Thursday, November 27, 2008

8, 9 and 10

Yes we drink.
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My mom, Tammi, and Elora

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5, 6 and 7

So I am at thanksgiving with various parts of extended family. I am well on my way.

To me Thanksgiving is all about family. Family doesn't just mean people you may be related to because in the end that may not mean sh*t. We have about 15 people here already and anticipate 20. Peace.

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Bottles 3 and 4

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2nd bottle

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First Bottle

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The pre-meal spread and first bottle of wine

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Woodstock

Pete e-mailed me these photos from Woodstock. The first has the 6 of us still together, but William has a gap. This is completely on the other side of the course as Carolyn's photo of us all together.

The finish: a bit closer than I thought it was.

I think this race was my favorite of the season because I got to race with a group, pushing each other.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Race Report: Chicago Cross Cup #9, Woodstock

We had a great day yesterday at Woodstock. I conquered some demons during this race. Not in relation to my finish, more about how I race.

The course. Very spread out. Several short climbs. Some nice longish downhills that felt more like a mountain bike course than a cross course. Nice wide and long start area, then around a few turns into the first climb into the woods. Down the longest downhill, a wide right turn right back up into a climb, dirt then pavement. Back onto the grass, some easy turns, then alot of bumps. This was probably the bumpiest course I've been on. At least one other rider commented that he tried to shift at one point an his hand just flew off the shifter due to the bumps. Only 1 dismount, at the top of one these climbs for a triple barrier. The barriers were tough though because they were not equally spaced and were at different heights. Some fast downs including a spot where you get some air as you crossed the road. Then several tight off camber turns before the finish line. If you were in front coming out of the last turns, it would be pretty difficult if not impossible to win a position if you were not in front.

I did 3 or 4 laps before the race. Each lap, lowering tire pressure and finally settling on 32 psi.

The start. Still in 5th overall. Whistle. I'm about 15th into the first climb but move up before the long down. As we come out of the woods for the first time I can see the groups form in front of me. 1-5, then a gap, then 5 or 6 more, then me. I can "feel" at least one rider with me.

The race. I pushed as hard as I could to catch the group in front of me, which I did on the second lap. Now I'm with 5 other guys, all of whom have raced against each other the whole season. This photo by Carolyn shows this group perfectly. From right to left: Me, Vince Boyer, Jim Nowak, Michael Stanley, William from DICE and Pete Rolewicz.

We raced each other for the whole race. Each person coming to the front at different points. Sometimes one or two would get a gap and then the rest would catch back on. William was the first to get away. I told myself that I was not going to let anyone get away this race and held his wheel for a long while. I remember after pulling for awhile and Jim coming through saying to him "we've got to stay with him, he'll be gone." But then the elastic broke. Michael was the next to try and he succeeded. The rest of our group stayed together until the last lap when Pete and I pulled away. I could see Michael and William just ahead. Michael had passed William, who seemed to be fading. Lapped 30+ riders now played into race strategy. If you could pass one before a tech section, the guy on your wheel would have a difficult time staying on. Pete tried to pass me on the very last climb and I sprinted side by side with him and got just clear as we hit a 30+ rider just before the last set of turns coming into the finish and I held my spot.

The result: Out of that group, we ended up:

8th: Michael Stanley
9th: William
10th: Me
11th: Pete
12th: Vince
13th: Jim Nowak
This was a course that was hard physically because of how bumpy it was and then tough mentally to try to hold each position. I feel like I made some major gains in my head about racing.

Then we did the 1,2,3s. I really had nothing left for this as everything I had was laid out for the 40+ race. But I did it. Not very well, but I did it. I slowed down to let the leaders of the race pass me. I didn't want to be in the way.

Watched most of the other races. Shouts out to everyone: Lou with the WIN! Hell yeah! Sherer with the win. Cliff with his best finish in the 4s yet: 5th with 3rd and 4th just ahead. I'm not sure how the rest of team placed, but it seemed like everyone was enjoying themselves.
Not going to Jingle Cross. Family obligation. I expect text updates. See everyone in 2 weeks for the finale: Montrose. It was snowing a little this morning.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Race Report (Brief): Chicago Cross Cup #9, Woodstock

Too tired for a full report. Another great day of racing. A little chilly, but not that bad. Did 2 races. Maybe not the best idea, my body is racked right now. 10th in the 40+. Congrats to Lou picked up the win in the 30+ as did Sherer in the 1s.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Todd Wells' GT

See it here at

I like these tech pieces because you get some insights into just how "techy" cross can be, e.g.:

He runs a 34mm-wide Challenge Grifo XS semi-slick tubular in the rear and a Dugast Rhino 32mm-wide tubular in the front. Aquseals both tires and the bike weighs in at 18# even, heavier than mine!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day off

No daycare this week, so I took yesterday off. Elora and I went to the Field Museum to see the "dinos." Here we are in front of "Man with Fish" and Elora with her new "buddy."
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More tired

I guess sunday's race took more out of me than I thought. Today was a 45 minute tempo ride at power numbers that 6 mos. ago were my LT targets. Fitter yes, but I could barely hit my numbers today.

At least I know I'm leaving everything I have on the race course each week.
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Race Report: Chicago Cross Cup #8, Lansing

All week long the forecasts for Sunday were gloomy: cold, wet, impossible snow. It was cold. Not that wet and we drove through some snow flurries on the drive down. Hats off to South Chicago Wheelman for having a venue where we could change inside and take a shower to warm up in after racing. Better course than last year, but this park is severely limited in potential. No elevation change and very little if any off camber areas. But, everyone races the same course.

The course. Start, left turn, left turn, left turn, right turn... some more turns, barrier, left, right, left, barrier, pavement, left, barrier, 30 ft. then sand, left, right... not that exciting. I rode the sand on my practice laps, but it was deep and long and power sapping. Ho, hum.

The start. Nice starting area. Wide enough. I like the 30 seconds call and then at any point after that, go. Some riders were jumping early at previous races. I had an alright start, not great. I was pretty cold.

The race. So, the start was fine, but then I struggled again with the course. I just couldn't get any kind of flow going. I felt like I was fighting the bike on most of the corners. I'd have a few good ones and then overcook one. I got passed by a few and passed some others. For the whole race I could see a group of 5 just ahead of me and kept telling myself, come on they're right there, you just got to do it. Then I'd over cook a corner and have to brake and jump and consequently lose ground. I rode the sand the first 2 laps, but didn't make it all the way through either time, so I just ran it after that. There didn't seem to be any good lines through it and with the barrier just in front of it, there was very little chance of gathering any speed before getting into it.

The result. Ended up 12th.

Took a shower and watched Carolyn take on the 4s and give a wayward spectator a piece of her mind when he crossed the course in front of her, after he basically t-boned the leading collegiate woman. Watched Lou and others, several of whom were doing their 2nd race of the day, in the 1s. Jack and Cliff in the 4as. I think I had more fun watching those races then racing my own.

Next Sunday is another venue, another race. We've been hearing good things about this Sunday's course.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Race report: Chicago Cross Cup #7, Northbrook

As we left for the race it was 34 degrees and it didn't get any warmer. Since this one was close, Elora and Tammi came, but we may not do that when its this cold.

The course. Nice wide start area and right into the twisty tech stuff. Opened up and then up the first set of stairs, switchbacks on the way down. I crashed hard on the first one during my first warm-up lap, ringing my bell pretty well. Back into the twisty stuff and then up a second shorter stair run-up. An off camber down and onto some pavement. Up a muddy hill, around some pinwheel things and then up to the start/finish. No barriers, just the 2 stair case run-ups. Lots of turns, little if any power sections. Overall this was a great, great course that made me work hard. But it was very unforgiving, every time I got any speed up, I had to brake. Just about every surface of the course was off camber and slippery; every corner, a test of handling skills. Oh yeah, goose poop... everywhere.

The start. Thermal skinsuit, base layer, wool socks, emrbo. Call up in 5th. Set up far left. Roman started to my left. Big field, over 30. Cold. Go. I'm in 5th or 6th at the first run-up, still in contact. Decided to just run the first 2 turns of the switchbacks and ride the other 2.

The race. You're all probably getting used to this part... but I just have to ride my own race. I held my own. I ran the first 2 switchbacks every lap. Riding them may have been faster, but I didn't get passed there and I felt safer running it. On the 3rd lap I started getting passed in the technical stuff, first Mike and Randy from xXx, then a DICE rider, then James from Turin. I tried to stay with each one, but then I'd have to slow down in a corner. Just too tentative in the corners, wasting massive amounts of energy braking and then having to re-accelerate.

The result. 11th. Just off the group that finished 6-10. I was kind of bummed afterward because I fell from 6th to 11th, but then the more I thought about it: I feel pretty good. If you look at the guys ahead of me, many of them have been racing for years: Boundy, Warren, Dimmick. This is my first whole season and last year my highest finish was 20th. With another whole season of targeted, smart training and losing some weight, who knows where I'll be.

Afterward, the cold started to set in, including not being able to feels my toes. Interesting, because while I was racing, I didn't notice it. When I got back to the car Elora and Tammi where already there, toasty warm. I jumped into the front seat and started to feel that tingly feeling in your toes as the blood starts to flow back in. When I said my toes were frozen, Elora jumped up the passenger seat and said "warm them up like I did" and laid down and put her feet on top of one of the vents.

Roman flatted, but still made 15th in the 40s. Lou got 3rd, behind C. Lombardo and Robbie Ventura in the 30s. Cliff got 13th in the 4as, not sure about Jack or Carolyn. Mike Sherer 1st and Luca 5th(?) in the 1,2,3s.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Yes. Holistic Pheasant Dinner. For the cat who feels unfulfilled.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I have 2 bulletin boards on opposite walls of my office.

This is the one that sits to my right when I sit at my desk: signed posters acquired at Interbike and my race numbers, the bottom row is the 2007 cyclocross season, the top numbers are this years campaign.

Some people give me crap for keeping my numbers, but they are a source of inspiration. Whether I did well (Dekalb) or not (Hawthorn), they let me know where I have been: either pride in a good performance or lessons to be learned.
Then I saw Mud and Cowbells wall of fame and said to myself "That's alot of fricking numbers!" His corresponding post wasn't about the race numbers though, it was about seeking balance, which leads me to the other bulletin board which sits to my left.

Mostly photos of family including Elora's first ultrasound, her first birthday, her and I in front of "Man with Fish," some pieces of her art, thank-you letters from clients. The "other" sources of inspiration. I try to have Elora come to the races when it makes sense, basically if I know there will be a park she can play at and if there's open space where she can run around without fear that she might get hit by riders warming up for their races. Campton was great for that, Bartlett no way. Even though she can't yell very loudly, I can usually hear her voice above all others. It was easier when she called me "Papa." She is now calling me "Jim" because she says she wants to call me what everyone else calls me. No chance of me trying to correct her on that.

She knows the people I race with and the guys at the shop and will even sometimes come up to them and say "give me bones" and put her fist out for a fist bump. She asks questions about the bikes and the course, like "why are there barriers?" Even though she is only 3, she soaks it up, even the heckling. When she gets bored she pretends we are an entire crocodile family that must swim around on our hands and knees.

Whether I place well or not, every race presents me with 2 opportunities. The first is individual to me, my race. Last week's race presented me with 2 mental obstacles, first the fact that I didn't like the course and second, the flat. Each race also gives me the opportunity to share cross with Elora. I think she looks forward to race days as much as I do.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

TJ's Cannondale

I was looking at this article on Tim Johnson's Cannondale, same frame and fork as I'm on, but his weighs only 16.5 pds. with pedals.

My bike is at 17.8. Same brakes, similar tires, although I think the Dugasts are lighter than the Challenges. Most of that difference is in the wheels: TJ runs the Mavic Ultimates which weigh just 1185g per pair and the shifters, he's running SRAM Red and I have Ultegra levers.

My FSAs weigh in at just over 1500g, so that's 315g or about 2/3 of a pd. (1 pd. = 454 g, I looked it up), right there.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Race Report- Chicago Cross Cup #6, Campton Cross

What can I say? A beautiful day. A nice course. A flat tire 200 meters after the pit... mental effort dwarfs the physical leaving me completely wasted and bruised.

The course. Very much the same as last year, but run the opposite direction. Alot of climbing, which is not my strength. A very short start area, right hander and then into the woods and up the railroad tie section with a single barrier towards the end, then around to the off camber stuff, 2 high speed downs combined with a low speed twisty up. The flat part of the course had its share of twists and a single barrier, drainage ditch jump. A single side pit just after the start.

The start. Met some guys I didn't know before, Jim Nowak, Steel. Hopefully I'll put faces to names this Sunday. Chose to start on the far left, which would be outside of the turn. I'm still trying to figure out where I want to be when I get a call-up. It wasn't the best spot, but I was in the top 10 into the woods.

The race. 1st lap, o.k. stayed in it. 2nd lap, feeling a bit sluggish. 3 laps in, right after the railroad tie section, Steel had been on my wheel and comes around and says "come on, we can get right back on." I go to jump on his wheel and as I get out of the saddle my rear tire washes out. Steel rides away. Flat. Hell no! I have a whole lap to go to get back to the pit. The rear end is all over the place. I can ride, but can't go fast at all. Now riders are passing me like I'm standing still. I was 10th or so. By the time I get to the pit I am by myself, in last. I get to the pit, dismount, and up runs a xXx rider. He says "which wheels" I told him the FSAs, he runs over and grabs the rear as I take the flat one off, he runs back and says"you do the brake, I'll do the skewer." BAM, wheel's on and I'm off. 20 seconds at most. Now it's just race. At this point I'm tired. The lap-with-the-flat took alot out of me. I'm now being lapped by the 30+leaders. I come to the finish, race over.

The result. 20th out of over 30. Not so bad I guess. Thankfully I was on tubulars and was able to get to the pit riding.

Afterward I needed to just go off by myself and wallow in some self pity for a few minutes. Sorry if I wasn't as gracious as I should have been. After I got cleaned up and watched the 3s finish, I walked around trying to find the mystery xXx rider, but realized all I remembered was the black kit. I was about to just start going up to each one and thanking them all when Greg came up to me and asked "how'd the new wheel work out?" I said "that was you? Dude thanks...".

Saw Carolyn (Velosnaps) get teh hole shot in the women's 4s. Yeah!!

Watched the 1,2s, Ben is damn fast right now. But so were Brian Conant and Wayne Simon and the rest of them. I like watching them because it shows how much work I have to do to get that fast. Not just, but so damn smooth. Every corner, every obstacle.

Watched most of the 4as, Jack, Cliff, Starbuck all having great races. The Vee-pack guys en masse, moving up, I think.

Thinking about it, that's why I like cross so much. It is certainly about the racing, but its also about so much more. I like watching the races as much as doing them myself: yelling and heckling. In 5 more weeks when my season is over, I'll miss the racing, but I think I will miss the "other stuff" even more. Thanks again Greg.