Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Psychosis Grows OMG NFW

OMG. NFW.
I saw a post last week claiming this product yielded a great local CX finish. I thought there was only one guy who would do anything to win win win here in New England. See how naive I've been!
The mere act of posting this may lead to more folks thinking this sort of aid is now warranted if you want to be at the front. IT'S NOT!!! It's an artificial aid and anyone using it should be guided back into the light. DON"T USE this crap. It's unacceptable.
Race head to head and see how you do. Train to become fast. Using BS products that tempt but clearly cross an ethical line is cheating. CHEATING. It's not your accomplishment, it's an embarrassment to use that stuff. It's shameful. Legal does not equate to ethical.
Feel free to slap your close friends who are entertaining using BS products.
Got it?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Ego is Gonna Complain

I began racing in 1998, in white cotton socks and blue jean cutoffs. Sexy, huh? The race was the Mud in Your Eye at Fort Rock. My finish wasn't exactly inspirational, but I thought “Hey. I can do this!” The second race was at Mt Snow in 1999- on the expert downhill course on a fully rigid XC rig. The result:

A. No one was injured

B. People pointed at me

Then came my first jersey, a front shock, and by October’s Second Start Enduro, a pair of Carnacs and clipless pedals. When promoted to Sport, it was under duress. At the time, my “training” rides were 30-45 minutes long. I even wrote a letter to EFTA begging to stay in Novice class. It didn’t work. The response I got back was “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”

Fast forward and I have earned a handful of Expert NECS season titles, served on EFTA’s board, stepped onto the podium at the Nationals, and been fortunate enough to ride in some spectacular places. I have always enjoyed head to head competition with like-minded racers. MTB racing has been a pleasure and competitively successful indulgence.

Simple Stuff

Training has always been about what can be done in balance with other aspects of life- a job, a wife, a family, a home, and a garden. In the earliest years that meant 2-4 hours/week, 4-6 hours as a Sport, and since; 4-6 in the winter, and 7-10 during Spring and Summer with less in the fine cool months of Autumn. Throw in some tempo blocks, big gear climbs, trailclimb intervals and races… shake well and BOOM, race on.

I eat well, stay hydrated, and try to get enough rest. This is largely enough regarding nutrition and recharging my batteries. Of course I try to load some carbs before long races and get plenty of protein after hard rides. I keep it natural and avoid long names on ingredient lists. I put a couple ounces of rice syrup in my water bottles. It’s been available in health food stores since the seventies. Gels give me gas. GNC and branded uber-products give me the creeps.

Bikes? They have evolved rapidly and I’ve always been slow to spend. A rigid Jamis gave way to Homegrown hardtails until I finally got an Trek Top Fuel in 2008 as part of collective physical and mental healing after a MTB induced hospitalization. The HTs are faster, but the FS is easier on the body although it needs constant attention and spontaneously combusts.

I generally stick with what works, resulting in a tendency to wait and see rather than being a leader when it comes to training, nutrition, and bike innovations. It is an economical approach and keeps the focus on the experience rather than on enticements by manufacturers.

Puzzlement

A few years ago, I watched as some local pros and a few experts sprouted wings when they saddled up on carbon 29ers. Remember when Superflys appeared? The pros with these trail-leveling craft almost always beat the ones with square wheels. Like a magic pill, 29erized experts catapulted ahead. I have struggled to find the fitness to keep up, occasionally overcoming but most often I am left scratching my head. At $4K-$8K each, there are a lot of them at races now.

I began seeing posts on amateur blogs exclaiming about winter training camps in warm sunny places designed to get a jump on the local competition here in New England. Training camps? We’re local amateurs, right? OK, so it’s an excuse to ride too and we all understand that. Cool or freaky? Definitely geeky.

Commercials during the Tour de France, neatly inserted between segments during the morning live broadcasts every hour or so, urge me to “Ask your doctor for a Little T”. “Combat fatigue.” “Restore vigor.” “Increase libido.” Each slogan-y 30 second spot is used to entice competitive cyclist viewers, especially aging cyclists. Last week I heard an ad for testosterone on the radio during my morning commute. Heck you can go to The Mall and on-line and load up on all sorts of eccentric and prohibited temptations. I wonder how many times I am seeing the results of these products locally. Muscle mass and spectacular results speak louder than words. Most of us have just become older.

“Hey, look at that!” - cars trunks brimming with before, during, and after enhancements. OK, I took some Endurolytes™. I’ve since gone to drinking a can of chicken broth at the mid-point of a 100K race. Four years ago, we never saw the omnipresent white bottles nor heard the telling sound of pills. In the old days sonny, people got cramps while racing and if you rode evenly enough, you would not get cramps. That’s managing racing – not managing the correct supplement blend.

Recently I heard an amateur racer, here in NE, get ready…. uses an altitude tent. OMG- a tent!!! Are you kidding me? Go ride in Tibet for a month. That’ll work. Just do it when there is a race immediately afterward so the effect shows. Sheesh! You have definitely crossed a line and need a greater purpose to serve.

Anyone else seen tossed 5 Hour Energy™ bottles on course this year? Every time I see them, my thought is “Is that what people are taking?” …a conglomeration of chemicals in more small white bottles? I thought a wake up coffee and a mid race iced tea in a 100K race was radical.

Resolved

I ride and train locally. I don’t consume jars of supplements. I don’t wear hormone dispensing patches nor do I take precursors. I don’t see myself sleeping in an envelope. I don’t see myself “investing” in training camps. I don’t see myself borrowing against my home to buy the latest race machine. I don’t see myself gulping down concoctions to keep the pace.

I race a couple of bikes that don’t roll like 29er ceramic bearing hardtails with sloshing smooth treaded tires. I recently raced and found myself hanging on for dear life in the grupetto until I had to back off… while drafting …on a road section. That was a first.

In 2012, I’ll be doing more riding alongside friends, ripping it up and throwing down a few beers afterward. I see myself paying off my mortgage and riding something I got on a deal. I see myself a little less obsessed with racing and I expect my ego to complain. That is something I can live with.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ultimate XC Race Report

Race Map: Here.
Race Pictures: Here.
Race results: Here.
Now that we have that out of the way, here's my race report:
I did this event last year along with several MTBMINDers: Katherine, Eric, Steve, Chris, and Ernie. Steve's family was there as was Marissa and Ernie's honey Lisa. I think we had more teammates than any other team at the race. Not so much this year. I arrived after the 5.5 hr drive from Concord and found Chris and Marissa parking lot camping and Marissa having just finished the half marathon Saturday. "There was a lot of sun" was probably the best summary of her race depiction- that and she said she might have gone for the whole enchilada, if she had it to reconsider. Chris eminated confidence, ready, poised and pointing out his new 2x FSA crankset. I went to pick up a racer packet, sweet high tech fabric T and presented my 40% accurate French to the amused women running the registration.
Down by the finish area alongside Lac Tremblant, awards and finishers of the 58K trail run mingled- looking wobbly and tentative in the sun. Tears flowed down the faces of some upon finishing - as I saw on a few more faces after the MTB race the following day.
I reread a quote recently which goes something like "I used to ride my bike to go outside and explore the world. Now I ride to explore the inside." A race like this invites both. I have been a bit nervous about racing it this year, knowing what sort of mental and physical stamina is required. Doing a handful of longer rides has been reassuring, but it is an intimidating day on a bike, given the placement of the climbs in the last 15 miles, the sun, and the interminable climbs in the last 15 miles. And then there was the climbing in the last 15 miles. Am I clear? BTW, there are some killer climbs at the end of this race.
At 2:15 am I woke and twilight-slept for the next 2 hours before rising to be part of the caravan drive to the starting locale- a chapel in St. Bernard about a half hour away. Picturesque? Check. Chilly? Check. Different starting place from last year? Check.
It seems everyone in Canada knows Dan Desrochiers. EXHIBIT A: "I'm doing this race put on by a guy named Dan." Quebecquois respondant: "Ah yes Daaan." Self: "You know Dan?" Quebecquois:"Oh yeeaasss, I know Daaaan." Everyone knows Dan- even the Quebec ambulance driver at a gas station 40 miles away who decided to strike up a mid-pumping conversation on my way home. Daaan is apparently everywhere.
So Daaan gives the race instructions en Anglais et Francais and makes the claim "This is the most difficult race of this distance in the world. The second half is very difficult so save something for the second 50K." We are told to go after a round of applause erupts in honor and respect earned by the few racers who have already done the 58Km kayak and 38Km run in the two days preceeding the MTB leg. I am humbled by their determination and fitness, wondering what makes them focus on this aspect of their life to the degree it takes to be able to do it.
We're off and riding the first few kilometers on a dirt road. Chris is positioned 50 meters in front of the rest of the field. Nice to see some green way up there. When we hit the singletrack, he's out of site as are 20 or so guys itching to go fast, and go fast RIGHT NOW! I'll see many of them later on as they fade after their youthful enthusiasm is tempered by the race's duration. The new course uses most of last year's early singletrack and incorporates new stuff built by the guy in front of me who is riding a SS. The bench cut narrow trail was a pleasure as well as talking with the guy who built it. He was in heaven , finally seeing racers on the trails he built for that very purpose. It was his third day of racing the solo UltimateXC. "32x17 may be a little strong, eh?" Eh. When I feel my rear wheel deflating, he was gone gone gone. I hit it with CO2. I 'm running Stan's and the air is jetting out through a sidewall's teeny tiny hole. It fills with Stan's when I spin it sideways. I'm off for another mile before its dead flat. It's a long race and I try to remain calm, changing to my only spare tube and away I go.
The race goes up and down for the next many miles- some sandy, some singletrack but mostly old logging roads - some of which are only used in winter by snowmobiles- overgrown and wet bottomed in summer. We cross the 4 lane highway "tampon" or buffer zone to neutralize the traffic light's effect. It was a well timed and became a pee stop. The gathering racers socialized with the FOQCC(sp?) Canadian national UCI federation officials monitoring the, um, tampon. After that we rode alongside a couple of rivers, sunlight sparkling on each eddy and wave, reflecting the azure sky, contrasted by the lush green vegetation. I didn't stop to smell the roses, but I made sure not to miss what was all around me. It's absolutely spectacular around Tremblant, including each time a view from a high place was afforded- simply gorgeous lakes dotting green land under blue sky... you get the idea.
At one point a rather large hare ran out across the trail in front of me, took a quick look in my direction and scooted back into the underbrush -fear making its appearance and then retreating.
Every aid station(each 10K) saw a bottle refill, an endurolyte and at every other I started munching on power bars. I made a deliberate effort to eat and hydrate well in prep for the climbs- no bonking right?! As we made or way ever closer to THE MOUNTAIN, we skirted a golf course. There is a gnarly descent that I flew through- and succeeded in ripping another tire's sidewall. She went flat a mile or so later. What now? I was in no man's land and walked the next mile to a road crossing where a French only speaking marshall was posted. Next thing you know, the race official is having a tube delivered to me- dans dix minutes". 25 minutes later, it arrived. My pacing and readiness didn't yield any benefits as I eventually accepted my fate- today would be about finishing, not about posting a clean race's time.
Rested and ready to rip the second half, I started the first long climb- the one in the woods that goes up gradually. Each time you round a corner, up it goes again. Somehow I remembered it being shorter and hotter. Its descent is a la VT50- as fast as you dare on overgrown doubletrack- only three or four times longer than the VT50's streaking DHs. It tempts a racer to stay off the brakes completely. On a few of the sweeping turns, flattened vegetation revealed the outcome of those who should have grabbed a little more lever and explains some of the bandages and bruises seen at the finish. It is the first time my hands would throb during the race.
At the bottom, I rode out onto the gravel desert that signals the arrival of biking hell. This was where Chris cashed it in earlier due to repetitive flatting that extinguished his will to continue. Temps had risen to over 70 degrees and the aid station was crowded by those in the know. There is really no incentive to rush at this point in the race. An official warned people to please fill their water bottles and eat. "This is a one hour climb." he said, looking me straight in the eye. Naaaaa...It's only 40-50 minutes on loose gravel with a black fly conclave at the halfway point. I have about 20 bites to show for it. At the time, I hardly noticed, but even now I have each and every one and they look like oversized mondo black flies made them. One is a triple bite - in a row- from a fly who apparently decided to eat her way through to an exit along my spandex' seam. This is the climb where, last year, Tyler Merritt bonked, reclining on a chairlift's seat until recovered enough to move again. He finished 6th this year. Live and learn. During the second flat it seemed like half the field had passed me- and now I was passing them- at about 3 mph. It sucked to be them, almost as much as it sucked to pass at 0.1 mph faster, while walking. That's right, I hiked about half of it.
Upon arrival at the top, the views were spectacular and I had no problem contemplating my navel. I was in no hurry and enjoyed the several moments before descending the hiking trail down the front side of Tremblant. It is a rocky, twisty trail used for hiking. My arms went numb after about ten minutes and ached to the point of failure for another five before I finally grabbed a little too much front brake and washed out my front wheel at 10-12 mph. I endoed, watching my right pinky finger flip backward to touch my wrist. An inventorying revealed everything was attached and I could make a fist- so no torn ligaments or tendons. Race on. I rode past some hikers a couple of times- whose mouths were agape with astonishment that anyone would be riding down this trail on bikes. One exclaimed, to my amusement " Oh My GOD!" as I clattered by. Unlike last year, I knew what was coming next - another gravel access road climb, hotter, steeper, looser, and thankfully a bit shorter. I did another 50/50 ride/hike and didn't feel any cramping like last year. More non-authoritative passing ensued. "Hot enough for ya?" " Nice day for a ride." I can't wait for the next climb." et al... Sarcasm works when suffering.
The World Cup DH course section is a blast. The shingled ramps and bridges are a hoot. And then came that pointless(everything up to this time had a point) climby singletrack. I guess the rocky cascade of waterfalls makes it worthwhile- on a day when hiking with your sweetheart. Past the last checkpoint, I let it fly, finding myself powerful for the last cobbled street descent through the village. As I passed another racer, they exclaimed en francais, and then in English for my benefit -and at the top of their lungs- " If they send us up another climb, they are F*CKING A*SHOLES!!!" I guess Daaan isn't since we didn't go up again. But he could have been cuz one more climb would have been a real game changer.
I crossed the finish line with a sense of tremendous relief- arms at my side. 8:07:21 for 20th overall - 56 minutes faster than last year and 'what could have been' regarding the flats. I was second master by <1 minute.
1st place overall was Aroussen LaFlamme at 6:18. He's a pro who raced in the Tour de Beauce with Mancebo and Ben Day last year. I'm guessing there wasn't much walking on his part, eh?

That will be the last pedal stroke for a while at Tremblant. Two and out is my current view. It is tough race every racer should be confronted with, but walls are walls and my head hurts from banging mine against this one. And there must be some other race that will draw my attention. The TransAndes, TransAlp, or TransRockies sound pretty good. Daaan says he'll be on a team with me. It'll give me great pleasure to encourage him on the climbs.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Feel of an Olympic MTB Course

Katie Compton's pre-ride video.
I often wonder how to convey the feel of a MTB course to someone who doesn't race, doesn't float through the woods streaking downhill on the rivet of commitment, trees a blur going by and then the hard corner, dumping of momentum, and hard push/grind, spin heart grabbing uphill, over would-be obstacles and doing this repeatedly, in the sun, in the rain, in the dust, in the mud... you get the idea. Somehow this video conveys the sensations I'd hope to get across - through Katie's helmetcamvid despite the synthetic course with 'event' features and contrived composition. OK, so there are some boring stretches and no racers, but it comes across to me.
Imagine going mach one with your heart in your mouth after the gun, over and over... it's not hard.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Big Ring Rumpus-ness

I've been trying to get some big miles in since my first couple of races in preparation for the UltimateXC - and laying off high intensity efforts. Since I need more long rides, I had been debating racing the Rumpus at all, but had the dubiously brilliant idea of doing both, a long ride and racing. Wednesday I went over to FOMBA with Andy Gould, who put on a pro display as first Expert overall in 1:26 Sunday. We did some LT laps around the course and I was surprised to have some good sensations, despite being almost overtrained ( riding 12 hours the week before and 90 hilly miles Monday.) I held off on making the decision until the day before the race- to ride from Concord to FOMBA and back. Stupid? Maybe if all I was thinking of was the Rumpus, but I've become pre-occupied with the painful vision of last year's UXC-walking up Mt Tremblant in the heat in hour 8 of a 100K race with something teen thousand feet of vertical. More miles is almost always the answer and so I rode my trusty hardtail the 25 miles to the race and arrived a hour or so in advance.

The first person I see is Tom Barton, who happily tells me how bad it is for me to have ridden to the race. Alrighty then. Game on, Tom.

It wasn't until the 15 second warning from the starter that I let a wave of adrenaline come over me. GO! and Dennis Flanagan absolutely flew off, head down, churning down the railroad bed with 12 of us in his wake- right up until he went straight and we all took the right turn. Oh the humanity! I felt bad for him knowing he'd have to sprint to try to get back on while we'd all be thinking- "How could he have possibly done that?!" Sometime during the first half lap, the selection was made with Bob Bisson, Tyler Munroe, Mike Good and I taking pulls for three laps, Tyler's turns a little soft after racing at Auburn the day before. My god it was fast.

On lap four Bob dropped his chain and fell off the bunch. I yelled "Let's take the hope away!" I know Bob is strong and I hoped to rally the troops to dispense of him when we had the chance. Fat chance. I was alone and off the front, eventually putting them all out of sight... Lap 5 and I could see the three of them coming back to me on the RR bed and so I backed off to recover, accepting that they would work together against me, or that they just didn't have anything to give.

Early in lap 6, Mike Rowell came by. I went straight onto his wheel with only Bob able to get on mine. Just before the chicane and start of lap 7, Bob and Rowell opened a little gap on me and I spent the next half lap a mere five yards behind and desperately trying to get back on Bob's wheel. Shite! I just could not keep that up and rode in solo for 2nd, nearly a minute down. 1:32:25. After changing into fresh cycling clothes and eating a bit, I rode home, ate a horse, and fell fast asleep. Thanks to Geoff McIntosh for toting my clothes and extra water to the race. 2 weeks 'til Ca Na Daaa.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Glocester Bouncer

The race:
1. I rode
2. Mosher rode away
3. Flanagan faded
4. Hung on after slow flats riding on the rim for 2nd. Ripped sidewall and Stan's x 2 CO2.
5. Broken shock bolt on the Top Fuel - must have been the big downhill hits.

And, while I did NOT write or otherwise participate in the making of this doozy, I think you'll find that it rings true. Be patient.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bikes a la Joos

Turns out Mike Joos has mad art skills, per Salon.com.
"Jesus would ride a bike with thorny crown wheels." Thank you for the clarification, Mike.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Olympic MTB Course Video -London 2012

I wanna ride this! Strangely synthetic, yet countryside.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fat Tire Classic

Tom Samson rules when it comes to getting it done. His win over two others with 1/4 mile to go was yet another testament to his competitive prowess.
Closer to Earth, I travelled to the race with mixed thoughts, uncertainty ruling me going into the first real XC race of the year. The newly laid out course was surprisingly dry during the pre-ride with Andy "watch out for this guy" Gould... very little mud and fast fast fast. After watching Steve Segenchuk's standing-on-pedals-only display( look ma- no saddle!), I was happy to have a comfortable perch for the race.
At the start, I looked around and saw a tough cast of characters: Steve Arsenault, John Mosher, Bob Bisson, Joe Rayno, Andy Chambers, Mark Virello, Ken Welch(NY's dominant master) and so on in a field of a dozen or so. No Curley, no rematch. I had little idea what I was bringing to the mix, a knife or a gun, trying the FS and hopefully finding some full length XC racing legs en route. Got the holeshot at a low speed - kinda strange to have the crew relatively sedate - until Ken, Mosher and Rayno abruptly blew by on the second section of singletrack. Game on. I hung back a bit, picking up the pace but not going nutty -as they seemed to be. The rest of the first lap I just concentrated on output, navigating the 6" deep mud hole in good shape and powering over any trace of a climb. Lap two and three went by at 24 minutes a lap as I picked off riders from other age groups here and there, slowly accepting my place in the pecking order - the "Hell of the Fourth". 3/4 of the way through lap four, I saw Joe Rayno climbing up the short gravel climb. He's was mashing away, throwing his bike left and right as I hit the gas and powered by him. I looked back at the top to see his inability to respond. That was a boost. If I could just hang on, I'd get on the podium. Going into the last little singletrack section, I was blocked by a slower racer... waiting and waiting and waiting until I hit the gas once it opened back up. That's when I saw Ken Welch 50' ahead and 100' from the finish line. Sprinting, I caught him but not by enough- his wheel half ahead of mine as we finished. 1:37:21 and 3rd Ex Master. I'm pretty happy about the race, having managed energy, equipment, and excitement effectively and getting my share of the cost of gas paid. Mosher was untouchable- nearly two minutes ahead.(if I recall his time correctly)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

King of Burlingame

Every year I wonder if the itch to race will be strong or weak, erupting uncontrollably or fading into retold stories. And here we are at the start of a new race calendar. Racing racing racing riding riding riding, both activate anticipation that urges me through the day until 5:30 comes along when I meet some buds at a trailhead and plunge back into the flow of singletrack. But feeling a rapidly approaching race date sends me into a productive, deliberate, and timely contributor at work, disciplined trainee and smiling companion. Racing induces a sense of purpose and I plan to enjoy it.

Last weeks indoor TT woke me up. Yelling, the screen, being on the spot and coming away with a good feeling was a prelude to the King of Burlingame - a real short intense effort, outdoors on dirt and rock - a real novelty for me. The snow is just off up here and so are my trail skills, as in bike handling. Pre-riding the course late Saturday was a wake up call to my ulnar joints, forearms and triceps... oh yeah... upper body... I forgot about that part of me this winter, except for The February of Shoveling. OK, so race morning we down some oogles baked Friday night, a bit of iced coffee and it's raceday!

Wilfred Brimley held my seat as the countdown got ever smaller until... BANG... I'm away and wondering how to race- easy- breathe- keep my head up- faster- let er rip- where's the line- through the slot- here comes the rockpile- stay right cross over now- good good- find the rhythm- lockout everything now and cruise- 97%HR- TT position - oh look at the beautiful lake!- hey I'm racing pay attention- long effort on the doubletrack - turn it - firm ground here- hard left - back... waterbar steps- through the water up- there's Beal - damn threw my chain!- c'mon c'mon get back on- Torching it - through the rocky up- damn chain off again - Beal's down nowhere to go- he's up- "Get on my wheel and I'll pull you"... hey where is he?- back into the trail- hard- hard- hard- all the way- Done!

That's my story. 31:02. 15 of 46 expert, 16 overall of 140something... 3 minutes faster than last year due to this year's dryer conditions, and I like to think, fitter circumstance. Results here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Millie's Bikes And Brew's Timetrial

This weeks oddity: A 6 mile indoor time trial on computrainers with flights of 8. The generous Millie's dispensed two beers to every racer. Guud. The place was hot.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Digging Carrots in February

Each year we leave some carrots in the ground. Not only do they "stay good", they mature, starches turning to sugars long after the frosts give way to snow and sub-zero temps chill. Then one day in mid-February, we'll get to hankerin' for some carrots and get busy digging beneath the blanket of snow down into the moist soil, loamy and unfrozen. (Psst... carrots make bikes see better.)

video

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Riding the Ice

The ice, she's an unforgiving mistress.
Click here for today's Elm Brook State Park ride. 3 minutes.