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!!!


Monday, June 30, 2014

Like Ghandi or Dr Frank N Furter?

Just over a year.  That's how long I made it without being hit by a car.  Friday night that all too short streak ended one block West on the same stretch of Boulevard.  

The similarities are remarkable.  Other than being only one block apart, in both cases it was a Friday night, and the driver rolled a stop sign.  

She rolled the stop sign at Riggs and Boulevard hitting the front end of my bike squarely sending me over her hood.

One difference is I didn't let the adrenaline get the best of me (I did yell at her just a little as she tried to back up dragging my bike hooked under her bumper).  Before I even had a chance to call the police multiple witnesses had already dialed 911.

Police, paramendics and EMTs seemed to arrive instantaneouslyThe endorphins masked the pain of the road rash on my knees, shoulder and swelling of my elbow, but I took the advice of the professionals and sat down.  

Initially I felt okay to go home but began feeling dizzy and my vision blurred a bit so I took a ride in the bus with the gumdrops on top.

After 4 hours, an x-ray and a CT Scan, I was deemed in one piece and sent home (the walk out of the ER revealed more minor injuries that weren't apparent lying on a gurney).

My bike wasn't as lucky.  At least my Mavic Ksyrium SL front wheel is destroy and my confidence in the rest of front end is compromised.


Saturday I rode to work.

"I can't believe you not only went to work but rode a bike there"  was my daughter's commentary.

I tried to explain how if I didn't ride "they" win ("they"? not quite sure who "they" are). That I want a world that is safe for people to ride bicycles and find other more environmentally friendly modes of transportation than relying on cars.  "I still can't believe you wouldn't at least take the day off or drive on the day after an accident!"  was her retort.

As we watched a movie about feminism Sunday Ghandi had my back.  The documentary ended with the quote "Be the change you want to see in the World".

or as Dr. Frank N Furter would say:

"Don't dream it, be it"

(and be careful!)


Monday, May 19, 2014

National Bike to Work Day

May 15th was National Bike to Work day...
 otherwise known as Friday.
There are 3 components to bicycle commuting:
  • Physical
  • Environmental
  • Economic
Physically it's a great way to get in a workout and relieve stress while minimizing impact on your time with family.  Usually a bicycle commute will only increase your travel time by minutes if you work locally (with in 15-20 miles) and the frustration level of traveling by car, being stuck at light after light, is nearly eliminated.

Environmentally you are not burning a bunch of dinosaurs getting from point a to b.  You are also more aware of the environment around you as you are in it; not tucked in a metal cocoon  that is increasing being designed to remove you from the world around.  Not only that but a bicycle is made of only 20 pounds or so of natural resources, not 4000.

Let's face it, driving a car costs money.  It might not seem like a lot when you look at it day to day, but when you add it up day after day operating and maintaining a car is expensive.  Gas, tires, oil changes and repairs, can easily add up to multiple thousands of dollars a year.  Shouldering this burden might not be an issue for some but for many it's a substantial difficulty.

Fortunately I have a workplace that encourages such behavior

even rewards it
(if only everyday...)

To paraphrase the immortal words of Sam I Am, try it try it you will see...
(if you haven't already)

Friday, May 16, 2014

JRA; it was a good run

Nearing the end of a 50 mile mtb commute, descending a gravel fireroad I heard a "tink".  Then I heard a lot of "tinks" and things got all loosey goosey.
I pulled over, checked the rear of my bike;all was fine.
Checked the front wheel; all good.
Checked the underside:

That's not good...

This is the second one that's broken in that region.

Maybe jolly Ol England ain't as wikid gnawly as New England?

Great riding frames, love the ebb, but maybe we just weren't "meant to be".

Which leads us to the obvious question; what bike's next?!