Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Driving to Weeknight Races

I either bike commute or take the bus, mainly just to be a snob! So I am not used to rush hour traffic. Whenever I find myself in bumper-to-bumper running late to a time trial outside the I-275 loop I really start to question myself. I saw this online and I try not to think of it while I am sitting there.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Riding with Homies to the Center of the Universe

Had a lovely weekend of long rides with no racing. The cross-country mountain bike races kept me busy all summer, but I really wasn't able to get out for some fun rides. Saturday I would "open legs" for the race, Sunday ride a pre-lap then race. I might ride 5 hours in a weekend, where I would prefer to do two 5-hour rides.

With Frankenbike and Versailles on the Horizon I wanted to get some quality base miles back in my legs. Saturday was a long ride with teammates and minor celebrities. The Best Bike Blog Ever, Cincinnati John from the Two Johns Cycling Podcast, the Pilot... It was hard to get a ride in because we were signing so many autographs. Kidding.

Sunday Bridget and I trained on the course for the 6 Hours of Versailles. It is so lovely out there. We had a nice picnic lakeside after the ride.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bad night!

All I wanted to do was practice cyclocross... Last summer I made sure come July I would practice every couple of weeks. I lost track this year so I was ready to start rehearsing the dance moves.

You see, I am naturally clumsy. Without cross practice I tend to trip over my own feet. And that's what happened last night.

First I was going to head to Kings to practice. Then I felt guilty about my poor puppy so I decided to run her around on the bike then do my neighborhood practice. Kona and I were riding some trails but I was totally clumsy and nearly fell off a small cliff and I endo'd over a small, bunny-hoppable branch. Then I crashed on asphalt scraping myself up and scuffing my brand new white bartape...

Then it happened. I was riding through a field and a stick went up in my derailleur and tore it off. I seriously felt like crying. I was miles from home without a chain tool. Ugh, a beautiful evening ride with my pooch was ruined. I hope my bad luck will end soon.

Oh well, she kind of cheered me up by playing with a cicada. What a character!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bad at Math?

I was doing some rough math, I may have won the Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance MTB Race series in the Expert division... I dunno, we'll see. Too early to pop open the fine champagne.

I wonder if Tower gets rescheduled I will have to dust off the Paragon again and defend some points. But from now on I'm focusing on cross and the 6 Hours of Versailles.

Race #89: I got the bonk!

I love England-Idlewild. It is one of my favorite local race courses, along with east Fork and Versailles. I typically do well here and I was looking forward to the race. Could I hold onto my lead over Marty in the CORA series? Could I beat my friend and teammate Matt Fox?

Well the race got off to a vicious start. It was fast and people were jockeying for position. I felt pretty good and I was holding the wheel ahead. There were a few crashes and I gained some spots. At some point there was a miscommunication between Marty and I. He thought I wanted to pass so he got over, I thought he wanted me to pass so I tried. Well, my handlebars hit a tree and I went down. Damn! I lost a handful of spots. Then there were more crashes and I gained the spots back, but only after redlining my little engine.

So I got back up to a pretty good position, maybe even a podium. Foxy was on my wheel and we had a couple riders behind in a pretty tight chase group. The first two laps I could "gas it" and create a separation but I noticed something. All the sections where I typically lay down the law and completely own it, I found myself feeling a bit whooped and not 100%. I kept feeling like I was saving myself for the next lap.

Well, Foxy and the others eventually caught up and held my wheel for half a lap. Then it happened. I missed an opportunity to take a drink and a few minutes later I started riding poorly. I was getting tired. I lost one spot. A few minutes later the wheels fell completely off the wagon and Foxy passed and I went backward. I decided to guzzle water no matter how slow I rode and tried to recover. I was to defend my position and I ended up getting fifth.

It was just a bit frustrating to ride a less than stellar race on this course, but unlike past years where I came on strong riding from the back of the field, this year I was feeling the pressure in the front of the race.

I think I have to make sure my nutrition is worked out a bit better in future cross-country races. I changed my nutrition mid-season and I could feel the effects in the last two races.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Race #88: Deja Vu all over again...

Photos from Brent and Amanda, Podium pic from Dion at

The epic spring rain that hit the Midwest had wreaked havoc upon Caesar Creek. So the race was cancelled and moved back to Hueston Woods. The race was also on a Saturday, the same weekend as KyMBA, OMBC and DINO races — attendance was down. It was only Brent and I in Expert Men. So Philip merged the Expert and Sport class. It really spiced things up! I was happy to have more people to throw down against.

I was still a bit tired from John Bryan so I felt like I wasn't killing it. But I guess that John Bryan really gave me some fitness because even though I wasn't going 100%, my first 3 lap times were pretty comparable. After lap 1 I was 5th place overall, and 2nd in Expert (obviously since there was only 2 of us). I tried to keep it consistent and I reeled in 4th as he had a mechanical, and eventually I passed Darrin to be 3rd overall.

Actually my 3rd lap was the best, I cleaned most of the technical stuff. Earlier in the race the fatigue from John Bryan made me dismount everything and I had to do cyclocross practice. The sport guys finished and about that time I fell apart. I noticed I lost 3-4 pounds the day before and I didn't realize that I was dehydrated the morning of the race. I think I ended up bonking and barely made it in the 4th lap! I was lucky no one was there to woop me!

After the race I got to hang out with Dion and Jeni in Downtown Oxford. It was nice to make a day of it. The weather has cooled and it's made for some lovely rides and hanging out outside.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Races #81, 83 and 87: Plagued by Mechanicals

I love the Harbin Time Trials. They are great training races for cyclocross, the course offers a lot of short punchy climbs and corners to power out of. Typically you race in brutal heat and it really tests your fitness.

7/14 Bastille Day Chain Suck
Lap 1: 24:08
Lap 2: 26:06
0:50:14, 4 out of 9
I was still rocking the same bent up chain since Mohican, so I finally got to change it that day. Well, I didn't realize that my chain rings were toast. I spent most of the race on the side of the trail putting my chain back on (I was getting major chain suck). My legs felt great and I really think I could have easily had first or second. Oh well, at least the mechanical in the training race gave me time to fix it before the next race.

7/21 Psyched Out and Baked
Lap 1: 24:05
Lap 2: 24:42
0:48:47, 2 out of 12
I didn't see any of the usual favorites so I got pretty psyched I could win. I went out the gate like a banshee — riding a bit too rabid and ending up putting my wheel wrong a few times. At one point I ran right into a tree! I was burning myself up, the heat index was near 110F, and I was drained by the time I hit the rollers at the end of the first lap. I decided to ride smarter on the second lap and put in effort on the power sections.

I went pretty fast compared to previous weeks but it was no use. I wasn't as fast as my best time last year, and there was one rider who rode even faster...

8/11 Oops
DNS (Did not start)
My pedal fell off during my warmup. It was 3 years old and had seen a ton of muddy races. I have some replacements at home, and I was really just thankful that it didn't happen during a race where I was doing well. It was nice just to watch my friends, continue to recover from my John Bryan effort. I got to soak up some beautiful weather and even hit the trails low and slow after the race with my dog Kona. She is a blast to ride with, she made the trip worth my while and I felt so happy and content with the day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The weather has cooled and it feels a bit like Autumn. Clear and sunny, I took a quick break to enjoy the view on my way into work.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Athletic Supporters

Photo by Jeffrey Jakucyk

I was still recovering from John Bryan, so when Bridget mentioned we could ride to Big Dave's MainStraße Crits I jumped at the offer. We also got to check out the Women and the Top Men back in June at the Madiera Crit. Crits are so fun, I automatically pretend I am in Europe/Belgium and search out some beer and just watch the action. The other night I was so geeked to be there that we went to a German food place on MainStraße. In Germany it can be a hearty meal that feels like Mom made it from fresh ingredients. In the States German food is reduced to slop. Ugh. I miss you Deutschland!

Holga pic I shot in the first corner of the 3/4 Men's Crit. Tried to get Butch in frame too but I shot a bit early!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Race #86: Like Nascar in the Woods, but with Cramps

Photo by Kimberly Sink on Flickr

I was really happy to have made the podium at last year's 6 Hours of John Bryan "Race for Relief." But in the past year the competitive landscape has changed and now some new faces have come on the scene looking super fast and becoming new friends. Stephen Huddle just raced the Continental Divide and I am sure has the legs of the energizer rabbit, and Brent Mayer rides like a MotoCross racer with his legs as the engine. And Marty, as always, is a badass. Marty and I both have been dealing with reduced training from life in general and a busier than usual cross-country MTB racing season. I knew this year was going to be tough and it took the edge off my nerves going into this race pretty much knowing I would be lucky to get fourth. This was to be my third John Bryan race and each year I use lesson from the previous year to race more efficiently.

Lap 1: 0:53:41
I had a hell of a run in the Le Mans start this year. I guess the 90 degree runs up the stairs to Mount Adams have paid off. That was, until I got to the bikes. I placed my bike 3 rows in from the right, only to find some last minute hosers had thrown in some extra rows and my bike disappeared. Once found, I made up ground on the gravel road leading into the trail. Marty flew by looking great. A paceline formed of me, Joe and a bunch of homies from Rogue. We were really flying that lap. Stephen was on the front for a while and I think he overheated his motor, Damn. Sam Dombrozsi was killing it on his cross bike, doing jumps off all the obstacles.

Lap 2: 0:54:09
Tried to mellow out a bit and find my own pace. But Bjet yellow that I was only 30 seconds down on the next place so I started going at it again. Around the end of the lap I caught up to them and it was Marty. I was feeling a bit fresh so I jumped in front and we rode the rest of the lap together. When we came in Dan mentioned we were 2 minutes down on the leader. I was like "Geez, who is this robot." Marty had to stop to mix bottles. I had my secret weapon, I was wearing a CamelBack that was allowing me not to pit for the first 3 laps. Thus saving me time in the pit like Nascar or Formula 1.

Lap 3: 0:55:34
Out there alone trying to keep a decent pace. Rode with Darin and some kid from RedZone. It was nice to keep a fast pace and do less work by sitting in behind and getting some benefits of drafting. By the end of the lap I was starting to feel the effects of the race. Compared to last year I was flying, every lap faster than my fastest lap the previous year. Maybe first place would blow-up and I would win?! I had been going at it like a cross-country race, like the finish line was at mile 30. Add to that my reduced training and I was starting to fade. I started to cramp. I came into the finish line and saw Marty just behind me, and Brent was with him. I thought to myself, "oh well, you're getting fourth today."

Pit: 0:00:30
I had a second CamelBack all filled and ready to go. Plus I kept all my gels in my back pocket so little time was lost refueling.

Lap 4: 0:55:43
I can't remember too much of this lap. I think Brent passed me. I think I spent most of the lap about 10 seconds behind him until my leg cramps got the better of me when we hit the little, tiny hills! Ugh.

Lap 5: 1:00:28
I passed Brent when he pitted but he caught up to me on the twisty section. I was tired. I was just trying to do a recovery lap hoping that I could finish the race. My stomach was starting to sour for the first time in my riding career — I think I was over-fueling with Roctanes and EFS and I felt dehydrated, cottonmouthed and like I had a brick in my belly. This awesome spectator in the woods was ringing a cowbell and handed me a water bottle on 2 laps (THANK YOU) — I needed all the water I could get. My body was screaming. Hands hurting, back sore. I lost the core strength and endurance I had at Mohican. Brent caught me and we made a gentlemens' agreement just to recover, just to get some miles out of the way. A few minutes later this guy passed and said he was first place in Solo. Brent and I were like "Dammit, we both had our wheel in front for a few minutes and didn't know it!" After a while Brent got away again. I was wooped but still in third trying to give Marty a run for his money.

Pit: 0:00:54
Tossed off my last CamelBack and grabbed some bottles. Noticed my shifting was getting funky so I lubed the chain. I tried to start stretching because my quads, hammies and groin were spasming and cramping. But then Marty rolled up and I decided I better bail. I gave him a good luck pat on the his butt and took off.

Lap 6: 0:58:21
I tried to up the pace again. But I was feeling pretty bad still. Then Marty passed me looking pretty fresh on one of the access roads. Part of me wanted to surrender but part of me wanted to fight it out. With two laps to go who knows what could happen. I began to ride with a higher cadence to keep my momentum up while not putting too much strain on my aching muscles. It worked. Somehow I passed Brent. I spent the rest of the lap with the same focus: speed without too much exertion. Smoother lines, smarter pedaling. Plus I was smoother without that CamelBack weighing on me, those things can be hot and clumsy.

Pit: 0:00:20
Grabbed one last bottle from Bjet and took off trying to hold onto Third Place.

Lap 7: 0:56:43
I rode it like I stole it. At first I was delirious but finally I woke up and really started hauling ass like last year. I tried to crush every uphill with my high-cadence spin, a mix of power and maintaining momentum. I kept hearing something behind me, was it Brent? Little did I know that it was my spare chain link jingling in my pocket. I felt really good and I think I was pedaling smarter and smoother on this lap. I came across the line and saw Marty all torn up. He said he got first and killed himself to hold his lead. Somewhere I had passed the former leader of the race and didn't realize it. I got second place! Whoa!

Finale: 6:36:25
Man it was a blast to ride at the sharp end of the race, constantly battling for position. The top 4 riders really went at it today. That was the most competitive endurance race I have ridden, and I think the fastest. Thank you to the organizers and volunteers of Race for Relief, as always it was a very fun event. The trails were great, well-marked and thanks for the food! Too bad a thunderstorm rolled in and I couldn't enjoy a beer with my teammates in my new trophy pint glass.

Next year I have to double-check my caloric intake per hour, maybe I went too far:
1 50oz Hydration Pack with 4 scoops of First Endurance EFS
1 56oz Camelback with 4.5 scoops of First Endurance EFS
3 Podium Bottles of EFS
3 12oz Water Bottles
7 Roctaines

Well, I got the 6 Hours of DINO coming up!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Races #84 & 85: Cat 1 Upgrade with Cat 6 Skills

Cool news, someone at USA Cycling likes me and upgraded my XC license to a Cat 1 Expert. Sweet.

Race #78: Ver-Sales, Is that how you say it?
I love Versailles. We have ridden there more than any other trail this year, it was much drier than East Fork so it was our second home court this year.

But I could not wake up that morning! I think I had some kind of groggy allergy attack, and we barely made it to the race on time. So no warm up and I am now one of the most crowded starting lines in my short XC career. DINO does a great job of promoting a great series with a pretty large turnout, and a very competitive Pro and Elite field.

My start was pretty decent. The only problem was that I still wasn't awake for 3/4 of the first lap. I couldn't corner the bike or react to anything quickly. So I went backwards! Finally I woke up and teammate Karwash let me ride his wheel for awhile. He pretty much taught me how to ride a bike again.

So I just tried to start picking off riders on the second and third laps. My fitness was pretty decent and I wasn't overheating too bad. I was better than last year and half the sport racers DID NOT pass me. Awesome! Actually I was still waaaaay faster than last year, I knocked 13 minutes off my time! That feels good. I like progress — I'm still not a perfect bike-handler but I am getting much better. Teammates Foxy came in just ahead of me and Karwash just behind,

Race #79: Battle on Mount Mother
Whoa, another race from yesteryear! I haven't seen a XC race at Harbin Park since the early 2000s. Brings back memories of being a tubby lad cheering on my girlfriend as she disappeared into the woods for awhile.

This was a smaller "local" race and I was really hoping for a podium. Sometimes success is an angry monkey that won't get off your back until it sucks all the fun out of everything. Now I just can't be happy to finish a race without going home in an ambulance — I have to podium?! Ugh. Well I did my best. The race got off to a pretty fast start. Stephen Huddle was revvin his engine, all full of piss and vinegar after finishing his time trial from Canada to Mexico. Marty was just behind and I got third into the woods. Suddenly Stephen had a mechanical and pulled off and I was second, with Brent and teammate Matt Fox on my wheel. I was trying really hard to keep Marty in sight but I must have blown up a little and crashed when my brain ran out of oxygen.

So I got back up and chased. I caught Brent and Foxy at the end of the first lap and attacked to get back into second place. I went to reach down for my bottles and guess what? They're gone — I guess they were too scared to hitch a ride with me after the crash.

So on lap 2 I stopped where I crashed and looked for my bottles. Brent attacked and Foxy passed. Back in fourth place again. I could only find one bottle and it was hot out. Luckily Bridget threw a cooler next to the start/finish line. So at the beginning of lap 3 I stopped to fill my bottle. Curses! I was losing time.

So I saw Foxy in the woods ahead of me. I counted from where he passed until I got there... 70 seconds. That's a lot to make up. So I buckled down and told myself that I do the Time Trials here all the time — I gotta do a TT lap. So I did. I gunned it, my riding was smooth. I knew where to exert myself and where to recover. I caught Foxy near the end of the lap. I felt awesome.

He mentioned Brent was ahead and I should go get him. I could do 2 things here: 1) Ride like a Hero and See if I can Epicly Pull in Second Place or 2) Ride conservative and try to poach Foxy at the line for my precious podium. I always go for option 1. The sky is the limit right?

So I kept gunning it. And Foxy stayed with me. Unfortunately I think I "burned too many matches" earlier in the race and I was running out of steam. So just before Mt Mother I pulled aside and let Matt pass because I knew he had it and I was a pedaling pile of dookie. I could have been a jerk and held my spot, but I was done and I feared a strong rider coming from behind and knocking BioWheels completely off the podium. Good thing I let him pass, I barely made it up the hill and I felt a touch of a cramp coming on.

So the epic finish. I had to claw back another deficit. And I did. I caught Foxy on that long technical climb at the end of the lap. But Foxy showed his class and years of skill as a rider and gained about 10 seconds on a descent. The end of the race was a like a Classic Roubaix or a Cyclocross race. We were sprinting the last third of a mile. It was bad-ass! I couldn't pull him in and he got third, but the crowd got some excitement! Mountain bike races are rarely that close. After feeling a smidge burned out on riding that week, it felt great to have adrenaline coursing through my veins and to be part of an epic duel.

It was nice to see Foxy up there and Marty was back on the top step! Sweet.

Another Cool Blog about Cycling

Just found this via someone's Facebook post: 18 Mile Per Hour

Lovely art and nice observations.