Friday, September 12, 2014

Cross is boss

For now, at least while daylight is available and my back feels good, 'cross is boss. By the end of everything last year my back was killing me. But for right now, we're good.

I've been riding pretty well lately. I feel solid — like that entire road season actually turned into something good. Wednesday night well well at practice. I was able to do OK technically (as in not killing myself or others), and also able to make my bike go fast. That last part was tougher because my back was really sore by the end of it. It's not because my back is in a bad spell, but rather because of the sprinty, power-hungry nature of 'cross. Sometimes your back hurts.

Race-wise, I think it's gonna look like this:

  • Flatwater CX - 9/24
  • Norfolk - 9/27
  • Greenstreet 10/5
  • Omaha - 10/11-12
  • NE CX - 11/22-23
  • Frosty Cross - 11/28-19
There's a big gap in there from mid-October to mid-November. There's a gravel race near here on 10/18. That could be fun. Or maybe I'll just ride lots. Or maybe that's when the good winter beers that I love so much will arrive. 

Anyway, that's the fall. Hopefully it all goes as well as the last few weeks. It's been a ton of fun, and it's reminded me why I like bikes so much. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sh*t Creek

Most mornings, I wake up with a song in my head. That's generally OK, because I don't listen to the radio. I'm now at the age where I just assume everything sent over the airwaves sucks. So if there's a song in my head, it's usually a decent one, because I chose it at some point myself.

When I rolled over to the secret cyclocross course for Wednesday drills, I had an Old Crow Medicine Show song in my head: "Shit Creek." As in, "up a shit creek without a paddle." It has banjos and fiddles and everything else you'd expect from a song with that title from an old-timey-style band.

So that's what was playing over and over as I pushed my bike through the tallish grass up top, and up the steeper climb on the north side, and ... well, pretty much the whole time. With the banjo and fiddle tearing through the song, it kind of felt like "The Dukes of Hazzard" — specifically the parts where they're ripping along through the country roads. "Hooo, boy. Them Dukes sure done it now!"

For the most part, the first bit of cyclocrossing went well. I feel good from a fitness standpoint, though that may be fleeting. The best part might have been the way felt on the bike — like in the curvy, turny parts. And that's a new sensation, because I've been historically horrible at that kind of stuff.

But I'll give credit to the internet, that constant fountain of knowledge, for providing a bit of insight. Specially, I'll give it to Jeremy Powers. His "Behind the Barriers" site has been crushing it for the last year or so, and it opened this season with a five-part skills session: cornering, dismounts, etc.

The cornering feature was easily the most helpful. It's all about putting yourself in the right position on the bike and setting up the corners properly. Dismounts was interesting, too, because that's different than how I've been doing it. It all takes a lot of practice, but it felt much, much better than before — faster, more confident.

Will it help come race time? Yeah, probably. Will it help me avoid shit creek? Probably not. Guys around here are pretty fast, and I think they all have paddles and canoes.

Friday, August 29, 2014

It's time

I got lucky last year. For whatever reason, the traditional late-summer allergies didn't really hit me. No sniffles, no puffy eyes, no waking up wanting only to close my eyes and go back to sleep. It was a nice fall, really.

Things appear to be different this time around, though. Perhaps its the many feet of rain we've had in the last couple of weeks? My lawn looks great, but I bet the wild ambrosia (no, really, that's the scientific name) loves it, too. Ragweed is a jerk.

And apropos of absolutely nothing at all, there's this:
This is Friday randomness at its best. Jack saved his money for a good long while and — thanks to his birthday — ended up with a pile of cash. I can thing of few better things to do with a pile of cash than procure a Lego AT-AT.

Friday, August 22, 2014

It is time for an adventure

I want to go on a bike adventure. I'm not sure if this is a good idea, but it seems like maybe it is.

Gravel Worlds was last weekend, so that adventure is out. Also, that's not really what I was thinking of. Riding and camping would be cool, but I don't want to carry all of that crap with me. And I'm a wussy and my back hurts doing pretty much everything, so just rolling up somewhere and sleeping out the ground would be a bad idea, too.

Really, I think I'd just like to go on a really long ride. Like from here to Algona in one day.

Oh, shit. That's a really long bike ride. Like 200-plus miles. But if a guy left at, say, 4 a.m. and got a good way up the road before the sun came up, then hit the gravel when the pavement got busier ... eh, it could work.

Well, maybe. Or perhaps not at all. Seems like you'd want to make sure you plan a pretty good route, with refreshment (or bailout) options at fairly regular intervals. Probably gonna have to devote a pretty decent amount of space on the bike to carrying supplies like spare tubs and a pump and, I don't know, crackers or something.

But that kind of ride seems like the kind of thing that could keep my attention in the fall. Already, with the school-year schedule in full swing I'm realizing how difficult it will be to have a solid 'cross campaign. I'm still super-psyched on it, but it's just going to require some discipline to make sure keep up with workouts.

This ride though? Just get on the bike and go. That could be fun.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reconciliation

The ice broke about 10 minutes before my race on Saturday night in Papillion. I was going through Turn 4 one last time before lining up for the last crit of the season. We made eye contact, exchanged a quick nod, and that was it.

Until that moment, I hadn't acknowledged Ryan, my former boss, since a snarky email sent in response to a letter penned by his lawyer and delivered certified on a Saturday almost two years ago.

In that time, I've been angry, upset, sad, desperate, jealous and vengeful. I've felt left out, abandoned and exiled. But as I've worked over everything in my head — about a zillion times by now — I've rarely been angry at him. When he told me to go home (and to not come back), it was because I really wasn't very good at my job. I feel like I knew that then but wasn't able to admit it.

In some ways, I was glad I didn't have to be there anymore. It wasn't fun. When you're struggling and doing poor work, simply getting out is a relief. I remember enjoying very much the first Monday I didn't have to drag myself in there. The flip side, obviously, is unemployment. That wasn't exactly a ton of fun.

Every time we passed Turn 4 during the race, I felt like it was my chance to show him that I had everything under control — that I was doing OK, and that everything is back to normal. I'm fairly certain he hasn't been concerned with that in the least, but I wanted to perform well. I wanted to prove that I've moved on.

These are silly thoughts to have during a bike race. One should be focused on positioning, watching for moves and being ready to pounce on an opportunity. I did all of those things, with the only letdown coming on behalf of my legs (or maybe my lungs). Five seconds more of full-gas effort and I would have been able to stay with the leading group of three as they pulled away.

As it was, I was the fourth guy, and I just couldn't get there. Given the talent in the break, I may have ended up fourth regardless. That said, when it was time to make my own luck with the chase group I did what I needed to do. I put myself in position, attacked at the right time and did the best sprint I've managed in a long time. Yeah, I ended up fourth.

Afterward, as I cruised around the course, I stopped at Turn 4. We talked about the race, about bikes, about the kids. When I heard the call to the line for the 1/2 race, I told him I had to get out of the way. We shook hands and I rolled back toward the start/finish line feeling happy and free.

On the last day of an up-and-down season (mostly down), I'd ended the night with $140 and the satisfaction of finally riding a good race. I'm excited for 'cross. I'm excited for 2015.

The biggest joy, though, was coasting down from Turn 4, where demons were forever buried in the front yard of a corner house, in a normally quiet neighborhood in Papillion.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Last hurrah

The road season, such as it is here, ends tomorrow. It seems like it really just started. I don't race much until June, because we have baseball starting in April. The odds of me having a free weekend in May are pretty scarce.

When the season does start, I don't race a ton — there's just not time. So here we are at the end.

I've ridden lots over the summer and raced about the same as last year. Nothing terribly notable, though I've been able to be of some sort of assistance to teammates. But I've been a non-factor just as often. Such is life as a 37-year-old guy who tries not to make his family hate him and his bike.

I think I'll race a decent amount of 'cross this year. This will all depend on how much fitness I can hold. Toward the end of the summer, getting up early and getting out the door was getting tough. I don't expect it will be any easier. Most likely, it will be high-intensity trainer work. Oof.

But I think I can be worth a crap — at least marginally so.

And then after 'cross we'll reset everything and zoom into another year. It happens quickly. Maybe next year is the one where I make the bike move quickly, too.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Ballpark chronicles

I spent a very large portion of the ages 18 to 24 or so at baseball fields. I coached every summer through 2001 from little guys (10-year-olds) to a few years as a varsity coach. And, really, after that I was at the park for another couple of years as a reporter.

It was a lot of hot nights and a lot of cold nights and more than a fair bit of rain. Pretty much every day from mid-May to mid-June, it might rain. I did a lot of raking and tarp pulling and sometimes we even lit the dirt on fire to dry it out. The fire department doesn't like that, by the way.

Since those years now more than a decade ago, my time on baseball fields has been limited. Well, at least until Jack started playing ball last year. Since then, I've been enjoying being back at the park. Last week we spent a nice, if drizzly, night at Werner Park.

Pretty much any time I can go to a baseball game, I will. And I will almost never leave before the game is over. As the drizzle (then rain) fell last week, I wondered if we'd need to pack it up and head out. Chris was ready to jump ship, when it starting coming down harder. Maddy didn't care. Jack, however, refused to leave. So he and I sat under a blanket in the rain and watched the remaining outs tick away.

It was really nice. And, more than anything, I really just wanted to go down on the field and play catch. Nice, long throws. It's been a while since I've done that.

Jack is getting better and better every time we throw in the backyard. Eventually, it'll be less like throw and chase and more like just playing catch.

I'm really looking forward to that, actually. I hope my shoulder can hold up to that.