Archive for January, 2009

Erik Volkswagen wrote something along the same lines a few days back but I’d been think about all that too. What if I got my shit together, laid out a plan, and the executed to the plan (with some latitude when life gets in the way)? Counting last season, which I probably shouldn’t but will because I learned some stuff *NOT* to do, I’ve raced cross for six seasons. Over those six seasons I’ve been well prepared for racing perhaps twice.

After a disastrous year by any measure, I’m looking forward to 2009. Over the past 6 years, I’ve learned something about how I respond to training and have at least a rudimentary idea about how to get good performance out of my legs. While a coach would be ideal, I’ll get by with my own training alchemy.

Three seasons ago, Memorial Day rolled around before I started getting serious about training. I scored my only cyclocross win that season and bumped up to 35+ A. Though I hadn’t done much prior riding to June, I had been on my bike — commuting to work (13 miles round trip back in those days). I’m convinced that those 50-70 miles a week made it possible for me to commence serious training almost immediately.

This year it’s going to take me some significant time to get up to speed. Prior to this week, I’d been on the bike perhaps 10 times since the beginning of November. This week I’ve logged a little over six hours thus far and will definitely add another hour since I want to get home today. All this riding all of a sudden is doing a number on my legs. I’m also working on getting rid of the 10 pounds I put on since I haven’t been riding. I just hope that I can maintain my focus and achieve my goals.

So here it is. I’ve got some goals and the basis for a plan. Now all I have to do is execute.

I rode my bike to work yesterday and today. Let me rephrase that — I rode my bike to the Goose Hollow MAX station and then took the train the rest of the way. Tuesday’s inbound commute was uneventful except for the snow that started falling during the train ride. By the time I headed home, the snow was mostly gone, as were my legs.

The last fifteen minutes of my ride were humbling. It was a struggle to keep the pedals turning and the last kicker hill right before my house had me considering pushing my bike. Regardless, I got up this morning and pedaled to the MAX station again. I’m sure the ride home this evening will be tough for me. At least the weather looks to be better.

I now have a working bike to ride. It’s my trusty Redline Conquest Pro with nothing stock save the frame. I’ve used it as the pit bike, a commuter, and a rain bike. It’s got fenders and the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires and rides like a tank. At 740 grams each, they almost double the weight of my wheels. It’s a big difference going from 280 gram Conti Gatorskin to the Marathons.

However, I’m not fast. While I hope that fast and I come to be good buddies later in the year, right now were not on speaking terms. Combine that with the fact that the roads are covered with tire shredding debris and I’m happy to slowly ride a heavy tire that doesn’t puncture. And when I finally trade those heavy beasts with some flimsy racer tires, it’ll feel like spinning air.

Now about my day … Went for a ride. Nothing broke. The sun was shining. It was a pretty good time.

I don’t intend to devolve into a chasm self-pity but that seem to be the trend lately. Instead of bucking the trend, I might as well go with the flow. With that in mind, I’ll remind the reader that yesterday my road bike resorted to auto-cannibalism and ate its own rear derailleur, taking the hanger as a dessert.

While I was quite put out by that whole fiasco, by the evening I had managed to gain some perspective. Since Le Plastique was out of commission, I set out to finally get the Redline into wet weather commuter mode. I got out the clamps and wrestled the Schwalbe Marathon Plus 28mm tires onto the rather narrow Rolf Vector Comp rims. The rear tire went on with some sweat and very minor swearing.

With the lessons learned from the rear tire, I managed to wrestle the front on in record time — perhaps five minutes. Now time to pump it up. Let’s try 90 psi. Okay. Pull off the pump head and psssssssssss. You guessed it, the valve stem came off with the pump head. Vicious cursing ensued.

Okay, regroup. I’m not done. The tire comes off rather easily, I get another tube, and get the whole thing back together with some more sweat and a few clamps. Pump it all up and gingerly remove the pump head from the valve stem … so far so good.

Now to put the bike up on the repair stand. Rear wheel goes on and spins fine. What’s this? The bottom bracket feels like got glue in it, not grease. Still, it will work for a few days until I can replace it. But where’s the right side pedal? Oh yeah, I scavenged it for the Mercxk after its pedal body separated from the spindle before my stroke race. That’s no biggie either.

Now for the front wheel. What’s this? Low pressure? You have got to be kidding me. Slow leak, I guess. Must have pinched it while mounting the tire. Now I’m done. Won’t be riding for a couple more days.

Then I went in and tried to print some invitations for my daughter’s birthday party and found that MS Word had somehow uninstalled itself and wanted the product key. I had no idea where that product key was. However, my internet peeps came through and suggested OpenOffice. Twenty minutes later, I had that installed and another thirty minutes and a bunch more cursing, I had the original Word file massaged into an acceptable format to print using OpenOffice.

Then I went to bed.

At least the commute to work (in my car) wasn’t too bad.

I’ve been back on the bike this week and was planning on writing about how nice it is to be riding again and how this is the start of the 2009 season. I was feeling pretty upbeat about things. I wasn’t worrying about the fact that a hole in my vision might have ramifications in a cross race — I might not see that rock or root or rut. No, I was feeling good and confident that things would work out well enough for me to be competitive again.

Today I went out for a ride at lunch. The sun was shining and I felt better than average. About 25 minutes into the ride, I shifted my chain to the outside of the big chainring. No biggie. I clicked the front mech and eased my pedals around to shift it back on. Then things went horribly wrong (well, perhaps not horribly, but pretty bad nonetheless). The chain somehow hung up in the rear mech. Of course I stopped pedaling so as not to rip off the derailleur hanger. Too late. The rear derailleur was already in the spokes.

That’s a pretty bad sound — your derailleur in your spokes. The damage: frame, (derailleur hanger not replaceable), chain, and rear derailleur. The rear spokes look fine and the wheel appears true.

Getting home was interesting. I removed the carnage and turned the bike into a single speed. That worked pretty well until it spontaneously shifted into a bigger rear cog and broke the chain. I rigged it again with a better chainline (using part of the chain I removed previously so now I’ve messed with 3-4 pins) and managed to get back to work with only a few more minor issues.

So no more road bike. Le Plastique is done. James, I’m bummed about it. It was a pretty decent bike and I really appreciated the deal you gave me on it. Anyway, I’m paying medical bills so I’ll be on the old Redline for the foreseeable future — a future that may well take me into next year.

Maybe I’ll take up running again. It’s way cheaper.

In my last post, I talked about how I consider 2009 to be a fresh start — a mulligan, if you will. With that in mind, it might behoove me to come up with some goals for the year unfolding before our very eyes. I mean, here it is the 6th of January already and I’m still fat and slow. If I don’t get on the stick (ouch!), I’ll still be fat and slow come 2010.

The problem with listing a buch of goals in a public forum is that when one falls short of accomplishing them, there is a ripe opportunity for ridicule. Since there are currently 234,792 cyclocross related blogs out there to compete for readership, I’m sure that the number of loyal readers who might see my resolutions, actually remember what I said and then take the bold step to call me out on my loserness some 12 months hence is pretty low. I’ll guess it might be as many as zero. With that in mind, I’ll boldly state some things that I’ll actively avoid in the coming year. Yeah, wimpier than actual resulutions but I’m not sure they will be easier to accomplish.

  1. Have a stroke
  2. Eat myself into Jabba the Hut
  3. Drive my car to work all the time
  4. Open a business (myself or immediate family)
  5. Pick up a nasty intestinal bug (myself or immediate family)
  6. Be dissuaded by a little rain (snow and ice is a different story)
  7. Consider Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires in a 28 uncool

There is a start. I’m sure I can come up with more stuff as the year progresses.

I’ve never been terribly excited about New Year’s Day. I have been of the opinion that time is continuous and the arbitrary marker of January 1st is an excuse to have a big party and for the media to produce a boat load of best of lists. All the talk about New Year’s resolutions or a fresh start in a new year seemed kind of silly to me. You can initiate resolutions at any time — you don’t have to wait for some special day.

My thinking has changed this year. 2008 was a challenging time for me and my family. We are in definite need of a fresh start and better luck in 2009. Instead of looking back at the problems, calamities, and missteps of 2008, I’ll look forward to 2009 and the unwritten year ahead.