Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Hard Way

"Americans can always be counted on do the right thing after they've exhausted every other possibility" 

Winston Churchill may or may not have said that.  Nevertheless, here we are.  "We the people" have elected a misogynistic, racist, tabloid fodder, reality tv star, president.  For what ever reason, we have chose to do things the hard way.

Personally, the last eight years have served to lift me out of the hole the financial freeforall the the Bush administration had reign over left me in.  

But no sour grapes.  I will do my part as an American ("merican"?) and do things the hard way too.

I will not succumb to the convenience of a derailleur, nor will I accept the relief of a suspension fork.  I will not ride the "B" line, but seek out that of greater challenge. If there is a hill to climb, I will ascend it, a rock garden, I will enter it with enthusiasm.  I may not always be successful, but I will try and try again; the hard way.

It's the American way

Monday, July 18, 2016


When Neal announced his plans to do a 100 mile mountain bike ride to raise money for Team ERRACE and the charities they support in March I knew I needed to be part of this effort.

We had done many longer mtb rides together, and competed in endurance length races on our own, but this ride would be crossing into uncharted territory.  First we need a 100 mile route.  We had easily linked together some local spots to create 40, 50 even 60 mile routes before, but getting to 100 was going to be a challenge.  We wanted to minimize pavement, needed to have refueling points, and have it be fun.

Our rough plan was to take the Metacomet trail North and hit all the fun stuff that spurs off of it.  We knew the first 40 miles of this ride well having done many TdTs together over the years.  For the last 60, well, we were going to just sot of wing it.

We left my house at 6:00 AM Saturday. There was little discussion of routes.  There were many ways we could navigate the trails of the parks we were riding but instinctively Neal and I were on the same page.  On the fly we decided to hit all the harder stuff on the way out when we were fresher (genius right?).

We hit the Res, refilled water bottles at Res 6, hit Penwood, Wilcox, refilled water bottles at the Tariffville Green, hit Cowles, crossed Hatchet Hill, and continued North to Rt 168.  

It was getting hot.  North of route 20 water was running low.  We had ridden this section only a few times before and were not 100% sure how long it was. There was an official ERRACE rest stop at the Volunteer Fire Station in Suffield we planned to use at the end of it, this is what we found when we got there:

Packed up and closed!
Fortunately we had plan B

From here it was uncharted territory.  We had never ridden the Metacomet North of 168, but we had to chance it get the mileage we needed.
At first it was going great, but soon after entering Massachusetts, the trail blazes headed into a swamp. 
So we turned back South.

Neal still shredding at mile 62
a little Metacomet flavor

By the time we had got back to Tariffville, we had completed 65 miles and our bottles were empty.  If we continued the way we came, we'd be back in West Hartford with an elapse time of over 12 hours and be about 15 miles short.  We were close to 10 hours in.  Since we had been almost exclusively on singletrack to this point we decided to hit some fireroads and tarmac to connect some local trails in Simsbury and Avon, riding the remainder back at the West Hartford Res.

mile 101
 For the most part everything went as planned.  No mechanical other than Neal burbing his tire, and me falling off my bike in the parking lot of Fisher Meadows ar the last water stop.  Neal fueled us with homemade energy bars, and Naturally Fast kept us hydrated.

Yes, there is a derailleur on my bike.  This wasn't much help on the singletrack (it didn't hurt), but was a big help on the fireroads and tarmac; 34x20 would have slowed us down greatly.

It was a great experience doing this ride with Neal, but we kept in mind that one day's hard effort was so insignificant to the ordeal that people with cancer must face and are hopeful that what funds we have raised will lessen that real challenge.
You can still give here

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!