Friday, December 14, 2012

MO State Cyclocross Championship

Time has escaped me this week.

It's weird, but when I'm sitting in the lab all day reading about RNA, diseases, and cancer cells, I really don't feel much like a bike racer. I've been drinking quite a bit of beer since I hurt my calf in every night, and generally just feel like a pretty normal person who enjoys riding bikes around fields on the weekends. It's just become such a central part of my life.

With all that said, I was really happy with the way the race unfolded on Sunday.

I liked the course quite a bit. With the rain the evening before, it was a little slick which I thought significantly improved the technical challenge of the course. When it was dry on Saturday, it was apparent that it was hard to flow on this course. Line selection and cornering didn't matter much because the corners were a little off-camber but all pretty slow since you could never really get going. But on Sunday, you had to choose good lines and there were parts of the course where it was faster to run than all-in-all I thought it was a good cross course; especially because spectators could see almost everything from the top of the hill.

Since the course was hilly and there were lots of turns, it was pretty selective. I barely shifted into my big ring all weekend; it was just kicker followed by grinder followed by kicker, with a bunch of turns in between, and a couple of slightly technical descents.

I managed to ride off the front during the 3rd of 10 laps and stayed there for the rest of the race. The mental aspect of breaking a course down into little segments is one of the things I love the most about off-road bicycle racing, and it felt really good to be on my mental game.

I'm very satisfied and proud to have won the race. I'm thankful to all my friends in bike racing and to those who help me keep my head about things. This week I've just been trying to savor it and reflect on the journey over the past few years. I'm trying not to think too much about next season, and for now focus more on science, friends here in Columbia, and family. But in the meantime, I'm in the process of selling a bunch of equipment and am trying to simplify my life with respect to bikes and bike racing. As of right now, I only own 1 bicycle and hopefully am sorting out some priorities for the future.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bubba: St Vincent

It's strange that no matter how bad my week went, how poorly I slept the few nights prior, and sometimes even how much beer I drank the night before, the pain of a cyclocross race brings a little smile to my face (I guess I talk to angels).

Yesterday was St Vincent, on the north side of St Louis. It's a park near Normandy high school, and as someone who grew up south, within the erected and metaphoric walls of Clayton, it's a really special place to race. The park is just this crazy anomaly of topographical terrain in the middle of an area of St Louis that will likely never be cool or gentrified. The nearby buildings have really cool old architecture and I swear the park has this grass more like some kind of emerald-irish-isle, then anywhere else in St Louis.

In terms of Bubba history, it's the infamous sight of my buddy Schottler's incredible solo effort off the front, only to be slowly reeled in by the ever methodical and well-paced Butthead. Last year, I won there...whilst sick as a dog. This year I don't think I'm quite so stupid or motivated to race sick (although my child is sick right now and with my luck, I'm virtually certain I'll catch it in time for the state cyclocross next weekend).

The real story yesterday, is one that's been interwoven into Missouri cyclocross for a long time, but highlighted yesterday because it's a trend likely to continue; we love cyclocross in BoCoMo. My teamate Jesse Maggard won the B race! Mike Morgan, who was riding a hunk of junk bike that if he doesn't like he should trade wit me, was top 5. And the A race saw PedNet director Lawrence Simonson, Butthead, and myself 5th, 2nd, and 1st respectively.

Two things I've learned in cyclocross this year:
1. Pacing on a qualitative scale: Basically there are 4 effort levels in a cross race, that over the course of racing this year, feel incredibly distinct and concrete.

-Warm-up spinning; this is easy, like Z1 or Z2 HR, 0-220watts

-Lung pace: this is typical 'tempo' riding of a cross race. You're pushing the pedals hard, but if you're driving your bike well and getting in a little recovery on the sections that allow for it, breathing is still out of the nose. It's probably like upper Z3 to Z4 HR, 240-300watts, RPE 5-7. The thing about lung pace is that it's sufficiently discombobulating that driving the bike becomes more difficult.

-Leg pace: These are the efforts that make cross a unique form of cycling...these are the repeated bursts of power the occur coming out of corners, on the climbs, over the bumps, and in a UCI race...they're basically the whole damn race. These are HR Z5, and are >320watts, with the shorter accelerations being 400-800w, RPE 8.

-Heart pace: this is when you put your chips in. Leg pace is part of the game and shouldn't hurt that bad. Heart pace is when you stretch out the leg pace into long efforts and you start to suck more at driving the bike. This is when you're gassed, seeing cross eyed. This is RPE 9 to 10.

2. Cross is just silly expensive. A broken fork and tubular this year isn't quite as bad as a couple of broken derailleurs and a broken frame last year, but it still sucks. I originally wanted to go to nationals again this year, but mostly due to funds, will be packing things up and selling a bunch of cross equipment after the state race next week. The reality of my wife still being on student loans and me with an incredibly meager scientist-level income (with 2 more years of student loans beginning next June when I finish up med school) has completely set-in. My choices need to be more sustainable and I'm not sure that cross, at least not in the way that I've approached it, will be in the cards for me next year.