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Thursday, October 22, 2009

I Know Cyclists Can’t Be Serial Killers, So Yes We Will Stay For Dinner

“Yes, we will stay for dinner.” That should be your response any and every time one of your riding buddies invites you to come to their place for dinner after a ride, especially if the ride ends in front of their house. That is also the answer you should expect if you extend such an invitation. Of course you should offer to chop veggies, set the table, and pour water. You do not need to take a shower, but washing your face and hands might be a nice gesture. If they offer up the shower, I’ll let you draw that line. Eating at a friend’s house and being naked in a friend’s house are miles apart as far as a judgment call goes. So, maybe just take a hit of the deodorant you keep in your bag. You should never turn a post-ride dinner invitation down.

There is nothing going on in your life after a bike ride that’ll be better than having dinner with friends. Nada. Sex? Yeah right. Name one time you had sex when you got home after a ride. I’ve been riding bikes for like 15 years and never once got laid after I got home from a ride. After a ride all you want is food, a chair and a comfy pair of pants. Guess what? That’s exactly what a post-ride dinner invite is all about. Well, maybe not the pants. Last night they popped the question. My wife and I got the invite from people we rode with. My wife was reluctant. Me? I already slipped my pants over my chamois, locked my bike on the roof rack and dug a ball cap out of my bag. “We have a lot of food at home. Why don’t we just head home?” She reasoned. “Honey, they saw me lock the bike to the car. I think at this point they’re expecting us.” I tossed back. Maybe it’s something catholically polite engrained in our brains from living in Wisconsin, but for some reason we have a hard time accepting impromptu invitations. It’s almost like we feel that others shouldn’t go through trouble for us. Seriously, where’s the trouble in dinner. Its two extra plates, glasses and napkins. At the most, they won’t have leftovers for lunch the following day. For us, what was at home that was better than good conversation with friends, a chance to see their kitchen renovation progress, a big salad and a giant bowl of pesto pasta with veggies and faux-chicken? As funny as Cougar Town, Glee and Modern Family are, we do have a DVR. Or, maybe this is precisely the reason I’ve never had sex after a ride. Nawwww. I doubt it.

Sure, there are some weird people that ride bikes. What if “that guy” invites you over? You should do it. Yes. Maybe it’s your chance to get past the lazy eye and the purple helmet cover. You’re a cyclist. You’re adventurous. You’ve probably ridden down a dead end road or taken a goat path trail just to see where it goes. So, just think of a post-ride dinner invite like an unknown trail or road. I have yet to be disappointed by following either of those routes on a road or mountain bike ride. Bet you that odd bird is a great cook. Bet you their dog will love you. Ten bucks says there are chocolate chip cookies and the Tour of Flanders saved on the DVR. Your not thinking the worst could happen are you? Really? C’mon. Cyclists can’t be lunatic serial killers. If you ride bikes and have even a semblance of a regular professional occupation, between sleeping, eating, training and bike maintenance there is no time left in the day for successful secret evil real-life SAW 4 type horror movie plotting. Trust me, if you accept a dinner invitation from a cycling buddy, your feet, still in your Sidis, will not end up washing ashore on a beach in Vancouver.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Doctor Mom and the Spouse-O-Meter

I’m no doctor, but I think we can all agree that this stellar purple-mamba that I found searching "hip bruise cycling" on yahoo images isn’t going to heal in 2 days. Secondly I’m almost certain that repeatedly bumping this juicy hip bruise into the corner of a table in two days isn’t going to make it better nor make the rider any faster. It doesn’t take Dr. House and a bottle of Vicodin to tell you that it’ll take the body a couple 2-3 weeks to completely recover from a doosey like that. So what’s the difference in recovery time between this lovely hematoma and the impact three back to back to back and up your crack Cyclocross races have on your muscles, tendons and other gooshy parts?

I’m starting to see first hand, only 5 weeks into the Cyclocross season and maybe 10 weeks since most racers began training, riders burning out. Riders that 5 weeks ago I thought would be doing better, down in the root cellar. Maybe it’s some chemical leaching from the Styrofoam helmet shell, but most cyclists would agree that if you have a case of the sucks, the only cure is an immediate self inflicted on the bike ass whopping. Sure enough, racers were back drilling away at intervals and Cyclocross practice on Tuesday and Wednesday after racing triple races over the weekend. My gut tells me they’re bumping their bruises into the corner of the table.

My mom is a retired RN. Doctor Mom I call her. (Pictured left in her "slacker" t-shirt prior to her retirement party) If I called her more often and asked, I’m sure she would attest, in Latin terms of course, a bruise is a bunch of busted blood vessels and ripped tissue bleeding and clotting under the skin. She would also remind me that I haven’t called my grandmother in two months. Then as I pressed the issue, I’m sure Doctor Mom would agree that muscle fatigue and stress aren’t quite the same caliber of injury as a nasty purple nurple. Then I would reason, certainly, given the 2-3 weeks it generally takes for a bruise to go from black & blue to green& yellow and finally to skin tone, it has to take the body more than 36-48 hours to even remotely recover from a double or triple race weekend. “I suppose that would be true,” Doctor Mom would say. “Now make sure you call grandma after we hang up.”

The weekend of October 9-11th, I along with every cyclocrosser in the Ohio Valley did three back to back Cyclocross races. I knew I’d need a break from the bike. Monday, I went for an easy 2 ½ mile walk. I took Tuesday completely off and instead concentrated on laundry basket intervals and dishwashing repeats. Wednesday I went for an hour and a half pretty much granny gear ride. Finally, Thursday I felt good enough to do a set of 10 hill repeats during an hour and a half ride. I took Friday off. Saturday my wife and I did a steady moderate 40 miles. In a week I rode a total of 5-6 hours. Yesterday, since I wasn’t racing and missed the fast Saturday group ride, I thought I’d better do some intervals. So we rolled out 7 miles to do my regular program of 5-8 minute hill repeats.

Showing a bit of machismo and confidence that I had built up some serious Cyclocross fitness, I said something bull headed like, “We’ll go up together and when I get to the top I’ll turn around…” You can see where this is going. I might even have said it in a Belgian accent. My wife matched my speed & power and held my wheel for every single one of the five intervals. Killer. She’s a strong rider and knows how to hold a wheel, but moreover is probably more competitive than myself. She might be half Belgian. I thought being an in-shape and fit cyclocrosser, I’d drop her on the very first hill for sure. Not the case. I patted her on the back. “Good job honey. Wow. That was impressive.” While I didn’t try to drop her, if I was ever going to drop her it’d be doing hill repeats when I felt relatively fresh. We headed back for the flat ride home.

“How fast do you think you’re going,” asked my wife as we pushed the last five flat miles of our ride yesterday. I wasn’t totally hammering, but felt like I was giving a solid effort for the end of a ride. I said, “18 or so.” “14.8,” she replied. As the road dipped into a slight downhill, I looked back and questioned, “20-21?” “18.6,” the answer came back. My perceived effort was way higher than the actual result. A week removed from the races, with what most would think would be a light training week, my brain was telling me I was “strong-like Ox,” however the speedometer suggested the strength of the Snuggle laundry detergent bear. Obviously, I’m not still fully recovered from the races even with a lighter week of training. The Spouse-o-meter was dead on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Number Pinning For Dummies

Barry Wicks ain’t no dummy. I’ve searched the internet and in my entire cycling life, I have only seen one example of this genius number pinning technique. Back then, I was too green to have the epiphany I had Sunday. Over the weekend at the Cincinnati UCI-3 International Cyclocross Festival, more specifically at Harbin Park, the Kona truck was parked behind me. As I rolled back and leaned my bike against my car after my race, Barry Wicks was inside the Kona truck pinning on his bib number and I nearly crapped my chamois, not because I was star struck or because I saw his schmengie (I did not), but because I saw how pro’s pin their numbers.

I’ve have a teammate that nearly reaches a near Tourettes syndrome nervous tick trying to get his number pinned on correctly. Sometimes the number accidently gets pinned through the base layer. Sometimes it goes a bit deeper. “Ouch! “Sorry Brother.” “I’m good.”

Sometimes you get the number on perfectly, only to have a pin blow out when the jersey is pulled in. Or, maybe you’ve got a lycra-phobic friend who isn’t quite cool with delicately touching a man in spandex. I’ve heard all the tips: put your jersey on the hood of the car, you got to leave room for jersey stretch…blabidty blabidty blah blah.

I wish I had taken a photo of Wicks pinning his numbers to his jersey. Then again, it’s not cool for a man to take a photo of another man who’s about to don spandex. And…he’s bigger than me. So, I took a photo of myself to demonstrate this technique. Behold my children:









Maybe it’s something secret you only learn after a pro hazing or written on a flyer when your pro license arrives in the mail. Maybe I’ll be lynched by Lance Armstrong for sharing this with mere amateurs. But, I’m going to lay it on you anyway.

There’s a number of ways to get to the point in the photo. I did not see how Barry got his jersey or skinsuit around his legs. As far as I can figure, you can zip up your jersey part way, and then pull it on your legs with your feet going through the arm-holes till the body of the jersey comes up over your quads. Or you can zip your jersey around your upper legs, skipping your feet in the arm holes, and then twist the jersey around your legs till the back is facing up and the zipper is down. Or if it's a skinsuit, maybe just pull it on backwards so the back lies on your upper thighs. Now the jersey/skinsuit is pre-stretched to the approximate dimensions of your upper body and you can precisely pin it so that when you put it on your upper body, your number will be flat and perfect every time. At least you’ll look pro. And, please don’t tell anyone I told you this or I could get man-slapped by a gang of skinny bean-armed pro cyclists.

Check out Barry Wicks Blog "Wick Nasty" by clicking here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Snapshots in Sound from Cincinnati UCI-3 Cyclocross Weekend

THURSDAY:

“We have a flood watch out for the following counties…,” the meteorologist said as the blob of red, orange and yellow of the Cincinnati radar Thursday night approached. Nearly 3 inches of rain fell on top of the Day 1 course at Devou Park. Pictured: me suffering through mother nature's carnage.


FRIDAY:

“Oh ooohhhh!!!” The unmistakable cry of a Cat 3 racer lying on the ground about to be t-boned by my fast approaching Fango toward his body. Then the silent slow motion replay of me going over the bars. He breaks the silence shouting “I’m sorry dude” as I pick my bike up so out of breath I couldn’t even reply. I was thinking, “That’s racing in the mud.” I realized last night that my chain stay was scratched after that.

“WOOO! WOOO!” Self professed hillbilly, BioWheels/Reece-Campbell Racing’s Tony Franklin hooting in the rain at the start of the Cat 3 races at Devou. “WOOO!”

“Was that a cross race?” “Yes, that was a real cross race.” Staccato mud smiling conversation among teammates after the Cat 3 races at Devou.

The singular plop of mud on my driveway after scooping up a handful from my down tube. My driveway was covered in clumps of grass and mud as I hosed off my bike and clothes in front of my neighbors and people out for evening neighborhood walks.

“I got it working!” After 2 days of issues, I got the wireless internet card working and called Andrew of Cyclocross Magazine with the good news that live coverage was a go. Read the play by play of Saturday's races here. Photo above of me Sunday at the controls of CXmagazine.com for the Harbin coverage.

SATURDAY:

"Mama's little baby loves Rhubarb Rhubarb, be bop a ree bop, Rhubarb Pie." An NPR segment while sipping Starbucks on the way to Middletown.

“Nice Joe nice!” Spectator cheering for me as I cleaned the hilly twisty muddy section by the pool at the Middletown Cat 3 Masters 35+ race. I railed it and it was a thing of beauty. I finished 4th on the day.

“Use CXMlive.” Me shouting over the cowbells and the music telling the announcers the twitter address for spectators to send pictures to the live feed of CXmagazine.com coverage of the race. Someone posted the pic above of Jpow hoppin' the barriers.

“If you tie it here and to the hitch and then tie the front to the seat, I think it will be stable.” Phil Noble helping me get the barriers from the Middletown race in my car and over to Harbin. They stuck out the rear window of my 4-Runner four feet and I drove 55 all the way to Harbin and the tail end of the barriers bounced with every little bump.

The shuffle of the Burger King employees helping everyone else but me as I stand bonking waiting to order.

“Can those guys help out?” Chris Mayhew, Cat 3 rider and UCI-3 announcer, asking me to ask my spent teammates to muster up one last bit of energy to finish the Saturday set up at Harbin Park.

SUNDAY:

“You got any rebar?” BioWheels TJ Turner called me on the way to Harbin. At first I thought, “Rebar? What the F*%^ is he talking about.” Then I remembered that maybe there was still rebar in my truck from bringing the barriers over Saturday night. We got ‘em up and stable enough to bunny hop for Jeremy Powers with an hour to spare.

Boom. Shackalacka. Boom. Boom. Splash. “C’mon Butch!” Tony Franklin pounds out the rhythm on the sand pit drums and stops to shout at a Cat 4 Smitty’s Bike Shop racer with dangling snot and drool from nose to mouth to chin to.

“Jeez, look at the size of those things.” Huntington’s Dave Stewart warming up with me for his first cross race ever sees UCI legal barriers for the first time from a racers point of view.

“What’s with that Joe? What’s with that!!” Spectator and probably a teammate shouting as my sand surfing put me into the fencing. I didn’t dab but had to use the fence like a railing to make the last 3 feet of the second sand pit.

“Cheeseburger Cheeseburger Cheeseburger.” Me ordering a post race/pre-live coverage burger from Anne Conroy Noble at the Harbin food set up. Proceeds of $750 went to JDRF.

“He went down at the barriers. Looks like a collar bone.” Two John’s Podcast’s John Gatch relays the information about a down rider in the Men’s pro race to me for the feed on CXmagazine.com.

“You better cover your computer.” Announcer advising me to watch out as Jeremy Powers starts to uncork the bottle and let the champagne fly.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cincinnati UCI-3 Pro's Put On A CX Clinic

Some of you have those German levers, Joachim Parbo said to a laughing crowd of about 40 participants at the Cincinnati UCI-3 Cyclocross clinic hosted by Danish National Champion Parbo and US favorite Molly Cameron at Covington’s Devou Park. At the time Parbo was instructing racers of all levels on how to successfully dismount and run barriers cleanly and consistently. Poking fun at some racers top of bar brake levers with a smirk he added, the Germans like safety. Seriously, you want to do one thing and then the next thing, he went on. Hands on the hoods, you brake, swing a leg over, dismount, run and remount. You don’t want to try and do everything at once. Parbo preached consistency. When you do things the same way ever single time, you don’t make mistakes. He jumped on his bike and comically illustrated how someone can bobble while trying to change hand positions, brake, dismount and run all at the same time. The Parbo way became crystal clear. Be consistent. Good advice. Even the racers who’ve been doing Cyclocross for years came away with some useable tidbits for this weekend’s UCI-3 races in Cincinnati.

Parbo always dismounts from the hoods. His brake levers are set up moto-style, left controls rear, and right controls front. He picked up his Leopard bike, and even by the looks of it, it was freakishly light. When you dismount with your hands on the hoods, you’re halfway there. Parbo demonstrated that with your hands on the hoods, your body is in a better position to easily slide on and off the saddle. He instructed the group to just walk with their bikes, sliding on and off the saddle. Light bulbs went on above many racers heads. The riders were no longer jumping on the saddle, but smoothly sliding on. Simple but effective advice.

Molly brought up a great point for shorter riders who were having trouble lifting their bikes high enough to keep the wheels from clipping the tops of the barriers. Keep your elbows in, he instructed. With your hand on the top tube, and your elbow in, the saddle of the bike rises past the side of your body higher. Parbo chimed in, telling a shorty junior to try grabbing from the down tube. The barriers got 4 inches shorter after he did that. Also, keeping your elbows in prevents the bike from swinging wildly and consequently risking it being bobbled if hit by another rider.

Late in the clinic, Parbo said, it’s not about who gets to the barriers first or over them faster. It’s about who gets up to 25 miles per hour first. The group went silent. You could almost hear the riders think. 25mph? Who is he kidding? I’d be lucky to hit 20 with a cross bike on grass. That’s why Parbo and Molly are pro and we all can learn a lot.

Cinti UCI-3 Cyclocross Live Race Coverage

The Cincinnati International Cyclocross Festival's day's 2 and 3 Pro-Elite Events will be live on CXmagazine.com in a scrolling blog format with The Best Bike Blog Ever as your MC...yo. Sign up below to get a pre-race reminder.

Day 2 Sunset Park Middletown, OH:


Day 3 Harbin Park Cincinnati:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Gag Me With Cyclocross

Cyclocross makes her gag. It makes me hack. The only thing that brings a halt to the heaves is being inside the starting grid box painted on the grass, for both of us. Normally telling someone you nearly yucked up your breakfast is a little TMI, but among teammates it’s a revelation. My teammate Gerry and I in the midst of revealing our pre-race jitters discovered we both get to the brink of barf before races. It’s so bad that both of us have a hard time shoveling breakfast down the food hole in the morning, can’t tango with a single piece of toast and convulse at the mere thought of light brown steaming thick oatmeal. On race day we can only wish to be like Mikey and eat our Life cereal. I’m all but ready to ask my wife to feed me with an entertaining food on a fork show while making airplane noises.

I’ve been told to think of important races as just another ride. I can eat just about anything before a ride or for a race I don’t care about. Ham and egg sammiches on a bagel (and I spelled that correctly in my book) is a favorite. While it wasn’t wise or fair to my teammates, I once downed double cheeseburgers before a summer weeknight Ault Park crit. For races that I really care about however, nothing causes the retching reflex more than the sight of a gooey snot-like egg swimming in a frying pan. However, that’s not all true. At 5am before the Mohican 100 this year, I rolled up a ham, egg and cheese breakfast burrito no problem and had my best race all season. Before a mountain bike race a few years ago where the series win hung on the result, I pounded down a pear, a Clif bar and a few other pre-race favorites on the drive to Shawnee State Park. So obviously I am capable of not getting nervous, or at least being calm enough to eat a substantial meal before a big event.

Sometimes it has helped to eat the moment I get up in the morning. The trick, however, is not making any pit stops between bed and buffet. One look at a skinsuit hanging on the back of the door, a bike magazine on the table, or a backpack bursting with cycling gear and the cough starts. Consequently, going from bed to fed is an exercise in futility. There are always water bottles chilling in the fridge to remind me of the race and feel the itch at the back of my throat. Maybe a mini-fridge nightstand would work. Yeah, that’d look good in the bedroom. The sad thing, it’s not like I’m trying to win an Olympic medal. It’s a regional Cat 3 master’s 35+ cyclocross race. In reality it’s the cycling equivalent of my father’s Thursday night bowling league. Maybe I should start packing all my gear in a bowling bag to put things in perspective.

Outside of seeing a sports psychologist, we just deal with it. Know your body I guess. I’ve found foods that I can pound down the pipe in small doses like raisins, Frusion smoothies, bananas, Odwalla bars, fruit roll-up strips, Shotblocks, Sharkies, orange juice, Gatorade and Gu’s. Knowing that an egg sandwich and a glass of OJ packs about 800 calories, I start counting my way up in stuff I can swallow: smoothie 150, raisins 100, shot blocks 200, and so on. I don’t eat everything at once in a formal feeding frenzy. Instead I’ll start with a Dan Active yogurt drink, a vitamin and a smoothie. Then I’ll start packing my bag and down the raisins and OJ. Do my dootie, and then hit the raisins and half a banana. The whole time I'm coughing my way through getting packed. On the road to the venue I’ll nibble away at the Odwalla bar, Berries Go Mega please, and fruit roll-ups. During warm-up and registration I’ll hit the Shotblocks, slowly stoking my stomach before the start.

Yesterday, I stopped twice to hack and heave in the 300 meter ride from my truck to the staging area. I’m sure I scared some little kids. No doubt anyone within 100 yards could hear the unmistakable sounds of a stomach turning inside out like a tube sock. I never actually spew. Spit and drooley ooze, that’s common. I wipe my eyes and the protoplasmic slime from the corner of my mouth and ride up towards the rest of the boys. I may cough a little milling around before the start. As soon as my name is called and I roll onto the starting grid I’m fine and focused.

So what’s the big deal, I finished 3rd on Sunday. The deal is that the races I’ve done remarkably well at, I was never nervous before the start and felt completely confident pre-race, almost like I knew I’d do well and there was no need to be nervous.

Race Video of Cat 3 & Masters from OVCX 2009 #2 at Louisville:

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Perks and Perils of Wrenching for Team Wifey

I’m chief mechanic for Team Wifey. There’s no salary, but I’ll admit there are some great perks. Here’s the current roster: Sweetie, Honey Bunny and Baby Cakes. Team Wifey is all pro. All they do is ride and leave the wrenching and set-up to the incredibly qualified and handsome mechanics. As chief mechanic, and the most handsome, I handle all the maintenance for Team Wifey’s corral of high end bikes such as an IF Crown Jewel and a Ti Litespeed Pisgah. Team Wifey is as demanding as any tour team. The mechanics take the job very seriously and are always ready with spare tubes, chains and cables. They make sure the tires are pumped before every ride and lights are mounted in case training goes into the evening. If the forecast calls for showers or chilly weather, the mechanics put the bike on the trainer, tune the TV to Entertainment Tonight and drape a small towel on the handlebars. Just like any Pro Tour team, the riders of Team Wifey never admit to operational errors or oversights. It’s preposterous to think that long natural perfectly filed fingernails could ever impede shifting performance.

Recently Team Wifey went out for a training ride with the Fast Fairfax Women’s squad. Just like Team Wifey, the Fast Fairfax Women also have their own sweet deal with the bike shop down the street so they too can strictly concentrate on riding. So they’re out pedaling the bike path and Team Wifey starts having ghost shifting issues. Clickity clickity clickity. Annoyed, she says, “It keeps shifting all over the place!” Her riding partners say there must be some problem with the cable tension or the little adjustment screws on the derailleur. Team Wifey complains that her new chain has been backordered and obviously the current chain must’ve finally stretched out and is causing issues. There is not a screwdriver between them, but ten bucks says there’s definitely a scrunchie in one of their saddlebags. They press on confident that the shifting issues were properly diagnosed in the midst of discussing the hilarious trailer for the new movie “Couples Retreat” at 20 miles per hour.

After the training ride, Team Wifey is promptly met in the team shop where the riders are swarmed by the trusty and ruggedly handsome mechanics. They carefully remove water bottles, wipe the icky gooey half-worms out of the rear brake and slough the spilled Gatorade from the down tube. Team Wifey complains that she doesn’t understand why they can’t make a water bottle that closes easily. Then she remembers to tell the mechanics to check the chain for stretch adding that it was ghost shifting all over the place. The mechanics put the bike up in the stand, spin through the gears and look for the issue. “Ah hah!” The dashing chief mechanic reaches into the recesses of his trusty tool box and pulls out the hand made sharpened spoke poker tool and goes to work.

“I think we found your problem,” the chief mechanic exclaims as he pulls a 10 inch stick, which had wrapped itself between three cogs, out of the cassette. “Oh…my…gawd! Thanks Sweetie,” she adds pulling her gorgeous hair back with a pretty blushing smile while walking into the house. Job done. Mechanic paid.