I may have gone really slow at Spa 'Cross last week, but at least I didn't do this:
Narration by Chris McBurnie. Video by C. Nash.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The top of my mind is still my continuing lack of a Halloween costume. Here are some things that have been suggested to me: reporter, bicycle race promoter, swine flu, candy corn, Yao Ming.
I rejected the first two suggestions on the basis that they are not costumes, but things that I am everyday. I've rejected the second because it doesn't seem that funny. I'm considering the fourth and fifth suggestions -- both of which came from my room mate (thanks Marissa!).
But please, I implore you, if you have a wonderful idea that you just aren't going to use this year, let me know! You can have all the credit! Extra credit if it's something I can whip up from my closet with only minimal purchases.
Looking back on this week, it contained one of my biggest person triumphs in Spa 'Cross, but that major accomplishment has been nearly completely overshadowed by the craptitude surrounding the political silly season. I cannot wait for Election Day, as this season of political shit has left me exhausted, grasping for words, and generally dragging ass.
In light of that, I'll now present you with a Thursday tradition, the top and bottom lists. I'll bet you can guess what's going to dominate the top five.
Tops from the week:
1) Spa 'Cross, duh.
2) The awesome helpers we had to set up the course in the rain on Saturday.
3) I've decided that I now love baseball; go Yankees!
4) Mom and Dad, for coming up to help out with the race.
5) 149 racers, scores of spectators, and a good time had by all! Looking to get UCI status by 2011...
Bottoms from the week:
1) Rain. I mean, I'm cool with rain, but I wish it could coordinate with my work schedule better.
2) Still no Halloween costume inspiration...
3) Short daylight hours, continue to really bum me out.
4) Running for public office. Why would anyone do this to themselves?!
5) The Internet, which is being unreliable at the moment.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The only thing wicked creepier than Saturday's Wicked Creepy 'Cross is the fact that I still don't know what I'm going to dress up as for Halloween. I was briefly toying with the idea of going as Jon Heder from Blades of Glory, but I didn't want to cross-dress again, and I think that might be a little too close for comfort.
So, in light of the jury still being out on that, and in light of me having a few other things going on here tonight, I'm going to take a pass on posting anything substantive here tonight. My apologies, come back from more tomorrow!
Also, please continue to post Halloween costume suggestions, I desperately need inspiration.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Giving out medals and other free stuff was a definite high point from Sunday
Thanks for the photo, Dad
In the midst of the weekend's 'cross excitement, I forgot to mention here that I won Saturday's Lake Desolation Hill Climb, taking my second annual title. Unfortunately, there was no trophy this year, and my time (18:37) was a little slower than last year's, but I'm still really proud to take my second win the event.
This year's race was a little more nerve wracking than last year's. First of all, it was cold (40s) and pouring rain. Second of all, it came down to a two-up sprint between me and Jamie. I'm not much of a sprinter, while Jamie has quite the finishing pop. So, the odds were not in my favor.
The 11 starters quickly whittled down to a lead group of four (Me, Jamie, John, and Kevin Ballou) after an acceleration by the Kilmer lumber yard. We dropped Kevin at the first steep pitch, right after Chatfield Corner, and continued out ascent. John, spinning his biggest gear, seemed to be in trouble when we reached the final steep pitch, by the sand pit, so I put in an acceleration to drop him. I succeeded in popping him off the wheels, but Jamie got onto my wheel. I pulled onto the top of the steep pitch, and then tried to pull off, but Jamie was well into cat-and-mouse mode.
So, I kept leading up the first of the rollers, now rolling out the big ring. I was pretty sure that Jamie was going to burst by me at any second, and I was doing my best to get him off my wheel by swerving all over the place, all to no avail. Finally, I decided I had to try a sprint from the front, so I popped it into the 14 and drove like hell for the yellow line as we went by the fire house.
Jamie, apparently selected too hard of a gear, and wasn't able to accelerate as quickly, allowing me to cruise to victory. It was possibly the first-ever sprint finish for a Lake D hill climb, and, although we didn't set any records, it was a lot of fun. Also, the pulled pork, courtesy of Aaron at Tinney's was awesome, as always. John hung on for third, while Kevin suffered a flat, and was passed in the race for fourth.
So, that was fun. Afterward, a bunch of us headed to the park to set up the 'cross course. In the pouring rain. Promoting bicycle races can have lots of awesome moments (like presenting awards to cub juniors, as pictured above), but driving stakes into moist earth while your Carhartt's stick to your legs is not one of them.
There were a ton of spectators for Sundays' race, including my neighbor, Dieter (not to be confused with uber-promoter Dieter Drake, who was also there). Dieter, along with his brother and nephew took up position on the top of the very-muddy off-camber decent, where nearly every racer (Jamie being one exception) found it faster to run than ride.
Dieter got the above photo of me contemplating my leap across the muddy ditch. By the time the race ended, I never wanted to see or think about this muddy pit again in my life. But now, I'm pretty glad there are sweet photos of me (and others) navigating it.
If you're not going to make money promoting a race, you might as well enjoy the photographic evidence of your hard work!
Monday, October 26, 2009
It was a good thing I was off from work today, I was so weary from the weekend's excitement that it was all I could do to scrape myself out of bed at 10 and drag my sorry butt to the grocery store. It was a beautiful day here in Saratoga -- the kind of day that makes me feel lucky to be able to enjoy being outside -- but, I couldn't help feeling a little sad that the party was over. Sure, we can look forward to next year's race, but it would have been cool if this year's could have stuck around a little longer!
But it didn't. So, as in the photo leading off this post (by David Olivares, and one of hundreds from Sunday that he posted on facebook), I've put the brakes on my Spa 'Cross ruminating before I hit the snow fence of post-party blues. Instead, I'm now going to throw myself fully into the next challenge: finding a funny Halloween costume -- before Saturday night. Given my past endeavors, and given that I haven't given my favorite holiday a single iota of thought before writing this post, finding a costume might prove to be a greater challenge than promoting a 'cross race, but I guess we'll see what I come up with!
To put this whole Spa 'Cross endeavor to bed (until the next time I write about it), I just have to say once more that I really don't like racing 'cross. Not only am I not good at it (see the results from Sunday for evidence), but I hate being dirty, and it's just cruel that your bike gets heavier with each successive trip through the mud.
Schillinger, me, Scotty Paine, John
Despite this auspicious start, I managed to loose badly
Above is a picture of the first lap of the elite race, when I still had some aspirations of beating someone. I know it's the first lap because John hasn't dropped me yet. We are at the top of the run-up, a section that I had thought most people would be riding. Maybe some people did, but by the time we got to the last few laps, the running (walking) continued until you reached the entrance of the single track. Yeah, it really was that hard.
So far today we've only heard positive feedback, which gives me high hopes that we will return bigger and better in 2010. Thanks again to everyone who raced! Check www.spacx.blogspot.com for photos in the coming days.
Now, please post your costume suggestions!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Updated: photos here.
After months or preparation, hours of toil in the pouring rain, and 60 minutes of suffering out on the course today, there is only one work to describe Spa 'Cross: "awesome."
Thanks to the 149 athletes who came out to race through the mire and muck, and spectators who came to cheer, the vendors who kept us fed and entertained, John, and the volunteers who made it all happen, and then stuck around after to help us race, stomp, and rack some more, to try and cover up the damage to the turf left by all those bikes.
The course seemed a lot more fun to me when it was dry, that that's because I'm no mountain biker, and mud is not my specialty. Still, the cheers from the crowd assembled at the mud pit, at the bottom of a tough off-camber turn, made the day, cheering anyone who rode through the muck, and sighing when some one ate it (as pictured above!)
So, even for a roadie like me, who does not particularly like getting dirty, riding a 'cross bike, or working hard after Oct. 1, it was a good time. Thanks everyone who helped to make it that -- and lets do it again in 2010!
There were a whole lot of people taking photos today, and I'm working on uploading the first back of what I have. Check back soon for more photos!
And now, without further adieu, I must collapse. Thanks again to all who raced, helped out and spectated, this race could not have happened without you!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Our fire will be bigger,
and we've arranged for the weather to improve.
this was much more complicated than you might think it would be
John drew about 35 schematics to get it right
sandpit in the foreground
Good luck getting through that without running...
Friday, October 23, 2009
On behalf of your promoters, thank you for registering for Saratoga Spa 'Cross. We are looking forward to having a great, Belgian-style 'cross race, complete with one of the most challenging courses you will find this year, a race expo, and a beautiful park setting.
There is still room for more entries in every field, and we have decided to reduce our day-of fee to $5 from $10, so please let your friends and team mates know that they have no excuse to miss this race!
We will have food on sight courtesy of Joe's Burrito, of Albany, and Saratoga Coffee Traders.
When you're not eating or racing, please check out our race expo, featuring Blue Sky Bicycles, Embrocation Cycling Journal, Serotta Competition Cycles, KD Energy, and Happy Chain.
For directions to our race, please click this link and enter your address: http://maps.google.com/maps/
Thanks, we're looking forward to seeing you Sunday,
Thursday, October 22, 2009
As I write this, there is just a little less than 18 hours left for you to pre-register for Spa 'Cross. You won' t want to miss this race, and day-of registration will cost you an extra $10, so don't delay!
I picked up another load of prizes today from Blue Sky Bicycles, giving us, perhaps, the best assortment of prizes that has ever been assembled for a bike race to be held in Saratoga Springs. Of course, I could be wrong, so I'll have to double check with Gary on that one.
My camera's memory card is full, at the worst possible time, so I wasn't able to take any photos of the pile of schwag that has steadily grown to take over a portion of my living room. Once again, it's a good thing I have a tolerant room mate. A complete list of prizes will be forthcoming, before race day.
Most exciting of all, Velo News picked up our press release. We have seen a corresponding increase in registrations, with athletes now expected from across the continent, thanks to the international exposure VN afforded us. All I can say is thanks to Online Editor Steve Frothingham!
Ordinarily, this would be my last post before the weekend, but given the enormity of this weekend's events, I might sneak in a post tomorrow, and plan to post photos (I will have cleaned out my memory card by then) from the course set up on Saturday -- which could turn out to be a very wet
chore labor of love, given the day's forecast. Fortunately, the forecast for Sunday is looking perfect for 'cross!
Tops from the week:
1) Spa 'Cross -- so close I can almost taste it.
2) Lest I forget, there is another race this weekend. Tinney's Hill Climb Challenge, Saturday at 9:30 a.m. -- pulled pork for all -- and bragging rights if you beat me or Jamie up Lake D!
3) Thanks again to the crew for getting a ton of work done Thursday -- all before yours truly could get his ass to the park. The course has never looked so good.
4) Rest month? Guess so.
5) Today's spring-like weather. Too bad I was inside all day.
Bottoms from the week:
1) Once again looking for Ms. Right. FML -- and it seems that I'm getting a totally undeserved rep!
2) Anyone have any ideas for a Halloween costume? Preferably one that does NOT involve cross-dressing (or 'cross dressing, for that matter).
3) This warm weather won't last. Cold again next week. Blast.
4) Elections. As a political writer, I look forward to them all year -- then they get here and I can't wait for them to end.
5) Gas prices going up again? Why?
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Oops... Serotta Competition Cycles was about four hours too late to make it into last night's press release, but the hometown bicycle building plans to have a booth at our expo Sunday, to display some of their prized cx bikes, as well as some of the bikes they built exclusively for Interbike. It'll be one display you won't want to miss! Details here.
Speaking of Spa 'Cross, don't forget to register!
In other news, it continues to be election season, and my exhaustion continues to increase with each sleepless night. Ten hours at work today, plus two hours out at the 'cross course working on details makes for one tired blogger. Rather than risk saying anything out of card, I'll just direct you to my latest essay at Embrocation Cycling Journal.
Speaking of Embrocation, we will have Embrocation, Volume 4 for sale on Sunday. The paper version of the journal contains unique cycling experiences and photos that you wont see anywhere else. The color, book-style publication is a perfect coffee table addition for any cyclist's home. $25 per copy, cash only please!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Beginning at 9:15 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25, cyclocross racers from across New York State and New England will converge on the Columbia Pavilion in Spa State Park for the first-annual Saratoga Spa ‘Cross.
Cyclocross is a style of bicycle racing that evolved in northern Europe, as a way to keep bicycle racers competing through the fall and into winter, by moving them off of roads and onto muddy paths and open fields. The sport is now a popular way for many bicycle racers to end a season of road or mountain bike racing.
“It's a race that hasn't been held in Saratoga since the '70s, or ever in the park and a very unique type of event,” said event promoter and cyclocross racer John Onderdonk “We're hoping for a great turnout as we have designed the course thinking about the spectators as well as the racers. There are many great vantage points to watch, including hanging out in the pavilion by the fire.”
Athletes will compete throughout the day in categories broken out by age or ability. Races for children 10-14, and beginner’s categories for adults begin at 9:15 a.m., to be followed by races for master’s athletes competing in 35+, 45+, and 55+ categories at 10 a.m. Intermediate men will follow at 11 a.m. Elite women will race at 12:30 p.m., with the elite men to close out the day at 1:30 p.m.
There will be a cyclocross-style race for children under 10 at noon.
Cyclocross racing places demands on both a competitor’s fitness and their ability to navigate variable, and constantly changing terrain. Cyclists using specialized bicycles with road-style handlebars but wider, knobbed tires will complete multiple laps on a mile-long course that will force them to navigate obstacles, jump over barriers, and to dismount and run up hill while carrying their bike. With a course marked by yellow tape, fans will have their choice of vantage point –exciting fast stretches through the woods or on the run-up, where racers will look for a cheer (or jeer) to get them over the top of the climb.
“This race would not have been possible without the generous support of our local sponsors, who are as excited as we are to be bringing this unique event to Saratoga Springs,” said promoter Andrew Bernstein. “We were also glad to bring in food vendors and other local businesses to our race expo, to add another element to the spectator experience at Spa ‘Cross.”
Sponsors include Blue Sky Bicycles, Sigma Sports, the Olde Saratoga Brewery, Eastern Mountain Sports, Embrocation Cycling Journal, and Kubricki Construction.
In addition to racing action, spectators will enjoy a race expo, with vendors from the Saratoga area, including: Blue Sky Bicycles, who will have mechanics on hand to tune bikes for racers; KD Energy, makers of organic, vegan energy bars; Happy Chain, a locally-produced chain lubricant for bicycle chains; and Sigma Sports, maker of bicycle accessories.
In addition, Saratoga Coffee Traders will be on hand to keep athletes and spectators properly caffeinated, and Joe’s Burrito, of Albany, will serve chicken, beef, and vegetable burritos.
Spa ‘Cross is the first-ever cyclocross race to be held in Saratoga Springs, and is the seventh race of the NYCross.com series, a nine-race series centered around the Capital Region.
To register online, please visit www.bikereg.com. For more information, please visit us online at www.spacx.blogspot.com. Also, you can find us on Facebook!
DIRECTIONS: I 87 to exit 13N. After exiting, head north on Route 9. Go through the first set of lights. At the second light, turn left to enter the park. Follow signs for the Columbia Pavilion.
Monday, October 19, 2009
I think this cold is really taking it out of me -- and it's only October! I think I'd better bulk up a bit -- and soon -- or I'll never be able to get out of bed.
Anyway, we are now in the final phases of preparing for Sunday's Saratoga Spa 'Cross. Today, with a well-timed email (sent to me, unsolicited) and a few phone calls (made by me), we were able to line up both a local vendor (Saratoga Coffee Traders) to sell coffee and breakfast snacks to hungry racers and fans on Sunday morning, and Burrito Joe's, of Albany, to come up and sell their eponymous deliciousness in the afternoon. I love burritos more than nearly any other food, and I'm anticipating that it'll be tough for me to resist eating one, pre-race! I don't love coffee, but since most other people do, I think it'll be good to have it at the race.
Either coffee or a burrito will go very well with the fire we'll have roaring in the Columbia Pavilion, and with the adult beverages that you should feel free to bring, but which you will not be able to procure at the race, spectators can expect a truly singular experience on Sunday afternoon in the state park -- come and bring the whole crew!
With less than a week to race day, it's looking like we're going to have perfect-for-'cross weather, and some fields are starting to look less than anemic -- but keep those registrations coming!
I was supposed to write a press release about the race tonight, but it's looking like that's going to get delayed a day, as I can barely lift my eyelids. Look for a very official looking and sounding press release to be posted here in the next few days. I guess that's it. Of course, you can read more focused, near-daily updates on the race over at our blog, Spa:Cx -- where you'll find some exclusive photos not available anywhere else.
If you find my energy, please let me know, I seem to have lost it, and would really like it back.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Hopefully, about 5,000 feet of caution tape
$5 for the racer who can recognize this at Spa 'Cross next week!
I spent the weekend in Troy, at the New York State Cyclocross Championships (Saturday) and the Uncle Sam Cross (Sunday). I raced both days, with decidedly poor results (although, poor-er results on Saturday). More importantly, I spent several hours on both days volunteering at registration, signing racers in and giving out numbers.
The two races were on similar courses, in Troy's Prospect Park (not to be confused with Brooklyn's Prospect Park), although it was run in reverse on the second day, which I found flowed a little better.
On the first day, despite getting a call up and front-line start, I soon found myself at the rear of the pack, and going backwards quickly. I rode three laps and dropped out, not having any fun at all, and not interested in getting lapped.
On Sunday, I also started in the front row, and got a similarly poor start, but rode a little better, had a little fun, and only got lapped by the first four or five finishers. Anyway, the real spoils from the weekend was the caution tape (pictured above), which I salvaged, after helping to take the course down after Sunday's races.
The idea is to re-use it this coming Sunday, at Spa 'Cross. (Go register!) I love the idea of promoting a 'cross race, but I hate the idea of wasting all of that plastic. Unfortunately, between now and next weekend, there's no option but to leave all the tap, wadded up in balls, in my trunk, where it makes an amusing visual, at the very least.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
There's nothing like getting home from work after a long Thursday and finding that your room mate has put out a fresh bowl of Hershey Kisses wrapped in festive fall-colored foil. So, now I'm sitting at the computer in the breakfast nook, and Marissa is reading in the den, and we're both enjoying enough chocolate to give 15 middle-schoolers sugar rush.
Of course, I may be confusing "sugar rush" with "tipsy," as I'm also enjoying a bottle of Magic Hat's Roxy Rolles -- but that's neither here nor there.
Anyhow, I'm pretty happy that there is only one day left in this week, and that I will be spending both days this weekend in Troy, at the NYS 'Cross championships and the Uncle Sam 'Cross. Mostly, I'll be hanging out, watching races, and helping with registration, but I'll also be racing both days. Ostensibly in the running for the state title on Saturday -- but not really, since we all know that I'll be off the back forthwith. Wouldn't it be funny if I won, though?
Anyhow, once again, this was a pretty good week, mostly buoyed by the week's many exciting developments in the world of Spa 'Cross, which is now hardly more than a week away! And in case you were wondering, registration is open, and you can go and register now. Really, there's no reason to wait, I promise!
Tops from the week:
1) I finally managed to get Eric a bike, in one piece. It only took 6.5 months.
2) Spa 'Cross. So many exciting developments this week.
3) Two days of 'cross in Troy. Anything within 40 minutes ride time is OK with me!
4) Fall smells. Nothing better than crisp air with smoky accents.
5) Last Saturday's dinner gathering at the 106, and the following day's chili -- enough food to feed an army (or to feed me for a week).
Bottoms from the week:
1) Cold. I love fall, but riding is more fun in summer.
2) The Spa City's finances.
3) My sweet tooth. Always getting me into trouble.
4) Five days in a week. Really? Wouldn't a five day weekend be more fun?
5) I still need to find a food vendor for the 'cross race. Anyone interested?
*P.S. The hot air balloon reference in the title of today's post is a shameless attempt to generate more hits on Google, in light of today's escapades in Colorado.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
It is now cold here. For my ride today I piled on leg warmers, a base layer, two long-sleeved jerseys, a vest, toe booties, a thin hat and lobster gloves. Previously, the most I'd warn on a ride this year were knee warmers and one jersey.
With all the warm clothes, I was comfortable on my 3.5 hour ride up to Sacandaga, aside from the usual numb toes, but it's only going to get colder. This time of year always makes me sad for that reason. Not only is it dark at 6:30, hardly leaving time for a post-work jaunt out to the battlefield, but if you try to ride in the morning, you're likely to come home with a few less toes than you started the day with.
And, like I said, it's only going to get worse.
I didn't have any snotsicles today, but I know they're just around the corner.
In news that will be of interest to any cyclists in the immediate-Saratoga area, Fox Hill Road -- which links the Sacandaga reservoir to Lake Desolation via a 4-mile, stepped climb -- has been repaved along the first 1.5 miles. This section was fairly chewed up this summer, adding an additional challenge to the steep pitches at the bottom of the climb. Now the frost heaves, divots, and holes have been replaced by wonderfully-smooth tarmac.
Of course, once you ride to the limit of the new pavement, the older surface resumes. Up at the higher levels, the road doesn't have many holes, but it is a very course texture, and reminds me of what they call "chipseal" down under.
The only problem with the newly-reworked Fox Hill Road is that the dirt section at the top of the climb has been freshly graded, making it very tricky on skinny tires, so be careful if you ride up there! Of course, in a week or two the road will be frozen and covered with snow and ice, and you wouldn't be nice to attempt to navigate it with anything less to a snow pony.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
This is how John and I spent our Tuesday morning
In a few days, the hillside should be close-cropped
What should I write about tonight? Oh, I don't know, how about the 'cross race? I haven't written about that in a while.
At an hour this morning at which most people are (and should be) asleep, John and I went out to paint lines on the un-mowed sections of the Spa 'Cross course. The state park has generously agreed to mow these sections (mostly on the parts of our course map designated the "grassy knoll") in a creative pattern, which will allow us to use tall grass to help mark the race course on those sections.
The mowing should be taking place this week, weather permitting, and will thus allow anyone who cares to practice a couple of difficult off-camber turns, as well as a minor drainage crossing ('crossing?).
While it was raining, cold, and miserable while John and I were applying the paint, it got nice during the day, allowing me to join Ricky Gorton, Maddie and some of the Saratoga Cycling Club crew to preview the course. Although it is now, once again, covered with fallen leaves, and the morning's rain had left it a tad muddy, the course is getting well-ridden in, and I think it's going to live up to expectations of being a fast, technical, and challenging course. Also, everyone is going to be dizzy coming out of the Stuart Smalley Shame Spiral.
Once again, I forgot to bring my camera to document the group of us riding in furious circles around where the Shame Spiral will be set up.
Although we lost our bid to become a UCI 1.2 event, because we're overlapping with a Verge race in New Gloucester, Maine, we have received our USA Cycling permit, so we're a legit race now!
All we need is for you to go register! (Early registrations mean early revenues for the race, so that we can do things like pay the park for the use of the pavilion, pay officials, and purchase caution tape. We are fortunate to have NYCross and the Capital Bicycle Racing Club behind this race, saving us many of the up-front costs of promoting a race, but we still do have some expenses that cannot be ignored, so please go register!)
I'm also wondering what I'll write about after this race is over...
Lest you think that my job at The Saratogian is all work and no play, this is how Steve and Emily entertained themselves this morning while "trying to fix Emily's phone chord:"
Monday, October 12, 2009
I had been slowly been collecting it in my trunk, but have now moved it to the living room
And ... there's more to come!
There comes a time in every cyclists season when you have to turn to some other form of exercise to occupy ourselves and stay fit. For me, this involves running once in a while, and even swimming from time to time.
Tonight was my first run since some time last winter. Although I don't particularly like running, I do recognize that it's nice to be able to spend 40 minutes running and have a logged a solid day's work. On a normal weekday in season, I'd plan on riding for about two hours, so by simply putting on sneakers and a banana hammock, I've found 80 extra minutes in my day. Not a bad deal for an out-of-season athlete. Of course, I'll be back on the bike tomorrow -- even if that means riding my trainer, given tomorrow's forecast.
The prize beer is shown with an EMS beer coozie
Note: the traffic cone is not part of the prize package
Unfortunately for me, I don't know the meaning of "moderation," so rather than easing into my fall cross-training (not to be confused with 'cross training), I went out for a 40-minute run at a quick pace. Despite my post-run stretching session, my quads and hip flexor now feel leaden and tight. So it goes.
In Spa 'Cross news, John and I will be lining the course in the morning, to prepare the off-camber section for mowing, which park crews will be mowing sometime in the near future. Also today, I went to pick up prizes from the Olde Saratoga Brewery.
The brewery has given us 11 mini-coolers, each containing a beer, a bottle opener, a coaster, a postcard from the brewery -- and a chance to win a case of Olde Saratoga lager. One of the 11 coolers will have a coupon with a chance to win. Yesterday, we also received a delivery from Eastern Mountain Sports, of 12 pairs of Darn Tough socks and 100 beer coozies.
John and I are still in the process of creating the prize distribution list, but I think it's safe to say that there will be some well-compensated racers on Oct. 25.
Also, as previously noted, Blue Sky Bicycles will be on hand to tune bikes, sending ace mechanic Clifton Clearey, who learned to turn wrenches from aero guru John Cobb. Any other 'cross race can say that?
Now please, go register.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
This is how I spent the first part of Saturday
The route takes you damn near Vermont
Although it would be nice to have the Monday holiday off from work, I'm pretty happy with this weekend. Most importantly, I didn't race, watch a race, think about racing, or sleep in a strange bed. This is the first time I can say that of a weekend since the first weekend in August. Wow.
As with that weekend back in August, I spent the weekend as any non-racing bike racer would: getting up early and going for a bike ride.
After a chill evening at home on Friday evening, during which I enjoyed a delicious burrito from Esperanto, I woke up at 5 a.m., drove to Lake George, and participated in the first-annual Peak Season Century, a brand new charity ride started this year to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, by Saratoga-area developer Gary Olsen.
I didn't know anyone else participating in the ride (other than Gary), and I wasn't sure about the weather, which was rainy and cool. The route went around Lake George via Route 9N to Ticonderoga, then south on Route 22, west on Route 146, and back to the Village of Lake George on Route 9L. We lucked out with a tailwind coming down 22 through Whitehall and Ft. Ann.
According the Gmaps, the route (pictured above) is about 96 miles, mostly flat with a moderate climb up Tongue Mountain on the Western Shore of Lake George, followed by some rollers while heading south. The roads don't all have the best shoulders, and it was cool and rainy for most of the day, but the foliage was pretty.
Only about 12 riders turned out, and I would up riding the whole thing with Saratoga builder John Witt, of Witt Construction. For a guy whose longest previous ride this year was 50 miles, I think John did an admirable job on this long tour -- of course, I think the rollers in the last 30 miles hurt him a little more than they hurt me. Our ride time was about 5 hours, 25 minutes. On the whole, I think Gary has put together a nice event, and I hope he's able to grow it in the coming years. He's recruited Dieter and Anthem Sports to organize next year's ride. There was a gathering afterwards at Gary's house on the lake, but I wasn't able to stick around, as I was due at Blue Sky Bicycles in the afternoon.
So that was Saturday, a rather full day of bicycle-related activity.
On Sunday I did something I haven't done since last winter: slept until 11 a.m. Now that my day is winding down and I've only been awake for 10 hours, I am reminded of why I don't like sleeping in. Oh well, good to do every once in a while, I suppose.
After eventually waking up and getting myself sorted, I compensated for my sloth with a mid-afternoon ride, on which I had the chance to enjoy some more foliage, this time without rain -- although the wind was up and roaring, conspiring to strip the leaves from the trees before we hit peak foliage. So it goes.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
He was previewing the Spa 'Cross Course
Look for him on Oct. 25
This was a good week. After a suitable break, I've been able to relax a bit, post-season, and enjoy some of the finer things in life. Like calling in sick on Wednesday, and spending the day laying on my sofa, mainlining OJ and blowing my nose until I ran out of tissues, and then sniffling until I was nearly drowning in my own mucus. A lovely image, I know.
Anyhow, the unequivocal highlight of the week was getting so much help in clearing a new section of trail for the Spa 'Cross course on Wednesday. Many hands made light work, and many racers are going to make Spa 'Cross the crown jewel of the NYCross.com series. Now, go register, before all of our fields fill, and you loose your spot.
Tops from the week:
1) The trail work crew, as mentioned above. Spa 'Cross is going to be great because of your hard work!
2) A certain Three Philosophers. Well worth the trip to Brewery Ommegang.
3) What the hell: first 'cross race of the year.
4) Finally getting a bike for Eric.
5) Thanks to Marissa, the apartment is finally clean!
Bottoms from the week:
1) This awful cold.
2) So many 'cross races, so hard to choose!
3) Gorgeous weather today, and I was stuck inside.
4) Cudney's. Not that it's not a great place, but I prefer avoiding it.
5) Even with taking Wednesday off, I still couldn't get enough sleep this week.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Thanks to Chris McBurnie, the crew from Tinney's and some other local 'cross enthusiasts, a necessary bit of trail work has been completed over at the Spa 'Cross course. You see, our 'cross race, unlike most others, has a fast, flowy section of single track interrupted only by a rideable log.
Until this afternoon, the entrance to the single track had racers going along the top of a steep embankment, and then hooking a left along the edge of a 4-foot drop. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the existing condition was unsafe, but it wasn't ideal. So, we went to Spa State Park officials, and told them about the trouble spot. Their immediate response was heartening in the best-possible way: "You can just move the trail."
So, that's exactly what we did. Now, after coming cross-eyed ('cross-eyed?) off of the run-up, racers will be funneled into the newly-cut entrance to the single track, before taking a gradual left-hander onto the main single track section. The single track is probably wide enough for a confident racer to make a pass, and the locals will know where there are a few hidden shortcuts, but anyone who falls far behind at the start of the single track will have a hard time making up positions later in the race -- BE WARNED!
After our trail work was completed, the whole crew saddled up and pre-rode the course a few times. I wish I'd brought my camera, as I'm sure the group of us looked rather comical, winding circles through an invisible maze of yellow tape in the middle of a field, one after another -- and then unwinding exactly the way we went in.
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that our course is coming together, and you won't want to miss this race. Our first vendor, Blue Sky Bicycles, has now been joined by a second -- maker of vegan energy bars, KD Energy. Look for samples and the chance to buy the products on race day.
After I left the park this afternoon (I am fairly sick, and probably shouldn't have left the house at all), John stuck around to ride a bit more, and is rumored to have spotted some national 'cross celebrities checking out our course. Look for photographic evidence on our new official race blog: Spa:cx.
Now, go register!
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
An article that popped up on Velo News today served as a troubling reminder that doping is not limited to the professional peloton, and, in fact, there is a chance that some athletes I raced against this past season have engaged in some form of doping, either knowingly or not.
While I've learned my lesson about throwing people under the bus without some kind of evidence, I still find it troubling to think that some racers, even at the amateur level, feel the need to employ pharmaceutical aids to achieve results, or make uninformed choices.
I was recently talking about this topic with someone (I can't remember who it was), who pointed out that the easiest way to spot doping without clinical testing is to look for an athlete who punctuates lackluster racing with astounding results, at key moments during the season. For instance, if I had the kind of races I had in June, July, and August, then suddenly turned up at GMSR, and raced to a win up the App Gap -- that would be fairly suspicious. Fortunately, I don't think I aroused any suspicious with my ride up App Gap this year.
Instead, a clean rider will likely display a steady progression. Of course, we all try to peak for certain events, but no training-induced peak could have given me an extra gear on App Gap, after getting dropped on the short climbs at the Capital Region Road Race two weeks earlier.
Anyway, for me, racing is fun -- the minute it stops being fun, you can be sure that I won't bother pinning a number on my back, and I have to imagine that worrying about what my piss test will show wouldn't be that much fun.
In other news, you should go ready my new essay on Embrocation Cycling Journal, it's awesome!
Monday, October 05, 2009
With one 'cross race now in the bag, I have been given a veritable treasure trove of photos. Some of these came from Maddie, others came from Cliff Summers. Thanks for the photos!
Also, today being the first Tuesday of the month, I have a new essay up on the Embrocation Cycling Journal website -- I get paid per click, so read often!
It was very rideableBarriers outside the beer tent made for good spectating
I find that I can get over the barriers just fine
it's getting back on the bike that I have problems with
The permanent beer tent didn't hurt
Our course will be much more challenging, though
These took a lot of concentration
I ate it on this turn during the 3/4 race
I'd say that my greatest challenge is trust issues with my tires
But we'll get there
Cow print jersey and a matching cow silo
The Trek tape really pulls the whole thing together
I wasn't really off the front, so there was a bit more traffic
I did manage to pass some of these guys, though
Sunday, October 04, 2009
John and I are 1-1 after today's racing.
Look for him to try and one-up me next week.
I drove out to Brewery Ommegang today, for the first races of my 'cross season. I just recently finished getting my refurbished 'cross bike ready to roll, and had even ridden it once (which is better than I managed before my first race on the bike last year), so I felt like I was going to be ready to shred.
Plus, the race was at a brewery, so even if the shredding didn't go to plan (as it almost certainly wouldn't), magic potions to soothe the pain would be easy to come by.
So, I drove out to Cooperstown with Jamie, intending to race the 3/4, and maybe the 1/2/3, depending on how the first race went. (I'm still a cat 3 in 'cross, which seems like the right level for me.) Jamie, somehow still a 4, was targeting the 3/4, with possible plans to race the single-speed event on a rigid mountain bike. Despite a forecast of sunny skies and warm air, it was rainy and grey when we arrived at the brewery.
When we arrived, Maddie was well on her way to winning the women's cat 4 event. A quick survey of the course showed that it was, in my estimation, one of the less-technical courses I've seen. There was a slippery and steep hill, which might have been a run-up, but was eminently rideable, even as it got chewed up through the day. Other than that, the only technical elements were some tight turns on slippery surfaces (including a few in the beer tent), and the barriers.
Jamie and I lined up early with John Onderdonk and Scott Paine, and went from the gun. This was a bit of a departure for me, as I usually like to start from the back in 'cross races, lest I get in the way of anyone faster -- plus, it's a good excuse when you, invariably don't do well. Even if it was a departure, I think it was a good decision. I was in the top 3 when we hit the first turns (Jamie got the hole shot and was already lapping the slower-starting riders by this point). I slipped back a couple places, but was riding comfortably in the top 5 for the first lap, and getting psyched with how I was going.
Then John crashed, taking me out. Some co-promoter he is. Anyway, it's 'cross and crashes happen. We all got up and kept riding, but had lost some spots as we picked our selves up. I was working on getting positions for a while, and eventually, I got back into a rhythm and caught up to and passed two racers who had previously passed me, right as we rounded a barn, heading toward the barriers and beer tent.
Perhaps a little over-enthused from passing someone, I decided it was time to really punch it, and try to catch Scotty P., who I could see just one turn ahead of me. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong moment for the punching, and lost my front wheel in the first turn in the beer tent, sending me painfully to the ground, reopening a bunch of wounds from last month's crash.
The second crash completely deflated me, and I would say that I limped the remainder of the race, loosing any ground I might have made up. So it goes.
Jamie won, never loosing his lead or even really being challenged by another racer, despite drooping his chain at one point. I hope he gets his upgrade soon, because I think it'll be interesting to see the looks on the faces of the elite field when they get the business from a mountain biker.
The stem also lost a centimeter
Overall, I think it's a better-riding bike now
Not content to suffer through one race, I paid another $10 to enter the elite race. This one went similarly, although, this time (thanks to Jamie's suggestion), I took the harder turns in my drops, finding much better traction with the bike better-weighted. Of course, that the ground was drying out helped too. The elite race was fairly uneventful for me. I wound up getting lapped by the top five or six toward the end of the race, but I beat John, getting my revenge! I would have to say, though, that the highlight was taking a beer feed at some point in the middle of the race.
Let me tell you: drinking from a plastic cup while riding a 'cross bike through a mud puddle is not easy, but hearing cheers when you do it makes the challenge well worthwhile. Unrelated, but I would also note that I like 'cross courses without run-ups! Carrying bikes is easily my least-favorite part of the sport.
Between races, Jamie and I put out a lot of fliers for the Saratoga Spa 'Cross, and I'm really hoping that registrations start coming in this week. The responses to the flier that I heard were positive, which I'm taking to mean that there is growing interest and enthusiasm for our race.
Maddie took a bunch of photos, so look for more of those soon. Also, Jamie left before the elite race, so I drove home with Maddie -- which I can only imagine was a trying experience for her, as I was rather drunk on Ommegang's finest by the time we left. It's 'cross, that's what you're supposed to do, right?
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Bernstein on the job
BTW, the hat is totally tight, and says Velo News on it
One skill I have yet to master is writing while looking at the interview subject
Usually, after a weekend of bike racing, I'm pretty excited to jump on the world wide web and search around to see if I can find any photos to prove that I did, in fact, spend the weekend gutting it out on my bike.
Last weekend, having spent the better part of Saturday afternoon watching a pair of bike races for Velo News, I was not expected any photos of my race action, as most of the lenses seemed to be trained -- as they should be -- on the athletes. It later turned out, though, that at least one lens swung my way after the women's race ended. Kristen Cioffi, a Boston-are photog snapped the above photo of me interviewing third-placed finisher Jenn McRae.
OK, fine. It's possible that the photo is actually of winner Tina Pic talking to the local TV news, but I am in the background, a rare photo of a print journalist at work.
Anyhow, now that I'm thinking about it, this was a long week. The short daylight hours make riding a damn pain in the ass, and although I'm not really training for anything anymore, I still like riding my bike, and aim to ride regularly. The cold that suddenly descended this week (last week I was wearing shorts) is also not helping anything.
Oh well. At least I'm enjoying trying (and failing) to ride my 'cross bike. In other news, I just found the oddest thing in my sweatshirt pocket: a label maker sticker that says "please." If you put that in there, please tell me why. Not that I mind, just curious.
Tops from the week:
1) John legitimizes our race by starting a blog.
2) New Spa 'Cross sponsors: Blue Sky Bicycles and Sigma USA.
3) Registration for Spa 'Cross is open. Don't delay, make haste to registration!
4) Ommegang on Sunday. I don't know how the race is going to go, but at least I'll get a pint glass out of it.
5) Molly is coming to visit Friday!
Bottoms from the week:
1) Short daylight.
2) Cold. (Relatively speaking).
3) My 'cross bike's headset has gone crunchy.
4) Public support for abortion fading?
5) A salty accident involving an otherwise delicious pot of soup.