Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving Weekend: Done!

West Bend's Ridge Run still bears the signs of its former status as a Washington County park.

I’m a great fan of Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday by a wide margin. But this Thursday is probably going to feel like just another Thursday. I will come home after a Wednesday night workshift, have some breakfast and watch a little TV, then go to bed for a while before heading back to work Thursday night. My wife has to work too, and that’s the biggest reason why Thursday won’t really be Thanksgiving at our house. I can’t complain though, as we had our big family feast yesterday.

Today had kind of a holiday weekend feel too. My day began with streaming coverage of UCI World Cup cyclocross from Denmark on NBC Sports Gold. While it certainly was a legitimate race in its own right, it also was a trial run for next season’s world championships. Hopefully more fans will find their way to Bogense in February 2019; today’s crowd was a little thin. I couldn’t talk myself onto the bike today—all that sunshine was pretty enough, but the 20° wind chill was too big a deterrent. In lieu of a bike ride I accepted a surprise invitation from my daughter to hike the Ice Age Trail from Paradise Drive north to Ridge Run Park and back. That’s a little more than 4 miles roundtrip, easy enough for me but a good challenge for her. And now we’re looking for more opportunities to hike together … and maybe to go snowshoeing together this winter.

I haven’t been on the bike since last Monday, but tomorrow looks good: 48° with sunshine and not too much wind. With 27 miles tomorrow I will reach 4,700 this year. If I can find another 101 after that, then 2017 will go into my record book in 6th place, all-time. That’s not much of a goal, but it’s more incentive to ride than I would have without such meticulous recordkeeping.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

My 2017 Racing Season Ends

Man-made snow today at Sunburst. Yeah, it's THAT cold already. (Jeff Wren photo)

Back on October 21, a warm and sunny Saturday, I didn’t imagine that I was doing my last race of 2017. But the GP Jo Vanderaffe will have that distinction. Our rapid temperature drop is mostly to blame for my recent lack of motivation. We’ve been 10-15° below normal all month. There are other factors, though.

I gave up today’s cyclocross race in Sheboygan Falls so that I could complete my fall cleanup around the yard and the garage. Friday will be this year’s last leaf pickup in the City of West Bend, and I’m damned if I’m schlepping bags of leaves to the city yard for disposal. (As you can see above, there was time for a 25-mile ride late this afternoon. But I couldn't spend the whole day on bike racing.) I will give up next Saturday’s cyclocross race in Oshkosh to be with my family for Thanksgiving dinner, a tradition we normally keep on the holiday itself but which requires a different schedule this year.

What about the state cyclocross championships on December 2? Well, maybe if it’s an uncommonly warm day, but there’s no reason to expect that. And my fitness will only decline between now and then, so it wouldn’t be a good result for me anyway. I’ve done 19 races this year, more than I usually do … and probably enough.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Dark, Wet, Cold … You Know: “Normal”

November 4 is the last day of the year whose average high temperature is 50° or more. We didn’t get there yesterday. We didn’t get there today either. In fact, we haven’t seen 50° in West Bend since October 28. This week we will struggle to stay above 40°. And it was no gentle transition from warm to cold: we were in the 70s as recently as October 21.

I rode outside on only 3 occasions in the last 11 days, including today. I would have liked to be at the Estabrook Park cyclocross race in Milwaukee yesterday, but I wasn’t willing to endure the rain and mud. Today I used a backup wheelset on my cyclocross bike for a 90-minute ride to, around, and then back from Kewaskum. Washington County is applying a new layer of fine gravel to the Eisenbahn State Trail, starting at the south end of Sandy Ridge Road (pictured above) and going all the way north to the Fond du Lac County line. The work is supposed to continue through November 14, closing that part of the trail between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. each day. This morning I found everything open from the north end of Sandy Ridge to the county line … but it’s Sunday. And don’t worry: I was a good boy. I stayed off the closed section of trail and took Sandy Ridge itself. I often go that way, as the road rejoins the Eisenbahn after climbing a little hill that I like.

By next Saturday I will be 3 weeks removed from my last cyclocross race, but I still plan to line up for Tough Udder CX in Dousman. And I want to do the FatKats CX race in Sheboygan Falls next Sunday. Both of those races are new, and it’s always cool to check out new courses. I’m past the point of expecting good race results, though, and my long absence from competition won’t help. I will use the indoor trainer to keep my legs moving this week, but whether my cyclocross season continues is all down to the weekend forecast. At the moment, that forecast is not very encouraging: highs in the mid-30s both days, with a chance of a little snow from late Saturday into early Sunday.

On the way back from Kewaskum today I passed Sunburst Winter Sports Park, where a pre-season ski swap had just begun. A parking attendant tried to wave me in from Prospect Drive, asking whether I wanted to trade my bike for some skis. I declined.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


You can tell I’m near the end of my cycling season. I’m getting outside less often, keeping my rides close to home, sleeping more, and getting a little grumpy. But there are other signs. Because I’m spending so little time on the bike, I’m giving more time to small projects around the house.

It’s a nesting instinct, albeit one that has nothing to do with reproduction! I’m already experiencing a bit of offseason ennui and there are darker days ahead, both literally and figuratively. So, I’m identifying holes in my music collection and filling them—a process that consists of downloading, verifying (listening to the tracks to ensure their completeness and quality), and cataloging. It’s a big collection, so I have to keep it organized. And I’m watching a lot of movies right now, mostly old horror flicks in acknowledgment of the Halloween season.

Staying entertained is a good thing, but staying productive is even more important. I just finished an audit of my usernames and passwords for dozens of websites. In many cases I established those credentials to make online purchases and then never returned to those sites. Those accounts—and in some cases the websites themselves—don’t exist anymore, so I don’t need to retain a record of them. I also have been purging paper records that have outlived their usefulness, things like sales receipts for items I no longer own and unused checks from an old bank account. It’s all junk. It’s just taking up space.

I won’t be satisfied with only a thorough cleaning of my horizontal file; there are other corners of the house that need a good sweeping. Old clothes, once-read books, long-neglected toys and games … time to find new owners. It’s so easy to dismiss the clutter when I’m on the bike every day, but things are otherwise when I’m home.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Trainer Season?

Technically, today was a 40° day in West Bend, but that’s only because it was still 40° at midnight. This afternoon when I might have gone for a ride, the temperature was holding steady in the high 30s and I simply didn’t feel like out-dressing the cold. I did a turbo trainer workout in the home gym instead … the first one in a long, long time. And it wasn’t bad. I wondered why I feel so strong an aversion to such workouts. It’s really hard to beat them for convenience and efficiency.

I still haven’t taken the plunge into the world of smart trainers. With their power meters and other features that interact with cool applications like Zwift, smart trainers are the current state-of-the-art and the future. Someday soon they will take us into fully-immersive virtual reality training. For me, the cost is still too high. I can get by a while longer with my CycleOps Magneto and a collection of race videos shot by strangers with handlebar-mounted GoPro cameras.

As I announced last Saturday, there’s no racing for me this weekend. I’ll try to get outside, but I’m making no promises. I will, at least, keep using the trainer. This was a bad week for riding outdoors. Next week doesn’t look any better, and after that we’ll be off Daylight Saving Time. My cyclocross season is not over, so I need to stay fit. It’s not easy this time of year.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

2017 GP Jo Vanderaffe

In 2011 at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park, I did my very first cyclocross race. That was a good time, and so was the race there in 2012. And then Cross The Domes went away.

Today cyclocross returned against the spectacular backdrop of the Mitchell Park Domes, home of the celebrated horticultural gardens. The GP Jo Vanderaffe featured an outstanding course that mixed steep elevation changes, challenging off-camber areas, numerous riding surfaces, and (my favorite) plenty of hammer-down power sections. With abundant sunshine and temperatures in the 70s, attendance was strong. Even the Chicago crowd showed up for this one.

Despite a 2nd row starting position, I got out of the gate fast. That’s not typical for me, and my advantage didn’t last long, but it was fun! By the midpoint of Lap 1 my spot in the bottom half of the field was more-or-less assured. I kept pressing though, determined to beat a trio of riders of comparable ability: Peter Tampa (3CB Racing), Nate Phelps (Gryphon Velo Racing), and training partner Jeff Wren (Team Extreme). And in each case I think it was on those power sections that I did the most damage. The run-up, the sand pit … we were all equal there. Just like last weekend at Fitchburg, I was good when I could stay on the gas. In the end I was 10th out of 15 in the Masters 35+ Cat 3 race, beating that trio of rivals and a couple of other guys in the bargain. Mark Schultz (Heavy Pedal Velo Club) claimed his 4th victory of the season. He leads the series on points.

I think today’s race was my strongest showing this season, so it may seem odd that I have decided to take a little break. I won’t line up for tomorrow’s race at Waterloo or for either of next weekend’s races in Sun Prairie. The weather is definitely a factor. Today was warm and dry. Tomorrow will be wet. Next weekend will be cold. I’m not ready for winter yet, I need to adjust my training a bit, and I’m a little burned out by so much travel. The next 2 weeks will give me a chance to refocus. Look for me next at the Estabrook Park Beer Garden Classic in Milwaukee on November 4.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

2017 Fitchrona Cross Omnium: McGaw Park

Cyclocross at Fitchburg’s McGaw Park and Verona’s Badger Prairie County Park is nothing new, but this year the organizers of those events promoted the weekend as a 3-day omnium. Racing began on Friday evening and I would have appreciated the novelty of racing under the lights around and between McGaw’s baseball fields. But I work on Friday nights. I couldn’t risk being late or, if things had gone really wrong, missing work altogether. On Saturday the omnium moved to Badger Prairie. Both races were muddy. I don’t think I would have done well.

Today the omnium returned to McGaw Park for its finale, and it also was muddy but I didn’t want to go race-less this weekend. High winds out of the northwest helped to dry the course in time for my 3:30 p.m. start. Some parts of the course stayed very wet, but most of it was nice and tacky. I ended up 12th out of 15 in the Masters 35+ Cat 3 field.

I lost ground before we ever left the starting grid, thanks to my low ranking on USA Cycling points. And by Lap 3 I was somewhat hampered by an accumulation of mud and grass in my fork. (You know who has it good? Those professional racers who get a squeaky clean bike from their pit crews every half lap!) But I had good legs today. When I could put down the power, I was fast. I might have cracked the Top 10 if the course had been dry.

Andrew Hague (Trek Midwest Team) got the win, followed by Josh Borgmeyer (Trek Cyclocross Collective) and Chris Pappathopoulos (unattached). Pappathopoulos took 1st and Hague took 2nd on both Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Friday’s race wasn’t part of the Wisconsin Cycling Association series, but it will help Pappathopoulos on USA Cycling points. He’s having a great season and shouldn’t be starting next to me in the last row!

The series continues next weekend with the GP Jo Vanderaffe at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park on Saturday and the Battle of Waterloo on Sunday. I expect to line up on Saturday, but there’s rain in Sunday’s forecast and that would keep me out of the Waterloo race. Today’s race was as muddy as I want to get. We’ll talk about my commitment to “real cyclocross weather” when you volunteer to clean my bike, my kit, and my shoes.