Tuesday, November 21, 2017


lately, i've been blessed with some great results. here's the thing -- i don't know why. or, at least i'm not sure why. not a lot has changed. i'm self-coached -- again. i've had a few coaches in recent years. they've all been great, but with each one something has led to me to cancel the service. one time a move, one time a break from competitive cycling to spend more time with family, and, ok, one just wasn't that great and i quit him before my free trial ended. so, i'm thinking i may start to use this blog as a venue to share my experiences, thoughts and questions on training. with complete transparency. sometimes, i worry about revealing my training secrets with potential competitors, but within our community, we're really all friends, so what the heck? knowledge is only one piece of the puzzle, right? the bigger piece is putting in the work.

after reading the "treatise" as i shall henceforth refer to the blog post of another master's athlete who recently stopped competing, i've actually had to step back and evaluate why i love this sport so much. was i, too, competing for the wrong reasons? was i missing opportunities to bond with my tribe? was i too focused on my process and my preparation at each race that i was missing those chances for connection? as result of this soul searching, i've made a conscious effort to be more present each week and at each event. in some cases, this has had the effect of shortening my warm-up or making me forget some "essential" part of my rigid pre-race regimen. but, interestingly, it has not negatively impacted my race performance -- in fact, it may have even improved it (and i want to dig into this relative to the conversation above) -- and it has made me feel better and more connected to this group.

 this weekend brought two new courses for the PACX series.

Troegenator Cross:
playing in the rain, mud and cold
saturday was the Tröegs Independent Brewing-sponsored Troegenator Cross at Allenberry resort in Boiling Springs, PA. The was a mix of grass, macadam, gravel and wooded trail surfaces. the day started dry but overcast. when i arrived at 8:00 am, the temperature was 37 degF. i meandered over to where kelly and dlowe were parked and chatted for a bit and sipped my coffee, procrastinating against kitting up in the cold. when i finally got on course, i was treated to a pretty interesting course that traversed grass, macadam, gravel, a harvested corn field and wooded trails. in pre-ride it was dry, resulting in a fairly fast and flowey course -- well, except for the steep gravel road climb. in pre-ride, i bumped in  judah and we both tried to see if we could ride it. on the third attempt, i finally made it. my heart rate was almost maxed, but i revelled in the fact that i'd done it. at some point around 9:00 am, it started to rain. looking through weather history, at 10:49 am -- eleven minutes before the start of my race -- weather underground has recorded "heavy rain". the rain took an interesting course and made it super fun. for me. the corn field seemed to mostly a clay-based soil, and so, while it stayed relatively firm, it developed a layer of slick greasy mud on top. you could power through here while sliding around. fun. the gravel climb become completely unrideable. the wooded trail became a sloppy mess. more fun.

at some point, though, the race ceased to fun. the cold and wet turned my fingers numb. i could not feel where the shifters were, could not brake well, and had my hands bounced off the bars a couple of times. after the race, i found the unlocked boiler room in the heated bathroom and tried to regain some warmth. despite finding this much need heat source, i continued to shiver uncontrollably for at least 30 minutes. i was still shivering at my car and in my dry clothes when i noticed a vehicle having trouble escaping from the grassy, sloped field that served as the parking lot on this day. i ran over to help push the car out of the mud and up the hill. then, there was another. and another. after the fourth vehicle was freed, i noticed i was no longer shivering. not only had the effort helped me warm up by using my body again, it warmed my heart. dare i say, that might have felt better than winning my race.

with my only dry clothes now soaked, i went down to the huge beer tent to do podiums and to hang out a bit. i grabbed a pretty tasty veggie burger and spent some time talking with folks. thanked dave borden for his role in putting on a great race. thanked bob joos for his infectious enthusiasm.

it was a good day. despite the cold and the rain, i wouldn't have changed a thing.

WCCX #2:
PA State CX Champion M45-49
sunday was the second race of the year put on by the trio of bob reuther, scott gamble and shawn carey. the race was designated as the Pennsylvania State Cyclocross Championships and held at The Phelps School, a venue that had been used for area CX races in years past. The course was fast and flowy, as are most Reuther designed courses, but not without a significant amount of elevation change. on the back half of the course, there was a section of dirt that was the result of some recent excavation. the previous day's rain had turned the freshly laid dirt into a soft, spongy surface. not quite mud. but your tires would sink into it. first, we'd encounter this section in a downhill direction. then, after traversing several twists and turns, the course headed back uphill, and it was at the top of the climb where riders needed to cross this spongy dirt again for about 20 yards. in pre-ride, i noticed others having a hard time pedaling through this. i like to churn big gears. i thought this could be the place to make a move. the other notable feature on this day was the wind. windspeeds were in the 20's with gusts into the 30's.

with some of these close to home races, i tend to let my guard down in terms of preparation. i end up arriving later than i want, i forget stuff, i lose focus. this race, 10.9 miles from home, was no different. i forgot my drinks at home and had to turn around to get them when i was already about halfway there. i showed up to staging far too close for comfort. as the official gave the 1-minute warning, i was still frantically wrestling with my clothes. i didn't reset the Garmin, so once the race did get started, the device was barking at me to start intervals that are setup for my pre-race warm-up. i forgot to press the record button on the GoPro mounted to my handlebars. i forgot to eat my Gu.

reuther makes an early move.
our race began fast. by the time we reached the first downhill section, which was super fast, fun, flowy, i was second wheel behind barry wahner. while i was tempted to pass him, i kept telling myself to be patient, stay calm. before we reached the double barriers, reuther went to pass us both. i slotted in behind his wheel and stayed there, trying to be as patient as possible. on the up
hill leading to the spongy stuff, i made my move. i got to that section first and built a gap there that continued to grow through the race. although i felt like my lead was growing, i was nervous every time that i'd hit a gusty headwind that maybe i was getting hit with more headwind than my competitors and dumb luck would end up conspiring to steal my victory. about 1-1/2 to 2 laps into the race, my legs started to bark at me and i wondered if i'd gone out to hard. i pushed through and eventually they began to feel like the usual suffering. i really wanted to win this race badly. i had won a state championship back in 2014. oddly, i came in second in that race. since the winner of the race was over fifty, he won the 50-54 age group and i won the 45-49. i was psyched to have won the championship, but it never really quite sat right with me. by winning this race outright, it erases all doubt. i like this path much better.

after the race, i was able to help with the juniors race and cheer on many other races. i got to hang with lots of great folks. i got a great recommendation for a gift to thank my wife for her support in this awesome craziness that is cyclocross racing. after the last race of the day, we began tearing down the course. it's awesome to see how the community comes together to pitch in. the whole time we worked, one of my mom's favorite phrases ran through my head, "many hands make light work."

another great day with this community.

many thanks to Howard Brown at Trek Bicycle Shop in Newark, DE and Bill Bradley at Trek Bicycle Shop in West Chester, PA for the continued support of the team!

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