Friday, December 26, 2008

GamJams Reviews: Winter Tights

My winter tights are not much to talk about. I bought them from the clearance section in Performance Bike back in the mid-1980's, you know, back when all they had was a catalog and you had to order by phone. They are unique in that they have rainbow stripes on the bottom near the ankle and they have real chamois. I wore them in the 2004 Livestrong Challenge DC Fundraiser ride. This was a forty mile ride around DC with LA at the head of affairs. I remember there was a starting corral right on Constitution Avenue and I was in the very front row. There was space ahead of us for LA and all the top fundraisers. When LA and the others came out for the start LA gave me a double take, I'm presuming because he saw my rainbow stripes and was wondering what former world champion was back there among the commoners. He did it a second time as we passed each other on the Clara Barton Parkway. Anyway, I still wear these tights when I ride outside in the cold but I don't do it very often. Especially since ~23 year old chamois tends to get hard and feel like you are sitting on a brick instead of a saddle. I also will wear a pair of tights I purchased for running and wear these for padding:
I even have to wear these under the old tights because of the chamois brick.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Beans/Kit Have Arrived

One of the perks (if you'll pardon the expression) of joining Team 53X11 Coffee is they provide, you guessed it, coffee! If you haven't looked on their website yet, they offer four coffees: The Early Break, The Big Ring, The Chain Breaker and The Down Shift (Decaf). Here are the descriptions of each.

The Early Break - A very unique coffee blend that comes from five different countries. Our medium roasted beans give you a complex coffee with tons of individual bean flavor. Bright, lively, nutty, a perfect morning cup.

The Big Ring - This is a coffee from the far reaches of Indonesia. 100% Sumatra medium roasted to a very specific profile that brings out all the richness and flavors. You won't be disappointed.

The Chain Breaker - Med/dark roast meant for espresso as well as drip. A secret blend that will bend the cranks and break the chain. Comprised of beans from four different countries to give you a full bodied, heavy on the tongue flavor. You can stand a spoon up in it.

Down Shift Decaf - A natural water process decaf. This coffee is so good, you'll never know it's decaf. Look for a smooth full-bodied cup every time.

The welcome package included one bag each of the first three coffees listed above. I immediately opened and tried the Chain Breaker. The description from the web site is very accurate. It is great for espresso. Alone it has a very strong flavor like navy coffee but does not give you that rot gut feeling one gets after drinking navy coffee. It is extremely good! Next I tried the Big Ring. It is also extremely good! I used to drink Sumatran coffee from one of those coffee shops in downtown DC but had to stop because it was so acidic it upset my stomach. The Big Ring does not do this to me. It is tasty and has little to no acidity. I have not yet tried the Early Break and I did not receive any Down Shift Decaf but I am sure neither will disappoint. Bottoms Up!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

GamJams Reviews: Trainer Distractions - There was one?

The beauty of the RealAxiom Trainer is the trainer is the distraction. Do you find a one hour spin on your trainer to be one hour of sheer boredom? Then ride Alpe D'Huez without boarding a plane. Simply select it from the menu on the RealAxiom and within the first mile you're hitting the first of 21 switchbacks on this ~eight mile mythic climb. Need tunes you say? Load all the tunes you want into a play list and you can ride up the mountain listening to whatever tune spins your crank. Is the average ~9.9 gradient too much for you winter training plan? Shift into the small ring/large cog and spin easy all the way to the top passing cars, bikes, pedestrians, road kill, and whatever was there when they filmed the ascent (bonus in that the RealAxiom tops out at ~6-7%). Tired of being a mountain goat? Do any number of other courses available from or for a modest fee. Need to know where you stand as a cyclist? Take the Training Test which gives you your average watts/kg ratio from the test and uses it to provide a "cyclist rating." Don't like any of the RealAxiom courses? Just go into the Axiom software and create your own course. Or do what I did, build a course of the race where you plan to kick tail to practice it all year long (don't ask me how that turned out). All of this eye candy surely is better than watching the cat yak up a fur ball around minute twenty-three or, if you are Betty-Betty (Itchy Bits), watching the dog take a dump right in front of you during your spin. Better yet, lock the door to your "training room" so you won't have to listen to your young daughter complaining about how her older brother just pulled her hair or your spouse walking in, crossing their arms with a disgruntled look on their face saying "how much longer is this going to take?" These are distractions, or lets call them close encounters, you don't need, but somehow always seem to happen during your spin.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My New Team 53 X 11 Coffee

Yes my friends, I have decided to bail on Team Nature's Path to fly the colors of Team 53 X 11 Coffee. Not only is 53 X 11 Coffee a sponsor of, they sponsor racers too. The following paragraph is straight from the 53X11 coffee blog.

53x11 Coffee
Providing the Best Coffee
Missoula : MT : United States
About Me
Evan and Owen are two guys from Missoula, MT who have been training and racing together for years. The idea for 53x11 coffee came about while training in Tucson, AZ before the 2006 season. They both saw the need for great tasting fairtrade/organic cycling related coffee. The ideas started flowing and it wasn’t long before the perfect blends were selected. Even though they were racing the NRC circuit full time they never lost their vision of providing great Fairtrade, Organic coffee to cyclist across the country. After the 2006 season Evan and Owen made their grand debute at Interbike 2006 in Las Vegas. The coffee was an instant hit in the cycling community. Their coffee was labeled best of show by all who tried it. Since Interbike they have been promoting their coffee all across the country all while riding their bikes and loving life. Both of these guys have never been afraid to work hard and do the footwork for something that they are passionate about. All the 53x11 Coffees are Fair Trade and Organic. This is also very important to both of them. Living a healthy, sustainable lifestyle is what they stand for and they want their business to reflect that.

I can't wait to try it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

GamJams Reviews: Trainers and Rollers - Travel Trac Real Axiom V4 Trainer

Much more than a trainer, the Real Axiom is a cycling simulator, bringing the feel and view of the road inside by pairing a state-of-the-art electromagnetic resistance trainer with your PC.


  • Your PC communicates with the trainer, varying the amount of resistance, reflecting real world conditions as you ride through different courses
  • New features include the ability to race against a human competitor on a LAN and multiple menu languages
  • Includes 14 preset courses, a four week training program and allows you to program your own custom courses
  • View personal ride stats, like speed, distance, ride-time, cadence, heart rate and power output and store them for your own training history
  • Not only does the resistance change based on the course and rider input, the Real Axiom features two DVD’s of actual European road courses-the Limoges climb from the 2004 Tour de France and the 2004 Verona World Championship course - these courses are coordinated to the Real Axiom resistance unit so the rider will experience the ultimate in indoor training realism
  • The addition of the SofTrac roller improves traction, lowers tire wear and allows a much quieter, smoother ride
  • GPS/Google maps for Real Axiom/Real Power now available at
  • System requirements: Pentium III or better, Windows 2000 or XP, 10GB/7200 RPM Hard drive, 256MB RAM, USB port. DVD drive; Microsoft Vista download available at

FirstDropped's opinion:

There are many things to like about the RealAxiom trainer. There are some drawbacks but overall it is a good product. One of the main reasons I was interested in this unit is it's comparability to a Computrainer. Where a Computrainer will cost you somewhere around $2.000 or more, the Real Axiom can be had at Performance Bike for only $799. (I bought mine in 2006 for ~$599). I have ridden a Computrainer numerous times and in most respects the Real Axiom is as good or better. It is my belief that Real Axiom, at any given slope (say 5%) is harder than a Computrainer at the same setting. However, the Real Axiom is limited to a maximum resistance of ~6-7%. Also, Real Axiom sells dvd courses that simulates riding famous TDF, Giro, Vuelta and other monuments of cycling. I have purchased the dvd's for Alpe d'Huez, Le Mont Ventoux, and Vassiviere. There is one dvd where you can race against a pro (I believe it is the Larciano dvd where you get to race Damiano Cunego in the "GP Industria e Artigianato di Larciano") and more courses are being released continually. Another reason I was interested was to help with training and motivation. This trainer comes with testing software that rates your performance and gives you a four week training program based on your test results. Another test provided with the unit is the Conconi test which is used in a lot of European Cycling teams. Let me warn you, the user forum for this particular test is full of folks whining about how difficult it is to complete this test. I have completed it once and can assure you that it is difficult. Personally, I like the RealAxiom. The trainer has a nice feel. The sofTrac roller is quiet and allows good traction for the tire. The unit tends to get warm especially when you put out some high wattage over an extended period. That is why you will see a fan in my photos pointing right at the resistance unit. The ~6-7% slope limitation isn't a big drawback since I don't think that you need any more than that for the races we have in the mid-Atlantic. This will be my second winter using the RealAxiom so I have included some photos to help with my review.

Here is a photo of my setup. (Note the Continental Ultrasport Trainer Tire).

This is a shot of the console that mounts on the handle bar. (Note: the first console that came with my unit had a poor design such that sweat would drip onto the RJ-11 connector and cause problems with the connection to the PC. This is the redesign with the connector on the underside).

This is a main menu shot. RealAxiom is how you get to the DVD courses. The Axiom button takes you to the Computrainer like profiles. History is self-explanatory and more is in the next shot.

More gets you to the Conconi and Training tests as well as where you can import courses and export data (to Excel etc.)

This is a shot of the Training Test screen.

This is a photo of the course I created for my 2 X 20 minute intervals. It is 30 miles at a slope of 0.5%.

This is a shot of the RealAxiom DVD courses I own. Note that Alpe D'Huez is selected and that is the profile you see.

This is a photo of the power file like BRILF posts. Please don't look at the numbers lest I get embarrassed.

In the picture below I have selected the Mont Ventoux DVD course and I am just ready to start.

Just a couple minutes into my Ventoux ride.

This next shot is near the start but you can see in the back ground the top of Ventoux (12 miles later, the two whitish spots in the distance or, as Armstrong would say, the surface of the moon).

Don't ever try riding and taking a picture even while on a trainer for this is what you may get.

Nearing the top.


The results.

Enjoy. FD

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's Official (Well Almost)

After renewing my license with USA Cycling (USAC) for 2009 (which you all should do) I thought it appropriate to review the upgrade language related to MTB categories given the recent announcement that USAC was reworking the categories for next year. Rather than using the Beginner, Sport, Expert, Semi-Pro, and Pro categories that we've all grown to know (and love?), the new categories for next year and beyond are much like the road categories, i.e., cat. 3, cat. 2, cat. 1 and Pro. You say, "FD, there seems to be a problem here. There were five different cat.'s before and now here are only four." To which I say, touche, you are paying attention. USAC has seen it fit to combine the Semi-Pro and Pro categories into a singular Pro category to improve competition and increase the numbers signing up to race. It is my experience that the Pro and Semi-Pro cat.'s were the least popular at the races I attended, so this may make sense in the mid-Atlantic area anyway. But, I digress. I believe I started this post talking about upgrades. The upgrade rules remain the same year to year. Any racer placing in the top five in five races must upgrade or face serious consequences. That is not an exact quote from the USAC website but I think that is what they are trying to say. I find the wording to be rather nebulous. Do they mean any five races? Do they mean top five within your class, category, age group, or any of the above? USAC further muddies the waters by listing the numbers of racers needed for a race to qualify by age (which maybe answers my second question?). So, if you placed in the top five of a race in which you needed ten racers but only nine raced in your category it doesn't count? Regardless, I looked over my results from 2008 and I believe I saw five races where there were the minimum number of racers (10 for those in the 40-49 age group) in which I finished in the top five. So, I have officially submitted a request to USAC to upgrade me from a cat. 3 to a cat. 2, most likely before the ink dries on my renewed 2009 license. When is the first race?

Friday, December 5, 2008

GamJams Tech: Winter Training Tires - Continental UltraSport

If you are like me and mostly ride your indoor trainer/rollers through the winter and have no desire to HTFU, then I have the winter training tire for you. Call it the slick banana, bald banana or anything else yellow (don't go there), but for riding on the trainer/rollers, this tire rocks! I bought the tire to use during the winter of 2006-2007 for Computrainer sessions at the Quest Sports Science Center in Annapolis, MD. ***Warning: Do not ride this tire outside on the road/dirt/grass/etc.***

During that winter I used an old, slick, road tire (Forte Kevlar) on my RealAxiom trainer to prevent me from swapping out wheels/tires between the trainer bike and computrainer/road bike. While the old tire worked fine, after a while I noticed fine black particles collecting all around the trainer (i.e. - floor, roller, resistance unit). This does not happen with the Continental tire (unless, of course, the yellow flooring hides the yellow dust). It is constructed from a special hard rubber compound that prevents it from breaking down and heating up, thus preventing it from falling apart. But beware, I noticed a difference in power produced when using this tire. With the old road tire my threshold power resulting from the RealAxiom Training Test was 460 Watts. When I began using the Continental Ultra Sport my threshold power from the same test was 410 watts. I believe this is due to the lower coefficient of friction of the special hard rubber compound of the Continental tire. While the "drop" in power bummed me out at first, I have decided that it doesn't matter for this year's baseline test as long as it gives me good workout parameters and I can show improvement over the course of the winter. info below:

With a modern roller and the UltraSport Hometrainer in the house, winter can set in when it wants to. Thanks to its special cold-running compound, the UltraSport Hometrainer won't experience the heat buildup of a road tire, nor does it suffer the tread separation that the road tire is prone to under the special loads occurring when cycling and braking on the revolving drums of the roller. The UltraSport Hometrainer has been designed explicitly for trainers and rollers and is not suitable for on road use. All Conti yellow (orange). Size 700x23. 120psi max. Weight 240g.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

From my family to you all,

Go easy on the turkey,

Or you'll need one more interval.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Beer, Wine & Training

On the heels of my review of the 2006 Cycles Gladiator Merlot I decided to review a restaurant and a beer. My wife and I were blessed a "parent's night out" event organized by our children's elementary school (thanks Bob) last Friday. So we took advantage by heading out to dinner at a local (Prince Frederick) place called Saphron. Saphron is a pseudo natural food restaurant which serves "comfort" food using locally grown/raised (sometimes organic) produce and meats. For our appetizer we order the hot crab dip, but what came to our table was a vat of crab dip with toast points. Seriously, this was huge. I thought we could never finish it but it was delicious and after we demolished the toast points we used the rolls provided with dinner. When the waiter saw that we had exhausted our supply of bread they brought more toast points. That spelled the end for the dip. For beverages, my wife ordered a local wine, the Solomons Island, MD winery Peregeax Merlot, whereas I ordered the Omeggang Witte beer ( based on the Unholy Rouler's CX Brewery Ommegang race report). We both ordered the Roast Pork Medallions in a plum reduction with mashed sweet potatoes. Everything was quite tasty. I was most satisfied with the meal, especially when my wife offered me the rest of her sweet potatoes because she was too full. Recommendation: Try it, you'll like it!

Onto the training, which is going well. I think I provided some details regarding the exercises I am doing within my lifting routine which I am doing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Saturdays I am riding the trainer (Realaxiom) for a 30 mile slightly uphill (0.5% slope) working in 2 x 20 minute intervals at FTP or Functional Threshold Power. My FTP was measured in my Realaxiom "Training Test" which I performed on the first Tuesday of my training plan. This training test, which is software driven, gives you a five minute warm-up and then, starting at 100 W, increases your wattage by 10 Watts every minute until you reach or exceed your threshold heart rate (instantaneous and average). Once you reach your threshold heart rate the program tracks your power output while maintaining your heart rate at the threshold rate. My results were as follows: Max. power - 435W, FTP - ~270 W. I am now in the fourth week of training and I can tell you that the first 2 x 20 workout was good. I felt even better during the second. The third workout was hard but I felt OK. The fourth was a struggle but I completed it. For the fifth, I decided to add an interval and lower the wattage slightly. It went OK but I think I really need to take a break this week. So I will do two easy recovery rides this week and see how I feel on Tuesday of next week. On Thursdays and Sundays I am doing cross training which for me is an hour on the elliptical trainer. Of course after the first four weeks the plan will change slightly, and I will document the changes then.

Product note: On a trip to Trader Joe's this weekend ostensibly to stock up on Three Buck Chuck for Thanksgiving Dinner (the inlaws are coming) I discovered some Yerba Mate tea bags. Hey Sue, you don't need a bong (gourd) to drink this Yerba Mate. Just hot water and a mug. TJ's also was selling bottles of Ommegang Abbey Ale. I picked one up to share with my father-in-law. Adieu!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cycles Gladiator

Fat Guy Racer has given me the incentive to post my review of a wine my spouse and I imbibed over the weekend. The wine is a California 2006 Merlot from Cycles Winery in Soledad. I picked it up for $8.99 at Nick's of Calvert in Prince Frederick. I usually don't like to pay that much (my favorite wine? - Three buck Chuck - actually Charles Shaw - from Trader Joe's) although my spouse imbibes most of the wine in the house. Here is a picture of the label.

If you can't make out the image, it is a winged bicycle being guided by a naked long-haired goddess. The image happens to be from a poster created by the French printer G. Massias during the "Golden Age of Cycling." You could read all about it if the image below was more clear.

OK, so I bet you want to know how it tasted. I felt it was full-bodied, with a hint of oak, not too strong though. In other words, I liked it! My wife, she liked it too. Of course, you can't trust her taste. After all, she likes Three Buck Chuck.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Rock Burn Cross?

I would say that is a definite Yes! Today at the Twisted Tire MTB race in Ashland, VA, I crashed on a downhill "rock garden." Lucky for me, the first body part to make an impact with the rocks was my helmeted head. The point of impact can be seen in the photo below:
After my helmet hit the rock(s), of course the rest of my body needed to go some where. So the right side of my face got scrunched up against the rack that busted my helmet. I was wearing some safety glasses and heard a crack but could not feel any damage. I didn't notice anything until, of course, after the race, when my friends Mike Thompson and Rick Duncan pointed out that the lens was missing:
So the side of my face is swollen from the facial impact (I'll spare you photos of body parts). I've got a rock burn on my back on the right side (small one). My right elbow is sore but has no visible damage. And lastly, both knees were skinned. Funny thing was, I was so "cross" after I fell that I actually rode better.

The race consisted of two laps at Poor Farm Park for we Beginner Men 40+ (beginner geezers). I had no idea how or what I would do since I hadn't raced or ridden much since mid-September. I ended up fourth in my category. This race was the make up race for the one that was cancelled by tropical storm Hannah in September. It was also the grand finale of the VORS with the awards ceremony afterwords. Since I had a headache and various sore body parts I was allowed to take my schwag bag for finishing first in the beginner category for the series and go home before the awards. Thus ends my 2008 racing season.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Finally got the pics I took to where I could get at them for this post. Yes, the photo above is Clone Commander Cody holding pink Wonder Woman hostage. Later on Cody was assisted by a Stormtrooper as well as Clone Captain Rex (not to mention Indians Jones, the Cat in the Hat, and an unspecified jedi knight) in an effort to maintain control over pink Wonder Woman and gather enough candy to keep the family dentist living in the Obama tax increase zone for years to come.

Speaking of Obama, wow! Just beware, I can hear Rush Limbaugh's hate machine cranking out some massive rpm's in preparation for the unleashing of the fury. But congrat's to the President-elect and hope that he can do a better job than the current POTUS.

Regarding the photos of my winter training equipment, be prepared for here they are with some details. The first photos will be of the equipment I will use for the Joe Friel prescribed strength training days (three per week). For the Build 1 phase Mr. Friel calls for strength training in the anatomical adaptation mode which means light-ish weights with high reps. The eight exercises I use for this phase are squats, lat pull-downs, leg extensions, chest press, seated row, hamstring curls, upright row, and abdominals. For the squats, leg extensions, and seated row I use this Smith Machine:

For the lat pull-downs, chest press, hamstring curls, upright row, and abdominals I use my Nordicflex Ultralift which is pictured here:

Mr. Friel's program also calls for two days of cross training per week. For this purpose (and since my wife also likes them) we purchased an elliptical machine. The elliptical is much gentler on my knees and provides more of a full body workout than running (although I will probably also do some running). The elliptical we purchased is seen here:

For my indoor riding days I will use my old Univega Sportour-S on my Elite Real Axiom trainer (pictured below):

The Real Axiom trainer is much like a Computrainer (much less expensive) in that it allows you to create and ride "courses" using their software. The trainer adjusts its resistance to simulate uphills and downhills. You can also purchase famous TDF, Giro, Vuelta stages as well as some world championship's and classics routes and ride them. The only limitation is that he resistance unit tops out at around 6% so when you are riding Alp de Huez and you see the slope increase to 10.5% the difficulty is only in your head. However, 6% in my mind is adequate for the hills you will encounter in the MABRA region. Just don't tell my vicious 'irradiated eyes' coach (pictured below):

You may note that there is no one suffering on any of the equipment in the photos. While this is true, my wife will avow that they are being used, much to her dismay. Also, all these photos were taken in our recently finished basement. Bye!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

2009 Training

Looking around the blogs lately has brought me to the conclusion that I'm not the only "wacko" around. I see at least a few others are starting their training for 2009 next week if they haven't started already. I started training for 2008 around the same time last year and it seemed to work (for the most part).

When one thinks of training one should have a goal or goals to provide motivation, as if being in good shape isn't good enough. Last year I set goals that I thought were very attainable and realistic. I will not list them here, mainly because somewhere around March 9, 2008, I changed course and threw my original goals in the hopper. To elaborate, I was focused primarily on road racing and doing well in some of my favorite road races and time trials. What happened on March 9Th was the Camp Hilbert cross country mountain bike race where, unbeknownst to me, I won my age group category. Having found a discipline/category I could be competitive in caused a change in focus to MTB racing and attempting to win the beginner category in the Virginia Off-Road Series. Of course, instead of shifting to an MTB training/racing program four months into my training program I simply stuck with what I started with and modified it by riding my mountain bike once or twice a week.

So, while I am ready to get started with my training I have some decisions to make regarding what I am going to do for goals for next year. Should I focus on MTB again and target the Sport category? Should I go back to road racing and time trialing? Should I do all of the above? Should I make my wife happy and do none of the above? One thing I know for sure, next Monday I will start my training using Joe Friel's Cyclist Training Bible as my guide. That means at least for the first four weeks I will be lifting weights three times a week, cross training twice a week and endurance rides twice a week. Maybe in tomorrow's post I will share some pic's of my winter training equipment so you can have something to compare with Fat Guy Racer's pics. Until then!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sunderland Elementary School Fall Festival

Actress Lynda Carter, an Alexandria, VA resident recently was seen at Sunderland Elemantary School, in Sunderland, MD at the school's Fall Festival. Normally a quote from Ms. Carter would be entered here but I believe she was just too cute to speak on this occasion. Enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ambassador to the blogdom of

Although I do not know Barack Obama and do not expect to receive a political appointment from him as a result of the impending regime change in DC, I can say I have received an equivalent honor. Mike May of has officially accepted my application to be a GamJams ambassador. Mike may have gotten sick and tired of my pestering him (think SpongeBob Squarepants asking Squidward for art lessons) for the position but I finally wore down his resistance. Regardless, I will now have to blog more frequently and provide more content given this lofty position. Mr. May, I will make my best effort to carry on the fine tradition set by last years GamJams Ambassadors. While I strive to blog like the Unholy Rouleur or Kyle at Pedal n' Around, well maybe not like Kyle, those of you who would like to measure the pending improvement may want to take a look at my previous posts/race reports/blather. I recommend you use my previous posts in lieu of Nyquil or as a possible cure for insomnia. Warning: please do not read while driving, extremely dangerous! Bye for now, mhh

Monday, September 22, 2008

EX2 Adventures Day of Endurance MTB Race

EX2 Adventures created a new race for this year, a 12 hour duathlon, which featured a 6 hour MTB race followed by 6 hours of trail running at Rocky Gap State Park in Flintstone, Maryland. I hoped to convince a friend or two to do the relay with me, but being unsuccessful convincing anyone, ended up signing up to do the MTB solo. I decided to bring the wife and kids and make a weekend out of it at the beautiful lodge at Rocky Gap. The area is appropriately named because there were many loose rocks, particularly on the fire road trails up behind the campground which formed a major portion of the MTB course.

The race was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on 9/20 with a Lemans-style start, meaning we were to run about a quarter-mile to the transition area to get to our bikes. BTW, the weather is much different out in the mountains than in Calvert County. The temperature was dropping into the forties overnight and the projected temp. at start time was 52 degrees. Since I hate to be cold, I tend to over dress and so I was as my friend Doug Pepelko pointed out as he surprised me while I waited for the start. So as we stood waiting to start I removed my vest and carried it during the run and tossed it into my "pit" area which was located not too far past the start line. (I commandeered a picnic table down along the lake front)

The first lap went great. It was sort of crowded but there were not too many technical challenges along the lakeside trail until the trail hit the campground and climbed up into the hillside beyond the campground. The trail here was rocky fire road that in some places had a preferred line but in a lot of places there was no line because of the loose rocks. There was an awful amount of climbing and once you reached the top the was a long, killer, rocky descent back down to the campground and then back to the lakeside trail. I finished the first lap in 55 minutes and change and was in fifteenth place. After walking through the transition area I got back on my bike, not stopping at my pit area. However, I was having trouble clipping-in to my left pedal. After I fussed with it for about a half-mile I decided to stop and see what was the problem. When I brought up my shoe there was no cleat, it was stuck in the pedal and one of the screws was missing. I guess the rocky descents caused the screws to vibrate loose? Anyway, I decided to suck it up and ride without the cleat because I did not know how much time I would lose if I turned around and went back for repairs.

Lap two was not so good. After learning about my missing cleat and deciding to forge ahead when I got to the climb near the campground my lower back began to spasm. The harder I pedalled the worse it got until I thought I would have to quit. I stopped briefly next to a tree and the spasm went away but as soon as I started pedalling the pain returned. Of course this was on one of the steeper climbs and I stopped again to relieve the pain. I then tried to relax the muscles in the back and bent over further and that did the trick. I had stopped on the very left side of the trail leaving the entire fire road open for everyone else. Just when the pain subsided and I started walking one of the Quantico Marine riders came up the trail and barked at me to get out of his way. I said, "Buddy, you have the whole fire road to get by me" to which he replied " Yeah, but the preferred line is over here and you shouldn't be standing in it." This happens to be one of my pet peeves since I have fallen quite a few times trying to ride by folks who are walking up the center of the trail. Then sure enough, as I was trying to ride up the next climb a guy was walking up the center of the trail and I tried to zigzag around him and ended up falling right on his heels. He apologized but I was not upset because I hadn't been able to ride up that climb anyway. So I continued sans left cleat and with a tight back to finish the second lap in 58 minutes and some change. I chose not to stop again and rode on to lap three. I believe the results said I was in twentieth place after two laps.

Laps three and four were relatively uneventful. I finished both in 58 minutes and some change and used the relax technique when my back tightened. I was in nineteenth place after the third lap and seventeenth place after lap four. After the fourth lap I decided to stop and take a break in my pit. I removed my knee warmers and my headband at this time while I ate a clif bar and downed a Monster Energy drink. I believe I took around a three minute break and then headed out for lap five.

Lap five was good. I don't know if it was the energy drink or the bar or the couple of minutes rest or if I was completely numb, but I felt good and the back pain went away. I ended up finishing the lap in a time of 1:03 and some change but I knew three minutes were spent in the pit so it took me around an hour. I also knew that I was tracking pretty close to the cut off time meaning that if I got back before 5 hours and 55 minutes had elapsed I would be allowed to start another lap. This was something I decided I did not want to do. Six laps was going to be my limit. Initially I had thought I might be able to do seven laps but I was happy with six. So I decided, to be on the safe side, that I would stop and take another rest after the fifth lap. When I came around to my pit, much to my chagrin, my picnic table was loaded with people. I was in no mood to be social at this point so I just kept riding and decided to just take it easy instead of resting. I found out that I was in fifteenth place after five laps.

Lap six was OK except for the one major leg cramp. I started out riding really easy. There seemed to be no one around so I was just rolling along in no hurry. About a quarter of the way through the lap I moved aside to let someone by me. That person was from a different category so I was OK with it. But another person was just behind him and as I let him by me I noticed he was in my race so after he passed me I sped up to keep him in my sights. I expected that I could catch and pass him on the climb so I wasn't too worried. Sure enough, I caught him on the steep little dirt climb before the campground and then passed him as we entered the campground. I looked up and there was another rider just ahead and, sure enough, he was also in my race so I passed him. Then heading up the road climb in the campground there was another racer from my race and I passed him (he was walking so he may have had cramps). I motored up the climb until the steep rocky part that I had walked up every time and then walked up as I had done before. After remounting I rode the "fast" part and then hit a steep little rocky climb for which I decided to get out of the saddle. Big mistake!! My right thigh cramped hard. I hopped off the bike and started walking with the thigh still cramping. By the time I got to the top of that little climb the cramp had passed and I remounted. I was able to ride the rest of the way to the top even getting out of the saddle once (without thinking). Checking my watch I knew I was going to be close to the cut off time so I actually slowed a bit. As I came around and saw the finishing chute, the guys yelled "forty-five seconds". It was thirty seconds as I dismounted and started walking. There was no one coming behind me so I slowly walked to the finish and logged in just after the cut off time. I ended up doing the sixth lap in one hour and finished twelfth.

After the race I went to the Positively Chiropractic tent to get a post-race massage and adjustment given my back spasms. I then went back to the lodge for a shower. When I got in a sharp pain hit me when the water hit my arse. Sure enough, I had a saddle-sized, saddle-shaped, saddle sore that was open. I wish I would have remembered to use my body glide before the race.

Overall, I was really happy with the way everything turned out. Finishing twelfth given my cleat issue and back spasms is awesome and a good note on which to end the season. I think I would have been top ten without the cleat issue. The rest of the family enjoyed the stay at Rocky Gap! I also want to acknowledge Joe Fritsch who completed nine laps in just a little more than six hours. Awesome ride, dude!! The most laps anyone else completed was seven.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cranky Monkey #3 - Quantico

Today was the Cranky Monkey series race at Quantico. I had been looking forward to this race because I had done a practice adventure race at Quantico a couple of years ago and did not recall too many technical features but did remember a lot of climbing. My recollections were somewhat accurate although the course was definitely more technical than I remembered. The day of my previous ride it rained the whole day and today it was quite dry (note sandy) so there was also a big difference from that perspective.

I don't know how many started the Sport 45+ race with me but the were quite a few Sport 35+ in front of us. The course went maybe a quarter mile on a dirt road before entering the woods but there was a lot of fire road trails so there was no issue concerning getting around folks. The laps were nine miles in length and well marked with mile markers along the way. There were quite a few log ramps, one of which was taller than the handlebars on my bike but negotiable all the same. I finished the first lap in around 57 minutes and started the second feeling really strong even though it was pretty warm. I was catching and passing quite a few of the Sport 35+ riders and I know I had picked off a couple of riders in my race. I had made a goal to finish in the top ten and I thought I had a pretty good chance to do it. However, luck had other ideas. Right after one of the fire roads turned onto a single track trail where there was a drop off to the bottom of a dry creek bed and a corresponding climb as I came up out of the creek bed I heard a horrible sound that sounded like a high pitched grinding noise. At first I thought it was coming up behind me but then I realized it was my bike so I looked down and saw a huge stick stuck in my rear derailleur. So I stopped and pulled it out hopped back on my bike and tried to downshift to climb the hill in front of me but the pedals wouldn't turn. The chain was in the smallest cog even though my shifter said it should be in the largest. I got off again and found that the stick had caused my rear derailleur cable to detach from the derailleur itself. So now I had to decide whether I should try to finish using just three gears, small cog in the back and three chain rings in the front but I realized I would have to walk up a lot of the hills which would not be fun. So I decided since I was close to the start/finish line I would ride back to get some help fixing the bike. The Bike Line guy was nice in that he tried to help get me back in the race but he ended up cutting some threads on my derailleur cable in order to get it to shift somewhat properly on the stand. I did not feel comfortable heading back out to ride with a bike that may or may not shift correctly for the rest of the lap so I chose to DNF. This is actually my first DNF ever at a MTB bike race. This was the last race of the Cranky Monkey series and although I did not do well, I fully intend to ride the series again next year.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cranky Monkey MTB Series Race #2 - Fountainhead

Guess what? There was a cranky monkey race today and I didn't forget my shoes! I did the men's Sport 45+race at Fountainhead which started at 10 a.m. I really liked the course. There were a lot of short steep climbs and descents, roots rocks etc. It was probably the most technical course I have ridden in the MABRA region. We did two laps after about a mile on the road and I thought I entered the singletrack in around eighth place but I must have been further back because I only was passed by one guy in my race and he finished just ahead of me after I caught him on Shock-a-billy hill. I finished thirteenth but I probably would have finished in twelfth place had I not endo'ed on a little bridge. Even so, I still caught the guy but just couldn't pass him at the end. This was the second race that I finished one second behind someone in my race. I noticed that there were significantly fewer competitors at this race than were at Wakefield. Maybe it was too technical for some? Like I said, I liked it even though I am technically challenged and should probably be racing beginner still. Such is life!

Farmall Hill Challenge - Aug 5, 2008

The wife (Renee), the kids (Noah and Hannah) and I began our annual pilgrimage north to pay homage to those responsible for us entering the world and to those with which we entered (i.e. siblings/friends). So off we drove to Fairport, New York on August 3, 2008. Some nice things about Fairport, other than being the current place of abode for my wife's parents is that it is located on the old Erie Canal and thus has a tow path on which to ride bikes. It is also a short ride from some very nice Finger Lake Region road riding (i.e. hills). There are also numerous mountain bike trails in the area. On August 4, Noah and I went for a nice Father/Son ride along the tow path from Fairport to Schoen Place in Pitsford, met Renee and Hannah for lunch at the Coal Tower restaurant and then rode back. All in all 18 miles which was Noah's longest ride to date (he's 10). The next day was the Farmall Hill MTB race. Basically, a MTB race on the farmland of two property owners in Fairport, NY. One property owner is also the owner of RVE Bike & Skate, a local bike shop. The promoter is the owner's son. The course consisted of a two mile run around the old farm. There was some open field riding, a lot of single track through trees with plenty of steep climbs and descents but nothing overly difficult, that is, until the rain came. I did a pre-ride before the rain and was able to ride most of the course except for a couple of steep hills. It rained during my pre-ride and after there was a part of the course that crossed a sloped muddy bank where you fell walking because the mud was like ice. There was also a very steep descent that was about 80 feet long followed by a 40 feet similarly steep climb that was on top of a knob where if you went straight you would plunge down another drop off but the course went ninety degrees right up a longish steepish slippery climb. This was one major league whoop de doo. The rain stopped before the end of my pre-ride so at 6:30 p.m. we were ready to roll. As I approached the registration table the young lady working it asked me "Sport or Expert?" That gave me a good laugh. I told her that I was a licensed beginner and that I intended to ride that class given the threatening weather. The beginner race was three laps and we started near the edge of a field and meandered around the property to the course. I was in sixth place entering the single track steep muddy climb and mud rink. All five ahead of me stopped and walked up the climb, so I joined the crusade and passed two guys on the climb and one who fell on the side slope. With one of the two guys in my race ahead of me in sight I knew I would be in good shape. I caught and passed the next guy on the very next climb. I reeled in the last guy ahead of me just after the big whoop de doo and followed him around to the first part of the second lap. On the first climb he was walking as I rode up so I got off my bike, walked past him and across the side slope and never saw him again. I then started passing guys from the Sport race who started one minute ahead of us. I passed about five of them and was ready to pass another at the end of the second lap. As we came to the line the promoter told us to head to the parking lot because the weather was getting much worse. The wind had really picked up so I didn't doubt him. Sure enough, just as I got to my car the rain came and it was horizontal and there were bright lightening followed by loud cracks of thunder. I just stuck my bike in the car and got in as quick as I could. I stuck around for about ten or fifteen minutes simply because it was raining to hard to see and I had fogged up the windows. The promoter posted on their web site that anyone who raced on the fifth would get a free entry to either the second or third race of the series. Oh well, what would have been an extremely satisfying victory turned into absolutely nothing since I 'm not driving seven hours to do a six mile race. The rest of the week was nice. I took the family to a park in Victor, NY that had an amazing number of MTB trails (Dryer Road Park) on the sixth and then we went to visit my family on the seventh. Noah and I did another father/son ride on the Alleghany River trail which took us about an hour. On the eighth I did a ride from our Hotel up to the top of Rock City Hill. Rock City Hill overlooks the whole area and took me about twenty minutes to climb on my MTB bike. At the top there was a pretty good rain squall. I got soaked and the temp was about 60 in Olean so it as probably about 56 at the top of the hill. I turned around and headed back to town reaching a top speed of 40.9 on my mountain bike. Again , my ride lasted about an hour.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cranky Monkey MTB Series Race #1 - Wakefield

Butthead Race - At least that is what I will have to call this race and I was the butthead. I signed up for the Sport 45+ category which started at 11:00 a.m. So I got up at a normal time and headed out from my house at 8:00. That put me at Wakefield just before 9:00 a.m. I registered and was taking my time getting ready. It was hot and humid so I didn't think I needed too much of a warm-up so at 10:30 all I had to do was put on my shoes and I was ready to roll. But being the butthead, I left my shoes in the garage. When I didn't see them in the car I knew exactly where they were. So, do I ride this race wearing my sandals? or do I try to find someone with an extra pair. I went t o the promoters and they hooked me up with a guy who said he would let me use his old shoes. They were the right size and had the correct cleats. They were in worse shape than my shoes by a long shot, but they had to be better than my sandals. Unfortunately, I had a very difficult time getting them to clip in. By the time I got them clipped in I had just enough time to get to the start where I hoped I could lean against a tree or a pole or something. No such luck, so I had to unclip my right foot. While we were baking waiting for the race to start I began to worry about how long it would take me to clip in the right foot especially since we had to climb a gravel road right away. Well, I fussed with the shoe and clip until well after we got into the singletrack which was at least more than a half a mile. I decided that I would have to try to ride so as not to unclip at all and I made the rest of the first lap until the very end where there was a rooty steep little bumpy spot where a guy in front of me bailed and I had to stop. It then took me about two miles to get clipped in again. I went about a mile and then crashed. Luckily it didn't take me too long to get the shoes into the pedals after that but I had trouble in the same spot as the first lap and then fussed with the right shoe for another half mile. The third lap was much like the first. I did well until that one spot and then lost it again. At that point I had maybe one hundred yards to go so I just went for it without trying to clip in. I have no idea where I finished in my category. I do know that the clock at the finish was at 1:46 and some change when I crossed so that my time was 1:43 and some change. I think if I had ridden the course before an had my shoes I could have easily been under 1:40. Maybe next time! The good news was that right after I finished and returned my borrowed shoes I got to the car and quickly packed up and left since a big thunderstorm was rolling in. Also, I did 18 miles in the heat and never felt tired or over done so I think things are headed in the right direction.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Battle at Burke Farm

Today I raced the Battle at Burke Farm MTB race. It is the seventh race of the 2008 Virginia Off Road Series. I raced the Beginner men 35+ category. There were eight racers in my category and I believe seven in the beginner men 34 and under category. The race was held in Culpeper, VA on the Burke Farm, hence the name. Konrad Heller, the race promoter who runs Fred Events and also promoted the Rappahannock Ridge Rumble (RRR), told me that the Burke Farm was not as difficult as RRR and less hilly. So, my goal for today's race was to ride fast and earn enough points to lock up the 2008 VORS beginner men's series. BTW I only needed 38 points to lock it up unless of course they have some silly rule that the last race counts double or something.

I decided to do what I did at RRR and get to the race early to pre-ride the course since I had never ridden there. I got to the venue at 7:50 and had to wait to register. A guy, Len Parker, who I parked next to was getting ready to do a pre-ride and asked if he could tag along with me since this was his very first MTB race. I said sure and we headed out for an easy pre-ride a little after 8:00 a.m. After maybe a half mile of open field trails we headed into the woods. There were rocks and roots and dips and creeks right from the start. There was one good rock garden on a descent that was somewhat tricky but not too bad. After about three and a half miles of singletrack trail we got back to the field trails for almost two miles to the finish. Len, who didn't have clip-in pedals struggled on all the climbs and then said that he had pulled a muscle in his back, so he told me to go on without him. I ended up finishing my pre-ride in about fifty minutes giving me an hour or so to chill waiting for the ten o'clock start. Len rolled in a few minutes behind me and decided to not race because his back was hurting.

The race started almost exactly at 10. That's when the under 34's went and we started a minute later. The start was on one of the field trails and they were fairly narrow for a race start. When it was our turn I went straight to the front in the middle and noticed that no one was moving up next to me. When Konrad said go, I took off and looked back quickly after abut .1 miles and saw no one close to me. I decided that I would not push too hard because an eighth place finish would suffice for the points so I didn't want to crash out and get nothing. It wasn't long before I started picking off the under 34's. I caught the last one after about fifteen minutes. After I got by him I just tried to ride hard and steady. Sure enough, I was the first to cross the finish line in about 37 minutes. The second place guy who was also 35+ was about three minutes behind me. So being first overall got 100 points in the VORS series and with one race to go my lead is 167 points. Mission accomplished! So instead of riding the Twisted Tire Fall Cup I may do the Tour de Canal, a weekend ride along the C&O canal trail from Cumberland to DC which is an Alzheimer's fund raiser.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yes, today July 6, 2008 was my 46th birthday. Unfortunately, a couple of the other competitors in the men's beginner vet 35+ at Camp Hilbert race #3 didn't get the memo and didn't let me win. I have to hand it to Dan Abernathy and Rick Duncan. They finished first and second in 1:10:27 and 1:10:28 respectively. I finished in third at 1:10:35, a mere eight seconds behind Dan.

The race turned out to be a sprint for 12 miles (2 six mile laps). We started on the entrance road to Camp Hilbert so that we wouldn't have to negotiate a 180 degree turn to enter the single track like we did in the first race. This was significant for a couple of reasons. First, the entrance road is flat and it is downhill to the singletrack entrance whereas from the other direction we climbed a short hill before descending to the U-turn. The other reason was that this morning I practiced the sprint start from the wrong location three times because I was determined to stay with the leaders instead of letting them go and then trying to catch them later. Anyway, the race start was an easier sprint and bomb downhill and I was able to enter the single track in fifth place. Not ideal, but not bad. I quickly picked off two of the guys in front of me and was hoping to catch Dan and Rick. I also had to pass quite a few of the other riders that started in front of us. One little guy, who had to be about eight or nine, bless him, was riding along with his Dad right behind him. As I came up on them I asked if I could pass and the Dad started to try to get his son to move to one side of the trail but the kid wouldn't do it. He stayed right in the middle of the trail. So I patiently asked to be let by again and again the boy ignored his father. At that point I said, "come on buddy, you gotta let me by." At this point his Dad moved off to the left and stopped so I shot to the right and tried to squeeze by in a really bad section of roots and lost it a little. Cut the dickens out of my leg right at my Achilles tendon area on my pedal but hopped quickly back on and rode away. I ended up crashing two more times on the first lap which cost me at least twenty seconds but finished the lap in around 35:30 or so.

I was determined to catch those guys so I just kept going as hard as I could on the second lap. There were fewer folks to pass so it made for a quicker lap. I kept seeing guys on the loop backs who I thought was Dan but I couldn't tell for sure. Then near the end I caught up to a guy who I thought could have been one of them but I wasn't sure. Whenever I would get close he would accelerate so I couldn't pass him. Then as we got to the dam I ran into a flotilla of riders and knew I wouldn't be able to get past all of them. I got past two or three and took a look on the loop back and thought I saw Dan just ahead in a really root section. I sprinted as hard as I could but could not get past the other guy. Than as I crossed the line I saw Dan bent over his bike totally spent. Rick came over and shook my hand and said nice race. I wish the race was three laps or one mile longer because I would have caught those guys and then we may have had some fun getting to the finish line. Such is racing!

I finished third in my category and was seventh overall beginner. Looking forward to the Battle at Burke Farm next week!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Change of Plans

All year I had been planning on travelling back home to Western New York to participate in the Raccoon Rally. A cycling event held in Allegany State Park this weekend, June 28-29, 2008. I did both the road race and the MTB race in last year's event and even though I sucked in the road race, I finished fourth in the MTB race (beginner). So I was determined to head back up there and at least podium this year. Enter VORS. The Virginia Off-Road Series is a year-long points competition at the various levels of the sport. I am participating in the beginner series and after the Xterra Urban Assault on June 14 I moved into first place in the competition. So instead of travelling to Western New York I decided to stay home and defend my lead in the VORS by participating in the Rappahannock Ridge Rumble today in Fredericksburg, VA.

For we beginners, it was advertised as one 9-mile lap starting at either 9:00 or 10:00 depending on which web site you believed. I decided just to get there early and maybe do a one lap pre-ride if the later start time proved true. I got to the gate on Wicklow Drive at around 7:25 a.m. and the gate was locked. No problem, I just hung out until someone showed up. At 7:49 a truck towing a trailer full of port-a-johns showed up so I knew the gate would be open soon. I registered, got my things together and took off on a pre-ride at around 8:30. I really took it easy on the pre-ride just scoping out the course and where the technical challenges were located. At one point, early on, there was a ramp to the right of a tree and a rooty curve downhill as the optional route or maybe it was the other way around. Well, I had ridden over what seemed to be a similar ramp at Rosaryville so a the last second I chose ramp. Bad choice, I wasn't ready to pull up on the wheel or jump when I hit the end of the ramp so my front wheel dropped and I end-o'ed and landed on my back. Another feature of the course is a long tunnel under I-95 along the ridge. It has about one-half inch of water running through it and has a layer of pebbles. Did I mention it was long? Other than missing a turn for the beginner course and the end-o the pre-ride went well. I got back at 9:25, toweled off, changed gloves (Did I mention it was hot?) and tried to chill out a little before the race.

The race got started right at 10:00. Since there were just about twelve total beginners they sent us all off at once. There was about a half-mile long gravel road to start and I ended up fifth entering the single track. My cadence was about 130 yet I couldn't close the gap at all and I had shifted all the way into my smallest cog. Finally I noticed my chain had slipped into the small crank. I shifted it back to the middle ring and then I was fine. I passed one of the four in front of me on the climb up to the ridge and then passed Ludek Kolesa, a guy who has been at a few of my races this year at the top of the ridge. I knew I was in third and was hoping to catch one or maybe both of the others, Going through the tunnel was nice because at race speed the water flew up onto your back and cooled you off. After the tunnel there was a dangerous side-hill part of the trail that I was a liitle sketchy with in the pre-ride but I was more worried with finding the last turn for the beginners. It was the one I missed on the pre-ride. Anyway, I wasn't paying enough attention to the trail and my left wheel went too low and dropped off the course and I flew headfirst into a log that was placed there to keep people from doing what I did (it was too small). After my head hit my shoulder smashed it pretty good, but I didn't feel the shoulder too much because my head hurt. After the head cleared I saw the torn skin on the shoulder but by then I was almost finished. Sure enough, within a minute I was back at the road and crossing the finish line. I ended up first in the beginner men 35+ and third overall beginner. I got to choose first from the schwag table (some Hammer Gel and a flask) and there was pork barbeque and a couple kegs of Blue and Grey brew on tap. What's not to like?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Xterra MTB Urban Assault

This weekend I decided to head back to where it all started for me in MTB. Three or four years ago I did an adventure race in Richmond with a couple of guys my friend works/worked with and had to borrow one of my co-workers bikes for the MTB part. Although I think the courses will be much different since I am doing the beginner men 40+ race which is only about 8 miles. The family came with me for this trip. We went down to Richmond last night and spent the night in the Fairfield Inn by Marriott. It had an indoor pool, need I say more? The race organizers also advertised a "kid zone" so I thought the kid's might enjoy themselves. My kids really enjoyed the kid's zone! There was an obstacle course, a tall cargo net, a small cargo net, and a tree climb using repelling gear all set up in the shade so it was relatively cool. Richmond's news channel 8 actually interviewed both of my children after they did the tree climb but I missed it because I was racing. We didn't hang around to watch the local news either.

The race was scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m. under the bridge on Belle Island. The kid zone and most other activities were taking place at Brown's Island) They started us in waves and the sport women went first so we 40+ men were in the fourth wave, i.e. three minutes after the first wave. To be honest I didn't do much of a pre-ride because I was already warmed up, i.e. it was hot/humid. So at the start there were seven of us. At first I dropped back and when I saw that I was going to be last heading in to the single track I burst past at least one guy. Then, on a little climb on a bridge crossing the James from Belle Island to the south side I passed three more guys in my race. Heading down the fire road to the 42nd street stairs I passed at least two more folks and caught up to a third who let me past on the stairs.

After the stairs we took the Buttermilk Trail to the Nichols Bridge. The Buttermilk Trail had a good amount of rocks as well as some twisty short climbs. Not my cup of tea but no crashes save for a couple of clip outs. On the Nichols Bridge I noticed something was up with my front wheel. It was really out of true because my front brakes were rocking side to side like the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes kick line with every rotation of the wheel . It didn't seem to be slowing me down so I just rode on. After crossing the bridge to the North Bank trail and fire road I was much happier because there were fewer rocks although on one climb, up to Kansas Ave, I unclipped and had to run up. It didn't cost me much because the guy I was chasing was still in sight at the top. In fact, I passed him before we rode one block on Kansas Ave. I also caught and passed another guy before we got back to the trails on Texas Ave. From there it was mostly tame trails and fire roads. I was looking forward to it opening up to put some distance between me and the guys I had just passed. As I approached the line I looked back and didn't see anyone in sight. So I looked up at the clock and saw 44:06 as I approached. After I crossed the line I looked at my watch and it read 40:12 so I thought that maybe there was a two minute gap somewhere in the waves. No biggie! Then when the results were posted I saw the winning time 40:16 which I thought was about right and looked over and saw Chris Ekland. They had me finishing at 41:19. I went ahead and left without saying anything but it sure seemed weird. I passed so many folks and we only had seven in my wave so I guess I must have never seen the guy who won.

I am happy to report though that I was the fifth overall beginner so I should get 64 points for the Virginia Off-Road Series which will put me in 1st place, at least for a week or two!!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Escape (almost unhurt) from Granogue

This weekend started with a bang for me. I got home after working half a day on Friday to find the bronze medal I won at Greenbrier (Maryland State Championship) in the mail. So a big thank you to Jim Carlson and crew at Potomac Velo. This was my first award in quite a few years. Maybe since the Army Ten Miler in 1999? Anyway, I was quite happy.

Today's race was the Escape from Granogue MTB promoted by the Racing Group in honor of Andrew Mein led by Fatticus. This race was on the estate at Granogue in Montchanin. DE. About a two hour and fifteen minute ride from my house in Calvert county. I car pooled with Mike Thompson from southern Calvert. We left my house at around 5:15 a.m. and arrive at the race right around 7:30-ish, hence my 2:15 estimate. Driving into the estate and seeing portions of the course I thought it could be my day if there weren't too much technical stuff. But you know the old line, "looks can be deceiving."

Riding around for a warm-up after a super smooth registration and first visit to MR. PP seemed to confirm my belief that the course would not be too technical. At one point I saw the finish line and the hill leading up to it. A paved road, no less, but steep and somewhat lengthy but something I would look forward to on my laps. I forgot to mention that I was making my first foray into the Sport category. So far this year I have done only beginner races but the Beginner races at Granogue started at 1:00 p.m. whereas the Sport races started at 9:00 a.m. so the desire to get up early and get home at a fairly reasonable hour prevailed and both Mike and I raced Sport.

The start of the race was on the paved estate road and it was innocuous enough except for the number of participants and the top layer of slippery mud that was prevalent everywhere except on the paved parts. There were just too many folks on the course. The starts for the groups were staggered only by one minute so there were a large amount of people out on the course. It led to more walking than I can remember at any race in which I've participated. Oh, and my hopes were dashed rather quickly once we got about three miles into the course. I had one rather hilarious pseudo crash that I have to write about. I was going down a single track trail that was rather narrow and had a rocky drop-off. Just past the drop-off a off-camber root was sticking out into the trail. As I dropped down, my front tire got wedged into the aforementioned root. I perceived the danger and quickly bailed to the right so that I wouldn't endo. So my right foot clipped out and I tried to stand/push to unwedge my front wheel. But, remember that it was a drop-off and my momentum was down the hill. Well, my front wheel stayed wedged and my body continued down the hill while my left foot remained clipped in. I hopped over the bars and the bike endo'ed underneath me. I was feeling some serious pressure on my left calf and still my left foot stayed clipped in. At this point I lunged at a tree to stop from falling the rest of the way down the hill at which point my bike pirouetted off the root and ended up hanging by the rear wheel off a branch above my head in the tree with my left foot still clipped in. I can only imagine how funny that looked. I reached up and pulled my bike out of the tree, did a quick inspection and continued on.

There were quite a few hills at Granogue, some steep, some rocky, and some rocky and steep. I managed to walk up the steep and rocky ones both laps. There were also a couple of nasty spots that I didn't see anyone ride. One in particular was a drop-off onto a boulder off of which one had to drop again down into a creek bed and then climb back out over more rocks and boulders. I had one other comical crash. This one occurred at a wooden bridge that had some large rocks just before it. I had negotiated it fine on the first lap but on the second lap my front wheel slipped and I fell off to the right. My right arm dropped into the mud up to my elbow and my right foot went in half way up my calf. Sorry Fatticus, I didn't want to go swimming.

The second lap went much better than the first. Racers were more spread out so there was more room to enjoy and ride the course. There was one guy who was in my race that walked up a lot of the hills that seemed to push his bike in front of my, almost purposely, as I rode up to pass him. He got ahead of me probably during one of the three times I dropped my chain but I had a feeling I would see him again. Sure enough, as I approached the climb up to the finish line I was happy to see him walking up the last hill as I started riding up it. I was passing a lot of folks both walking and riding but he was the one I most wanted to pass. As I rode up the steepest part I saw that he was getting to where the hill levelled out some and I was afraid he would be able to get back on his bike and hold me off so I put my head down and went harder. I looked up to see him stopped on the hill right in front of me. He hadn't gotten going yet. So I swerved around him and as I passed him he let out a huge moan/grunt. I just kept going and after a few seconds I looked back to see if he was gaining on me at all. Well, he was out of the saddle sprinting as hard as he could but he wasn't gaining too fast. So I kept spinning steadily, looked back one more time and then gassed it. That was so satisfying!!

OK! Bottom line is, in my first Sport race I ended up 21 out of 26? overall in about 1:58. I am relatively unhurt except for a bruise on my left calf and another on my right knee. My bike was muddy and I lost my polar cadence sensor I think on the tree hanging endo but I have a spare so I'm not upset. All in all a good day and a good experience. But I think I will keep on racing Beginner, those Sport guys are just too fast for me!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Camp Hilbert #2 - updated

I feel like I am living Ground Hog Day. Every time I race it rains at least the day/evening/morning/during and Camp Hilbert was no exception. We actually lucked out with the weather since it didn't rain during the race, much, and the course was not excessively muddy. The promoter said the trails were perfect yesterday but, of course, it rained over night.

I was looking forward to this race because the last time I rode here I won my category without knowing it until I saw it in the results posted on the web. This time I was determined, if I had a good race, to know where I finished before I left. The race promoters were understanding enough to allow me to pick a prize today for my win in March. They were also smart enough to reroute the course in some areas that had standing water during the last race and they removed a section of trail making the course about a quarter mile shorter. Fact is, during the first race I crashed and head butted a tree in that section so that was good news. One more Kudo for the promoter, they had the results ready as soon as the last racer crossed the finish line for the morning session. Quite impressive!!

Today's race was pretty good from a number of vantage points. There were about twenty-five beginner men/beginner vet men 35+ lined up at the start. We were the fifth group to be sent off so, since there were two minute intervals between groups, we knew our time would be clock time minus ten. While waiting for the start, one guy came up to me and asked me where the beginner vet 35+ men were staging. I pointed at my feet. He said "good, I'll just hang with you." Not two minutes later, a guy came up to me and said, "I'm deaf and can't hear what he (starter, promoter) is saying, can you tell me where the beginner vet men 35+ are staging. Again, I pointed at my feet. I think he said "Good, I'll just stay with you." Popular guy I guess. Anyway, soon it was our turn and at the start I had a little difficulty clipping my right foot in so I didn't get to contend for the hole shot which was fine by me because my strategy is to attack the climbs and maintain a steady tempo both laps picking people off as I go. Hey, it worked well the first race. So I must have been tenth entering the single track and found the pace to be fairly fast but not too painful.

One guy who was following me asked to pass after about five minutes so I let him go by. There was one spot where there was a short steep rise of maybe three feet that had a big root at the top across 4/5th's of it. It was open on the left so everyone went there. First lap, a guy whose wheel I was on went up it, lost it, came to a complete stop with his foot down right in my way. I shot even farther left and bailed out and had to stop. Second lap, a similar thing happened except this time it was a sport woman and she had an enduro guy in front of her with me on her wheel. He lost it in front of her, put his foot down. She stopped right in my way but farther left than the guy before so I had two choices, completely bail/brake and walk up or try to go over the root. I decided let's go for it! I went for it, got my front wheel over threw my weight, doodads, and everything else I had forward but could not get my back wheel to join us. At this point I yelled "Shit!!!!" and bailed hard, decleated, and jumped backwards forgetting that there is a three foot drop off in that direction. I landed in the mud at the bottom spun around, ran up, grabbed my bike and started running, hopped on, clipped in and kept going. The sport woman apologized but it wasn't her fault. I just yelled because I knew I faced a good amount of risk of injury and wasn't blaming anyone. I touched my foot down one other time and that was because I almost missed one of the re-routes.

Somewhere close to the end of my first lap I came up on a guy who was running, pushing his bike. I recognized him as the first guy who came up to me at the start and asked me where we were staging. I saw him again at the finish waiting for the awards ceremony. It turns out he had hit a branch and broken his derailleur hanger so he finished the first lap on foot and borrowed a bike for the second lap. His name is Morgan Quinn and he raced at Twisted Tire a few weeks ago in the slop and beat me by a couple minutes. He also raced at the National Duathlon festival in the off-road category and did real well so chances are he would have finished ahead of me in this race if he didn't have the mechanical. I think the second guy who asked me about staging finished fourth, just ~1:20 behind me. Not bad for a deaf guy. Also, he beat me by about the same amount two weeks ago at Greenbrier.

So, the final score for me was two laps completed, three complete stops; two foot touch downs and one decleater that worked out well. I did bang my knee fairly well on the decleater and it hurts to touch so I just won't touch it. Its just a contusion after all. I finished in 1:15:39 which was eleven minutes better than my time in race#1. My lap splits were 37:49 for lap #1 and 37:50 for lap #2 so I'll have to work harder to make sure I don't go slower on the second lap next time. Granted, this course was one-half a mile shorter but still quite an improvement. I finished second in my category and third overall in all the beginners. I got to choose some more schwag and actually was there for the podium presentation. Cool!! I probably looked like a geek holding my water bottle but I was thirsty. The guy that got first this time was second to me in race #1. So it will be an all out dog fight in race #3 for the jersey for the series winner in our category. Good fun!! Great race!!!