Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pot calling the Kettle black

The folks from Cheshire Cycle throw a really great party at Cheshire CX. They get great spectator and sponsor support and the course is really fun with some great singletrack, fast corners, technical corners, and a 50 meter run up where the spectators and hecklers tend to congregate. My plan was to do the single speed event and then the 1,2,3 race. The single speed event was staged 2 minutes behind the Cat 4 field. As we came into the run up on the first lap three of us had caught a number of the Cat 4's and were having a good time riding together through traffic. The race was only 35 minutes so I didn't want to drag the others around for too long. I decided to put in a hard effort on the uphill section of lap 2 and from then on I was solo single speed, chasing the stronger Cat 4's. I held on for the win and came close to catching the Cat 4 winner.

I hung around cheering for the other finishers and then headed back to my car to get my wallet and license to register for the 1,2,3 race. By the time I made it back to registration the 3,4 race was underway and Graham Garber was off the front. I was definitely surprised to see him in that race but once I spoke to the registration folks I understood why. Graham and Hunter Pronovost (promoter/organizer of the race) were the only two people registered for the 1,2,3 so they decided to bag the race and Graham entered the 3,4 to avoid making his day a total loss. Oh well, no second race for me.

Sunday I was pre-reg'd for the Durham CX race. It's a new event run by the Laurel Bicycle Club. They've been around for 30+ years and my former employer is their supporting shop so I wanted to make a point of supporting their effort. Plus, they were running around at Cheshire CX trying to get as many people as possible to come out for their race.

When I arrived, I was faced with a major dilemna. Not being able to double up on Saturday kind of bummed me out. I had my geared bike and really wanted to get two races on Sunday. The only option though was the 3,4 race because they did not have anyone interested in the 1,2,3.

I lined up with 15 or 20 other riders, including a few strong Masters riders that I know but who I don't usually race against. For the first 3 laps I yo yo'd between 2nd and 5th with one guy driving the pace the whole time. The course was really fun but also quite hilly. Not as bad as Catamount but still hillier than most CX races. I noticed I was the strongest on the climbs so I decided to test the others a bit on the 4th lap and was able to shed two of the five from our group. For the last 3 laps it was three of riding together. I spent a fair amount of time at the front but didn't push too hard in the windy spots, hoping to save something for the last lap and the second race. I let the other two lead most of the 5th lap all the way to the tough uphill on the final lap. I put in a really hard effort from the back on the hill and built enough of a gap that I was able to hold them off all the way to the finish.

I spoke to Diane Fortini at the finish and told her I'd prefer not to be scored since I really belonged in the 1,2,3 field but she insisted since I am a 3 that it was ok and she would score me.

So, after writing a post about how lame it is to race in a category where you expect to be on the podium, I did exactly that. I suck.

On a positive note, you should all try to fit both Cheshire and Durham into your calendars for next year. Just like Mansfield Hollow, these two races are run by passionate people who want to see us out there enjoying ourselves (in a sick, painful way). They had good prizes, good courses, and reasonable entry fees. Support the little man next year!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't you want to challenge yourself?

Looking at the pre-reg list for the Shedd Park race this Saturday is disappointing. There are waaaay too many people in the Cat 4/Citizen field. Folks, the Cat 4/Citizen race is for beginners. People without an annual license, people who make it to 4 or 5 races all year, people who have almost no training time during the week or simply do not take racing seriously.

Here is my helpful guide for the 50+ people who are probably registered in the wrong category at Shedd Park.

- If you have ever finished in the top 15% of a Verge race, you know you should not be racing in the Cat 4 field at an event that offers a 3/4 race.

- If you finish in the top 30% of a previous Cat 4/Citizens event, you know you should not be racing in the Cat 4 field.

- If you have raced in the Cat 3/4 field and not finished DFL, you know you should not be racing in the Cat 4 field.

Here is some advice for the Cat 3/4 field.

- If you finish in the top 20% of the Cat 3 Verge races, you know you should not be racing in the 3/4 field.

- If you finished on the podium of a 3/4 race with more than 30 people, you know you should not be racing in the 3/4 field again.

Guess what people? Continuing to race in your category until you win is not a valid excuse (note I said excuse, not reason). There are 80+ people in the Cat 4/Citizen field and 50+ in the Cat 3/4. If everyone one of them was waiting until they won an event to upgrade, the fields would crumble under their own size.

So I challenge you, fellow cross racers, to race up a category for the rest of the season at these non-Verge events because you all have at least two options to choose from. Make it a point to choose the faster field. You might just surprise yourself and have fun without racing for the win.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Not Just Any Given Sunday

This time of year is usually all about 'cross and 'cross racing. Thanks to Matt Simpson, I had something else to look forward to, helping break up the routine of racing that usually absorbs my October and November weekends.

The season ending pastry ride was announced a few weeks ago and confirmations started pouring in pretty quickly. The rules were simple. Show up, be prepared to eat tasty treats, leave your powertaps, SRMs, and race wheels at home. Wear some wool, maybe a leather helmet, and expect to enjoy 2.5 hours of casual riding with good friends and teammates.

The only downside was that the ride started in NH and a bunch of us live in Boston. The solution that we came up with was to ride up there and then enjoy the group ride before hopping on a train to get back home. Here is a chronology of my day

6:15am: Wake-up (tired) and confirm it is still raining and that fenders and waterproof clothing will be necessary.

6:30am: Get the fenders and all-season wheels mounted

6:45am: Start consuming calories (two bowls of Raisin Bran Crunch) and sit around debating whether or not I can just bag the ride and go back to bed. Verify that three others are committed so I probably need to show up.

7:15am: Reluctantly pull on my finest lycra and apply some embrocation while hoping it might stop raining before I walk out the door.

7:30am: As I walk out the door, I’m able to confirm it is just a light mist. I’ve got to drop off my bag of clothes and stuff in Watertown to be shuttled up to NH by Mr. Bramhall.

8am: I drop off the bag on Jeff’s front porch just as the mist turns into a steady rain (Can I just sleep on the porch for a little while?)

8:33am: Arriving fashionably late (and unfashionably soaked) at Peets in Lex Center I noticed there are three fine racing machines leaned against the wall. My hopes of missing the train are dashed.

8:45am: Final bits of pastry and coffee are consumed and we walk back out to the steady drizzle to begin our journey north. Luckily Murat has the route dialed because apparently he spends most weekends finding the best roads within riding distance of Cambridge and none of us really want to be fumbling with a map or written directions in these conditions.

We estimate our trip at 45 miles and give ourselves a generous 2.5-3 hours to complete the journey, not quite knowing what we’ll encounter. Murat is wise enough to find a flat route and despite one flat tire (which was rather wicked btw) we still make it to Simpson’s in under 2.5 hours.

11:15am: I am really impressed with the upbeat spirit during the ride despite the fact that it rained, drizzled, or misted for at least 43 of the 45 miles. When we arrive at Matt’s, the garage is open and we are greeted with dry t-shirts and treated to a huge spread of delicious treats, including some gingerbread cupcakes (gotta remember to get that recipe) while Matt dries out our soaked clothes on ultra gentle cycle.

11:30am: Hanging out with the Simpson family and their dog is great. It almost makes me forget the soaking wet chamois and 35+ miles that still lie ahead of us.

11:35am: The first wave of riders show up. Ronny, Mark, and Tom roll in together. I’m impressed that people didn’t back out due to the weather. Then Ronny tells me it is sunny at his house right now.

11:40am: Jimbo rolls in, with wool and leather helmet. Nice

11:45am: They’re coming fast and furious now. Justin, Stephen, Jeff, Eli, Kerry, Roland.

11:50am: Steaming hot jerseys, arm warmers, and vests are delivered from the drier. It feels soooo good to put them on.

Noon: The grandparents arrive to watch after the three Simpson daughters freeing both Matt and Kerry S to chaperone the ride

12:15pm: We embark on the most casual of casual rides

12:16pm: We discover that Roland’s casual gear is missing as he rides off the front

12:30pm: Conversational pace, everyone is behaving and enjoying the company

1:14pm: Justin shares coffee (and milk) from his travel thermos with anyone who is interested. I guess, since there are not Starbucks every quarter mile in NH we have to bring our own coffee. No complaints though.

1:15pm: Time check confirms that those trying to catch the train back to Boston ought to pick up the pace a bit. Roland is happy to help with this and he turns the casual pastry ride into a bit of a speed ride.

2:00pm: After 45 minutes of beautiful, rolling hills and slightly faster than desired pace, Roland has delivered the 4 of us to a turning off point.

2:08pm: We say our goodbyes and head off on the route that Roland just described

2:09pm: Woops, none of us listened very well to Roland and after successfully completing the first turn, we are unsure of the next turn. Consulting Nick’s Garmin 705 gets us back on track and we access our time/speed requirements.

2:10pm: The train leaves at 3:04, we estimate 12-13 miles to go, on a paved bike path covered with leaves and a few weekend walkers. Pacelining begins.

2:25pm: It’s sooo cooold, and Yash is starting to fade a bit. Murat whips out some food and forces Yash to consume. Within seconds Yash is back to full strength and pacing us to the train.

2:50pm: Enough time to spare, we roll into Ayer and Murat recognizes the commuter rail stop a short distance away. We load up with chocolate milk and snacks at the Mobil Mart and begin analyzing what was an unexpectedly great day with friends, pastries, and 90 miles of pavement.

3:05pm: We’re encouraged to take the last car on the train since we’ll have an elevated ramp in Porter Square to aid in unloading our bikes. What we don’t realize is that we are also sent to the back due to our smell, appearance, and nuisance factor.

3:10pm: The bikes are piled in the back of the train and we all start removing wet shoes and socks.

3:45pm: Conversations shift between bicycles, bars, women, and racing while the train lumbers into Porter Square.

4pm: We unload in Porter and head off in four different directions. The weekend is over and another killer ride is in the books. The season isn’t over, just changing.

Thanks Matt and Kerry for organizing the event and letting us invade your space for the day. And all the HUP and FOHUP who made the ride, let's do it again sooner than later.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Top Notch Photog

Click on the picture for more NoHo goodness from the official photographic master of 2009 CX. Obviously I like this one because it is me but there are a ton of quality (can we start using quality instead of epic?) shots in her highlight real.