Friday, December 20, 2013

Give yourself a chance, then take it!

This hobby of mine has completely consumed me since 2006. And of all the years, this one has been different. I struggled to find the drive for the better part of the season and it showed. I was fat, tired, and just plain not having fun. It hit rock bottom in July at Brighton where I tipped 200lbs. and had one of the worst races in my life. Not fun. So here is a recap of my season. No pics of bling, just the highs, lows, and what I learned.

I had some early glimmers of success, with my highest finish at BRX with 4th. I took the overall win and age group win on the short edition of Lowell 50, and finished with my best result as an Expert to date at the Stony Marathon with 3rd. But it was not enough... I wasn't having fun, I developed a hip flexor injury, and just felt like poo.

After some soul searching and driving everyone around me nuts asking for advice and crying on shoulders. I finally pulled the plug! Stopped riding... Skipped races (for the first time ever)... Healed up a bit... Cleaned up my diet and refocused.

First stop after making these adjustments was O2S. For the first time this year, I was feeling the fire burning again. I did not know what to expect since I was going from a week off the bike to racing for 48 miles! But I really didn't give a shit! And I was happy. In the end, I finished up making my goal of top 100 and I was happy, and finally feeling good. I was able to stay up in the UP and ride my bike on some of the best trails in the world with no limits, no plans, and no cares! And it was great. This is when I fell in love with my hobby again. The stage was set and I was ready. By this time, I was also losing the weight. So at 22 lbs. lighter I was feeling good.

For the rest of the year I had a re-newed focus, a good plan, and great advice from Jeff and Brad to help me identify and correct training mistakes I made earlier in the year. From here on out, my season took a 360 degree change for the better. When I got back from the UP, I entered the Ruby 50 since it was in my back yard and was looking to get in some longer miles any way. I took 2nd overall, and 1st in my age group. Next stop was the last XC mountain bike race of the season. Tailwind Stony XC. I ended up taking 1st there as well. This was my 1st USAC XC MTB win since moving up to expert! From here, the CX season was ready to begin, and I was not sure what to expect. I was approaching the season a little different. Start out slow, and get a good solid fitness base to work off of. Then finish off strong! In addition, I really wanted to focus on winning the ICEMAN this year. So I decided to focus more on that, and just let the chips fall where they will with the early CX season.

At Ithaca, I rolled a tubular and finished last. Not the start I was hoping for. I then got 4th at Waterford day 1. Better, but not feeling like I had the extra gears to attack. Day 2 - a puncture flat... Really? I continued to put in the hours of training. When I got to Mad Anthony, I didn't realize I was buried from training and shit the bed! DFL! I thought I blew it. My ICEMAN chances were done! My season was done! ugh! But reviewing my HR data told me what I needed to do. Take a break! This is something that was very hard to learn. Learn how to recover properly. So I did. And leading up to ICEMAN I was back on track and finally got a win! Since I finally accomplished my goal that I have been chasing for several years, I was now ready to focus 100% on CX, and I had a boat load of fitness to put into it! I took 3 consecutive wins at Vets Park and Bloomer Day 1 and 2! This was a first for me at any level of CX racing! And I was now in a good position to take a crack at the overall title in Masters 35+. Going into the State Championship race, I was still feeling good and really wanted to come home with a 35-39 State title. An early crash in the race left me chasing the leaders until the end, but I did enough work to fend off anyone that was under 40, and reached another goal.

It was not a perfect season, but I don't know if any truly are. But its the most wins I have ever racked up with 7! And one was huge with ICEMAN. I learned a lot about training, and even more about myself and what I can achieve if I put my mind to it. When I pulled the plug in the summer, I came up with a mantra that I kept telling myself over and over again. "Give yourself a chance, then take it!" This has really helped and is really true for anything you do. If you never give yourself a chance, how will you know what can be accomplished? But you got to take the risk, and take the chance as well in order to see it through.

So that's my season.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Michigan Cyclocross State Championship! - Addison Oaks

The last dance. It's really been an incredible CX season. At least for the Masters 35+ Class. I don't ever remember as much consistent talent week after week as there has been this year. I said in week 1, that there were 10 legit guys that could win a race in this class any given week! And that never changed - all the way to till the end. We all threw blows, rubbed wheels, cut lines, hooked bars, drew blood, and finished each race by giving hugs . All season long we were each other's biggest fans and I believe each of us left it all on the course each week until the end. This is what made coming into the state championship special. It was still going to be any one's race to win.

The day was cold! In the mid teens cold. But the anticipation on racing made the numb fingers and toes feel natural. It wasn't going to matter. There was only 60 more mins of suffering left in 2013, so the cold was the least of concerns.

I was excited and nervous at the same time. My experience has taught me this is a good thing, as long as you can control it. I did my best, and just made sure I got a good warm up in. I went for a ride on the rock solid frozen course with JMAK. I had on my Grifos, and in the first few corners I found myself on my ass. JMAK yelled "Its just practice! Come on!" This made my nerves worse! I finished a lap, and went to the truck and put the lucky Dugast Rhinos back on that have severed me well since Vet's Park. This helped but buy the ground was still unpredictable and full of surprises in every turn!

We all lined up behind the elites and took off like scared Deer! The pace was crazy fast and the carnage began in the first few off camber corners. I got a poor start but was content with just sitting in. I could See Steve B leading the pack of masters with Wade, Andy, and Brian just behind. Simon was with me along with JMAK. We picked our way through some slower riders, and I was feeling good. Lap 2, the course opened up a bit, and we started to move. Simon, JMAK and myself were closing in on the lead group that contained Alex and Steve. Halfway through the lap, we came up on Alex and Steve laying on the ground with bikes tangled! It was a mess. Alex appeared to be hurt as well. A young elite rider took them both out! We were now even closer to the front. JMAK now made his first move. He got a small gap, but I was able to cover. Simon and a few others were not able to hang on. 3/4 of the way through the 3rd lap. JMAK and I caught Brain and Wade who were now the leaders of the Masters 35+ There pace had slowed quite a bit, so we were above to sit in and recover. I was still feeling good and was waiting for an opportunity to pounce. The in one of the slight off camber turns, my front tire found a frozen slippery rut and I went down! In the process I shattered my buckle on my Left shoe! UGH! Not good! I got back up and saw that I went from lead group to chasing from about 7-10th. Don't panic, plenty of time. I kept telling myself. This left me lighting a lot of matches, but I knew what I had to do. I picked off the guys in my class one by one. Finally after about 2 more laps, I finally caught everyone but JMAK who was pouring it on and was going to be difficult to catch. I sat in for moment and looked for an opportunity. On the beginning of the next lap. Wade decided he needed to go. I followed. Brian could not hold, and Simon was back even farther, along with a charging Todd Greene. Soon after Wade washed out in front of me in one of the tricky turns. I just barley missed him and went through clean. I was now in 2nd (leading the 35-39 State title race) I made a few more attacks to open up some more room and try to pull back JMAK. After the barriers I had a nice gap. And then Alex made it back on my wheel! Where the hell and how did he get here? AMAZING!!!! I thought. He soon pulled by. I hung on to his wheel for as long as I could but it was not going to happen today. He was on a mission!

I was still in a great position and feeling good even after the additional work I had to do to get near the front again. I knew that Alex and JMAK were both over 40, so I may not be able to win the race, but I was in position to win my first Master 35-39 State Championship title, and possible the overall series title. My goal was to keep my gap and continue to apply pressure to everyone behind me without making mistakes! I rode hard and smooth. The crowd was amazing and loud near the KLM tent and barriers each lap, and this just motivated me to go as hard as possible.

Through the sand, one last time, I knew I had done enough and just rode out the last few corners of the lap. I held on to a solid 3rd, but finally won a Masters 35-39 State Championship Title!

Congrats to Alex on the 40-45 State title, last race win, and series overall! You deserved it.
Congrats to JMAK on a solid season end - You never give up and I love it!
Congrats to Simon, Brain, Andy, Ray, Todd, Brad, Pete, Wade, and all the other Masters 35+ Players for an outstanding season from all of you.
Congrats to Sven, Kelly, JB, Dave Z, Tom B on their state titles.
Congrats to Dennis W, and Mark C on their State podiums.

Thank you Tailwind for providing some great racing in out state, and KLM for support during the race. Especially Brad for working the pits!

Thanks to my Mom and Dad for coming out and supporting me at all the races. Even in the nastiest of weather conditions!

Thanks again Mike's Mix, Macomb Bike, and Apto Studio for all your support all year long!

Time for a much needed break.