It has been some time since I've posted much of anything. Life has been pretty crazy, as it always seems to be. We've sort of missed out on much of any winter so far. Yes, we have had more snow than we did last season but it seems to all be nuisance snow; the kind that doesn't amount to enough to ski or do any dedicated winter activity with but does make cycling somewhat troublesome. The month of January saw lots of slogging through an few inches of snow on the MTB. It also saw a couple of good long road rides and a whole lot of cross rides. Why cross rides at this point in the season, when the racing is long since done? Well, that's because the season wasn't over, at least not until last Friday that is.
Cathy and I registered for the US National championship events back in December, literally just before the registration closed. We did so just in case we wanted to go, though it was clear from the start that neither of us was really excited to make the long trip to Madison, WI in early January. Because of that it was no shock when we decided at the last minute that we didn't really want to go. Actually you could more accurately say that at the last minute we didn't decide that we really wanted to go. Of course as soon as it was too late the regret started and haunted me there after.
Secretly I decided that I didn't want to make that mistake again. There was one more chance to continue the season and try for something more, the Masters World Championships which were held in Louisville, KY in conjunction with the Elite World Championships. This was a huge event, the first of it's kind in the US. Louisville was also a bit closer than Madison and in a direction that would hopefully yield significantly more stable driving conditions. I quietly registered for my event and continued riding with that goal in mind.
Part of this was easy as with no snow to be had, I would be riding anyhow. The harder part was to try and get the intensity in. Races were difficult if not impossible to find since the race season was over. The saving grace to some degree would be a few training races that were put on locally. Even then it was tough I found to keep the right mix going through that point in the year. Luckily I had some friends who were willing to ride in the cold dark of winter. I also found the motivation on occasion to put in some hard efforts as well. The conditions were perfect for winter training and afforded me ample snow and frozen rutted rides on the cross bike. I was confident that if conditions matched those of the riding that I was getting in, I would be in good shape.
|The van was covered in ice from freezing rain through PA.|
As we finally exited PA and into OH we were near 50 degrees with light rain and that is about where it stayed for most of the trip. American is a really big country. It is made up of some really big states. Square states that are square in more ways than one. Unsightly, ungodly places in reality. When traveling you can think of these places and your time spent there as Purgatory, a wasteland of 24 hour truck stops and adult super-stores where you pay the dues of your trip to a better place. We successfully made it through the sensory under-load to Cincinnati and were getting very close to our destination. That was when my phone rang with a number I didn't recognize. I was too busy to answer but Cathy soon went to make a call to reserve a room for the night in Louisville when she noted a number of missed calls and a text from our friend Serene, who was watching the cats.
With some calm panic Cathy returned the call to find that Ellie wasn't feeling so well. In fact, she had been pretty sick all over the house and was now in a really foul mood. This was cause for concern as we'd never had that experience with either of the cats in the past. We feared the worst and began contemplating turning around, 850 miles an 14 hours into a 965 mile trip. It was then I vowed never to take another trip again. Serene had spoken with the vet already who suggested a wait and see. She also determined the primary cause of diarrhea in felines was people-food. In helping us clean the fridge of leftovers the day before, Ellie had consumed roughly half of pig in the form of pork-ribs. She'd also eaten probably double what she normally would as we worked the kinks out of the automated cat feeders we had purchased days before. It all made sense and with much discussion and emotional debate we decided to press on to Louisville and check back in later for progress. It would turn out to be as expected and Ellie would quickly rebound and be fine. We vowed never to overfeed the cats again.
|The view from the hotel room at the Galt House.|
|Lots of folks from New England in attendance.|
|Dinner with friends in the downtown.|
|Yes, that is all standing water that you see.|
|Sitting briefly in a good spot early in the race.|
|We spent lots of time at the car wash. Notice the helmet on the floor.|
|Missing helmet, reward! Last seen at car wash.|
|We rarely have desert but chose to split the bread pudding. It was pretty amazing.|
I queued up in the 45-49 main event with New England cohorts Eric, Dave, Jonathan and Geoff, all of us bundled heavily and still shivering off the cold. We stood in the start grid in mud, which I noticed froze to the cleats. My trick was to get the left foot clear and clipped then lean against Cathy and clear the right cleat. I then stood balanced on my right heel with the left foot in waiting for the whistle. I shared this tip with Dave who was staged beside me. Soon we were off and I managed to get clipped in and going quickly. When we hit the first mud pit there was a splash of mud that flash froze to everything including my glasses. I seemed to be moving well though and made good ground quickly. The first lap saw lots of aggressive riding through very slick and tricky conditions. Coming around for the start of the second lap I'd made my way up as far as 5th place.
Unfortunately, that would be as far as I would get on the day. I'd left the bike, my beloved Cannondale Super-X disc, in the big ring for the first lap. When I hit the mud pit shortly into lap two the 46x26 gear was a little too much for me to push. The frozen mud made sure that was all I'd get though as the front derailleur was clogged and frozen where it was leaving no chance of a shift. I reluctantly pitted and switched to my spare bike, which although a fine bike, isn't nearly the same. I couldn't instantly feel the difference and that went straight to my head. I quickly lost more than ten spots and was still going backwards.
|Mud ruts en-route to mud.|
The crew working the pit for me, which included Cathy, Jeff, Matt and Karen and also Kathy giving me splits worked like crazy people and did a phenomenal job. Without them I literally would have been unable to finish, as so many others were in my race and throughout the day. This literally became a race nearly as much about resources as skill and fitness. I'm not saying that is my excuse, I'm just saying that in this case, being able to switch bikes twice per lap was a clear advantage. People without spare bikes literally could not finish. I was one of the fortunate ones to have the people helping me that allowed me to finish. I also had an incredible amount of support out along the course during the race in the form of some many friends and supporters cheering me on. I'm truly blessed for the people that I know.
|The thick mud froze instantly to everything it touched, locking it solid.|
|Completely wiped out!|
At 6:19PM we pulled into our driveway. We'd missed the Elite world championship races which took place that day but had made it home safely. We were very happy to be home and went inside to hug the kittens, unpack and clean kitten poop. How can one small cat get poop absolutely everywhere? I'm talking explosive. I simply can't fathom the horror of the actual act. I can only imagine what it looked like before Serene cleaned it up. I can't thank both she and Teri enough.
I've got to admit though, I am completely wiped out. Looking forward to some down time and variety. In hindsight, an very excellent adventure and great end to an incredible season. Now on to the next.