Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rusty Ride - Cuyuna 2012

Based on my previously written race reports on endurance XC, I choose to go to other states to ride myself around for many hours in the woods. Up until now, I basically did not have a choice. I heard of the Rusty Ride early in the year and signed up in the spring to race the 100 mile, single speed 39+ category. The race was also a benefit of MORC so I purchased an extra flask during registration to do my part and allow myself to be better prepared in the future when biking around town.

The race took place in Crosby, MN, home to the Cuyuna trail system, the premier mountain bike trails of Minnesota. I had never ridden there but heard only good things. The last few weeks, I have been a bit busy with this and that but lazy with biking so at the 7:30 am start, I was not sure how the day would go. There looked to be about 35 folks lined up for the century and the morning was cool and basically, perfect!

At go time, we got a police escort for about 7 blocks through the city until a left turn took us only a snowmobile/4 wheeler trail. The grass was full of dew so as we all started stretching our legs, we were getting pelted and eating sand. I was all geeked up and excited so I decided to stay with the studs in front. After a bit more than a mile, I was fourth in on the single track. In front of me was a NUE series racer Trevor Rockwell, Larry Sauber, and another. Trevor took off with Larry chasing and the rest of us were paced by the other dude. I wasn't sweating too hard at all as we moderately got through that 1.5 mile stretch of single track and the two were only ahead of us by 15 seconds or so. A group of us got to chasing and I sat in the front group made up of Garrick Holey, Sheldon Morgan, the other dude, Eddie Karow, and Danielle Musto. The road section ended onto a grassy snowmobile trail and then up over a big, steep bump where the other dude decided to put his foot down and cause everyone behind him to run into each other...Nothing good about that. The trail now was more snowmobile/four wheeler style and after another mile, we climbed up to a field with a freshly mowed path about 4 feet wide. The ground was soft and I was riding with Garrick and Sheldon. After another mile or so, i looked around and saw that we were alone. We rode around the path which was a bit draining cause the ground was soft with morning dew. At an intersection, we took a wrong turn and ended up going around again. I recognized a turn and then a rock and we were confident that we were doing the loop again so we got over to the spot were we missed the turn and ran into Eddie, Danielle and others also wondering on the direction. We got it right that time and Trevor, Sheldon and I rode away again. The trail took us through a couple more loops in other freshly mowed areas and along a lake to a feed and turnaround point. That initial lap was a bit confusing since there were some two ways that we were not aware of at the beginning.

After that trail we were spit back out onto the grass briefly and then back on the road. From the paved strech, we rode a couple minutes on gravel and onto some of the funnest singletrack I have ridden. It had more flow than the mighty Mississippi and more rhythm than the P-Funk Allstars! So good! There were about five uphill sections where two were not bad at all, one moderate and two that had a few spots ya had to work on. One of those hills though, took you up to the top of Sidewinder which as you went down, the curves and berms filled the excitement well to the top and then spilled it over. That ride is a piece of interactive art!

From there, you end up making your way up Miner's Mountain. Then down and out into the city to complete the 25 mile lap. The first two laps went by fast and I was feeling good. I was trying a new endurance fuel called Half Evil by Carbo Rocket and it was sitting well in the belly. I had some jerky that I was chewing on along with some shot blocks but the third lap started to get a little sloppy in the single track. I was feeling ok but that worried me a bit. The miles around 60 - 70 are always the hardest for me. The question of WTF and why always pop into the head. Through experience, I know that perseverance defeats it but the fourth lap started slow. I came across Danielle on one of the two way sections and got to worrying that she would catch me because she was looking strong! That lit a fire. Maybe since I was riding alone for the last 60+ miles I needed a kick in the pants but that got me going. I amped the speed up and kept a rollin. I felt safer once I hit the single track section but kept the heat on. At the feed zone, in the woods, there was bacon to be had and two pieces were downed to take me through the last 10 mile. Since I was alone, that was the only chewing the fat i was gonna be doing. I made it through and got out of the single track relieved to just hammer out the last mile plus. I went to change my hand position and somehow got all twisted and ended up on the ground, in the gravel. I hit hard but was surprised to get up and feel relatively good when all I wanted to do was grunt and grown on the ground. I hopped on the bike and pedalled in for a final time of 8:12. My fasted XC century and good enough for 4th overall and 1st 39+ Singlespeed. My gear of 32x18 was all good and I cleared all the climbs.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cycle Messenger World Championship - 2012

The Cycle Messenger World Championship (CMWC) was held in Chicago and about 250 gritty, grimey, urban bike fanatics from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia showed up with their skills and their stink to clear any room entered. The phallic-shaped race course was set up as a series of one-ways and U-turns in a parking lot of Soldier Field and there we baked in the sun and had much fun.

My wife and I made it into town on Friday afternoon and got settled before I hit the registration/package pick-up. This would be my first out-of-town messenger event since 1999 and I had a goal to race well on Saturday and qualify for the finals on Sunday. It has been a dozen years since I completed my last run but dipping my toe in a number of alleycats the last 4+ years, as well as the annual Stupor Bowl, my jonez for routing and riding is still running high. I got on the bike and rolled the streets of Chicago for the first time since 1998, maybe...Tough to remember, I think it was the Chi-town Showdown...in any case, it felt good. I arrived at the Chrome store early and the coolers were full-o-beer and the room was not yet the sauna it would become from the funk of sweat. I ran in to a few Mpls heads and got comfortable. Shortly thereafter I was tapped on the shoulder by Squid from NYC. It has been about 8 years since I seen him last so we got to gabbing. Before long, the crowd and stank forced me out and more talk was had with many folk. I took off before an alleycat started and had dinner with the wife. A great evening was had, I memorized the names of the stops and it was the perfect commencement for an awesome weekend!

The course was to be open for riding at 10:00 am Saturday for 30 minutes so I got down there at that time and was surprised to see so many folks already getting their legs moving. I was rolling on my All-City Big Block set up brakeless with a 46x16 fixed gear and using my little PAC bag. Taking the turns on the course made for a lot of changes in speed so skidding was on the menu and a bunch of back pedaling. I was thinking a 46x17 would have been a more practical gear but I was more than happy to make do. Around 10:30 am, all gathered around the "dispatch" checkpoint and information was given out and we were told to line up. The sun was beating down and I opted to let the crazy long line shrink while sitting in the shade keeping cool. There was no cover when waiting and getting overheated was not what I wanted. At about 1:00 pm, the line was still long! That totally surprised me, so getting nervous about not getting out before the 4:00 pm cut-off, I lined up by jumping in with a crew from MPLS. The organizers had pity on the sun baked masses so they took our numbers down and called us up so down time in shade could be had. I was lucky to not have spent too much time waiting.

When my number came up, it was go time and I was handed a sheet of paper with two columns of 11 "picks, drops and roundtrips" that can be done in any order. The picks were at each of the named stops on the race course. There were a couple of stops that you had to lock your bike up, a couple required you to take off your bag before approaching the table at the stop, a couple required you to sign in on a time sheet. All was meant to mimic dealings in a typical day of courier work. Some stops were roundtrips where a package was picked up, brought to another stop, and then brought back to the pick up. At each pick up and drop, a stamp was giving on the manifest as long as you had the correct package. The packages were made up of envelopes, rectangular boxes, square boxes and triangle tubes. Once all the stops were hit and the manifest was full of stamps, the next stop was at dispatch where you were handed another to complete. Once the second manifest was complete, the qualifications were done.

Initially seeing the manifest, my mind went a bit blank and the analytical routing was sputtering. I just started hitting the stops and tried to get in a rhythm. After some stops were getting done, the routing started taking shape and the final half went much more efficient. For the second manifest, the route was set to only hit the stops once where you had to lock the bike, do pick and drop at the same time. That helped much but no help was gonna fix the problem of using a bag that was too small to carry all the picks at times. I had to work the drops accordingly to get some of the tubes and boxed dropped at stops instead of on the course. In the end, I finished the qualifying race in 1:04. After racing, I took off and met the wife and strolled back down Michigan, through the throngs of people being kicked out of Lolapalooza because of an impending rain storm. I skipped out once again on the nights activities and had quality time with the wife. I was not sure if I qualified when I went to bed but I was thinking I did. When I woke up, I found out that I qualified in 16th place. I was stoked because since racing CMWC in 1995 and 1996, I have always wanted to qualify for the finals. The gorilla was off the back. The goal was accomplished and now was time to have some fun.

The racing was set to start at 10:00 am so I got down there at 9 and there was a bunch of course set up that had to be done. It was a good chance to do some socializing and enjoy the morning. To fix the problem of stuffing too much into my small bag, I brought a backpack made by the folks at Freight Baggage and was a bit stoked to try it out for messing. I didn't think it would be as fast slinging a shoulder bag but the space was what I thought of as essential. At 10:45 the 100 qualifiers got to lining up the bikes for the Le Mans start and getting our first manifest. The finals race was a bit different than the qualifiers the previous day. There were 12 different manifests and they were handed out so every 12 qualifiers had a different mani. These manifests were much smaller and had around 4 picks and 4 drops on average that you could do in any order. There were still the lock up points for the bike, there were still round trips to be done but it was much easier to route at a glance. One difference was that there was a "driver pull" stop. This was a person on a bike who rode around the course and you had to find him and have him sign the manifest for a pick before you hit the listed drop spot. I told him it would be easier to hone in on him if he were blaring some classic rock.

My bike was lined up right behind 2010 CMWC winner Craig Etheridge so as we were bunched up I got to talking to him. Real good guy and I hope see him at the Singlespeed CX Nationals in Wisco this January. At go time, it was chaos running around bikes and finding my own bike. I jumped on and got to speeding down the course with the masses. My first mistake happened right away with my choice to get to the first stop on my mani. I took the slower of the options for some reason but whatever, what is 8-10 seconds or so...The sun was hot but I was feeling good and the first manifest was finished fast. After each mani was done, you had to stop at dispatch and turn it in and pick up the next one. Most the time there was a line so it was a crap shoot on how long the wait would be. In any case, it was an opportunity to catch the breath and quickly recover. Ticking down manifests and seeing other racers from Mpls and volunteering at the stops was a blast. Giving shouts and hammering it out was what it was all about. Another difference from the qualifying race was that we were only delivering flats so the backpack I was using was overkill. It added a bit of time taking it off and putting it back on as packages were picked and dropped but that is life in the big city. The time cut-off for the race was only 2 hours so I started asking how much time was left about an hour in, then 40 minutes were left, then 20. I was thinking that I was only getting one more manifest finshed in the 20 minutes but I made it back with about 10 to spare and found out that partially finished manifest counted so I grabbed one more and hit it. I put in the route and made a mistake that cost me about a minute and took away an option of finishing another complete pick/drop combo. I made it back to the dispatch before the cut-off and turned in an incomplete 10th manifest...only got it half done. After that it was all about hanging out and having a blast with new and old friends. I went to awards that night and saw that Craig Etheridge won again so props to him. The results were posted the next day and I came in 35th overall. I was 16th in the track bike category and 4th* for the racers who were not active messengers. I am very content with how I place against a bunch of young bucks. My only regret is a few of the little mistakes added up by the end of the race but that is what it is all about. Pedalling your ass off and keeping your wits. I would like to race more CMWCs but it is gonna be hard to get me and my bike over to Lausanne in 2013 and Mexico City in 2014. There is the NACCCs in Minneapolis in 2014 so count me in for that!

I gotta give a huge shout out to the Chicago crew; Christina, Nico, Augie, Alison and everyone else who put together a whole weekend of activities and super fun race! Thanks to the Cuttin' Crew, Trash Bags and all the other stop sponsors and volunteers! Thanks to Minx for the water hand-ups during the finals and shout out to all the other racers from Minneapolis!! Way to put 8 racers in the finals!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Prepping for CMWC 2012

OK. I am not currently a bike messenger but I was from 1992 to 2000. I worked as a rider, dispatcher and for the last year, a business owner. I carried all sorts of crap, boxes, reams, legal papers and subpeonas. I met so many good people in foyers, elevators, mail rooms, and on the streets of Minneapolis and for a brief stint in the summer of 1997, New York. It was absolutely exhilerating! Racing through traffic feeling ownership of the streets that were all part of the open office. The community was tight and extended all over the world. I was lucky enough to race in two Cycle Messenger World Championships (CMWC) in 1995 and 1996 held in Toronto and San Francisco respectively. I also raced in the North American Cycle Courier Championships (NACCC) in 1999 and 2000 held in Toronto and Minneapolis. Other races included alley cats in Minneapolis, Chicago, New York and Philidelphia. Much fun was had!! Much beer was had!! Much sleeping on grimey floors that had not seen a vacuum for what seemed ever was had. The beer helped with that.

Toronto, 1995, was the first bike messenger race that us green couriers from Minneapolis had attended. There were five of us: Dan Carlson, John Swanson, Chad Selberg, Mike Rudnick and myself. We drove there and made it to town, parked the car, and got on the bikes to represent. We did not know what to really expect but Dan had a bit of insight from his days of messengering in D.C. so we got to meeting people and checking out the course. One of the first people we met was Squid form NYC. He took us on a tour of the course that included a bunch of ramps, a ride in the back door and out the front of a cafe, and a set of angled train tracks, which Chad hit and broke his finger on when racing...treacherous. We were fast on our hoopty bikes but did not qualify. Messenger racing is not a point A to B go as fast as you can type race. There are challenges and some planning and scheming involved with where to stop and what route to take. We did not get that at the time and it showed. We partied that night and lost Chad, found him the next day sans bike and vowed to do better next time around. SF was the next time around and we had a bunch of folks make it out. We got the manifests and climbed the hills but failed to qualify once again. The points and all that scheming failed us and we got to partying. This time Sam crashed that night and broke his skull. We were lucky he survived and happy that he pulled through. He made it out of the hospital after a while and chilled out but eventually returned to those evil messengering ways for a while after that. That story and other details tied to the other races may show up in furture posts but I can say that beginning in 1997 with a race in NYC, the Apocolips, Minneapolis started to show some colors and represented well.

Fast forward to 2012, the CMWC is in Chicago and I feel I have unfinished business. The race is close and I always was a bit discouraged that I never qualified for the main race in 1995 and 1996. I gotta try to put that monkey to bed and take on the pedalling youth of today. It is a bit of a shift in gears...not with respect to speeds on a bike, I still only roll a single on the street, but a shift in how to race. I have been concentrating on the endurance this year with gravel or XC centuries and 10 hour races. The ding to the confidence is how will the legs respond for the short qualifying heats. I think I am good at getting the jump on for the Le Mans start so keeping the cadence is where I am gonna focus for that race on Saturday. Pedal my ass off and make it to the longer final race on Sunday. Needlesstosay, it is gonna be a great time seeing some old heads, seeing Mpls heads, seeing those crazy Chi-town heads and meeting a bunch of new ones. I am hoping nobody ends up hurt like the previous CMWCs I have attended. I am definitely not partying as much as back in those days, I can only do it one night in a row now. I am also taking time with the wife so a better influence will keep me from being under the influence. Fun will be had and documented here.

What am I riding you say....well the fixie-converted Merckx has been retired because of a spied out crack. I am rolling an All-City Big Block brakeless with a 46x16...i think.