Tuesday, December 29, 2009

So You Wanna Be One Of Them Skatey-Skiers, Part 4

This is part of a series for bike dorks who are nordi-curious.


When she's not winning the World Cup overall, Virpi likes long walks on the beach, cuddling by the fire, and never escaping the cloud of doping suspicion.

Alrighty, so we had a little interruption of service back there. I figured with Christmas being totally in your face, you probably weren't reading this, and with rain coming out of the sky you probably weren't that excited to get on skis, anyway. Well now it's the week between the holidays and colder than average (but not snowier), let's finish it off!

Poling



There's not too much to say about the poling motion itself; at the most basic level, you want to push on your poles a bit for propulsion and balance. And we aren't going anywhere further than the basic level here.

Luckily, before you go anywhere you've got to put the damn things on, and there's a 50% chance you'll do that wrong, if you don't keep reading.

When you actually do stuff with your poles on snow (as opposed to downhill skiing, where the poles are only for "balance" and "stabbing snowboarders"), you're going to be pushing on the strap, not the pole itself, even though you'll be holding the pole. The pole is slippery and so are your gloves; if you have to keep a deathgrip on the pole, you put your straps on wrong.

You can remember the right way with this "handy" turn of phrase: "the rabbit goes up the hole (strap) and grabs the carrot (pole)." It's a pretty simple thing, just take the pole strap as a horizontal loop at the top of pole, you want to put your hand through that loop from below and then grab down onto the pole, with the strap between your hand and the pole.


Up the hole...

...and grabs the carrot.

Next step, get your straps tight! The pole should be tight against the crotch of your thumb/forefinger (hur, hur, you said crotch). This is because releasing your poles as you push off is a crucial component of poling fluidly. If your straps aren't tight, then your poles won't stay in place when you release them, and then when you go to fluidly grab them again, they'll be missing, and fluidity is the last thing that will happen.

Ok, poles tight, straps on right, let's learn the basic skating strike, called the V1. Our doper friend Virpi up above is demonstrating it -- both poles hit the snow along with your dominant ski at the same time, and then you push off and glide onto the other ski, repeat.

Start standing in place, prepared to look like a big dork. Without going anywhere, start talking to yourself: "3"..."1"..."3"...."1". If anyone around you isn't looking yet, start stepping back and forth between your skis, putting two poles down with one ski and zero poles down with the other, while saying (or thinking, or chanting) 3, 1, 3, 1.

You don't need to do this very long, just long enough to make sure you understand the timing of what you're after. I promise once you start moving, there will be such a ridiculous amount of stuff to think about that you will quickly screw your timing up and start doing "2,1,1" (pole, ski, ski). This works pretty well on the flats, and is actually a whole different skate technique I am pretending doesn't exist for now, but it won't get you up hills worth beans. It's worth it to get the timing right, I promise.

When you're poling, your dominant-side arm (right arm if you pole along with your right ski) will be up high and nearly vertical, while your weakside pole will be more across the front of your body. Once again, refer to the top picture. Note that she is climbing a hill and has PRO pole length, so her dominant pole is up next to her ear. You probably won't do this.

You don't really even need to worry about how your poles offset; the important thing is that they come down along with the ski, allowing you to push off three things (ski edge and both poles) at the same time. It's like having three pedals on your bike! Or something. The push will start with the poles, and then as you compress your upper body, you'll start the ski push, eventually pushing off to your other ski once you've compressed all the way and are coming back up.

Fig 1: Starting to pole; Fig 2: "Fully" compressed, about to push off; Fig 3: Pushed off.

As usual you are probably overwhelmed by a wall of text. Let's look at a video to see what you're gonna look like:



These guys are going so freaking hard that they're actually jumping from ski to ski. You don't have to do that. It's just on of the few videos on youtube showing V1 skate timing (and no other skate technique) from the best skiers in the world.

The reason you can't find many V1 videos is because V1 is actually a slower skate technique; It's basically the small chainring of skiing, and guess what, the best in the world don't spend much time in the small chainring. Pro only V1 on hills, as shown above. But you'll do it a lot... all the time, at first.

We're not even going to talk about the big chainring (V2) because if you get good enough that you need to learn it, you'll take a lesson (right??) and they'll cover it far better than I could in text. Plus we're at what, 6000 words in the series now?

And... we'll be back soon with Part 5, waxing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

So You Wanna Be One Of Them Skatey-Skiers, Part 3

This is part of a series for bike dorks who are nordi-curious.

Alright! So you've got skis, boots, poles, you know where you can ski locally or not-that-locally, and you're ready to rock. Of course you don't know anything about how to do it, but that's ok, I'm sure you'll rip it up.

Part 3: Moving On Skis



Holy crap, after all this anticipation, you should definitely put all your equipment on and go skiing. I'm gonna give you a bunch of advice about how to ski, but it won't mean anything until you've tried an failed. First... you must know what you do not know. Put your gear on and go "skate" for ten minutes. I'll wait.

So you only made it 100 yards? Nice.

Ok, look me in the eye. You should take a lesson. This sport is not like running. Your body does not intuitively know how to locomote (not a real word) on skis, and it won't figure it out very fast without some guidance. You can read thousands of words here about ski technique, and it is nothing compared to what a semi-competent coach could teach you in person. You don't think it's silly to pay for a 'cross clinic, right? It's silly not to pay for a ski lesson if you've never done it.

That being said, you're not going to have a coach/instructor following you around for the rest of your life, so let's talk about how to ski. I'm expecting that the nordies who read this blog will nitpick whatever technique advice I give you, but just remember, that's like chastising someone for the tire selection when they can't even ride a bike without training wheels. Don't let them bring you down! I can be trusted!

The foundation of everything is balance. Propelling yourself anywhere relies on the right movements in sync with weight transfer; you don't just need to balance while you're standing in place, you need to balance from to pushing off a ski, to gliding on the other ski, to transitioning that ski back to its edge, to pushing off it. There's a lot of stuff going on.

So, step 1, throw away your poles. Not "in the trash" away, but get those suckers out of your hands. They are only confusing the issue. How can you figure out your balance when you're trying to get all four of your limbs to move in sync?

Let's go for a ski on the flattest, easiest piece of trail you can find without poles.

Remember, you have effectively ZERO traction. You cannot walk forward, you can't push off a flat ski. The only way to move is to put one ski on edge, and then push off perpendicular to that ski. You're going make a series of pushes like this:



I know, you're looking at that diagram and saying, "does he think I'm an idiot?"

Don't take it personally. It's not your fault your brain is screaming "GO FORWARD" and your feet start pushing backward instead of sideways. If they don't, awesome, your brain has a beneficial mutation!

For the rest of you, focus on that diagram and weight transfer. Push back and forth from ski to ski, trying to get comfortable with having your weight entire on one ski for a moment. You will probably fall over at some point.

If you've ever ice skated or roller skated, you probably have some bad habits, because you're used to having a "pick" on the front of your skate, so you could just dig your toe and go places. Focus on pushing laterally with the ball of your foot, not backwards from the toe.

After the push-off, your foot does *not* pick up and swing behind you (like you might on ice skates). There's a giant ski on it, remember? As soon as your push-off foot leaves the snow, it comes back in a straight line until it's next to the foot your gliding on, where it waits, to become the next glide foot.

Another common beginner problem is "slippery edges," where you go to push off the ski and it goes sliding across the snow. There's two reasons for this -- either you aren't putting enough edge pressure on the ski with the ball of your foot, or you're not pushing perpendicular to the ski (backwards a bit, maybe?), so the edge isn't preventing movement.

Yes, I might be a little obsessed with getting you not to push your ski backward.

So I've been pretending your arms didn't exist. In reality, they're probably flying around wildly as you try to correct your balance and rotation with every "stride." Don't worry about it, that's why we got rid of your poles, remember? Don't be shy about swinging them back and forth with each stride, they're heavy (cuz you've lifting, right?) and they help transfer weight. And that's the foundation of everything.

Confused yet? Overwhelmed? Hell, I'm barely hanging on, and I know exactly what I'm trying to describe. And guess what, I bet this has already been explain better... somewhere else... on the internet!

googling...

BAM!

This video is really good. It's like, everything I was going to say, plus some other stuff that never occurred to me, and since it's a video you can actually see what's being discussed!

One thing he does in that video is swing his arms alternately across this body; I'm not actually down with that in the long term (for now, you just do what you gotta do, though) because it promotes hip and shoulder rotation. Ideally, your hips and shoulder point straight ahead during the entire motion.

Is there a market for bikers-on-skis ski clinic in Boston? Would you show up for an afternoon of me bossing you around and trying to get you to haul slightly more ass on skis? Drop me an email or a comment if you're interested, if there's enough demand, I'll put something together.

Tune in tomorrow, where we talk about how your spindly little biker arms can be used to move you forward.

Monday, December 21, 2009

So You Wanna Be One Of Them Skatey-Skiers, Part 2

This is part 2 in the "nordic skiing for bike dorks" series. The full series is here.

Part 2: Where do I go?



So you have skate skis, one way or another, or maybe you're going to rent some. Where should you go?

The most common option around Boston is Weston. They have snowmaking, night skiing, Tuesday night races, and almost zero interesting terrain. They're the only place you can regularly ski midweek if you work in Boston and have a day job. If you're looking for the simplest exposure to nordic skiing, go to Weston, rent skis, duff around for a bit. Done.

But you might not like it that much. Skiing at Weston is like racing at Wells Ave, or mountain biking around the Fells -- nothing special, but it's close and convenient. Since you're a cyclist, your other option was probably riding the trainer in your basement, so maybe you can't even tell that the scenery and terrain variety at Weston sucks.

Assuming you'd like to make an actual experience of it, and say, go down hills, ski through the woods, or see natural snow, you're gonna need to get in the car. There's a surprising number of choices to ski in New England, so it's a tougher choice than you might think. How long do you want to drive and how much snow is around?
Change those mountains to a highway, and you could be at Weston!

If there's snow in Boston and you want to keep it simple, you could hit Great Brook (30 mins) or Windblown (1 hour), both of which are natural-snow-only places, with real trails, that can be a half-day trip. Windblown is currently in the process of changing hands from a family that has run it for a million years, to a group of hardcore Boston skiers who have a "master plan" for improving it. In a few years it may be a totally different place, although any change will undoubtedly be for the better.

If you've got an entire day to spend out on the trail, there's good skiing at Waterville Valley, Gunstock, Pineland, and probably a bunch of others I'm forgetting (looking forward to some comments, here!) that are 2 hours or so from Boston on major highways. These have bigger trail systems and more snow than Great Brook/Windblown.

If you're making a weekend of it, well, that pretty much opens up all of New England to you. I can't possibly enumerate all the options, but I'll list a few favorites:

The Balsams
Sugarloaf
Rangeley
Great Glen Trails
Prospect Mountain
Craftsbury

It should be noted that all of these exist in the vicinity of major alpine ski areas, so even if you don't want to nordic ski for two days they can be bundled into an incredible, average-cyclist-crippling, winter weekend.

If your plan all along was to go only to Weston you probably found this pretty useless. Just wait until tomorrow, we'll talk about technique, and how you don't have it!
All these choices are giving me a headache!


Update! Toby found a map of every ski center in New England.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

So You Wanna Be One Of Them Skatey-Skiers, Part 1b

This is part 2 of probably... 5 in the "nordic skiing for bike dorks" skiers. Part 1 is here.

A few years of practice and you'll look like this guy, "obviously flawed but moving pretty well." Excited yet??

Equipment, Part 1b: So you're gonna ignore me, and get some used stuff

Alright, I did my best. If you're hell-bent on getting some used gear that only kinda fits you, maybe I can help. Just a bit. Still though, used boots? Really?

Where are you gonna get used gear? You have a few choices. #1 is probably your local craigslist, where you can find other cyclists giving up on the gear they bought last year. #2? Ebay is always good for a few "used the skis 3 times, moved to a warm climate" deals as well. If you're in a location that still has stuff like a "ski swap" (aka "not Boston"), that's always an exciting crapshoot. And of course, choice #4 is "borrowing/buying from some dude I know."

Boots

Two things to know: Your boots should fit. You spend the whole sport on your feet. There's no saddle to put weight on. Boots that don't fit lead to blisters. And blisters lead to not using anything you bought, which leads to reselling your equipment to some other cyclist and getting fat next winter.

Second order of business: Boots need to match the bindings. It's not like cycling where you change the cleat. If you have Salomon bindings you need Salomon boots. If you have Salomon Pilot bindings, you need a Pilot-compatible boot, not just Salomon boot. And NNN bindings need NNN boots. It's not rocket science, but if you're cobbling stuff together from mixed sources, you need to check this.

Skis

Skate skis are going to vary in length from about 170cm to 195cm depending on your height. More important than their length is their stiffness; a very rough rule of thumb for checking this is the "two hand test" -- hold the skis base-to-base and grab them in the center (at the bindings). If you can make the bases touch with one hand, they're too soft. If you can't make them touch with two hands, too stiff. If you can make them touch with exactly two hands... look out for the three bears.

For length, stand with the ski next to you and put your arm straight up. The tip should fall roughly at your elbow. If you're an experienced skier, it will probably be a few inches above, if you're a total noob you can go a bit shorter than that

Poles

For an experienced skier, skate poles are going to come to your lower lip. Seriously. These bastards are tall. If you're a beginner, then you can position them more around your chin. This will still seem really tall... just wait until you're on skis and they hit the snow at an angle. It will be the right height. Trust me on this.
If you can find non-stank used boots that fit you, this will be your reaction.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

So You Wanna Be One Of Them Skatey-Skiers, Part 1

Face it: cross season's over.

"I have a great idea -- wanna ride all winter doing base with our powertaps? It'll be above freezing, like, much of the time.

"Oh.. you don't?

"Well shit. What else are we gonna do?"

I assume this dialog happens fairly regularly in Boston in December, at least if the volume of "hey, what do I need to know about nordic skiing?" inquiries I get are any indicator. My standard response has been "I'll blog about it, just wait," so... time to put up or shut up.

The dream


Alright, so you wanna do some nordic skiing this winter, because you heard it's good cross-training for cycling. This is true. You know why it's good cross training? Because it's really friggin' hard to do. Even if you're technically proficient, you have to use basically every muscle group in your body to move quickly. If you're not, you have to use every muscle just to move at all.

It's like swimming -- technique trumps fitness. A 12 year old girl who takes swimming lessons can crush me in the pool. A 12 year girl will destroy you on skis. If your expectation is "I'm gonna pick this sport up in a couple weeks and it will be FUN," you're going to be disappointed. If your ok with "I'm going to flail wildly every time I try to go fast, and it may take years to solve this," then BOY do I have a sport for YOU!
The reality

Step 1: Equipment

Alright, so you're going to need some equipment. The path of least resistance is to rent stuff. This may not appeal to your inner cheapass (cuz, like, who would rent a bike??), but it's actually a good idea, especially if you've never skied in your life. It may turn out that you hate thrashing around in the cold (why do you race cross then, eh? eh?), but if you figure that out after renting equipment once, you could save some bills.

Let's assume that you want to commit a little more than that. You sold your 5th tubular wheelset off after the season ended, so you've got a couple hundred bucks to burn. Cool. Let's go:

Top-of-the-line nordic skis can be had for under $500, so if you're used to bike-gear-prices you might just pull the trigger on a top-notch setup. You could get the best boots/poles/skis/bindings out there for around $1000, which is what, the price of one Edge 1.68?

But guess what, just like wheelsets, 99% of people don't need to buy the best thing out there. Just get an "entry level skate package" and you'll be good to go. It's just like buying a road bike with Tiagra on it... believe me, it all still works just fine and it's a lot cheaper than Dura-Ace. But where to get it?

This ski has a hole in the tip and costs $500. You don't need it.

If you're going to the north country, then you should make a stop at a ski shop up there that carries a lot of nordic gear, and has someone who can help you that actually has a clue. Believe it or not, there are a lot shops that sell primarily alpine gear, and if you go in there to buy nordic stuff, they won't really give you very good advice. It's like asking a bike shop full of messengers for advice on your freeride bike -- they'll do their best to sound knowledgeable, but it's a total crapshoot. Your best bet is to hit a nordic ski center that sells a lot of skis (for example, Great Glen Trails), because you're guaranteed that nordic will be their primary business, and thus everyone involved will have some kind of a clue. Except you. Fortunately they want you to like the sport (and come back to spend more money), so you won't get played like you do at the car mechanic's.

Another option, if you are one of those types who goes outlet shopping, is LL Bean. They have an intro skate package for $460. Assuming you can use those skis for the next 10 years... $46/year... I'm just saying, you can afford this. Seriously.

Of course, if you are feeling lucky, or lazy, you could also call up one of the many internet retailers that sell this stuff. Akers Ski are some nice folks from near my hometown, with packages from $390 and a website from 1996. Reliable Racing and Gear West are two other big e-tailers, who don't seem to have any packages listed. All three of these establishments are the kind that I would trust to have a non-idiot answering the phone who can roughly match some skis to your height/weight, which is all you need.

I am also a non-idiot, but I don't want to try to advise you on pole and ski length, that would be an entire other blog post. Let a salesperson do it, that's why they exist.

Oh, but wait, you say. I wanted to get used equipment, because I'm a cheapass!

I have some bad news. The used ski market is not the vibrant, thriving marketplace that the used bike market is. The thing is, cyclists "flip" bikes, so you can find a 2-year old high end bike for cheap. But bikes change every year. There's actually a semi-legitimate reason for me to get a new bike. Skis get new graphics... and maybe a different sidecut. If you're lucky. My 2-year old skis are my new ones. I still regularly race on some 2001 Madshus Hypersonics. And I have 7 pairs of skis... if I ever replace the Madshus, they'll just turn into "rock skis." I would never sell them. You will not find many used skate skis of any quality on craigslist.

Furthermore, used boots are gross. Do you buy used bike shoes?

And if you get used skate skis that are too short, too long, too soft, or too stiff -- you'll have even less fun because your equipment doesn't fit. Just like a bike that doesn't fit, that you bought on craigslist because it was a "wicked deal." Get it?

If you find a used skate package on craigslist, you are allowed to email me/leave a comment and ask if it would fit you, but I am also allowed to make fun of you if the answer is "no effing way."

Just remember, you could have a full, brand-new setup for $400. That is why I can't condone "bargain" shopping.

Tomorrow: Where you should take your new skate gear!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ice Weasels Cometh Race Report

It's pretty well established that you can't run around all morning promoting a race, forgetting to eat, and hardly sleeping for two nights, and then jump in the last race of the day and have it go well.

Well, you can't, unless you built a course perfectly suited to your skillset, and you're driven by the perfect mix of relief and adrenaline. You know that feeling you get, when you walk out of your last final of the semester, and no matter how little sleep you've been getting you're SUPER AMPED, just because the albatross is finally gone? That's how I felt lining up for the 1/2/3 race. Don't get me wrong, I loved putting this race on, but there's a lot to be said for not waking up in the middle of the night, wondering "what if X goes wrong?"

For a month straight I'd been worried it might be 34 and raining at Ice Weasels. Now I was lining up on 2 inches of packed snow. Flippin' perfect. Let's rock this thing.

Of course before any rocking could happen, we had to get staged, and the stupid promoter was using crossresults.com points! Al Donahue successfully convinced me that he should be allowed to start on the front row because he had a UCI point. Toby Marzot also charmed his way into the second row because "he scored a UCI point a few seasons ago." After a day of yelling at people to line up by number, I was pretty sick of it, so people staged roughly... wherever.

As it was, eventual 2nd-place finisher Toby lined up with me at the back, so it really didn't matter. Of course, when the whistle blew, Toby took off running (with comical results), while I went absolutely nowhere. My shoes had gotten wet and then packed with ice while I was running around staging.

It took me all the way to the first barrier to get clipped in, and it turned out that I was only sort-of clipped in -- when I went to hop it I came flying out of my pedals and landed half on the seat, half on the ground. If I could do a real bmx hop this would never happen....

But it turns out that riding through the 1/2/3 field when you're the promoter and it's snowy is actually a ton of fun. I had an hour to sort it out, anyway, and this way I got to make sketchy passes on a bunch of people.

First up was Jeff Bramhall. We came into the turn before the barriers and I was passing a bunch of guys, I got up behind Jeff, and realized there was no way I could possibly make another pass cleanly before the turn. Then I rememebered that I was the promoter. So eff it! I went anyway.

The result was definitely the worst dive-bomb I have ever done to someone in a race. I basically hit the stake and Jeff at the same time, since the gap was smaller than my bars. I put a foot down, he put two feet down, the suprisingly-large assembled crowd went OOOOOOOOOOOOH. Then I booked it outta there before he could pay me back.

Next up was trackrich. I tried to pass him on the "long climb" in the house area that was a runup last year, but once I got off the good line it was to hard to finish the pass. We ended up sprinting full out up to the next 180, and since I was on the inside and he's huge, I just bounced off him around the corner. He also put a foot down and yelled "bastard!" as I rode away. Success!

Those were the worst two offenses, but I definitely got pretty close to JD on the next lap, and I rode all over Mike Wissel's wheel while he almost crashed several times, until he finally just gave up and let me by. Anyway. I was having fun.

Much of the fun was coming from the fact that there was all of ONE power section on the course. Even I can drop the hammer when there's only one power section. And even though the lap cards still said, like, 7, I didn't care because the course was so fun. Whoever designed this is a genius!

It was just feature after feature, you were never bored enough to really feel like you were suffering. It went like this: Power section/180/euro-chute/runup/icy turns/barrier/ice/berm/really icy turn/barrier/beer garden/double barriers/snowy house section/beer garden again REPEAT.

Anyway, I realize that half those features are snow-based, so I won't pat our backs too hard. Can we get 2 inches of snow next year, too?

The barrier placement was tough because it was SO FUN to dismount at speed, go flying up the barriers, and drill the remount -- but that's also where all the PARTY was. Every time though I passed up beers and cupcakes.

Finally I caved a took a mini-cupcake. It was perfectly bite-size, so it went down without a problem. If anything, the sugar was helpful, because I hadn't eaten all day.

Unfortunately eating a cupcake without incident is not very crowd-pleasing, so soon after I was looking for a full-on cupcake handup. I got one from a kid who didn't take the wrapper off, something I only noticed inches before it went in my mouth. I frantically threw it under my wheels. Turns out that cupcake had been previously dropped on the ground, anyway, so TAKE THAT, KID!

Next lap I got a wrapperless cupcake handup and it was ON. And by "on" I mean "a huge, regrettable mess." I tried to put it all in my mouth, but it didn't fit, and I needed to breathe, so half ended up on the ground and the other half took about 2 minutes to finally swallow.

Uhoh. Can't breathe. [tasha]

Then I noticed that I was gaining ground on public enemy #1 (who had, admittedly, already raced that day). So I stopped eating cupcakes and started focusing on closing down the gap to Dave, because I hadn't beaten him on a bike in over a month, and I had a feeling he was probably just out having fun instead of riding WICKED HARD like I was.

So I caught Dave. And immediately attacked him and opened up a gap, because like I said, I think I was trying harder than anyone else in the race. But then I threw my gap away when I crashed on one of the ice-sheet corners. I was lapping JD and thinking "do I dare take my hand of the bars to try to slap his ass here?" and it turns out that if you even think about taking a hand off on those icy corners you're going down. So Dave caught back up.

But I was motivated! And he was tired! So I attacked again with 1.5 to go, and got enough of a gap that I could even take a beer feed on my final trip through the barriers. Small victories!

As you can tell from the length of this writeup I had a ton of fun. Promoting a race and encouraging everyone else not to take it seriously is a roundabout way to get a good result, but hey, that's about where my fitness is at these days. Whatever works.
Is this not the happiest barrier running picture you've ever seen? That's how good my day was. [lodri]

The Ice Weasels Cometh

I thought last year's Ice Weasels was a big success. I also thought that since we did it last year, it would be easier to run this year.

Sometimes I think stupid things.

We stepped it up in just a few small ways -- Kevin used a Harpoon connection to get us some kegs, and Paul Nixon hooked us up with his PA equipment. I think that's about all that changed. Oh, wait, we built a berm. And we doubled the prize money. And had another 12 months of hype to draw racers. And it snowed. Ok, so maybe I should have realized that this was going to be a little crazy.

The first sign of craziness was when our Cat 4 field maxed out. I had arbitrarily thrown a field limit of 100 on it, we had 49 Cat 4's last year, I never though I would end up staging 20 rows of Cat 4's behind the garden at 10am. The gun went off and the back 15 rows didn't move. At all. The guys in row 20 realized that they weren't going anywhere for another 10 seconds and dismounted to start running through the garden, around the rows of ahead of them. It was awesome.

Another funny thing about Cat 4 -- when we set the course Friday it was a MESS. I can't believe we were able to smooth out the frozen tractor ruts around the berm to make it rideable. And we had to shovel out multiple hills and corners just to get the fun factor up to "acceptable." We clocked ourselves doing ~7 minute laps while breaking the course in Friday...

Then 100 Cat 4's hit it, and two laps in it was an autobahn. Next time I need my driveway cleared, I'm just holding a cross race on it. By the end of the Cat 4 race guys were turning sub-6 laps (much to the scorer's chagrin) and it only got worse from there. Al Donahue was regularly going sub-5 during the elite race. Yikes. Who built this course?!

So it turns out scoring a 100-rider Cat 4 race in which 50% of the field gets lapped is kinda hard. Our tireless officials tried to sort it out, but before they were done we unleashed a 50-rider Cat 3 field on them and they had to try to score that as well. As a result... our Cat 4 results were about an hour late in posting and only 95% accurate. Luckily most of our Cat 4's were too busy trying to build singlespeeds or trying to empty our two kegs to notice... but it was a stressful hour for me.

The same scenario repeated for the Cat 3 and SS races. I think I spent most of the morning running back and forth to the officials to see if they had results done from race X while they were trying to score race X+1 already. I don't think any of us enjoyed this. Next year... I am paying someone else to worry about results. Seriously.

The only way I could tell that the race was going well was that we were out of beer at 12:15 PM. Two kegs, gone, in two hours. Did I just host a frat party??

Now that I've seen the cxmag article by Natasha I can tell where the beer went.

This post is way too rambly already to attempt to shoehorn a race report into it. We'll just have to RACEREPORT later. For now, I leave you with my favorite pictures from the event, and a promise that we will definitely be back next year, with more beer and more berms.

Look at that scene!! I know that CX Nats had 5000 spectators, but your house had zero spectators, so if you weren't at Nats you should've been here! [garlich]
Cosmo doing the 15-minute SS conversion after the Cat 3 race, complete with a handlebar swap [ryank]
Failed donut handup! For shame! [cxmag]
Look how stoked these guys are! I don't know why they're so stoked (a dollar?), but I'm stoked that they're stoked! [cxmag]
Kurt Perham sees the a dollar bill on the barrier and decides the best way to get it would be to slap Mike Rowell in the face with his bike [doublehop]
Ryan Kelly was stopped, drinking a beer, when I lapped him. Why did I not try to steal it from him? God, I'm such an idiot! [doublehop]
I am totally using this GPS track from James Scott to figure out how to get our lap times up to 6 minutes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Women's Cyclocross National Championships Bar Cam

While I was off promoting a silly race, Linnea went out west to kick ass and take names in a very non-silly race. I sent my bar cam along so I could vicariously experience her race.

It ended up being a total, catastrophic debacle -- broke her skinsuit zipper before the start, missed her callup trying to fix it, bad start, and then, just when she put it together enough to start moving up -- BAM, rolled tubular FAR from the pit. Game over.

It sucked a lot, but there are two important things to remember here: 1) it was her first of many elite nationals. She is so pissed now that she will crush everyone next season, me included. 2) AT LEAST SHE GOT SOME CAM FOOTAGE! Priorities, people!

Enjoy:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

NBX GP of Cross Day 2 Race Report

Of all the race report's I've ever written, I think this one is the most delayed. Seven days! The actual writing of it hung in the balance all week -- but after a great weekend (Ice Weasels Saturday, Nationals "on TV" Sunday) I'm psyched for cross again and decided that NBX Day 2 was, in fact, blogworthy. What's that, the season's over? Nonsense, it's only 9 months away.

So I laid down the somewhat-common "Saturday of Suck" at NBX Day 1. That's ok, rise from the ashes and eat souls Sunday, right? Right.

The promised snow made a nice showing in Boston, but was totally absent from the venue. Disappointing but predictable -- the ocean was just too warm for snow at Goddard Park. Apparently only goes back one year, because I had no idea how fast a dry NBX Day 2 course was going to ride. I thought it was going to be technical, but you almost didn't have to brake at all. Or maybe I just needed to pedal harder.

Anyway, if you've seen the video, that should get you up to speed with how my race started. Third row, outside lineup, good start into the top 15, awesome, just sprint and stay on the wheel for an hour! It was all going so well for three minutes, right up until I had to settle in and the recovery sections I had remembered didn't actually exist. There was a ton of pedaling (yeah, it's a bike race, that'll happen) and then you got a 30 second sand run for recovery. As a result, the group I wanted to be in (the "Wilcox group") dumped me before a lap was over and I started drifting backwards to wherever I actually belonged with the legs I had.

Turns out that was a LONG way back. One at a time riders passed me steadily, for the first 4 laps. If it wasn't the LAST RACE OF THE YEAR I would have started to think about dropping out. Nothing to save it for, might as well just keep abusing my legs as punishment for not working.

Finally I stabilized, about 10 seconds ahead of PVB and Pete Rubijono. Not a good place to settle, really, since PVB was a crowd favorite and his proximity to me was the subject of every cheer I heard. And the message was definitely not "good work Colin, you can open this gap!"

I didn't want to time trial for half an hour to maintain the gap, so I sat up and let him catch me. As he made the catch he said "jeez Reuter, I'm getting tangled up in your parachute back here!" Greatest mid-race heckle I've ever received. This is why there is a PVB shirt.

I went immediately to wheel-groveling. This only emboldened the crowd to cheer harder for PVB as he dragged me around. The elastic stretched, but never snapped. People commented after the race that it didn't look like I was having fun, which is false; I was grimly enjoying the fact that it was taking 100% of my bike racing ability to stay with Pierre, because really, is that not why we do this damn sport? To have a reason to do something as well as you can? After a while, the fact that we were racing for a spot about 10 places lower than my goal when the race started ceased to matter. I was gonna finish my season racing my ass off against one of my friends, that's about as good as it gets.

So while I was struggling to maintain contact, Rubi joined the group and went to the front. Pierre apparently allowed him to gap off the front a bit, perhaps this was some of that "lame east coast stuff" I had heard so much about. However, I was not getting heckled about Rubi's position every lap, so I was fine with him riding away. Eyes on the prize! Even if that prize is PVB....'s butt.

With the lap count down to two to go I started to get that season-ending adrenaline, where 15 minutes of pain seemed not only doable, but necessary.

Coming into the uphill sandpit I came around PVB and started bridging the gap to Rubi. I was using the "come in flying and ride as long as you can" strategy, which was workin' great, right up until this time when I hooked a brake hood on a wooden stake right when I started my dismount. The front wheel instantly jacknifed and I got launched. PVB passed me back and I went into the always-dangerous post-crash panic.

Luckily I crashed with the most technical part of the course coming up, so I put the pieces back together to rejoin the group before the bigtime pedaling and running happened. Before the long sand run Rubi laid it down hard in the mud, and suddenly it was mano-a-mano for what little marbles were left with one to go.

We got the bell and PVB punched it on the pavement. In typical PVB fashion, his rear hub (I think) made a crazy buzzing sound when he cornered hard, and I was scared to keep it tight on the corner since I was expecting his bike to explode. The draft was briefly lost, but I'm sadly no stranger to having to bury myself on pavement to hang onto a wheel. I gave it everything I had to stay in contact, and after the last paved turn a disappointed PVB looked back and said "ah, I was hoping that was it."

I'M AFRAID NOT, SIR!

So I counterattacked into the sand, because that went well last lap. This time I avoided the stakes and hit the top with a small gap... six minutes left of the season? GO.

And I went!

Made it to the finish line with enough time in hand to dole out some high-fives (you better believe I'll high-five you at NBX, no matter how I ride) and head straight for the beer before I could get hypothermic.

Best of all, we finished 24th & 25th, that's the last two paying spots! So glad I didn't steal the last paycheck from PVB.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

NBX GP of Cross Day 2 Bar Cam


NBX GP of Cross Day 2 Bar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.



I have a dream of getting around to the race report, but the weasel consumes all this week.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Styched for the Weasel



Styched, of course, is the combination of stoked and psyched. I can't take credit for it; I first heard it from a cyclingdirt interview with Adam Snyder. And I doubt he made it up, either. If you'd like to try using made-up words, I might also suggest adding "jenvious" to your vocabulary.

Ordinarily you'd be reading the NBX GP of Cross Day 1 Race Report here, but there are bigger fish to fry -- it's Ice Weasels promoter freakout week. And besides, I sucked at Day 1 of NBX. It was a Saturday; it happens. There was no camera to record it, and thus nothing of value came out of it. Let's move on.

So yeah, if you're not going to Nationals, the place to be this Saturday is at White Barn Farm in Wrentham, MA.

We have some new stuff going on this year -- an improved, or at least different, course layout that should have fewer crazy-tight 180s and more passing opportunities. There's a new bermy-thing in the field, and oh yeah, beer sponsor. We've also doubled the payout from last year to $1000 across 3 classes ($500 elite men, $250 elite women, $250 singlespeed).

I'm really excited to see what happens when you combine some healthy cash payouts with a field of burned-out racers who want to take beer feeds. I think it's going to be the ultimate mullet race -- business at the front, party at the back.

There's only one caveat -- it's gonna be cold. Remember how last year it was 34 in the sun? This year it's gonna be 33 in the sun. I've hung out at many a 10-degree ski race, so trust me, you can definitely have fun when it's 35 degrees out, but YOU GOTTA DRESS RIGHT. Throw your ski parka, winter hat, and winter boots in the car, so you don't start shivering and spill the beer feed you're gonna give me.

I'm gonna finish the season off right, by running around all morning, doing tons of results, yelling on the PA, forgetting to eat, jumping in the last race of the day, and riding as hard as I can until I explode. Because that's what it's all about.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Baystate Cyclocross Day 2 Race Report

A wise man once said, "never admit to blogging at 10pm on a Friday."

So let's just pretend that I wrote this one up and forgot to hit publish back. Because I'm obviously out at some place cool (like Lord Hobo), not sitting at home "catching up" on something as vitally important as the blog.

So anyway. Back to last Sunday. Another double weekend, another better course on Sunday. Everyone seems to like the Sunday courses better this year, right? I can't figure out if it's because us old-timers (yes, this is my fourth season of racing Verge, believe it or not) are just excited to see something different at the classic venues, or it the Sunday courses are actually better. It seems like they're more technical on the second day, so that could be why I am so stoked about it, too.

In any case, Sterling day 2 was a quality setup, if not a picturesque one (a tight turn around a transformer box? AWESOME!). It was lots of braking and sprinting with one massive, screw-you, power-to-weight contest power section from the parking lot straight to the top of the hill. The only recovery you got during the climb was right before the stair run (ouch) and it finished with a barely rideable uphill mud bog.

WATTS!

Other than that I was looking forward to it.

I semi-botched the start, but with only 30 guys and a tight bottleneck on the first turn, it didn't really matter; I still ended up in the pain train around 20th, racing the usual suspects, on Kevin's wheel.

Obviously since Kevin and I are on the same team we should get in each other's way, so we did a little accordion, Kevin put a foot down, and I ran straight into his leg. I decided this was all his fault so I went flying by on the next straightaway while yelling "YOU'RE A FSCKING LIABILITY" at him.

TEAMMATES!

I settled into a group with David Wilcox, Al Donahue, Kevin Wolfson, Pete Smith, and a guy I didn't know. Fast company. Too fast, in fact. Being day 2, my legs hurt from the gun, and my brain was like, "uh, you're riding in Al's group, he's way better than you." So all body parts involved with closing gaps were protesting more than usual.

After two laps of yo-yo-ing on the back, I was off for good. At the time it seemed reasonable, but now (recalling that I was only going 99.9% of max) I wish I had died a few more deaths to stay on. You know how it is. In any case, it was off to TT land while I prayed that Al's pace broke someone else off soon.

And it totally did! First "unknown rider" (let's call him Chad Wells), and then Pete Smith lost contact, and the gap to them was imminently closeable. And I was a-closin', right up until I dumped it on the new off-camber descent. I didn't dump it in the "end up with a muddy ass" sense, but I still ended up running down a hill, dragging my bike behind me by a brake hood. Not fast.

What's worse, a large, wattage-heavy group was close behind, with Kevin, John Burns and Adam Sullivan. Sweet, it's like every guy I really want to beat is working together to catch me! Kevin, being the team player that he is, dragged the group up to my wheel, and then retreated to the back of it.

Oh well, hanging out with dudes makes for better stories. We had a Quebecois dude with us and we picked up Chad Wells soon after, and I showed remarkable (in my humble opinion) fortitude by hanging out at second/third wheel instead of tailgunning as is my wont.

Kevin, ever the teammate, picked his way through the group, up to my wheel, just so he could T-bone me on the stair dismount and then never be seen again. Seriously, 100% of the contact I had with other riders in this race was with the only guy wearing the same kit as me. We're so good at this sport.

So that was the end of Kevin. Down to five. It stayed that way until three to go, when Burns (who had been doing zero, zilch, nada, aka racing smart) decided to light it up on the power section. I had made a few attempts to get away, that of course didn't stick, then he went to the front and hammered for 2 minutes straight. "Oh," I thought to myself, "you have to go hard for MORE than 10 seconds to break guys off. I see." Then I almost threw up to hold his wheel.

And oh boy, did he break guys off. Chad and "the canadian guy" were GONE. Like "lost 40 seconds in a lap gone." It was the kind of manly attack that I would like to make someday, when I am a wattage factory and not just a hide-in-your-draft-and-jump-you-at-the-line factory.

Adam Sullivan is pretty strong, too, so he hung on as well, and we were down to three. John was obviously the strongest guy in the group, because he kept dragging us around and accelerating really hard on all the straightaways. Eventually he accepted that we weren't going anywhere, but by then there was only one lap to go, and all parties involved were running on fumes.

Burns was taking some "weird" lines through the off-camber descent/woods section/horse jump, so I got past him on the off-camber and gapped both of them solidly by the time we were back to a straightaway. Oh, it's time for my favorite cx drill of them all -- "hold a 3 second gap for the last four minutes."

I've actually done it so many times now (like I said, I'm an old-timer) that it wasn't even that intimidating; just sprint out of every corner like there's a mountain lion behind you and you're good to go. The power sections were short enough that Adam couldn't crush the gap like at Mansfield and thus I rolled in with my gap intact for my second 19th place of the day.

You know what? I'm pretty glad I decided to write this post at 10pm Friday, er, 9am Tuesday, because I'm 300% more motivated for NBX than I was when I started typing. Does this keyboard have caffeine in it??

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Baystate Cyclocross Day 1 Bar Cam

Baystate Cyclocross Day 1 Bar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.


The only casualty from putting $10k of bikes on Cary's trunk and driving 70mph into a 40mph headwind was that I lost the nut that locks my rear camera in place. So no picture-in-picture this weekend.

Adam Snyder lamented the lack of seat cam when he lined up behind me, but then he rode two laps directly in front of me to get plenty of camera time. He rode the horse jump on camera twice, and it's so smooth/subtle you can barely see it if you don't know to look for it. Nice.

I also accidentally left some blank titles in the video, because iMovie and I had some philosophical differences about how user interfaces should work (Hint: two mouse buttons). Yeah, that's it. But that's another discussion, for another blog...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Baystate Cyclocross Day 1 Race Report

I heard that the ground beneath Chocksett School in Sterling, Massachusetts is home to the largest naturally occurring sponge in the Western Hemisphere.

I heard that Tom Stevens spent 12 hours Friday night with a Shop Vac taking water off the course.

I heard that 40mph wind can really dry out a place.

All I'm saying is, I did not expect Sterling to be dry, fast and fun on Saturday. It rained all day Friday, and the wind was "25 gusting to 40" on Saturday. I was ready for the nastiest, coldest mud fest ever. I was so sure of this that I didn't even bring a rear Fango.

Keep that in mind when you think I know what I'm talking about.

With Linnea off in Maine doing pro stuff like "taking a weekend off," I carpooled with the Verge Cat 3 Men's leader and Natalia G out to Sterling, with $10k of bike strapped to the rear of Cary's car, watching Cary's bike lift off with every gust. It was a little unnerving.

Of course, since Cary races at noon, I was showing up early. You know what that means... time to be a SUPERFAN!

I am improving my superfan technique. A month ago I would have given in to the temptation to ride a cross course 5 hours before my race, because it looked fun. But not now! Riding the course too early is bad. Running around cheering for people is bad. Sitting in a chair is good. Eating is good. So I took my PB & J to the top of the big hill, plopped my ass down and screamed RIDE ITTTTT at guys who had no chance of riding it (aka everyone).

Nice!

Ok, race time. Third row, behind Burns and next to Kevin. Mountain bike superstar/CX clown Adam Snyder lined up behind me hoping for seat cam time, but I lost the nut to the rear mount (if you know what I mean) that morning so it was front cam only. Don't worry, he managed to get on camera anyway.

The start was little sketchy, which Kevin claims was due to Justin Spinelli's derailleur going into his front wheel, which I claim is due to him being a wuss. Anyway, I was pinched a bit at the start and didn't make any awesome moves into the top 15.

Across the top Adam comes sprinting by me and I'm thinking, what the hell is he doing, and then he attempts to do a tabletop on a cross bike going to into the downhill. Of course it looked like nothing on camera, but it seemed pretty exciting to me at the time. Then he rode the horse jump, in traffic, for good measure.

Somehow I ended up back on his wheel despite all this, and we rolled through after one lap with Pete Smith. I am lazy and Pete is not, so he attacked us on the track. Very rude as I was expecting him to obligingly pull me instead. But I closed the gap back down by riding all but the last 5 steps of the run-up.

Coming into the barriers on lap 2 I saw Adam hit the brakes and stay on the bike, and I thought to myself, oh, sweet, I'm gonna video this! I slowed down to try to keep him in the video. These are not competitive thoughts to be having... and it didn't work anyway, I totally missed it.

And of course, after the second barrier, he's on his bike and I'm not, so he gapped me on the hill and that was that.

In case you forgot, it was gusting to 40mph, so I immediately had to start hiding behind another wheel. I can't remember how I got there, but somehow I found another -- I think it was Damian Schmitt? Anyway, big guy, nice draft, and going fast enough that I was basically flat out just to hang on. He tried to get me to come around, repeatedly, but I was a big meanie and didn't. Good jorb Colin.

I almost went down on the runup dismount on lap four because I couldn't get out of my pedal... crap, I know that "have to twist really far to release" feeling and it means a loose cleat. Why do I know it so well? Because it was happening on my *other* shoes during warmup.

Crap. I knew there was a reason I quit using the black shoes.

I had forseen that I might have shoe issues, so I had pit shoes set up. Seriously! So PRO. But you should never actually have to use pit shoes if you're PRO. Luckily, the left pit shoe was the one that was loose in warmup, and now I had a loose right shoe, so I still had one functioning set of footwear. I hated to do it, but I had to address it before it got bad enough that I stacked a dismount.

Into the pit, dump the bike, change the shoe, back on the bike! The bar cam says this only took me 15 seconds, pretty nice, but I still managed to lose Damian's wheel, and even worse, the next group went through just as I was remounting.

That group had John Burns and Adam Sullivan in it (two nemeses, I might add) and with 40 mph gusts I needed. those. wheels. And six seconds is so incredibly long in a cross race.

If you watched the Mansfield Hollow video you know how fast Adam goes on a straightaway. With him pulling on the track and road, I knew I was in trouble, but I still had to try. I put in a very solid lap chasing, one might even say I was "drilling it," but the gap stayed at a tantalizing five seconds.

More drilling it. Cary was all over the course screaming "don't ride like me," which was good material. Fine. I'm trying, really I am.

Finally Manny popped off the group and I caught him -- and here's where I screwed up. After 10 minutes of flat-out chasing I was gassed and wanted a break, and we were only 15 bike lengths behind the group. I can totally close that after I recover a bit, yeah!

Except, Manny had basically dropped an anchor and was about to DNF. I took a 30 second break on his wheel, and by the time I went around the gap was back out to 10 second. Oh Colin, you are such an idiot.

Time to time trial to the finish now! Nothing else exciting happened, until I caught Pete Smith with one to go, and while he seemed like he was D-O-N-E he still put up an annoying amount of resistance when I tried to drop him. Like I said, that guy is not lazy. But eventually I succeeded, and rolled in for 19th/30 and a rare payday!

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