Technically, it began about three weeks ago with my final cyclocross race, but I’m only now getting around to writing about it.
My base training for the year, as usual, was abbreviated. We were new to the area, I dragged my feet on getting the proper winter gear (I had only just gotten a nice setup for cold weather back in VA, but had nothing for rain), and then we bought a house, which absolutely killed my mileage. I was catching up from the very start and as a result, more or less missed road season.
By June, I was feeling somewhat fit again, but the season was winding down and all that was really left were the weekly series at Mount Tabor and PIR. I joined up for Mount Tabor, but this being my first year for having to put out real power (I’m more of an endurance rider), I was not at all ready for a constantly up and down race. In the middle of the series, I went on bereavement and missed a few races and training, but came back at the end with a focus of primes (prizes for being 1st place on a certain lap). In the final race I won a bottle of beer for blasting through the first lap. Most expensive bottle of beer ever and it ruined the rest of my race, but winning is winning.
It was now time to do a trail running series up in Forest Park. despite not running much at all and having zero trail running experience, things went pretty well until I severely sprained my ankle. I had to bail on the remainder of the season, saw more abbreviated cycling, and just barely had it back together a month later .
The cyclocross season began with a farm crit. It was my first time on my new bike and my ankle was still pretty questionable, but things went great. I finished in 7th place. Having wanted to get a race in at PIR before the season was out, I made my way over the Tuesday after the CX race and ground my way to 3rd place with plenty of gas in the tank. Things were looking bright.
I finished up the Gran Prix: Ryan Trebon series, which consisted of races across the river in Washington with two 10ths and an 11th place finish. Hurray for consistency! I was finally getting the bike dialed in and feeling quick leading into Cross Crusade.
Unfortunately, I took a little break from racing for a week or two to repair my beat up body (lots of soft crashes, but they add up) and did not do the races that were arbitrarily (I didn’t see them listed anywhere) selected as the call-up qualifiers. Despite finishing pretty highly in the only other series that had been run so far, I would be faced with starting far behind folks I had been beating.
At the first and second races, I started around 60th. They were held on a tight course that didn’t make for great passing. I would only make my way up to the 40s each time. At the third race, I started at the absolute back (80th), but it was more open so I made it into the 30s. Three races down, a bunch of worthless finishes.
I would finally get my chance at the fourth race when I started directly behind the call-ups. Except I was taken out on the first stretch and found myself in dead last (83rd). It was here that I found I was pretty skilled in the mud as I made my way past ~100 folks (there were other groups out at the same time) en route to a 16th place finish. 16th place granted me a single point. I assumed that would finally get me a call-up as I was “in the running.”
The fifth and sixth races were held three hours from home down in Bend. The call-up lists were published shortly a day or two prior and *gasp* I wasn’t on it. A quick e-mail to the race director later, and I was listed. I probably should have pleaded my case to him at the start of the season (he can add folks at his discretion and my results likely warranted it), but lesson learned. Had I not gotten the call-up, there was no way I was driving six hours across mountains to mail in a mediocre placing. But that didn’t happen. I packed the car at 4AM on Saturday and made my way down (Friday night was Halloween and I wasn’t missing that). Despite the grogginess, I pulled a 15th place out of my hat. Hurrah! More points. The following day, 12th. A successful weekend.
The seventh race was back home in Portland. It was a nicely muddy course for me and I was absolutely crushing it until I literally crushed it. I had a light dump on my drive-side, my derailleur seized up, and threw my chain into the spokes. I was in 7th or 8th when that occurred and reeling folks in. After five minutes spent in the pit, I got back out there to cross the line in 60th. This would prove my only mechanical issue all year. Given the conditions and the number of mechanicals I saw others having, I’d say that was a great success. Due to a cold, this would be my last race for the series. Seven out of eight ain’t bad. Due to the few throwaway races, I was nowhere in the overall standings, but I’m thinking I’ve got a real shot at the top next year.
I closed out the season just before heading east for Thanksgiving. CX would end right where it started, at Kruger’s for a farm crit. This time, race than being flat, dusty, and fast, it was cold, muddy, and slow. This race being it for a few months, I poured everything in and came out with a 4th place finish. I couldn’t have been happier (except for if I had gotten 1-3 spots higher).
I had been planning on continuing my training straight through the winter, but my bikes and schedule would have none of it. My road bike decided to explode, resulting in a $600 repair, and my cross bike needed a rest… Or at least that’s my excuse for not getting out there. Perhaps my mind is what needed the rest. I’m getting 4-5 hours in per week and ramping up my running again in preparation of my yearly May 5k and a planned Hood to Coast next year. My bike should be back in my hands within the next day or two and I’m also looking to get involved with an indoor cycling class so the miles will start accumulating again soon. Heck, I typically take all of December off so anything I’m doing this year is better.
Next year? Lots more road racing and about the same amount of cyclocross. I doubt I’ll bust through Cat 4 on the road, but an upgrade to Men’s B in cyclocross is looking like a strong possibility. Ride on.
It’s going to happen. To me, to you, and to everyone you encounter today. In fact, it accounts for half of the experiences that are shared by the entirety of the world’s population (the other is birth). So why don’t we talk about it? For the same reason we don’t tend to talk about race, marriages, salaries, genocide, addiction, etc.; it is uncomfortable. It doesn’t need to be. Just once break the mould. With your loved ones, with your friends, with a stranger (ok, don’t go that far…). It is a wildly interesting subject and what you discuss may prove beneficial in the future.
One of the hardest things of losing my mother was the elephant staring us down from the corner. Death. The only question was when. Brain cancer or not, the elephant exists for us all. Despite our circumstances (maybe it was easier to deny the obvious?), we never did discuss it. I wish we had. Knowing her thoughts would have my mind in a much better place now, and arranging services and such after the fact would have been a lot less… not complicated, but certain decisions would have been easier.
On a recent visit to my father, we sat down and had a chat that everyone should have with their loved ones regardless of age (if you have children, your chat should be with a lawyer and you ought to leave with some written documents). We went over his will and had him make it abundantly clear as to what his final wishes were. He was hesitant to share the latter, but having just been through not knowing with my mother, we forced it out of him. Aside from discussing the will, this conversation took all of 30 seconds.
What spurred this bit of writing was an article I read, The Case for Work-Death Balance. The whole death thing extends to work. Let’s face it; for most of us, our jobs define five out of seven days of our week. Why is it that bereavement and care of the sick and/or dying is so poorly granted or defined? Like the writer, I am lucky enough have an outstanding employer who allowed me remote work and as much time off as necessary. Also like the writer, I found that working was actually a great way to keep my mind occupied so I was back at the grindstone pretty quickly.
Go read the article and I implore you to chat with your loved ones sooner rather than later. You never know when it will be too late, and I promise that you’ll regret having not done so. You can thank me later, but hopefully much later.
Since last writing a month and a half ago, I’ve ridden another five races. There has been a weekend or two off in there, but also a double-header.
The first race was closing out the first series I was doing. I finished 11th and 10th in the first two races. This time, I had a great start and had a great race going (5th or so) with one lap to go. I could feel a small group of riders right on my back, but I had held them off the entire race and was feeling strong. And then I thought to much about it, crashed [lightly] twice that lap, and finished 10th. So close. The venue for this was a pretty awesome that I hope to spend more time at if only for their pink lemonade water fountain. Yes, a regular water fountain with ice cold pink lemonade. Results | GPS
The next two races opened up the Cross Crusade series. I think this is one of the oldest cross series in the US. They even claim to have invented the call-up. Pretty cool. This pair took place at the Alpenrose Dairy just a handful of miles from home. This place has a velodrome, a faux Wild West town, hosts CX races all the damned time, and is a functional dairy. Pretty cool. Their call-up system was based on a couple of races that I didn’t do so I didn’t fare too well in that department despite having a decent standing in the only major series that had been run thus far. With this being a popular series, there were TONS of riders (something like 11-1200). On both days I raced pretty well and enjoyed my first taste of slippery off-camber NW ridiculousness, but I started in 60th or later place and only made it into the 40s. The course was mostly the same, but reversed the second day and didn’t have great passing opportunities. Fun, but competitively, a wasted weekend; a key to a successful CX finish is getting a great starting position and that’s not with 59 people in front of you. Result #1 | Result #2 | GPS #1 | GPS #2
The third race was also a few miles from home at the edge of PIR and Heron Lakes Golf Course.Compared to the previous weekend, the course was easy and flat, and suited my abilities better. My group got called up second to last so again (last week I was called up in the middle both days, which with named call-ups means towards the back, then for the next race they reverse the order, which doesn’t change the middle) I was playing a game of passing the entire way as I started 10 from the back (~80th) and made it up to 33rd. I’ve been messing [positively] with the bike fit and my technical skills are improving greatly; I can feel I’m going faster, I just need to get a good start! If we’re reversed for the next race, that’ll be my chance! Results | GPS
Ew. What is this? Sticky, peanut buttery mud along the ENTIRE course. This is foreign to me. Following a week of record rainfall, we found our way to Hillsboro to race around the Washington County Fair Complex. As the name may make obvious, that means fields, and flat ones at that… You know, the type of place you’d hold a fair. Flat fields do not drain. This race was an absolute mess and I loved it. As expected, group call-ups were reversed so I had a great starting spot! 20th or so. Mucho pumped, but only for the first 30 seconds until the guy in front of me collided with a barrier, took me out with him, and I found myself in dead last. I’m talking 92nd of the 92 starters. Ugh. Wasted start. I contemplate just throwing in the towel, but I’m already covered in mud since we went down in a pool of it, and this kind of traction is new to me… Great learning lesson. Well, I’m glad I stuck with it. The course was very wide so passing wasn’t much of a problem and I seemed to be pretty good at riding mud. I chugged my way nicely through the first couple of laps, spied some folks that I knew had been placing well, picked them off, and crossed the finish in 16th. With that placing, I earned a few points for the series, which will get me a named call-up (happens before the groups) that I feel I probably should have been getting all along, but c’est la vie. Great race, filthy bike, filthy Mikey, pretty dirty car. When do we race next!? Results | GPS
Today marks the first day since my mother’s death that I feel like I’ve really gotten back into the swing of things. I’ve been working since a week after her passing, but it hasn’t felt quite right and my productivity has been pretty horrid. Luckily either nobody noticed at work or maybe I’ve been too hard on myself. Could be the nature of the work I’ve been doing (lots of wheel spinning), but I think it’s been a good bit me.
It took three months to get here.
I don’t think I took her death particularly hard because we had so much time to prepare and cope with it beforehand despite it being much more of a rapid thing due to the nature of how she actually passed, but my mind has clearly not been right. It hasn’t been focused on her, but perhaps only because it hasn’t been capable of focusing at all.
It’s almost like my mind did a reboot, my BIOS had all sorts of errors, and then there were some system updates queued too. There was a shutdown, things will never be the same, and I’ve got a different outlook on a lot. Welcome to the Matrix?
On the coping front, nothing has really changed. I don’t think I went through “the phases” (please don’t tell me I’m still in Stage 1!). I still (this is where I started) think back to memories or see a photo and it dawns on me that that’s it; she’s no longer here. There’s no more of that to happen. Someone who played such a large role in my life is just gone. Completely. Forever frozen in time.
My lack of faith likely doesn’t help matters as I have a hard time making sense out of nothingness. I do lean a bit towards reincarnation so if anything I’ve been more kind to all matter of life except for jerks who try to run me over.
Three months. I’m not over it. I’m certain I’ll never be, but I’m back to living again.
Good news! My ankle is back. I had to take two weeks off from all activity and over a month from running. It’s still a bit tight and I tweak it lightly now and then, but I don’t think I suffered any long term damage. I had to forego the first trail racing series race of the fall and will likely opt out of the next one or two just to give myself more time to heal and strengthen, but I may get back out there before it’s over. Or maybe it is time to give up on running altogether.
Anyway, I’ve done a slew of bicycle racing over the past two weeks. I began not feeling in the best of shape due to the training missed from the ankle, but all has gone pretty well and I’m much stronger now for it. As racing is going to be a weekly or more frequent thing this fall, look for roundups such as this.
August 24, 2014 – Kruger’s Kermesse. This would be my first race on the new cyclocross bike. It is quite nice and well above my capability so my equipment is no longer an excuse. I’d only been on the bike twice before, and being so much faster than my old steed, I wasn’t prepared for its capabilities. My negative splits (later laps being faster than earlier ones) indicate that. The race is for cyclocross bikes, but it is called a “farm crit.” There are no obstacles so it’d be a pretty safe ride for the fresh ankle. And it was fast (I averaged 17mph off road). I did pretty well, picking folks off the whole way, and finishing 7th in the “C” class (there’s beginners, my group, guys who are pretty good, and then guys who are great).
August 26, 2014 – Tuesday PIR. On two days rest, I made my way up to the local speedway to attend the last of the weekly races that occur there. They are held on Monday and Tuesday nights, which makes for A TON of races per season, but this was the first I managed to get to. I wasn’t able to preride the course, but being a 2-mile circuit, there were a handful of “easy” laps in which to learn it before things got serious. In my last proper road race, I broke my wrist by getting ansty. This time I stayed calm, found my way behind the wheel of a strong looking guy with plenty of room to maneuver, and field-sprinted to 3rd overall. I actually won the field sprint as the first two guys sprinted early and we didn’t reel them back in. I was gaining ground on them both without really feeling like it was much effort so I’m pretty sure I could have had the overall win had I known to go earlier, but that’s part of the game. Just a comfort thing that will come next season when I do the races more regularly. For most of these guys, they had done dozens of this same race already this year. Of note, this race was with Cat 4s too. Race average was about 24.5mph. I think flat and fast is my jam. Can’t wait until next year.
August 30, 2014 – Gran Prix Ryan Trebon #1, David Douglas. The first proper cyclocross race of the season took place just across the river in Vancouver. Picked my buddy Dolan up (who won his race by over a minute!!! Yeah, dude!), made our way there, got a bit of a preride in, and… raced. I was pretty pleased with my performance; I felt strong, but was majorly slow in the singletrack technical sections, which will just come with practice. It was a wet and muddy one so it was really true CX action. So wet that I was constantly wiping sweaty rain from my face and eyes, which led to some aggro… Some jerkoff riding behind me told me to keep my hands on my bar. I wasn’t swerving or anything, and, well, he was behind me. I kindly told him to eff himself. Looking at the results, I found he was from Seattle. It all makes so much sense. I didn’t have my typical strong finish and dropped about four spots on the last lap to end up in 11th place. Kind of a bummer, but c’est la vie. Also dropped my chain on the final corner so I had to run across the finish line. Good enough to get my name announced over the loudspeaker and not lose any places so “woot.” GPS boom.
September 6, 2014 – Gran Prix Ryan Trebon #2, Het Meer. Another one across the river in Vancouver. Gave Dolan a ride again. Unfortunately, he didn’t blow away his field because they bumped him up a class, where he still managed 11th place. Dude is having a great year. This race was again very “real” CX except for the fact that there was a beach section. I watched some videos of folks nearly killing themselves in the sand and chose to run it, but that didn’t help me from killing myself. I got a good call-up at the start of the race, but wasted it completely as I unclipped the wrong foot and mentally froze over the first barrier. From there, the mental mistakes only piled on. I crashed half a dozen times and have a nice raspberry on my hip and scrapes up my leg. Pretty lightweight damage for bicycle crashing, but man… brutal day. Every time I’d make ground on and/or pass a competitor, I’d go down and have to chase again. The guy who finally finished just ahead of me had to find it comical as I think I passed him 2-3 times only to finish behind him. I would have likely gotten him, but we went from 2 laps to go to finished (no bell/final lap). Kind of annoying as I was saving something for that final lap that we didn’t get. Regardless of the mental mistakes, this was a pretty good course for me as it featured a lot of long flats to power down so I still managed 10th place. I’m just going to put this one behind me and work on my off-bike skills this coming week. There will be chaos — keep pedaling. GPS it.
To add insult (and injury) to injury, I tore up my hand riding past a thorn bush after my race, and when unloading Dolan’s bike at his house, saw there was a branch attached to it, pulled it off, and the one monstrous thorn that was on it entered my thumb. I didn’t leave the couch the rest of the day.
I’m pretty optimistic about the season… Just need to keep practicing that off road riding and I’m sure to see some podium time.
After a solid two weeks of racing, a full training cycle following the sprained ankle, and all culminating in a crash-a-thon, I’m ready for some rest. No racing planned for this week and an abbreviated set of training (maybe only 6 hours). GOGO recovery!
A whole bunch more photos are available on Facebook if you’re friendly with me over there.
I haven’t posted about it yet, but if you’re reading here, you probably already know. My mother passed away on June 21, 2014, due to complications with her treatment for brain cancer. Ultimately, she didn’t die from cancer or any of the side effects of it. I’ve not really made that public until now, but I kind of needed to get it off my chest. After such a lengthy and unprecedented journey, that really sucked. I’ll be posting more regarding cancer, dying, and Mom in general as I feel comfortable with it, but for now I leave you with a slideshow I created for her services and recently added some of her favorite songs to:
Trail running is stupid. My stance is firm on this despite a wobbly ankle.
Was having a great race (I was with the guy who finished 8th) when halfway in I came to an off-camber, downhill, and sharp turn. It happened in a flash so I don’t know if it was related to a root or rock, but the bottom of my right foot was pointing left for an instant and it hurt. I hobbled to a walk and quickly realized this wasn’t the kind of ankle twist that you can walk or run off. Race over, man.
Being halfway through the race also meant I was as far from the start as possible. I hobbled my way down the single track trail, pulling off whenever I heard footsteps behind me. Being a great race, there were a lot of footsteps behind me so that .5 mile off the small trail took forever. Luckily, it was fire road after that, but the first post I came to was marked “1.75″ (the race started at 0). I figured it’d be roughly a 30 minute walk, but I didn’t properly account for hobbling as opposed to regular walking. It took FOREVER. On the way I found a nice walking stick to take the load off my foot, and as I neared the end a group of three women from the race met up with me in order to give me company for the remaining bit of the walk. Portlanders are the best.
Once I got home, ice and ibuprofen. With any luck, this’ll be a 2-3 day thing and I’ll be back out to race next week. Already feels a tiny bit better, but I’m still hobbling around and am not able to ride today (last day of the month – was supposed to ride 50 miles in order to complete 1250km in July so extra bummer to not reach that goal).
So trail running is stupid, my ankle hurts, I’m failing a monthly goal, and blah. I suppose I’ll live.