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Monday, November 30, 2015

Embrace the Opportunity

Dear Readers,

Last weekend was the MABRA District/Maryland/Delaware Cyclocross State Championships.

Cyclocross State/District Championships are one of the things I love about Cyclocross. The season moves on, series play out, and the entire season comes to a crescendo. In the past, nationals were normally a couple weeks after states, which really tied up the season on a high note. And who am I kidding, coming from a wrestling family, to have states at the end of the season- it  just feels natural.

Coming into the week, I was just getting back on the bike, and I felt good. Actually I felt much better than I expected after 10 days off to get my knee back under control. According to our friends at, I wasn't favored to win the cat 3/4 45+ championship this weekend. Despite this,  I won't lie, I wanted to win a Maryland Cyclocross State Championship.

I'll admit to you dear readers, I got a little stressed out this week. Even as the underdog, I thought I could make this a fight. I started having trouble sleeping getting myself so jacked up for the race.

I had a bad work out. Doubt started to creep in. Fun was going away...

Finally, I kinda realized that I was being silly. While winning a championship would be mean a lot to me, I actually feel pretty blessed to be able to line up for the race at all.  All of a sudden I turned the pressure that I was feeling around to a positive. This was an opportunity. Racing is fun, and I'm lucky to be back at it at all.  I'm playing with house money.  I couldn't walk up stairs two weeks ago, this was a chance to do something great. This an opportunity to do something that I haven't been able to do previously, finally check a Maryland State Championship off my list. And if I failed, at least it was going to be with my best effort.

I sleep like a baby the Friday and Saturday night.

I went into the race relatively calm. Perhaps calmer than normal.

I suffered the entire race, I rode the best I could. I did not win a State Championship. While I'll admit that I am a little disappointed, I also am really proud of my ride. I suffered as well as I have in any race this year.  I'm proud that I picked up a few spots in the final quarter of the final lap. I'm proud of the ugliest sprint finish of my life.

But yeah that state championship still eludes me.

I look forward to future opportunities.

thanks for reading.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Ethan Townsend Experience

Dear Readers,

I started to venture back on the bike this weekend. Easing myself back into riding. Admittedly riding a bit scared, but riding nonetheless. It was fabulous.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of riding with one of my all time favorite training partners, and old friend Ethan. Ethan hasn't been riding or racing as much in recent years, but I was excited to bomb around Lums Pond and show him the cross loop there.

 Ethan drives the bike like he was preparing to race states this weekend. I'll admit I was letting off the gas through a twisty section and he flew by me effortlessly and took good hard aggressive lines. He forced me to step it up to regain the front. We chopped each other in corners just like the old days at cross practice. Up a quick the punchy one, he scampered past me flashing me a smile as he passed. As he sat on my wheel I knew that at times he was suffering a bit, but it didn't keep him from coaching me up, "don't stop pedaling there..." " nice drift through that sandy corner..."

I was good times, just like 2007...

Thanks Ethan. I needed that...


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Testing the ATHL Racing Squad Team Gloves (by castelli)

Dear Readers,

So recently I found myself in the market for some new gloves. The Athletic Racing Squad Gloves caught my eye. I'm a big fan of the Athletic and what Mr. Dunn and crew are doing out in Portland. Many moons ago, Mr. Dunn and I used to have some fun battles back in the Killer B class.  After reaching out to Mr. Dunn regarding sizing, Jeremy asked if I would be willing to be a glove tester of the Athletic's new cross gloves and write a review:

I was very excited for this opportunity and certainly didn't want to let an old friend down. I am very proud to be an Athletic Official Glove Tester. Unfortunately, my knee decided to take a 10 day break. I, however will not be deterred from my assignment!

First, I tested in in the office:

The gloves preformed wonderfully. My mouse control was the best I have ever experienced.

Next, taking the recycle and trash bins out. I hate coming down the driveway, and feeling like the bins are getting away from me. I felt like I did the best recycle bin driving that I have done all year with the Athletic Racing Squad Gloves. I had complete total control of both the trash and recycle bins. This is not something that I can say with confidence from week to week.

The final test was at the local skate-park. Sure I can't pedal, but I can drop in and carve all day long!

I tend to hit the park early, and temps in the Mid Atlantic are feeling very November at this time. The gloves kept my hands warm, and were comfortable enough to not inhibit my carving around the park. The two 10 year old kids that were ripping the park to shreds took notice of my gloves and insisted on giving me a fist bump after watching my lines!  This old guy admiration clearly tied to the gloves.

In short, I'm very excited with the feel and performance of these gloves. I'll guess that the fine folks at The Atheletic appreciate my testing in non-cyclocross settings, but rest assured I do plan further testing of these bad boys in actually cyclocross bike driving very soon...

thanks to Mr. Dunn and the fine folks at the Athletic!

thanks for reading.

(still cuter than James Franco)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Just can't get enough

Dear Readers.

This cross season has been a magical one. Maybe my favorite season  ever. This maybe in part because I wasn't sure it was going to happen. Recovering from tendinitis it was July before I could really start to train again. But I'm proud to say it came together. As Mr. Featherman had said, I felt like I earned my button in the 45+ class, and frankly put up results that I did not expect. I have had great time racing this year.

I have said this here before, and I know this to be true:

I have been fortunate enough to know truly great bike racers. I am not a great racer. I am your team's midpack masters racer.  My friends that are great racers have a burning desire to win. They need to win.  I do not need to win. I need to fight. I need to battle. I need to scrap and claw.  I need to struggle. I want to earn your respect. This year every race has been a battle. Every race a fight. Every race I have suffered, and knew that if I let up, if I screwed up, I'd lose the group, lose who knows 5 spots. It has been fucking marvelous.

While Stevens, Featherblog, Trevor, Meismer, and Bothel are arguably the next group, they remain close enough in my line of vision that I consider them my extended group. I have battled much closer with Johan, D-Lowe, Charles, Dave Grant, Benny (on an abbreviated season), Werner, Thayer, and Lanza this season.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out my teammates that I have been honored to race with. I don't feel as if I have battled with then, because frankly, it has been calming, and fun to race with John and Mr. Joe. On more than one occasion Luxy has told me to be cool, or patient, something that I'm historically not known for...We encourage each other, and all push to get the best out of our team. We help each other in the groups.  Don't ever let anyone tell you there aren't team tactics in cross, and if your teammates don't work with you, well you might be on the wrong team...

but I digress:
I've done 11 races this year....
8 of those races (New England included) my position wasn't settled with half a lap to go
8 of those races I came to the line with more than one member of the group sprinting...

a couple of folks have asked me the difference between 35+ and 45+. I'll say this, I do think the 35+ is faster. The front guys generally cause that race to explode.  That said, 45+ is much deeper, much more tactical, and from my standpoint more fun based on the group riding. Moving up to the 45+ this year has been a tough learning curve, that frankly reminds me of moving up from the killer b's to the 35+...

But I digress again:
It has been amazing, fun, stressful and exciting year... I know every weekend is going to be a battle...

I am a consummate over-trainer. However, I believed coming off injury that I had learned my lesson.  I was very measured. I have been really careful. I tightly monitored my efforts, my riding time, my KJs. I took days off. I iced after every ride. Rice was my mantra (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation)When in doubt, I left it out.

Last Saturday was Fairhill CX. One of my favorite courses- a cross racer's cross race. This year's version was the best yet. I had a disastrous first lap, I pulled into the pit taking a bike from Bob Joos, who encouraged me, "the group is right there, you can get back!" as he set me back on course. I battled back and unbelievably caught up to my normal group with 3 to go.  I have never been known for great come backs, but I made it through and to the front 3 of our pack. As I came to the final corner I was hanging onto DLowe's wheel, I was running on fumes, and knew Werner and Lanza were waiting to pounce. I came around Dave, stood and sprinted for the line, emptying the tank. Unbelievably, I won our four man sprint for the line.  It was in my opinion my best race of the year. I was beyond stoked.

Sunday morning, my knee didn't feel right. I did two laps of the sly fox course, and on the run up, something really didn't feel right. I decided to not race.

Monday I couldn't walk up and down stairs without pain.... I had some swelling, and frankly knew the pain all too well.

Today, while my compatriots are speeding towards Kutztown, I'm sitting here at my kitchen table, having not ridden since Sunday, with ice on my knee, anti-inflammatories in my system, drinking coffee. I'll admit my attitude is not the best, I'll admit I've been eating my feelings a little bit.

Just when I think I have this thing figured out... Just when I think I know how to manage it. It appears that I know nothing.

I'm grateful for the season I have had, but I'm not ready to be done. I refuse to believe that right now. I just can't get enough...

thanks for reading...


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sly Fox Cross

Dear Readers,

I was a tough call for me today, but I chose to be smart and went with "when in doubt leave it out" and didn't race today. I did ride a couple of laps. Really fun course, and I look forward to getting to race next year. I ended up working pit for my teammates and Kelly and cheering for friends/rivals/peers.

When we got home and I checked my phone and I saw these texts:

Okay, that last one maybe a fake. Maybe not.

Monkey had a tough day, but she fought through to the finish...

Monk's words, " I made some early tactical errors that I was unable to recover from..."

Cheers to Matty B, Topher, Nick and the entire Sly Fox Crew. Truly an amazing event and course. Can't wait until next year!

On to next week.

thanks for reading.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Cyclocross Oversoul...

Dear Readers,

Last Saturday, Diane and I raced cross in Windsor, VT. As the day wrapped up and we headed out of the venue, our phones began to vibrate with activity. No fewer than 6 of our friends, racing in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Cincinnati texted/emailed us their results, and race reports from the day.

Diane quickly responded to the texts that she received, offering congratulations and sharing our races. She then proceeded to take excellent dictation as I drove, and she read texts to me, and responded on my behalf. It was fun. We both cherish these exchanges.

This is not an unusual occurrence at the end of a cyclocross race day. It could have been any given weekend. I'm not sure this type of behavior happens in other racing disciplines. It is part of why I love 'cross.

I get that these are bike races. It's about winning, and frankly going as hard as you can, doing your best beating as many people as you can. All of that is wonderful, and believe me I love to compete.

But there is also a Cyclocross/Oversoul/Religion/Community/Cult piece that I understand not everyone gets. For me it's a special part of the game. I believe that regardless of where you end up on the scorer sheets, there's a shared experience of suffering, and battling that bonds us.  I love media Monday stalking the webs for results, cross-results scores, blogs from the weekend and pictures that make us look so-pro. Again, as this 'cross evangelist sees it- all part of the Cyclocross Oversoul. I honestly believe if you are missing out on the Cyclcocross Oversoul part you are missing a big part of the fun....

different strokes for different folks I guess...

Here we go into another weekend of wonderful racing.
Hard to believe but we are getting into the final third of our season.

I'm looking forward to my phone/email blowing up with texts/emails of race reports from the weekend. I look forward to battling with my group and hearing stories of the battles with my rivals/peers in my group. I'm hoping and planning that this is the weekend I find an extra 20-30 seconds that gets me on the heels of the next group.

be brave in your pursuit of the Cyclocross Oversoul...

thanks for reading.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Paradise Cross Frenzy at Harpoon Brewery

Dear Reader,

Diane and I ran up to the Pioneer Valley for some fun riding, racing at the Harpoon Brewery, and of course the amazing Halloween events that go down in Shelburne falls.

The Paradise Cross Frenzy takes place on the grounds of the Harpoon Brewery. It's an amazing venue. The course was super fun, with lots of  good corners, some off camber and a wicked legit run up. It was a super fun course to race on.

Diane and I were watching the 3/4 race, and just chatting about how much we liked the course. When we over heard another couple discussing the course:

"It's a GAWD DAMNED GRASS CRIT, I tell you."

Diane and I just laughed. There's probably a lot I could say about this exchange. Probably a statement about some of the real grass crits we see from time time to time. Probably a statement about why New England consistently produces the best cyclocross racers in our country.

Adding to an amazing event  Chip Baker and the Zanconato Single Speed Trophy Series were kind enough to buy everyone over 21 their first beer after the race. I went with an Oktoberfest in celebration of the final day of Crosstober! Like I said this was truly and amazing and fun event.

Diane got a great start. She also had a mechanical on the first lap that had her in in DFL. She fought back and ended up having another race that she was super happy with...

Beth continued to race very well for someone that doesn't consider herself a racer. Craig and I both had solid rides in the 40+. We would probably both say that while we aren't unhappy with our rides, we're also not 100% satisfied. 364 days until next years hockey tryouts.  Already looking forward to getting back next year!

While this race was not the scale or scope of the UCI races we have done in New England, it was another trip to the mother land, and it certainly didn't disappoint. The flavor/tradition/caliber of riders and courses is New England is just amazing. Yeah, I'm a New England fan boy. I still encourage everyone to get up there to race- never disappoints.

Photo Blog Starts now:

Getting ready to head into town for Halloween- A little ninja and Godzilla!

top of the run up- photo credit Matt Zarotny

Craig got the hole-shot I filed in behind him... photo Credit Matt Zarotny

Got out for a ride on Friday. Pioneer Valley is beautiful...

Godzilla, Monkey and Queen of the Mountain..

"So I hear there are no call ups? Just Scrum... Very good."-
My wife is the greatest scrum artist in the world...

Monkey and Monkey...

Lil' Monkey was a Mime for the Halloween Festivities 

I have many books bound in leather. I am Ron Burgundy...

Queen of the Mountain...

beetleguise..beetleguise...beetleguise- Matt was awesome and kept
kids and adults in laughs...
thanks for reading.