Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Whitmore's Super Cross Big Weekend

Going to the beach in the “off season” can be quite special. The sky is bigger, the water is bluer, the shadows are longer, and the beaches are windswept and free of crowds and clutter. Four Campmorians, four cross bikes and a mom settled in at the beach to eat and rest for a big two days of cross racing.

Art enjoying a moment of victory.

Tasting the gold.

My race, Day 1: This was my sixth cross race, but the first race on my brand new cross bike, or any cross bike for that matter. To add to the excitement of the day, the course was really awesome. Steep ups and downs, off cambers, real double track trails in the woods and a few bermed turns. It was a mountain bikers dream of a cross course. I pre-rode a lap in the morning and the bike felt comfortable, like we were meant to be together, and I went to the line confident to race.

I got off to a good start, sprinting to mid pack from the back row. Going into the first uphill, Rock, my main competition for the day, and who coincidentally wears a pink skinsuit and is famous with the announcer, passed me. Traffic would eventually force us off our bikes. I kept tight with the flow of traffic during the next half a lap, and I should have noticed that I kept jamming into traffic on the descents and would almost run into anyone braking ahead of me, but the excitement of the start had me so fired up. Logic was not in my thoughts at that time. When I reached the hump, which was rideable, I was forced off again with traffic, but was swift and threw my leg over and rode down the steep descent barely on one pedal. I did try to grab some brake as I dodged a juniors leg who was mounting at the bottom, but a blink of my eye, and I was riding away. That was reminder number two, that these canti brakes do not work well.

Next was the single track berms. These were so much fun! I came in full speed, riding the berms, assumed I could dump enough speed to make the turn in front of the tree and found myself 10 feet into the woods riding over sticks. Big ooops, a nice laugh, and rode back on course, now registering in my brain that these brakes have some limitations. All this happening and I still have Rock's wheel close, and notice she struggled on the climb. I hang tight behind her for a lap and get myself together a bit. Before the climb on the next lap, she steadies up and I go. I sense a small gap develops, but keep pushing. I get a little too fired up and push the limits of my brakes, nearly going down on a off camber descent, but just manage to keep it upright. After that each lap felt better than the one before. This was the first cross race that I did not wish for the bell. It was a good day indeed, and my little bike did me well.

It was a big weekend for Team Campmor cross section. Laura finished 1st and 2nd, Art, 2nd and 3rd, and Tara finished strong each day with a smile on her face. It was great to hear that big laugh around us again. It was good times to hang out and cheer and heckle. Besides big racing success, we saw a big duck and a big cauliflower. It was a big fun weekend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Somewhere in the Middle

Cyclocross at the Hidden Valley Club....
Sunday was an incredible beautiful day In November, with warm temps and sunny skies. Laura went from flip-flops and a tank top to puffy coat when the sun finally did dip behind the mountain. Cyclocross at the Hidden Valley Club was a small local event suitable for the whole family to come out and race, and to make it even more family friendly, it was bone dry. I would have done much better with a wet race, but it was great to see some new racers out there, and even better that the promoter had less clean up to do afterwards. This was the only race all year, that I did not have to wash my bike afterwards. Hooray!!

For me, it was my first open A race, receiving my official upgrade from 4 to 3 that day. It was only my 5th cross race, but I felt like it was time, and once I was upgraded, I began to second guess my decision. The A's and B's started together so not much was actually different, except in my head. I certainly felt under pressure lining up in the front, and being on a mountain bike. I was unable to re-mount on the off camber section after the first stairs, and got a little flustered the first time around. And then my stomach began to cramp as the A women rode away from me. I backed off a tad to aid my stomach, but I could see the B's right behind me. I struggled with this thought for a bit, but eventually I gave into being the B bait, and made the most of it.

My stomach improved by lap 2, and although I tried a bunch of different ways to re-mount after those stairs, I pathetically failed each time, which is something I need to work on. I also had some difficulty getting into my big ring. Then pushing too hard, I threw my chain off onto the crank arm once, but managed to shift it back up quickly. I feel like I finished strong and somewhere in the middle of the entire women's field, putting some distance on those behind me, and lapping a few B's near the end. Certainly a good day, helping me realize I need to practice a bit when my new cross bike arrives, any day now.

That night I had dinner with my mom and my brothers family. My nephew has finally reached the height of 5'3", which is the same height as my mom and me. We posed for a picture to document this magical moment of three generations. Just look who is in the middle again.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Sunday's cross race took place in a small park in central New Jersey. The course was twisty, hilly and very soupy. With each race the mud churned up more and more, leaving the low areas completely soup by the last race. Spectators were heckling and having some fun. I think Art has the makings of a professional heckler. Bike clean up was furiously taking place between finished racers and 1/2 lap bike changes in the pit. For us humble, single biked mountain bikers from Team Campmor, we just dealt with the bike we started with, and did just fine.

One thing I really like about cross racing is that I can go real hard, have someone to chase and come away with enough energy to go out and do something the next day. It just seems to be easier to recover from than a mountain bike race. On Monday I had plenty of energy to rake and haul leaves with no machines, and I always have the biggest pile on the street. Just a quiet few hours spent saying goodbye to summer 09, and packing away my air conditioner (the tree canopy to the south of my house) for the year.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Eye on the Sky for 2009

Wow, I have gone from two action packed, exciting weekends of racing, to out on my back. Well, just a minor glitch in the clockworks of a fifty something year old, and I will say no more about that, as I am back on the bike today, and boy did it feel good. One thing that I am always reminded during these times, is how much I appreciate the ability to move and live my life. Sometimes, it takes a little reminder to make me appreciate all that I have, and I do have a lot to be thankful about.

With a few extra moments on Sunday to reflect back on the year, I was drawn to one recurring, almost an obsession in 2009: the sky. I have witnessed so many outstanding skies over the past year. The kind of skies that were filled with intense clouds and would make me pull off the road while driving and take a picture. And still, many times I had no camera to take a picture. Although those times may seem lost, they will remain in my memory.

So why the sky? ....Perhaps it was all the rain that dropped these scenes in front view to us all, or just my ability to see them. The reason is less important than their ability to move me at that very moment in time. It would be to easy to remember the summer of 2009 as only the rainy, muddy race year. Even within rainy days, there is much to see, and the year is not over yet. .....Here in a package of snapshots intertwined with music, labeled: "Eye on the Sky". See Video Gallery -> or cut and paste:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Season's Crossing

While wondering around in search of some fall foliage photo opportunities, I came across this dandelion in full bloom and in total denial of the season. His perky head was popping out over a bed of bright red fallen leaves, as if unaware of tomorrows frost or pending winter's arrival. A summer of rain, has left us in a deficit of sunny days and yet made so many plants grow this summer. I'm glad I'm not the only one who is in denial about saying goodbye to summer.

Hesitant to put summer and racing behind me, I seem to have fallen into cyclocross racing. Some of you may ask: "what is cyclocross?" , and If I may quote pro mountain biker racer, Jane Pearson after her first cross race this Saturday, ....."It's just mental!" Some of you may not know Jane, and I can fill you in: She is not referring to thinking or anything using the mind, but to pure insanity and craziness.

Cyclocross is a bit of a sub-culture in itself, laden with spectators, cowbells and just plain hanging out and riding hard. It could take place just about anywhere, and could be on any combination of dirt, grass, gravel, roots, sand, pavement, mud, staircases or whatever the promoter can throw together to make a pack of cyclists spike their heart rates as they hurdle, run and ride around like they are mental. The fact that it is short and quite intense is what I like most.

Saturday's race was in a city park in Newburgh NY, and the course was freshly topped with a night of rain to help lubricate the excitement of the race. The park had really cool old growth trees, some with incredible climbing branches. This one pictured was filled with local pro, Christian Favata's personal cheering section. One tree was so large that even pixy's ape arms could not measure the diameter. After a season of mountain bike racing in remote forrest parks, it was a refreshing change to race in a more urban setting. I had the chance to trade smiles with the local town recycler ( town bag man ), who happened to be on a bike as well, and must have been feeling like he fit right in with the festivities.

I had an awesome time out on the course racing myself. Laura had helped me the day before with some mounting and dismounting tips, and it really helped. I used my mountain bike, and the practice the day before helped me figure out the most efficient way to carry my bike. The front triangle is too small to shoulder, and I am too short to carry from the top tube, so the down tube was perfect with my long arms. I had two really good runs through the barriers where I actually came off the ground. Imagine that? This has been some year. First I had to somersault and now I am jumping. If you asked me at twenty, what I would be doing at fifty, I would have never guessed. Cross racing is pretty cool.