Thursday, February 21, 2013

Past the Terrible Twos

Yup - yesterday was Opie and Ellie's 3rd birthday! And of course, we had a party, and there was cake :)

Monday, February 4, 2013

More Pics from Louisville

Our trip took us through eight states


There were a lot of NECX friends and teammates who made the trip down to worlds.


Oh - there may have been some Belgians, too!

Tuesday may have been the driest day on the course, but there was still sticky, Louisville mud.

Sightseeing - from our room :)

Wet Wednesday mud vs. frozen Friday mud

These crews worked for two straight days hauling and spreading wood chips to help mitigate the over-the-ankle mud in the main spectator areas (and in front of the portos!)

On Thursday, the blurry us celebrated MKR turning his actual racing age. The banana bread pudding was no Concord Teacakes, but it sufficed in a pinch.

And on Friday, it was for all the marbles. Dave and Mike needed to clear cleats before starting the race.

After celebrating, it was time for the LONG drive home. Over the river, through the tunnels, and in 7.5 hours we were halfway home.

So, here ends the season! Congrats to MKR, and to EVERYONE who made the trek to Louisville to race.

If This Is the End of the World, It's OK!

I think the Mayans had it all wrong - the end of the world is still coming. For evidence, I present the weather from last week's adventure:
  • Monday - clear and cold at 4:00 am in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. This changed to snow, ice, and freezing rain in Pennsylvania, warmed to just rain in Ohio, and by the time we reached Kentucky in the rain, the temp was up to about 55 degrees.
  • Tuesday - daytime temps managed to be quite warm, in the low 60s, and even hitting 70 degrees. In the evening, restaurants in Louisville looked like it was mid summer - windows open and seating on the patios outdoors at a premium. 
  • Wednesday - at about 4:30 am, despite my thinking the hotel had hired crazy people to vacuum at that hour, the tornado sirens in the city were going off. For about 2 hours. And it was pouring. It continued to rain through the early morning, with about 2-3 inches of accumulation.
  • Thursday - temperatures started dropping, and by late evening, snow was falling.
  • Friday - we awoke to FRIGID temps, around 8 degrees. While the sun was definitely shining, it was COLD. Oh, and the Ohio River was rising, and 2300 sandbags were not going to hold it back from covering the Elite Worlds Cyclocross course.
  • Saturday - departed just as the snow started in Louisville (around 4:00 am). Thankfully, we managed to stay mostly ahead of the front, and the driving wasn't anywhere near as white-knuckle as it had been on Monday.
So, with the exception of locusts, I'm pretty sure that the snow, ice, wind, rain, freezing and flooding are all indications that indeed, the end of the world is nigh! If that is actually the case though, at least we had a most AWESOME adventure before that happens :).

Yes, Mike and I headed down to Louisville, Kentucky last week for the Master's Worlds Cyclocross championships. After the terrific season that Mike had here, our original plan was to head out to the National Championships in Madison, WI earlier in the month. Weather and logistics had us change our minds on those plans, but regret is an awful beast. Having seen the results, photos and reports from Nationals, Mike decided that he wanted to have a go at the World Championships, and I was all in - as support.

Kirsten managing the mud
No, I didn't race. I didn't even take my bike! Yes, I could have raced - in fact, there were only 8 women who DID race in my category. Frankly, after a good season, I was done. I did have a small moment of regret myself, but it was VERY brief. When the 45-49 women's race was underway, and I was madly running around the course cheering for my friend Kirsten (who had an awesome race and finished 4th), I was just a bit sad that I wasn't out there too. Like I said, though, it was a VERY short moment.

To say that I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into is an understatement. Mike and I have been racing cross a relatively short time - since 2006 - but in that time, we have raced close to 300 races combined. I would normally say that this would qualify us as experienced cross racers who know what to expect, and how to prepare. Louisville proved that to be far from the truth, however.

With the enormity of the event came pretty close to an equal amount of stress - I wanted to be sure that Mike had the best races possible, and worried over timing, food, clothing, temperatures, weather, getting off of his feet, sleep, rest, warm ups - you name it. Yes, I've supported most all of his races to date, but this was bigger - more important, and meant more, to both of us. So, if you tried talking to me onsite before one of Mike's races, and I seemed to be out of it, please accept my apology. As one friend said to me on Friday - "I'll talk to you in about an hour when you're a normal person again."

The logistics of traveling, being in a strange place and not having access to all of the day to day things we take for granted was difficult, but I felt we were prepared. We had checked to be sure we had everything we needed - including packing down sleeping bags and a shovel in the car, just in case :). Of course, once onsite, and in the mud, we realized we should have brought more clothing, our sprayer and a few other items. We managed to make do with what we had, though it was lucky that we did over pack a couple of things.

In the past year, I have had to be ready for Mike in the pits exactly twice - once in VT for a flat, and once at NoHo for a rolled tubular. Both were good conditions and easy bike exchanges. A few years ago at Downeast, we did have some particularly nasty conditions that required a bike swap mid race, but nothing that could have prepared me for what was to come...

On the wheel of National
Champion Don Myrah
Wednesday's seeding race was actually relatively calm. Mike had randomly drawn number 72 - requiring him to start near the back of the heat. He had a terrific start and was quickly sitting near the front of the race. I cheered madly from the pits ready for him to come in, but in a two lap race, it wasn't necessary. He had a great result, finishing 6th. That meant that he would line up in the 3rd row for the finals on Friday.

Friday morning saw an exponential rise in my stress level as Mike's race drew nearer. I wanted everything to be perfect for him. The plan was for me to be in the pit during the race, and he would only come in if necessary. Mother nature had other ideas though - while the course started out snow covered and frozen, the sun and warming temps quickly turned the frozen ground to frozen mud. Air temps were still well below freezing which meant cleaning the bikes with water would be out of the question, and the bikes would need to be cleaned - often.

Cleaning the bikes and gear - Weds
Enter my Blue Steel family, particularly Jeff T. I think Jeff might have seen the "deer in the headlights" look on my face (okay - maybe it was the stress that was about to make me cry), and he just sort of took over - in the nicest way possible. He told me what the plan was, what I would do, what everyone else was going to do, an then executed it flawlessly! I've said it already, but I really had no idea what was about to happen.

Mike lined up and was off, getting a GREAT start and quickly settling in with the leaders. I made my way over to the [muddy] pit where people were lined elbow to elbow - it was mayhem, and about to get worse! One pit crew behind Jeff and I let us know "My guy is in 6th", to which Jeff calmly replied "Well my guy is in 9th, so we're just going to have to communicate!". Yup - it was tense! Mike waited a lap and a half before pitting the first time, and when he brought the bike in I took one look and thought "OMG - what are we going to do with THAT?!?!?!" Jeff and Karen quickly went to work banging off the frozen mud, and I dug in to help. It took 3 of us a full lap to get the bike to a "presentable/usable" point, and Karen went off to let Mike know his bike was ready.

Mike and Jeff post
race - who's muddier? 
Mike gratefully switched back to his race bike from his pit bike, which at that point wasn't shifting despite the sealed housings. Again we went to work to get it cleaned as best we could - spraying anti-freeze infused water on the drive train and literally chipping away at the huge globs of frozen mud. Mike was reluctant to pit again, preferring his race bike, but had to given the conditions. It got to a point where the bike was just not rideable with everything seizing and freezing up. When he brought his A bike in, I let everyone know we needed to do what we could to get it ready in half a lap - a monumental task. Now, four of us were working with brushes, screwdrivers, hands - anything we could use to get the bike workable again. We made it, and again Karen let Mike know he could get the bike.

This routine continued throughout the 5 lap race, and it wasn't just us. The pits were an area of nervous, high-paced energy. Huge pit crews were working as fast as they could to get their riders a bike that would shift, and didn't weigh 50 pounds. Officials worked over time giving warnings to crews for their positions. This was the big time, and it was serious. I was WAY over my head, and am beyond grateful to my friends and teammates for their support. Jeff, Karen and Matt - THANK YOU. Mike and I could not have done this without your help.

Mike finished in 12th place - a terrific ride in conditions like we had never seen. I am so proud of his season, and his performance at Worlds. It was awesome to watch, but even more awesome to be a part of.

After cleaning up, we returned to the venue with a more relaxed attitude. Our work was done, and now it was time to celebrate. We hung out with friends, celebrating victories, podiums, terrific races and experiences, and the end of a very long season. Watching Kathy don the world championship jersey, and seeing Karen on the podium was just as awe inspiring as the whole experience. 
Kathy Sarvary - Women's 55+ World Champion
Karen Tripp - Women's 50-54 Bronze Medal
We learned a lot this past week. We learned about preparing for a race of this caliber  in these types of conditions (important to note that the leaders in Mike's race actually had THREE bikes in the pit, allowing them to change bikes every half lap). We learned that this really was the next level of racing. We learned how lucky we are to have a community of friends, teammates and fellow NECX riders to support us. Most of all, I learned how lucky I am to have been able to share this experience with Mike. And now, if the world DOES end, I think I will be prepared!