Sunday, July 31, 2011

That seemed to hit a button

69 posts in 3 days.

That's how may comments were posted on 303 Cycling in response to the "leak" of the 2011 Colorado Cross Cup Policy from the ACA in 3 or 4 days. Normally, you might expect that a new racing policy would be announced by the ACA, but since the Frites & Mayo boys published it first and 303 then picked it up, both WELL before any actual announcement from the ACA happened, I have to go with "leak". It's almost like someone in the ACA is trying to NOT let people know about the changes. I KNOW this is not true, from talking to them, but the lack of clear communication of new policies is puzzling at best.

The basic changes are modifications to the race day schedule, addition of a 35+ cat 3 race on course with the 35+ open, and call up changes. ONE of these things generated MOST of the comments. You may be surprised which one it is.

The schedule:
The pro/1/2 women get the course MOSTLY to themselves, starting in front of the 35+ women, instead of behind the 45+ men. This is GREAT, and was desperately needed. Also showcases the women on their own much better. All good changes.

Swapped around some groups, pushing the beer drinking dads (35+ cat4) back to ~ 9:30, helping to silence the large "damn cat 4's should race early in the morning!" crowd, and helping with a REAL problem, that of bonehead beer-drinking-dads warming up with the 35+ ex-pros, which was never a good mix.

45+ now alone on course. Also good given the HUGE growth there last year.

Day got a bit longer (hate to be a cat 3 post daylight savings, they might need lights....) and a "warm up" was added before the 35+ 4s. Probably a good idea, as the huge and not that observant bunch there probably needs that time alone to stumble about the course. The old guy cat 4s, women 4's and 55+ went to 40 minutes, and the Cat 3s went up 5 minutes. All these are small tweaks, and make sense.

New 35+ cat 3 field
Added 35+ cat 3, racing on the course 30 seconds behind the 35+ Open. I am sure this was in direct response to a trend everyone observed that a LOT of people upgraded out of 35+ cat 4, then either raced with the "punk kid" cat 3s, or just seemed to disappear after one or two 35+ open races. There was a lot of thought that the jump from cat 4 old guy to ex national champion near elite race speed that is the 35+ open race was just too big. This is the attempt to give that intermediate step.

Strange, it was THIS change that seemed to generate the most whining on the 303 comments. Mostly the "watering down" and "medals for everyone!" thoughts. Don't really understand why there was SO much flack raised by this change. I guess anytime the ACA caters to it's obvious base (35-45 year old recreational racers...), a lot of people don't like it.

Of course, my personal hot button. Once again, I feel that the changes here are not for the better. The changes are to call up the top 24 from Colorado cross cup points at cup races, and 24 from rankings for NON-Cup races. My issue is with only calling up 24 riders. Calling up only the top 20 for races with 20 deep points only seems to "lock out" those on the bubble of getting into that top 2o. With "random number" call-ups after the top 24, those in 21st and close to that may one week be called into the 30s or maybe at the back. Seems like you would want to retain the 40 or so from last years policy, and that calling up at least 2X the points places makes more sense.

Then something interesting happened. I E-Mailed the ACA, asking what the reasoning behind only 24 places deep for the call-ups. Was told that mine was the second question on that part of the new call up policy, and that they would check into changing it. 2 days later, they let me know the policy had gone back to calling up the top 40 for each race. Victory is Mine!

Really, it was just a demonstration that the ACA does seem genuinely interested in feedback and ideas. Was thanked for my input and ideas, with lots of open and honest communication. So, my suggestion is that if yo are not too happy (or if you are happy.…), do let the ACA board & staff know. They are enthusiastic, open, and very interested in the feedback from the membership.

A final props to the Frites guys for not only pulling the new policy out of the ether, but also reformatting a calendar version on ONE page you can print out & keep. Wish there had always been a one pager you can put up and refer too. Brilliant!



Worst. Race. Ever.

Well, maybe a BIT of an exagaration, but that was pretty bad. Saturday, I saddled up for my first pedal turns "in anger" for this year, the Winter Park Crankworks Cross Country. Apparently 3+ weeks of lounging around at sea level, stuffing my face with beer & food is not the best prep for a mountain bike race at altitude. Who'da thunk it?

20-odd mile course, good climbs at the beginning & near the end. The old sport guys headed out at a fairly sedate pace into the first climb up sunken bridges. Even then, I feel like I'm climbing like a brick, and slowly loose contact with the front group of 5 or so. Course, during the climb, some of the juniors we start with, and the FAST guys in the front of the Clydesdales come up, and I immediately loose track of where I am relative to anyone. Down Zoom, out Elk Meadow, and into the D2/WTB/D4 maze & haze of pain. Actually was starting to come around, and started to close on some people up those climbs, so think I'm on my normal "later in the race" surge. Down onto St.Louis Creek road, grab a Gu, slam some "gack" and jump out of the saddle to roll up and close the gap to a group ahead, like I usually do at that point.
Strange, as I try to spin up the gear, I get the first twinges of a good cramp in both Quads. Hmmm, that can't be good this far out. Back off, spin out the legs instead of chasing, slam the rest of the electrolytes, guzzle more water, start feeling better. Then we start climbing up the back side of the ski area, an easy, gentle road climb. Uh-oh, NOT feeling better anymore. Am on the edge of cramping again. THEN we hit the steeper, rocky doubletrack. That was it. power evaporates, legs start to seize up. I think getting off & walking a minute might help loosen my legs up, so I dismount to do just that.

WRONG thing to do. I've NEVER had cramps like I did at that moment. Both quads lock completely up, freezing both legs in a clenched, fully extended position, in total agony. Takes what felt like a full minute to unlock one leg & bend it, stopping the searing pain. Course, the other leg then continues to scream. This sets off what must have been a VERY houmurous episode of alternating from one leg to the other, while making increasingly violent grunts & screams. Given the strange looks other rides gave me as they passed, it must have been either scary, bewildering, or downright funny to watch my strange little dance.
Finally realize I can't jump from one leg to the other indefinetly, so I decide I need to sit down. Course, I can't figure out HOW to do that when I can't bend either leg. Eventually I was able to invent some strange way of sitting down while only bending one leg (also quite amusing, I gathered...). Minute or 2 sitting on the ground, massaging my quads got me back to "functional". Gee, only 45 or so minutes and a good climb to go.

From there, things are kinda blurry. Turns out it's hard to RACE a bike when you can't pedal hard. I figured out the one speed I had that did not set off any more cramps, and tried to hold that the rest of the way in. Even managed to pass back a couple of guys in my group in that state. Ended up almost "battling" a guy to the line, without the ability to pedal hard. Was pretty strange way to "race". NEVER have I cramped that hard, or that long in a race. 45 minutes of CAREFUL pedaling to get to the finish. Even managed to cramp up getting my shoes off at the truck. Fun.

Still pulled off an almost mid pack finish, in spite of the "little issues" I had. This one was hard to call "fun", even in bike racing terms. Oh well, hope to have a better day at King of the Rockies in a few weeks.

I did notice a strange trend in the Race results from the race up there. The field sizes by age group show that at least in the Winter Park series, nobody but 35 to 45 year olds seem to race mountain bikes. The level of participation PLUMMETS at 50 + years old. Am I missing something? Does it hurt THAT much when you are old? Why do so many 45 year olds race, then they all suddenly stop racing 5 years later. Guess you could ask the same thing for less than 35 years old as well.

You see this in the "masters bubble" in road & cross racing too. Sure bike racing is decidedly a rich, middle aged white guy sport in general, but it's strange the sudden halt in participation for older riders. Any idea why? Are they just smarter than I am?

Monday, July 18, 2011

All good things must come to an end

All good things must come to an end, or so the saying goes. I am sitting here at 39,000 feet over the South China Sea, heading from Kuala Lampur to Hanoi, part of the LONG journey back from the far east. Long vacations are great, all except for the return to reality part. Besides coming back to chores, work, and the rest of “Normal Life” I’ll be getting back on the bike after a 3+ week layoff. Can’t wait to see what that training strategy did for my fitness. While I managed some “stair climbs” and hikes on the trip, mostly I was just running around or eating like a pig the entire time. Guess I am in for some serious interval time once I get “de-Lagged” on my return. Cross season is just around the corner.

I was successful with my training plan for the trip. I ate like a pig.

I DID do a hike or two in Penang, and lord they do have some "trails" there that will give you a workout. Thousands and thousands of stairs STRAIGHT up thru the jungle.
The closest I came to a bike was watching others ride by. Malyasia seems to have experienced a huge boom in "recreational" cycling in the last 5 or so years. Before, you would see one or 2 other cyclists out in many days of riding, and I NEVER saw a roof rack in the many years I was there before. This time you saw packs out riding on the roads, lots of roof racks with & without bikes, up to a full-on Yeti Downhill Race rig on a car. a HUGE boom in riders in 5 years. Heard about lots of off-road riding, even though the closest I got was coming off the stair hike, seeing guys riding up "Penang Hill" road. While paved, I can attest that it's one of the singular hardest climbs I've ever done on a bike. The strange thing is almost all the people I saw were on flat pedals and tennies. Even saw one guy riding up the 20%-ish grade on flats with FLIP-FLOPS as his riding shoe of choice. Hard core. Trust me, the hill is steeper than it looks here....
There MIGHT have been just a bit of asian pilsner consumed during the trip as well. Maybe even the odd Gin & Tonic. What with training like that, and 3 solid seeks sleeping at an altitude of at least 10 feet, I'm sure I'll be ready to KILL it on the bike.
Coming from a place where cargo bikes and riding out of need, not desire, to thinking about racing bikes for fun is a bit of a hard one to wrap your head around. Bikes are still used to haul everything from people to street food stalls in most of the rest of the world. Not sure we have taken the bike thing to a place it does not really belong.

Even with utility in mind, MAYBE it's time for a new rim on that bike though.....
So, will be back home & trying to restart my cycling legs. With Cross season closing in, it's time to start in earnest, if one is to have any hope for some kind of results.

With the return from vacation, and the hopeful completion of some other distracting projects, I hope to refocus my ravings here on more cycling related, and more cross related subjects. With a preliminary Colorado Cross schedule floating about cyberspace, and USA Cycling trying to make sure NO Colorado riders have any results at this years National Hypothermia Championships in Madison, there are things to talk about, for sure.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Far East

Greetings from Penang, Malaysia. Yep, it's hot & humid here. The summer vacation is in full swing. Sitting here in front of a Starbucks (Much like McDonalds, some things are a constant almost world-wide....), since my cheap-ass budget hotel wants US$10 a day for Wi-fi access. Some things have NOT become a world wide constant. I am working dillegently on my previously noted training plan of a 4 week killer hard block of LT intervals, followed by 3 weeks of sitting on my ass, eating a lot and ingesting beer. so far, I am fully on track with the second part of that plan.

A bit of bike-related notes from the Far east here. 10+ years ago, while doing a lot of "factory-sitting" here in Penang, A couple of us sent over mountain bikes and rode all over the place. At the time, we only saw a VERY small handfull of locals riding for recreation. As late as 5 years ago, did not see hardly any "recreational" riders here. This trip, I am seeing a LOT of riders, Bike racks on the roof of cars (unheard of 5 years ago...) and some serious, high dollar hardware under a lot of lycra-clad asians. Even saw a fully loaded Yeti 303 Downhill rig on the roof of a car here. I guess the riding bug is spreading across the pacific now.

We came here via Vietnam, a short visit. a crazy, hectic place. There I did NOT see high $$ bikes, but a lot used for transportation & work. Mostly, you saw people rocking the normal, rocking Vietnamese cycling "kit"
But then one morning I saw this guy
I guess no matter WHERE you are living, the appeal or riding a bike can get you out and going. It's cool to see the passion showing up all around the world.