Sunday, September 21, 2014

White Park and Sucker Brook CX

NH Cyclocross weekend! #brapp #embro #handupsarenotacrime #keepcrossweird #etc

I (double) dipped my toes into the world of CX this weekend!  First go at it was White Park in Concord NH on Saturday and Sunday it was Sucker Brook down in Auburn.  I think it was just about as perfect an introduction as I could have hoped for.  Saturday was cold and dry and Sunday was wet and wild.  Aaaaand I'm pretty much hooked.


As I'm trying to think back on things now I'm realizing CX races are going to be very hard to recap.  Fast and furious and at your limit the whole time are not the ideal conditions for remembering accurate details.  But here goes I think I at least have most of the good / relevant / funny stuff in my memory banks still.

White Park:

The 4/5 races seem to usually be the first ones to get the day started.  Start time at White Park was 8am, luckily I didn't have to drive that far.  It was still pretty crisp at that early morning hour, somewhere around 40 degrees at race time.  My fingers and toes got a bit cold but other than that max efforts warm you up real nice, real fast.

I don't have any points yet (but I do now!) and many races stage based primarily on points.  I found out the importance of call-ups and staging almost immediately.  I was square at the back of a 65+ rider field at the gun.  My original plan was to maybe try and shoot up one of the sides but the particular nature of that start chute made that tough combined with the fact that EVERYONE had that idea.

I got pinched at a few of the early corners and was fully entrenched in some pretty hilarious traffic.  All while the front two rows waved bye.  Then we got to the first tiny little incline heading into an immediate hairpin 180 turn back down and some guy went 3/4 of the way up and then just straight up tipped over right in the middle of the course. Still clipped in.  TRAINED.

Things finally opened up for a bit as we worked our way around the baseball fields.  Made it through the barriers pretty smoothly and rounded a corner into the first steep S turn climb.  More clipped in tipping over.  More ridiculousness like this ensued for most of the rest of the first lap and much of the second as well.  Towards the end of my second lap I was settling in and getting a bit more comfortable with some of my lines etc. bombing down a short little steep hill into a sharp 90 I took a line a bit more inside and hit some kind of bump or something.  It was a sharp enough impact at speed that my handlebars rotated forward in down in my stem and the tip of my saddle wrenched down.

Luckily shortly after I was able to push down and forward on my drops hard enough to get my bars back to just about normal but I had to deal with a cock-eyed saddle the rest of the race.  I lost a few seconds trying to get situated after that as well as a few places.  Seconds are HUGE in cross.  Little mistakes are big mistakes.  I got back to business but had a hard time getting into a good rhythm.  Not sure if it was the course or me.  Probably a combo.  I was having a hard time 'putting everything together'.  I kept forgetting to shift at the right time and was getting over geared in spots.

I was in a small group for most of the rest of the race.  Passing in the technical spots and getting passed back in some of the more open stuff.  Last lap I was able to get away from them pushing it a bit through some corners and got in for 26th.  Just a bit better than mid-pack.  I was kind of expecting to do better in the 4/5 field but I was basing that on nothing and no experience.  I learned some lessons, had a good time and was even back home with most of my day still in front of me.  I'll take it!

Sucker Brook:

The forecast for Sunday had been great all day Saturday and then Saturday night I check again and things had shifted around to 'rain all day'. Oh good.  And It wasn't even really a sarcastic 'oh good' I was glad I was going to get a full blown muddy cross race in my first weekend.  I had a feeling I would do better in conditions like and probably have a ton more fun.  I was also told that Sucker Brook was much more open and fast than White Park and I figured some adverse conditions would hold up some of the watt factory guys that like that stuff.

ridin' durtay

Luckily the temps were higher Sunday so the rain wasn't all that uncomfortable and it actually let up for the most part during our race but the damage was done.  Slick mud in the corners, standing water in spots...a good ole time!  The course was certainly more open than White Park but I thought it had a bunch of interesting turny bits and cool features.  Stairs, bridge, one set of barriers, big log step-up, sand pit.  Plenty of places to take advantage of and or suck at.

I was again staged on the back row of a slightly smaller field because they split the Open 4/5 and the Masters 35+ by 1min this time.  But I still had a solid 50 people in front of me.  This start chute had a bit more promise for me.  False flat pavement hill to a left hander onto gravel and then right into the grass/mud.  Gun went and I nailed my clip in and the guy right in front of me did not.  Just like that, up one row.  The road was wide and some pockets opened up and quite a few guys started off a bit over geared and as they attempted to get up to speed on the false flat I was able to sneak a bit farther up.

many thanks to teammate Sam for taking pics!

I was maybe about mid pack heading into the turn onto gravel and shortly after that there was a small depression that had some standing water and just a bit of mud.  I have no idea how this happened but somehow a guy about 5-10ft in front and to my left EXPLODED.  Full flip, bike in the air, dirt nap.  Two guys to my left plowed into him and got tangled up and everyone immediately behind him was held up.  But I was just to the right and snuck by.  Now I'm probably top 25 with a slight gap to the rest of the field.

The first part of the course was all the turny bits and very early I realized I was gonna have a better day than Saturday.  I was holding speed better than a lot of riders in my vicinity and making passes here and there.  I was making the right gearing calls, navigated my first go at the stairs cleanly and even made a pass there.  Some of the passes I would make would come back on the tail end of the course with the wide open fire road haul.  Definitely need to work on my leg strength and raw WATTS.

post sand-pit hammering

Shouldering and running through the sand pit went ok.  Shouldering the bike is a bit hard with the wrists but its a quick motion so it wasn't too bad and I didn't seem to be loosing any ground on the run.  Much of the rest of the laps were a bit of a blur.  I kept it upright all day which is more than I think most of the field can say.  I even had a mini battle with a guy on my last lap.  I passed him in the turny stuff but he closed on me in the longer straight sections and passed me back.  I was able to get on his wheel and passed him back in a quick down/up with a 180 degree turn that he tried to ride and stalled; I had been running it all day which I think was the right call.  I got a tiny gap that he quickly closed and we went into the barriers side by side.

why does my ankle look like its broken?

I did them a tad cleaner than him and got another tiny gap heading into the LONG fire ride haul.  He passed me but I was able to just barely grab his wheel.  I had to dig pretty deep to stay there and almost called it but then I remembered WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU SAVING ENERGY FOR?!  I gained a bit of ground on the log step up and I was right on his wheel heading into the sand pit.  I had a slightly cleaner dismount and the tiniest of gaps on the run.  I think I must have had a better remount as well but I didn't waste much time taking a peak back.  I got back on put it in the big ring and put as much down as I could muster.  I got out to the pavement climb coming into the finish and opened up my sprint.  Still had some decent power and figured I had it but snuck a peek under my shoulder to see where he was.  I had maybe 20-30ft and that was all she wrote.  RACING BIKES!  For a mediocre finish in the 4/5 field!  But who cares, we both enjoyed it.  Shared a fist bump after the line and I look forward to stalking him on in short order.

I have to pour over results a bit more, but I think I beat a good amount of people Sunday who beat me Saturday.  I'm gonna call this weekend a 100% win.  A marginally successful entrance to a new discipline and a whole ton of fun.

all clean. lets do it again.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hoppy Red

Can it be? *insert phoenix metaphor*

Yes its true.  I'm brewing again.  And just in time for #Squamtoberfest.  Gonna be cutting it close with this one, but I'm brewing on a weeknight just to make sure I've got a bit over 4 weeks into this batch before its time to drink.  Should be enough but I usually like to take a bit more time even with kits that claim they are good in 4.

I wanted something simple yet flavorful.  Simple to make the time constraints but flavorful because its basically Fall now and the time for Shandy's has passed (even though that makes me very sad. although in another few years I feel like I will just drink those year round because #yolo).

Sooo I ended up going with a basic Red Ale but with a recipe that is a bit more in the West Coast American tradition.  A bit more body with a nice citrusy hops finish.  Chinook, Perle, Centennial and Cascade hops in this one.  Pretty interesting mix, should make for a nice profile.

Even though its been a while I picked right back up with the process.  Contrary to somewhat popular belief I didn't take this hiatus due to my now accepted British Bitter dud of a batch but more due to hauling around large quantities of liquid and having to twist wrists to dump things out etc. wasn't really doable.

Home Brew Injured Reserve.  Its a thing. Its still not all that easy or pain free but its doable now.  Its good to be back.  I'm thinking about getting another IBA going for winter.  I love me some IBA's.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Macho Man beef'd up

Twitter keeps telling me that #cxiscoming.  Its also telling me #crossisdead.  WHICH ONE IS IRONIC?! Although I think my favorite is #crossisdad due to the fact that so many guys who race cross are middle aged fathers.

I'm officially reg'd for some races and I'm ready to get this experiment rolling but my bike was still in 'road mode' until yesterday.  Conversion to cx mode was incredibly easy and just reaffirmed my thoughts that this is the best build idea I've ever had.  So versatile and so orange.

Conversion really only consisted of new chainrings and tires and swapping pedals.  Thats it.  BOOM cross mode.  I also splurged on some bar tape.  Lizard Skins DSP 2.5mm, pricey but AMAZING.  Its a bit 'rubbery' for lack of a better term but the increase in shock absorption is awesome and its even got a bit of stickum to it.  If you can get over the price tag I Highly recommend it (with a capital H).

Swapped out the 50/34 compact road setup for a more cx friendly 46/36.  Its still an ok range of gears for general road riding so I probably could still put the 25c tires back on there if I wanted to do some longer road rides this fall.  Although I definitely missed the 34 on a couple of the steeper dirt roads back by the house on my test ride this morning.  I actually got away without needing to drop the FD a bit.  Shifting was fine on the stand and on the ride this morning but I'll probably drop it a bit before racing to make sure I'm not dropping the chain constantly.

For tires I went with the Clemente Crusade PDX.  Eric is all about the Clementes and they seem to make some great stuff.  Particularly in the gravel and cx arena.  They mounted up awesome.  Ever since #shittywrists became a thing I have a huge appreciation for tire manufacturers who size stuff correctly so you don't need to give yourself a hernia getting the tire on the rim.  Not going to run them tubeless this year.  I've had so many issues with tubeless on my MTB that I've just assumed that the Universe doesnt have that in the cards for me this year.  Plus I've heard some horror stories of tubeless setups not working well with cx at all but I guess we'll see.  They seem like a good all-round tire and traction was great on the jeep roads today.

I'll probably be modifying some of my lunch rides to have some cx practice mixed in.  Maybe ride Gyro and ride around in fields and run up embankments and the what not.  Maybe jump some barriers, who knows I don't know how this stuff works.

keep CX weird

We got a diagnosis or what?!

I'm kinda getting sick of talking about my #shittywrists but I figured one final(ish) update made sense.  I went back in to see my Ortho last week(?) week before maybe, I forget.  Mainly to touch base and bring him up to speed on the progress made during my first big block of PT.

He seemed to think that based on the progress I've made and the behavior of the pain / recovery that it is unlikely that it is anything really nasty like RA.  Which is good news.  But he did say that based on everything hes seen between X-ray, MRI, and his physical examination of my wrists etc. that in his opinion there is some sort of 'seronegative arthritis' present.

Seronegative is a very general term that is used to describe a whole bunch of different kinds of arthritis (caused by all different kinds of things) that don't have the rheumatoid factor and will not show up on blood tests.  These types of arthritis are commonly much less severe and can in some cases completely resolve themselves.  They can also be very cyclical and can come and go based on some trigger or other environmental factor.

Many seronegative forms can also target tendons not just joints which is why he is leaning in that direction because one thing we have learned through the course of PT is that the last remaining pain/mobility issue that I have and more than likely the root of my problems is an angry Extensor Carpi Ulnaris or ECU.  In a lot of ways you could probably call my issue chronic tendinitis.  We just don't 100% know what is causing the inflammation.  Could be arthritis or it could be I destroyed myself riding rigid started the repetitive stress train rolling and now I can't stop it.

The (sort of) good news is that either way; seronegative arthritis or epic repetitive stress the strategy going forward is the same.  Work any and all anti-inflammation techniques and supplement with PT to keep mobility and strength.  So thats whats I'm going to do.  Targeting the ECU has really gotten me to that next plateau.  I can ride my road/cx bike basically pain free on lighter terrain.   Diffuse pain during the day is far less and if I keep compression on the tendon itself that helps a lot.

As funny as this sounds there is an off chance there is some shoulder and back involvement as well that could be hampering my recovery which could have been introduced from ergonomics at work.  I've made some tweaks recently and I have an appointment to have some Graston done on some back and shoulder muscles to try and hit the reset button and loosen everything down through.

So there you have it.  For simplicity sake I think going forward I will refer to my wrist issues as chronic tendinitis possibly caused by seronegative arthritis. I'll keep battling and getting gnar as best I can. #POSITIVITY

Monday, August 11, 2014

Another Month Slips by...

You'd think by my silence here and with my continuing health issues that I'd be doing nothing and falling into a deep deep depression.  But you'd be wrong.  If anything I've been too busy to post and my wrists have been ping-ponging so much every time I think I have some progress worth reporting things relapse and I think I'm screwed once again.

But I'm happy to report that my wrists have trended well for long enough that I feel like updating on that front as well as all the other crap I've been up to.  Last really bad weekend I had was my bach'fest weekend.  I don't know if anyone noticed.  I've gotten pretty good at compartmentalizing the pain.  Not sure what I did but Saturday night into Sunday morning was less than awesome.  Luckily that weekend was 150% full blown awesome so it more than balanced things out.

Luckily I had a PT appointment shortly after that trip and we tried a new treatment called Graston Technique.  It's fairly brutal but I love it.  Basically involves a series of metal tools with different shapes / edges that get 'scraped' along muscles to break up adhesions.  Doc went to town on my right forearm and the next day was a complete 180 from that #shittywrist weekend.

There have been a few mini relapses since then but I've gotten a second Graston treatment and some new stretches to focus on the remaining aspects of my mobility that have improved the least since we started and they really seem to be helping.  Everyday I'm gaining more and more confidence that this isn't something nasty that is insurmountable.  I'm heading back in to see the Ortho in a week or so and I will be pressuring him hard to use his Doctor brain to posit some additional theories other than Rheumatoid.

In and among the ups and downs I've managed to stay pretty active this summer, albeit without any racing.  This ordeal has created a bit of a shake up in what I can and can't do for fun and fitness and some good has actually come from this.  Not only have I managed to stay fit but I think I'm probably climbing as well as I ever have on my road bike.  VAM numbers are consistently over 1,000 and I've even been flirting with road KOMs again.  Ideally I would love to be able to ride off road a bit more but road seems to work a bit better for me right now and being able to do gravel and dirt on the Macho Man has been awesome.  So many new loops and opportunities for really interesting rides.

For instance last week Eric and I rode out of the shop and in the span of 18mi got over 2,000ft of climbing taking in the access road up the back of Belknap Mountain.  Crazy steep dirt switchbacks, actually felt like a true alpine climb although it wasn't really all that long.  Then after the sketchy descent we cut through the woods on an old trial that was just a bit wider than singletrack.

My inability to get on a bike first thing in the morning due to wrist stiffness has also introduced the lunch ride into my arsenal.  I loved commuting but I think I might like consistent lunch rides better.  I think one of the big reasons my fitness is what it is right now has been these faster / harder 10mi loops on lunch.  Target a few segments and before you know it I've been accidentally training for CX for weeks.

Speaking of CX that should be hilarious.  I've got my USA Cycling license and I'm looking forward to showing up to my first Cat 5 race in a full on pink skinsuit.  I think CX could be my savior this year.  I can get my racing fix without a huge time commitment or as much risk for my wrists.

I'm interested to see what this will mean for me long term.  Assuming I get past this whole wrist thing I can't honestly say its likely I return to my full blown MTB race schedule of years past.  If CX works and I like it I see myself targeting 2-4 MTB races with the primary goal being the team and having fun then getting a few additional CX races in the Fall.  I know now I can get my fitness without racing a bike hard all the time.  Without the full race schedule this year I've gotten to spend more time with Gina which has been great.  Trips to the beach, getting up to Littleton.  I was able to snag a 4,000ft'er with Mike.  Racing is great, setting and reaching goals is great but ultimately meaningless when compared to the other stuff.  Don't forget to enjoy the view.

Who knows maybe I had spent too much time leaning in one direction and this whole year has been the Universe helping me to balance things back out.  I would have preferred a less drastic approach but if I'm being honest with myself nothing short of this would have worked.