Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Taneytown is Pronounced TAWNYtown*

I must still be in a Thanksgiving-induced food coma because I could not muster the energy to write anything yesterday! It also didn’t help that just as he was finally getting his racing groove back; Steve was hit with a nasty head cold on Thanksgiving and got sicker and sicker as the weekend progressed. He rode a lap around the course to warm up but found he had no energy and bagged the race before it even started. Which is really too bad because this would have been his fifth consecutive year doing this race.

Taneytown is always an interesting course because even if there hasn’t been any rain for several days before the race, there is pretty much no drainage and it’s a mudfest. Even remembering that this was usually the case I wore sneakers with a cloth top that were quickly mud covered and left me with wet feet.

The race had a dual purpose this year: it served as the series finale for the Sportif Cross Cup as well as the annual MABRA district championships. Turnout was pretty good for the Sunday after Thanksgiving and people still seemed to be excited, albeit exhausted as the season enters its last full month. I can’t report too much on the actual races since we didn’t stick around for long (had to get Steve back home to the couch and some chicken noodle soup), but the team really continued to shine. The big surprise of the day was Jay Morali taking third in the elite masters race; Jay has been steadily pushing upwards every week and is really peaking at the right time. And apparently Allyson won her race, although unfortunately we weren’t there to see it.

The season may feel like it’s winding down, but there’s still a lot left! Reston, Luray, Fair Hill, North Carolina, and Nats are still lurking!

* My mother was born and raised in Carroll County and quickly schooled me on the correct pronunciation – thanks, Mom!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rockburn Redemption

So this week started off kind of crappy. Had a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday and got some mixed news. Long story short is that while my disease is smaller now than it was a year ago, what’s left of it has started to grow again, and I’ll most likely require another intensive in-patient treatment in late January. But the good news is that I’m really good at scheduling major healthcare events around cyclocross season! That’s right; we’re still planning on heading out to Madison that first weekend in January.

Now, on to the week’s main event…

We skipped Vint Hill this year because we just needed an easy day at home. I rode the trainer for 50 minutes, watched the GvA, slept some more, and raked leaves in the afternoon. Rachel and Eric got in from Pittsburgh around 9:00 and we hung out and shot the shit for a couple hours before bed. They’re only coming down for one more weekend this season which is a bummer, I’ve really gotten used to having them around on the weekend.

Steve was thinking about maybe doubling up at Rockburn, but with all the crap we were dealing with during the week, he had only ridden once, and decided to stick with the “old man” race again. He started in the very back just like last week, and almost immediately passed a ton of people. But without the training and fitness, people began passing him late in the race. I think he was pleased with his result, and perked up even further when he saw that Ben had brought him his brand new Ridley frame. Hurray for more bikes!

The “old man” race was pretty exciting overall though, at one point three people from the team were in the top five! Cory and Jon are always strong, but G has been improving steadily throughout the season; having netted his first top ten last week I thought for sure that fifth place spot was his this week. Unfortunately his string of bad bike luck continued and he rolled a tubular, falling way back and never catching back up.

I have to say that it’s been really fun and impressive watching the team over this season; a brand new team consistently filling the top spots in the Masters podiums. And you really couldn’t ask for a nicer bunch of people, seriously. Every week just reinforces what I love about the sport.

Didn’t take many pictures this weekend, but I really like this one of Eric over the barriers in the Elite race:

Thanks for reading.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Doubling the “L” Up with Fair Hill and Schooley Mill

Now we’re cooking, I’m really getting excited about the rest of the season, even as it’s winding down for a lot of people! Steve did his first cross race of the year this weekend, and is planning on moving full speed ahead and most likely doubling up for the rest of the race weekends of the year. There is also the potential for some big, fun late season plans, but a lot of that is contingent upon my bimonthly check-up at the doctor tomorrow.

So this weekend we headed up to the area near Steve’s old turf, Elkton, MD for the FSVS XCross at Fair Hill MAC race. This race is kind of the sleeper of the MAC, usually with smaller crowds and a more low-key atmosphere, but it’s always a super fun day. Last year the course was moved from the old location of the bleachers/barns/etc. to a new course with a lot of tape, but some serious uphill power stretches and climbs up and down through the woods.

I had fun taking pictures of the Elite Masters race and the Elite Women’s race from a couple different vantage points. For the masters I started with a failed experiment using the wide angle and basically lying on the ground in front of the covered bridge and shooting up. These turned out boring and poorly proportioned, too much sky and not enough racing action. Then I moved over to an area near the climb in the woods and got some good shots as I lurked behind a tree, followed by some shots of the fellas riding through the little creek area. For the women I mostly shot over by the up and down off camber area near the start/finish line. I honestly don’t know how people are able to ride stuff like that, it looks so crazy!

Allyson was our only teammate there and she posted a solid finish in the women’s race. Steve had planned to race, but had a serious mechanical during warm-ups – his chain ring was ripped off his bike and all bent up! Luckily Steve was able to cannibalize some parts off of other bikes at home to race on Sunday. Which brings me to…

Steve raced at Schooley Mill on Sunday!!! He also did the “old man” race for the first time, since he’s now old enough. I’d say he had a pretty good race overall for no training and not much riding in the last 6+ months. And now he’s got the bug and wants to try to race both Saturday and Sunday for the rest of the season.

The team continued with their great results; Cory took the top spot on the Masters 3/4 podium, with Jon on the fourth step and G taking 10, his best finish yet. His results have been improving every week and he’s really peaking at the right time. Birner took fourth in the Elite Masters and Allyson took fourth of the Elite Women.

I had a really great day hanging out with people at Schooley Mill, playing with the dog, and eating some tasty food so I didn’t get many shots. But here’s my photoset from Fair Hill if you’re interested.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Just What I Needed at Ed Sander

We took last week off from races to relax and do stuff around the house; funny it came when it did, because that’s usually the weekend Steve takes off anyway when he’s racing. The cross season is so short that you want to suck every minute out of it, but on the other hand by the time it’s halfway done you are tired and borderline burnt out and need a break.

So Sunday was the annual Ed Sander race at the Lilypons Gardens near Frederick, MD. Moved from its traditional end of September weekend, this year we got to enjoy the gardens in full autumn splendor. In addition, this year featured an almost all-new course, which was a complete surprise to me since I hadn’t checked out any of the preview maps. But I think the changes were all really positive, and as much as I missed the fun of heckling riders on the back 9, this new set up was much more spectator friendly and the new uphill finish on the pavement was a lot of fun to watch (and looked really hard to ride!).

While our teammate Jon Hicks was tearing it up and winning his race out in Cincinnati, our other cat 3/4 masters racers were running an impressive race right here. Four members of Sportif Cpaching Group/BPB placed in the top 25, with Cory Smith on the podium in fourth place. And actually as I’m looking at the results, I see that it was a day full of fourth place finishes for the team – Allyson Tufano finished fourth in the Elite Women’s race as did Jay Morali in the Elite Master’s Men race! Overall, the team continues to improve and post impressive results. It’s really exciting to see it growing!

Overall I was really impressed with the changes to the course and the improved spectator friendliness. I know I said no pictures, I but the team tents were so well positioned to watch folks coming up that hill towards the finish line that I couldn’t help myself! Here’s a small photoset from the day.

I also got to meet some interesting people at the race. I had seen one guy around at a few races wearing a kit promoting the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. As a young adult cancer survivor, I was curious what was up, and asked him about it. Apparently he is a coach who helps young adult cancer survivors getting into athletic pursuits. They are going to have a tent with more information at Rockburn in two weeks, so please stop by and check them out, I know I’m going to. I never took advantage of their services personally when I was in treatment, but I know that they do a lot of great things.

And upon overhearing my conversation, the wife of one of our team members, who also races herself, told me about the Challenged Athletes Foundation. I have heard of them in passing, but haven’t checked them out before. Apparently they help disabled athletes (such as me) get the equipment they need to compete. Since I just purchased my first cyclocross bike this weekend (!!!), this couldn’t have been better timing. I’ll definitely be checking them out and would suggest you do the same.

Really great day overall, thanks to NCVC for such a great experience, and for those AMAZING waffles!