Mike's Blog

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After missing DCCX followed by a weekend with no races scheduled I was eager to get back on the 'cross bike and Halloween weekend provided my fix with two races on the schedule: All Hallows Cross on Saturday and Kinder Kross on Sunday.

All Hallows Cross was one of two races I finished in the top half of last year (the other being Hyattsville) so I was eager to go back to this race.  The course for 2010 did have some changes, primarily that racers now had to traverse both sandpits (horse rings) and deal with turns in the same.  Aside from that, the course stayed mostly the same as 2009, including the awesome single-track section through the woods.  I arrived at the race venue at 8am which gave me time to do a couple of laps to check out the changes to the course, register and then get myself ready for my 10am race.  After the 9am CAT4 race I took one more lap around the course.  Unfortunately this got me to the start area late and I missed my call up by registration number and had to start at the back of the field.  As the race started a rider went down in the very first turn and then the yo-yo effect forced me off my bike in the first sandpit, which I was able to ride in warm-ups.  Exiting the sandpit I had a very difficult time getting clipped in, presumably from my cleats being packed with sand, and this cost me some time on the long finish stretch.  Unclipping for the barriers also did not come easy, nor did getting back in after jumping them.  The rest of the race was pretty normal for me; I fell back to the last fourth of the field and battled with a couple of different people for the remainder of the laps.  I got a bit lax at the finish and was nipped at the line in a repeat of last years race, only then I was the beneficiary of someone sleeping.  Ended up 56 of 61.  See the video here.

Kinder Cross was a new event for this year and therefore was not a MABRAcross points race which was the likely reason that subscription was lower than normal.  The event was great and the course one of the better ones this year including some off camber turns, double-track and power sections.  Got to the race at 8am, did a couple of laps to check out the course and then got my number from registration.  Got to the start line in plenty of time for this race, but even though I thought I had registered early I was still five or six rows back.  The whistle blew and I did a fair job hanging onto my position until the slight uphill slog started about 200 meters and a couple of turns later.  By the time I arrived at the barriers the group was split wide open and I was pretty much in the general area of where I would finish.  About two laps in the back started hurting pretty good and there was really only one place I could stand to stretch it so I dealt with it the best I could.  I was going back and forth with one guy lap after lap: I'd pass him on the last little grassy hill before the start and he'd pass me on the grassy hill after the start.  Finally on the next to last lap he made a move in the double-track area and I never saw him again.  I have to say, the best part of this race was seeing my wife and kids every lap and hearing Karrie yell for me to move my ass every lap.  She is definitely the best cheerleader at any cross race I've been too; if she can see me, I can hear her.  Results for this race weren't available at the time of this writing but I think I was 28 of 30-something.  I'll try to update when the results are posted.  See the video here.

Next week is Tacchino Ciclocross, which was a great event last year except for the fact that I got pulled for being lapped.  It seems that this year pulling riders is even more common, especially at the races that have full fields.  I have not been pulled yet this year and hopefully that trend will continue.

Until next time, keep pedaling!

Karrie with Honest Abe and some other dudeThis October 22nd, Karrie and I will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary.  We decided that we would take the weekend before and go to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania together in celebration.  Karrie's parents graciously agreed to watch both boys so it really was a couple of days to ourselves, which we really, really needed.

We wanted to stay in a Bed and Breakfast very close to the center of town so that we would be able to walk to nearly anyplace we wanted to.  Karrie ABC Grill Pub Sampler, Depletedmanaged to talk the inn keeper at The Inn At Lincoln Square into allowing us to book the Annie Danner Suite for Saturday night only; normally they have a two day minimum.  I set about researching places to eat and drink as well as other activities we could enjoy while we where there.  We dropped the boys off around 9:30am on Saturday morning and then we were off for the approximately one-hour drive to Gettysburg.  Our first stop was for some breakfast at The Lincoln Diner.  I can't remember the last time I ate at a diner but I hope its not as long until the next time.  The food was delicious partially owed, I'm sure, to the fact that we were both starving.  After breakfast we walked about a block and a half down to Breaktime Massage, where unbeknown to Karrie I had arranged for a one-hour couples massage so that we could begin our getaway relaxed.

After our massages we drove to the Appalachian Brewing Company for some drink and food, in that order.  This was our best dining experience of the trip and we would have gone back for lunch on Sunday had they been open.  We ordered a sampler consisting of eight, six ounce samples of their brews.  We each had our favorite but all were pretty tasty as was the food.  Following lunch we went to the bed and breakfast to check-in.  The room was awesome and the pictures I took on my Droid X do not do it justice.  The B&B was right on Lincoln Square, the heart of downtown Gettysburg.  Literally, walked out the front door of the inn and we were in the square looking at Lincoln himself.  After exploring the room we went for a walk downtown going into several shops and restaurants, noting the menus to aid in our decision on where to eat dinner.  We did a wine tasting at the Adams County Winery wine shop and bought a couple of bottles, one for us and one for Karrie's parents as a way of saying thank you for watching the boys.

At around five-thirty we went back to the inn to decide on dinner.  We called a few places to see what their wait was like because some of them already had waits when we Beware of dangerous wallspopped in to look at menus in the previous hour.  Based on wait time and first glance, we elected to eat at a little Italian place called Mamma Ventura.  I've had great luck with little Italian restaurants in the past with great food and service, but on this day, my luck ran out.  The service was slow and when it did come it was rushed.  The food was mediocre at best and overall our dining experience was not great.  Moreover, the slow service forced us to reschedule our 8pm ghost tour to 9:45pm.  After dinner we again returned to the inn and just relaxed a bit before heading off for our ghost tour.  I had made reservations with The Original Ghost Tours of Gettysburg although there were several to choose from.  The walk to the start of the tour was about three blocks from the square.  Along the way we stopped at a little french cafe named Cafe Saint-Amand for some hot chocolate with which to enjoy the schnapps that Karrie had brought along to keep us warm on the tour.  The tour was entertaining if not a bit theatrical.  I took plenty of pictures but alas, no paranormal activity was captured.  The tour ended shortly after 11pm and since the previous night had been a rough one (Lucas did not sleep well at all) we elected to go back to the inn and sleep rather than bar hopping.

Sunday morning we slept in before packing up and checking out.  We walked next door to the visitor's center and purchased an "auto tour" book and compact disc for the battleground and after grabbing lunch we set off to do it.  The tour is pretty extensive and has its own roads and tons of monuments.  Unfortunately we missed a turn on our way to stop one and as a result of the long stretch of one-way road we were on, we decided to skip the first three stops.  Having not grown up in this area, this was my first time exploring the Gettysburg area, or any Civil War battleground for that matter.  I was really taken aback by the history here.  As Karrie and I stood at the Virginia monument and walked on the same fields as the men in Pickett's Charge toward high water mark, I couldn't help but think what it must have been like to be a Confederate soldier in that very moment; walking across an open field, arm-in-arm with your brothers in the face of cannon and gunfire.  If someone in the line fell, you closed ranks and continued to move forward not knowing if you would be the next to fall.  The amount of bravery and commitment to their beliefs was extraordinary and is non-existent in the in the vast majority of today's Americans.  I wish I had been more interested in our country's great history when I was in school; we really do have an amazing history for such a short existence.  Schools need to do a better job of teaching it to our children and instilling pride in who we are and where we came from.  History class shouldn't be about memorizing dates, it should be about the human experience of the times.  Make it interesting and perhaps our children won't take their liberties for granted.

We were unable to complete the tour but we do plan on going back and finishing it soon.  The trip as a whole was great and a well need break and celebration for us both.  If you have a chance to explore the battlefield in Gettysburg I highly recommend it.

 

I can sum this race up in two words: I suck.  This is not a revelation to me, I've known that this was not going to be my year for 'cross because I just haven't put the time in on the bike.  In fact, even if I put the time in I'm never going to be a front runner and I'm okay with that.  For this year I've accepted that I will be a tail gunner and today I was living up to expectations.  What made today different from the other 10 'cross races I've done is that today I abandoned and posted a (legit*) DNF for the first time.

The day started off normal for a race day.  I got up at 6am tired as hell, rolled downstairs and had some breakfast, gathered my gear and hit the road for the 50 minute drive to Lilypons Water Gardens in Adamstown, Maryland.  It rained some on the way there so I figured my hopes for a dry race were done.  It had been relatively dry this week so I figured in any event there is no way it would be as muddy as last year.  I registered and then rode a couple of recon laps since I had never done this race before.  The venue is unique in that a good portion of the course traverses several ponds filled with lily plants which are sold at the gardens.  The first part of the course through the ponds contains a lot of turns and somewhat narrow areas which make it difficult to pass.  Once through there you enter a longish dual-track gravel area that is mostly flat and you are really able to motor along through this section.  The double-track ends slightly uphill and turns onto a slightly downhill grass section which leads up a run-up followed immediately by a steep drop-in.  The drop-in was a bit unnerving because you only had about 8 feet from the top of the run-up to get remounted and drop-in; I froze up here on both practice laps but was able to keep it moving during the race.  From there the next thing was the hill at the "back nine" (more on that later) followed by a slight downhill and another drop-in.  Following that was a couple of "woops" and then a leg grinder climb to a downhill section where, in theory, you could recover some.  After the downhill the course meandered back to the finish and then into the barriers before starting over where I started.

I was feeling decent after the practice laps but a little apprehensive about the drop-in after the run-up. Nothing like getting there, freezing up and having a bunch of guys stuck behind you pissed off.  Luckily, as you will read, this didn't materialize.  At the start I mostly help my position fairly well on the prologue lap.  As I was entering the 180-degree turn prior to the barriers someone tried to take the space on my inside that didn't exist.  The bump forced me to dismount and I mistakenly tried to remount for the very slow 180 directly preceding the barriers; as a result I fudged the dismount pretty bad and lost about 20 spots in the barrier section when it was all said and done.  I maintained my position through the ponds and when we hit the gravel section, which is where I should shine, people started coming by me again.  On one of the 90-degree turns in the gravel section I heard someone directly behind me go down and yell out in pain; he would lay there in the ditch for at least two more laps and was eventually carted away by an ambulance.  By the time I got to the run-up and drop-in I was pretty much by myself so there was no one to hold up and I managed to complete the combo without pausing.  By the end of the first lap I was pretty much racing by myself and darn near the end of the group if not the end of the group.  A couple of 55+ guys were near me so I raced with some of them for a bit, but it was not a stellar effort on my part.  Sometime during the second lap my back started to bother me slightly.  I wrecked on a gravel turn at pretty low speed, but the gravel had its way with my shin and hip.   By the middle of the third lap my back was really, really bothering me.  I managed to recover some and told myself that if there was one lap to go (or two with the possibility of being lapped making it only one) I would soldier on.  Unfortunately, when I got to the finish line the sign showed three laps remaining at which point I made the very difficult decision to abandon rather than suffer in pain the next 20 minutes or so.

Quitting sucks and it is not something I want to do again.  The course was tough and my fitness is horrible but those things alone are bearable; the pain I had in my back, not so much.

I went back to my truck, cleaned my wounds and changed to head to the "back nine".  A lot cyclocross courses loop back on themselves in multiple spots which makes for great spectating.  Lilypons does not lend itself to that and so the have the "back nine" which is a spectating area with its own announcer at the back of the course.  The real highlight of the "back nine" however, is the free beer and waffles.  I had two of the first and one of the latter before heading back to the truck to grab the camera to take some pictures of the Elite Masters race.  After taking some pictures and watching my team mate Mike Birner finish second I headed home.

So that's it for race #2; it didn't leave a warm fuzzy in my stomach for the rest of the races this season.  I will continue to the be a tail-gunner and strive to finish the remaining races at the very least.

* - I was scored a DNF at the championships in Taneytown last year but in reality I did not start.

I was really looking forward to this race because it was flat and fast with ample sections to hit the gas and keep it down.  Last year it was the first of two races I did where I finished in the top 50%.  Of course, that was in the Cat4 race; the Masters Cat3/4 race, while not necessarily faster overall, has a much shallower slope on the curve from first place to last.  They also made some changes to this course this year, breaking up all of the good power sections with twists and turns and making us have to accelerate more frequently than last year.  Acceleration, like climbing, is not my thing.  I also built a new bike for this race: a BMC CX01 with an SRAM Red group and I only finished putting it together the night before.  I didn't get to do my leg openers on Saturday and only managed a quick test ride on the new bike, which seemed to be in good shape.

Race day morning was normal and I got to the race venue by 8am and did some recon laps of the new layout.  I had a disappointing start again and was passed by a bunch of guys out of the gate.  By the time we got to the barriers I was well down in the pack.  After about two laps I started to feel really stretched out on the bike and couldn't figure out why until I noticed that my bars had started to rotate forward.  I stopped in the pit on the second half of the second lap and swapped out the new bike for the old losing five to six spots in the process.  I managed to get back one or two of those spots by the time I crossed the finish line for the start of lap number three and felt like I was settling into a good pace, for me at least.  There were a couple of guys ahead of me who I caught and exchanged places with several times until the last lap when either they hit the gas or I blew up.  Just before the finish I was passed by the race leader who had a very nice gap on the rest of the field and so I finished a lap down (6 minutes and change) to the leader in 80th place of 92 starters.

No races this weekend as Karrie and I celebrate our fifth year anniversary.  Next race is DCCX at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in the District of Columbia on October 24th.

Today we lost our pet cat Sneezy.  For the past six months or more he has steadfastly refused to use the litter box for pooping; in the past two months he has also refused to pee in the box.  For an eSneezy Catven longer time before any of that he lost his hearing, we believe completely.  Up until yesterday he mostly kept his voiding contained to the concrete floor in our utility room where his litter boxes are kept.  Aside from that and being slightly more social in the past couple of weeks, he lived his life as he had the previous 17 years I've had him: he kind of kept to himself, lounged in the sun and not much else.

For the past week or so we'd noticed that he started walking a bit gingerly on his back legs but it didn't seem to keep him from doing anything he normally did.  Around the same time he started to get a lot of weeping ooze coming from his eyes and they needed to be cleaned daily.  Still, he seemed perfectly normal to us.  Then yesterday he voided on the kitchen floor right in front of Karrie.  Later last night, he voided in his own bed, after which we decided to confine him to the utility room for the night.  This morning I went down to check on him and he meowed but did not get up.  A few hours later Karrie called me at work and told me that Sneezy was not doing well, he was unable to walk and had fallen down the stairs while trying to come up from the basement; she felt it was time.

I made an appointment at the vet and left work for the day.  When I arrived home Karrie had lay Sneezy in his bed in front of the big window in the sun. He didn't really move very much although he did crane his head around a few times.  He attempted to get up a couple of times but was unable to so I decided it best to put him down.  For the past six months I'd talked a big game about having him put down because I was tired of cleaning up after him, especially when there was no medical reason for his voiding outside of the box.  Every time I thought "today is the day" I backed out because I was struggling with putting down an animal that was not suffering.  Today there was no question in my mind that putting Sneezy to sleep was the best thing I could do for an old friend who was ready to move on.

Goodbye, Sneezy, we'll miss your 2am crying sessions.

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My attempt at talking politics.

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