2008 Season Retrospective

Another glorious cross season has ended, and now I'm heading into the blog-sparse void of cross country skiing. I've already been on skis twice, and the initial prognosis is "this isn't going as bad as I thought it might," which isn't to say I'm feeling faster than, say, Alex.

But if you're anything like the typical reader you couldn't care less about the abuse my hip flexors are taking, you just want to hear about bikesbikesbikes. And that's cool, because this season was awesome... at least for me.

Despite my best efforts to race myself into oblivion, my body somehow made it to cross season still functioning and I ended up being a contender in 2/3 Men. As Cary has repeatedly reminded me, I was riding slowly in July, but somehow turned that into cross fitness by doing 24 hour races. Surprised and confused? Me too.

I added it up and I think I did 59 races this year.

9 "Real" Weekend ski races
7 Tuesday night ski races
13 Root 66 MTB races (11 XC, 2 short tracks)
2 24 hour races
4 other mtb races (King of Burlingame, Jay Winter Challenge, Ice Crit,Nationals)
1 Road race (Tour of the Hilltowns)
3 Dover TT's
20 cross races

That's pretty stupid, right?

I thought so. But, the other day Johnny Bold said this on the New England cross list:

I train 7 -8 hours a week....on a good week.

Just like me.

You know what else he does? Race every single damn weekend, from March to December.

Just like me.

I'm officially renaming my training plan to "Johnny Bold Style," as in "yeah, I didn't really ride my bike this week, but I've been on it Johnny-Bold-style since March so I'm not too worried."

Really though, it kind of makes sense. 58 races is a lot, but I'm not a big interval guy -- for no other reason than that I'm a big wuss who can't hurt much unless he has a number on. I'm positive that if you add together my race days and "hard workout" days it would be less than 100 for the year. And that doesn't sound like too much, I bet plenty of folks out there doing 30 races or less are still doing around 2 interval sessions a week for the 30 weeks of spring and summer, which would be about 90.

Empirically, it worked for me and it allegedly works for Johnny. Next time you set your alarm for stupid-o-clock so you can get up and do yet another AM interval session, think about this.

Questionable training "programs" aside, this year saw a tight battle for the final 2/3 Verge podium spot that went down to the last race. Here's the final standings:

Like any series that doesn't drop any scores, the tight overall races was decided by consistency more than head-to-head matchups. I beat Jeremy Dunn 6-2 in the races we both finished, but I flatted out of Gloucester Day 2 and rode like an idiot at Vermont Day 2, which gave him the upper hand. Lest this come out sounding like sour grapes, Brian did the exact same thing to me, so it's not like I was the third-fastest guy in the field, and as previously mentioned Jeremy partied all night with the series on the line, and still rode fast enough to keep 3rd.

I've used my massive social network to determine that Dylan, Jeremy, Brian and I are all planning to ride the elite races next year, and I can only assume the James Tosca will do the same after winning the series outright. Patterson is an unknown, I get the impression that he will either be incredibly fast or living in a cardboard box next season. Possibly both. If you take the top five out, he's going to slay the field, so I hope he either upgrades or gets slower.

Last year's top 5 basically retired from serious 'crossing instead of racing a full UCI season, which is a shame since the back end of the elite race definitely needs more pack fodder. That's actually what bothers me about upgrading, more than getting lapped, or riding 60 minutes, it's the prospect of switching from tight, group racing to lonely time trials. Hopefully we'll all stick with it, and maybe Ryan will quit hating his bike, so we can have a back-of-the-lead-lap party train, at least until Trebon and Johnson show up.

I had initially planned to do a 2008 version of the golden top mounts here, but I took the top mounts of my bike, and spent this entire post talking about how great I am. Which is not very great at all. Oops. Guess we'll have to get to that in a future episode.


I am always kinda bummed when the top B guys disappear instead of upgrading.

Conversely, I love to see when the top B guys gut it out and ride at the next level.

In the midatlantic it's more likely to see top guys graduate and then retire from cross.

that's a bit of a bummer.
Colin R said…
I think there's a lot of turnover anyway.

In 2007, our top 5 upgraded and then mostly retired.

#6,7 and 9 kept racing B's.
#8 and 10 raced a full elite season.

I just looked at the 2006 top 10 and 3 of them are now active elites as far as I know. (Ward, Douville, Smith)

A lot can change in people's lives in two years, though. I've heard some guys actually do stuff beyond racing bikes and making websites, strange as it may sound.
Kris said…
"I've heard some guys actually do stuff beyond racing bikes and making websites, strange as it may sound."

...don't get any ideas.

btw, I can sympathize with the sore hip flexors - see you at the weston hampster wheel.
matt said…
I didn't realize that the first step in preparing for the elite field was to take the top mounts off.

Come to think of it, perhaps I did know that.
Nathaniel Ward said…
Just remember there is no shame in continuing to do races you have a reasonable chance of winning/placing in.

I think sandbagging is overhyped, and, with a few exceptions, like AJM ripping the Master's 30+ jersey from the deserving arms of the likes of Wes Schempf and myself (Wes no doubt more deserving than I...) I think it's fine for people to continue to win races they can win. If strong B's choose to remain strong B's, if they find it gratifying, it will make for better racing overall. And unless guys are prepared to significantly increase their training volume and intensity, and tolerance for having their teeth kicked in, sometimes moving up to elite races is the first step to early retirement. Like, I suspect, several of those retired killer B studs you mention.

I look forward to seeing you all at the races next fall, irrespective of what field anyone races in. And I wish you all the best of luck in UCI races. Just remember you don't need to feel bad about being one of the better guys in your field, whatever field that is. Someone has to win, right?

I only say this because it seems like as soon as guys start to do well as B's, there is some imaginary moral imperative to begin doing UCI races. And I don't think that's fair. There is a reason there is no prize money in the killer B's, right? So absolutely, step it up and race a hard hour if you want to, but it still ain't exactly easy to win a New England B race, right? Would-be '09 sandbagger, I'm talking to you: go for it! :-)

Merry Christmas all.

Colin R said…
Nate -- there's a few people that get would get a ton of flak for not upgrading (Tosca, McNicholas), and then there's the rest of us -- guys with high aspirations.

Last year's top 5, well, two of them (Lipka and Awerbuch) were killing it on the road and I gotta think they would have been quite competitive in the elite races, had they chosen to race.

John Peterson was the star of the the "ebay sandbagger auction" after winning the first 5 B Verge races easily -- there was no way he could stay in B's. When he did show up this year, he was riding maybe a bit slower than last year, but still totally competitive in elite's and would have OWNED B's.

The only guy that really got his teeth kicked in was the one who showed up the most, Mr Exit 17.

Anyway, if I was planning on riding "equally fast" next year I'd keep racing B's. But I'm not, so I'm publicly stating that intention, for motivation if nothing else.
Big Bikes said…
The Bold Plan does sound much better than intervals, no wonder he's been rocking the shit so hard for so long.

Like the new blog look, very nice.

Merry Xmas

Nathaniel Ward said…
Yeah, by the by, the new blog looks excellent, I'm jealous :-)

And I know what you mean about individuals, for sure. But what was Peterson's best result in an elite 'cross this year? And road results don't always translate, since a lot of part-time 'crossers who just do it to stay fit don't really train during 'cross season.

You absolutely should upgrade for those reasons: make the commitment, hold yourself accountable for getting faster and kick ass. No doubt you will, look at your improvement this year, right?

But like I said, I think sometimes guys get pushed out the door and quit racing because they don't want to be sandbaggers, but they don't have the time or wherewithal to get a lot faster, so....

And stangly, my anecdotal observations over the years are that , in 'cross and on the road, it isn't necessarily the guys who win easily who do the best as elites. Think Cat 3 syndrome: when you win a lot, you don't know where your limits are, exactly. When you get beat a lot, but are right up there, it's almost easier to keep track of what you need to improve. Sometimes the guys who win B races with ease struggle mentally with being in a race where everyone is as fast or faster than they are. Know what I mean?

I would be interested to see how you guys all shape up racing in faster races. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the results were inverted, given the psychological and motivational factors. Humans are interesting critters. My hypothesis: Colin will kick ass because he is an analytical machine and will methodically make changes to improve ;-) Word.

Unknown said…
Thought you'd like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/karenapricot/3128361728/
solobreak said…
Only 59? You beat me to the post, but I was waiting until we got a bit closer to the end of the year.

Before you even wrote this, I actually considered your 2008 season, how well it worked out, and more importantly how well-structured it was. The way I saw (see) it, the XC Ski racing was an extension of 2007 CX season, although you did some long ski races as well. Whatever. But then the part you left out was your springtime randoneur career. I don't recall if you did two or three or more of these, but they were long-assed strength and character building sessions. That transitioned you into a summer of MTB races interspersed with Dover TT's and Eastern Ave repeats. Sure, the 24 hour things were in there, but it's not like you soloed them, right? Then CX season, all racing. So a nice progression from longer lower intensity to medium distance MTB racing to short, hard CX racing. Almost like you planned it that way...
Luke S said…
A comment on the map...when have you ever skied the entire course at Weston? On Wednesday I skied the main loop and the one directly across the road, marking the first time in my now five years of training and racing there that I have skied something other than the lighted snowmaking loops.
Anonymous said…
chop chop

brendan c. typically only races a full cross season every other year

chop chop
excellent point Nathanial!

I didn't see the tool that made that auction suddenly any closer to the front this year!

chop chop!
Colin R said…
Luke, that's the GPS track from the ski I did on Christmas Eve -- 45 degrees and light rain, not recently groomed, and I didn't have any flouros -- it was like I was stuck to the goddamn ground. Took me an hour to go about 14 k. Not half as fun as the GPS track might look.
Anonymous said…
tell me about your hip flexors dude...oh, and i'm paying Bold $250/month for one on one coaching next season...
Luke S said…
Tell me about it. I did intervals on that morning... 12x3 minutes. I had some LF blue on my skis from Stowe. The skiing up in NH frankly isn't much better right now, just hillier.
privateer said…
Your post has inspired me to race crits this year. Collarbones don't fail me now!

Oh, and single top-mount on the rear ftw.
Luke S said…
I had hoped to see you at the 10k today at Weston. Hangovers were no excuse for anyone else. I needed someone to race.
megA said…
blog please

i am bored and am contemplating physical activity.

save meeeeeeeeeeeee!

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