Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Behold, as of today, September 22nd, the waning rays of summer have slipped into the yore of golden yesterday. Autumn is upon us and that can only mean one thing. Actually two: we're all going to get sick and tired of Shim complaining about why there aren't more Fall mountain bike races on the calendar this year. The other is that Autumn marks the beginning of Cyclocross season.

Now some folks (Shim) deride cyclocross as "lawn racing" events because the race courses are primarily on grass. And some (actually just Shim) refer to it as lawn racing because they (he) hate(s) running so much that it ruins an otherwise good bike race. That, and one other person (Shim *yawn*) likes to goad Mark Savery, who is currently besides himself that the 'lawn racing' season is finally upon us.

But while Shim calls it lawn racing, I prefer the term 'criturfium'. Here's how it's defined:

- noun, plural -te·ri·a
1. a timed, short-circuit bicycle race conducted over grass, sand, mud and/or snow with obstacles requiring dismounts and shouldering the bike;
2. a closed-circuit bike path burned into the sod of a local city park or unsuspecting private property owner, often by encroachment. See Trespassing.
3. bicycle lawn racing

I prefer calling it a criturfium because the races are similar to a roadie's criteriums, or crits. Like crits, cyclocross races are conducted on a short circuit course less than one mile in length over a set period of time, usually around an hour. The courses are often serpentine with hairpin turns, which increase the risk of collisions with other cyclists. But while the turns and other rides are the biggest risks in crits, cyclocross races also have physical barriers and steep hill climbs that force the rider to shoulder his/her bike over various terrains including grass, sand, mud and occasionally snow.

One might wonder, with all the risks, why has cyclocross become so popular?

I've done some thinking about this and comes to this. Cyclocross is not the fastest growing demographic segment because of the opinion of the competitors. No, you ask any cyclist what they really feel about riding and shouldering their bike for an hour at maximum effort and the honest ones will tell you straight up: it sucks.

So if not the cyclist's that's behind the popularity, then who?

It's the fan who comes to watch the criturfiums who are clamoring for more, more, more. And do you know who makes up this demographic? Friends and family, and they're hungry for action.

You see, humans are naturally wired to be attracted to pain and suffering. This is evidenced from the headlines on the nightly news to the most popular sports on television: football and NASCAR, where gratuitous violence is commonplace. Yes, and right next to their team covering the spread, the people want to see all the carnage go down, up-front and center in HD.

Like NASCAR, Cyclocross races dispense the titillating thrills that the fans seek.

Indeed, 'cross races can be therapeutic. Even cathartic. For instance, does your spouse leave dirty socks on the bedroom floor every day? Encourage him/her to enter the next race. When they do, make sure you get a front row seat by the barriers. It'll be pay dirt. And, the $25 race entrance fee easily beats the shrink's deductible. Win-Win! But the real winners of a cyclocross race aren't the few who climb onto the podium after the race; no, it's the children who squeal with delight when they see Dad's ungraceful attempt at a running mount onto the bike. Uh-oh, groin shot! You tell me those kids aren't enjoying this. Indeed, it's sweet revenge for making them eat eat the tuna noodle casserole for dinner.

Carnage. Cylcocross. The people love it.

So here's to criturfiums, lawn racing or whatever you want to call it.

Can somebody ring a cow bell already?

Let the races begin, bloody American style!

Monday, September 20, 2010


The pre-race ritual of two shots of espresso had to be altered. Though I arrived at the downtown Starbucks 20 minutes before gun time, and the line was only two deep, the customer at the counter was a quarter of the way through the list of 17 drinks for the Omaha Fashion Show's hair & makeup crew. Yes, 17 drinks, each with their own requirements. Her bill was $74.45 and she was put off because she hadn't collected enough money from the hair divas. She reached into her purse and produced $75. She kept the change. I'm sorry to rant, but that's just wrong. Get a couple travelers and be on your way. Geez!!!

As time was short, I took a small cup of bold roast and dashed to the starting area to complete warmup.

It was about 50F when the gun went off. The streets were still wet from the previous night's cold front that blew through, the remnants of which greeted us with a slight headwind as we race towards north Omaha. After the initial surge of the first mile's mostly downhill grade, I settled into race pace. Mile two breezed by before the cardio started feeling the shock of running right below anaerobic threshold. That's when I saw it: there was a wad of cash submerged in a puddle on the street. Cash?!? A double take. Yes, there was green, cold hard cash, some with zeros on them, ripe for the taking beneath a couple inches of standing water.

But there was the problem, you see, as I was currently sharing the lead with another runner.

Relax, this wasn't yesterday's Omaha Corporate cup. The race I'm talking about was the 2006 Run With A Heart 10k that shares much of the same course as the Corporate Cup.

Anyway about this cash. Had runner next to me seen it? It didn't appear so. So I called it out to his attention. He thought I was bluffing, like "Hey McFly -- your shoe's untied."

He wasn't having any of me 'gettin' in his grill'.

Thus a moral dilemma unfolded before me: go for the ego or the quick money? Having never won a race before, I was highly motivated for the win. But then again, I could sellout for the easy cash...

Ego or Mammon. What would you do?

The cash option felt dirty, so I went for the win and pressed on. Ultimately, I overcame the other runner in the final quarter mile to win the race. For my efforts, I was awarded a small trophy and two Qdoba burrito coupons.

Looking back, I feel like Monty Hall had revealed a donkey behind curtain number two. Bwaa wahn wahn wahn...

Anyway, I thought of this yesterday as I passed the exact spot where I saw that wad of cash years ago. Not that there wasn't a cash prize in yesterday's Omaha Corporate Cup 10K race.

The big deal about the 2010 Omaha Corporate Cup was that for the first time in its 30 year history, there was a cash purse that paid three deep ($500,$300,$200) for the top males and females. A local race promoter, Speedy Mart/Shell, had put up $2000 in cash prizes with the hopes of making it Omaha's most competitive 10K.

It worked. Eric Rasmussen of Omaha's Team Nebraska Brooks won the race in 30:42, only 21 seconds off of Tim Dooling's 1988 course-record and nearly a minute and a half faster than the winning time of last year's race. Melissa Todd of Kansas City Smoke claimed the women's victory nearly two minutes faster than the previous year's top female.

Congratulations to the victors, to the American Lung Association and to the race organizers & volunteers for putting together a very competitive race. Yesterday's race was the most competitive 10K I've ever competed in.

Elite race results

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Carb Unloading Revisited

I attended the Trek store ride last night with six others, including Shim, E O'B, Joe Savoie, Trek store's Paul, Fred Galata and Leah Kleager. About 10 miles into the ride, just after the pace was picking up, I rolled up next to Shim. Something like the following conversation occurred through the next few pace line rotations.

WSCG: I'm not planning on hitting it very hard tonight.

Shim: Why not?

WSCG: I'm resting the legs for the Corporate Cup 10K this weekend.

(I didn't tell him that I was also on day three of carb-unloading and the needle was nearing empty.)

Shim: The Corporate Cup 10k is on Sunday. That's like five days away. [Joe] Friel says that you should do an intense effort 48 to 72 hours before a big race.

~ the paceline splits us; onto the next rotation ~

WSCG: Friel was talking about cycling. Running's different.

Shim: Yeah, running's different because you wear those gay little running shorts and a visor.

Nice. Fast forward a few miles down the road when I shared this encounter with Leah, who as a fellow runner/triathlete, could appreciate both the running aspect and the response from our dear friend Shim. Regarding the running shorts, Leah asked me if I reminded Shim that he wears spandex and shaves his legs. I hadn't. At the moment, the best I could come up with was how fantastic he looked in his white-trash sleeveless cycling jerseys.

Now back to intense efforts. I partially agreed with Shim's reference to Joe Friel: a few intense efforts probably wouldn't hurt. So when he lit it up on the second to last hill on Hwy 36 approaching 72nd St, I jumped on his wheel. By the time we crested it, my heart rate must have been in the mid 180s.

The rest of the ride to Ft Calhoun was a typical Wednesday night affair, with all the attacks/counter attacks and high tempo pace lines until the final sprint at the end of the Omaha Trace. It felt good.

At Ft Calhoun, I glanced beyond the candy bars and coca-cola and simply filled the water bottles.

In the midst of Boyer's Chute 20 minutes later, I felt the first clunk-clunk of a bonk coming on. I noted there were the hills of Ft Calhoun and many miles still ahead. Also, it wasn't my imagination that ominously dark rain clouds were threatening.

picture courtesy of Jonathan Neve

I punched it up the lower half of Ft Calhoun and then let Galata pull me to the second one. When I stood to get over the second hill, I discovered the classic signs of glucose deprivation: extreme fatigue in the quadriceps.

To add to the misery, the skies opened. While lightning flashed, a torrential downpour with 40mph wind gusts drenched us. Unfortunately, we were totally exposed without any nearby shelter. By now, I was struggling to hang on to the wheel in front of me. I think we were going about 12 mph. That only lasted a few minutes before I got popped off.

Bonk achieved.

I find bonking very funny. Roughly an hour beforehand, I was attacking uphill at 26mph and felt great. Yet in a short span of time, my ride quality had degraded to the point that I could barely ride a straight line.

Thankfully, the group sat up and waited for me, and we all managed to make it back to the store safely under clearing skies.

Carb loading ensued shortly after. I ate three Kripsy Kremes at the bike shop. They were delicious. Shim, Leah and I then went to Qdoba where upon I destroyed a burrito, chips and guacamole.

What a night.

Next week looks to be the final Wedneday night ride of the year from the Trek Store. We depart at 5:30PM. Hope to see you there.