Monday, September 19, 2011

Fishstix, Cross Balls and 5th Grade Math

My Best CX Season Ever p/by Pearl Izumi
On 60 Minutes yesterday I heard a quote, “The only difference between men and boys is the price of the toys.”  Lie.  There’s no difference at all.  Yesterday in the first ever combined Cat 1/2-Elite Masters OVCX race all 50 men and boys on the starting grid were no stranger to the podium.  In the past few years of stricter upgrade practices, everyone in the combined field got there by landing podiums.  Everyone knows how to hit a hole shot, thread a bike through a 14 inch gap, and isn’t afraid to make a gutsy pass.  Hands down, I haven’t been in a race this fast and competitive since a Detroit UCI event in like 2005.  Being the runt of the litter, a Cat 2 45+ Master racing with the best in the Ohio Valley, I learned quickly that tiny mistakes can turn into big gaps in the clang of a cowbell.  Here’s two things I’m taking away from the first OVCX race at Fisherman’s Park to raise my game.

More Balls Than Most: Elite Masters Women Podium
Growing A Big Pair of Dangly CX Balls
Through all my training so far, I haven’t sharpened my cross fearlessness.  It’s  the drive to keep driving forward in the mayhem, the trust in your skills and fitness to thread the needle, the mantra of forward momentum, the heightened alertness to be calm and calculating grabbing every opportunity to climb the ladder toward the front in the first half lap.  In July I got back into Yoga, core work, running, intervals and skill work.  Now after 9 weeks of dedicated CX training, I felt as if I came into my first race more fit than I have been in years.  At the same time, with a combined Elite/Masters field, the competition was stronger than it’s ever been in years.  Every guy on the starting grid knows how to win a cross race.  Everyone is fit.  Everyone is strong.  Mistakes and missteps cost double.  A wince, missing a pedal, a botched shift or a touch of the brakes is an instant gap.  They add up quick.

A log killed Corey Green's wheel 
Sunday I bobbled my front row start, usually a strong suit, missed my clip-in and was immediately swarmed on both sides by the first two rows of riders.  I didn’t panic, but I kept sprinting to the holeshot, eventually getting the click.  Into the banked first corner, two riders, one on each shoulder took the high and low lines simultaneously.  The exit had one good line and all three of us wanted it.  Sandwiched, with handlebars lined up as even as school desks, I chickened out.  I touched the brakes and escaped being a pinched loaf, giving up position.  The second the course opened up to a flowing straightaway, with the accuracy of magicians throwing swords, dudes were driving bikes through holes so tight, I swear I brushed knuckles once.  I should’ve been taking instead of surviving.  It’s time to add a little risk taking to practice.  Maybe mass start drills combined with a holeshot, a short straightaway and a 2nd corner to give it that real cross race flavor. 

Young Spencer Petrov out of Juniors on top of the 4's
5th Grade Math
It’s easy to get discouraged if you had a bad race, 50 meters may as well be a mile.  But I like to break things down.  Your commute to work isn’t a 20 minute drive.  Its backing out of the driveway, 5 stop signs, an on ramp, three lane changes and hunting for a parking spot.  Look at the finishing splits from Sunday.  Pick out a person or two that you think you can contend with.  If you finished top ten, look at top 5 or the bottom rung of the podium.  If you finished 40th, look at the top 25 or 30.  You may not have seen them most of the race.  They likely finished 3 minutes in front of you.  However, when you twist and crunch the numbers, you’ll realize it’s not much more than finding a route with less stop signs.

A Deer in the Headlights
3 minutes per hour, is one minute every 20 minutes, is thirty seconds every 10 minutes, is 15 seconds every five minutes, is 3 seconds every minute is 1.5 seconds every half minute.  That’s miniscule.  I don’t have a power meter, but in the course of an hour, something tells me that might be a handful of watts, a kg or two of body weight and/or simply having the balls not to touch the brakes as often.  At 6 feet tall and 158ish pounds, it’s crazy, but I’m one of the chunkier monkeys on the start line.  I don’t need a power meter to tell me that my avg watts/kg (fancy talk for strength to weight ratio) could be better.  I saw more boney ribs Sunday than a Hollywood BBQ.  Some guys didn’t even have pecs, making me feel like man boobs.  I can tell right now that I’d be better served by crunching the numbers on the side of the cereal box and bathroom scale than those of a $1000 power meter.   People like to make racing out to be science, but according to the quarter inch deep hole I call a belly button, it’s really 5th grade math at best.

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