Monday, October 31, 2011

Faust Park Bubba CX, a Stupid Tax, and No Good Rotten Sandbaggers

The Stupid Tax

Thursday night I was trying to eat healthy, so I cooked some salmon and put it on top of some greens for dinner.  The fish that I ate I thought was about a week old (should be ok, right?)  My wife informed me later when I was nauseous and dizzy that the fish that *I* purchased and *I* opened was probably closer to 3 weeks old.  It didn’t smell bad…

Yes, I paid a stupid tax.  It sucks to be sick due to something so foolish/preventable.  My main suggestion to any of you considering eating old fish – don’t.  

The entire episode is quite ironic because of the intensity of my desire to avoid processed/industrial foods, especially “fast food.”  And here I go eating old fish and getting sick.  Fortunately only I ate it and the kids and wife had something else.  Whew.  Also, the whole episode only took 24 hours to run its course.  

Bubba CX Faust Park Saturday

Saturday evening Faust Park hosted the next round of the Bubba series.  This was the coldest race yet, probably in the 40’s.  The course was the least technical CX course this year (out of 4) for me with only 4 or 5 technical turns per lap.  Pre-riding the course, the grass seemed way too long and everything seemed super bumpy.  My only thought was: my back is going to be cooked after 1 lap!  Fortunately several fields went over the course and packed the grass down enough that by the B race, it wasn’t so bad.

I bailed on the costume stuff – I just didn’t have the energy after the fishy stupid tax I paid Thursday/Friday.  So I lined up in the second row of the B race and had a great start.  An Off the Front racer (dressed as Buddy – bravo) won the hole shot and was really digging.  I got into third wheel behind Rich and sat tight for a few minutes as OtF blew up…so that’s what I look like normally!  I took the front about halfway through the lap and soon found myself with Rich and Pete (on a single speed!) with a little gap.  Realizing that the race was not 3 laps, I let someone else pull for a bit.  Pete and I kept it quick as Rich started to fade.  At this point Matt (dressed as a woman) began reeling us in.  Soon it was three again and that’s more or less how it would stay to the finish.  There were some attacks, counters, and bad lines taken but whenever one of us appeared done, they’d fight to get back on terms.

On the last lap each racer wanted a favorable position.  Matt was leading with 3-4 turns to go while I was second wheel.  Into a downhill off-camber turn (my fav on the course), Pete took me on the inside!  We still had a few 180’s left but I got a little gaped and was forced into chasing back to Pete’s wheel through them. 
The barriers framed the finish.  Since the finish was downhill from the barriers, I reasoned that whoever got to the barriers first had this thing in the bag.  Coming into the left hand climb I sprinted up and gained the first spot, keeping it clean and fast through the barriers, thus sealing my first cat 3 CX win.

To curb my enthusiasm, I immediately lined up for the 1/2/3 (A) race.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to race the next day and I wanted another race start.  Beginning near the back I finished at the back - second to last.  It was basically a fun workout once the field got away from me.  Sadly, I got lapped by the podium, but I still had a good time fighting off last place.

After the finish Johnny served me up a bowl of chili and gave me a Bud Light (perhaps my first ever – not certain).  It was perfect in that moment.  Though I think about anything would have tasted good after that second race!  (Anything but fish, of course.)

The racing was encouraging as I felt I drove my bike better than previous races and my back didn’t give out in the first race.  Progress is progress!  

Sandbagger Ranting and CX Categories

There has been talk lately of sandbagging in our local series.  It’s pretty off-putting for me as internet ranting usually does not correlate to actually talking with people face(book) to face(book).

For my own part, I don’t think I’m ready to upgrade.  I haven’t met the performance requirement for the 3->2 license move, the road parity rule notwithstanding.  Also, as most of the races are on Sundays it’s quite difficult for me to race the A’s and still make it to church on time.  What’s worse, being called a bagger by whiny people (like myself) or not racing?  I think I’ll chance it with the whiners for the next month.

The nice thing about being a CX cat 3 is the variety.  If I want to race later, I can hop in the 1/2/3’s.  Earlier?  The B’s (3/4s).  Want to get smoked?  Double up on the A+B races or 3’s and 1/2/3’s in Chicago.  It really seems to be the best option right now.  Also, now that I’m officially old according to cyclocross, I can do the 30+ races when offered.  The triple fun day (30+, 3’s, 1/2/3’s) is tempting.  I haven’t done it yet but maybe if I want 3 lackluster results in a single day… I think next year will favor quality over quantity.


Finally, if you read this (wow!) and you race in the StL, give a thought to my friend and future teammate BJ “The Coach” Keane.  If the guy could go more than 3 laps without breaking a: spoke, chain, saddle, or rolling a tire, why, I think he might win again.  I think he has the Gateway Cross Cup Sandbagger Curse™.  I haven’t told it to his face(book), but he’s such a sandbagger, being a cat 4 CXer and (presumptive) cat 2 road racer.  *cough*

Ironic Self Referential Addendum:  If you missed the irony of the preceding section, I can't help you.  However, I think there is a real chance some of you might in fact "miss it" (hence this note) and this note is, ironically, my attempt to help you.  Wow, that was like The Matrix or something.

But the real irony of this piece is in the decrying of the sandbag whiners.  Sandbag whiners anonymously complain about others without (usually) naming them and insinuate some fault on the accused-baggers part.  Here of course, in this very blog, I have risen above them to call out some fault in the sandbagwhiners under a pseudonym!  This makes me no different, of course except, in writing this I acknowledge that I in fact know better.  Hmm.

This all begs the question: to what end do sandbagwhiners and smarmy bloggers call foul?  As I mentioned earlier, if they truly wanted what was best for the "accused", they would go to them face to face rather than bloviate anonymously.  I must conclude that I (and they) do not really want whats best for the other.  By process of elimination, it's not hard to guess who they are trying to serve with their comments.

Further Irony Which I Importune You to Consider in this David Foster Wallace Mini-Homage*:

After writing all that other crap I realized the name of the park.  Oh the tantalizing narrative possibilities.  

*Please pronounce "homage" like "oma" plus the "g" sound from "entourage." Please.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Love that Lasts + Sunrise Park CX

This past weekend the wife and I headed to Naperville for a marriage seminar hosted by Sovereign Grace Church wherein the Ricucci’s presented the material from their book “Love that Lasts.”  I thought it was really well done and reminded me how fortunate I’ve been to be close friends with several couples “ahead” of us who have healthy marriages.  The seminar was a “one off”, but I recommend the book.  By the way, it’s better to do stuff like this when things are going well than to wait till you two aren’t talking and investing your emotional stock elsewhere.
My wife cares for me enough not only to recommend the seminar but also to throw in that “there’s a cyclocross race the next day.”  Booyah. 
Bartlett played host to the sixth stop on the Chicago Cyclocross Cup circuit.  Last year I traveled up to this race and won the 4B’s (the beginners race), a race I had no business being in!  But I ate a hot dog while sandbagging, and I promised never to do it again.  This year I doubled up in the 3’s and the 1/2/3’s.
The course was fantastic: smooth with plenty of turns, power sections, a little wind, some uphill ramps, off-camber spiral, and the “six pack” of barriers.  Weather was perfect: 60’s with sun.

Through the brutal "6 Pack." Photo Credit: Josh Gore.

I felt good in warm-ups but didn’t eat enough on the day and had myriad other excuses which I’ll save.
In the 3’s I lined up in the 5th row (they call everybody up, so no finagling!) and I moved up into the top 15 or so before bleeding back to 20th (out of 70).  Not bad.  CX is so tough mentally and with a weak/fat body, it’s even tougher.  But it is fun in some weird sense and I do enjoy the release of competition and pushing myself.
I honestly thought about bailing on the 1/2/3’s but after some water and a hammer gel I convinced myself to line up.  Barry Wicks was staged behind me, which is hilarious.  He won, from last in the grid.  If the first race hurts, let me tell you, the second race REALLY hurts!  I was racing alright until I tried to make a pass of a bike heaven rider before a turn and didn’t come around in time.  He put me into the tape (which I probably deserved) and that killed a lot of momentum.  Nick Ramirez (Psimet/Enzo’s) passed me while I got my bike untangled and encouraged me to get back in it – which was very helpful.  My lovely wife caught some of this race and I guess I was having such a good time from the looks of it that she shouted: "it's almost over!" 
My Fango/Grifo tubies were perfect for driving in Sunrise Park.
Photo Credit: Cameron Pease.

I soon hooked up with Kevin Flowers (Wheelfast) and we rolled together the remaining laps.  I didn’t have much power but I could drive a few sections cleaner than him.  It ended up that we caught an Iron Cycles rider and the three of us worked together to avoid being lapped by Wicks.  By “work together” I mean I took token pulls for like 2 straights and then sucked wheel.  Oh, and our “working together” extended to me bumming a drink from Kevin.  Water never felt so refreshing!  I promised that I would pull to the line if he gave me a drink and I was true to my word.  I did pull, but then I pulled faster until I had a gap.  Lesson: never help a wounded road racer.  They are no good sons of guns! 

The Chicago race afforded a chance to say hello to guys I won’t see until March or April on the road.  It was good to catch up a little and remind myself that there are some strong dudes to face off against in 2012.  This winter is not a time for complacency!

The whole weekend was a blast.  Big ups to my in-laws for taking the kids for the weekend.  I’m very thankful for the chance to spend an entire weekend with my best friend, race my bike, and just have fun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bubba Opening Weekend

The three weeks between Dogfish Hermann CX and the Bubba opening weekend did not go as planned.  The first long ride on the cx bike (5 hours) produced knee pain that forced me off the bike – not cool!  

So the Bubba opening weekend races were at Queeny park on the west side of StL.  The knee behaved leading up to it so I decided to give it a go.  I’d never been to Queeny so I made it out early on Saturday to ride a few laps before dark.  The course was quite bumpy and featured two barriers, two steep ride-ups, and one scary descent into the parking lot.  A few extra turns were added on Sunday.  The barriers seemed really tight (not a complaint, just an observation) such that at speed (which, if you saw me you’d call it “slow”,) I could only take one step before jumping over the next barrier.  I guess I should be thankful I had that moment of feeling like Ryan Trebon.

Saturday’s race: I got a third row starting position which was just average.  I moved up into fourth before bleeding a bit when the back locked up and I had to slow.  One thing I don’t understand is how guys lined up on the first row and then ran the steep ramp on the first lap.  If you can’t ride it, why are you in front of everyone else?  Know thyself!

Sam Moore rode away with the race, having strength and skillz.  I was doing battle with Rich for a while and after recovering a bit on his wheel I came around and hoped to ramp it up.  Unfortunately I caught a tree branch with my eye on the 180 leading into the barriers.  Oh well.  I finished 7th which was respectable and consistent with my Hermann results.  This, despite ribbing from my roadie compatriots, shows I belong in the ‘B’ race.
How to Blow a Turn... Photo Credit: Mike Dawson.

I should mention that with the mid October evening the temps were cool – mid 50’s, which is well into knee warmer territory for me.  I used Enzo’s Embro Stick (Medium) instead, and it worked great.  This was my second race using the product and I’m pleased with performance.

Sunday the heat was hot, my mouth was dry, but the air was full of sound – or something like that.  My teammate Nick showed up to watch and watered me every time through the pit.  I started out going pretty well but by lap three the heat (80's!) and my back got the better of me and I was toast, going from trading first place with Sam to eventually 15th.  I finished in 14th after gaining a place back from Sunny.  The race was one giant tactical mistake on my part.  I thought I’d have the gas to keep going when I saw the front but I lost my cool.  Just foolishness!  Know thyself!  I guess during the race I figured that I was fast, but I’m not – yet.  
Finally, after the chain drop imbroglio at Hermann (my own fault), I adjusted the chain keeper and guess what…it kept the chain on, even on that sick bumpy section near the s/f.
Nuetella sponsorship?  Photo Credit: Mike Dawson.

The family joined me for Sunday’s race and got to see daddy get all red-faced and dusty.  The kids seem to have more fun at CX races with the constant viewing opportunities, ample cowbell, and the local drive times.  Now if we could just get mommy on a cx steed…

Monday I got my back and legs taken care of by Kurt Fletcher who has a massage therapy business in StL.  He took second in the A race on Sunday so he knew how everything ached after the race weekend.  I strongly recommend the extra recovery massage affords.  I also should point out that with all the bumping and jarring of the Queeny Park course, I have zero chaffing or saddle sore issues thanks to Enzo’s Chamois Cream.  It’s not just for road season!