September 27, 2011

Gateway Cross Cup

I need to pay more attention. The weekend before last I randomly decided to take a load of old cardboard to the University City recycling center at Heman park. As I passed the park (something I do maybe once a month) I saw a sign advertising an "international professional bike race" to be held at the park in a few days time. It didn't add up. International? Professional? At a city park a mile and a half from my house? On a Wednesday? The instant I got home I looked it up on the internet, and sure enough, it was true. The Gateway Cross Cup was a new cyclocross race that attracted many of the top American professionals, and a few Europeans as well. It was a little weird to have a midweek race, but if that's when the pros can make it I guess that's when you have it. It was an all-day event with additional amateur races and a "5K" cross country run. I guess I had better take the afternoon off.

For the uninitiated, cyclocross is a type of bicycle racing that takes place on grass/dirt/mud/sand/snow on a closed loop course. The course is narrow. There are many sharp turns. There are barriers and steps placed in the course that force the riders to dismount their bikes, run over the obstacles, then remount and continue. This race had a flyover, basically a wooden bridge where the course crosses over itself to make a figure eight. Riders run up steps on one side, then down a very steep ramp on the other side. Then later the course goes beneath the bridge. I was aware this sort of obstacle existed, but I had never seen one in person (much less raced on one).

Cat 4 Race

I showed up about an hour before the first race (cat 4), enough time to take a few warmup laps. It was very helpful to familiarize myself with the course. Not doing so sufficiently was one of my two major problems in every previous cyclocross race I've done. The other was getting off to a poor start (due to the frequent sharp turns it's sometimes difficult to pass people), which I also rectified here. Since I was one of the few people to preregister online I ended up with a starting position in the front row. After the long paved straightaway at the start I hit the first turn into the grass around 8th place. And I moved up from there. I was in 5th after the first lap, then 4th. With one lap to go I was in 3rd, with two guys nipping at my heals. They both passed me mid-lap, and I passed one back by the end to finish in 4th out of 34 (just barely off the podium). It was by far my best cyclocross race ever.

"5K" Cross Country Race

I took it easy for a couple hours before the "5K" cross country run. I keep putting "5K" in quotes because the actual race distance was quite a bit farther. I found while warming up the loop was 2.05 miles, so two loops would be 4.1 miles (a full mile farther than advertised). Oh well. I didn't see very many other runners there (I was literally the only one who preregistered for the race, which is how I ended up with number 1). Right before the start I saw three guys wearing college jerseys. Shit.

Gateway Cross Cup 5K run bib

It turns out they weren't the ones I should have been worrying about. From the start some guy shot out to the lead and before too long I could no longer see him. I ran in the chase pack with the college jersey guys (who I later found out had all graduated a few years ago and were no longer in their prime) until they slowly faded one by one. I finished 2nd, but it hurt. It was a (long) hard race on a (long) hard course that came after an earlier hard race.

That makes four consecutive races with top-four finishes, and seven total races in the month of September.

UCI Pro Race

I caught bits and pieces of the other amateur bike races between eating dinner and going home to fetch my camera. The pro race was pretty awesome to watch. I've been reading these guys' names in results on for years so watching them race past me was somewhat surreal. One other really cool bit was watching a friend of mine (and multi-time state cyclocross champion) from Champaign, Jason Rassi, who saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and registered to race against the top pros.

Teal Stetson-Lee takes the win

Women's winner Teal Stetson-Lee emerges from beneath the flyover

Jeremy Powers takes the win

Men's winner Jeremy Powers

Todd Wells finishes 5th

Current US Pro champion Todd Wells

Jonathan Page bunny hops the barriers as Ben Berden runs

Former world championship silver medalist Jonathan Page bunny hopping the barriers

Chase group climbs the flyover near rowdy fans

Rowdy fans cheering riders running up the flyover

Jeremy Powers

On top of the flyover

Jeremy Powers leads down the flyover

Down the flyover

Chasers climb the steps

Up the steps

Men's single speed race winner Craig Etheridge runs up the steps in slow motion

Jason Rassi

Jason working hard

Jason Rassi finishes 17th

Jason finished 17th

It was a heck of an event to watch. The top pros are so strong and so skillful at this difficult discipline, I was in total awe.

September 25, 2011

Litchfield TriathLou

Two weeks ago I was just coming off some good bike races, some good running races, and feeling a bit unstoppable. I decided I was going to race a triathlon a week later, despite not having been swimming in over two years (since before Will was born), and not even having assembled my time trial bike since we moved to St. Louis over a year ago. Oh, and I had an awful cold. What was the worst that could happen?

I signed up for a membership at the nearby WUSTL pool and went swimming four times that week. I didn't put in much distance (the race would only be 400 meters). I did just enough to reacquaint myself with the water, but not enough to be make myself sore. Frankly, I was shocked at how (reasonably) well I did. I assembled my TT bike and did a few (very) short rides on it. I got my first flat on my tubular race wheels, which was a pain in the butt to fix only a couple days before the race. But everything (sort of) came together.


I woke up at 4:45 am and drove to Lake Lou Yaeger near Litchfield, IL last Saturday morning. I hadn't raced a triathlon in 28 months, and only raced once in the last three years. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to set up to ensure I didn't miss anything (like leaving a cleat cover on my bike shoes).

The air temperature was cool, in the high 50's. The water temperature was much warmer, but still a bit chilly. I debated for days about whether or not to wear my wetsuit during the swim. It would have kept me warmer, and I would have swam faster (thanks to the added buoyancy) but I opted against it at the last minute. My wetsuit is potentially tricky and time consuming to remove and I didn't want to take the chance of something going wrong with my very limited practice.

Lake Lou Yaeger

The swim was hard. Even though it was short it was still long compared to the 0 meters I've been swimming until the week before the race. There was another guy who was swimming the exact same speed who kept bumping into me, though I suppose it could have been me who was bumping into him. I exited the water with the 6th fastest swim of the 96 competitors in the sprint-distance race. Not bad.

I had a quick first transition, passing two people in the transition area. Then I got off to a good start on the bike, passing two additional riders who were fumbling to mount their bikes. This was pretty good evidence to support the stereotype that triathletes generally don't have the best bike handling skills.


The first half of the bike I couldn't see anybody ahead of me or behind me. I was actually in 2nd place at the time, but I didn't know this yet. I did know there was at least one person ahead of me, because I saw them riding away while I was in the transition area. I didn't know how many others there were. Just before the turnaround at the halfway point a rider passed me, but he wasn't going much faster. I stayed near him for a while. It was pretty clear, given his aero shoe covers, that he was on a relay team, so I didn't worry too much about it. In fact we leapfrogged each other for most of the second half of the bike leg.

My second transition didn't go quite as smoothly as the first. I tried to change shoes while balancing on one leg (like a flamingo), but my hypoxic body wasn't cooperating and I lost my balance a few times. I eventually got my shoes on and ran out. The timing chip on my left leg was a little too tight as I noticed pretty quickly my left foot was a little numb and tingly. This went away pretty quickly and I was able to pick up my pace quite a bit at that point. I missed the first mile split, but I was 5:58 and 5:59 for the next two miles. I easily passed the relay runner who started just before me. I made up over a minute on the first place guy during the run, but his lead was unassailable by that point. So I finished 2nd overall.

Photo courtesy of Racemaker Productions

My swim was as good as I could have hoped, given my lack of training. My bike leg was the 2nd fastest, but it should have been a bit faster (and with more training on my TT bike it will be). My run was by far the fastest, with only one other runner covering the 3.1-ish mile course within three minutes of my time. So the race went well. Presumably next year I'll have more swim and TT bike training and I'll be able to do even better.

September 11, 2011

Forest Park Cross Country Festival

I screwed myself again, or so I thought. The week before I ran the Macklind Mile in July I did a really hard speed workout, you know, to prepare for the race. Instead what happened is that my muscles were sore the rest of the week, including on race day.

Having just completed three days of bike racing during Gateway Cup I decided to take it easy last week and only run once. But it was a doozy. You see, the heat just broke and we've had a few 60˚F mornings--approaching ideal running weather. I took advantage of this to knock around five minutes off my fastest time for my 10-mile Forest Park loop. Once again, this left my muscles sore the rest of the week, including race day. But I've been looking forward to this one for a while, so I was going to run no matter how awful I felt.

The Forest Park Cross Country Festival is mainly a high school event, but they have an "open" race for non-high-schoolers. The race is 4km (around 2.5 miles), so it's short and fast. The 2km grass loop has two small hills. I told myself what I tell myself before every race: start slow then build from there. The bizarre thing is that I actually did it this time, and I think it was due to my soreness.

Dozens of runners passed me in the first couple hundred meters. After a half mile I started to pick up the pace a bit. Then around three quarters of a mile I really picked up the pace. I passed the first mile in 5:41--fast, but not killing myself. But I was still accelerating at this point, passing runner after runner. I ran the entire second loop by myself, with the next closest runner unattainably far ahead. I passed the second mile also in 5:41--even splits, perfect.

I finished about 30 seconds faster than last year (when I was in very good shape), and I did it with sore legs (which were now incredibly sore). When they posted the results I was shocked to see that I actually came in 4th place overall (after finishing 25th last year). Okay, the competition wasn't quite as good as last year, but still, a good result is a good result. It was especially helpful as a morale booster after Monday's awful bike race.

Maybe I should run more races on sore legs… or maybe not. Melissa was sick of hearing me complain about my pains and she suggested I might be doing to much athletic activity. I responded that I only did one workout last week… well, and four races.

Gateway Cup

Gateway Cup has come and gone. I raced three of the four days--Friday, Sunday, Monday. The short version is I raced pretty well, but had no results to show for it.

Tour de Lafayette


Friday evenings's race, the Tour de Lafayette crit, was hot--around 100 degrees. I got off to a poor start, placed very far back in the huge, 120-rider pack. I spent the first half of the 45-minute race working my way toward the front. The second half of the race I shuffled around the front third of the pack. I was in the top 10 with one lap to go. With two of the final four turns remaining I made the mistake of moving towards the center of the pack in an effort to shield myself from the wind. At that point I got swarmed by riders on the outside and blocked in so I couldn't move. This left me about thirty places back for the final sprint.

It wouldn't be a St. Louis outdoor event without lots of beer

The good thing here is that, for the first time in my life, I actually was able to sprint at the end of a bike race. I even passed more people than passed me. I was probably in 25th or so place when I crossed the line. I say probably because I don't know--the officials didn't score that far back. Right before I reached the line there was a massive crash directly in front of me when I was going about 36 mph. I had to swerve at high speed no less than three times to avoid various crash-related obstacles (first a wheel, then some handlebars, then a rider's head!). I thought for sure I was going down, but I somehow managed to keep it upright. So, unfortunately, my best result of the weekend wasn't counted.

A few days later I was talking to a neighbor who works at the closest hospital to this race. He was on-duty when four riders from that crash came in with multiple broken bones each. 120 riders is simply too many for a cat 4 crit. Half that would be a good size.

The later races took place in the dark(!), which was a bit crazy. My pal Mark (who started bike racing at the same time as me, and who I beat our first 5-6 races) is now a cat 2 and racing against professionals (including the current national champion). I watched the pro/1/2 race for a little while before retiring for the evening.

National champion

Apparently there was a big crash in Saturday's cat 4 race as well. What a shame I missed it.

Giro della Montagna

Sunday's race, the Giro della Montagna, was the one I was most anticipating. The first race was flat, whereas this one had a long, gradual hill on each lap. I typically have more success on hilly courses than I do on flat courses. Again I started poorly, much too far back in the 110-rider field. I spent the first half of the race simply making my way to the front. The second half of the race I worked to maintain my position.

With five laps to go I was in the top 10 when we rounded the first turn and I heard a crash behind me. Apparently it was big enough to block the course because the officials stopped the race to clear the course. After 10 minutes or so they started the race back up (with the same mass-start style as the beginning of the race) and once again I was 50 places back. Bad luck. The next three laps I really worked to get back into the top 10. As the bell rang with one lap to go I was sitting in 5th, ready to push up the final hill just two turns away. We rounded the first corner and the guy in front of me slid out. I had to screech to a halt to avoid crashing into him and by the time I started back up I was 40 places further back. More bad luck. My race was over.

I stuck around to watch some friends in the cat 3 race. Right in front of my eyes at turn 4 was the biggest crash I've ever seen. There had to have been 40-50 riders involved. There were bodies and bikes stacked five feet high. It happened near the front of the field immediately after a tight corner so all the riders coming into the corner couldn't see that they were riding directly into it. It was awful.

Benton Park Classic

Monday's race was the most technically challenging. All the others had 4-turn, rectangular courses. This race had 10 turns per lap. The wind was blowing much harder that day too, meaning any little gaps that form in the group might be difficult to close down.

I showed up plenty early, only to find they races were already 90 minutes behind schedule (apparently they had to tow a bunch of illegally parked cars). I got off to a poor start (are you noticing a pattern here?), but this time it would hurt me much more than the others. The field was strung out into a long line with the leaders a few turns ahead so that I couldn't even see them. The turns were so frequent that it was difficult to pass people.

After a couple hard laps yo-yoing towards the back of the pack somebody in front of me let a gap open up, which essentially ended my race. I worked for two or three laps to close the gap. Just as soon as I regained contact at the back of the main pack another rider a few in front of me let another gap open. I spent the rest of the race chasing.


Gateway cup

So I had one finish in the top quarter of the field that wasn't even scored. Then I had two finishes in the top half of the field, one of which was a great race marred by bad luck, the other was a poor race from start to finish. Next year I think I won't try to cram all my bike races into a single month.

September 2, 2011

August 2011

Photo of the Day

August 2011


1 mile into DHS alumni race

A couple good races, and lots of good training. I feel better acclimated to the heat than ever before. There's lots of races coming up this fall I'm looking forward to.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January13.54 Mile34.51333 Mile
February33.47 Mile74.78143 Mile
March71.64 Mile107.164 Mile
April31.12 Mile65.18667 Mile
May71.9569 Mile107.19569 Mile
June85.87 Mile117.80636 Mile
July49.47 Mile77.06714 Mile
August116.34 Mile138.94923 Mile
Total473.407 Mile677.06577 Mile

Running 2011 8



I had my best ever performance in a cat 4 crit, along with lots of good practice races at Carondelet park. I'm looking forward to Gateway cup (which is a big deal around here), a series of four races this weekend, starting tonight.

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi41.1 Mile94.56667 Mile
Pocket Rocket87.31 Mile614.5517 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird289.98 Mile1028.998 Mile
Total418.39 Mile2516.7356 Mile

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January35.32 Mile48.83 Mile
March3 Mile13. Mile
April36.25 Mile75.17857 Mile
May272.94 Mile2510.9176 Mile
June344.02 Mile2613.2315 Mile
July306.77 Mile1225.5642 Mile
August418.39 Mile2516.7356 Mile
Total1416.69 Mile10014.1669 Mile

Cycling 2011 8



I really do enjoy walking, but now that I'm healthy enough to run and bike more it's really not a tough decision to spend my time doing those instead of walking.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January56.9 Mile163.55625 Mile
February47.6 Mile143.4 Mile
March83.4 Mile243.475 Mile
April84.3 Mile263.24231 Mile
May64. Mile193.36842 Mile
June57.3 Mile173.37059 Mile
July14.5 Mile72.07143 Mile
August31.7 Mile93.52222 Mile
Total439.7 Mile1323.33106 Mile

Walking 2011 8