Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More Tuesday Night Worlds

Last night was the fourth round of the Weston/CSU Tuesday Night Race Series. Last time I alluded to having a far too specific plan for this week, so let's see how it went:

Part 1: Don't do any extra work until the the last lap.
We had 71 people on the start line so it was the bigger race of the year. I got away pretty cleanly, slotting in around 8th, but the lead group was larger than usual and I think 12 or so people made the first cut. Furthermore, Bret Bedard didn't wax his skis and it was 34 after a high of 40 -- for two laps he tried to break away but the superior (expensive) glide of the chasing pack hauled him back on the downhills. This ended up making the pace a lot higher than last week since we were actively chasing him down the hills instead of standing around looking at each other.

Basically, after 3 laps of trying to do minimal work, I felt like I had done a ton of work just to hang on, and Part 2 of the plan didn't seem like a very good idea.

Part 2: Try to get off the front on the transition after the downhill after Mt Weston
This one requires that you know the course to really appreciate it. After a long, gradual V2-Alt downhill there's a quick sharp uphill and a corner. I know for a fact that if you "get up on it" you can get up that hill in like 4 V2 strides, but we always accordion and it takes like 8 V1 strides. It's a good place to get a gap or put the hurt on everyone with just over 90 seconds to the finish.

The problem was that I was on the receiving end of the hurt. The pace ratcheted up starting lap 4 and the group started coming apart, and I was on the wrong side of the split. I killed it up Mt Weston to close back in to 6th, but on the descent my legs started whining.

"Oh gosh, we hurt so much, can't you just draft for another 60 seconds and then we promise we'll try really hard to win the sprint?"

The lungs tried to echo their support for this plan, but all they could do was froth spittle onto my chin.

Needless to say, there was no attack. But I was the last guy to make the cut, and I was still in contact with the leaders on the last corner. I like to think that this counts as a moral victory.

So we come off the last 180, it's one last mad dash to the finish, and of course I am receiving the full force of the accordion so the front three are effectively out of reach. Coming down the straight, though, I have a shot at the guy in fifth, I start overtaking him but at the same time he's overtaking the guy in fourth... and it's just a narrow Tuesday night race without lanes. With 50m to go, the trail is entirely blocked and I'm still gaining on these guy, trying to come through the middle.

Had it been a big race I might have stepped on people and busted through, but I don't think crashing out the Tuesday night regulars in a sprint finish is a good way to make friends. I tried to double pole up the middle but I'm no Tor Arne Hetland. I threw my ski just for the hell of it, there's no finish camera anyway and it's self judged. I was sixth. Again.


Monday, January 28, 2008

103 kPA of Awesome

Can you say SNOW RIDE??

Dear Jay Winter Challenge:

Bring it.

Colin and Linnea

Yes, I'm still nerding it up with the Garmin

White Mountain Classic 30k Race Report

This Saturday it was time to reverse the trend of driving South to Otis on weekends to head north to Jackson for winter is actually supposed to be about: ski racing. This may come as a surprise to those of you that think winter is about getting fat or riding trainers (if not both), but there is in fact a tasty alternative to sweating indoors. Unfortunately it requires the cooperation of Mother Nature and decades of technique work, but that's your problem, not mine.

This year's race was scheduled on the same day as an Eastern Cup Sprint, which meant that every single person under 21 would be off sprinting -- and every single person over 30 would be at this race. I'd launch into a rant about NENSA segregating masters skiers and juniors and how it's ultimately bad for the sport... but I can't get that worked up about it. Let's just agree that having your main winter distance series conflict with your main winter short distance/sprint series is really stupid when there are weekends, not just days, with neither and be done with it.

The course itself was a lot harder than last year because Jackson had enough snow to run us up to the Eagle Mountain Golf Course and also the Wave. This did require 3 separate road crossings and 5 total trips across them, but that's what you get for building a ski center in town, surrounded by roads. The tracks were solid and the wax was easy, so there was no excuse not to have fun.

Of course you can't have fun without lining up, so at 10 o'clock the typical self-seeded lineup happened and as always I missed it. I ended up back in the fourth row (12 lanes across) wondering how badly I was going to get trapped on the first turn, where the course narrowed to four tracks.

Then we waited. In the 20 degree weather, with the 20 mile per hour wind, while the race organizer attempted to ask us something and then wandered off. It was cold. While I was praying for the race to start I invented some laws:

Colin's Laws of Frostbite:
1) The length of time you must stand around in a race suit before the race is proportionate to the wind speed.
2) The odds of you remembering windbriefs are proportionate to the air temperature.
3) The odds of you not hearing the 30-second warning is proportionate to the number of non-racing (jackets, windpants) items you are wearing.

Before anything really bad could happen to my "extremities" we were off. I survived the first corner and was ideally boxed in, so the actual fast guys got off the front and I was powerless to go with them. Since I hadn't raced more than a 5k all year this was actually part of the plan.

It always amazed me how quickly long distance races go from "ski smart" to "hang on" for me. After 10k, I was still in the "ski smart" zone -- drafting on the golf course, focusing on technique on the climbs, I would've told you I could keep that method of skiing up for another 40k. But soon we were coming back down the Yodel trail -- where the Garmin clocked me at a very error-prone 32 mph -- and the masters skier in front of me speed checked.

As someone who values style over success (apparently) I tried to pass him on the outside of the corner, making a sick move, darting back and forth across the track without scrubbing any speed at all.

Had you been watching -- and had I succeeded -- you would have said to yourself, "wow, that was gnarly, that guy is the sexiest nordic athlete alive!" But no one was watching, and instead of impressing the woodland creatures with my totally tubular shredding skillz I caught a ski in the track and laid it down, sliding a good 30 yards and halfway into the ditch before coming to a stop. My more mature opponent left me, and with that I entered the "just hang on" zone.

What was left to hang on to was 20k of generally flat skiing up the Ellis River trail. Lots of double-pole, or kick double-pole if you're weak. You won't believe this, but I fell into the latter category. It turns out that "upper body endurance" and "cyclocross racing" are mutually exclusive.

So I suffered like a dog. Like a weak, tiny dog, the kind that Paris Hilton would use as an accessory. I double-poled like a chihuahua.

For another 10k or so, this worked surprisingly well. No one caught me, although I caught no one. At the turnaround at the top of the Ellis River Trail, I found out that I was in 12th, which was invigorating enough to get me to pick it up for the long, gradual descent to the finish. I looked back on one of the open sections -- no one in sight! I'm gonna make it!

Suddenly, going by the 27k marker, there was breathing behind me, and then a Dartmouth development team guy sliced past. He was much larger than me. I thought I had dropped him long ago, on one of the early climbs, and he was back to return the favor. There were no hills left. I was in big trouble.

I hung on his tails for two more k, giving the pain face to every spectator. As we ducked under route 16, I thought I had enough to make it to the finish with him, but I didn't know that there was an extra 0.5k loop added from last year's course. Exiting the tunnel, they sent us right, onto another fairway, instead of left to the finish. I cracked like the egg I am and lost the draft, and that was the end of 12th place.

In the end I was only 3 seconds down to him in 13th, which is better than I was expecting. Since I hadn't taken a classic stride in quite a while, I was unable to walk down stairs without excessive thrashing about for the next half hour. And now that I check -- yep, I'm still sore.

Still borrowing the Garmin...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More Tuesday Night Smackdown

Last night found me back at Weston for another round of crit skiing, er, ski drafting, er, short track nordic, er... whatever. A flat ski race with lots of drafting.

This time around we had Bret Bedard in the mix, a guy who looked like he might be the next (the first?) great American skier when he was in High School. Why he's in Boston, I have no idea, but it was basically a race for second place with him there.

We got started and I had another typical 15 minutes warmup going on so I grabbed onto the back of the lead masters pack (Bret was already dropping everyone) and set about finding a rhythm. After a lap or two I started to feel ok, the problem was that skiing at the back of a train of seven people was making the accordion a harsh mistress. On one hand I could rest all the way down every straightaway -- but on the other I had to sprint like crazy out of each corner/climb to get back into the train. I decided I had to move up. You can't "animate" the race from the back.

After two attemps to move out of last that failed, I actually had someone say "please don't ski next to me." While I realize that he was trying to say "either move up or stay in the line, don't go halfway by me and potentially get in my way" it still goes down as one of the silliest things I've heard in a mass start ski race. In any case I motored up the next straightaway, moving past one... two... three... oh crap I'm at the front.

As soon as I hit the front it was obvious to me I couldn't get away, the gentle breeze coming up the fairways felt like a gale when you were skiing into it at 15 miles an hour. Everyone happily sat behind me while I worked 10% harder.

After a lap or so Jon Peterson passed me and I slipped back to second in the group. This should have been the ideal place to be, but I was starting to feel the effects of a hard effort at the front and a mediocre warmup. After another lap hanging in second things were starting to feel pretty bad in my stomach -- so like the giant wuss that I am, I stood up and let most of the group by. Sure, I got to let my stomach and muscles rest for a bit, but it was a completely stupid move to make with less than 5 minutes left.

The good part was that I got to recover quite a bit while tail-gunning, the bad part was that when it strung out on the last half lap I was in no position to do anything about it. I passed one guy on the last climb and just missed catching Rob Bradlee at the line, ending up 6th. A slight improvement from last time, but man, if I could just warm up and actually go 20 minutes without feeling naseous, then we'd really have something.

Anyway in true master blaster fashion I've overanalyzed my race and already have a far too specific plan for next week. Tune in next week to find out how it goes!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Otis Rocks My Socks

Alex is off orienteering around Europe so I've been borrowing her Garmin 305 as part of my top-secret Otis mapping project. I've ridden at this place 5 times in my life now (3 in the last 2 weeks) and I'm still lost most of the time. It's easy to know what general area you're in but impossible to know exactly what trail you're on or how to get from point A to point B -- every trail winds around ridges and back on itself so much that covering 500 yards in a straight line can end up taking a mile of riding.

In other words, Otis freaking rocks, except when you're lost and the sun is going down. What you see above is about 4 hours of riding -- the blue line and the red line are from two different two hour rides Linnea and I did this week. The red line basically follows the perimeter, but everything inside it is an insane network of smooth singletrack.

If you're looking for a place to ride early-season, you can't beat Otis. It's down south so it almost never has snow, and the magical sandy soil is almost never wet. Even after a day of rain in Boston, there was nothing resembling mud to be found at Otis.

One of the tough things about Otis is finding information about it. It's one of those things where all the locals know everything but no one publishes anything useful online.

Otis Mountain Biking Resources:

Rage MTB info page
BikeRag Map

Any map you see of Otis should be taken with a grain of salt. There are so many trails in various degrees of use, it's impossible to identify and map them all. There are no signs anywhere at Otis, so once you lose track of where you are on a map (which will happen about 30 seconds in, when you hit four intersections that aren't on the map) you'll never find yourself again.

All you really need is a compass or a good sense of direction. There's lots of options and all the trails are great -- as long as you don't have tight time constraints it's more fun to just go explore than to try to figure out where you are all the time.

It's about a 75 mile drive from Boston, so it's just over an hour if you keep the pedal to the metal. If it's 42 and windy out and you're looking for an alternative to riding on the road (or in the basement), head down and check it out. It's smooth and twisty and super fun -- you don't need full suspension or lots of mtb experience -- so even you roadie types should try it.

I'm thinking about getting a Garmin myself after experiencing the joy of looking at routes in Google Earth -- so maybe someday I'll have a definitive Otis map to post here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The 2007 "Golden Top Mount" Awards

Now that the season's over, I've seen a few "what was your favorite course?" discussions go flying across the internet. These are generally pretty silly because part of what makes cross sweet is how every course is different. Nevertheless, the offseason is the time for silly discussions -- so I shall make a contribution.

At least for me, racing a new course each week is better than racing my favorite course twice in a season -- so the answer to "what was your favorite course" is probably the last race I didn't do horribly at. Breaking races down to "best" or "favorite" just isn't descriptive enough for me, anyway.

Without further ado, allow me to present the 2007 Golden Top Mount Awards.

Most MTB-friendly course: Coonamesset Eco Cross. No pavement, barely a straightaway, lots of narrow trails and a super narrow fence line made it impossible to put the power down for more than 5 seconds at a time. (Honorable Mention: Dayville)
Most Roadie-friendly course: Gloucester Day 2. One dismount and the identical course from the prior day? Come on man, I could ride that in my sleep and/or 48t ring. (Honorable Mention: Gloucester Day 1)
Best Runup: Putney. Long, with a technical dismount and big crowds, and the finish line just 50 yards after the top. It doesn't get any better than that.
Sickest Runup(s): Palmer. Not to be confused with "best" -- the 3rd runup at Palmer was bordering on inhumane.
Best Prizes: Mansfield Hollow. It is insane and probably a bad idea to give out a $500 purse (including $150 for 1st place!) to the B men's field. But hey, it's not my money.
Best Sand Pit: NBX Sandpit #2. This one came nearer the end of the lap and had two lines, close by the trees or down by the water. Either way it took a stupendous ride to clean it, or a long, hard, run. (Honorable Mention: Chainbiter)
Best Finish: Jeremy Powers over Todd Wells, NBX Grand Prix. Powers looked like he gave up the lead intentionally near the end, then bobbled the last corner and still dropped the hammer enough to win it at the line... just like he planned it? (Honorable Mention: Todd Wells over Jesse Anthony, Stedman GP)
Longest Drive: Wicked Creepy Cross in Bennington, VT was 170 miles from Boston and worth every one of them.
Shortest Drive: Bedford Springs Cross was only 11 miles from my house, but I was still too much of a weenie to ride to it.
Hardest Conditions: Natz Schmatz Winter Cross. Mud and snow on top of ice, the only question was when you were going to crash. (Honorable Mention: Stedman GP)
Worst Crash I Saw: An IBC rider (Greg Roubidoux maybe?) missing his saddle on the remount, landing on the rear tire and allegedly getting his junk crunched between the tire and straddle cable at Bedford Springs. I saw it from a distance and I was practically sick to my stomach.
Biggest Instance of Sandbagging: Jon Awerbuch winning the 3/4 race at Lowell while carrying around 50 upgrade points, many of them from 2/3 races.
Best Internet Scuttlebutt: The ebay auction. 7000 pageviews can't be wrong.
Fastest Barriers: Bedford Springs. Early season, on a slight downhill in a long straightaway -- I thought I was going to kill myself. (Honorable Mention: Dayville)
Sketchiest Descent: Natz Schmatz Winter Cross. The descent after the runup -- did they even clear a single tree from that, or just drag a rake through the woods and call it good? (Honorable Mention: Bedford)
Worst Idea: Nationals -- course tape as a retaining wall. I'll let this show just how effective that was. (Honorable Mention: Dayville Barriers)
Stalest Richard Fries Announcing Cliche: "Brilliant." Fries himself is an invaluable asset to the Verge series, but I almost went insane when I decided to count how many uses of "brilliant" there were during the NBX elite races.
Most Unstoppable Racer: Lynn Bessette. When you can stomp the women by over a minute directly after racing B Men and getting top 10, I'd say you're pretty far above the competition. (Honorable Mention: John Peterson)
Best Non-Standard Obstacle: MRC Cross - "The Log" -- anytime there's a prime for riding something, I'm pretty stoked.
Best Ride of a Runup: Jeremy Powers at Sterling. The other guys were trying to block him from riding it because they couldn't, he didn't always make it, but he made it when it counted and got away for the victory.
Craziest Racer: Julie Lockhart. 66 years old, takes her teeth out to race. Crazy in every sense of the word.
Stupidest Bike Setup: Compact Cranks. Why does 1 out of every 4 Cat 4's have this on their bike? If you're racing on a cross bike with a compact crank, you bought a commuter bike, dude. (Honorable Mention: The Mini-Vs on Alex's bike)

Got additional nominations? Want to complain about my selections? Let me know in the comments.

In a related note, if you'd like to express your feelings on various cross events in New England, there's a new feature over at called "Skulls and Beers." To quote the news post:

Skulls are a measure of how hard the course was. Some people like courses that are really hard, some people like courses that are really easy, so low skulls are not a bad thing. Just let us know what you thought. More skulls = harder course. What defines a "hard course" is entirely up to you.

Beers measure how totally frickin' sweet an event was. More beers = more frickin' sweetness. Unlike skulls, low beers are pretty much a bad thing, although I guess some people thrive on everyone else being unhappy. So let us know the frickin' sweetness of the event, too -- once again, by your own subjective degrees of awesome.

I'm hoping to gather some data about how many skulls and beers each race was worth this past year -- so if you're looking for something to do, I'd be really grateful if you'd head over to crossresults and rate some of the events you did. Here's a list of all the New England Races. When you're done voting, you can go here to see a summary of what votes have been cast so far.

Monday, January 14, 2008

CSU Sprints Race Report

Despite four days of 60 degree weather, Weston Ski Track still had over a foot of ice, err, packed snow, so the CSU Sprints were still on for Sunday. Unfortunately, watching all the snow around my house melt had cured me of much motivation to ski race, so Linnea and I went mountain biking down at Otis Air Force Base (the best winter riding location in Massachusetts) and then up to the legendary Zank party.

This was notable for a few reasons.

First of all, it's a great set of excuses for not skiing very fast on Sunday. Long mountain bike ride followed by coffee followed by beer followed by getting home at 1 AM? You can't expect a guy to ski fast after that, right?

Secondly, I met a lot of people who I only previously knew as e-quaintances. After about 20 minutes I just started introducing myself as the guy, which spared folks the trouble of having to act like they knew who I was.

Third, Zank is very upset that I didn't link him on my blogroll, and knows the best way to fix this was the get toasted and complain loudly about it in front of a large crowd. I kind of assumed that since he was Mr. "New Belgium" he was already known to everyone and thus linking him makes as much sense as linking you to google. But if you're one of the 3 people racing New England cross that don't already know all about Zank, well, click his new link in the sidebar. He makes bikes, too.

So, flimsy excuses aside, I did make it to Weston with a whole 45 minutes to spare before the sprint qualifier. Since XC skiing in Eastern Massachusetts is a bit...unique... the sprint qualifier was actually a 5k race starting at 12:30. And there was a High School boys race starting at 10:30, and the fastest 30 times from those two races combined would make the heats. Like I said, unique.

The only real flaw in this plan was that it was 40 degrees out after freezing overnight. The course was A LOT faster at 10:30 than 12:30, so the open qualifiers were working against the growing slush while the early kids had mostly ice, as if they needed the help.

Don't worry though, this post isn't going to end with me not making the top 30 because of high schoolers. I managed 17th fastest overall and a few of them left early, ranking me 12th in the sprint. But I'm sure whoever finished 31st or so from the open race got screwed.

A gratuitous picture of me qualifying, "borrowed" from CSU's Picasa page.

After the qualifier there was the required standing around and getting cold that every sprint race is known for. It was during this intermission that the DJing went from questionable (George Harrison) to horrifying (Celine Dion).

So not only was I wet and getting cold, I couldn't escape the world-renowned pump-you-up sounds of Celine f-ing Dion as I warmed up on postage stamp of snow we were racing on. OH YEAH!!

Eventually the sprint brackets went up and I had drawn a tough quaterfinal, I had to beat either the #2 High Schooler (Chris Stock) or recent Dartmouth grad Paul Salinpante to advance. I had this funny idea that Eastern Mass High School skiing was terribly noncompetitive, but I think it's really changed since I raced in High School in Maine -- the only other explanation is that I'm a lot slower than I used to be. And clearly that's not the case, I've been on skis like, 10 times this year. And I rollerskied once a month this fall, whether I needed it or not!

So the sprints became an epic battle between Guys Who Are Fast High Schoolers (GWAFHS) and Guys Who Were Fast High Schoolers (GWWFHS). There was a third contingent present, Guys Who Are Surprisingly Fast For Their Age, but since it was a sprint being one of the GWASFFTAs still meant you were getting eliminated early by some quick-twitching punk who was one third your age.

We lined up for our quarter with me and Paul on either side of Chris. I was really keyed up and very concerned about joining the older guys in getting eliminated in round one, so I killed it off the start, and had the holeshot after 150 m. Fueled by adrenaline and terror, I didn't really feel any pain until about 400m in, on the flats before Mt Weston. I looked back and found out that I had not, in fact, dropped everyone like a badass but instead Paul and Chris were happily drafting me. Whoops.

I was flagging a bit but still leading hitting the hill, but some rapid flailing gave me a firm grip on the lead over the top. I heard footsteps so I kept going all out for quite a while, but when I finally checked behind me there was now only one drafter: Chris. Mission accomplished, I stood up and came in second.

Next up were the semifinals. Gone was the chaff, were were down to the ten fastest guys. My semi final pitted myself and Adam Masterman from "Team Used to be Fast" against 3 high school kids. After killing myself in the quarters by leading out, I decided to be craftier (aka "lazier" (aka "stupider")) in the semis and draft on the first half, and then try to make a move later.

This wasn't a good plan. I ended up 4th out of 5 in the start and the back 3 guys started getting gapped before Mt Weston -- so yeah, I was drafting a bit, but any energy I saved there I had to burn by going to full afterburners on the hill and over the top to try to get back to the top 2 before the finish straight.

I did it, but it hurt like hell and I ultimately ran out of mental toughness when it mattered. I got back into the draft in third, all I needed was a few more hard skates into the downhill to overrun 2nd at the bottom and open the sprint side-by-side. But I was tired. I didn't do a few hard skates, I just tucked, and when we started sprinting I was two ski lengths back. Adam Masterman's technique is damn solid so I wasn't closing that gap in 60 m. Third place, and onto the small final for me.

At this point I was pretty cooked and my decision to not eat lunch (races at 12:30 and 2) was starting to seem really stupid, almost as bad as my decision not to bring pure flouros. Basically, I was getting my butt kicked for entirely preventable reasons.

Going into the small final my growling stomach and slowing skis had my spirits pretty low, but Luke from the tiny nordic blogosphere was also in the small final so there was no avoiding one more round of extreme pain. Plus I was the sole member of Team Old Guy in the race(although we did have two in the finals) so I needed to represent.

Everyone was feeling kind of gassed, I think, because I got the holeshot with considerably less trouble than before. Cresting the first hill things looked like this:

Learning from the quarterfinal mistakes, this time I eased off a bit, so even though I was leading I wasn't burying myself to pull everyone else along. I lazily, er, cleverly, let one kid get past on the backstretch before Mt Weston, but held the inside line so anyone else would have to go the long way around.

This time around I didn't have to kill myself to get back to the front so I was all over the leader, I kept having to hold off on skating to stay off his poles, I was ready to pounce on this dude like a sparrow hawk on a baby sparrow when we hit the downhill...

And like an idiot, I tucked, while he (and his Cera F) kept skating. Just like last time, I suddenly needed to make up two ski lengths on the finish straight, and just like last time I failed miserably. So I got served by a high schooler, nevermind the two who made the finals, which is far less surprising than I'd like it to be.

I ended up 6th overall and 3rd among people who are old enough to vote, so it was still a decent result on a fun day, plus I got a sweet little backpack as a prize that more than compensates my entry fee.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Some Video Excitement

Sigh... another dreary day in Boston... to wet to ride and too warm to ski... well I might as well see what e-Richie's opinion is saying today.


lots of words about nationals...

bunch of links... hmm what's this one?


(Click here for full video)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Tuesday Night Smackdown

Most Tuesday nights during this season formerly known as winter CSU runs a 5-10k race at Weston. Most Tuesday nights I attend. Last year I got beat down every Tuesday night, which rapidly became something not worth of blogging about. But this year is another year, right? Maybe I'm in better shape, maybe I'm not -- but either way, all the master blasters are a year older. Advantage: Colin.

Sadly I did a little research on what my elderly opponents were up to and it seems that while I was bike racing they were doing time trials at Mont Sainte Anne. Advantage: Master Blasters.

Well anyway. Tonight was the first chance to see how we'd match up, and despite the record temps Weston had plenty of its famous ice-slush blend on the ground so it was racing time, five laps of a 1.4k or so course. The remarkably orderly self-seeding lineup put me in the 3rd row, with only eight people in front of me -- unlike cross, skating skiers take up far too much space to make squeezing lots of people into a row feasible.

I may have forgotten to mention that I arrived at Weston at 6:45, and the race started at 7. I got to ski exactly one warmup lap and then stand around in the lineup for a few minutes before going to race pace. This is commonly known as a "recipe for disaster."

Things finally get rolling and I managed to stick in around 9th on the first lap. There's a nice warm breeze coming up the the fairways which promotes drafting -- so I tried to sit in as much as I could and get acclimated to the periodically anaerobic efforts I was doing. After one lap, still 9th and still in contact with the front -- so far so good.

On the second lap we started using the full course, which meant Mt. Weston and 3 hairpins per lap. This is where the drafting started to become a two-edged sword -- being at the back of the lead pack meant I got an extreme accordion effect for each slowdown, so I could really rest on the straights but then had to really sprint to stay on when we accelerated out of corners. Very cross-ish. If I had been more confident of my ability to ski with the leaders I would have moved up to 2nd-4th to reduce the yo-yo, but I was too surprised that I was hanging on to ski aggressively.

Around and around we went. Sprint, rest, sprint, rest. I thought for sure I was dropped several times, but the wind on the straights was making the leaders reluctant to pull so a few other stragglers and I were able to keep dragging ourselves back on. At one point Jon Peterson (not the CXer) and I both got dropped by a 30 yards or so, but he pulled us back most of the way and then I pulled/leapfrogged to get back to the pack. I think he made it too, and I think we had about 8 people there.

During the whole process I was gradually building a stomachache, the kind of sick feeling anyone who has done anaerobic workouts without a warmup should be familiar with. It always ends with feeling extremely queasy -- the only question was, would the race end before it hit me?

The answer was no. I hung on until the last time up Mt Weston, I got yo-yo'ed one time too many and while I was sprinting desperately to get back on the nausea hit me and my brain just gave up. If I'd kept hammering I would have probably been dropped anyway and I would have booted, and I'd rather not be known as "the guy who threw up after getting smoked by people twice his age."

I dialed it back a bit and gave up hope of being in the final sprint, but someone else dropped off the main pack at the end and I outsprinted him for 6th. I felt horrible, but I performed decently -- a pretty big change from last year, where I felt horrible and skied horribly. Or maybe I still suck, and I was able to draft my way into contention. Guess we'll have to wait till next week to really know!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Natz Schmatz Winter Cross Race Report

The fact that it's January and I'm doing more cross races instead of nordic skiing makes it harder and harder to take myself seriously as a ski racer. But on the other hand, who gives a crap, racing is fun and worth writing about. The alternative would be training reports and race recaps like "It was an individual start and I got beat by a 14-year old." And no one needs that.

Anyway the nordic career will get underway tomorrow night with Tuesday Night Smackdown at Weston (in 50 degree weather...) and then some sprints next weekend.

In the meanwhile, though, it was down to Dayville for the second time this season, racing on basically the same course except with snow added. The snow caused just one dismount per lap thanks to some shoveling, but there was a lot of soft corn snow (it was 45 degrees) to plow through and lap times were 1-2 minutes slower than the first race.

Of course since it's January no one showed up, apparently it's considerably easier to want a longer cross season than it is to actually support one. But I digress. We had 8 people on the start line and it was fun.

There was a newly (re)crowned national champion in attendance, and you might be surprised to know that he ran away with it. Also toeing the line was CTodd, Paul Curley, Justin (on a single speed), Ethan Parsons (not on a single speed for a change), David Wilcox from Broadway Bikes and some other roadie type who was in over his head.

A mediocre warmup and poor fueling caused me to start slowly (on purpose I swear) so I was 7th going into the sandpit when Paul Curley showed us how his years of cx experience taught him to ride around sand pits. It's true; apparently if they don't tape the far side of the pit you can just ride around because you "don't want to mess up your drivetrain (his actual post race "justification" for skipping the pit every lap)" Luckily the other seven riders had some concept of the spirit of the sport and rode through it. And that's enough about that.

The first hill was the muddiest thing I'd ridden all year, I could barely scale it with a 42x25 low gear and Justin immediately put his marathon training to use running with his single speed. This put me up to 6th and I made sure to waste a lot of oxygen letting him know about it.

On the first snowy downhill I made a stupid move trying to pass C Todd. It turns out that when two people are plowing through 5 inches of snow while trying to corner, you shouldn't try to fit through a space that's slightly wider than your bars. Who knew??

C Todd didn't kill me and then I ran myself off the trail at some point, so he got back in front. Then at the end of the lap I was aggressively tailing him through the sketchy singletrack descent and went straight over the bars when I lost the front wheel on the corner, which hurt my wrists and made my hands wet and cold. In summary, I rode like an idiot.

But it was a long race, so I had plenty of time to settle in to something that could be approximated as a "rhythm" and move up to where I actually should be racing. Over 3 or 4 laps I got all the way up to 3rd, and started to have the funny idea I could actually catch Curley until GeWilli told me the gap was 30 seconds. Plus, I was running out of laps and brakes, to the point where I was having to run the last downhill because I couldn't brake reliably -- so I didn't catch him, at all.

Really though, that sandpit/snow/mud combination ate my pads harder than I expected, by the 3rd lap I had to use the top mounts to get solid braking and by the 6th lap I was pulling the rear top mount almost to the bar. I guess I shouldn't use my brakes so much.

Anyway, the end result was 3rd out of 8, I got covered in mud, my wrists hurt from the crash, my toes were blocks of ice when I finished (running in wet snow will do that to ya)... woooooooo CROSS!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Cyclocross -- Always a Good Decision

There's a cross race down in Connecticut this weekend. I'm going, because I like racing bikes, even if I haven't ridden in three weeks.

The weather looks like perfect cross weather. Recently melted snow should make for perfect cross conditions. Tim Johnson would barehand it.

So what's it going to be, anonymous blog reader? Want to go race bikes? It's fun, remember?

I don't want to hear about how much you ate over the holidays.

I don't want to hear about how long you've been off the bike.

I don't want to hear about how you cleaned and put away your bike.

Cross racing is fun. Whatever else you were going to do Sunday is not as fun. Thus, you should cross race. QED, pussies.

Velonews Site of the Day

Yesterday was the VeloNews "Site of the Day." I made a stupid joke on the front page about how it would bring in "tens of new visitors" which turned out to be even stupider when I saw the web stats from yesterday:


Apparently VeloNews has quite a bit of pull, even on New Year's Day.

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