Thursday, December 28, 2006

We interrupt this training report to complain about beer

I just had a Harpoon "Winter Warmer" holiday ale. It had a nice green label, and Harpoon has been good to me, so I didn't really look closely when I picked it off the shelf.

Oops.

Who the hell puts CINNAMON and NUTMEG in a beer?

Do they get all their sales by accident?!

...

The ski race this weekend is on! I'm going to put hundreds of miles on the car, and drop tens of dollars from my wallet, just to get owned by tens of junior racers who have been doing nothing but rollerski and hill bound all fall.

Whatever. When they beat me, I'll say to them, "Oh yeah? I bet you don't have a blog!"

And I'll be right. Because they only have their little myspace pages. Punks.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I Hate to Say I Told You So

So how about that climate change? Still don't believe it's happening?

Of course, one warm cycle does not a climate change make. And as soon as we get one day that's like 15 degrees and windy, everyone will say "where's global warming now, huh?"

Someday I will write something rational and well-researched about the problem here. But that day may be far away -- it's really depressing to write about, given that the only solution relies on selfless behavior on a global scale. Want to place bets on that happening? Yeah.

I've been spending most of my free time lately on rollerskis. I've been speculating all fall about whether or not cross racing would prepare me for ski racing, and I answered that question with a resounding "no" last week. I did intervals with Alex Jospe (another cross racer, except she trains for skiing instead of training for cross) last week and I got girled, hard. Five times. It was not fun. My limbs did not function well, they were not coordinated, they did not clear lactic acid the way they should, they basically operated like I had been sitting on the couch for 4 months instead of bike racing. So I have been getting my rollerski-induced suffer on almost daily since then. Maybe I'll be respectable in a few weeks.

That video I posted of the 35+ race at Nationals got almost 700 views in a week! It's the closest to fame I've ever been... and yet still so anonymous. I ended up talking to some guys in a bike shop in Waterville Maine about nationals, and they excitedly told me about this video they saw of the B masters race, which had 200 guys in it, and the field was like 2 minutes long after 6 minutes of racing. I beamed like a mother talking about her son's baseball game. It was glorious. If anyone knows how that video got passed around (I highly doubt 700 people saw it here), I'd love to know.

I'm also still working on crossresults.com. At some point I'll actually start trying to get traffic for it, but first I need to finish the site. Right now you can basically just see a list of what racers have been loaded and what racers have been in them, but new stuff is getting added almost daily. I can say with some confidence that there will be graphs and maybe even charts up there in a week or two. It's going to be bike nerd Christmas, I say.

For example, I wrote some code to find out if anyone is sandbagging really hard. So I sez, hey database, show me people who finished in the top 5% of the field the most times this season. And database says to me, Mark McCormack is a dirty sandbagger who finished in the top 5% 9 times this season!

That Mark McCormack guy really should be racing in a higher category.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm a sucker for pros

Here's an excellent picture I didn't take, borrowed from a random blog.



Not a single one of these guys uses inline brake levers. But I love the damn things. What's the deal with that? Is there a clear disadvantage to them? Maybe this is like disc brakes, I couldn't think of a good reason not to use them on a cross bike except weight, and then someone said "wheel changes" to me. So does anyone know why all the good riders don't use inline brake levers? Maybe they go so fast, they can't take their hands off the hoods for stability reasons? I dunno.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More video action

If you rode U35 B Men, you're in this video. I didn't recognize many folks here, except for Thom Parsons and his amazing pink single speed (TPAHPSS as he has been called), who runs into the back of some NEBC rider. Some other guy ran below the tree carrying his bike (the tape allowed for that) to get around the pileup, which is why you hear some people yell "nice line."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cross nationals

This was going to be a totally awesome video of Ryan Trebon eating the field for lunch and winning the US National title. But then I taped over it the next day, before I could copy if off my camera, so now I have nothing but this little video of 196 B racers riding through the bowl and over the tree. Ordinarily this would be an impressive offering, but come on -- every other dude with a video camera there is going to have something intense footage of elite men to edit and put on the internet. AND THEN GET FAMOUS, AND HAVE LOTS OF E-FRIENDS. So that's a bummer, because I was pretty sure that a youtube video was my ticket to everlasting cross stardom.

Oh well. If you're a 35+ B racer, you're in this video. Hope you aren't someone who got stuck in the pileup that made me say "awww yeah."



One other thing -- that results website I was talking about is totally happening. I got set back about a week because the laptop I was developing on got stuck in my office because of the fire, but I've gotten it back now, and to prove I'm serious I bought the domain crossresults.com. So I'm a nerd, but at least I'm not a liar.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Caster's Grand Prix Elite Men Video

Here's my first attempt at making a race video. I'm not sure if I like the subtitles, but they seem necessary to tell the story. Otherwise it's just a bunch of pros riding. And the music is also a pretty weird selection.



Any feedback on this is much appreciated!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Caster's Cross Race Report

Last race of the cross season for me! Unlike most of the east coast, I'm not racing at Nationals. $50 to ride in a 200-person B men's field? You've got to be kidding me. I'll be there to laugh at the carnage and yell at pros, though.

My prerace warmup was, shall we say, suboptimal. The inital plan was to watch the first few laps of B women, yell at Linnea and my travelling companion Alex, and then hit the trainer and go race B men. That lasted about 2 minutes, because the first time Linnea rode by me she was yelling at me that the front brake was stuck on. Good thing we have a pit bike! Wait, we don't have a pit bike. So I run to the pit and she comes in. One look at it confirms that the problem I had earlier in the year is back -- the brake boss (I think that's the right word for it) is loose so one of the brakes is just being pulled onto the rim by the other brake. The only way to fix it is to take the brake completely off, tighten the post, and reattach the brake, which is obviously not the kind of fix you make in the pit. So we take off the front brake and send her back out. I run to the car (conveniently far away) to get the bike I was going to warmup, a bike I borrowed from a friend (she's riding my bike). Ride it back to the pit, meet her on the next lap and do a bike change. Of course this bike has my pedals on it, so we actually do a bike-and-shoe change. I bet Sven Nys never has to do that.

So now she's at the back of the women's field, on a bike without bartop brake levers and reversed brake cables. So she can't really ride it, but on the plus side, I now have almost half an hour to "fix" my bike.

Fifteen minutes of frantic mechanical work later, I have a semi-working front brake again. It has so much travel that I can only use my bartop levers (the normal ones don't have enough pull) and it's way off center, but it seems to be working, assuming the boss doesn't come loose again. So I book it over to B men's staging, take my pedals back off Linnea's bike and line up. Except I'm still wearing her shoes, so I can't clip in. This has the potential to be really bad, except I notice this just before she leaves, and then they delay the B men's start for an ambulance anyway. Awesome!

The shenanigins eventually subside and I get to line up at the back of field, where I belong. The start is fast, gradually downhill on pavement, so my goal is to not get wrecked, since the ambulance just left. The 70-strong field is already stringing out substantially thanks to some sketchy pack cornering on the first two paventment corners when we hit the sand. Whooo, 70 guys and bikes with too much adrenaline in a pit of sand! We run up the hill three people wide. People are getting hit in the face with bikes. People are dropping bikes on other racers' heads. People are kicking each other trying to remount. Cross is awesome!

From there the real race begins. The course is basically a ton of tight turns with little straights in between, so everyone's riding single file most of the way. If you want to make a pass you have to come out of a turn on the inside and hammer past the guy in front of you, and then kind of cut him off into the next turn. It's pretty fun racing, although hard to pass. I steadily move up on the first lap through a series of sketchy passes. We go into beach run #2 and someone endos trying to ride it. More chaos ensues.

After one lap I'm behind Thom Parsons (aka the amazing pink singlespeed) on the fast paved downhill, and he does an admirable job of spinning his legs off to stay in our 4-rider paceline. Then he drops us all on the next beach run.

Laps 2 and 3 are somewhat uneventful, as I head around the course suffering at the exact same rate as my riding companions. Then I end up in no man's land, riding by myself. There's a few guys about ten seconds ahead of me, so Alex helpfully points out from the sidelines that I would probably do better if I caught them. I decide it's worth the pain to shut her up, so I pick it up coming through for lap 4 and get back onto someone's wheel. And soon after that we catch Thom Parsons, who got left with no one to draft on the high speed section and has NO GEARS. Hooray! A dude on the sidelines tells us we're in 24th place.

This information is apparently too much excitement for my legs to handle, so the next time we hit the beach runup disaster strikes. The guy in front of me dismounts/crashes abruptly in the sand when I'm halfway through my dismount, and I land a bit awkwardly on my leg, hyperextending my knee. Typing that sentence makes my cringe. So I fall down in a heap in the sand and grab my knee. A few seconds pass. My knee doesn't hurt that bad, so I decide to get up. My knee doesn't want to hold any weight. I get knocked down. In an homage to my favorite band, Chumbawumba, I get up again. This time I can stand. But running up a sandy hill is another story. So I start hobbling, carrying my bike. There's a steady stream of people running past me as I gingerly walk up the sandy hill. The desire to race is rapidly leaving my body.

Nevertheless, I got back on the bike and started pedaling. My knee is basically ok now, except that my 60 seconds of sandy agony have taken me out of "race mode," and I can't get myself back into suffering. The people cheering for me are nice enough to pretend that nothing is wrong, even though I just dropped 15-20 places in a quarter lap. But the girls (Linnea and Alex) are yelling at me a lot, and I feel bad mailing it in with people yelling at me. There are definitely places to be made in front of me, so I gradually get back into the race.

By the last lap (lap 5) I feel like I'm racing again. I can tell I'm pushing hard because my cornering ability has really fallen apart. Coming off the last beach run there's a group of 5 right in front of me. The course really strings out a group so there's no way I'm going to win a sprint from the back of five people, so it's time for more sketchy passes. I get up to 3rd in the group by the time we make the 180 on the pavement and wind up the sprint. The first guy in the group has a small gap and blows us away. I dig in and beat the guy in 2nd to come in 35th place, 3:15 off the leader.

Looking at the results later, Thom and friends finished right around 25th, so I think I could've been up there if my leg hadn't malfunctioned in the sand. But you know what they say... "and if my grandmother had wheels she'd be a trolley." So I'll take my 35th place without making too many excuses.

Friday, December 8, 2006

My office tried to burn down.

Read all about it here: Building Fills With Smoke, Trapping Office Workers

From an email I just sent my folks:
"No fire or smoke on the 11th floor when we started evacuating. Smoke got denser in the stairwell as we went down, until on the 5th floor people wouldn't go any further. So we end up running around the 5th floor for a bit, until someone finds a stairwell at the edge of the building that isn't smoky and tells us to go that way. Those neon "exit" signs, something you generally ignore, were VERY helpful. On the fifth floor, some people were hustling, but no one was panicking,surprisingly. It was quite smoky near the center but better near the edges of the building -- when someone told us to go to the stairs near the outside edge of the building, I just ran... everyone else was doing that half-run thing when you are in a hurry but want to maintain your dignity. Luckily I have none so I tore past lots of people was the first person to the outer stairwell. I ran down 5 more flights of stairs to the ground and got outside, then I ran back into the parking garage to get my bike, and then I got outta there and came home. "

Anyway, this had nothing to do with cycling or skiing, but it's not every day you get to be in an office fire. I think I get the rest of the day off from work now.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

I'm a raging nerd

I'm working on a new project.

I went to USA Cycling to get my cat 3 upgrade and I noticed a section called "race history" for me. Of course it was empty, which was lame, because I have done quite a few races. And I've given promoters my USCF number, and I'm also the only person named Colin Reuter racing bikes in the US. So it shouldn't really be that hard to figure out my history. Basically the left column of bikereg.com contains my history. So it sucks that USA Cycling doesn't have some results database...

But wait... I'm a programmer. A raging, nerd programmer. I think I created the phrase "results whore," or at least have had it applied to me more times than I can count. So I started dreaming about some kind of magical web crawler that would look at all the bike results on BikeReg, compile them into a database, and then give you all kind of sweet web-based functionality to browse and compare the data. The kind of thing you might think USA Cycling would have in the "race results" section, if they contracted their web development out to Google, and Google did a typical way-better-than-you-thought-possible job.

So I've been working on this for 3 days now. I already have a C# app that takes a BikeReg.com results URL, downloads the webpage, parses it and copies it into a SQL Server database in a scant three clicks. It's got some issues, but it mostly works. The next step is to throw together a passable web interface to the database and publish this thing to the web.

I can probably load every cross race from this year (with results on BikeReg) in an hour. This is going to be so cool. You know those silly NEBRA points rankings that no one seems interested in maintaining? I can do those in like, ten minutes. Actually, screw that, how about a web page that lets you select a set of races, and a points breakdown (100 for first, 80 for second, etc etc) and then computes points-based series results on those races. You could do Verge, NEBRA, whatever the hell you want. You can make up your own series. You can make up your own scoring. Yeah. Let's do that. That would be f'in cool.

Does anyone else think this is cool? Bikers are nerds. Nerds like data. If they can spend 100 forum posts debating 32 psi vs 34 psi, I bet they'd like to have a better way to look over results than text files on BikeReg. So I bet I'm not the only person who thinks this will be cool. And even if I am... I'll have fun programming it. Because I'm a raging nerd.

Monday, December 4, 2006

MRC Cross Race Report

Hey, can't have good legs every day, right?

The MRC course was pretty solid, especially given that they had only gotten the venue with about a weeks notice. It started with a brief dirt road section, then hooked right into a field for lots of twists and turns, then into the first set of barriers. After that came a extended wooded section with some puddles, and then back into the field for a long downhill with a sharp 180 at the bottom. This corner turned onto a dirt road and was hopelessly loose, and very difficult to ride cleanly or quickly. After that, climb up to and over a big granite rock that flatted a tire or five (silly people and their low tire pressure), then some zig zags in the field, a barrier-induced runup, and some more climbing before looping back to the start area and a massive log barrier that was rideable by a few.

This was a cool event, mainly because a lot of the spectators/promoters were drinking steadily throughout. As a result, there were a variety of nonsensical primes given out. The action centered around the big log, which was a challenging ride but saw quite a few people take a shot at it. They announced at the beginning of the B race that there would be an unofficial prize for riding it cleanly (and officially, we shouldn't ride it, it's a good way to get hurt) and I saw a guy get a tire after the "judges" recorded him riding it cleanly.

But it wasn't all fun and games -- I had a guy come cruising past me, try to ride it, and pull a spectacular endo. One of the elite men tried to ride it and taco'ed his rear wheel. At least one other guy did a monster (a.k.a. totally sweet) endo, shown here. The real "not-all-fun-and-games" moment was the elite men lap one prime. The promoters/spectators had cajoled $120 out of the crowd to give to whomever led the first lap of the elite men; as this was more than the first place prize ($100) the race went out hot. For a while, 18-year old Nick Keough was holding off Mark McCormack and Justin Spinelli in the lead group (I guess $120 is really a lot of money when you're 18!) but come on, it's Mark freakin' McCormack. So finally they got past him, and coming out of the last corner into the finish straight it was Spinelli leading McCormack in the race for $120. So they're both going all out down the grassy straightaway (only 6 minutes into the race) and about 50 meters from the line Spinelli (who is barely ahead, because McCormack is also a sick roadie when he's not owning cross races) starts drifting into McCormack. They get tangled up right before the line and go down hard. Spinelli blows a tire, and somehow his wheel ejects from his frame and goes flying into the air across the finish line. I'm still not sure if he broke his fork or skewer or what, but something gave out. To add insult to injury, he got DQed for not holding his line and McCormack took the money, and got back up, remounted and fought his way back for the win, while Spinelli walked away with a broken bike and a DQ.

Additionally, I did a race, although it was sadly short of prime-sprints or log crashes. B men was probably 30 people, and I lined up in a typically modest back-marking location. I wasn't really feeling great, but I'm not going to make excuses for that. Anyway I could tell this wasn't going to be a breakthrough outing so I lined up near the back and didn't break any records on the first lap. One notable thing was a guy in front of me failing to clip out going into the barriers and eating it hard, with 5 people right behind him halfway through their dismount. I didn't get taken out by that nonsense, more due to luck than skill.

So the race rolled on. I found out very quickly that my legs just weren't there... they were burning under modest efforts and not even putting out much power. About the only place I could ride effectively was the fast corners, solidifying my "reputation" (as if I have one) as a mountain biker with no power. Every time we hit a straightaway, the trail of guys who I had just put behind me on the hard stuff would come blasting back past me, probably wondering how someone with so few watts could've gotten ahead of them.

The other thing I had going for me was Joe Crooks, a runner from Elms College who is a friend of a friend. And I'll be damned if I'm going to lose to someone my friends know. So he and I went back and forth, and each time he got in front of me I had a lot of incentive to suffer on his wheel. He did a lot of nice work, and ended up dragging us remarkably far up the field as the race progressed. Coming into the last lap, he and I were in a group of 3 or 4, and someone told us were "just outside the top 10." Of course, my only concern was beating him (I may not have legs, but I have pride), so this wasn't really important to me, but I guess it meant things weren't going as badly as I thought.

And then, somehow, that last-lap adrenaline I can always count on kicked in. I made the pass on the granite rock, opened the gap on the switchback descent, held on through some climbs and turns, and hammered like scared rabbit into the finish for a 10th place, a few seconds ahead of the 3 guys I had been riding with. It hurt, and it wasn't as gratifying as last week -- but I'll take it.

Next weekend is the first race of the nordic season (freestyle sprints at Great Glen, and my first ski race in two years) and the last race of the Verge series. Aaaaand my new digital video camera is in the mail, so I can chronicle all the pain, and post it to youtube. Sweet.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Building a ghettocross bike

Linnea is busy building a ghettocross bike with a few contributions from my parents house and my wallet. Here are some pics of the beast:

The source material... only the best!

New stem, drop bars, Ultegra brakes levers donated by my dad.

Gee, that looks like a mountain bike with drop bars.

Put some Schwalbe CX Pros on there...

...And it could be mistaken for a cross bike!

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