Friday, November 30, 2007

Down, but not out

Although I was going pretty slowly, I crashed pretty hard Thanksgiving Day morning on my cross bike. I had to get a ride back to my house from Aaron & Stella. I fell in my riding position going downhill and landed on my right side. Since I impacted in the riding position I never got my arm out to brace for the fall and my elbow punched my ribs fracturing one and bruising a lot more. In all of the years I’ve crashed, fallen off of things, been run over, lacerated, hit, punched, kicked or concussed I have never hurt my ribs. This is an entirely new experience for me. Eights days have gone by and I feel exactly the same as the day it happened. It only hurts if I laugh, sneeze, cough, hiccup, take large breaths, sit, lie down, stand up, fart or make any sudden movements! I normally sleep like the dead, but not this last week. I broke down and did something I loath to do; I started taking narcotic painkiller, but only at night because I just can’t stand the way they make me feel! I’m now very antsy and I’m just dying to go on a moto, road ride, a run or God forbid, even a hike!, but I find myself paralyzed by the fear of making my injury worse.
I feel like such a pussy!

Friday, November 16, 2007


After arriving late and driving around in circles as Rod Hernandez did his best Tom Simpson impersonation, David Gill and I found a place to park and set up our team compound. I have raced at Manzanita Park many times and simple love the place. I‘ve always enjoyed the courses here and today’s was no exception. With the rain we had the night before, the course was very soft and complete with a couple of small bogs. While I was out doing reconnaissance, I managed to flat my rear tubular clincher on my singlespeed. I dumped some sealant into the tire, but it would not seal. I wasn’t very upset about this as this tire was 2 seasons old and had certainly served me well. After swapping tires out I got on my geared bike and went back onto the course to warm up. While the upper section was drying out pretty quick, the lower portion particularly the grass was being chewed up pretty bad by the earlier classes. It was time for the Master 45+ A so I went to the grid.

After the first four pedal strokes I knew I was in big trouble! After running 2 laps at last week’s race, I kind of had an itch to go for a run so while I was at the gym on Thursday with Nancy, I hopped on the tread mill and ran 2 miles and then did a series of dead lifts, squats and clean and jerks. I’m an old gym rat and I’m quite familiar with these exercise, but I failed to take into account that I hadn’t practice them in a year and half and when I woke up on Friday, I could barely walk! I wasn’t much better on Saturday either. Sunday rolled around and I was still sore, but not nearly as bad. I warmed up and didn’t feel that bad, but as soon as the race started my legs screamed in pain and felt like to lifeless bags of cement!

During the race I did my best to bridge to Darrel Brokeshoulder and succeeded on the second lap, but almost immediately lost his wheel. The gap remained the same for the next couple laps, but Darrel and I were both catching Joe Miller. I knew I would have to re-bridge back to Darrel before he caught Joe because I knew as soon as they hooked up they would start working together. I just couldn’t get there as my legs refused to cooperate. As anticipated Joe and Darrel started working together and rode away from me. For the last half of the race, my back became progressively tighter to the point I could barely pick up the bike to go over the barriers. I was very glad when this race was over! My back and legs felt so bad afterwards I abandoned any thought of racing in the singlespeed race later and instead I enjoyed the last couple of races and what had become a beautiful day!
Photo by Steven Woo

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pilarcitos #3

I purposely boycotted this race last year and I wish I would have this year! David Gill and I once again found ourselves driving to the city at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning, but at least we got an extra hour of sleep! Although the promoters of the Pilarcitos series refer to the venue as McLaren Park, it is actually Crocker Amazon Playground where the race takes place. Since I have raced at Crocker Amazon several times for the DFL Urban Outlaw Cross Dress series, I knew that there was massive elevation change if so wanted and that the parking would be tight.

We arrived early enough to get a good parking spot and hauled all of the equipment to the course and set up shop. I rode a lap to see what the course was like. There was one large run up followed by a moderate climb which was followed by a real nasty climb by cyclocross standards with one more little climb that featured a log to negotiate in the beginning. This combined with super loose, rutted and bumpy downhills, one corner that was un-rideable and a couple of low speed corners made for a course with little to no rest except for the pavement leading to and through the start finish straightaway. This course has the sharpest elevation change of any course around and this would explain why everybody in the earlier races looked so gassed riding by on the flat pavement in front of the team pits!

I change my gear ratio to the easiest one I brought and warmed up for 40 minutes. We were called to the line and teammate Erik T. was called to the front of singlespeed class for being in the top ten for the series, except Erik was no where to be seen? The whistle sounded and we were off. For the first couple laps I felt good, but on the third, my moral was being crushed with each successive climb and I really began to wonder what the hell I was doing on a stupid singlespeed! Even with my lowest gearing this course was just cracking me! Half way through the race I seriously contemplated dropping out, but I kept moving forth. I had just made it to the top of the run up and hopped onto to my bike only to discover my rear tire was going flat. Being that I was beyond the run up and pass the neutral bike pit, I would have to run and ride my flat when possible for almost a whole lap. My plan was to do the lap and then get one of my teammates to get Erik's singlespeed to the neutral pits for a bike swap and I would do the last lap on his bike. I finally made it to the flat paved section and I rode my flat. As I rode pass our pits I asked/yelled for Erik's bike and pointed at my flat rear tire. All of my teammates stood there like deer in the headlights and as I rode past them. I prayed somebody would figure it out and meet me at the neutral pits. When I rode pass the neutral pit, I noticed teammate Rita Leon running across the grass field towards me, but it was too late. I made a metal note not to fine her as I hit the run up.

I couldn't believe this was happening to me again! Two year's ago at the start of a DFL Race I flatted on the line and when they yelled go to start us, I shouldered my bike and ran the entire race. I drove 90 miles from my office in Gilroy for a work out and by God I was going to get one! So here I was again running laps around the Crocker Amazon Playground with a bike on my shoulder wishing that I was anywhere else. Well, at least it wasn't foggy and blowing 30 knots! I eventually finished the last lap and then walked back to our team pit and told my teammates how much I hated them, but then somebody handed me a beer and all was forgiven.

After unloading the van when we got home I pumped up my rear tire and discovered several holes no doubt made by the abundant glass that was lying on the ground. If I ever go to Crocker Amazon again it certainly will not be with nice race tires! Maybe I’m getting old, but I thought that the promoters could have been a little more benevolent in their course design given what they had to work with.

Photos stolen from Olaf Vanderpoop &

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I arrived at the venue just before 07:00 and immediately tried to get the spot we had last year for our pit, but was promptly denied. This meant I had to park my van and hoof all of the equipment to the designated area. Luckily, Erik and Darik Thunstrom, Jason Cruz and David Gill arrived to give me a hand. I pre-road the course and discovered it to be the clock wise version which we have ran in previous years, but with a few minor teaks. Jason was racing in the C class, which was the first race of the day so I hung out to give him bottle feeds. When the C class hit the grass to go through the swirl on their way to the finish/pit area on the first lap, I watched in amazement as several riders slipped and fell on the damp grass. One rider took the 90 degree left turn that led to the finish/ pits straightaway to fast and just before he was about to t-bone the A frame holding the warm up sign, he corrected real hard and missed the sign, but ended up in a heap on the ground just passed it. He was then t-boned by another rider! As the C race progressed there was less crashing and sliding out, but I heard later that a bunch of the C riders complained the course was too technical. Jeez boys, Grunt up! What are you going to do if rains and or if it gets muddy?
45+ A
After a nice long warm up I hit the grid. The first lap was a real blur, but there was a big crash in front of me and one behind me. Unfortunately Erik was collect in one of these. After the first lap things settled down. I had former teammate and old friend Tom Sullivan breathing down my neck so I soft pedal for a couple of second and let Tom in front of me while I sucked his wheel and recovered a bit. A lap later after Tom and I had swapped places several times I got a gap on him and extended it. I was feeling very good at this point and thought I was rid of Tom for good. I was on the long downhill single track on the backside of the course when I noticed a rider approaching me from behind at a very rapid pace. The guy looked younger than me, but I knew it wasn't the leaders of the 35 A's race coming to lap me as it was too early for that. I pointed to my right and moved to the left to let him buy. He took a wide line into the little right hand turn and forced me into one of the sticks holding the tape which caused me to flip over the bars! I suffered no damage nor did my bike, but I did let this rider know what I thought of his move and from a distant he apologized.
Now I was back to where I started, Tom was breathing down my neck again! For the next couple laps we would open small gaps on each other only to have them closed back down. The bell ran for the last lap and about half the way through I got a tiny gap on Tom, maybe 2 or 3 seconds. I knew I had to beat Tom to the entry of the grass section at the beginning of the swirl because it would be impossible to pass there or through the 90 degree turn onto the very short straightaway the led to the finish line. At the bottom of the big run up Tom was right on my butt and suddenly there was a rider right on Tom's butt. Where this guy came from or who he was I didn't have a clue. I gave it everything I had and beat the both of them to the swirl. The unknown rider had passed Tom and was breathing down my neck. I hit the 90 degree turn at full pace and then sprinted with everything that I had left to the finish line and barely beat the unknown rider who as it turns out was in our class. What an incredible finish for 21 st spot!
Costume Race
Melanie brought a Tigger tiger suit for me to wear for the costume race. After taking one look at the suit I wanted nothing to do with it! Being that it was a warm day boarding lining on hot, the suit looked like a sure ticket to heat stroke! Melanie had a plan though; she bribed me into the suit with a promise of a six pack. I suited up and immediately started to sweat. I did a couple of practice mounts and discovered that the crotch of the suit was very low and I would have to jump very high to clear the crotch on my saddle. I also discovered that I needed to have my tail pinned up so it didn't get sucked into the rear wheel.
I went to the start line and grabbed a spot near the front. This race is the coolest because you are allowed to cheat!! The whistle sounded and I was holeshoted by a cheerleader (Stella), some guy wearing full body armor on a downhill bike and David Gill on a pink girl's stingray. David was amazingly quick on the little bike! As David and Stella took the left turn into gap between the classrooms, the downhiller and I took a right and cut underneath the tape and cut a substantial portion of the course out. This was a brilliant move! I was ahead of the downhiller as we approached the big log that would force me to dismount, but not the downhiller with 8 plus inches of travel, I hooked him and started to drive him off line to the left. He suddenly realized what I was doing and verbally expressed his displeasure, so let him off the hook. Just as I anticipated he hopped the log no sweat, but I was able to repass him on the run up afterwards as pushing a 40 pound bike up hill is not fast nor fun!
When I reached the steep decent to the lower section instead of turning left and dropping in, I hurled the tape with bike, remounted and rode next to the football field and then ducked back under the tape at the top of the run up chopping a big section of the course off. I was feeling very cheeky when I heard an all too familiar voice. "I'm right behind you Mike" It was Stella! I don't know where she came from, but suddenly my mission was clear, I had to beat her to the finish line! We both lit the burners and were off. I just managed to beat to the line and for the next lap we diced, cut the course and cheated and had a good old time! As I came towards the finish line for the beginning of the third lap I was done and completely over heated. I couldn't get the Tigger suit off fast enough. For the next 15 minutes while cooling off I watched the rest of the lunatics file by and laughed myself silly!
Tigger costume was a big hit with everybody, but especially the kids. I even won $20 and a six pack in the costume race. That including the six pack that Melanie bribed me with was a pretty good haul for a little case of heat stroke!
I'll make this short. Ride very hard for 3 laps and then on the forth, blow sky high or bonk or both and then stagger around the course trying to stay out of other racers way while not harming myself as even the easiest maneuvers became impossible. I haven't DNF in a long time, but judging by the way I felt after the race and the next day I made the correct decision. I had about as much fun as you could have at a cross race! It was low key, the organizer didn’t freak about warming up on the course and the course itself was fun and very challenging.
all photos stolen from Karen Kefauver

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pilarcitos #2

I must say I have never cared for the course at Candlestick Point and I’ve even boycotted it in the past. It’s another featureless land fill that is extremely bumpy with only one racing line while on the grass and with tiny little mounds that they call run ups and there’s also more glass on the ground than you would fine at your local recycling center!

Fearless Team Leader and future Vice President David Gill and I arrived around 7:45 and sniffed around a bit looking for a location to set up camp. We found a location very near where the riders exited the dirt onto the long paved straight away because we figured the speed of the riders coming off of the dirt onto the pavement would be slow enough for a bottle feed. It was kind of remote, but it worked. Due to the new rules at the Pilarcitos Series we were not allowed to recon or warm up on the course during a race. This was done to help the scorers speed up the process by not counting people warming up by accident. Judging by the length of time it took to post some of the results yesterday, this had little to no effect. When I finally got to recon the course I found more glass than ever and it was even bumper than I remembered. I immediately knew that this course would be a compromise on tire pressures. You would want to run pretty low pressure to help with traction and take the bite out of the bumps, but in the same instance you would want to run a little higher pressure to prevent pinch flats. As for the glass, it just blind luck. I ended up loaning my spare wheels out to a bunch of riders I didn’t know. It’s hard to watch somebody pay $30.00 to race only to go out on the first lap with a flat!

Due to the new rules I sat on my trainer for 40 minutes and watch the master’s race. When their race ended I got one quick lap in before we lined up on the grid. It was fun hearing David being called up to the front because of his top ten finish in the race at Sierra Point. The elite men went first followed by us singlespeeder 30 seconds later. As we hit the first corner I could see David in second position! About two minutes into the race I came around a corner to discover David on the side of the course. He had dropped his chain! I briefly stopped to offer assistance, but there was nothing I could do. I also discovered to my shock that at the time I wasn’t last place, but I was close having let a bunch of riders by while I stopped. About a lap latter I noticed Erik Thunstrom behind me and I could also see off in the distant that David was back riding again and suddenly a plan came into my head. I slowed my pace and allowed Erik to catch me. I told him that we needed to slow down and allow David to catch on and then have the three of us work together and drag David back up the field as far as we could. David was higher in points than Eric or me. We slowed our pace considerable until David was with us.

We told David of our plan and got down to business. Erik and I were taking long pulls and for the first time all season I was feeling pretty damm good. I actually felt like had some form back. Our team work lasted about a lap and was really a lot of fun! We hit the pavement just past our pits and suddenly there was no more David Gill. It appeared that he simply vanished! With that, Erik said we couldn’t wait anymore and we were off. What we didn’t know is that David had broken a spoke. For the next lap Erik and I worked together, but by the sixth lap my back started to get really tight from all of the jack hammering it was receiving in the bumps. I told Erik this and when I made a bobble going over one of the mounds he was gone. I spent the rest of the race staying out of the way while being lapped and finished

I was pretty happy about this race as I showed big signs of improvement since the beginning of the season. After long drive we made it back to my house without my Vanagon bursting into flames and as I jumped out my right hamstring immediately locked up for about 4 minutes and I was in agony! Apparently my hamstring doesn’t like applying pressure to the accelerator after a cross race for an hour and a half straight and let me know it, but at least both legs didn’t lock and turn me into the human C clamp!

Friday, October 19, 2007

From the end of September to the beginning of April I go on lunch rides where I work in Garlicroy. The reason I don’t ride during the other months that’s just too hot and we don’t have any employee showers. Most of my rides involve the flat as a board bike path that follows the Uvas Creek. There are a bunch of reasons for this:
Garlicroy has more glass and debris on the roads than any place I have every ridden. Even more glass than on the roads in and around Santa Cruz during the height of the tourist season!
There are no cars.
I use the path to connect to a series of short, but steep hills when necessary.
Did I mention it was flat as a pancake? This makes it an excellent choice for recovery rides.
It’s actually pretty scenic.
Most important, the path and Garlicroy lies in an orographic rain shadow. It can be pouring rain in S.C., while the roads here are dry!

So when the trails at home are un-rideable to due rain or mud or the thought of riding the trainer in garage is unbearable or it’s just to nasty to go for a night ride (we used to do night road rides, but this turned out to be one of the scariest things ever and after a couple of near death experiences, we blew it off), I can almost always get one hour in here at work.

15 foot skid mark courtesy of a unleashed 4 pound Chihuahua in what could have resulted in a very ugly physics experiment that was saved by the deft handling of the Chihuahua!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

CCCX # 3

I think we may have set a personal record for Blanca, my white VW vanagon this Saturday. Team leader David Gill and new teammate Patrick Lewis aka “Stinky” and I had six bikes, 4 sets of spare wheels, 3 tables, tool boxes and repair stands, coolers, water bottles, three tables, lots of chairs and three big sections of astro turf and two pop up tents. The van was so full that we had to place Patrick in the back van in his own little cocoon and pray that none of the contents inside of the van shifted and crushed him!

Just before we arrived at the new course, we passed the site of some of the first CCCX races held in and around the abandoned barracks of Fort Ord in 1997. The army had just pulled out and it was very eerie racing around what was essentially a ghost town. The old fort is going under a transformation judging by the new mall and all of the new housing development their building. We pulled up to the new venue and scored a nice spot next course and stepped out of the van into what was rapidly becoming a very nice day! The first thing I noticed while setting up the team compound was the small very sandy hill directly after finish line/scoring area and wondered to myself how long the sand would be rideable after it was trampled and rode to death. After assembling the team compound, David and Patrick and I took a lap to check out the course and discovered that this was about as much fun as you could have on a cross course! There were plenty of swooping corners and I particularly enjoyed the high speed singletrack through the oak tress. I wondered if I would have come to the same conclusion if it hadn’t rained for a couple days before the race and all of the firm sand was loose?

Master 45+ A
At this point I have little expectations due to my lack of fitness and have been trying to race myself into shape which by its nature is quite painful. I had a bit of a panic before the start of the race as my front brake cable let go and my lever went to the handlebar. The start line was about as far as you could get from the pits/finishing area and nobody at the starting line had any tool, but luckily Maryann Hunter rode back to the pits and grabbed an allen set for me and I was able to fix my problem or so I thought! The race started and was barely clinging to the back of the pack. We entered the twisting singletrack under the oak trees I grabbed the brakes for the first time since the start of the race and once again my lever went to the handlebar. This in turn made me over shoot the corner and I ended up in the forest where I was lucky not to come into contact with anything. Back on course I made my way to the pits for a bike change. I arrived and shouted to my teammates under the tent “Bike change! Please fix my front brake!” With that I ghost rode my geared bike into the sand and ran a few steps to my singlespeed and grabbed it and threw it over my shoulder and started running up the hill past the pits.

I had traveled about twenty feet when I heard “Stop, Stop! There are no pedals on that bike!” It suddenly became clear to me. Patrick had forgotten his shoes this morning so he borrowed my pedals and Darik Thunstrom shoes so he could race, but hadn’t had the time to reinstall my pedals on my bike. Considering what had just happened I was amazingly calm. If I was in contention for a series I might have laid an egg, but instead I stood there and watched Patrick and some other guy I didn’t know run around like chicken with there heads cut off as they searched for my pedals and tools to install them! After watching Patrick display his amazing mechanical abilities, my singlespeed was ready and I was off. I came through the pits on the next lap and asked for a bike change as the gear on my singlespeed was too small and was told that my geared bike wasn’t fixed yet. Upon hearing that I punched it in order to get some speed up for the hill and hit the little bump in front of it to fast and caught a little air which sent me on a collision course with a big pile of sand to the right of the preferred line which caused me to crash. Luckily the landing was very soft and I did this in place were everybody could see and Harriet Riley was able to capture the moment with her camera! I rode around again and got my geared bike back and did my absolute best to stay out of the way when I got lapped.

Singlespeed A
I started the race and immediately blew sky high and then for the next hour and eighteen minutes I experienced pain, pain and more pain. On the last couple of laps I fought off cramping and the overwhelming desire to go somewhere to find some pie to eat all the while doing your best to keep your slow as molasses, bonking self out of the way. I thought seriously of dropping out of this one, but at least I rode the hill after finish line every time except for the last lap when both of my legs seized. On an entirely different note, it was amazing to see the speeds that the 5 leaders of the Men’s A race were going. It was truly impressive! Hopefully something resembling a little form will come my way soon!