Sunday, June 2, 2013

2012 Recap

All best intentions were to keep my blog current, but I wasn't really able to do that this year. So instead, I'm going to give a recap of my riding higlights from this past year. Instead of racing so much, I did a lot more of groups riding and events.

Also I was turning 50 in the summer, so my goal was to get out to as many different places to ride as I could this year.

January - March

What an easy winter we had in 2012. As I look back at my riding log, I see I put in a number of four hour road rides in January. I was on my single speed quite a bit in February. And I finally put together my big road ride I had been trying to figure out for several months. I rode back country roads up to Slippery Rock University, for a round trip mileage of 76 miles. All this in March. I definitely had a good base going into the spring.


A lot of good riding with a couple of highlights. Mark and I drove up to Raystown to meet some guys. Rode over four hours and 25 miles. As always, Raystown is a blast and actually worth the drive. The trails were in great condition, and the group rode at a great pace. The miles just flew by. Those are the kind of trails where you just have a big smile on your face. Also toward the end of April, I put in a 21 mile ride at Bavington. I love Bavington, you can get the feel of an epic ride just 45 minutes from the house. My goal was to do all of the trails that day, but I didn't quite get them all. This is a yearly thing I've been doing, so I knew I'd have to try again later in the year.


I hadn't really planned to race much in 2012, but then Jason, a guy that I would see at a lot of the local races, gave me a call. His buddy needed a last minute partner for the 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey in Maryland. I let them know that I'm a mid pack racer, and if that was okay, I was in. I looked up Lous's results from the previous year, and saw that he and his partner had won first place. Yikes. The drive to Maryland was easy, and the facilities were awesome. Brand new bathrooms, great parking, great camping/pit areas, great organizers. You could do this race solo, duo, or as a group of three. I was signed up for the duo race. The basic premise, you and your partner swap laps for nine hours. Which ever team gets the most laps wins. I knew right away it would be a competitive race when I realized that the teams were just categorized by age. It was open class, no separation for experts. The guys I was riding against regularly won the expert division at home. The course basically broke down into three parts. It was a large loop around the lake. The first third was much like Bavington, fast trails through pines. The second third was straight up the mountain then a steep descent back to the lake. The last third was fast flat trails to the finish. Quick recap - my first lap went pretty well, but I wasn't completely warmed up. Second lap I felt really good, my time was comparable to the first lap. Third lap my legs were really feeling tired, much more trouble getting up the mountain. Fourth lap, my legs were really hurting but I finished. I was very glad there was not a fifth lap. Somewhere around the third lap a quick storm blew in, my Continental mountain tires were perfect for the mud. My partner had to help an injured rider down the mountain on his second lap, so we couldn't see our finish time until a couple of days later. I would definitely go back to this race again!!


I had really, really wanted to get back to Mohican to better my time from the year before, but I couldn't talk any of the normal group to go. I knew I'd know some people there, but I lost my motivation to go alone. I really missed going, but Mark and I said we'd get out there for a good ride on our own. The rest of June was just a lot of local riding with one three hour ride at Seven Springs. Also did a family cruise toward the end of June.


The month of July was a lot of long road rides by myself. I really enjoyed those which is funny as I never thought I would like road riding at all. Also did a lot of riding at Deer Lakes with the dog. It's a blast to ride with the dog. He's so fast and never seems to tire. Oh, if only I had those traits. The highlight though was going to the Adirondaks for a short vacation. I took my mountain bike but should have taken my road bike. I got to see the old summer camp that I spent two summers during college working at.


Ellioctville was always I place I had heard about, and I knew it was an IMBA epic ride. It's just that I couldn't get my gang to get up to New York. So one day I decided I was going regardless. I got in my car and did the three hour ride. The little town of Ellicotville is a great little town where I'd like to spend more time. Got some directions from the local bike store and headed to the trails. It was an awesome day. Once you get to the top of the mountain, you just ride the ridges the rest of the day. The trails are flowy with lots of types of trails. I got lost a bit and repeated some trails, but finally got myself on track again. I'm really looking forward to going back again; I didn't even get to a whole section of trails. I rode for about four and a half hours doing about 25 miles.

August also saw my 50th birthday. That weekend a group of us went out to Mohican just to ride for fun. I was looking forward to this as I had missed the big race in June. The day started off ominously, it rained the whole way through Ohio. But when we pulled in, there was no rain and it appeared it had not rained at the trails at all. There were five of us, and our riding pace was perfect. We put in an awesome 25 flowing miles that day in around four hours (we took a nice break down by the covered bridge). I'm looking to going back annually.

My brother, my father, and I went golfing in Deep Creek to celebrate my birthday. It was awesome golf, and a lot of fun to get away with the guys, but this is a biking blog, so...

Went to Bavington to do all of the miles, but it didn't happen. It was very hot and my legs just didn't have it that day.

Got a call from Jeff wanting to know if I'd do the 24 hours of Seven Springs. I said yes. I had gotten away from the 24 hour races, but this time it met my goal to ride wherever I could. The team of guys was awesome. We entered the corporate class which used to be a casual division, but now it seems every bike shop's race team considered themselves a corporate team. Clearly we were in trouble. I was riding fifth so there was a lot of waiting. The plus side would be that I wouldn't have a 3 a.m. lap. But of course I had my usual luck. It started raining with the third and fourth riders, but it was light. I started my lap, and a torrential downpour let loose. Memories of Creek to Peak 24 hour race crept into my mind. It was if I was actually riding in creeks the whole way. It was ridiculous. But then the back half of the course was instead all mud. I got done with my lap; I was crushed. I actually put in a good lap time considering the conditions, and I was quite impressed with my Continental X Kings. Somewhere through the night and the continuing rain our team stopped racing. I got up in the morning and decided I was done as well; there was just too much mud.


The Bike the Wilds race series is a favorite of mine since it's grass roots and fairly casual with a lot of "older" riders. I couldn't get to any of them this season except for the Peanut Butter Festival race. The course was slightly different from the past years, but mostly took the original trails. I went to ride a solid ride not to really race. I felt very solid, had some low points about midway when my legs shut down a bit, but then they loosened up. Again things were wet from some recent rain which wasn't a problem until we got to the last fourth of the race. The wet roots were very challenging to ride. Lost all flow, but I finished. Ended up in eighth place in my division. A pretty good result considering everything. I then went to the festival and got a pulled pork sandwich.

End of September, Mark and I went back to Seven Springs. I wanted to go one more time when it was dry. We had a great ride, great pace, great conditions.


Mark finally got me to Michaux. He was working out there, so I drove and met him. We headed to his friends' house which was right on the border of Michaux. There was a group of about nine of us as we rode from the house right to the trails. Michaux is extremely rocky and technical, but unlike Moraine, the rocks are extremely tacky. Where I thought I would lose traction, I never did. Very early on, one of the guys went over the bars in a rocky section and popped out his shoulder. Not a good omen. We rode 19 miles and about four and a half hours. Awesome trails, and we hardly hit a third of them. I cannot wait to get back there. It was an epic ride, and I was completely exhausted by the end.

I did my time trial loop at North Park and did it in a time of 1:03. The good news is that my time is not worsening as I get older. It's better than some years and worse than others.

Finally did all of the miles at Bavington (at least the ones that I know of). Rode over 24 miles and four hours. The dog had absolutely no problem doing all of the miles.


As I look back at November, I shouldn't have been surprised I ended up in the hospital in December. Dirty Dozen was coming up after Thanksgiving, so I did a training ride starting from my parent's house. Now I didn't have much of a warmp up, but I couldn't even ride up the first hill in Aspinwall. I continued on and had to rest three times up Sharp's Hill. It was a horrible ride. I rode sparingly the rest of November, just feeling off a bit. I skipped the Dirty Dozen. I wasn't feeling right, but I couldn't put a finger on it.


I ended up in the hospital with abdominal problems. Emergency surgery was performed; spent 12 days in the hospital. I lost 20 pounds, mostly muscle. A second surgery in March. Though I had put on the lost 20 pounds, I lost another 15 pounds. I guess my problems in November were a warning sign to me.

2013 - I'll continue my recovery story in my 2013 race summaries...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dirty Dozen 2011

The Dirty Dozen (DD)was an event I had been thinking of for several years, and this was going to be the year. The problem was was that I hadn't been riding very much in November. Not the kind of lead up needed to do the DD. Though I still wanted to give it a try as a lot of the hills were ones I grew up around.

The DD is held each year in Pittsburgh around Thanksgiving. This year, over 300 riders decided to try and take on 13 of Pittsburgh's steepest hills. I was just hoping to ride a few of the hills before cramping up completely.

I called Mark and told him about the ride. He had been riding even less than me, but I guilted him into it (and the nice weather forecasted didn't hurt). We drove down to the oval and registered. Met up with Jeff, and the three of us shortly headed out of the parking lot. We were bringing up the rear of the group which gave us a great view of just the huge number of riders as we entered on to the Highland Park Bridge. The bridge was completely ours.

We quickly exited off the bridge to Aspinwall. We turned left on Center Avenue (#1) and began riding the first hill of the day. Of all the hills, this was probably the easiest, or would have been the easiest if it hadn't been only three miles into the ride. The fake summits also made it a bit tougher. Before we knew it, we were at the top of hill number one.

A neutral pace was held as we headed down into Sharpsburg. We rode the back roads until we turned on to Sharp's Hill (#2). This was a real hill. It kept getting steeper and steeper, and then toward the end it turned uphill with a vengeance. This was the first hill where I saw people walking their bikes. And it was great to have family members and friends cheering us on.

We made it to the top, and Mark announced that he was done. Well, I would have none of that. As the group rode on, we latched on to the back and quickly weaved our way to the mid-pack. Took a quick left down a steep hill. We were supposed to get a run into Berry Hill (#3), and the intersection was blocked for us by volunteers, but a good number of people didn't realize this and slowed way down. I was pretty familiar with this road, so I made my way through the riders and got a decent roll in to the hill. I've driven this hill in my car, and it seemed much to steep to ride a bike up. Though the hill is extremely steep, it was a short hill. I just got out of the saddle and pedaled the best I could keeping my eyes on my front tire. Lots of people walking up this hill. If you mis-shift, there is no way to make up for it.

I waited for Mark to catch up to me, which was a bad sign. Mark is faster than me, and it's not often that I'm waiting for him at the top of a hill. Though Mark was tired he was starting to warm up a bit.

We headed down Middle Road to Route 8 and turned left toward Etna. Turned right toward Etna, then took a right up High Street (#4). This hill was not so bad; it had a lot of switchbacks that gave me a break just as I needed it.

We went down the back side of the hill to Route 28 and then to Riverview Park for the first organized break. Well-organized with lots of fluids and food, but the downside was that my legs starting cooling down too much.

We then headed toward Logan Street (#5) which took us up the backside of Troy Hill. Jeff warned us that this hill was miserable. I really worry when Jeff says that kind of thing as he rides way better than me. But he was right, it was miserable. You could see the whole length of the hill, and it just went straight up in some kind of impossible looking angle.

We started up the hill, but then a support van decided to weave it's way through the riders, but there was just no room. It cause a lot of us to have to put a foot down. Not what I wanted to do. Restarting was really tough. I barely made it to the top of this hill. Mark said he was really done and would put his bike in a relative's car.

I headed toward Rialto Street (#6) otherwise known as Pig Run. I met my wife at the top of this hill and got a phone call from Mark asking to put his bike in her car as it wouldn't fit in his. When he arrived, I told him it would be no problem to take his bike, right after he did Pig Run with me. Grudgingly he agreed.

This is a down and back hill. We had to walk our bikes down the hill, get on the bikes and ride back up the road. There was no easy start to this hill as it was closed due to construction. Again I stood up out of the saddle and just looked at my front wheel. When I didn't think I could go any farther, I looked up to see a small leveling of the road that arrived just in time. I was then able to finish. This hill was tough, but luckily it wasn't too long.

Also, I really loved the party atmosphere at Pig Run. The residents were all wearing pink pig noses while cheering us on. After completing this hill, we called it a day. I can't wait until next year to do the whole DD. It was a lot of fun, though I may need to train a bit next year.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fat Tire Festival - Bike the Wilds Series

4th place sport/masters - 1:57 - 14.6 miles

The Fat Tire Festival is the second in the Bike the Wild race series. I missed the first race of the series while I was at Mohican, so I can't get lost this year and drop a race.

The course this year was almost the exact same course as last year. Some rain the night before made the trail a bit muddy and the rocks quite slick. This year they've broken the sport class in to age groups which I think was a great idea.

They let us "older" guys go off first in a staggered start. I was in the second group going into the initial singletrack. At some point, a slower rider allowed a bunch of us to crowd together making travel over the rocky trail fairly difficult.

Finally things spread out once we hit some double track. Really my race went pretty much the same as last year. I rode a very solid ride, didn't ride as much of the rock gardens as I could have as the rocks were quite slick. I finished three minutes slower than last year, but that was due more to the course being muddy and a bit slower, and walking a few more rock gardens. Comparatively though, I think I rode faster than last year. Mentally I was in the race the entire time, I was pretty tired but not destroyed.

Was quite surprised I ended up in fourth place. This will definitely motivate me to train a bit before the next race at Shannock. Also, I have to make sure I don't get lost this year at Shannock. Hopefully they'll post some volunteers at the intersections that go through public roads. Perhaps that will stop kids from turning arrows this year.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mohican 100 - barely

Mohican 100k - 11 hours 8 minutes

Well, at least I now know that I could ride a 12 hour solo though I absolutely have no plans to do that.

It's an interesting thing to think about, why do I pay to challenge and torture myself? Well I had a lot of hours to ponder that question during Mohican. The recap of the 100k follows. It's mostly just for me to record the details, but maybe others racing might get some ideas from it. Here we go...

Mark and I arrived at Mohican Friday in time to register. Our first tough decision was in front of us - 100 miles or 100k? We knew what we should decide, but would common sense win out? We threw it back and forth until literally we were at the front of the line and had to make a decision. Due to the bad training weather, lack of solid training, and the forecasted high temperatures, we decided to do 100k. We hoped we wouldn't regret the decision.

Grabbed a good pasta dinner, checked into the motel, and promptly got no sleep all night. Five-thirty arrived early, and before we knew it were on the main street of Loudonville, Ohio.

The 100 milers started off, and the 100k racers had a 15 minute wait until we began. We started down the road and then up a fairly steep paved road. I did my best to keep my pace solid but not crazy.

Turned left into the woods. It was at this point that Mark got ahead of me. I kept him in sight at first, but slowly lost him somewhere. At first I was rather disappointed in the trails, I had heard they were flowy trails, but I was not finding that at all.

I looked around at the people I was passing. There were a good number of people pushing their bikes up hills that were quite rideable. I knew they were in over their heads; I wonder if they knew.

Finally after about four miles, we entered the flowy singletrack I had heard about. It was mile after mile of tight, twisty singletrack. My bike was hooking up unbelievably. It was difficult to pass on such narrow trails, but people were pretty good about moving over when they could. For a few miles, I had a train of six guys behind me. I felt like a race leader, though of course I was far from it. I told them they could pass, but they said my pace was perfect though they said they kept losing me on the downhills. I've never had anyone tell me this before, but I guess it depends on what your home trails are like. To a lot of riders, Mohican seemed technical. Compared to my normal trails, Mohican seemed hardly technical at all.

Aid Station 1 - 20 miles

After approximately 20 miles we arrived at aid station one. Mark had been waiting for me, but I told him to go on as I could see my pace was a bit slower. Really stretched out my back, refueled, then left after about 15 minutes.

I rode with much less pain to the next aid station. This section was about 14 miles, and the beginning had a lot of good singletrack again. I rode this section pretty solid. The last couple of miles were on the gravel roads. Though this section was marked well, I really wish they could've put out some extra flagging tape just to reassure me. Many hills I would go bombing down not seeing one marker thinking there was no way I would go back up it if I had gone the wrong way.

Aid Station 2 - 34 miles

Aid station two was a hunting camp that I'm guessing was on loan to us. The best thing about this aid station was the cold water mister. Never saw a bathroom at this station, and I wish I would've asked. I also saw a guy that I did a 24 hour race with last year, though he seemed to not want to talk to me. Well karma got him, I see that he was a DNF at Mohican.

Spent 20 minutes at aid station two as the heat was really starting to be noticeable. The single track out of the aid station quickly turned in to gravel road through farmland. That's when my stomach really hit me and I had to find some woods to take care of things. Just when I was getting settled, blam, there was a gun shot. About 200 yards away I saw a farmer, not sure if he saw me or was just hunting groundhogs. I scooted away to another set of woods, wasting probably another 15 minutes. Embarrassing and a waste of time. Ah well.

Back to the extremely hot gravel roads, and some really, really steep ones at that. Ended up riding a lot of the roads with a woman from California. She and a bunch of friends had flown in to use Mohican as a warm up for Leadville. "Do you want the good news of the bad news?" she asked. Good news I replied. "We have one last hill before the singletrack." Bad news? "The bad news is it's called Big Hill Road."

And it was big and long, though I was proud that I rode the whole thing, passing a number of people pushing their bikes. I popped into what I was hoping would be the cool singletrack, but was disappointed. It was very hot and humid, and there was no breeze at all. That's when I realized I was overheating badly. It was the only time in the whole race where I wasn't moving while on the trail. I had to bring down my temperature. Soon I was passed by the people I had passed on the road.

I jumped on the bike and was struggling to get a good pace going. I recognized how my body was reacting from all the hot races last summer. I dumped water on my head, got more water in me, and took a bunch more electrolytes. Though I knew it would be a while before I would feel better.

I continued on to aid station three. I knew it could only be two or three miles left, but it felt like 20 miles. I passed a guy just sitting on the side of the trail looking miserable. I talked him to getting up, and he started riding behind me; I lost him soon.

Aid Station 3 - 46 miles

Finally I saw the aid station through the woods. I only had a small downhill section to go. I popped out of the woods, and was totally crestfallen. The aid station was really just a pavilion that a group was picnicking. I then realized I had to go uphill to continue. This was probably my low point of the day. I was seriously thinking about quitting at the next aid station. I was overheated and I was pushing my bike up hills I should've been riding.

After an eternity, I arrived at aid station three. Though I felt bad, all I had to do was look around at the other riders around to me realize I was doing much better than they were. I saw riders throwing up, passed out, getting rides in cars due to heat exhaustion.

I alternated sitting under the canopy refueling and standing under a hose. Finally after about 40 minutes I felt cool enough to continue. The next cutoff was like in four hours, so at this point I knew I should be able to finish the ride.

This section was mostly gravel roads, and oh yeah, lots of hills. A couple of them the bikes had to be pushed up by everyone - not just me.

Aid Station 4 - 56 miles

Pulled into aid station 4, probably didn't have to stay there long but at this point I wasn't going to break any records. So I sat and had an ice cold coke. About 15 - 20 minutes later I headed off for the finish.

I was getting conflicting reports on whether it was seven or eight miles to the finish. This section returned back to the great singletrack we did at the beginning of the day. But, of course, we had to ride switchbacks to get to the top of the hill. Some I rode, some I pushed. The humidity at this point was so high I felt as if I was suffocating. I literally felt like I couldn't get enough air. Finally to the top, and just blew through the singletrack. I was riding so fast I was afraid I might not be able to react fast enough and crash, but the breeze that the speed caused was undeniable.

The mile markers were ticking down from seven. Before I knew it I was at mile marker one, I popped out of the woods on to a paved bike trail and almost crashed. I didn't have one fall all day long, but here at the end I almost ran into two older recreational cyclists that were wondering all over the bike path. Luckily I swerved out of the way. It would've been so ironic to crash there.

I passed the couple and saw the finish line ahead of me. Behind the people in camp chairs I could all the riders who had finished. I could see my van in the parking lot. I thought I was done, but I was not.

The people in the chairs told me one more mile to go. The cruelty of it all. Back into the woods and up a steep enough hill that once again I was pushing. Over a small creek where the photographer told me to wait, but that wasn't happening.

I finally arrive at the real finish line. Everyone who had finished were watching the trophies being handed out to the winners, and because I was so late, I at least go a big around of applause as I crossed the line.

Finish Line - 62 miles

Mark met me at the finish line and we celebrated us finishing, surviving. Mark finished about two hours ahead of me. Two hours! He didn't need a lot of time at the aid station whereas I needed quite a bit.

Grabbed a chicken dinner to go, checked in with some friends, went back to motel for shower. Once my appetite kicked in, it really kicked in. Woke up in the morning and was still starving. Ate a huge breakfast and was still hungry.

Final thoughts - I'm so glad we picked the 100k over the 100 miles. With the heat and lack of training, I never could've done 100 miles. The heat really hits me hard, not sure what I can do about that, but I really would need to limit my time at the aid stations. It was nice knowing deep down that I would finish no matter what. I only had a brief moment when I thought about cutting the ride short. Most of the day, I knew I was going to finish even if it took me all night.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Two weeks and counting.

Less than two weeks to the Mohican 100. To update things, here's what's been happening. I decided not to go to the normal WVMBA xc races I usually do in the spring. Two reasons really. One - I've been concentrating on longer sustained rides for Mohican. Two - rain, rain, and more rain. I really had no energy to drive a couple of hours to race in the mud.

So what have I been doing? On the rare occasion that it's not been raining, I've been getting out on my road bike as often as I can. Finally bought a real road bike this year, a Cervelo RS. About 16 pounds and a standard crank - what a difference it's made in my riding. I bought it at Big Bang Bikes, and the best part was I truly have a bike that fits me. Can't say enough about my positive experience at Big Bang. Heck, I walked in and the guy says with your build, you must have an Irish or Scottish background. I think he was a seer.

I've gotten in a lot of 4-6 hour rides in. No real breaks, just good solid pedaling. The downside is that 4-6 hours is the longest length of time in between rain storms. I really had hoped to get in a couple of eight hour rides by now.

But at least I've been on my road bike. I've only been on my mountain bike like four times this spring. But the times I have been on my mtb, I have felt really strong. I certainly don't have much cross country explosive power in my legs, but I do feel like I could ride a long time.

So now the mental calculations begin. Do I have enough training in me to do a 100 miles? I'm not sure. I feel like the 100K is doable, but 100 miles? Not really sure. On the road bike, doing a century was more a psychological hurdle than physical. I'm afraid on a mtb the problem will be both psychological and physical. I think we'll make a game time decision. Get out on the course and see how it goes, and then decide when the courses split.