Thursday, October 28, 2010

Taking a Break

This week is all about rest, recovery and trying to recharge. My race performance has been pretty un-remarkable and I'm just plain beat, both physically and mentally. Couple that with the fact that this is the week leading into Halloween, one of the most wonderful times of the year. This week has also been an incredible week for color in terms of foliage and we have also had spring like weather. So, we have done only a few really easy and short rides, basically just to stretch the legs.

The other side of the week of relaxation has been eating, drinking and watching lots and lots of horror flicks and Halloween shows. We just watched "The Great Pumpkin" and last night we watched "Hocus Pocus" which is one of the best Witch movies centered in one of my favorite places, Salem, MA. I don't think that the movie was actually filmed there though. We then watched a new release, that hasn't made it to theaters yet though has hit pay-per-view and now is on cable. This movie was called "Monsters" and was short on action, suspense and gore but had a subtle point, some character development and some interesting natural post apocalyptic (or at least post monster attack) cinematography. Now we are watching Alton make Halloween candy. Next up is the only TV series that we actually follow, and have been for a number of years now.

As for racing, I'm too stupid to hang it up regardless of whether or not I should. As such I will likely race at least once and possibly both days this weekend. Fortunately fore me, there are a relatively local races both days, both of which are fairly small. This is good because after last weekend, I think that I'm done with the big races for good. One of the races in fact was one of my favorite races of last season, Orchard Cross, just across the border in NH at a working farm and apple orchard. The other race of the weekend is Canton, which is one of my least favorite courses but is fairly close to home. It has also become one of the tier two premier local races along with Bedford Cross, Suckerbrook and Ice Weasels.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Weekend in Maine

Much of our lives are now occupied with the kittens. Caring, feeding, cleaning, playing or just observing. They enjoyed their weekend in Maine as much as we did. Pretty uneventful and fairly restful, for all of us.

Besides a bunch of tearing up and down the stairs by the kittens and a mouse scurrying around making noise and doing what mice do in the basement, there wasn't a whole lot of excitement. Unfortunately for said mouse, things didn't go so well. When we left this weekend we left the toilet seat up and three traps set. Will see what the score is when we are back in a couple weeks.

We also had two days of cyclocross racing at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine. Great courses, a wonderful facility and spectacular weather. The only downside was in my performance which typical of this season, is well shy of the result that I had been hoping for. Excuses are like arse-holes so I won't go down that road. I guess it is just the new norm, which I'm finding difficult to swallow. It has been a long year though and I just can't bring myself to push as hard as I need to at this point. Maybe some rest will help. That's the next thing that I am going to try. Will see.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Battling for Mediocrity

This season started out strong. Way back in January and February, when Wayne, John and I were doing big epic days in saddle, it seemed like things were on track. However, the year took on a couple of subtle changes that took things in a slightly different direction.

First and foremost, in late March we lost out furry friend Oreo. After the battle with her kidney disease that we'd been putting up together as a family, the loss was devastating, especially to me. I can honestly say that I have never been so heartbroken and felt so lost and low. Right at the same time, my work moved from being a 1.75 mile, sub 5 minute commute to a 15 mile, 30 minute commute. I know that doesn't sound like much to most folks, but it was huge to me. The third strike was Cathy changing jobs and instead of mainly working from home, she now commuted into the city. She also took a pay cut, which fortunately meant nothing more than that we were saving a little less than before, but it factored into my overall feeling of being trapped in my job. The sum of these translated to early mornings, longer days and more low cost chores not getting done during the course of the day, or at lunch time, which had to be done at night or on the weekends. Don't get me wrong, ride time still was there as always, it just meant juggling other things.

Once race season hit in March, the fitness was good but at least some of the desire was absent. Work had been a chore for some time and I'd be lying if I said that I enjoyed what I do. My problem is that I work in software and have for quite some time, so I am paid well primarily for my expertise. The issue comes with the fact that I hate software and it's business of intangibility. I'm a visual person and actually an artist by training, so I need to see and feel something to get satisfaction from knowing I've created or had a hand in creating it. Unfortunately, it comes down to the fact that although I hate what I do, it affords me the luxury of doing what I like to do.

The season has had numerous ups and downs. I've had some good results, primarily racing mountain bikes and I was fairly solid in some of the road races as well, though the results don't show it. Cross even started well and has had some real high spots as well as some really low spots. Manic you might even say. I've also seemed to have had more mechanical issues this season than I've ever had before. From a work perspective, things also got about as bad as I could imagine when I was thrust onto a remote project that was being run like a start-up, only with none of the start-up benefits. Looking back, it really was day to day as to whether or not I would just walk away. Now I'm back to working on the products that I've been involved with for the past 10 years. To some that must sound stagnant or stale, but I'm all about stability in life. Change though, not so much. Yes, I'm a dinosaur, but that's the way I am programmed.

So, here we are. Another big series race today and another hard fought battle with motivation, for mediocrity. I went hard but my legs were screaming back at me from the start. The one bright spot was that after I spent some time literally swearing at myself, I managed to regain a bit of motivation and chase up to the group ahead of me, though I couldn't do anything once I got there. Small victories.

What next? I don't know. I do know that I am dead tired all of the time. This is partially because I am getting up an hour earlier each week day. It has also been a long season and although I didn't race as much, I certainly rode just as much, more in fact. A few weeks back I washed out and took a dive onto the pavement with my left shoulder. Nothing broke but there was definitely some damage. I also smacked my knee, which has me totally paranoid. That was how my arthritic meltdown started so am I always afraid of having a relapse, especially given that we are trying to cut reliance on the medication I've been taking for the past few years. Based on how I've been feeling lately, I fear that this may not be working. I know that I'm tired of the big, impersonal series races. I still enjoy racing and I know that part of my motivation problems are due to the lack of results but I think that I need to be more selective in choosing which races suit me well and I also need to choose less of them. It's a double-edged sword though as it takes so much to stay competitive in New England. What though are the chances of being competitive if you can't even get motivated?

Friday, October 22, 2010

An Apple a Day

Keeps the Vet away. Last night it was teasing for cucumber, today it was pestering me for my apple. I gave up and gave them their own.

That kept them busy for a while at least.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Kids are All Right

The life of a kitten, at least of our kittens, is one primarily of leisure. Lots of snoozing, playing under the bed at 11PM or at 4AM, eating, shredding TP, making smelly poops, eating and subsequently partially passing dental floss (I bear witness that the stuff works just as well on kitten butts as between teeth). The usual stuff.

Life is good and the kids are certainly all right.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Too Cold to Ride

At least too cold for me, to ride the DRZ with any level of comfort. At 6:15AM this morning it was dark as night and 32.2 degrees, just a crack above freezing. I wanted to ride the bike in to work so worked from home for a few hours, until it was light and had warmed up to 39.8 degrees and then headed in. I bundled in the sled gear on as well as a full face snowmobile helmet with breath box and fog resistant dual visor and hit the road.

Motorcycles are not like snowmobiles, at least mine isn't as it has no windshield or fairing or electric hand-warmers or even hand guards and affords almost no wind protection at all. This means you freeze and as such, I did. I'm thinking that it might be time to take the sled gear north for the winter and prep and tuck the bike in the back of the garage.

2010 Race Report

Strategy and tactics. Two concepts that almost never find their way into my race mentality. Sure, I usually have a strategy, and I always intend to stick to the plan, but as soon as the whistle blows my mind shuts down and it all fades to black. The plan Sunday was to see what happened and follow wheels for a bit, hopefully the leader’s wheel, and then try and escape.

The whistle blew and a half lap in I was on track, 2nd wheel and feeling good but feared the pack was still too intact, so just before the lap I went to the front and pushed hard. We quickly whittled the group down to three of us with two guy’s I’m pretty evenly matted with, Ryan and Peter. I kept on the gas for the lap trying to get a gap but they were having none of it. Realizing that I didn’t want to spend the race pulling the train I flicked my elbow for Ryan as we came through the start/finish and Peter launched around hard. With effort I got back on and sunk into a rhythm of easing on the power sections and catching back on the corners, all the while trying to conserve as much as possible and bide my time, waiting for the right moment to counter. Except for one issue going into the Flyover when Ryan missed a grab and I ran into the back of him, slamming my bike into my knee, things went well. This was good as this year, things have been less about plans and more about trying to motivate myself to push on when I haven’t really wanted to. Peter kept pushing hard and led for two full laps, which I hoped was taking a toll on him, with Ryan in second and me sitting in third.

Coming around for two to go, Peter finally looked back and I could see the stress on his face. Ryan was reluctant to come around and as the two pondered what to do next I launched as hard as I could between them. I got a gap going into the grass and eased lightly to give the legs a breather, then punched it out of each corner and on each incline. The idea was to soften them by making them chase back on at every possible point. I spent the lap doing that then backed off to steady tempo for a bit on the final lap then hit it again. By the Flyover there was a small gap on Peter so I drilled it coming back through and around the final switchback sections. I knew that I had to be in the front as coming around on the final stretch would be nearly impossible for me, a person who can’t sprint to save their life. Coming out of the final corner with about 150 meters to go I opened it up. I could see Ryan was coming up so I put my head down and went as hard as possible, which luckily was enough to maintain. The plan worked.

Unfortunately, that six laps of intense racing wasn’t the warm-up I was hoping it would be and so the next 8 laps of the race that immediately followed were hell. My motivation was non existent and a few laps in, neither were my legs. Ryan was the only other guy stupid enough to do the double so the two of us spent a couple laps chatting it up then raced each other for a couple laps and then just managed to complete the last couple and get to the finish. On the upside, the course was fun and I feel that I got some good cornering practice in. I wouldn’t call what I was doing racing though with lap times nearly 30 seconds slower in the 2nd race than the 1st and an average HR 10bpm lower. Bottom line is that there is a reason cross races are 45 or 60 minutes and not 105 minutes long.

JD was very kind in the write-up and according to Cathy, his camera was also flattering :) Cross Race Results