Aching.

17 Nov

I love the Mid-Atlantic ‘cross scene.  I really do.

But New England cx…just, yeah.

Gloucester was on the calendar this year, but didn’t happen.  Next year.  For sure.

Maybe this helps explain why:

DCCX 2011 Race Report: A Difference of a Year

24 Oct

Amazing the difference in perspective from one year to the next.  Bottom line up front: same place as last year — 9th in the 3/4.

Last year, I was pretty ecstatic.  This year, I wanted better.  That said, I’m pleased.  I went into the race fighting off some sniffles, courtesy of my daughter, and still had it for a solid placing.

Thanks to 2nd at Hyattsville, I had a front-row start, and jumped out to take the holeshot for the first time ever.  Diced back and forth with Kyle from The Bike Lane/November/um, what team do you ride for, exactly? for the rest of the first half, lap, and unfortunately faded too much to jump up and grab the first-lap prime.

From there it was just a slow ebb of power.  I had one speed, whether I was trying to jump out of a corner or motor along on the flat, so I would close gaps on the technical sections and then see them open up again as soon as the course straightened out.  The DCCX course was still soft from a drenching on Wednesday, and the long power climbs were like riding through bubble gum.

Like I said, perspective.  An off day this year equals one of my best days on the bike last year.

There’s more to come later this season.

Race Report, in Brief: Winchester Apple Cross

4 Oct

I’m just out of time to do this report properly right now, but aiming to post something before I forget it all.  We all (me, wife, son, daughter) headed out to Winchester for the Apple Cross on Sunday.  The rain of the previous week weeks month, plus the 2:00 start time, meant the course was torn up and downright boggy in lots of places.  I had a great time.

Not sure what my favorite part was:

  • starting from the back row of 76 starters, and working up through the field to finish 16th;
  • the mid-race wedding ring handoff to my wife, live-commentated by race announcer Bill S. from In The Crosshairs;
  • hearing “Go Daddy” all over the course as the boy rode around to different spots to cheer;
  • having my wife volunteer to wash my bike afterwards in exchange for chasing the kids around the playground;
  • seeing my son figure out how to get started pedaling on his bike (no training wheels) for the first time and watching his confidence grow as he ripped around the registration pavilion;
  • hanging out by the delightfully large fire in the pavilion’s fireplace; or
  • seeing teammates and friends and just soaking in the community that has developed around this little race that barely had a couple hundred racers a few years ago.
We needed all of that.  It’s been a rough couple of months, and a particularly stressful last two weeks.  I missed my first three races of the season, including my own team’s event.  I needed something to blow out the pipes and get a race under my belt; we needed to hang out as a family; the kids needed to burn off all the excess energy from being cooped up over the last few weeks; and I needed to see my wife in some of her many roles, beautiful woman, athlete, mother, caretaker and supporter.
 
I think would have been happy with a nondescript mid-pack finish.  Add in all that other great stuff and improving by a few places on last year’s finish, and I’m delighted.  I’ll be going back to that well of happiness a lot in the months ahead, I can tell.

Review: “A Very Dark Place” Training Video by The Sufferfest

30 Sep

Sure, we’d all prefer to ride outside all the time, but life doesn’t work that way. Whether for time, child care, or rained-out practices due to venue preservation concerns, I find myself on the indoor trainer during the fall cyclocross season almost as much as in the winter, if not more.

The key becomes finding ways to stay motivated and interested. Last year, I came across workout videos by The Sufferfest, which combine footage from pro and elite amateur races, on-screen interval prompts (and taunts), and great soundtracks. I actually found them a bit too intense for early-season base training, but for the top-end work you need to replace a rained-out ‘cross practice, they were ideal.

The kind (?) folks at The Sufferfest were kind enough to send a copy of their latest video for review. “A Very Dark Place”fits neatly within an hour, so you get your quality work in a small amount of time.  The focus is on VO2 max-style intervals, going nearly all-out for 4:00 each.  But these aren’t just put-your-head-down-and-gut-it-out efforts, as the workout combines on-screen prompts and carefully chosen race footage to throw in surges and simulations of attacks and steep, grinding climbs.

Sufferfest videos mix race footage and on-screen workout prompts.

In fact, if I have a significant quibble with this workout over my other Sufferfest favorites (I’m a huge fan of “Fight Club” and “Revolver”) it’s that the intervals are complicated enough that it’s hard at times to follow the prompts.  By the third interval, you’re gasping for air as you try to follow Gilbert and the Schlecks in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and squinting through sweat, tears and snot to read a new prompt on sitting/standing/cadence every 10 seconds is a bit much.  It’s a sequence that seems more suited to a spin class or group workout, where an instructor can call out directions.

Some of the prompts get a bit complicated.

My other whine is really just the fact that I’m getting old and don’t warm up as quickly as I used to.  Five minutes (ok, seven with the intro screens at the beginning) plus a couple of :30 sprints just doesn’t do it for me.  The sprints are good and help get things started, but for me, at least, I need closer to 15 minutes of warmup before I can get the most out of the first interval.  That’s easily remedied, however, with a few minutes more spinning before I hit “play.”

On-screen prompts tell you what's coming.

The rest of the workout is quality — good balance of work and rest intervals, with a mix of high- and low-cadence efforts.  The final, climbing-focused interval feels like a bit of a slog, but there’s a fair chance that my lack of sleep and poor training lately are as much to blame there.

The race footage is gorgeous and well-chosen (segments with a great solo win in Paris-Nice and following Cancellara in Paris-Roubaix show a particularly good editing touch) and the soundtrack is appropriately intense.  Some great indie rock bands on the playlist, and although I’m coming to prefer electronica more for workouts (I blame VeloBeats), these are definitely some bands I want to check out now.

Sufferfest videos have a great flair for motivational taunts on screen, and “A Very Dark Place” is no different, with no less than Philippe Gilbert calling you out.  That’ll get you going, if it doesn’t make you just curl up in the corner and weep.

This isn’t my favorite Sufferfest video, but it’s very good.  If you need a hard workout that fits into an hour — I’m reminded of my team’s weekly hill ride — this will do the trick, and entertain you a bit at the same time.

Love me some Tacchino

28 Sep

…even if I had to miss it this time around. Life intervened, and besides discovering that when I’m stressed and can’t ride my default reaction is to eat more (great recipe for maintaining racing weight, eh?) I was utterly slammed.

I was lucky enough, however, to work with some absolutely incredible sponsors in putting the race together. This is by no means the exhaustive list because there’s just not room to list them all. However, these were the folks I talked to directly and know the best.

The Sufferfest was the first to pony up, with training videos for all our fourth place finishers. Besides making the best thing I’ve found for staying entertained on the indoor trainer, that’s just plain classy.

Soigneur Embrocation came through in a major way with tons of swag. Unfortunately for me, we gave it all away, so I still haven’t tried this stuff. Definitely on the list of embro to try soon, though.

I didn’t arrange this one, but Core Wellness & Physical Therapy, who has helped keep me aligned and happy, stepped up with on-site consultations, cash for the elite race purses, and a free RockTape consultation.

DZ-Nuts also made sure there were plenty of comfy crotches out there. Best chamois cream I have ever used, so I was particularly psyched they came on board.

I might be most proud, however, of linking up with an old friend at Cyclocross Magazine and lining up digital subscriptions to give out as prizes. CX Mag is the only national publication exclusively covering the sport in the U.S., and is an absolute pleasure to read, every single issue. It’s been fun to watch them grow, and their website is really rocking as well. Why, for example, check out this race report on the Cyclocross Magazine website! Reading it makes me even sadder that I wasn’t there, actually.

This isn’t the full list; my teammates did an amazing job recruiting sponsors and our sponsors reciprocated with great support. Check out the logos on our race announcement page for a more expansive list and direct links to our sponsors’ websites.

Seriously, these folks supported our sport and helped us make the Tacchino the awesome event that everyone keeps telling me it was (rub it in, why don’t you?). Do them a solid and think about sending some love their way.

Annoying the local fauna

22 Aug

A story from Sunday’s ride near my mother-in-law’s place:

I should have known I’d done something to incite nature’s ire after the fourth dime-size-or-larger bug smacked into my cheekbone.  I had gone out to do climbing repeats to squeeze in a quality workout around a family visit.  Fortunately, my wife’s mother lives about two miles from a 1.5-mile, 1000-ft climb.  Proof of how perception doesn’t match reality:  I felt awful, couldn’t remember whether the times I was seeing were any good, and bagged it after two repeats, thinking I was crawling up the hill.  Looked it up on Strava afterwards, and I’d actually set a p.r. and third-best time.  Shows what I know.  (I’ll write later about my love affair with Strava.  The  KOM comparison is a fun toy, but the feature of seeing within seconds how I’m doing vs. myself is far, far easier and more useful than any other training log program I’ve used.)

I turned for home, planning an easy tempo for the rest of the way back.  I was about to ride across a freeway overpass, thinking profound things about the waffle cookie with peanut butter I’d just eaten, when I picked up a flash of beige movement in the bushes to the right.  In an instant, there was a deer directly in front of me, with a second following it across the road.  They were both fairly small, no antlers, so probably just born this past spring.

My hands were back on the shoulders of the bar, too far to reach the brakes, so I tried to head to the right.  The first deer made it fine, but I clipped the back leg of the second one with my front wheel and bounced off to the right as I heard the deer grunt and its hooves skitter on the pavement.  My right foot came out of the pedal, and as I’d already been shifting my weight back, I wound up with my stomach on the saddle, hands on the tops, left foot in the pedal, right leg unclipped and thigh dragging on the rear tire.

I was wobbling quite a bit now and was 100% convinced I was going down, so I aimed for the grassy shoulder.  With a jolt and a bounce, somehow I stayed upright over the blessedly low curb and went up into the grass, and was able drag my foot to stop. By the time I turned around to look at the deer they were both gone.

The damage was inconsequential.  Something (the curb, I imagine) knocked the front wheel a bit out of true, the bars were slightly twisted, and there is now a gouge in the toe of my right shoe, but apart from a light tire burn on my thigh and a bath of adrenaline, I was unscathed.  With the fight-or-flight supercharge, I actually debated going back for another hill repeat once I got going again.  Common sense (laziness?) prevailed, though, and I rolled on through a headwind, with one last bug smacking me in the ear about a quarter-mile before the last turn down the street to my wife’s childhood home.

Spreading the creed of suffering

19 Aug

Two recent items caught my eye, both noting cyclists’ embrace of a certain form of discomfort:

And he has something else they say all great cyclists must have: the ability to suffer — a lot.

“If you can’t suffer,” Johan says, “what good are you?”

–From “Colombian Cyclists Dream Of Racing Out Of Poverty,” on NPR News.

Then this, from the outstanding blog Red Kite Prayer:

To Suffer Is To Learn.”  T-shirts available here.


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