I was puttering in the garage today working on my Karate Monkey when I uncovered a pile of hardware hiding beneath bike "stuff" that tends to accumulate on my work bench in the garage. The gathering of things on the work bench included helmets, gloves, tires, parts, boxes, saddlebags, and you know - 'stuff'. Wow! There were 14 awards/medals in a pile.
That got me to reflecting on the 2012 race season. I've made the podium a few times before, but certainly nothing like this. I'd like to think that some of it has to do with me improving a bit this year and peaking for certain events. However, it has a lot to do with me racing in age divisions where the chance of a podium have increased for me. I raced in the same age divisions last year and managed 4 podiums (equates to 30% of the time). This year, I managed the 14 (equating to 63% of the time).
It's hard not to mention the number of events I did this year when reflecting. I did 22 XC racing events as well as 1 gravel endurance race and 1 cyclocross race. Compared to previous racing seasons - that was a bit of a bump in the sheer number of events for me. I did 13 last year and 15 the year before. I'd have to go all the way back to 2009 to find a year when I did quite a few as well, but that was only 18 events.
If we are in a time of reflecting, being thankful, and counting our blessings at year end - I've got a lot to be thankful for this year. Traveling to all of these races allows me to be thankful just to have the chance, finances, and time to travel to them. The bonus of seeing the beautiful scenery and riding excellent singletrack also gives me reason to be thankful. Tara has been very understanding and even accompanied me on a few of the trips this year. I am very thankful that she lets me get away on weekends to do these races. I took quite a spill during a race in April that could have been a lot worse than it was with all of the torn neck muscles and shoulder injury. I'm very thankful it was not worse than it was.
A reflective recap of some of the events...
The season opened in Bellevue, NE at Swanson Park with a nice warm 92 degrees. Started the season off with a 2nd Place Finish.
Sylvan Island was next in cooler temperatures with rain lurking.
Tranquility was next and the site of my crash near the finish that tore my neck and shoulder up.
It was also, despite the pain, my first climb on the top box for the season.
The muscle tears in the neck and the shoulder injury took me from the profile on the left to something between the 2nd and 3rd pictures on the right. I am still fighting on a daily basis to get back to the left profile picture without tension and pain.
I spent a lot of time in the off season and during the season on this bike which I account for my success this year building a big base and allowing for recovery between hard efforts in the dirt.
The first camping trip with Tara took us close to Norfolk, NE for the Maskenthine Classic.
I battled the rain, mud, and killer hills at Ponca State Park in Nebraska for the Nebraska State Championship - an event I had been peaking for with my training.
Another climb to the top box.
A week later, I made the top box again while my peak was still strong on one of my "home courses" - Banner Pits.
Racing a Santa Cruz Tallboy at Fort Ord not too far from Santa Cruz where I was deftly humbled by the level of CAT II competition out in California. Family vacation allowed me to rent the bike and take a shot at a race outside of the Midwest. Great bunch of racers - and super fast!!!
Came back from the West Coast summer vacation to the Midwest and tried to leave the helping of humble California pie behind. I headed to Buck Hill in Burnsville, MN to grab 2nd on the ski hill (where I also took a tumble on a loose section and banged the same shoulder again).
Gotta love the "Buck Winding Wind"....
August brought hot and sweaty racing to the fore. Crossing the state line to drive into Wisconsin and race on the old Border Battle course.
Back over to Swanson in Bellevue, NE since Lake Manawa's scheduled race was moved to Swanson on account of sand left over from the Missouri flooding. This time, I tackled Swanson on the RIP 9.
2nd Chair in the old man's band this time around as well...
50 miles of pain, pleasure and fun in the Black Hills for the Dakota Five-0 on Labor Day Weekend. What a great event!!
I saw a bit of trail from a hiker's standpoint as well.
Another one of my goals was to do well at the home course where I host The Mullet Fall Classic. We had a record turnout of racers this year in spite of focusing on hosting the event, I did race. I managed to climb on the top box after 2 laps of my "home course" Lake Ahquabi. This sealed my winning of the overall Iowa Series for my age division.
I tried my hand at this funky thing called Cyclocross at the Oakley Nightcap in Des Moines.
I loved the spirals and the overall vibe of the event. For my first attempt at one of these races, having it held in the evening was pretty fun.
Those were just a few of the pictorial memories of the 2012 season. There were many more including wonderful camping trips to Duluth, Minnesota and to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin with Tara. I do remain thankful for having the chance to enjoy and see it all.
I've been thrilled with the November riding in sort of an unstructured way. I ride when I have time and just do it in fun mode. Weather has been great and I have managed to squeeze a few hours every week on the bike in spite of the sun setting so soon. Be it pavement, dirt, gravel, the basement exercise bike, commuting to and from work - I take what I can get. November riding helps clear the path for me to begin the base building all over again after the holidays. I focused on cornering technique this fall to help me out next year as my technique has been faulty compared to what I have learned how to do this fall.
Deer hunting season begins next Saturday - so those nice long bike path training rides will get put on hold for fear of getting shot. December is the time of year I hit the weights in the gym. I'll have to stay in town for rides, use the basement exercise bike, and hit the dirt loops in State Parks where hunting is not allowed so I am not mistaken for a deer out on my bike.