Thursday, July 17, 2008

False Starts life gets in the freakin' way at every opportunity...

Today was Day 1 of my 2008 cyclocross training. Day 1 was supposed to happen back in June. But sh*t keeps happening.

I was supposed to have 2 solid months of Pilates before I started my training, but my gym only offers it Tues/Thurs and my team at work keeps scheduling meetings on Thurs. And then there's that GGP group ride is on Tuesdays - you know the one that blows all the stop signs and sprints twice a lap? Often it's the only ride I can do all week I just can't miss those 50-minutes of going cross-eyed trying to sit on Chris Phipps' back wheel. Anyone who has done that sketchy-ass ride knows it's hella hard, especially if you haven't been on a bike more than once a week. Once official training starts for me, that ride blows my weekly intensity numbers out of the water, so I have to go all cold turkey on it - which is pretty tough on my ego.

So I was going to start last week, but some server crashed and I had to fix it.

So I decided to start this week, got up early to hit the gym on Tuesday and there's a work phone call - no problem, I'll make it short. Two hours later my nose is to the grindstone and I never saw daylight until I sneaked out the 10 blocks to do the group ride, again.

So I decided to start today - stayed up late working last night to free up some time - running late for Pilates this morning I made for the door when "Crash!" - Liam's oatmeal hits the floor and glass goes everywhere, just as Rowan toddles into the kitchen...barefooted.

But somehow (read: 20-minute unplanned interval) I made it to class. I'm a little rusty and I'm sure the girls had a good giggle at me falling off the roller doing "roll-ups". Yes of course I'm the only guy in Pilates class at my gym.

But I made it

and I did some light intensity afterwards

and I sprinted up the stairs to our apartment with a new spring in my step

the planets have aligned

Cyclocross training has begun.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Let the Turkey Broil

I'm here working in my basement office and there's a guy out in the garage fixing our old boiler for our steam heat - no, the irony there is not lost on me.

But what is scary is that I think he's actually listening to John Ashcroft on his boombox while he works.

And I'm scared as hell to go out there...

Monday, June 30, 2008

My wife is a total hottie

I met this beautiful woman, Frances England, at a Halloween party in 1996 in Atlanta, and fell in love.

Then we got married and moved to SF ('98), got a dog (2000), had a kid (2002), she made a children's CD and had another kid (2006), made another CD (2008), and went a few places and did a whole lot of stuff in-between.

Anyhow, I was strolling down memory lane the other day and then I looked at some new pictures from a recent photo shoot, and I realized, wow, Fran is like...a total hottie.

I'm sure I'm supposed to be aware of this 24/7 and tell her that she's beautiful all the time but I realized that not only is she gorgeous, but she's like 10X more gorgeous than when we met - I didn't think this was possible and I don't have a clue how it all happened.

Maybe it has something to do with "finding herself" as she has with her music, or maybe she's just a late bloomer, but either way, I gotta keep an eye on that one...

because I just look old.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I thought 8-speed was enough

I've never been one to stay up-to-date with the latest bike technology. I won my first race on a $300 Centurion that had been welded back together at the bottom bracket by a friend - so...from early-on I figured, what's the point? This year I will begrudgingly upgrade my cross bikes to 10-speed. I've held out as long as I could...but my new bike will have 10sp D/A which means the pit bike needs it too. I absolutely despise this trend of ridiculous planned obsolescence, and for some reason I was naive enough to think it may end with 10-speed.

But nooooooooo...leave it to Campagnolo to one-up us all. The announcement of an 11-speed rear cluster has awakened me from my post-less stupor. The Spinal Tap references are waay too easy, so I'll barely even go there...

Ugh, I'd LOVE a pledge from Shimano not to follow suit...but that would just be wishful thinking - they're probably already dreaming of the 12-sp 12-23 straight-block cassette...

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Our beloved Velogirl has asked for an update...who am I to disappoint?

Been a little out of it and apologies to those of you who depend on me to keep the NCNCA CX site fresh. It seems just relaying info that people are sending me to the site in a timely is proving to be cumbersome, and for this, too, I must apologize. But alas, I don't get paid to do it and honestly it's hard for me to be on the sidelines. There are few things harder than watching a race (or a whole season) you'd much rather be riding in. I try very hard to hide it but on the inside I'm ashamed to say I am a bit too competitive to be a good sport about it all - which is why, when I can't race, I do my best to just stay away from it all.

Still, I schlepped Liam and Rowan down to the Pilarcitos opener because Tom graciously asked me, as last years champion, to send off the Elite race and to receive the honorary #1 plate. BTW "sending off" amounted to firing off a mini cannon with a shotgun shell in it (and setting a small grass fire in the process- Alec and I quickly jumped on it tho). It was great seeing some of y'all and it looked like some fine racing. Looking at the course I would have loved to race it - my kind of course for sure. Hung out near the S/F in the sun for an hour, chatting with a few folks and watching AJM ride away with the race. Liam sat patiently in the stroller (he's always found bike racing a bit boring) and Rowan spent his time trying to walk out onto the course and playing with 'lil Jade Robinson's tricycle.

Then I got the hell out of there.

Two years ago when I hurt my back, as a distraction I tried my hand at surfing - I found that paddling felt really good and it was much more interesting than swimming laps. But I was learning at Ocean Beach in SF, which is one of most notoriously difficult places to learn. The waves are fast, heavy, and on some days the paddle is so difficult many surfers never make it out to the lineup. Needless to say I didn't make much progress, but I had a little fun trying.

Right now, my back is feeling ok though there is still a bit of pain and sciatica - I can ride a bike ok but even thinking about a dismount still hurts. So, here I am again, in the same boat, as the saying goes - I'm back in the water. This year I have to admit I'm having a much better time of it, and I'm absolutely hooked (also stoked, pumped, and jonesin' for more).

Late Monday I surfed for a couple of hours and caught only 3 waves, yet somehow, I had a blast. I can't explain it, but just being out there in the lineup, watching these rollers come in, guys and girls getting up and carving up and down these beautiful waves...

A small serene pod of dolphins came by - one surfaced just a few feet from me. Another leaped out of a breaking wave and soared about 8' in the air in an arc past the setting sun.

I thought how fortunate I was to bear witness to such beauty in my everyday life.

...and, for the moment at least, I didn't think about anything I may be missing this Fall.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Can Someone Help Me Put On My Socks?

...because I sure as hell can't reach all the way down there.


Welcome to 931 Judah, a.k.a. "Intensive Care". In this corner we have a hurt child, crying like a school girl, moaning in pain, asking for help to do the simplest of tasks. And in the other there's Liam, arm in a cast from bicep to hand, laughing and running around as if nothing was wrong. I swear, the kid had a few drops of Tylenol on day 2 and he was fine. Me...I'm popping Vicodin and Motrin like they're Pez candies.

I'm broken, again. Out for the season. Back is jacked. I don't need a doctor to tell me I've herniated my L4/L5 disc again. I didn't even DO anything, I just woke up the day after some mild on-the bike jumps and....oh god, not again...

I'm an idiot. Last year was great, 4 months of Pilates leading up to CX and I felt like a lithe 30-yr-old. This year, a couple of lame-ass core exercises on the ball per week and 8 weeks of decent training, and for some reason I expected to feel the same. Hell, I gotta stop acting like a kid.

But damn, I was pumped. Here was the announcement I wanted to make this week:
"Santa Cruz Bicycles/Art By Opsal Cyclocross Team for 2007-2008

Riders Rich "Dark God" Maile and yours truly will be out kicking bootie on the new Santa Cruz Stigmata on CX course near you
Rich: "these bikes are punk rock, man, PUNK ROCK!"
Me: "ya...we'll be having strawberries for brunch every Sunday"
Sponsors: Santa Cruz Bicycles/Art By Opsal/Shimano/Giro/Crank Brothers/Paul Components/True Temper
But it's ok, because Rich is a one-man wrecking crew, he doesn't need me anyhow. But sweet Jesus, Ferrentino at SCB really went out on a limb for us lining up some great sponsors. Seriously, I had to pinch myself every 8 hours to make sure I wasn't dreaming I was a 26-yr-old spring chicken w/ a phat contract.

Big thanks to Mike F - that was the hardest "no thanks" I ever had to cough up.

And now...on the sidelines. Actually there's plenty to do - I was seriously in the dog-house for even contemplating another season with 2 kids under 5 and Frances working hard as a full-time mom and trying to record the 2nd CD.

I'm in a bit of pain, and I can't sit upright very long. I can't walk very far. Most of my work is done on the laptop laying on my stomach and then rolling over to my back for a few minutes. Getting up is annoyingly difficult. Sneezing is the most unbearable agony and something I dread more than anything else. Experience tells me I'll feel this way for about 2 weeks, then very slowly start to improve.

...but seriously, the hardest thing I have to do every day is put on my goddamn socks.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Parental Nightmare

I work in the basement room below Liam's bedroom. Clackity-clack on the keyboard and then from above:

(screaming child)

Nothing could have prepared me for walking into that room, seeing Liam's hand dangling from a 45-degree break in his forearm. This beautiful little cautious, loving, sensitive creature that we somehow miraculously broken...and screaming bloody murder. I started to flip out but somehow pulled it together just enough to dial 911.

That IKEA loft bed...

...I worry about it all the time when Liam's friends are visiting and they're up and down the ladder. "One of his friends are gonna fall off that thing", I keep thinking. But not Liam, he's too careful. He's afraid of the monkey bars if his feet are 8" off the ground... going on Craigslist this weekend.

That's not an elbow.

Liam is a bawling deer in the headlights. Nurses and doctors try to ask him questions and try all those little tricks that work on every kid but ours - especially now, scared of all the attention and clearly traumatized at the sight of his hideously misshapen forearm, he stares into space in all directions and answers nobody, clings tighter to Fran's shoulders, then resumes crying. I want to whisk him away from this madness.

Some 2 1/2 hours later on our 2nd of 4 trips to radiology and he's still broken and wearing the makeshift cardboard splint the SF Fire Dept EMT's put on him...banished from the X-Ray room where Liam is whimpering in Fran's arms, I finally lost it. All alone in the nook of an empty hallway I'm sobbing like a baby - I can't bear to see Liam go thru this - I'm supposed to protect him from this sort of shit. Some girl comes down the hallway, our eyes meet for a second - we're both crying and neither of us are ashamed. She turns the corner and I calm down. She's probably having a worse day, she looks like she's losing a loved one somewhere around that corner.

The hospital at night - nobody's there for a check-up, everyone is having a bad day - and all these saints choose to work there - god bless them.

At some point during the evening, Liam says:
"I'm sorry...I'm sorry I'm in such a bad mood."
Then the god-awful "reduction" - what they call the re-setting the bones which amounted to filling Liam full of some drug that made his eyes go all crazy and glazed and clearly out of it, and then pulling and manipulating the bones with a hideous cracking sound louder than a bag of chips - feeling a faint coming on I rush out of the room and stand outside the door with my fingers in my ears. Meanwhile Fran is in there holding Liam, she says she barely noticed anything because she was only looking at Liam's face, getting him through it all. No bones about it, she's the rock on which this family stands.

But Liam will be fine. Back at home late last night he started meowing as his alter-ego - a kitten named Mimo. I have no idea where Mimo came from, but he always comes out warm and cuddly and full of love. In the middle of this long sleepless night, Mimo came out to let us know that everything will be fine...and I fought back a different kind of tears.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Rowan, August 6th, 2007.

Rowan had to wait 365 days to experience chocolate.

Worth the wait, I'd say.

(Note the efficient use of both hands)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Wheels are off

Daddy couldn't be prouder...

Monday, July 30, 2007

I Heart Intervals

...and I Hate Intervals.

Especially, the first one of the year.

But God, the feeling afterwards - you know, you're sitting on the couch, drained, dead to the world, thighs throbbing in such sweet blissful agony...




Drink a beer and it multiplies the effect.

Interval Afterglow.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Back on the Blog-wagon

I think it's time to start blogging again...lots going on here.

The 2007 Cyclocross Calendar is coming together nicely and should be up on the NCNCA CX site this weekend.

Work is busy and Fran's got me learning to become a Sound Engineer in my downtime as we set up or little home studio to start recording tracks for the follow-up to her first album.

So, after years watching me come home with expensive toys, Frances is exacting her revenge. Guitars, amps, Pro Tools software and hardware, cables, stands, a banjo...

Who knew you could spend $1000 for a microphone?

$250 for a set of headphones?

Tip-o-the-iceberg, my friends.

Anyhow, it's all cool and really a lot of fun, and we're just re-investing the paltry rewards of the first CD to finance the second, which is gonna be a hoot for the little ones and their indie-rockin' hipster parents. Really, I love the songs she's written for this one as much as the first one...she's got a gift.

Liam and Rowan are great. Rowan (9 months) has only just started to crawl but he's waving and saying "Hi", "Dada", "Mama" and all that - he slays us daily with his Buddha-like sweetness. He eats anything and everything but there are some things he just loves - like the fuzz on our new carpet. Liam (4 1/2) is still all about space and ocean - I'm convinced he'll be exploring one of these frontiers as an occupation once he gets over all his fears of loud noises, water, heights, the unknown...

Fran's mom Sheila is visiting and wow how nice it is to have a 3rd party in the "your turn to hold the baby" game. Really, she's great and Liam and Rowan adore her, and so do I. We all love "Sha-Sha"...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

BJM vs Versus

Yeah, I know nobody's reading this blog since Cyclocross season has ended (no doubt with good reason), but I gotta rant SOMEWHERE.

Versus (formerly OLN) is on my shit-list...why?

photo stolen from the BJM blog...

#1 - Ok, I was a little bummed that our local boy Ben Jacques-Maynes didn't get any facetime on TV for his 3rd place in the Prologue at the Tour of California. I mean come on, turn those freakin' cameras on when the race starts...duh.

#2 - The Stage One ruling to ignore the written rules of the tour and keep Levi in yellow (and BJM in third) may or may not have been prudent, but I don't think they even mentioned who would have been in yellow on Versus if they had stuck to the rules.

#3 - In my mind, the worst offense was a lack of any mention of BJM's stellar ride in the Solvang TT except for a cursory "oh hey look who's in 10th" by Phil Liggett as the credits began to roll. There, amongst a list of Europe's finest racers was one of Norcal's finest. Ben's teammate Zirbel did get some good coverage for holding the best time early on, but Ben's mug was not to be seen despite beating Zirbel's time and sitting high (3rd) on the leaderboard before the big guns started to roll. Also this ride was further proof that the Prologue was no fluke.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nothing to Blog About

Lately...except for the fam...

Rowan is getting huge (18+lbs at 6 mos), and as a result our biceps are reaching "maximum pumpitude". Now he's eating solid food and sitting up for a few minutes at a time but mostly just rolling all over the place but not thinking too much about crawling yet. Rolling must be oh so much easier than crawling for one as rotund as he. He's still as sweet and mellow as ever.

Liam has us in constant hysterics (especially Rowan) with his interpretive dance and his alien impersonations. I've got him in training to start carrying Rowan around for us. As you can see from the above photo, he has a ways to go...

More love...

Fran is working on a book deal - no joke. In my mind, she's already famous and successful. Unfortunately BofA isn't reflecting anything to affirm this.

Me, I'm subsisting on a diet of cookie dough, corn chips, and beer.

This morning I did an about-face and went to Pilates class, if only to give the girls something to snigger at...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Back to the Grind.

We left VT on Sunday and right now it's snowing 4 inches an hour there. God I miss seasons...

It's about 60 degrees in SF today and I'm hoping to sneak out for a bike ride, but honestly I'd rather be up to my waist in "pow". It's probably best that Tahoe is hurting for it since I have no time for it anyhow.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Ignorance = Bliss

I wonder if anyone's racing anymore.

Cousin Billy's Wedding in Yosemite but all I was excited about was buying a cheap sled and taking Liam on run after run in the snow play area at Crane Flat. We were soaked to the bone, what a friggin' blast.

If anyone wants me to update the Cyclocross website they'll have to actually send me an email and tell me what to say, because I'm out of it...completely. If I value my marriage ("I do") I don't have any say in the matter.

I've ridden my bike twice since Nationals - two Marin Headlands loops to Miwok Stables and back on my Single-Speed. It's funny, I've turned into one of "those guys" - you know, the ones that catch and pass you on your blissful jaunt thru the hills just to show off. I get out so seldom that I try to pack a week's intensity into 2 hours. If there's someone to pass, I'll sure as hell pass them - at least I smile and say "hi", tho.

Today I was fortunate enough to have a pretty fit rabbit on a SC Superlight start up Miwok about a minute ahead of me. Anyone who frequents these trails knows that the Miwok trail N-bound between Bobcat and Old Springs is a bee-atch of a climb, and on a SS it is a total body workout because there ain't much sittin' down to be done.

So I killed myself on it, rewarded with the Old Springs descent - one of the few fun and legal ST descents in this birthplace of the MTB - and continued the pain up the Marincello climb, envisioning that my rabbit (who wasn't behind me anymore) chased me all the way up.

I was pooped when I got home. Fran puts Rowan in my arms and says "he's yours, I'm outta here" (Liam was at a friend's house). Rowan is great if you completely engage him. I was too tired to do that, so instead I put him in the Bjorn and do the 15-minute gut-check up the stairs to the top of Grand View Park. It's funny how I have no problem being physically tired, but my brain...well that's another story - I'd rather schlep a 20 lb. 5-month-old up 500 steps than play peek-a-boo. It's just too tiring...

It was a brilliant day and I think I could actually make out individual surfers on Ocean Beach 2 miles away. Rowan rewarded me by falling asleep just as I returned home, he loves walkies.

Parting shot:

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

First Ride

Liam's first ride

Guess who got a bike for Christmas?

Liam doesn't like going fast.
Liam insists on wearing protective padding every time he gets on his bike - he will not ride otherwise.
Liam is uber-cautious and courteous.

I sometimes wonder if he's mine...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Nora is a bitch

After Nationals I got sicker and sicker, and pretty sure it was the Nora virus, and it was ugly. I'm pretty sure it was the same thing Liam went through a few days prior. Luckily the worst symptoms didn't hit until an hour or so after landing at SFO - that would have been a tough trip. The next 2 days were spent no more than 30' from the nearest potty...ugh.

Happily recovered, tho.

The bikes are still in the box in the garage. If I didn't have to return the box to my teammate, they'd probably be in there until July - no joke.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Riding the Rubber Band

First Day Natz Norcal Wrap-Up

Providence, RI

Dec. 15, 2006

Actually, I'm pretty happy about getting 6th at 35+ Nationals, which may come as a surprise to some of my friends considering how frustrated I was after finishing in roughly the same position in 2003 and 2004.

First of all, the course was frickin' awesome and I would have loved to race it at 100%. No, actually, it was PERFECT. Fast, wide open, tacky, but still techy if you were going fast enough. 3 runups per lap and one set of (very tall) doubles, plus lots of little short climbs on the bike. The ground was moist but just firm enough to hold except for a couple of marginally slipery corners. Three good long road sections. Some great up-and-downs. It was a VERY fair course, lots of passing lanes.

Anyhow, on to the racing. I'll get to my condition and race later but first I'll wrap-up the earlier races.

Noble, Black, Hoefer

Got to the course and saw Lauren out racing already (Women 35-39) - I cheered her on and she looked great, but because her group was racing the same time as the 30-34 group I couldn't tell what place she was in. I was tempted to ask her as she went by - would that have been bad? ;-) Anyhow, she finished 3rd which is great considering this is not a Costantini-style (i.e. slathered in mud) course, and 2nd place was only a few seconds up on her. If Lauren ever gets her starts down she should be ready for jersey fitting, she never saw winner Wendy Williams who did a great ride for a comfortable victory.

At the same time the 30-34 group was out there including the recovering Josie Beggs and former champ Sarah Kerlin - both were solid in 6th and 7th, respectively.

I got a re-cap of the 50-54 race from Mr. Kramer himself - it sounded like he had quite a nice little ride with Ned Overend. At about 2 to go Ned managed to kill it on a couple of the windy road sections to get a buffer over Henry and stretched it out for the win. Great job Henry...remember that guy's a legend!

Tilford crushed the 45-49 field.

Also heard that John Elgart killed it earlier in the 60-64 group with a convincing win. John's wife Linda got 2nd in the Women's 50-54 race

On to the nailbiter of the day, the 40-44 race. Damn, that was some fine racing. I saw Gannon Myall before the race and was amazed how stoic he was about his #99 starting position - he had his work cut out for him. Gun goes off and Todd Hoefer drills it and immediately the decisive break forms - Todd, Mark Noble, Will Black, and Dale Knapp - a star-studded break to say the least. These four basically stayed together the whole dang race. Alan Coates was just behind but seemed to be having some problems (back problems?). Meanwhile, Gannon had managed to move up to about 20th in about 1/2 lap, and continued tearing through the field even while the lead four opened their gap. By lap 2 I think Gannon had passed everyone but had a sizeable deficit to the leaders. It was sooo thrilling watching the lead four come thru and then watch Gannon just gobble up ground and seconds in pursuit. Todd was aware of the situation and was sitting in the group, hoping that Gannon could close the gap. He was so tantalizingly close but never quite made the juncture, and the lead four were destined to finish it off. Todd attacked the run-up before the finish but Mark Noble somehow managed to get by him on the descent to the pavement, and sprinted in for a tight victory over Will and Todd - announcer Richard Fries was going CRAZY! Congrats to Mark, but I still have to give the ride of the day to Gannon. Great ride by Todd, too, who proved he's not just a "mudder".

Fast forward past my race (save the fluff for the end, right?), and on to the 30-34 race - defending champ Justin Robinson put on a valiant effort, leading for the first 1/4 lap and then tenaciously hanging tough for a number of laps in the 2nd group behind a fast-starting Grant Berry. Justin eventually faded, though, and started losing spots finally ending up 8th, just a couple of spots ahead of Simon Vickers, who also had a solid race. The finish of the race saw the remnants of Justin's group - Ryan Leech and former Nor-Cal rider Chris Pietrzak catching Berry and then sprinting it out with Leech taking the spectacular win by 1/2 a bike length over Chris.

Now on to my own personal account and the 35-39 race rpt.

I've been riding some fine lines lately...

Fine line #1 - somewhere between in-and-out of the doghouse - my wife is super-busy as a full-time mom and trying to promote her amazing children's CD (no more plugs I promise), and my racing has been a series of compromises and my training a few stolen sessions in the dark in Golden Gate Park after Liam is snug in bed. Occasional bike maintenance in the wee hours of the morning, and then up at the crack of dawn with Liam until I'm off to work. Sleep be damned.

Fine-line #2 - not surprisingly I've been teetering between health and sickness for about 1 1/2 weeks, and I think the early flight out Thursday AM after about 2 hrs sleep the night before did me in, and this morning I awoke completely congested and my head was in a fog, hacking cough, the whole nine yards. Warming up, I actually felt dizzy. Julie Barrot told me I looked like shit. Not good.

But there I was, 3000 miles from home and sitting on the 3rd row behind a strong field of riders, no choice but to race. My first goal was to put myself in the lead group, and thankfully the course allowed me to make up ground pretty handily and by 1/2 lap I was with '05 champ Shannon Skerrit and Brandon Dwight. Chris Peck (I think) hit the pavement hard in a corner which helped open the gap to Matt Kraus (who was absolutely drilling it off the front) and Richard Feldman ahead. By the end of the lap Brent Prenzlow bridged up from his 5th row spot and rode right thru us in pursuit of Richard and Matt. I was absolutely on the rivet from there on out, and basically just switched from holding Brandon's wheel to Shannon's - I felt a little guilty NEVER putting my nose in the wind but the only thing holding me there was my pride and that invisible rubber band that I have always been adept at clinging to. Shannon and Brandon hauled back Brent and were on the heels of Feldman with Matt a little ways up the road. Curt Davis joined our group and the race was still very much up in the air. The leaders were so tantalizingly close - always 10-15 seconds - yet I was completely unable to do anything but suck wheel, occasionally even getting gapped off as I started getting sloppier as the race progressed and my power faded. Up ahead Matt's carbon chainguard (and hence, his lead) was deteriorating and his gears started skipping - he started an unfortunate slide backwards as we passed him while he did his best to get to the pit. Feldman pounced on the opportunity and opened a gap, though Brent made a super effort to catch him. Inside 2 to go Shannon stands up and puts in his final bid leaving me, Curt, and Brandon behind. Shannon charged and caught and then outsprinted Brent for 2nd, but he was too late to catch Richard, who stormed to another National Championship. Shannon's attack put me in difficulty and just inside 1 to go I flubbed a re-mount and the rubber band broke - I was suddenly painfully aware of the snot pouring from my nose, and the burning in my lungs and legs, and though I tried to stay focused on catching Curt for 5th, the gap wouldn't come down. I could not sit up, though, because Matt was charging back from his mechanical just behind.

I was a little bummed for Matt because I think he may have pulled it off if his bike hadn't failed - he's a friend-of-a-friend of mine from Boston and has been really turning it up the past couple of years, narrowly losing last year's 30+ race to our own Justin Robinson.

I was actually pretty happy to finish where I did, I definitely rode over my head today even to be in the hunt and only 40 secs off the win. I would have loved to race this course on a better day - this was my ideal course and that was probably what saved me from losing the front group altogether - throw in some mud, snow, or a long hill and I would have been 30-something...easily.

Anyhow, I want to say a huge thanks to Mr. Paul (Rock Lobster) Sadoff for being my (happily unnecessary) pit crew - it took a major load off my mind pre-race that I could count on you if anything went wrong.

There's no more racing for me this weekend (or this season, for that matter), my cold is worsening and my thoughts are back home with the family - I changed my flight plans and I'm heading home tomorrow. I really wanted to see the Elite race and jump in the Sunday race but Fran is flying solo with the boys so I'd best get home and get started on working my way out of the dog house.

Anyhow, it just started raining here in Boston, so perhaps a few changes are afoot for tomorrow's Elite race.


PS Full results are here.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

So Much Fun It Hurts

Surf City #3
A Race: 7th place
Teammates: Aron

Photos stolen from Chris's Flickr collection. Thanks to Chris also for trying to help me out pre-race.

slurp splosh splash splosh...

I came out with two goals today: get the cobwebs out after my cold this week, and dial in my tire choices for natz should the forecast look muddy. Pretty much nailed my goals but managed a few more shennanigans mixed in there.

On Tuesday I felt myself fighting some sniffles off, and I was scared this was the beginning of something major that would pretty much be the end of my Providence trip. On Wednesday I was out for the count with a snotty, achy, and drowsy head and skipped work along with my mid-week ride. Luckily by Thursday I was feeling better and did a light spin and felt ok. On Saturday, tho I was still a bit congested, I decided to go race and I'm glad I did.

Showed up and did some laps in my spare shoes, to try and figure out which of the 3 tire choices to go with: (1) my new Tufo Flexus (2) 28mm Tufo Pros (yes the black cheapos) and (3) a set was a brand new set of Maxxis Larson CX clinchers. After 1 lap of slipping and sliding around on the Flexus tires I pretty much decided they are no better than the yellow LPS tires I swore never to race in the mud again after 2004 Natz. The Tufo Pros were GREAT - the narrow tires cut like a knife in butter. The Maxxis tires were pretty sweet too - felt similar to the Tufos but I only did one lap on them thanks to some severe chain suckage on the B bike.

10 minutes before the start I went back to the car to change my shoes (my POS backup shoes don't have spikes) and when I got out my Sidi's I noticed the clip that holds the ratchet on the shoe was GONE. Dug around in my bag and found it and the teeny tiny screw, but after messing with it, and even trying another guy's (thanks Chris) screw from his shoe decided the thing was stripped out properly. Went back to the start with 3 shoes, and Chris Dougherty found some duct tape - had to delay the start while everyone heckled me while I taped my shoe onto my foot. Worked well and I'll probably do that in Providence this weekend (if I actually go) in lieu of actually fixing the shoe. Yes, I know this is par for the course - I don't care.

Race starts and I work my way towards the front in the second group. Did the first lap with Josh Snead, Justin Robinson, and Dave Wyandt battling for 4th place (behind Wicks and the J-M bros) but then while placing my bike down after the barriers at the end of the lap my front wheel fell off - doh! I think I knocked the QR on one of my not-so-graceful dismounts (yes, I know I'm an idiot, thanks very much). Lost my group and a good 25 seconds trying to get it back on and re-center the brakes - funny, though, after 1 lap the gaps were already big and only Simon caught me. I think it was a blessing in disguise because I was pushing plenty hard NOT trying to keep up with the 2nd group and that's about all I had in my cold-ravaged lungs. Rode with Simon for the next couple of laps - I know he is in some good back pain right now. I noticed he was having troubles in the deep mud (when you really have to pull from the lower back) and of course on the running sections - I feel your pain, brother. Anyhow, after a couple of bike changes (thanks again to Chris Dougherty) I was back on my A bike with properly functioning brakes and was able to just have some good hard fun and toiled away in 7th for the rest of the race. Towards the end I was contemplating quitting on every lap (mostly while I was running up that damn run-up) because I was wondering if I was actually doing myself harm 6 days before Natz with a cold already. But I stuck it out, though I just tempo-ed the last three laps, mostly to avoid the humiliation of hearing Hernando heckle me from behind the microphone.

Wicks was on another planet about SEVEN FRIGGIN MINUTES ahead. BJM was solid and AJM was impressive especially considering he flew in from Asia that morning.

I think the course was incredible, it wrapped around on itself and the muddy barely-rideable sections were great, as was all the snaking around, the off-cambers (we don't get enough off-cambers in Nor-Cal), and the fun little descents. My only complaint was that the two long running sections were back-to-back - you only took about 20-30 pedal strokes after the gruelling corral run only to go into that killer run-up that was followed by the false flat at the top that pretty much required another 50 meters of running...ugh, I dreaded that section every lap and looked forward to the rest - it would have been nice to break that up. And yes, I was pretty much doing a brisk walk on both these sections by the end of the race...S.L.O.W. BUT I was having fun the rest of the way around the course and after 2 years without racing in the mud it was a great clinic for me in the goopy stuff.

BTW this was the ultimate spectator course - you could see probably 90% of the racing from one vantage point. Too bad there weren't more folks out there. It's kind of a bummer to hear how everyone seems to get so amped up for "real" cx conditions and those who come have so much fun and yet, when it actually happens, only a select group of folks come out for the race. I know it's easy to hit the Snooze bar on a rainy morning, but COME ON FOLKS, it's not like it's a crit in the rain or something...

Anyhow, thanks so much to the Surf City folks for braving the conditions and putting on another top-notch event. You deserve so much more than just the hard-core riders that showed up.

So, as a final note I'm on the fence for Providence once again. For one, I'm still in the throes of this cold, but really it is my son Liam who seems to have gotten a vicious stomach virus and that's too much for me to leave Frances for 5 days with a sick 4-year-old (oh yeah his b-day is Wed) and a hungry 4-month-old. Liam threw up for the first time in his life (well, since the spitting up milk days of infancy at least) and he didn't know what the hell that was all about - he got scared and started bawling. Also, he's up at all hours of the night with diarrhea and that's not only hell for the boy, it's hell for the guy holding the TP.

Real life beckons (sigh)...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fascinating Creatures Update - Awards and a Video

It has been a busy few months here with some great news and developments for Frances England's Fascinating Creatures children's CD. For those of you who don't know, earlier in the year my wife created a CD of songs to raise money for our son's cooperative preschool. The CD was so well-received that Frances started to market it to the general public, and it has since received glowing reviews from publications and music reviewers around the world. I think Cookie Magazine put it best:

If some genius concert promoter ever puts together a Lilith Fair for 5 year olds, Frances England should be the headline act. The singer-songwriter brings a little bit of Sarah McLachlan and a little bit of Norah Jones, yet manages to create a sound that is distinctly her own…And while the songs may be about tricycles and picture books, England's airy voice and sophisticated songwriting have definite adult appeal.

Fascinating Creatures was recently selected as the sole winner of the 2007 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award for Audio. This is HUGE news as the Oppenheim is generally regarded as the source for independent reviews on children's toys and media, and she was going up against some of the best established children's artists out there. Also, a couple of music critics' polls were recently released with Fascinating Creatures consistently ranking in the top 5 albums of the year.

All this attention for a home-spun CD that started as a humble fundraiser for Liam's preschool, and to date has made its way into people's homes across the country and as far away as Ireland, the UK, and Australia – mostly through word of mouth of friends like you.

The CD is now available online at CDBaby, The Land of Nod, The Poky Pup, Amazon, and for download at the iTunes Music Store. Additionally, it is available at Stumasa in the Cole Valley in SF. We would like to get the CD into some more brick and mortar stores but it is a incredibly time-consuming task.

Finally, we are proud to announce the launch of the new Frances England Website including our first Music Video for the song "Tricycle". Links to the above reviews and awards plus more information on the CD and artist can be found there.

Tricycle Music Video from Fascinating Creatures

Also, check out this great slideshow by Australian Photographer Barb Uil set to Frances' song "Blue Canoe".

Frances will begin recording her second cd in the New Year. Liam, Rowan and I have heard all of her new songs and we all agree that CD #2 will be HUGE! :)

Thanks so much for all of your support -- wishing you a very happy holiday season!


p.s. a number of people have asked about getting multiple copies for friends and family for the holidays, if you would like to order 5 or more CDs, please contact Frances at the below email address for a special discounted rate of $10 per CD.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

...Finally Won Something

Tho it wasn't a race.

CCCP and District Championships
Cat A, 5th Place
BASP Overall: 1st place
Teammates: Aron (7th place overall, yeah!), Blanco (SS - 3rd place overall, yahoo!)
Photos stolen from Lauren H's Flickr collection

Well, consistency counts for something. I actually had a pretty good race today.

The course was pretty cool actually and I think it had a decent mix of power, speed, and technique required. Incidentally, when I think power, speed, and technique, I think Ben Jacques-Maynes...but cool? Da J-M-iac was uber-cool sporting some nice lamb chops and 1980's-style shades, he looked like something right off the set of CHiPs. Barry and Andy were no-shows which pretty much turned it into a one-horse race for the title.

Caught the end of the M35+ race a bit while warming up - Mark and Todd had a nice little battle to the end. Congrats to both, Mark for the race, and Todd for the District Title.

Brought the family along and hence only got 2 laps of warm-up (which, incidentally was 2 more laps than Justin got). The course was cool - pretty fast up the hill, some nice flats at the top, bumpy downhill, hairpin into the beach run/ride, then the flat section which required a fair amount of power thru the grassy sections. Lots of S-turns... everything was straightforward except the beach, which I'm still not sure if it was better to run or ride - every time I rode it I felt it sucking the life from my legs and I felt better running it - this in spite of not doing any real running this year. Oh yeah, and there was a killer playground for the boys who never saw Daddy pedal a stroke...

Felt like poo in the warm-up but luckily I have a short memory.

Race starts and we fly up the hill pretty sanely - Ben and Justin leading. After the descent I was back in 5th or 6th and going into the beach all those knuckleheads try to ride the first time thru so I dismount and sprint past them all and get back on with a nice little gap on the field.

brief moment of glory

BJM and Josh hook up with me and we roll the next 1/2 lap before Ben ups the tempo. Josh follows but crashes in the dust near the top and we're back together with Chris McGovern coming up. Dave Wyandt joins us and I'm pretty sure these seasoned racers will all be dropping me soon. Next lap Chris flats and is never seen again near the front. I yo-yo off and on the Rock Lobster duo and even promise to do some work if I ever start feeling good. Ben didn't really ever get too much time on us, but I think he was just doing enough to win the race without messing up his road training. I was actually starting to feel back in the game with about 4 to go, but then on the descent my rear wheel hit something I couldn't see and heard the rear going flat. Tried to signal ahead to the pit but it was like in the middle of crowd so I got there and hollered to Dan (the neutral man) and he got my bike (thx Dan), losing probably 10 more seconds or so in the transition. Got on the new bike and immediately noticed the tire pressure difference (higher) so I had to start taking corners a little more gingerly. Dave and Josh were slowly pulling away and I was in limbo with Chance and Chris chasing from behind. I thought I had a good gap but inside 1 to go Chance must have put in one hell of a surge because he caught me just after the beach, and immediately attacked and gapped me afterwards. Honestly I wish I tried harder but really it didn't matter at that point - I had the overall sewn up and didn't feel much like fighting any more. I did manage to shake my fist in mock defiance at Chris in the hairpins - he probably would have caught me if the race were 1/2 lap longer.

I was really happy that the day went fairly smoothly and I was able to win the overall pretty comfortably.

After the race I went back to the pit to get my bike, and found that once again I had become the butt of more bike maintenance jokes. This time it was my chainring bolts - THREE of FIVE were missing and the chainrings were just hanging on. I can't believe I didn't notice it during the race. Anyhow, I'd say I was lucky I flatted otherwise I could have had a catastrophic mechanical somewhere out on the course. Though I did flat a brand new Flexus that I glued on Wednesday - merde! I'll try and work some more sealant in and see if it holds...fingers crossed...

Just for the record, I *do know how to fix bikes*...I'm just having a hard time finding time for it these days, for some reason.

Congratulations to Ben for winning the District Championships, and thanks to all the really fast guys for missing most of the races so as to allow me to walk away with the overall booty...just in time for Christmas.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Photo I forgot to post from our trip to Yosemite a couple weeks ago...