Monday, December 3, 2012

2013 Cannondale Flash Carbon 3 and Volvo V50

With some minor modifications to my new Cannondale F29 Flash Carbon 3 whatever-you-call-it, I've been riding that exclusively lately (my niner One9 has a BB issue I've yet to attend to, and my Trek Pilot road bike has a double flat I've lazily yet to change).
Bear bell optional (but good idea during hunting season)
I put an electric blue e13 35T chain ring on the front, with e13 chain guide, so running it as a 1x10 (11-36).  Combined with the red Elite cages I took off my red Stumpy, and set into the classic green-white-black Cannondale colors, this baby really pops (like a zit popping...seriously, the colors are gross, but I got the chain ring at cost and the cages were already mine so fugg it).

Nothing says "budget!" like mismatched component colors.

There are some hills that I've wish I has one smaller gear in the back, but then I figure I'd then want one even smaller instead I'm committed to getting my legs stronger.

I really like running a 1x10 - it's like having a singlespeed with gears (something perhaps only a single speeder could understand).  The new-style Lefty on the Flash definitely feels smoother than the old style Lefty I have on the One9.  Overall, the bike has taken some getting used to, and part of that is getting used to gears, but now that it feels good, it feels real good.

Speaking of hills, I decided that "hills and skills" would be my training mantra this winter. I'm committing to riding one session a week where I just find some technical bits of trail and get used to picking a line and blasting through.  It's definitely the main aspect of my riding that other guys I race against are better at.  I may even make my own killer rock garden from an old rock wall in the Weir Rd trails.

My Jeep GC finally rusted out (that's Cape living!) so I had to get a new-to-me bike carrier.  Got a great deal on an Volvo V50. Very quickly becoming my favorite car ever. Very fun, fast, comfy car.
My other new ride. So fun it's hard to resist not driving
 it on days I should be riding to work.
That's all folks, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Post-Sandy rides

I went out for a ride on Tuesday at lunch for some hill repeats in Greenough boy scout camp and to assess the damage from Sandy.

I moved a lot of small branches as I made my way over to a trail I call "arches".  There's a wonderful new arch (after I cleared out the branches):

The new arch is just before a small rock drop (one footer).  Here's the arch and drop.

On Wednesday I went out at lunch and cleared some of the Willow St trails (South 6, Burning man, Art's trail).  After spending several minutes clearing one downed tree, I took a video of the trail as it's a pretty good representation of much of Willow's 12 miles of tight, flowy single track:

I'm hoping to get to the rest of Willow St (mainly Bushwood and Back 9) and Greenough on Friday.

Happy riding!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Feeling good, going slow..and first light ride

So I Strava-raced myself again.  After my single speed kicked my geared bike's butt a couple weeks ago, I decided to give it another go.  I've been riding my geared mt and road bikes the past couple weeks, and feeling pretty good with the gears.  And I feel like I've gotten use to the worse handling of the geared HT (Carbon Stumpy) vs my SS HT (Alum Niner w/ Lefty).  In short, I've been feeling pretty fast on the Stumpy.

To recap:
SS time: 32:09
Stumpy time from two weeks ago: 34:47
Stumpy time from today: 35:24

I hit the 6.2 mile loop quick, but not blow-up quick. I kept a good clip going and rode well and smooth and felt like it was going to be really close to the SS time.

Not so much.  I'm going to try the single speed again next week and see whassup.

But all is not lost as today's sunrise ride, first with a headlight, was really sweet.

Cedar tunnel

Bridge to morning

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wife nightmare

Had a bad dream last night that my wife and I got in an argument.  Woke up at 5:45 and couldn't shake the negative feeling -- stuck with me like a nightmare hangover.
Had a quick breaky and got my gear on and was ready to head out the door to bang out a few miles on the trails on the way to work.  I suddenly rushed to look at the calendar.
Our wedding anniversary.
I guess the nightmare was my subconscious telling me to not forget.  Phew! I left a nice note with awesome drawings (world's worst drawer) and got a call from Kristy at work a couple hours later wishing me a happy anniversary too (with a confession that she forgot also).

Seven years on and a couple of additions to the fam:

Happy anniversary love! See you in my nightmares :-)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Gears vs. Single speed...Strava virtual race

I’ve been training hard and my last race of the season was this past Sunday, so I was going to take this week off from riding. 
Who was I kidding?
Too nice out.  And with a couple of Strava loops across the street from work, the temptation to “race” during my lunch break was too much.

Today I rode the time-trial worthy 6.2 mile “counter clockwise loop” on my geared bike to compare it to my results from a couple weeks ago when I did it on my single speed.

So which was faster?

Let’s get to the bikes first:
> Single speed: AluMINium Niner One9 with a carbon Cannondale Lefty fork with 80mm travel.  And a fairly cushy saddle (for a race bike anyway..I broke my race saddle at the TVR, so I put an old Bontrager saddle on it, and I’m absolutely loving it).
> Geared: Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon Comp 29er hardtail with 90mm travel Reba.  Light and stiff race saddle.
I don’t think any other components (other than forks and saddles) made that much of a difference for the purpose of this test.

How I felt:
Geared ride: fully rested after 3 days not riding.
Single speed ride: slightly more tired legs as in midst of training days.

Warmup: I only have an hour for lunch, so there’s no real warmup.  It’s change-ride-shower.

Today’s geared ride had pretty perfect weather - warm, sunny, dry.
Single speed ride - it rained heavy night before and light rain during ride. Trails were not soggy, however: the rocks/roots were a bit slick, but the trails were actually a bit sticky thanks to rain.

Trail profile: Fast and flowy, rolling terrain with no significant climbs.  Some technical bits, but nothing extended or difficult.  Lots of tight turns, but with berms so they can be railed and accelerated out of.  Admittedly, pretty much perfect for single speeding.

6.2 miles
Niner single speed: 32:09, avg speed 11.5
Spesh geared hardtail: 34:37, avg speed 10.8

I knew the single speed would be faster while I was on the geared bike today.  The Niner just handles way better, even with 10mm less travel.  The Stumpy’s carbon frame is snappy while accelerating and when out-of-saddle on climbs, and absolutely hauls ass when at full throttle on double track, but it’s a bit harsh compared to the Niner when it comes to the tight and twisties.  The frame transmits every bump through to your posterior (not helped by minimalist XC race saddle). 

On the Niner side: I have to say that I’ve liked every Lefty fork I’ve ever ridden – they just seem to smooth stuff over better, let you plow through techy stuff, help you keep a line.  The Niner’s steering is also more predictable than the Stumpy’s, which trends to oversteering at times in this tight terrain.  And the frame seems to deflect trail feedback better than the Stumpy. 

So that’s my official unscientific report.

An unfortunate note about riding mt bike Strava loops at lunch:  I saw a couple other riders out there but didn’t stop to say hi as I normally would because, you know, I was virtual-racing against myself from two weeks ago.  Sorry if that was you. Next time. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Race Report Landmine 2012, cat1 single speed

I was looking forward to this year's Landmine for a lot of reasons:
> It's an awesome, one lap, 25 mile course.
> And an extremely well run event that's only 1.5 hours from us in the mid-Cape area.
> I wanted to make up for a poor showing and DNF at TVR.
> And wanted to see how I'd do if I went out a bit faster at the start of the race and see if I could hold the wheels of the lead guys.  Apparently I wasn't the only one thinking that...

So a bunch of strong guys lined up at the start. Fast guys, good technical riders - could be anyone's race. 

Whistle and we're off. Notoriously fast starter Dave Terrell takes off and sets a quickpedal pace that everyone tries to match. He got the single speed train cooking along nicely through the first flat mile or so. Eventually Jake Colvin went by Dave, and sticking to my plan to stay up front, I went with him. Soon Pat Higgins went by both of us. I saw Royce Yeomans just behind me and heard Gerry LaFleur yell at me too, so I knew we were still all pretty close as we hit the rough stuff. 
Jake then me. Going according to plan at this point, but...(photo: notaskitrail on mtbr)

...Pat the wrecking ball is lurking. (gotta love the lefty pron).  (photo: notaskitrail on mtbr)
We went in that order for a while. Jake and I traded spots and worked together a bit on the linking road and fire road bits. Pat was in front of us, but since I had beaten him at Massasoit earlier this year after he ran out of water and faded towards the middle of the race, I figured he might do the same again (the fading, not the water-running-outting...ironically, I ran out of water at Landmine, but it was late enough in the race that it didn't affect me).  So I was thinking it might come down to me and Jake fighting it out for the win...but I was weary about the fast guys behind catching the pace was still cooking.

After a few miles, Pat had inched away, out of sight.  I started to worry a bit, and decided to go get him. I put in a strong push and finally reeled him back after about 5 hard minutes. Jake dropped off a bit behind me, so it was just me and Pat at that point. I passed Pat, and considered putting in an attack, but I decided to recover at that point. Then we got caught up in geared traffic, and a guy crashed on a bridge in front of us.  As swearing geared guy righted his bike and swore his head off, Pat got by me and got an immediate 10 - 20 seconds on me. 

The guy who crashed in front of us was near me in the woods for a while.  He kept on crashing and then swearing like a trucker at the top of his lungs. At first I was kind of put off, but then I couldn't help but laugh my butt off. This made the "constant barrage" of roots and rocks a bit more fun.

I crashed a couple times too and bobbled a few times, but I was still confident that I would catch Pat. I was sure I'd see him around the next turn.  But the rocky/rooty miles went on and on and I never did see him. And I was pushing - so much so that I was really happy with how I raced.  But the next time I saw Pat was at the finish line.  He was a wrecking ball out there on a technical course.

So I got 2nd and Jake got 3rd. All the cat 1 single speeders came in really soon after, one after another. So it really could have been anyone's race. Awesome.

SSers raced awesome Sunday

Me, Pat, Jake
So my season...started with 2 wins in cat 2; then I upgraded and got a 4th, a 1st, and two 2nds. I finish the season feeling really good about it and knowing what I need to work on to get faster (technical stuff) and knowing that when I am feeling good, I can probably go harder.  I'm really hoping that the crew that was racing Sunday is out there next year, along with the faster Cat 2 guys.  It'd be nice to get a real big, competitive group going.

One of the prizes was a pint glass.
Couldn't wait to fill it up...and then empty it. 
I owe a lot of thanks on the season to my team shop, Sea Sports in Hyannis. Owner Jeff is super supportive and knowledgable about racing.  If you're ever down the Upper/mid-Cape and need anything cycling-related, Jeff's shop is the place to go.  I'm already looking forward to our epic shop winter training rides.  And Sea Sports mechanic and teammate "Majick" Mark kept our bikes humming. 

Shouts out to Cape Cod Beer and Cannondale for helping us out also. 

Congrats to teammate and "iron man" Lucas Provost for winning the iron rider award again and leading our team to a great year.  Everyone did really well. 

Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What's making your head swim

I’ve heard a fairly regular refrain lately from friends who are sickened and confused by the race for the White House.  I don’t think it’s the race itself that’s doing laps in their head, but more the deluge of misinformation.

It's clear that the politicians have figured out a formula - that lies reach way more people than the subsequent fact-checking and revelations of those lies.  Lie and a million people hear you - get caught lying and only a tenth of them find out.  This isn't always true, as in the case of Tiger Woods, but it seems so with presidential campaigns.

Of course, the media is brutally complicit in letting the lies of the two party agendas trump the truth.  In fact, if you were to read the Huffpost and then Drudge, you’d swear they were talking about two different countries.  Same with Foxnews vs MSNBC.  All media outlets have agendas, and if you believe what they say, you do so at the expense of the truth. 

So where is the truth?

It’s in objectivity and research.  Unfortunately, when we rely on media to do the research for us - as is supposed to be their job - we risk never finding the truth.  The truly objective media is a dying breed and many journalists will either not have enough time to do proper research, are under the influence of laziness, or will bend/omit their research to fit their parent company’s bias. 

Of course, people are more inclined to believe what they want to believe, and not believe what they don’t want to.

It’s easy to question what we DO NOT want to believe.  In seeking truth, however, it is more important to question what we DO want to believe.  

If we accept the Sam Harris definition of lying as intentionally making someone believe something that isn’t entirely consistent with reality, then most journalists, as well as both prez campaigns, are being paid to lie in favor of either their conservative or liberal agenda. And they’re often doing it viciously.

That vicious lying leaves a bad taste in our mouths and a sick feeling in our stomach.  And what's making your head swim - and so many other peoples’ - is that you know you’re not being told the whole truth.  So unless you're willing to do the research yourself, you’re falling back on believing either what you want to, or what comes closest to what you think the truth is.  But you can’t shake free that gurgling in your brain that’s saying “I wonder if there’s more to this story than I’m being told.”  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A brief history of Cape Cod mt biking, and some stravapron

Couple good rides this weekend.  I created my first Strava segment, the "clockwise with extras" loop in Willow St.  For those that know the trails, it goes Art's trail, automile, bushwood, back9, the wall, burning man...cross over the fire road and go back down to the split rock to go left and it does Art's trail in reverse.  So the loop never hits South 6 trail (except for the first 50 yards entering the trail area).  It goes over another segment that someone created previously, but my segment goes in the opposite direction, something Strava doesn't seem to properly acknowledge, plus I added in some extras.

By the way, the "Art" in "Art's trail" is Art Hastings, who along with Doug Jordan, are a couple of the godfathers of Cape Cod mt biking.  Art and Doug started mt biking WAY back when.  According to Art, the two of them found a topographical map of Cape Cod, pinpointed the highest elevation, and said 'let's start there!'  If memory serves, "there" was the top of a ridge in TOT/Sandwich.  There's a makeshift stick teepee and old picnic table there now in case you've ever been there.  Roger Wharton added in some very difficult climbs (his "heartbreakers") some time later and the Sandwich side of TOT is now probably the most challenging mt biking on Cape Cod.  Art and Doug proceeded to build and coop from mxers many of the Barnstable-side TOT trails, as well as Willow St, Weir Rd, probably Nickerson, and some other trails Cape Codders and visitors enjoy to this day.

I met Art at the gym one day in the early 2000's.  We got to talking and he agreed to take me mt biking some day.  Day came and we went into the Weir Rd trails, most of which he built, and he pointed at a pile of rocks and said 'there's the trail' and I said 'behind those rocks?' and he said 'no, it IS those rocks.'  I didn't believe him. He rode over the pile of rocks. I was hooked.

Had a nice group ride on Sunday in Trail of Tears with some of us from team Sea Sports, along with Jason Holm from team Nemba, and Scott and Matt who ride up around Groton.  Didn't get to everything as we started running low on time.  I might try to sneak over there this week at some point to get one long/hard ride in before the long/hard Landmine Classic this Sunday.  The Cat 1 single speed class is stacking up with fast guys, so it should be a real test.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Treasure Valley Rally 2012 leftovers, and strava geekage

I just figured out why some people take a few days to write race reports.  While the details of the race may get fuzzy as the days go by, the big-picture perspective comes more into view.

Yeah, I had a crappy day - some days you're the dog, some days you're the hydrant - it was a hydrant day for me for sure.  But there was still some fun had.

Anyhow, some things I didn't mention in my report which were cool/interesting.
> Richard Pirro (Cat1 40-49 winner) passed me during lap 1 and I latched on for as long as I could (meaning I watched him easily pull away).  He made the course look much flatter than it was for me.  I don't know how much he won by (and am too lazy to look right now), but he had a big lead at that point and it was still very early in the race.
> Some other dude in a red shirt, I'm guessing in Rich's class, passed me during lap 2 and proceeded to destroy a technical section.  The rocks were begging him for mercy (but then the rocks went back to mocking laughter as I approached). I caught ol' redshirt on a climb and went past him and ended up with a pretty big gap at the top of the hill.  It took him no time at all to make up that gap on the next rocky down and when he went by me again, he LAUNCHED a log, flew right into a nasty section of rocks and rode it out like Steve friggin Peat. He even put a little style into his jump. That was the highlight of my whole race. Well done whoever you are.  It wasn't too long after that that I broke my saddle, which was too bad as a climb was coming up and I may have been able to catch him again and then witness another awesome show as he slayed the next technical section.
> The bee's nest thing was insane. I was climbing the overlooking hill as the shiznit was going on down on the ridge below.  There was panic down there I tell ya, shouts of pain. I felt bad for the people who got caught in it.  I've been stung on rides and it hurts more than it seems like it should.

I was pretty down on TVR earlier in the week as it was just too technical for my liking, but I'm coming around. While perhaps I do better on hilly and flat courses, improving my technical riding skills will only help.  And it's an easy ride from my folks' house.  We'll see about next year...

Anyway, on to more bike geekage of the Stravariety...

I'm new to the wonderful world of Strava.  I was exploring the segments around the mid-Cape area the other day and realized that there was a 6.2 mile segment in the woods across from where I work.  So a lunching I would go.  I rode the niner one9 today.  I'll try gears next time to see which is faster.  I'm guessing the singlespeed as Willow St is super-single-speed-friendly.

Strava is awesome -- it's like a fast virtual group ride (and as we know, all group rides are actually races).

A note on Willow St: There's a bit more in there than is on the Strava loop, and it flows well both ways, so it's great to do twice in different directions.  Plus the Boy Scout trails diagonally across Willow add another awesome 5 miles or so.  So it's pretty easy to get in 18 or so fun miles.. (just in case you think the 6.2 mile loop wouldn't be worth the trip -- it definitely is if you're on Cape for vacation or just a weekender).

Monday, August 27, 2012

Race Report: Treasure Valley Rally 2012

I feel like my training has been paying off and I've been feeling pretty fast the past few weeks, so I was looking forward to seeing how that would translate into the very rocky woods of Treasure Valley.

Cue the excuses...

Got a poor night's sleep on a 4'x4' futon pad with my 3-yr-old sprawled out beside me.
I forced down half a bowl of instant oatmeal for breakfast - how can anyone eat that crap?  Should have brought my own breakfast to my parents' house.
And I didn't leave enough time for a proper warmup.

So poor, tired me and my already tight lower back lined up with a decent-sized single speed field for two laps on a fairly brutal course.  I fell back pretty quickly, then passed some guys on the climb, got passed again in the rough stuff, passed a couple more guys on another climb.  I had no idea where I was, how I was doing or anything -- all I knew is that my lower back was screaming at me.

I tried 'yoga breathing' - sending my breath to the muscles - and that helped until the next technical section, which was never far away.  Instead of yoga breathing, I think I might try actually DOING some yoga.

Anyway, I was hurting and came into the start/finish area dreading a second lap.  Then I heard my time: 1:01.   Really?  Last year's winner had a time of 2:05.  Huh.  I knew there were guys in my class in front of me, but maybe I have a chance of catching them...

That gave me a little bit of energy and I decided to try to ride out the stiff back.  I started attacking the technical sections with more abandon and powering out of turns and up over kicker hills like a proper single speeder.  I was starting to feel pretty good about my riding even though my back was still screaming.  

I had one technical section to go before the course's real big climb - and I was literally on the last rock of said technical section when I heard a SNAP!  Given that I was suddenly riding on one butt cheek, I knew that I had broken my saddle.  

I stopped to try to figure out what I should do. Ride on and risk it?  Or bail?  I've ridden broken saddles out of the woods before, but not on a technical course like this. Nevertheless, I decided to go for it.  I knew that what remained was the big hill, then the technical woods for a while, then the smoother stuff nearing the end. I hopped back on the bike, determined, and started pedaling.  I got about 50 yards, hit a little technical section and my butt hit the saddle and I slipped down-and-to-the-left and my back screamed and I thought "are you frickin crazy?"

I turned back around, found the quick route back to the start/finish and, for the first time ever in a race, took a DNF (Did Not Finish).  I wasn't the only DNF with a broken saddle, and there were various other DNFs with mechanical problems and even some of the unlucky few who were stung by a rabidly disturbed nest of bees.

Clearly not a great race for me.  I do wonder what would have happened had I not broken my seat - I would have been pretty close to a podium spot, I think, but who knows.

I don't think I'll do this race again.  I enjoy riding technical terrain, but racing it is another story.  And since there's so little similar technical terrain here on Cape, it's near impossible to train for it. Lesson learned = more yoga, less Treasure Valley Rally.

On the bright side, teammate Tim won his Cat2 class AND won the overall Cat2.  Some dude came up to us after the race and was grilling Tim a bit because he figured Tim must have cheated or something because he won Cat2 by 5 minutes. No, dude, he's just that fast (and yes, he's upgrading).

Also, wife Kristy ran 5 miles while I was at the race.  Killer.  She seems to be a natural at the old running thing.

So between me and Tim and Kristy, 2 out of 3 of us had awesome days.  Nothing wrong with that!

Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Make the best of what's around

I generally commute to work on my bike except on the two days Jude has day care.  My commute route is a little over 3 miles at its shortest (road + woods), but with three different trail areas at my disposal along the way, I can extend it out to 20+ miles.  I usually ride the 5 mile route, 1.5 on roads and the remainder on trails through Greenough boy scout camp.  Then I do an interval or hill workout at lunch, either in Willow (intervals) or Greenough (hills).  Then ride the 5 mile route back home.  It's nice to have Willow, Greenough, and the more technical Weir Rd trails all so close by to home and work.
Greenough is beautiful and smooth single track with short-and-steep hills that have proven to be good hill training for me when repeated many times....

Here's the first hill -- it's a two-parter with the first part being a quite steep and rooty washout... .

and the second part smooth and steep...

I have a tough training ride with teammate Tim tomorrow at TOT/Sandwich, so I took it easy on the geared mtb on the way into work this morning.  A nice tempo ride down to Gray's beach and down the hidden trail to this special spot on Lonetree Creek...

This is looking west with the marsh of Lonetree Creek, Barnstable Harbour, Sandy Neck, Cape Cod Bay, and the Sagamore Bridge all in view.  Great way to start the day.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

First Strava Ride

Rode from the abode to the Weir Rd trails near my house.

Was trying to get 2 hours in with some climbs in prep for the next race I plan to do, EFTA's Treasure Valley Rally. Not easy to simulate off-Cape climbs here on the Cod, but I managed to come real close to TVR's distance and total elevation. No hope of simulating TVR's pointy rock gardens around here though.

Here 'tis (hope this works):

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hodges Village Dam Race Report, MA State Championships

Raced down the hot and dusty trails of Hodges Village Dam in Oxford on Sunday.  Cool venue, well organized.

Never raced here before and heard good things about the course.  Seems the race is either an annual mudfest or dustfest, this year's edition being the latter.  Heat/humidity also a big factor Sunday.

Lined up with a strong field of twelve Cat1 single speeders, including a bunch of guys I didn't know, but who all looked strong.

Whistle and we're off for 4 laps.  Fast start up a gravel road for a bit, then into a wide single track. I was in about 7th or 8th heading into the single track. This section had a rocky start and then flowed into a dusty roller coaster of a trail that was really fun.  Unfortunately, my place near the back of the single speed train meant that I was being sprayed with dust and fighting to see the trail through it.

Got out to another gravel road in about 9th.   I think either guys were conserving themselves because of the heat or they were geared easier than my 32x18 because I passed a bunch at that point.  I got a gap into the long, rooty section of the trail, and then started to feel like I was overheating.  Bike racing seems to be about riding to a level of exertion you can't sustain, and then dialing back incrementally until you find your maximum sustainable level.  I was considerably over my level given the heat and had to dial it way back.

I got through the smoother/later sections of the lap and into the start/finish again and took extra water on board.  Headed back up the gravelly road and passed geared teammate Lucas and he tucked in behind me.  Then Gerry Lafleur from my class tucked in behind Lucas.  I was determined NOT to be behind anyone going into the dusty trail, so I hit the gas hard to pass a couple guys before we headed into the woods again.  It worked visibility-wise, but the burst of energy took even more out of me and I soon started getting chills, which I know is not a good sign when it's 90' out. I dialed back my effort again and drank a lot and hoped that would help.

Gerry caught back up in the technical sections (joking that he got there by cutting the course and taking a ride from a 4-wheeler) and he sat in for a while.  I had no idea where we were place-wise, but he figured we were either 1-2 or 2-3, which I was kinda shocked at.  We were both conserving and chatting, and it started feeling more like a ride than a race -- I wondered if one of the faster guys in our class like Royce Yeomans would soon catch us.

Gerry's stronger in the tech stuff than me and he eventually passed me.  He didn't attack, though, so I was able to tuck behind him on the straight and smoother sections.  I started feeling better and  wondered if maybe I was catching a bit of a second wind.

I figured the only way I was going to beat Gerry was if I pushed the pace in the less technical sections.  So I passed him once the trail smoothed a bit and and got a small gap.  I was feeling well enough to stay on the gas for a while and about halfway through lap 4, a geared rider I passed informed me that I was in 2nd.  I rode hard all the way to the finish but never caught sight of 1st.  I got 2nd, with Gerry a couple minutes behind in 3rd.  Andrew Lysaght won with a time over 4 minutes faster than me.

As we waited for our class to be called for our medals and prizes (nifty little tool kit with bike brush, and a t-shirt), Andrew and Gerry and I shot the shit about the race, how it went for each of us, our thoughts on gearing, etc.  Twas a fun bike-geek chat with a couple great guys, capping off a great day overall.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Paying attention pays off

The highlight of my day comes early when I clip in at the top of the driveway and glance back to see my 3-year-old in the bay window waving.
He says something, but I can't hear it through the glass.
I debate just waving and going, but decide that whatever he's saying is important to him.
So I push up close to the glass and ask "what'd you say, buddy?"
"Be careful out there, daddy!"
"Oh, thanks buddy.  I will.  Have a good day."
"You too daddy."

I plan two hard intervals and so I wake the legs up with a tempo cruise down to Gray's beach.
Then backtrack onto 6A and wind it up for a hard effort to Barnstable Village.
Love 6A this early, before the traffic sets in.
Hard and fast into the village and then recover with a light pedal down to Millway beach.
Catch up to my breath and heartbeat and then go left onto 6A for another hard effort eastbound/workbound.

Around the curve before Mary Dunn Rd a car just HAS to pass.
Car coming the other direction.
No room.
Edge of road is sketchy at best.
I decide to bail.
Hop over a pothole and land in the sand and skid to a stop.

Car that forced me to bail whips a right at Mary Dunn, literally 30 meters up the road.
Had I not bailed, he probably would have right-hooked me.
"Be careful out there daddy."
Thanks for the reminder, buddy.
Helped more than you know.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I am mountain biker

I caught some attitude in the woods the other day and thought this up on the ride home:

I am mountain biker.

I am flat pedals, sneakers, white socks
clipped in, stiff sole, ratchet strap
baggy pants, body armor, full face helmet
skin-tight racing kit plastered with business ads

I am 26" HT, 26" FS, 
29er HT, 29er FS, 
29er rigid 
steel, aluminum, carbon

I am bouncing through teeth-chattering rock gardens
sewing the mountainside's switchbacks 
riding off boulders with names like "separator" and "frame twister"
leaping logs, pumping bumps, carving corners

I am base rides to nowhere and back
intervals until i see spots
begging my legs for one final kick
races won and Dead Fucking Last

I am kicking up midsummer dust
plowing into babyheads covered with leaves
crunching fresh powder with wide tread
covered in springtime caterpillar silk

I am all these things.
So if you see me in the woods and I look different from you,
Know that whoever you think you are, I am that too.
I am been-there-done-that and have the scars to prove it.

I am mountain biker.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Frankenbike and maiden voyage report

I have tons of extra bike parts loitering in my garage so I decided to put them to use on a single speed roadbike.  Some of the parts and their origins:

> Nameless steel riser bars from my first mt bike, a Giant Boulder SE.  I have track bars but they give no leverage and since I need to climb on this puppy, I needed something wider.
> Ergon grips off the Niner One9 I bought off ebay. I hate these grips.
> Forte cable rear rim-brake from...crap, I don't even remember where or why I got it.  Two fingers pulling at full force barely creates enough drag to slow the wheel.
> Quill stem an original part on the Puch Cavette. <3

> I opted for the single speed flop rather than the fixed flip after a scary moment on the Alpenrose track when we were visiting Portland a few years back (I learned that when you're going full speed on a track bike on a track and forget to pedal, your bike can actually jump off the ground unexpectedly...not fun, though I managed the save).
> Note the huge (in road bike terms) rear tire.  I think it's a 38. Bought that for a barter 'bike work for computer fix' deal but it didn't fit on the bike.  Fits on mine :-)

> The pedals are off my main road bike (Trek Pilot) and go oh-so-awfully with Le Cavette.  But that's the idea.
> Note: the seatpost is rusted in place.  Of course. And the seat's a bit too low, but not so low that it's uncomfy.

Maiden voyage report:
I did an intervals-while-commuting ride on this mal garcon the other day down to Barnstable Village and back and then to work.  There's nothing special about it, but nothing horribly wrong either.  It's a stiffer ride than I expected for a steel frame. The workout was good and I always love riding on 6A before it gets busy for the day.  The gearing is pretty perfect - didn't have to get out of the seat too much and never totally spun out.  A longer stem and a flat bar with more sweep would make it quite a bit faster, but that would cost me a bit of cash and the point was not to spend any cash.  
So it is what it is, but then what isn't?

Friday, June 22, 2012

While I listen: New Smashing Pumpkins album review

Back in a former life, I used to write music reviews for  Well, thanks to the magic of twitter, I found out today that the Smashing Pumpkins have a new album.  So five seconds later, and thanks to the magic of my super-worth-it $9/month Rhapsody subscription, I'm listening to Oceania as I type.  

Welcome to my "reviewing the new Smashing Pumpkins album as I listen to it" diary.

A writer on Grantland dubbed the new SP album Oceania "the best SP album in 20 years."   I wonder if the lazy critics who say shit like that have a review template that starts like this:

"The best _(band name)_ album in _(years since band was any good)_ years".  

Unfortunately for the Pumpkins and for Mr. Review Template User, it's been quite a bit more than 20 years since they had a good album.

That's not to say the Grantland reviewer's opinion is wrong, it's just that saying a new effort is the best since their old shitty old one isn't exactly high praise.  It's like saying that Ben Affleck's direction in The Town was his best work since Gone Baby Gone, the film viewing equivalent of a Rubick's Cube. 

And so far, this album sounds positively mellon collie.  The best I can say about it is "it's better than that last piece of horrible shit they put out five years ago" and "his vocals have never sounded less whiny (but they're still pretty fuckin whiny)."  Another plus, I guess, is that the production is spot on (making the song suckiness even more blatant).

I'm getting the sense in listening to this that Billy Corgan has turned his attention from politicking to love.  Lots of major chordy lovey-dovey sounding crap here.  I wonder if he has a wife or girlfriend.  Let's see....

Through the magic of Wikipedia, I have just learned that, in actuality, he is single.  His last serious fling was Courtney Love, begging the question "WHAT THE FUCK WAS HE THINKING?!"  

So, a couple years since they broke takes him probably a year to write an album...'nother year to record and release it...doing the math, I suddenly understand why he seems so happy on this album: HE'S NOT WITH COURTNEY LOVE ANYMORE.

Here's some Oceania lyric samples for you, straight from his mouth to my fingertips to your eyes: "I'm always on your side....I love you 101%...I'll always follow could I ever have doubted you?"  I feel like I'm swallowing a latte without the coffee or foam or soy - it's all syrup here baby!  

All right, these stevia lyrics have to be about someone.  If it ain't Courtney he's talking about, who the hell is it?  Back to Wiki...

Damn, he was linked with Jessica Simpson?!  Let's give her a WHAT THE FUCK WAS SHE THINKING?  Nevertheless, I can totally see him sitting there, thinking of her tits, and writing all these lovey dovey lyrics.  

On a side note while I'm forcing this into my earholes, I heard new Fiona Apple and it was  interesting, actually.  Very minimalist music, vocal-carried melodies.  I dare say it worked pretty well.  There's nobody out there like her and I wonder if she's itching to reclaim the waify-indie-showtuney/but-somehow-mainstream title from Bjork (Bjork still holds the surprise attack on a media member at the airport title so she probably won't mind relinquishing the waify one).

At some point in listening to a shitty album not by Limp Bizkit, the thought occurs to you that, since every song to this point has sucked, there's no hope for one shockingly cool tune on here.  And you bail.

I need sonic scraping to get the placque residue of Corgan's voice off my eardrums.  I'll be Rhapsodying over to the Deftones Head Up, or as I like to call it when I need a break from my 3-year-old, a song to raise your kids by.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pat's Peak

Cat 1 Singlespeed, 32/20 gearing (could have gotten away with 21 or maybe even 22), placed 1 of 4

Pat's Peak is not a singlespeed-friendly course; let's just get that out of the way early.  Could explain why our field was small.  I enjoy climbing as much as anyone, but there were fairly long sections of steep and slick singletrack that was nearly impossible to ride on a SS, and I even saw lots of geared riders walking those sections.  That being said, much of the rest of the climbing was thigh-busting, lung-sucking fun.  And nearer to the end of the lap was a sinewy piece of sweet smooth singletrack climb that was super.
Then there was the down.  Awesome. Technical in spots, flowy most of the way - it was a real treat and I couldn't stop grinning the whole way down.  I love bike racing.
From the lot. What goes up.
Our SS field of four lined up with the 30-39s, and off we went with Ricky H taking the lead, then his teammate Dave R and me keeping an eye on Ricky.  After a few minutes of mostly climbing, I decided to inch past Dave and got to Ricky and he seemed a bit off. He said he was ok, so I passed and went on. Dave, good teammate that he is, stayed back with Ricky for a bit.  Then I went up and down and up and down and up and down and won.  Dave came in a couple minutes after, then Ricky and few minutes back - not his day, happens to us all.
I won a case of Red Bull.
Promptly gave it to a DH-er who was beyond psyched.
(photo Scott Snyder)
Pat's Peak puts on a great day of racing.  And props to S&W Sports in Concord NH for sponsoring, as well as Red Bull and Mt Dew and whoever else I'm missing.
Some cool things about the race:
> Our team, Sea Sports / Cape Cod Mt Bike Racing, was all over the podium. Bryan, shop owner Jeff, Jim, Karen, myself all got on the podium.  Mark, who spends him time making sure our bikes are podium-worthy, ironically had a mechanical issue and his placing suffered as a result.  He'll have to resume climbing the Cat2 40-49 race at the next stop.  I think everyone else on the team got points.  We flatlanders did pretty darn good up there on yonder mountains.
Bry up top, Jeff (and Katie) on left
(photo Scott Snyder)

> The Pro men went off a few minutes before us.  As I was coming down the mountain on lap 3, I heard someone coming up from behind very fast.  I glanced back and saw Adam Snyder (Jamis Bikes) bearing down on me, so I pulled over and he flew past (clipping my bar in the process, but thankfully he didn't crash).  I immediately jumped on his wheel and re-passed him by jumping over him as he walked a rock section. Uhhhmmm...ok, what really happened was I hopped in behind him and he skittered over the rocks and snaked through the turns while I ploughed my way like an ox.  The 5 seconds I got to watch him was frickin' cool though. Then he was gone, leaving me to wonder if it ever really happened.
> I'm a big fan of cyclocross even though I don't race it myself.  One of my favorite CX racers is Maureen Bruno Roy - she's from Boston, rides for Bob's Red Mill, rocks the plant-based diet, and seems funny as hell.  Well as I adjusting my brakes before the race, she comes rolling up the hill (warming up before she won the pro women's field).  I said hi and we chatted a bit.  Met her hubby after the race too - both really nice peeps.  I told Kristy about it later and this is about how our conversation went:
Me: So you know that female vegan pro cross racer I talk about?
K: Yeah.
Me: I met her today before the race.
K: Oh cool.
Me: Then I got my picture taken with her afterwards.
K: (slight pause) Geek.

It's true, I'm a bike geek.  I don't care.  Me and MBR:
Mo Bruno Roy with Prince of BikeGeekerdom
> Julian hung out with my folks and his cousins while I raced.  Kristy and Helena went to some Cape Cod Militia Rally (or maybe it was a holistic families bbq).  My parents' bdays were this weekend and it dawned on me that they're both in really frickin good shape for slightly older folk.
> On Monday I took my compensatory post-race vacation day and pplanted some ppeppers with J-man while Helena celebrated her 11th monthday by playing in a basket:
Jude loves the garden
Helena loves being adorable

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Domnarski Farm 2012: The Confidence Game

Recap: My first Cat 1 race on a course I love.  Climbed well, could have gone down better. Took 2 mud puddle swims. Got 4th out of 10 (2 DNFs). I felt strong, gassed near end but dug deep, and learned a lot.
Heading into lap 2 and another mud puddle dunk.

The Confidence Game
Confidence is a funny thing in bike racing.  I've found that my confidence in my own abilities is rarely a reflection of reality, and in the course of one race, I can go from having too too much...and back to too little.

Lack of Confidence: I lined up next to a bunch of guys I don't know...I just know OF.  There were two exceptions - Ricky Hartman, who was also racing his first Cat 1, and Dave Terrell, another Cat1 newbie who I battled at Massasoit. Having beaten both of those guys previously, I suppose I had a bit of confidence, but I was nervous about the rest of the guys slaughtering me and propping me up on a pole at the finish line as a warning to other Cat1 wannabes.

Whistle and we're off.  I float to the back, thinking the first turn and sharp climb might give some guys trouble.  I'm correct, and pass the carnage to go from 10th to about 6th.  I settle in the train and keep pace as we head up for the next 10 minutes or so.

Misplaced Confidence: I make a couple passes, feeling good, starting to build confidence a bit. I figure I'm now in 4th and I see Charlie Beal up the trail - Charlie Beal! - and I seem to be gaining on him. Huh?  Soon I'm closing in on his back wheel.  I actually feel like I may need to pass him to keep my cadence, but who am I to be passing Charlie Beal? Damn, I think -- I must be stronger than I think. All right, cool, here we go, I'm going to pass Charlie frickin Bea......hold on....Charlie's pulling over...getting off his bike...flat tire.

Ah, I'm not the badass I think I am. Fantasy dispatched, reality restored.  

Of course, now I'm putting "don't let Charlie catch me after he changes his flat" into my motivation file, next to "catch Lucas by end of race" (my teammate Lucas started in the geared 40-49 class just before our group).

At this point I've lost the leaders and there's nobody in sight behind me.  In a Cat 2 race, this would be the time to settle in, maintain and conserve a bit, and maybe make a push towards the middle of lap 2. Then Dave Richardson flies past me on a downhill towards the end of lap 1 and and Gerry Lafleur catches me in a technical section 1/3 through lap 2.  Now I figure I'm back in about 5th place.  Gerry seems content to settle in behind me - possibly to laugh at my lack of skillz.  At the next hill, I decide to attack a bit, and I get a gap on Gerry.  Now I go hunting Dave, hoping I can catch him on the powerline climb before things go down again and he blows me away.

I get out to the powerlines and see Dave up ahead.  Two singlespeeders grinding it out on a steep hill must look like some ridiculous slow-motion race parody.  I finally catch and then creep past Dave, but I really put the hurt in my quads doing it and now cramps are threatening with every pedal stroke.  Close to the top - "$10 pass" - I catch teammate Lucas.  He looks like he's hurtin more than me so I yell some motivation and then down we head.  I hit it really hard, take way more chances than I did the first lap.  Lucas holds on, and we take the turn for the finish straightaway.  I spin my 32/20 like a blender, but it's no match for his saucers and he nips me at the line in a sprint.  Dave comes in about 20 seconds later.  I figure I had about a minute gap on him at the top, so he must have killed it coming down.

Strangely enough, I find Ricky Hartman at the bottom - he had passed me when I was stuck in a mud puddle and I never saw him go by. Damn!  It's not like I could have caught him anyway - I pretty much left it all out there.

What I learned: my climbing is solid, but could always be better - keep working on it.  Losing a few lbs would help.  My downhill and technical skills need improving.  As the saying goes - the race can be won on the climbs, and lost on the descents (at least I think that's a saying).

All in all, it was a great experience and I really look forward to racing these guys again.  I think the middle-packers could really finish in any order given the course and how we feel on any particular day.

Just one of the flock
The very best part of the weekend was that I slept over my parents' house in Central Mass with my 3-year-old, Julian. Whilst I was at my race ("working" as Julian calls it), he was having an awesome time with his grandparents at the playground and feeding geese.  I might try to pawn him off on them this weekend for Pat's Peak!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Happy upgrade ride

I got my Cat 1 upgrade yesterday and celebrated with a mostly-trails commute to work this morning on my One9.  Kept an even pace most of the way, only pushed it a bit for the last couple miles.

Glad I did this, actually, as I see I can easily push this to 25 miles with 2 loops in the Willow St trails.  I need to increase the mileage on rides like this.  I could ride up to the Bass Hole trails, but that's just more road and those trails are so flat...

How to turn a 3 mile commute into 17 miles.

Dist 16.83 miles
Moving Time 1:31:28 (only stopped to put on, and later take off, my rain jacket)
Moving Avg 11.04mph
Elevation gain: 1,231 ft

Monday, May 7, 2012

Back on the Pain Train

Rode with my old crew "the pain train" yesterday.  There was only one other original pain train member at the ride, Perry.  And the train ain't the pain that it used to be, but it was still a great time.  
Back in the day. 
Have two races coming up - the flattish Willowdale on May 20 and the hilly Domnarski Farmski on June 3. Trying to train for both without burning my legs out too much - they're starting to feel a little sluggish, so I may have to take a couple days off.  Boo.

I have applied for my Cat 1's "pending" which I think means that the approver-guy hasn't yet looked at it. I'll be happy to get it, but won't be surprised if they make me prove myself a bit more as my "race resume" from last year looks a bit interrupted by the birth of the Greek.
"Cat 1-Shmat 1, look how cute I am!"

Monday, April 30, 2012

Decent start to season

I had book-ended a week's vacation with two Sunday races: the first was the Fat Tire Classic at Winding Trails in Farmington CT; the second, the Massasoit Lung Challenge in Taunton MA- the closest race to Cape Cod at just under an hour's drive.

I'd be riding my new (to me) Niner One9 singlespeed in the Cat 2 (open age) single speed class.  Gearing at 32x18.

Race 1: Winding Trails: my strategy going in was to not kill myself at the start as I remembered this course being the kind where the trails were wide enough that passing wasn't a problem.  I also figured that others might go out hard and then fade. 

After socializing a bit beforehand - re-acquainting with racing friends Nathan (my SS class) and Jen (geared Cat 2) and meeting a couple nice new folks, I lined up in the front row.

We're off! and I was about 7 of 14 going into the first short singletrack.  I kept a quick-but-even pace until I started feeling pretty good, and then set out to make up places if possible.  I passed all but one of the guys in my class and when I got to the leader (Mike), I said hello and made small talk.  I happened to notice that he was breathing a bit harder than me, so at the next hill I attacked and got a lead.  I put the hammer down for a couple minutes and then glanced back and I was alone.  This was about halfway through the first of three laps, and I figured that if I kept the gas on sufficiently, I'd take home the win.  Winding Trails is a singlespeeder's dream course and I really enjoyed it.  There were some new pieces of trail that flowed really well.

About halfway through lap 3, I held back for a couple minutes to catch my breath and plan a hard push for the last couple miles.  Once I started going hard again, I caught a lot of guys from the geared age groups ahead and had some fast and fun battles, including a bunch sprint at the end.  I ended up with the win by 2+ minutes, and my time would have been good enough for 1st overall in the Cat2 40-49.  Places 2, 3, and 4 (Rick, Mike, Nathan) in my class were all within a minute of each other.  This year's Cat2 SS class is a very competitive one, and I was really looking forward to going against these guys at Massasoit.  
Winding Trails - 222 is my son's bday - good luck charm! pic by eastwood9er

Massasoit: I had a different strategy for this race as last year.  Last year I had let the leader get away and didn't see him again until the 2nd lap (and only because he had his chain fall off and he was trailside fixing it.  I got the win last year, but felt it was perhaps tainted a bit by 2nd place's mechanical issue.  In my 2nd race ever- at Harding Hill in 2010 - I won the Cat2 geared 40-49 group, but only after Richard Pirro missed a turn right near the end - I called him back to the trail, but got a few-seconds lead as a result of his mistake and got the win by a few seconds).  So this year my plan was to keep the leaders in sight. 

I lined up a little late and ended up in the 2nd row, behind Nathan.  The field looked to be about 20 riders, with some strong looking new guys (slim and fit and with nice bikes).  Knowing Nathan tends to start fast, I was glad to be behind him.  The plan went well, and I drafted him right into 4th place going into the singletrack after the brief pavement start.  Nathan politely let me by and I settled in behind the two frontrunners.  They started inching away, but I let them go as I had established a bit of a gap on the rest of the group and I wanted to catch my breath a bit.  All in all, I'd say it was my best start ever and I felt like I was exactly where I wanted to be.

The two lead guys were pushing a pretty hard pace, but I kept them in sight best I could and tried to assess their strengths and figure out if they were geared bigger or smaller than me.  Guy in black was a good all-around rider and looked to put some real power down on the climbs, but his speed was a bit erratic and I wondered if he'd be able to keep that pace going for two laps.  Guy in red (David), on the other hand, was looking fit and very strong in the rough stuff .  I started feeling pretty good about halfway through the first of our two laps and passed David. I had a feeling I'd be seeing him again, though. Guy in black had a sweet singlespeed Cannondale Flash carbon - running it without a chain tensioner - I still have no idea how that setup works. Can you put an EBB in that frame???  Confused.

I kept pace with guy-in-black and watched as he took a bottle from a teammate he was passing and take a few swigs and give it back.  I caught him on a fireroad and asked if he lost a bottle or something and he said he had, and that he would likely be fading fast as a result.  I had packed an extra half-filled bottle on board and offered it to him. He accepted and then I took the lead.  A guy crashed hard in front of me and as I stopped to avoid running him over and to make sure he was ok, the guy in black passed me.  David caught back on to us as well.  This was fun - real racing!

I got back on and set about closing the gap on guy in Black.  I caught back onto him, and then passed him right away as he seemed to be fading a bit.  David was right on my ass, though, and then he passed me through some techy roots and attacked, successfully, creating a big gap very quickly.  Perfect attack by him.  

The first lap ended and we spilled out onto the pavement and I could see David up probably 100 yards ahead, a big gap, but he seemed to be working harder than I felt I was.  So I settled into a pace and remembered Cycling Dirt's vid of Seamus Powell at Hop Brook - effortlessly picking through the technical stuff - and I decided to try to keep it smooth and in control.  With that smoother effort, I slayed the first piece of singletrack and I started catching glimpses of David's red jersey through the woods.  I finally caught up and kept him in sight as I planned my attack.  Knowing that he passed me on the techy-rooty stuff near the end of the lap, I decided my only hope was to attack on the flatter-smoother stuff mid-way through, and then try to get a big enough gap to hold him off to the finish. 

I attacked when I thought it wise, but didn't get as much of a gap as I hoped.  We soon came to the first of three difficult, technical climbs, and I put in a hard effort and grinded it out over the top.  I passed a geared rider at the very top and put the hammer down.  I literally felt like my eyes were starting to go crossed.  I started thinking back to my training rides this winter/spring with the Sea Sports crew - trying to keep up with Jeff and Brian and Tim and Dan had prepared me for this, I thought.  I kept the painful pace up, attacked the rooty sections with a bit more abandon.  I passed a geared Competitive Cycling dude just after the last climb and then blasted the last downhill barely in control and then sprinted to the line with the win.

David finished about a minute behind me, then 3-4-5 came in about 4 minutes back I think.  Not sure where guy-in-black finished, but I found my bottle on the side of the trail near the finish (you're welcome, lol).

What's next: With wins in my first two races this year, and with a win last year and two 2nd places, I think it's time to apply for an upgrade to Cat 1.  Honestly, I don't think I'm Cat 1 material - mainly because the races are longer and I fear I'll fade bad at the end of those races.  I feel like I'm a Cat 1.5 racer.  I'm a tweener.  I guess I have to add a bit to my long ride each week.  Assuming I do get the upgrade, I'll miss racing the guys in my class - they're a really great, competitive bunch.  But it'll be cool racing against the dudes I only read about now.  I know they'll slaughter me, but what the hell - someone has to come in last.

That marks the end of this extremely long post.  If you've made it this far, thanks for reading!