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.

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