Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Sometimes you just have a target on your back. Literally. And when it's a big ugly block M on a maize and blue jersey, it's particularly volatile. Unfortunately for him, but really due to his own poor choice of clothing, that's exactly what happened to this guy at the Kisscross night race a couple weeks ago.

I got to the race venue in time to ride a practice lap. It was raining and chilly—that seems to be typical race weather lately—but once I started warming up I felt pretty good and was actually glad I hadn't dressed any more warmly.

As the race began my legs were a little sluggish. I started feeling a little discouraged. I was hoping this wasn't going to be another Kisscross season like the last two. Pretty soon everyone was ahead of me. But then it happened. I saw my target. His hideous jersey was like a magnet. I had to beat that guy. No matter what else happened during the race, I just had to do it.

I finished the first lap with two goals in mind—concentrate on my dismounts and remounts and beat the guy in the U of M jersey. I started to speed up and continued my quickened pace as I moved closer to my target. My dismounts and remounts weren't perfect; some were a little premature, but the were much improved from my first cyclocross race of the season. 

The dismounts and remounts are always a challenge for me. No matter how much I practice them, during a race I always panic as soon as I get to the barriers and end up just getting off the bike the regular way. During this race, however, I was almost flawless in dismounting correctly. I did get momentarily distracted during the last lap when some people I wasn't expecting started cheering for me, but other than that, I did well.

During the third lap, I finally caught up with the guy in the U of M jersey. I got a little bit ahead of him and pushed myself to stay that way for the final laps of the race. 

In the end, I only beat two people, but I was really pleased with the race. I beat that Michigan guy, but not only that, I kept up the intensity for the entire race. I don't think I've done that since my first season of Kisscross.

Between this race and my 5k experiences this year, it should now be fairly obvious to me that the thing I need to do to have a successful race is to find one or more people I want to beat and spend the entire race trying to make that happen. The competitive drive and spirit motivates me and keeps me going.

This has been kind of a pathetic race season for me. I haven't done a lot of the things I intended to do, but I've also accomplished some things I never expected. The season's not quite over yet, though. I have a few things left that I want to tackle. Next I need to figure out what those things are and determine the best way to go about training for them.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Do You Have to Be Smart to Race?

Last week, I rather belatedly made up my mind to race the Logsplitter. As you might know, I haven't done much racing this year. I thought it might be nice to redeem myself a little at the end of the season by squeezing in another mountain bike-ish race before Kisscross started. The race was in Grayling, which is reasonably close to our cabin, where we had already planned to spend the holiday weekend. Of course, part of the draw was the opportunity to once again hang out with some cool people, most notably this one. It was 26 miles, which I thought was doable, and I liked the fact that many of those miles weren't on singletrack.

On the morning of race day, I dragged myself out of bed to the repetitive sound of rain on the metal roof of our cabin, which seriously threatened to lull me back to sleep. After a brief stop at a local campground to pick up my cheering section (aka Mom), we headed to Hartwick Pines. It continued to rain.

By the time we got there, it had tapered off a bit. I hit the restroom while my personal pit crew prepared my bike for the race. When I returned, my bike was put together, my race number affixed, my tires aired and my chain lubed. Talk about service! I borrowed some arm warmers from Ali and a jacket from my mom, because although it had stopped raining, it was still quite chilly.

It seemed I had everything I needed, but I should have known better. As I lined up for the start, blue skies appeared to give me a false sense of security. I began the race amid cheers from Mom, Chris and Ali. My legs felt a little sluggish, but got better after I started to warm up a bit.

There were two other girls racing against me. They got ahead of me shortly after we hit the ski trail at Hartwick Pines, but I figured as long as I could keep them in sight I had a chance to catch them later. I just tried to stay close, but it was challenging. The ski trail, although not technical, was hellishly hilly. It had started to rain again and would continue to do, sometimes torrentially, for the remainder of the race.

Near the end of the ski trail, in my granny gear, I passed one of the girls on an uphill. I was feeling quite good at this point and stayed ahead of her through the rest of the ski trail and the next section of the race—the bike path.

But as I hit the two track section after the bike path, I start to slow down (and slow down and slow down). My legs didn't want to move any longer. It was taking everything I had in me to continue peddling. As I headed into a neighborhood, the next leg of the race, she was directly behind me. I was about to get passed.

By the time I reached Hanson Hills she was so far ahead I couldn't even see her anymore. I had no idea what was happening. I was actually shaking. Then I remembered. I had a package of pop tarts earlier that morning and nothing since. I had nothing but water in my bottles. And I had no food with me. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

To compound this ridiculous behavior, I decided to do something even more stupid. Instead of bailing into the parking lot as I reached Hanson Hills, I continued to the last leg of the race—10 miles of singletrack. I had my first DNF in four years of racing earlier this year and it felt like crap. I didn't want a repeat performance, so I slogged through those miles, walking something like half of them. I was spent—had no fuel left in the tank and couldn't climb even the slightest inclines.

Needless to say, I came in last place. As I crossed the finish line, all I could think about was food.

That being said, Glen, Ali and everyone else who helped put on a great race. I really enjoyed the first leg. I'd like to do it again next year, minus the bonk.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Best of Both Worlds

If you were a geeky kid like I was or had extremely young parents like I had, you might have had an experience I had when I was growing up. It didn't happen that frequently, but every once in a while, I had to choose between doing something fun with the family and doing something fun with my friends. And it was always hard, but a decision had to be made, one way or the other.

So this weekend when the worlds of friends and family collided, it was MEGA SUPER WONDERFULLY FANTASTIC. Because I didn't have to choose between hangin' out with the cool bike racin' kids and hanging out with the fam. I got to do both.

That was just part of what made this weekend memorable. Here's the rest. 

The badger and ...

The Badger

Oh, yeah. That girl was around. She says I am a geek when I gush, so I won't gush, but you know she is awfully fun to hang out with.

The husband got tall? How'd that happen?

Fun with white boards

I know it looks fun, and it was, but this race was also brutal. And wet, wet, wet (and I'm not talking about the cheesy band here). (More on the race in another post)

Who Hit John? Think Old Crow Medicine Show a la Wagon Wheel.

A little anthropomorphism with a lime—he was starving for spinwheels!

Ms. B, on the other hand, was not so satisfied with the spinwheels.

The first one asleep (here Jon R.) had to deal with the glow stick pranks.

Did I mention it was wicked windy? It's a good thing Red was out with the chainsaw, because this large-ish tree was blocking the road to the Crik.

Here's the new room at the Crik. This addition is bigger than our entire cabin!

Clubbin' (at the Eagles club)

Teaching my bar mates a little francais. When I start writing on the chalkboard, it's probably time to go home.

But instead I watched the in-laws doing the Woody Twist. Classic!

Then I took a few lessons of my own, courtesy of DG. I am hopeless at dancing. :(

The last stop was the Knot Hole for that steak sandwich—the one I wish I could have every night of the week. Too bad it's a three-hour drive.

And seriously, what weekend would be complete without a beer tower? Don't even try to deny it. You know you want one.