Monday, October 31, 2011

Cycling on the rise?

This past weekend I made my first but defianitly not last cyclocross appearance. I felt a little out of place one because I am a roadie, two because I am incredibly out of shape, and three because I was at a collegiate cross race...sorta. See cross does something pretty cool as collegiate cross is mixed in with senior races open to the rest of us card carrying USAC members. I was never fortuent enough to race in college and had an absolute blast racing with the B's against athletes from Army, RPI, Rutgers, and other schools.

The amazing thing about the Northeast is that we have racing at every level and for every age. I enjoyed watching the stars and strpes jersey fly by me at Spa:CX last week on the shoulders if Emma White, the junior national champion, then heading off to ME, NH, and VT where there is an incredibaly active cycling scene between many of the independent schools who have formed a high school cycling conference. This conference is really an untapped resource
for cycling as it gets little to no press or attention of any kind and I can only hope that this changes. These juniors can absolutely crush it on a bike.

After returning from VT through some light snow and passing out in my own bed, forgetting what the feel of my own sheets are like, I found myself raking mountain biking trails behind Clarkson University. Mike and Josh from the shop and some dude who I dont know were busy for a solid 3-4 hours with rake in hand getting the trails ready for use in the crisp air. While we were champions of the rake, Alex McAndrews of Clarkson University was busy winning the Collegiate DH national championship for D2 by over 30 secons. Alex simply crushed the run and still beat the D1 winner by over 10 seconds. This man is a true champion and deserves to wear those stars and stripes as he is one of the hardest working athletes I know. Lord knows how many times Alex and the rest of the Clarkson team has ridden those trails, must be nice to have a trail network like that on your own campus.

So you might be asking where the heck this rambling post is going and to be honest I am not really sure where the end will be. Today the St. Lawrence University Cycling Team gained club status and will field its first spring campaign on the road competing within the ECCC in almost 10 years. Tomorrow I will have the chance to ride once again with Zach Stockman, student at SLU and an alumn from one of those New England High Schools with a cycling team (KMS), who has really been the ring leader in getting the team up and running. Hashing out plans for the coming years, jersey designs, and logestics in-between tempo intervals will be the highlight of my afternoon tomorrow.

See in the last week I have seen how we can help grow the sport of cycling by starting off with the kids race at Spa:CX , to junior national champions and high school cycling leagues, onto the collegiate programs and national champions, and then hopefully onto the next step.

So once again you might ask where this post is going? Simple, bring your kid to a bike race.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I was promised beer.

Typically my cycling season ends at the start of travel season, aka the fall, aka that time of the year when I drive around PA, NJ, NY, VT, NH, and ME in search of the best and brightest students for SLU.  As I mentioned last week, it is a bit of travel as I put over 1600 miles on my car, and by my car I mean my “economy car” from Enterprise.   I worked out with my coach a training plan for the next month, using ‘cross as a way to stay motivated, have fun, and build some base

Said "economy car"

Today was my first experience into the new discipline, excited, nervous I felt like a high school boy going to his first prom, or a high school girl going to her first prom for that fact.  I dealt with my nervous in a very mature and grown up fashion, that is I complained about it on Facebook and then went to the TGIFridays next door to have a few beers and flirt with the cute bartender (who was running a 5k the next day and won her last one).  The bar was small, busy, and as cute as she was not the best bartender, did you know that Fridays has a touch screen computer that tells them how to make the drinks?  That is cheating.  Imagine if I had a computer to help me pedal my bike, now that wouldn’t be fair would it?
Instead of writing yet another race report I have decided to simply list what I have learned from today’s experience so here we go…

  • Friends are great, simply put.  They help you, give you advice, and have post race subs on the tailgate of your pickup (you rock Rego).  Without them this sport wouldn’t be half as fun.  Plus they house you in Albany when you are in need of a place to crash (Thanks Winnie)
  • Mud sucks.  There is a reason why people bring two bikes to a cross race and have someone running the pits.
  • Sand sucks more however in a different, humiliating, wild fishtailing, Im gonna make it, fall on your face sort of way
  • Practice is good and roadies have horrible bike handling skills.  I have never wished I rode mountain bikes as much as I did during this race
  • Tubeless/tubular tires are beautiful things, there is a reason why these are popular.  Pony up the money and get a pair, flatting on the last lap just sucks.   
  • Steal bikes are heavy, even more so when lifting them over ANOTHER set of barriers.  I cannot wait for my Specialized CruX to arrive, hope to have it by next week.
  • Cross racers are fun, supportive, and friendly people.  I honestly suck at this style of racing, at least for the time being.  However when the leaders passed me they shouted out words of encouragement.  Typically in crit races when I pass a lapped rider I just yell at them, was sort of expecting that and pleasantly surprised not to receive the same treatment.  

Tomorrow I am off to Spa:CX tomorrow promoted by my friend Bernie of Goodbye Blue Mondays.  I was disappointed that there were no hand-ups of beer in todays race and hope tomorrow brings something special like a cold drink, some dollar bills, or a corn dog.  I am not above shoving singles down my pants.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Life on the road

As an admissions recruiter and a bike racer I spend a LOT of time on the road.  Essentially every weekend from March- November can be packed full of races from road to cross, the fall is constant travel in new cities for work, and the spring and summer brings random work trips as well.  It is a random, obscure, non-stop, crazy schedule.

Of course being on the road I cannot be far from my bike(s) and they come with me wherever I go staring at me from the back seat, heckling me wondering why I don't pay them more attention.  Being on the road isn't the 9-5 job leaving you time before or after work to ride, typically I am up at 6am and my days finishes around 9pm.  Being creative with your time management and efficient with your training time is key.

If you have a 2 hour window in the middle of the day that means a quick parking lot change and an hour of tempo before another parking lot change and back to work.  I was complaining about traffic on the ride from Lake Placid to Princeton, NJ to my good friend Allan Rego, his advice "pull over, get the bike out, ride for an hour and let the traffic pass."  Rego gets it, ride when you can.

Amazing things can happen when you are always ready for a ride, crossing paths with old friends, getting tours of Bicycling Magazines HQ, or exploring some of the dirt roads of eastern PA.  I could be missing out on the sock/dirt line from pave roads or amazing views.  Tomorrow will be an early morning meeting, morning ride, and meetings till 9pm.  Another day of riding when you can and doing what you want with what you have.

The week by the numbers:
1600 Miles in the car
5 major cities
4 rides
1 bike shop happy hour
1 wedding