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Cyclocross Blog 2014
Closing out the Season
As we enter December the race schedule gets thinner as there are very few races to be found anywhere within several hours driving distance. I generally don’t race the weekend just after Thanksgiving as there are so many other things I want to do and need to do (not the mention that I just ate huge meals for a couple days – I love Thanksgiving leftovers). Frankly, I could have let my season end with the PACX finale on November 23 and been happy with it but there were still a couple races in the region that I wanted to do: Capital Cross Classic and Limestone Cross.
The Capital Cross Classic held in Reston, Virginia IS a “classic” course. Years ago this was generally the final race in the area and the last race before Nationals so anyone looking to go to Nationals came into this event in top form. Two things changed that: First, the race was not held for a few years due to issues with the hosting park and second, Nationals was moved from Mid-December to January. The race returned to the schedule in recent years but I had not made it back. It is such a terrific course that I regretted missing it so this year I made it a point to get down there.
The days prior to the race it rained a lot so I knew we were in for a muddy event. I was down at the venue a couple hours before my race but it was difficult to pre-ride the course not just due to the mud but also because the earlier races were running long so there was very little time between races to get on the course. I just checked out the more technical areas and looked over some of the other spots and warmed up on my trainer to prepare.
I was given a front row position at the start and was off the line quickly falling into second and third wheel when we turned off the pavement. At this point several guys came around and I was riding in about 10th position as we turned up the first punchy hill and then into a thick muddy uphill stretch. I knew I was in good form when I surged past several guys on the punchy hill and then easily powered past everyone through the thick mud. As we hit some twists and turns after the mud Kelly Cline, Blair Saunders and a few others came back around and I settled into a rhythm. But shortly we hit another muddy section into a punchy, muddy hill where I again surged forward and followed Kelly and Blair as we gapped the field. Blair and I passed Kelly on the run up and then I came around Blair over the top and was in the lead for a short time. Blair soon used his familiarity with the course (he has raced this event in recent years) to take over and power away.
I settled into a rhythm again as several guys bridged up to me. I rode with them for a while but a couple of them got away and went in pursuit of Blair. I ended up in a tight battle with Jimmy Deaton (a racer I’m not familiar with but who was very good in the technical down hills and turns); he would gain some time on me in the down hills and turns and I would surge forward in the run up, the hills and mud. He and I went back and forth like this for a couple laps but as we came into the final lap I had again gapped him in the deep mud and got away for good.
My final lap was my best lap overall (and the fastest final lap of all racers except Blair who was 3 seconds quicker) as I gained more than half a minute on second and third place to finish fourth (just 23 seconds off second place). I felt very strong and in control the last lap and enjoyed the feeling of pushing my body at its limits.
Capital Cross did not disappoint; it was muddy, challenging, well organized and “classic”. I plan to make it a priority to get to this event and other MABRA events next year as they do a terrific job organizing their races.
Limestone Cross at the Kiln: December 14th, 2014
The final race of my season, Limestone Cross was also the final MAC series race. I missed several of the MAC races this year due to conflicts with my consulting work and other races so I was short on series points and also headed for my lowest MAC series finish in years. I was hoping this race would give me a few more points to move up a notch or two in the rankings. Regardless of MAC series points, I really like this event and course and would not miss it.
Mike Yozell made some changes to the course this year that added difficulty, but he kept in the elements he is known for: Wide lanes with plenty of room to pass and several places you had to run. It was a cold and overcast day with the ground slick with moisture but not quite muddy. We also had a strong field of athletes today to make the day that much more challenging.
I was second row in the start and got off the line cleanly moving along with the group as it strung out quickly in the opening minutes. After a gap opened up I was able to swing around the group I was with and latch onto the back of the leading pack. I felt okay but did not have the usual “pop” in my legs during the run-up and could tell that the top guys were going much better than me. Regardless, I was moving along well and fighting in the second tier of racers for a place from 5th to 10th.
As we hit the run-up in the following laps, I was better there than the guys around me and was confident in a good placing. Then a problem struck: I had a softening rear tire and I had just passed the pit with the longest stretch to go before returning to the pit. As my pace slowed I lost a lot of ground and was caught from behind by several riders before getting my spare bike.
From this point I made some efforts to move forward again, but it was too late in the race. I was able to close in on the two guys ahead in the last lap but could not catch them before the finish and I ended up in 12th place overall.
Problems like mechanicals, crashes and other issues can ruin your day or make you lose a bunch of places, but when reflecting on this season as a whole, I can’t complain. I had no major mechanical issues or other problems that took me out of races and I made very few significant mistakes in bike handling. The reasons for my successes as well as my disappointments were all my own. I was either rested and made good decisions in a race, or I was fatigued or made poor choices in a race. Either way the result was mine.
A Strong Finish
It is often said “Time Flies” and how true that is! It really seems the Pennsylvania Cyclocross series of races just began, and yet the first race was on August 31st with Cross of the Corn. It has been an eventful series and the most successful one for me. After a solid first race, I took the win and the series lead in the second race extending that lead in the third race before things got difficult. Over the next five races my performances were solid but below expectations as my lead steadily dwindled in the series until I finally lost it at Sly Fox Cross. Then came Kutztown cross last weekend where I had a strong race, vying for the win for a while before finishing a strong 5th. With that result, however, I dropped to third place in the series behind Bob Reuther and Charles Kline with fourth place, Kevin Justice, nipping at my heels. The importance of today’s final race in the series at West Chester could not be understated: While the leaders jersey was all but out of reach, my ride today could move me up to second place or drop me as far back as 6th place.
Today’s course was similar in style to the first event at West Chester except it was run in the opposite direction. It had nice straights, swooping turns, some hills, off cambers and a good run up to keep things challenging. All the top guys from the series were here and were all targeting this race; they came in ready to fight in order to secure their ranking in the series.
I had a good start off the line but then moments in my foot slipped out of the pedal slowing me enough to allow several guys to surge past as we entered the first turns. A half lap in I was in about 8th position but there was trouble ahead. In the lead were three Bike Line teammates (Bob Reuther, Kevin Justice and Mike Stevens) along with Kelly Cline. Those four had a gap on the rest of us, and with three teammates together they intended to make it stick. I was too far back to come around and close the gap myself so I tried to encourage the guys ahead to speed up and close it down.
Over the next lap we brought Kelly and Mike back into the fold, but Bob and Kevin were still ahead and gaining time. I was in the back of my group which included Charles Kline, Mark Featherman, Dave Lowe, John Lux, Kelly and Mike. I was trying to get through the traffic but was being held off until finally I found some space up the right hand side on a hill. I attacked hard from the bottom of the hill and flew past the entire group holding my momentum through some turns. I quickly had a gap on the group, but nobody had followed me so I was alone in my chase of the two leaders. I decided to keep up the pressure and go for broke in the hopes of catching the leaders and distancing the chasers. It was a gamble though as it was very early in the race and it is difficult for one racer to stay away from a group of chasers.
As I pressed forward and gained time on the chasers, one guy was able to bridge across and join my efforts. I was both happy and concerned to have Greg Ferguson with me. If I could stay with him and work together we would have a better chance of catching the leaders and or distancing the chasers. But that was a big “IF”; he is a very strong rider who returned to racing this year and staying with him could be difficult.
I pressed the pace for a while before Greg came around and upped the speed. I was able to dig in and stay with him until he moved over indicating he wanted me to take over again. We worked that way together for the next laps and were able to create distance to the chasers and actually close in on Kevin Justice in second place after he was dropped by Bob Reuther.
As we came into the final lap it was clear that Bob had the win locked up and Kevin was far enough ahead that he would have needed to totally collapse for us to catch, but from behind first Kelly Cline then Mark Featherman were launching attacks to try to catch us. Mark’s efforts were working as he began to close in on us. Greg and I noted his attempts and increased our pace to stay away. At this point, I was trying to figure out how to beat Greg and figured if need be I would sprint for it on the finish straight. It didn’t come down to that though as I accelerated out of every turn and kept the speed up and actually dropped Greg in the last couple minutes of the race. I still sprinted hard down the final stretch to be sure he did not sneak up on me.
My third place finish today was fantastic. I felt strong and rode a smart race overall to beat some really tough competition in Greg, Mark and Kelly. Even better, my result today propelled me into second place in the Pennsylvania series taking a narrow 8 point margin over Charles Kline in 3rd place and 12 points over Kevin Justice in 4th. If Greg and Mark had beaten me, I would have fallen to 4th place in the series!
So, I finished the Pennsylvania Cyclocross Series in second place overall which is by far my best series finish ever. My condition and form has returned just in time for the end of the season helping me to secure my position. It is also nice to end the race season on a high note. With only another couple races left on my schedule I plan to use my fitness to garner more strong finishes. More importantly, I plan to have fun and enjoy my time on the bike.
Now I’m Racing!
I came into this Pennsylvania Cyclocross series event with mixed feelings. I was looking forward to racing, but not enthused about the venue (based on prior years racing here). I thought I felt okay, but was not rested (due to one of the busiest weeks I’ve had this Fall capped off by an early wake up yesterday and travel to New York to teach all day and then travel home). I wanted to race hard, but made it a goal to be sure to relax and have fun.
It was a cold morning (about 30 degrees) and overcast with the ground hard and frozen. I previewed the course and was impressed with the changes the promoter made; although there are not many natural features to work with he made a course that was fun, had some challenges and allowed the athletes to race hard. This was by far his best course ever at this venue and I can recommend it for future events. He laid the course out in a way that let the racers compete hard the entire way by powering down straights, jumping out of turns, picking your way through tricky curves and best of all by creating enough room that we could race side by side through the turns.
We lined up for the start with a good size field and plenty of top racers in my Masters category. The top guys in the series were here and it seemed we were all intent on fighting for points to finish the series on the podium. I got out to a quick start and lead through the opening turns before Bob Reuther came past. I felt good and settled into a rhythm in the opening couple of minutes as those around me fought for position behind Bob.
A couple minutes in I found myself in fifth position behind Charles Kline and Kelly Cline, but they had allowed a big gap to Bob and his teammate Kevin Justice. I knew this was trouble because if we did not close that gap those two would ride away so I attacked hard past Charles and Kelly and sprinted across the gap to the leaders. Just as I caught them, Kevin crashed leaving Bob and me as leaders. Bob, however, did not want to lose his teammate so he eased up the pace to let him catch back on. I took this opportunity to attack again and jumped around Bob and pushed the pace in the lead. I was hoping to break up the race and drop some of the other contenders. This didn’t quite work out; though we did leave most of the field behind, we had five strong at the front: Bob, Kevin (who had quickly caught back on), Charles, Kelly and me.
Over the next couple of laps Bob and I attacked past each other multiple times to try to lead the race. Kevin always stayed tucked in close but we often gapped Charles and Kelly a little bit and every time they pulled back in. It was clear that this was the group that was going to fight for the podium positions. After a time Kevin fought past to lead the race and then he and his teammate Bob tried to work together to drop the rest of us. Several times they created some separation and every time Charles and Kelly let me close it down as they followed tight to my wheel. This became frustrating because I didn’t want them to benefit from my efforts while they conserved energy.
To break up this dynamic I attacked Kevin and Bob a couple more times but they worked well as a team and countered my moves. I began to feel the cost of my efforts so as we completed another lap I let Kelly and Charles come past to make them do some work. Surprisingly they made no effort to attack as all they did was sit on the leaders wheels. When we came onto the finish straight I pulled next to Charles and told him to attack. He looked at me, seemed to decide it was a good idea and laid down a blistering attack.
From that point Charles raced aggressively; when he was in the lead he pushed the pace, when he was following he was attacking and trying to regain the lead. He looked great. The unfortunate result of his efforts was that the group dropped me. I sat just seconds behind them and tried hard to close the distance but had run out of steam.
In the final lap Bob had had enough and accelerated leaving the group behind. Charles and Kevin were duking it out and Kelly was sitting on them patiently waiting for the final sprint. Unfortunately Kelly slid out in a corner and lost his chance to sprint for second. In the end Charles put out a terrific sprint and nipped Kevin for second, Kelly came in just behind for 4th and I rolled in later in 5th.
This was a terrific race for me. Yes, it is disappointing I did not get a higher finish (I think if I played it a little differently I could have been with the group at the end and sprinted for a better finish) BUT I was racing at the front of the race and I feel like my efforts really made a difference in the outcome. Today I had fun, I was able to work hard and I felt really strong. That is what I want from my racing. I’m already looking forward to next week’s race to try and do it again.
Race, Rinse, Repeat.
Okay, my racing blog is getting repetitive with me looking for more from my performances and getting flustered because I’m not meeting my expectations. So as not to bore you too much, here is the summary of not only this weekend’s races, but much of the preceding events of the past 6 weeks:
Work long hours on my feet at Wahner Chiropractic as well as my consulting contracts 5 days a week. Add to this, work place injury prevention training and consulting with Future Industrial Technologies and their BACKSAFE and SITTINGSAFE programs which has me traveling each week performing trainings and work site evaluations. Sprinkle in early wake times of 2:45 & 3:30 AM a couple of times a week. Stir in bike race training 3 or 4 days a week and finish with racing on weekends. The end result: Less than stellar results.
I’m keeping myself from completely imploding by getting my chiropractic adjustments weekly, getting to bed as early as possible every night, eating healthy, taking vitamins and supplements to support my immune system and doing the little things that can be done to support good health. This worked to keep me going strong overall. I think I’m really on top of things in my office and performing great there. In the work place trainings, I am hitting it hard with high energy in the classes I teach and I am getting terrific involvement from the employees I train in each 2 hour session even when teaching 4 classes in a day. I have even been able to stay on top of the weekly chores around the house (yard work, paperwork, making meals and all that basic stuff).
So what’s to complain about? Nothing really; it is just that I have high expectations for myself and how I perform in EVERYTHING I do. When I don’t meet those expectations I get frustrated. That is what I got (and have been getting over the past weeks) with this weekend’s races. I raced well, felt fine, but lacked top end power and oomph and as a result finished 15th on Saturday and 7th on Sunday.
There are a couple of things to say about this weekend’s races. Fairhill Cross on Saturday was a terrific course. This is a race that more people should come to. Frankly, I think it could host a top level national event as it has so many features and challenges and it can handle large numbers of racers.
Sly Fox Cross on Sunday was a first time event and they did a fine job. This was a challenging course and had the best run up we have seen in years. The area they have to work with is small so the course is short and it could not handle huge numbers. I would love to see it come back on the schedule again and they don’t have to change much except try to add distance to the laps with some strong power sections. To do that they may have to borrow some land behind the buildings next to their brewery. One other thing to improve it: Don’t burn smoky wood in the fire barrels right next to the course. Many racers found this to be a problem as we gasped for air and inhaled only smoke.
Lastly, I lost the lead in the Pennsylvania Cyclocross series this weekend at Sly Fox Cross. I turn the leader’s jersey over to a deserving racer: Bob Reuther. I don’t think he is going to let it go.
Pennsylvania State Championships; Stoudt's Cross
With yesterday’s race in my legs I had hopes to put out a great ride for the State Championships. Based on previous course designs at Stoudt’s Cross I was really looking forward to this event. In the past two years they designed terrific courses with climbing, power handling and other challenges. In fact, I had said this was one of the best courses in past years. That was not the case this year. It seemed they tried too much to make the course hard. In fact I overheard the course designer say his goal was to make this course all about climbing. As such on the main feature of the course, goat hill, they had us go straight up, turn 180 degrees and go down, turn 180 degrees go up, turn 180 degrees go down and then ride around a minute and go back up again.
With that complaint out of the way, I generally like power climbs such as these. When I warmed up on course I felt okay; the hills were tough but seemed like a place where I could get some time on people. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. From the start of the race I was lacking some punch. I didn’t worry as I waited for the hills and for my body to open up. When we hit the hills the first time I did make some moves forward but over the top of the last one, I realized I had paid a price for that work. I just hoped everyone else paid that price too. The next time around up the hills, I could see that everyone around me was better. I fought and worked but could not match their pace.
Throughout the remainder of the race, I kept trying to push where I could and catch the guys ahead, but it was to no avail. I rolled across the line in 10th place. Not awful overall, but a huge disappointment from what I was hoping. Even with the poor showing, I managed to hold onto the Pennsylvania Leader Jersey for another week. I’m still excited I took the jersey way back in September at the 2nd race in the series, and it has been terrific to wear it over these past 5 races. Now I have another week with it on my shoulders and I plan to represent it well.
A New Beginning? Swashbuckler Cross
Putting October and my subpar results behind me, I was looking forward to starting a new trend at Swashbuckler Cross on November 1st. I had a good week of training and actually posted some strong power numbers in my interval workout on Wednesday so I was confident in my fitness coming into this weekend of racing.
Swashbuckler cross held at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire grounds was the next round in the Mid Atlantic Series. The weather predictions called for heavy rain and wind which is exactly what we woke up to on Saturday morning. As we drove out to the race the weather was bad, but a few miles away from the race venue the rain stopped and the weather dramatically changed. As it turned out, there had been no rain at all at the course and during our race day the sun actually came out for a short while.
The predicted terrible weather seemed to keep many racers home so the field sizes were very small. The course was interesting as it wound around and through the Renaissance Faire grounds. There was a heavy amount of gravel to ride through on the course making some sections sketchy and adding a level of risk. There was a long sand pit to cross as well as some hills and other interesting features to make this a unique course for the MAC series.
I had a solid start and was in the leading group as we wound through the initial turns and twists until two riders just in front of me slid out in a gravel turn. This created a little gap that I was able to jump across and create some separation from the rest of the field. I remained in good position through the first lap and as things sorted out I was in a group with Ed Hein and Kelly Cline, with Ben Anemone just ahead and Bob Reuther and Eric Schlauch in the lead a few seconds away.
As we started our third lap Ed tried to come around me so I accelerated to stay in front and lead through some twists and turns. I punched the pedals hard coming out of a turn but miscalculated where I was on the course (I thought I was heading into a straight) and rode straight into the course tape causing me to flip over the handlebars and tossing my bike into the air over me. It was a spectacular crash! I wasn’t hurt and my bike was okay so I grabbed it and jumped back on course but not before Ed and Kelly rode away from me.
After chasing for two laps I finally caught Kelly on the final lap and was able to get around him and up the pace a little. As he and I entered the Sand pit we caught a lapped rider and as I tried to pass him he bogged down and stepped into my bike bringing me to a halt. I jumped off the bike and sprinted through the sand creating a little gap on Kelly, but when I remounted my rear wheel was rubbing. It turned out that the lapped rider must have stepped into my rear wheel quick release because it was open. I had to get off the bike, straighten the wheel, tighten and close the release. By the time I remounted, Kelly was 30 seconds ahead and with less than a half lap to go there was no time for me to close that gap.
I rolled across the line with a solid 6th place finish; disappointed that I made that one mistake and had the mishap as I could have had a finish one or two places higher. BUT, I was happy that my legs felt strong, and I was able to race with some power.
October 26, 2014: Crossasaurus Awesome
Yes, a weird name for a race. I have no idea why it is named this, but the race has been around for years and because it is managed very well, I anticipate it will be around for a lot more years to come.
For some reason or other, I always enjoy this race so I was looking forward to it and looking for a good result. Off the start line I somehow missed my pedal twice and took too long to get going thus dropping way back right away. I was able to work my way forward through the first lap and join up with Dave Lowe who was looking great as he cruised through the course. Up ahead were the leaders including Bill Elliston, Bob Reuther, Mark Featherman, Kelly Cline and Charles Kline.
As we progressed into the laps Bill and Bob were away in the lead and Mark, Kelly and Charles were fighting just ahead of my group. At this point Jason Eicholtz had joined up with us when he and teammate Dave Lowe attacked away together leaving me to chase them. Unfortunately for Dave he rolled a tire in a tight corner and lost contact. I tried to catch Jason but he was too strong; he eventually bridged up to the group of three ahead and challenged them in the final lap as they all fought for third place.
As for me, I felt okay today and in the final couple of laps was able to move away from the guys chasing me and finish in 7th. I didn’t feel bad, but I didn’t feel terrific either and my results showed that. October was a subpar month for me results wise. As I said in prior posts, I’m just not 100% rested and recovered when I get to the weekends to race. My professional schedule is pretty full and hectic right now which is leaving me lacking in the weekends. I’ve done what I can to aide in recovery; get to bed early, eat healthy, get my chiropractic adjustments weekly, and even reduce my training volume and intensity. I know those moves all helped, and because of taking such good care of myself I avoided completely breaking down or getting sick, but they can’t magically reverse the effects of a heavy work load.
The amazing news: Although my result in this Pennsylvania Cross Series race was not terrific, it was enough to keep me in the leader’s jersey for another week. I lead Bob Reuther by 28 points. He is hot on my heels and getting great results so it is really just a matter of time before he takes over the lead, but I intend to make him work for it a little longer.
Trying to turn it around:
Star Crossed Race and West Chester Cross
After the problems of last weekend, and the clear signs that I was pushing past my recovery limits, I spent this week focused on rest and recovery. I was on the bike only 3 times (Sunday, Wednesday and Friday) for a total of less than 4 hours and did an abbreviated strength training session on Tuesday. My hope was this would be enough to put me back on track for a strong weekend of racing and good results in these two Pennsylvania Cyclo-Cross Series events where I was defending the series leader jersey.
October 18, 2014
Saturday morning brought us to the Lancaster area for the Star Crossed race, an event that should be on more peoples’ schedules. It is a well-run event, with terrific homemade food and a challenging but fun course design. The race course rises and falls constantly as it winds through a farmers field with the main part of the course in the shape of a huge star. Due to the frequent punchy hills and false flat rises this course favors a rider able to produce high power.
I felt really good in my warm up and was looking for a top result today. We had a small field of racers today, but there was quality among them. I got off to a strong start and was in the lead as we wound around the course for the first lap. I tried to keep what I thought to be a hard pace but when I looked back a half lap in realized that I hadn’t really dropped anyone; not a good sign! Charles Kline came around me and I followed on his wheel as we finally had some separation from the others but in a slick corner I washed out onto my right side and had to remount and get moving again. As I got going I noticed my front wheel was rubbing the brakes so I tried to jiggle the brake cables but it did not free so I had to dismount again to release my wheel, which had shifted in the drop out, and align and tighten it. This fixed the issue but I lost time and Charles was now away alone and I was with a group chasing.
As our group chased Charles I began to notice I wasn’t able to match their efforts. I gave myself some time to recover and then tried an attack past them up a hill but the effort quickly “gassed” me and three riders came right back around me as I gasped for air. I tried to stay attached to the group, but after battling a little longer they left me behind. I kept up my efforts but kept losing ground. Eventually Joe Daub reeled me in even as I gave it my best efforts to keep away. When he caught me he immediately attacked and dropped me. I was left alone trying to finish without more guys catching me. I did eventually hold onto 6th which was my worst placing in the PACX series.
Charles Kline rode a terrific race and was able to stay away from the group of three chasing him and soloed in for the win. Kevin Justice snuck away in the end for second, John Luxx took third, Jason Eichorn fourth and Joe Daub fifth. I loved the course and the event, but was frustrated that I wasn’t able to generate much power. It felt like I had good legs at the beginning but then my power just disappeared and I was left struggling to the finish. This, combined with last weekend’s issues, indicates that I still haven’t recovered. If I can’t get things back on track I may have to completely stop training and racing until I fully recover. The plan now is to race West Chester Cross tomorrow and see how my body responds.
October 19, 2014
We arrived at Rustin High School in West Chester on Sunday morning to cooler and very windy weather. Today was the day for me to determine what my next step would be: Does my body respond and my power return so I can continue my season or, do I still show signs of over-training and fatigue indicating the need to totally shut down my race program and training?
I felt okay during warm-up and was relaxed and ready for the start. Off the line I was second behind Bob Reuther and then third after Mike Stevens came around. We remained that way half-way into the first lap, but I had fallen back from the two leaders when in a turn I planted my inside pedal into the ground and “vaulted” my rear wheel out. This threw me off my cadence and a couple riders swung past including Kelly Cline, Charles Kline and Mark Featherman with a few others settled in behind me.
Going into the second lap, we lost Kelly when he broke a spoke and Ray Zeimet moved ahead with Mark and Charles. Those three gapped me and caught onto Mike Stevens who was dropped by Bob Reuther who was running away with the lead. At this point John Luxx came around me and I caught onto his wheel as we went in pursuit of the group of four a few seconds ahead. As we climbed a hill I saw Mike coming off the group ahead and jumped around John to catch him. At this point the “mini competitions” within the race were set: Bob was alone and had only himself to battle. Charles, Mark and Ray were battling for placings. John, Mike and I were fighting to catch the three ahead AND battling each other. In the end Bob won, Mark took a hard fought 2nd, Charles 3rd, Ray 4th, me 5th, Mike 6th and John 7th.
The good news was I felt like I was “racing” today. While I was NOT my best, I felt strong and was able to fight and push hard throughout the entire race. I was disappointed by my overall results this weekend as I was looking for better showings as I raced with the series leader’s jersey on my shoulders. There is not much to regret though, I gave it my best and don’t think there was anything I would do differently.
The plan going forward is to go back to the original plan for the season: Take it one week at a time and have fun. This coming week I will focus on rest and recovery by keeping my volume low and performing only one day of intensity. I hope to come into the next race with fresh legs and rested mind.
Even with planning and attention to detail things sometimes go poorly. For me, Whirlybird cross race was an example of that. Planning out the schedule back in August, I decided to take a weekend off from racing after Town Hall Cross. At that point I had raced 7 times in a month, plus had traveled for work several times and had taken no days off other than Labor Day. A weekend away from racing would allow time to catch up at home, get some rest, AND put in a hard block of training that theoretically could propel me to continued strong results in October and November.
Everything was going according to plan until very early Thursday morning October 9. I woke up with pain along my lower abdomen which felt like strained muscles. I also had a poor appetite but no other symptoms. After a busy 13 hour day I arrived home exhausted. I napped, ate a light dinner then went to bed early. Even after a good night sleep, I woke with poor energy and poor appetite Friday morning. I skipped any training and after working was still tired. So again I ate a light dinner and off to bed. I woke Saturday morning (race day) feeling okay. I had lost about five pounds in a couple days due to my poor appetite, but still was not very hungry. Regardless, I ate a good breakfast and felt a bit better. Since the Whirlybird race was only a short drive away and I was already registered, I decided to go and make the best of it.
Race day was rainy and we,t making the course muddy but fun. Right off the start line it was clear I was far from my best. I could not match the power of the others and quickly dropped back from the front row. My legs just had nothing in them but I otherwise felt good. At this point I decided to keep a strong steady pace and ride as smoothly as possible. My ride went fine with me finishing in 22nd; far off my anticipated placing and far off the guys I normally finish with. The reality was that it was the best I could do.
The conclusion from these few days is that I am over-training/over-working and pushing too deep. When you over-train fatigue builds up, appetite diminishes and performance drops as stress hormones (cortisol) builds up in the body. The common response to poor performance is to train harder but this just deepens the problem. Reducing the training load and getting rest is what is required. My professional and personal schedules are pretty well set without much flexibility. My training and racing are where I can and must adapt to reduce the load and allow the recovery my body needs.
Closing out September:
Town Hall Cross
This Pennsylvania Cyclocross Series Race held in Bethlehem, PA was my first opportunity to defend the leader’s jersey; definitely a new experience for me as I had never before lead a series. It was a warm Fall morning, with plenty of sunshine when we arrived to preview the course. The Town Hall Cross course begins with a switch back climb up a hill which culminates in a steep kicker before turning and dropping back down the hill into a series of turns, the barriers and then onto a relatively flat section into the finish. The course was generally the same as past years but with some modest tweaks that really improved the flow.
Off to Baltimore for the MAC: Charm City Cross Weekend
Paul and I traveled to Baltimore for a weekend of racing in the Mid Atlantic Cross series. Charm City Cross perennially has huge numbers of entrants combined with a challenging course to make for a tough but fun weekend of racing. This was the ten year anniversary of the race in Charm City and the promoters made changes to the course and the event to make this year the toughest of all. In our preview of the course we discovered they added more hills, two sets of wooden stairs, a flyover and 4 sections of the nastiest sand crossings linked together with 180 degree turns.
On the first day my plan was to start out more moderately and follow the leading group. I had a front row call up for the start and got out quickly, but eased up too soon and was swamped going into the first turns. Now I had to fight back around those guys and try to move forward. I made a mistake in a steep off-camber turn and slid out into the tape, slowing me again. I was quickly back up and moving, but the leaders were now away.
As the race sorted out I found myself in a good group with Mark Featherman, Ben Anemone and Ed Hein; we were all working hard and were gaining on Rick Anderson each of us fighting for a coveted top ten position. Throughout the race I was climbing well and putting pressure on the others at those times. I was also riding the sand better than the others with me with the exception of Mark who seemed to float across the sand each time. Going into the final laps I wanted to get away from the others, especially Mark, on the hills. Unfortunately the sand took its toll on my bike and locked up my gears giving me only a couple to work with on the hills. Now I couldn’t keep pace with my group in the very area I was strongest. Mark attacked at this point and dropped all of us, quickly catching Rick Anderson and dropping him too and finishing 7th on the day. I struggled with my gears and pushed to the end but couldn’t get around Ed or Ben thus finishing in 11th. It was a very good finish for me and I gave it everything I had, so there was nothing to regret.
For Sunday’s version of Charm City Cross, the course was largely the same except run backward through some portions, but with all the challenges included from Saturday. I lined up on the front row today, but with the intent to go out strong and keep up the effort through the opening turns to avoid getting swamped again. This plan worked well and I was second and third wheel as we moved onto the main part of the course. Unfortunately, that was all that worked well that day as I simply did not have the power to stay with the leaders, or for that matter some of the other guys who swung past me (even guys I had easily passed the day before). I was giving it my full effort, and pushing to catch up to some guys just ahead, but there just wasn’t much in the legs. I kept up the effort and was able to finish in 14th place for the day. Definitely not what I hoped for, but truthfully it was all I had.
Charm City Extras
After Saturday’s race I took my bike to the SRAM Mechanic for his help on the shifting. He showed me how the sand had gunked up my shifters and prevented me from changing gears. As he cleaned them out, he taught me how to do it so I could handle it in the future. He also gave me tips on how to make my SRAM equipment last longer. Frankly, I have been extremely happy with any SRAM bike equipment I owned and found it to be the best and most resilient. When that is coupled with outstanding customer service such as the mechanic provided I can’t be more impressed with SRAM.
Paul and I stayed in Owings Mills, MD for the race weekend and we found a fantastic restaurant there: Granny’s; terrific southern style food with excellent service. If you are in that area, look them up and be sure to go. If you are racing Charm City Cross in 2015, stay in Owings Mills and get to this restaurant (its only 20 minutes from the course).
A Low Key Weekend: Rivertown Cross
The number one goal for this entire racing season is to have fun. I’m pushing hard in my career and personal life, so I have to pick my battles with racing. It is not a good idea to drive your body and mind at 100% every day, every week. Somewhere you must create balance and allow time to recharge and recover or else you will surely break down with injury or illness. This weekend was one of those times to make the choice to ease off the pressure.
There were two races on the calendar for this weekend that were historically popular and classic events: Bridgeton, New Jersey’s Independence Cross, and Wilmington, Delaware’s Granogue Cross. Most athletes in the area were targeting these events, but I chose to skip them in favor of a Pennsylvania Cyclocross Series event in Wrightsville, PA. The other two events had very early start times for my race and Saturday’s event conflicted with an important meeting scheduled with my Church’s Board of Trustees. By skipping those two events, I was able to get two good night’s sleep, attend the meeting and accomplish some chores around the house.
Rivertown Cross in Wrightsville was a new event so I had no clue what to expect. The day was beautiful and Paul and I had an easy drive out. When we previewed the course we found it to be challenging and well designed. It had two sets of barriers, a section of natural sand, and some loose gravel sections that were rooty and rocky as well as plenty of grass, hills and off- camber turns. This is a course that should be used in future years and that will quickly become loved by the athletes.
Because of the conflict in schedule with Granogue, my race only had about 20 entrants, but about half were strong guys that mix it up with the best in the region. I had a front row call up and started fast jumping into the lead right away. I kept on the front through the first lap with another 8 or 9 guys strung out in single file right behind. That was too many so I tried to put some pressure on the group by easing into some corners and then jumping out of them fast forcing everyone to respond.
Charles Kline was right behind me and took over lead duties for part of the second lap, also keeping the pace high. We traded off leadership duties over the next couple laps and our efforts had whittled the group down to 6 when Charles rolled his tire off the rim while remounting his bike after the barrier run up. Soon there were only 4 of us left; myself, Kevin Saint Clair, Martin Jones and John Lux. I pushed hard, and Kevin came to the front for a short time to push the pace, but when I took back over only one other rider was with me, Martin Jones.
Martin and I battled it out. I attacked several times and dropped him, but each time he patiently reeled me back in. I felt confident in my finish sprint, but wanted to keep control of the race and prevent Martin from coming around me. I was able to do this by sprinting out of the turns forcing him to respond. After we crossed the final set of barriers I remained in the lead and punched it out of the final turn to sprint across the finish line for the WIN!
This turned out to be a terrific weekend. I had the chance to relax a little and catch up on things around home and I won a race. Things turned out even better when I learned that my win at the Rivertown race along with my 4th place in the season’s first PACX race propelled me into the lead in the Pennsylvania Cyclocross Race Series! I never before held a series lead so this was a special achievement for me! In the next PACX series race I will get to wear the Series Leader Jersey. Truthfully, I’m not sure how long I will be able to hang onto the jersey because of the talented riders I’m competing against, BUT I am going to do my best to hold it as long as possible.
Enter the MAC: Nittany Lion Cross weekend
The Mid Atlantic Cyclocross Series opened in Trexlertown at Nittany Cross. The MAC series draws the largest and most competitive fields in the region; this year Nittany Cross had over 120 athletes in the 45+ Masters field EACH day (and over 1500 total registered across all fields for the weekend). My race was stacked with some of the best athletes around the region.
On Saturday the weather was again hot and humid and the course conditions dry and very fast. Based on last year’s results I was called up to the front row on the start line. I was off the line quickly and settled in among the leaders in the opening lap. I felt good but was not as strong as some of the top guys and I lost contact with the leading group. I was moving along well with the second group but I had pushed too hard and began to overheat, so I had to back off. Other racers were experiencing the same issue with some pushing too deep causing them to drop far off the pace. After a lap, I began to recover and started to move forward again. I was able to finish strong in 13th place which was one of my best recent results at Nittany.
Sunday’s course conditions were largely the same except that an overnight rainstorm created a muddy section early in each lap and the temperature was not quite as hot. I was called to the line on the front row again and I had a terrific start jumping into the lead right away. I kept the pace high so I could hit the muddy section first and get through without traffic. Several minutes into the first lap I was joined by two of the top guys and we had a good gap over the rest of the field which would have been terrific IF I could maintain it, but I couldn’t. Over the next two laps I was caught from behind by a bunch of guys and I dropped back to around 18th place.
At that point I was in a strong group that included Kelly Cline, Mark Featherman, Chris Long and a couple more; just ahead was a large group that I felt we could catch. I was sitting on the back of our group when I felt we were going too slowly so I made a strong attack and broke away from them. I was closing in on the large group ahead as I entered the muddy section but I was moving too quickly and lost control crashing onto my left side in the mud. By the time I was up and through the mud, Kelly, Mark and Chris had passed me and got away. We still had nearly two laps to go but it was going to be difficult to catch back on as I was alone and they were working together as a group. I kept at it and started to get closer by the final lap.
On a long stretch just after the mud I made my move to catch up before they could see me coming. As we entered a 180 degree turn I had linked up and was feeling strong, so coming out of the turn I attacked past the group and pushed forward. I kept the pressure high trying to get away again, but the three of them matched my efforts and we came into the final turns and short finishing straight all together. I lead through the technical turns so I could pick my lines and get a jump on the rest. This tactic worked and I came in ahead of them to finish 13th overall.
This was a good race for me; I felt very strong and if not for the one mistake in the mud I am sure I would have linked up with the group ahead which included guys who finished in the top ten. Now that would have been a terrific result! Overall I had a fun weekend and enjoyed the competition.
What has made racing more fun this year is my Brother Paul’s return to the racing scene. After essentially three years off from racing (due to various injuries), he decided to toe the line again. In his races at Nittany he started at the back of the field each day and had to work his way forward. He rode strong and made his way up to 6th on Saturday and 7th on Sunday in the Masters 55+ field.
Cross Kicks Off: 2014
If Cyclocross season had a description it would be something like Cyclocross comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion; an obvious rip- off of the month of March’s descriptor. When the racing season begins in September, the weather is generally mild and it is easy to remain outside all day soaking up some sun, socializing with fellow racers and enjoying a post-race beer and meal. As the season moves on into November and December the weather can get inhospitable and the racers become more solitary; warming up alone or in small groups, quickly changing after a race and really only congregating together at the race start line.
The start of the 2014 Cyclocross season broke that mold; it began with hot, humid weather that had the racers immediately returning to their cars for post- race fluids and to change out of their sweat soaked kit. Most then quickly packed up their equipment and left with the air conditioner in their car at full blast. This hot weather persisted for most of the racing through September, mitigating some as the month progressed; allowing the racers and fans to relax, mingle and generally enjoy more lamb-like weather.
Cross of the Corn Race
Cyclocross season started early this year with the first race actually beginning in August at the first event in the Pennsylvania Cyclocross (PACX) series, Cross of the Corn in Aspers, PA. While our summer was generally mild and pleasant, the weather for this race was hot (mid 90’s) and very humid. Warming up was simple as I quickly broke into a sweat. The real trick was to NOT warm up too much so as to keep your body temperature lower at the start of the race.
Going into this race (and this race season) I had little expectation. I was unsure of my race fitness and my overall desire to race. It wasn’t that I didn’t have good fitness in general, but merely that I have been very busy in my professional life and thoroughly enjoying my work and practice and focusing much of my energy and time there. I had many days this summer traveling for consulting work and generally keeping busy which cut into time to train on the bike. My goals for this first race were: to have fun; to determine if I had a desire to race and to test out my equipment.
We had a strong contingent of racers in the Masters field with most of the top guys from the previous season showing up. Many had just finished mountain bike racing the prior weekend or were coming off a strong road season. I wasn’t sure how I would stack up. In the start I came off the line well and was in 4th position going through a cornfield maze when a rider in front missed a turn and stopped, thereby blocking the course. I tried to go around but there was no room and I became entangled in the course tape. By the time I got free I was back towards the rear of the race. It was early, so I didn’t panic. I pushed hard where I could make up space and tried to attack any hills and jump out of corners. This worked out well and within a lap I was up in the top 7 or 8 (with the leading trio away by at least 30 seconds). I continued to punch up the hills and out of corners and soon it was down to Mike Stevens and myself fighting for the fourth spot. Mike kept the pressure on, but I was able to overcome him and ride home in fourth place.
I was surprised by my result. There were plenty of guys I beat today that I expected I would be chasing. As it turned out the high temperatures seemed to melt some of my competition whereas I actually enjoy the heat and humidity. Talking to some of these guys after the race, they all said the heat was too much for them.
More important than my placing, I had fun racing, I was able to push hard and my body responded well. All my equipment ran smoothly too, so all in all the day was a big success.
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