What a difference a little sleep makes

August 13th, 2012

About 4 weeks ago, I went up to Indiana to race and got totally hosed. I was hoping to pull a rabbit out of my hat and do well, but we were flying out for vacation just hours after the race, and a weeks worth of stress and lack of sleep kept my wheels from turning. Not good. It was a long week and I was happy it was over.

Upon returning from vacation, aside from fixing some of the “redecorating” Radar, our 1 year old lab mix, had taken upon himself to perform, it looked like our house had been vacant for years. More work, more stress, The amount of time it takes to prepare for and recover from vacations, I am starting to wonder about their intended effectiveness.

Anyway, poor me. So after almost a month between starts, I was feeling a little twitchy going into Sundays race in Cherokee. A talented field toed the line, Mitchell, Dillman, Schworminator, Richardson, Hauber, Cornelius, and Ray to name a few – it was not going to be an easy day. But what they didn’t realize is I had a plan. This was a brilliant plan at that. You ready? Here it is; get in the woods first, cross the finish line first. And thanks to takin a little time off, getting more than 6 hours sleep a couple nights in a row, I was able to ride the recently resurrected Anthem like a rented mule on lap one and managed to keep the gap through the rest of race. I wasn’t totally happy with how I felt/rode, but it felt good to be able to make the wheels turn and get the win.

With more than a few races left now through October, I hope to put together a decent close to the season, including a little redemption in Indiana. I just need to remember to keep things in perspective, not to get stressed over things I can’t control and no more melatonin the night before a race. And dogs are horrible decorators.

Got BUMPed

June 11th, 2012

BUMP was my big goal for the season. I was going to be in peak form. While I didn’t think winning was going to be an option, I wanted to be able to mix it up up front for a while and finish strong. Then, life happened. I didn’t want to go anymore, I mean 5 hours is a long drive knowing youre going to receive a severe beating upon arrival. But, I had already registered and I figured this could be the inspiration to get my training on track, or just hang it up. Given my new-found sense of “might as well,” Sarah and I headed down to ‘Bama.

The unusually cool temps were a welcome relief from what is normally one of the first, hot, sticky, and nasty races of the year, but this didn’t make Saturdays STXC any better. In a nutshell, there was one good spot on the course to pass and everyone went for it at the same time and I came out on the short end of it. No big deal, that’s racing. I was just glad my sister was there to let the ladies who criticized my move know what was what and my wife was there to realize “it” (the mouth, the attitude, the I’m gonna get my 2 cents in, call it what you will) runs in the family. Thanks Terry. ;)

The XC on Sunday was looking promising. With much trail added in the last couple years, the folks at BUMP were going to make good use of it with what was, more or less, a 31 mile loop. Even if I had a bad race, a bad race on fun trail ain’t all that bad. Knowing there are some hard climbs, I took the Mtn Goat (XTC) figuring time gained up would more than cancel out anything lost going down. 

It all started well, going into the woods 6th, with what appeared to be solid riders in front of me and it only took a short time to whittle it down to 5. I was feeling better than I could have imagined – this could be a podium kinda day. Then on the first rocky section, the guy in front of me spins out forcing a dismount and we lose the front three. No time to panic, they are all still right there…then he slips again. For the second time, I am off the bike and running.

I hate running when I should be riding. Throws everything out of whack.

Once we are riding again, I manage to get around him, (before he dabs again), but the two dismounts allowed the front 3 to have ridden out of sight. The next 10 or so miles I rode with two riders nipping at my heals, but I was able to keep them at bay while maintaining a comfortable pace, until I came too hot into a corner where I clipped a tree and went flying ass over elbows.

As I was picking myself up and becoming re-oriented with the world – what happened, where is my bike, do I hear an ice cream truck? – Mr. I Can’t Ride Rocky Trail came blazing past. Jerkstore didn’t even bother with the standard “yewwallright??” Not that any of us mean it, like asking a co-worker “how are you?” it’s largely a formality, but to paraphrase Seinfeld, we’re living in a society here. It’s part of the code.

This came near the base of the longest climb on the course. I was now in 5thand determined not to lose another spot, so I got myself together and started climbing. I never saw Jerkstore in front of me, but I kept the power on all the way until I crested on the fireroad and began the Jekyll and Hyde, the last big descent to the finish.

I descended in a way one only can when there are cameras, spectators and lap riders – never fearing, feeling no pain and with reckless abandon. Adrenalin pumping, I was launching that hard-tail over piles of rocks, Maxxis tires and Stan’s rims shrunching, poinging, giving it their all. Powering through corners, passing where there was no space, but not crashing anyone, I was flying and it felt fantastic. I take a sharp turn, the trail smoothed out, and there he was. Probably a victim of his poor technical riding abilities, Mr. ICRRT was right in front of me. One more short acceleration and I sat on his wheel.

With about a mile or so to go, I had waited long enough and I made an aggressive, but clean, pass for which I was scolded, “All you had to do was ask!” Well, if I knew he was the most passive racer ever and the one in a million willing to give up a spot so close to the finish, I would have.  What a tool.

All was going well, I created a big enough gap to not worry about a sprint, all I had to do was ride it out. Then, weird course marking created confusion. The three-way intersection had two options and no course marshall. There are other bewildered looking racers, I stop, Mr. ICRRT catches up. I hear Dickman’s voice over the P.A. system “Left, left, go to your left!” I have no idea if he was talking to us, or if he could even see us, but is was something, so I went left. I gap ICRRT again. But after a couple minutes of riding with no lap riders around and I can’t hear him back there anymore, I panic. Did I go the right way? Am I embarking on a 10 mile loop and giving up everything I just suffered for? I turn around, ICRRT is in fact still back there, so at least we are doing something stupid together. I turn back to the trail in front of me and my momentary lack of focus sends me through a bad line over some rough stuff and I drop my chain.

Sonoffa______.

It only took a few seconds to fix, but that was long enough for him to eek by. Just a couple more corners and I see we are headed out of the woods to the finish. Those last couple hundred yards, I chased hard, but to no avail, the small gap was just big enough. 5th place, 2 seconds from 4th and 1 year from being 40. I am pretty happy and I think the form will just keep getting better as the season goes on. Maybe I won’t hang it up just yet.

Thanks to the Days, our awesome hosts, for a great time and to Sarah for supporting an old man’s fading glory.

One down

May 24th, 2012

First race of the season is in the bag. While coming in 4th behind 3 good riders isn’t normally something to be bummed about, being more than 5 minutes off the pace is.

It was a stressful (life) and hard (training) week prior to DINO #1. The start was fast. I never felt very good and was having trouble negotiating the fast, sandy, and very twisty Warsaw course. This isn’t a good place to ride for the first time during the first lap of a race, I was bouncing off trees like a pinball. Eric Pritle, Issac Neff and some other dude where making it look easy and I realized that trying to stay up front with them was going to make the next 2 laps really, really bad for me, so I eased off. From there I yo-yoed with a couple riders and had a couple minor mechanicals, but still managed to hold my place.

On the plus side, the new Stan’s Crest hoops laced to DT Aerolites and 240 hubs (upgraded to a 36 tooth ratchet) absolutely rocked. Bob an Brian knocked that build outta the park. You want some super bad race wheels? Copy that recipe and order some up. Also, getting to hang with new teammate Joe “Dirt” Driver and with the Pirtles (who were kind enough to let me an Joe get in on the romantic weekend) at least made the time enjoyable.

I hope that a course that suits me better will yield some better results, but this weekend’s race at Waverly will bring the heat in the form of some fast youngins and brutal temps, at least it should help get me ready for BUMP. The getting heatstroke and my butt handed to me by younger riders aspect of BUMP that is.

The season that wouldn’t start

April 12th, 2012

After a promising start at the Snake Creek TT series, the early season has been derailed by illness, weddings, and all that other real life crap that keeps me from pretending I have an exciting life as a pro bike racer. The spectacular weather we’ve had this spring has made my delayed debut all the more frustrating. I feel like patience is a constant lesson in my life, so I guess I will take another stab at using it.

The upside of illness, while in California on business, an ear infection kept me off the return flight, but on some sweet trails in Pasadena where I hooked up with Bruce “travelin Progold lube man” Dickman. You can leave the South, but you can’t escape it. (All from Tennessee on down would not call Kentucky “South,” but since the rest of the country calls us hillbillies, too bad).

I would like to get some races under my belt before it’s time to BUMP ‘n Grind at Oak Mountain, but you can’t stress out about things outside your control. So until then, I’m combining two parts emergen-C, 8 parts fruits n veggies and way too much time on the internet looking at shiny things that could make my trail time better, faster, smoother, or maybe just shinier.

Oh, and do me a favor, if you plan on getting married and inviting me to yer nuptials, don’t get married until the off season.

I got the scrod

March 7th, 2012

Man, what a day. The events of Friday afternoon put the dual piston brakes on the first incarnation of plans for the weekend. The plan was Snake Creek Gap Round 3, leaving Friday at 3 in the pm, arrive early, relax, get up Sat and go dominate. Since 100% percent of wives polled were 110% against us leaving, (something about tornados), the plan changed to leaving at 2am on Sat and suffer like the pigs we are. Somehow, someway, a plan like this makes sense to only people who fish and race bikes.

A belt of Whiskey and a melatonin had me drifting happily off to sleep at 930 Friday which didn’t make the 2am alarm too bad. Bill and Nate and I rendezvoused in Lexington at 3, pilled into Nate’s car and rolled. I drifted in and out of sleep the first hour or so, but finally gave into coffee’s bitter-sweet aroma at 430. Breakfast pickings at 530am are slim, so a quality (I base that on the fact that the bathroom was clean) clown-based fast food establishment was our race fuel, which was like burning e85 in a funny car.

After 2 rounds, I was in 3rd place, knowing I was only one Thomas Turner showing up from being relegated to 4th (he did, I was). Since the storms hit Dalton, I thought the course would be a bit slow and I didn’t think I could shave more than 10 minutes off my time to take the 3rd spot from Craig Evans. It turns out I was right and wrong.

Even if the promoter is a (deleted nasty things) that doesn’t realize you can’t post two different payout schedules in two different places, everyone else involved at this race are top notch, great volunteers and racers. Zack, Chip and Brandon all had our backs and had us set up with rides to the start to avoid having to take the bus and start amongst the slower traffic. We were one of the first to arrive in the Dry Creek parking lot (though nothing in the area was remotely dry, but plenty of creek) and get going. I started about 1 minute behind my spandex laden preverbal carrot, Craig, who I managed to catch on the climb just after the incredibly swollen creek crossing about 1 mile in (which effectively made my feet numb the rest of the day). We battled a bit on the way up and I felt like I could pull away, but since I had already bridged and was now virtually 1 minute ahead of him, I didn’t feel like I needed to push it too hard too early, so just rode behind and let him take the lead into the singletrack.

I don’t know how he runs or swims, but my guess Craig is a top ranked X-terra pro cuz the boy can ride a bike. Road-going tri-geeks are notoriously sketchy on the bike, but this dirt-going incarnation of a triathlete is anything but. While I would never wish to place behind a tri-guy, it’s easier to accept when you know he is a legit rider (not just the best at exercising).

The rest of the race in a nutshell; I felt good and dropped Craig, he caught back on later, I planned on dropping him in the last 8 miles but crashed instead.

It was good I saved energy early. By the time I crashed, I was exhausted (I sense a correlation here). Not much sleep for two days took its toll and I just didn’t have enough to push myself at the end. At least my slow limp through the rest of the course was limited to the last couple miles. I was happy to have only given up 1:30 to Craig on the day, but was still 4 minutes off from claiming 3rd. If I could have maintained my initial pace, I think I would have knocked Craig off, but never-the-less, I didn’t have it in me that day.

Somewhat assuaging the feeling of loosing 3rd was “At least I am still going to be in the money.” So, note to promoters, if your race is advertised in multiple sites, especially if it has been paying one way for 8 years, you give folks a pretty noticeable “heads up” and make sure all sites have the same info. Thanks.

From a fitness level though, I can’t complain. At 38 years old I beat my previous best time in 7 years (equaling 18 or so attempts) on that course by almost 7 minutes (lucky 7). With some great sponsors on board; Progold bike lube, Stan’s NOTUBES, Shimano, Giant Bikes and most importantly, the good folks at Clarksville Schwinn and some promising early results, this could be a stellar year. I’ve always been a late bloomer.

Guess who just found out higher entry fees now = less payout

Hmm, guess who didn't get paid?

Good thing I was wearing a helmet. Recovery beer is dangerous

Safety first! No helmet, no beer

Look at my palm. Look at it!

Look at my palm already, look at it!

Urban Short Tracking

January 30th, 2012

More fun than urban farming, urban short track racing is the new hotness. And who would know better than Clarksville Schwinn Backwoods Racing, taking the top spots in the mens cat 1/2 and cat 3 races at the LaGrange Urban Short Track Series (LUSTS).

A great way to get some quality training in on a nasty winter day, LUSTS has been fun, (especially since I have 2 wins in two starts). Nick put his head down and pushed hard to take second from Ray Smith (Bobs Redmill) and Andrew Beckman rolled it in for 4th.

The new guy, Joe Driver, just getting himself dirty for the first time this year, has locked up the Cat 3 series with 5 wins. With a hot new Scalpel 29er and his eyes on the DINO series, it looks like Joe has the fever.

Thanks to Jon at Goose Creek Cycles for putting on this series, and all the fine merchants in downtown LaGrange for sponsoring.

Bittersweet beat of 3

January 10th, 2012

First weekend in January. It’s the time of year we load up the wagons and head down to suffer in the mountains of North Georgia. The Snake Creek Gap TT series has become a yearly tradition to break up the monotony of winter, get pounded by the Pinhoti trail, eat meat (checking off cows, bison and a small game hen this round) and drink a few Sweetwaters.

As a quick side-note, NWGA SORBA has some awesome volunteers. I mean these folks raise this race to a level other race promoters and clubs could only dream about. Peach cobbler cooked in cast iron pots over open fire, trucks drivin you and your bikes to the start line 30 minutes away, these people rock.

Generally being cold and/or wet with fitness teetering between “grandma on life support” and “newborn on a ventilator,” January is typically the slowest race. This year’s was anything but. Conditions at start were great with temps in the 50’s rising to low 60’s and the trail was tacky in some places, tiny bit slick in others, loamy to completely dry.

Fueled by the feast the night before at Ali Babba’s (haters, go eat your tacos) in Knoxville and strange food like substances resembling sausage, eggs, bagels and waffles from the hotel that morning, I was ready to ride. (btw, don’t mess with old folks at the free hotel breakfast. When each meal could be your last, it’s serious business.)

We got to the start early, giving us time to help unload some bikes, beat the line at the outhouse for that final fear-based evacuation and to roll over to be among the first to go off.

3, 2, 1 … I pushed it a bit to get the blood flowing on the rolling 1 mile dirt road, careful not to go too hard too early, crossing the thankfully low creek, and then into a comfortable rhythm on the long double-track climb. By the time the climb turns into tight single I had passed all those starting before me resulting in the next 20 or so miles of completely empty trail.

Awesome.

What I think of as the first section, (from the start to the gravel downhill), came in went in a flash. I figured it was cuz I was having fun and not suffering much, however, when I finally looked at my computer at the ½ way point, I realized I was about 7 minutes faster than any previous time. I refilled both my bottles, grabbed a couple gels and was off again.

I was having a blast. After swearing off hardtails more than a decade ago, I am lovin my 21 pound Giant XTC Composite 29er. I was able to make it fly up the climbs and was easy to flick around on the sketchy and rocky stuff. Any time I may have lost being a bit conservative on a downhill was more than made up for on, well, every other part of the course.

I only had two problems out there: I once again broke a Look pedal, and I totally misjudged my place on the course. On only the 4th or 5th ride on a “warranty” set, I’m done with those pieces of plastic trash Look calls mtb pedals – thanks to the best rep in the biz, some real pedals, Shimano XTR, are on their way. The other problem, well, I dunno, I kept thinking I had farther to go than I did. I could have looked down, but for fear that I would be disappointed at the time or distance left, I just didn’t want to look at my computer. Stupid? Probably. I can’t say I had much left in the tank by the finish, but enough to feel like I could have pushed harder and made up a couple more minutes. The end result was my first sub 3 hour time – 2:57:SOMETHING which was good enough for 3rd overall. I’ll just hope conditions and form continue to improve as the series rolls on.

Since the skies opened up that afternoon, Bill Crank and I skipped the usual Raccoon Mtn ride the next day instead stopping at Laurel Lake, KY for an easy 18 mile spin on a great stretch of the Sheltowee Trace trail system. All in all, a great weekend.

And finally …

Giving thanks to God for the ability, to Sarah for understanding my need for male bonding and masochism (I mean the racing you perv) and to Clarksville Schwinn, Giant Bikes, Shimano, and Progold, for a lean, clean, and mean race machine.

And thanks to my snazzy tightpants. The tightpants, after all, are the reason we ride.

Help the Aged

December 5th, 2011

On my ride yesterday I realized this will be my last year racing in the 30-39 age group. After resisting the temptation to just swerve right into oncoming traffic or the swiftly moving Ohio River, I decided I’m OK with it. After all, the old guys that smoke the young-uns are always the most impressive. Or pitifull. I’ll take either.

After an extended off season, its back to training. By last July, I was starting to feel like a 100 year old stuntman during a cold, wet winter. So after the Waverly race on Labor Day weekend, the trainin bible was put on the shelf a bit earlier than usual and just cracked back open 3 weeks ago.

It was a productive off season; Sarah and I found a house (seeing as though houses are everywhere, finding one isn’t much to brag about, one for us to buy), bought my first hard-tail in 8 years, a got new team, and finally got some winter riding shoes.

The house – it has a basement and will be a great hindrance to finances and ride time, but, it’s ours and I’m pretty pumped.

The bike – Giant XTC Composite 29er a.k.a. the 21 pound missile. I can’t get over how well this thing rides. It is still a hard-tail and doesn’t do much to soak up the no-see-um’s in the trail or mis-timed landings, but just for pointing and shooting up, or down, the trail, this bike is scary fast.

The team – Sean Steele (with that name, he should have been a wrestler) emails one day about merging Backwoods Racing, who’s primary sponsor is Clarksville Schwinn, with Rapid Transit, Clarksville’s road team. That was a no brainer: More team-mates, more sponsorship, more exposure. Slam dunk, thanks Sean.

The training – first 3 week cycle in the books. November, being a weather crapshoot in Louisville, well, the crap was hit. Actually, it wasn’t all bad, it was pretty decent. Even though it rained every weekend, I was still able to get some good rides in on at least one of those days. I have finally got back in the gym to try to get some of my broken and weak parts strong again (most notably, the shoulder). All in all I’m feeling pretty decent for this time of year; lots of power, no fitness, always hungry. Literally, not some figurative “hungry for the prize” or such platitude, hungry for tacos, burgers, pie, whatever, just feed me.

The lube – after using Dumond Tech for the last __??? years, I was a bit hesitant to make a switch, but lemme tell ya, ProGold is the stuff. From the cleaners (spray and towels) and degreasers to the lube itself, it works like a champ. Great stuff.

The racing – Despite our new two story potential fitness-wrecker, I have some high hopes for this year starting with the Snake Creek Gap TT series (which will test the limits of the Shimano MW81’s), a couple of Nationals in California in the spring and who knows what else, may make another run at some 100 milers. Got some other things milling around, just have to see how things work out. It’s all supposed to fun, so outside of the early season goals, I’m going to keep the schedule pretty loose.

There you have it. More updates to come as boredom and frustration warrant.

I hate the Tour of France

August 18th, 2011

The one they do on bicycles every year. The one the cycling world goes nuts for. Yeah, I hate it.

I watch it.

I read the recaps.

I leave my browser open for up to the minute updates at work.

Seems like odd behavior for someone who hates the Tour. So, what I really hate is what the Tour isn’t and what happens during it.

What it isn’t. The hype for most any event in life almost always eclipses the actual occurrence and makes you feel a bit let down. In hindsight you realize the event was indeed pretty cool, just not life altering, as promised. Such is the Tour. It never is as awesome as the lead-up to it. All the big show downs rarely happen, 1/2 the contenders crash out before even taking a swing. Then there’s the doping scandals that pop up like a zit before class picture day, no matter the outcome, they leave a mark that taints that years race to some degree. So you take all that, plus the 2 weeks of flat stages (yawn) multiplied by a couple awesome rides, narrow escapes and heroic attacks and wins and you get a Peter Jackson Film.

Yes, the Tour is like Lord of the Rings or Donkey Kong Does New York. All in all, pretty cool, but really, if we could edit it down a bit and just get to the action a bit faster. We don’t need the whole journey to know how they got there. Maybe instead of Peter Jackson, they could make the Tour a Michael Bay production; all stages are mountain stages except the downhill team time trials, and the gap jumps, rings of fire and tiger pits on the 1 flat stage. If these guys are gonna crash out, might as well make it awesome. “I crashed out of the tour because of wheel touching,” that sounds so weenie.

Now, what happens during it and why this post is relevant 3 weeks after the Tour has ended.

June. The race season is really getting going. March, April and May can be great, but spotty. May is generally more consistent weather, but you still may not have the new bike completely sorted, or that bug you caught by being under trained and over raced in April is finally out of the system to where you’re no longer clutching your chest and heaving like Redd Foxx half way up a climb. We then seamlessly roll into July and you’re flying, feeling great, nothing but races on the calendar for the next 8 weeks. It’s summer, life is grand.

Then it happens.

Every year going into July I feel like this year is going to be different, I feel too good right now … but it never is different. Somehow in those 3 weeks since the tour started, the sparkly, race fueled days of summer have given way to “seasons about over and I’m feeling beat.” Like watching those guys cover 3600 miles took it out of me. The stores are in on it too, they have gone from 4th of July picnic displays of great joy to back to school displays of pending doom. You can feel autumn looming and you know just behind it is the Beast that is Ohio Valley Winters.

So, thats why I really hate the Tour; it kills summer and I’m tired at the end of it. With this year’s heat wave, July was especially brutal and now I am lookin forward to forgetting about training for a while and riding because riding without agenda is fun. CX need not apply.

Second is the new first

July 17th, 2011

I got second, yet I still won. Nice work when you can get it.

The tight twisties at Capitol View made for some very, very hot and sweaty racing. By the end of lap 2, gloves and chamois had hit their saturation point. An ill-advised, yet delicious, late morning egg, ham n cheese bagel was making some tasty vurps. Mitchell drilling it up the hills. Put all these things together and you got 2 laps of racing, and 2 laps of doing just enough to maintain 2nd.

Yet somehow I still won.

It was the Bluegrass State games MTB race and they score Cat 1 (Mitchell) separate from Pro (me), so I took home more cash and a gold medal. I don’t do many smart things, so not only is second the new first, it’s also exceptional. Nap time.