more than the author think what I did was wrong. They obviously don't know me at all, which is fine. But being stand accused, I figure I can defend myself. So here's what happened on October 30th at the Chagrin River CX.

I was in eighth place. Chasing Rudy hard, and being chased by Eric Lesko, Tony and Zak. I'm pretty sure I hit something entering the first metal tube, like the edge of the tube itself, on the fifth lap. By the time I hit the beach section, I knew my tire was going flat. By the time I came off the beach I was having a really bad time turning... totally flat. So I knew I was going to the pit. Eric passed me on the long straight after the beach. I made the left hand turn to the top of the mound. Hopped off the course, threw my front wheel off  the bike, and ran into the pit. Sara Harper was there, and asked if I needed anything. I pretty much ignored her (sorry). The pit was two loops further down the course, but actually only 10m from where I hopped off. I grabbed my spare front wheel, and dropped the flat wheel in the pit. Ran back to the bike, and mounted the front wheel and hopped back on the course where I left it.

In my defense, Brett stated at the line that we could pit from anywhere on the course, since the pit was only a single entry, as long as we returned to where we left the course to continue on. This is what I did.

Meanwhile, I went from 8th place to 15th place... just like that. I was pretty much ready to pull the plug on the race at that point to save it for Sunday. I didn't, but it took a LONG time for me to actually do more than just pedal along in 15th place. I did eventually see that I could catch Mitch... so I did. He fought valiantly, it was fun working to get by him, and once I did, he sat up. That surprised me, but again... whatever. By then Robert was also coming back to me, so I latched onto him, and managed to get that place as well.

13th was a good result, and I was pleased with it even though I figured I had more on that day. But it happens. Sunday was crap for me, so I have a lot of regrets on how I raced both days. I learn from regrets, but I did not regret my decision on my wheel change, and still don't.

My thought are rather than accuse me of cheating (in an anonymous comment), talk to me about it... I really am a reasonable guy. Or take it to the official. Brett, or the NEOCX can easily DQ or relegate me for that race. I'd understand... and I don't mind if they do it retroactively.

It's not like any of my placings have paid anything, or will make any big impact in the A race overall standings. Whatever. This silly game we play has no real consequences and means nothing in the grand scheme of life. Really. Read the quote from Adam Meyerson on the right... it's true.

I could have deleted the comment straight out. I moderate my comments to keep the spam content down. Deleting it would do nothing. I responded first in a comment, but that might get overlooked. So, make it public. I'll accept criticism from anyone. I do reserve the right to give more credence if I know who is giving it though.

Racing is mental.

Raced in Euclid at Blue Sky (or Not) on Sunday. I'd done some recon of the course over the last few weeks, so I had an idea what we were in for. Lots of grass, lots of off-camber, lots of twisty bits, a steep hill that we would hit twice, and a ball field spiral that transitioned between the infield and outfield. Rain during the week had some slick parts, but the city must have cut the grass before the rain. That actually made the course easier.

Jason, Zak, Dave and I lined up in a thin A field of 14. I'd again lobbied for call ups, and restricted start gate, they did both, but only for the A race I think. The call ups didn't help me, since I have been free falling through the top 10 into 12th. It's tough to stay in a top 10 overall when you don't actually get top 10 placings in any of the races. Oh well.

So, I lined up second row. Which totally screwed my racing thoughts up... like I had already decided I would not start well, so why bother. Plus with only 14, I was almost certain that this result would be better than a good deal of my previous races... so I didn't really have to try. WTF! Where do those thoughts come from?

Start was another 100m sprint to a 180, back again to another 180 before a long drag to the first off camber twisty bits. I pull up passing about 5 guys into the first turn, and am sitting in 12th at the second. Oh, it's supposed to be a RACE!!! I start chasing after the second turn.

Stupid the distance the leaders have by the time I get to the hill the first time, they are all most off of it. Which doesn't sound bad except that there was quite a bit of twisty stuff on top of the hill before the descent. I got around a guy coming down the hill to get to 11th. Dave came by me on the second lap, and the two of us battled with another guy for most of the rest of the race.

This race was all about controlling the turns, and sprinting out of each corner. I like to think I'm reasonable technically. Still it took me to the fourth lap to figure out a good line around the light poles at the top of the hill, and I screwed those lines up the last 2 laps.

The three of us sitting in 10th, 11th and 12th started to spread out, with me at the back. I just kept trusting that I could use my skill to close the gap to Dave in 10th. As the laps clicked on, I got 11th on lap 4. Then was just able to hold the gap to Dave through the rest of the race.

Jason is flying, ended up fourth. Zak was also there for 8th, and Dave rounded out the top 10. I finished 15 second later in 11th.

The result is good, but my head was not. It seems that if I start poorly, I settle for the placing and don't really put it ALL into the race. I still am fighting, but the intensity seems to be less. It seems like my best head race was the first Chagrin River race. I got a great start sitting in second. Crashed out of that, but kept the pressure on fighting for 7th through 10th, managed to keep the head and technique together until I flatted half way through the race. At which point, I let my head talk me out of racing to the finish. I have to unlock THAT mental potential somehow.


One more opportunity to make it all work this season. Kirtland Park on Sunday!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Cross my heart...

THE dreaded hill. We got snow on Saturday, and rain, and cold... cyclocross weather. I spent some time this week getting the bike(s) together, including the old surly that I could use as a pit bike. Boy is my position on that thing weird compared to my race bike. Ah well. I hope to not need it now that I have it.

Arrived at Todd field to see the course for the NEOCX Series. 5 dismounts, wow! And mud as expected. We even had a start grid, and call ups! Very nicely done. Call ups went by results before Brett's races last weekend. It'll be all upside down by next weekend when nearly everyone will have races dropping off the overall series.

Start on flat field to a barrier/short run up. Remount on gravel, a quick twist and back down that little hill. Sweep around to pavement, and around the outfield of ball field 1. Out and into some seriously muddy twisting leading to run up number 2. Back on the bike for 100m, then into THE run up the sledding hill. All the way up, then across the hill, then back down for a long field crossing. Drop down by the river, and the log dismount. Back along the river, 180 uphill, along the wood line to ball field 2 and the spiral to the pitcher's mound, and back out. 180, then twisty around outfield fences back to THE hill. Half way up this time, across the short way, and back down to ball field 3. Head to home along the first base line, then back out to third. Sweeping turn to 180 into the pavement through the pavilion. Into ball field 4 along first base line, 180 before home, then back out. A little twist before the outfield barrier set, and a 90 left hander back to the start/finish.

Short course, I got just under 1.5 miles, with 5 dismounts. By the time the A race went off, we were running a LOT,  all the twisty sections before the second run up, and a good deal across the top of the main hill.

Jason, Brent, Zak, Derek, Aussie and myself lined up in the 25+ A race. No count down for folks to jump, and we had a clean start. I did well to get to the light pole first, making sure to leave some space for Brent to come inside. The ONLY time I've lead an A race, lasted all of 100ft. 8th at the first run up, and I hoped I was away for a top 10. Until the first time "running" up that hill. I maintained a 13th place through the end of the first lap.

Speed chess. The idea in cross is to find the fastest way to get through everything, and limit the losses as much as possible. I'm constantly trying to solve the course problems, and I was having problems. I had a hard time figuring out the fast way through the spiral. I knew where I wanted to come out of the tight turn, but didn't quite figure out how to enter. I tried all kinds of different lines coming out of the thing also, not happy with any of them. I also had a hard time on the twists around the outfields, sure I should be able to get through faster, but not quite sure how. In the end I should have spent a LOT more time trying things in warm up laps.

As the race went on I was alone chasing Aussie with 2 guys fighting a battle behind me. One guy would open a gap that the other closed repeatedly each lap. With 3 to go, the closer must have figure the course out. I caught Aussie, and he caught both of us. So I figured I'd go defensive and try some games. I was in the middle, and let a gap open on pavement. Aussie got a little bit ahead when closer closed around me. WOAH! He's got more left than I expected. The two of them walked to the top of the hill slightly faster than I did, got on their bikes earlier and I was left trying to close a gap now. Unsuccessfully I might add.

So, I ended up in 15th or so right behind Aussie. We were the last guys lapped. Happy with my start, not happy with my running ability. I did get to see Jason battle, and narrowly miss fifth place, Zak came in shortly for 7th. Brent finished 12th. Not sure where Derek finished.

Peering through the data, I did the first two laps at sub 7 minutes (barely), then for the remainder I was running at about 7:20. I'm not sure where the entire 20 seconds per lap went, but I'll guess not having anything like a run on the hill was at least half of it. The last two laps I lost more time having trouble on the half hill sliding out, and clipping in off the main hill. Mud clogged cleats while descending at 30per, through a large puddle is a bit freaky. I did manage to stay off the brakes all trips down though, so that's something.

I've been lapped now twice out of 7 races... not including my DNF. Still, I was only caught by the leader both times, on short courses at slightly more than the half way through the last lap. So I'm close, just having a little trouble completely staying lapped free. My goals remain for the last two races. Top 10, and not to get lapped again. I think they are both attainable, but not freebie goals.

Both the remaining course will be short, with lots of turning. I expect the hill in Euclid to be VERY similar to the Todd field hill... I wonder if it's to late to start a running program?

Monday, November 01, 2010

River Cross.

Brett Davis put on the Chagrin River Cyclocross weekend. Costumes, and party cyclocross style.

Saturday was the mandatory costume race. No costume meant a 20 second time penalty. So it was worth figuring something out. Tough to tell the team, but the A race Team Spin/RR Donnelly represented Brent, Dave, Tom K, Zak and myself in a rather lightly attended field. After getting the whole field to wish my daughter a happy birthday, with her permission we were ready to start.

Brett did a UCI legal start... "I will blow the wistle in the next 15 sec", and I got the start of my life. Second behind John Proppe! I held it through the long straight, and continued onto the "beach", where I took a bad line coming off, and totally ate grass... nearly literally! 5 guys got by me before I remounted on the goofy side and got rolling again.

It took me a couple laps to stop beating myself silly for taking that line. I knew it was wrong, and did it anyway. So I'm leading a group of 5 chasing the front 6, showing my lines, probably not a great idea. Not that I have the BEST lines, but still. There's a few position changes, it lines out, and I end up in a slight battle for 8th four laps into the race. I did alright creating a gap to 9th with a further gap to a couple more, and am holding the gap to 7th with fifth place in sight.

I figure through the tubes on lap 5 I might have hit something different, by the time I'm going through the beach, I am having trouble turning, and as I attempted to get to the straight, I knew my front was totally flat. Crap! I rode it to the turn near the pits, and was immediatly passed by 8 guys as I change my front wheel.

I need a pit bike. Well, I "need" a lot of things, I WANT a pit bike. A pit bike would have saved me at least half of those places, and maybe more.

It is really hard to reset after loosing that much. Between being in second at the start, and basically crashing/flatting completely out of the race, it was REALLY hard to get the brain back to racing. I sat on Dave's wheel for a bit, then let him get away from me as I convinced myself the race was over, and that I should save it for Sunday. Dave went off in pursuit of some placings. A lap or so later, I saw I could get the next guy ahead of me, which motivated me somewhat, so I went after him. Once I got by him, I saw the next guy....

I ended in 13th, not real happy with my race, and immediately started thinking about lost opportunities. I should have gotten right back to racing, and gone for the best place possible. Screw the next day, your here today. Go for it now, and deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.

Sunday. I'm really disappointed about my flat and final result on Saturday, especially after seeing the stacked field for the A race. Jason, Brent, Zak, Tom K, Tom H, Dave, Aussie Rob and myself rode for the team.

I'm thinking the next thing to add to the series is a start grid at every race. We lined up bar to bar 20 across. Brett did his whistle trick, and I started moving backwards. I figure I was about 15th heading out the field and it got really aggressive at the turn into the woods. I took the inside line on the first turn which set me up inside, outside, inside, outside heading to the river. The first two were fine, the third I was pinched into swiping the tree with my left hip.... shredding another pair of shorts and gouging my hip pretty nicely.

K, race you bike, and make up for yesterday. I'm in a reasonable group, have alright lines, crashes abound. Jason goes down hard in the woods, I come out all right. It's feeling rather stampede-ish. Half way through the first full lap the guy in two front of me gets crossed up going through the soft stuff in the pines, the guy in front of me gets buy, as the first guy tries to save it. As I go by, he falls into me pushing me to take a straight line into a tree! I catch myself with my arms but hit the tree square on. I get untangled from that, and attempt to get moving again.

At this point, every part of me is sore. I try to keep pushing, but am going backwards fast. I figure I lost about 7 or 8 spots in the next lap. Each time someone went by, I tried to stick with the wheel. Until the last guy got by me.

23 minutes and I guess 2 and a half laps in, I called it quits. My first ever cyclocross DNF. To many trees, and not enough legs left from the previous day. Time to clean the bike up, patch up my body, put this weekends lessons in the books so I can get ready for the remaining three races of the season.

Next up the Team Spin race in Willoughby. Ready to run up that hill.