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.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Racing at Ringwood for a Change

photo by coog:

I don't think it really set in, until we were driving up Morris Rd at 9:30 on race day. After a decade of pre-dawn preparations for promotional duties and volunteer work for Ringwood races, we were finally just racing. My plan was to hang out and watch some Cat 2 & 3 racing with no particular jobs, other than to get myself ready to race myself. I was really relaxed, and completely enjoying my long deserved freedom to just race. I don't think I had raced Ringwood in 5 or 6 years, and even then, it was hectic and involved getting up early, and cleaning the course after the race, which usually meant riding back into an empty parking lot after sunset. It really is a thankless job, and I am happy to shift my focus to more rewarding things, like building trails, or enjoying a race.

So my day began with a smile inside, and got better as it went. I enjoyed watching the racers so much that I was a little late getting back to the car to prepare for my race. This turned out to be a good thing because I usually get ready too early and finish my warm up too soon and sit around before my start, resulting in a bad start. The timing was perfect and off we went. I had a great start and felt like I was in mix with the leaders in sight. With all the roads on the first half of the lap, racers went back and fourth a bit which was nice. There were a few sections that had bogged me down on the pre-ride, and much to my surprise, those ended up being my strongest sections where I was able to pass others. It's funny how things change when you are focussed.

At the end of my first lap, I came across Laura who had crashed hard. I stopped very briefly to find out she thought she could ride out and maybe continue. I decided to continue. Now this is where girls get weird. Any guy would have jumped back into the race, like no big deal, but I kept thinking I should stop and check with her again. So I did, and more ladies started to catch up. So either you race or you stop, right? All I can say is "girls are girls". Eventually I continued on to my second lap, still thinking about if I should have stopped again. Dar was on my wheel, and she seemed like she needed a lift on the long road, so I pulled the whole way, and we talked a bit. Then I lost my concentration, dropping my chain and doing a series of mishaps, and found myself 2 ladies back. A induced a little self pep talk and that along with catching a few glimpses of Cynthia ahead, kept me in the game and pushing.

I continued to feel energetic right through my last lap, and worked my way back up to Dar by the switch-backs. At that point, I felt accomplished to get there and was happy to roll in to the finish behind her. Apparently she was cramping, and got off to walk the final switchback. Howie was there cheering and I wasn't going to let him see me walk any climb, so I put on my race face and nailed that thing. It just so happened, that I passed Dar too, which was not my plan. So, it ended up that Dar rolled into the finish just behind me. I know, and she knows, that we finished together. Yeh, I know, (roll eyes) "girls". I am just real happy that my energy levels were that good for the whole race. It may have been my best race of the year, and it is indeed a good feeling to end the season on a good note.