Saturday, August 29, 2009

Norcross Scurry; Oh, Danny Boy

Perfect storm if you will. New trails, tropical depression Danny, low profile tires and the "standard" 52" gear.

Before this season, 52" or there abouts was the only gear I ran. But then again I wasn't racing, at least not at a greater variety of courses.

This year I've run from a 44" gear at Pats Peak in New Hampshire to a 53" gear at Winding Trails in Connecticut.

From the course descriptions I had read, I thought a 52" gear might actually be too small for the course, and if it drained like it was alleged to, the Race Kings would be fine.

The 1 1/2 mile section I pre-rode, was slick, but do-able. There was some spin on the climb I hit, but do-able.

That is before, the Pros, Cat1 / Open, Cat1 juniors, 19-29's, 30-39's, and singlespeeders got to it.

By the time us "junior geezers" got there, the fresh cut trails were churned into a fine slurry.

Looks like we're going to do a little running today.

I had got the holeshot, and led to the first down hill were Todd Bearse from Bike Barn used his superior tech abilities to grab the lead.

When we turned onto the first fireroad, Jonny Bold lit it up and grab the lead from Todd.

Fortunately for me the fireroad tilted up so I pulled back into second, and closed the gap on Bold.

There was a mud hole covered with a layer of logs that tripped up Jonny and I passed him back.

Then we got bottled up behind a couple of the singlespeed class riders which caused me to dismount, which became the theme for the day (dismounting and running), and Bold was joined by his Corner Cycle team mate John Mosher in passing and quickly putting time on me.

That was the end of me racing with my class.

I would occasionally pick up a 30-39 y/o or 19-29 y/o as I slid and ran, and generally wallowed in the mud.

The soft, fresh, cut trails made every little climb a grunt. My arms were killing me as I yanked on the bars trying to keep my weight low and turn over the cranks.

Every turn was a treacherous maneuver of the front wheel sliding one way as the rear chose to slide another. Off chamber trails were more a matter of when would you not if you would slide.

About half way through the race my front brake lever was almost to the bars, I was able to pump it up, but then there was a terrible grinding. The pads are only a couple of weeks old and have only seen wet weather twice (my last to races).

The second and third lap I rode with a Biker's Edge rider from one of the younger age groups. I led for the second lap, he led and pulled away on the third.

On the third lap, as he was pulling away from me, I noticed a couple riders coming up on me fast.

This got me concerned. They seemed to come out of nowhere.

One was the leader of the 50+ class and the other was a Pro? At least they weren't my class. I thought for sure Todd was pulling me back.

They both past me, and the Pro was running everything. When he did try and ride a section he was all over the place and I passed him back. Never saw him again.

I caught the 50+ leader and followed him to the finish.

Thank You Lord!

I was glad that was over.

My first lap was about 37 minutes.

Second, 40 minutes.

Third, 48 minutes?

Guess the goo took it's toll on me.

There were technical sections where if I didn't just slide into them sideways and have to dismount, my mind would say "Ok, we want to go over this in such and such a manor". My body would respond "Duh, what?"

In the end I finished third behind Mosher (1st), and Bold (2nd).

One thing to be said about racing in the rain, if I hadn't been preregistered for a race would I have rode today, or been a couch potato?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Harmonized Hummmmmm

As I was riding in to work this morning, getting into that zone of pedaling, one with the machine and all that kind of crap, I was struck by the harmony I had with this particular bike. Tapping out the cadence, getting into that flow, yada, yada, yada...
What ever that magical combination of geometry, frame material, tube diameter, some bikes have it. Some don't.
One of my favorite bikes of all time was made of Tange Prestige tubing. When I got my first 29'er I was stoked that it too was made of these magical pipes.
Nope. It was just a bike. Not bad riding, but nothing magical.
Before the 29'er, I "upgraded" to a boutique bike built with Reynolds 853 tubing, because the Tange bike was "too heavy to race".
Not only did that bike have no life to it, it broke about a month out of warranty!
The 853 frame replaced another lifeless frame, a carbon fiber Giant that apparently was too fragile to race (I broke 2 of them, great warranty service though).
My Surly is pretty damn close to ideal, and it's generic 4130 cromoly.
The best riding bike I own or have ever owned is my 1978 Trek (the bike I was riding this morning). Skinny Reynolds 531 tubing, long chainstays and wheel base. I have PR'd routes on this bike set up fixed, over more modern multi speed machines.
I've had more modern steel bikes, but they have lacked the liveliness of the Trek. So much so, that I sold one in favor of a Cannondale( I built the C'dale as a hillclimb bike, but was so impressed with the ride sold my DeBernardi SLX), and the other is for sale due to redundency.
I don't know what the secret formula is for that harmonious hummmmmm, but it's sure nice when you find it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Not sure if it's good or bad?

Yesterday I felt thoroughly worked over. As though I had been put in a sack and beaten with a bag of oranges.
My head ached, my back ached, my shoulders were sore, it felt like I jammed both my thumbs.
Had Mookie worked me over that hard on Tuesday night?
As per usual, I took Monday, the day after a race off. This isn't a concrete law, but is the norm, and I've only broke it when I've needed to ride to work. Plus it was Quinny's birthday so there was cake to eaten and gifts to unwrap. It just so happens a Lego Darth Vader Tie fighter cost the exact same amount as you win at races in Keene N.H.
So I had a day of rest.
I didn't think riding with Alex really was pushing it, and other than my back feeling a little tweaked, I felt pretty good.
I even went to bed fairly early, and actually slept in a bit, so much so that riding to work wasn't an option.
But then I wake a crooked, twisted heap of humanity?
I struggled through the day alternating between chugging water and caffeine, not to mention a fist full of Tylenol.
Slight improvements were realized by the end of the day, but man, I felt spent.
Wake up this morning, all is wonderful. Just like that. My back still has the slightest bit of tenderness, but I'd give it a 95% if I had to rate it.
Did I just need an extra day of recovery? Was I dehydrated?
I don't know.
I do know I felt super strong this morning, but who wouldn't feel good when it's 60 F out with a dew point in the mid 50's?
I hope this lasts!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

911 concept

Years ago I was watching a documentary on Porsche. The engineer they were speaking with explain the 911 design philosophy like this: "We are going to take the 911 as far as we can within the given design concept, that being a rear engined sports car."
I've been thinking about rigid singlespeeds that way for a while. I want to take the ss rigid design concept as far as I can in racing.
Yeah, I 've strayed a few times this year and relied on the crutch of a suspension fork only to find I still suck at descending, only to end up rigid again.

My original race bike was a steel frame and fork, with 26" wheels, or early 60's 911.

Currently it is a steel frame w/ a carbon fork, so I think that puts me around the late 70's on the 911 design scale. Maybe because it's a 29'er I can claim being in the early 90's due to the larger wheels.

The question is, if I had the wallet, do I really want to take this into the 21st century of design technology?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The right gear

As I did my warm up for The Bike For Bovines MTB race in Keene NH, I was overcome with sense of doom. I had geared my bike wrong. The first 3/4 of a mile was flat to downhill on fireroads and even pavement. The climbing seemed too easy. I spun up to Andy Chambers, also pre-riding, and exclaimed my fate.

"I'm screwed!"

During the call up, when Chris Logan got to the Cat1 singlespeed group and saw no one was racing it (I race a singlespeed in the Cat1 40-49), He declares "I guess no one is dumb enough to race this course on a singlespeed. Royce turns to me and starts laughing. Yeah, someone is dumb enough.

I'm not worried about a good spot lining up, because I know I'm going to go backwards at the start. They were sending us off in one large group instead of waves too.

The whistle blows, and everyone swarms past me. I'm spinning my brains out praying to get to the first climb.

As I'm about to get "chicked" by pro Aleksandra Rokita we finally get to the first climb and I can begin a little damage control. Fortunately my group didn't put too much ground on me before the climbing and I start reeling guys back in.

At about the 2 mile mark, I've almost caught pro / cat 1 open rider Josh Wilcox. I get excited, take a stupid line trying to pass some guys to catch him and have to clip out.

Josh is my carrot now.

I get right back up to his wheel by the 4 mile mark, when the course turns into the woods for some off camber singletrack transversing the mountain. Josh has super technical abilities (me, not so much) and gets away from me and out of sight.

At this point I notice I am missing a water bottle. They have neutral feed zone at the 7 mile mark, so I slow and grab a cup of water there.

I think I'll have enough water in my remaining bottle to get me back up here.

From the feedzone there is one tough climb that I need to get off and run. At that point Josh is in sight again. But then things turn down and Josh starts putting daylight between us.

When things flatten out I get passed by another pro, and a guy in one of the younger age groups.

I believe I'm in second in my age group at this point behind super strong Jonny Bold.

Being second behind Bold, I'm starting to think maybe I made the right decision on my gear.

When I get to the Start / Finish there is neutral water, so I stop and fill my bottle.

I catch the two guys who passed me on the flats once we get climbing. I just chugged a bunch of water at the feed, and beginning to feel slight stomach cramps. I probably was just chasing too hard, and try and settle into a comfortable pace.

I get Josh in sight once again, and he dangles out in front of me.

What's this?! My missing water bottle! I'm feeling pretty comfortable with my position so I stop to pick it up.

The young pro passes me back, but as we continue to climb I go to the front.

Now with 2 water bottle going for me when I get to neutral support, I have the young lady there splash the cup of water in my face. She's a little perplexed by this request, but finally does it.

As we turn to the hike a bike climb I catch and pass Josh.

But up ahead walking the climb is Jonny Bold!

I catch him and offer him a CO2 to fix his flat which he declines and offers up some encouragement to me.

I don't know if his flat was a catastrophic failure, or if he just didn't want any outside help (your not supposed to get any, but I wouldn't tell), I'm pretty sure I'm in the lead now.

As we descend the mountain, no one is passing me.

But as we get to the flatter, last 3 miles, I get passed by the younger pro again. About 3/4's of a mile out Josh passes me.

They're in a different class so who cares!?

As I peek over Jill's shoulder at the results, yes indeed, I WON!

Maybe it was the perfect gear, or maybe it was my lucky socks (I wore them the first race I ever won), or maybe I just had a really good day. Comparing my time to Kevin Hines, ex-national champion who used to race with me at the begin of the season, but upgraded to the Pro / Cat1 Open and has been on the podium in that class every race, I was closer to him than I ever have been before (6 minutes down), and I beat second place in my age group by 10 minutes. I know Bold's bad luck had something to do with it, but as they say, that's racing.
At the beginning of the season I never thought I'd be standing on the podium of a CAT1 race let alone the top step.

As an added bonus I found an awesome radio station on the way home too. Lucinda Williams, Sharon Jones and the Dat band, The Meters, Jimi Hendrix, and Billy Bragg! The Meters and Billy Effin' Bragg! How cool is that! I can't believe a radio station with the lame name "the River" could be so cool. 93.9 or 101.5 FM.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Tomorrow I'm racing a venue I'm unfamiliar with. My reliable source hasn't raced there either.
I've compare elevation gain with previous races, and it falls somewhere between Winsted Woods, and West Hill.
At least I think it does. Garmin has change their system and I've noticed significant differences in elevation gain from their old "Motion Based" system.
Winsted a 20 was perfect. West Hill a 21 was a little tall on the last lap.
Tire choice.
Unless I want to drive to the shop and change tires, I can run any tire, as long as it's a Conti Race King.
With the dry weather we've enjoyed these past couple of weeks they have been perfect, but with weekend showers?
Such is the price of running tubeless without a compressor at home.
I guess we'll find out how these things will work out tomorrow.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Confess

When I heard there was a 'cross race Sunday, I was sort of hoping some of the heavy hitters would choose it over the Bikes for Bovines mtb race.
No such luck.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tale of Two Riders

It sure is nice to get out early before there is any traffic. I can feel safe about riding in the street without having to resort to riding on the shoulder.
Oh shit! That guy passing that tractor trailer parked on the side of the road is over the yellow line! Shit! Emergency! Emergency! Swerve into the shoulder!
Back to the road.
What's this idiot doing riding up fast behind me in the shoulder?
Passing me on the right? What an ass.
Who knew there'd be so many psychos out this early.

Well I got I good start to my commute, hope the lights are kind.
What's this guy doing riding in the middle of the street, when there is a clean 8'-10' shoulder? If all roads where like this, drivers and cyclist would never have any trouble with one another.
What's he swerving all over the place for?
Well he sees me coming up on him, is he going to move over?
I'd be close to the yellow passing him on the left, maybe I'll just pass him in the shoulder it's so big. Luxurious even.
Don't think I'd feel comfortable riding with him.
On to work.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


That's how I felt riding Nassahegan today.

Cleaned the big climb up to the top; only the second time I remember doing that, and kept one of the fastest paces I've ever recorded out there.

Set a new PR on my Res. from home training loop on Monday too.

Maybe it was the almost century on Saturday (the guy with the route bailed at 55 miles, so I only ended up with 93.5 by the time I made it home), maybe it was the week of solitude (I love 'em, but having the house to myself for a week sure was nice).
I hope this form hold until Sunday...well maybe until a week from Sunday...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Back to Basics

It's been nice getting reacquainted with my geared bikes these past couple of weeks, but it's time to get back on the Fun Machine.
Yesterday I almost got backed into, which I can't totally fault the driver, because it getting dark in the morning for the beginning of my commute, and my geared bikes don't have lights on them.
That shouldn't have been an issue for the sideways hat, wife beater wearing youth driving the beat to shit Mazda 6 who almost made me a hood ornament at 5:00 PM yesterday. As he flew towards his left turn with no blinker on he pulled one of those turn into, then stop, then go, then stop maneuvers. All with a glazed stare.
The geared bikes have also made my commute too competitive. Instead of enjoying my ride home from work, I'm consumed with breaking the record.
As an aside, on a fast bumpy descent (by Crescent Lake in Southington), I'm tucked in enjoying the speed of a freewheeling bike, and a bee or some such stingy bug flies into my leg and stings it!
At first I thought it might have been something the cool looking Triumph with the chrome tank kicked up, but 12 hours later it still stings.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hodges Village Dam

What a fun race!
This course was a blast. Flowing, sweeping, twisty. I could have done with out the 2 "water features" above my axles, but I'll take that over primordial hike-a-bike mud pits.
From the GPS I found online I chose a 52" gear (34x19).
The whistle blows and I get a good jump off the line. Holeshot-ish even. Then I started going backwards. By the time we got to the first singletrack, there was a 30 meter gap between me and the "train". But they are going up a sharp, steep, climb, so I tighten it up and jump on.
I'm holding my position, but I'm not making up any ground.
There is a floating bridge over a water crossing. It's just far enough from shore to make riding it next to impossible. I'm not going to try it! Also if more than one rider is on it at a time, it sinks 2' down in the water. This causes major stringing out.
I'm still holding in with two other riders, Gerry Lafleur, and a rider from JRA Cycles. I get around Gerry, and as I go to pass the JRA rider, my axle slips pushing my tire against the chainstay. I stop to fix it, JRA and Gerry get on down the trail.
My race class is out of sight, and I'm not sure if I'm in the points or not. I start pulling in some 30-39 y/o's, which is a good sign,but no one from my class.
There is a good deal of fireroad, and not too much climbing per lap; this doesn't really play to my strengths, but by the time I get back to the floating bridge I've caught Gerry again. Super nice guy by the way; I've got to say one of the best parts of racing is meeting some exceptional human beings.
Later in the lap I reel in Gerry Gilsinger from the CAT1 Singlespeed class. Another good sign, but I still haven't brought back anyone else from my class.
Then I drop my chain...and I can't figure out how to put it back on. It's not stuck or anything, I just don't have the mental capacity to figure it out.
By the time I do figure it out, both Gerrys and some 30-39's pass me back.
At this point I've decided this is a wicked fun course, and just enjoy it. If my wheel slips again just fix it and keep going. Just enjoy the ride.
I catch back to Gerry Gilsinger from the SS class, pass back the 30-39's, pass a couple more 30-39's, I think some SS'er, but no Gerry L.
Most of the 3rd lap I'm riding with I believe the leader of the Cat1 Juniors. He begins stretching it out on the Start / Finish singletrack though.
Finally, up on the steep little grunt going into the singletrack, I think I see Gerry. He's up with a few other riders. I get past a SS'er, and another rider, and catch Gerry at the bridge.
At this point, I'm riding my own race and enjoying the flow of the course. I catch up to the Juniors leader, and some more back markers, but I'm still no man's land as far as my class goes. I crash trying to go around a mud hole and the Junior is up the trail out of sight.
Pull my shit together, and cruise to the finish.
I really thought there were more guys in front of me.
Lillian was glad I had a good time, but was a little surprised I didn't do better ("I thought you'd get second or third or something").

What's with the Cast2 in skinsuits? I saw a cute girl in a white skinsuit, oh yeah, that's going to look nice at the end of her race, bet she's going to reconsider that choice next time, and a couple of guys testing the limits to the elasticity of their skinsuits walking around before their race.