January 15, 2017: Wake Up Sleepyhead! The Season Ain’t Over Yet!

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The US National Cyclocross Championship is generally the end of my long season of cycling. There’s not really a cycling off-season for me but cyclocross racing absolutely consumes me, body and soul, from late August until early January. I ride year round mostly because I just like to ride and don’t really feel like my body needs an extended break. I’ll mix in other activities such as snowshoeing or XC skiing but these last two winters I usually opted to take out my fat bike on the snowmobile trails behind my house when we had decent snow cover.

The US National Fat Bike Championship (yes, such a thing really exists) is in two weeks. I’ve entertained the idea of going the last two years when it was in Utah (these were the first two years it was held) but the logistics coupled with my susceptibility to getting pneumonia a week or two after ‘cross Nationals has kept me from doing it. This year, the race is in Michigan, relatively close by, meaning I can drive there in one long day. A day or two after my Nationals race was over, I asked some of my friends if they had any interest in going out there to race with me. This is where Tim Leonard comes in since he was foolish enough to say yes.

I’ve only raced on my fat bike once, in fact, as of yesterday, I’ve probably only been on my bike 20 times and logged only 30 or 40 hours. My fat bike weighs a little more than 2 of my cyclocross bikes so it takes a significant amount of force to get it moving and turning in order to overcome it’s inherent inertia. However, I think racing on a fat bike is probably like racing on a cyclocross bike only easier. There aren’t any barriers, there aren’t a lot of hairy, off-camber turns, there aren’t any run-ups, there is little to no running, and with freakishly large clown tires run at ridiculously low pressure, the grip on snowmobile groomed snow (more than likely the surface we’ll be racing on) is pretty amazing. Throw in temperatures in the single numbers and what’s not to love about it?

Why am I so drawn to a sport that is raced primarily in the nastiest weather of the year? Why couldn’t I have taken up surfing or beach volleyball or competitive tanning or, god forbid, golf? Why couldn’t I have taken up a sport that is played or practiced when the weather is pleasant and therefore a lot more enjoyable? I guess the existential answer is that cyclocross and fat biking must have chosen me. So it’s time to wake up, get out there in the miserably cold and slippery conditions and continue to have even more fun.

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December 26, 2016: Prepping for Nationals

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With the last race of 2016 in the rearview mirror, my sights are now firmly set on the US Cyclocross National Championships on January 4th. As readers of my blog and most everyone who knows me knows, winning Nationals in my age group is my ultimate goal. My expectation is that it might have to wait until I’m in some ancient 5 year age group when most of my competitors have either died, decided they were too feeble to race anymore or simply lost interest in the sport.

This year the race is in Hartford, Connecticut, a mere hour or so down the highway for me. Last year was Asheville, NC (a 14 hour drive), the year before was Austin, TX (a 36 hour drive) and previous years required an airplane (Austin really did require an airplane but we decided to turn it into a 6 day road trip). Since I’m in year 3 of my 5 year stint in the 60 to 64 year old age group, winning this year is a really long shot; one that would require a lot of bad things to happen to the 12 guys ranked ahead and some of the guys ranked behind me, and for me to have the absolutely perfect race, the race of a lifetime. It could happen.

Here’s the good news. I get an automatic front row start based on finishing 6th overall last year in Asheville. Also, conditions in Hartford are likely to be similar to what I’ve been training in for the last 2 or 3 weeks – cold, windy, snowy, slushy, icy – in 2 words, downright nasty. Another plus for me is that the course has one really steep hill in it that we will climb at least twice and maybe even 3 times per lap. I’m usually a pretty good climber so this has me excited. Finally, in my last 2 years racing at Riverfront Park, I’ve placed 1st and 2nd so the venue definitely has good juju.

What have I been doing to prepare? I’ve been drinking a lot of Manhattans, and I mean a lot. Probably way too many. This will have to change soon. I’ve been riding my bike a lot in the cold and wind and snow and slush and ice in hopes that my mitochondria will be tougher than everyone else’s mitochondria. I’ve been riding and running a lot of steep grassy hills in hopes that the weather in Hartford leading up to and on January 4th results in a grassy hill and not a bobsled run. And finally, my secret weapon. I think that’s going to have to remain a secret. Don’t worry though, it’s entirely legal.