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.