Saturday, June 11, 2016

Bearscat 50

A blog post about Bearscat50 was requested by the Most Interesting Man in the World and who am I to deny him?

Preparation for Bearscat had gone as well as could be expected, intel was gathered, equipment had been tested.  I had done my homework, and was ready to go.

So I went to the fair.

Got up bright and early the next morning,  ate breakfast and headed out for the first race; getting to the park before they started charging admission was the first race of the day as my GPS continually updated my arrival time (made it with minutes to spare!).

Taking my bike off the rack, the tires felt questionably soft, reaching for my pump I found this:
My pump valve had been cored!  Frantically I tear apart the car to no avail, my pump is now just an old Italian pipe with a handle.  So I start filling my tire with my mini pump.  A fellow racer showed mercy on me and let me borrow his floor pump.  Worried about losing air, I fill them up to 30 psi.

Warming up on the road and a little bit of the course, I think the tires aren't too bad, maybe a little bouncy, but sure beats a flat.  Getting back to the car, I realize I never cinched down my strap after removing my mini pump and now am missing my spare tube...and I don't have another in the car (you owe me Tyler!!!).  Fortunately Brian Kelly was well prepared and had a spare spare I could carry for the race.

Staging is on the honor system; you line up according to how long you think it will take you to finish.  Most of the singlespeeders line up together at the front of the second group.

The race starts with a prologue.  First paved road neutral start, then dirt road, and then into the actual race course.  I'm feeling great!  Up near the front, keeping the leaders in sight...then we get to the course.

I'm bouncing and sliding off of everything!  I keep on unintentionally employing the CCB™ and offer to pull aside for the affected riders,  Everyone is super cool and encouraging telling me I'm doing great and lead the way.

After a couple more sections of that nonsense, I decide I'd rather risk flatting then continuing to play tire v. rock and root pinball, so I pull over to let some air out of my tires.  Again the outpouring of support from my fellow riders is heartwarming as they go by.

Going again, things are somewhat better,  I probably reduced my tire pressure to @ 25 psi.  I'm still bouncing and slipping a lot, but it's really rocky, rooty, and the mist has added a slime factor to the equation.

I begin to reel back in some of the riders that passed me.

Have I mentioned the rocks?

Wawayanda is no joke.

We have rocky trails in CT.
We have rooty trails in CT.
We have loamy trails in CT.

Wawayanda is a relentless combination of the three.  Lubricated with a misty morning makes it one of the most challenging race courses I have ridden.

A fellow singlespeeder, David Boyce, catches me in the singletrack and I let him pass.  I feel I can go a little faster and pass him back.  We get to a fireroad climb and he powers strongly away.

Coming into "the Rock Bowl", I'm greeted by hecklers, the Northeast's power couple, Joc and Monte.
They snapped this picture.  Looks like I'm having fun...
The race director said the aid station was at mile 17.  That comes and goes; no aid station.  Mile 18; still nothing.  I'm wondering if it's a GPS thing?

Finally at almost mile 20, the aid station.  I don't stop, but shortly after I drop my bottle (Doh!).

So if the aid station is at almost 20, how much longer is the lap?

Mile 25 comes and goes, hmm.

When I finally breakout of the woods onto the road to the start/finish line it starts to actually rain.
Spinning a 34/20 on the road in the rain is giving me a chill.

When I cross the line, I'm at almost mile 29.

how many more miles?

Bearscat 50+?

My warm, dry car is right there...but so are Monte and Jocelyn.
I decide to collect myself, eat a PBJ, and put on a jacket.

At 3:02 into the race I grab two bottles and head out for lap 2.

I've decided I like lap 2s.  They seem to go by faster.  I'm more fatigued but I'm riding better, cleaning more sections.  I catch a few age grouper, but primarily am riding by myself.

When I get to the aid station, a volunteers shouts out encouragement "your almost done!".  No I'm not; I've got almost 10 more miles!

I keep my eyes peeled for my water bottle, I see it about 500m out, stop and shove it in my jersey pocket; they don't grow on trees you know.

The last leg goes well.  I've reached my fatigue plateau, holding steady.

Getting out to the road with no one in front or behind me.

Spinning the first slightly downhill section a geared rider has come out of the woods and has me in his sights.  In a measure of totally irrelevant pride I put my head down, and spin madly to get to the final climb holding him off.

7th Singlespeed.

Mining through the numbers, that puts me 17th overall.  If I had raced my age group, I would have finished 2nd...unless the 3 other singlespeeders over 45 who finished in front of me raced age group too!

 Bearscat 50 is the toughest course of any length I have ridden.  The thought of doing two laps at Landmine seemed ludicrous to me, but after Bearscat 50; piece of cake.  Bearscat makes VT50 seem like a charity event ride.

 Can't wait for next year!

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Why The Bicycle Means So Much to Me

Ten years ago the bicycle took me off a path I had gone down before.  My alcohol use was getting out of hand and it was time for a break.

The bicycle helped me break that cycle. 

The first ride after this decision was painful; I had to walk.  For the next month I had exercise induced asthma.  Quicker than expected, but slowly, fitness came.

When my business was crushed under the weight of the housing market crash, the bicycle was there for me.  After sending out hundreds upon hundreds of resumes the only ones interested were in the bicycle industry.

The bicycle  lets me be the person I want to be.  Low impact environmentally conscious, not wrapped up in material trappings.

When my marriage ended the bicycle and the family I gained in the bicycle community was there for me.  Every Spring the first race reunion warms me with joy.

The bicycle provides me with mental and physical health, friendship, and puts a roof over my family's head, so yeah, it's kinda important to me. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Bikes For Bovines Battle Royale; The Hunted

Racing this year has been good but sporadic at best.
The season opener of the Root 66 race series, Hopbrook Dam, started well but came to a sputtering halt due to poor choices in equipment and strategy.
The next couple of races went well, so well that a race report would really be kinda boring.

Missing a few races due to family obligations had left me at almost two months without strapping a number to my bike.

BUT! Bikes For Bovines, the first race I ever won as a CAT1, was upon us.  I had my eyes crossed and my teas dotted; I was racing!

The start list was stacked and strong, I knew Tyler Monroe and Steve Witkus would be there and contenders, but I hadn't realized Mr. Consistency, Andy Chambers, had signed up too until he sauntered up to the line in his usual nonchalant manner.

After the usual confusion of which category I'm racing (yes, it's a singlespeed, no I'm not racing singlespeed) we line up and wait for Chris' whistle.

The start is a long slightly descending dirt road, my best hope was to jump on someone's wheel and spin like crazy.

Chris gives his speech, counts us down and sends us off.
Holeshot!...for a brief moment until Steve takes the lead with Tyler on his wheel.
Okay these are good wheels to follow.

We get to a slight incline and tighten things up.
The three of us are getting a bit of a gap despite swapping a little paint.
After I grabbed the lead a couple times on the climbs, Tyler gets to the front on some more of the twisty, technical stuff.

Holy Shit can that man drive a bike!

It's not too long before he drives it away...leaving me with Steve on my wheel like a hungry wolf.

I'm able to build a small gap on the climbs and surprisingly the descents but Steve reels me back in on the start loop and fireroad stuff.  Through the woods I see Andy with Steve Arsenault closely on his tail.

Steve W keeps gaining and gaining on me until we get to the steepest climb of the course.  Again I get a gap, only to have it erased on the first section of the course.

Andy is gaining on us.

The third lap goes to a dark place.  Clumsy and weak, questioning what I'm doing.  I feel the Steve's catch is imminent.   I'm going through a mini stages of grief.  I want to quit.

At the top of the steepest climb things start to turn around, at least with my attitude.  I get my gap again.

On the lower sections of the last lap, I'm seeing Andy, but not Steve...because Steve has reeled me in even earlier and is right behind me.

I'm trying to gap him on the climbs but he is tenacious.  In the twisty stuff that Tyler used to get away from me I catch teammate Tina Severson from the Pro Women class.  She's ready to give me the easypass but her lines are so sick there's no reason;  I couldn't ride that section any faster on my best day!

I get to the steepest climb, Steve is closer than he's been on any lap; this is it, he'll catch me or I'll stay away.  What little I have left I pour into the pedals, at the first switch back he hasn't lost any ground.  Second switch back, no difference.  But as things start to get more gradual and twisty, I'm loosing sight of him.

No matter, until I'm right under the finish banner I keep my head down and the pedals spinning as fast as I can finishing second :24 back of Tyler.  Steve rolled in :39 later with Andy back only another :41.

Now that's racing!

Monday, September 29, 2014

VT50: Micro Bucket List

Every year I hear friends rave about the VT50 and every year there has been some reason for me not to do it.  Finally the stars aligned and I was sitting at my computer hitting refresh the Sunday before Memorial Day waiting to sign up.

4 months later and the event was finally upon us.  Neal had done some last minute hotel stalking and got us a room right at the venue (with somewhat unorthodox sleeping arrangements).  Benidorm Bikes was kind enough to let me out of work a couple hours early too so I could pick up my race packet during the mandatory check-in window.

We stopped at our favorite Vermont sandwich shop, checked into the hotel, the race, enjoyed a fine bedroom dining experience, watched obese people on TV eating truly frightening concoctions, and were in bed by 8:00 PM.  Which was good since a 3:30 AM alarm was looming in the not to distant future.

3:45 AM breakfast and coffee

5:00 AM we were out strapping numbers on the bikes

After the 5:30 AM mandatory meeting and last minute bathroom stop, we made our way over to the line.  The Singlespeeders were going off in the first group with the 27-34 expert men.  The field was an unknown quantity for me; I only knew the abilities of a couple of riders.

The theoretical whistle blows (I think they just said "go") and we are off, racing downhill in the dark.  Most riders had lights , but a few braved the course hoping to enjoy the illumination of others.  I must say things were very civil and no one was riding dodgy.

I imagine the scenery was really nice for the first 8 or so miles but we all were limited to the short glow cast before us.

When the sun finally rose, I looked down to my computer only to see a blank screen.


Never having raced the course, and without metrics, I guess I'm riding blind I thought.
Because of the dark start, I really didn't know who was in front of me and who was behind.

I pushed on at an endurance pace, getting caught by the occasional geared rider along the way.  As far as I could tell my fluid/fuel intake was right on schedule and was feeling somewhat in no-man's land amongst my field.

I chose to race with a rigid fork.  I like rigid forks.  I like how the geometry of the bike doesn't change as they can not compress.  I like how you can pick razor sharp lines with them and how light they make the front end lofting over obstacles.

It was a bad choice*.

Some of the braking bump on the descents were murder.  My elbows were and are jacked.  I know even with a suspension fork I'm not the fastest descender but it would have made it a bit more enjoyable.

I decided to refill my bottles at a rest stop I was guessing was about mid way.  Unfortunately the rest stop volunteers decided to take a group photo as I was pulling in so I was on my own.  My back had been killing me to this point so as well as unloading my drink mix from my jersey pocket, I decided to leave a spare tube at the rest stop too.  Turns out I was less in no-man's land than I thought as Tim Ahearn pulled into to fill his bottles as I was.  I had to pee, but decided it would be prudent to hold it and try to get away from him. 

Which I thought I did.

He was out of sight.  I got nervous as I thought he was coming up on me but it turned out to be a geared teammate of his.

Until it was him!

He was right on top of me.  My first thought was at least I can go pee now (but not until he passes me);  I wasn't quite ready to give up.

Then we caught another singlespeeder with a flat.  Then another with a broken chain.  I was starting to feel pretty good, my back stopped hurting and being Tim's rabbit was enough for my to raise the pace to more of that of a XC race.

I caught road pro extraordinaire Ben Wolfe who had earlier suffered a near race ending mechanical (he had started 5 minutes behind me, passed me had to replace his derailleur hanger after sheering it off, and passed me again).  He was in let's just survive and get to the end of this mode and made and excellent riding companion to the finish.

Which we did.

I was 4th singlespeeder with a time of 4:48:44, he was top of his age group.

Vermont50 is great event.  Well organized and marked.  The volunteers are just fantastic.  The course is breathtaking (even without being anaerobic!).  If I ever do it again I would make two changes; I'd use a suspension fork, and I ride harder from the get-go.  I really felt great the last 12 or so miles and feel I could have rode harder, which is not to say either of these would have changed the outcome of the race (No one was catching Will Crissman!!!), just made it more and enjoyable, with a higher level of personal satisfaction.

*I don't know if the first half of the course is more brutal than the second or if it was just how I was feeling, but the rigid was fine for the last third to quarter of the race, my arms are pretty beat today though.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Benidorm Bikes Mountain Bike Ride w/ Charlie

Every 4th Sunday of the month Benidorm Bikes has a group mountain bike ride for cyclist of all abilities; Benidorm Bikes Mountain Bike Ride w/ Charlie.

Hey, that's me!

The first one was a no show, maybe because it was Memorial Day weekend, so I just went for a long ride by myself.

The second one was a no show, which was fine by me because I had been hit by a car two days earlier and was in a bit of "discomfort".

But I was beginning to get a complex.  If no one was going to show up why am I carrying a first aid kit and waivers?  Why was I arranging my Sunday schedule around this?

The third one there was a threat of rain.  I condensed the waivers and first aid to a one jersey pocket packet figuring I'd be heading out alone again, but just in case people showed up...and they did.

3 hearty souls all independent from one another were waiting for me at Res 6.

We got poured on, muddied and a little bloodied.  We had a blast as I shared the trails I've been riding and discovering for over 20 years just minutes from Hartford!

Next one is August 24th, 8:30 AM starting at MDC Res 6 in West Hartford; hope to see you there.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hello blog, long time no see.
Been going through huge life changes.  Some of which have made me grow as a person, hopefully as a better person.  In doing so what I what thought of as free time is devoted to other things.  Less time to sit around writing about bikes.

So, you'll still see the occasional race report, pictures of food and product reviews (hopefully you won't see any more accident reports), they just won't be as frequent as the blogging salad days.

When my kids go on vacation I've got a ride report from Benidorm Bikes Mountain Bike Ride with Charlie, and a review of my new Singular Swift

*Spoiler alert*

I really like(d) them both.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Bahn Burnah! New England Regional Championships

My seasonal plans changed after not even completing 10% of the Bearscat 50 before crashing out.  Longer endurance events are great fun but the high entry fee is tough to swallow after an unfortunate mechanical (but that's racing).  Going back to my "home" series, The Root 66 series, seemed only prudent.

Just over a week after another unfortunate event I raced Bikes for Bovines and it was like a home coming.  I missed all my racing friends and it was great being back in the fold.  Being only the forth time I'd pinned on a number in 4 months and only the second time I had raced over 7 miles this year I was feeling a little rusty.  I was pleased to be back racing and impressed with Adin's performance (he won the Cat1 SS race with a time good enough to also win his 30-39 age group).

Doing the usual internet prerace stalking, the competition for the Barn Burner looked stiff.  There were the usual suspects, strongmen Shawn Mottram and Will Crissman, plus some local darkhorses, elite CX racers and youngsters.  Fortunately there was some day of signups, unfortunately it didn't have the draw of the inaugural event.

On to the good stuff shall we...

The whistle blows and we are off.  It's a long drag to the singletrack and after a wobbly start I'm able to slot into third position right as we turn into the skinny stuff.

Following Shawn and Will with the goal of keeping them in sight without blowing sky high I nail a rock with the distinctive metallic clang of rim v. immovable object.  Looking down I notice one of my bottles has jettisoned right as the Real Tim Johnson comments he just lost a bottle  too.

Shawn and Will are keeping a short gap on Tim and I which I'm pleased with.  We all make it through the first rock garden clean and up the first little grunt.  Other than dropping a bottle, everything is going as planned.  This is great, I'm racing my bike on a wicked fun course, staying in the mix...when I completely bone an easy corner washing out my front wheel giving Tim the opportunity to pass.

He's picking great lines and it is good to follow him.  But Will and Shawn are now disappearing around the twisting singletrack ahead.  Tim has me almost at my limit but if I get to the front maybe I have  little more.

When we get into a little more climby-ness I make a push and move back to 3rd position.

The leaders are nowhere to be seen.

Coming through the neutral feed, I go for some water maybe a little too hot only to have the miniature plastic cup explode in my face.

When I get back to the spot where a I nailed the rock I'm ecstatic to see my bottle lying on the side of the trail.  Perfect I think.  I'll pick it up on my third lap right when I need it!

I'm feeling good, picking off more of the the riders who started in the group before me.

I try going through the neutral feed a little slower this lap, netting an once or two of free water.

I get back to the spot where I'd last seen my bottle; it's gone!


It's hot and dusty, I'm only halfway through the race and out of water?


Panic sets in.  How am I going to make it through?  Do I stop at neutral support going into lap 4 and fill my bottle?  Will I make it to lap 4?  I'm already fading!

Then I see someone else's bottle on the side of the trail.  Live off the land I think and pray it's not empty, gross, or has cooties.

3/4th full of a tepid fizzy drink.  I'll take it and after a few long pulls am feeling stronger.  I finish the bottle in short order and contemplating my hydration strategy for the remainder of the race.  As I'm about to exit the singletrack and enter the start/finish loop I see friend, teammate and all around great guy Fabian.  I ask him if he has a bottle, he replies and empty one.

That's okay.  I'm feeling stable.  I slow down almost to a stop and enjoy 4 ounces of neutral water.

Steady as she goes.  As long as I don't blow up I think I've got 3rd locked down; I haven't seen or dared to look too hard for Tim in awhile.

And halfway through the lap, teammate, friend and all around great guy Fabian has filled a bottle, figured out how to find me and is waiting with the hand up.

I start to get caught by the leaders of the 50+ (fast old fückers) and I'm seeing the leading Pro woman through the trees but I keep Tim at bay and finish up on the podium.

Third in the New England Regional Championships; Daddy has some pizza money!

Race Notes:

  • I've got to rethink my hydration plan
  • I'm really glad my new Singular frame didn't show up.  Sure it's a great ride and I'm anxiously anticipating it's arrival, but if it had shown up I would have run a bigger gear than I did which would have been really painful 
  • Moving time 5 minutes faster than last year
  • High attrition rate today.  Lots of flats and the wind masked how hot it really was.
  • Shawn thought it would be wise to race the fatbike race prior to The Cat1 SS 
  • Will thought it would be equally wise to ride the race and home
  • I've really got to rethink my hydration plan!
  • Bike racing; FüCK Yeah!!!