Sunday, November 20, 2011

Race Report - Rockburn Cross - Race #7 in the 2011 MABRAcross Super 8 Series

At the end of last week, I decided that I would take a little different approach to this weekend.  My goal was to get in the top 25 of the field to gain one precious point to possibly get ONE decent start position before the end of the MABRAcross Super 8 Series.  I also planned a little different race strategy. I would get there early, warm-up and pre-ride the course.  I know those things sound crazy and all, but I am looking for some trick to pull out of my hat.  For the actual race, I planned on gutting myself on the first lap to try and get gain many spots during the prologue and then see how long I could stay in the top 25.

The drive to Rockburn was only slightly different from all of the other northern bound Maryland races.  The difference was simply putting in a different address into the Garmin and following the route.  I arrived around 8 giving me approximately 30 minutes to unpack and get on the bike.  Not so fast, it looked as if I would spend the first thirty minutes, unpacking and visiting the ever so nice port-o-johns.  So I missed the pre-ride before the CAT 4 race, no worries, I would have a few minutes between the Men's and Women's races.  I spent the next 45 minutes getting everything together and waiting for the first race to end.

The pre-ride was good.  As I rode the course, I was looking for roots, bumps and other obstacles that would assist in my decision regarding tire pressure.  I was starting with 32 psi and debating on whether to go up or down.  This course was well laid out, long paved start uphill, followed by a few serpentine turns, then over to a sand pit.  The pit was completely ridable, if you and seventy of your closest friends were not sprinting into it like a herd of cats bolting for the litter boxes after devouring a can of bad tuna.   And that is precisely where I expected to be on the first lap.  After the pit, the course weaved back and forth, dove into the woods for some single tract action, then back in front of the crowd for the standard barriers.  After that, back to some single track, followed by a run-up peppered with four angle stairs.  During the pre-ride, I was able to ride the stairs, but the risk-to-reward was too great. I would run these during the race.  After that, the course continued through the woods and eventually back to the road.  I knew from the pre-ride this one was gonna be fast.

After pre-riding I went over to registration and collected my number.  Crap, 676, again.  Not all the way in the back but with 112 of us, it was far enough that my kill opportunities would be quite high.  I went back to the truck, setup the trainer and began to warm-up.  Grabbed a little Cytomax, some tunes and began to spin.  Then came race time.  I was giving myself about 15 minutes to get over to the start-line but this was interrupted by yet another stop at the port-o-pot, the stomach was not feeling well.  Race weight:  achieved!  Stomach cramps: achieved! Feeling best for the race: failed!

Regardless, I made it to the start-line and found my spot, off the grid, and 11 rows back.  I looked toward the front to see if I could find any of the regulars, spotting Thom Moore, Doug Owens, Jon Hicks, and a few more.  A few seconds later, Adam Austin rolled up, but not on his bike.  He had broken his hanger during the warm-up, grabbed Larry Sterrett's bike, raised the seat and posted right in front of me.  Well my first Rapha Challenge was sitting in front of me on a bike two sizes two small.  This provided an opportunity and an issue.  With Adam on someone else's bike I knew I would smoke him fairly quick, but with 75 guys in front, it might be hard to get around him during the prologue.  Then my worst nightmare, appeared. In the spot in front of Adam,  a guy hopped in with a mountain bike and CAT 5 tattoos on his right calf.  Objective 1 for the race was now shot.

Quick side note:  While we were lining up, one of the racers, Gunnar, said, "Hey, aren't you Chuck Kyle?".  Shocked, I simply replied, "Yes".  He told me he reads the blog, enjoys it since it gives him a goal.  I initially thought this was pretty cool, glad someone is reading it.  Then several other guys who start in the back and fight their way forward told me the same thing.  I don't want to speak for Gunnar, as he did not tell me his actual race goal, but some of the others did.  Their goal?  Catch me.  Yes, I am a marked man in the middle of the pack.  Now that is pretty cool since we can't get all the way to the front and chase the leader.  Instead, the gantlet has been dropped and we have a race for the leader of the (middle of the) pack.  If you are one of these guys and racing Capital Cross, hit me up with a cross results Rapha Challenge,

Back to the race....

The race started and Adam got a pretty good jump, but we were all bound up.  I got around him only to have to slow pedal behind the mountain biker.  After what seemed like an eternity, I finally (and safely) maneuvered around him and hit it as hard as I could.  When we hit the grass my prized position of 25th was still 30 in front of me, I gained no ground.  The race was fast, we went back and forth through the turns and eventually made it to the sand-pit.  It was chaos.  Some mistakenly tried to ride, others were in the  tape, a few just were flopping around the sand making snow angels.  Post race discussions revealed that the  top 15 or so had the choice of run or ride and went through it seamlessly.  Not my pack.  Out of the pit I was sitting 48th.  I was in the top 50 but still a long way from 25th.  The next two laps were pretty normal, hard racing.  Plenty of places to pass, but most everyone was running hard, so even though there was room, the pace made it fairly prohibitive.  Only if someone screwed up was there time to get around them.  I had worked my way to 39th and was continuing to climb.

On the penultimate lap, I was following a rider up one of the embankments when all of a sudden his forward motion decreased and reverse kicked in.  I was unable to go anywhere and we got tied up together.  I grabbed my bike out of the pretzel of carbon bikes, ran around him and started to remount on the descent. Catastropic failure for when I went into the back of his bike, it had knocked my wheel crooked and pinned against the brakes.  Downhill plus locked front wheel equals Chuck over the handlebars and sliding chest first down the hill.  I recovered, grabbed the bike, but had to open the brakes and unscrew the skewer.  I have no idea how much time I spent jacking with the bike, seemed like days, but I am sure it was only 10 or 15 seconds but at least ten riders went by.  Once back together, I was off.  I did a quick check and realized that I was stuck in the small chainring, no shifting available.  So it looked as if the best I would have is the 38.

Once I was back on the road, I saw Bill Schieken, off the side of the road with his bike.  Though Bill will say it was a mechanical, I think he was just waiting for me.  Bill normally gets in the top 7 or so, but I am sure he just wanted the change to bet me twice in one race, and that he did, wasn't long, Bill was behind me giving me a little heckling encouragement, rolled up beside of me smiled, and then was off like a bullet.  Damn, how does he get so fast?  Back to my peer group I went.

The last lap a few of us went back and forth, I saw Dave Tambeaux ahead of me.  Dave and I have gone back and forth in the results over the last few week.  Gary Moon had got a jump on me after my last flop on the ground and Chas Ryan was hot on my heels.  We entered final sprint, Gary was just out of reach and I beat off Chas by just a few seconds, another hundred feet and I would have been toast.

Not a great race for me today.  I ended up 45th overall.  Still beat my cross results predictor but by only 5 and that sucks.  I ended up 8th in the 45+, that means only 28 points to the overall series.  Unfortunately, cross results is no longer showing the points for the Masters 3/4/ 45+, so I am not sure if I am going to maintain 4th.  I figure that I am may drop a position.  A quick stop by Freshbikes and Greg was able to get the shifters back in place, fix the front derailleur and clean out a neglected bottom bracket.  The bike is ready for next week, now I simply have to do the same for me.

Next race?  2011 MABRA Championship, Thanksgiving weekend.   Crossresults Predictor?  30th out of 60.  Hey I might get a good start position.  Hopefully the leaders will be full of turkey.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Race Report - Schooley Mill Cross - Race #6 in the 2011 MABRAcross Super 8 Series

The days between getting to race cross seem to be getting longer.  I initially thought to blame the change to daylight savings time but the reality is I just love this damn sport.  So each day I worked on something that would make me more competitive, whether it was a decision on a Hersey kiss or grapes, sleep, training stress scores, or simply a little extra time on the bike.  I am actually having some success with weight loss and was thrilled to step on the scale each day of this week to see a gradual and slow decrease.  By Sunday morning I was around 204 lbs, not much weight loss for many, but for me it was climbing Mt Everest, okay maybe a little exaggeration but still.

I was able to get a few CompuTrainer sessions in this week, two great days of riding outside, so I met my week's training goals.  Dropped a few pounds and was all set, till Saturday.  Some days it is harder for me to get to the race then it is to race.  I am not talking about family or work issues but simply the mental state, it just becomes a battle.  So Saturday, I just putz around the house, trying not to think about Sunday.  By the end of the day, I found myself looking at crossresults to see where the race predictor had me for Schooled Mill, 65 out of 110. 

Sunday I packed up the 4Runner, made my traditional stop at Starbucks, and headed up the road.  I have noticed a trend, it is generally 10 to 15 degrees cooler in upper Maryland then my cal de sac in Northern Virginia, but with sufficient gear in the truck, no worries.  Once arriving at Schooley Mill Park, I found myself having to park somewhere in the next county over, this played a little in my decision on whether or not to put a bike in the pits, but fortunately played little in the overall day.

Back of the pack
I grabbed my Morning Joe and did the trek over to the registration area.  What a great location, the facilities were fantastic.  My next bit of anxiety was waiting to see how my double-click action had worked registering for the race, then I got my race number, 474.  Crap, all the way in the back, AGAIN.  I am going to have to figure out, for next season, how to get in the front.  Having to work through this many riders is killing me. 

I did my traditional unenthusiastic warm-up and opted not to pre-ride the course.  This had more to do with timing then anything.  So I mounted my pit bike on the trainer and began to warm-up.  Unfortunately, my race was to begin in less then 45 minutes, so warming up, simply meant spinning the legs around a little.  Hmmm... I wonder how this truly affects my race? Possibly a little test?  Get to Rockburn early, pre-ride the course and do a proper warm-up.  I preach this to the racers that I coach, so I should probably practice what I preach.  Next weekend!?!?

I got to the start line on time and found my place four rows from the back.  All of the normal victims and nemeses were there, most of them in the 430s so I knew I had some work ahead of me.  Though for the Masters 45+ 3/4 the overall series is for nothing more then bragging rights and blogging, I still wanted to maintain my 5th overall.  This meant that I had to get in the top five of the 45+.

My next bit of anxiety was the start.  Am I concerned about my ability?  Nope, but the last couple of races, there has been a few pile-ups and this was a fairly long stretch of pavement.  My only desire is that we all make it to the hole shot area.  This start, well at least toward the back, was fast but almost neutral, where you started is where you hit the hole shot.  Good enough for me.

One Giant Leap over the Steeple Chase
captured by
The course was pretty flat and technical.  In the past, the flat part has been positive and the technical, well challenging for me.  But as the season has progressed my skills have as well.  Now the technical areas are ones in which I can gain some ground.  One area in particular was a fairly sizable steeplechase that alot of people were dreading.  But being 6'2" has it advantages, another place to pass the 73 guys in front of me.  I hit this one with about 20 of my closest friends and gained a few spots.  Over the next five minutes we went back and forth through some switch backs and continued to the next set of barricades.  These were your traditional 18 inch high MABRA planks, immediately following a sharp left turn. 
The crowd was gathered around as In the Cross Hairs, Bill, gave the blow by blow.  At this time I figured that I was in the top fifty, still driving as hard as I could, none of my nemeses were in sight, not yet at least. 

The next couple of laps were about the same, catching more than I was being caught.  I did get tied up in the tape during one particularly bad remount after the stairs run up.  I stood there trying to get myself out of the tape and watched four guys go screaming by.  I was able to catch on and finally get by each one.  The cost was high, I really did not have the extra energy to waste on a chase.  I kept thinking about the scene in 9 Ball Diaries when TJ tapped into a little extra adrenaline to chase back on, that I did not have, and that is why I am still a 3.  By then, I had worked myself into the 420s and when I went by the crowd was told I was sitting 30th.  Great!!  Now can I get into the 20s with one lap to go.  I settled in behind one of the Virginia Wheelmen, which I should not have down.  Not that I could have caught the next group in front but I really didn't even try.  Last lap and I slacked off, shame on me. 

Then 501 came flying by, Sam Mercer, I figured he had passed at least 60 so far, so I tried to get the VM guy to hop on, but I think he was like me redlining it and doing everything he can to keep it together.  Sam rode off and passed the two in front of us.  Back to 32nd I figured, then the Potomac Velo rider and another got tied up together and went down, VM passed and I followed, great we are now 29th and 30th.  Once out on the road to the finish, I was able to get a decent sprint on passing VM and gaining on Sam, but he was just too far in front, 26th, 27th and 28th came across just 4 seconds in front of me.  Should've Would've Could've, if I had just hammered a little harder on the last lap, that could have been the sprint.

Overall I was very pleased.  I ended up 29th in the race and 3rd in the 45+.  My overall standings for the series, I moved from 5th to 4th.  I bet my cross results predictor by 30, added another 45 to my kills, and caught my nemeses and Rapha Clash Challenges.   Rockburn looks as if I am suppose to be 61st.  I am hoping for a little better start position, better warm-up and keepin' my eye on the prize.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Race Report - Ed Sander Memorial Cyclocross - Race #5 of the 2011 MABRAcross Super 8 Series

Preparation for the Ed Sander Memorial Cross race began early in the week, though I should say for the 2012 season.  Yes it is November; I am already beginning to look at next season; mainly because of a few goals that I have discussed in previous blogs that would be achieving my optimum race weight for next year.  So over the last seven days, I have logged every morsel of food that I have ingested, used Matt’s Fitzgerald’s formula for my goal weight (or % body fat), and spent a morning in a bod pod to get a good baseline.  Interesting enough, just logging my meals cut a pound or two, I guess it is easy to eat a cheeseburger but hard to write down that you did.

I had initially planned to race at Patapsco on Saturday so I went ahead and made my donation via bikereg around Wednesday.  By Friday night I was pondering my decision and by Saturday morning, determined that I wanted to wait and be fresh for the Lilypons.  I was able to get a few outdoor rides in, nailed the CompuTrainer a couple of times, and like always, checked out my race predictor on crossresults, this week, looking like 61st.

Sunday morning, with an extra hour sleep because of daylight savings, I loaded up and headed to the Lilypon Water Gardens.  I had been sent a preview of the race from my buddy and clash challenger Doug Owens and it sounded as if this year the course was completely different.  The sun had begun to bake off the morning dew and harden up the ground.  I went back and forth on whether or not embrocation was necessary and if I should wear arm-warmers.  I decided this decision could be made closer to race time.  So, I had plenty of time to warm-up and pre-ride a bit of the course, seemed fairly technical, but had some pretty open areas that could be used for passing and gaining ground. 

I ventured over to the registration tent to see how my double-click action had done for start position.  Sh!!!t, once again, at least eight rows back, starting in 76th place.  Well to meet crossresult predictor, I need to make up 15 positions, but this would not help me with the overall series.  I knew to climb that ladder I needed to be close to 30th.  As of Sunday morning, I was sitting 9th overall with Dave Tambeaux only a few points behind.  I looked around for my clash challenges, Adam and Doug.  Both of them had faired fairly well in the double-click race and were around 30th.  Oh, my second goal, catch’em.

Sitting in and following JB
The race started, then the back half of the race started, well that is what happens when starting 76th of 98.  There was no prologue to this race but a fairly long uphill paved road.  It appeared that in this race we all stayed up right on the road, so no carbon clashing.  The first half dozen turns were bottle-necking but I was able to squeeze a few places here and there.  Then there was a long straight stretch that dove down, a drop in to a mud area.  Jason Berry came flying around on the inside and threw his leg over bike and prepared to dismount, this amongst the dozens attempting to ride the drop in.  Great idea JB, I am following. 

There were several guys tied up with each other, an one of my nemeses, Thom Moore, fell victim to a pile up, nothing he could do.  JB took off and I stayed behind him.  Over the next lap, I was doing everything I could to stay with him, in the past he finishes in the top 25.  After exiting the lilypons area and heading to the back half acre there was a small gravel section, I was only 20 feet behind JB when his bike lost traction and he went down, before I was upon him, he was up and gone, so I followed suit and went down too.  Both of us hit the same gravel area.  But I recovered fairly quickly and was back racing.  Over the next forty minutes I continued to chase and catch the riders in front, occasionally giving up a position but passing more than being passed.  By the last lap, I was cooked.  The decision to wear a long sleeve base layer was ill advised, I should had gone with just the jersey.  I even contemplated stopping and removing the base layer, but soldiered on.  At one point I heard someone in the crowd shout that I was in 27th position.  But on the last lap, two more went by.  Here is where situational awareness failed, both were 45+ riders, they were in 3rd and 4th place (for 45+).  I could see a group of five trying to bridge up, so I just turned myself inside out and pushed through the last lap.

By the end I had added another 44 to my kills, I moved from 76th to 32nd which was 5th in the 45+.  Good day.  I gained more points on the series moving from 9th to 5th.  With three races to go I am 23 points out forth, maybe a hard road to climb and I still have Dave Tambeaux breathing down my neck, with 6th to 10th place only 10 points apart, anyone’s game.   Doug once again fell to mechanical issues; somehow he ripped off his rear derailleur.  I didn’t see Thom again, figured the pile up cost him a bunch of time.  Saw Adam on the first lap, he was looking good going through the mud, but with the help of JB, I got far enough away that he didn’t catch up.  So I am up 3-0 on my Rapha Cross Clashes, sitting 5th overall in series, and finishing higher each week.  The only thing that I hated doing for the day was writing down two beers and two waffles at 180 calories each.  Hmmm were those whole wheat or not?  Okay, another 360 calories and that should work, but they were sooo worth it.   On training peaks where it makes you select which meal, I just put 'special'.  If I can continue to drop weight and ride, I am hoping to ride this trend for the rest of the season, that would be the riding not the beer and waffles.