Friday, December 26, 2008

It’s not you, it’s me. But we can still be friends…

I haven’t dated since high school, I married my senior prom date. So I’m a little out of practice with breaking up. However, I feel like I’ve been dumped pretty hard by cyclocross, my trouble making Twany Kataen of a girl friend.

Where did I go wrong?

Why do I wake up every Sunday on edge and ready to race?
Is getting chubby and slow after a break up normal?
Is it wrong that when I walk on an icy downtown sidewalk I pass people and think to myself, I’m not a true power walker, but I’ve got the technical skills to win today?
What is wrong with me?

Everyone’s blogs have been letting up. We get a trickle of news from Europe, but I have a hard time pronouncing the races and racers names. Really, what am I supposed to do with myself? Prepping for NAHBS is my only saving grace, but it’s not quite the same as lining up to race every weekend.

I’m sure in the spring I’ll crush out on my road bike and get out on the trails a few times too. But what is eating me up is that I know next fall I’m going to slut it up and take cyclocross back like a hot heavy metal girl friend from the wrong side of the tracks.

Friday, December 12, 2008

2008: Greatest Hits

My 2008 cross season started one year ago at Montrose with my first cyclocross race. I lined up dead last on my freeride bike. The goal was pass someone, anyone. It was also an important proof of concept for me - would I like cyclocross? Aaron was in the early stages of starting COURAGE and I was considering having him build me a cross bike, but I needed to make sure I would use it. Affirmative. I had a blast. I crossed the line knowing I'd be back for more.

In college I raced mountain bikes for ASU, but that was about cheap parts and was less organized than a beer run. A few years ago my friend Moshe got me out to my first crit. Since then I've been getting major beatdowns in the 5s, typically racing three or four crits in a season. However, knowing that I'd be representing COURAGE I really wanted to piece together a decent cyclocross season. I never formed any plan more in depth than ride my bike a ton, but I can at least claim to have stuck to that plan pretty well.

With a bunch of spring and summer miles in my legs I showed up to Jackson Park with Laura, Ruby, and a seriously hot road bike. Unfortunately my team cross bike got hung up in shipping. I was determining to represent COURAGE in the race so the Intense stayed home and my skinny tired bike came to play instead.

I love crap conditions for cross. Cold, wet, windy, slick, you name it and it will probably put a smile on my face. But better minds would prevail and I was happy to see the weather dry, a nice compliment to my tractionless tires.

The race went well. I finished 12th and had a great final sprint. I was able to close a decent gap in the last 100 meters to take one more spot. However, it was practically cheating as I opened a huge sprint in a 50x12 closing on Tim McGovern on a fixed cross bike with a kiddy trailer hitch.

My next race, at Hawthorn Woods with the first sled hill of the season, I finished 9th. This time Tim held me off on the last lap. He and I had a few laughs about our finish line duels.

I got my first call up at Carpentersville. That was pretty cool. Felt like I was delivering for my sponsors. The next big highlight for me was the sand pit there. I crushed it hard and felt good about putting my dusty old mountain bike skills to use. Also, at this point in the season people were staring to recognize COURAGE - tons of cheering and a bunch more questions about the bikes. The season was starting to gel.

All I remember from Bartlett was having to pedal down hill on the finishing straight in 40+ mph gusts. Ouch.

St. Charles was a spectacular course and I was doing my first really active racing at the front of the pack. John Villena, Adrian Redd and I were battling for 3-5. We constantly swapped positions until I got in front of them on the backside of the final lap just before the course got technical. I held them off to the line for 3rd place. It was my first bit of strategic racing and it felt good. All of this was made sweeter by the Half Acre posse at the bottom of the hill cheering like mad for everyone.

Another great course at Northbook. I loved the hill and figured I did the equivalent of 16 flights of stairs in my little four lap race. Double ouch.

The sand pit at Lansing made the race and made me $2. Those 25 meters of tube sock deep Cream of Wheat combined with the loudest and most involved heckling of the year brought out the best of me even though I had one of my worst finishes. All I wanted to do was crush that sand pit with everything I had so people would cheer louder. Easy on lap one, harder there after. I think I made it 4 for 6 through the sand. Most importantly I powered out the last time through with major crowd participation. I exited the backside on the last go round so jacked I was able to close a gap on one more guy before the line. A special thanks to Mike Hemme for bring the insanity to a new level...

Then the ultimate highlight of my season, Frances Marjorie Fairman, born November 18th. My second little girl. I'll skip a lot of the personal family stuff, but I want to take a moment to give my wife Laura a huge thank you for being so supportive of me this fall while managing a three year old, me and a pregnancy. You did it with grace.

Here we are at the end, IL State Championships in Montrose Harbor. I'll make this brief. I had my first hole shot of the season and managed to keep everyone behind me but John Villena. It felt really good to race that well and make the call home to Laura. I finished out the season in 4th place overall and feel really good about going into 2009 with a lot of valuable experience.

I'm a little jealous of everyone in balmy KC this weekend. I can't wait to hear all the stories.

Thanks to everyone who volunteered or got underpaid to run the ChiCrossCup circus. Thanks sponsors, racers, photographers, spouses, kids, dogs, and metal cover bands for making such a great scene.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Calamity Dance

Sunday’s race at Montrose Harbor delivered like Merckx in the 60’s and 70’s - hard, fast, and unrelenting. John Villena even lived up to the Cannibal moniker by drinking his own blood for most of our race. John is a hardman and earned the win the hard way.

Who set up that course? Turin? Someone please enlighten me. Big props for making it fun as hell. Great use of the lake front features, some super technical spots and the frozen dune was the closest thing to a kicker all season. Again and again the terrain at the harbor provides the foundation for a great race, and three years straight Mother Nature provided the goods to make it a proper cyclocross affair – straight nasty (somewhere in the back of my mind I’m hearing a Fishbone song about nastiness). Am I the only one wondering why there isn’t a mid-season race there in addition to the State Championship? Bring more cross into the city!

I wrapped up the season with a second place, my best finish of the year. I’d been using a special Navy Seal training regime, code named New Born, for the last few weeks to really up my game. It mostly consists of not sleeping for three weeks before a race and bullying your expectations so low that you ignore all better judgment and push yourself into the redzone.

Cyclocross has the best fans. You all rock for sticking around and cheering on COURAGE and the rest of the 4Bs in the freezing cold darkness. Word!

Friday, December 5, 2008

My week in commuting

Funny time of year to start a bike blog, but here I go. Trust you will see many changes in the coming weeks.

This was the first week Chicago’s wintry weather put our metal to the test. I would describe my rides as playing Labyrinth, the tilting top marble maze game, with Pearl Izumi Lobster Claws. Lot of slipping around and a total lack of confidence to do anything about it. Take a healthy coating of ice, gusting winds, 38mm profile rims, darkness and cold, and you are asking for all kinds of trouble. At the end of each ride my hands ached from the stress of continuously feeling like you were going to hit the deck. If it wasn’t ice it was wind. No wind, ice. And sometimes, like when I was going north bound at top speed from Michigan Ave to the inner drive from the wrong lane it was both. Yes, I know it’s a bit silly to risk my race bike commuting in such crappy conditions but I’ve been trying to turn my commute into a training ride by doing intervals in the grass and snow front of the zoo.

Every year I try and make sure I ride into work on a subzero and 100+ degree day. Sometimes you have to wait until deep winter sets in to get that subzero day. I’m not sure that we’ll have to wait so long this year. Only in the Midwest do cyclists have to have gear for a 100 degree range.

I can’t wait for the State Championships this weekend. It’s going to be perfect cross weather. I’ve been letting the beard get thick in anticipation of the cold.

I’ve convinced a bunch of non-cyclist to come out and watch the 4’s performance of the Calamity Dance. I encourage all you to do the same!