Monday, November 28, 2011

Jingle Cross Rock, 2011... there will be mud.

(Sorry this is so late, just pretend it's the monday after Jingle Cross as you read this.)

Wow, that just happened!

The Cyclo Cross whirlwind that is Jingle Cross Rock was last weekend. Three days of intense racing on an intense course in intense conditions.

It was intense.

My bike is in need of a major overhaul. It was brutal out there. I absolutely loved it but it's hard not to cringe when i think of all the bike work thats going to be required to be up and running at full speed again.


Jingle Cross is probably the race i look forward to more than any other. Cross is my favorite type of bicycle racing and when i heard about this big cross race in Iowa City back in 2009 i told myself i was going. Period. That first year was an eye opener. Britton, David and I headed out with no clue of what to expect. Now here we are three years later and I feel like a pro when it comes to the Jingle Cross craziness. I don't ride like a pro, but i handle the craziness in a very professional manor. Superior attitude?


One thing i like about this event is racing against so many people. You really find out what you're made of. This year the fields (mine at least) were MASSIVE!!! It was insane. We had 82 starters on Friday night! Three years of doing this race has given me a nice sample size to see if im getting faster at this bike racing thing. I think i am. Here are my results from the past 3 years.

2009 (cat 4)
  • day 1... 7 out of 44
  • day 2... 15 out of 59
  • day 3... 10 out of 53

2010 (cat 3)
  • day 1... 16 out of 44
  • day 2... 22 out of 50
  • day 3... 13 out of 44
2011 (cat 3)
  • day 1... 18 out of 82
  • day 2... 18 out of 72
  • day 3... 10 out of 39
I had no specific goals in 2009, just race. In 2010 i wanted a top 10, didn't happen. This year i thought i could do top 5. Then i saw how many people were racing. Even though i never reached my goal it was totally awesome to race against so many people and i had a blast... having a first or second row starting position everyday helped a lot.

Now, on to the juicy details:

Day 1

This was the most disappointing day of the weekend because i think i had it in me to do much better than 18th. The legs were there but the composure was not. The first half of the race i was in total scampering hamster mode. No rhythm. Maybe it was racing at night, maybe it was too much pressure in the tires, maybe it was just a mental thing, but i had no flow. I seemed to take a bad line around every turn, probably because i was riding with my head down. After a few laps of s*it riding i took I told myself to breathe, focus and look up... i started riding better.

The weather for day 1 was good, no gloves necessary.... which is nice.

The deciding factor in most Jingle Cross races is Mt Krumpet and every day they change the way you go up and down.

Tonights course included the big run up followed by the easy descent. What sucked about the big run up is that it came right after the flyover, which came right after another technical / muddy running section. So by the time you got to the run up you were breathing hard. i pushed my bike on the first pass thru the run up then realized shouldering is easier, so i shouldered. It was the first time all year i shouldered my bike. Jingle Cross usually is. I've been a little slack in my stair running of late (i try to run some stairs once a week) and i could feel it. The run up didn't really hurt my position but it didn't really help it either. Well, maybe with the exception of the last lap. I found a little something extra, took bigger strides, and passed a few guys. One of them was the dude who beat me at Saturdays Lincoln, NE race. he finished 20th. Nice to know he was 'struggling' too.

So im disappointed about this race. I had no problem digging deep and pedaling hard but i wasted the first half of the race. Never the less I was totally spent when i crossed the line. Racing cross at night is hard but fun.

My traveling companions were once again X and Crunchy Spice. X had a great weekend and Crunchy really thrived at Jingle Cross and took 3rd place tonight in the Womens 2/3 race!


Day 2

Rain = mud.

Worthy of the word 'epic', Saturdays race was easily the muddiest cross race i've ever done. It was everywhere! X raced first so i got a great preview of what was waiting for me.

The mud made it a crazy race. I really had no idea what was going on in the race, i was just trying to stay upright. People were slipping and sliding everywhere. I almost lost it on a long strait away for crying out loud! Today we climbed up what we rode down yesterday and then descended a new section. The descent was insanely slippery. i walked / ran practically all of it, as did almost everybody else.

See for yourself. The cat 2's come thru first then the 3's. Im at 1:57 but look for Peck at 5:03. He own's the hill.

The climb up Mt Krumpet was equally brutal. It seemed to go on forever. Take the worst Manions climb (from the first year, not this year which was much easier) and multiply it by 4, that's what it was like. The first part was ridable, provided you got on the good line. Remember, everything is a complete muddy mess. Then the climb got harder and i dismounted and ran the rest, which probably took another 45 seconds. Once at the top you would dismount and have about 5 seconds to catch your breath before the crazy descent. Running the last few meters of this climb on the last two laps was the most tired i've been all year. It took every bit of strength and concentration i could muster just to keep moving forward. Usually i'm pretty self conscious about spit or snot hanging off my face, not on Mt Krumpet. No time to worry about appearances, it's all about survival up there. Besides, there are 50 some dudes behind me ready to eat my lunch. Got to keep moving forward.

It was hard to read what was happening around me, this was a theme for most of the weekend, but in the end i rolled thru in 18 place, just like the day before.

My turning abilty was much better today compared to yesterday but i didn't have as much energy. It would have been nice to take the enegy level from day 1 and combine it with the turning ability from day 2... wait, that's what makes Jingle Cross so great... it's three days ofracing! Maybe I can put it all together for day 3!

X had her best result of the weekend, 16th of 34 women in the womens 2/3. Maybe she's a mudder!

Day 3

I'm not quite sure what to make of this day. I felt great but only finished 10th out of 39. I really felt like i was having my best race of the weekend. i was focused, having fun, pedaling hard, getting out of the saddle at will. the course was still very muddy but the mud was thicker than yesterday. Plus we did a brand new descent down Mt. Krumpet and it was covered in long grass / hay so while that made it easier to ride it also meant all that grass got stuck to the mud that was covering your bike. My bike probably weighed 5 more pounds at the end of the race. At least it kept rolling. Not everybody could say that.

The previous two days i had a second row start but Sundays race had so many no shows that i got to start front row. Sweet!!! It was my best start of the weekend and i was around 7th when we hit the run up. Maybe it was the culumative effects of the weekend but the run-up was brutal. I was moving at a snales pace. The good news is that most everybody else was too. After the run up was a climb that was totally ridable.

One of my favorite moments of the weekend took place riding up this portion of the climb. Now, be advised, this is not a paricularly noteworthy moment but for some reason i like it.

So somewhere in the middle of the race i found myself with two other dudes on the run up. We re-mounted and started the rest of the climb. We were climbing sloooooow (as im sure most of the cat 3's were). i climed out of the saddle, the guy to my left sat, im not sure what the guy behind did, but we're all right on top of each other. it was a race after all, but it was a slow motion race. A particularly enthuastic spectator noticed us and ran over with his cow bell. He followed us all the way to the descent, running / walking besides us, ringing the cow bell and offering words of encouragement. It helped. He was right in my ear but i never once glanced over. I was in the pain cave. He wasn't yelling like a mad man but instead was almost like some sort of inspirational speaker. He knew what we were going thru and he was down with it. For about 30 seconds he was part of our group. As we neered the descent he turned off but not before offering up a final comment. 'have a good trip down guys'. i think i forced a smile at that one, at least i did in my head.

Like i said, not a particularly earth shattering moment, but for some reason it really stuck with me. It's one of those moments that you take with you from an event like that.


I had no trouble on the descent and rode it every time. Lots of fun. Honestly, i think i was a little too conservative (i must be getting older) because people were struggling and it would have been a good place for me to make some time. The course also had more long strait sections then the previous two days so you could really get up to speed, and i had the legs to do it too which is why im confused about the 10 place. i'm trying not to overthink it but i felt i was riding better than 10th.

So, that was jingle cross.

Highlights of the weekend...

Walking up and down the runup during the elite mens race on Friday night and taking a sip of Peck's beer every time i passed by. He didn't need all that beer.

Spontainously grabbing a tree on a 180 turn and holding onto it to whip around the turn, perfectly executed, just like i see in the you tube videos of the big guns overseas.

Watching the elite riders struggle with Saturdays descent down Mt Krumpet

Watching Barry Wicks (and ocassionally Brian Fawley) dominate steep hills, on their bikes, one after another.

Watching X dominate the descent on Sundays race while so many others faltered.

Cheering for and being cheered on by the folks from Lincoln, NE. I feel a connection with these people.

Room Service.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Flatwater Cyclocross Weekend... Lincoln, Nebraska

X, Crunchy Spice and I ventured up to Lincoln, NE over the weekend for two days of cross racing. It was the Flatwater Cyclocross Weekend.

I've never been to Lincoln, it was bigger and cooler than i thought. Plus with he exception of Jinglecross this was the first non-local cross race i've ever done. It was nice change of pace to race in a different venue against some fresh faces.

When we left KC at 8am it was about 50 degrees and getting warmer. By the time we arrived in Lincoln at noon it was about 30 degrees with 20 mile winds. Fu*king freezing! Like seriously unbearable to even be standing outside. I'm cold just thinking about it.

Aub and Crunchy raced first, Crunchy's race lasted about 3 seconds before someone came into her on the paved start and she crashed hard on her knee, race over. I'm pretty sure she had the worst weekend ever. She caught a cold before day 2 and spent most of the day, including her race, sleeping in the car. She never complained though, a real trooper.

So... back to Saturday. X had a great race and her fifth place finish is a little deceiving. She was hot on the heels of everyone in front of her. The course was compact but fun. At first i thought it was just okay but then i realized it had great flow and was a lot of fun to ride. One set of barriers at the bottom of a run up hill, then besides that it was smooth and fast with a few small hills thrown in.

Now, i need to go back again to how cold it was. I'm standing on the line, doing the final prep. Usually for extreme cold i wear two sets of gloves. Im putting on the second set and X, whose standing next to me, says i wont need them. 'yeah' i say, and throw them on the groung. BIG mistake. I'm not sure what she was thinking when she said that, but i should have known better. After the race i heard the wind chill was 19.

There are only 15 of us and i get a good start, near the very front for the first two laps. My memory is fuzzy but around the 2nd lap i move into second but first is already a ways up. hes really cruising. Now.... lets back up to one minute after the start. My fingers are FREEZING!!! Every chance i get im riding one handed and blowing into the other hand. it was bad. I kept riding by the start finish and seeing my other gloves on the ground. I thought about stopping to put them on, but i was in 2nd. i thought about quitting, but i was in 2nd. I carried on. Eventually the pain subsided, probably because the fingers went completely numb.

I kept 1st place at the same gap, maybe trimmed it a little, but he won by around 35 seconds. i finished by myself in 2nd. I thought i was pretty well warmed up and i think i could have stayed with that guy if i had been more attentive.

It was so cold i barely took any pictures, i wonder how the folks at occupy Lincoln slept?

Day two was a much more exciting race. X started off hot, second at the first turn (and missing the $25 hole shot prize by 1 place.... come on X!) but blew up and then started taking vodka - redbull shots on hooligan hill. Seems like a good choice to me.

I started on the front row again and was glad to see a few more racers, 20 total. My start was bad and i think i was in 11th at the first turn. The course was the same except the barriers had been moved making the run up ridable, although i never even tried. i run like a gazelle on steroids!

The run-up is called hooligan hill and Sundays warmer weather meant more hooligans were in attendance. They had an ass slapping contest going. After a while i made sure to run close to the spectators, ass slaps are the equilivant of whipping a horse, it makes you go faster. Hooligan hill was a lot of fun.

I was feeling good and it didn't take long to move up. I never really had to attack, just passed guys who were fading. The first few laps were really fun. I was with a few guys and we all had different strengths so we kept re-passing each other. Soon i was right behind the leader, the same guy who won yesterday. He seemed to be laboring so I put in a slight dig to come around him and take the lead. Yeah baby! This is what i'm talking about! I pulled pretty hard for two laps and pretty soon it was just him and me. We kind of worked together but he seemed tired. The start / finish was a long uphill paved section and with about 4 to go we were joined by a third dude. I was thinking 'sweet, this is getting more fun'. The three of us rode together for the rest of the race. I would dominate both of them on the run up, new addition was the strongest on the pavement, and yesterdays winner just seemed to be along for the ride.

With one to go i was sitting third wheel. Not the ideal spot. i toyed with the idea of attacking on the run up, but didn't. I was pretty passive (im going to change that for Jingle Cross) and it became apparent a sprint finish was on tap. My poor positioning probably meant that the sprint was over before it began. We did the 180 turn off the grass onto the pavement finish and i was third. The finish was pretty close, i had plenty of juice, came around into second place, but got easily beat by the guy who hit the pavement first. He was the guy who joined us mid race. Great race by him. Of the three of us he was the only Nebraskan so since this race was their state champs he is the cat 3 state champ. People were yelling for him the entire race, pretty cool.

I dont possess a killer instinct so im not too disappointed with my result, but i really think i could have won that race.

All in all a fun weekend. Lincoln people are cool and they put on a great event.

Check out this great video by Keith Walberg, including lots of face time for yours truly, including my sprint finish!