Sunday, December 23, 2007

Well, That's Cool

So I get an email the other day that says "You've received a sponsorship offer." I follow the link to my Sponsorhouse homepage and digitally sign a sponsorship agreement with Rudy Project. I'll be wearing Rudy glasses and helmets for the next two years. I've always coveted their stuff from a distance, and I'm psyched to get a chance to put it all to a test in 2008 (and I'm happy to leave my Louis Garneau aero helmet behind, which made me look somewhat like a martian).

And then yesterday I received an offer from an international triathlon team (no Toby, it isn't TriDubai). I find myself suddenly in the position of my friend Janda Ricci-Munn (see sidebar for link). I have the possibility of being part of a small, new team, or a large, established team. Obviously the deals offered are important, but I find myself leaning towards the smaller team. I tried to explain this to my buddy Mark Vautor, although he made some excellent points, foremost of which was "What does a team matter in triathlon anyway?" I said I'd like to be able to train with my friends. He said I'd be able to do that anyway, which is true. So does my decision simply boil down to which team offers a better deal on a better bike? I hope not. If that's the case, I'm doing this sport for the wrong reasons.

In other news (since it's the offseason), I'd like to report I've skied almost 70 miles in the past two weeks. I'm hooked. Even went to Peak Performance last night to put a skate package on hold. Derek Treadwell, Doug Welling and I went out to the Pineland Center and skied almost all of their 25K of trails (we made about 12 miles). Derek, of course, was ready to go for more, but Doug had to get to work and I had a blister. I know, I know. What's marvelous about, though (and I know I sound like a zealot) is the ability to exercise for long periods of time, outdoors, while building a great base for next season's running, swimming, and biking. It's a win-win, because it keeps me off my trainer and excited about staying fit through the holidays, which is always a dangerous time.

I'll let you know about the team in the next few days (their logo will then be plastered all over the place). In the meantime, anyone want an inexpensive aero helmet?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And 2007 is Really Over

So a few weeks ago I fronted like the season was over, giving you a recap and all that. Problem was, there were still a few weeks of cyclocross season left. Ya'll heard about the course in Easthampton, MA, but the next weekend saw the close of the New England Cyclocross season, in Rhode Island. NE Cyclocross is dominated by one organizer, the clothing company VERGE, which sanctions seven races from mid-October to early December. Last weekend was a double weekend, with two days of racing at the same location, with different courses.

Saturday was a vision of how 'Cross should be, as the temps warmed up from an overnight low in the teens. The sun came out, and soon a huge section of grassy switchbacks turned into mud. I'm not a great rider, technically, and I had the wrong tires on for mud, so I had some difficulties. I got a pretty bad start and watched a bunch of people pass me in the first muddy section. Once we got back into the trees I managed to pick up a bunch of spots, and started clawing my way towards the front of the field. Playing catch-up is basically death in 'Cross, so I resettled my sights on a top ten finish. Unfortunately, after ditching a group of five or six, I missed a remount, and both my feet slipped off the front of the pedals. This is a painful and dangerous mistake to make, even on a bike that's only going 10-15 miles an hour at the time. I went for a spectacular, ass-over-teakettle tumble, and found myself right back in that group of five! I attacked them again with one lap to go and shed most of them, except for Colin Reuters, who hung on to beat me for 12th. 13th wasn't what I had in mind, as it basically squashed my chances of ending the season in the top ten of the series standing. But I knew that Sunday would be more my day.

And it was. On the same course as last year (when I came in 8th) I got a good start and suddenly found myself in...4th place on the road! Then Josh Lipka had a mechanical and I was racing in 3rd. I couldn't believe it. And it wasn't to last. I got caught by Josh Awerbach (see an earlier post with a certain eBay link), and then in the last lap Jeremy Dunn passed me and proceeded to soft pedal. I should have reattacked, but didn't. That drop in speed let Lipka back on, and he went by me at the line to leave me...7th.

So, a whole year of training and racing to move up one spot? Somewhat frustrating, but as I'd underachieved, I think, through this entire 'cross season, I was happy to pick up that finish and some upgrade points. I was also ready to put racing in the bag (for real) for the season; I did the final tally and here's the list, with places.

Midwinter 10 Mile, Cape Elizabeth, ME: 16th
Sheraton Hyannis 1/2 Marathon, MA: 9th
Turtle Pond Circuit Race, MA: 28th
Sturbridge Road Race, MA: 17th
Palmer Road Race, MA: Pack
Ironbear Sprint Triathlon, ME: 1st
Florida 70.3 Triathlon, FL: 20th
Hartford Criterium, CT: 52nd
Mooseman International Triathlon, NH: 2nd
Nutmeg Criterium, CT: 25th
Cyclonauts Road Race, MA: 23rd
Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon: 10th
Exeter Criterium (i.e. the hardest race I've ever done): 56
Mountaineer Medexpress 1/2 Iron, WV: 5th
NYC Triathlon: 10th
Concord Criterium, NH: 31st
Bow Road Race, NH: 25th (ask me about this one some time)
Gate City Criterium: 13th
Witches Cup, NH: 40th
Timberman 70.3 Triathlon, NH: 10th
Saco Criterium, ME: 3rd
Agawam Cyclocross, MA: 8th
Milford Cross, NH: 14th
Sucker Brook Cross, NH: 15th
Westchester Triathlon: 3rd
Amesbury Cross, MA: pulled
Casco Bay Cross, ME: 14th
Red Leaf Ramble 5K: 1st
Gloucester Cross, Day One, MA: 30th
Gloucester Cross, Day Two, MA: 12th
Uncle Sam Cross, NY: 10th
Chainbiter 9.0, CT: 10th
Cycle-Smart International, MA: 13th
Ironman 70.3 World Championships: 24th
Boston Road Club Cross: 9th
Easthampton Cross, MA: 10th
Stedman Cross, RI: 13th
NBX Cross, RI: 7th

So that's it. Final count, as I make it, is 38 races throughout 2007. It's a good thing I've developed a new obsession in the past two weeks, because running, biking, and swimming are, for the moment, untenable to me. I've been XC-Skiing all over Putney's 40K of trails, and goddamn if it isn't the best workout (short of cyclocross for sheer intensity) I've ever experienced. The Northeast just got about three feet of snow over the past week, so expect to see some posts about a new addiction. I'm already prowling the internet for places to race on my skis. Who knows, maybe next year I'll never stop the racing, just keep changing the medium...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Weekend Wrap

O.K., lots to talk about this weekend! Before a chorus of shouts and recommendations, some humor. If there are any 'crossers out there racing the B races in this year's New England VERGE series who are...disgruntled about seeing the same four or five faces crossing the finish line first at every race, check out this ebay link. I don't know how long it'll be up before ebay figures out it's a joke, but I got a good laugh out of it. John x2, Josh, and Brendan, if you read this I hope you can take a joke.

Next I want to direct your attention to a great cyclocross site: It's run by a funny and knowledgeable guy who crunches a lot of numbers so we, the ranking obsessed, can agonize about our status in the Cyclocross World. The site tracks how you do from race to race, your history, and how you compare to the others out there. He seems to run it with good science, and like any good 'crosser, has retained his sense of humor about the whole sport.

Today brought the first real storm to New England, and as I write this, hard clattering snow is falling outside. It was in the teens for temperature, and when I got back from Sunday brunch at the Royal Diner (it's heaven) in West Brattleboro, I looked at my trainer and felt dismay. But then I brightened. Are the roads not dry? Has the storm not yet arrived? I bundled up: bib shorts, bib tights, wool socks, overbooties, long sleeve undershirt, bike jersey, winter cycling jacket from Brunswick Multisports (see sidebar), balaclava, lobster mittens. The next two hours were cold, but they were lovely. As always, when you change your workout habits, the world shows you something or gives you a gift. Today as I rode I remembered the rhythm of a road bike, and how it responds when you ask it to do something (on a cyclocross bike, you have to remember to let the bike have its way, instead of you having your way with it). I returned home hungry and cold, but so much happier than if I had spent two hours slogging away on my evil trainer. The ride gave me an idea, too. I headed over to slowtwitch and posted a December Biking Challenge to the endurance obsessed. Here's the idea: pick a goal number of miles for the month of December. Send me a note with your email that states how many outdoor miles you're going to put in this month. I'll send you a link to an online spreadsheet where you can enter your miles (when I get your note, I'll put your name on the sheet). It's my way of taking back the roads this winter.

And now, the weekly race report. Unlike last week, when I was feeling (ahem) under the weather, I felt pretty good as I headed down to the Easthampton Cyclocross Race. There turned out to be more guys signed up for the 1/2/3 race than I had anticipated, and I was glad to see the likes of Kevin Keough and Hunter Provonost. It was brutally cold on Saturday: in the high 'teens and low 20s, but with a hard wind blowing. The scorer's table had a propane heater set up in front of it. I got a good place on the front line and managed a spot 8-9 back going into the first corner, good for me. As the fast guys took off and things started to string out, I hung around with Ethan Gilmour (I think it was him) and picked up some ground on Hunter. We caught him and soon I found myself with some space on both of them. Scott Wade was there, in all his cranky glory, and he kept giving me updates and encouragement as we went around. Alas, a great finish wasn't in the cards for me again, as I took a corner too fast and went down on top of a massive root. This race wasn't quite old-school JungleCross, but approximated that nasty in-law to today's brand of cyclocross (Somewhere, Captain Dondo is grumbling "The older I get, the better I was!"). My teammates, Tyson and Miro, both dropped out due to mechanicals. Someone else might have done the same up front, because I thought I was going to end up 11th, but finished 10th. I took home $20 for my hour of pain and cold. Hey, it's actually not bad.

I would recommend checking out Captain Dondo's blog. He's the grandaddy (oh, O.K., Captain, youthful uncle) of racing hard but keeping it in perspective. As a final note, some have asked for a link to an old article I wrote about racing and addictive behavior. You'll find that here, on my old blog.