Fall riding and the experience of a cyclocross event...

It is fall riding season for me.

What does that mean?  Well, according to my weekly hours on the bike - not much riding at all.  Fall was officially ushered in on September 22nd and my weekly hours dropped precipitously as listed below.

Week of 9/23 - 5:15 hours
Week of 9/30 - 4:25 hours
Week of 10/7 - 3:15 hours
Week of 10/14 - 6:05 hours (thanks to my fall break and a cyclocross race)

I had 2 weeks in March that were both below 5 hours, but the rest of the year never dipped like the past month has shown.  Obviously, directing the opera put a big limit on any free time for workouts - so it was expected and the timing fit fine as things wound down cycling season wise.

The past week was my effort to ramp it up just a bit and hit my minimum of 6 hours.  I will begin my off-season weight training program come November which I am ready to do as I have been surviving on weekly maintenance sessions.

I could use it too, as my back and everything else got pretty beat up this past week.  I had Thursday off from teaching thanks to our fall break.  So the weather was sunny and 65 which had me head out on the Summerset Trail and to Banner riding my Dos Niner with the big volume Renegades listening to my iPod for a dose of motivational music...


The bike is very nimble, fast and turns through the tight and twisty quicker than my full suspension Niners.  I really enjoyed doing about a lap and a half at Banner on the Dos before turning south to head back to Indianola on the Summerset Trail.  I got in 2.5 hours which was the most in one ride in quite some time for me.  The addition of the big volume Renegades at a comfortable psi make me rethink my options of racing this bike more often next year.  The main issue is the fight with my lower back and the shake up of the body that comes with riding a HT.  I did get a bit more beat up on the Dos riding at full speed than my JET 9.  And that delays my recovery and ability to do the next workout, but I think with a few tweaks I can mitigate that a bit.  Tweaks would be a bit lower psi than I was running (I was way too high as I didn't use my guage when filling up before riding) and maybe even a more forgiving seatpost.  I can't blame my core as it has been in great shape all year.  It's the bouncing the back takes that tweaks it.

Why did I pull the Dos Niner out?  My thought was to race it on Saturday at the cyclocross race.  I had raced it last year since I don't own a cyclocross bike...


...so I figured I would do the same this year.  The bike as pictured weighs 23.87 pounds which is not too shabby for a size XL 29"er. 

I took Friday off outside of the dog walks on the bike to recover from Thursday's effort.  Having the day off from work, I decided to mow the lawn, trim it and then went into tinkerer mode with my road bike.  I had a 10 year old pair of Continental Twister Pro cyclocross tires in storage and since my Roubaix has a relaxed geometry, the Zertz inserts for absorbing bumbs and chatter, a tall head tube and clearance for the tires - why not mount up the cyclocross tires and just race my Roubaix for a cyclocross race that was forecast to be dry?  It weighs 19.5 pounds and would be that much less to lift over all the barrier crossings during the race.  I knew I was in no condition to compete, so why not have some fun and try the race with my drop bar bike.  This, in spite of Sterling Heise who sold it to me at Rassy's calling me crazy for doing so!!!

I was up at 6 a.m. on Saturday to head up to Mullets in Des Moines to have breakfast with the BikeIowa Team and set up for the big event:  Oakley Night Cap Cyclocross.

 Mullets Breakfast

We got to work by about 8 a.m. and dove in setting up the course, the registration area, the podium area, etc... .  I had to leave around noon to go home and shower before driving to Marshalltown with Tara for a wedding.  The wedding was at 2 and I had packed my bike and clothes to head directly back to Mullets for racing and to help out with the event.  Of course, I had officially warmed up for the race at the wedding reception with a pair of Fat Tires as we waited for the wedding party to arrive at the reception (waited 90 minutes for them to arrive!!!!).  I arrived back at Mullets just in time to pick up my number plate, get into my kit and do one practice lap.  Again - I was ridiculed for my choice of a road bike.  Hey, c'est la vie.  It didn't feel too bad out there on the course considering me being used to suspension when riding off road.

The Roubaix with the iddy biddy cyclocross tires on it - because it is what I had on hand.


There were 100 of us lined up for the combined CAT 4 and CAT 5 race.  I was in the CAT 4 group and about in row 4 or 5 at the start.  On the opening flat start, I quickly realized the beer warm up combined with my choice of bike was not the best combination.  Goal was not to finish DFL, but just to have fun and enjoy the event.  All went well as I negotiated all of the turns and barriers well enough to stay upright, but the ride was bumpy and jarring.  I was too afraid of a pinch flat and ran the psi pretty high to prevent it.  There is room for a 34mm width tire in there, but obviously it would only be for dry course conditions since this bike does not have cantilever brakes and any room for mud build up.  Since the Night Cap was being held in dry conditions, I opted to give it a whirl for my one annual cross race.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll try another in November if all the stars are in alignment.

What's a barrier?  It's something you have to dismount your bike and carry it over while running.  The dismount and remount requires a nice bit of energy which I have not trained for this fall, but it didn't really matter for me in this particular event as my goal was pure fun.  Here's a shot from earlier in the day of my teammate testing some of the Cross Mafia barriers near the bandstand that everyone had to run over...


Gone was last year's Death Spiral...


...but, there were plenty of similar miles of tape, twists, and turns to negotiate.  The last couple of laps, my back started to reject my Thursday training ride on the Dos Niner, all the lifting and help with set up, and the absolute jarring from the bumpy course that my Roubaix did well to absorb, but my back did not.  Back, hands, arms, neck were all scolding me.  My Twister Pro tires were on the skinny side of a cyclocross tire (casing width of about 28mm, and tread width of 30mm), so I couldn't really air them down enough to absorb the trail like those with full 34mm tires were able to do.

Regardless, I was just out supporting the event and having fun.  I went down once when I hopped off my bike to cross a barrier and my foot got caught in the spokes of the front wheel of a rider behind me.  I couldn't get my foot out of his wheel and down I went.  No harm done, and fun was had by all.  I did manage to avoid being DFL in the CAT 4 group.

I witnessed an unfortunate thing in the final CAT 1 race that began at 10 p.m. near the finish line.  I had been standing and talking with Bob Matthews for most of the evening and we were watching the three guys in the lead Kevin McConnell, Mark Savery, and Brian West.  They had been a three man train the entire race, exchanging positions a time or to, but Kevin was in the lead and had a nice 20+ foot gap going into the final two turns before the finish line.

BikeIowa had set up a beer garden in the middle of the course so folks could get close to the stage for the live bands and to heckle the riders.  This involved walking across the course to get to the beer garden.  Just as Kevin rounded the corner for the final two turns, he yelled out at three gals who were crossing the course on their way to the beer garden to get out of his way.  Unfortunately, they did not and he plowed right into one of them (a gal we all know and is a friend of mine on Facebook, but I won't mention her name here).  Down he went hard while Mark and Brian passed him as he was on the ground to take 1st and 2nd.  Kevin tossed his bike in frustration and the crowd was shocked at the 3 ladies who were not paying attention and ruined the race's outcome.  Too bad for all of those involved, but it does possibly point to a different set up next year or at least course marhsals monitoring who and when spectators cross the course.

We had 310 riders participate in the event which set a record!!!

After the final race, I headed out to take down signs, tape, stakes, packed up the PA system, podiums, extension cords, etc... .  My witching hour came at 1:15 a.m. when I could no longer bend over or move.  I pulled the plug and headed home knowing the 30 minute drive being so tired would be difficult.

My back and body enjoyed a relaxing do nothing day on Sunday to recover, but I did head out for a 95 minute recovery ride on the Roubaix to get my week up to 6 hours of on the bike time.  Monday was limited to my two dog walks on the bike as my back is still recovering.

Fall pleasure riding will continue with an attempt to keep my hours up - and my weight down!!!

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