Sunday, November 28, 2010

Staying Local

Yeah, I know it has been awhile since I last posted a blog entry. So, I figured I better post something now, or people may fear that I have been abducted by aliens or even something worse. Basically, I have been doing local cross races every weekend since my episode of bad luck at Iron Cross in October. Here is a brief report of what I have been doing since the middle of October.

But, before I begin my racing update, I need to tell the story of how my bad luck continued a couple of days after the Iron Cross Race. I was commuting from work to home by bike on a familiar trail on a beautiful Indian summer fall day. I was having a blast on the trail and rode into a rock garden I have ridden many times before with way too much speed. I then clipped my pedal on a protruding rock, which caused me to go over-the-bars and crash pretty hard. I landed hard on the surrounding rocks, mostly on my left side and back. It was one of those crashes where I knew I did a good amount of damage to my body, so I just laid there for a minute to recuperate and to inventory my body parts. When I was finally able to stand, I immediately felt pain in my left hip and upper ribs/back. To make matters worse, all my cuts and abrasions were filled with a black powdery coal dust from the trail, which I knew would have to be scrubbed out after finishing my ride home. The next 25 miles of riding were not much fun and pretty much every passing motorist gave me an awkward look when they noticed the blood on my face, arms and legs.

For the most part, my injuries healed up quite nicely. The injury to my upper left rib cage and back, however, caused pretty sever pain for a few weeks. I trained and raced through the pain during the past month and a half, but now with help from Delfine and Hiles Chiropractic, I am beginning to feel normal again. I know the injury to my back has effected my racing this fall. I had to stop the running I do during this time of year to train for cross because of pain. Additionally, every time I would pull on my handlebars or dismount during a cross race I would also experience pain. I am so happy to finally be feeling whole again.

Well, that is enough writing about my crash and injuries; time now to report about the local cross racing scene here in the Western Pennsylvania Area. Cyclocross is one of my favorite types of bike racing. It brings together my road and off road bicycle racing experience in to one short, hard package. For many years, I have had to travel either to the east coast region of the Mid-Atlantic, or to various parts of Ohio to do a good cross racing series. This year JR Petsko and ABRA put together an awesome 7 race local cross series. The ABRA Series coupled with the ever-lasting Month of Mud Series and Team Freddie Fu’s Murrysville Race, made for a complete season of local cross racing this fall. To make things even better, Gary Dugovich has add two more local cross races for the beginning of December. It is so very cool that racing cross has finally become easy to do on this side of the state without travelling for hours.

Most people know me as being an endurance racer. Racing cross has very little to do with endurance racing, so it is always a big change for me to go from racing in 100 mile races lasting about 8 hours to races lasting for only an hour or less. Because my main focus on racing is doing well at longer races, I decided to make cross racing more of an endurance sport this year by doing more than one category at many of the cross races I did this fall. Holding the high intensity necessary to do well in a cross race is pretty hard to do. I learned this year that doing it in two and even three races in a day makes it even harder. But, even though it is hard, I had a blast doing the extra race and think it has benefited my fitness, too.

Speaking of endurance events, going hard and staying local, I also need to mention the Dirty Dozen Race that I did this past weekend. The Dirty Dozen is a ride which climbs over the 13 steepest hills surrounding Pittsburgh, PA. The first DD Ride first occurred 27 years ago and was created by Danny Chew and his brother Tom. Since that first running of the DD, the event has become more popular each year and now attracts nearly 200 riders from around the region. The idea behind the ride/race is for riders to ride at a neutral pace until Danny Chew blows a whistle at the base of the climb. The riders then basically sprint up the climbs and points are awarded to the top five finishers. It takes awhile for all the riders to get up each climb, so there is a lot of dead time waiting around. As a matter of fact, the approximately 50 mile ride took over 6.5 hours this year. I have done the DD 3 times before, but my last attempt was 20 years ago, in 1990. It was cool doing the race again this year and I enjoyed riding with a bunch of friends up the super steep hills around Pittsburgh. By the end of the race, I had accumulated enough points to finish in second place overall, which was the same place I finished back in 1990. Isn’t strange how things change, but stay the same?
One of the 13 climbs from the Dirty Dozen.

So, in a nutshell, that is how my fall has been spent on the bike. I have really enjoyed staying local this year and look forward to doing the same next fall. I have finished off cross season the past five years by taking a road trip to the USAC Cyclocross National Championship Race. I have decided to skip nationals this year, since I have already travelled out to Bend, OR once this year. I am going to miss finishing off the season with a big bang, but at least I will still be able to do a local cross race that weekend.

Happy Trails, Gerry

Thanks to Benjamin Stephens for the photos.