Sunday, December 28, 2008

Year-End Review

Well, Happy Chanukkah (or is it "Hannukah", or "Hanukka". Eh, don't bother - no matter how many ways you can misspell it in English, there's only one way to spell it correctly in Hebrew). Not that Chanukkah is a big gift-giving holiday, unless of course if you're a little child and a plastic dreidel and a chocolate coin mean the world to you, but if you are hoping for an awesomely cool present to out do your Xmas-celebrating neighbor, then I hope you get something light, blingy, and carbon.

As for The Complete Jewish Cyclist, I was hoping for some bottom bracket tools, but in reality, I'm not about gifts on Chanukkah. I prefer my festival of lights Israeli-style. Gimme the Chanukiah lights, a sufganiyot, and my family and friends, and I'm as happy as the Xmas-celebrating neighbor who just found a full Campagnolo Super-Record 11-speed gruppo under the tree.

And while I'm at it, for all of the non-Jewish cyclists checking out this blog, if it's your thing, then have a Merry Christmas. I hope you do get that Campy gruppo, but no matter what you get, ride safe, happy, and healthy anyway.

As seems obligatory, a blogging cyclist has to do a year-end review post, and here's mine, which I'll make brief do to me having a lot of work to do:

2008 was the best cycling year of my life. Not only did I rack up more miles than ever before and post my best-ever race results, but I also reached the highest potential of my riding yet. I put less focus on bikes, and more on riding and training. My focus was on the cyclocross racing season, from September through December, and along the way, I concentrated on conditioning my body to go hard for 40 minutes. I spent a year doing intervals, hill work, speed work, and fast endurance riding.

Best of all, I also rode this year while also being a first time father. Like some of you out there, I am not a pampered Belgian pro with nothing to do but ride, train, and race, and get paid to do it. I'm married with a family and a full-time job, plus Jewish commitments which come with time restraints. I rode in the early mornings, I rode in the late evenings, I rode on Sundays, I rode whenever I could invent or create the time, and I paid my way throughout (but with some great help from my shop and team - The Bike Rack).

I did a lot, but I didn't do it alone. No cyclist really ever does, and I can't be proud of this season if I don't stop and thanks those who helped me do it. So here is, to the best of my memory, a list of those who helped me have the best cycling year of my life:

My Wife
Behind many a weekend-warrior cyclist is a spouse, and the spouse sometimes has a hard a job to do off the bike as we do on the bike. My wife has risen early in the morning with me to go to races, helping out on race days when it was below freezing in some god-foresaken field at some ungodly hour so I could live my cyclocross dreams. She has put in overtime watching our son while I was out on training rides, greeted me after the rides with patience and support, and allowed me the financial flexibility to pursue cycling. She has sacrificed for me, supported me, encouraged me, and even disciplined me. She helped make my training rides and race days reach their full potential, and I could not have had this season without her.

My Son
He's only one, and soon he may just be kicking ass on the lil' Belgians circuit. In the meantime he's made sure that I began my rides and races with a smile and a baby giggle, and I finished my rides and races with just the same and more. He's been up with us at the pre-dawn hours to go to races and he's been a trooper on race day, keeping the smile at 7:30 AM on a sub-freezing day at the race course. He never had a meltdown while a race was in progress, and he waved a rattle during the races in the same manner as others wave cowbells. He's my inspiration, and he makes me the happiest and proudest father in the world.

My Family
My Mom and sisters were there with me all season giving support, as were my wife's family as well. Amongst Orthodox Jews, it's not easy to explain leg-shaving, expensive bikes, and 40 minute plus one-lap races in muddy fields, but they supported me none-the-less. Special thanks to my Mom for going the extra distance in the past and the present, and also to the memory of my father who long ago mutter those most important cycling words in my presence: "face it, he's obsessed".

My Friends
Sure they may have poked fun at my lycra and shaved legs, and made sure that I was missing a great Saturday night party because I was asleep early to race in the morning, but they also supported me and encouraged me in this. In particular, I want to thank my best friend Barry from Holland for his support, my Summit Hills crew for mixing good-natured ribbing with real and serious support, and to Andrew Matranga for keeping my work day velo, no matter how much productivity we sacrificed in pursuit of the best that two cyclists on IM can offer.

My Sponsor and Teamates
I've said it before, and I'll say it again; The Bike Rack DC, and in particular, John Bavier, opened the doors of cyclocross to me. Racing CX has always been a dream of mine, and Bavier initiated the grassroots effort on behalf of Bike Rack to start a CX team and give riders like me a chance to race. The Bike Rack itself has been a great shop to ride and race for. They're a new shop in the DC area, but they hit the ground running and reached out quickly and passionately to the local riding and racing scene.

Special thanks to Chuck Harney and Wayne Lerch, the owners of Bike Rack. Chuck helped me this year with the selection and purchase of my Giant TCR-C2 road bike, which made all of the difference in my training. Wayne is always a fun support, but was also a very real support at the DCCX cyclocross, where I had my best race of the season. David Fike is probably one of the smartest bike shop guys out there, and was extremely helpful in helping me with the wheel selection on my road bike. He also gave me technical support at the Tacchino Ciclocross. Also thanks to all of the great guys I've ridden with on the Sunday morning shop rides and at the cyclocross races, in particular Richard Murby, Seth, and Skinny Dutch Guy, for allowing me to keep at least one lung on the climb up Angler's Hill.

And of course, special thanks to the people who make the sport so special - the people I meet along the way. In particular, they are the people whom I spend plenty of time with from the end of September to the beginning of December. During the cyclocross races, I aim to tear them to pieces, but more often than not, they do that to me. And if I'm not racing in their races, then I am proud to cheer them on. Most of all though, it's before and after the races, where I enjoy their company and humorous banter about this very serious velo lifestyle of ours; Matthew Bartlett, Mike "Blue Dog" Giancoli, James "Unholy Rouleur" McNeely, Steve Riskus, Ryan Dudek, Tom Jones, Jim Ventoso, all of the cool Proteus, NCVC, HUP United, and Squadra Coppi folks, and so many other racers, many who's name I don't know but faces and competition I eagerly await every cold, muddy Sunday.

And Finally...
...Baruch HaShem. I wouldn't be The Complete Jewish Cyclist if I didn't acknowledge the Big Directeur Sportif above. Jewish Cycling is about more than keeping a riding and racing schedule around Shabbat and Chagim. It's about more than riding powered by kosher drinks and supplements. Jewish Cycling and Jewish Life are both about discipline and structure that bring about a great life worth living, and I feel blessed to be a student of the bike and a student of the Torah.

'nuff said. Thanks to all, and I won't go into what I'm thinking about for 2009. I'm just thankful for 2008, and for that, I say thanks to so many people out there, thanks to cycling, and most of all and above all, Thank G-d.

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