Friday, November 30, 2012

An Up And Down Week

At the beginning of this week I went to the USA Cycling website and upgraded from Cat 3 to Cat 2 for cross-country mountain bike racing.  Based on the success I had this year, it was not just the right thing to do, but also mandatory according to USA Cycling rules.  Knowing that in 2013 I will be doing longer races and facing more technical trails, I’m still unsure what my WORS ambitions should be.  I don’t expect to be on the podium.  Next season likely will be a year of learning, adjusting, and finishing in the middle of a big “Sport” field, all to set up a more competitive 2014.  I can live with that.

I’m not sure I can live with being forced to upgrade from Cat 4 to Cat 3 in cyclocross next year, but that’s what I will have to do if USA Cycling doesn’t amend the new guidelines it announced earlier today.  I’ve done 15 cyclocross races as a Cat 4 and I’ve never come close to winning even one of them.  In fact, I’ve never been on the podium.  But the new guidelines demand that I upgrade to Cat 3 based on my experience, not my results.  The one good thing about being a Cat 3 would be racing later in the day when the weather is warmer.  The reality, however, is that I’m not very likely to race at all if I have to compete against riders whose abilities so far exceed mine that I have no realistic prospect for success.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend

A section of boardwalk winds through a wetlands area at Lac Lawrann Conservancy.
I couldn’t talk myself into getting on the bike today.  With the mid-afternoon “feels like” temperature hovering around 30 degrees, it was a little too cold.  I opted instead for a 90-minute hike through Lac Lawrann Conservancy and Royal Oaks Park.  Somebody’s going to have to explain to me why West Bend isn’t a nationally-recognized haven for trail running.  Is the sport just not that popular?  Lac Lawrann, Ridge Run, Glacial Blue Hills, the Ice Age Trail … we’ve got miles and miles of amazing trails within the city limits.  It’s extraordinary how often I have them all to myself, as was the case today.  As hiking trails they’re on the tame side, but for running they would be sublime.

Today is the end of a four-day weekend that began with a 32-mile road ride early in the afternoon on Thanksgiving.  It was 63 degrees and sunny and there was no way I was going to miss a chance to ride in those conditions.  I’ve set a new personal record for miles in November (309) and year-to-date I’m at 4,809, which is my second-highest total ever.  Last year I rode 5,113 miles and I’m not very likely to surpass that total this year.  Weekday rides are almost out of the question due to limited daylight, and there are only five weekends left before the new year begins.

Black Friday once again failed to tempt me but early today I took advantage of an online deal that was too good to ignore: two brand new 10-speed Shimano cassettes for $30 apiece with free shipping.  I damaged the cassette on my 29er during the WORS season finale, so one of the new cassettes will be its replacement and the other will be a spare.  I’m thinking about a couple of additional equipment changes between now and next spring, but there’s no reason to rush.  My big purchase probably will be a better set of 29er wheels for competition and that’s too big an expense not to consider carefully.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Fifties

Better fed than Red: Eating turkey makes us impervious to Communist propaganda.  It's true!
With four rides in the last five days I feel like a cyclist again.  We’ve started to string together sunny days in the 50s and it looks like that trend will continue through Thursday.  In fact, we may even see 60 on Thanksgiving.  A long ride followed by a big dinner would be my kind of holiday!

But the end of the cycling season is coming.  In my previous eight Decembers as a serious cyclist, I rode just 55 miles total.  We’ve already reached the point in the year where after-work rides are impossible because of darkness, and we’re probably not far from the point where snow and cold temperatures make weekend rides too unappealing to contemplate.  Until then, I will try to use numbers to motivate myself to keep plugging away.  In the absence of structured training for an imminent competition goal, I at least can pad my stats!  Here are the figures I’m currently using to push myself just a little deeper into the offseason:

20    more miles to set a PR for November
262   more miles to reach 5,000 for the year
46    miles in December to set a PR
8     more rides to reach 200 this year

My November and December mileage marks are nothing spectacular—reaching 46 miles in December could be the work of a single afternoon—but I’m pretty proud of the 192 rides I’ve done this year.  That number is a record already, topping last year’s 170.  I can say for the first time that I rode on more than half of all the days of the year.  That’s kind of neat, right?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fatal Crash In West Bend

The intersection of Kilbourn and Indiana has good sight lines and a 4-way stop. (Google Maps Street View)

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
A 57-year-old bicyclist died Sunday as a result of injuries she sustained after being struck by a vehicle Nov. 6, West Bend Police Department said Monday.

Police identified the bicyclist as Marjean C. Boots of West Bend.  She died at Froedtert Hospital.

A preliminary investigation determined Boots was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, police said.

It does not appear that alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash, police said.

On the evening of Nov. 6, police said they received a call that a bicyclist had been struck by a vehicle at the intersection of S. Indiana and W. Kilbourn avenues.

The driver of the vehicle was a 38-year-old man from West Bend, police said.

The accident remains under investigation by the West Bend Police Department with assistance from the Wisconsin State Patrol.

In an earlier report, the time of the accident was given as “shortly after 5 p.m.”

Sundown was at 4:37 p.m.  I am much more interested in knowing whether the bicyclist had deployed front and rear lights as required by law than in knowing that she didn’t wear a helmet, which is not required by law.  Media outlets commonly report the absence of a helmet in bicycle accidents, but to what end?  The implication is that riders without helmets were reckless and otherwise might have avoided serious injury or death.  That’s a poor assumption.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thanks, I Needed That

Any ride that includes part of the Cheesehead Roubaix route is a good ride in my book!
I haven’t had anything nice to say, so I haven’t said anything at all.  This was a bad week.  But my spirits are somewhat restored by the sunny, 64-degree afternoon we had today.  I did a 35-mile solo ride on my cyclocross bike, averaging 17.3 mph on a route with little elevation change, plenty of wind, and half a dozen chance encounters with other cyclists taking advantage of the unseasonable warmth.

I did this route today, counter-clockwise. Strong south winds encouraged a mostly east-west route.

I rode last Saturday and Sunday, and again yesterday.  The rides have been fairly short—I’ve ridden just 110 miles this month—but if I can get outside consistently between now and the end of the month I should set a new personal best for miles in November.  My current record is just 257 miles, set in 2009.  I will be off work all of next week and on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday.  If the weather cooperates I may even make a run at another 5,000-mile year.  I’m now at 4,610.  My 29er is still in the shop, so mountain biking plans are on hold.  That’s bad news for skills development but good news for my mileage total.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Pinch Of This, A Dash Of That

© Barbara Howe ... yes really: a copyrighted picture of waffles.
The period from last Friday to this Friday was really unconventional.  It didn’t make me any fitter, and I’m still committed to avoid racing until next year, but at least I made an effort to mix things up.  Last Friday I did my first indoor trainer ride since Apr. 20.  Then on Saturday I went out and got flogged in the Halloween Cross race at Washington Park in Milwaukee.  On Sunday I watched Internet coverage of the Boulder Cup pro cyclocross races.  After work on Monday I went to Ridge Run County Park for a brisk 60-minute hike, my first since Feb. 23.  On Tuesday I started reading Geoff Drake’s history of Team 7-Eleven, the pioneering American cycling team of the 1980s.  On Wednesday I reached 4,500 miles of cycling so far this year, riding 20 miles after work on a combination of roads and trails.  Early on Thursday I watched Flemish-language coverage of the Koppenbergcross, won in impressive style by Sven Nys.  Later on Thursday I did my first treadmill workout since Mar. 30.

Today I dropped off my 29er at Pedal Moraine for a little post-Sheboygan mudfest service.  Pretty sure I don’t have any brake pads left.  If you were on the Ride of Krankenstein with me last Friday night, then you know my front brakes were screaming all the way up to Kewaskum and back.  This evening I began a new phase of my upper body strength training, adding weight and a couple of new exercises to shift out of maintenance mode and into gain mode.  I will look for strength gains throughout the winter, then return to a maintain strength / prevent injuries plan in early spring.  Dinner was an unexpected highlight today.  My wife offered pancakes, I suggested waffles as an alternative, then she remembered this recipe.  I found it a few years ago while reading up on former cyclocross champion and fellow Pittsburgh native Barb Howe.

My plan for the weekend is to ride at the warmest point of the afternoon … 90-120 minutes each day, probably.  Looking for enjoyment more than training.  I’ll have the 29er back for next weekend and if the weather is OK I think I’ll go to Glacial Blue Hills to see whether I can unlock a few more of its mysteries.