Wednesday, October 26, 2011

‘Crossing comments….Ashland BayCross …

This past weekend concluded the 7th annual Annual BayCross cyclo-cross races. Now I probably don’t have the longest tenure of cycling as others but I do now have close to a decade under my belt and am a pretty astute observer of history.

Baycross was started in 2005 as an initiative by Paul Belknap, who was always trying something new & different. Be it 29er MTB’s when they first came out or single gear/single speed MTB racing. Something caught this guys attention about this type of racing they call “Cyclo-cross” which happened well into the Fall months when a lot of folks had normally thought much of road & mtb racing was done. Perhaps his world travels or what not gave him the gall to think “Hey, we should do this!” Paul? are you out there…What’s the real story?

Anyways, Cyclo-cross as a sport has origins anyone can wikipedia to find out, in a nutshell it’s been around close to 100yrs or so, began in Europe as a post Road racing season training for Tour de France guys. It didn’t get more formally recognized until the 1950’s and events in the US didn’t pop up until the 1970’s and it wasn’t until the 1990’s & especially the 2000’s that it caught on as much as it has. According to some it’s the fastest growing adult participation sport in America.

Another aspect that makes cyclo-cross so different from it’s cycling brethren of road cycling & Mt biking – is that it’s truly only a competitive event, not a recreational activity. You & your buddies aren’t ever going to say.. “Hey, let’s go out and go for a cyclo-cross ride!” Like they would for a road ride or MTB ride. You just don’t go riding through a park, baseball field or golf course hopping off your bike to jump over barriers – like picnic tables, park benches & fallen trees or ride through sand traps, am I right? Perhaps for reasons like that there are geographic pockets where it really has grabbed hold and other areas where it hasn’t… yet (as I’d like to think).

However it is by FAR the most spectator friendly cycling event between the three disciplines (road, mtb, ‘cross). The course is short, there are multiple laps and fans… well, they get to be part of the action be it with loud roudy cheering, ringing cow bells, handing up dollar bills or malted beverages as distractions (or entertainment) to the racers.

Fortunately, it brings aspects that merge the summer cycling activities of MTB’ing & Road riding, so it’s the time of year where cycling competitors, good in their own respective disciplines, can compete in the middle against each other. Plenty of times there are good MTB’ers who can’t hang in hard road race and it goes with out question great road cyclist can get there butts handed to them in a MTB race. But in ‘cross it’s all even, with aspects of both disciplines and you gotta love that!

So I feel Ashland’s Baycross is unique and ahead of it’s time in having brought forth the cyclo-cross racing opportunity for riders. Especially given it’s demographic/geographic setting, as much larger centrally located population centers haven’t brought forth this kind of racing yet. In this part of the Midwest there are really only three other places riders can get in the opportunity.

In the U.P. of Michigan there’s UPCross – an awesome series & organization they’ve put together there. With excellent participation given the relatively size of the population. To give some idea they get equally participation at races to other cities that have 100 times the population to draw from. It’s nuts when you think about it.

Then there’s the Wisconsin Cyclocross series which is really completely in the deep south & south east corners of the state, I must selfish say is unfortunate being on the other end of the state. And fortunately MN runs a pretty good series based around the Twin Cities.

So how did BayCross turn out this year? When an overabundance of time hits my schedule like we all wish for. I’ll be sure to give a solid & hopefully remotely entertaining & interesting recap.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

BayCross Day 1….

First cyclocross race I’ve been able to get into this year went pretty well.  Day one of Ashland’s annual BayCross weekend.  More on specific details on the race later, but felt surprisingly good & was able to pull away early on from Nikoli Anikin, Mason Basco, Shawn Gort & a few others. 

The numbers in training lately have really taken a unexpected jump despite quite a bit of downtime since the end of August.  Alittle recovery time after 9 months of training will do that I supposes. Also guess it translated well over to the race.  Took an unfortunate spill about half way thru and tore up my elbow & fore arm & twisted my handlebars but was able to stay focused and finish things out.  The race again went on the long side as I screwed with the timer/lap counters throwing down a super fast 1st lap and backing off on successive laps – hence an overestimate of how many laps to do 60minutes of racing.  My powertap computer showed 1hr 17min finish time… no wonder I was on the verge of bonking in those last two (of 10) laps.  I was having flashbacks to 2009 when Jesse Bell came from way back on me that 1hr 20min BayCross Day 1 race marathon.

This year another great bunch of guys (&gals) showed up, the atmosphere of the race and size of it is great.  So nice to have it so close by. 

Looking forward to day 2… better rest up, the battle for the weekend prize money concludes tomorrow.  Should be another good one…

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ah, I made it… & DeerFly Chase Recap & more…

Good news, that crazy mission impossible previously mentioned 2 weeks ago is over.  I’ve come out relatively unscathed… maybe not the kids so much, and Kate is probably adjusting to the aftermath (an inherent problem in coming back from vacation after leaving me in charge for 9 days).

By the time that Friday (Oct 7th) she was back rolled around I was getting the hang of things pretty well or maybe it was just the peace of mind I’d be getting help and a break soon.  

Seems like it’s been much longer than 10 days since.  Probably because of so much change that’s gone on.  I fought thru a cold, many days of some decent laryngitis, and the last few weeks of my ribs healing up.  Hadn’t seen much of my bike let alone have some close intimate personal time riding it.

Quite to my surprise when I finally got riding again a week ago, I found all the R&R time interspersed with a race wasn’t to my detriment, in fact perhaps to my advantage.  A couple rides and interval workouts proved to show some surprisingly strong results, more on that later.

Missing the UPCross series and the early part of the MN series for cyclocross due to the broken ribs wasn’t ideal for my cyclo-cross race season but life had enough other fun stuff happening that, though I missed racing, I was surprisingly ok with it.  Rest assured however I haven’t lost my deep ongoing desire for racin’… not sure I ever will.

However, at last here comes the update on what had to be one of the best weekends of racing this year – from the pure simple enjoyment of racing MTB’s.  Oct 1st, with the support of CORC,  Noah Michaelsen, Brian Kelley & a whole host of volunteers put together the DeerFly Chase MTB race.  Kinda cool in that, it was a race I actually didn’t know about til the week of the race.  It sorta flew under the radar, til I got an email from Nathan Lillie and later Noah about the race looking to round up some fast guys for some post Chequamegon 40 racing.  They couldn’t have hit me up at a better time.  I was on a break healing the ribs but had super good legs despite a headcold.  Long story of how it worked out that I could make it but the main thing is it did.

Arriving about 20 minutes prior to race start after dropping the 4 kids off with my sister, just got to see a few guys I recognized.  The always likeable Chad Sova, how can you not like that guy?  Great sense of humor, loves to have fun racing the bike, and is super supportive.  A top end racer and someone I’m just happy hanging with as long as I can in any race.  Saw too Nate Lillie who’s equally a great competitor, funny guy and offers great encouragement to be racing with.  Lastly, Mike Johnson, who I know since college, but reconnected only in the last 10 yrs due to cycling.  Super guy & can be so strong on the bike when the conditions are right.

The start was a controlled roll-out for the first mile due to the open road, hills & corners until we could hit the first off road section.  When we did it went fairly high speed from the word go as the 4 wheeler sped away.  First myself, later Chad, and Mike Johnson pushing a hard pace.  I really was anticipating only going for an easy ride and not really racing – having just come down with a headcold – but you get in that racing situation and it’s like a switch goes off in your head/legs and you can’t help but push it with whatever you have.  Fortunately, my immune system didn’t compromise my legs & lungs that day.  After trading pulls with Chad and giving a few hard efforts on hills we broke away from everyone else and on a particularly longer section we got into the always desired position of “out of sight, out of mind” even before hitting the single track.  I was pushing a little harder than I thought I should and it could come back to bit me later in the race but for the moment it was a better proposition to stay with Chad than race by myself.  

We worked the single track in a pretty steady pace, as the DeerFly Chase trails are a good mix of flowing stuff with some tight corners and technical sections.  You definitely needed skills to race it well, not to mention slightly better tires for the conditions than what I was running.  Chad was kind enough to take it easy on me and let us work together for the better part of the first half of the race.  We’d built up a pretty good lead when I finally started yo-yoing off his wheel in some sections.  That yo-yoing came to a permanent end however once I notice my rear wheel getting a bit squishy on corners.  Sure enough it got bad enough I jump off and felt the rear tire… damn!  it was going flat.  Not able to quickly diagnose the leak I pumped it up and kept waiting to see when the first pursuer would be coming by.  Well, it took a good 90 seconds and I felt I had enough air back in the tire to go again when the 3rd place guy come flying by.  If my problem had been solved there the rest of the day would have gone well.  Unfortunately it was the first of 3 stops I need to do to get the tire fully sealed again.  I’d just filled up with new Stans No tubes sealant 2 weeks prior at the Chequamegon 40, so I was sorta bummed it didn’t do a better job of sealing a very small hole in my Bontrager XR1 tires.  I’d given up close to 15minutes and 15 or more positions during the three stops it took.

Still I took it as an opportunity to race the second half hard and finish strong, perhaps I’d still be able to catch some other racers.  Slowly I was able to, especially when the later miles of the race after being predominately singletrack when to two track, cx ski trail and gravel roads.   Moving up to 10th place by the finish I had given everything I had, making for a great workout and fun no pressure race. 

Met some new racers & re-acquaintanced myself with others in the post race activities afterwards.  Aaron Sturgis “Sturgy” who race not only the DeerFly really well, but rocked a top 80 Cheq 40 race.  Got to finally meet Matt O’Meara… what a guy!  Best story and comment of the race goes to him.. something along these lines – it’s somewhere early on in the singletrack he has slight mechanical, drops back only to catch up.  In a confident, borderline funny, cocky way he jockeys at the last second in front of Nate Lillie getting into a succeeding section of singletrack , laugh to a degree about having done it….. only to hear Nate Lillie express that he just as quickly went crashing down the trail bouncing off everything in sight, land in a heap.  Upon discovering he was ok, they continued on.  I heard a quote later from someone else that Matt was overhead saying “I guess my coolness got in the way.”  If you know Matt, you can really appreciate where that comment is coming from. 

The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful with a 49 degree race start later warming up into the low 60’s.  The organizers had a excellent post race party with food, awards and swag.  I unfortunately had to leave a bit earlier than I would have liked to get back to & pick up the kids and get onto the rest of the weekends activities but it was an awesome race and amazingly well put together for a first time event.

Thanks again to Noah, his volunteers and CORC for making the DeerFly Chase possible.  It nice to have some post Chequamegon 40, other than WORS MTB race options.   Haven’t found another since the 2001 Fat Back Boogie held at Telemark/Cable.  So thanks again guys!  Really appreciate and looking forward to future editions of it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Uncommon Valor or Suicide Mission??

Alright, if a share of you know me – I’m normally a pretty sane, reasonably intelligent guy who seems to like to race his bike alot in his spare time.   Well, also having a family & young kids that situation can be challenging sometimes.  Fortunately, my wife Kate and I, have work pretty well in supporting each others goals and trading off responsibilities. 

Well, for the support she’s offered me in my racing & taking care of the kids over the past 7+ years -- this fall, it only seemed right that I give her a something more than a just the normal break….. not sure if I was entirely thinking clearly at the moment I put it out there, perhaps I was in a state of heighten euphoria or delirium from some racing or training effort…. Note to self – try and think more clearly next time before putting things out there…

The break?  9 day trip to Hawaii.  With yours truly taking on full & sole responsibility for the 4 kids at home – ages 7, 5, 3 yrs, along with a 8 month old.  Ok, most of you would have probably right there said “Yep, Swanson’s lost it.  Check him into the mental ward, right now.”  Perhaps in the past now 6 days since she’s left I’ve had that thought cross my mind, so you’re not alone.

But you know everyone needs a break sometimes.  I’m very content having some down time of a few hours in an afternoon or a day to do my own thing on a weekend.  If I have that regularly I’ve never needed some big getaway.  Kate on the other hand, being such a “mom” to truly escape and have a break really needs to break loose.  So for the 9 years or so of putting up with me, believe me that’s not easy, a 9 day trip didn’t seem too far fetched….. wait did I mention the age of the kids? 

Yeah, so it’s been quite a ride of it’s own lately.  The interesting parts are the amazing compliments you get from other "moms”  & women who hear about it.  I’m sorta shocked when they like genuinely share how cool they think that is or the state of disbelief they display – like “you did what?!”  You’re coolness factor in that department goes through the roof apparently.  ANd on the other side  from the male/father/husband perspective who either think, I’m nuts, stupid and if nothing else certainly setting a bad precedence.  You get damned in that department.   Oh well. 

Also in a general survey most people give it less than a 25% chance she’s even coming back.  (hey, I can’t blame ‘em I’m not entirely sure I would).  So if you never see another blog posting after this one it’s true she probably didn’t come back.. as I don’t know how I’m squeezing this one in.

Somehow I’ve survived though and the kids too… so far.  Far less sleep than I’m accustom to, far more running around and the constat little day in, day out tasks to tackle.

In it all however I got some super help from my sister and from a wonderful friend or two – that I was able to pull off doing something I love as well -- a MTB race in the middle of this whole thing too!  How cool is that!?  It was this past weekend’s DeerFly Chase MTB race, I’m going to recap how it went alittle later, but an awesome end of the season race!  Great guys there and well put together for a newer trail system and first time race.  Way to go to CORC, Noah Michaelsen & his crew of volunteers.

The tough part also was I got a bad head cold the day Kate left and have lost my voice on & off over this past week.   I probably look & sound every bit as beat up as the task I’ve endeavored to be on.  Not to mention the broken ribs still aren’t close to 100% so there’s certain required tasks taking care of kids that makes that part challenging too.

In all, a couple things to take from it – a healthy dose of respect & understand comes from putting yourself completely in someone else’s shoes, no matter what the work load is.  Try and do that for someone sometime, don’t take for granted what your spouse, mom or anyone has done for you.   You gain a valuable insight for not just that person but many others as well.  More than ever now I hugely admire anyone who’s had to be the primary care taker of young child.  

Stepping out of your comfort zone is not easy, but you learn some great things about yourself and find out things you didn’t think you had in you….some good and some not so but but still valuable.

Only a couple days left, as Kate comes back late Friday night.  In case anyone is looking for me… I think I’ll be sleeping all weekend…