Monday, December 28, 2009

SLC Road Trip

Christmas came and went and with the dawn of the next day came a nice adventure. Nice depends on your definition. My buddy Bob was in town for the holiday and had this crazy scheme of moving an old MG B that he had acquired out from NJ to his new place in Salt Lake City UT. The problem was that he couldn't move it alone since it would be far too long of a road trip. Hence, here's where I come into play. He offered to have me come out with him and help drive the trip. While I was out in SLC I could get a few days of real skiing in, and then hop a nice flight back the following Sunday. Sounded good so I jumped in.

This is day 3 of the trip after a nice 41 hour trip from Parsippany to SLC. It was a long and arduous trip as not only were we towing a car on a trailer which slowed our speed, but we encountered 3 good snow storms to make traveling an epic adventure. In each of the three states: Indiana, Iowa, and Nebraska we hit some snowy conditions that just got worse and worse. The most horrid conditions were in Nebraska when Bob was driving. It was really treacherous and we would see the effects of this storm later. All I know is that I awoke from sleeping in the back of the Jeep when we stopped to get gas and Bob was saying that was the hardest 3 hours of driving he's ever done. I didn't pay much attention since I slept very well :-). What he had stated was very evident in the next few hundred miles that were driven. There had to be over 100 cars and trucks all over the median and sides of the road that had been crashed and abandoned. It looked like some scene from a war movie with all the carnage. There was even tape on the vehicle as it was evident the police were responding to make sure no one was trapped in the storm. Very scarry stuff.

After that the remainder of the trip went very smoothly and uneventful all the way into SLC. Just one long scarry trip that will linger in my mind for a bit.

Up next-I'm leaving next morning for a 3 day road trip from Salt Lake City down to St. George UT for a few days of biking. Should be a blast. An update will be forthcoming.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Calm Before the Storm

Got out today for a nice spin before the impending snow storm is about to hit. I was bracing for the storm to hit as I was out riding and was pleasantly surprised to see that it held off for the entire ride. Now it can snow all it wants. And it looks like it will be doing just that. We are supposed to get 12-18+ as the latest update on the news. Sounds fine to me. Make it the nice fluffy stuff so I can possibly ride tomorrow though. We'll have to wait and see.

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Untitled

Saturday, December 5, 2009

P'Burg CX in the Books

(Photo courtesy of Viviana Epstein)

The last race of my 2009 season is officially in the books. I know I should be happy and relieved but I'm kinda bleh... I've had a great season and it seemed that I got stronger each race for CX and now it's over. I guess I'll have to use that motivation to push me harder into the 2010 race season. As it is, the calendar is already shaping up and once I have a few more dates it'll all be set. Here's my recap from today. It was a FUN race for sure.

Hehehe...lets just say we had a real day of cross to end the season. I believe I was the only rider there in just shorts and a short sleeve jersey. I needed the mental patient advantage :twisted:

I got to P'burg at 10 to see the C race going on and there were some fun sections. No weather was falling yet but the course was delightfully off camber and greasy from the prior rain. It was really a MTB course. Handling had to be ON! 99.9% rideable except for the STEEP runup. You could basically make it 3/4 of the way up and dismount keeping the momentum and cruise the rest - hoping for traction.

So this time I decided to bring my trainer and had a better warmup which seemed to help. As I was spinning for my warmup I reminded myself of my battle plan. I was thinking of the NJBA Cup the whole time. I needed a LARGE gap(5+ places) on Blake Bedoya for 3rd in the series and I needed to stay at most 7 places behind Sam Fiorino. Of course the snow had already started, so with worsening conditions in mind, I had a good feeling about this. Time to beatup on some roadies :D So with that in mind I lined up and got ready to throw down.

I was in the front row and took off hard. I settled in right behind - you guessed it - Blake and Sam. I wanted to match their every more and try to benefit the best I could. Through the first lap they actually gapped me in the fast stuff, but I stayed steady and waited for the move on the off camber and tight sections. My opportunity came - Blake stuffed it into the tape and blocked Sam so I attacked and tried to gap them. It worked for a bit but Blake was too strong as he dropped Sam and he waited for the road to attack and I got back on his wheel. We battled back and forth like this for a while along with Andrew Logudice. Andrew got in the mix and was using Blake to get around me. I was fine hanging on Blake, but in the back of my mind I'm thinking I need places so at some point I need to go. Patience young grasshoppa... I believe in the 2nd lap I was cranking through the open field starring at the competitors ahead through the rain and sleet, and then it happened. Like a switch was flipped the rain/sleet that was falling in the field popped like popcorn and the snow instantly appeared. It was pretty amazing. Any way through the fast section Blake and Andrew were starting to open a gap again and I did what I could to catch back on which happened when they bobbled in a corner. I cranked through it and got around them taking the hard lines that I worked to my advantage. I pedaled HARD to get and hold that gap as I had some sections that were tricky and the weather was getting worse. I just rode the nasty stuff better. As the course looped back on itself I saw Blake, Andrew, and Sam still working hard to get back to me but were having issues in the conditions. I was loving it. I was drifting all over and using it to my advantage.

So my last two laps I knew I would keep that gap over the three behind and set my sights on the guy in front of me. It was one of those gaps that was just too big to close. I knew I was riding smoothly and closing but there was too little of the course left. The whole time I'm hoping that Blake drifts back and drops far enough that I can sneak my way into 3rd in the cup. I stay solid on the last lap and still charge hard through the greasy turns and keep it upright the entire time. I head into the finishing stretch not being able to catch the guy in front, and looking back to see that Blake had attacked the group behind and would open a gap and finish one place behind me. Crap...he's such a solid rider I knew he'd be close. Andrew was not far behind but couldn't cover Blake's move. Then behind Andrew, Sam tried to ride the entire runup and flatted his tire and DNF'd. That was sad to see as Sam is such a solid rider.

So things went pretty well all in all. There were 22 starters in the B race and I came in in 7th place. Not too bad. I loved the course as it totally played to my strengths. What a great way to end the season. I'm totally stoked for CX 2010. Does that mean I have to start the tubular fund? Dammit...

On the other side of things I did some of the math. I know - I'm a dork... Blake got 3rd overall in the series by 22 points. I settled right in behind for a solid 4th place finish. I wonder what next season will bring if I actually plan and do some training for this stuff. I'm just happy that the season went well and I had a good time. Now it's time for rest - food - BEER!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

27 Down - 1 to Go!

This has been a LOOOOONG season. First race was March 15th and the last race will be this Saturday, December 5th. 7 road races, 5 100 milers, 7 xc races, and 8 cross races with 1 cross left to go. Saturday it will be all or nothing as it'll be my last chance to blow up and lay down some smack! I hope my legs show up. It'll be fun and as of now it's supposed to be cold and snowy! Bring on the bad conditions!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Early Benchmark

Today is December 1st 2009. As of December 1st 2008 I officially started my training for the 2009 race season. I am not training yet for 2010, as that will start this coming Sunday. The exciting part that I am seeing from my weight log is that this day last year I weighed in at 175.2. At that time in my life, that was actually good, for that point in the season(surviving the turkey bloating) . But for this year I've been a little more active in the cross season and also paying a lot more attention to my caloric intake to prepare for next year.

At this point, everything I'm doing has paid off as right now I weighed in at 158.2. That's a 17 lb head start to next season. I'm not saying that I am drastically going to cut weight this year(or will be able to) but I solidly was racing at 159 or so this past year, and this upcoming year I want to maintain my strength and fitness and cut the extra weight off and get down to the low 150's for race weight. I figure it'll make a huge difference without dragging all that extra weight up those thousands of feet of elevation in the NUE series. Progress is good...

Staten Island CX Race



What a great venue! Today was an amazing day weather wise and what a perfect setting. I really was unsure as I was putting my bike on my car and heading TOWARDS the city!?!?! That faded away as I pulled in and geared up for my preride. Some sweet flat fast sections, a heinous long DEEP beach run followed by stairs and then some more fast sections leading to a MTB like section. It was pretty cool. Especially the fact that we were actually on the beach by the ocean.

My race went off with me in dead last since I was one of the last to register. I found a fast wheel and pulled through a bit of the field but then I just had to keep steady and work my way up. 2 laps into the 10 lap race it started to thin out and I just kept the hammer down. In the one hairpin(lap 3 I think) with mud I went down early trying to ride an outside line which opened up a gap in front of me. I did what I could to try and get back on and just kept it steady. I did get back through a few before going down once more in a fast corner but I didn't lose any places.

Into the last 2 laps I picked up the pace and picked off a few more as they were fading. In the last lap there was a nice little group behind me planning to make a move when one of them went down blocking most of the group. As soon as I heard that I dropped the hammer to get as much of a gap as I could. It held for most of the remainder of the lap and I heard someone sneaking up on the last turn before the finishing straight. As soon as I picked up on it I threw down the biggest gear I had and turned the pedals hard holding him off. It was a pretty good race. Not too solid with two falls but a good one nonetheless.

The most interesting part was realizing the first fall which was probably lap 3 or so almost ripped my front tire off the rim(I had to pick dirt out from under the tube later). It was actually unseated in a 2 inch section but still somehow stayed on the rim(even with 50 psi!). I rode the majority of the race like this with it solidly rubbing my brake hard. Finished 25th of 60+ racers. My mid pack streak is back!


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Augusta #2 CX Race Recap

Thanks to mother nature holding off the showers the course was delightfully dry today. That was the best part. It was windy and cold to start the day. Thankfully by the time it got to my race, it warmed up and was pretty spectacular. To make it even better, today was my mom's 66th birthday and she decided to share it with me as she officially spectated at her first cyclocross event. So with mom and dad in the crowd, I had a little pressure to perform, which I hoped I wouldn't let them down.

So after working all morning scoring the first races, and taking care of course issues, I kitted up and got ready for my own race. The B race went off at 1 and was warming up nicely as we came to the line. I got a nice call up as currently I'm sitting 7th in the NJBA cup cross series. I was feeling better this week as I actually toned down my riding and was a little better prepared for this. It was a field of 15 or so and with my usual standing, I figured I'd somehow find a way to finish in 7.5th place to keep my mid-pack streak going. So with a decent warmup I toed the line and awaited the blowing of the ceremonial trombone at the start.

Off we went and I had an amazing place going into the first hill - fighting for dead last. I thought I came out pretty hard and I guess it wasn't hard enough. So I sat in and pedaled strong and each corner I got through a few more, and then a few more. By the time I got around for my first lap I was sitting comfortably in second. Wow-second. Ok, I was hoping I could hold onto this for a little while to keep my confidence a little higher. As the second lap went on I looked back to see a solid group of 5 (including myself) had broken away from the field. Sweet - as long as nothing goes wrong I'd have at least a top 5 - or so I thought. After that lap there was only 4 on the lead pack and I was still in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd depending on the corner. 3rd lap came around and it was still the group of 4 holding strong and me solidly in 2nd. It seemed the pace was weakening the two behind and I hoped I'd stay strong. I knew the guy in front of me - Chris - is a super strong rider and I was totally content holding his wheel. I didn't think I'd be doing that well. So as we kept on lap 4 came about and there was only 3 of us. Part way through Chris and I kicked it up a notch and started a gap to third place. Awesome! If I can only hold this I'll see if I can make a move and go for the win.

I knew where Chris was strong and I knew where I was strong. My better part of the course was early on so I figured I'd punch it there and see what he's got. The final lap came and when I hit my section I launched. I needed that gap since he was stronger towards the end of the course. Back towards the barns I stayed strong but as Chris is an accomplished road racer he flew right on to my wheel. Across the field and onto the gravel road he comes by and drops the hammer. I do what I can but can't match his speed. I stay on it and go up the run up as his gap is holding. I want first so bad I push as hard as I can and stand to try and get back on. It's starting to work as I fly through the sand and start closing into the barriers. I got close but not close enough. As I get to the finishing straight he's got about 30 feet on me and he was driving hard. Not enough time or juice to close that gap. So I pushed hard to the line and took my first ever 2nd place in cross.

I am totally satisfied with that finish. Chris is a super strong dood and I'm glad that we stayed together that long after my rocky start. It felt good to ride a very good strategic race. There were points where I knew I could ride faster but I used him to not do all the work, which was a very positive strategy. I waited for my moment and took it. I did all I could and the better man won. Instead of just going all out I really thought things through and raced a really solid race. What a good day!

After all it turned into a nice beautiful day. I got a great finish and some great points for the NJBA cup. Even better was the fact that I had a great audience with my parents thoroughly enjoying something they have never seen before. Pretty awesome day. Especially in hindsight knowing that I now have a flat tire from dinging my front rim on a cement edge on my final lap. It could have been a much more stressful finish if I had to do a tire swap on the last lap as my 2nd place was falling away... They say cross is a sport where you have to go as hard as you can until you puke - I almost got to feel that first hand on my last lap today. SWEET!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Augusta #1 CX Race Recap

Today was round #1 of the two Augusta races that my team (Team Bulldog) and Skylands Cycling put on and it was a blast. The course was fast and fun and everyone seemed to have a great time. I had some struggles as the miles and schedule of my previous weeks seemed to catch up with me. I just didn't have the normal top end that I had so I knew it would be hard to do really well. I gave it my best shot any way.

I actually had a pretty good start as I got the hole shot but it didn't last long. I got passed shortly after and up the first climb a few more got through. By the end of the 1st lap shuffling I was in 7th and pretty comfortable there. I had a guy fairly close in front and a strong back of 3 behind. On lap 3 I got the guy ahead and made it stick on a straightaway. If I could hold this I'd be super happy. Then lap 4, one of the previous 3 guys snuck through and for a second I passed him back through the sand. He rode, I ran, I won - at least for that one small race. He passed me back and gassed it so I couldn't hang on so no biggie. I was in 6th and now back to 7th. Still good.

The first guy that I worked so hard to pass, slowly was coming back and every time I put down a good effort to open the gap - he slammed it shut. Through the last barriers I had a few feet on him and then I had trouble clipping in. That gave him the window to just eek me out by a few inches in the final sprint. That's all he needed. So it at least was a good struggle and I didn't just let him blow by. I put up a good fight but lost this round. 8th was the place for this weekend. I believe there were 17 starters so all in all not too shabby. My mid packness continues!!! Up next - Augusta round 2.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mercer USGP of CX - Racing with a Force Field

Today I took the drive south to the Mercer County USGP of Cyclocross. I only entered today for fear of having two horrid days in the mud. Although I should have registered a little earlier as my starting spot was a good place to spectate from, but not for racing.

I started out about 70th? of 86 starters. Off the line it was hot as usual but with a little carnage. As it heated up a rider comes from the right and hits my bars and then I hear the unmistakable sound of metal on the ground as he was pavement surfing. I'm not sure if he got pinched or what but either way I'm sure he wasn't happy. I'm just glad that our bars didn't lock and take me down with him - hence the force field. So I kept on it and got a bunch before we entered the dirt section of the course. The bottle necking died down at the end of the first lap and the real racing could then take place.

I kept on it and made some nice passes on lap 1 and two and lap 3 was a little fewer as the racers stretched out. Of course the only time that I went down, Jay from Halters had to be sitting right on the corner screaming GOOOOOOO!!! which I found very entertaining from the ground. So as the laps went on my handling got better as I dialed in the course. I actually found a section of the last part of the course pretty fast so I used that to make up time and positions. Lap 4 I was running a lot of the tricky spots as it was just faster that way. The gaps in front and back were holding and I was on my own to keep my spot which I did.

I worked my way through 40 or so riders to end up in 32nd place of the 86 starters. Not too shabby I guess. I had my eyes on a few riders that started in my group and was hoping they would finish behind me and they did. So I crossed the line very satisfied with my finish. My midpackness seems to be drifting behind me - but not that far. I'm still no where near that top 1/4 finish yet. I guess it's not too shabby for a guy that used to 9 hours in the saddle.

Oh and to continue on with the force field - as I was on my way home I was in the middle lane of a sweeping right turn when a driver came around me on the left and then abruptly started to turn into my lane - right where I was. Then he counter steered back into his lane where the wheels broke loose and I watched him pile nose forward into the guardrail on the outside of the turn. Luckily he didn't take me with him. I was going to do a little recovery spin tonight but with my luck - things happen in 3's. I'm not going to depend on my force field for this one...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stephens/Deer Park Adventure

I decided to take a little time and explore Stephens/Deer Park State Park on my singlespeed. My teammate Kris and I rolled around on trails we've been on before and a few that we haven't been. It was a nice cool cloudy day that turned out to be quite nice. It didi sprinkle a little bit but the leg burning made us forget about that. We took in the leafy goodness and had a blast out there. Now I've got a few more trails to put into my memory bank for the next trip there.

Today's ride data

The best part of the trip is pictured to the left. We had to do a little canal crossing and ran into this quite nicely maintained bridge which was our only way to cross. It added a little extra adventure to our already adventurous day.

Monday, November 9, 2009

23 Races Down 4 to Go...

Wohoo! The end is in sight...well the end and the beginning. As 2009 is slowly coming to a close it's been a great year and a VERY long season considering I'm still at it and trying to be competitive in cross racing. It's good though. It's weird to not really be invested in something and still be doing OK. This 5th place that I got Saturday startled me. I didn't think I could do that well in this short stuff and it gave me hope that I can actually compete in this type of racing. Dang it! I was hoping I'd just suck and be able to do it for fun...Guess not.

So coming up is the Mercer USGP of Cyclocross. I basically signed up for the Saturday race since I wanted to fill another weekend to keep the fitness up. I have no real goals but my mid packness is still going strong so I guess I should aim for top of mid pack. And so far there are 90 preregistered so I only have to beat 45 guys. Hopefully I can do that off the line and then cruise to the finish with all of those guys bottle necked behind me. Probably not but one can hope.

All I know is that after this weekends two pack of CX races my shoulders are pretty sore. The slightly different hand position has caused more fatigue than I originally thought. That and lifting the bike 4 times every lap for yesterday's race didn't help so much. We'll have to see how Saturday goes.

On the other side I'm looking forward to next year's events. Road racing starts in mid March hopefully - so only 4 more months and my 1st 100 miler should be in late April - so only 5+ months til go time! There's going to be a lot of long crappy weather rides in the meantime!!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hidden Valley CX Race

Great course and even better weather for sure.

For the B race we had a pretty good turnout as 21 guys toed the line. Off the start I got in an ok position and was happy holding 10th. I think it's just me but the B races seem to take off the fastest of all the groups...anyway... Through a few turns I was feeling pretty good even though I raced yesterday and moved up to 7th. I was hanging with a pretty good group and really feeling the flow.

Then I hit the hairpin at the lowest point and slid out and fell on lap 3. My cleat was tough to release and once I got up my chain was thrown in the front and crossed up in the back. I lost about 30 seconds and 4 spots just on that one incident. It didn't help that my seat was already pointing down from an earlier bad mount. So I got back on as quick as I could and then realized I tweaked my front end. This was to the point that my bars were tweaked about 30 degrees to the right. Great - I was already sprinting by the time I realized this and not about to stop anytime soon. So I just rode it out.

So I did the best I could to get back into the groove and not let any by, but I just couldn't get that momentum and flow back. I did the best I could but two more slipped through in the remaining laps. If it wasn't bad enough that my bike was all tweaked, in the latter laps I did feel the race from yesterday set into my legs, and it was hard to muster up any more juice. So I just had to try and maintain what I had and get across the line. I finished in 13th place which was not too shabby but 7th would have been MUCH nicer.

All in all not a bad day as I did finish and wasn't too banged up at the end. At least I wasn't the guy that ended up in the lake. The course got very close to the water and I heard that 1 took the plunge by mistake!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Horseshoe Scramble CX Race

Today was a gorgeous day to have a bike race. It started off VERY chilly but it settled in to be a little warmer and a nice temp for racing. It was so tricky as I actually changed clothes 3 times and my number 3 times till I was finally confident with what to wear. What is this - the prom???

Thanks to a call u
p for the NJBA Cup points I got a sweet spot right on the front row but in the middle of some nice wheel sucking gravel. I went pretty hard off the start but quickly settled into 7th position or so. The course was nice and flowy and outside of one turn you didn't need any brakes. Things were going well and I felt pretty good. On the 1st lap I got one guy but kept on it as I saw a few just ahead. There was a group of two working together and at one point I heard the lead guy say come on, just stay on my wheel, so I knew someone was falling apart. I stayed on these guys and even rubbed wheels in the slow stuff but when it got to the roadie section they pulled away. I then closed the gap and it went like this for a few laps. They were so close yet so far. I was doing all I could to not pop trying to get these guys. I knew if I stayed there long enough maybe I could cause one of them to bobble and I could take advantage of it.

3 laps to go the guy in front of me slid out in a corner and fell. That's what I was looking for. This made me have to slow for a second but then I put down the hammer as I passed the rider and he was struggling to get back on. It seemed like the downed rider was having issues as he slipped back, but in the last lap he turned it on and was closing the gap. This was as I was also trying to close the gap in front of me. Neither of us got close enough and with all the effor that we put down, that's how it stuck.

Cruised in for a 5th place finish of 18 starters. Afterwards I thought the best I would have done was maybe 7th. Guess I was wrong. I was even in the field cheering for the 35+ race when my podium was going on, and my buddy Nick had to come get me and let me know I had to get on the podium
. I walked away with a sweet horseshoe trophy and some nice schwag. Definitely a great course with only 3 muddy sections - 2 being caused by their bike wash.

It was great to see a bunch of teammates out there as well as a bunch of familar faces from the local MTB scene riding lots of fast non-circles. And thanks go out to Nick who took the pics and retrieved me from cheering when I needed to be on the podium. Thanks!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

HPCX Race

(Photos courtesy of Ilya Cantor)

Sunday I traveled down to Jamesburg NJ for the HPCX race. It was a bigger race - 0r so I'm told and I guess so as 73 people toed the line awaiting the gun to go off. As the call ups began I got further and further back on the starting line. I guess I probably started off in 55th or so. I had a LOT of people in front of me and as I'm usually cold the first lap I didn't start gaining positions until lap 2.

As I warmed up I looked for better lines and found some that people obviously weren't using. I used my mtb skills to the best of my ability to hug the tree trunks and harder lines to gain time which seemed to work. I also threw out my mentality of high psi will help since I did a preride and it was not hooking up anywhere. I dropped my psi to 25 psi and that seemed to work well. It was so low that I knew where every root was as I felt the solid thud. I kept cranking hard as I was hoping the wheel would hold up and it did.

The course was overly muddy and was leg draining the whole lap. There may have been one 300' section where you could actually gain momentum and keep some speed, then back to the mud pit you went. I just kept myself entertained and tried to ride the hard lines that everyone esle was running or falling on. I think it worked.

The main battle I had was with a fellow mountain biker Felipe. He had beaten me last week and was in the same position as me. It was his 2nd CX race and beat me by two spots last week and I was hoping to stay ahead of him this week. The 2nd lap I saw him ahead and put in an attack and gapped him well and put him out of my sight. 3rd lap was steady and solid but the 4th lap I was fading and he was coming on strong. Every turn I put more power down and saw him getting closer and closer. On the last downhill I knew he was going to try and pass which was fine as I thought I could use the pavement hill up to the finish to outpower him and beat him to the line. Just as I thought he passed me in the mud and I moaned and groaned and tried to make it seem like I was shot as he passed. I jumped right on his wheel, let a little gap open up, and then attacked on the hill. I was closing the gap and winding up the power when my right foot comes flying out doing the can-can. Well...there went all of my momentum. By the time I clipped back in there was no way to get him so I checked who was on my wheel and just pedaled to the finish.

I'm still pretty satisfied with how I did, given how new I am at this discipline. 34th of 73 continues my streak of dead middle of the pack sexyness. At least I do midpack of the B's well. Up next is the Horseshoe Scramble and Hidden Valley CX races back to back.

The one thing I know for sure. The more I do cyclocross racing, the more I love endurance racing!!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Winning the Battle Thus Far

The weight battle that is. As previously stated I want to try and maintain 160 or below going into the next season so that I may race next year 5 or so lbs lighter. I raced at 158 for most of this season and 152 sounds a little better for next year. If I can maintain it over the winter I'll be very happy. I've had a few heavy days due to parties and some awesome food but at the moment my diet is dialed and I'm back to 157.2 this morning. It's very motivating as it's only going to help my current CX racing and hopefully keep that weight down to keep progress moving forward for next year.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Westwood CX Reflections

I was just looking back at my training log and realized that yesterday's race was ride #11 on the new CX bike. Nothing like getting acquainted before beating your brains out on a new bike :-)

This was my first real CX race since I was on a CX bike. I did one other CX race in 2007 on my Trek hardtail but the feel just wasn't right. And for comparison the numbers are interesting. That race in 2007 I finished 7th of 14 which was nice and comfy right in the middle of the pack - and then yesterdays results - 18th of 37. Middle of the pack is where it's at!

I'm going to mentally and physically prepare a little better for the next one to see how much better I can fair and really try to get my HR up and push some limits. If I can do this now it's only going to help my fitness and hopefully translate into some better racing next year.

Up next is the Jamesburg CX. Hopefully that little checklist of mistakes not to do will get a little smaller and I'll be riding a little more fluidly.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Westwood Velo CX Race

After having a few hours to finally let the race from today sink in I may actually be able to describe what happened. First thing was I didn't get as much of a warm up as I would have liked. I was a little too casual about this race and well I didn't really care what happened. So I nonchalantly went about warming up and getting to the line and all that good stuff. So not only was I cold on the line but I didn't get a good starting position. I chose my spot - well pretty closely to the back of the field. There's actually a pic that shows 9 people behind me in a field of 40. Not a good way to start.

I felt ok off the line but couldn't put down enough to get out of my own way, or others. My start killed me as I was caught in the slog behind the others just trying to navigate the 7 or so hard turns after the first climb. This REALLY slowed me down. Problem #3 was that I didn't get a chance to preride the course. So I didn't know where the good lines were. I tried lines but they were abominable. I had to put many a foot down just to try and correct my errors. After maybe 3 laps I got a good feel and settled in. Through two more I was gaining momentum and then the last lap came and I gave it all I had. It was a little too late though. I felt I rode well but could have rode much better.

Problem #4 came when I didn't have practice with the runup and wasn't sure how to shoulder as well as to downshift before the run up so I could ride easily from the top which didn't happen. Of the field which was somewhere between 31 and 40, I finished 18th. Not bad for my first true CX race. I did one in 2007 but it was on my MTB and wasn't really a true effort. This was more true to form and a really fun but tricky course to ride. I see that there's a whole lot more in the tank for this CX stuff with a little more practice and could be a sweet way to stay in shape for the fall. I'll be back for more. In two weeks there's a possibility for two CX races in one weekend. Let's see how I feel by then but they could be in the cards.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Battle Has Begun

Base training is going to start in late December - early January and the battle is for the weight to stay low until base training starts. Then it should be easy to shed any extra pounds. With the dwindling daylight it seems tough as always to stay motivated, training, and just active in general. Looking back in my log I was maintaining a 175 lb weight into December and then it reached 184 at the end of January as a result of my car accident. Since then my weight has dropped significantly - about 25 lbs or so. The idea is that if I can start next season with a lower weight, then I should be able to start next year on a stronger note and hopefully race a few pounds lighter and have better results next season.

So far the goal is to do 4 or 5 of the NUE series 100 milers, some of the local H2H races and maybe even a stage race or 24 hour race or two. Everything will be a lot nicer with fewer pounds to lug around and more fitness to help me through the long season. Now all it takes is some time and some events to be announced so that I can set up next year's schedule and I'll be happy. From looking back at last year the NUE races were announced in early November so hopefully it'll be around the same time this year that I'll know. I do know for sure (at least from what I've been told) that my first big race is 6 months from tomorrow!

2010 is going to be fun!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Braving the elements

With this oh so lovely weather, it's hard to not get depressed and want to lay on the couch and get fat. On the other hand I have too much pride or rather foresight? to not do that and get off my lazy butt and get out and do some riding. So out comes the CX bike and I rode this route that I normally do in the winter time. It's a nice mix of dirt, road, gravel, singletrack, doubletrack, you name it. I had a buddy come out with me that made it so much more doable. Usually if I'm in this situation with cold rainy conditions, I'll do it, but I'll be grumbling most of the way. At least today with the two of us we had some entertaining times and chatted it up enough to the point where it was a fun ride. Although the head wind on the way back for 5 miles was like meeting a nice old friend - that wanted to kick you in the nuts. It was just draining enough to be annoying and nasty and not the best way to end a ride. Regardless a good day on the bike.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/16597028

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tour de Lake

This past Saturday was my 3rd attempt at the Tour de Lake as my previous bests were my 2nd attempt with a finish of 10th of 19 and in a finish time of 2:12. That race went off pretty fast so I thought that my finish time would hopefully be around the same time and maybe a little quicker. Well here's how it went.

First of all I was still trying to drain all of this wonderful mucus from my head as I'm in the process of kicking a head cold and it was still evident that it didn't want to let go of me quite yet. I knew this would make the race interesting, especially as the intensity heated up. It proved to be pretty tough.

The peleton pulled out in the controlled start and we did the usual twists and turns around Lake Hopatcong fairly controlled and slowly. Partially cause I was in front driving the pace. Every time the others gave way and let me lead I put the pedals down but only as a nice facade. I wanted to save my juice so I would only put down a little as I watched my HR drop leading the peleton. That was kinda interesting since I heard later that it seemed like I was doing a lot of work up front - which I wasn't :-).

We made the left onto 181 and as usual the hills made things heat up and a few attempts were made to kick some off the back - and it worked. I was committed to hang onto the leaders wheels and that's where I stayed. It ramped up and slowed down, and I was right with the big dogs. Down to the end of E. Mountain road and down the big hill driving towards Ogdensburg we caught some cars that wouldn't let us go so a lot of riders jumped back on.

At the bottom of the big hill we all regrouped and then set a decent pace towards the dreaded Edison hill. 3 miles of fun, unrelenting, painful riding. So we were working well and a guy jumped off the front. No one wanted to chase so we let him go. This was just as an ambulance rolled through which neutralized our pace and let the flyer go free for a little longer than comfortable for some. Up Edison we were all together until a nice steep pitch where my teammate took off. He cranked hard and attacked and I tried to go with the group but there was no way to match. I was now in a group of 12 or so and we were all seeing red as we cranked up the steady inclines. I passed a few and kept on it as I saw my teammate and the other leaders ride out of sight. Over each incline I kept on it seeing those I passed closely behind. Of course I needed some others to work with to keep the pace high.

After the end of Edison and heading onto the flats towards Weldon I got in a group of 4 riders. Ahead lay a group of 5 and the lone man that got the jump before Edison. As my group pacelined we reeled in Dave Lyons who had been shot off the front group. So now we were a group of 5 and kept it into Weldon Rd. This is a nice steep but short climb with a few rollers ahead. After a little while two got shot off the back and now it was a group of 3 I was in. I looked at the strength of these guys and was happy to be hanging in. My goal was to hang as long as I could as my legs were starting to cramp as a result of the amazingly high HR we were pushing. I was seeing red as I was just hanging in the draft. I would push hard for my effort and then quickly sit in to save whatever juice I had left.

Through the neighborhoods we cranked as our group was looking like the 6th through 8th place finishers. I was hoping I could hold onto these guys or MAYBE even jump and get ahead of them to take that 6th place. But before that we hit some turns and the 4th and 5th place guys could be seen just ahead. There were two slight climbs that remained ahead though. The next climb one of my group shot ahead and I couldn't react so he got away. Then on the next climb the same thing happened with Dave. He accelerated and I couldn't match. So now I was in 8th all alone and cranking towards the finish with the others in sight but not reachable.

Across the line I rolled in 8th place of 65 starters and a very happy man. My finish time was 2:02 and the best finish so far in this race. Especially given that the start was so slow I was amazed at the finish time. Also especially since the winner - my teammate Brian - was only 2 minutes ahead. It showed a great mark of improvement especially with my cold that was depriving me of much needed oxygen. All in all a great day, great race, and great people to race with. I'll be looking forward to this again next spring!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's better to be lucky than good

As the cliche goes, I guess it's true. I just looked through my fart sack(seat bag) on my bike and needed to use my multi-tool for something, so I figured I'd check out how all of my stuff is doing since I haven't really thought about it much. Well I guess it's good that I looked in there. I pulled out my spare links and piece of chain that was rusted and frozen. And the best part was that I pulled out my spare tube, that was my lifeline for most of the entire season, and it had a hole in it. Luck was on my side. There's never a good time to get a flat tire, so I'm glad that I found it when I did. What can I say besides Kenda Karmas rock!!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Officially a Cat3

I've been doing a little social racing and talked to a few informed sources and figured that the Cat 4 races would be ok and probably fun since I'd do well, but the consensus was that Cat 3 races are where I should really be for CX. So I did a little research and it seems that if you are a Cat 1 XC racer then you can upgrade your CX cat to match or something like that. So I figured that I'd take the jump and submit my request to USAC and see if they'd actually approve me(Since they shot me down for my road upgrade). Well in probably an hour or less I received a notification that I have officially been upgraded to a Cat3 CX racer and will have a slightly longer race and a more competitive field. Sounds like fun to me. Now if I can only figure out how to get over these darn barriers smoothly.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

CX Practice Last Night

In anticipation of this fall's CX races, I got together with a few fellow riders and did a little practice dismounting, mounting, shouldering, and running some barriers. I have completed one CX race on my mtb so I am not that unfamiliar but a few of the little uncertainties had me curious. I never realized that I was so awkward going through the barriers and the fact that I wasn't quite mounting properly. The mounting problem seamed to be easily fixed. The barriers not so much. I'm pretty comfortable with the whole riding on the side of the bike and stepping through to run but that's where it falls apart. It's going to take a little more practice to get the barriers done smoothly. It feels like I don't have my stride working well so I need to hesitate to run over the first barrier, but then when I make it I jump to much and then the bike settles and I drop it lower makeing me have to throw it up higher again which is making it harder to get over the 2nd barrier. Practice makes perfect...or something like that.

The best part is that the park that I practice at has a pretty large field that is normally mowed pretty well, but now for some reason they have let it grow long , but carved nice, twisty, intersecting paths all throughout the fields. This makes perfect CX practice. The ground is fairly smooth except for one really rough section and there's perfect spots to open it up and do a few sequential hairpins which were really tight and hard to navigate at speed. The best part is I can ride there right from my place. So a nice 30 min ride, then an hour of practice and then a nice 30 min cooldown riding home. Not too shabby! I'm diggin this whole cross thing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ringwood was a no go...

As I awoke this morning, my head cold had traveled into my lungs. Not a great feeling to wake up to. I still did contemplate the thought of racing as I may move a trivial spot or two in the H2H standings as the battle for 13th place was getting hot - not really. So in smart move to kick this cold and get better for next weekend's road race and the upcoming CX season I bowed out and played cheerleader for the day. It was great to get out and see everyone and just have a nice day in the park. Everyone was riding super strong and I definitely made a correct decision. It was nice to see it from the other side as this officially closes the MTB season for me. Up next some fun hard short races and some enjoyable fall riding.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Riding Has Other Perks

With training over the last year I've noticed many changes. My body for sure as I went from 184 lbs. around X-mas time(due to the time off since the old _____ hit me with his Nissan) to hovering in the high 150's. At one point probably the lowest I saw was 155. That's a tremendous change in one season and something I'm really going to try to maintain over the winter. I know I've gotten exponentially faster as a result of that and the training combined. I'm just curious as to how next season will go if I start it off at 160 or so and then really ramp up the training. I could see my weight dropping to around 150 but I wouldn't want to go any lower than that. A few pounds might shed, but below that I'd be losing muscle which is not the goal.

The other cool thing is that structurally I think I am becoming stronger. Here's a brief history lesson. In 1999, after a cool few days at the Woodstock festival, I went to my folks place in upstate NY to relax and chill - this was before my biking days. So the new toy was my cousin's wakeboard. We jumped out in the water and figured out how to get up on it and I figured I'd try to up the ante a little and pull off a 180 and get this party started. Well it just happens that I pulled a 90 - which was not good - and my one foot slipped out of the binding causing my other leg to take all the strain and dislocate my left knee. After screaming in pain for a few minutes I got hauled into the car and dragged to the ER. The diagnosis was a completely torn PCL and partially torn ACL. So for the last 10 years I've been able to do some fun party tricks an make people sick by the extra movement in my knee.

The moral of the story is that all the training and strengthening has helped the muscles compensate and now there doesn't feel like much extra play in my knee any more! This is awesome. I could always feel when I bent my knee and then tried to raise it laterally that the lower portion of my leg would feel like it was going to pop out again. Recently I've tried the same movements and it's all solid. Definitely a good sign. Especially after surviving getting run into by the old man. So I'm very hopeful for next season and, at the moment very sick as some bug has hit me hard. I'll have to guage how I feel and how plausable it will be to race R-wood. At this point in my season I don't have much vested and I don't even think I can crack the top 10 overall - but it would be sure fun to mix it up on a fast course that I know really well. I think I'll have to throw down some Hooter's wings and beer and see if that cures my ailments :-)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

12 Down 1 to Go

It's been a long MTB season and it will be all done this weekend. The last race of the season is the Ringwood Leaf Blower. Hopefully it will be a fast dry course, although thus far the weather is not indicating so. Either way it'll be fun to get out there and wrap it up.

I did just find out I've got some work to do as I was going over my bike and found a frozen derailleur pulley that needs to be repaired by then. It'll be fixed and I'll be ready to rock. The rest of the bike looks to be in good order and believe it or not the fork is fixed. The cartridge that was loosening up has been fixed and it was nice to have a little squish in the front end this past weekend!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rumble in the Jungle

It was a tough course today. Definitely for those who can handle a bike. I had a decent start but was sitting deep behind a Bulldog train. So I figured that I'd put in an effort and see if I can get to the front before the nasty stuff started. Shifted to the big ring, locked the fork and dropped the hammer. I went from sitting 8th or so to 4th getting into the singletrack. Steve went by me not too far after that and I hung with Chris and Steve as we carved the rocky singletrack and it was good to not have any bottlenecking to deal with. As I settled in I couldn't keep the hot pace and drifted back as Shernce came flying by and with him came Marco. I let them go and just rode consistently and within my limits for the rest of the race. At one point Allistair had some issues and I got past him and that's the way the race ended. 6th place and glad to actually be able to race after last weekend. ***Edit, 7th place as I'm an idiot and managed to miss a rider in my class passing me on the 2nd lap as I thought he was in an older category. Way to be attentive - I know...***

I was a little bummed to have to clean off the bike once again but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Slimy and grimy and not good for parts but there's always room for upgrades right? Decent day and looking forward to Ringwood next weekend.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CAT4 Road Upgrade...

DENIED! Well at least I gave it a shot.

I was thinking that there are some nice road races to try next year but you need to be CAT4 or above and I'm still a lonely CAT5. By the rulebook it says you need 10 starts. I've got 6 and a pretty extensive resume of CAT 1 MTB and a pretty decent Endurance resume so I tried to ask for an upgrade based on what I've done so far. I guess all that matters is road time...sheesh.

The response from USA cycling said that once I've done a few more road races, then resubmit the resume for approval. Is a few - 1, 2, 3, 4? Not too sure so either way I won't be doing any road races this season, which leaves me to return as a CAT5 next season. I'm not upset, just curious actually. I have no real aspirations to be a road racer, I'd just like a faster group to race with and get some more quality training time in. Better luck next year!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

2009 NUE Series Overall Results are Up!

http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/shogren-schalk-clinch-100-miler-series-titles

The overall results were just posted today and I'm very happy to see them so soon.

I'm excited to see a nice improvement over last year.

2008: 17th Place Overall
2009: 12th Place Overall

The biggest improvement is my finish placings from last year, 271 pts vs 114 points. Just in the races that I have repeated this year I took an average of 1:11+ off of each race finish. Hopefully this was my launching platform and I'll continue to improve next year.

At this point I'm glad the traveling is over and I'll only be doing local events this fall. At this point my count is 2 more XC races and 5 CX races. Then base for the 2010 season will be fully underway.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What was it really like?

Talking to a few people today they were asking how a course could be as insane as Teaberry. So I figured I'd do a little picture searching to see how I can illustrate what it was like to ride the Michaux course. Here's what I came up with:

Teaberry Reflections

Well after a nights thoughts I figured I'd post up some revelations.

This race was freaking hard! INSANELY rocky and just astounding at what can be put into a race. With that said... I had a few things working against me. I realized that about 5 miles into the race that my newly rebuilt fork wasn't working. It was totally locked out and rigid. This really annoyed me since I had issues at the Fools Gold in Georgia with it and also in VA at the Shenandoah Mountain 100. It was supposed to be totally rebuilt so I'd have no issues with it. I tried to ignore it once I figured that out but mentally that killed me.

On top of that I passed up a bunch of aid stations and chose to only stop at aid #3. I was totally on fumes getting into aid #3. About 5 miles before that I had to start rationing water and that's not good. I ran out with about 2 miles left and just had to suck it up. Once I got my bottles filled I chugged one which left only one bottle for the next 8 miles and I started running out and rationing the last bottle. In hindsight I should have topped them off at aid two for the 30 seconds it would have taken, but no I'm a stubborn idiot and didn't want to lose those precious seconds.

So right there that would have made my race much better, but mentally it just wore me down and I struggled with the will to keep going. I was down and really not in a good spot mentally. If I had pushed through the little rut that I got in I probably would have shaved a good 10 minutes or better off of my ride. I know - it's the good old "what if?" game. If anything it gave me a new found respect for the other courses that are out there and the madness that is not put in there.

I can feel how much I had to work the bike as my shoulders are pretty spent today. Just in the one section alone there had to be 20 downed trees(and not small ones) in a 1/4 mile section that was just strenuous. I may be down for checking out some of the other races at michaux, at least knowing that I finished the hardest one.

The funny thing too is that I didn't really feel that shredded as far as my legs were concerned. I could go if I had the will to but that was the struggle. It was just DIFFICULT. If you have the urge to try a truly demanding soul searching event, you need to give Teaberry a shot.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Michaux Suck Fest

Well I've heard about the mystique of Michaux and now I can say I officially have experienced it. One memory that I want to fade very, very quickly so I can the sadistic trails out of my head. I have never ridden a tougher 40 miles ANYWHERE! The promoter called the trails sadistic and he was right. I can almost positively say that I rode more on rock today than I did on dirt. And not the nice side of the rocks either, the pointy jagged wicked edge of disaster - most of the time.

It was just the pounding that seemed to go on forever. As soon as you'd think it would let up, it would run right back into rocky hell. I for one love techy stuff and I was sick of the techy stuff. I like to ride it - but had no idea how to "race" it. The best I could do was to just try to keep moving forward and hopefully last longer than the other guys. I literally got off the bike and walked for extended sections audibly cursing up a storm and wishing it would all end. This was enough bad karma to have me, shortly thereafter, stung in the ass by an angry bee. Just what I needed for motivation.

I was relieved to have survived 39 miles of the course and in the last mile I saw a guy in red that I assumed was a competitor from a different class just up ahead. I would soon realize that he was actually in my category. I was trading places with him the last 15 miles, and he was just ahead mounting his bike after a hike a bike and saw that he was hurting. I had let him go and thought I would never see him again but he was right there. I was hurting too but at that point the trail was kinda smooth and I had waaaaay too much aggression to let this guy beat me.

I crept onto his wheel and saw his slower pace and just launched on him and he couldn't cover it. The parking lot was in sight and of course one more turn was to be had to scare me thinking that I've gone too soon. But it was ok. I kept on it and got around the next few bends to see the actual finish. It was a sight for sore arms, no ass, no sore eyes. Everything was sore.

So all in all it worked out with a lot of banging off of rocks, a little bit of hiking and a big sigh of relief when it was all done. Somewhere around 14 in my class including a couple of stout pros such as Harlan Price, Brandon Draugelis, and Aaron Snyder which were all way ahead of me and I finished in 7th place with a time of 5:09. Not too bad with the melt down I had.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Holy CXRAP!

Took out the new CX bike for her first spin today. Went from my apt over to the Tourne Park. On the road I could feel the knobbies causing a little less rolling resistance but not too bad. Then I got into the trails. Holy crap! The acceleration and flat out speed of this bike is nuts. I took it on some mild stuff and I hit a few rock gardens. It's of course sketchier in the gardens but man I don't know if I've ever seen 21 mph on a flat trail before today. It doesn't even feel like it takes much effort to go really fast on this thing. This is awesome!!! Oh and for you purists, there were a few trees down and I practiced my dismounts/mounts at speed

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CX just got more promising.

I've competed in one cyclocross event two years ago and I'd love to give it more of a go this year as an addition to my fitness. Actually it's going to be a challenge since it's exactly the area of my fitness that I do not accel at. Hard, fast, high HR races are pretty painful and it's time to experience more of that this fall. To supplement this I need the right equipment - and it came home on the roof of my car today. The Trek XO1 is now a sweet part of my quiver that I'll have to size up and get used to in the next few weeks. It's a sweet ride and I can't wait to throw down on this puppy. Should be tons of fun. Plus it'll give me a pretty sweet winter training bike as well. So lets see that means at the moment I have 4 MTB's, 2 Roadies, 1 CX bike, and 1 fixie. And guess what - 6 of them are 29'ers ;-)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Terror of Teaberry

Weather is looking sweet so what the hey. I'm gonna go visit the rocky land of Michaux and go visit the Michauxslovokian Militia and mix it up to see how I fair. If it lives up to all that I've hear about this place it's going to be insane! I can't wait!

http://www.bikereg.com/events/register.asp?eventid=9189

Friday, September 11, 2009

Still Recovering...

I dropped the race bike off to get some tender loving care and decided to take out my singlespeed Rig and get in some miles as my first ride after the SM100. The ride was amazing since it was supposed to be raining and it was a perfectly dry overcast day. I threw on the 20 cog and was enjoying the spinnyness compared to my old 18. Well that was until I was cranking pretty steadily up a tough hill and my heart rate didn't follow. Ahhh it's just not responding yet. No biggie. I kept on and hit another hill a few minutes later. Same deal. Alright I think I'm a bit shot so I'll just ride chill for a while and try again later. Yep, attempt #3 ended up in failure. I couldn't get my HR over 165 so I just enjoyed the scenery and spun out the rest of my ride. I was just happy to be on the bike and enjoy the wonders of Allamuchy before the rains set in for the weekend.

I'll be riding this weekend in the form of leading a group ride at JORBA fest and having a nice long ride on Sunday to bring my fitness back up for the Terror of Teaberry race. Hopefully I'll be feeling a little more up to the challenge but I'm looking forward to a nice fall riding season. This is my favorite time of year to ride. Time to throw down for the sake of fun!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

SM100 Close Calls

The SM100 was a great race but it looks like it's taken a bit of a toll on my gear. Looks like my fork needs to be rebuilt. It's been leaky and acting funny and now it's lost some of it's travel and the ability to tune the rebound and lockout. Time for some surgery. It seems I was lucky to make it through the SM100 without a total failure.

Then I found out my next instance of being lucky. I just looked at my left pedal to see some carnage. It was making funky noises on the first climb and it's probably because it was about to explode. It's the crank bros egg beaters and it's got about 1/2" of lateral play in it. That's not kosher. I did feel it about the time it was making noise torquing my foot forward as my cranks rotated. It probably should have shot off the spindle and made my race a very miserable one. Thank goodness it didn't. I'm sure Crank Bros will repair it in their speedy fashion as they usually do as their customer service has been top notch. Either way these pedals have done a great job and need to be reborn.

The last thing that I noticed was that there was a bad bearing in my cranks that caused an annoying tick as my left pedal reached 12 o'clock. So it seems my bearings are most likely shot and will be replaced. Time for some ceramic bearings at least to give my Superfly a little love. After all it's been through some pretty nasty battles this season.

At least all of this stuff made it to the end of the season and didn't let me down when I really needed it. Luck has been on my side. I still have to figure out why I've been surfing down the trails on my face lately. 2 hard falls in the last 2 100 milers have made things certainly exciting. I could do without those.

Monday, September 7, 2009

SM100 Recap

Well I'm back with the SM100 fully in the bag and I just have to say.... Actually I don't really know what to say. I'm kind of speechless. Here's the story according to cycling news:

http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/11th-national-ultra-endurance-nue-series-7-shenandoah-mountain-100-cn/results

Here's my recap.
I got into the campsite Friday night around 10 and got setup and got a decent night's sleep. Saturday I had a nice lazy day with a little hour and 10 minute spin up the road to the first climb where I put in a 3 minute effort and then turned around and rolled gently back to the camp. The legs were feeling good and the climb was fairly effortless. After all it was only 3 minutes and the big climb the next day was 18 miles. So for the remainder of the day I just chilled with a few teammates and friends, had a nice pasta dinner that the Shenandoah folks provided, and turned in early to get ready for the Sunday festivities. My thoughts were that I felt pretty good but I wouldn't really know until I was in the middle of battle on raceday. The other thing that worried me was that on the preride I noticed a bearing that seems to have a dead spot in my crank. Wonderful. Also my back brake was feeling squishy and I hoped I wouldn't have any issues on race day. So off to sleep I went and as usual I didn't have a good sleep as I was anticipating the race so I could only do what I could do.

Awake at 4:30 and the campground already had a quiet bustle about it. Warming up my water to choke down my oatmeal I was feeling very unsure about the race but was willing to give it a go. 5:15 the gong was traveling around the cground and before I knew it, it was approaching 6:30 and I was off to line up with no warmup. Knowing last year I fought through most of the field, I lined up to the side of the start to try and get a nice position. It worked. The neutral start wasn't so neutral as we were traveling fairly quickly down the cground exit and onto the pavement. Once we hit the bridge the pace quickened and around the first turn onto dirt the pace lifted again. I hung with the lead group for the first 6 miles or so and then I knew I needed to ride within my limits to finish this thing so I dropped back and rode my own pace. I blazed through aid #1 and down the gravel I went catching a wheel to help recover and prep for the next climb.

We made a left onto the pavement and soon the group of two turned to a group of 6 or so. We climbed the pavement pace-lining and got in a nice order for the steep climb ahead. This is where you DON"T want to be bottlenecked. I was in a strong group so everyone was steady and solid on this climb. We cranked to the top dismounting on one rugged section but rode the rest. Hit the top and started the descent catching someone's wheel very quickly. I start hearing this woman's voice from behind me and was wondering who it was. Sure enough it was Sue Haywood. I bobbled on a couple of features and she showed me how to ride them as I watched from the side of the trail. Shortly after Gunner Shogren came up and came through as I was bobbling as a result of shifting issues. I caught up with him a bit later as he dropped his chain. So back to the fire roads I was off to aid #2 flying solo. Just before aid 2 I caught Sue and two other riders came up, Brad and ?. So we worked together and hit aid #2. Grabbed a bottle and I was off.

Sue, Brad, and I worked together into the Hankey Mtn climb and once again I had to back off to ride within my limits. This was just as Gunnar came flying through and made me look like I was standing still on his SS. This climb was actually a lot easier than I remember. It was looking good but I was still tentative about the next climb and then the 18 mile one after that. That's where I cracked last year and it wasn't good from there on out. So charging the top of Hankey I let it fly on the descent and was having a blast on that sweet benched singletrack. Having a blast and pumping my back brake because it was becoming inconsistent and would pull all the way back to the bar at times. Not what you really want on these screaming descents but I worked with it and tried to let it not bother me. Actually at one point I was getting held up by a rider and couldn't see my line well and went down hard luckily falling to the good side. I got up collected myself and promptly got back on the wheel I was chasing earlier. Soon after rolling into aid #3 for two bottles and some lube.

All was looking good so far but now it was the false flat road section that I had no one to work together with. I was hoping to work with someone but no luck. Here's where I had some trouble. I knew climb 4 was only 2 miles but it was a hard two mile climb. I struggled at one point and actually lost my balance and stepped off to the bad side. I went running down the hillside luckily catching a tree and getting back up to my bike with my legs starting to cramp. Great. To this point my nutrition and hydration was on but now I was questioning that. At that point I was having trouble just getting started so I pulled to the side as I let Roger Masse through. As quickly as I saw him he was now gone. I started to get some more juice and I topped the climb in better shape and started the descent. I worked the descent and railed it and took those couple small climbs at the bottom in stride and rolled into aid #4 for two bottles again.

On the road to the big climb I passed aid #3 and I just tried to set a solid pace. It was going well and I felt someone in my draft and I looked back to see Jason Hilimire sneaking up. I have read his blog a few times and it was cool to see him on the course and chat a bit. It was especially good since we were chatting on the 18 mile climb which seemed to help. We we were both feeling kinda iffy and hoping thing were going to change around. We caught another single speeder at some point and started rotating pulls to speed it up and it didn't last that long. We made some time but I was starting to feel crappy and I looked back and saw Jason was gone. Then I couldn't hang onto the SS'er. I was on my own now. I kept on it and got through a couple of nice punchy climbs until the hard right and the real climb was there. At one point I realized that my legs just weren't putting down what I thought I could. I decided to get my heart rate down and try to enjoy the climb. The day was nice and overcast and the scenery was gorgeous. So I turned it back and just gave it an ok effort. A few came through and I let them go just racing my race but it was hard knowing at this point that I was probably going to finish in 9:15 or 9:30. I wanted sub 9 badly but I knew the stars would have to align to get this done and it wasn't looking too hot. I believe it was about 7:00 when I got to the aid #5. And knowing that it was 25 miles in 2 hours was going to be hard to beat.

9:15 or 9:30 was settling in and I was content with that. It's been a long season and to do that at the SM100 was a feat in itself. So from aid #5 I got into the downhill and started climbing again. This went by faster than I remember and was really a lot of fun. Now my back brake was barely even there. So I was reduced to braking with 90% front brake on 40 mph gravel downhills. I wasn't too fond of that. Back to the road up to aid #6 I was riding with another rider and we were chatting about breaking the sub 9 hour mark. Riding up to aid #6 it was 1:10 til the 9 hour mark. It was possible but it was going to be painful. I didn't really think that I had it in my tank to do it. So I kept a steady pace and hoped for the best. I topped the last climb with 42 minutes til the 9 hour mark. I drilled that climb with all I had left. Down the fast downhill I flew and made the left onto the gravel fire road. I knew this had a couple of short climbs to ruin any motivation and hope of sub 9. So each one I hit, I hit even harder praying for that elusive mark. Then another, and another. I was just praying for that last left turn into the campground to come ASAP so it would all be over. It FINALLY did and I blasted down those final water bars - across the double grass jump - and around the horseshoe to the finish line. Somewhere in the low 9's would have been fine but I guess I was happy with what I finished in:
8:41!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Holy Crap!!! I have no idea how that happened. I wasn't feeling stellar or even great. I guess I just rode consistently mediocre and that was good enough.

What a feeling crossing that line in 8:41. Last year's time was 10:39. That's 1:58 off of last year's time. I knew the conditions helped but the fitness just pulled me through somehow. It ends up I was 43rd overall and 36th in open mens. It's totally surprising considering there was 550 people there and a LOT of strong people. Truly a strong end to my 5th 100 miler of the year and a great way wrap up my season. I do have a couple of races left on the calendar but I was really vested in the NUE series and it's a relief for it to be over. Once again the SM100 people and Chris Scott put on one hell of an event!!! Thanks guys!!!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Awaiting the Start

This week has gone by so fast, it's amazing. I started this week by working some last minute summer work to help pay some bills. Then before I knew it I was starting teacher year #6 and 110 fresh faces were staring back at me in my classroom. The summer was great and really felt like a long break with all the traveling I did. I was happy to get through the first few days of school and then I remembered that I would be leaving after work on Friday(today - yikes!) to travel to Harrisonburg VA and take on the Shenandoah Mountain 100 Sunday. This week totally flew by.

It wasn't much for a transition but now back teaching, I've tried to keep focused on my training, but there's so much to get set up at work that it's hard to concentrate on anything else. Maybe that's a good thing. By this time last year I felt good going into the SM100 and then slowly grenaded about 50 miles in. Merely surviving the last 50 miles. This year I feel a lot fresher and I'm envisioning each climb and each fantastic(hellish) spot that sticks out in my memory(like the 18 mile climb). Hopefully this distraction may have me a little fresher going into this than I realize. Maybe I'm just desperately hoping for this? Could be...

Any way as the rumors go it's supposed to be, all things being equal(which they never are), that whatever time you ran at the W101 and add 10-15 minutes is the usual time for the SM100. Well 8:48 was my W101 and I'm hoping to cash in some extra credit and delete those 10-15 minutes since the W101 was pretty grimy and slick. So all things being considered, I've convinced myself that a sub 9 hour finish IS doable. Whether the stars align or not is anyone's guess. All I know is that I seem to have the nutrition and hydration fairly well dialed and the bike is dialed. So if both of those two pieces don't let me down I should have an enjoyable day. Either way I'm still craving pizza and brownies at Aid 5 - they better be there!

So we'll have to see how it all goes Sunday. Either way it'll wrap up #5 of the hundies for me this year and my main focus for the year. I'll still be doing some local XC races and hopefully some cross races for fun. I'll have to see as there may be a little addition to my quiver soon as the CX bike is calling my name. There may be bike #8 sitting in my apartment soon. Stay posted for details...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

4K

Looking over the training log it seems that I've jumped over the 4000 mile season total. I'm a little taken back at that number. It kinda surprised me knowing that last season I rode 3300 miles ALL season long and there's still 3 solid months left. Of course the increase is due partially to the renewed confidence in my road bike. Last year I had some issues so I stayed away and this year I'd say 60% of my training has been on the road bike. Partially since it's been so dang rainy. I'm curious to see what the future holds and how I hold up till the end of the season.

Mechanicsville VA Ride

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Went down to Mechanicsville VA this weekend for a little family party of my girlfriends and of course had to find a way to get a nice ride in. I packed up my Lemond and crammed it into the back of her Tiburon and headed off for the weekend. Nice flat ride with a bunch of nice rolling undulations and lots of 18 wheelers trying to run me off the road. Actually there was one farm tractor that scared the crap out of me as it rolled up next to me at 20 mph and I looked over and the top of the wheel was above my head. Actually the bottom of the tractor was taller than me - it could have actually driven over me and not touched me it was so tall. Pretty entertaining to see it on the road. Got some good intervals in although I wasn't feeling so fresh. I took it easy for the remainder of the time knowing I'll unleash whatever I have next week at the Shenandoah 100. It's almost here...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SM100 on the horizon

Lets see - only 11 days left until I head into the George Washington National Forest and feel the lactic acid start building in my legs. The SS was a possibility for this race but at this point I think that would be a big mistake. Especially since I haven't done an SS ride this year - or ever - over 20 miles. I think that was the main reason I've decided against it. The other reason is that I really would like some redemption from last years poor effort. I remember it being a little greasy but nothing that would have made me finish in my time of 10:39. That was the longest 100 miler(timewise)by 3 minutes that I have ever completed. And at that point I was lucky just to have completed it.

I remember last year thinking that the race should be pretty manageable but I didn't realize the recovery I would need for a race like this. I pre-rode the course last year two weeks prior and bonked hard and that would not set me up terribly well to perform in the SM100. This year I'm coming off of a good race at the Fools Gold 100 and a nice 3 week span until the SM100. This gives great recovery time and should help me have some juice to take a nice bite out of the time it took to finish last year.

Admittedly I knew that last year that I could be pretty cooked at that point in the season and looking back I was. I came off the 4th climb in BAD shape. Actually once I crested the top of the climb I was so shaky on the descent that I actively had to dodge trees and stop myself from blacking out. One of the photographers got a great shot of me rolling out of the next aid station with my face flushed and my eyes practically rolling back in my head as I start the 18 mile climb. Not the shape I want to attempt any race in.

So as the early prediction I am hoping to complete the SM100 in 9:15 or quicker. There's too many races under my belt this season to hope for a sub 9 - although that would be a treat. So that's my call for now and I'm going to see what the weather brings and how reachable that goal is. Either way I've already had a great season and I'm just looking forward to besting my PR and putting back a few cold ones after wrapping up my NUE experience for 2009.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Miles of Uninterupted Rides Lead to Today's Mishaps

Went out for a local group ride with a group of 6 people in West Milford today. The group has a little hill climb competition and I just thought I'd show up and get in the mix. I knew full well there were some solid climbers there so I know I'd have some fun. The group was supposed to be as large as 10 but with the dreary start only 5 showed initially and one more was picked up later in the ride.

We went into the first hill about 5 miles or so in the ride and hit this 1/2 mile wall which my legs and heart were not ready for. I tagged onto the lead 2 and let up as it was just too early to push that hard. Down the other side and perfect...flat tire. Stopped to replace the tube and we were off and regrouped to aim for climb #2. This climb was a little better as it was longer and more gradual. Perfect. The usual group of 3 took off and soon it was only me and 1 other. We punched it up a steep section and I pulled ahead thinking I was at the top of the climb...nope. So I let up knowing I did the hard part of the climb and started to chat with my competition which was doing a chill pace. We rode a social pace letting the other climber catch up and we rolled to the actual finish together. I was happy to put down a nice effort even though it's only been a week since my last 100 miler. It felt good. Hard but good.

Shortly after I had to hit my tire again with C02...great. Down the next down. More C02. Into climb #3 the leadout was going well and then I stood up and felt the pavement through each pedal stroke. Great. Tube #2 was done. CO2 #3 was done. ARGH...so aggravating. So once my tire was inflated again i eeked my way up the climb and rejoined the group. All that lie ahead was an easy cruise to my buddy's place where I had parked.

Once there we replaced my tire and tube #3 and I set out with a new setup that should be unproblematic. "Should" be. I then headed out with only 1 buddy on an extension of the previous ride. I did the next section of the ride and just before I got to the end of this part of the ride I picked up a huge piece of steel that shredded my tire. SONOFAB*TCH!!! This really wasn't my day. What was next? Were the stars aligning against me? So my buddy rode the few miles home and grabbed his truck to help get me back to my car since the tire was shredded with a 5/8" slice in my tire and there was no fixing this one. Back to my car and I drove home with 58 miles and 3:30 ride time. I wasn't happy with that. I wanted over 60 miles and 4 hours of ride time.

Arriving back at my apartment I dropped off my cursed Madone and opted for my Lemond Reno backup roadie. Quick pedal change, water stop, and throw a little food down and I was out again. This time doing a little loop around Parsippany and into Boonton to cap off my ride. Picked a nice route and went easier just to spin out the legs and finally it went as planned. No mechanicals, no flying pigs, just a normal ride. So I put on an extra 1:23 and an extra 22 miles.

So all in all I guess it was a frustrating ride but a good one nonetheless. 80 miles in 4:53 with 5300' of vert. One of these days I'm actually going to have to complete a road century. Is it normal to have completed 9 dirt centuries but have not completed a road century yet? Plenty of 70 + 80 mile rides but no 100's. Maybe this fall.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Holy Miles Batman!

Just perusing my training log from last year to this year and I know that I'm doing better this year but I don't really know how I'd quantify it. Well here's the numbers.

Last year as of today's date: 235 hours and 2205 miles

This year as of today's date: 324 hours and 3774 miles

Not a bad jump in training. Plus there's another huge detail - this year's riding has been very disciplined and structured. Last year was not. So with that said it's looking like a pretty solid year. When I saw those numbers I kinda surprised myself - that's pretty cool!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fools Gold 100 Race Recap

Who is that handsome guy on the far left????? Photo courtesy of my awesome girl De!

I arrived late Thursday night in Dahlonega Georgia to get ready for my first new race of the NUE series. Admittedly I wanted to try this race for the new venue as well as the anticipated small starting field to help my chances in the NUE series overall. Since there were only 46 people registered I had my sights set on a top 20 or maybe even a very slight chance of top 15 knowing well that the top 12 or so would be full on pros.

Feeling pretty decent after a nice preride on Friday I knew the end of the course wouldn't be bad and it could help with the mental aspect of the race. It would already be a tough course since it was two 50 mile laps and would be rough heading out for lap 2. I was hoping to keep a good pace and pass whatever aid stations I could as it was around 10 miles between aid stations. The main battle would be keeping off the cramps in the muggy august heat in GA.

At 7 am sharp the race was on and into the 10 mile fireroad climb we went. As I looked ahead I saw Eatough driving the pace and a LARGE group of singlespeeders mixed in with the likes of Tanguy, Lichtenwalner, and hanging onto the back of the group of 20 or so....me. I knew the initial climb was about 4-5 miles so I just wanted to hang on as long as I could. Through the climb I was with them for the first two miles or so and then I had to start easing back as did some of the rest. I kept hammering with a group of 3 singlespeeders that got shot off the lead group and we just paced each other and kept on it. We marked each other on the climbs and really pulled hard through the 10 mile climb. On the downhill though I was very confident and pulled away taking chances on the hard loose turns. I wouldn't see anybody else for a while until the second singletrack 10 mile climb where these same guys started to catch up again. We cruised through the climb and on the next descent I dropped them. This was working well until I hit a slow section of singletrack where I heard the voices sneaking up on me.

I hit a section of really fast smooth singletrack carving through a pine forest. I kept standing and putting the power down and then in one turn my bike disappeared from underneath me. In the attempt to add some extra speed I must have let my front wheel drift a little off the edge of the trail or caught a root or something. All I know was the wheel was gone and I was doing a 20+ mph summersault over the bars and into a sharp piney tree with my name written all over it. When I stopped I was basically doing a headstand at the base of the tree with my bibs torn and caught on the tree and my bike using me for an air bag. Luckily I came out virtually unscathed. I checked to make sure my junk (and my bike)was still in one piece and kept on it.

Then the next problem started to arise. On each fire road I would reach down and flip my lever on the fork to lock it out so I could stand and grind out the climbs. Well each time I did this there was less and less movement of the lever until you guessed it...the lever would not come off the lockout. I now had a rigid fork for the remainder of the 60 miles. This was ok since I could deal with it but just be a little slower than I needed to on the downhills.

The one thing that seemed to go right thankfully was my nutrition and hydration. That was on. Every 50 minutes to an hour I ate, drank, and took my endurolytes and there were NO signs of ANY cramping. Thank goodness. I didn't want to deal with that monster on top of my other troubles. Then bad luck comes in threes, so my front derailleur stopped working. I had to start yanking on the cable with my hand and start shifting all over the place and it started to work...somewhat. It was never really right.

So with all the problems I was lucky to be alive after my near death experience and started to just relax and finish the lap. 4 hours and 24 minutes later I crossed the start/finish for lap two and got a cold powerade thanks to my cold cooler waiting for me, and started the 10 mile climb again. It was going to be a long day at this point. I checked my GPS and the climb took me 1:13 when it only took me 0:53 the first time around. Yikes... I started to go into reserve mode. The realization set in that I might not be recovered from the Wilderness 101 two weeks ago. So I thought to myself to take it easy and just enjoy the rest of the race.

Well that didn't last long. I got to the next aid station and the volunteer so graciously told me that was in 10th place in my class. WTF??? are you serious? Great now I actually had to race again. So I took off down the next descent and rode the remaining 40 miles looking over my shoulder to see when that guy would take the 10th place away from me. Grinding away I still didn't see any riders coming up. Finally I took the last few turns and realized 10th was mine. 10th place in 9:39 in a long hard fought day when a lot went wrong. I could have been much worse and it could have been much better. I am just grateful I got to finish and make some nice lemonade with the pile of sh*t that was handed to me ;-)

Photo courtesy of mattisonbarne's picasa album.