Tuesday, September 28, 2010

USGP Madison - Day 2

Day two in Madison brought some changes to the course, which were much to my liking. A couple of pictures from my Garmin Edge 500 computer will say it best:

USGP Madison Day 1 Course

USGP Madison Day 2 Course
The course Saturday was technical. It seemed like every time you got a good rhythm going, there was another very technical section to weave through. Sunday flowed much better. The really tight sections had almost all been removed. The twisty tree section now followed an open grassy section, and was also uphill, making it more of a power obstacle than the fast technical section it was on Sat. The only part that may have been a little tougher was leading into the run-up, you had to ride down first, pull a 180, then go back up with zero momentum. Overall though, the changes put a big grin on my face. While the course was about 200 meters longer then Sat, my lap times were faster on Sun.

During my pre-ride, Bill Marshall gave me some good advice on the lead into the run up - run down too. It totally made sense. I did that on every lap, and afterward people were telling me they planned to do the same for their races because it looked much faster. Thanks Bill!

Ok, so on to the race, I somehow showed up late to the call-ups, so I had to beg to squeeze up between riders on the 2nd and 3rd rows. I think they started staging early, because the winner from Sat, Mark Parmelee, was nowhere to be seen. In fact he showed up even later then I did, and had to squeeze in as well. Today, I lined up on the left after getting pinched on the right yesterday.I was a bit frazzled after showing up late, but Ty Henson bailed me out by grabbing my warmup gear for me at the start. Thanks Ty!

Off we go! The race started and I got out like a banshee. By the time we hit the grass I was sitting pretty in 5th postition. Over the barriers I moved up to third. By the time we hit the new open grassy section, I was in the lead and not looking back. Through the trees, around the pits, down the bomber hill. By the time I got to the run up, I had a bit of a gap to second place, probably 2-3 seconds. I screwed up and crashed just before coming back through the start finish line, but had enough time to get back up and get going before loosing any spots.

Through the second lap, I saw that Mark and a Clif Bar rider, Jordan Cullen, were keeping me close. Probably within 5 seconds. I kept on the gas, tried to be smooth and keep an eye on the chase. I felt really solid and the course was just making sense. I almost wiped out again in my favorite place to crash on the course, but kept it upright (though turned fully perpendicular to the course).

On lap three, I got the feeling that the chase was slowing, so I really tried to open up the gap this lap. It worked, I turned my fastest lap time of the day, and the gap was now 40 seconds.

Thanks to a fast first lap, we got to do 7 laps today compared to 6 yesterday. With two to go, the gap was steady, and I was starting to navigate through some lapped traffic, which went smoothly. I focused on riding clean and was able to go fast on the fast parts and relax in the others. It felt good to battle back for a win.

Some other race weekend items of note:
  • It was fun to hang out with the Lincoln crew for the weekend, and it was awesome to have race tips and support from other KC crossers. One of the coolest things about the big out-of-state races is bonding a bit more with other area riders, regardless of differing teams. 
  •  I have really enjoyed using my Garmin Edge 500 this season. My favorite feature is the "Auto Lap" setting, which automatically takes splits for each lap. This is really helpful in 'cross because after races, you can see how the race unfolded by the numbers. Plus you get great GPS maps as well. This has been a great training tool for me. 
  • The Crux is a noticeable upgrade from the Tricross. The front end handles so much better, I've especially noticed this in technical sections, where the Tricross was more of a "pull the front end around", the Crux is more "point and shoot". (ps: Todd Wells is already riding a full carbon Crux - and not the current Tricross-Crux, a real one. It looks awesome. I'd imagine some site will have photos soon enough)
  • Thanks to the Clif bar rep who gave me a free box of shot rox and some clif shots upon learning that I got second place on Sat.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

USGP Madison - Day 1

Fall has arrived in Wisconsin. A few weeks back, it seemed like it in KC, but muggy has returned in our neck of the woods. Friday was a very scenic drive from KC to Sun Prairie, WI. There was a very strong tailwind the whole drive east, so after Des Moines, I made great time and got great mileage as well.

I arrived early enough to get in a good hour on the course Friday with Andy Lucas (360 Racing). Things looked good, the course had some rough spots but things got smoother as we went.

Race day, it was a chilly morning, maybe 50 degrees, but also some wind, and very dry air. The warmup was one of the first rides I've done in awhile where I was not even sweating.

I set up shop with the Lincoln crew: Nate Woodman, TK, MOD, Jeff, and Randy. Thanks guys!

I didn't feel mentally sharp this morning for whatever reason. I kind of drifted around the course, then staged. Last year, Nate Woodman and I started in the 7th row for this race and worked up to 4th & 5th. This year, I was in the 2nd row, which I thought would be much better. After receiving final instructions, we waited eagerly for the gun.


Wow, bad start. I probably was 20th or worse off the pavement. Why? I don't really know - I think the guy in front of me and to my right were the slowest starters in the group. (I was mistakenly thinking someone on a custom frame would go gangbusters - nope, I lapped him later on.)

Anyway, even so, I somehow was not in race mode until we got over the barriers and saw how strung out the field was already. I suddenly got super aggressive - which is not how I usually race, but it worked - I was moving up well. Nate and Troy told me that I was going by people like they were in slow motion.

At some point, I heard over the speakers that Mark Parmelee was at the front. Not good - he won both of the 2/3 races here last year. By the end of the second lap, I had moved into 2nd and was closing within 10 seconds of Mark. After this I would bring back 1-2 seconds per lap, at most. With one to go - Mark still had 5-6 seconds, and we were getting into lapped traffic, so i was hard to stay full gas if you got trapped behind someone.

At the end, that's how it ended up, I finished 5 seconds back for second

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hermann - Cross Under the Lights (Water)

Hermann has earned a reputation as a great event. Night race, stairs, great promoter, tough MO+KS field. JB and I decided to head out this year to see what this race was all about. We decided to rough it for the weekend - camping out at the course with the My Wife Inc. team. We got there and found that our camping spot was perfect, right across from the registration shelter.

After signing in, we got a couple of laps in on the course. It was going to be a very good one. Nice long starting section on pavement, flowing turns behind the ball-field, and some long open sections plus first barrier led into the stairs. Then back towards the Start/Finish line, through the sand pit, and into the more twisty section of the course. Over 4 mini-barriers to hop/ride/run. Then into the backside of the course, a few corners that you had to be a little careful through, and over the second solo barrier. Around a few more trees to complete the loop back onto the pavement. Overall - one of the better courses around.

As the 3's race started, clouds were starting to form in the distance. The lights came on, and things were really starting to get interesting. Lightning started up north, and by the time my race was about to begin, the lightning was all around us, but still in the distance. The official (Buddy) said that if the lightning got any closer, they would have to shorten the race, so listen for the bell, because that would be one to go.

I got to line up in the 2nd row on the edge. As we got ready to go, I felt a few drops of rain, and guessed the storm was coming. The race started and I got a good start. Immediately, we saw there was a van on the course coming straight at us! Brakes squealed, someone crashed, everyone slowed up and looked around wondering what just happened. We got called back, everyone grabbed their same spot, and we started again. Another good start. I slotted in about 6th off the pavement. Two riders almost took me out, and I slid back a few spots. Then the rain started coming down. The whole field was pretty much single file all the way through the first half of the course and stayed that was through the second half. We wound around and a few people slid out on the corners. I felt pretty solid but was hesitant for whatever reason.

We hit the end of the first lap and the bell was being rung - last lap! Everyone went crazy at that point. FULL gas - I was holding down 6-7th spot through the stairs. We got through the first half of the course without much incident - but on the 2nd half there were a lot of wrecks. I kept things upright and tried to take advantage when I could. Apparently, I was going too slow for Josh Johnson (Big Shark) who tried to get around me twice only to crash right in front of me. Whatever. I easily went by him at the line for 5th, the last payout spot.

By this time, the rain was in full effect and the lightning show was spectacular. There was wind too. We had dinner in JJ's pop-up trailer. When the rain finally subsided, I decided to set up the tent. The grass was very wet, but the sandbox next to the trailer was draining very well so I set up there. The rain started again right after I got the tent up - and after two more hours of really heavy rain, lightning lighting up my tent, thunder shaking the ground, and my tent threatening to blow away. I heard voices outside and saw flashing lights. So I looked out and saw that the river was flooding and there was now water up to the wheels of the pop-up. I got another workout in by running with my tent up the hill, then going back to help out with the other stuff. The water continued to rise fast, and soon the pop-up was abandoned, and we packed our wet stuff and went to higher ground.

It was now 2:30 and we are all wide awake - adrenaline going. We got all organized at the nearby gas station and were humored by some local "wit". After having a very amusing conversion with the KCCX guys about their now partially underwater trailer, we re-organizing our gear, shaking and wringing out some water, and watching the flood from across the street - then we found a parking spot for a few hours of shut eye before heading home.

7am came quickly, but it was eye opening to see what used to be the course. The water had subsided back to a swollen river leaving just wreckage behind. Another team had lost a GMC SUV and a trailer that had been up to the roof in water. Silt, garbage, and fish lay strewn about. But oddly, much of the course tape was roughly in place.

Overall, it was nice to leave only wet and tired, but unhurt and with all our gear. There are more important things in life than racing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


The first day of fall is about one week from now. September is one of my favorite months. Despite being a season better known for harvesting and signaling the end of long days, I think of newness. This probably has to do with the school year; with it's fall beginnings.

Perhaps my favorite thing to do this time of year is train really hard. One of my favorite memories from College was showing up at school one week early, and running twice a day with the cross-country team - getting our feet wet with dew in the mornings, crunching on leaves in the afternoon, running fast on dusty trails. The campus was deserted, except for a few other atheletes, and there were no classes or homework to worry about. It was an idyllic time, like a week of running camp - except your free time was your own.

So why the affection for training hard? After building fitness all summer alone, it was always great to come back and turn yourself inside out with teammates. Those days have past, but still the feeling lingers. When the winds begin to change and the air gets crisp - there is nothing like ripping some intervals, going really fast, and having it feel effortless, natural. To me, the fall is the crescendo of the season's training. All the slogging in the winter, the long miles of spring, the heat and humidity of summer, all of it comes to this. The perfect time to ride really hard.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Crux

The new 'cross rig: Specialized Crux

September is upon us. The weather has suddenly turned beautiful and 'cross practices are well underway. I've put in a bit more "trail time" this year, trying to improve my off road handling skills that become so crucial when the weather turns nasty.

I'm excited to try out the Crux in actual race conditions. It steers a bit quicker and is more sure footed than the Tricross was, though it is a bit heavier. The main difference is the front end is very stout. The tapered head tube and steerer make it feel almost Tarmacian in its handling. And yes, that is a good thing.

A more detailed review after some racing!

(This is not the final spec for the bike. For one, those shorty 6's have got to go!)