Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Masters Cyclocross: What’s Your Chore Score?

I have trouble figuring out whether a $2.57 12oz jar of pickles is a better deal than a $3.27 16oz jar let alone figuring out which time I race on the page without my blue tortoise shell Ray Ban reading glasses.  Don’t ask me what category you should race.  However, if pressed to give you an educated answer based on your performance, this Masters 45+ racer who writes juvenile comedy pieces for top-40 radio morning shows will pull out his 1983 Texas Instruments scientific calculator and show you that on the screen, if you type in 5318008, it spells BOOBIES when held upside down. 

Obviously, if you do the math, the $3.27 jar is the better buy.  But, all cucumbers are not equal.  Other factors come into play.  So, when a fellow Masters racer asked me, during a dark and serious beard scratching conversation in my paid-in-full Toyota 4-Runner, whether he should enter the OVCX Masters 2/3 category or the traditional elite category, I asked him how he likes his pickles. 

Are you okay with store brand or can your distinguished Masters taste buds discern the superior crunch of the famous Milwaukee Polski Wyrob pickle?  Do you like sweet or sour?  Are you that guy in polyester suspender pants arguing with the clerk fishing pickles out of a barrel at a Jewish deli in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, or you more of a metro-sexual mini-pickle man?  For Sven Nys’ sake, you’ve got a mortgage but are acting like a kid scrutinizing tater tots in a school lunch line when it comes to clicking a box on  

What kind of man are you?

Let me tell you.  We discuss the types of Masters Men below.  Each is accompanied by a Masters Chore Score or the amount of household chores a Masters rider can reasonably accomplish between training rides, work, calling his mother Sunday morning on the way to races, cleaning both your bikes, comparing hill repeat times on Training Peaks, ice baths in your en-suite Jacuzzi tub, being a head case to your coach via smartphone email and running up to the bike shop to have wheels reglued because you have the money but not the time. 

Who's the Fridge Cleaning Champ?  This guy!
A Masters Chore Score of “0” means you’ll be training so much you’ll end up with a filthy black ring around the toilet and be eating off paper plates as you watch passers by slip on your unsalted icy sidewalk in January.  “10” means you’ll remember your wife’s December birthday, figure out a way to get the deck stained before winter, and kill enough dust bunnies to change the bag on the vacuum once or twice. 

The “I Just Want To Have Fun Man” Man
If you’re the hippie dippie type of Master that wants to have fun and feel the competition, by all means enter the 2/3 Masters.  If you crack the top 3 before your left hip, you’ll win some great prizes.  If not, you’ll be trading wheels with fellow grey beards for 40 minutes straight. 

Masters Chore Score: 8 (Yes Honey, I’ll clean the fridge this weekend)

The “Bowling with the Champs” Man
95% of my readers under 35 and from outside Wisconsin just tuned out.  Growing up in Milwaukee in the late 70’s, when real men, not hipsters, with chunks of meat and blood on their work boots drank Pabst Blue Ribbon, there was a local live TV show called Bowling with the Champs.  Yeah, think Dancing with the Stars, only with bowling.  Equate Milwaukee to Belgium, South Side to Brussels and Bowling to Cyclocross and you get the picture.  The premise was, if you practiced hard enough, you, a cigarette smoking pitcher of beer drinking meat cutter from Wisconsin like my Dad, could share the South Side lanes at the Red Carpet Bolero with your bowling heroes. 

If this is you and your orthopedic insoles are putting a spring in your step over the barriers, race the 2/3 category but consider the occasional elite level Masters event where you can race with your cycling heroes like Katie Compton’s husband, but it’ll be, as my father used to say in his 40’s, for shits and grins.

Masters Chore Score: 6 (Oh crap, it’s garbage day!)

Elite Masters in Natural Habitat
The “Skunk Rubbin’ Man
At the top of the USA Cycling Ranks page the paragraph states, “Our revamped rankings program aims to provide increasingly accurate rankings using an innovative new algorithm emphasizing quality over quantity.”  Ganarf.  I don’t know what kind of NASA rocket scientists they have working on this project but its accuracy is worthy of a Nobel Prize, especially for me.

In college I took a course nicknamed “Math for Creatives.”  Consequently, I develop a turrets syndrome type tick when I read the word “algorithm.”  Ganarf.  While I can’t explain the buttons on a scientific calculator, my real world experience is that if you race against faster guys, such as in the combined Elite/Masters Elite field of OVCX, your USA cycling rank number will improve.  More or less, if you rub a skunk, the stink’s going to wear off on you. 

The hitch is that this number is basically useless, aside from one important fact.  Call-ups on the grid at Nationals are based on this number.  The lower the number goes, the higher your place on the grid, in January, in Madison, with 100 guys on the line.  Consequently, your chore score decreases dramatically the more you use the word “tabatas” to describe your training rides.  If you aspire to be competitive at Nationals and Worlds, consider springing for a coach, like Chris Mayhew at JBV, and rubbing skunks with Elite riders on Sunday.

Masters Chore Score: 2 (Honey Do Blues)

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