Monday, March 10, 2014

Winter Roundup!

Hey!  I haven't written here in a while, cuz, uh, that's what happens when one retires from nordic ski racing.  The standard February blog template of "I went to Weston on Tuesday night and got dropped by some high school girls" just doesn't apply anymore.  And I barely know how to talk about things that aren't competitive events so.... here we are.

In the interest of completeness/nostalgia, I never wrote about EITHER day of NBX (because Ice Weasels, yo), and I don't intend to now, but if you miss 80 meter sand runs you might like the NBX chainstay cam videos:

Day 2 has much more commentary if you're one of them reader-types.  Both have phat beats (don't argue with me) if you're one of those get-stoked types.

NBX Day 1 from colin reuter on Vimeo.

NBX GP of Cross Chainstay Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

After cross season I played around in the roller coaster that is winter in Massachusetts for a while.  Obviously this never really delivered, although I did a LOT of mountain bike rides in 2-4 inches of snow on frozen trails, which I contend may actually be radder than riding a fat bike on lots of snow.  But in any case, the major other BLOGWORTHY thing I did was go on a 5-day ski trip to Mt Baker, Washington.

I have been dreaming about GOING OUT WEST to SKI POW since I was a 12-year old kid reading Powder Magazine in study hall, but for some reason had I failed to direct adult Colin's disposable income toward middle school Colin's dreams... until now.

Mt. Baker gets more snow than any other ski area in the country.  But they'd had a terrible winter, right up until the week we flew out... and then it started nuking.  

While we were there, it was clear enough to see the mountains on the other side of the valley ONCE.

It snowed somewhere between five and seven feet in five days.

There's a chairlift over there, I'm pretty sure.

The day with the least overnight snow (5") ended being the best day because it was snowing so hard during the day, I could only see seven chairs ahead of me on the chairlift and we were getting crazy-deep fresh tracks at 3pm.
Apparently some other people also like this "pow pow" thing.

On the last day we finally stopped hyperventilating and turned on the two GoPros we had for a few runs.  The footage is nothing amazing, but hey, this is ME skiing OUT WEST so you better believe I'm gonna save it for posterity:

Mt Baker Trip from colin reuter on Vimeo.

(Side note:  editing this together made me realize how insanely fast Thom is at making the wideos)

Now, I assume that most readers here are naive Easterners, so when you hear "5 to 7 feet" of snow you imagine a mountain covered in snow so deep you need a snorkel to ski it.


When it's snow a foot a day at 30 degrees, the snow is WET and HEAVY.  And once you compact it down and squeeze the moisture out of it, it turns into ICE like nobody's business.

(I am telling you this because it's story time and the story involves ice)

So it's day three, and it snowed 15 inches overnight, and it's my second run, and HOLYGOSHDARN do I feel invincible.  You know in a video game, where you do, like, everything right, and your power meter is flashing gold, and it's time to use your special attack?  That's where I was at.  When you're skiing down a 35-degree slope in a foot of new, heavy snow, you are INVINCIBLE and you just wanna yell at dudes on the chairlift I AM CHARGING WATCH ME WATCH MEEEEEE because, like I said, your power meter is maxed out and you can do no wrong.

So this is why, when Dana stopped at the top of the icy chute, I was like BLUE SPARKS, BABY!! and went right by him.

Of course, the second my skis hit the ice, I turned back into a pumpkin and realized I was going to die.

A good skier would have just pointed 'em straight and made a turn once he was out of the chute, but despite what I may have suggested, I am not a good skier.  So when ish gets real, I fall back onto the same technique that failed me in High School ski racing:  weight in the back seat and loss of cognitive function.

The only thought my brain was capable of was "you're going to die, try not to die," so my legs put into action "trying not to die," which was not a very nuanced plan.  Specifically, the plan was to throw 'em sideways, er, MAKE A TURN as soon as possible, which meant in this case making a horrible turn to the right with my weight planted on my tails, driving my tips into the icy spine on the side of the chute, and then flipping ass-over-teakettle down the mountain for a bit.

The nice part about driving my tips into the icy wall of the chute was getting my skis hung up, so when my body weight went launching past my skis I got to use my tibia (or fibia?) as a lever to un-jam my skis via brute force.  During this process, my ski boot tried to break my leg, but my leg was all like "I'm young and I drink milk!!" so it survived and transferred the impact to my calf muscle, which was unable to muster a similar defense.

...and that's how I ended my third day of skiing after two runs and spent the rest of the trip eating ibuprofen!

The end.

Two more notes that I cannot smoothly segue into:

1) The other piece of media I created this winter was BIKEREG 2.0.  Hopefully you register for a bike race at some point in your life and use it... in fact, I hope you do it on IE8 and Windows XP, because god knows I threw enough time into the black hole that is that platform.

2) This blog post was powered by the Digitalism May 2013 US Tour Mixtape, if you like it as much as I like it maybe we can be electronic music buddies or something.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ice Weasels Cometh Promotion Report

I think I make the same joke here every year -- "each Ice Weasels must be more difficult to promote than the previous year."  This year that "joke" hit new heights... here's the story.

So we lost our original venue.  Five years of increasingly drunken and muddy farm-cross took its toll, although it was not the landowner that requested we leave -- it was the town.  White Barn Farm, we'll miss you.  It took us five year to nail it, but I think we really did manage to put on the best possible cross race you could do at that tiny field, hemmed in by an ever-rising tide of suburbia.

But it didn't matter, it was gone and The Weasel needed a new home.

We tried to move the race to Adams Farm in Walpole, a venue EVEN CLOSER to Boston, which had just put on a successful mountain bike race this summer.

To make a long story short, the difficulty of getting a permit to use Adams Farm and our perception of that difficulty turned out to be entirely mismatched.  By the time we realized the scope of the hurdles between us and venue permission, what had initially looked like a cakewalk had turned into Mt Everest, and while there's a chance we could have scaled it -- we wouldn't have known until December 3rd.

So I started looking for alternate venues.  We had three weeks.

This is where Paul Boudreau came in.

Twitter Paul is the king of "alternate cyclocross venues," having successfully waged a half-year war with some residents of Gloucester for the right to continue putting on the biggest bike race in New England in their backyard -- and while he might have won that battle, like any decent general, he had a variety of exit strategies for what to do in the event that battle was lost.

So that's how we ended up at Grandview Farm, one of the venues on Paul's retreat path from Gloucester.   I first talked to the landowner 19 days before race day;  by the time we reached an agreement, it was 12 days before the event.  We moved the race officially, gave everyone a chance at a refund (about 8% of racers took this option), and started planning anew.

Then the weather started deteriorating.  At first, the long-range forecast showed signs of a Thursday storm, and I was excited;  there's almost nothing as fun as a proper snowy cyclocross race.  But as race day approached, the storm moved to Saturday, and the weather networks started hyping it up as a Noreaster.  I had visions of 300 cars marooned in snow drifts in that field.

And the forecast high for race day kept dropping;  it was predicted at 39 on Monday, but down to 22 by the day before the race -- almost 20 degrees below the seasonal average.

Our plan of holding the race in the middle of an empty, windy, frigid field started to look problematic.

We called tent companies.  They didn't even want to rent to us, the weather was so bad.  I signed a contract saying I was responsible for all damage to the tent;  we watched the forecast.  I realized my Saturday night might consist of camping in the field and clearing snow off the tent hourly to avoid the five-figure replacement cost.

The tent rental guys decided to work Saturday and break the tent down at 4pm instead.

We built much of the course on the Thursday before the race.  I brought some tools to pound stakes into frozen ground, but it was largely unnecessary.  We ran out of stakes, but it's ok -- we had a deal to pick up 100+ stakes from ECV that night, and I bought 50 more at my local Tractor Supply Company.

We returned Friday to find an additional night below freezing that rendered the ground impenetrable, and every stepin had to have its hole pre-hammered.  If JD Bilodeau hadn't loaned me some tools for this (along with a generator), we'd have lost at least an hour going to buy something for this purpose.

Around this time my hubris with regards to volunteers ("don't worry about it, we're fine, show up if you want") started to rear its ugly head as it was now midday Friday with just myself, Kevin and Thom trying to complete a 1.5-mile cross course.

Toby Wells and Rob Roeslma showed up more-or-less unsolicited and saved our asses.  Toby was there to deliver the podium he made and wouldn't take any money for.  Rob was there because he follows me on twitter, I guess.

We finished the course with about 30 minutes of daylight to spare.

Somewhere in the middle of this I realized my EMT plan had never come to fruition.

I asked the internet for an EMT and 30 minutes later, Sharon bailed us out.

Noticing a theme, yet?

I realized we had been bringing course material to the venue for three days in all of our vehicles, and were going to have to clean the whole thing up in 90 minutes between the last race and sunset, during a snowstorm.

Chandler gave us his truck to use.

I needed someone to score the races in frigid temperatures, staying stone-cold sober and focused for hours on end.

Christin wouldn't even let me try to find someone else to do it.

We didn't have enough snow fence, but the Goguens brought some.

I didn't have a tent with walls for timing, but it's ok, Kurt Johnson let me use his.

We weren't able to track down our (six!) kegs far enough in advance, but no problem, Chip Baker spent half his Friday driving around to get them for us.

We didn't get our barriers until 7am Saturday morning, and we didn't get them into the #@$%$ frozen ground until forty-five minutes before the first race, but it was worth it because Dan Barrett made us the best looking barriers in the history of cyclocross.

I lived at Ryan Kelly's house for three days and he personally worked a 12-hour day with me on race day, setting up, announcing, and tearing down, for which I repaid him for with... um... a loaf of bread and a bottle of Russian dressing.

On race day, every single time I turned around someone asked me if there was anything I needed help with.  Lesli Cohen, Ian Schon, Matt Sousa and Ford Murphy were there from 7am to 4pm.

At race's end, with the sun going down and a snowstorm barreling down on us, a small army of racers stayed around to help us tear down the course, clean up the trash, and load Chandler's truck in record time.

For the first time in Ice Weasels history, I was too cracked from promoting it to even try racing.  Instead I "relaxed" during the elite race by attempting to announce it with Ryan.

The next morning, I looked at the internet, and Vickie had completely broken it.

Christin and I spent the entire Sunday sorting course material in Ryan's barn, driving 4 hours all over Massachusetts returning said course material, and posting results.

And you know what?   It might have been the greatest four days of my life.  But I hope I never have to do it again.

Thanks to everyone out there who helped us, thanks to everyone who made the decision to come out and race despite the venue change and extreme temps, and thanks to Grandview farm for letting our merry band of misfits take over the place for a weekend.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Baystate Cyclocross Day 2 Race Report

Baystate Cyclocross Chainstay Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

The story for this race actually starts the Friday after Thanksgiving, where my brother, his wife, Christin and my Dad and I went for a winter hike in the White Mountains.  The initial plan was to just go to Crag Camp (3 miles and 2500 vertical feet) but the weather above treeline was astoundingly good for November so three of us ended up going all the way to the top of Mt Adams.

Of course "astoundingly good" still meant that I one point, my ear was so cold I thought it was coated in a layer of ice, so I was like "oh I'll scrape that off" but it turned out to just my ear so... hmm.

Unfortunately the summit is separated from the car by 5 miles and 4500' feet of descending, and by the time I got down I was pretty sure I would never be able to walk again.

But!  The healing powers of STOKE are quite robust.  On Sunday morning, I was still sore as hell, but the weather was looking GNARTASTIC in Sterling.  The race was delayed in the morning because everyone was wrecking their cars in freezing rain on the highway, but as an elite racer I had none of that to deal with... because it was 35 and misting when I got there.  Then it started raining.  Then misting.  It was super gross.

Luckily the year has been so dry that instead of being burned out on muddy suffering, everyone was pretty into it.  The course had as much off-camber as Tom Stevens could possibly locate, and said off-camber was mostly ice, with a layer of mud over it.

Pedaling required extreme finesse, and that might actually be my only skill!  So I was excited.

If you want to see some race action, check out the dirtwires:

I make some special appearances in this video with my "special" dismount around 6:15 and a sweet crash-avoidance at 7:30.

That crash avoidance should actually be fully credited to Thierry Lalibertie, because he popped up milliseconds after hitting the group and ran out of the way before I could send both of us to the hospital.

Because it was a muddy, gnarly race, I didn't interact with other racers as consistently as I would in a faster race.

I hung around near Bill Elliston for a while, and he really liked running on the off cambers while I rode them.  This seemed like a lot more work though.  I think he crashed (?) at some point and that was the end of that.

Near the end I rolled up on Mike Wissell, which is strange because he is way better that me.  However his disc brakes were pulling to the bar, which was making the GNAR FACTOR a bit unacceptable for him.  He used this to become a legend on the internet.  And I used it to beat him.  So we both win!

Meanwhile, I was hopping the barriers every lap because it was at least as fast, and dudes were crashing on the dismount anyway, because it was an off camber, like everything else.

Obviously the one lap someone took a photo is the one lap I crashed.
Apparently it was getting quite dark.  Photo:  Thierry Blanchet

During this crash I launched my bike into space, and it landed on my derailleur hanger when it came out of orbit, and nearly murdered it, leaving me with roughly one gear.

While I tried to figure out how to handle this predicament, I rode by the start/finish line, and the officials pulled me because Jeremy Durrin was TEARING IT UP and I was over 80% back.

Since my bike was mostly dead and I like Jeremy I was actually quite okay with this.

Anyone who tells you this race wasn't awesome probably got hypothermia and doesn't ride mountain bikes very often.
I was exerting myself enough that addressing the phlegm situation seemed optional.  []

Friday, November 22, 2013

Shedd Park Cyclocross Race Report

Shedd Park is one of the best local races on the New England calendar, and like many local races, it's hard to really pinpoint WHY.  But for some reason, EVERYONE shows up, so the Cat 1/2/3 race is highly entertaining, and there's lot of cat 3 scrubs padding out the cat 2 scrub zone.   Yes!!

This course is also the scene of my first cyclocross victory ever, the Cat 4 race in 2006, back when I was so fresh to the cyclocross that I didn't blog about it!  It's also the place where I beat Chandler that time after all that trash talk.  ahhhh, memories.

If you want to know about lap one, watch the video.  The quick summary is that I was going too hard to stay with the lead group (shocker) and was popped off said group along with my perpetual riding companion Charlie on lap two.  

Charlie and I rode around for twenty or so minutes and picked up a backward-sliding Chandler and a forward-moving Bill Kenney during this time.  This game the group a dangerous dynamic of one guy who could actually pedal hard (Charlie) and three guys who mainly ride around looking at other people's butts.

Charlie is a team player so for a while it worked, but eventually he saw an opportunity to put in an attack and whomever was on lead wheelsucking duty (wasn't me!) totally let him gap us by like five seconds, and then we were all "boo hoo, hard work, waaaaa" and he was gone.

Soon after Bill had an innocent but time-consuming crash, and then it was down to me and Chandelier, who may or may not have some unresolved angst over the last time he and I raced at this venue.

In any case Chandler was even more committed to not pulling than I was, which was not good for our lap times.

Manny Goguen was recovering from a flat, and Dave Dornaus was just riding bikes hard, and with about one to go they had caught the sinking ship that is Colin and Chandler riding together on a power course.

Dave went to the front, because he was just riding bikes hard, and I tried to figure out how I was going to win the group against two of the only guys I actually worry about in a sprint.

My plan, unfortunately, contained the pivotal assumption that if I pedaled harder than Chandler I would be able to go by him.  

Two trips into the woods later, I had not gone by him, and now we were hitting the track!  That's ok I'll just sprint on the track... no, wait, the track is actually lose cinder and you can't sprint so much as sit down and spin while drifting.

Even so, I started to get a bit of a run going on my traveling companions, just in time for the kink in the track near the finish to come up and have everyone swing over to the outside, putting me into the tape one last time for good measure.


Then I got over myself.  See you next weekend!

Friday, November 15, 2013

West Hill Shop Race Report

I made this video on Tuesday and I thought I was going to blog about the race but then... I don't even know what happened.  Let's pretend I have kids and they got sick or something.

West Hill Shop CX Bar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

ANYWAY the video is nice, you should watch it.

I made the lead group on lap one, which was cool, because it had roughly half the field in it, but not cool because I was the weakest dude there and guys wanted to pedal hard (shocker).  So I made some big efforts to stay attached, and it turns out there's a price for that, especially when you have to run up a freaking wall right after the big pedaling section.

Soooo eventually I got sawed off the group and rode around by myself, trying my little heart out, until I realized two dudes chasing (Eric Follen and Craig Calhoun) were steadily taking time out of me.  When they got to within 5 or 10 seconds with 3 laps to go, I decided that I would rather hang out with them than continue TT'ing and probably get caught anyway.

Hanging out was a lot nicer it turns out.

Eric seemed to be driving it and putting us under pressure, so I encouraged Craig to "close that gap" because that's the kind of game I play when I don't feel like making a pass to do extra work (aka "all the time").  Craig closed said gap and then we dropped Eric right after that, so man, I don't even know what was going on.

In any case it came down to a sprint between Craig and I on the road, which is the 4th time in 6 times at Putney this has happened to me.  You might think I have it dialed by now, but apparently not, because I almost crashed into the ditch at the base of the runup and then smacked my bike on a tree while freaking out. (watch the end of the video)

That being said I did win the sprint for the first place out of the money.  Yeah!

I must say the new version of the Putney course, with turns in the field instead of just riding around the perimeter, is a much less horribly painful bike race, and has the nice side effect of making the lap length reasonable, too.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cycle-Smart International Race Reports

I finally did it!  After eight seasons, a double-DNF weekend.  It's exactly as fun as it sounds.

The best ten minutes of racing I did are in this video:

Cycle-Smart International Chainstay Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

Day 1 I drew a back row start, somehow sliced my way to thirty-sixth in a lap, broke a spoke after 15 minutes and decided that "it wasn't that bad" and "my pit bike has mud tires and janky shifting" so I should just keep riding it.

Thirty minutes of being inexplicably unable to hold a wheel later, I stepped off the course thinking about what a failure of a human being I was.  Tried to roll my now-dismounted bike away and....ka-shuck.  Brake was hitting the blown wheel in a spot so bad it barely turned.  How did I not feel this riding?  Nevermind.  I'm an idiot.  Good thing there's Sunday...

Day 2 I had just reached the "hey, you might be able to do this for the rest of the race" point, and Charlie Schubert had just come by so it was clear I wouldn't have to take any pulls for the remainder of the day.  So then I dropped my chain, jammed it into the chainstay, and threw it into the woods.  It was jammed so bad that three spectators couldn't get it out, hell it's STILL there as I write this blog post on a Tuesday.

Of all the drivetrain problems I've had this year, this is the first one that wasn't Di2-specific, anyone can chain drop and anyone can have the spider push the chain up into the chainstay -- but on my Focus the clearance in that space is such that if you get your chain in there with mechanical advantage (i.e. pedaling), you're never getting it out.

If you need me I'll be rebuilding my pit bike and making it my race bike for the rest of the year.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Orchard Cross Race Report

(First things first, I wrote about two weeks ago but never really publicized it, so no one read it.  Read it now, or not)

Hey!  Orchard Cross is a good race.   I hadn't done it in a long time (it was actually the first time I ever ran the chainstay cam), and now that it's over 2 hours from where I live, I almost went to Bennington for Wicked Creepy Cross (which is another great race... oh New England)... but the siren song of hanging out on the edge of the money with bunch of fellow cat 2 scrubs was more than I could resist.  So away I went!

The course is noticeably improved from "back in the day," which is to say a bunch of unfun power sections were taken out and replaced by twisty things.  There was still quite a bit of pedaling and sketchy-loose-rocky-sandy turny stuff, so it was legit.  As Adam Myerson said, "this is like a Belgian B race."

One of the "B race" attributes of the course is that it gets narrow really fast.  I do not think starting at the back of a large field would be pleasant here.  Luckily, we only had four rows of guys, and I was on the second row, so I got out pretty cleanly and was off to the races.

The four fastest guys in the race checked out pretty immediately, and behind them we strung out into a party train of elite scrubs, fast juniors, and fast masters.  Super fun mix of guys to race with, and some faces you don't see on the usual UCI circuit.

The official guy-we-love-to-hate-on-the-blog was present, Chandelier Delinks, and I thought we were going to have an epic sixty minute battle, but then he laid down and hit a tree branch (possibly not in that order) and we almost all ran over him and that was the end of that.

Eventually "we" started to have a bit of definition as the party train coalesced into a party group with a gap over other groups, which I also hope were partying in their own, not quite as fast, way.

There was an underage child (Josh Anderson) at the party (it's New Hampshire, what else is new) and we COULD NOT get rid of him with our cat 2 scrub power, he was sitting in like he had been taking racing lessons from ME.  This kid turns 15 in two months (I seriously looked up his date of birth) so, hey, I'm not that good at this.

Luckily for us, Shawn Milne was coming back from a crash and he did what we couldn't, attacking our group with such ferocity that the only person inexperienced enough to try to match it was... the 14 year old.

Josh went rocketing off the front in pursuit of Shawn and then we passed him about 60 seconds later and never saw him again.  In about two years, though, he's gonna stick with Shawn and win the race, which is a hell of a lot better than I'll be doing in two years.

The cast of characters for "party group" turned out to be Kevin Sweeney, Mike Wissel, Kurt Belheumer, myself, and eventually Josh's older brother Jon Anderson (who is better than me NOW, instead of two years from NOW).

Like most parties that are entirely dudes, it was kind of awkward and we didn't talk very much.

I noticed with some regularity that Mike and Kevin (WHO ARE TEAMMATES!!) would hang out on the front, and then the guy in second would let the guy in first get a gap and then we'd have to DO WORK to bring it back together.

Well I didn't do that much work, it was mainly other dudes, but you can hear me lie about it in this interview:

With two to go, the situation had occurred once again, and in fact it was getting CRITICAL as Sweens had a seven second gap or so and it was definitely not coming down.  Fine, I thought, it's time for me GET DYNAMICAL and make an attack, because work had to get done and by golly, I ain't pulling with ten minutes left.

This attack was of course, smoking hot and DEFINITELY gapped fools, although I was going so fast at the bottom of the hill I decided to take the bonus line on the outside of the trees, which turned out to be seriously not faster.

This mistake was compounded by hitting a rock so hard I could hear my skewer ringing in the dropouts, which as always made me assume I had flatted.

I hit my rim a few more times to thoroughly convince me I had flatted, and while I was processing my fluster (flusterwatts:  mysteriously absent) Mike Wissell counterattacked and now both HE AND SWEENEY were off the front.  ARGH.

This didn't lower my spirits as much as it should have because I was still in shock I had air in my tires.

Going into the last lap, I thought we dumped Kurt Belheumer, and then I thought I dumped Jon with an attack, but of course I am A BIG WUSS so they were both right back on me as soon as I backed off a bit because it hurt.  And then Jon countered, and it still hurt so I kinda just let him do it.  Yay!

That left me and Kurt to duke it out in a sprint (with three more places tantalizingly close ahead of us!) and I did what I always do, which is win DA SPRINT.  And it turned out to be fore tenth place, and because Orchard Cross had 600 preregistered racers (uh, wow) they were paying tons of money to elites and I got my entry fee back!

I immediately turned this payout into a beer, cider donut, and a coffee, which might have something to do with the stomach ache I had for the entire 140 mile drive home.
The key to getting pictures of myself is to race in the same group as Mike Wissell, apparently. [Caitlin Wissell photo]

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