Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A week to breathe...

So often I have every intention of updating this blog more frequently, where does that time seem to go? Maybe the colder dark winter will improve that. I find it so hard not to stay busy. If it’s not riding and training, it’s running the business, and most everything else gets swallowed up in taking care of the family and enjoying the kids.

With the exception of the Iceman, the MTB race season wrapped up a few weeks back and it’s been onto cyclo-cross and that “Transition” period of the season. Generally, Oct thru December fits that bill. Training is important but also has a great deal of flexibility. If one’s body (& mind) ultimately needs recovery time from a particularly hard racing season now is a great time to get that in. Getting a jump start on base training isn’t necessarily that bad of an idea either and with the challenging conditions and temps of Jan & Feb it’s a precautionary training measure I like to take in case conditions this far North don’t work out as planned for those two months.

Cyclo-cross racing I’m finding to be most enjoyable this year, with little self-pressure to have to do well and the most delightfully shorter time period for the races of right around an hour. For the most part you can go all out and bonking generally won’t be an issue. Depending on weather and whatever other events come up, I’m hoping to jump into a couple more races while the season is going on. Plus it sure helps the body not to lose it’s high end fitness that one fights so hard to gain from earlier in the season.

One big aspect I’m taking charge of this year, that I can’t recommend highly enough, is that a person get an effective cross training or “pre-hab” workout program integrated in what they do this time of year. Something I don’t make known to a lot of people -- but I’ve gotten a chronic sore back and spent a good share of time in P.T. office & massage therapists getting worked on. This past year was probably my most difficult. Throughout the season, I struggled along dealing with it the best I could, fortunately I came across two things that have done something to immensely change what I thought would be a chronic lifetime problem. One was a book my P.T. got me onto, the other a program that put a 41 year old within .01 seconds of an Olympic gold medal & world record in Swimming.

The first was the book Core Performance – yes, we’ve all seen some fitness guru preaching there methods of how to build muscles, strength and/or endurance. Don’t discount this one or pass this one off. It’s the real deal and used as a bible of sorts in many P.T. clinics. Any endurance athlete due to the nature of their sport is begging for muscular imbalance. It’s a fact of life. Learn that and find out ways to round out your entire body’s needs and you’ll be doing yourself some huge favors in reducing injuries, doctor’s visits, hours of physical therapy or lost work time. The second is Dara Torres’ Resistance Stretching program – sure, yoga, pilates, give you good stuff, I’m not discounting them one bit. In fact the two things I’m doing share a lot in common with those two disciplines. I just found both Core Performance & Resistance Stretching gave better insight of the how’s and why’s.

Once you get some routines down they don’t take much time and doing something is always better than nothing. I don’t necessarily like to give away “training secrets” but I don’t believe anyone should have to deal with pain and stop doing something they love just because of ignorance or misinformation. I’m not saying these are the only programs out there, or that P.T. work may not beneficial. What I am saying is that I’ve had nothing short of incredible results in getting rid of pain I FELT EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Being 35 and able to tumble around with and chase my kids is totally worth the small investment for the information and 10,15,20 or 50 minutes a day it might take to do some of the routines. If anyone reading takes in this info and gives it a try I’d be interested in hearing back on what results it gives you. (There’s especially a certain Duluthian rider I hope takes up and finds benefit in it!)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ashland Baycross Part II

BayCross #2: Sunday 19th – unlike Saturday’s sunny beautiful weather this was a bit cooler and overcast. I’d not gotten in on any of the pre-rides or course work so I was riding it for the first time about 20 minutes before the race as I was warming up. Initially I had my doubts when I was told of where BayCX #2 was being held, at Bay View Park in Ashland, but that was quickly erased upon riding the mile plus course. It was one of the most perfect courses I’d ever seen, great use of small rollers for good cornering and momentum. Excellent variety, use of terrain/conditions including a beach crossing, a rock bed profile and a good sized run up.
Added to the mix was Shawn’s comment the previous day about some “better” cross competition coming down from the Twin Ports. Which I certainly welcome anytime. The more & better the racers -- the better the challenge. So I was definitely pumped up at those prospects and looking to put down some pain, as I was just having one of those strange masochistic-like-feeling days. The desire to go out and drill it from the start for one sole purpose of making myself and others hurt.
Lining up at the start among others was apparently a sponsored Specialized rider which was going to hopefully make things interesting. Scott “superman” Chapin was there on his Gary Fisher SuperFly with 1.75’s and rigid fork and most of the crew from yesterday. What I’ve learned is never try to gauge your competition from the bike they ride. It might just surprise you. The start had Specialized guy pull to the front only to nearly hit the deck rounding the first corner 50-75 yards out as we rounded a pair of crab apple trees. It’s October in northern Wisconsin… you can’t tell me you expect the apples to still be on the trees? Must have been like marbles under the wheels of roller skates. Nonetheless he got right up as the jamming up continued behind – then it was off to the next series of corners, straightaways, bridge crossing and then a quick dive down to the beach. Specialized lead to this point with Scott Chapin in tow followed by me. I knew I wasn’t going to be backing off today. When we ramped up over the rise that lead to the beach, Scottie & I pushed hard through the 50 yards of beach and Specialized got off and ran. We hit the 40 foot(?) run up close to the same time. As I recall Scott got to the top first but I clipped in sooner and jumped to the lead giving it my all as we crossed the 150 yard section of loose rock. This was a power zapper for sure but like any good course a great challenge where you could inflict damage on the competition. Apparently it worked cuz when I got to the end only Scott was remotely close by, within a short bit I eased up alittle and asked him to take over and continue to put the distance on the Specialized rider. By the time we reached the S-curves and rollers 3/4ths the way through the course we’d had maybe 15 seconds on him. I took one corner too sharp and slip down to the ground momentarily, it was enough for Scottie to get a gap and run with it. I thought oh, no not this again! I’d be chasing his tail around by myself for the next 55 minutes, great!! Scottie is an awesome endurance athlete, outside of some asthma and allegories he’s certainly the best all around endurance athlete I know. If I remember correctly he was 17th in the US Olympic marathon trials a few Olympics back, if that gives any perspective to the physical capacities he has. He may be a genetic freak, but I hope he stays around racing for a long time because somehow one of these days I’m going to finally catch him.
My next goal was to maintain and grow the distance on the Specialized rider, cuz you don’t generally come decked out in full bike sponsored gear without a resume for being half ways decent and the back side of the course lent itself very well to the cross bike he had. Sometime in racing it’s about breaking someone’s spirit, if you can do that enough times repeatedly, you’ve got them frustrated and if they’re frustrated it certainly doesn’t hurt your chances. So if I could maintain the distance or even grow it on the SuperFly (don’t rule this machine out as a very suitable cross bike!) he might start getting bummed and realize he didn’t come to just any cakewalk race.
Going into Lap 2 the distance I had was a good 50 yards so I’d been able to pretty much maintained the lead over the back half of the course, but in front Scottie had gotten a good 20 yards in front of me now and he was looking even stronger than yesterday.

The layout of the course was great from a spectator point of view as they essentially sat at a higher vantage point, were in middle of the course and could see a large distance both ways. So you’d get lots of cheering and encouragement. Knowing my bike handling skills I could probably gain time on the third place person and with any luck make small advances towards Scottie at the beginning of each new lap. And lap after lap, it seemed like the same thing was happening, the gap was growing in two directions, I was putting distance into third place but Scottie was putting time into me. I was content with the position for awhile until Kelly McKnight, who got lapped earlier due to breaking his pedal off and was now riding behind Scott Chapin and yelling back to me how it was too bad I was in third place now. His smartass remark got me to kick it up a notch to finally catch him when he had to drop off Chapin’s pace. I worked with Kelly for while his back & body held up before he decided to drop off.

Getting a bigger lead on Specialized guy with each lap gave me confidence going into the final three laps so I let up somewhat, and the fact is I wasn’t shrinking the distance to Chapin (but at least I would yell at him most times about how I was going to catch up when the trail would double back, if he heard me I think he just chuckled). I saved up alittle those final laps just in case I’d need it for a late surge from behind and I wanted to experiment with how much I could back off and how it drop my heart rate, as I had my PowerTap heartrate monitor on. From what I could tell, backing off didn’t do much to change the heartrate. Normally I’m 177 to 178 beats per minute at race pace but dropping to 175 and 176 in a long race.

This day, I wasn’t getting fatigued or symptoms of cramping like yesterday and it felt so good to be riding that well relative to the rest of the field. Shawn Gort road a decent race but either he didn’t have the effort of the previous day or I was doing that much better. He told me earlier he wasn’t giving me any freebie’s today, fortunately I didn’t need them and he wasn’t handing any out. I believe he was 5th on the day.

Coming through on the bell lap, even if I wasn’t going to catch Scott, I was pretty pleased on the day. I had the distance now to hold onto second barring any mechanical malfunctions and it felt pretty good to have been able to put together such a strong race, feel strong throughout and put away a sponsored rider. I thought perhaps we’d demoralized him early but my wife, Kate said he looked just as determined as ever with each lap. He’s probably a real good rider normally, just having a tough day. We’ve all been there. He commented later on the rock section.… Well, we’re all entitled to an opinion -- I guess I could have complained about the smooth blacktop sections or having a shoulder/push a MTB over a lightweight CX bike. But in the end Scottie was the best and nothing on the course would have changed that outcome Sunday.

What was great about the race course was because it was so open you could see how other parts of the race were unfolding among other riders. Scott Nesvold had a good race nailing down 4th place, Kelly would have probably done significantly better without snapping off his pedal with his monsterous downstoke. Matt Hudson and Mike Weispfenning seemed to have good rides as well. We seem to have in the last few years gotten a great group of racers over here not to mention some super quality people. The biking outlook in the area would appear to be very positive for years to come.

Perhaps, the Baycross’s are the last races of the year for me but with how good I felt and having strong results it going to be hard to fight the temptation of tracking down another CX race or breaking down and finding an Ebay entry ticket to the Iceman Cometh in lower Michigan.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ashland Baycross Part I

Anybody looking for a great cross race weekend to put on your calendar seriously consider the Ashland Baycross races! Fantastic courses with good variety & put together in a top notch way. I may be from around the area but I was seriously impressed with the quality and work put into them and the great environment of the events. The settings for both couldn’t be better, with the Sunday event overlooking the shores of Lake Superior and the Saturday event held at one of Ashland’s oldest parks that offers great variety.

Saturday 18th: Baycross #1 – with Kate’s family in town she got the opportunity to partake in her first race in…..well…. quite a while. Having three baby’s in the course of 4 years puts a crimp in your racing schedule. But she did us all proud giving it a go in the B race despite having just given birth 3 weeks ago to our wonderful baby girl, Grace on Sept 26th.
As she was wrapping up that race I was prepping for the A race in what appeared to be a nice strong field of racers that showed up. I was however sorely disappointed to see that a favorite hard core racer, Duluthian, Charlie Farrow was no where to be found however (camping in the Porcupine Mts or something was his story I guess). He put on a heck of a strong race last year and I was hoping for a rematch.
I placed my bike way out front for the lemonds start so I didn’t get caught behind anyone as I was fairly certain from other events like this that my legs are in alittle better condition for sprint running that most cyclists. To my bike first, but late to clip in I grab the fourth position in the leadout train behind, Craig Kalscheur, Scott Chapin & Shawn Gort. Craig was hell bent on a fast start and it strung people out. When we hit the railroad corridor section a half mile in and a gap of a few bike lengths had seemingly extended to Bay City cyclists Kelly Mcknight & Matt Hudson. After Craig pulled off, Scottie took over and I/we probably made a critical error at that point, handing him a 20 yard lead and not closing it down. I figured if the three of us could back off alittle but keep it together and rotate through we’d have a better shot. Only thing was Shawn surprisingly dropped off before the end of the first lap when I was pulling and Craig was over the limit early in Lap 2. And Scottie now had a 15 second lead I’d be trying to chase down all day…. Only now by myself. So much for that brilliant opening lap strategy. If I’d only stuck with him instead. I think the closest count I could make was getting his lead down to seven seconds at some mid point in the race but by the final 15 minutes I was getting toasty from chasing and the unfamiliar all out effort and he was up by 45seconds to a minute.
That however didn’t make for a boring race by any means because for some crazy reason I still shake my head about, Shawn Gort comes storming back into my rearview mirror after I’d thought he’d been dropped out of sight. I shouldn’t be surprise because he did the exact same thing last year, dropping off early only to finally warm up and get all the cyclinders firing later and pour it on. I’d messed up the lap count and was expecting a bell lap when .....the official announced two laps to go, that with an overly rough remount had me off the bike fixing my saddle that was pointing to heaven – hence enabling Shawn to close the gap entirely.
It was now that I was really out of gas and on the edge of cramping so I just stuck to Shawns wheel as best as I could, if he’d only know how spent I was he could have ditched me with 3 or 4 hard efforts. I followed him around that next to last lap and on the bell lap I did the same. At one point trying to get to the front but the single track didn’t do make way for any kind of passing. Here I was at odds with how to finish, I generally hate sucking someone’s wheel and with Shawn doing all the hard work at the end it was going to be hard to try and take it away from him. But with about 100yards to go on this old railroad grade finish he made a strong move to pass a lap racer, I was tentative at first but soon shot around to follow and start to close the gap. From there the corridor opened up and the people and fans were getting loud seeing this close finish coming on. I figured to push and make for a good show and a tight finish so went to the left and pulled near even with Shawn. As we were nearing the chute I put my hand on his back to push him across first, but my momentum still had me carrying past him, so I hit my brakes putting in a skid 3 or 4 yards before the finish. We crossed the line pretty near simultaneously, not to the delight of the Liphart Brother race officials who weren’t too anxious about trying to make that close of call. When I looked down as we crossed I’d assumed he’d crossed about an inch in front me. But neither of us bothered to check with the officials who had actually crossed first. I assumed he had and I think he probably assumed the same. However when they did the awards later, they ruled I’d crossed first?! Wow, what a surprise to me. Who would have thought pushing someone in the back and hitting your brakes ain’t enough to lose a sprint to the finish line? I felt bad for Shawn but it was nice to get second place again after a disappointing 5th place finish at last years BayCross.
The rest of the afternoon was a great time, playing with the kids at the park and also getting to visit and catch up with everyone.
Paul Belknap, Sara Hudson & their crew (of the McKnights, Klines, Lipharts and more) put on one of the best races I’d ever been at. Little did I know that the next day they’d at least equal or top Day 1 of Baycross…. More later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What's been shaking?

Alright Swanson, what’s with the bum of blog have you been keeping lately?
Let’s try this…

--stock market crumbling...

--a most precious gift...
--and a few more bike races...