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.