Sunday, October 31, 2010

HPCX Race Report

Holy crap was it a beautiful day for HPCX. I got there in time to get in a course inspection in street clothes just after the C race. As I rolled down the one sharp down - up, my front tire catches hard and I go half assed OTB. That was odd...I look down to find 12" of my tubular rolled off the rim and collecting grass....wonderful. So I popped the tubie back on the rim and finished the lap easily. So I had that to worry about now and my bike was not shifting right. Luckily I see my teammate Ted and get to chatting about my crappy wheel and he rips off his tubie and throws it at me. Sweet! Got a new sweet wheel and off to get ready I go. Anyway I got a decent warm up and got my wheels in the pit and took one more half lap before hitting the line. They lined up by MAC series points and then order of registration. I hit the line 41st of 95. Ted points me to the outside lane to avoid any mishaps...yea...right.

So the race goes off and the guy immediately to my right decides to swing out - bang into me - and then turn right and totally stack it up almost taking me down. I had to soft pedal and then get back on it so at this point I was probably back in the 60 somethings...wonderful. I stayed on it and passed a bunch the first lap to get me into mid 40's probably. I worked through a few here or there and rode steady to get to the last 2 of 6 laps. Into the second to last lap this Castelli dude and a guy I've ridden against up in NY were staying close as I got through them earlier. There was a nice road section followed by a nice twisy climb that lead to pavement into the finish. Castelli dude drafts me and hits it hard going into the final section and I just put an effort in to stay close. Through the line it's Castelli, me, and Rick from NY with 1 to go. We're all pretty tight and I put it all down on the last lap. We hung tight and this time through the road section I draft the Castelli guy. I see him sitting up to try and hold back and probably save some gas for the last climb which I was getting him on. Into the climb I come around him and see a gap start to open. I pressed on but not too hard as I thought there might be a sprint finish coming up. Sure enough - yup. Castelli and Rick come charging hard and I caught them out of the corner of my eye as we get to the pavement section to the finish. They got close the gap to me but I caught them approaching and kicked hard. I got a little gap and they went harder and I kicked again. It was a long sprint but I held them both off for a satisfying finish. Of all my strengths, sprinting is not one of them so that was enjoyable.

So at the end my sprint was for 31st of 95 racers. Not great, not bad, but decent. I was 34th of 73 last year so at least I improved a little. It was a fast tight group for sure and a really satisfying day(45 minutes) on the bike. It must have been fast since I talked to Ted later and he said my race did two more laps than the B masters race. That's nuts.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jamesburg/HPCX tomorrow!

Wohoo! The long awaited cross season is here(for me at least). I should have had 2 or 3 races in but the end of the MTB season killed the one race and the next two I had to miss since I was in the hospital. Fast forward 3 weeks and I'm feeling much better and ready to get back into this whole competition thing. I've done some good efforts this week and the legs don't feel amazing but they feel pretty good. Got some more snap back in the legs and feels promising.

It's a 2/3/4 race with 88 registered competitors where I'm hoping that they do call ups based on registration. I registered early for this one just in case they do that. I was 13th to register so hopefully that works or I'll have to depend on my blinding speed to cut through the masses. Just for comparison last year I did the same race in the same field and it had 73 starters and I finished 34th. Let's hope all goes well and that the course they setup fairs well for a MTB rider. More to come after the throwdown tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Night Ride with Amazing Company

So there has been a pretty steady group getting together locally to do some night riding at an undisclosed location. This past Tuesday was no exception but a bunch of riders were put off since there was a possibility of rain in the forecast. For me, it was supposed to be a relaxing off day, but looking at the forecast for Wednesday I thought this ride might suffice for Wednesday's workout. So Lucky asked me if I wanted to come ride and I said what the hell, why not. It ended up being just 6 of us. What a group it was...Lucky, Eric, Mike, myself and two fellas that let's just say are pretty well known - world wide it seems - Aaron and Jeff. It was pretty cool riding with two of the guys that I've been watching amazing videos of for years and they couldn't have been cooler and more down to earth. To add on top of riding with these guys, there was even a Cannondale among the mix that hasn't been released yet and was a pretty amazing bike.

So as we started rolling and getting into the good stuff the skills started to appear from the group. When a tough section is approached and all of a sudden the trials riders take over, it's pretty impressive to see. Just the way that they were carving some of the turns was just a different level. The group stayed together pretty nicely even with all the slick leaves and a bit of rain. We had a good bunch of socializing as well as a bunch of entertaining antics but overall a really nice ride. We were out for about two hours but had 1:30 of riding time in. The best part was yet to come. Bleh...

As we roll out of the trail and get back to the cars we are met by the local fuzz. We got back to the cars at 12:05 and we couldn't park in the lot we were in after 12. The cop had completed writing one car up and let the other 2 go without fines. Even so the one ticket was $50 for being in the lot 5 minutes too long. Really? They couldn't have waited a few more minutes to see if we came back. The officer said it was because if they didn't ticket cars would be left overnight all the time. They could have afforded a little extra wiggle room there. So after a good question and answer session and a bunch of pent up frustration was almost unleashed on the cop we all pitched in to cover the ticket that was issued to Mike.

Either way it was one amazing ride even though the ending could have been a little better. Amazing company and amazing trails at night was one hell of an experience. Hopefully we can get this group back together sometime soon.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Update Time

Alrighty then. So it's now been almost 3 weeks since the last race at Ringwood. It's also been 12 days since I got out of the hospital after what the doctors think was viral meningitis. Things are looking up. I'm back to the swing of every day life. I would say though that I'm not fully recovered from the hospital visit but I'm getting there. The daily chores are fine once again, I just feel the setback the most in the top end of my riding. Wednesdays are cyclocross practice days and I was at practice again this week after 2 weeks off. It was still good and I had more pop than I thought I would but the top end was definitely lacking a bit. Overall pretty satisfied with how much power I could put down and hang with a fast group, but still not 100%. I knew for efforts like this it would take a bit to get back to where I was pre-hospital.

The good thing is that I'll be riding quite a bit this weekend and it should help me get the fitness back. On tap for tomorrow is a hard 90 minute workout followed by probably the last century of the year. 6+ hours is on tap as I'm going to ride from my apartment and try and visit PA. Then a nice CX workout on next wednesday and my first true cross effort of the season at the Jamesburg/HPCX cross race. This was one of my favorites from last season.

HPCX was probably my favorite as it was just a fun course with a couple of nice MTB elements thrown in for some roadie entertainment. The best part had to be the section where the bike had to be shouldered on flat ground because the 6-8" of mud was IMPOSSIBLE to ride. I did attempt it the first two laps but that was pointless. It's also fairly close to north jersey so a lot of the local mtb'ers come out to throw their hat in the ring. It's great to see some of those familiar faces throwing down in the mud.

Next up after HPCX is the state championship cyclocross race at Hidden Valley. Hopefully these next few efforts will be enough to bring back to top end and let me do pretty well at the state championship race. At this point the focus is just to do the best I can in each race as I missed the first 3 of the series which pretty much kills any intent of doing well in the overall. So actually that could make each race more entertaining as it's only a single consequence. More fun to come...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2011 Focus

I know it's early but I'm getting some preliminary dates and I'm thinking of going long again next year. I have some unfinished business in the long races and the usual races have me intrigued:

Cohutta 100
Mohican 100
Wilderness 101
Fools Gold 100
Shenandoah 100

This past season got cut short and had some heinous weather so I'd like a little redo on some of those.

Then there's some others I would like to pursue:
Mass Endurance

I'm not sure how it's going to pan out. I am going to make a point to do a bunch of pro races to get acquainted with the pace and speed of the new category and have some fun in that arena as well.

MTB Season Wrapup(Long)

The 2010 season started out with a lot of promise and the usual goals. I wanted to do as well as I could in the NUE 100 miler series. The secondary goal was to do as well as I could in some of the races in the H2H series. This past winter was very solid as the base was much better and I had a pretty good season in 2009 to build on. So early on the season was a great indication of what was to come.

In April I did the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek and although I didn't feel amazing, I did better than most. A 5th place finish was enough to see some of the promise as I usually don't race well early in the season. This set me up nicely for the Cohutta 100 3 weeks later. In the Cohutta I came very close to reaching my goal of a sub 8 hour finish. 3+ hours of solid driving rain made things a mess and my finish was an 8:10. This of course is pure motivation to go back again next year.

In the meantime between 100 milers, I competed in the Wawayanda and Tymor H2H race and did really well. A 2nd and 1st place were a complete surprise and let me know that I might have some top end to compete in this XC thing or it was just that I was fit really early and caught the others off guard. It could be really fun if I actually trained for these things.

Next up was the Mohican 100 and again my goal was to go sub 8. First peak of the season and I was feeling GOOD. I was ready to tear this thing up but Mother Nature had another idea. It rained 3+ inches the day before and 2+ during the race along with multiple tornados touching down as the race went on. Through all of this I was able to put down a super smooth ride and perservered to finish in 8:56 which would surely have been an hour + quicker in dry conditions. More motivation for next year.

Then back to H2H. The next few races were the William's Lake NYS race, then Lewis Morris and Kittatinny. William's Lake was crazy as I had mechanicals early and still finished 2nd. Lewis Morris I had a bad crash and mechanicals and fought back to 4th, and Kittatinny was the race that shouldn't as I had a hard 18 hour week prior and was tired yet pulled out the win. So more promise for this short XC thing. Again what if I actually trained for these short races. My focus all the time thus far has been on distance...

Next up was the hardest part of my season. My pulmonary embolism in Colorado. I had an amazing time riding and climbing with my brother and sister in law but the one night I awoke gasping for air. I find out later that I had a blood clot and after a short hospital stay I pushed myself to get back to normal and at this point I thought the whole season was July. The Dr's told me to give up the thought of cycling but I thought otherwise. It HURT to ride at first but I knew it was something I HAD to do.

I don't know why but 3 weeks later I toed the line at the 909 H2H race. This was good as I came out of the gate hot but wow was my top end gone. The embolism shut things down and karma did the rest as I blew my chain and chased hard to gain some places. I just hoped if I saved some face that I "might" be able to finish the series out. Not likely but a lofty goal nonetheless. NUE races were totally ruled out as that kind of effort seemed waaay to far out. I was pressing my luck enough to finish the short races, nevermind 8 hour races.

Two weeks after that was the World Cup at Windham race. I felt like my lungs had recovered much better for this one. The top end didn't feel as dead and I was getting more confident riding on blood thinners and with my ability in general again. So I took off hard and stomped it through 2 laps. Too bad the race was 4 laps. 3 flats later on lap 3 and 4 I finally finished in 36th place. Nothing to write home about. But the performance was there...the performance was back.

Two weeks after 909 was the heart of the H2H finish. 3 races in 4 weekends. At this point I was hopeful that I could pull off something good but I still hadn't really felt like myself on a bike again since July. First up was Blue Mtn and a nice techy race was fun. I had a great race but nutrition/hydration issues. I fought hard but lap 3 was tough as I was hurting. Still a 4th place finish was MUCH better. This gave me the promise to finish the series out and hopefully pull out the win. HOPEFULLY. So into the second to last race I hit it hard and had some miscues but pulled away from the group and had a really solid race. This was a sweet 2nd place and a 2nd place in the State Championship race made me feel like I was really back. It felt so good to be back - 8 weeks after my embolism.

The best part - somehow - I pulled out the series win with this last 2nd place. I did ok and had my issues but I was still consistent. I won the overall H2H Cat 1 30-39 Championship...holy crap. This is a dream that I thought was such a farshot at the start of the season, then it was an abandoned dream when I was in the hospital, and for it to be a reality was totally amazing. I still can't wrap my head around it.

So now you're probably saying - didn't he say 3 races? That was only 2 if you were paying attention. So here's where I took the leap of faith, well the first one. Since the series was wrapped up I decided to throw my hat in the wring of the Pro/Cat1 race at the Ringwood Leaf Blower race. This was the final of the H2H race season. Why not. I figured the worst that was going to happen was for me to be DFL and I was ok with that. So I raced in the fastest race of my life. My God was the pace hot. I literally threw up twice and it was amazing. I was really happy to be holding that pace and helping a fellow teammate at the same time. Finishing 10th of 13 was even better and that was with a flat tire on the final mile of trail. Just a good experience and sign of what's to come.

Finally I'll wrap up this novel with the last leap of faith. So far the season went totally against how I thought it would so I'll keep pressing the unexpected. With my health I couldn't focus on the NUE so I went with my backup of the H2H which worked out really well even though it was not a focus at all. My focus was either on distance or recovery. Again...what if I actually trained for this short XC stuff. Anyway since the season did go reasonably well I opted to submit my resume to the USAC and see if they would give me my pro upgrade. I was really nervous as I honestly NEVER thought I could get this. Thinking back as a sport rider in 2006 and through the following years I've admired the pros and never thought I'd have the ability or will to do what they do. And guess what - now USAC says I have to. They granted my approval so with the purchase of my international license I am now a Pro mountain biker. How amazing. When I got the email I was almost in tears. Never, ever, did I think I'd see that in print. I know it's nothing glamourous and there's no big contracts coming my way but just to be considered a pro and to have the resume to attain that is mind boggling to me. And something that I am so proud of.

Monday, October 11, 2010

First CX Weekend Report....errr.....Hospital Report

As the title says, instead of enjoying my first double weekend of the CX season thrashing myself all over the Westwood course, I instead found myself in Morristown Memorial Hospital with some bug thrashing myself internally. After last weekend's race at Ringwood I knew I was tired but as Tuesday went on I was really exhausted and then started to come down with something on Wednesday. Enough so that I scheduled a Dr's appt Thursday morning and then Thursday afternoon I wound up in the hospital.

I had the worst headache I have EVER had. It wasn't excruciating so much that I just couldn't function with it. I just wanted to sleep. That's all I did. I slept from being admitted Thursday afternoon until Sunday morning. When I went in, besides the headache, I had a 103 degree fever, chills, body aches, sensitivity to light and sound. It was horrible. So they did a battery of tests and thought it was either a bad respiratory infection, or bacterial/viral meningitis. They quickly ruled out the bacterial meningitis as that's the bad stuff that you can die from - thank goodness. Next they were still confused at to the other two. The main way to find out is to do a lumbar puncture(spinal tap) and see if there is any sign of the meningitis in the spinal fluid. From somebody that is very active, the last thing I want is someone poking around by my spine. Plus the blood thinners make it extra tricky because of the possible complications that could become.

So with the Dr's all talking - evidently just to themselves, because it seems like no one at the hospital communicated with each other - they agreed to try and reverse my blood thinners and do the spinal tap in a day or two. Fine. In that day or two I was on antibiotics and antivirals and I made a huge turnaround which prompted them to think that it wasn't the viral meningitis as that usually takes waaaaay longer. So no spinal tap was needed - officially. Whew....

So here I sit on my first day back out of the hospital and I'm living life on my own terms again. I feel so much better just to be deciding what I do and what I get to eat. I got out on the bike and all is right again. I don't know why it's so good for me or what the feeling actually is to put it into words but I can't. It's something I just need to feel like myself. I did nothing special, I went nowhere special, I did nothing inspiring, yet I felt like a million bucks just riding my bike.

Hopefully 2011 will be a more healthy year but there's still much more to do in 2010. I'll be racing cross again soon. 3 weeks to turn things back around and get on it. More fun yet to come...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pro Upgrade?!?!

So my MTB season is officially over and as I was saying previously that I would submit my race resume and see if USA Cycling would approve my request or deny me. I put all of my qualifying races as well as all my NUE finishes on my upgrade request(even though I know they are not USAC sanctioned - but figure it could help). So as of 4pm yesterday I sent it in and looked for a response...about 10 minutes later. Of course nothing. So I kept checking back and still nothing. In the morning I checked again and nothing. At work I checked during lunch and nothing. Ok, so at this point I figure it's coming later this afternoon or tomorrow. I prep myself to get turned down and figured I'd start chasing some early races in 2011 to make sure I get the upgrade next year. That sounds like a good plan. I thought that a relative good goal was to try and turn Pro by 35. 4 more years to go.

Ok at the end of work I check again...wait...there was a resolved request. Oh God. Preparing to be denied. I've worked hard to this point but knew it was going to be bad news. I check the completed request to see that USAC APPROVED MY PRO UPGRADE STATUS!!! HOLY CRAP!!! HOLY CRAP!!! HOLY CRAP!!! I really can't believe it. It seems like such a massive effort but looking back it took me 5 years of racing to get to this point. 1 year in Cat2, 2 years in Cat1 19-29, 2 years in Cat 1 30-39, and now I'll be racing Pro in 2011. I honestly thought that I would NEVER get to this point. How many people really are successful at this sport and how many make it to PRO. I'm really speechless.

It's even more impressive when I think that just over 2 months ago I was laid up in the hospital with a blood clot and my life could have been ended. I'm stunned...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ringwood Race Recap

My recap is for my first ever crack at the Pro race. ***Note to self - these guys go FAST!!!***

So from the gun it was hot and fast and somehow I found myself in 2nd spot drafting behind Aaron Snyder... not the place to be. I kept the pace up but before the initial climb I needed to tone it down and think about the long haul. So I pulled to the side and let the gaggle through. So up the first climb I was sitting 11th of 13 and was 10 seconds from 8-10th place as they were dangling in front of me. I knew it was useless to try and close quickly so I let it play out. One of the guys in front flatted and I just kept my pace steady.

By the end of lap 1 I was on my teammate BL's wheel and sitting in 10th. We crossed lap one in 37+ minutes and I knew he needed to go chase some guys for a shot at the series podium so I cranked hard and pulled him up to Greg Wagoner and let him fly by and get back to chase down those ahead. That pull HURT me. I had to dial it back and recover but stayed at a good pace. Lap 2 was ~40 minutes and a minute back from BL. Lap 3 was consistent but I was hurting from those early hard efforts. I was still strong but not fresh.

Almost to the last mile of trail and my rear tears and goes flat. Air it up - no good. Pop a tube in and no one passed in the mean time - SWEET! Cruised easily to the finish for 10th of 13in a time of just under 2 hours ride time(via garmin) - probably 2:03 total with the flat. Not DFL and I felt pretty competitive. I was hoping for 4 laps as posted but by the end of lap 3 I was glad it was 3 laps. Great day overall with some really fast company. Now I know how solid my training needs to be this winter. Game on!