Decisive Moments

The Bubba Cross race at Concordia seminary is the closest bike race to my house, about a half mile away. I missed it two years ago. I barely made it in time to race last year. This year I had the race on my calendar and I was determined to make it on time. The turnout for the C race was slightly smaller than last week (41 vs. 52), but there was still a sizable group of riders. This course was far more technical than last week (more turns, fewer straightaways) and it had a few hills. And although the ground was dry, many of the tight turns had leaves on the ground, which was kind of like riding on ice.

I lined up in the front row and went like a bat out of hell for the first turn, reaching it in maybe 3rd or 4th place. Early in the first lap 1-2 people passed me. After bunny hopping the log pile on the downhill backstretch I started to get my act together. I passed a guy, then another guy. On the second lap I was in 3rd again. Within the span of 5 seconds #2 slid out in a corner, then #1 stopped on the side with a mechanical. I found myself in unfamiliar territory, accidentally leading the race. But the lead was short lived, as my teammate Reid passed me on the uphill section. He got a good gap on me before I started to claw my way back.

We spent most of the race 1 & 2. Occasionally a guy would start to make up ground from behind before we would pull away. With about two laps to go I heard a guy come up behind and we weren’t able to shake him loose. With half a lap to go he made a good pass around me to wedge himself between us. I was a bit surprised to see this guy riding a mountain bike rather than a CX bike, which told me a thing or two about him–notably that he can probably take these corners much faster than we can. If one of us was going to win we would have to stay in front of him through the last technical section.

Photos by Melissa

Coming up the long gradual hill on the last lap the pace slowed and #2 moved out wide to start to make a pass. This could have been it–game over. If I had had time to think I would have recalled the brilliant (and hilariously 80’s) bicycle racing movie American Flyers.

“There are these decisive moments in bike racing alright. When the moment came, I gave up.”
Marcus Sommers (American Flyers)

But I didn’t have time to think. This was the decisive moment. And I wasn’t ready to give up. Before #2 was able to get completely around my teammate I rode out even wider, where it was even bumpier and leaf-covered, and pushed up the hill as hard as I could. I managed to pass them both before the next technical section. Coming out of the final few turns onto the finishing straight in a grassy field I had a very slim advantage. I buried my head and pushed the pedals as hard as I could to the finish line, all the while seeing his wheel catching up with mine. We crossed the line in a photo finish, with my wheel literally a couple inches ahead of his.

The sprint wasn’t pretty. If Cosmo Catalano were to make a How the race was won video about this event, he would no doubt mock my seated position, small chainring, and hands on the brake hoods. But that’s okay, it got the job done.

The #2 finisher was an endurance mountain biker. Usually, I do better the longer the race, but against him I’m not sure that would have been the case. My teammate Reid rounded off the podium in 3rd place. I really expected him to win (he led most of the way). But things change. And at least one of us took 1st.

Photo courtesy of Reid Cranmer

Bike races usually pay a cash prize for the top finishers. I’ve earned small cash prizes a few times, and I actually broke even twice. The $30 payout I received for 1st place in this race marks the first time I actually came out ahead once you subtract out the $25 race entry fee.

I’m moving up in the world.

Back in the Saddle

2013 hasn’t exactly been a banner year for my cycling career. I’ve done just one race, and that wasn’t even on the roads–it was a mountain bike race. Cycling has definitely taken a back seat to running this year, though I didn’t exactly plan it that way. Anytime I was presented with a choice between a foot race and a bike race I inevitably chose the foot race, because statistically I was more likely than not to finish on the podium in the foot race, while I would probably have finished anonymously in 25th place in the bike race. I guess it’s just more enjoyable to have success than not.

Well, maybe that would change with cyclocross season upon us. I’ve always done better in cyclocross than in road racing for some reason. It’s basically a criterium, just on grass instead of pavement. But that changes a lot in the equation. In a typical road crit, I spend the entire race scared out of my mind, but I’m much more relaxed in a CX race. In a crit the speeds are super fast, while in CX they are quite slow (riding on grass is hard work). If you fall in a crit it’s going to hurt like hell for days, but if you fall on grass you barely feel it. Drafting (a weakness of mine) is vital in a crit, while wind resistance is a non-issue in CX. CX requires dismounting your bike and running and jumping and remounting. Hey, I can run.

Photos by Melissa

I got a bit of a late start this CX season due to running two ultras in October (and the longer than expected recovery from those), but last weekend I finally made it out for my first CX race (and second bike race of the year), Bubba Cross #4 at Lower Buder Park. I had low expectations (little more than having fun), but I still lined up early so I could start close to the front. Even if a bunch of people flew past me at the beginning, getting a good start is essential to one’s success in a CX race.

After an uncomfortably fast start I was positioned around 10th-12th going into the first turns, after which point it would be single file essentially the rest of the race. This course had a few really tight turns, a few obstacles to jump over, and lots of straight flat fast sections. The most notable obstacle on the course was a short steep gravel hill we had to ride up, make a sharp turn, and ride back down. It wasn’t easy.

As is my M.O., after losing a few places early in the race I started to gradually gain positions throughout the remainder of the 45 minute race. Around 30 minutes other riders started to tire, while I was just getting warmed up. I finished the race strong, moving up to 6th place by the end. I had a teammate in the race who finished 4th. I couldn’t quite make it that far up. If only the race were a couple hours longer…

My race execution was nearly flawless. I didn’t crash and I didn’t lose any time with silly mistakes. I did have one horrible snafu during the race. Since it was sunny and only 50˚F during the race I decided to wear sunglasses. Well, I got so hot I was drenched in sweat and since I didn’t have a breeze to dry the sweat off my face it all dripped into my eyes. There were a couple of sections where had to nearly close my eyes to mitigate the stinging, which made it difficult to see where I was going… which is kind of important in a twisty, turny race. This is the type of problem I frequently have when it’s 95˚F, but I’ve never experienced it at this temperature.

Lesson learned.

October 2013


Taper, race, recover, race, recover. Two runs accounted for half of my mileage in October, while 14 runs accounted for the other half. Aside from the two ultras I did many short runs leading up to the races and as recovery after them. Despite it being a fairly low-mileage month it still ranks #6 for the past 10+ years, and #5 for 2013. I must say, I like the trajectory of this plot.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 131.5 Mile 13 10.1154 Mile
February 87.4286 Mile 10 8.74286 Mile
March 162.84 Mile 17 9.57882 Mile
April 169.12 Mile 16 10.57 Mile
May 133.61 Mile 12 11.1342 Mile
June 127.39 Mile 16 7.96188 Mile
July 200.4 Mile 21 9.54286 Mile
August 151.34 Mile 14 10.81 Mile
September 249.57 Mile 26 9.59885 Mile
October 159.17 Mile 16 9.94813 Mile
Total 1572.37 Mile 161 9.76626 Mile

Running 2013 10


In the toilet. On the bright side I already surpassed October’s total mileage by November 2nd.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 3.7 Mile 1 3.7 Mile
February 15.2 Mile 4 3.8 Mile
March 123.14 Mile 16 7.69625 Mile
April 114.22 Mile 12 9.51833 Mile
May 157.33 Mile 14 11.2379 Mile
June 217.6 Mile 10 21.76 Mile
July 223.1 Mile 8 27.8875 Mile
August 105.83 Mile 10 10.583 Mile
September 56.66 Mile 9 6.29556 Mile
October 16.45 Mile 4 4.1125 Mile
Total 1033.23 Mile 88 11.7413 Mile

Cycling 2013 10


Lots of easy recovery miles here.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 37.64 Mile 12 3.13667 Mile
February 50.6 Mile 21 2.40952 Mile
March 92.9 Mile 37 2.51081 Mile
April 41.5 Mile 21 1.97619 Mile
May 91.75 Mile 33 2.7803 Mile
June 32.03 Mile 21 1.52524 Mile
July 14.8 Mile 8 1.85 Mile
August 45.35 Mile 23 1.97174 Mile
September 59.8 Mile 19 3.14737 Mile
October 80.37 Mile 20 4.0185 Mile
Total 546.74 Mile 215 2.54298 Mile

Walking 2013 10


One is greater than zero.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 0 0 0
February 3950. Yard 3 1316.67 Yard
March 18900. Yard 11 1718.18 Yard
April 15600. Yard 10 1560. Yard
May 13200. Yard 8 1650. Yard
June 11580. Yard 8 1447.5 Yard
July 2093.61 Yard 2 1046.81 Yard
August 0 0 0
September 1943.61 Yard 2 971.807 Yard
October 850. Yard 1 850. Yard
Total 68117.2 Yard 45 1513.72 Yard

Swimming 2013 10