Monday, March 28, 2011

The Future of

Back in the late fall of 2006, I started cross, started a blog, and started a website. All of these things are still alive, much to my surprise, 4.5 years later.

But it was dicey for bit, there.

I like to use the "transitional period in my life" excuse for pretty much everything around here, but in this case it's spot on. You want to throw everything into your life into stark relief, try breaking up with a girl you spent the last seven years of your life with. You'll question your job, your hobbies, your future, and pretty much every life decision you've ever made or plan to make.

And that's kind of awesome.

I'm serious. If your life doesn't hold up to scrutiny, then WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU DOING WITH IT? You only get one, you know. You could get your teeth knocked out by a car tomorrow. Or something actually catastrophic could happen. Quit having dreams, and start making plans, because you never know when it could be too late.

But anyway, there ain't nothing like a woman walking out on you to ramp up the introspection. Don't knock it til you try it.

Thus endeth my acknowledgment of having emotions, thoughts or any other internal complexity beyond converting coffee and techno into code, watts, and bike handling. We now return to your regularly scheduled bro-tastic blogversation:

"So dude, I was like, I wanna ride bikes and program computers, right?"
"Yeah guy."
"But I also have this hobby thing that's kinda like, the ultimate fusion of those things, bro. So maybe instead of talking about how one day I might figure out a way to make money off it, I should get off my ass and start self-actualizing before it's too late, huh?"
"Word. Bro."
[Fist Bump]

End scene.

So shit was gotten together, emails were sent, valuations were crafted, phone calls were made, and when the coffee grounds settled I was left with an offer from to buy the site and work full-time for them.

Where exactly we're going with this isn't entirely clear yet; the basic premise was, if this is how awesome I can make the site working 10-hour weeks at night during cross season, then imagine how awesome this thing could be if it actually had forty hours a week and a paycheck behind it.

And, in 2011, you gotta admit that "internet awesomeness" is basically "value." The more you love cross, the more you wanna race cross, so the more races you're gonna register for on BikeReg! And then you see your results on crossresults, which gets you more excited to race cross again, and that goes into a feedback loop that ends with you spending 110% of your disposable income on bike racing, which is disturbing yet awesome totally normal.

All in all, I think we can agree that this was an AWESOME INVESTMENT by and that 'cross has now officially changed my life and I'm totally psyched for it. If you bought me a beer back in November, find me in the next month and I'll return the favor.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rangeley Lakes Loppet Race Report

The Birkie was not only the pinnacle of my season, it was also the ULTIMATE ROOMMATE GRUDGE MATCH. Which I won, by the way. In case you forgot.

But, we made a pact that we would also do the Rangeley Lakes Loppet the following weekend, so that whomever lost the Birkie would have a shot at revenge, and whomever won it could spend the whole week worried about getting their fluke victory exposed (that would be me).

However, Cary ended up torpedoing this plan on Wednesday night by getting SMOKED by an SUV riding home. He texted me from the hospital like it weren't no thang, but when he was still there 24 hours later and using phrases like "can't eat solid food for 6 weeks," I realized that I had just won by TKO.

This was actually really sad, and if you see him you should not jokingly hit him in the mouth. You should also check what your car insurance covers for other people injured in an accident, because he's hitting a six-figure medical bill pretty easily and that'll be getting paid by someone else's car insurance and/or bank account.

Just a PSA.

Ok, serious time is over.

With Cary out, bailing seemed totally reasonable, but PRO SKI-ORIENTEER ALEX JOSPE came to the rescue with a carpool offer, and away we went to the land of frost heaves.

The perks of traveling with a PRO ski orienteer are PRO waxes and in exchange for lodging, Alex hooked me up with the good stuff right before the race started. Ahhh yes. 30 degrees with high humidity and rising temps? The good stuff was gonna be extra good today.

The race started and I performed my usual strategery of getting totally boxed in on a narrow trail and letting everyone fast get far, far away from me. Then around the 2k mark I started getting impatient, freaked out, and blew whatever plans I had to "start slow" by passing a ton of people in the next five minutes. But it's so fun!!

Eventually I tagged onto the back of Alex's group, which was going sloooooow. All the lead women were at the front, and they didn't feel like pushing it with 45k to go while they were "winning." Behind them were some dudes that were just happy to be there, and behind THEM... was me and some other dude. Passing on the trails at Rangeley is more or less impossible, so we hung out.

Finally at the 8k feed there was a bit of a shuffling and I was like, PEACE OUT, ladies (as is my nature) and tried to ski away from them. Two more k's of pushing it and my 20 yard lead on them was up to... 20 yards. Dang.

Soon though we transitioned into a downhill, and my rocket skis and relative fatness allowed me to bid adieu to them for good.

I caught onto another group and remember thinking that I was working quite hard the climbs and quite not-hard on the descents. Obviously in a 50k you want to be WORKIN HARD all the time (recovery? huh?) so I attacked on the next downhill with my doped skis and gapped everyone.

Being full of adrenaline, I then proceeded to ski too damn hard right up until the 25k/lap mark, where I realized that I was only halfway done and there were two guys trailing me by all of 10 seconds. I decided to use some "strategery" and wait for them.

The work was being done by a Dartmouth kid who had no desire to share it. I do not think he was big on "strategery." I did not mind. We were FLYING!

He did at least 90% of the work between the 25k and 40k mark. We passed easily 10 people during this time, only one of which (Nat Lucy) could even manage to pick up our draft. The other guy not pulling (Roger Prevot) was thrilled by these developments and super chatty, which made me happy, because talking to someone while skiing at 20mph in a draft feels like really awesome psychological warfare.

I'm pretty sure that "Dartmouth Kid" was also using the no-feed strategy in this race, which is why at the 40k mark he pretty much stepped aside on a hill and was gone a few seconds later. Roger, Nat and I pressed on. I realized that I was, for the second week in a row, at the 40k mark of a ski marathon and not feeling totally useless. Rock climbing is the new strength training, apparently.

On the big, windy climb at 42k or so, Nat got gapped, which was pretty much amazing to me since he's been beaten me 100% of the time for the last ten years. Perhaps my 25-year age advantage is finally starting to defeat his OLD MAN POWER.

Roger and I soldiered on and continue to pick off blown up college kids. It is possible that I am on my way to having my own old man power, because I was TOTALLY FUNCTIONING at the end of the race and THESE DAMN KIDS were NOT. Get off my lawn!

I did most of the work for the last 5k and I was 99% sure that Roger wasn't going to sprint against me. I attacked him at the end anyway, because citizen ski racing is serious bidness, and I hate being able to stand up at the finish line anyway. It "worked," and I somehow ended up finishing 14th overall.

I decided I needed to put my skis away ASAP before I stopped peaking and returned to reality. Off we go into bike season!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

2011 Birkie Cam

2011 Birkie Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

I had a GoPro poking me in the back for 50k and all I got was this 188th place finish.

Ski marathons are not a fundamentally action-packed experience, but I did what I could with the edit here.

For more silly nordic-cams, check out last year.

Friday, March 4, 2011

American Birkebeiner Race Report

To say this has been a abnormal winter for me is an understatement. With the exception of a year in Florida, I've been XC ski racing almost every single weekend in the winter since 1996. Winter means skiing. Skiing means nordic. Nordic means racing.

This time, though, things had been totally off the rails -- the only "real" ski race I did was Craftsbury, and I got blown out by the old men and college girls, and then subsequently called out for noting this on the internet. Not exactly a confidence-builder.

So it was with much apprehension that I headed out to the Birkie last Thursday. Last year, I showed up with my worst legs of the season and Cary, my only real metric/nemesis, put nine minutes over 50k into me. This qualified him for wave 1 this year, and me for wave 2, which only made me more pessimistic about my chances for revenge -- he'd be surrounded by fast skiers to draft, I'd be surrounded by a bunch of people who didn't ski fast enough to make wave 1 in 2010... just like me.

But you know what they say about excuses... that you should tweet them, to prove you predicted your bad performance before it happened. No, wait, not that. Something else.

Next thing I know, it's 8:30 AM, zero degrees out, and I'm on a snow-covered runway along with 5,000 other people. There's already 200 people lined up for wave two, which starts in 15 minutes, and I'm still trying to figure out where my drop bag needs to go. In a small race, I'm a big fan of the reverse holeshot. The Birkie is not a small race. Whoops.

By the time I got to staging I was in about the fifth row for wave two, with about 60-70 people in each row. Let's get busy!

Nah, just kidding, it's 50k and there's 600 people hitting the trail at once. The only kind of busy anyone is getting is the "busy not breaking other people's poles" kind. I spent the first two kilometers trying to drift through traffic as cleanly and sneakily as possible. It was a success in that I moved from ~200th to ~50th in the wave as we hit the first climb (Powerline Hill). It was not a success in that these were two of the slowest kilometers I skied all day.

On Powerline Hill, I started counting skiers ahead of me. It was not conducive to "chilling out," which is what you should be doing in the third k of a ski marathon. Yep, 40 or 50. Be cool, Colin. Be cool...

Two minutes later, the count was down to fourteen and my legs were on fire. Oops.

The rolling hills before the first feed kept giving me rests and transitions, and the fourteen people ahead of me kept giving me drafts. By the first feed, at 4.5k, I was up to fourth. Volunteers tried to block my path and hand me cups of Heed, but I yelled NO! NO! at them like I was talking to a cat on my countertop and they moved.

Around the 7k mark, I got a good slingshot off a draft and pulled up next to the kid leading the wave on a hill. I remember thinking "I am already working too hard, too early, I might as well be able to say I was leading the wave at some point." So I worked a little more "too hard."

Near the high point of the course (12k), the "lead group" was down to a strung-out four of five skiers. I was at the front with a guy from Gustavus Adolphus college. He says to me, "hey, let's trade pulls for a while."

I am afraid of college skiers.

I told him I didn't think I could keep skiing this fast.

Then we skied together all the way to the 25k mark, dropping all but one other guy from wave two. I took a few pulls, but he took most of them. I continued to be afraid, and acutely aware that I was skiing a little too fast. I felt good at the halfway mark. I have felt good at many halfway marks, though. It's a trap!

I ate a gel at a bad time, and my traveling companion (Scott Kyser) gapped me climbing for about the 15th time in the race. I had a brief chat with my inner fear of college kids and marathon second-halves. It did not go well.

And then I skied alone, in second, for a long time. Except I wasn't really alone, because I was passing hundreds of wave one skiers at this point. This was good for my ego and bad for my complacency. While dodging wave 1-ers and thinking about how great I was, the third place guy from wave two caught me. Shit.

But now we were almost to the final 10k, and my body was continuing to function at a level ordinarily reserved for the 30 minutes of a cross race. What's going on?! If last year was the anti-peak (trough?), this year was the most timely peak of my life. For the first time in my life, I dropped someone while climbing a hill at the 40k mark of a marathon.

45k in. Last feed zone and I still feel good. This is bad for blogging. The window for amusing calamity is running out! I tried to create calamity by skiing the 45k hill INSANELY HARD. It didn't work, my body just kept functioning right over the top. If you told me right now that someone had been putting EPO in my coffee for a month, I'd believe you.

We hit the lake at 48k and I was ready to kill for six more minutes to the finish. Out of nowhere, a train of skiers pulls up next to me. How is this possible? I'm skiing stupid-hard!

Oh, it's possible because the train is being driven by the 3rd-place guy in my wave, whom I thought I had ditched half an hour ago. Well, that's annoying.

I dug in and clung to the back of the train. As much as I would appreciate the calamity now, as I write, there was no way I was losing that draft -- skiing on a perfectly flat trail in a line of skiers is the only training I do anymore. You need someone to sit in for two k and then win a sprint? Hi.

So I did it. We came off the lake, hit Main Street, and I unleashed the kind of unbalanced, thrashing V2 that can only be achieved at the 49.9k mark of a race. Everyone else in the group did the same, but I thrashed the bestest.

It felt like the best marathon I've ever skied, but was that just a sign that I didn't try hard enough? Cary, who had a ten-minute head start in wave one, was nowhere to be found, so I had nothing to compare to. Second place in wave two is good, right? Right?

We eventually got back to the hotel, wrangled some internet, and found results. Holy crap. The first iteration of results had me as 178th overall male and Cary in 192nd. Top 200 make the "elite wave" for next year. Dude! Dude! We're elite!!

It was up to 10 degrees, so the obvious reaction to this news was to take shirtless-or-worse photos of us drinking Budweiser Chelada on the hotel balcony.

The good thing about chip timing is instant results, the bad thing about chip timing is that not all chips read -- so those people get entered manually, after race finish.

No sooner had the Chelada photoshoot ended than results changed. I was now 184th. Cary was now 199th. Did I mention that top 200 make the elite wave? Cary's demeanor changed from "elated" to "neurotic." He paced the room like a serial killer.

Fearing for my own safety, I decided to lock myself in the bathroom and take a shower. He cleverly waited for me to come out before refreshing results... and he was down to 201st.

The best part of the whole thing is that, at 7am on race day, he said to me "I'll bet you $100 I finish between 200-250th," and I told him I'd take that bet. After much consideration... he backed out.

In summary, the Birkie is awesome, beating Cary is awesome, making the elite wave is awesome, the fact that I will now feel pressured all next winter to get in "elite shape" is not that awesome.

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