29 December, 2012

Well Hello Vivian!

Do it with impunity, I dare you!  You digging that paint job?
My Ninja Eric said he was going to mail it out mid-December so when a guy like me who needs discipline for delayed gratification (I often eat my dessert first before the main course if it's available-did someone say "flan"?) hears that, I get anxious awaiting its delivery.  I suppose that was delay enough? 

Happy to say, I received my 17" HobGoblin yesterday as I was doing some reading, cooling down in my living room after riding the rollers for 45 minutes from Santa Clause-Fed Ex dude.  I was shooting for an hour but golly gee y'all, have you ridden an indoor bike for training purposes?  No sane person would choose to ride a trainer.  It's a necessary evil because of the inclimate weather we're currently experiencing here in colorful Colorado.  Supposed to be in the high 30s this afternoon but bag that!  Still too deem cold y'all!  I'd rather have my toenails extracted slowly with rusty needle nose pliers than think about the mental drainage/damage required in sitting/balancing/pedaling on rollers while simultaneously looking at the minute hand for timing intervals. Speaking of rollers, I had a roller/indoor training date with Karen in her living room (because she's cool like dat!).  Me on my rollers; she on her wind trainer.  Hit 51.1 mph max showing off and didn't dump it then!  Cool huh?  Every now and again I just pop in a movie and see how long I can stand it.  I dumped it, sadly a couple of days after my roller date with Karen.  I didn't think my non-drive foot would click in so quickly on my down stroke in my Speedplays and I wasn't expecting the quick weight shift disequilibrium hence I fell onto my cushy-cush living room big-a$$ chair (Thanks Tim!).  That beats falling on the opposing side where my glass plated coffee table was located  (Thanks Shawnee!).  Embarrassing but funny. After the mind numbing workout, I had to delay my gratification upon building my new steed because I wanted to head out to my library before closing time where I eventually scored on some DVDs (for roller purposes-ugh).  The crappy thing about having a public library (I still love them anyhoos!) that services roughly 330,000 people is this:  the good books are lost (I'm assuming the bandits just flat out steal 'em!).  After keyword searching some of my favorite topics, the ones with the synopses I thought would be damned interesting and enlightening were, of course, tagged as lost/billed.  Bastards (the thieves that is)!

With this bike, especially, I wanted to do some endurance (ha!) mountain racing-you know, easier on one's spinal cord/arms/shoulders.  People with hardtails are still winning these events and I still really, really, love my 29er hardtail but it'll be an excuse to compare a 29er dually on these courses on its ability to flow and for recovery.  For the XC short stuff-32 miles or less-I'll fly the Guardian, which is my hardtail affectionately named Penelope.  My cyclocross bike's name is Delilah, and I think I'll name my dual boinger 29er Vivian.  Yes she looks like a Vivian.  She's cobalty, glittery blue with curves, along with white highlights.
Any Schwinn owners getting flashbacks?
The paint job reminds of the old school Schwinn kids bikes, thus evoking childhood memories of when I used to lived in Stockholm-NOT (my childhood was co-spent in Urbana, IL-you have to pronounce the 's' in Illinois and Plano, TX)!.  Hmmm.  Sad thing is, the weather here's still frigidly cold and the white stuff's still on the singletrack so Vivian's sitting in my house impatiently asking  when we're going out (soon baby-cakes, soon...).

A prelude to something purty!  It comes from Ohio relatively easy to assemble.  A chimpanzee might not be able to do it but a wily Rhesus monkey might could.  Not to be confused with a Reece's Pieces that might eventually melt...
I know this before opening up the box:  she's quality spec'd with SRAM X7, Elixir 3s, Monarch RL rear, Reba RL up front (both with lockout), tapered steerer tube (heavy duty!), 10x2, 17" frame, and GEAX 2.2s as her shoes.

Getting there with assembly in my living room...
work stand in the living room playing loud inappropriate music!  Take that HOA bastards!
As I finally build her up, I am noticing the wee attention to detail on how she was assembled.  The welds are crafty and ripple-like, the metallic-blue paint job on the website pictures barely do it justice when one's rods and cones observe it under natural UV radiation.  I present to you...Vivian (sans pedals)!!...
Woa! Finished product complete with ghetto chainstay protector!
Okay, here's my tentative endurance race schedule for the 2013 for racing Vivian (not including XC short track and the occasional crit and road race):
-The Ridgeline Rampage on 20 April
-Battle the Bear on 4 May
-Indian Creek on 18 May
-Gunnison Growler on 26 May (I've prereg'd for this one).
-Firecracker 50 on 4 July
-Steamboat Stinger on 10 Aug?

Time to lay off the residual sweets still hanging around and to ride/run my wintery self into some fitness.  I've worn out my rear tire on my road bike putting in quality roller time.  Time to go to Performance bike and see what's on sale in the rubber department.  Now I get on the rollers and finish Girl With The Dragon Tattoo...

16 December, 2012

Chasing Santa at Colorado's State CX Championships

Thanks Dejan!
 'Twas a dark and not so stormy morning...
When I left Denver it was 34° F 'round 7:00.  As I started rolling through Northglenn the mercury started dropping (actually they don't put mercury in thermometers anymore, just red dye and alcohol nowadays for the sake of uber-interested, orally fixated kids).  That's when I said, "Self?  Why didn't you pack your Corsa weight Natural Grocers jacket?"  I did bring sandwich bags though for me feets and by golly it worked out on the course (homemade, internal booties)!

When I got there, I knew my girlfriend's brother Drew would be out there because his wave went before mine so I was looking out for his yellow X-Terra.  As I got out of my truck to pick up my number he rolled up and asked if he could borrow my helmet because he forgot his.  I've done that.  At the Denver Federal Crit earlier this year, I had to borrow a helmet from a bystander because I forgot mine at home.  The deal breaker's usually the helmet or the shoes.  That's when you say to yourself, "Self, you better put that second helmet in your vehicle just in case."  Of course, my second helmet's over the shelf in my laundry room.

After I get my number pinned on my three layers of kit I get the green flag to preview the course.  One of the referees bust me because I'm flying the colors and riding sans skid lid.  So I tell him, "My teammate (Drew races for another team, truth be told) forgot his helmet and he's currently racing that's why I don't have mine.  May I borrow yours if you brought one?"  He says it's my lucky day because he brought his helmet.  So I put his helmet on, designed for someone who has a severe case of hydroencephalitis apparently (size:  mellon gargantuan), but I was so happy to preview the course and it fit under my kinda slightly bulky head gear and as I rolled on I said, "thanks."   So preview and warmup here I go...

When we get our callups we're eight wide and and I count nine, yes nine, rows.  Yikes!  I get third row and I line up for the holeshot on the inside line (the first turn is a righty-tighty) so if people want to pass me I have the line and they have to ask themselves, "Self?  Do I want to risk crashing because that handsome gentleman flying the Natural Grocers colors with the sandwich bags poking out of his shoes riding the Airborne Delta because he has the the inside line and I know 'cross racers aren't afraid to throw shoulders or elbow check hence running the risk of taking myself-and others possibly-out in a crash at the onset of the race?  I think not."

This week because of my apathy (not only that but I didn't care!) during my last race I learned a lesson.  My lessons to practice was my starts:  clicking my non-drive side shoe onto my pedal and sprinting out of the gate like Satan-not be confused with Santa but that's coming up!  My Shimano mountain bike shoes have very tight, recessed clearances between the cleat and the outsole/tread so it's not as easy as it seems and with the added mental stress of the official counting us down it's sorta difficult.  Another strategy I employed was some advice my Ninja Billy told me the night before.  He told me to channel the Filipino Clint Eastwood-my father for inspiration.  I showed him pictures of my Dad when he was younger and truly my Dad looks alot like the younger Clint Eastwood.  So that's what I did.  My Dad was the stoker and I was the captain.  Beautiful isn't it?  So I did that and it worked out nicely.  We are off and digging in, my behind looking like a swimming alligator's metronomic arse, my hand's rocking the drops and head bobbing like a savante (pedal Dad, pedal Dad we're catching 'em!!  I miss you Dad!).  In slow motion I see the guy directly in front of me front wheel kissing the guy's in front of him rear tire thus ensuring his one-way ticket to the pavement.  Sir, I regret to tell you, you have date with the X axis.  A competitor behind me with his GoPro filmed it.  I'm the guy in the orange pockets, white shouldered jersey with the silver cross bike.  Click on the link.

So he get's bucked off his pedals and he's hanging onto his handlebars-I'm seeing this in slow motion-and I say to myself, "Self?  You sure can pick the winners to line up during callups."  As he's actually sliding off his bike to his right, he finally releases the handlebars and the momentum of his forward force scoots his rig over the gentleman's rear tire in front of him and it catapults his bike at least six feet in the air.  Here I am saying, "Slow motion Self?  The negative coefficient of this current, skinny parabola of the flying bike will make me the first thing that gets hit once his bike conforms to gravitational attraction at the current velocity I'm traveling."  So homeboy is cartwheeling to my left and his bike's trajectory is also to his left i.e. me as its target.  I do a major Atari lane change and some drift braking (thanks disc brakes!) as we're charging out of the gates like Pamplona's Running of the Bulls and I just graze homeboy's shoulder (with my left leg) and the bike lands/bounces millimeters off my left side.  Amazingly he only takes himself out but of course I lose some placings as people get around my unlucky self.

So I'm lined up in the singletrack and getting passed in the frenzy but also fighting for position.  At the super twisty portion I'm at the slowpokes's mercy (some people are actually off their bikes running) but at least I'm somewhere in the middle as opposed to being lanternrouged like last race.  When it filters out I'm in a string of riders where our skills and dieseling ability are close.  Here's the surreal and quasi-embarrasing part:  the guy directly in front of me is dressed up in a Santa suit complete with cheesy white beard!  I say, "Self?  You're NOT going to let Santa put the smackdown on you are you?  Uh, no self, that is not going to be an option today."  After the twisties a super long straightaway's coming up and I say to myself, "Self?  Burn a match, open up the twin turbos and pass Saint Nick!"  Sheeyat.  Saint Nick kicks in his afterburners and actually put's a car length on me as we're both digging in!  I can't get him!  Deem Saint Nick! 

Here's some more surreality:  after the first lap the stitching on his pants is coming undone on his arse side and I don't know whether to laugh (which I did) or get more upset (did that too) because Santa is testing my mettle!  Again, we pour it on on the flats and he ever so slightly gaps me.  Finally he pops before the second round of twisties and bumps come up.  I'm dieseling pretty good and this is my position plus or minus a couple of hominds towards the end.  As I pass Santa I say something encouraging so as to be more nice rather than naughty.

This run-up beats stairs any day.  Still sucked though

Last lap, I'm gassed and I'm leading a pack of 4 four.  You know what that means, if the dude behind me has more juice at the end I'm gonna get passed.  We're flowing, he tries for the pass at the top of the run up, I punch it and I'm leading towards the right hander onto the finish line which is pavement.  Hands on the drops, chain on the biggy-small (as opposed to the rapper Biggy Smalls), we both wind up our sprints, heads hovering above our stems, rocking our steeds digging in.  He's coming for the pass but the finish line is also coming up so I throw my bike to break the plane first but as luck would have it, he finishes before me officially (thought I had him!).  Nice!  Left everything on the course and our Natural Grocers placings are 27th, 30th, and 34th (me) out of 70+ people today.  I'm average.  Oh well.  Had fun as opposed to last race's efforts and mental satisfaction.  I shake the dude's hand who squeaked by me and we do a partial cool down (more like a freeze down) on the course and head back to the staging area.  I see Santa checking the results and I say, "Good Job Santa."  At this point, his pants now look like ass-less chaps adding to my day of fun, satisfaction, and race-induced surrealism.  My teammate from Wyoming says, his next race is an endurance race in Castlerock.  60 miles of easy topographically speaking, mountain bike racing.  Okay,  April 21st I'm going to be looking for fitness and it's a date with racing again.  Stick a fork in me, I'm done for the season y'all.  Now, I'll have to be extra vigilant dietetically and aerobically while doing freezing group rides with my peers, teammates, and competitors in the Colorado off-season.

On the way home, Drew and I eat an amazingly unremarkable breakfast consisting of short stacks o'pancakes at Johnson's Corner outside of Loveland; but, at the very least, I've got a good tale to tell Karen at her Christmas party which was amazingly remarkable

08 December, 2012

Getting there...

Das Pain, not to be confused with Das Boot
End of the week y'all.  Officially we have nine days left of school.  Went by quicker than what I remembered from the previous years.  Half the year nearly completed!  The school year's analagous to a well written novel (minus the mind numbing e-mails and district mandated accountability tests).  There are twists and turns (who's going to pass, who's going to fail, who's going to squeak by?), a convoluted but predictable plot ("Hey kids, contain your excitement but today...PHOTOSYNTHESIS!!" or who wants some VSEPR!  thought so!"), a climactic part (mid terms, finals, stress from grading), and a resolution (break!); then the next chapter begins...
Taking Delilah for a walk in Louisville, CO.  Crash wound under wraps from last week
 From the previous blog entry, my transition into riding the cyclocross bike hasn't gone (crash, crashing, and crashes) as well as I'd like so I've been riding with one of my best buds and new teammate Kevin (aka the "Son" from the Homey Trinity).  He has private, singletrack trails behind his house that are 'cross bike friendly (long patches of babyhead rocks is where I need to float but for now I'm a braking, quasi-hovering pilot barely flowing over that nonsense) and we've gone for a couple of night rides.  Kevin on his 26" Yeti dual boinger and yours truly on an Airborne Delta afffectionately anthropomorphised into a gal named Delilah.

Bandimere, before my crash.
Here's the hierarchy of skills from my humbled and limited point-of-view.  The best way to start off as young urchin/underling/journeyperson is BMX.  Did a little in Texas so I had some skill for the hardtail mountain bike.  Only then young grasshopper when you are proficient on the hardtail can you transcend to the dual boinger.  Some people on the dual boinger do just fine without cutting their teeth on the old school hardtail but you establish the basics more soundly on the hardtail.  Now it seems, I should've done 'cross in my earlier years after the road season ended to establish a more nuanced and surgical turning skill(s).  The fat mountain bike tires are so forgiving and confidence inspiring that I can really point and shoot it over any crud and I'll go there.  Like my Volkl Karmas, they're so fat under the foot and at the waist she just pushes the crud out of the way when I go off piste skiing.  Not so with skinny 700c tires.   Gotta be smoof like water in the lean and body english.  Gotta learn how to enter the turn keeping the speeds high so I don't have to brake.  I'm at that steep learning curve where the cost of failure is crashing (hello knees and hips, does that hurt?  yeah, I thought so.)

Riding with Kevin these last couple of night instilled my confidence again on Delilah.  He'd lead and I'd follow.  It's kind of cool weaving and bobbing in the scrubby areas of his trails where the singletrack topographically undulates while it twists and turns flanked by large flora that at night, limits your vision even more.  All the axes (X, Y, and Z) are coming at you and your brain has to interpret the data, sending feedback to my steering motor neurons (hands are in the drops, not confident enough to ride the hoods yet) and just enough watts to my size 42.5 cms.  Add the cold and it heightens your other senses to keep you aware from crashing.  Sometimes I lose track of my wheels, most of the time we're riding outside of our lights in the twisties but that's what makes it fun and a bit dangerous (re-cycling it back into fun-a perpetual cycle of endorphin/endocannabinoid release-how many times can I say 'cycle'?).

After an hour and half or so of this, even though we're wearing neoprene gloves and booties (I said, "booty"), sadly, our toesies get cold.  Cold enough to call it a deal breaker but all we do are loops and we're really never that far from his house.  It was fun.  Hopefully my skills are improving from chasing him.  I like it when I come up on sandy portions so I have to float at the last minute or the blind downhill corner where the babyheads greet me and where I be gotsta float.  If I do have to do emergency breaking (oxymoronic term) thank goodness for disc brakes.  My confidence'll eventually get here, but for now I'll ride and freeze until the snow arrives, which apparently is, later this afternoon.  I have rollers (but good Lord they ain't even remotely fun!).

State Cyclocross is coming up.  If I have enough gumption (and currency, minus snow) I'm a do it...

These photos are from Dejan Smaic's very cool website http://www.sportifimages.com

02 December, 2012

Great Week, Bad 'Cross Day

So I've recently acquired an Airborne Delta (her name's Delilah) cyclocross bike.  Thought I'd be killing it on the scene, 'cept it's the other way 'round.  I'm getting killed y'all!  Not literally but I thought I could throw a leg over her fast self and transition quickly to riding skinny 700cm tires with no shocks, drop handlebars out here in the ever changing, non-consistent riding surfaces/topography of Front Range 'cross courses.   

Ha!  I am a Cat VI.  My first race ever on Delilah, at Bandimere Speedway-the Quarter Mile Cross-resulted in a 14th place finish and a crash.  The skinny tires are about a beeyatch y'all!  Too many years of late braking, early entry, inside-outside-inside, super hard leaning counter steering ain't what 'cross turning's about.  I don't know which is harder-trying not to brake in loose gravelly, sand, asphalt chunks while negotiating serpentine turns; or, going over wet railroad tracks!  It's not confidence inspiring.

Today I did a race in Louisville and not only did I crash but apathy settled in.  I came from a road background so hitting it like a scalded cat when the firing gun goes off in crits is what I'm used to.  However, today when they counted us down-and I had a nice placing from my callup-I just let the riders pass me as we were gunning it toward the singletrack and that's when my race was over.  I was slotted so far back in the pack I turned into a tourist.  I was at the mercy of the long line of riders' pace in front of me while the lead group extended their lead.  It sucked.  It took the wind out of my sails.  Passing with no shocks in the rough where my confidence is lacking because of not enough hours on Delilah was not an option either.  So I had to suck it up until it single filed into skill level. 

That's when I started picking them off; but I was so far off the back, my picking wouldn't even make it halfway.  That's also when I crashed.  Crashed so hard it knocked my rear wheel out of its dropout.  By the time I put loosened my quick release and centered the axle back in the dropouts at least six perambulating-by-wheels hominids passed me.  It took a while to pass 'em back up but pass 'em I did.  Didn't do me any good.

Bad day.  Lost it mentally.  Crashed like a novice.  Crappy placing so no points for team overall.  I had no focus.  Completely my fault.  'Twas a learning experience.  Wished I had been on Penelope.  Half the courses here favor a 29er anyways; but I'm making the transition to be a 'cross rider.  Need more hours doing race stuff on the skinny tires and practicing my dismount at speed.  I can run and portage with the best of 'em.  I can absolutely bury myself on the flats and put the chain on the large-small and put multiple car lengths on my chasers but when the twisties show-up they've closed the gap.  Need to learn how to flow through that stuff.  Noticed that my hands are on the drops in the twisties.  Don't know if that's a good or a bad thing.   That lighting of novicity ain't gonna strike this kid twice!

Silver linings to save the day?  Chris, the two Neils from Wyoming representing Natural Grocers, Joe, and Rob showed up at the race and afterwards Chris shared his Modus Operandi 12-pack with us in the blistering heat here in Colorado on the first day of December and we laughed; and, I went to dinner with Karen and her brother later that evening-and we laughed there too.  Not too bad overall I suppose...

I'm riding with my friend and new teammate Kevin tomorrow so I'll forget about my Cat VI self temporarily while on my road bike enjoying the Front Range's current heatwave.