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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Video: Molly's Bike Got Run Over By A Mini

The story goes like this.  Molly Hurford writes for CX Magazine.  As a freelance project, I do the PR for OVCX (Ohio Valley Cyclocross) and every week send her the most exciting press releases you've ever read.  Then, like most writers, I nervously pace hoping that my drivel holds enough esteem for her to give love to our riders and events in Cyclocross Magazine.  

Yada yada yada, her bike got run over by a car at the Bay State CX race this past weekend.  While horrifying to her, I found it kind of funny.  She wasn't riding it at the time.  The car, which looks like a Mini Cooper, apparently decided to kill her bike in cold blood.  Details remain sketchy.  The sob story unfolded on Twitter and Facebook the last 2-3 days.  After making an off-hand comment on her last Facebook post (see photo) she more or less insisted I make a parody of "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" about it.

So I did one better, stole pictures off her Facebook page and made a video with the song.  Enjoy.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Smedium: New Clothes Sizes for Cyclists

I Propose A New Size
“Where’s your ass?” my wife asked.  “I know you have a butt, a nice butt, but I don’t see it.”  Apparently my caboose got derailed in these 33W X 33L jeans I’m wearing.  I think I pulled them off the hanger from the pre-vegan section of my closet.  Maybe I’ve slightly neglected my personal sex appeal over 14 years of marriage, but my wife deserves to see my fine cyclocross sculpted rear bumper.  Two days later, the golden e-mail hit her smartphone, “Tonight only, 40% off at Banana Republic.”  It was mutually decided, skip the easy Monday night at the gym for an hour or two doing dressing room gymnastics.  Oh boy, it got gymnastical.

With four plaid collared button down dress shirts, a baby blue merino wool sweater and a long-john-esque “waffled” long sleeve tee, Joe or Nick or Kevin or one of the Jonas Brothers working at Banana Republic showed me to my stall.  As far as the button downs, I’m upset to report I’m a size Smedium.  From the last time I bought nice shirts and today, I’ve probably lost 12-15 pounds.  Staring in the mirror with the medium, I could gather 5-6 inches of fabric around my middle.  Dammit, it took me months of intervals and hummus to earn this waist.  I want to show it off.  So with the hesitation of a former large, I slipped on the small. 


Hmm...not too poochy in the small.
I could sort of see the last uncyclocrossed remnants of my pooch showing.  I’m not 6-pack sculpted, more of a two-pack.  Like the woman in the dressing room next to me, I went back and forth between the two sizes: small, medium, small, medium.  “Welcome to my world,” I could hear my wife saying.  I spent so much time in that dressing room with so many items I wondered if the Jonas Brother was getting suspicious of shoplifting.  I opted for the small, yet still puzzled.  Why do pants come in so many different sizes stores practically need a card catalog to organize the shelves by size and style, yet shirts at Banana Republic have only four sizes for men, small through XL?  So there’s my case for Smedium (SM) and Mediarge (ML).

As for the jeans, I walked into the store saggin’ no ass pre-vegan 33 squares, 33W x 33L.  Going sub-33 was new territory for me, so I sent Jonas ahead, armed with 32’s, 31’s and even a pair of 30’s.  The 32’s were clown pants.  I hooked the waist with my thumbs.  I could probably shove 3 summer sausages down the front of them.  The butt looked like denim drapery.  So I got extreme.  Wiggling and shimmying, I had to get gymnastical to get the 30’s on.  Beyond surprised, they buttoned right up and fell flat on the hips.  However, the thighs were so tight they could double as muscle recovery wear.  It’s the cyclists curse. 


Those Quads Need A Belt
You ride your butt off, try to eat healthy and lose weight, but your newly acquired Andre’ Greipel in training quads and hammies get so big you need to opt for the larger size.  I walked out of the dressing room without pants, new pants, and this thought.  I propose adding three dimensional sizing to men's pants.  The “T” could mean thigh or tree-trunk, or for skinny people, tent pole.  Instead of 31W x 33L, for those with 20 inch hams like me, we’d have 30W x 33L x 21T.  One way or another, my wife deserves to oogle my ass.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Making Your and #CXWorlds Work Together

I Would Sob 10 Seconds Later courtesy CX Magazine
I broke down after the finish line.  I remember the low winter sunshine.  Hiding my face under my arms and between the hoods of my handlebars so I wouldn’t freak out the daughters congratulating their father and fellow racer next to me, I cried for a moment, big soppy man tears.  My chest shook.  Uh huh huh.  Uh huh huh.  I could see my breath in the heat reflecting off the blacktop below me.  I smiled as I wiped my eyes.  I did it.  I raced the World Championships.

A guy 29 places ahead of me would pull on the rainbow stripes.  Crossing the line were a Belgian, a pair of Englishmen, a few Canadians and a couple guys from Coloradostan.  Sure it wasn’t the most representative international field, but the Belgian guy did take 2nd.  II was incredibly happy, 30th in the world.  I had reached the top of my sport, or as close as this black balloon birthday aged rider could get.  I raced fast, clean and finished on the lead lap with the best 45-49 year old cyclocross racers the world could deliver, provided they had enough vacation time and discretionary income for plane tickets to Louisville last January.  You gotta pay to play.  Still more than two months away, I’m struggling to muster a second summit bid.  Maybe you are too.

Masters World Seeding Race 2012
The problem is the road to Worlds can feel like a Pisgah National Forest fire road: twisty, steep, life sucking and potholed.  The other problem is last year was pretty stellar.  There’s a stained wooden shelf high in my mind with all the memories of a great push to the World Championships carefully arranged on it: trading icy caution tape crashes with my teammate Mike at Nationals, New Years Eve intervals in my dark and cold garage, the luck of a good call-up for the seeding race, my wife and I chuckling while I dirtied the floor cleaning my bikes in the Madison hotel room, a friend lending me his pink Specialized Crux pit bike when Worlds starting flinging mud, the stern call of the UCI officials, working the Worlds pit for friends racing and of course the bib number and finishers medal.  It makes me happy to close my eyes and look at it.  While I felt different earlier in the year, I find myself struggling to find room on the shelf for more.

Go out on a high note.  It’s a quote I use when practicing cyclocross or touching my monkey.  I’m kidding!  Whether its barriers or starts, get the work in, but make sure your last effort is good so you go home feeling confident.  That’s sort of how I am now.  For the first time ever, I notched series points for an 18th and 20th at USGP this past weekend on the Worlds Course in Louisville.  Nine of the top 25 ranked riders in the US were in the field, five of the top 10, including 2ndand 3rd place.  Four of the top 20 guys from Worlds last year were in the field, including 4th and 9th place.  The competition doesn’t get much stronger than that.  I’m feeling pretty good about my season.  I could hang it up right now, be satisfied and turn my attention to other Masters pursuits, like getting the yard ready for winter.

One Footer at Masters CXWorlds 2012
Having never climbed but having read a library full of mountaineering books on the toilet, I look for a correlation.  If you already summited at Everest, I don’t think you have the same drive the second time around.  I think pure adventure takes a backseat.  You’re more calculated and realistic about the pursuit.  Not achieving is no longer a failure.  It’s easier to let go.  After you’re acclimated, the camp 2 tent can feel pretty cozy.  You see others on their way down and consider how nice it might be to join ‘em for the hike back to basecamp, taking a few photos and sharing conversation along the way.  However, maybe I didn’t quite get to the summit the first time.  Maybe I haven’t seen the full 360 view.  Maybe 30th isn’t my top.  That’s what has me strapping on the crampons this year.  That and I can see the mountain from my living room.

CX Masters Seeding Rce Start Line
It’s more of a second in a lifetime opportunity.  Still, if I pass, I’ll likely never race a World Championship again unless I travel internationally.  This year again, Worlds is 24 songs on the iPod away in Louisville, an hour and a half from Cincinnati.  It’s low hanging cowbells, but between here and there is a daunting 8 weeks of hard work on the bike, holidays, expenses and arrangements: the last four OVCX Series races, a new license, Thanksgiving with friends, a new crank arm for the pit bike, Christmas in Wisconsin, New Years in Ohio, more garage intervals, another couple car washes, more derailleur cables, hotels to book, more bike cleaning, gas to pump, the Chicago Cup, Nationals, more intervals and a Worlds warm-up at KingsCX in Cincinnati.  Entering a credit card number on the registration page is more of a commitment than you think.

Friend & Colleague Amy Tobin
A conversation I had with culinary expert Amy Tobin gave me food for thought.  She’s probably one or two degrees from Guy Fieri, Gordon Ramsey and Rachael Ray.  She’s done some Food Channel and TLC.  Her cookbook is at Barnes and Noble.  She develops recipes and endorses products for food companies like Dole Salads and Jif Peanut Butter.  She runs a cooking school and has a radio show.  That’s how I know her.  She records her show segments with me at the radio station I work at.  Immediately you wouldn’t grasp the similarities, but between guests we’ll talk shop on common ground.  I’ll show her something I wrote for CX Magazine.  She’ll confide that she may have a new book brewing. 

Last week between guests she mentioned she’s not doing the little things this coming year.  She’s going to focus on the big.  I raised an eyebrow.  That’s pretty philosophical and a mite pretentious.  She explained it’s her way of keeping focus and shedding her life of the time and energy sucking endeavors with meager payoffs.  At the time, I sort of brushed it off.  My life isn’t that busy.  For goodness sakes, I don’t even have kids mucking up my work, writing and bike pursuits.  In the light of Worlds however, maybe it’s time to focus on the big things.  More importantly, maybe it’s time to let go of the little things along the way.  After all, having been there once, I know what they are.

My wife’s been on a business trip for the past week.  Frankly, I miss her.  The house is missing a spark and our cats seem preoccupied with kitty agenda rather than focusing on their job description of keeping me company.  More than racing again at Worlds, I look forward to this Saturday’s long ride with her, close friends and teammates.  We’ve got tickets for a night out and a party to attend.  I’ve already made up my mind, I’m casting off one little thing and forgoing Sunday’s OVCX race in Lexington.  This weekend, my Worlds are at home.

Should Your Worlds Road Go Through Wisconsin 
There’s more than one road to Masters CXWorlds.  Choose the one fits your life.  Having done it once before, I advise to take inventory of what is really necessary to the pursuit and what little things make the journey more difficult than it needs to be.  For me, with a Christmas trip back to see family in Wisconsin on the horizon, I think a second trip America’s Dairyland to race Nationals is unnecessary.  Despite Madison being an awesome town and the incredible CX scene up there, for me the stress and expense of a 2nd long trip outweigh the benefits of racing.  While I think it’s important to keep racing up to Worlds, the Chicago Cup is a more logical choice to keep the legs fresh and skills sharp in the weeks leading to worlds.  However, I think two days at the Chicago Cup can be cut back to a single day trip, especially with the Cincinnati Worlds warm-up date the weekend prior to Worlds.  You see where I’m going.  Take a look at your schedule, your life, your commitments and make your worlds work together.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Masters #CX Mediocrity: Hope in the Delta

“Delta Delta Delta.  May I help ya, help ya, help ya.”  The Deltas are what keep me on the grid week in and week out racing a combined Elite/Elite Masters cyclocross field in the OVCX series (Ohio Valley Cyclocorss).  Racing a field with 80% of the guys being younger than you can make you feel 25 again, but the fact that I quoted the movie Animal House tells you I don’t know what the buttons do on an X-Box game controller.  Sure, you and the young guns are the fastest guys in your riding circles, but on race day you’re the guy on the trainer behind your buddy’s RV who pays more to store it every month than they do in rent.  They are the guys warming up under the hatch of a ’98 Honda Civic with those big stoopid Jay-Z headphones which remind you of the Koss you used to wear while listening to Led Zeppelin surrounded by black light posters in your high school buddy’s basement bedroom.  You may be in the same race, but your Delta’s are still waaay off man.

Gray beards race with pimple poppers in OVCX.  The payout goes 20 deep indiscriminately to those with ear-hair or zits.  As a guy who can operate a nose hair trimmer, I get pummeled week in and week out by guys with Safe Auto Insurance.  It’s tough to feel success in 30th, 40th and 50th place.  While less bruised, even the fastest Elite Masters struggle for a top 10.  The only thing that keeps me coming back next week is the compliments I get at dinner parties from un-athletic friends and constantly improving Deltas which give me hope for that 20th place prize.

If you're a bottom of the pickle jar Elite Masters racer like me and are looking at the overall results, you’re likely two races away from selling your bike and playing catcher for the office softball team or using the cash to get the deck stained.  To me the Elite purse is an Everest-like pursuit, so in the time being I find unseen prizes hidden the lap splits, the deltas.  For the past 25 years it’s been useless, but now is the time to put your college statistics class and Texas Instruments calculator to work.  Dig into those lap times results with the furor of a U-23 with his head in a bag of Doritos and find a glimmer of hope.

Me at Cincy3 KingsCX by Kent Baumgart
Delta to the Leader
The first step is to chop off the head of the monster.  As a Masters racer, you’re not lapped until Andy Rooney eyebrows gets past you.  Looking at the results of an early race, disregard everyone placing higher than the fastest guy in your Masters category.  This will likely eliminate the top 5-8 guys, automatically making you feel better.  Then look at the overall time of the lap finishing at the :40-:45 minute mark.  In this case, my delta to the best placed Grey Beard was a beer-belly-big 5:33.

SEPTEMBER EARLY SEASON RACE EXAMPLE
1 Pimple Popper 40:02
2 Squeaky Voice 40:04
3 Mama’s Basement 40:28
Dorm Room 40:42
5 ’98 Honda Civic 41:44
6 Fastest Grey Beard 42:10
51 The Best Bike Blog EVER! 47:43

Now, drill down to a more recent race like the USGP Derby Cup.  This past weekend at USGP, two months later, I’m a much slimmer 4 minutes behind the fastest OVCX grey beard.  I shaved more than 90 seconds off my Delta to my direct competition in the last two months, finished top 20 in back to back USGP races, and earned 4 USGP points.  That’s velvet smoking jacket in a leather chair good. Clink of the bourbon glass to my JBV Coach Chris Mayhew.

USGP MASTERS 45+ DERBY CUP SATURDAY RESULTS
1 EX PRO 40:04
2 PRO’S HUSBAND 40:05
3 FAST OUT OF TOWN FOGIE 41:00
4 FASTEST OVCX GREY BEARD DU JOUR 41:25
17 THE ELUSIVE WHEEL IN FRONT OF ME 45:23
18 THE BEST BIKE BLOG EVER! 45:27

Me chasing Papa @ USGP Masters 45+ by Christine Vaughan
Delta between Best and Worst Lap
Even though you’re wallowing way deep below the payout bar, there can be enough hope in your lap delta to keep you from turning on the gas and sticking your head in your stainless steel oven.  Never compare the fastest lap from your aging carcass to that of the guy who may still own Cars 2 Movie bed sheets.  Instead, compare overripe apples with overripe apples.  This Delta compares the time difference between your best and worst lap with those of others with wrinkly elbow skin.  It’s best to compare only the cruising laps.  Toss out the first lap split which is usually impacted by high traffic, a hole-shot sprint and/or a short first lap start grid shoot-in. 

SEPTEMBER EARLY SEASON RACE
#1 Overripe Apple 6:20 6:22 6:28 6:28 6:33 6:41 6:25 6:43 (best 6:22, worst 6:43) Delta = 21 seconds.

52 Me 7:25 7:11 7:31 7:25 7:48 7:38 7:36 7:35 (best 7:11, worst 7:48).  Delta = 36 seconds.

What you can see in these numbers is room for improvement.  The overripe apple is much more consistent.  Only 21 seconds separate his worst lap from his best.  Me?  Not so much.  But if I can improve my lap consistency by 15 seconds, I’d likely be 1-2 minutes faster over an hour long race, which would translate to 31st place in this particular race.  I’d gain nearly 20 spots if I could increase my capacity for pain and mental strength to keep racing hard.

This brings us to the Delta from Saturday at the USGP Masters 45+ race, two months since that early race.  You see my lap to lap Delta has improved to 15 seconds from an early season 36. 

USGP MASTERS 45+ DERBY CUP SATURDAY RESULTS
18 THE BEST BIKE BLOG EVER! 7:17 7:29 7:37 7:41 7:44 7:41 (best 7:29, worst 7:44)  Delta = :15 seconds.