Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Full Moon Cometh

So, as the title indicates, with the coming of the most recent full moon, well strange things have happened.

It all started last week at work, the phone was ringing off the hook and I felt like I was disfunctional reality TV show.  WOW is all that I'll elaborate.

On to the weekend.  From a weather standpoint, the late week rains were supposed to give way to some beautiful (yet windy) fall weather.  I had plans to race the Granogue Cyclocross race on Saturday and the Hershey Half Marathon on Sunday.

This was to be my third cross race of the season, second in the MAC series.  I had scored some points in the first MAC race at Nittany, but missing the next four rounds didn't help my call up.  I again raced the Elite Cat 1/2/3/4 Masters 35+ race of which there were about 100 riders in the field.  Granogue is a beautiful race on a private estate in Delaware with plenty of elevation and a REALLY LONG asphalt start / finish stretch.  I was called up about 50th out of the 100 rider field, at six wide, that had me in the 8th or 9th row in an incredibly stacked field including several ex-pro's.  Definitely not an ideal start position.  My www.crossresults.com point predictor had me placing just in the top 30 which, considering the talent in the field, was about where my goal was.  Starting that far back, you give up way too much time early in the race and your chances of making ground / positions really diminishes.

Anyway, my goal was to get an outside starting lane so I had room to bail in the event of a crash.  As we rolled out the sound of rear derailleurs grabbing smaller cogs filled the air.  I had a decent start and as the speed ramped up I heard a different sound....a loud "PING" and then the sound of tires, metal and bodies sliding on the pavement.  I caught a glimpse of a wheel soaring high above my head.  I immediately yelled "riders down", moved to my left and made it by the accident.  From that point forward, the race was shear chaos.  100 riders battling for position on a technical course some 12' wide...let me just say there was some banging and some elbows flying.  Here's a shot of me in the midst of the chaos....
Pink bike just to the right of the tree
(Photo credit Dennis Smith)

During the warm up I scouted out a few outside lines that I felt may help out during the craziness and bottleneck of the first lap.  The first outside line worked to perfection, I rode right around 4 or 5 riders.  Then as we hit the first run-up, I ran the outside of the entire section passing at least another 5 or 6 riders.  As I mounted my bike I could see my friend Johan just a couple of wheels in front of me.  I felt like I had made some good ground and I was now near the top 20.  Then after the high speed downhill, I passed Johan who was now running with his bike...a flat tire, but not far from the pit area.  Then I heard the whistles....our race had been neutralized and we were called back to the starting grid.

Turned out two riders were still down, and injured.  Not good....mentally, I was out of the game at that point and ready to call it a day.  Within moments, there were sirens and then a helicopter.  As it turns out, despite some head trauma and a broken collarbone the two riders walked out of the hospital on their own later that day.  Below is a video to give you a handle on what had happened.....


Watch more video of Granogue Cross 2011 on cyclingdirt.org

This was by far the worst thing that I've ever seen at a cross race.  I consider them to be generally very safe and that is one of the reasons I enjoy them.  Just another addition to the curse of the full moon?

On Saturday night we headed to an awesome Halloween parade.  It was so much fun watching the kids sit on the curb with their candy bags and snag up the candy.  Brought back memories of our annual trips to the Pennsburg Parade.

I went to bed packed up and excited to head out to the 2nd annual Hershey Marathon on Sunday.  It wasn't to be, the next blow in the curse of the full moon hit me.  Fever, sweats, chills...repeat...over and over.  There was no way I could run a half marathon, not even drive to one!  I slept in and as the day wore on I was feeling better.  Then it hit me again and I'm still not recovered.

Can't wait for a new moon!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wineglass marathon - Pacer Chris

 Well, a little out of order from my last post, but two Sunday's ago, as part of the marathonpacing.com pace team I lead the 3:25 pace group at the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, NY.  My mind pictured a picturesque day running through wine country and gazing at the incredible fall foliage.  It wasn't to be.

Lauren and I made the 3.5 hour drive up on Saturday and worked the pace booth at the expo for a few hours before sneaking out for some wine tasting in the Finger Lakes.  The countryside was beautiful, the weather...not so good.  Overcast / drizzle and mid 40's.  We kept our fingers crossed that the weather would blow out by morning and we'd be treated to a great day.

That night at our pacer dinner the reality of the next day were setting in.  There were going to be MANY PEOPLE in my group counting on me to run a steady pace and get them to a Boston qualifying time, a personal best or just meet their goal.

We got all of our stuff ready and when we woke up race day our luck had run out.  40 degrees and RAIN!

Wineglass is a great race.  It sold out at about 1200 runners in the marathon and over 2000 in the inaugural half marathon.  A great small town atmosphere with big town organization.  It was a point to point race, so we drove to the finish line and hopped our separate buses (half and full).  It was a consistent downpour the entire ride out. 

Once off the bus I found a nice little spot to stay dry and warm, then headed up to the starting area to stage and meet my runners.  I had a great group that varied in age and gender, very enthusiastic and filled with goals and stories.  The gun went off and the "usual" things that happened to a pace leader happened again.  The first half mile was filled with one runner asking me over and over if this was the pace we would hold for 26 mile, and commenting how good it felt.  It was downhill and I was trying to hold back.  The rain was still coming down, but now that we were moving it didn't feel as bad and my misery level disappeared.  At the point I crossed the start line the race wasn't about me, how I felt or how miserable it was.  It was about my job...being consistent, being a motivator and providing confidence to my group.

This was by far the largest group I've ever had as a pacer.  My runners were commenting how steady we were running (within  three seconds of my 7:49 goal pace mile after mile) and how quickly the race was flying by.  That's always a good sign, so I kept going with it.  When we hit about half way we passed a clock, temp was 42 degrees and the rain was still pelting me.  "I hope this rain doesn't stop now" I said to my group, we'd run too far to only run part of the marathon in the rain.
Pretty large group, about half way through
My goal was to run about 30 seconds under goal (3:24:30) and we cross the half marathon right on target at 1:42:15.  The course was surprisingly flat and downhill and we kept chugging along.  At mile 22 it had just about stopped raining and I told my group of about 20 runners that if they were feeling good, now was the time to slowly pick up the pace.  As we clicked off the final miles I turned into a sweeper, grabbing runners who were struggling and lifting them up.  About 10 of my runners went head and by mile 25 there were only a few with me.  I cross the finish line in 3:24:43 with one other runner.  Once through the finish shoot is where the real fun of pacing begins.  It's great to meet up with everyone from your group and congratulate them...as well as hear their "stories" of how the race went down.
I'm blessed to have the opportunity and ability to be a part of such a special aspect of running.  Is it nerve wracking, and a lot of work?  I guess you could say that to an extent, but I never think of it as such....it's the reward at the end of helping others accomplish something more than they thought possible.  That's priceless, something you just can't buy.

Will I return to Wineglass, you betcha!

Part Duex - con Mas Personas - Town Hall Cross

The artwork for the back of what turned out to be a coveted t-shirt
I've been anxiously awaiting the coming of this past weekend. Our team has been planning and tweaking our race since October 2, 2010.  The weather had not been cooperating which even added to the anticipation.  A week before the event we had about 100 registered entries, ahead of where we were in 2010 which was good.  Then, midweek, the weather took an awesome turn and things really starting picking up.  By the time registration closed on Thursday night we had 213 preregistered riders (108 in 2010) and an incredible forecast for setup day as well as race day.

I pretty much wrote off my training and racing for the week knowing the tasks that were ahead.  The weeknights of race week were filled with last minute errands, filling up prize bags and setting up our registration files, numbers and waivers.  We had a great crew on Friday to set up the course, and since we'd done it a year ago we were much more organized.  We made some changes to the course to allow for much more parking, and we also made a set of our own team barriers to add to the set that came with our setup kit.  By 2pm or so the course was basically ready, and some local riders were starting to filter in to check it out.
The feared "St Lukes Staircase", a nasty, heart exploding climb!
I got geared up and hit the course to see how it flowed.  After a couple of trips up the climb I knew I needed to put my compact crank / gearing on.  Turned out to be a time-consuming affair that ended at Cutters Bike Shop.  It was all good though after we got the stripped bolt out.

Race morning came early.  It was a cool fall morning, but temps were predicted to climb into the mid 70's with wall to wall sunshine.  There was a layer of dew on the grass which made things slippery, but our 9am field of 75 entrants managed just fine.  They also managed to bring up some mud which was an added bonus to our fast course.

The mood was more of a festival than a race.  Kids running around and screaming with joy as they explored the nature trails of the park and the various playgrounds.  The announcer / DJ kept things rolling right along as people milled about at the St. Luke's nurses tent and the Saucon Valley Relay for Life food stand.  If you needed something for your bike you could hit the Cutters tent for a tune up or head over to the Cycleops tent for a warmup on their trainers.  I just tried to soak it all in.

The racing was great as well.  The course featured nearly 125' of elevation gain per 1 1/4 mile lap, OUCH.  Our team swept three of the top 5 spots in the Cat 4 race and fielded a podium in the Cat3/4 race.  I lined up, without much warmup, for the 11am race.  It was the masters 35+ race which was open to Category 1-4 and contained nearly 30 riders.  Being only my second race of the year and considering my lack of training and sleep the week before, I wasn't looking for much.  I had a PERFECT start and lead the field into the second turn.  I managed to mix it up with the two leaders for the first two laps, but when I saw the 5 lap card I knew I was in trouble.  It was warm, the legs were burning and I had probably pushed a little too hard, much too early. I was very fast in the technical and power sections but really struggled on the climb.  The top 7 really moved away from the rest of the field and we'd fight the rest of the race out amongst ourselves.  I finished a strong 6th, just seconds behind 4th and 5th.  I was happy with that.

Just after my race was the kids "race".  I headed down to the staging area and lead them off.  Some of those little guys gave me a run for the money!
Leading off the kids "race"







I dropped back to grab Autumn and Ashley to lead them across the finish.  We had medals and sweet prizes for all the kids, it was awesome to see the smiles on their faces!
Finishing with Autumn and Ashley

Just after the kids race was the women's race.  We had a great field of about 30 women including Bicycling Magazine's "Fit Chick" Selene Yeager.  These ladies battled hard and we gave cash and prizes to the top 10 finishers which was an added bonus!  Selene wrote a great blog about our race HERE.

Happy faces on the podium!
The final race of the day was our men's elite Cat 1/2/3 race.  2008 Olympian and National Track Champion Bobby Lea showed up to join the field of 15 riders.  He had ridden his bike for well over an hour to GET TO the race, planned to race then ride back home!  Bobby is truly a class act and all around good guy.  After winning the race he handed his winnings to one of our charities, the Relay for Life.  Enough said, you will hear Bobby's name in the professional ranks and be sure to route for him!
Bobby Lea chatting at the registration table.
So when all was said and done we had over 240 entrants this year.  That's nearly 100 more than the inaugural event which is incredible to me.  Our race kicked off the PA Cyclocross Series in grand style and our team is proud of what we accomplished together.  We had the course torn down and wrapped up before 5pm and had some beer in hand to celebrate our successes.  We raised nearly $650 for the Saucon Valley Relay for Life and $550 for the HCM Foundation.

We couldn't have done it without all of our sponsors.  Cutters Bike Shop, St. Lukes Hospital, Specialized, Motorex, Twin-Air, Honey Stinger, Cycleops Power, Fox and The Sufferfest

Photos of the race can be found at http://www.cyclingcaptured.com/share/2011-Town-Hall-Cross

And you can follow all the updates to our race at our FACEBOOK page or on Twitter @townhallcross

Now to get my butt in shape for some more cross, rest the running legs for HAT 50K and Boston Marathon training in Spring 2012!!!