Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The 2012 BC Cross Country Championships Race Report

Saturday October 24th was the BC Cross Country Championships at Clearbrook park, Abbotsford. Being a Master catagory racer in XC running meant that our championship was the first one of the day, before the course was all chewed up and before the rains had a chance to unleash hell, as they did later in the morning.

Since I last checked in, I have done zero workouts on the bike or in my running shoes. That is a first for me, as this week showed a goose egg for any physical activity, and much sleeping and as my kids at school say, "chilling". I think that "chilling" actually translates to being lazy, drinking beer, and losing fitness. At least that is what it is from my experience. I really don't like chilling. I would rather have been "killing" it out there, but life took prescedence this week, and the weather and lack of sunlight has kept me indoors.

Racing back to back Championship weekends, this time fully rested, was something I committed to a few weeks back as part of a grand plan to sadly, not do Pumpkin Cross due to the fact that I will be away from my family for three days this November as Daryl Evans Racing helps organize the National CX Championships. I have to get some credit somewhere, and these autumn days I could do an event on both the Saturday and Sunday. If not in the Canada, then in the States. I wonder what the hell I did when I did not have children, and how come I was not doing races like this when I had all the time in the world.

Clearbrook Park hosted our course today, and Valley Royals Track and Field club, along with BC Athletics hosted the race. The course was a relatively flat 2.08 km loop, with a few key features: The long opening straight into a paved-cracked path slope that was composed of many foot soaking puddles. That lead us along the powerline cut east over the first cut-grass knoll, around a 180 to head west, back to a 15m hill under the poweline stands, into a quick downhill, right turn. The last third of the course was a false flat grass downhill loop that lead us back to the start finish area. Fast, save for the climbs, but also a somewhat tough course to maintain such high pace.

I met up with Dharbara Ghuman and Mike Murphy at the start. Mike informed me that he had been sick all week with a stomach flu, and he was coming off a number of days that he could not eat nor hold down food. He said he was working at an 8th of a tank, and I told him his 8th is me at full gas. I was absolutely correct with that comparison.

Picking up my race bib late, and taking a short 15 minute warmup in my jogging pants and jacket, I returned to my car to drop off my clothes and run back to toe the line. The gun went off, I went off. Right into running in second position, then first in the first 200meters. Waayyy too fast for this race. I decided to back off to mortal/Josh speed, and calm things down. In doing so, the front of the race went by me, 5 people, then 6, then a group of 4. I ran the first two laps at a quick pace then backed off on the third.

I was around 10th place by lap three, trying to catch the group of four which contained the first female, who I assume was the very quick Rachel Ruus. On the back side of the course after the hill climb, I managed to take advantage of the quick grass and increase my speed after a short recovery from the climb each lap. At one point I looked at my HRM and it read 186 bpm. That was a good thing, as it has been tough for me to get the heart rate up really high as of late. The two weeks of rest have helped.

Getting back to normal. I have not hit 195 bpm since 2009. 

My race came down to a late sprint to the line against Gary Duncan, a man in hte 55-59 age cat. whom I only knew from the sound of his feet. In the finishing stretch, I could hear him charging behind me, so I kicked. I thought that was good enough, but no. He kicked again. Then again. This was one long 100m finishing stretch, so it seemed. Crossing the finish line, we were tied, passing over it at exactly the same time as far as I could tell. He is a very, very quick older gentleman.

We could not talk except to shake hands due to the effort, both of us spent from our surge to the line. I told him good job and he did the same. To see the results after I had changed, it turns out I had a finish time of 32:11.39. Not bad for taking two weeks off and running as hard as I can go. My sprint competitor's time was 32:11.40. I pipped him by 1/10th of a second. As far as I was concerned, he got me. The scoring and timing of BC Athletics knows best, I guess....Former Olympian Arthur Boileau took the 55-59 age cat. with a time of 31:32.

Reviewing my move, that finishing sprint had me running at 25 kph, and it jacked my heart rate up to 197 bpm! I have not seen a number that high since 2008, when I first started cyclocross racing. Things are returning to normal with my body, but I am still dealing with the ankle/achilles pains.

2nd in my age cat... only four of us running.

I think my official finish in the race was 14th place. I managed to fend off Darbara, who beat me at Bear Creek by 4 seconds. He was very fast a month ago, but perhaps my rest along with his racing the Whistler Relay last week combines for a bit of fatigue. We chatted and I found out he is going to Boston this coming year, again, as he has done it in the past. He qualified this year with a time just a shade under 3 hours. That is very cool! I want to be in his shoes! That is the goal for the BMO Vancouver. It was great meeting him, as we are evenly matched competitors. I still have more to give, and the two weeks off may not have helped in having the fastest race I could have.

One of the best parts of the race is that the results were ready within a half hour of the finish, something that Cycling BC needs to take a look at. CBC needs to follow the lead of the athletics governing body in BC and computerize everything, and bring timing equipment, software, and cameras to CX events, and have the results posted with a half hour of the race, and posted to the web within a few hours. This would make racers very, very happy.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

BC Cyclocross Championships 2012: CX at it's finest!

Doug captures me looking like a giant on a children's bike.
2012 BC CX Champs, Mahon Park. Photo: Doug Brons

Yesterday was the 2012 BC Cyclocross Championships presented by Atomic Racing at Mahon Park in North Vancouver. Much like last year, the course was nearly the same, save for some minor changes. Key features remained: the infamous mud pit, the three sets of stairs, the gravel soccer infield. Jeff Van Mulligan and Atomic racing put on a fabulous race, again, one that lives up to being a true cyclocross event, and not the smokin' fast dirt crits that we have seen at all the races to this point in the lower mainland.

The Flanders CX gods have not been particularly warm to me this cyclocross race season. A sub par dismal showing yesterday has me re-assessing my situation to this point, halfway into the race calendar. Perhaps I am tempting them with my adulterous ways, always flirting with distance running and neglecting to get on my bike. Perhaps they are trying to teach me a lesson about my late night ways, and lack of early weeknight bedtimes and before the crack of dawn trail runs. Or maybe I am being punished for buying a second bike, and not keeping my bikefit an exact replica of my old steed from last season. Whatever the case, this season is going down as a forgettable racing year, and I am only 4 races into it, and have another 4 to go. Maybe I am being to hard on myself. Things can turn around, right? I suppose I can fool myself into believing that, but at this point, it is all I have to hold on to.

Those same cyclocross gods whom have bestowed the bad karma on my race season gifted us a very cold wet raceday to behold. One where the winner would more than earning their victory and be crowned with the title of provincial champion after coming out on top of the field in sloppy, mucky conditions.

Somehow, I managed to earn myself a front row call up based on my early registration--I think I was one of the first people on the confirmation list. I looked around for Matt Drown who has had a much better season than me to see where he was, and I thought why wasn't he in front of me? This call up was a blessing and a curse--happy to line up with Jason Fluckiger, my brother Aaron, team manager Jeff Hanninen, Martin Bojesen* (--MB started third row), Mike McArthur, and Jamie Cameron, yet nervous to keep things together in the opening laps of the race. This race would also prove to be the first time that Aaron and I would go head to head in years. This race was a proving ground to show which brother would be the finer CX racer of the both of us.

Called up for the start, but it would not matter....
At the gun, again, like the last 3 races, my legs had no jam in them. My 6th place going into the first corner transformed into 10th, 14th, and 16th in the opening 18 minutes of the race. The huge mud puddles, slippery off camber grass turns and climbs, the sloppy mud hole on the backside of the course, along with the small amount of climbing that this course offered was enough to make me suck. I was ahead of Aaron for the first two laps, when he caught me and we stuck together for a while, until I had a slight mechanical coming out to the mud pit. My shoe ratchet came loose, forcing me to stop in the mud, tighten it a bit too much, then I had to loosen it off after a few pedal strokes. At this time, Aaron took off from me, calling for me to stay on his wheel. I dropped all the way back to 23nd place, into a battle with all around good guy and my former UBC team member from 1999, Niels Steiner. We traded punches in our own little provincial championship's race-within-a-race. Somewhere during my chase of Niels I took a bacon handup. WOW!! Highlight of the race. That was amazing. The taste of breakfast during a CX race lingered in my mouth for a few laps. It wasn't my own breakfast coming back up on me. Magical.

Aaron and Niels battling just in front of me.

Aaron making the catch, then subsequently passing me. 
Niels and I hung out together for the last 3 laps of 6. By lap 5, after the bacon, I ran out of brakes and had a tough time on any of the downhill sections of the course. With Salomon Flight Crew member Tom Craik quid pro quo-íng the heckling I dished out to him earlier in the day, and in front of other mud pit spectators, I careened into the left side fence post while letting out an "Oh S#it" howl, narrowly avoiding ending my day by slamming into it with my bike and body. I opted the next two laps to run it. It really came down to the last straight onto the finishing track stretch to the finish line. I managed to swing around him before the track, and sprint up to claim 22nd. A disappointing 22nd, after last years 12th place. Niels had a considerably higher placing last year, 10th place in 2011.

Martin, Chris, and Jason after the finish. Chris 1st, Martin 2nd, Jason 4th.
At the front of the race, 2011 Provincial CX Masters Champ Jamie Cameron had to settle for 3rd, behind the Kamloops crew, with Chris McNeil taking a sprint finish over Martin Bojesen. Again, that was a battle of shots with Chris hiding in wait while Martin and Jamie traded blows. Chris capitalized on a couple of timely mistakes, and rode a clean  (although this was a mudbath/mudwrestling) race to the win. My teammate Jason Fluckiger came 4th for the second year in a row. Great ride Jason!!

My number was not visible due to a crash and a the pins coming off of my jersey and my number flapping in the wind, so no lap times for me.

Post race, I met up with Dale Ewenchook and Rick Rodland, both very nice guys. Dale mentioned to me about his ride on Lummi island with one of my solid Saturday morning riding partners, Marko Diotte. Both Dale and Rick ride for Alliance, and bringing up Tyler Dumont was my way of meeting some more powerhouse riders. Dale managed to take the 50+ Championship race, gracefully, I might add. Thanks to Jeff Hanninen and the support of Daryl Evans Mechanical for making things go, huge ups to Jeff Van Mulligan and Atomic Racing for putting on a helluva race--hot showers and food = Respect! You guys did an awesome job, and thanks to the District of North Vancouver for letting us make some fun in your park--This is the best sport around, and without support from the municipalities, we do not have venues to race in like this.

What was left after the race. A thing of beauty. Photo: Jamie Cameron
So goes the CX season....

Some data from the race:

Things still are not where they should be. I can push my average higher....or I used to be able to.

So, after a bike wash, warm shower, and sandwich at Mahon Park, I came home to disassemble my crankset and BB to check out how much water had gotten into my frame. Pulling the cups out of the shell, a stream of chocolate-milk colored water poured out. I am pretty happy to have done that little bit of maintenance, and not at the end of the season, after riding in all the cold, wet weather we can expect to come. It would be a bit of a shock to have 400ml of dirtwater come out of the BB shell in a months time. I suppose that is what the drain holes are for, but they don't drain out everything.

Trying to find some mojo for me legs at the next race, I have already devised the perfect plan:

I have pushed my saddle forward 1cm.

Brilliant, eh?

I think that perhaps coming back to a more traditional fit that I had last year will help me feel more comfortable over the top tube, make me more efficient with my pedal stroke, bring me closer to the bars so that I am not hanging out so much over my rear wheel, and improve bike handling.

Balance over the bike. Time, and rides, will tell.

For now I have to ride.

Congrats to all the champions! Much deserved on this day. For the record:

Dale Ewenchook                50-59 Champion
Bob Welbourn                    40-49 Champion
Tyler Trace                         Elite Men's Champion
Sandra Walter                     Elite Women's Champion

Check out these beauty pics: Doug, Amir,

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Monday, 1 October 2012

Day 2: 2012 Vanier Cyclcross Race Report

Day 2: Vanier CX presented by Trek Red Truck and West Coast Racing

Day 2 of the double header was another dry sufferfest. Another grass crit course in Vancouver, Vanier was much like in years previous: a beautiful setting that hosts a fast, bumpy, start into the stairs, past the neutral support, up the false flat climb, through the trees, descend to the infield, maze through the 180s, climb back up to the museum, descent into the barriers, past the Bard on the Beach tent teardown, then loop back to the start/ finish. Both M1/2 and M3/4 had to go through 7 laps. Aaron had a strong start in M3/4, eventually settling into second wheel, but Vincent Marcotte was too smooth and too strong, making his ridelook effortless, and he rode away from the entire field to claim his first CX win.

AW Trying to nail down a win, only to come up a bit short to Vincent Marcotte.
One year ago in M3/4, I was third to Simon Pulfrey (1st on a full suspension Specialized, no less--still in awe of that ride) and John Irvine, two fast moving powerful racer. This year, Aaron came in third, continuing to add to his great season of a 2nd in Abby and a win at New Brighton. He is learning that CX is a different beast on a different day, and that if you win one day, things can change overnight. Unless you are Bob Welbourn. 

Bob is another clean, smooth CX racer, and all he does is win. That is just like Bob: dressed in the brand new all black (Sunday's Best Racing kit) like the guys in the video, except Bob actually wins. I don't really know if Ludacris or DJ Khaled enter bike races. I bet not. Bob would school them both.

And speaking of the lovely Bob Welbourn, I must say that up close, he is not as sexy as I originally thought back at Abby CX. Up close, the guy is a quite slender, fair haired handsome fella, and all around great guy. I had to get a pic with him, as he was the winner of my M1/2 race beating superhorses Chris McNeil and Martin Bojeson after spending the day before racing the big guns of Elite 1/2 at New Brighton. Those three are pretty amazing CX'ers. I say they should hold a CX clinic, or coach, or something. Think about it boys.  

With Bob after his win. Congratulations, sexy beast!

I tried to start front row, but racers settled in front of Ryan Newsome, Matt Drown, Mike Murphy and myself. Next thing I know I am third row. The start was fast, congested, bottlenecked, and redlined. I managed to get on the Drown, Murphy, Irvine train for the first 3 or 4 laps. Niels Steiner and myself battled hard, but then I came to my senses and tried to drop him realizing, for the second day in a row, that he was on his single speed, and that be damned if I was not going to use my gears to pull away from him. Then, the race broke apart, and went away from me, as my teammate Jon Taylor kindly noted to me from the sidelines. Tyler Dumont was nipping at my wheel all race, one corner separated, as things managed to stretch then slightly come back together. At this time, I do not know the results, but I am hopeful that I was top 12 or 14 not last place, an improvement over the first race of the season. One thing I would have utilized more during this race was my big ring. I seemed to forget that I had one, and used it maybe once on the course. Perhaps that is where a bit more torque and speed might come from.

**Update: The results. They are grim. See 21st place. It is like my first year of CX all over again....

21st place. Uggghh.  I think I will retire from running effective, immediately.
Like at New Brighton the day before, I just could not get my HR up close enough to 180bpm, something that I need to do to get the extra horse-power back in my legs. I was doing every friggin' thing to go faster and faster today, totally at the limit, but not where I was last year. In fact, I was only 20 seconds slower than my brother's 3rd place time in M3/4. That is still a bit of time, but not nearly enough to make much of a difference in the M1/2 cat. Check the body results. I need to get those extra 10 bpm going for the next few races, and perhaps a set of tubulars. And a carbon frame. And a power tap. All three will make me faster. Maybe. I will just keep telling myself that, and shelling out more money for masters bike races, and bike parts. The details:

I managed to catch up with some good friends, and like Bob, got to snap some pics with my longtime friend and ex-basketball team-mate/ex-Kamloops neighbor/ fellow father of twins, Ryan Kazakoff: One of the most soft spoken, fiercest competitors I know. He had a great result in M3/4, and once he dials in his tubulars, and figures out how to ride in corners (coming from a tri-background--sorry Ryan, the tri-truth should be known) he will be a force to be reckoned with.

Ryan "Ironman" Kazakoff and me.  

Also soft spoken and fierce, what would my blogpost be without a pic of me and Tyler Dumont. This guy scares me with how fast he can be. Our wives think there is something more going on between us, but I assure you, we like to kick the hell out of each other as racers, and have some good chats. That is all, really. This time I beat him cleanly. Although it is the second race that I have "beaten" Tyler this year even if the last one was only on paper. And the result of a Cycling BC screw up the results, altogether, from Abby CX. 

Kelly, we are really just friends.

Lastly, I managed to meet up with Mike Murphy, winner of the 2012 Meet Your Maker, and fellow CX'er from 2011. He was on form racing his tubulars more than a shade faster than me. Like Bob, the guy has some tiny legs, but sooooo much power coming out of them. Also a father of twins, we racers need to meet up and form a club or something. My saving grace as I get older, is that I look to guys like Mike, Bob and Tyler and see that there is no way that they are slowing down as they age. They only get quicker as they are into their 40s. Being 36, there is nothing to fear with turning 40, like I once thought in my immature pre-35 years.

Mike"MYM50 Champ" Murphy and me, post race. This guy is an animal runner and biker. I bet he can swim too.

All told, I came away from Vanier with a mini-leatherman, water bottle, some tasty food, good pics and a bit of a tan on my legs and arms. The only injuries that I sustained were from Sven whipping bottles and mini-tools at the crowd.

Thanks to Sven Sturm and Trek Red Truck, Matt Klymson, Mike Tunnah and the West Coast Racing crew, and to Kim Steed and Steed Cycles for the kids race. These types of well supported races with the atmosphere that these races had this past weekend make CX the most fun type of racing around. If only we could get 300 people out to them, and spectators, we would be well on our way to bigger events. Bring your friends and families out to them next time. CX is the best season of all! Now is time for some rest as this race pushed me over 50 hours of exercise/races for the month of September, the most I have done in any single month this year.

Although I love to do it, the running is not helping the bike racing in the least. If I want to get better, I should really focus on one discipline. But they are both so much fun. I am tired and looking to recover and get stronger for the BC CX championships.... and some cross country running. Yet again, sabotaging myself....

Pics from both days:
Doug Brons
Daryl Evans Racing Photostream by Jeff Hanninen
Amir Shahrestani

Results to follow.