Monthly Archives: August 2009

Famous in Michigan

I wasn’t quite ready to say that I’ve done my last race for the season. But was I willing to get all my gear together, then get up at 5 AM then drive 3-plus hours in order for that to be so?

That’s always the test for me: do I feel motivated enough to go through the hassle of getting everything together? Bike, wheels, clothes, food, bottles, water jug, directions, etc.

My motivation passed the test, so I headed out in the darkness to do the Milford Criterium up in Michigan.

Sometimes I’m hesitant to tell people about new races because then a bunch more people might show. It’s nice to have a “stealth race” where you show up, unknown, and have a chance to bring home some cash. But I appreciate that the promoters work hard to put on a race, and they want people to show up.

So here it is: the Milford Criterium was a good race. Nice course, lots of people watching and ringing cowbells, coffee shop right across from the start/finish. And Frankie Andreu was announcing. As I rode over to the registration, I could hear his voice, familiar from having heard him on Tour de France TV broadcasts.

My mission for the day became: hear Frankie announce my name and “Carbon Racing”.

Early in the Masters 45+ race I bridged up to 2 guys who were away. Then sprinted to take the first prime. We started to build a lead. Mission accomplished already. When I sprinted for another prime late in the race (for a new wheel), he mentioned my “impressive burst of speed”. Obviously he’s not seen me sprint very often.

At least he didn’t say that I messed up the sprint for the finish and only managed second.

I put on a clean jersey, got an espresso, then did the 35+ race. Got off the front a number of times, but the field was determined to chase anything and everything. Not uncommon for a Michigan race (sorry to Michigan racers, but that’s the way it often seems).

After the masters races they put on the obligatory kids races. Only here they had a HUGE number of kids. Standing just after the finish, watching the mass of kids sprinting and weaving, I had the feeling that this could be ugly. Sure enough a couple of kids touched wheels and hit the pavement. Just like the real thing.

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Itching to run

Watching others do sports can be contagious. After the last Winter Olympics I was seriously ready to go out and learn short-track speed skating. So now that my daughter has started cross-country practice, I’m getting the itch to do some running.

I don’t profess to be a big runner — in fact up until about 4 years ago I’d never done much running. But when I was over in Germany, where in December it was dark at 4:00 PM, putting on running shoes was better than sitting and suffering on the trainer.

There is a minimalist satisfaction in being able just slip on shoes and run out the door. No equipment hassles. No having to wash your bike. No real worries about the weather — it’s no problem running in the rain or snow or cold.

The favorite route I had in Germany was to run from my apartment — at night — over the Rheinknie Brücke into Düsseldorf and then back over the Oberkasseler Brücke. It was a nice 4 or 5 mile run, with 2 trips over the Rhein (which never failed to make me think … “cool”).

A few years before that, I never would have imagined myself running 4 or 5 miles. Or if I did, I never would have imagined actually enjoying it.

Now, I’m looking forward to doing some nice trail runs in a few weeks. I just have to remind myself to start slow, and keep it short at first. While the lungs will say “no problem” the cycling-legs will surely rebel.

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Mind your equipment

Some things don’t belong in races.

To the rider in the Shreve road race: you must remove that giant saddle bag attached to your bike. Especially since it contains a bunch of tools that clank around every time you hit a bump. But if you do insist on racing with it, you must at least keep your bike on the road at all times. Otherwise, people will really think you have no clue what you’re doing.

I’m thinking this guy unknowingly jumped in the wrong race. It was a bit chaotic at the start, with all fields rolling out of the school to the actual starting point. When the 1/2/3 field took off, I’d guess this guy just followed along. I think he disappeared the second time up the hill.

I’ll admit to doing early spring races on questionable equipment. Like this year, on my winter bike with fenders that kept rubbing on the tires (why was it so hard going up hill???). And a few years go, on my winter bike with only a front brake (it was a Team Columbus race, so the “only rule is green” format applied).

I remember a guy doing the Malabar Farm race in the 1/2/3 field on a mountain bike … with fat tires, bunny-hopping the pot holes.

And a spring Covered Bridge race, where the super-strong XC skier (forget his name), wearing plastic grocery bags over his shoes, rode away from the field because no one knew who he was.

My most memorable equipment oddity is the time when Jon Hensel showed up at the New Waterford Race for Sight on his time trial bike. It wasn’t a sanctioned race, and the promoter had no rules against it. In the opening miles Jon took off in the aero position at 30+ mph. I managed to go with him, and then let him drag me all the way to the finish. There was no point in me pulling, because given Jon’s height, I literally gave him no draft. Well, because of Jon’s height he gave me little draft also: I was pretty much below any ‘sweet spot’ following him.

I’m pretty sure it was the fastest overall finish time for that race (which, sadly, is no more).

When I rode back to my car after the Shreve race finished, the guy parked next to me was packing up. He had a day-glo orange, 1990-ish, Lemond bike with downtube shifters. I said, “old-school, eh?”.

He told me it had just started riding a month ago. Had just bought the bike (used, obviously), and that this was his first race.

I won’t make fun of that equipment. If it were me, and I arrived at the race and saw all the new bikes, shaved legs, and pro-looking kits, I think I would have found an excuse to go do the coffee shop ride. So he’s got more guts than I have.

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Racing with a pig?

I’ve been told that I’m a hypochondriac. A little sniffle or scratchy throat, and I proclaim that I must be coming down with something.

The truth is that when you ride just about every day, you notice when your body feels even a little different. And then you start thinking about how you’re training is going to be compromised. Most guys I know try to ride through if possible. Just dial down the intensity. I usually feel better if I can ride even a little.

Usually this happens in winter, or early in the racing season. But this year, the day after returning from Superweek I woke up tired. Not really a surprise. But by the next day it had turned into a sore throat. It was so nice I went out and rode anyway. I just traded packets of Gu for Cold-Eeze. The next day I was so tired I slept through the alarm and ended up taking my first sick day of the year at work.

The sore throat then morphed into a full blown cough. Somehow I managed to race that Saturday, Sunday, then Tuesday night. A bit too stubborn perhaps? The cough morphed into swollen glands in my neck.

So then the other day I was reading an article about H1N1, aka “swine flu”. It talked about the symptoms and how for most people the symptoms are not severe. Then another racer told me his mom had it. And then a neighbor.

And so I’m wondering. Would I be a hypochondriac if I thought I actually had it? I figured being among a bunch of other racers at Superweek, with people spitting, using porta potties, being out at restaurants every day, it wouldn’t be a shock.

Not that it really matters one way or the other … except that maybe now I’ve built up antibodies. Which would be nice.

And I could boast about racing back to back days, one in the pouring rain, while being sick with the swine flu. That would be epic.

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Change of seasons

I’m officially marking the beginning of a new season. The other night I was flying down Winchell Road out by Hiram, and as I prepared to turn left onto Rapids, I found a recent batch of chip-and-seal waiting for me. Including a nice, deep pile of loose gravel in the turn.

The jogger on Rapids got a bit a show watching me try to keep my front wheel from washing out.

A few miles later I ran into another stretch on Stafford Road. Why is it that some road departments seem to look for the biggest chunks of rock they can possibly find? What are they thinking? “Hey Buford, let’s use the boulders on this one.”

The chip-and-seal season has begun. (Interestingly, the official term seems to be “chipseal or chip seal” — no “and”.)

And the racing season is quickly coming to an end. I know this because I’m finding it difficult to make myself ride hard these days. July was packed with races. Getting sick right afterward didn’t help. Now I look at the empty spaces on the calendar now, and it doesn’t seem worth the effort to try to maintain a super-high level of fitness.

I look at the calendar again and realize that we’ve been going hard now since the last week in February, with races almost every weekend since then. That’s a lot of racing, considering this is supposed to be a “hobby”.

While driving to the Garrett Wonders criterium in Westerville, I thought how it will be nice to just roll out the driveway for a casual ride under the changing leaves. Or going for a trail run if I feel like it. Or not do anything at all on a Saturday afternoon. Or do some of the house or yard work I’ve been neglecting.

But then the race starts, and it’s fast and fun, and I come home and start looking at the race calendar again.

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Some things should not be said

There are some things you just shouldn’t say out loud (or in email) before a race when there is even a chance of rain:

“2-1/2 hours to race time, so I think it will be mostly dry at that point”

“We may be a little wet at the start, but I don’t think it will be a soaker like 2 years ago”

“I don’t think the hard stuff’s gonna come down for a while”

The first 2 were emailed (one by me, the other by Tris). The last one I actually said out loud, before the start of the Zoar Road Race. And it ended up raining about as hard as the rainstorm in Caddyshack.

I won’t make that mistake again.

The only race I can remember where it rained harder was one year at the Chippewa Creek Road Race, where on the downhill the rain felt like it was hail. Zoar wasn’t quite that bad, but it did make me wonder about the intelligence of screaming downhill at speeds approaching 50mph while barely being able to see. I tried without glasses (was afraid of losing my contacts), looking over the top of the glasses (same), with glasses (a complete blur). I mostly tried to follow wheels and hope no one did anything stupid.

It finally let up just in time to flat, with about 10 miles to go. And the bike still would have to be cleaned later

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