Monday, November 21, 2011

2 strikes and then a hit! (my 3-race cross season)

Had baby Ezra at the end of August.  My first time on my bike (spin bike doesn't count) was 5 minutes before my race at the Paradise Cross Frenzy.  Strike #1: Entering the womens open race and placing DFL.  Very humbling but a good reminder that you actually need to ride your bike before racing.  This year's Paradise course was their best yet... its still a roady course but more fun than past years with the swooping turns in the banked "halfpipe", the death spiral, and finally a real run-up (for me at least)

After the race I said "there is NO WAY I'm doing Putney tomorrow"... but a little nagging voice said the only way I was going to get back into the game was to keep racing... so I  went to Putney as a "training race".  After my performance at Paradise I was more than happy to enter the novice race (that was my only option anyway since there was no open or 3/4 race, and I didn't renew my USAC license this year).   Putney is one of my more favorite courses (love the killer run up, bike jumps and sketchy downhill... although hate the cornfield). 

Strike #2: Flatting halfway through the first lap and not having any wheels in the pit  This is my first race ever having a mechanical (thanks to Eric for keeping my ride tuned) so I had become pretty complacent about having wheels in the pit.  (Where was the neutral support this year?  I definitely missed seeing Mark Wysocki and his dog)  After running over to the car and frantically trying to find a wheel (Eric was dealing with crying baby Ezra) Jesse volunteered his spare wheel.  In fear of being lapped by the lead riders I jumped on my bike and took off.  A few minutes later (still on my first lap!) I realized that my replacement rear wheel wasn't pumped up and was bottoming out...  Another stop would put me so far behind I just couldn't muster the enthusiasm to keep going... even as a training ride.

Waffling about racing more I finally succumbed to Alix 's unwavering enthusiasm and went to Velo cross.  After my last 2 performances my goal for the day was to just not strike out.  I had an ok start and knew there were a handful of people behind me.  Over the laps I picked off a bunch more riders so I was feeling pretty good and having fun.  The Velo cx is my new favorite course.  Its like a course with an identity crisis... is it a velodrome race?  or a BMX "pump track" race?  or a mountain bike course? or a good 'ole cx race?  There was no boredom.  This course had it ALL.  All women (novice, master and elite) were lumped into the same race... so I had no clue where I was among the 4's.  When I saw the results I was really disappointed... 3rd from last.  Did I mention disappointed?  But it didn't make sense... it couldn't have been all masters that I passed.  I guess results were a mess because some of the elite riders lapped the novices not just once but 2 or 3 times. After several people protested the officials got everything sorted out.  I had placed 3rd! After getting over feeling a little guilty about podiuming in the novice race just because I didn't want to buy a license for a 3-race season... I'm over it and... Its a hit! No striking out this year.

So my conclusions:.
-- Get on your bike at least once before entering a race
-- Remember your pit wheels
-- Anyone who skipped racing the Velo Cross missed out... BEST. COURSE. EVER.

2011 Season

The Penguins have flown!

Flying Penguins 2011 from alix norris on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nort-WRECK-hampton Part 2

This is how Penguins fly!

Jesse had an adjective-filled weekend, too. Saturday he had a phenomenal finish.  Sunday he had a bleepin', bleep, de-bleep, bleep wreck that broke bones in his hand.  He wasn't alone.  I could barely take a picture of Jesse during the race without capturing people going down all around him:

Watch out Jesse!

This poor fellah got caught in the tape. Oops.

The precise place Jesse met his demise 2 laps later.

Great season, Jesse - perhaps the FALCON will make an appearance this weekend??? 
Get 'em Jesse!

Now this is determination, folks...

Nort-WRECK-hampton CX Part 1

So there's this little cyclocross event known as Northampton. You know... you and your closest 149 fellow cyclocrossers:

Men's 3s preparing to start

This was the 21st annual Cycle-Smart International and was certainly no disappointment. The crisp, fall weather left an ever-changing course with frosty, slick grass, sticky mud, and heavy sand.  As usual, many of the categories were capped (at 150) and even the Women Amateurs' class had 80-90 women competing, depending on the day.  Woo, that's a lot of elbows to get throw at the start!

Both days, I started close to the back but was fortunate enough to work my way up to my "usual crew," who started about the 4th row. It was super fun to actually be RACING with a group, instead of the typical women's races where it's not much more than an individual time trial.  It was a fast, intense race with just the right mix of technical cornering, balls-to-the-wall descents, train-track jumping (no crashing this time!!), and grueling, leg-, lung-, and head-pounding, out-of-the-saddle sprints from every corner.  Doesn't that just sound like a ball full of FUN?  
The lesser of the challenges...
Oh yay, the hill...
Lead 'em all the way to the finish line... booya!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wicked Creepy Race Recap*

Wicked. What can I say? Course and terrain make for an interesting and fun event. Location is great and family friendly. Local races are always a plus when most of them are 2+ hours away. I've been to every Wicked except for one and was super stoked for this one - with the expected snow (up to 15") it was going to be awesome.

Unfortunately, Wicked 2011 was cancelled due to weather. I didn't let that little hurdle stop me. I did learn a couple things about racing my bike in 6-8" of fresh snow: 1. it's a lot of fun! 2. it's hard due to traction issues 3. snow hides things that cause endos. I figure it's similar to a super slick mud day without the Watt-demanding mud sections and will get faster with every lap.

It was to be such a sweet day. Too bad 200 of my friends and nemeses weren't there to enjoy it. Next year, Wicked!

*Wicked was cancelled, mock race staged in honor of what was to be an awesome day of cross.

Uncle Sam Races for Donuts

I like the NYCross series. Smaller fields than Verge, points tallied, quality events (for the ones I've been to) and great atmospheres. I just wish some of them weren't so far away from VT. I first sampled the Uncle Same race a couple years ago. I had a blast and the available course terrain is great. As such, it has a spot on the calendar every year.

To sweeten the deal, last year John and I found this place. It's killer and worthy of driving to Troy on it's own. Put it a mile away from the Uncle Sam venue and I'm still confused why I can never summon the motivation to do both days. The parking lot smells fantastic!

Partial selection at the decadent Cooke Factory in Troy, NY

For a multitude of reasons this ended up as my first race of the season. Late night before the race, I turn to Raina and say "Man, I haven't raced my bike in months, I hope I don't suck", to which she replies with a heavy dose of sarcasm: "I'm sure with all that training you've done, you'll be fine". Thanks honey, see if I bring you any pastries.

Staging is done by NYCross points, points, and then registration order. Seeing as I procrastinated, I was a day-of registrant and John beat me to the table. There were 2 guys out of the large field with higher numbers than mine. I'm happy that this race is popular, but the 60 or so starters we had was probably near a good maximum on-course number. The start was a paved straight into a 90 degree wet turn (did I mention NE got hammered with rain the night before?). I figured there'd be people sliding around and laying it down so I might as well face up that I'm not going to pass 1/5 of the guys in the first 200 yards before the turn and just coast it in. There was the inevitable feet down in the first few turns, though no heavy crashes. Of course, the effect was the classic slinky so it wouldn't have mattered too much if I were 10 guys up or not.

As it was, I was dead last and I felt I should verbally communicate this to John. He yelled back "not for long", which I took to mean that I should start pedaling and hoped it didn't mean that he was coming back to join me. I passed some folks in the first lap and realized I was probably a minute or more back from the front half-way through the lap (silly staging protocol), oh well. Lots of pedaling, off-camber, greasy, and fun turns. I tried to keep my roll as "passer" and not "passee" (not to be confused with poser and passe) and thoroughly enjoyed the course.

Post-race I decided I could have gone harder as I wasn't really sore anywhere. No worries, I'll redeem myself with NYCross at Wicked Creepy.

Stopped at the Cookie Factory which boasts fine pastries at city prices. 2 cider donuts, 2 glazed donuts, tiramisu, canoli, eclair, crazy icing and cookie sandwich, and a coffee and I still got more than $5 in change from my $20. And yes, I shared the sweets.

This is normally where I'd put a picture of me doing something awesome. Had anybody gotten a photo of me at this race, it would have been awesome. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

MUD and, um, FEST

Imagine it has just poured rain for 4 days straight on already-soft turf and sand... What are you picturing? Fields of mud? Large, soupy puddles? Soft sand like wet cement? Sounds like a hell of a cyclocross race!
That was exactly the conditions at the 2011 Nor'Easter CX race on the shores of Lake Champlain, Burlington, VT. The course was so delicate that it changed significantly every lap. By our last lap, the racers were running close to 25% of the entire course. While I thought it was bad at that point, imagine how it must have been three hours (and two races) later, for George and Jesse's race. Wowza!
Check out that pond I just raced through (it made my heart hurt for the Penguin...):
My mud costume in the last lap: Once you're wet, you can't get wetter!
Yeah, so that was fun. But now check out the boys:
(Side note: Ok, George, how the HECK did your left shifter end up outside of the tape and it didn't take you down in the puddle???

Monday, September 12, 2011

Let's get PUMPED up!!

Hi-ohhhh Penguins,

Here we are, on the verge of another riveting cyclocross season! Let's get pumped up so those Flying Penguin jerseys really blur this year... The registration is still open for Green Mountain this weekend!

Really the best way I can think of is to repost Amber's awesome Putney video from the end of last year.

West Hill Cyclocross 2010 from Amber Davis on Vimeo.

Time to get back in the saddle Penguins!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vermont 50 Registration Tonight!

2011 Vermont 50 registration opens tonight at 7 pm EST!

Go here  for registration.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Penguin at the Derby

The Stowe Derby had always been on my radar. Last year I saw Justin Cox's Derby tee shirt at a cross race and began peppering him with questions about it like I was a 13 year old girl talking to someone who had been to a Justin Bieber concert. That Derby came and went without me attending. I wasn't ready to leap into the unknown. But I spent considerable internet hours checking it out.

This season I've been helping out with the local high school nordic team. It's been a great way to get out every day on beautiful trails and exercise and get some time with the kids outside of the classroom. At one of our early February practices Les, the head coach, circled up all the coaches to see if we'd be game for a team entry into the Derby. That was the kicker I needed. Game.

We made the trek up to Stowe from Leb at 6 in the morning arriving at Stowe High School around 8. 10:29 would be our start time. We got our bibs (#293 for me) and shwag and took the bus to the mountain. Since we had some time to kill, we hung in the lodge. At 9:55 we took the chairlift up. It felt very strange to be dangling skate skis off a chairlift, a first for me. The top was blustery. I warmed up with a few uphill spurts and made my way towards the start around 10:22.

"Number 293! You missed your start!"

What!? The next wave was lined up ready to go. The starter just started yelling for me to "Go! Go! Go!". I hung a second to try and see the team. Les had actually already gone down and I hadn't seen him. Bill was still dropping his bag off and Chrissy, the final teammate, was hanging back a bit. With the starter yelling at us to go, I began the Stowe Derby rather frantically. Don't start the Stowe Derby frantically, start cautiously.

Conditions were atrocious. Now that I survived I would call them thrilling. However, I remember being wide eyed and chanting "shit, shit, shit" whenever I could get my lips to move. There was a lot of fluff that had fallen and was still falling. The lines around corners were tiiiigghht. And only one line per corner because the berms were so big. I ate it a few times. Usually, when there was a camera or a crowd nearby. I figured out later that the crowds and cameras were at their respective locations because of the spills.

The downhill was done and over in an eternal 11 minutes and change. Then began the long trudge into Stowe village. The trail was "mashed potatoes" to borrow Les's term. I'd push and lift my ski and move a foot. Only 7 miles to go! I passed a fair amount of people, but got buzzed by a few serious skiers. I fell on a bridge, trying to V2 across, when a tip got caught. Of course there was a line of cars backed up right by the bridge because when I get humiliated lots of people should know. It was a long trudge. And it was awesome at the same time.

The thought I kept in my head for most of the race was how excited I would be to see my wife. She drove up later in the day to watch the race. I was prepared to tell her how much her coming up meant to me, that I understood I am not an easy husband to deal with, what with all my racing and competitive jumpiness, yet she's always supportive of me and my racing and training. I was going to tell her all of this and this is what came out:

Anyhow. I'll be back next year. 134th in the long course skate. Not quite what I was hoping for. I got beat by a certain nemesis, so it will be a long 364 days, but I will be back.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Penguins in the News!

Check out the video documentation of Winter Wild at:

Highlights: Repeated glimpses of George cresting the hill, Jesse running by at 4:40, Alix & Amber running at 5:08 and the interview with Annabelle at 5:13.

Go Penguins!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter Wild: Whaleback

Sigh. With the cyclocross season long over, my quads are starting to forget what it feels like to work. Duh du du duhhhhhhhh.... Winter Wild series to the rescue!!

If you haven't heard of it, the Winter Wild is a set of 4 races at different mountains around the area. The goal for each race is to start at the bottom, race up to the top and THEN back down! It's a simple timed race with prizes for different categories (based on weight of transportation you use: feet, skate skis, telemark/snowboard, etc) and age. It's barely competitive, though - everyone is there to just have a good time and get up to to the top of the mountain to see the sun rise. The races have to start before the ski lifts open, so they go off at 7AM. Makes for kind of a cold, dark start to a Saturday, but what could be more invigorating??

The January 15th race was at Whaleback, an adorable mountain known for it's night skiing, snow jumps and terrain park. There was a decent turnout of 40-50 people and sub-zero temperatures. The course had been altered from the previous year, making it much steeper and more intimidating, though only 2 miles in length. After an en masse start, we were off! Jesse and George were towards the front of the group, running with their snowboards. They were out of sight within a few minutes. Amber and I started towards the back, as she was just running the whole thing and I was pulling Annabelle in the Chariot. Boy, was that tough. Without Amber pushing, I'm not sure I could have pulled Annabelle the whole way. While we continued to pass other competetors, at one point it was so steep that we were continously slide-stepping to keep from slipping. With both of us there, though, we made it through and to the top as the sun was just peeking over the horizon. Gorgeous! Then, we began our lazy jog back down the mountain as the skiers we passed whizzed by.

The times coming in were fast, with the skate skiers doing the best (no surprise there). George blew away his category & age group by over a minute(!) and Jesse came in second. Good work, Penguins! I think Amber & I won the Team Push-Pull division, although we didn't get a cup for it. The WMUR tv crew got a few good shots of Annabelle, too, so I'll see if we can find that video and post. All in all, an awesome event with a fun community spirit. The next race is this weekend (Feb 5th) at Ragged. Takers?