CX season windup thoughts


Since I started rac­ing CX 3 years ago, Autumn and CX always give me chills and is no doubt my favorite time of the year.  The beauty of the leaves turn­ing, the crunchy sound of leaves under­neath the tires and the feel­ing of inhal­ing and exhal­ing the cool, crisp air to and from your lungs.  I’d take it any day over the hazy, hot and humid days of sum­mer (and prefer­ably with­out warm­ers :-).  It’s great to see more and more peo­ple (and fel­low team­mates!) get­ting into CX and shar­ing in the pain.

I felt this year it was time to make some upgrades so I picked up a barely used ’13 Can­non­dale SuperX (58cm) in the pre­vi­ous off-season and some Veloc­ity Major Tom’s paired up with a PDX on the front and the new MXP on the back (which worked out well!).  It was my first time glu­ing up tires and, aside from knock­ing off a few brain cells, it wasn’t that bad!  I still like my Rid­ley X-Fire but, though it felt great on gravel races, it’s 58cm frame always felt a lit­tle big for CX and a bit “tippy”.  I’m sure that had some­thing to do with run­ning clinch­ers over 40psi (not know­ing because of a bad pump gauge!) but, regard­less, I’m glad I made the change.  Not to men­tion, it’s nice hav­ing a pit bike/commuter/gravel bike/N+1.

Another pre­sea­son deci­sion I had to make was to decide on rac­ing with guys my age across all cat­e­gories or with the age­less 3/4 cat­e­gory.  Tough call because I know my train­ing wasn’t really struc­tured enough at the begin­ning of the sea­son and I got mixed opin­ions on what to do.  My main pri­or­ity is my fam­ily and two kids so start time had some say into that deci­sion.  Regard­less, I worked it out, went with my heart by start­ing with the 3/4’s and see­ing where it went from there.

NEOCX3 2013 start2

The first race of the year for me was in the 3/4 at NEOCX #3 Brook­lyn CX.  Going into the race, I hadn’t raced in over a month and felt a bit ner­vous at the line.  I had punc­tured the brand new PDX tubu­lar 20 min­utes into a train­ing ride and sealant appar­ently didn’t fix it as it went flat in the pre-ride.  Men­tal note:  don’t ride tubu­lars for train­ing on unknown grounds or pre­pare for a poten­tial costly mis­take!  There­fore, I rode with my pit, PDX clincher on the front and the MXP on the back.  I ran took the chance of run­ning both the clincher and tubu­lar at 32psi since the course had some mud, albeit a gen­er­ally fast and flowy course.  First lap, I fell off the front after the first lap but gen­er­ally felt really good for not hav­ing raced in a while.  Gear­ing was suf­fi­cient (42/38 front, 12x27 back) for the flats and the one switch­back climb.  In all, I stayed on the bike and man­aged to main­tain the 6th spot.  Tried catch­ing up to my team­mate David Short but I also didn’t run a 1/2 marathon like he did the day before and was at my limit.  For those who don’t know, I gave David some friendly ban­ter through­out the sea­son as his taper­ing involved 50+ mile rides, 10+ mile runs the day before a race.  :)  All kid­ding aside, big props to David who’s an awe­some, young racer with a great per­son­al­ity.  Best of luck to him in his future rac­ing endeav­ors.


Next up was the sub-tropical 3/4 ABRA kick­off cross race in Point Mar­ion, PA.  Did I men­tion that I like cool, crisp air for rac­ing?  Yeah, so my goal was to get the <some­one was jok­ing about> prime in the first lap and then main­tain a decent spot for the final.  Instead, I led the first lap putting NuGo on the CX map but had the unfor­tu­nate event of crash­ing into the back end of another rider on the down­hill sec­tion before the new run-up.  I never recov­ered after that and the heat really got to my lungs (EIB).  I enjoyed the course setup regard­less of the con­di­tions and it was good to see sev­eral team­mates (Kyle and Jason specif­i­cally) get top ten fin­ishes in that field!


After that was the 3/4 ABRA Mil­i­tary cross race in Oak­dale, PA.  Love that this venue is only 20 min­utes from my house.  Although, I sim­ply wasn’t feel­ing it going in.  Not hav­ing the front tubu­lar back, stress­ful work week and going down drive-side on a warm-up lap didn’t help.  I got a pretty good start but went down pretty hard (drive-side again) on the third main turn.  Man­aged to catch back up to some but then, on the very next lap, I went wide into one of the white posts (at the bot­tom of the hill) which snagged and ripped out my rear brake cable.  Need­less to say, it was inter­est­ing rid­ing four laps with only a front brake and tak­ing risks at catch back up.  I ended up catch­ing up to my team­mate and friend Derek Rea­ger who gave me some inspi­ra­tion to ham­mer out the last lap, pass a few rid­ers and set­tle for a sub-par 16th.  Again kudos to Kyle and David for podium spots in that field.


Next, onto the Tinkey-designed M.O.M. CX race at North Park.  Got my tubu­lar back, got some good sleep and woke up “feel­ing good” on a beau­ti­ful, sunny day.  Next to Mar­illa Park, this was one of my favorite courses of the sea­son (except for the sooper high and close bar­ri­ers – I know the rea­son Tin­key, I know!, just sayin’!).  It was a flowy yet chal­leng­ing course with some LRR fast pump sec­tions and some HRR glue-like sur­faces along with the stren­u­ous run-up and tech­ni­cal decent.  The set­ting was spec­ta­tor and, espe­cially, kid-friendly as my wife and kids ended up com­ing and root­ing on dad.  In all, I had a good day on the bike (and stay­ing on the bike!), gave it my all and fin­ished 5th in a large Sport divi­sion field.  Again kudos to other NuGo’ers in that field with David tak­ing first and Jason, 8th.


One week after M.O.M. was ABRA’s Car­rera De Los Muer­tos race at Mar­illa Park.  Much dif­fer­ent, dryer con­di­tions than the pre­vi­ous year(s) but this is still my FAVorite course!  Love the set­ting, love the roots, love the off-camber, love the hill of death (espe­cially in a year that I could actu­ally ride it!).  The time of the 3/4 sim­ply wasn’t work­ing out for me and my home life so I decided to reg for my first Mas­ter 40+ race.  Ok, yes, I did feel a lit­tle old but, if you ask any­one who knows me, I don’t focus on age but rather how I feel!  I got a call-up for the sec­ond row and was happy to see JR enter the same cat­e­gory.  I know sev­eral of the top dogs were out­side of my league but, other than that, I had no idea what to expect com­pe­ti­tion wise.  I got a pretty good start and main­tained a pretty good posi­tion in my own ‘pack’ out­side of the top dogs tak­ing off.  It turned out to be an awe­some duo between JR and I for at least the last two laps.  JR made a great tac­ti­cal move on the last lap so I ended up tak­ing 4th place but I thor­oughly enjoyed that race and still think of it today (and how I could improve :).  Kudos to Gary Rodosta for con­tin­u­ing to host that race.  I will most cer­tainly be back.


Next week was a new race at the South Franklin town­ship park and I again raced in the 40+ divi­sion. Upon enter­ing the park, I saw rem­nants of Bruce­ton Mills from years ago with the hill climb with sev­eral switch­backs.  It was a pretty windy day but our race missed the rain that came later for the 3/4 guys.  :) :) I felt pretty good in prac­tice but was con­cerned about the climb.  Turns out, my legs stayed with me for most of the race and my team­mate, Josh Car­son, and I hung together for most of the race.  The sand was fun but, man, that false flat sec­tion after the start was super slow and tough both phys­i­cally and men­tally!  I didn’t think I’d like the run-up with bar­ri­ers but it was actu­ally kinda fun.  Again, the 42/38 combo was nice to have for that race for it’s vari­ety of ter­rain.  Man­aged 4th place again and was hon­ored to stand next to PFlug (albeit a 1/2 lap down) on the podium.   1394008_10201806202371735_514933686_n Kudos to all of those out there who can ride 46T and above chain rings on these types of courses.  Maybe I just need a coach or eat more meat (or, rather, sei­tan :).


Next up was a non-ABRA series race at Rac­coon park.  I signed up for the 3/4 as the time worked out well that week and I car pooled with fel­low team­mate and 3/4 racer Jason H.  I know it was sooooper windy and cool that day but that usu­ally inspires me…not today.  I knew some­thing was wrong when I was lit­er­ally shak­ing in warm-up and resorted to putting on tights and a thicker base layer up top.  It was def­i­nitely an endurance course suited best for road­ies but I just didn’t have that punch and my legs weren’t recov­er­ing as fast as they were in pre­vi­ous races.  On the third lap, upon remount­ing after the bar­ri­ers, I stum­bled and ended up step­ping into my front wheel and knock­ing it out of dish (was sit­ting off-center in the fork).  Was going to pit but decided that it wasn’t worth it based on my posi­tion and decided to just ride it out.  Ended up in 12th with a front tire that couldn’t rotate more than two rota­tions with­out com­ing to a stop.  Kudos Kyle and Jason on top 10 fin­ishes in the 3/4 and kudos to Tom B. and John McDanel on 1ST and 3rd spots in the 4/5!

So that evening, I pretty much fig­ured out what was wrong…throat started get­ting raspy and, come Mon­day morn­ing, I couldn’t swal­low any­thing, had chills and could barely walk up and down the stair­case with­out sit­ting down.  Although I didn’t get diag­nosed, I was exposed to some­one that week­end who had strep throat.  Took me nearly a week to get any form of energy to exer­cise but I knew that what­ever race fit­ness I had had dimin­ished.  To make things worse, the two her­ni­ated discs in my neck went ‘out’ which, trust me, is not fun.  For those of you who don’t know, I’ve had recur­ring issues with these for about 5 years where, at one point, I couldn’t even get out of bed one day due to it’s par­a­lyz­ing effects.  Since then, I’ve been receiv­ing reg­u­lar treat­ment for it and have been gen­er­ally pain-free.  Regard­less, I was a no-go for the much antic­i­pated ABRA White Park CX race.


Come South Park – the final ABRA race of the sea­son.  Since NuGo was spon­sor­ing this race, I knew in advance that I’d be at the race the major­ity of the day.  I pre-reg’d before I got sick and dou­bled up for the first time for both mas­ters 40+ and the 3/4.  Regard­less of how I felt, I was doing it.  I enjoyed the course last year and really enjoyed the setup even more this year.  I knew the sick­ness had passed as I went with shorts (no embro­ca­tion cream thank you) and arm warm­ers with no issues.  Felt no pres­sure and went into it think­ing, do your best and enjoy it.  It was great to see many of my team­mates there.  AND, it was ESPECIALLY great to see team­mate Tom Borner get his SECOND cross win in the 4/5, Rachel get (I think?) her best fin­ish (2nd) in the women’s 1–2-3 race and find out that Jason got 3rd in the 3/4!  Mean­while, I did what I could, pushed where I could, but the upper-end sim­ply wasn’t there to keep me up front.  It sim­ply gave me more inspi­ra­tion to do bet­ter and pos­si­bly add some struc­ture to my train­ing for next year.  I real­ize there are more races left in nearby Ohio but due to my train­ing level, hol­i­days approach­ing and bal­anc­ing home-life, I decided that S. Park was my last race of the sea­son.

In sum­mary, I’ll take the few podi­ums and con­tinue to improve mov­ing for­ward with respect to life’s other pri­or­i­ties.  It was also good to see a large amount of team mem­bers rac­ing this CX sea­son and take some sig­nif­i­cant podium spots!

Thanks, first off, to my wife Kim­berly for respect­ing me as a hus­band, father and my pas­sion for cycling and fit­ness.

Thanks to both my chi­ro­prac­tor, Dr. Dave at Pitts­burgh Upper Cer­vi­cal Chi­ro­prac­tic and Denise Lani­gan at Lani­gan Mas­sage and Body­work for keep­ing my body in check.

Thanks to every­one at my home LBS, Trek of Pitts­burgh (Robin­son) for all of your con­tin­ued assis­tance and guid­ance for all of my cycling needs.

Thanks to Rob at WLC for allow­ing me to use his equip­ment to fix my bike mid-season.

Thanks to JR for host­ing an awe­some, local series of CX rac­ing. I’m not sure if I’d race CX as much with­out ABRA.

Thanks to NuGo for your title spon­sor­ship and get­ting me addicted to your dark choco­late bars. 😀


Happy Hol­i­days to all!  See ya for some snow MTBing and, bet­ter yet, gravel rac­ing in the spring!


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