Monday, December 27, 2010

Palm Springs Not in Love with Cyclists

It is a beautiful thing to leave Wisconsin to ride in 65 degree weather in Palm Springs California.

But many residents here don't seem to share the good feelings!

The total exception was Mike and another guy at Palm Springs Cyclery. Great shop who offered a lot of help in choosing a route. Mike, by the way, is moving up to Milwaukee with his wife, who has a business up in the tundra land. We chatted about places to live, bike shops. Good guys. Also Evan at Big Wheel Bikes, who brought the rental bikes to us, has his act together.

I set off to attempt to conquer the Palm Springs Tram road, a steep 3 mile climb averaging between 5 and 8 percent. A lot of climbing for January. And the road surface was a bit sketchy. I love going up, but am not as fond of coming down, especially with a lot of traffic on a steep descent!

I made it to a mile to go and turned around because it was getting stupid cold. Hello? I left Wisconsin to ride in the heat! On the way down, I exceeded the speed limit yet cars still backed up behind me for all of three minutes.

At the bottom, an older man in a white cadillac had pulled over to the side. To my knowledge, he wasn't behind me on the descent. I rode around him, and he leaned out of his window. "You're an asshole," he told me.


"Fuck you," he said. I responded in a different way, and he kept on flipping me off. I have NO IDEA what I did to him.

As this kind gentlemen drove off in a huff, another man in a van with kids inside told me I wasn't a vehicle and get the hell off the road. This kind Californian was, I think, behind me.

Several other drivers, on wide roads, felt compelled to drive their cars within inches of me.

Seriously? You gotta a problem with me? Do you?

Or are you just jealous of how good I look in spandex...

I'll try again tomorrow. Point the bike and ride. See where I end up.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

No Success But Great Courses o' Fun!

Some pros can ride sick and still do a great race.

Not me! The Saturday and Sunday races were both a lot of fun, but not so successful!

I traveled to Indian Hills for the ChiCrossCup race Saturday. These guys want to host a UCI race there some day. They're ready! It's a great venue with an excellent facility. The course should take advantage of some more of the off-camber little hills on the golf course, though. It needs some more technical challenges!

I never planned on going really hard Saturday, just hard enough to open the legs a bit for Sunday. I did have a chance to heckle Nikki Cyp and the officials, though! No idea where I finished, though, nor do I care!

And speaking of technical challenges, Paul Roltgen created a crazy course for Sun Prairie. Full of short punchy climbs, off-camber turns. Kind of felt like a BMX race in some respects. It was a blast. Another one of those courses where you wanted to race again.

But my legs fell off somewhere on the course. There was a small explosion and boom, they fell off, just one and half laps in! I used my hands to pedal the rest of the way...

My whole goal was to follow Greg Ferguson's wheel. I stuck behind Dave Eckel for too long, but when I passed Dave and tried to bridge to Greg's group, it wasn't happening! Boom!

So I limped around the course, having fun with it. But if someone had offered me a beer at the top of the hill, there's no doubt I would have stopped and shared it! I finished, somehow getting 7th out of 12 or so.

I'm hoping that with some active rest this week, a good training week, I'll be firing on all cylinders for Sunday's state championships. It would be nice to end with a bang and some really good legs.

Not a boom where my legs fall off.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

It's Happening

Maybe I got a little something this season after all.

Roscoe and I traveled to Woodstock, Il for a ChiCrossCup race. We signed up for the 30 plus race, but neither of us felt terribly ambitious at the start.

Within 20 yards of the start, the chute narrowed. Guys were going to be pinched. Sure enough, a mountain bike dude was pinching me into Ross. I let off the gas and was now WAY back in the 65-rider field.

Since we were there to train and have some fun, we both were nicely relaxed. And since many Chicago racers use their brakes WAY TOO MUCH, we had fairly easy times moving up in the field. Riders also had issues with the short sand pit.

In the whirly section, Ross was just ahead of me so we said hello as we passed each other! I kept him in sight until the last lap when his big-ass motor had more juice than mine.

I passed a boatload of guys in the race, but I had no idea where I was in the field. So it was a pleasant surprise to check the results to see I was 14th! Ross finished 8th!

It was a great course today, lots of flow. EXCEPT for the two barrier sections, placed at dumb-ass parts of the course. You couldn't run over them, just kind of step over and keep moving. They totally disrupted the flow. The rest of the course, though, was awesome, full of fun little climbs and descents, and tight corners. 

I'm totally stoked tonight, even though my legs are dead. I rode completely within myself, rode hard, and just picked off guys one - sometimes three - at a time. There's hope for me. I keep wanting to sing "Ain't no truck big enough" but that's going to be bad karma or something.

Next week, Mike and Ross bring the mwi circus to Fort Collins. And since it's sponsored by Fat Tire Ale, I'd sure like to be there. But I'll head down to Hilton Island for the Chicago race, then to Sun Prairie for the next to last WCA race.

I'm not sure if you can call what I'm doing peaking, but I'm certainly coming into some form. I felt like a bike racer today.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I discovered my big gear today.

And although I still didn't feel good, I was much faster at Estabrook Park, the 8th WCA race of the series. Beat a couple of guys who are strong TTs on the road. But I don't think either one was feeling his best today. There's definite improvement.

I'm beginning to think Crusty and Herman were right in that the more races I have in my legs, the faster I'll get. And everyone else is starting to slow down after a long road or mountain bike season.

Maybe there's hope for me yet this year!

Last weekend, I had a good race at Washington Park on Saturday and a so-so race in Madison at Warner Park Sunday. Thanks to the city of Madison to let WCA hold a cross race for the first time in a city park!

I'm getting sad the season is already more than half over. There are only three WCA races left, another three Chicago races, and Jingle Cross in Iowa. That's it.

Can't wait for nationals to extend our season. Even if it is in the middle of the damn winter.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Persistence, Patience, and Perspective

No legs this weekend, but perspective from one race definitely made the second a lot more fun.

I wasn't really happy to travel to Badger Prairie for the race Saturday. I'd much rather be traveling with Mike and Ross and the traveling mwi circus.

Nor am I a fan at all of that course. It's all hills or descents.

But as a way of appeasing my spirit that I can still race cross, I'm chasing WCA points.

The course met all expectations. Boring. The only interesting parts were bunny-hopping the railroad planks and railing some higher speed corners. (I don't think I've ever bunny-hopped anything successfully before!)

And before the race, I was amped up, maybe too much. I got a good start sitting third behind Greg and Mark, the two I really wanted to keep up with. But my head started to drag my legs into the hard Dane County earth.

Too much self-expectation and pressure makes my head and legs explode. I did not ride well. I did not keep up with Greg or Mark or anyone else, really.

After the race, Mike told me on the phone that I have to look at the big picture. First, I'm still recovering. Second, I don't have many races in my legs since the crash. Most of these guys raced a full mountain bike and/or road season. I didn't.

Then Crusty told me, again on the phone, that a lot of this season is working toward next season. Getting races in the legs, getting used to the suffering on the bike again.

That night, Myerson twitted about practicing patience and perseverance. Okay, I'm getting the message.

I drove down to Carpentersville Saturday afternoon to avoid more driving. And since I'm not joining the circus on any races, this is my chance to do a road trip. Got a lot of class work done, visited Emmett's Brewery in Dundee for a couple of pale ales and an amazing burger.

The race this morning in Carpentersville, Il was just what the doctor ordered. It was the most fun cross course I've done in a long time (sorry, Mike, our course was hard and challenging, but the climbing was not fun for me!) There were off-cambers, straightaways, an awesome little hill that was a blast to descend, an easy sand pit, and a couple of barriers. There was even a hoop-te-do with six mounds of dirt closely spaced, like a moto-cross obstacle.

It is definitely the kind of race I want to come back next year to win. It was so much fun I did a cool down lap on the course, and seriously considered shotgunning the 30 plus just to race some more!

Once more thanks to Mike and Craig for offering their wisdom. I'm a pretty emotional guy (what a surprise!) and get amped up easily. I'm learning (even at my advanced age) to channel that energy into positive fun.

Even when I'm riding so hard, I can't see straight and puked a lap ago....

That's what I love about cross. It gives me a chance to act like a tough guy even when I'm not feeling it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jeff Littman

I've known Jeff for a lot of years. Usually I was pissed at him because he'd usually beat me in a sprint! And his team, Wisconsin Health and Fitness, lovingly known as the Red Horde, always tried to beat up on our little team.

And as I got to know him, as a person and as a racer, I knew him to be an incredibly competitive, passionate cyclist, who'd rip your legs off in a sprint, then congratulate you after the race. He was a good man and an amazing advocate for the sport.

Jeff died today after being hit by a car last Friday. In some ways, it is better. If he had survived, he would have been paralyzed and likely suffering from brain damage.

All weekend, I've been thinking of him, of me, and countless other cyclists who have been hit by vehicles. I am lucky to survive. Jeff was not. Our passion should not be so dangerous. We should not have to risk our lives to enjoy pedaling through the world.

I don't want to continue to weigh in on the cyclists v. driver argument. We all need to be more vigilant. Nor is now the time for blame.

Now is simply the time to remember Jeff and what he brought to us.

On Saturday at our cyclocross race, I rode with Jeff in mind. He would always want us to ride as hard as we possibly could, no matter how we felt, no matter how much suffering we endured.  I remember him telling me once he trained much harder than he raced.

Jeff is now a guardian angel of cycling. That sounds lame, but I can imagine him up there, guiding cyclists around hazards, keeping us safer, pushing us to ride our hardest.

I, we, the cycling community, will miss you terribly.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Race Report: First Cross weekend of 2010!

A strange thing has happened to my body since the crash: I used to be a good climber and hills made me happy. 

Since the crash, though, I struggle up hills. I don't have as much power. I can't snap up hills like I used to. 

So despite my initial glee about the course conditions at No Good Double Cross in Eagle: lots of mud, repeated climbing of the steep, reasonably long hill drained me. I still did alright overall in the 45 plus, yet I felt slow and sluggish.

One positive was the bike driving. The mud tires gave me a sense of confidence to carve through a lot of corners without brakes. 

The course was okay. I missed stretches of length, where we could get into a rhythm and go. It felt a little choppy, and the "orchard" was pretty rough with rocks. The venue owner told me the whole orchard pathway had been opened up by the tornado that swept through Eagle last year. 

The venue, though, is unique and fun. If the promoters could find a way to lengthen it, that would be better. 

Last year Jackson Park was my first post-crash race. I finished somewhere in the 30s or lower, but I finished and wasn't lapped. I was thrilled. 

Today, there were 100 40 plus riders who lined up! With some heavy hitters. A definitely stacked field. I forgot how much of an argy-bargy a cross start could be when my foot got knocked off my pedal as I was clipping in. I lost 10 spots right away from a second row start! 

I drilled it then steady and strong. I felt tired, but still passed a lot of people. Many riders in Chicago use their brakes WAY TOO MUCH. Once I cleared through riders, and had a clean line, I barely touched the brakes except in the off-camber stuff on the hill. 

I was able to jump and power through a lot of the course. My legs felt dead from yesterday's race and all the training, but I was still able to hammer along. 

One of the best parts of the day was that I passed several riders or caught up to several riders while I ran the barriers! Last year, it was all I could do to walk over them! 

I was also thrilled with Mike Heenan's gluing and bike build up job. Riders all over the course were rolling tires (lots of off-camber stuff) and I just dug in with no brakes and flew. 

I finished 20th despite the poor start and tired legs. I was very pleased to see that result, given the long year of training, rehab, and continued therapy. And while the drive was long, the wake-up call damn early, the competition was fierce down there. I'll definitely go back.

Jackson Park was a great course, although I don't understand why XXX Racing didn't tape off the whole course. The little red flags became seriously hard to see as the race wore on and I was seeing double.

I'm beat now after driving home and showering. An excellent way to start the year. 

Next weekend, all the big dogs show up to Sun Prairie for the USGP. A while back, I had dreams of making a run at the 45 plus USGP overall, but those hopes have been derailed. Still, now that I have the kinks worked out, it's time to be aggressive and ride hard. 

I can't wait!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Every so often in school, we give/take tests to see where we're at with our performances.

Cyclists do the same kind of tests, but these involve a bit more suffering!

Since Coach Crusty and I have been focusing primarily on strengthening my whole physical system post crash, we haven't done a test for a few months.

The last test, in March 2010, was very disappointing. I had lost a great deal of power at threshold (the point where essentially the lactic acid builds up too quickly for your system to dissipate) since the crash.

Prior to the crash, now a year and a half ago, I did a test that was pretty darn good for early season in March.

So Wednesday, we did a full-out power test that involved 5 minutes all out effort, followed by a rest, then 20 minutes very hard effort. The idea is to bring your body to its maximum effort sustained over 20 minutes to measure what it can handle.

The results, as I completely bury the lead, are very encouraging. My functional power threshold is nearly back to pre-crash levels - within a couple of watts.

And what's ironic is that the weekend before - still mostly tired from all the construction this summer - I considered not doing much racing this season again because I didn't think my body could handle it.

It may not sound it from my writing, but I was THRILLED with the numbers, cautiously though. I know I still am challenged with fatigue. My body now requires a bit more recovery time after hard efforts. Sunday races, after a Saturday race, may still be a challenge.

But I'm a heck of a lot more confident today than I was before Wednesday. I feel stronger mentally, and that, of course, fuels my body.

Two weeks to go before cross season starts! I got my new wheels yesterday, brought them to Mike's for gluing. I'm stoked to begin the season.

I have no delusions that I'll win states again or that I'll win the WCA series or challenge at the USGP races. I am just going to ride as hard as I can, push as hard as possible, and see what happens.

A HUGE thank you goes to Coach Crusty, better known as Craig Harding. His program and words of encouragement and perspective are rocks I can climb on.

Instead of getting all excited about the season, Crusty has me doing painful intervals today! BRING IT, and bring on the cross season!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Leg-Ripping or Bust

For some reason tonight, while I was struggling to stay upright on a training ride, I learned something about me and racing my bike:

If I can't race to rip someone's legs off, make them suffer, then I don't want to do it. I want to ride so hard that if someone is going to beat me, they're going to really have to work for it.

And right now, the only way I'm going to do that is by entering the wheelchair division for the 80-plus grandma race.

I did not feel it today at all, one day after the Greenbush race. Legs were tired, brain rubbery, felt light-headed.

And struggling up little hills, struggling to ride made me realize why I get frustrated by not being able to race the way I want to. There's no point in just going in circles with a bunch of other dudes dressed in our team kits.

Racing is about suffering and who has trained the hardest, who is willing to go deepest to pull out a win. Right now, I'm not even hanging on. I know I need to restart somewhere. But that is the essential issue.

So I'll keep training so that by Superweek maybe I'll be able to do some leg-ripping in the master 4/5s. And that will be good.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Like a Glacier

I went up to Greenbush today to race. I downgraded to the 4s again so I could race the masters 4/5 event. After a speeding ticket in Fredonia, I arrived andgot ready. I felt pretty good and lined up in the second row with the mindset of racing, not just riding.

The Greenbush stage of ToAD is beautiful, and it was a sunny warm day to boot. Great day to be on the bike. Of the four laps I was supposed to do, I lasted 2.5, getting dropped up the big hill.

The one post-crash element that is interesting is that when I run out of gas, there's no pushing beyond. I'm done. It was brutal to ride to the parking lot! Even now, several hours after the race, my legs feel shattered. Progress is slow, but sure. I lasted 22 minutes in the 3s race last Saturday in Grafton and nearly an hour today in the 4/5 road race.

Yesterday, on my ride, I had some issues with water! Not mine, but the heavy rains have caused flooding everywhere, including my back yard. (The birds seem to love it, though, eating worms and taking baths!)
This road had a creek running over the top of it!

And this shirt is, of course, the reason I ride:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Apparently Recovery Takes Time

Even after a year of recovery, I'm not any where near back to where I was in terms of performance in bike racing. 

I know, I know. I need to give myself a break. And I am. Really. 

In my first real road race since the accident last March, I lasted six minutes! Granted it was a masters 35 cat. 1, 2, 3 race at the Tour of America's Dairyland today in Thiensville, WI. And granted in the second lap we were doing 32 miles an hour up a small incline. 

Clearly, I was way out of my element. I knew that going in, and I was hoping to last at least 20 minutes and then maybe the whole race. But I just don't have the power to ride that hard yet. 

It's okay and all. I understand that a compound fracture of my femur does not heal quickly. And the full recovery may never happen. 

I think that's what is bugging me tonight. Coach Crusty says I need to start the road racing from the beginning again. He said that most people don't come back from injuries like mine, especially to that level of bike racing. And he said it's amazing I've come as far as I've come this quickly.

I never accepted that my bike racing life may have changed in any way after the accident. I've always treated recovery as something that will take some time to get back to where I was and then keep making progress. 

Tonight, I'm realizing that I may never get back to where I was. That's sobering. I've been training myself hard, lifting and riding, working to get fit again. 

And while I'm making a lot of progress, I may never reach a high level. 

And although that may be the "reality," I'm still going to train and race as if it's not. I don't give a shit. I love to ride, I love to race, especially cyclocross.

I'll keep riding my bike to school, I'll keep working at the bike shop to help others find bikes, and, most importantly, I'll keep racing cross.

But my dreams of being a national level cross racer may not come true.

Yet the beauty of cross, though, is that it really doesn't matter. What matters is going out and riding your brains out, slog around in the mud, get heckled by your friends, do the best you possibly can. It doesn't matter what race I do, the elites or the 4s.

Cross is all about the fun and being competitive. It really doesn't matter the category I enter to be competitive.

I started this entry feeling a bit discouraged about the racing prospects.

And once again, considering cyclocross has made me realize why I ride my bicycle. I have a good friend who is facing some personal challenges who always tells me she chooses always to be happy.

And thinking of cyclocross makes me very happy indeed.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Quite a Trip

This weekend, I flew to Columbus, Nebraska to help my family move my grandma from Columbus to Eau Claire where she is living in an assisted living center.

It was sheeting rain when my sister Teena and I left the hotel in Columbus with the moving truck. When we pulled off the highway in Fremont, two women in a pick up truck raced up to the truck and told us the back door was open.

Oops. Serious oops.

So we walked to the back of the truck to see all the boxes in the back soaked from the rain. One box had broken up and books we found in grandma's attic were gone, presumably all over the highway.

And my duffel bag was missing.

We backtracked down Highway 30, saw the carnage of books scattered all over the highway, but no bag. Our parents were about 40 minutes behind us, so we called them to look for the bag, but they had no luck.

Teena had loaded some of mom and dad's stuff into the truck, and I told her to leave it open in case there was more to load. But when we left the hotel, it was sheeting rain, and neither of us checked the back to lock it. My fault. You'd think after 25 some moves in my life, I'd check something like that.

In the bag was clothing, shoes, a journal with some recent poems, and, most importantly, press clippings from my grandfather's glory days as a high school running back from the 30s. I also had a picture of grandpa's football team.

My car keys were also in the bag...

So Teena and I kept driving, but found Highway 30 closed due to flooding. After numerous false turns, we ended up detouring to Omaha. After an extra hour or more in Nebraska, I was never so happy to see Iowa!

With the open door, detours, we were going to be late for my bus to Milwaukee. Teena planned to drop me off there, I'd take the bus back to the airport to pick up my car.  So we burned a boatload of gas while I drove 80-85 in the rental truck through Iowa! I put the invisibility cloak on the truck and flew!

The great spirit was looking over us. I caught the Badger Bus back to Milwaukee, arrived at 9:30 pm, and took a taxi back to my house.

I'll ride over to the airport today to pick up my car. Thankfully, I had a spare key at home and left my side door open since the house key was in the bag.

Good to be back in Milwaukee!

We're Back!

Under advice from my esteemed laywer, Dan Goldberg, I pulled the blog last year. The kid who hit me didn't have insurance, and Dan was trying to work his magic with other insurance companies. In the meantime, he thought it was prudent to hold off on writing.

But the case is fully complete now. So we're back to comment on education, bike racing, and poetry. I'm working on creating a website for my poetry so heads up.

Thanks for coming back!