Wednesday, December 16, 2009

End of Season Races - wrap up

Well, it's the end of the season and I realized I really didn't wrap-up my last two races in the Month of Mud series. To be honest, not too much to summarize. This was probably my worst fall season. I actually had a good bit of fitness this year, but I ran in to a lot of odd stuff this fall. So first up, Brady's Run.

October 11 - Brady's Run State Park - 11th place Master - 1:26

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Brady's Month of Mud Race

This year you weren't allowed to drop a race, and since I there was a race I had to miss I really couldn't try to get a good finish in the race series. I was on the fence about going to Brady's as I had tweaked my back slinging firewood several days before the race. But a buddy new to racing was going, so I thought I'd go to support him.

My only goal was to ride a steady race. Not fast, not slow, but steady. The course was wet (it seems to always rain the day before this race each year). It was a bit muddy, but traction was good everywhere, except on wood - foreshadowing alert.

The course was the one from 2007, not sure why the change as I really liked the course from 2008. Anyway, held a steady pace until I got to the first big uphill. As usual it was clogged with racers pushing their bikes. Got to the top and jumped on.

There were a lot of roadies at Bavington and the cross races, and they showed up here at Brady's too. I remember one guy in particular, he would be ahead of me until he came to one of the many log piles where he would promptly wreck on the wet logs. I would pass him, and he would jump on his bike and work hard to pass me again, where he would wreck at the next log pile. At one point, laying on the ground, he looked up to me and said, "I got no skillz." That was the last I saw of him as I think the falls took a lot out of him.

Not much happened the rest of the race except for one really good wreck I put together while attempting to go over one of the largest logpiles. The wet wood was just too much.

Didn't think much of the wreck until I tried to get up the next day. I guess on an already tweaked back, that wreck at Brady's combined to give me some back spasms. An injury I've never had before and hope to never have again! I couldn't bend down to tie my shoes, but I also couldn't stand upright. Hope I never go through that again.

Next update will be Raccoon cyclocross race...

Another fruitless race, but it started off so good. This was a new site for the cross race, held at Raccoon Creek Twp. park. Watched the experts race, and realized that it was going to be a mud pit for the rest of us.

I almost missed the start of the race while talking to some friends. Got to the line just in time to start. Normally a mtb bike with knobbies would not be the ideal bike for a cross race, but with as much as there was it was working well. I passed a bunch of guys that slid out on some of the turns. Passed a few more on a short muddy uphill where their cross tires gave out.

Then it happened. Taking a hard right on an off camber grass section, blam. My tubeless tire burped, and burped hard. No pressure at all in the tire - I think this was because I've been trying to run higher volume tires, but my rim isn't really good for this. Anyway, the co2 wouldn't seal the tire, but then I remembered I parked close by. Ran over to the van and took out a tube. Grabbed another co2, but the inflator wasn't working. Had a pump in the van, so used that, my heart rate sky rocketing. Throw the wheel back in the frame, and the disc brake hits one of the brake pads, and ejects it from the caliper. By the time I got that all situated, it wasn't worth me even trying to rejoin the race.

Instead I cheered everyone on, and afterwords Dave S. and I took off to Bavington and put in a really good, long ride. You know, that was way more fun than a race. So my worst Month of Mud series ended in a horrible fashion. I rarely get a mechanical in a race, but I think my luck ran out this year. Well, it's what sometimes, happens, put it out of my mind and look forward to next year.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Month of Mud - Bavington

18th place Masters - 53.56

This could be titled The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Arrive at Bavington to perfect weather. Trails were dry, and the finishing times would be low. This year the Masters went before Sport, so I hardly had to wait around. Bavington is always interesting because it's a time trial format.

I took off, and felt solid. I wasn't sure how I'd feel. I've done more riding than ever this year, but a lot of longer distance road riding, not much interval riding at all, and Month of Mud races are more about riding all out for an hour.

I crossed the first road and easily made it up the steep hill, hitting the new line that lets you stay off the roots. I was flying on this first section of trails, and I quickly passed the area where I was caught by another Masters rider last year. So far, so good.

I got to the first set of "steep" hills and rode them all easily. I got passed by someone on this area. But I could tell I was riding much better than last year.

In no time at all, I was nearing the short, steep downhill that dumps out in to the open field. Mentally I was completely focused on riding down this section (this is where Joe B. had a tremendous wreck a couple of years ago, and I always have that in my mind).

As I neared the downhill, I was so focused on getting the right line that I failed to see the rocks on the area above the downhill. The rocks kicked me to the shoulder on the right, which promptly gave out. This tossed me over the handlebars down in to a gully to the right. I just missed a tree with my head, and landed on my back.

The bike was still clipped to me, and it took a bit to get unclipped. Finally untangled from the thorns, climbed up out of the gully as two riders passed me. Jumped on the bike and only then noticed that the handle bars were turned. Back off, turn the handle bars. Finally I got going and realized my seat was turned sideways also. Worse wreck than I realized. Straightened the seat, and tried to get back in my groove.

But I just couldn't find that groove. Used a lot of energy in the wreck and recovery. I didn't ride as strong on the last section of the course. I'm guessing that wreck cost me at least three minutes, and when the race lasts no longer than an hour, that's a significant amount of time.

So, I took 18th place. Looking at the times, I might have finished 10 - 12th place, which I would've been thrilled with considering the competition this year. The downside of racing Masters is that it's an open class - full of experts and sport riders.

In fact at the beginning of the race while I was awaiting my turn, the guy in front of me looks back at me and asks if I'm racing Masters. I reply yes. Masters expert, he asks. I explain to him that it's an open class. His eyes tells me I have no chance. But of course his shaved legs and kit give the same message. But racing against the experts can only make me faster, I hope.

Next race is a cyclocross race at Raccoon. Weather looks to be muddy and rainy, that might be good for me as I race my 29er in the cyclocross races.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Livestrong Challenge - Philly - 100 miles

(pictures will coming soon, also a warning: this is a really, really long post. you have my permission to skim)

100 miles at the Livestrong Challenge in Philly. Did I really sign up to do a 100 mile road ride? I'm at heart a mountain biker, what was I thinking?

Sometime over the summer, Mark mentioned to me that he had signed up for the Lance Armstrong Foundations's Livestrong Challenge. I remember thinking that there is no way I'd ever consider doing that. But as time went on, I found out that Mark was riding as part of Team Fatty. Team Fatty was started by Elden Nelson, better known for his blog at I had read his blog for quite a while, and was very touched by what he and his wife had been going through with their cancer fight. Well, that certainly caught my attention. Then Mark mentioned how he was riding by himself as his wife and her sister were doing the 45 mile ride. And I had just gotten a used road bike, and found I actually somewhat enjoyed riding it (never thought I would).

Finally in a moment of weakness, I agreed to try the 100 mile ride. Mark was already several weeks ahead of me in training, and that became painfully obvious when I joined him on several training rides. Now I had been riding quite a bit because of the mountain bike races I had been doing, but road miles are different. I started doing some 40 mile rides, and found them tiring.

After a few weeks, I then saw 40 mile rides as a warm up. I did a 65 mile ride, and was exhausted. Mark mentioned he wanted to do a 75 mile ride next. Funny thing, as we talked more, he kept increasing the mileage he said we'd do. "Hey, can't wait for our 80 mile ride." "Yeah, our 90 mile ride will be some great training."

We picked a day in the 90s with high humidity. In part because it was finally a dry day, and in part because if the Philly ride was going to be a hot one, we wanted to get our bodies (and minds) ready for it. I ended up doing 75 miles that day, Mark did 85 or 90. I don't remember, I was delirious.

I first thought the fund raising would keep me from going to Philly, but family and friends were very generous with donations and in no time I had easily met my goal.

So with the thoughts of a 75 mile ride almost killing me, my wife and I headed off to Philly.

We arrived near Philly on Friday and I went to register at the Livestrong Village. I got a signed book from Chris Carmichael. He mentioned to me how he was still beat from racing at Leadville.

Saw retired running back Eddie George signing authgraphs.

Picked up some free stuff, bought some Livestrong items, and headed back to the hotel. Later that night we went out with some friends we hadn't seen in years. On Saturday Mark and his group arrived.

Team Fatty with over 250 riders strong, and over $250,000 raised, were invited (well a portion of us) to a special Livestrong dinner Saturday night. Elden "Fatty" Nelson was one of the speakers, and I think everyone in the room teared up. His speech was inspiring. We also heard from "College" one of Lance's best friends, and we heard from Ethan from Survivor who was now battling cancer. In all, a very special night.

We arrived back at the hotel, I made sure all my nutrition stuff was packed and ready to go and I tried to get some sleep.

Five o'clock came early, and off we went to find the start line at the Montgomery County Community College. There were to be over 6,0000 cyclists and runners, and it sure looked like it when we pulled into the parking lot.

I loaded up all of my Hammer nutrition, and went off to find Team Fatty. Because we, as a team, raised so much money, we were given the honor to lead out the group of cyclists - we even were to get a police escort!!!

I found Mark, and before we knew it the announcer set us off. The adrenaline was pumping. It was very cool to see the sea of black lead out (we were all wearing our Team Fatty jerseys).

My main strategy was to find big groups of riders, tuck myself safely inside, and let them pull me along as to save my legs. I knew I was caught up in the moment when Mark had to keep reminding me that our pace was too high.

The course led us through rolling countryside, not unlike the roads around the outskirts of Pittsburgh. It had rained for two days solid, but the weather that day was overcast but humid. And this caused the roads to be slick, especially on the turns.

In no time we reached the first aid station, but there was no reason to stop. We continued on, and in what seemed minutes we reached the second aid station (at approximately 15 miles). Colonial characters met us wishing us well, while others played the fife and drum. Kept it a short rest, and off we went again.

The legs had shut down a bit, and right out of the aid station was a decent hill. Arghhhh, that one hurt. After a half mile, the legs opened up again.

The rest of the ride was a blur of rolling country side, old barns, and older houses. The scenery was great. Then I was quickly pulled out of my reverie. The signs for the Landis Store aid station were seen on the roadside. I knew from the gps information and talking to some other riders that this was the biggest hill of the ride.

The hill slowly gained altitude, and it didn't seem too bad until I rounded the corner and saw the hill shoot up. Immediately, BOTH of my quads started to cramp with the increase of grade. Mark got up ahead of me, and I just put my head down and readied for some suffering.

As I continued up the hill, there were signs on the roadside trying to encourage us, there was a guy dressed in a devil suit. He yelled, "Go Fatty" and high-fived me. I wanted to tell him that this was a devil of a hill, but I was suffering too much to talk. I saw riders walking with legs fully cramped. I saw riders sitting on the side of the road with their heads between their legs, either from dehydration, naseau, or cramps. Guy beside me kept looking at his gps announcing the increase in grade. Finally he stopped announcing at 16 degrees, ouch.

And then it was over, Landis store. And it looked like the whole town was out to cheer us on as we entered the aid station, reminiscent of the Tour de France. This was advertised as the best aid station, and they were right. Live music, cool water misters, cool blown air (near the first aid station, but I took advantage anyway), cold fruit, ice water, and more. Mark and I spent too much time at this station, but who could blame us? Just as we got ready to leave, my tired instantly flatted with a loud hiss. Actually great timing, took the bike over to the Bikeline mechanic. Not only did he fix the flat, but he spotted some wear in the rim tape, which was probably what cause several recent flats.

Tire fixed, and we were off. I was really looking to a lot of downhill from here. At first that's what we got, but then the rolling hills weren't done with us, not by a long shot.

I felt really strong until about mile 75. The last 25 miles were rough on me personally. I was fine on the flats, but any type of incline at all saw me quickly falling behind any group we were in. Mark would always slow down, and he tried to pull me a bit, but I was too tired.

Ten miles to go. Somewhere in here a rain burst let loose, but it felt great. Two miles to go, and I couldn't wait to get off my bike. Half mile to go, we could see the local college that had the finish line, and Mark got a flat.

While we were fixing it, the sag wagon stopped by and offered to give us a ride to the finish line. Was she kidding? We didn't ride all this way to then take a ride to the finish line.

We jumped back on the bikes and finished the ride. I felt like I was finishing the Tour. Mark and I were riding side by side down the yellow-balloned finish. As we crossed under the arch where we first began the day, we could hear the announcers announcing our entry. We rode over to where our wives were waiting, and I gladly got off my bike. Wow, what a day.

A huge thank you to all the people who donated for this great cause. I appreciate all that you did. After seeing what the Livestrong does for people with cancer, I feel great that our money is going to a great organization.

I hope to post up some pictures soon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Valley Falls Race - WVMBA

Valley Falls - 1:47 - 14 miles - 4th place master's sport

Two weeks off the bike while on vacation, a couple of short rides, and then I found myself driving down to a WVMBA race with 1,700 ft. of climbing. Not the kind of race preparation that I would've planned.

I arrived at Valley Falls State Park, WV early, parked, and made my way to register. From the beginning things looked well-organized. And actually got a t shirt that I can see myself wearing.

Talked with a racer that I had met in previous years. I thought he had had a green Salsa dos Niner, but this time he had an orange one. He told me he had cracked the frame and Salsa sent him a new one. He looked at my bike, and said that I had a crack too. I laughed thinking he was kidding. Glanced over to the bracket that holds the relish shock, and there it was - a hairline crack. I never would've seen it on my own. The crack was in the weld and appeared that it would hold up for the race, I hoped.

All the other usual suspects arrived and got ready for the race. Experts were to do two laps, sport one and a half, beginners one lap. Sport started half way up the hill, so we rode up and awaited the experts (who started at the base of the climb) to begin. As the experts rode up by us, I could see the pain etched on their faces. I knew right away that the beginning was going to be tough.

We started soon after, and since I had been watching the Tour de France, I decided I would do some drafting. Not sure if I really drafted or not, we weren't going fast, but I began the steep road climb at a moderate pace. I would stay on someone's wheel, trying not to blow up my legs, and then leap frog up to another rider. Passed a good number of people like this.

We then entered the singletrack and began winding back down the hill. It was here that I passed Josh who was racing Dave in the sport vets class. They had a 26v29 battle going. Oh yeah, the only reason I passed Josh was that his chain had broken, not because of my blazing speed.

The course kept dumping us on to double track roads which some might have found boring, but it made it easy to pass people, and an easy place to stretch my back. In fact I had very little back pain probably due to this.

Climing, and lots of it. Some climbs I grunted my way up, others were so steep it wasn't worth the effort. I kept a very steady pace the whole way through the race. My nutrition change to Hammer products, and more to the point, my pinpointing what nutrition was needed at what time, really was evident in this race. I never got dehydrated, never lost my focus.

Fourteen miles never felt so long. I saw beginners on big huck bikes talking about how the trails sucked. Of course trying to ride those 40 pound behemoths on those trails would of course make it suck. I saw Josh pass me looking for Dave. I told a kid volunteering at an aid station to throw the cup of water right on my head. He didn't think I was serious. I was deadly serious.

I pushed it really hard for the last quarter of the race, and considering not riding the bike at all while on vacation, I was happy with how I rode. Dave came in first in his division. Josh came in I think seventh, which was good considering his mechanical. Don and Aaron came in the top ten of the expert division which is impressive.

Ate tons of food, checked out everyone's race times on the big monitor they have for us (way better than peering over the judge's shoulder for a peek at his/her laptop). Loaded up and went home, another race in the bag.

Update on the bike: Salsa had me send back the frame, and I'm awaiting a new frame. Everything covered under the warranty, I hope it gets here soon so I can get it built up. I've been riding my old Gary Fisher Cake, and it makes me realize all the more how much I love my Dos Niner.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

24 Hours of Big Bear 2009 - Part III

I awoke and thought about the nightmare I had just had, realizing it was not a nightmare but my night lap I had just been reliving. Within the first 100 yards of my night lap, I had fallen about 10 times. Somewhere during that lap, I had decided to give up racing, I couldn't imagine why I raced for average results, I couldn't imagine why I paid for the privilege of suffering. When I came to that final uphill that leads back to the campsite, I had thought about ways of short cutting the course. I couldn't believe I even considered it, but that's how low I was feeling.

Thankfully Dave doing back to back laps gave me time to recuperate both physically and mentally. I got up for my third lap, dressed quickly, and met Dave at the finish line. I didn't have to wait too long before Dave rolled in.

I was not in any hurry to do my third lap. I walked to my bike still adjusting my camelback. Got on my bike and decided I was just going out for a ride. Wow, am I glad I did that third lap. The sun was just coming up, and immediately the moisture that had covered every rock and root was gone. The trail was even a bit tacky, pretty nice conditions.

I was actually having fun on the third lap. My front derailleur was still shot, but this time I left it so that I had a 1x9 using the middle ring. Surprisingly, my legs did well with that ring and I was able to make it up all of the hills except the last one with that gear ratio.

Traction was good, mental energy was very good, physical energy not bad. I finished the third lap in just over two hours and had not really pushed it at all. I'm sure I could have had a lap time equal to my first lap time had I pushed at all. The fact that we were going to finish in fourth place regardless of my lap time was what kept me from going any faster.

I got back, and Dave went out for his fifth lap. I had to wake him up, told him that fifth place couldn't catch us, and we couldn't catch third place, so no reason to go out if he didn't want to. But he wanted to. Dave got back from his fifth lap, I would've had time to go out for a fourth lap, but there really was no need, and I felt completely satisfied with my three laps.

Jame and Mike had packed up and gone, and it was just Dave and I closing down camp. I sat down eating one of the best chicken burritos I had ever had in my life, and thought about the odd sights over the last 24 hours. I remembered the hula hoop girl out in the woods, twirling lighted hula hoops while a disco ball and boom box accompanied her. Surreal. I remembered hearing circus music, rounded the corner and the local ems guys were doing the circus theme, and then announced: It's Three Ring Circus!!! (the name or our team, I guess they were keeping track. It was priceless) I remembered wanting to quit any and all types of racing at about 2:00 a.m. I remembered taking a huge endo some time during the night lap and amazing myself that all I got was some good abrasions as the rocks softened my fall. I remembered sitting around the campfire listening to the Pens with the Stanley Cup, and then all of the car horns and people roaring in support. I remembered running into a ton of people I've gotten to know over the years racing.

So yes, when all was said and done, we were all making plans for coming back next year to give it one more go.

Monday, June 22, 2009

24 Hours of Big Bear 2009 - Part II

Time is a funny thing. It does just the opposite of what you want it to do. Four hours never went so fast, before I knew it, it was my time for my second lap. I went out around 9:00 with my Dionette on my helmet and Jamie's HID on the handlebars - lights wouldn't be a problem. But traction would be. Once night settled in, a layer of dew covered all rock surfaces - and at Big Bear there are a lot of rock surfaces, trust me.

Within the first 100 yards, I fell off my bike three times. Everytime I rode over a rock, my bike would slide off. I took some air out of my rear tire which seemed to help a bit. My front derailleur had decided not to work anymore, so I was stuck using my small chain ring. In retrospect, the middle ring would've been better, but I wasn't sure if I had the leg power to push it the whole race.

For a while, I had about three people behind me just for the amount of lumens I was throwing out, but my slow pace and many falls allowed them to move on.

Once I got past the top section of what I refer to as the "rollers" I started heading through some small rock drops that would eventually lead me to the large descent.

On one small rock drop that I had ridden dozens of time, all of a sudden my front wheel stopped moving. Inertia is a funny thing. Though my bike stopped, I did not. Right up and over the handlebars, but luckily I had a nice pile of rocks to break my fall. I think taking years of judo has paid off a hundred times, as it did here. Once tossed off the bike, I tucked my chin and just went with the flip off the bike. As I landed I threw out my arm to dissipate the energy of the fall. I bruised up my forearm pretty badly, but no serious injury just pain.

"You okay?" Where did that come from? As I lay on my back with my bike atop me, I scanned the area and saw a rider off in the woods working on his chain. "Well, a fall like that will wake you up," I responded. What a wit I have.

Back on my bike, and off I went. As I said, time is a funny thing. Why does 2.5 hours of rest feel like 20 minutes, but a 2.5 hour lap time feels like 6 hours? The walk up the final one mile hill felt like 12 miles.

Finally I see the finish tent. All I have to do is ride up and over the old steel bridge. But I relaxed too quickly. As I rode the bridge, a motorcycle decided to gun the throttle. I took a quick look, just long enough to catch my handle bar on one of the bridge supports, tossing me into the side rails. Sheeesh, how embarrassing, but I was too tired to care.

Finished the lap, and Mike took the next one. Warned him of the slickness (a bit of foreshadowing).

Jamie walked my bike back to the campsite for me, where I promptly collapsed into a chair. The cold air quickly turned my sweat cold. I was tired, cold, and hungry, and yet I couldn't move.

I did the math in my head, my next lap was at 4:00 a.m. and I knew I wouldn't recover by then. I had had no sleep up to this point, and my body was shutting down quickly. Dave would be doing the next lap after Mike, and I told Jamie to pass on the message that I needed sleep and wouldnt' be able to go again until 6:00. Jokingly, I mentioned that if Dave wanted to do a double lap that would be just fine with me.

At 4:00 a.m. Dave woke me up at the finish of his lap. He said he would do a second lap if he could borrow my lights. Absolutely no problem!!! Dave got fueled up, we swapped his lights out, and off he went for another lap, two in a row. Can't imagine how he did it. At least I had two more hours for my legs to recover.

To be continued...

Monday, June 15, 2009

24 Hours of Big Bear 2009 - Part I

If it's not one thing, it's another. But I'll get to that later. Not sure if I like the actual riding in 24 hour races, or if it's the preparation, planning, and just hanging out with friends that I like.

Anyway, I had enough gear for a three week epic, unfortunately I was going to be gone for only three days. Arrived at Big Bear, WV on Friday around 2:00 and was amazed by the number of people already set up. Grabbed a camping spot and set up camp.

A couple of hours later Mike arrived. I raced my very first 24 hour race with Mike two years ago. It was good to see him and catch up. Listened to the Pens win the Stanley Cup on the radio while hanging out at the campfire. Was fun to hear all the people cheer and the horns blaring when the Pens won the game. Dave arrived around 11:00, we got him settled then off to bed. Jamie would arrive the next morning to complete our team of four racing in the Veteran category.

I actually got some sleep for a change, and before we knew it, it was time to race. Jamie was going to go first since I was thinking he and Dave would do four laps while Mike and I would do three. I'm not proud, no trouble admitting I'm not the fastest of riders.

Jamie did the Le Mans start and was then off to the singletrack. Lap times were a bit slow as there was about 3/4 inch of rain Thursday night. But about an hour and fifty minutes later we saw Jamie come out of the woods and up on to the metal bridge that dumps the riders to the finish tent. But Jamie seemed to stop before he made it to the top of the bridge, we couldn't really see what happened. Jamie swiped out, Dave swiped in and off he went.

That's when we got some bad news. Jamie had pulled or torn something in his calf while on that bridge. He wasn't sure how serious his injury was.

While Jamie was staying off his leg, I got dressed for my lap. Dave came in from his lap, putting in a really good time. I took off for my first lap. I had Nevagals on the front and back of my bike, but they're bigger tires. Before going to Big Bear, I changed the rear tire to a small block eight hoping for a faster rolling tire. But now with as muddy as the course would be, I was worried that I had made a bad decision.

I went out on the first lap, I tried to not blow up my legs on the first half of the course as it's easy to get sucked into the high energy out on the course. Tires hooked up really well, small block didn't really clog up like I thought it might. I could've pushed harder on this lap, but I knew I would need some energy later. I finished my lap in what for me was a good, solid time.

Mike took over for his lap, and I headed back to get changed and get some food. I felt really good, energy was high, no bonk. Legs were tired, but that was to be expected. Not to be expected was the fact that Jamie's injury was serious enough that he couldn't continue.

We were now a three man team. My curse continued. It was my third 24 hour race in a row where I've had a teammate have to pull out of the race due to injury. My rest time just went from about five hours to about three hours. To be continued...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tour of Turkey crash

Tour of Turkey crash - or - why I'll never road race

Monday, April 20, 2009

WVMBA #1 - Big Bear

1:34 - 12.9 miles - 12th place Masters

Fifth place last year, 12th this year, but I feel better about my finish this year. Dave and I pulled into BB early and Dave decided to do a last minute tire switch. Braver than me, but it turned out he picked the right tires - it had looked like rain but we were hoping it would hold off.

We warmed up a bit, and then watched the experts start. This year the course didn't take the road to the single track but instead had a mini prologue loop and took the trail backwards into the singletrack.

Sports went off in a staggered start, and I started off with about 18 other "old guys." I tried to not to blow up my legs right away, but it was tough as I could see that I could easily pass some the guys right in front of me. Instead I just tucked in behind a couple of guys and let them slowly pull me for a bit.

Passed a bunch of guys as we went up a short steep climb. So far so good. I was hurting pretty good as we go to the steepest climb up the front side of the race. I could have ridden it, but I think I would've blown out the legs, or the lungs, or something. Jumped off and pushed as fast as I could. Still can't decide if that was the right move.

Got to the top of the course, and either they routed us around some climbs and rock gardens, or I have really improved a lot since last year, but before I knew it was up top by the old airfield. Unfortunately I took too long here recovering, I really should've pushed it here a bit more but was busy trying to refuel.

Headed into the section that has what I call the rollers, again I made up some good time here passing a number of people. But not too many from my category. Went through some rock sections that I was a bit tentative on last year, but this year the new Fox Fork was awesome. I just rolled through it all. The extra inch and the extra stiffness paid off.

Then I headed for the big descent. As I was heading near the steeper stuff, a full-out train of clydesdales caught me from behind. Scary stuff. The one guy yelled out a pass on the left. Unfortunately it just as the course took a sharp right, and he went straight. On cue, his buddy yells out, "Hey, I think you might have wanted to turn right there."

The guys were behind me down the whole descent, and they were trying pass but they were going to have to totally do it on their own. Three quarters of the way down we caught a much slower rider and it got jammed up. The guy was riding the right side of the downhill and as we got to the bottom near the creek bottom the guy veers to the left to get off his bike nicely cutting off three of us. About five more guys pass us. Bad timing.

At this point there was about 15 - 20 minutes left of the race. I tried to hammer the best I could, but I was pretty beat. Ahead of me I see an older rider and push it to catch him. Then he passes me and I notice he's in the beginner category. Made me feel a bit better about being passed.

Unfortunately he passed me in the open field that leads to a fairly rocky entry back in to the woods. I could tell from his riding he wasn't that technical, and as we got close to the rocks he skids to the stop like a six year old and neatly cuts me off. He apologizes, but the damage is done. I have to run the bike over the rocks and finally jump back on.

I had a strong finish, but couldn't catch anyone. Cross the finish line exhausted. I'm not sure I could've pushed it much more. Missed tenth place by one minute, ah well.

Some good omens for the season: Big Bear was the first race this year, and in spite of that and the fact that the course was slower with the prologue start, I rode about six minutes faster than last year. I felt solid during the race, if not fast, very steady with a good pace. New fork and Nevegal tires have been a great addition to the dos Niner. And I was in the race the whole time, passing people, being passed, being less than a minute behind the next riders. Better than in the old days when I basically rode the races not seeing a person.

Looking forward to the next race!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is that baby real?!? Tour of California

I can't believe what people will do. I'm glad I taped this as I couldn't believe what I saw. If that baby is real, it needs to be taken away from what I'm guessing is the father. Sorry for the poor quality, video didn't cooperate.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tour of California Fans show up the French

Well, the U.S. fans are quite interesting to say the least. Make sure you are not eating while you view this.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tour of California Coverage Sucks

So last year I was on vacation watching Tour de France each afternoon. I remember thinking how much better the U.S. coverage of a bike race would be than the coverage of the Tour de France. I would now like to retract that statement.

I've watched all of the Tour of California on Versus this week, and I have not been impressed. Some of their mistakes I can understand. The weather can't be controlled, and weather problems led to transmission breakups. Frustrating, but not their fault.

How about watching a race for two hours, and just as the racers start gearing up for the finish, Versus decided to cut away to the hockey game. Well, let's hope they learned from that mistake, ugggh.

How about today's race. After investing a few hours of my life, the racers enter Pasadena. They come to the last lap, things are tight. The breakaway group is attacking constantly. And what does Versus do? The pan out and show the Rose Bowl and the surrounding mountains just when the racers are making their last moves toward the finish line!

And with all of the technology that Versus has available, wouldn't you think they could have constant time checks? Is it too much to ask to know how far ahead the peleton is? Too much to ask to know how many miles are left to the finish? Nope, we have to wait until the throw it up on the screen about every 20 minutes.

And the rider information is not much better. When they put up on the television the list of riders in the breakaway group, how hard would it be to list all pertinent information? I mean, it would be nice to have the cyclist's name, the country they're from, and the team name all at the same time. I mean most of the viewers are casual fans who only watch the last day of the Tour de France, don't you think they could help them out a bit?

Sure, they do some good stuff. The announcers are good, the quality of the video (when it works) is crisp. But all the other stuff easily outweighs all the good stuff. Well, let's hope they learn from their mistakes this year.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Me, I am NOT an endurance racer

Well, I'm trying to be a bit more organized in my training this year. Last year I rode a lot, but nothing very organized and the race results showed it. Very average, and even a DNF.

So the idea this winter is each week to do one long ride, one of intervals, and one of "sweet spot" riding if I can. So yesterday was my long ride day.

I went to Connellsville and rode to Ohio Pyle. Couldn't remember what the trail was made of. Turned out to be hard packed and very finely crushed limestone. My road bike turned out to be fine, but the ground went from fairly well packed, to a big soggy and slow.

Anyway, rode three hours and realized that in no way I can be an endurance rider. From the beginning that little mental dialogue was happening. You know, "Come on, why are we doing this? We can just turn around now and grab a big mac, no one will know." It only gets worse from there. I remember watching 24 hour solo thinking I could probably do that some day. Oh, that's a knee slapper. Whatever in the world was I thinking?

And of course my mp3 player quit working 15 minutes into the ride, sigh. I really wish I would've had my camera though; there was some really great scenery - snow, ice, waterfalls, mountain laurel.

In the end, I was really glad I did the ride. Legs feel tired in that good sort of way. And I'm hoping that these rides really pay off this spring. Well, for that I have to wait and see.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Lake MXZ302 Winter Cycling Shoe - My Review

Lake MXZ302 Winter Cycling Shoe - 2008

After having my feet feeling like frozen block of ice the last three winters, I decided I was serious about riding in the winter and needed some real winter cycling shoes.

I got together my extra cash, realized I needed more and got what I could from under the couch cushions and sent away for some Lake winter cycling shoes. Well, these things weren't going to be cheap but if they did what I've read in other reviews then I was hoping I was making a good investment.

First impressions:

Too small. I have narrow feet, and having read I should order one size bigger, that's exactly what I did. The shoes were delivered, and too small. My regular cycyling shoes are a size 45, and I ended up needed a 47 in the Lakes.

Got the shoes just in time for the Punk Enduro ride. I took the new shoes out of the box, installed the cleats for my Eggbeaters and put on the shoes. The lacing system is awesome, you just spin a little dial and the "fishing line" laces snug right up. Very easy to get just the right tension.

Now taking them off was interesting. Not much documentation in the box. Well, that would be no problem for a well-educated rider like myself. I could NOT figure out how to release the laces. After way too much time, I realized all I had to do was pull up on the dial and it released. Whew. This release system is great for when you're done with a ride and exhausted and really don't want to undo laces or straps. Only downside is when you're tightening the laces, the dial sometimes releases the laces. Really not a big deal.

The Punk Enduro was not very cold this year, about 40 degrees, so warmth wouldn't be a problem. Now mud and streams, yes that I would test. Short version: I rode in a lot of mud and crossed a lot of streams and totally forgot I was wearing the shoes. A great compliment indeed. My feet were toasty and dry at the end of the ride. There was no break in period needed, and I did not treat the leather with the included MiniWax. I will treat it in the future though.

Road riding with the Lakes: overall they kept my feet way warmer than cycling shoes with overboots. For about the first hour my feet were really comfortable in the 20 degree weather. They started getting cold the second hour, but not unbearable so. But when you figure your feet aren't moving much and you get the added wind chill from road riding, that's not so bad. Took the shoes off when I got home and my wool socks were soaked. Now, I didn't ride through any water, so I'm pretty sure my feet overheated early in the ride then cooled off from all of the sweat. Not sure how to get around this as I've tried both thick and thin wool socks.

Mountain biking with Lakes: I could go 10-15 degrees colder while mountain biking. I think this was due to the lack of windchill that you get on the road, and the fact your feet move a bit more. For instance, when I had to hike a bike due to snow fall. Shoes totally comfortable when hiking around.

Overall opinion: very good winter shoes, they don't quite live up to the hype , but I'm very pleased. I can ride a lot longer before my feet get cold. If you're into all of the technical specs you can read here, but that stuff means not a thing to me.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Flight 1549 tapes released - wow

Gave me goose bumps listening to the pilot talking with air traffic control as they were headed to a landing in the Hudson.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Snowshoeing in a Winter Wonderland

Snow too deep to ride in woods, too much snow on side of the roads for the road bike. So, grabbed the snowshoes it hit the local park. It was great to be in the woods all alone. Some old boot tracks for a bit, but the farther I got the less there were, till finally none but mine and the deer tracks.

Haven't really had a lot of deep snow the last couple of years, so the snowshoes have gone unused. But today was perfect. It was so quiet you could hear the snow falling from the branches and landing in the snow. I was surprised that I didn't see any deer, perhaps they're waiting for the 40 degree day tomorrow.

By the way, it's not easy to take a pic of myself. Push the button, run up the trail in showshoes, try to turn around, click!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The best and worst of 2008

Ok, I may be a bit late, but I've been reading a lot of blogs that list the best and worst of last year. And as it's still January, I'm going to list out my best and worst anyway.

Best race - the WVMBA race at Mountwood
Where I finished didn't make this my best race, but how I raced it made it one I won't forget. Compared to the year before, this past year's race had me NOT cramping so horribly that I thought I'd need the jaws of life to detach me from my bike. I rode at a great pace the whole race. I was passing and being passed the whole race (unlike the year before where I was in the back of the pack all by myself). And I chased down and passed a rider that had stayed out of my reach for miles.

Worst race - the WVMBA race at White Oak
Oh the tragedy of it all. I did everything wrong that you could do. Not enough sleep, wrong nutrition, not enough rest, and the list unfortunately goes on. My most vivid memory is walking my bike, light-headed and nasueous and having an expert rider asking if I was okay. Then completely stopping, looking back at me, and asking, "Are you sure???" My first DNF.

Best multi day bike trip - The Bash
The Bash is put on by the Rattling Creek Single Trackers out near Harrisburg. Four of us went out to the Bash and had a great time. Great people, great event, great chili, and really great singletrack. Miles and miles of tight single track that rode the ridges with lots and lots of very rideable rocks. But I will remember to take advice of the locals next time and shuttle my bike to the top rather than ride the two miles up the mountain.

Worst multi day bike trip - 24 hours of Big Bear
The course was great (but very muddy this year), the people were great. Just bad luck that we had trouble as a team. One of the team members totally bonked out and had like a three hour lap time. Sometimes that happens in a race, and luckily it wasn't me! As I said in the blog, at least I got a really expensie t-shirt for my efforts.

Best product bought - Fox F29 fork
Not been riding it all that long, so may update this opinion, but compared to my Reba, I'm really liking the extra inch of cush, and it's way stiffer allowing me to ride the rock and corner better.

Worst product bought - Ergon grips
Let me just say, the worst product in that they didn't work for ME. Many people have them and love them, but for me I always fell like my hands were about to be jarred off of them. And I had numbness problems with them. I tried many, many different grip angles but no change.

Most embarrassing crash - we have a tie in this category

Crash 1 happened on one of my first rides on my 29er Salsa. Took my bike out to Apollo - a local riding area knows for its technical rocky trails. I wanted to see how the 29er took this kind of trail. All was going well until I headed down a creek bank. I had become a little relaxed, wasn't back on the bike far enough, having quickly got used to how easily the big wheels took the rocks. Suddenly the front wheel decided to stop and take a rest neatly between a few rocks. But I was not ready to stop, so I continued my journey. My journey up and over the handlebars. You don't endo on a 29er often, but when you do, I'll tell you it's a long way down. I contemplated all of this while sitting in the creek bed.

Crash 2 happened at 24 hours of Big Bear. I was on my night lap, about 3:00 a.m. Everything was going quite well, but I was feeling my energy levels drop a bit. I took out gel and slugged it down as I entered the long rocky descent that I loved so much. I went to throw the wrapper off into the woods, but then realized I shouldn't litter, even if it was in the middle of the night and I was tired. I decided to quickly stuff the wrapper in my pants' pocket. I got it in a bit, but the stickiness wouldn't let me to let go. Shoved it in a bit more, and yep, that's when that front wheel decided it should stop for a quick break. Deja vu. I found myself going over the handlebars. This was much rougher landing as I couldn't see much that late at night. Using my best judo skills, rolled in midair, landed on my back (the camelback taking the brunt of it) and slapping my arm to disappate the energy the fall caused. This all sounded great, and might have even looked pretty good, but only the raccoons were my witness. Probably gave them a good laugh. Adrenaline kept me going, but the morning had me feeling every rock that I had landed on. How embarrassing, but Al Gore would be proud of my being "green."