Sunday, November 30, 2008

Menthol, Mucinex and Eucalyptus

I used cough drops with menthol, an expectorant called Mucinex and an eucalyptus balm to help clear the green stuff out of my head and chest, but I obviously needed something more at today's race. Earlier in the week I got a head and chest cold. Of course, I did my typical thing and ignored it. I never seem to learn when my body needs a break. For some reason, I feel that if I stop training for a few days I will lose my competitive edge. Well, once again, I trained hard all week thinking that my cold and the green nasty stuff that I have been blowing out of my body all week would just automatically go away without rest. Needless to say, it did not, so I did the best I could to make my breathing at least a little easier. I must admit that the above mentioned products did help, but I doubt that any pharmaceuticals actually could make someone feeling sick race cross faster. Quiet frankly, I probably should not even have done the Murraysville Cross Race, especially since the weather was so horrible. But, again , being a little bit in denial about my health and wanting to support a local cyclocross event , I did do the race.

Surprisingly, the course was in better condition than I thought that it would be, so that was cool. I actually even surprised myself at the start of the race by going into the first left turn off the pavement in first place. But, pretty much from that point on, I was in suffer mode. It is not often that I have thoughts about abandoning a race; today I did. I made it through the race by battling against my two cross teammates Andy and Ernie. Without them being near me and having our friendly battle, I would have quickly lost motivation to continue. Mike Mihalik was in the mix with us Speedgoaters too at the beginning, but then he decided to turn on his turbo boosters and leave us in his wake of mud. Mike had a great ride to be sure, finishing in second overall. SteveO took the title as the Pennsyl-Tucky Champion and course designer Joe Ruggery rounded out the podium in third. Somehow or another I suffered through my illness and the nastiness on the course to finish in fourth in front of Ernie in fifth and Andy in sixth. Amazingly, Andy actually won the earlier 35+ masters race too, so he had a strong performance today. Ernie was riding right with me until he had a mishap over the double barriers, which caused him to go down, otherwise he would have probably been right with me until the end.

Thanks to Fred for promoting the race, all of the sponsors and Joe/Team FU for the course set-up and design. Also, thanks to David Burke for the posted photos riding with Andy and me going into the course tape on the downhill off-camber turn. Overall, it was a nice race....painful, but nice. Now I just have to convince my body that what I just did to myself makes some kind of sense.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Brewing Storm

Seems like there is a perfect storm brewing for the Pennsyl-Tucky Championship tomorrow in Murraysville. The weather forecast is predicting a 60% chance of a snow and rain mix. Boy, doesn't that sound wonderful, when you consider that the ground is already saturated! I have read Joe's description of the course on his blog ( but I really have no idea what the course is going to be like, especially when considering the nasty weather coming our way. I was able to ride outside in the snow two days this week at Mammoth park. I did one day on the fixie cross bike with J-Pok and the second alone on my Speedgoat Special Cross Rig. The fixie was faster on the flats, but overall my regular cross ride felt faster and easier to control, so it will be my choice for tomorrow unless the course is really bad. If the mud does seem to be the major obstacle on the course, I will use my single speed cross bike without the fixie set-up.
This cross season I have pretty much been able to pack all of my stuff and travel to the race that day. To prepare for Murraysville, however, I will have to prepare for tomorrow's race today because of being scheduled to work. I will be going to work later this afternoon and work until 11pm. I work again tomorrow at 7AM, which will only allow for about 5 hours of sleep between shifts. With this busy schedule ahead of me, I will have to prepare my bikes this morning and then pack them in my car along with all my clothing and stuff. I can tell you now that I will be packing a lot because the weather sounds like it is going to require a lot.
My goal with my clothing choice tomorrow will be to stay warm and dry. This will pretty much be impossible to do, but by using my thin neoprene gloves and socks I can keep my hands and feet pretty good. A polypro base layer or two under my skinsuit should keep some heat in my body during the race, too. I am sure that the biggest clothing challenge tomorrow will actually come after the race when I am trying to quickly removing the wet, muddy clothing from my body without a changing room before going into hypothermia. Sure does sound fun, doesn't it???? I swear cross racers are sadomasochists in disguise. For some reason we cross racers seem to enjoy pushing our bodies to the point where it feels like our hearts about to explode and then to add to our level of discomfort, we typically do this in weather that makes a sane person's trip to the mailbox a difficult expedition. Gotta love it!
One last thing I think that you guys might be interested in hearing about is my tire choice for tomorrow. Recently, I mounted a pair of UST tubeless ready Hutchinson Bulldogs Tires onto a pair of Mavic Ksyriums SL Wheels with some tubeless tire sealant and Stan's Valves. The tires sealed up easily without the use of tubeless sealing tape or a rubber rim strip being used on the rims. These things hook-up great in the muddy stuff, even better than the tubulars I use mounted with Tufo Plexus Tires. The tubular set-up is probably faster on the dry stuff, but I think this new set-up will be my first choice for any slick, muddy races.
I will type up another blog entry after the race tomorrow. I am sure the conditions will be epic!
See you Sunday - Gerry

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

4 + 1 = One Fine Day of Racing

At the beginning of last week, I was planning to travel down to WV to do the WVMBA Bruceton Mills Cross Race, mainly because I could do the race and still have time to make it to work in the afternoon. Well, like most of this season, my plans changed midweek. J-Pok sent me an email with a link to the Ohio State Championship Cross Race in Columbus, OH. I almost did not even click on the link because I knew that doing the race would require me to burn another day of leave, something I have done too many times this year probably. But, I did click on the link and liked everything that I saw in regards to the race. So, I said what the heck about using more leave from work and decided to register for both the elite masters race and also the elite race. Yes, two cross races in one day.

The first race of the day was the elite 35+ masters race, which had about 30 registered riders line-up at the starting line. I had a good start and soon after the first few turns a small group of riders including myself broke free from the rest of the pack. That pack then whittled down to just me and rider Frederick Rose. It was nice to have another rider with me because the course had quite a few long straight-aways and the wind was blowing hard. We traded off pulls at the front up until the last lap. I noticed during our previous laps that I would gap Rose going over the double barriers, so I diecide to increase my speed through the barriers on the last lap to hopefully create a big gap. My strategy worked and I was able to maintain the gap until the finish, winning the race.

Immediately after finishing the first race I put on some warm clothes and jumped on my trainer to keep my legs loose. After riding the trainer for about 40 minutes I made my way over to starting line for the elite race. When I got there, the race officials were already starting call ups. This was not a typical 8 slot starting line, though, so I was still able to sneak in to the first starting row, which was probably at least 15 guys wide. Next the official says listen for the whistle to start, but first let's take a moment of silence...(what????)...then a song that I haven't heard since the 80's starts playing loudly, Survivor's Eye of the know from the Rocky Movie. I expected them to play the whole song and was a bit confused about this whole starting ordeal, when suddenly I hear a whistle and see a rush of riders come flying around me. I instantly went from my nice front row starting position to mid-pack or worse right from the gun. Knowing that I needed to do a lot of work to get back towards the front, I starting sprinting with every opportunity that I had. The course was laid out much wider than most cross course that I have done, so I was able to work my way up to a group of about 5 riders that had already pulled away from the pack. It took me a lap or so for my legs to recover from this effort, so I just sat at the back of this pack. During this time, and because of a couple of riders directly in front of me crashing in the turns, two riders were able to escape from our leading group. I tried chasing hard for one lap, but it was not enough to catch the two that had escaped and created a pretty big gap. So, Mike Mihalik, Phil Noble, Andy Messer and I were then in between the two leaders and the quickly disintegrating rest of the pack. It seemed as if Mike and I were doing the majority of the work and I was okay with that since I was basically doing the race for a hard day of training. Near the end of the race, Mike and I had escaped from the other two riders. Mike then dropped me going through the last few off camber turns, which lead to him taking 3rd and me finishing 4th.

The Cap City Cross Guys did a great job with the race and offered up some super prize money, too. After looking at some muddy pictures of the WVMBA Race, I do think that my switch in plans was a good one. It was cool to get in a really hard day of racing/training by doing two races in one day and it was also cool being able to take a 1st and 4th place.

Andy had a great weekend of racing too by finishing second both days at the MAC Races in South Hampton, NY. The only rider to top him both days was super human master racer Roger Aspholm from the Westwood Velo Team, so congrats to Andy on his best MAC finishes ever.

Next up is the Murraysville Cross Race! From the looks of the forecast, my reprieve from mud this past weekend will come to an end on Sunday. I may actually try racing my fixed gear cross bike at this race if conditions are bad enough. I have noticed that my fixie rides mud and snow much better than a regular single speed or geared bike does because of the rear wheel constantly turning. I am not sure if USA Cycling rules permit the use of a fixed gear bike for mass start races, but if they do, it might even be the right choice for Nationals in a few weeks if the conditions are as bad as last year. If anyone does know the answer to racing a fixie in a mass start event please do advise me. Later - Gerry

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Pennsyl-Tucky Cyclocross Championships

Western Pennsylvania is a great place to ride and also has some good riders, but for some reason the area has very little racing, other than a Wednesday Night Training Race around a semi-banked track oval during the months of April through September. It is almost like the area is it's own isolated, hard-to-get-to island of cycling. What's worse, is that when someone does put in a good,hard effort to promote a race, few in the Pittsburgh Area actually do show up to do the race. For this reason, I have given Western PA the new name of Pennsyl-Tucky. It really is not part of the mid-west cycling scene, nor is it part of the mid-atlantic cycling scene. We in Western PA are our own isolated group of cycling species. So, with this in mind, I am un-officially calling next weekends Murraysville Cyclocross Race the Pennsyl-Tucky Cyclocross Championships. I posted it here before, but this link will give you all the information you need about the race:
I do hope if you race/ride in Western PA that you do make it a point to support our local and sparse racing scene. See you at the race! - Gerry

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Cross courses this season have been pretty exceptional, with little mud and fast conditions. This weekend all of that changed. I did two races this weekend, both in nasty, muddy conditions. On Saturday, I did the first day of racing near Trenton, NJ at the Mercer Cup USGP Race. On Sunday, I traveled to Cleveland for the Lake Effect Cycling Team Broadview Heights Cyclocross Race.

Initially I said that I did not see the point in doing the USGP Races in NJ in my last blog, but I could not pass-up a front line call-up at the race. I probably should have stuck to my initial thoughts about doing the race now that I look back in hindsight. The race course was a mess, covered in a thick peanut butter type of mud that required racers to run a large part of the course. I had a great start, going into the first hard left turn in third place, but that position vanished quickly when we all had to dismount and begin running through the thick mud. I don't usually mind running, but I easily start to become frustrated with a race when I am doing nothing but slow running with heavy muddy feet and have little opportunity to get my bike up to speed. By the end of the race, I finished in 13th with about three middle gears working on my rear cassette due to mud and course tape being jammed in my rear derailleur. I should have used my single speed, but I unfortunately did not bring it to the race. From what Andy tells me, the racing on Sunday at the USGP was in even worse conditions than Saturday's Race.

So, Sunday's Race was muddy too, but the mud was not as thick, which made it much easier to ride. There were definitely sections on the course that did require some extra effort to power through the mud, but nothing even close to the bog that I attempted to ride through the day before. I came to the race on Sunday with only one bike; my single speed. I figured it would be muddy and after the lesson learned the day before, I decided that the single speed would be the best choice. The choice did seem to be a good one, since I ended up as the overall winner of the race.

What I learned this weekend is that when it comes to racing in the mud, I would much rather ride in a wet, thinner mud than on a course covered in a thick mud. I like that mud does require more technical skills to riding a course smoothly, but I don't like when it completely takes away from actually being able to ride the majority of the course. Every cross course is different, though, so I guess it is just a matter of playing the cards you are given. Now that the weather in the region seems to have taken a turn for the worse, I guess mud will now be a factor at all remaining races, including nationals. Maybe I should start running and riding in this thick muddy retention pond near my home to better prepare for this type of racing....I hope you know that this is only a joke! - Later, Gerry

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Marilla Cyclocross and Kirkland Park Race Weekend

Awesome weekend of local cross racing... On Saturday, I did a race in Morgantown, WV named the Marilla Park Cyclocross Race, or Raza De Los Muertos (Race of the Dead), which was promoted by friend Marc Glass. On Sunday, I traveled north to Cleveland to do another Lake Effect Cycling Team Cyclocross Series Race in Kirkland Park. Both course were well designed and a lot of fun to race. I am happy that local cross racing is starting to grow, both with the number of races and the depth of the field. Traveling 4 + hours east every weekend takes a toll on the body and the mind, for me anyway. My plan is to race locally over the next few weeks, while I build for Nationals. I may not be able to race against the fastest master racers in the nation this way, but I do think that it will allow me focus more on training and less on traveling.
I finished 3rd to Steve-O and Wes on Saturday. Wes is very smooth and strong on a cross bike. He rode away from Steve-O and I with what seemed to be very little effort. I was definitely impressed by his strength. Steve-O and I had a good battle going on during the remainder or the race. Unfortunately, we became entangled over the barriers on the last lap, which caused me to flat. It would have definitely been much more fun to battle Steve-O to the finishing line, rather than worry about doing a wheel change and riding in alone for third. But, I am sure we will have another chance to do this again sometime this season. Thanks to Marc and the other WVMBA Guys for putting on a great race.
The Kirkland Park Race was set in a small park in downtown Cleveland. The course was very twisty and had three run-ups, which used cement stairs to force dismount off the bike. Two of the run-ups were very long, probably about 25 steps, or so. After doing 11 laps of this, it definitely made for a hard race. After the first few laps of cross course chaos, Paul Martin, Ernesto Marenchin and I were able to get a gap on the rest of the field. I pretty much lead the race then until the last lap. My goal was to try and drop Paul off the pace, perhaps through the tight turns, with hard accelerations out of the turns. I did get a few small gaps, but not enough to drop Paul. Eventually I knew Paul was going to use one of his trademark powerful attacks on me and my fellow speedgoater, Ernesto, which he did on the last lap. Neither Ernesto or I had the power to match his powerful effort and he rode in for the win. I finished second and Ernesto was third overall.
I am working midnights this weekend, so no racing for me. Andy will be travelling to NJ for two MAC Races, though. I have decided not to go out to NJ the following weekend for the USGP Series and will race in Cleveland instead. I just don't see the point in spending a ton of money to race in another weekend of USGP Races when there is something closer to do.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

USGP - Louisville

Again, another blog entry added to this mess of mine way too late. For some reason, I just can't find time in my life to update this thing like I would like to do. Anyway, Louisville was a great time. I thought that the course was much better this year, with less long straight-aways and more technical aspects added to it. My racing went pretty well too, finishing 10th each day. I was a little bummed, though, because I made last lap blunders that pushed me back a few places each day. It is amazing how important the start and the finish of a cross race is, especially when competing against a group of talented riders. Unlike MTB racing, cross racing really does require one to keep their wits about them during the entire race; one small mistake in the beginning or at the end can completely change the outcome. Of course I knew this before racing this weekend, but when your brain is suffering from a lack of oxygen it is hard to keep your thought process in order. Perhaps I should be more like M.J. (EuroTrash) and put myself through a 10-day Buddhist Retreat, so that I can better connect with the inner me and also learn how to ignore the discomfort that I am feeling at any point in time...
I am doing a cross race in Morgantown today called the Marilla Cyclocross. The race flyer makes it sound more like a MTB race than a cross race. It is close to work, though, so I will give it a try. Tomorrow I am traveling up to Cleveland for another one of the Lake Effect Cycling Team Races. I will try to give a race update on my blog a little earlier in the week this time...yeah right! Later - Gerry