Monday, October 26, 2009

Xterra World Championship - Rocking With The Best

Xterra World Championship – the crowning achievement of my athletic career. It’s been a long hard journey to get here and I loved every moment of it.

Up until race morning I wasn’t nervous about this race. Quite unusual since I usually get sick to my stomach and have a sleepless night at least one day in advance of every race. But once I got in the car it hit me, this is the biggest Xterra event there is and I’ll be going up against 550 of the best Xterra athletes in the WORLD. Talk about pressure.

Ever since I played high school football I would always build up my opponents to mythical proportions in my mind and quite literally be scared, on the verge of hysteria , before every game. They are bigger than me, they are faster than me, and they are going to kick my ass are the kinds of thoughts that would go through my head. I kind of had that feeling again wondering if I am worthy of competing on such a grand stage but then I said to myself, “I bet they are intimidated of me just as much as I am of them.” Once I got to the race I saw Dean and his usual calm, Canadian demeanor helped settle me down and regain focus. I earned my spot to get here, dues have been paid, it’s time to go out and prove I belong.

Prerace Blessing

As they gave the traditional Hawaiian blessing and played the National Anthem, I looked around and saw the skin suits of all the athletes issued by their national federation, Italy, Germany, Czech, Japan, Austria, Brazil, France, Spain, Canada. Wow, I’m now rocking with the best, representing my country. I could feel I was fighting back tears thinking how far I’ve come since my first race over a decade ago and what an honor it is to be here.

Once the race started it felt like everything went in fast forward. I was focused and in the zone just like every other Xterra race I did this year. I found some feet to swim behind and stayed behind them. Swimming in perfectly clear water you could see tropical fish swimming in the reef below. The swim felt great, but it was over before I knew it. Looking at my split I certainly didn’t swim that fast, it was just that the moment was over so quickly.

Then it was on to the bike. I am climbing great and passing an endless train of people on the lower slopes of Haleakala. Hardly anyone passed me on the climbs, but once I got to the descents, caution got the better of me and people were flying past me. The course is almost all Jeep track but with all the lava rock and dust, these are far from easy trails to ride. One mistake or unlucky break and you are crashing on a cruel surface or stopping by the side of the trail to fix a flat tire.

You hear of all the difficult sections of the course in the Xterra videos. Heartbreak Hill, Ned’s Hill, the Plunge, trails of difficulty built up to mythical stature. Each time I got to a point I would ask someone a question like, “was that Heartbreak Hill?”, and if they spoke English they would respond, “no, that was a couple miles ago.” Same thing happened with the Plunge. Each time I was thinking I was so caught up in the moment I completely missed it. Again, for the bike, it was over before I knew it. I was so in the moment, it just passed me by so quickly. I was wishing the course was longer and this moment, this feeling, would last forever.

Onto the run the legs are moving slow. The bike took it’s toll and the hills, sun and heat weren’t helping matters. Everyone around me is moving slowly too. It’s kind of funny because it is like racing in slow motion now. After 4 miles I’m averaging about 8 minute miles then we hit the first beach and the pace gets really slow. The last 3 miles are on sand and on big lava rocks. This section can break your will or your bones. To get my mind off the difficulty of the race I would talk to the other competitors. They would respond at length in Japanesse or German. Somehow I felt like I understood them. Either suffering is universal or the early stages of delirium were starting to set in.

I got to the finish line in about the time I estimated I could get to the finish line if I had a great race. Even though I never did this race before I hit all my target splits based on others I competed against who did this race before me.

People ask me if I won, and when I say no, they look disappointed. I didn’t win or anything, but I proved I belonged with the best athletes in the world. That means something to me. All the tears, sweat, blood, disappointment, money and broken bones it took to get here was worth it.

That's me at 10:10 in the video. :-)

I’ve competed in big races like National Championships before and nothing compares to this race. This race is special and an unforgettable experience. Everything from the difficulty of the course, to the high level of competitors, to the fact that everyone here loves racing Xterra, to the fact that it is located in a tropical paradise makes this race a unique event. I want to convince all my athletic friends to qualify for this race and do it with me next year. That would be so much fun and something to look forward to.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Xterra WC Countdown

It’s intimidating to be in the presence of so many great athletes.
- Kingpin

Two days to go until the big day. 11 years racing Xterra and I’m finally about to reach a lifelong goal. At my first Xterra race in 1999 I was the slowest swimmer and one of the last finishers in the race. Who would have thought I could keep taking it to a higher level and make it to the biggest race in this sport of off road triathlon?

I’m not really nervous about this race like all my other races. I was put in my place at Nationals so I don’t have any aspirations or delusions about placing well at Worlds. My goal is just to take it all in and enjoy the experience. It is so cool to see all these athletes from around the world here for this race. These are the best athletes from each country and I finally proved that I am worthy of being here and competing with them. I wish the race was tomorrow. I can’t wait.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trail Review – Poli Poli Springs State Park, HI

I rode this trail when I visited Maui back in 2000. I rented a specialized Stumpjumper with flat pedals, had my parents drop me off at the start point and told them to pick me up in a couple hours. When I was finished riding, I remember thinking this was the steepest, hardest trail I had ever ridden. In hindsight I figured I was kind of heavy and out of shape back then so my memories of how hard it was were skewed toward the fact that I actually sucked at bike riding then.

Back in Maui in 2009 and like a dog that can always find his way home, I quickly find this trail and ride it again. I must admit my initial impressions from 2000 were dead on. This is no joke, it’s one of the steepest roads I’ve ever ridden. I think Greg LeMond said, “it doesn’t get easier, you just get faster.” Right on brother.

Waipoli road is the road you take to get to the trail and if you can’t wait to get to the dirt road, park your car on the side of the road and start riding. That’s what I did. Waipoli road is paved for 5.8 miles and ascends about 3500 feet. If you do the math, that is steep. Think switchback after switchback seeming to never end.

Eventually it does end and the paved road turns to a fire road. Here it levels off for several miles and you can shift it to the big ring, get your climbing muscles some recovery and cruise for 5 or 6 miles. Beautiful views of the ocean and the island are below as you ride along. This part of the ride is similar to the flume trail in Tahoe, but not quite as harrowing. At the end of this section you can choose to go right and descend a mile to the Poli Poli camp ground or you can go left and keep climbing.

If you go left you made the right choice. You are in for more epic climbing, the only difference is you are now doing it off road on loose gravel. After a couple miles you choose to go left or right. Right will take you to on Kahua road and you will top out at 7,126 feet. Go left and you will take the skyline trail to the peak of Haleakala. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only way to go.

I don’t know if it is cumulative fatigue that starts to set in, or if you start to feel the effect of elevation, but from here on out you are in your smallest chainring and largest cog. As you climb the terrain changes from forested area to barren, lava rock filled desert. You have clear sightlines when you look up and you keep thinking you’ve just about reached the top until you get to the top of that ridge and see you still have more work to do. You’ll keep getting tricked like this and now you will have to battle fierce winds in addition to the loose terrain, steep grades and elevation. You will hit some unridable switchbacks uphill that you will have to walk and the only thing that allows you to keep going is the determination to conquer the mountain.

Eventually you’ll come around a ridge and see a shiny silver dome at the peak of the mountain. This is the space station atop the peak of Haleakala, elevation 10,023 feet. Congratulations you made it. Now get ready for a white knuckle decent back to your car. No pedaling required.
I’ve never been to France but I think this is the mountain bikers version of Ventoux, a barren moonlike landscape with ridiculous elevation gains. Nothing scenic or remarkable about the trail, just a test of your will to keep going, God’s gift to the self loathing.

There are single track trails around these dirt roads, but not what I was looking for at this point in time. I rode the Waiakoa loop trail and it was pretty decent. Very technical - Steep switchbacks, loose dirt, off camber riding, lava rock. I would rate this more of an all mountain trail rather than a cross country trail. Very slow riding whether you are going up or down.
I also hiked the boundary trail. Even though the sign says mountain bikes are allowed on this trail I am glad I hiked it instead of riding it. Very steep, bumpy and doesn’t have much flow. If you try to ride this you will be pushing your bike a lot.

I recommend you stick to the jeep roads and work on your climbing.

There is no preriding the Xterra World Championship mountain bike course, and I never did it before, but I think this trail will prepare me both mentally and physically for the demands of the course.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Xterra National Championship

I've been traveling to races at altitude for years. My first race was Xterra Keystone back in 2000. Each time I race I come back home with my ass kicked not just by my fellow competitors, but also by the relentless climbing and the lack of oxygen at altitude.

Each time I race, I learn a little bit more about planning, preparation and pacing at altitude. Nevertheless, I always get my ass kicked and feel I could have done better.

This year, like every year, I figured it would be different. I'm in the best shape of my life. I finally qualified for the World Championship, I won a few races, and I was undefeated in my age group this year. I lost a solid 10 pounds yet my power is at all time highs.

I had dreams that it is possible to get on the podium in my age group, so despite my history of racing at altitude, still I must travel out to Ogden UT and give it a shot.

Looking at the start list I knew that was a tall order because nearly everyone on that start list has beaten me at some point in my Xterra career. Still, on any given day you never know who will have a good day and who will have a bad day.

Xterra Ogden is a unique course because it has 2 transition areas spaced far apart. T1 is near Pineview reservoir at 4000-4500 feet. From there you climb up to Snow Basin ski resort where the course tops out at about 7500 feet before descending back to the resort and T2. This gives you a course that has disproportionally more climbing than descending. The course is fun, but it is not supertechnical, so power to weight ratio will be the key factor to determine who will shred the bike course.

Once you come out of T2 you run up some steep inclines, then it levels out a little before you do some more climbing. Then after that you do a little more climbing before you basically run straight down the mountain back to the finish line. I bet most people do about a 5 minute mile for the last mile of this race which will take in total about 3 hours. That's how steep it is.

Prerace, I notice the water is cold, but not numbingly cold like at Lake Tahoe. Once the gun goes off I try to find some feet but I am constantly getting dunked, punched and kicked. This was one of the toughest starts I have ever done, and that is completely understandable. This is the National Championship, no one is messing around.

Still getting pummeled, I get to the first buoy and I notice a decent number of pro caps around me. This is bad because that means I started way too hard. About 50 meters later people are still swimming on top of me and it hits me and I think, uh oh, I just bonked 4 minutes into a 3 hour race. In my past experience I found that when I go over my limit at altitude I don't recover and a bad day is in store. I tried not to panic and moved out of the aggressive pack. After a few easy strokes I recovered and felt fine. I didn't have any feet to follow, but I felt much more comfortable.

Onto the bike I felt great. I followed my strategy and only 2 people passed me on the bike, and that was because I got off and pushed my bike on the steepest climbs at Snow Basin while they rode. Lesson learned, when riding a single chain ring, you need a ring small enough to allow you to climb the steeps.

Most years I'm the one getting passed when the trail turns upwards. In hindsight, I realized no one passed me on the bike because all the good mountain bikers learned to swim this year and they were way ahead of me. Another lesson learned, Xterra athletes are becoming more well rounded athletes. Nevertheless, it was still a pretty good bike, and if I had swam a little faster I could have easily taken two minutes off my split without much effort by not getting stuck behind riders who were the world's slowest descenders.

Onto the run and I head straight up the ski hill. I felt alright but not great so I started at a very conservative pace. A guy in my age group and 2 pro women pass me in the first half mile. After that I started feeling better and I don't think anybody passed me for the rest of the race. I just focused on a good cadence and reeling in people ahead of me.

When it was all said and done, I had a great race. I beat my time on this course last year, and this years course was 1/2 mile longer on the bike and 1 mile longer on the run. In total I would say I am faster by about 10 minutes. I finished 56th overall, 32nd amateur, 11th in my age group. I think my swim split was ranked 102th, Bike 54th, and run 52nd. Not too bad, now I see what I have to work on in the off season.

I got my ass kicked in my age group, but it was super competitive. The guy who won my age group also won the amateur overall and he beat the reigning AG National champion by 10 minutes. Last years national champ beat this dude by over 15 minutes at last years national championship. Now that is stepping up your game. That is crazy improvement.

So that's it for me. Now I'm excited to compete in Hawaii for the World Championships, but I also have to find the motivation to keep on training. It has been such a long season. I must keep on training, it's what I do.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A new season

The season kicked off a couple weeks ago with back to back 60+ mile epic rides on CX bikes with Tim, Derrick, Ryan Gingerich and Ryan Cooper. Since then I've been practicing every week twice a week with the Burnham guys. The practices get pretty competitive sometimes and a lot of people are starting to show up. That makes it a lot of fun and keeps you motivated for every interval.

Yesterday I rode with the XXX guys and got a chance to preview the Jackson Park course. It is similar but distictly different from the previous years and it will be a very challenging and fun course.

I can't wait to get the season started.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Xterra Blackhawk

Xterra Blackhawk is the last Xterra race of the year in the region. That means all the point series races that are close will be more or less decided by this race. Derrick is in a close race in his age group and he'll need all the points he can get to beat Dean, Brian Parker and Peter Hanson for the 40-44 age group title.

I already locked up the 30-34 Midwest title so this race will be a warm up for the Xterra USA championship. The long-ish bike course and the long run will provide a good workout and the trails are fun.

Tim has been talking a lot lately of running a single chain ring up front for simplicity and decreassed weight. So I figured I'd modify an old XTR crank, take off my front shifter and derailleur and see how it works out in a race.
Here's how it looks:

The race went fairly well. I only swam twice in the last 2 months due to a shoulder injury, and it showed. I was about 3 minutes down on the leaders

I maintained my composure and came out hard on the bike. I didn't even miss my big ring or my granny ring and ended up with the top T1 and Bike split on the day. That includes taking 2 wrong turns on the bike course, so I guess that goes to show this single chainring set up just might work for racing.

I felt better on runs before, but this was a fairly decent effort. I ended up 3rd overall on the day.

Derrick had a pretty good race too. He nearly caught Eric Fernando on the bike but on the entire run he couldn't close the 20 second gap on him. Derrick ended up 2nd in his age group and capped a breakthrough Xterra season.

Comparing my race to the race I did here two years ago, I improved my bike time by about 6 minutes and my run by about 8 minutes. I feel pretty confident I'll do well going into the National Championship.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

South Shore Kids Tri

This past weekend I was lucky enough to see the future of the sport. I went to the 63rd street beach to watch the South Shore Kids Tri / Sprint Tri. I've been getting my cousin's Mike (13) and Jon (11) ready for this race all summer. They never did a triathlon before but they are naturals for this sport because they are great swimmers and overall really good athletes. My Aunt was like, I just hope they finish, and I was like, Oh no, I think they can win this.

Thanks to Ken Dorado and his Brother Aric I had a couple really sweet bikes for Mike and Jon to ride in the race. Mike was on a Cannondale Get a Grip team frame and Jon was on a Schwinn Fastback with some 60 mm carbon tubulars that I threw on to make it a little faster.

Thanks to Derrick I have a bunch of pictures.

Setting up transition

race start
After Mike came out of the water in first place, Jon passes Mike on the bike.

Mike passes Jon and runs in for a 3rd place finish.

Jon finishes right behind his brother in 4th. Mike on the podium

Post race they said they had a lot of fun and would like to do this again. I'm really proud of them and look forward to when we are competing together head to head. :-)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Swim, Bike, Run... Skate?

I showed up at the expo for the Alexian Brothers Fitness for America Sports Festival on Friday with a 1 year-old, a 2 year-old, a 5 year-old… and 8 year-old “fitness” skates, all of which elicited smiles from the vendors. “Can I race with these things?” I asked, trying to figure out why a few of the wheels wouldn’t spin too well. Thirty-five dollars later, I had new bearings in my beat-up blades, and I was off-to-the-races, so to speak.

I felt like a guy who brings his mountain bike to a triathlon, but takes the basket and bike-rack off the back for speed! I've never done anything like this before.

Saturday was the bike time-trial, which was a disaster as my training partner, Jerome, was misdirected and never did find the finish line. And I ended up riding one out-and-back section twice. Oh well. The guys from Floyd Landis’ “Team OUCH” would have to wait until next year for their schooling. (grin) I still ended up 6th.

So now it’s Sunday, the inline half-marathon. And I’m nervous. The pro skaters at Friday’s expo sprint race were skating on the flats at over 35 mph! What have I gotten myself into? The gun goes off, and as expected, my tiny-wheeled fitness skates and I are quickly dropped. I’ll just skate at my own pace and see how things play out.

Then I feel something touch my butt. I quickly grab it, thinking my water flask is falling out… and I grab a woman’s hand. “Ahh! How’d that get there? Paula, I swear, I never even kissed her!”

“Sorry,” she says.

“No, I’m sorry.” I say, as I realize that’s what skaters, do. They’re always touching each other as they try to keep their distance in a pace line. I didn’t even realize I was leading a pace line. And I’m thinking I’ve really got to learn to skate backwards. (grin)

After a few minutes, someone in my pack decides to try to bridge up to the front group. I jump on and we leave most of pack 2 behind.

Drafting in pack 1 was like an Ironman start. Getting dragged along by the draft, I hardly had to skate. So I decide to take a turn at the front. Problem is, I don’t know how to end that turn. I ease up, thinking someone will come around me, but no one does. I move to the side. Everyone moves with me. “Go ahead,” I say. And I’m relegated to the back of this 9-person group.

I do most of the pulling for the first loop, so I’m starting to get the feeling like I’m either the strongest one here or the dumbest. And since I have no idea what I’m doing, I figure it’s the latter.

About 8-10 miles into it, I punch it up a hill, and get a 20 meter gap. Soon the group catches me again, but no one comes around. So I push it up the next hill, which dislodges a skater or two. I may be the dumbest, but I’m going to have some fun with this! I wait for one of the stronger guys to take a pull. Then I hammer up the next hill, and I’m gone. I find myself in a headwind on the long gradual hill. Over my shoulder, I can see the pack is splintering and chasing hard. This is so much fun! I feel like a break-away rider in the tour… waiting to see if Mark Cavendish is here to wind up his sprint.

My back is about to give out, and my quads are full of lactate, but I suck it up. Yes! I’m going to win this thing!

Then I make a wrong turn.

Of course I do. Second time in two days! It’s a good thing I’ve got a helmet on, or I’d bash myself in the head! Why have I been cursed with this pathetic sense of direction? And why don’t they have someone directing us at this intersection?

By the time I get back on the course, I don’t know where the group is. Skaters from three races are all mixed together. So I keep skating hard and have to wait until the awards ceremony to find out that triathlon, coupled with a decade of youth hockey, is a recipe for winning this kind of thing. Looks like this offseason, I’m going to have to get some racing skates.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Racing again

It seems like I just unpacked from the OH trip and here I am heading off to another race this Saturday.

I have been looking forward to this race for a couple months now because I heard the course is fantastic and I think the competition at this race will be really good. It just might be tougher than the Xterra Midwest Cup.

On the start list I see Midwest Cup amateur champ Blake Vogues, Torn Shirt champion Kaleb VanOrt, and 35-39 midwest series champ Chris Scott will be there. I also have a feeling 35-39 national champ Tim Menoher will be there too. Who knows, if Jim James and Peter Hanson show up, it will no doubt be the race of the year in this region.

I almost conviced my teammates, elite triathletes Dean, Russ, and Matt Thibodeau to do this race. Too bad they couldn't make it, they are missing out.

Now that I clinched the point series title, this race will just be for fun. That and I will get an indication of what I need to improve before Xterra Nationals.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Xterra O.N.E.

This past weekend, I returned to Ravenna OH for the Xterra O.N.E. With the race director giving me the #1 bib as returning champ from last year, the pressure was on for me to repeat.

The mountain bike course here is the highlight of the event. With narrow, rooty and rocky singletrack for 90% of the course, it rewards mountain bike skills over sheer cycling fitness. This is a tough course. I crashed on the preride the day before the race in a rock garden and landed on my road rash from 2 weeks ago. Then the morning of the race while I am warming up 30 minutes before the race, I flat when I hit a rock at a weird angle, lose control and crash into a tree shoulder first.

It seems I'm not the only one who has been having bad luck crashing lately. It seems like everyone has been crashing lately as if it is the new cool thing to do. Kind of strange.

Before the race I see Bruce Pisarek floating in the water and he announces I am the returning champ. I think that drew the attention of the swimmers to me like sharks and they marked me for the swim. That was good because my shoulder is still sore and I haven't swam in weeks so that probably just slowed them down as they stayed with me. Anyhow I come out of the water at the front of the pack with about 7 others within 8 seconds of me. It is very rare where I come so close to the #1 swim split.

I get to the singletrack in first place and notice the air in my tires is low. While it may have been a good pressure for riding around in the hotel parking lot, it is not a good pressure to ride at high speeds over roots and rocks. I can feel my back tire bottoming out on the rim and rolling over under hard cornering pressure. I decide I will not stop and refill with a CO2 and instead resign myself to riding more conservatively in the technical sections and riding hard on the hills and open sections.

I let Bruce, mountain bike extraordinaire, pass me and I try to keep him in sight so I can have a chance at reeling him in on the run. I get through the bike both crash free and flat free and feel warmed up and ready to run.

I felt great and caught Bruce about half way through the run. The run felt effortless and I am sure I could have gone much faster if I wanted. I guess toning down my effort on the bike translated into more energy available for the run.

I came across the line about 3 minutes faster than last year and repeat champ of the Xterra O.N.E. This victory was significant to me for many reasons. First, this locks up the Xterra point series for me so I am the Midwest champ for the sixth year in a row. Second, this is the first time I ever had a perfect score in the point series and as a result I am tied for first in the National ranking among my age group peers. That's quite an honor because there are a whole lot of superstars on that list. Third, this guarantees an invitation to the Xterra USA Championship, which I look forward to competing at in 2 months. Fourth, all my goals for the season have been met and it is only July. Now I need to formulate new ambitions for the USA and World Championships and see what I'm made of.

I'd like to offer congratulations to Derrick who had a breakthrough race today. He came in midpack on the swim and then proceeded to move up through the field with the 6th best bike split on the day and the 2nd best run. He finished right behind me in fourth place, his best Xterra finish ever.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Close Call

I took the one (sidewalk) less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
--Robert Frost

Yesterday, I left work early to ride my bike to the dentist in Arlington Heights. I stopped at a lamppost to pick up the bike lock that I left there in the morning, so I didn’t have to carry it downtown and back, and decided, since I was now on the sidewalk, I’d continue around the corner to the dentist.

A few pedal strokes on the sidewalk and I hear a screech of car tires from right behind me.
“Why do you always end up down at Nick’s CafĂ©?”
“I said, ‘I don’t know, the wind just kind of pushed me this way.’
She said, ‘Hang the rich.’” (--Robbie Robertson. I couldn’t resist another Candian quote.)

I turn to watch a big ol’ Oldsmobile veer left, across oncomming traffic, over the curb of the frontage road, and smack into a wide tree. CRASH! The sound was almost fake. Violent, horrible sound …like your wife telling you she’s pregnant with number four. (Paula, if you read this, I'm just joking!)

I call 911 as I approached the vehicle, its wheels still spinning at 40 mph. I’m thinking, “There’s no way I’m going to be able to get this woman out of the car. And what if it blows?” I know, too much TV. Then I turned into a green steroid user and, in a rage, lifted… No. Can you tell this experienced kinda messed with my head?

The tree is practically in her lap. Air bags, flying grass and dirt, smoke. And the 70-80 year-old woman conscious and looking at me in disbelief, as if to say, “I didn’t do anything. Get me out of here!”

Before I could even try the door handle, two fire fighters come running out of the building where I dropped my bike. “We got it.” Seems the fire department is directly across the street.

I tell the 911 dispatcher that the fire department is here and the ambulance arrives in less than 30 seconds. I hung out for a bit until it was clear that no one wanted me as an eye-witness, and sat in a dentist chair hoping the woman will be OK, wondering why they insist on “soft” toothbrush bristles but it’s OK to scrape at your enamel with a metal prong, and very thankful that, for whatever reason, the Oldsmobiel was more inclined to go left… instead of right.

Ride safely.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Whitewater Road Race

Russ convinced me to do a bike race with him up in Whitewater. Generally I don't like to do bike races in the middle of tri season because i learned from experience that one crash can ruin a whole season. Since I did this race last year, I knew there were very few difficult turns and the course seemed reltively safe. This is Russ's first race so I figured I'd race with him and see what he got.

Russ, Derrick and I take the start and we manage to stay near the front and stay out of trouble for most of the race. I felt really good throughout the race working hard but never stuggling. Russ was awesome in his first race, he would often take pulls at the front pushing the pace, and on the climb, even when he got dropped he would catch back up to the pack without a problem.

Last lap, after the last climb I size up the field and there are only about 15 - 20 riders left in the field and Russ and I are well positioned in the front of the pack. I'm confident I can win, I haven't wasted a lot of energy and I still have one strong jump left in me. The long descent launches us toward the finish line at insane speeds. I spin out my gear and try to shift to a harder gear only to discover i'm already in the 53-12. 500 meters to go and people are starting to jump. It's too far for me to take a flyer. I have to decide, go on Russ's wheel on the right side or move to the middle for a better draft. I think Russ went to early and will soon blow so I move to the middle so I can go at 200.

We're riding over 35 mph and get to about 200 when everything falls apart horribly. The 2 guys right in front of me touch wheels and both go down. I have nowhere to go but to follow them, bouncing off the ground. For several minutes I'm laying on my back staring at the sky, nauscious and confused. Eventually the ref car drives up to me and tells me I have to get off the road before the next pack comes through. I get helped up and don't think anything is broken. The guy from Whitewater looks like he is in bad shape. I hope he's OK.

Derrick helps me back to the registration area and he and Russ help clean me up my wounds. You guys are awesome.

The guy who won the race came up to us and gave me and Russ props for pushing the pace and riding hard throughout the race. I guess if I got some props it's all worth it. Respect of my peers, that's what I race for.

I was watching the tour later in the day and thinking those guys have crashes and they have to get up and chase back on after a crash, then they have to ride the next day on a stage that is 3 times longer and the pace is much faster. Then they keep doing it day after day.
You gotta be tough and a little crazy to do this sport.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Xterra Torn Shirt

Since Dean is too shy to do a write up on this race I'll do a write up for him.

Dean Hewson kicked some major ass at the Xterra Torn Shirt Triathlon last week. He came out of the swim in the front of the pack With Eric Fernando and Jeremy Hansen. Since neither of them finished the race Dean wins the award for best swim of the day.

With Dean in first place on the single track he did his best to hold off the fast riding Jim James, who had a killer bike split on his home town course, for as long as possible. Unfortunately, this wasn't very long.

On the run Dean was in second place battling the pain of a bruised toe from an earlier bike crash, trying to pull back Jim James until Kaleb "the galloping gazelle" Van Ort flew past him on his way to an eventual first place finish. Dean held off all other contenders to finish 3rd on the day and get a best in class age group award as well.

Although Dean probably doesn't remember, I remember meeting Dean at this Torn Shirt race many years ago. He had just destroyed 98% of the field, and most impressively, he did it on a cyclocross bike.

When they announced the awards I found out he was in the 35 - 39 age group and I was thinking, "there is no way that guy with the white santa claus beard is 35 years old." But I couldn't figure out the logic in why an old man would want to sand bag in the hardest age group.

Soon afterward the rule making curmudgeons at Xterra outlawed cyclocross bikes for Xterra competition. The no cyclocross bike rule is now known to some as "the Dean Hewson Rule."

Now Dean rides a mountain bike, but to this day he still can't be stopped, with podium places at nearly every event he enters.

The legend of Dean lives on.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Team Get a Grip - The Champs

This year Xterra decided to incorporate a team challenge into their Xterra Cup events. Simply put, this makes a team competition within an individual sport where the top 4 finishers score points for the team.

Below is the message from the Kahuna Dave Nichols letting us know we won. We beat Melanie McQuaid's team, team Mel Rad.


You guys won. You figured your teams results correctly at 405. MelRad had 300something

100 + 16 = 116 for Dean Hewson
100 + 12 = 112 for Teodoro Ramos
100 + 2 = 102 for Cheryl Stine
63 + 12 = 75 for Bill Driegert
TOTAL = 405
Not used
41 + 16 = 57 for Derrick Fluegge
41 + 12 = 53 for Ken Dorado



In addition to the team title Dean, Cheryl and Ted were crowned Xterra Midwest Cup Champions in their respective age groups.

Nice job team.

In other news, this weekend I'm going to Des Moines for the Hy Vee Olympic distance triathlon. I will be racing in the Elite division with a lot of other athletes from the Well Fit Elite team. I'm really excited and think this will be fun. But then again, I'm the type of person who thinks getting his ass kicked is fun. After beating each other up in practice every week since January, we finally get to see how we stack up against each other in a head to head match up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


This weekend was the Well Fit Steelhead 70.3 training weekend presented by Get a Grip. Since I coach the Well Fit Steelhead training group and am on the Well Fit Elite Triathlon team and the Get a Grip Cycling team I figured I better represent. Overall it was a pretty good weekend hanging out with everybody, teaching them triathlon stuff and getting to know them better. I also have a better understanding of the challenges my athletes will face on August 1st when many of them will be doing what will be for most of them their first 1/2 IM.

After a BBQ at the house we rented the drinking games began. I learned that to be on the Elite team you have to be a really good drinker. Long story short, at the prodding of elite teamers Kristen Wrede and Marc Robertson I drank more than I have in a long time, but I also discovered I am pretty good at drinking games.

The next morning the training group went out for their ride on schedule. At the time everyone else was leaving, I couldn't get my fellow elite teamers out of bed. We show up to the staging area long after everyone else was gone. The elite members (Marc, Kristen and me) set out on the ride finally and it seemed like they were hell bent on reeling everyone in.

The initial pace was aggresive and I'm thinking everyone is hung over and is just working out the cob webs. Marc qualified for the 70.3 Championship last weekend and Kristen says she has a stress fracture. They'll probably slow down once cumulative fatige catched up with them.

On we ride forward hammering away. OK, this pace can't be sustained for this long I think to myself after we make the first turn at mile 12. At mile 20 I think, alright, I'm taking soft pulls at the front and sitting on their wheels the rest of the time. At mile 21 I'm feeling ashamed of myself for drafting off a girl. At mile 22 I get over it and draft more. At mile 25 they drop me on a downhill and in retailiation I attack on the next hill and get a pretty good gap. I keep riding a solid tempo at 300 watts and before I know it Kristen has bridged back up to me and she doesn't even look tired. I can't believe it.

Mile 30 I'm feeling pretty gassed and notice my heart rate has been at about 90% of max for a while. So far we are averaging 23.6 mph and most of that was into a soft headwind. The only recovery I get is when we slow down for stop signs, but then we accelerate up to speed as fast as possible.

Kristen is taking the majority of the pulls but when Marc recovers he charges to the front and makes us chase him. At mile 40 I blow and let them pedal away. I soft pedal home battling cramps in my hams and take a short cut back to the cottage.

Postrace, they said they did the ride in 2:16 averaging 23.6 for the whole ride. They reeled in everyone who left a good 1/2 hour before us. I don't know much about IM bike splits but I just read that the winner of the Rockman did his ride in 2:10 and he set a course record. I would guess the profile of that course to be similar.

I have my excuses, but I could say that today without a doubt I got chicked. Kristen is a damn good rider and she needs to invest in a road bike. She could go far in this sport. Marc is pretty good rider too, and I will have to ride with these guys some more as I prepare for Nationals and Worlds.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Podium Girls

Yesterday I was riding along the lakefront riding tempo on the TT bike and catching and dropping people left and right. I catch one guy in a white assos jersey who looks like he is waiting for me. I put in a dig and turn around and he is still there. He looks like a pretty good athlete, I'll see long he can last. After that I put in a power move to drop him, he moves around me and takes a pull. WTF??? this never happens on the lakefront. This guy must have raced before. We keep testing each other out without exchanging words. I hit a bump and drop my water bottle. He waits ahead and we keep up the two man TT to the end of the path.

At the end of the path we ride easy before turning around. Finally we speak. I ask who he races for and he points at my jersey and says "your team."

No shit. I never knew. Nice to meet you David. Glad you're on our side.

We cruise north at a pace not as fast as the way south, but still pretty fast and stop at the Soldier Field Crit.

These are only training crits from what I understand, but the set up is really nice. There is a race announcer and they make a big deal out of the awards. There are even podium girls at this race that take a picture with all the top finishers.

Now that's what I'm talking about. More races should make a bigger deal out of the awards presentation. I mean, sure, our accomplishment of winning the local weekly crit is pretty small in the grand scheme of things but still we worked our ass off for that little piece of glory. The least a promoter can do is recognize that acheivement and have some podium girls to congratulate us and have the crowd cheer for us.

It's a lot better than annonomously picking up an envelope of cash that is basically a refund of your entry fee (if that) at the end of a race.

After that I finish up my ride and go for a run.

Oh yeah, last but not least, I would like to welcome the newest member of the team, Russ Kuryk, to the Get a Grip fraternity. He is new to bike racing but he is also a member of the Well Fit Elite team. He is a strong cyclist and he should move up through the ranks quickly. He plans to make his debut at the Fox River Grove Cycling Challenge this weekend.

David, Russ, I look forward to racing with you guys this year.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Greg Lemond

The press portrays Greg Lemond as a bitter, incoherent rabble rouser. I disagree and find him to be someone who cares about the riders, a fair competitive landscape and the future of the sport of cycling.

I was alerted to this video via bikesnob NYC, where he ripped Lemond to shreds. After seeking out the video on youtube I would have to disagree with snobbie on this one.

See for yourself. I was only the 120th viewer of this video.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sincere Product Review - El Duke

In order to support my bike buying habit and have the ability to afford some new cross bikes for the fall I need to part with some bikes from my stable. One of these bikes on the sales block has tar all over the frame from when I rode over a street that was being repaved. In order to make this bike look nice again I needed a product that will remove the gunk yet not ruin the paint job on the bike.

I found out about El Duke when I saw it on the jerseys of team Half Acre. Curious about what it was, I looked it up online. I found out it was an environmentally friendly non toxic degreaser.

Since I am always cleaning my bikes and testing out different degreasing products I stored this away in my mind so I would remember to buy some for my next big cleaning project.

I couldn't get the tar off the above mentioned bike with any other product so I went to Rapid Transit and picked up a bottle of El Duke. It's a good sign when the guy at the store who sold it to me seemed really enthusiastic about this product.

Well to cut to the chase, this stuff is great at getting off tar and it seems really good at degreasing too. It moved quickly to the front as my favorite bike cleaning product. It removes gooey substances better than goo gone, it doesn't have a noxious odor like simple green, it doesn't burn my hands or ruin metal finishes like some high power auto degreasers I use.

El Duke is all pros and no cons. Go out and buy this product.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rainy Dayz

Another day, another rain storm. Chicago is the new Seattle. People from Seattle actually tell me it is raining less there. The one good thing about living in Chicago is that you can complain about the weather year round.

I'm getting kind of tired about reading about biking. After years of reading these magazines the how to articles get so repetitive. It seems like I've already read every coaches theory on training while trying to sell his program, and every product review funded by advertising dollars. I want to read some innovative thinking in relation to bikes if there is such a thing. Give me something new.

With all this rain I have a lot of time to read these magazines that have been piling up. Random thoughts to follow....

I think I mostly just look at ads. I really want the XX. Dear SRAM, I am currently unsponsored by a component company. Perhaps we can work together and I can test out these XX products for you. I am a slightly above average off road triathlete who can test out your products on the Xterra circuit. I am very hard on equipment so your products will get a true stress test under my legs. If you are interested in this fantastic opportunity, leave a message in the comments stating you would like to work with me.

The Specialized ad "I gambled everything on the Muur" is really cool. The picture captures Stijn's gritty look of determination on his face as he powers away from the pack on the cobbled climb. The crowd looks happy as they cheer him over the top, Belgian lion flags waving. Anybody who can get me the poster of this ad, it would be greatly appreciated.

Awesome, Team Get a Grip is prominently featured in the full page ad for the Chicago Criterium.

According to Chicago Athlete Magazine, in a desperate money grab the Chicago Park District is going to start charging for parking soon. I like driving my car to the 31st street beach and then doing brick workouts with my car as a transition area. Now I'll have to pay $1 an hour to park. Jeers to the Chicago Park District, Jeers.

Give me a break, T3 is coming out with an Ironman branded bed that will supposedly help you recover better. It has a padding that has been "clinically proven" to do all kinds of wonders for your body. Whatever, you know what is good for recovery? Sleep, I don't think it matters what mattress you are on. I'm calling BS on this one... unless of course T3 wants to send me a queen size mattress to product test. Dear T3....

Who is this elite triathlete Jen Perez in these EAS ads? She's hot. I think I'll have to add her as my Facebook friend.

Mountain Bike has a 5 page article that is supposedly going to answer once and for all what is better, a 26 or a 29. After spending all the time reading this article, I learned nothing I didn't know before and it provides no definitive answer. Total time waster.

Until next time...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Finally got it off my conscience ...

... just joined CAMBR. I've felt bad for not joining and kept saying I would. After reading about the IMBA and land manager meeting this coming weekend, I decided to pony up with my fiscal support. I wasn't able to join Derrick, Ted and the others last weekend for the trail workday, but I hope that this is just as meaningful in CAMBRs great efforts to improve local trail riding.

Reading a discussion in the CAMBR forum was a good reminder that membership money is only 1/2 of the story. A list of all the local riders who support CAMBRs cause is equally valuable. The more names they get, the more weight their land utilization suggestions carry to improve existing trails and building new ones.

I'm adjusting to life in the O.P. and joined a local ride this morning. Both the weather and the pace was brisk. It starts about 400M from my place, so waking up at 5:00am should be the only thing keeping me from joining regularly.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I just got back from a ride and was thinking it's pretty cold out there for June. Shiiiit, it's pretty cold for March. I can't feel my fingers, or my hands... or even my arms. Damn, I was under dressed with a long sleeve jersey on. Oh well, at least it didn't rain today.

I'm from Chicago. You might be faster than me, but I'm tougher than you.

Spotted on the Lakefront path: Kangaroo toe, guy riding with his helmet on backward, little girl crying on the side of the path because she can't pedal her bike forward into the headwind. Suck it up Sally.

I'm increasing my run mileage and realizing, you can't be both a good runner and a good biker. It's a conundrum of my training.

From my last blog, I'm not hating on all dog walkers on bikes, just the dumb ones. I think riding your bike is a good thing, and spending quality time with your dog is a good thing. As the arbiter of common sense, here are a few rules: 1) if you can't ride a bike, don't try to ride a bike and walk a dog. There are some basic skills you gotta bring to the table, and if you don't, someone's going to get hurt. 2) don't yank on the dog's neck. This probably pisses them off as much as it pisses me off. 3) keep the dog on your right hand side. This keeps them on the right hand side of the path and out of the way of traffic. I had a few more rules, but I forgot them already.

I wonder what Hemme's doing now?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

So THAT is what intervals feel like?!?

Had a great weekend and netted a 3rd at the Wonder Lake Crit. Well run event on nice smooth roads that proved to be plenty wide despite many racers comments.

I did my first ever structered trainer interval workout this morning. Goal was 6 x 2min with 3 min rest. Wow, those suck! They will probably become "fun" in a sadistic kinda way as I see my power increase, but I had to bag the first one at 1:20. I was able to regroup and finish the other 5 once I knew what kind of suffering to expect.

I am humbled after reading about JPow doing 400watts for 5min just to "open up" the legs. I'll just have to keep chipping away at that rock.

J-Pow's Journal:
I was doing an opening-up work out for an upcoming 'cross weekend last November: five minute efforts at 400 watts and I noticed this young dude with a cut off t-shirt, Vans sneakers, Camelbak and a 1980’s Motobecane with down tube
shifters. I rode by and said ‘yoooo’, focusing on the task I had in front of me.
After five minutes I glanced back and I hadn’t lost my man with the Motobecane.
“WOAAAH. REALLY? Could that have just happened?” I thought to myself,"I need to get this guy's info because he’s talented — he just kept up with me on a
30-pound Motobecane and Vans sneakers.
I'm all moved into to the pad with Nicole. We're still trying to find a space for everything, but she's awesome and agreed to clear a space for my trainer. I also got a kick of having my own tifosi this morning too.

I'm sure I thoroughly confused her too. When I pedaled she watched me, when I stopped and the hub of my wheel started clicking she watched the wheel. I got a kick of pedaling, stopping, pedaling, stopping just to watch her.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Night Moves

Friday I can't wait to go out for a ride after work. As I leave my house a creaky bottom bracket caused me to turn around and try to fix the problem. That's what I get for riding in the rain so much. I had to take apart everything and put it back together again. Determined to not be stopped, I turn my after work ride into a night ride.

I love riding at night. It's like I have the Lakefront path all to myself.

If these power meter readings are accurate, I'm getting pretty good at this bike riding thing. I'm not putting out Klug-like numbers yet, but still pretty good. I can see a lot of improvement since the end of cross season. I can cruise along at a pretty decent clip without getting the heart rate up too much.

I notice a new trend lately that kind of pisses me off. People are starting to walk their dogs while they ride along on their bikes. Way to take up the whole bike lane while you cruise along at a brisk 5 miles an hour. And the roller blading dog walker take up even more space. Ass holes all of you.

This trend is not just limited to the lakefront path. I saw one guy in Bucktown sketching off his dog while it pulls him along on his fixed gear. I can see that resulting in a tragic ending. What an ass hole. Then I saw a lady riding with her dog on the wrong side of the street as she approached the intersection of Milwaukee and North. With her horrible bike handling skills she's yanking on the dogs neck and barely avoiding crashing into both cars and pedestrians while fighting to stay upright. What an ass hole.

On my way home as I ride through downtown. A lot of people are out on Friday night. People notice me but generally I'm just an object of mockery. I'll occasionally see the couple and the boyfriend will point at me and they'll share a good laugh. He probably cracks a weak joke like, "look at the fruit in tights." The girl will laugh, but she probably notices my lean body, perfectly shaved legs, ripped muscles working in perfect synchronization with my bike and she secretly thinks, "he could ride me sometime." LOL, at least that's what I say to myself in my mind.

And when people yell, "hey it's Lance Armstrong," that's getting kind of old. It was cool when people would say that to me back when Armstrong was a champ, but now he is just an aging pro past his prime. I think I would prefer to be referred to as an old pro who's time is now. Next time someone sees me I want someone to say, "Hey it's Menchov." That would be cool.

Riding Kettle tomorrow with my peeps. I look forward to it and I should go to sleep now.

I wonder what Popper's doing...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Xterra Midwest Cup

Never have your first race of the season be your A-race.

That’s what I was saying last week. An analysis of my training log seemed to point to an abundance of stress: training, work, and home-life stress. That’s why I was feeling so weak and flat, I determined.

So I did what I could to try to bounce back from it. Took another day off, walked to work instead of my usual run from the train. Even took the bus a couple times when I didn’t trust myself to walk. Compression socks, stretching, 10 minute swims. I even went to bed before the third period of the Blackhawks’ big win over Vancouver. Now that’s about as committed to recovery as this Canadian gets!

My own bid to qualify for the World Off-Road Triathlon Championships was only two days away, and I’d managed to ride my mountain bike for 30 minutes since last season. An unplanned stay in a hotel Friday night confirmed that things still did not seem to be falling into place. But don’t worry, I figured, you’re only going to be spending the night before the race in a small tent with three kids who never sleep under the best conditions.

The morning of the race saw frost on the grass. Apparently, the air temperature was 30-something. But for some reason, I couldn’t wait to go swimming in the lake! I don’t know if I was just excited about kicking off the triathlon season or if I just wanted to get the whole thing over with.

Then I hit the water for the “warm-up.”

I felt so much positive energy. I really didn’t care how I did against the others. I was just happy to be there. Jamie Whitmore, the World Champion who has been fighting cancer for over a year now (we met her in Lake Tahoe last October) was there announcing the race, and it’s ridiculous to worry about race performance where there’s someone there fighting for her life. Every time I see her, I want to give her a hug, but she doesn’t know who I am!

As the Pros made their way to the first buoy, they started the rest of us. Next thing I knew, I’m behind a wide row of age groupers but soon found some space, did a loop, ran across the beach, dove back in the water, and found someone to follow. We passed some green caps indicating pro women, and I returned to the beach in 5th. Wow. Where’d everybody go?

Soon on the bike, I heard the familiar, “When you get a chance…” which is what riders say when they want to pass me on the single-track. I move over, wish her a good race, and forge on. But soon I catch her again and sit back for a bit. She’s a Swiss rider trying to catch the American who we can see up ahead, but we’re not gaining. After my reprieve, I re-pass her and pull up to Shonny, the Luna-Chix rider, with the Swiss rider in tow. Eventually, I pass her too, and I realize I’m really feeling strong today.

Then the first climb. Those chicks drop me like I had asked them for a date.


Gone – while I’m running up the sucker wondering what happened. I claw back to them before the next climb, just to have them remind me why they’re pros and I… well, I suck, I guess.

A few guys also pass me including my friend and Get-A-Gripper, Ted, who drops me on the same climb on the second loop. But this time, I know that no amount of clawing is going to bring me back to his wheel. He’s flying. I’m all alone, so I just keep at it and try to stay positive.

Jump off at the transition area looking forward to the run, and I almost fall flat on my face. My feet are like frozen blocks. I had no idea how cold they were. I change into my Sauconys, but have to look down to make sure my feet look like they are in there correctly, because I can’t feel a thing. It takes me a full 3 miles before they warm up, but they did, and I got one of two spots for the World Championships in Maui, won my age group by 8 minutes (second overall amateur) and even managed to give that hug. (see attached)

Monday, May 18, 2009

How soon is now? or Revenge of the Deaner

This past weekend was the Xterra Midwest Cup at Fort Custer state park in Michigan. As long as I have been doing Xterra's (11 years), it has been my goal to finish on the podium in my age group at an Xterra Cup race and qualify for the Xterra World Championship. This goal has been elusive to say the least.

At first I wasn't very good at this triathlon stuff, so qualifying was just a pipe dream. But as I got better, it seemed like something would always happen at regional championship races that would take me out of contention. In Xterra so much can go wrong whether it is a bike mechanical, a flat tire, a crash, lack of altitude acclimatization, cramping, digestion issues, or dehydration. You name it, it has happened to me. People I race with would always say, "don't worry, you'll qualify this year." But every year the competition would get a little stronger, the game would be elevated a little higher, and the goal of qualifying would always be close but just out of reach. I figured I was cursed and destined to forever be the underdog.

Back to the Michigan race, I studied the start list and formulated my strategy for this race. Given the strengths and weaknesses of the other competitors I figured my best strategy would be to swim as hard as I can to minimize the number of people I have to pass on the single track, push hard early in the bike to get towards the front of the pack, then wait for fast bikers to pass me and get on their wheel and ride with them. Then hopefully I will have enough to get through a relatively flat run.

Everything about this course plays to my strengths and I have confidence that I just might be able to finish top 3 in my age group and possibly within top 20 amateur overall.

At the beach start I look for my friend Dean Hewson. I don't know if I can swim on his feet for very long, but if I can get out to the first buoy in a good position I might be able to find a good draft. Everything goes right and by the end of the 2nd lap I see the green and pink swim caps of a few pros just ahead of me. I am told by a spectator that I am 15th amateur out of the water.

Onto the bike I hammer to the first section of single track and pass a bunch of people. I know I can put out this effort because once I get to the single track, I'll get stuck behind some slower riders who are great swimmers and have plenty of time to recover. So far everything plays out perfectly and I'm moving to the front of the pack. Eventually Jim James catches me and I am able to stay on his wheel. This is a breakthrough moment because in all the years I have been racing Jim, anytime I came out of the swim ahead of him, he would promptly ride me off his wheel. Soon Scott Gall catches us and we are like a train. Jim drops his chain and falls off the pace but then we pick up Jenny Smith and keep on chugging along.

Onto lap 2 Jenny picks up a water bottle and she falls off the pace. Scott and I keep pushing each other and I feel I am near the front of the amateur field because I just passed a bunch of really good pro women. Now my goal is to put as much time on the field as I can before the run. I finally pass Dean and I know he is having a great bike ride. I expected to pass him much sooner. For all I know he could be first amateur.

I take some liquids and Scott promptly rides away from me. Lucky for me Jim catches back up to me and we take turns pulling all the way into transition. The race announcer says we are second and third amateurs into transition. I can't believe it, but now my goal is to hunt down the guy in first place.

The first lap of the run is lonely but I feel pretty good. As I exit the woods I see Dean about an eighth of a mile back. Eventually he passes me at about mile 4. Now self doubt starts to creep into my head. Who else is coming from behind? Turns out, it was no one. I cruise in behind Dean and finish 3rd amateur overall and first in my age group. I punch my ticket for the World Championships with the race of my life.

Never before has a race performance surpassed my expectations but this performance blew my mind. Everything went exactly as I planned and nothing went wrong. I was only 1 minute behind the first amateur Blake Vogues. At all my other Xterra cup races I never finished higher than 6th in my age group and I usually finish about top 50 overall or worse.

I'd like to give props to Dean for chasing me down and finishing second. He said he was having a great race too. I'd like to think we pushed each other to great performances.

Right now I'm riding high and feeling pretty good about achieving a goal I never thought I'd achieve. Now my ambitions for the 2009 Xterra USA Championship are much greater and I look forward to seeing how far I can take this.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

ABD Team Time Trial

Tim convinced me to do the 40 K team time trial out in some far western suburb this past Saturday. Dean was doing it too, so the chance for a little friendly competition drew me in.

We get a nice warm up in and show up to the line when we find out we missed our start. We had to re-sign up and wait around and go last. In Grand Tours it is an honor to go last but in this case it was kind of a hassle since we were all pumped up and ready to go at our original time.

I tell Tim that the wind is at our back on the way out and will be in our face on the way in. I want to start out conservatively so we have something left in the tank for the headwind. After Tim takes his first pull he is probably dropping 400 watts and that strategy flys out the window.

I was able to withstand the thrashing Tim gave me and we came in in 56:33 winning the cat 4 title. Dean was right behind us in 56:46.

Sunday I was really excited to head out to my cousins' house in New Lennox and go bike riding with them. They are way better athletes than I was at their age and I'm not just saying that to be nice to little kids. It's true. They are interested in doing a triathlon so I'm going to help show them the ropes and give them a little training advice.

They told their 500 times from the last swim meet they did and they are faster than me and only 1/3 my age. Dang, I think I'd smoke them on the bike though.

I helped fix up their bikes and then we went out for a ride. They have pretty solid basic skills on the bike. I think I can mold them into champions.

We might try out a relay together as Team Ramos and then they will do the Tri Masters South Shore Kids Triathlon in August.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Xterra Red River

I went to Oklahoma this weekend to get in a practice race before the all important Xterra NC Cup at Fort Custer on May 17th. After a preride I could see this course will be good practice for the courses I will be racing later this year. The bike is very similar to courses like O.N.E. and Last Stand and the run is just as tough as the Torn Shirt trail.

The swim was shortened to just 500 meters due to strong winds creating pretty big waves in the small lake. I didn't like that but it is actually to my advantage since I am not the strongest swimmer. I sat in a draft to conserve energy and I get out of the water in 15th place but I stepped on something that cut my foot open underneath my big toe and my index toe.

Due to my awesome transition skills I get on the trail in 8 or 9th place. My foot really hurts and I can pedal my bike without any problem but I hope it won't affect my run. After saving my energy on the swim, I attack the bike course on my Titus Fireline 29er and get the lead within about 4 miles. From there I try to ride smooth pushing my limits on the climbs but otherwise trying to ride safe and maintain a comfortable lead. 3 miles to go and I notice my tire is folding over under cornering pressure. Either I burped some air or I have a slow leak. Now I am riding even more carefully in the corners and hoping to get to transition without stopping to fix it. I get caught by one rider as I come into transition.

I take the extra time to put on a sock on the cut foot. Just worried about getting a lead on the other guy, I don't even think about if my foot hurts. I go hard to build a lead so he is out of sight, but soon the paranoia of who else may be catching me from behind sets in. I am now the hunted and my biggest enemy is the heat. I am unaccustomed to sunny 85 degree days from training in the midwest. I put out my best TT effort but it doesn't feel that fast. If I see anyone behind me, it's over, I don't have an extra gear to shift into. I'm on the limit. My best strategy is to not blow up so I take it fairly easy on the hill climbs even walking up some of the steep ones.

I finally make it to the open road and I run in to take the tape in 1:49. First victory of 09, 3rd victory in my Xterra career. 15th fastest swim, 2nd fastest bike, 2nd fastest run.

Post race I really paid the price. Dean warned me not to wear racing flats, but I did for their light weight advantage and my feet took a pounding. The balls and heels of my feet feel bruised, blisters are everywhere, not to mention one big gash on my right foot. If you saw me limping around the airport later that day, you would have never guessed that I had just won a race.

This race was a good indicator of what I need to adjust in order to elevate my game for Fort Custer and I think I will be ready.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sylvan Island Race Report

I've been horribly inconsistent posting my own updates, but I enjoy reading other cyclists blogs. I guess I'll make an attempt to be more timely with my recaps for the 2009 season and hopefully someone enjoys tracking my season too.

Bill and I decided to race the Sylvan Island Stampede in Moline, IL. Early forecasts of rain wasn't what we were hoping for but we were committed. I checked the FORC (event organizer) website at 6:30am and they said that they hadn't received any rain and the race was still on. The entire drive was through spotty, and at times, heavy rain. When we arrived there were plenty of two wheeled MudMen rolling around. Crap. I don't mind racing in mud, but I don't consider it a strength, possibly because I don't own any "Mud" tires.

I line up with ~20 other people and the director allowed us to vote on cutting our race distance. We are a stubborn bunch and agree to keep it at 6 laps - 24 miles. I recognize some rabbits who are faster than me and line up behind them. I opted to go without sunglasses because of how difficult it would be to keep them clear. I had an equally difficult time seeing anything as the mud/water wake of riders ahead of me flew into my eyes and mouth. I hit the single track in the top 10 and just try to follow wheels. I didn't have a chance to pre-ride the course and this is a very twisty trail. My tire selection (Maxxis Crossmark) might as well have been racing slicks. I'm not sure how much more traction I would have gotten with a mud tire, but I had an incredibly tough time through corners (and even on some straight sections) on this tire created for fast dry terrain.

Lap 1 - Just learning the course. Ride into corners way too hot and in the wrong gear. I'm strong enough to hang with the riders around me but give up time in corners not riding efficiently
Lap 2 - The field is spreading out. I'm trying to calm down and stay in contact with the guys ahead of me. I still ride more aggressively around corners than my tires will allow and I pay for it with some wipeouts. I hear my rotors constantly grinding even when I'm not using them. I must have knocked something loose or splashed a bunch of muck between the pads.
Lap 3 - There are only a few people in sight ahead of me and but I'm settling in and have a better idea of where I need to be careful because of slick corners or peanut butter mud. I see a handful of guys pull off the course with mechanicals. I don't consider placing ahead of someone with a mechanical as a victory, but I keep telling myself that as long as my tires are inflated and my pedals turn, I'll keep pressing.
Lap 4 - More of the same. Anything mechanical on my bike is making it's displeasure known with loud grinding and horrible shifting. I'm riding the course with fewer dabs or stall outs, but that might because of fatigue and slowing down
Lap 5 - Only 2 more to go!! There was a rider behind me who seemed to be closing which helped me to keep on the gas. I had a GU packet under my short, but I was too afraid of wiping out trying to open it. A mouth full of mud before I got any gel wasn't too appealing either. I continued on with just a shot of water each lap but nothing to eat.
Lap 6 - I've put time into the chasing rider and I'm just riding to finish. I'm going slower and I'm not making the same mental mistakes from earlier laps, but the thick mud gives me trouble keeping my momentum

I finished ... and not last. I was 9th of 12 finishers but there were probably 10+ other DNFs. Mike Hemme from Killjoy was victim of a torn sidewall. The posted results are not complete and I'm not sure how many people pulled out.

I have some positives to take from the race and build on as I get back into a consistent training schedule. It will take a lot of TLC to get my beloved Alma back into proper working order. Hopefully it will not require too much credit card usage, but I think a new chain and brake pads will be necessary at a minimum. (Groans)