Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Ice Weasel Video

Here's the second installment in the epic adventure known as the Ice Weasel Cometh.

More to follow....

My Pedal is Coming Home!

You may have read below about the tragic loss of one of my beloved EggBeater pedals... Yes in a moment of pain and despair, I looked down to see an naked pedal spindle. While I swapped bikes in the pit, I thought I'd never see my pedal body again--how would such a small thing be found in snow covered race course?

Well, the Gods at Crank Brothers were shining down upon me because not only was my pedal found: http://alexjospe.blogspot.com/2009/12/ice-weasels-cometh.html, but someone has contacted me regarding its eventual return home!

It's truly a Christmas Miracle!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ice Weasels--Video is Up!

So, I'll start with one video and see how long it takes to cut & edit more... (I'll also see how long it takes to upload!)

Now, some details of my race day...

It was an uneventful drive to Wrentham... Somewhere along the way, I hooked in to a paceline of other racers from my neck of the woods (Chris, Dan, Stu, et al). Yeah, I know, I should have car-pooled, but I had a tight timeline and essentially boogied right after the race. Anyway, we hit the iced over parking lot, walked over to the freezing shed to pick up race numbers, and all went back to our respective cars to be warm for just a little bit longer.

After figuring out what would be an appropriate amount of layers, it was time for a pre-ride. The course was twisty and turny with either snow--just deep enough to put you off track, ice, or rough frozen ground. Yeah!

I put my Motobecane in the pit and made my way around to the start.

The start was interesting, and by "interesting," I mean "narrow," allowing only about 5 riders per row, and we were staged by starting number. I was in something like the 10th row back. Far enough back so that when the starting whistle was whistled, I was standing still for about 10 seconds. D'oh!

Anyway, we took off at a gentlemanly pace, rounding turns with breath held in anticipation of washing out with both wheels. Fortunately, that didn't happen to me, but I saw MANY riders hit the deck.

The first lap was spent trying to pick my way further towards the front, and also trying to figure out what that terrible creaking sound was coming from my cranks or pedals. Anytime I put in a hard effort, it sounded like my bike was going to break.

Eventually, it did break, or at least the pedal did. And while that, in and of itself doesn't sound fortunate, the timing was. When my wouldn't foot connect, I looked down and saw nothing but pedal spindle. Then, I looked up and saw the entrance to the pit area. Sweet! I swept in, spent a few seconds trying to check the bottom of my shoe to see if the pedal body was stuck to the cleat (it wasn't), and hopped on my pit bike. I was back in the race!

After that, it was just a matter of trying to pass riders when I could, trying to stay upright, and looking for ice weasels.

Before I knew it, the bell lap was at hand, and it was time for one last push to the finish. All in all, it was a good time. I wish I could have stuck around to check out the other races, but I had time to grab a few quick pics and then I was on my way back home.

According to the friendly folks at Crossresults.com, my effort earned me a 36th or so out of 87...

And so ends the 2009 cyclocross season, but NOT the biking season. I'll be on the trails by Tuesday!

The Ice Weasel Cameth--and Wenteth...

Yep, yesterday was the last race of CX season for me (and most of the region, although there is one more race today in CT). It was perfect 'cross race--frigid, snowy, slippery, and fun. A full report--AND video is forthcomimg--but that's going to take a little computer time which I don't have just now. Until then, here are some pertinent numbers regarding the race:

  • 6: the time, AM, I was up to get ready to leave.
  • 9: the "real feel" temp, in Fahrenheit, according to Weather.com.
  • 2: the number of bikes I brought with me.
  • 2: the number of bikes I needed in the race.
  • 3: the total number of pedals I came home with.
  • 12: the "real feel" temp, in Fahrenheit, of the plastic toilet seat in the port-0-let, according to my butt cheeks.
  • 95: the number of confirmed riders registered for my race category.
  • 55: my starting position.
  • 1: the number of laps I had done before I realized that I hadn't hit the start button on my HRM (I HATE losing that VERY important data!).
  • 178: my average heart rate.
  • 186: my maximum heart rate.
  • 2: the number of dogs NOT so patiently waiting for me to take them out NOW... gotta go.
More later!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sterling Cyclocross Photos...

More cyclocross! This is what happens what you have gigs and gigs of memory in your camera...

I just bought some pure speed!

So you may have noticed that I have been lamenting about my poor performance in some recent cyclocross races. Well, I have identified the problem and I'm happy to report that I have taken drastic steps to make things right.

Anyone who knows anything about cycling knows that you NEED carbon fiber components to win. Well, after a quick review of my cyclocross bike I realized that I was missing one of the most basic of carbon componentry, the nearly ubiquitous carbon fork!

Yes, I was being held back, and weighed down, with A STEEL FORK!

No wonder I was sucking wind at the back of the pack!

Well, even though someone erroneously tried to tell me that a pound of carbon is no lighter than a pound of steel (some retrogrouch curmudgeon, I'm sure), I went on a quest to find a decent, and affordable carbon fork. My search ultimately me led to eBay, and after some strategic bidding, I became the proud new owner of a 4ZA Zornyc carbon bladed/aluminum steerer fork.

Unfortunately, the fork did not arrive in time for me to use it to slay the competition in Sterling.

Be warned, it's on the bike now though, and I will be using it to slay my adversaries in Wrentham.

The fork I took off my bike weighed an ungodly 1180 grams! My new fork is more than 350 grams lighter! My front wheel may never even touch the ground... It's a whole new world for me now.

Cyclocross in Sterling!

Well, it was another weekend of cyclocross... that means another weekend of fun and of sucking.
I think that racing is super fun, but it would probably be a whole lot more fun if I could just get a little more "oomph," a little more Eye of the Tiger..

I've got a plan to do just that, but that's for NEXT season...

Focusing on this season, this past weekend's BayState 'cross race (full name: BayState Cyclocross, Round 12 of the Verge New England Cyclocross Championship Series, UCI Cat 2, Presented by Spin Arts/Stevens Cycles, Gear Works Cyclery, and The Mid State Cycling Club) was another opportunity for me to push the limits of human athleticism. Instead, I found myself pushing my bike up a sloppy, muddy hill. But, I'm getting ahead of myself (something many of the people I raced against also did... get ahead of me... that's almost a pun).

I was originally signed up to race both Saturday and Sunday-an ambitious agenda, my wife thought. She's right, Anyway, due to a confluence of factors, not the least of which was the torrential downpour I heard as my alarm went off dark and early on Saturday morning, I skipped out on Day 1. Ironically, by the time I did roll out of bed, the skies had cleared and I heard that the start of my race was bone dry. D'oh. That's okay. I had a little more time to get my stuff together for Sunday's race (Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!), so I was able to get to bed at a decent time and hopefully be well rested.

Sunday morning came early (as almost all of my mornings do), and G-Roll (AKA G-Money, AKA G-Rad, AKA Glen) arrived at my front door so we could carpool to the race. We had our directions spot-on this time and didn't waste any time on any wild goose chases. In fact, thanks to Glen's driving tip, by taking a few extra turns-we shaved about 10 minutes off the drive time. Bizarre!

Glen's race was much later in the day, so he had plenty of time to chill. I, on the other hand, had to sign-in, get my number, and take a quick warm-up spin. I don't typically warm up before a race, and I think that's going to change...Anyway, this time around, I did a half-lap of the course and found my way to the BACK of the staging area.

My primary goal with any race start is to avoid any crashes or mishaps, and I was able to do that once again. The course started on a fast crushed stone track... we went around about 1/2 of the track then made a tight hairpin turn onto the grass. From there, it was a typical 'cross course, with plenty of tight turns, grassy straight-aways, a couple of run-ups. One of the "run ups" was sort of a "slog-up" as it was a slick, slippery, muddy hill. SOME riders were able to ride up, but most did not.

Overall, the course was fast and fun. Unfortunately, I was neither. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I was fun! It's the "fast" I've got to work on. Although, depending on how you look at the results, I didn't do that poorly. I did CRUSH five other racers. And, in my class, I was the top finisher from Massachusetts' "North Shore" region. It also appears that of all the men's classes, I was the highest placed racer with a hyphenated last name. I can only imagine that the sponsorship offers will be rolling in any minute now...

Thanks to Glen for documenting my efforts photographically. I look fast, don't I?

After my race, it was time to hang out and watch Glen get ready for his race. I ran up and down the course shooting my trusty Canon G10 and I'll be posting a little slide show once I sort through the pics and eliminate the crap...

With this race done, it appears that there is only one more race on the calendar for this season that I can get to-the Ice Weasel! See ya in Wrentham!

That's Glen:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pics from Day 2--Plymouth Festival of Cyclocross

Admittedly, many of these pics are of my buddy Glen, but there's plenty of pics of others from the Men's Cat 2-3-4 race (1:00pm). There are low res. If anyone wants one of the pics in hi-res, let me know.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cyclocross in Plymouth!

There comes a time in a race when you know you're pushing as hard as you can. Your heart rate is at the max, you're legs are pumping, and you can't hear over the rush of blood pounding through your ears. You take a moment to look behind you, and see... no one. At this point, you can glean one of two things. Either you've made a break that no one can match, you're in front and your gap is growing. or, in my case, you know that you're probably in DFL.

I wish I could blame my bike-but it was working fairly well. I wish I could blame the course, but it was fast and fun (an no one else seemed to be hindered). I wish I could blame the big crash at the start line, but fortunately, I was in front of that mess, implying that I got a great start (which I did). Nay, blame lies sadly in one spot-that's right, the Spanish Inquisition.

Okay, here's how things went down. I picked up my buddy Glen at about 7:00am and made the hour or so drive to Plymouth, MA. In case you didn't know, Plymouth has TWO high schools, so if you plug Plymouth High School into GoogleMaps, you've got a 50/50 shot of getting the right one. As usual, the odds were against me and we arrived at the high school without a single course marker, port-o-let, or person. Incidentally, as this weekend was a two-day race in Plymouth, the race promoters used the north high school for day one and the south high school on day two (which would have been apparent to me if I had read the flyer). You can imagine our confusion at seeing clear signs of a recent race (tire tracks in the mud), but not another soul.

Anyway, after some BlackBerry and iPhone maneuvering, we found the correct location. The delay did however give me a simple answer to the question of "should I pre-ride the course?" We got there in just enough time for me to pin my number on, sign my one-day license and find the staging area. I muscled my ironic flat bar 'cross bike to the start line and within a few minutes, the start whistle had been whistled.

After a few hard pedal strokes I heard the unmistakable sound of knobby tires meeting knobby tires, followed by some crashing. Fortunately, this occurred behind me. Unfortunately, everyone that was held up with that calamity seemed pass me not too much later. I felt great heading into the woods on the singletrack, but as soon as we hit the huge field of grass, I felt like I was riding on two flat tires.

The remainder of the race was mostly unremarkable. I kept up the effort, and pretty much settled in to my approximately 30th place spot. I made sure I didn't lose any spots, but I couldn't seem to bridge up any further... until the final climb up to the finish.

I came up behind another rider that seemed to feel about as fresh as I did (not). I hung in behind him down a slick, off-camber, wet, grassy downhill and put the hammer down on the last climb. I passed him, but then exploded. And I do mean exploded. I honestly don't know what happened. Did my chain skip or slip? Did my back wheel spin out? Did someone shoot me from a grassy knoll? I don't know. But what I do know is that I was suddenly falling face first into a large rock. I was able to keep my pretty face from making contact, but I was totally off my bike, and oddly enough, out of one of my shoes. Needless to say, that guy passed me. With the reflexes of a ninja, I jumped back on my bike and finished the race doing a one-legged sprint to the line. Check out GPS data from the course here.

And while I didn't have to wait around for a medal, I did wait around to put another effort out on the course. I raced again at noon (this time with my buddy Glen), both in the Master 35+. I over estimated my athletic prowess as I was caught by the leaders by the third or fourth lap. I decided to drop out, get cleaned up, and take some pics of Glen's race.

All in all, the day was a good beating. That cheeseburger on the way home and the beer later that night tasted so good though! Next up, Sterling, MA, Thanksgiving weekend!

Friday, November 6, 2009

I still love Cyclocross!

Sunday's event was the first annual Applecrest Farm's Cyclocross race in Hampton Falls, NH. As you can probably guess from the name, the course was on a farm, and we traveled in, out, and through the orchards. Overall, the course--nay, the entire event--was great. However, I sucked. Want some excuses? Here's one: I started in the absolute back of the pack. Never good. Want another? I crashed--but that didn't slow me down *too* much. No, despite the fact that I slid on my side for a while, and the fact that I started in the back, the ultimate reason I didn't do better was that I'm slow. That's okay--my comprehensive training plan is to allow myself to hit complete rock bottom--in terms of fitness--so that I can ONLY get better. So far, my decline is going exactly according to plan!

Anyway, I had fun, and Jean was on hand to yell at me and ring the omnipresent cowbell. Mike and Jo Schnyder were there too--ringing bells and taking pictures--THANKS!

After my proverbial spanking, we all went to Portsmouth, NH, for lunch. Mmmmmm, lunch.

The next race on the schedule is in Plymouth, MA!


This past Saturday, being Halloween, was a big day here in Salem. And, Jean and I tried to spend as little time in Salem as possible. The great weather was a good excuse to spend some time on the trails, and we hit some of our favorites at Bradley Palmer/Willowdale.

Now, in recent years, we've had a pretty weak showing for kids coming to the house begging for candy. I figured that this year, we'd skip buying candy altogether (it used to just end up going to work with us). So, when we were driving through our neighborhood, and we saw just under a million kids trolling the streets, I knew I had made an error in judgment. So, yep, in the house with no lights on until they were all gone!

I decided to head in to downtown to see how the festivities were going, and I've got to say, it was pretty amazing. I usually stay as far away from the madness as possible, but this year I grabbed my camera and went into the belly of the beast. Being able to roll through traffic on a bike was key. Anyway, the crowds were huge but fairly orderly, and some of the costumes were movie quality. I posted some of the pics on Facebook.

I didn't stay too long though--I wanted to finish getting my shizzo together for the race on Sunday...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Racing Across the Silver Screen

Saw "Race Across The Sky," last night. In case you don't know, that's a documentary about this past year's Leadville 100 Trail Race (mountain bike race), in which Lance Armstrong dethroned 6-time winner, Dave Wiens.

How was it? It was pretty damn good. The movie was a little over the top at times--Lance riding solo, climbing up the Columbine Pass, clouds parting, mythical classical music playing, gods and demons locked in an epic battle for the souls of humanity...

On the other hand, Lance was, well, Lance, and he crushed the race. No disrespect to Wiens, who is himself an amazing athlete, but Lance is a different breed of human. Wiens did come in second, which is also an incredible accomplishment, and more than my feeble body will handle.

I think the unsung hero of the race though, was Matt Shriver, who drove the pace in the first part of the race--splintering the field. He eventually dropped back to 5th but was able to come back up to third. Wow.

Check out the trailer!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I love cyclocross--part 3

This morning I awoke to metaphorically stand at a fork in the road. It was just before 6:00am, Sunday, and it was in the 30's and raining outside.

On the one side was my bed. My nice warm bed. It was still dark outside, so logically, I should go back to sleep. My wonderful wife was soundly sleeping, and what could be better than snuggling up to her on this cold, dark, rainy morning. I had 100lbs of dogs at the foot of the bed too-which serve as de facto heaters. They'd like me to go back to sleep too. I could sleep in, then have a relaxing morning, leisurely enjoy my coffee, and slowly embrace the day.

On the other side was a race. A cyclocross race. Sure, I had just raced yesterday, and I certainly had some fatigue in the legs, but the cyclocross season is short, and with me working some weekends, I want to hit as many races as I can. If I opted to race, I'd have to pack my stuff into the car, drive an hour, then race for nearly an hour in temps just above freezing, with wind, rain and MUD. In addition to the hour's drive, and the effort of racing, I'd also have plenty of bike cleaning ahead of my should I choose to race. My bike, would no doubt, be caked in mud and crud, not to mention my clothes that would probably not be recognizable. It was an awful lot of work...and for what? To push myself to the brink of passing out to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack?

You know how I chose.

The drive to Wrentham was uneventful but very wet. Unfortunately, I mis-read my directions and went the wrong way off the highway. This detour set me back by only about 15 minutes, but the clock was ticking.... I hadn't pre-registered and registration closed 30 minutes before start time. I missed the deadline by about 10 minutes. I threw myself on the mercy of the race officials and the let me sign up. That was the good news. The bad news was that I had about 15 minutes to get my bike, get changed, and get to the start line. To hell with warming up!

I ran back to my car and changed faster than Superman in a phone booth (remember phone booths?).

I got to the start line in just enough time to stand, shivering in the cold rain, for 5 minutes or so. I hadn't pre-ridden the course so I had no idea what I was in for. I hadn't warmed up except for my run to the car, and I was wondering how deep of a hurt I'd be in because of my race yesterday. Oh, and because I was the last person to sign up for the race, I was at the absolute back of the pack for the start. Yeah!

The course was definitely a roadie course-fast power sections and not very technical. However, the rain changed things a bit as every corner was super slick. I may not be the strongest rider (as evidenced by my results), but as least I can keep my bike upright... Anyway, all in all, I really liked the course, and the cold rain and slick mud made it even better.

Don't ask how I did... I don't know. Results weren't posted when I left. I didn't win and I didn't come in last. The important thing is that I didn't get beat by the guy on the bike with fenders and a rear rack. Sure, he was ahead of me at one point, but damn it, I wasn't going out like that!

Ironically, my bike, which has disc brakes (perfect for wet and muddy races), had no braking power. I actually had to drag my foot on some turns to slow down. Hmmm... I still didn't fall though.

Anyway, after the race, I stuck around to snap a few shots, but I wanted to head home to start the long cleaning process. The drive home was equally rainy and windy, but unfortunately, not enough to actually clean my bike. As I had already shut my hoses off at home for the winter, I had to stop at a car wash to hose the bike down. It now sits in the basement waiting to be stripped and down and built back up. And what's up with the brakes?

It would have been nice to have stayed in bed and slept a little late, but that race was a blast. Back to back races are good, and now I've got about two weeks to get the bike ready for the next race... I love cyclocross!

Enjoy some more random pics!

I love cyclocross--part 2

Another weekend off from work brings me another opportunity to do some cyclocross racing. My original plan was to head up to Portland, ME, for a race up there-and I'd get to catch up with my UNE homie, Mike and his wife Jo. However, I found a race a little closer-just over the border in NH, so I opted for the shorter drive. This turned out to be a good idea as I ended up picking Jean up from the Airport at about 11:00pm on Friday night.

My alarm went off shortly after 6:00am on Saturday, and since most of my gear was all set, it was just a matter of making some coffee and packing up the car. I made a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts to see one of my co-workers at her other job, then with another hot beverage in hand, I hit the road to the New England Velodrome in Londonderry, NH. Interestingly, I had this race venue confused with another venue also in New Hampshire, and truth be told, I hated this course. When I pulled in to the parking lot, I actually thought about turning around and heading home. I can't say exactly what it was about the course that turned me off so much, but it's definitely not one of my favorites.

Well, I was there, I had pre-registered, so I wasn't about to waste that time and money. I got my number and took off for a practice lap.

The course starts on a paved, oval track. After about a half a lap, you take a hard left, up a short hill, take another hard left, hit a dip, then hit a hard right while also heading uphill. That first section, from what I remembered from last year, was TIGHT as the mass start totally bottlenecked because there's plenty of areas to flub up. Once through that section, it's basic singletrack for a short while, until a nice short but steep downhill. This little downhill separated the mountain bikers from the road riders. Unfortunately, you had to make an almost 180 degree turn at the bottom and come back up. Fun! From there, it was more singletrack until you popped out to flat area with a zig-zag/hairpin turn section marked off with old tires. The turns were tight and traction was sparse. After that, there were a couple of other tight turns then we popped up back on to the track after a short but steep sandy run-up. We went into the track's infield, jumped over a couple of barriers, then more hairpin turns until we popped back out on to the track, to head out for another lap.

After my pre-ride, I re-assessed my opinion-the course was tight, twisty, and fun.

When the race started, I was surprised to find myself near the front-in fact, after a few turns, there were only three riders ahead of me. Another passed me, and then another, but one of those guys was in a different class (older-damn him!), and the other guy I caught and passed, until he passed me again. One more pass and I held on for fourth in my class (Cat 4), and fifth overall. That was enough to secure my 2010 racing season on a UCI Pro team, and possibly an invite to the Tour De France. When I finally got done signing autographs and taking business cards from sports' agents, I made my way back to the car. Lilo, my mechanic, who also happens to be a koala bear, took my bike and rubbed it down with eucalyptus leaves, and I put on my mauve recovery jump-suit. What the hell am I talking about? Who knows. I did come in fourth, and I did have a good time-and I'll even go back to that course again some day!

Enjoy the random pics!