Sunday, December 6, 2009

Baystate Day 1 (and 2)

There were some ups in downs in the run-up to this race. On the up side, I had one of my better performances last year on this course, and day 1 was going to be almost identical to that course. On the down side, I hadn't ridden for 2 weeks and my last ride ended rapidly when my knee collided with a tree while mountain biking. This forced me to one-pedal out of the woods and resulted in my kneecap turning black and blue almost immediately. On the up side, if I was able to hold my relative placing in the 3s from Northampton, I'd likely be in the elusive Verge points. On the down side, I could barely even pretend to think that I was 'tapering' or 'recovering' into this race. With a fairly weak road season this year, combined with most of October off for the birth of my son (!), I have definitely been racing myself into shape this cross season. No races for 3 weeks does not help you race into shape. Also on the down side was vivid memories of watching David Rath take a really good header on the first lap last year.

John and I carpooled down for this one. Raina and Oliver decided to skip day 1 (more on that later). We got there with plenty of time to get a good warm-up. I had to keep reminding myself during the warm-up that I hadn't ridden in 2 weeks and I didn't want to use up the precious little tapered/recovered energy I had in the tank. After the masters race finished, I jumped on the track to go over the run-up and check out the horse jump. To my surprise, the wettest part of the course coincided with the highest elevation - that was curious. The downhill after the run-up was a bit soggy and rutted. I watched the guy in front of me nearly eat it due to the mud and ruts, though in retrospect, I'm thinking he just wasn't the greatest bike handler.

Fast-forward to staging. I couldn't remember when I'd pre-reg'd for this race, but my number was pretty low (so was John's). They gave call-ups to all the points holders (curse my desire to be one of you!) and then lined the rest of us up by number (per usual). I remember thinking: "wow, for having such a low number, there seem to be a lot of rows in front of me". Then I turned around - it felt like most of the field was holding at least 1 Verge point. Geez, there were only two rows behind me.

Fast-forward to the whistle. We're off - and I'm thinking about not crashing like Mr. Rath. Bad idea. It turns out that when you think about not crashing, you ride slow. I was probably 8th from last coming off the track. Bad idea. Luckily from my 'strategic vantage point' I was able to see that the 3rd or 4th wheel into the run-up had mis-handled the off-camber. Whoops! The whole field was backed up going up the hill and all of a sudden I'm back in contact. After a fairly leasurly stroll up since the pack in front of me didn't seem too concerned with letting everyone else get a little gap, we got to the top.

 First lap liesure (photo curtesy: lodri's flicker)
Quick check, hmmm, just a couple people behind me. Back on and down the soggy hill. Had I not seen the guy in warmups struggle mightily, I would have bombed the hill and scrubbed the speed right before the horse jump. But my mind had gone soft and I was on the brakes (!). Bad idea. Anyway, over the horse jump and I can't barely see anyone behind me. I was thinking to myself: "almost a reverse hole shot in a Verge 3 race, hmm, bad idea. I better go faster". Unfortunately or fortunately, the guys in front of me in the twisties right after the horse jump were not such great bike handlers.

Where the Penguin? (Photo credits: Geoff Martin)

Going slow, my frustration was building and when the course opened up a bit, I seriously dropped the hammer. Well, not so seriously...I passed one guy and then another. Then I 'smartly' decided to sit on the next guy through the pavement section. This was one of the high-wind areas (40 or 50 mph gusts) where a draft was much appreciated. Much to my chagrin this guy was a passenger when we got to the soft and lumpy 180 by the parking lot. The guys I'd passed took some noteably sketchy lines into the corner that still have me shaking my head. Had I been a bikelength further ahead, I would have been T-boned. Either way, I brake, a gap forms and away I chase.

By this point (about halfway through lap 1) I was frustrated and kicking myself for starting the gentlemen's drift before the gun. Damn. This lit the fire under my bum and I started racing - you know, the late-breaking, hard accelerating, serious cornering type of stuff. Of course, I was waaaay back when I started, but it was fun to be passing people. The laps were all pretty much a blur after that, but I was happy that I passed the guy we were parked next to. He was one of those folks that puts his number right in the middle of his back. Not to get on a soapbox or anything, but 'left side' or 'right side' does not mean which way the aerial camera will be oriented. Having worked with results from a few races, I suggest this for placement (though I like 5 or 6 pins for cross).

After the race I tried to count the people I passed. I could only remember about 15 but thought there might have been more. Results were taking longer than I had patience for - mostly because I was starting to cool down in a major way. I couldn't motivate to walk all the way back to the track from the car, so we left without checking.

A couple things are lucky for me: the timers and officials keep track of the finish order (!) and is doing the Verge points tallying so the races get posted same-day. A little internet checking showed a 35th out of 61 finishers. Not too shabby for totally sucking on the first half-lap. Some recorvery and a start-whistle attitude adjustment might actually get me into the points I so desire.

Day 2:

Raina and Oliver decided not to go on Day 1 so that they would give me incentive to go down for Day 2 since there wasn't anyone to carpool with on Sunday. Unfortunately, the plan backfired since I didn't want to drag them down for most of the day and had some work at home that needed to be done. Long story short: I bailed. Am I proud? No, but I felt pretty good about Saturday and I didn't get a chance to ruin it with Sunday.

24 Hours of Great Glen - Penguin Style

I was thinking it would be cool to get a few Penguin teams together for the 24 Hours of Great Glen race this summer... August 14-15, 2010.  We could have 4-person teams of guys vs girls (the girls would win of course).  Or we could pair up and have Penguin couples team (Raina & Eric vs Jess & Vinnie??) - although 2 person teams sound painful (12 hours of racing!).  Or we could do whatever mish-mash of teams we can come up with depending on who is interested.

It would be a fun weekend of racing, camping and hanging with family and friends. Anyone interested? 

Girls - if we go guys vs girls we'd need to find a fourth woman for the Penguin team.

Girls Rock! (& some late season photos)

For most of the Penguin racers their cross seasons are wrapping up.  Here are some photos and comments from some of the most recent races.  I just have to say that the Penguin girls rock and really raised the bar this year.  Next year when I'm back to racing I'm going to have to get my butt moving to keep the  bar set by the girl's team up where it was set in '09.

Molly raced at the Bethlehem Cup (NY) mid-November and got pretty muddy.  She did awesome in her first season of cross racing for Penguin.... as a cat 4 she stepped up and raced almost all open races (cat 1-4) with one win at Paradise Cross Frenzy (VT) and a very strong finish at the Northampton (MA) Verge race.

Molly muddy from racing hard at the Bethlehem Cup

I didn't get to see Jess and Vinnie in person at all this racing season (Oliver had other plans)...  but they were super busy tearing up the cross courses throughout the mid-Atlantic and even traveling as far as Wisconsin and Kentucky to do US Grand Prix races.  Jess sent a bunch of pictures of their season so I posted them on the team photo gallery.  Here are a few of my favorites:

 Jess and Vinnie showing off their new kits at Gloucester

 Vinnie at Mercer Day 1.  Photo courtesy of Cycling

 Vinnie at Mercer Day 1.  Photo courtesy of Cycling

 Jess muddy (and happy about it) at Granogue

Here is a great photo (courtesy of Jess) of George at Gloucester (MA)... (one of the many) mudfest races this year

Jess at Fair Hill.  Photo courtesy of Joe Mallis Photography
And here is a huge shout out to Jess for currently being ranked #2 for Cat 3 women in the US (earlier in the season she held the #1 spot!).... way to represent for Penguin... congrats on a great season!

Jess with a win at the Staten CX.  Photo courtesy of cycling captured

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Strategies for Mid-Week Warefare

Let's imagine for a minute that a group of die-hard CX racers are on a cross-racin' cruise along the coast of New England. Somewhere along the way their ship sinks and 20 of them cram onto a life raft with their bikes and the ships cook who had already stockpiled the raft with food. As it turns out they all happen to be cat 3 racers, and many days pass where they banter about cross and their ranking. Eventually, they end up stranded on a deserted island full of Oak trees, and set about creating a cross course to pass the time until they are rescued:

Island Cross Course

Without the trusty internet, they decided that they'll start afresh with their cross rankings, using pure linear interpolation to distribute points. Since the cook was impartial and had no good excuse he was elected to keep track of the points. A picture was drawn to show the cook how to calculate points for each race:

Scored points via linear interpolation

The last 10 races were averaged, dropping the highest and lowest. To get the numbers rolling everyone was given 400 points to count the first race.This would then be dropped and only 'earned' points would be kept.

Living the life of monotony that exists on a deserted island, the finish order was extremely predictable. In fact, you could have written down the exact order of finishers even before each event began. After a year of weekly races, the group planned to hold the first annual Fried Acorn CX party to celebrate bike racing, relive the glory, and review their cumulative results. Unfortunately for the cook, the instructions on calculating points were decidedly vague - depending on who he set as the 'middle finisher' the points either trended towards zero, infinity, or finite, non-zero values.

Points trending if the average of the points scored for the 'depth' members is higher than their points average before the race

Points trending if the average of the points scored for the 'depth' members is equal to their points average before the race

Points trending if the average of the points scored for the 'depth' members is lower than their points average before the race, these are the results that the cook gave to everyone

Being the crafty and diplomatic fellow that he was, he set up the awarding of points in such a way that everyone's points were lower than where they started and in a generally downward trend over the course of the year. The way he did this was as follows: he selected a group of people in the middle of the race, averaged the points they carried into the race and called it 'depth'. He then assigned the first racer after the 'depth racers' the depth score and followed the schematic for linear interpolation shown above. Everyone was elated with their points; the consistent winners' points were lower than everyone else, and the last place finisher was also 'getting better'. [note for the interested reader: there are other ways to accomplish lowering most of the racers points while excluding only those at the back of the field]

This went on for another year and the points kept rolling. At the second annual FACX party, the racers started noticing a trend and getting suspicious about how the cook was handling the points. The winner was a little unhappy that his margin to last place had shrunk over the year. Based on the linear interpolation model, they thought, the last place person should be doing 'worse' every week.

Two years of points trending for selected racers

In order to avoid being slowly beaten to death by a bunch of scrawny armed bikers, the cook's only remaining hope was that the PV cell he had been working on while everyone else was racing would provide enough juice to power his smart SAT-phone and let him get in touch with the man to check his method against the real deal.

While waiting for the painfully slow dialup, the consistently last place finisher took the cook aside. "I heard that a similar group of Cat 2s were stranded about a mile from here on another island, what would have happened to my ranking points if I had gone over and raced with them for the year? I wouldn't expect to finish anywhere but DFL, but I feel that 'Catting' up would have really raised my game." The cook obliged and showed that indeed his points would have significantly decreased after a year of racing with the Cat 2s, even if he finished in the same spot.

 The benefits to the last place finisher had he 'Cat'd Up'

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NJ JV Hospitality

A couple of us were talking over the weekend thinking that it would be fun to take up Jess and Vinnie on their offer of team housing for Mercer. Judging by this it sounds like we missed some wicked hospitality. I heard after the weekend their crossresults points dropped a few notches without explanation.

Further probing of the internets put a small damper on the Mercer expectations, but maybe Team JV will throw some positive spin at it and get us all stoked up for next year.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend off

So no racing this weekend, which meant a weekend at home. The quality time with the family turned up this little gem. Apparently Annie has been observing the other Penguin racing fans more than the racers. Annie named her doll Oliver and began claiming she was Raina. We weren't sure whether or not to find this weird or cute. We're leaning to the cute side for now, but Raina should guard her identity.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Putney & Northampton photos

Putney and Northampton photos are posted on the team photo gallery. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Abrahamsen family chillin after the Putney race

George getting some air over the RR tracks at the second day of Northampton

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


The Noho course was an improvement over last year with the start finish on the lower section of pavement rather than the upper section. Much of the course was similar to last year - the barriers were moved down into the lower field. The start chute was a bit nerve wracking, but manageable.

Julee and Adelia at Noho

Raina, Oliver, Julee (Raina's sister who was visiting for the week), Adelia (Julee's 16 mo daughter), and I all loaded into Julee's rental car (Kia Rio), because it was the only vehicle we had that would fit 2 car seats and 3 adults. It felt like I had to pull the bike apart to the tubes to get it to fit into the trunk. John was kind enough to bring my trainer and spare wheels in his car since there wasn't any room left. We headed out early to cheer on new teammate Molly H. In the womens 3/4 race. She had a good showing and was able to move up consistently with a solid 9th place finish, though I think her bike is holding her back.

Molly moving up with 2 to go

Since I missed a verge point by one place back at green mountain I wasn't going to get a call-up - bummer. With 125 pre-reg'd, a call-up would have been pretty nice. As it turns out John, George and I all managed to be staged in the same start row on Saturday. Right from the whistle I felt pretty good. The bottle neck at the curb and the bottle neck at the run up were a bit of a drag on the first lap, but other than that I felt like I was doing a good job passing folks, picking good lines, and conserving energy where I could. In the end Greg Brown and I were battling it out for the last couple of laps. After the bell he got ahead of me going into the sand but ran into a rider on the ground. I was able to make a pass and hold him off for 42nd spot. I was hoping for/expecting a better placing than that.

Me working on dropping an RPI rider

George mixing it up over the tracks

John headed towards the barriers

Sunday started with a crash in the start chute right in front of me. I managed to escape unscathed by the hair on my chinny chin, but the front half of the field was riding away from me. I managed to re-connect with a couple guys at the curb hop, but I wasn't moving up nearly as well as day 1. It was like de ja vu all over again with Greg breathing down my neck during the last couple of laps, only this time I was able to keep him firmly behind me on the last lap. Day 2: 49th, not as bad as I thought I was doing.

Elite men had a nasty crash, I don't think the one in the 3's was quite as bad .


Friday, November 6, 2009

Paradise CX Frenzy pictures

Pictures from the Paradise CX Frenzy on Oct 25 are posted on the club site

Molly, Eric, John & George all raced. Raina helped with the race registration and results.

Congrats to Molly for a first place finish in the Womens Open race!

First Post Jitters

on my whistle....

15 seconds...

Have a safe race!