Saturday, December 27, 2008

Punk Bike Enduro 2008

Always held early in December, and always looked forward to by the locals (and a bunch of not so local riders). The Punk Bike Enduro race/ride is held by the Dirt Rag gang. If you've never ready Dirt Rag, well, I don't know what's wrong with you.

The Punks all gather at a local fire hall, where we'll be led out to the local trails. Posts say we leave promptly at 11:00, but because I'm now a veteran of the Punk Enduro, I only show up at the parking lot at 11:00. Actually cut it a little close this year.

Some guys that park near me tell me they were on their way to some local trails and saw all the mountain bikes and had to see what was going on. I tell them just how lucky they got.

We all start gathering. This is always fun for me, I ride around trying to find some of my riding buddies and get to see all the outfits and costumes that people have put together for the day. You see, the Punk Enduro is more an experience rather than a race. Yeah, the guys in the front race for points, but most of us go out for the ride, the people, the experience.

At 11:30 Maurice starts us off, and by some accounts there's over 200 riders! We head up the road to gather for the first leg. What's really cool is that most of our uphill riding is on the road, everything else in the woods. This is especially good this year as the temperature will be in the 40s with some sun, and of course this means mud.

But the trail for the first leg is still mostly frozen. This leg leads into the first muddy downhill. Imagine being on top of a steep downhill with over a hundred people waiting at the bottom for you. They're all cheering you on, ringing cow bells. You know when someone wrecks by the loud, "ohhhhhhhhhhs." Imagine being on top of this hill with pictures of ABC's Wide World of Sports images going through your head. Ah, the agony of defeat. Which is why I promptly take the go around. Yeah, I'm a coward but I want to be able to ride the whole day.

We then head along the creeks, and yes, through the creeks. This year I was sporting my Lake winter bike shoes. Wow, is all I can say. They kept my feet completely dry and warm all day long. And that is key on a wet, muddy, five hour day.

We travel up through a cemetery, then down the road to our first real break. A bike derby takes place in a parking lot. You ride in a circle, the circle gets smaller, if you put a foot down you're out. It's hilarious, and there are some really good riders with balance I just don't possess.

After this, we lay our bikes down (see top picture) and line up behind them. On the word go, we run, grab our bikes (while hurdling over others' bikes) and then take the road. Points given out for those that reach the top first, and it's one of those deceiving hills where you keep thinking you've ridden the worst, but you haven't.

Next leg, down into the woods and finally deep in to the valley. It starts getting really muddy here. I'm way psyched about my 29er and the brank new Kenda Nevegals. They did really well in the mud, and I was able to ride/slide down all of the hills. At the end of this stage there's a huge mud pit you can opt to ride through. Had my camera out, but not many decided to partake. Maybe because they've been told we were going to do all of the trails this year.

Head up the road, which goes on forever, and gather at the top. Quick break and head off for the PPG trial. Things are now officially really muddy. This is a section you just suffer and make it through. The last section had a couple of fun downhills. Though sometime I'd love to try them when they're dry.

I make it slide/ride down all of the hills, and have mentally prepared myself to ride down the last hill which ends up at a little church with hundreds cheering me on. I'm already to ride down until I see Bill get close and personal with a tree. I decide for the bypass. Ah well, live to ride another day I guess.

We head across the road for the run up the hill and ride as fast as you can down the hill leg. Most of us watch. The guys coming down the hill were fascinating. Some of them made the downhill look easy, some of them made the downhill look like it hurt.

Started getting cold at this point, the temperature was quickly falling. Actually glad to ride up the gravel road that passes the pet cemetery, finally got warm again. Then road the lollipoop trail, which is always fun.

The last leg took the road, then hard left into the woods and finally down to Emerling park. I tried to "race" this one a bit. Actually passed a number of people; wonders will never cease. After ending up in the park, we take the road back. This section is always horrible as you know you've just got done with a five hour ride, and you just want to be back at the firehall with hot food and dry clothes.

Well, another great Punk Enduro. Good to see friends, and I guess I rode with Mark Weir and Harlan Price, but to be honest I wouldn't recognize them if they were to walk up to me and introduce themselves. Well, hope to see you all out there next December.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

24 hours of Big Bear schedule up!

Granny Gear announces this year's 24 hour races. Well, I found my motivation for this winter's training rides. I really love the 24 hours of Big Bear. The race course is awesome; it has a little bit of everything. Big downhills, rock gardens, winding singletrack through pine forests. A big downside is the cost versus what you get in return. My perspective, if you don't have a good race, you just paid for a really, really expensive t-shirt.

If I go this year, I really want to get on a team of guys I know. Unfortunately, most of the guys I know from this area are really fast riders. I really would hate to be the slow guy on the team. I know someone has to be, I just don't want to be that guy.

The last two years, I joined groups from other states. One team was awesome, the other year was a bit of a disappointment. So, if I could motivate some of my buddies who are average riders, but want to go for the experience of it all, that would be my first choice.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ghost Trails - book review

“The glaring sun was about to expose me for the fraud I was. I wasn’t an athlete like the down-bundled Euros, and I wasn’t a real Alaskan like the owners of those snowmobiles. The men at the Knik Bar and said it all between a couple swigs of beer. A girl like me didn’t belong in a race like this.”

I really enjoy reading blogs, but to be honest they all blend together after a while. Then one day I stumbled about Jill Homer’s blog. She lives in Alaska and writes about her mountain biking adventures. What struck me is that she was mountain biking in the Alaskan winters. I didn’t think it would even be possible.

Then I was amazed when I read on her blog about mountain bikers riding a portion of the Iditarod Trail in February. I remember following the race reports last year of the Iditarod Trail Invitational. I also remember reading about Jill on a record-breaking pace. Then there were reports of Jill being late coming in to one of the check points. Then reports of her bivying out in the open in below zero weather. I was transfixed, it was reading like a fiction book, but it was real. Finally, Jill made it to the checkpoint; I was relieved – and I didn’t even know her.

I always wondered what happened during those hours when Jill was stuck out on the Iditarod trail with her bike. Then I read on her blog that Jill was publishing her book about the experience and was looking for people to review it. I jumped on the opportunity; I wanted to see what really happened.

When I began reading Jill’s book, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I really got two books in one. The chapters alternated between her Iditarod experiences and her entry to outdoor adventures. I then reread the book’s title: Ghost Trails – Journeys through a lifetime. And I realized the real focus of the book was on her life’s journeys.
Her Iditarod journey really started back in 1990 where Jill tells us of how she got involved in the outdoors, hiking with her friend Becky. But Jill just doesn’t describe the hike, she does what she does best – she gives us very honest insight into her thoughts and emotions. The doubts and fears that creep into all of our minds when we’re not in our comfort zones. Those things that we often don’t share, but Jill shares all of those thoughts in very open, honest way.

Through Jill’s outdoor journeys, she describes meeting her significant other, Geoff. I really thought that this was where she was going to lose me. I’m a guy; I don’t want to read about romance. But what I found instead was an extremely interesting story of a woman meeting not only a boyfriend, but a person who guides her into the outdoor realm. All of us that do a variety of outdoor activities probably had a mentor that introduced us to the outdoors. That guided us through those initial adrenaline charged adventures. I can recall clearly those people that changed my whole life getting me into outdoor adventures. And Jill does a great job relating her experiences. She has the ability to put you in the moment, making the book read like fiction until you remind yourself that it’s non-fiction.

The other half of the book details Jill’s Iditarod experiences. It will also make you feel like a sissy when you don’t want to go ride because it’s a little chilly outside. Jill does a great job of relating her thoughts, concerns, worries, and fears while describing the incredible hardships, the cast of characters she meets, and the beautiful yet cruel Alaskan terrain.

“Knowing I was in the midst of a bonk mandated as much food as I could stomach, but I was only able to put down the other half of my chocolate bar from dinner. At least I was warm, warm enough to let the fear encompass me again, and the quick glance at my thermometer, still bottomed out at 20 below after two minutes inside my bag, was enough to reignite my smoldering fear. What if the warm cocoon surrounding me failed? How would I possible crawl 10 or more miles into Rohn? I heard a low, dull howl in the distance that was either a wolf or the wind. I could not remember the last time I felt so alone.”

I found myself putting on a sweater while reading the book; Jill brings to life the harshness of an Alaskan winter. After describing all of the hardships (everything from keeping water from freezing to a loss of appetite when calories are essential) Jill brings us to the bivy she spent one cold night. Her descriptions put us right there with her. Sure, I’ve hit the wall before, but never like this. And not in a race where the consequence is severe frostbite, or even death.

“Despite my pounding pulse and churning stomach, I could feel my muscles relax and eyelids droop. A curtain of warmth settled over my thoughts and I closed my eyes. I could feel my fear melting in to the serene indifference of sleep. I wondered if I would ever wake up. I had no way of knowing for sure.”

Overall, I really enjoyed the book quite a bit. It was fun to read the story behind the Iditarod race report. It affirms the notion that I will never ride my bike in the Iditarod bike race. Even if you’ve never ridden a mountain bike, you will still enjoy the story of survival. As well, you’ll enjoy Jill’s journey in to the world of outdoor adventure, and the people who influenced that journey. A great winter read. And I know I’ll be reading all the race reports very close this winter, as I noticed that Jill has signed up for the race again. Good luck Jill.

Iditarod Trail Invitational

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cyclocross anyone?

So what do you do when fall race season is over? When you've hardly ridden in two weeks? When the temperature plummets and the snow falls? You enter a cyclocross race, that's what you do.

If all goes as planned, I've decided to race this local cyclocross race in Murraysville. I'm admittedly not a cyclocross racer, but the couple I've tried I really liked. Now, I don't know how much I enjoyed them at the time. Near unconsciousness and vomitting perhaps were the reasons. But for days afterward I would tell anyone who listened, and several that didn't want to, the play by play of the race.

I will be easy to spot at the race. I don't have a cyclocross bike (mtb might actually be a good choice anyway with this weather), I don't wear one of those bright colored race kits with all my sponsors' names on them (ok, no one sponsors me), and I don't have shaved legs. But I'll be trying to burn off some Thanksgiving calories all the same. Hope to see you out there.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Winter of our Discontent

Shakespeare's words came to me as I sit here on this dreary, rainy day. I vainly grasp the hope that fall will last longer, that there will be a few more days I can steal away from the onset of winter. Alas, I know it's a fruitless endeavor. But then reading some other blogs and forums, I saw the thing that will get me through the rides in the single digits, the icy slush finding that one bit of bare skin I inadvertently left exposed, the cruel winter's wind that tries to toss me into oncoming traffic. I saw the proposed WVMBA's 2009 race schedule.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fox Fork F29 - first impressions

First, the color really does not match my dos niner, but then again I admire function over form. I was hoping to review the Fox fork and how it differed from my Reba, but a mechanical changed this a bit.

On our weekly Wednesday night ride, I ran over some punji stick that punctured my rear tire but good. Why when people snip small saplings do they leave a perfectly shaped spear-like remnant? Anyway, my rear tire was punctured by this evil object, leaving a gaping hole. Besides the sloppy work of putting a tube in to a tubeless tire, I was now in need of new tires. I really didn't want to buy new tires when my new fork was installed, as I wanted to test the fork with as few variables changed as possible.

So anyway, forced to buy new tires. Ended up with Kenda Nevegals, they went on easily with the Stans sealant. Mark the master mechanic put on my fork, and I was ready for a test ride.

Went for a ride at North Park. I probably rode about 20 miles in 2.5 hours, on all of the trials that I've ridden for years. I wanted to see how the bike reacted to familiar trails. So instead of reviewing the fork, I ended up reviewing the fork and the new tires.

First impression: awesome. The tires gripped great, even with (dry) leaves covering the trails. Cornering was really good, I was able to stay off the brakes more than ever.

I think not only did the tires help in the cornering, but I felt as if I had very little to no brake diving from the fork. The fork will still need to be tweaked a bit until I'm completely satisfied (rebound seems fast and not exactly sure about the compression), but overall the fork is set up pretty nice. The improvement in lateral stiffness was obvious as I rode over the rocky sections. Unlike the Reba, I came out of the rocks pointed in the direction I intended. The extra travel was very noticeable (I went from 80 mm Reba to the 100 mm Fox) and seemed much more plush.

But as always, I often wonder, is it the new fork or the mental game that I play with myself. The confidence that I gain with new equipment may be the only real difference, I'm never sure.

What I didn't like. I really wish Fox would have made a remote lockout for the 29er version of this fork. Hopefully they will have one to add on next year. I really don't like having to reach down to lock out the fork. And while I move the lever, I often accidentally move the compression dial which is located beneath it. But these are small problems in the big picture. In return I get a better, stiffer ride, and yet more plush.

The real test will be how it handles the motorcyle trails of the Punk Enduro on December 14. If you're in the Pittsburgh area and have never done a Punk Enduro, well, you need to. And really the weather can only be better than last year (all, and I mean all, day rain, argh).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

You know you're crazy when...

I'm not usually in to watching videos of guys doing big jumps. They all look the same after a while, but for the last couple of years I've been addicted to watching the Red Bull Rampage.

More so, I really like the behind the scenes kind of stuff. This video shows one of the riders prepping a big gap. Pretty impressive. Then while you're at make sure to watch the Red Bull Challenge finals, you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Christmas comes early

Santa Claus, better known as the UPS man, knocked on my door tonight, and what did I find? Yep, a new Fox Fork F29 for the dos niner. Can't wait to get this thing on and put it through its paces. I'm going from 80mm Reba to the 100mm Fox. From all I hear, I should really like the extra travel and the stiffness of the Fox. I'll give you my review in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Lance's new training regimen

So how does Lance train for his comeback for the Tour de France? He races his mountainbike of course.

If you haven't seen this video of the Leadville 100, well, you should...

Leadville 100

That video makes me want to get out and try a 100 mile race. Then I realized my lack of genetic ability, my extra weight, and my lack of any real training may hold me back a bit.

Then I came across this video of Lance doing a recent 12 hour relay race...

12 Hours of Snowmass

I like the part where the one racer says he thought he could gap Lance a bit in the technical sections, but he wasn't able to. If you're like me, I figured that, sure Lance had the legs of a roadie, but could he really hang with the top guys in the dirt during the technical sections? Well, I guess he can.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Autumn Leaves

The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere--
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year:

-Edgar A. Poe

Did you ever have one of those days where you felt as if your legs had endless energy? Where those killer hills seemed somehow smaller? Where you normally stop your ride, but this time felt like doing it all again?

That's what a great fall ride can do for me. When it gets brisk out, when the humidity falls away, when the sun hits the leaves just right I feel like I can ride all day.

Took a great ride yesterday that reminded me of how much I love the fall. I started my normal loop and before I knew it I was atop the first major hill. I usually have to rest there, but this time there was no need. I turned on to the next section of trail and was just amazed by the colors of the leaves that the sun was bringing out, but this may have been the last good weekend for the leaves. The deer are in their rut, and I saw several large buck charging through the woods at the sight of me. I almost ran over a garter snake sunning itself on a rock in the middle of the trail. The sound of dead leaves crunching beneath my tires. For all of these reasons and more, I love riding in the fall. But alas, the fall reminds me that winter is not far behind...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Month of Mud - Moraine

11th place Masters - 9th overall in the series

Last race of the season, and I should've just stayed home. The Wednesday prior I started coming down with some virus that's going around. By Saturday, I was starting to feel a little bit better. Sunday, I thought I might be okay. That is until I hit the first hill of the race.

We all took off from Davis Hollow Marina at Moraine. The course was slightly different last year, in that we took the first climb all the way to the top and over. My plan was to start of at a steady pace, not a fast one like the year before. I figured I'd pass a bunch of guys who blew their legs out, or that had mechanicals from all the rocks. Well, after climbing the first hill, I could tell I had no gas in the tank. The virus was just too much.

I thought about dropping out about half way through, but kept going at a snail's pace. I was walking my bike up hills that I had easily ridden in the past. Got to the end of lap one and thought again about calling it quits. Saw Dave atop a rock, and in my delirium thought maybe he had lapped me and was already done. He said his derailluer was bad and had to pull out. This made me want to quit even more. I could crawl up on the rock, with the sun filtering its way through the autumn leaves, and just watch the rest of the race with the cool rock soothing me.

Then some stupid voice said that it was the last race, and I had to complete it, even if I was dead last. Emphasis on the word dead.

I continued on with the second lap, but readjusted my goals. It was a beautiful day, so I was just going to enjoy it and not worry about my time (as if I had a choice).

Did okay on the second lap, the gels gave me a bit of a boost. Finished, got to parking lot, loaded up and left. Barely stayed awake enough to get home. Crashed on the hammock, and took a great nap.

Overall, I rode really consistent this year. I think I needed to do more interval training in the month prior the races. Disappointed it was only a four race series this year.

But as always, the guys that run MoM did a great job. Course marked well, very well organized, results up quickly. Kudos to them.

(p.s. result were up fast, blog now updated)

Until next year...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Month of Mud - Grove City

Time 47:46 - 14 th Masters

Deja vu, well sort of...

Month of Mud race, but instead of the normal cross country race this is a cyclocross race. I've learned to really like these races, and I'm considering getting a cross bike. Anyway...

Off we go. The course is like last year, we start on pavement, up a hill to the obstacles, down into some "singletrack" on the ball fields and finally back to the pavement to finish. Four laps, if you don't get lapped.

Well, like last year I had someone purposefully cut me off when it wasn't necessary. Now, I don't mind being cut off if need be. Back to the race. There was one point where there are trees on the left, and a metal pole on the right and only room for one bike. This guy in blue starts making a move on me right at this spot. I yell that there's not room, but he doesn't care. I easily could've but him off, but he would've been wrapped around the metal pole. So instead I get cut off and have to slam on the brakes to keep from hitting a tree.

My only goal now, to finish ahead of him.

I catch him on the road section and blow by him, round the hairpin turn and finish lap one. Second lap he passes me on the field section again, and once again I pass him on the road section. Third lap he passes me on the field again. We get to the road, but this time he gets grabs on to a pack of about five riders. I can't catch him. That's when I had this weird experience.

I start slowing down to save some energy, when this guy on a green bike flies by me. But then he looks over his shoulder and slows a bit. Does he want me to get on his wheel? Not sure, but I try anyway. He speeds up a bit and looks back again, I'm still hanging on. He speeds up more, I'm there, speeds up more, I can't go any faster and he matches my pace.

Quickly, we catch the group in front of us and the guy on the green bike peels off into the bigger group and I sling shot past them. We get to the hairpin turn and my mountain bike tires grip great and I take my lead up the slight hill to the finish line. Well it's not really the finish line yet as we have one more lap to go, but the guy in blue doesn't seem to know this. I guess he doesn't want me to pass him as badly as I want to finish ahead of him. He give it his all to beat me to the finish line, but I hit the pedals hard and stay ahead of him. He thinks we're done, and when he sees us all continue on he realizes his mistake. "Oh @#$@$#"

He physcically and mentally was done. I finish the fourth lap and never see him again.

Finished with the same time as last year, I felt faster, but maybe the course was a bit longer? It seemed so. Was a really fun, and different race. Hmmm, may check into this cross stuff.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Month of Mud - Brady's Run

1:27.35 - 9th place Masters

Currently 11th place overall.

more to come...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008


Rattling Creek Single Trackers hold the annual Bash north of Harrisburg in the Weiser State Park. This year four of us made the trip from Pittsburgh to the Bash. Mark who used to live in the area told us this was a must-do kind of weekend. I'd have to say after surviving the weekend, that he was right on.

Arrived Friday afternoon, just in time for the rain. Set up tents and canopys with Mark's friends from the area (our future trail guides). Not much to do but sit around talk about the next day's riding. One of the locals suggested that Saturday morning we might want to shuttle to the top of the ridge, while they rode their bikes up. Macho can cause so much trouble. We assured him we would be okay pedalling up, even though he warned us that in Pittsburgh we have hills, and they have mountains. Oh, how we should have listened.

It rained most of Friday night, but that didn't affect the Chili cook off. Dave, from our group, brought up some great chili to compete with (oops, forgot to vote for his). After gourging on chili and mingling with the other riders (maybe 60-80 people) we tried to get some sleep. Like at the 24 hour races, it's not an easy thing to achieve.

Woke up early Saturday morning, got some breakfast, and readied our bikes and gear. We were lucky to only have a group of seven so that we wouldn't be held up much. Of course later that day I cursed my self for not joining in with a group of 20.

We pedaled up the hill, errrrr, mountain. About 2.2 miles up some double track to get to the ridgeline trails. Halfway up I realized the sound advice of shuttling to the top. I was able to pedal to the top, but my legs were shaking from lactic acid overdose. Luckily the locals let us rest a whole two minutes before taking off to the rocky trail (forget the real name of it). Very cool rocks to ride, had they not been slick from the rain.

Finished that section of trail, and really considered going back to the campsite and calling it a day. Luckily, one of the leaders had deraiuller trouble which allowed us visitors to get our legs back a bit.

Headed down the ridges on some awesome single track. The trails were unbelievable, so different from home. We rode on uninterrupted single track for miles and miles, very rocky, but rideable. Every rock section seemed to have a line through them, and my 29er dos niner just rolled right through them. And because we were riding on the ridges, the uphills were never that bad - for me.

Dave hit the wall a couple of hours in. It was really hot and humid, he hadn't gotten enough water in him, and alcohol dehydrates you. The bad news, no quick way back to the campsite. The way it was explained to us, if we were in a volcano, we are at the bottom. No matter what way we go, we have to go up and over the top of the mountain.

We limped our way back to the double track that we had initially climbed. Let me say it was way more fun riding down the mountain. I was probably going way too fast, but it was a blast!

More to come...

Friday, June 6, 2008

24 Hours of Big Bear

If you look real close, you can see Tinker in the picture above.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it ws the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way." - Charles Dickens

Or another way to sum it up - I paid a whole lot of money for a t-shirt. My team from the previous year had disbanded. I found a team online that were looking for a fourth member in the the just for fun category. Two of the guys were my age, one was about eight or ten years our junior. This seemed like a perfect team, riding just for fun so no pressure, and on a four man team so we could get some extra laps in. Then it was the worst of times...

Torrential downpour hit the course the day before the race, and hot temperatures (90's) and high humidity moved in. Course had lots of big mud patches that had no way to ride around them.

Our young guy took the first lap, and I knew we were in trouble while waiting at the transition tent when I saw Tinker Juarez go across the finish line twice before our teammate made it in.

The next two guys went and put in respectable times at about 1:50. I did my lap, pushed it hard but not too hard. With the high heat, humidity, and several more laps awaiting me, I didn't push it as much as I could have. I also finished at 1:50. Ten minutes slower than last year, but last year there was no mud and the course was fast. Consequently, I was happy with this time.

Recovering for the next lap, I didn't feel dehydrated nor that exhausted. It wasn't my turn again until like 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning. Our young guy had even a worse lap time and he was feeling nauseous and dehydrated. My night lap was pretty cool, except for the endo. Bad move, trying to put a gel packet back in my pocket rather than throwing it on the trail, I hit a rock and did a beautiful flip onto my back. Banged up pretty good, but no injuries. Got to enjoy the sunrise at the end of the lap, very impressive.

The young guy's third lap was about three hours. I could see I would not get another lap in before the noon deadline. So, I left for home early. It was a lot of fun to see a bunch of the Pittsburgh guys, but personally it was a waste of time and money this year. Stuff happens, and I guess I learned to try and find a team of people I know. It was very cool to see someone like Tinker do his thing. I can't imagine what it takes to ride 24 hours solo.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

WVMBA #5 - White Oak

The Perfect Storm
A Dummies Guide to a DNF

The White Oak race was the culmination of every little thing that could go wrong. Any one of the events, when taken separately, was a minor inconvenience. Together, they created the perfect storm of misery.

Let me list my many mistakes:
not quite over my chest congestion
rode the day before the race - was an easy ride but my recovery time is not good
stayed up late to watch the Pens lose
ate a bunch of junk food rather than the normal routine
not enough water in the days leading up to the race

So then Dave and I arrive at the at White Oak. We hook up with Don and Aarron and a couple of other guys. Pre-rode the course a bit (another mistakes as my legs already didn't have any power and any preride was a bad thing).

The race started up a long, steep hill. I just kept a steady pace, knowing a fast pace would blow my legs out. The first lap (approx. 8 miles ) went pretty well. Not quite as fast as I'd like, but I felt okay. Made it up all of the hills, passed quite a few people.

Finished the first lap, and realized that this was going to be a loooong 17 miles and that I was a bit short on liquids. Second lap began with a huge hike a bike. This was the beginning of the end for me. Legs started shutting down. Ride down this hill was rocky but fun, that is until a root directed me into a tree. Ouch. And felt really bad for the guy behind me that had to ride off into the woods to keep from running over me.

Got more into the second lap when it hit. I had to ride up an incline that on the first lap was no problem. All of a sudden I had no energy in my legs. I had to get off and push. Usually I mentally give up on a hill before I physically have to. But this time my legs were done. People started passing me, even the tandem.

Cross the road and head back some long trails. Started getting light headed. Not good. Pushed for what seemed like miles, tried to ride when I could. Oh, and it was hot!

Cross back over the road and head toward the finish line. All I wanted to do was finish the race, even if it took me three hours. The experts were starting to pass me, asking me how I was doing as I guess I looked horrible.

Then when an expert gave me the double take, stopped, and asked if I was sure I was okay, this is when I started to think about things a little more seriously. At this point I was light headed, no legs, nauseous, thirsty, and hungry. Was I sweating? Not really sure. I was going slowly, so maybe I shouldn't have been sweating.

Or was I in the first (or later) stages of heat exhaustion? I felt mentally not too bad, or was I losing it a bit? Yes, it's embarrassing to not finish a race, but more embarrassing to collapse, go into convulsions and be taken out by ambulance. So I did the smart thing (though I hated to do it) I returned to the road and road back to the parking lot.

I was wiped out. Had Dave drive us home. In about an hour I started feeling better. Another hour later I finally had an appetite.

Learned some really hard lessons, but ones that I will never forget. Which may be good timing as I have the Big Bear 24 hour race upcoming in two weeks. Note to self: avoid the perfect storm.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

WVMBA #4 - Henry Clay

Henry Clay - 2:16 - 6th place master's sport - 17 miles

Mud, rain, lightning, more rain, and oh yeah, mud. That pretty much summarizes what I remember about this race held at Cooper's Rock, WV. Dave and I rode and got registered. While getting ready it started to rain and was windy enough to actually be somewhat cold. By the time we lined up for the start, the sun decided to poke its head out - mostly just to tease us.

The race started on the paved road, but much lower than the previous year. I did better than normal on the road this time, but still entered the singletrack more than half way back in the pack. The dos niner ate up the rocky decent down into the valley. Started riding up out of the valley, but was pretty sure I was off route as I was trying to ride up a creek. No, I was on the trail though it was better suited as a creek.

The riding was pretty much a blur, lots of loose rocky uphills, fun downhills that never seemed long enough. As is my usual routine, I passed a lot of people once into the groove of the race but I think I only passed two riders in my category.

About halfway into the race, the rain came down in earnest. My brake pads were wearing quickly with all the mud on the course, and the trail was only getting worse. And then the lightning came. Luckily it wasn't directly over us, there was a delay between the lightning and the thunder, but it was way too close anyway.

Going down a hill, I tried to make a sharp left in the mud and rocks, but my bike decided to go visit some trees and shrubs instead. My brakes were really worn down. I quickly adjusted the mechanical Avid brakes and was off.

A number of experts passed me, all being very encouraging as they went by. That's what I really like about mountain bike racing, everyone is pretty courteous. They thank me for letting them pass, other riders quickly pull out of my way when it's my rare turn to pass.

I was under the impression that the race would end of that last really steep uphill, but either they changed their mind due to the weather, or I wasn't listening closely (probably the latter) but the finish was on top of the hill by the parking lot. The only thing worse than doing that last hill is when you think the whole race that you won't have to.

Anyway, my overall time was way worse than last year. But then again it was a dry course last year, and this year, did I mention it was muddy? I'm currently in second place in the overall point standings. This is quite humorous to me. My finishes don't warrant a second place standing, but I think there is only a handful of us that have done more than one race in the series so far. Of course I leave that little detail out when they people at work ask me how I did in my "bike race."

Oh yeah, had a chest cold all week. Probably shouldn't have raced, but I don't really listen to that little voice in my head that tries to reason with me. I am completely exhausted today and I took a big step back in recovering, but in the end I'm glad I went. And a big congrats to all the Pittsburgh racers. Dave, Aaron, Don, and Jason all had great races. Now if only I could ride as fast as those guys...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

WVMBA #3 - Big Bear

Big Bear - 1:39.57 - 7th place master's sport - 13 miles

My favorite race of the year. Arrived at Big Bear and registered, ran into a new racer Bob. We jumped on the bikes to warm up a bit, and ran into Dave from last year's Month of Mud on his new Hi Fi. Left them to do a few all out efforts as a warm up and got to the riders' meeting late. This would prove to be a problem.

We lined up and off we went for the first one mile road sprint before entering the woods. I know myself, and was certain I would not do well here. Even though I warmed up a bit, it's never enough or worthwhile for me to blow out my legs at the beginning. So we ride up the road, me towards the back half and we ride by the normal right turn into the woods. Uh oh. We continue up the road and turn left into single track, the place where last year's beginners turned in. The good news, we wouldn't be doing the rock gardens or steep climb. The bad news, I wasn't quite sure how many miles we would be doing.

I felt pretty good and started picking up the pace, memories of last year's 24 hour race coursing through my head. I slowly started picking off riders as we would enter a roller or a technical section. Knowing the course was paying off.

Then I hit the wall. Every hill felt steep, I started wondering why I pay for the privledge of this torture. Then it hit me, I needed some gel. We were given free Hammer gel, so tried that. Wow, after about five minutes I could feel it. I picked up the pace and flew down the long descent that leads to the creekbed. It's probably the fastest I had ever taken it, and almost lost it going over one of the rock drop offs, but held it together. This year the arms felt fine during the descent, but my hands were cramping from being on the brakes so much. Cleaned the creekbed with no problem.

Up on to the fire road and realized two things. If the course was going to head back up toward the airfield, I had some good energy left, but if the course was heading back to the finish line, I didn't pace myself well. Unfortunately, it was the latter. I flew through sections that in past years troubled me. Continued to pass people in the last miles. Rode it hard, like I should have been doing all along. Made it to the finish line, and I think the course was only 13 miles rather than the 17 I was expecting. Legs were tired, but not trashed like they should have been. Oh well, learned a hard lesson there.

Dave ended up getting first place in sport masters! His winter training really paid off for sure. I got seventh place, but realistically could've gotten fifth had I paced it right. Ah well. Currently I'm in fifth place in the overall point standings. Henry Clay race is next on the agenda.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

WVMBA #2 - Mountwood

Challenge at Mountwood - WVMBA - 2:26 - 10th place master's sport - 16 miles

Deja vu all over again

Just like last year, the drive down was scattered rain. Only oddity, stopped on way down at a rest area and came across some guy washing something in the urinal. Couldn't see what it was, maybe luckily. Got out of there quickly.

Registered, warmed up, start moved back to 12:30 but I anticipated that. A nice downpour hits us as we wait for the start and about 40 degrees. I overhear the guys in my class ask two of the riders why they weren't riding expert this year. Yikes, not a good omen.

Off we go, up the gravel road and on to some fire roads to help spread out the field. About 17 of us in our group, and I was about two thirds back in the pack. Entered the single track and passed a couple of guys taking off their rain jackets. I made that mistake last year.

A lot of people who had race tires were sliding all over the trails. My tires though a little heavier were really good for all of the mud on the trails. Only fell once and it happened while going over some slick logs.

My goal was to ride steady for for most of the race, and then turn it on for the last half hour. It's the only strategy that's worked for me. I hope that some of the other guys will blow out their legs and I'll catch them later. I've never been able to hold a fast pace the whole race.

Don't know if it was the nutrition, the accelerade, the new bike, or all of the training (probably the combination) but I rode this race so much better than last year. It took me three hours last year, and I was wasted and cramping when I finished. This year I felt mentally sharp the whole race. I played some mental games with some of the riders by hanging on their rear wheel and making them push too hard to keep me behind them. Little did they know I couldn't have passed and held it.

The entire race I was in the midst of all of the racers. Being passed and passing others. Races are so much fun when you're not in the back of the pack by yourself.

Well according to my pregame plan, it was time to turn it on a bit, if I could. Way up ahead of me I got a glimpse of a guy in my class, so my goal was to catch him. For the next couple of miles, I pushed it as hard as I could, and slowly I was closing the gap on him. I bomb down a rocky decent which ended in a creek with a sharp right turn. Hit it just right, kept my momentum and when I looked up the hill I could see my prey. I shift to get the gear to pass, and clunk. My dérailleur stuck. Had to jump off my bike and fix things. Quickly realize I was going to be stuck on the one chain ring, I'd have a 1x9 for the rest of the race. By the time I got back on the bike, the guy in the black jacket had really opened a gap. I started to chase him down again, but I think he realized I was after him, and he really opened a gap. I wasn't sure I had the gas to catch him again.

I then realized I probably wasn't going to catch him before the race's end. I decided to just ride a good hard pace and try to keep the cramps from hitting my quads (I couldn't get into the granny gear and the muddy hills were taking a toll on my legs). So after about a half a mile or so I round a bend and there he is. I'm not sure if he had a mechanical or if he had blown his legs trying to stay in front of me. Regardless, I stuck on his back wheel for the next mile as we wound through the tight single track and down some great descents. Finally, we dump out beside a gravel road and I recognize that we are on the home stretch. I give it everything I have and pass him hoping that he won't stay with me. And he doesn't. I reach the finish line with a room to spare and take over 10th place!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Winter Training and Musings

Winter Training

I've only had to ride inside this winter four times. And each time I hated it!!! But luckily this winter has been cold but not too much snow. Even when we get snow, it tends to melt pretty quickly. Not been on the mountain bike too much, but out on the road bike a bunch. Really don't trust the cars on the roads. At least when I'm in the woods, the trees can't veer at me as they are texting.

Really did enjoy the winter mountain biking though. Frozen trails, snow, and not another person on the trails but me. Highlights of the winter riding: riding in the teens with 40 mph winds, could barely coast downhill with the headwind; riding in the unique quiet of snow covered trails; getting caught at night, temperature in the teens, and my pump breaks after replacing a punctured tube - it was a looong walk out.

*edit - after having three flats in a week, I decided to give tubeless a try. The front wheel didn't seal up well the first time, but got it to work after doing the "shake" thing. So far so good on the tubeless, the ride feels a little softer, the traction is even better, and no flats yet. Still tweaking the right psi. Right now I'm 30 in front and 31 in rear. I think I can go a little lower.

Tentative race schedule for the spring:

April 13 - wvmba 2 at Mountwood (I don't really like to drive that far but the trails are really good and I'll be itching to race by then)
April 20 - wvmba 3 at Big Bear (my favorite trails in the series, it will be nice to race it this year on the new bike, and hopefully with both brakes, lol)
May 11 - wvmba 4 at Henry Clay (this was a blast last year, very rocky, and I was exhausted by the end. now that I know what to expect I hope to finish much stronger)
May 25 - wvmba 6 at White Oak (never did this one, hope it's a good one)
June 1 - tentative race at Massanutten (will only do this one if I'm doing well in the overall series - also the Sarver race is usually around this time but not sure yet)
June 7-8 - 24 hours of Big Bear (was truly a blast last year, can not wait for this year)
June 22 - wvmba 9 at Blackwater (would like to do this one but far drive, see how I'm feeling by then)

Month of Mud series starts in September