Saturday, November 10, 2012

A little fear, politics and authority with some biking mixed in..

Last night, prompted by a Facebook post - I decided to go for a post work night-ride with some fast folks.

Several guys and a girl showed up at 6:30 - I think seven of us in total.  As we were readying the bikes / equipment an officer showed up - declaring that the trails were for day use.  He didn't claim that we must leave the premises, but kept stating "for day use".  

The group carefully selected not to engage in  much conversation - just nodding our heads and generally going about our business.  It was evident that collectively no one knew what to make of the situation (including the officer).  He went on to say that he had a lively discussion on the matter with a local.   The group remained steadfast yet uneasy - which likely prompted the officer to raise the stakes:

"There's hunting in this area..."  "You don't want to get mixed up with poachers"..

We considered parking at a nearby house to prevent any ticketing just in case there *was* a law against such behavior, but in the end it appeared there wasn't anything legal keeping us from carrying on.   So we headed out and had a ball (until my toes froze about an hour and 15 minutes in).

Sitting in the safe confines of my house this morning - I started wondering how often mountain bikers end up on the wrong side of a hunters sights.  In my imagination - some hunters might take pleasure in tracking unknowing "prey" - but when it comes down to it, the likelihood is slim that they'll shoot another human. Especially if they know it is a human.

So - a quick search online using the words "mountain biker shot hunter" in various sequences was conducted. 

Results:  Almost entirely about a poor fellow in NZ who was hunting with a close friend.  The link to mountain biking:  He was a prominent local mountain biker.

Growing up in Vermont during the late 70's / early 80's - I'd head for the hills well into peak hunting season with some concern tempered by faith.  To make matters worse:   No helmet, no safety orange  and all by myself.  By some modern-day accounts I should be dead.   This isn't to say there isn't or wasn't any risk, or that my parents were bonkers.  This history is provided as a worst case scenario.  There were lots and lots of hunters where I grew up.  They may have had more open spaces than this part of the world - but the density was at least as high.  The state practically shut down on opening day.

So the question:  How truly risky is biking in high population hunting areas during hunting season?  

Does anyone know of an instance where a mountain biker was shot at?   I know of hunter / hunter shootings - but have never heard of any mountain bikers being involved.  Is it possible the motion & sounds of mountain biking don't trigger the same trigger reflex?

When people do get shot - what are the most common circumstances?  In my mind maybe its dusk combined with the sound of a single snapping twig and slow motion.  Who really knows?

About 10 years ago I was riding in Douglas State forest alone - donning a helmet and orange vest. The ground was icy / frozen over, and the bike made a huge racket crunching through frozen puddles.  I came across a hunter - who stated that I sounded just like a deer running.  To this day I wonder if it was another case of fear-mongering or if I was truly stacking the odds against myself a bit further in those conditions...

For certain, we can significantly reduce the risk wearing orange and riding in groups.  The suggestion from the officer that we were at risk had no basis in reality.  I think we all know that was motivated by something else.

After this post, who knows..   I might be the guy who gets it.  All to the satisfaction of a society driven by linear thinking - and a common desire for some tasty drama.

Ya see,  I have this irrational fear of Karma.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just plain lazy.

That's been the trend this season.  Let's see..  at least 3 races with partial write ups. 

Lazy about training..

Lazy about proper food consumption (quality & quantity)... 

Lazy about tuning up my bikes properly...

Just stupid lazy.

Let's maintain this lazy wave:

Here are the partials - it's the thought that counts:

Short story - was doing goodish (just behind Jacob Harris) hit a rock-too-damn-hard and DNF'd with a whacked / cracked rim.  Almost made it under an hour running the last freaking mile:


New (to the course) spot at the top
World's coolest bike shop
Short story - Love the race, it hates me.  Broken-hip-Rick blew my friggin doors off (pre-broken-hip), so did team boss  Big Al.  Course was way harder than ever - old man back was effed, bailed on the last lap.  Yick.


Stunning sunset
One of the last riders wrapping it up
Awards ceremony

Short story - Love the race, the vibe, the location & the scenery.  Got 2nd in Solo - thanks in no small part to the absence of Greg Jancaitis.   Problem is, love hurts.  Three days later - my right hand was oddly numb.  Still is to this day.  Ayut - got me some carpal tunnel.. 

Here is the wrap up with the HH100.

 Thanks Liz for umm.. the inspiration. We're now up to the minute.

So I *might* do the Landmine 50 and the VT50 to wrap up the mountain bike season.  It all depends on how numb my hand feels and what the doctah says...  He'll probably come down on me for being lazy about seeing a doctor..

Sunday, July 8, 2012

First annual Sun up to Sun down - racy report

Years ago I taught snowboarding at Stratton Mountain in Vermont.  Towards the end of one season, I was called into the ski-school directors office to discuss the forthcoming layoff.  One phrase came out of his puffy lipped tiny mouth (attached to an enormous head) that has stuck for all these years - In an Austrian accent:

"It was a business decision"....

That was the approach going into this race. 

You see, relative to the sport - I'm still toodamnheavy.  A 12 hour event should help maybe a little - so long as I don't overcompensate after the event (sadly, the following Monday at work I ate a whole bag of Cape Cod Feta Rosemary chips - best chips ever).

Financially, the entry fee represented the greatest dollar-per-mile investment of the entire year.  Depending of course, on how far ya go..   Additionally,  it was over 40 miles closer to home than the other event taking place in Vermont that drew in all the big guns.  Cha-ching!! That's another $ 13 in gas, not to mention 2 hours less driving time.

The race itself was staged at Camp Mattatuck - a 500 acre boy scout camp established in 1939.  I really should have taken more pictures of the campground as it is easily one of the nicest sites I have been to. Plenty of parking, a nice lake, wide open fields, old buildings, new buildings and.... drum roll:  Clean bathrooms & showers!

The very low key check in took place at the very suitable "Activity Pavilion".  A bag of goodies was provided and I paid an additional $15 for camping.  But wait.  It wasn't camping like I had in mind with a tent and stuff.  It was camping in a Cabin.  Nice - that's one less thing to deal with after pedaling for what some people consider to be an insane amount of time.

After setting up my little corner in the cabin I headed out for a pre-ride.  The promoter mentioned that it was not necessary to run where the signs said "run" (apparently he does a few tri-events) - just follow the signs and the little white circles with red arrows.  Off I went to check things out.

As described, the course has a lot of double track.  I zipped along looking out for the little white circles with arrows - before long I popped out of the woods into a field.  A field that had been recently cut.  This was going to be tough.  Fields are tough enough on steamy days with all the exposure.  Hoo boy. 

Then I got confused.  Was it me - or was the course doubling back on itself??  Sure enough, the freshly mowed swath took you right back where you came from.  Did I miss something here? 

Apparently not. 

Observe.  The tree on the left has a white circle with red arrow indicating that forward is correct.   The other sign guides you when returning from the field loop.
It was so foreign that I figured I must have made a mistake.  I continued on along the trail.  Happily, more white circles with red arrows were present to literally keep me in the loop.

From here the double track headed downhill into a very sharp right-hander to fresh loamy singletrack that passed through a campsite at the far end of the property.  Continuing on, another sharp turn into an uphill - then on into some mossy not-so-used double track that led into a singletrack section with downhill that passed through a stream.  On the other side a little up and down - then a absolute kick of a kicker.  I was able to climb it the first time, but knew it'd be very difficult to manage well into a long race.

Doesn't look so bad from here...  About 22% grade with some slippy rocks to cause disturbance.

After this climb, a downhill into a nice singletrack section with switchbacks, a stream crossing and some off camber terrain.  Along the way.  Dick John's shelter.  If you were a scout, how could you possibly not augment the last name with "son"??

Beyond the shelter a little more singletrack heading up - then onto a well used double track section that passes through the the camp.  It winds its way downhill (fast) then rewards you with a tough,  steep uphill before cruising around past the lake. 

A short paved section follows - then goes behind the mess hall into some fast mossy double track with a slight downhill grade ending with a grinder of a punishing uphill, followed by a field section (nice short grass here) then around onto a gravel road laced with gold colored flakes (my tires & shoes are still glittery) then onto the main entrance road back to the pavilion.

Upon getting back to the pavilion I wondered if I missed anything out there.  The course description suggested hour long laps, but the trip took just over 22 minutes. I wasn't going too fast, but certainly wasn't lollygagging either.

Just to be sure, I went out and did it again.  Same result:  around 22 minutes. That's odd.

Returning from the second go-round I connected with local pro Liz A.  We noted there were many beginner riders - which in hindsight wasn't surprising.  As mentioned,  the majority of  our regional pro-folk were up in Vermont and this being a first event didn't have any history to drive any repeat customers.

I hung out for the remainder of the evening down at the pavilion with a few folks and Liz.  We ended up talking with a couple of good guys who turned out to be major contributors to the course layout & event.  Before long it was bedtime. 

I slept pretty well in the 49'r cabin (3" memory foam is magic) - waking up around 5:30.  A big breakfast of pancakes down at the mess hall, then back up to the cabin & pavilion to set up the pit stop. Supplies included lots of water, Gatorade, pickles, 5 peanut-butter & jelly pocket sandwiches and a package of Choc-blocs. 

Back at the cabin I suited up and committed to some Soigneur chamois creme.  (I haven't ever used chamois creme for long events - the outcome being some minor discomfort) Then it was off the pavilion for some race preliminaries. 

Thankfully during discussion,  we collectively decided against a LeMans type running start - so we all lined up with the solo riders leading. 

Liz and I were at the front.  We took off pretty casually around 7:01.  Within 5 minutes or so a couple of guys whizzed past.  Go ahead guys...  we have another 11 hours 55 minutes to go. 

There's no point in a blow-by-blow description of a race like this.  For one thing, it's too damn long to record accurately.  So a few highlights:
  • I missed a turn pre-riding after all.  Early in each lap you take a left off the main course then whiz down a fun section to carefully rejoin the main course.  One of these per lap.  I noticed lots of riders missed this.

  • For the first couple of hours lap times were locked in under 25 minutes .  Around hour 3 I passed a rider (Jonathan Tarbox) who offered "hey, I think you can slow down, I'm in second place and you just lapped me".   I eased up a little - which was a good idea anyways as the heat of the day was starting to pick up. 

  • Lap 12 I lost a spoke in my rear wheel.  Actually it wasn't the spoke - it was the nipple.  If you have ever bought  built up wheels from Bikeman, they recommend brass nipples as aluminum ones can corrode.  Guess what - they're right.   Luckily I had another wheel set in the car.  Some back and forth between the cabin and car (to get keys) and I was back in business.  Lubed the chain as well.   

  • The hot afternoon sun was really starting to take a toll.  I was alternating between Gatorade and straight water on each lap.  Water laps including soaking my head, chest and back.  Ahhh...
  • Here and there - some sandwich and pickles..  On occasion I'd see Jonathan - thinking that he'd caught back up to my one lap lead.  This kept the pressure on.  The last climb of the course was demanding spinny super low gearing. 

  • Towards the end - much salt in the eyes.  Getting a bit run down but still chugging along.

  • Final lap, a push midway.  Tear up the final climb then record the fastest speed of the day charging to the finish.    
In the end - 26 laps, totalling roughly 119 miles with anywhere between 7 and 8,000 feet of climbing (Strava VS. Garmin).  Jonathan came in 2nd with 23 laps - (his first 12 hour event).  Liz kept Jonathan honest throughout,  also knocking off 23 laps for 3rd.   

The win was a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right gear.  The Spearfish is perfect for these events (least back pain ever for me). The new Panaracer Driver tires - also perfect (fast rolling with great grip when you need it at the edges) .  I can also say my "delicates" have never felt better after such an event - the Soigneur stuff worked well.

I brought home a really slick OGIO 9.0 endurance bag.  It's almost too slick with a compartment for absolutely everything you'd ever need for an event.   

Check out the slick video of the slick bag:

This race is on the horizon for next season.  Initially I had thought the course "too tame" but after so many hours it was just right,  also "too wild" might put off beginner riders.  Overall,  the promoters did a great job for a debut event and were very receptive to suggestions.  It sounds like at least one thing we may be able to count on is a misting hose. Nice!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Pitiful and the Pinnacle

The Pinnacle is one of the finer mountain bike races in New England. So fine I've done it every year since starting in 09'.  

This year was just like last year.  Perfect weather.. and again, Fathers Day.  It was also like last year in that the 3 hour drive to Newport left plenty of time to reflect on daddyhood.  That kind of thinking goes in two directions: 

Utter joy & self loathing.

Ava and I have been riding a local trail pretty often in the evenings.  It's a short flattish trail not easily seen from the road right in our neighborhood.  At the end of the trail a wide open grassy field that leads to a big pond. 

The trail has a few log crossings of different sizes.  She hasn't mastered the 6-18" logs - but has figured out how to stand up on the pedals and ride out a 4" one.  She has also gained confidence in handling a couple of downhill / uphill sections.  Makes papa proud.

It's obvious that she is enjoying the discovery aspect of riding off the beaten path as well,  so I have been thinking of taking her to another trail network a mile from the house.  Fathers day was perfect for such an adventure.  But it's the Pinnacle!!

So off to NH, taking my time getting ridiculously great gas mileage partly just because, and partly as it'd be tragic to wreck driving to a race you just "had to go to" on Fathers day.

See where this is going??

My head just wasn't in it.   

On arrival - the usual.  Check in, get plate, check tire pressure, make sure fluid are in me, on the course and on the bike. 

OK then, time to line up.  There's the start.  Damn these bitches are fast.

And that's how it went. 

Lap one I hung on to the main group for the first mile and a half and they slowly pulled away.  A couple riders behind also slowly drifted behind.  OK then, that's good I suppose.  At the top and into the downhill my groove just wasn't there.  Usually this is where I can focus, let loose and rip.

Not today - mustn't "die doing what he loved" today.

The roots were punishing, my hands were going numb and I had zero groove.  Before long - down the plummet into a wide fast arc through the lap point.  Passing spectators along the way I threw my arms up victory style - eliciting a response from a guy I know from back in high school.  He yelled "C'mon Alby!!  - Take it seriously man!!"

That pretty much sealed it.  Not even a little serious today.

The downhill on lap 2 saw attempts at focusing through the forest of doom.  That'd be the pine section with tight turns and roots to trip you up.  You know how when your truly focused you can pick clean efficient lines??  I  almost got there on lap 2 - but it was forced focus.  Like silicon enhanced focus.

Lap 3 - the uphill was starting to kill.  But the downhill was much improved.  I started to remember that I like riding fast. I was also figuring out where to carry speed from experience.

Lap 4 - the uphill was a freaking death march.  I did start to catch up with Noah Tautfest at the bottom - but he put in a great effort and widened the gap to beyond sight.  In the past, I'd ride at a nice even level from the start and possibly pick up the pace along the way.  No chance of this in Elite.  These guys go hard from start to finish.

Coming down the last downhill I was riding fairly clean - but not as focused as lap 3.  After the crazy great mega berm section I caught Noah.  He was riding rather slow.  Not knowing who he was at the moment, I was thinking he might not be so technical so I asked for the pass and he obliged.

Then, oddly enough - he clung to my wheel as I navigated the bottom half of the downhill.  WTF??! 
I yelled back - "sorry - I thought you were a roadie or something" and he responded "I hit a tree and was picking myself back up when you came along"

Oh. Sorry about that.

As we neared the flat section just before the plummet Noah lit it up and passed.  Alright, fair enough. Surely he'll slow a bit before the plummet??

Nope.  He absolutely FLEW off it - likely traveling in excess of 20mph  before you get to the good part.

I'm thinking he isn't a father yet.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

North South Trail RI Aka: "Horrible Idea Ride"

My first encounter with the North-South trail occurred a few years ago riding down the Midstate trail through Douglas State Forest.  In a cozy part of the forest one can find the intersection with a sign proclaiming "78 miles to Atlantic Ocean". 

A couple of times I started heading down the trail only to find it turned into a swampy quagmire with mossy rocks - completely unrideable in sections.  But it piqued my interest so it was off to the 'net to find out more.

Online there are several sites that describe the network - in simple terms it consists of paved sections, dirt roads, jeep trails, ATV trails and single track. 

Also there is this great little book that describes the trail in detail:

The trail itself started out the vision of George Ernst from Cranston, RI.  He proposed the concept to the RI Dept of Environmental Management which deemed it plausible in '78.  In the early 90's things came together.  It passes through 8 state and municipal management areas - as well as a few private properties.  A pretty remarkable accomplishment for such a small populous state.

I knew what the northernmost section was like between Douglas and George Washington Management - and gave it a shot here and there with my CX bike.   There was too much hike-a-bike going on - which entirely defeated the value of a lightweight bike.   At least I was abiding by the hiking only policy - which is far less an issue these days compared to the roaring Mt bike 90's.

Swamp / pond within George Washington Management area

After that tryst I decided to ride some of the trail south of Rte 44 on a mountain bike.  Starting on Durfee Hill Rd I headed south along some ATV torn fire roads.  Meaty tires were an absolute necessity here. Eventually the trail got smoother then fed into some paved sections that headed up Snake Hill Rd (steep) then across Rte 94 down a very rocky hill past a farm then into some jeep trail terrain. 

I wonder what's in there??

After getting back I posted the ride on Strava - to find Dan had ridden a bit of the southern portion the same day.  We crossed paths maybe an hour apart.  During some online communication  I tossed out  the idea of doing the entire thing - down to the ocean and back.  Dan's comment - "that sounds like a horrible idea - the kind of horrible I'm down with" - "It has to be done this summer".   The best opportunity came along on Memorial Day weekend less than 2 weeks after the initial proposal .  Why wait??

Based on average speeds ridden on sections prior it looked like 13 hours would get the job done.  Dan proposed we meet @ 5:00 am to get a good head start before things got steamy.  He had also proposed we ride around the Buck Hill section down Wallum Lake Rd.  This alone would knock an hour off the time due to all the required hike-a-bike.  Not to mention, we'd remain decent law-abiding folk in terms of the hiking only policy. 

I was up at 3:30 - made some coffee & oatmeal then out the door @ 4:30 - arriving in 25 minutes or so.  Temps were around 65º and very, very moist. 

Today's choice - the Spearfish.  It's not a point and shoot XC short course weapon - it's designed for  stupidly long rides just like this.  Dan - well... If you know Dan - you know he likes things simple masochistic.  He was outfitted with his usual ride - a rigid single speed - including minimal gear & food.  What a contrast.  I had 5 PB & J's, three water bottles, several different kinds of gels, 2 packs of chock blocks, two tubes, patches, tools, a camera, a fancy water filter, two lights, my wallet, phone and a pump.  I really dislike back packs but today demanded one if I was going to bring all this crap.

One mans idea of being ready for over 150 miles of mixed riding.

After some final checks we were off.  We headed out the drive down Wallum Rd - making serious time - ticking off a few mile long sections in around 3 minutes apiece.

Before long - we zipped past the George Washington Management - area then across Rte 44 up Durfee  Hill to the same dirt road I had ridden a couple of weeks prior.  Down the dirt road - then into a paved section - on up Snake Hill Rd.  After crossing Rte 94 -  going downhill past the farm I started having annoying problems with my bottle set up.

I purchased one of those Tri-style bottle holders that mounts to the seat post.  Early tests with my hard tail bike demonstrated how good it was at ejecting bottles over rough terrain.  I figured with rear suspension it wouldn't be an issue.  Nope - it was only slightly less effective at popping bottles out.  Of course I found this out the first time at least a mile past where it came out.  Damn.  I turned around and rode back up quite aways - then finally gave up.  I'd have to hope it was there hours later in the day.

Panaracer Pro Driver Tires - perfect blend of grip and speed here. Profile Design bottle thingy - not so perfect for mountain biking - maybe some bungees or a really small bra would keeps things in place.

We continued along - passing through the Moosup River section, a straight flat part that's a bit soggy - after that the trail pops out onto a very busy Rte 6.  The good news is, there is a Shell station there to replenish with food & hydration.  After this stop we continued down some back roads that took us past the Foster Country Club. Nice terrain around here - hilly terrain.  The kind of terrain you know you'll have to manage on the way back. 

Further south some more dirt roads - then a sweet section of trail riding near Carbuncle Pond Management after a short trip along Rte 14 to connect.  Coming down the rocky trail Dan pulled aside to let me through (remember - I'm on a FS bike - he's on a rigid) and started to warn me about some kind of something up ahead.  Of course I wasn't paying full attention - but sure enough figured out what he was talking about.  A rock water bar caught me up in the worst way and  I came down hard on my hip & knee.  Damn!  Less than 50 or so miles in and a fairly hard hit.  I shook it off and let Dan lead.  Continuing on we rode along more back roads and then more trail riding.  The Terrain kept getting more interesting as we started towards Arcadia.  Along the way an absolute monster of a downhill dirt road with scary switchbacks.  Take it from a Vermont boy - it was the real deal.

At the Rte 165 crossing - Dan had stashed a gallon of water a day or two in advance.  We filled our bottles and Dan put it out there:  "wanna keep going or head back up?"   Continuing seemed dandy - so within a few minutes we were off.  

Dan knows  the Arcadia and surrounding areas pretty well - so he led us through some fun terrain with giant berms - then some not so fun terrain in the form of a rocky swamp.  It might be rideable on a good day with plenty of energy - but I could barely walk properly let alone ride.  Somewhere along the way I managed to ram my left calf into the upper joint of my rear suspension.  It didn't seem like much happened initially - but upon looking down a few minutes later I was horrified.  A giant bulge along a vein had formed under the skin.  It was itchy as hell too.  Two things came to mind: "this might require a call for medical services" &  "I sure hope this doesn't look this way for the rest of my life".  Thankfully after 45 minutes it started to go back down.  A giant multi-color bruise would form in the following weeks.

After Arcadia some more back roads then Carolina Management.  A nice pine-forest section that we somehow lost track of the trail on.  We would ride in opposite directions looking for the blue-blazes - only to get off track at the next junction.  We managed to reconnect properly while heading down another rural road.

I don't recall exactly where it was but the trail takes one past a nice sod farm.  Something about wide open lush green spaces like this makes me happy.

Moving further south along more back roads & jeep trails we finally came across Burlingame Management.  Riding along the same trail the King of the Burlingame Time Trial takes place on we couldn't help but think "not far now!!" - but the course wound around even more of the technical terrain than we had realized.  At one point shredding Dans sidewall:

After the repair we got moving again within the Burlingame trails.  The trail goes along the infamous "Bridges" section - a section with...umm..   lots of bridges.  The slippery wooden kind.  I was leading and heard a pretty awful "whump" aways behind.  As these things  happen I waited... then waited some more.  Finally I turned around and headed back a little to see Dan picking himself up.  He wiped out pretty hard and landed on his face among other things.  Ouch. He gathered himself and we forged on.  This was starting to getting rough.

The trails in Burlingame seemed to go on *FOREVER* but you could just taste the ocean air. Finally we popped out at the southern end near Rte 1.  Across the highway and then along a short paved road down to the beach.  

Ok then.   There's the beach. We're halfway along.

The beach scene was an interesting contrast.   There was Dan and I, covered in sweat, mud, blood and whatever else stuck along the way - surrounded by nice clean & dry people just starting their Memorial Day weekend. 

We turned around and headed back up towards Rte 1 - then took a left to make a stop at a Shell station just down the street.  More water bottles were filled.  Then it was time git goin' back to where we come from.

Cruising back north past the sod fields. Major bonus here:  Tailwind.

The trip back north was similar to the trip south with the following highlights:
  • We rode around some of the more difficult terrain in Burlingame Management
  • I completely missed a turn while leading along a paved section and went a bit further than necessary - thankfully Dan waited several minutes for me to figure out he wasn't there anymore.
  • At the Rte 165 crossing the "rigid SS experience" caught up with Dan.  He offered the remainder of the water from the gallon jug - then called for a ride. That was 110 miles in - he suggested maybe I could call for a ride @ Rte 6.  In my head "I gotta finish this thing"
  • I missed yet another turn heading north even after Dan provided very good directions.  Thankfully I came across a horse convention thing and was directed to a salty chap named "Neil" who "knew every trail in New England"  Neil was a bit tanked (being memorial day weekend and all) - but after he described the same route three times the same way I decided to take his word for it.  Thanks Neil!
  • I missed yet another turn.  The same turn Dan had mentioned his father missed once while blasting downhill.  That's the tricky thing - you have to keep an eye out for the markers when flying down hills!!
  • It started to rain. Ok - actually it was a thunderstorm with torrential rain.  I stopped in at the same Shell station on Rte 6 to replenish fluids - the guy behind the counter clearly thought I was bonkers.
  •  The worst section - Moosup trail.  Standing water everywhere - I really thought this might be the end
  • It started to clear while heading into Foster.  YES!!!
  • I kept-a-keeping on - my legs now felt oddly terrific.  Either that or not having to ride through standing water was uplifting.
  • George Washington Management - not long now! 
  • Missed yet another turn along the powerlines.
  • Headed back up Wallum road with plenty of daylight. 
  • Then finally for posterity the final mile or so - I tried to capture the awful sound of a completely beat drivetrain here (mile 163)

Total moving time:12 hours 54 minutes.  Downtime - about 50 minutes. 

Closing thoughts: 

There is much to see on the North-South Trail.  In a way, hammering all the way down and back seems a shame.  You witness a part of Rhode Island few folks know exist.  Old foundations, farms, wide open fields, crazy rock formations etc.  As Dan commented: "You could take a guy from Cranston out here and he'd deny it was Rhode Island.

There is more elevation in this part of the world than you'd think.  Strava says just over 8,000 feet.  Garmin thinks it's just over 9,000.  Either way - the western flanks of Rhode Island have some elevation to offer.

In a perfect world your bike would transform from fast road bike, to gravel grinding CX to full suspension Mountain bike with beefy tires.  There is so much variety along the way.  That said,  a full on mountain bike with fast tires is the best choice.

Don't forget to bring chain lube. Or in my case, don't forget *you brought* chain lube. The poor chain was screaming after all the miles. 

I'm thinking this might be something to do annually or maybe again towards fall.  It takes some,  but not too much planning and is entirely doable. 




Monday, May 21, 2012

Weeping Willow 2012 race recap

What a seriously sweet race day & venue.    Race entries were capped @ 400 this year - so  I made sure to register a few weeks back.  Good thing -  the event was full one week before showtime. 

I was a touch apprehensive about entering the Elite class due to recent CAT1 races in the ROOT 66 series.  They didn't turn out as hoped - but a couple of solid weekend rides have started to turn fitness around.  I can usually tell how I'll feel based on blood pressure & resting heart rate values.  Both were below anything I had ever seen in the past - which was good news, especially given the longer nature of the race (4 laps advertised as 30 miles - but this guys Strava results had it nearer to 25).

 Oh what the hey..

The weather was a little on the hot side for May but nearly as perfect as it gets. The trails here are seriously fun. Little ups and downs through twisty single track account for roughly 70% of the course - with roadie heaven double track making up the rest.
At the start - the same guys I've been moving up with for the past couple of seasons: Andy Gould, Steve Crossley & Marty Allen -  then another 27 or so fast folk. Easily the biggest Elite field I have ever raced in.   Andy, Steve and Marty have been putting on the miles this season, so today's race was about "where am I? / can I hang?" more than anything.

I settled in somewhere near dead last to stay well out of the way at the start - and we took off at a pretty tame pace.  Ya 'spose that was due to a 30 man draft?

Within a few minutes I settled in behind Will C and a couple of other guys.  Will has become something of a contemporary.  We'll often wind up next to each other in these things.  As far as I was concerned - that was even more good news.  Of course Will was running a full rigid SS with ridiculously tall gearing.  'K stud!!

We paced behind two other riders - which may have been a strategic mistake.  In key areas they'd  drop momentum.  How Will managed to clean everything was...  I ask not for forgiveness here:  A matter of Will.

When things opened up towards the end of the first lap - Will opened up.  Thank the MTB gods.  I stuck to him while he churned away - then after a little verbal suggestion - returned the favor for a bit.  Position booming through the lap system: "ALBY KING 24TH".  Goody - I am not dead last.  Yet.

Between the the two of us that burn yielded Greg Jancaitis - aka "Mr Endurance".  Sweet! We had gained pretty rapidly and settled in for a moment - then, even after I blurted out "Greg really knows how to pace in these things - let's stay here for awhile" I did the stupid thing and started putting down the power again (face palm).

Within a few minutes said predicted stupidity was validated.  Another strong rider led Greg and Will right up to me and they started going past just before getting to the single track (this is an especially strategic bad for my talent set) - so  I whittled into position just behind Will.  Right... Pace then position at the correct time you dolt (!)  

Greg did the leading through the long backside single track this time.  He was riding as can be expected - a perfect pace that kept things running towards the upper end without blowing.  Before long - we had swung into the double track, eased up a touch and rounded towards the lap point.  I managed to toss my spent bottle and do a nicely executed flyby bottle grab.  Happy happy joy joy!!  I didn't mess up in front of the crowd.

Will, Greg and the other guy did the same on the other side of the turn point - which allowed settling right back into the group.  We all downed much need hydration while cruising the field section.  About then I started feeling pretty good.  So I started riding with a little verve.  A head down, steady but not stupidly quick pace - as I figured they'd just go and do the same thing again before we got into the single track.  I figured wrong. 

This was perfect.  The pace through the double track left plenty in the tank.  Now with a clear view of the course and some experience it was time to get flowy. 

Lap 3 was "my" lap in terms of fully focused smooth riding.  A decent gap had formed - until about halfway through the single track.  Behind I could hear someone gaining.  A look back - and it wasn't Greg or Will - who the heck is this? 

That turned out to be Jacob Harris.  He was rubber banding along - as things pointed up he'd close the gap - only to be minutely distanced through twisty tree-lined sections. 

When the trail opened up into double track I let him by thinking he'd fly out of sight.  That didn't happen.  Yet again, stupid luck was on my side.  I had a fellow who was pushing just enough to properly latch onto.  It turns out Jacob (among several others) thought the race was 3 laps. No wonder he was pushing through the single track like that.   For once, I knew what was what in terms of lap count & pacing.  As we reached the end of lap 3 - who should we see?  Colin and a couple other guys.  Nice!  Colin has always wanted "to hang" - here's our chance buddy!

I bypassed my second bottle at the lap point.  Colin and the other two guys rounded the bend then  slowed down rather quickly in the traffic pattern to grab their bottles.  I swung round - and headed down the field section.   Up ahead a skinny red clad rider who'd do well to serve Santa if he wasn't 8 feet tall. No matter how I coaxed, he just wouldn't push the lead.  "C'mon!" I begged - "just go!" while gesturing with my hand.  Nope, he wasn't having it.  He waved me on - surely thinking " ha ha sucker..."

I caught back up with Jacob - shortly after Colin & crew showed up.  Colin muttered something about whether or not I was able to hang onto Jacob while rattling off cyclocross standings and stuff.  As we headed into the single track I motioned my hand out towards the left.  Colin: "what was that!??" - "I am pointing out that it's better to swing wide here".  For sure I thought, I can hang with this guy - no prob.

Through the first single track section into the straight away with three stream crossings - la dee da..  This is nice.  So nice..  I'm not really gassed, I have interesting company - tra la, la...  Not really working too hard here behind Jacob - what a nice, nice day... things are working out so ni....


Oops I did it again.  You'd think I'd know by now.


It was a fairly good hit - but I've had worse.  Somehow while crashing there was awareness of the dudes *right* behind me - so I grabbed the bike to keep it from creating an unnecessarily wide path of carnage.  Colin and Tim swung round - Colin savoring the event (that's what he does - there is sure to be some wonderful video footage) while Tim  yelled back "Ya OK??"  I yelled back nervously & instinctively from the ground -  "I'm good!" then made short business of standing up & checking the bike for any unusual shapes or alignment.  Looks good. Time to catch back up.

I reeled in Tim pretty quick.  He asked if I wanted to go by - but I knew better.  If I went past after that retaliatory effort - I'd likely get gassed too soon.  Better to stay put for a bit.  He drove a perfect pace.  So perfect that we slowly gained on Colin.  Nice. 

The rest of the race Colin carried us.  Dripping red from the elbow, knee and hip I wasn't in quite the right mood to do anything particularly daring.

At the very end Colin laid on it HARD.  Tim and I discussed our lack of enthusiasm - but excitement got the better of me so I cranked it up a little and took the last corner with much speed.


Final result 15th.  Results

Final opinion on Elite:  Seems I fit somewhere near the middle.

Final opinion of the day: One of the best I've had so far.  Days like these kick ass.

A shot of fellow Bikeman Don Seib on the Vet 2 CAT 1 podium (after wrecking hard while road biking a few days prior - note multiple bandages)

Post event raffle.

Yet another Emergency vehicle this year - hope whoever this was is ok.

Take it from a guy who is not at all sore where he should be post race. The Weeping Willow is fast -  fast enough that things can go bad pretty quick if you let your guard down for only a moment.

I'd say "be safe" or something pillowy - but more folks get hurt taking a shower. 

Thanks to Riverside Cycles for another well done Weeping Willow event.   See you next year!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Massasoit Lung Challenge race report 2012

 Rick has no trouble acknowledging this - nor does my wife.

I am a dumbass (and a dork)

What else would you do with 60' of kraft paper??

Time and time again I'll scope out the start of a race - deem it "sprintworthy" then wuss out and take my time "easing" into to the race hoping I'll magically come out on top.

Start time costs results time exponentially when racing a course like this.  It's like when you leave a little early to drive into Boston and get to your destination extra early.  If you wait 15 minutes you get caught up in traffic - end result: arrival is now exponentially late.

So yet again - I took my time and sure enough -a massive bottleneck / traffic jamb going into and through the single track.  If you have decent bike handling skills you have effectively tossed your weapons to the ground to be slayed by the equivalent of lumbering one-eyed giants.   This is a battle after all.

Racer turnout was pretty huge.  Some regional big guns were on hand - so worthy competition was not a concern in CAT 1 (yeah still hesitant to ride with the pros at this point)

Didn't mean to go artistic with this one.

CAT 2 start. Somewhere in here  we can find Shawn Smith sandbagging.

I settled into the second row - and little by little lost ground chatting as we moved towards the start following each age group.  At the start folks took off  - me, not so much.  

Into the single track and over the bridges was flat out frustrating.  Aside from a couple of little climbs there wasn't alot of passing spots.  By now the lead group was gone

Finally after things opened up I was able to start picking off riders.  The course was pretty dry requiring some care while slicing and dicing through the twisties.  No sooner would you pass a few riders, then you'd find yourself stuck again going through the twists and turns.  On the double track full TT position was maintained.  A few of the sections had some strong headwinds - going aero was surely beneficial here.  

At the end of lap 1 passing no longer involved much speed differential.  I was still gaining on riders though.  Excellent. Two of those riders were Corner Cycle dudes (Samuel Morse and presumably Bill Shattuck).  Corner Cycle dudes are a crazy strong lot.  Some anaerobic work was required - but after 2 or 3 climbs I was able to clean them off the plate ripping through the twisties.  Next up: Robert Carmen from Team Edge.  He was moving at a decent clip so I settled in for a few minutes.  After some recharging - a pass on another uphill.  He clung on for quite awhile taking advantage of  the draft and line selection - commenting at one point "you must know these trails".  We start putting a significant gap on one other guy who was in the mix. 

I was feeling pretty good.  Maybe too good.  I'm not sure who the rider was - but we  bridged up to this fellow - settled in a little bit - then I lit it up on a sandy climb.  Operative word:  Sandy.  He was on the packed portion of the trail - while I slogged by through 3" or so of power sucking terrain (more stupidity).  The pass was effective, but left nothing in the tank.  Next wide open double track section - guess who passed me back?

Alright then,  I'll hang on his wheel and light things up after some recovery.  We come across Richard Pirro - who comments "I thought you started ahead of me" - Nope I am a slow starting wuss. Rich grabs onto the train.  At this point there's 3 of us trailing the unknown soldier.  We get to the paved section at the lap point and I  continue to suck wheel.  Stupid strikes again.  This was the moment to get ahead before entering the single track.  I hang on using very little juice.  He's not a bad rider, but I am carrying more speed into corners and over obstacles.  We get to a little wooden bridge section with an embankment on the other side and I nearly run into him while he slows.  It requires turning to the left (tailgating is stupid)  On the left:  Two trees that are clearly not wide enough to squeeze through.  CRAP!!  - There goes Robert, Richard and that other guy. 

I get back on course and gradually work at closing the near instant 150' gap.  Having done a few races now - I know it's best not to get emotional and go charging to reclaim your position among the clan.  Little by little I'm gaining.  This is good on two counts:  If I'm gaining at this rate - I should be able to drop them further along.   I get within 15' or so and feel good about the effort.  Then I forget to ride my bike.  A rock maybe 3" around pops the front tire off line and me bike is heading straight for a tree.  I leap off to the right and the bike hits the tree straight-on at the head tube.  The impact is so significant that I take a moment to make sure everything is connected.  Goody - nothing bad seems to have occurred.  Meanwhile.. I hear a heavy breathing rider coming up from behind.  DAMN, DAMN DAMN!!

Not only has the group ahead completely disappeared  - now I got some dude behind me motivated and stuff.  It's Sam from Corner Cycle. 

On flats and uphills he can be heard closing the gap.  On downhills and single track I can open things back up.  We're cruising along a flattish single track section and Sam comments on the bike handling.  Too bad it's not accompanied by fitness.  Sam makes his move on a climb - but never gets too far ahead.  I can reel him in when the terrain gets interesting. 

Towards the end of the last lap that hill.  You know the one if you've raced here.   It's a run up affair - one part gawd awful, and one part comedy.  Everyone is just gassed at this point while we inch our way up.  It's all I can do not to stop and savor the brutality.  I get on with it and proceed to pedal the last climb - Sorta..  At one point it turns into a 0.5 mph ziggy zaggy effort.  The folks at the top are digging the drama.  I re-align the bike with said course and torque the rest of the way up. Some one comments "unbelievable".  At this point - I'll take it.

A last blast through a technical downhill section and around towards the finish. 

Another rider is 20' or so ahead - full power is administered (he can see it coming) and I lose that duel by less than a second.

Phew!!   That should boost the ole fitness.

End results 8th (!) A bitch-slap of a reminder that starting slow is not so clever.

Some overall results - includes all Pro and CAT 1

Pro Men:

Pro Women:

CAT 1 Youngsters

CAT 1 19-29

CAT 1 30-39

CAT 1 40-49

CAT 1 50+

CAT 1 Women

So the deal is - I'm at odds with where to enter the Weeping Willow.  Run with the big dogs (there shouldn't be any traffic problems) or ease in and go CAT 1.

Methinks running with the big dogs would be a much needed follow up bitch slap.  A one-two-three knockout for sure.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fat Tire Classic @ Winding Hills - Farmington, CT

"A good course for roadies"...  "Nothing very technical at all"...  "There's a couple of roots to look out for - that's it"...

Heh heh..  I love me some irony. 

Firstly - what I consider to be a major accomplishment - the fruit of 300 miles of unimaginably restrained driving: 

This might seem unimpressive - but when you consider the new girl has 265 ponies pushing a 3300 pound AWD car and my fat ass - that ain't too shabby.

3 knocks on the table... (corporate thing we've been doing when folks get off track)

On arrival an hour and a half before the 1:30 start I put on fleece pullover and light jacket and headed out to check out the new course. Conditions: Still kind of dry - but the light drizzle was starting to help firm things up.   I recall last year was how easy it is to underestimate speed through some of the sweepers.  At least I thought I remembered.

Along the course I found Bikeman Don Seib being Don Seib. Encouraging everyone who passed and keeping track of his son's performance. I first spoke with Don last season post race @ the Weeping Willow. He was coming back from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash so his performance wasn't where it had been in the recent past. His comment on the matter has stuck with me and provided some encouragement given the slow start this season.  With little emotion and total confidence: "It'll come back" . Holy crap did it ever. His fitness and CX results were very impressive.

After the winter that didn't happen there was plenty of fit roadie / CX talent on hand.  Knowing there was no chance I could hang in the CAT 1 / pro category like fellow nouveau pros Andy Gould (formerly known as "annoyingly compatible" - now he's just annoying - nice job with this race Andy!!) and Steve Crossley (sorry about this Steve) I opted to race with the fairly old guys in plain old CAT1.  For certain it'd be plenty challenging with perennial champion Mike Rowell in the line up (25 guys in our group).

Before the line-up I removed my jacket and fleece - donning a short sleeve jersey and shorts.  After all, I'd warm up just fine - right?  The fact that 98% of the crowd was wearing arm warmers,  tights and jackets should have triggered something in my little head.  One thing for sure, waiting for the start was getting chilly.

Lined up in the second row just behind Mike - off we went.  Like usual dudes were cranking at a pace way beyond my comfort level.  We headed up the double track were I lost a few spots going into the single track ridge line ride into a short wooded section.  Position:  Somewhere in the middle.

The course opened up again and the wattage gang laid it on thick.  Head down, TT style riding kept the lead group in site.  Sorta - but not really.  The course then tucked into some single track where I started making ground.  A pass here and there - then more open sections where letting off was not an option.   OK, I'm passing & not getting passed - that's a good sign.

About 3/4 of the way through the first lap I found my people pace wise.  I hung out behind them - moving well, but not thoroughly gassed.  Our group of 3 slowly picked off more riders.  Excellent - if this keeps up we're good.

At the start of the second lap a couple of guys went by pretty quick.  One of the guys yelled "don't let them go"  - which spurred us on a bit - we clung on, then passed them back before entering the single track.  Good, good, good.  We can create a gap in here.  But it only lasted so long before things opened up on the double track again.  Towards the end of each lap there is a section with 2 significant climbs (on each side of a hill maybe a 1/2 mile apart if you can picture it)  where spectators assemble.  The intent was not to create drama - but drama happened.   Going up the shorter single track side the rider in front of me was in spin mode smartly addressing energy reserves.  I get amped when I see climbs (maybe wanting to get them over with) and started passing on the right through the weeds - problem was, I wasn't fully committing to the pass.  Just kind of going a little faster.  We crested the hill side by side - with very little room causing some excitement for the crowd.  I figured the rider would yield - but figured wrong.  He maintained position on the actual course, and I ran out of room heading straight for a tree.  Folks loved it.  Lesson:  Hit it hard next time - no half-assed attempts.  He gained a decent gap and I worked to close it back up through the single track.  We neared the other side of the same climb - and I backed off.  Reason:  A lot of riders run up this climb.  I wanted to gain some steam to ride up and over.  Sure enough as I approach the last bit - riders (3 of em) are popping off their bikes.  I squeak by on the right just barely clawing my way up.  I get a shove on my ass as I go by.  Who does the shoving?  The same guy I was battling with on the other side.  He comments "It's all good".  You gotta love the sportsmanship. 

On lap 3 the rain started to pick up.  The course was getting super greasy.  These are the kind of conditions that work best for me.  No longer was it about blowing past folks in wide open then maintaining position in the single track.  Traction was getting marginal everywhere.  You could power drift your bike around corners using the rear tire only for steering.  Whee!!!  I maintained the lead on the guys I passed on the hill while passing more riders from other age groups - occasionally passing on the greasy corners themselves.  The guys behind were not letting up through the wide open though.  The strategy (as it always is) was to conserve energy by riding at the very limit of control.  Unfortunately I went past that limit on a LH turn and went down to promptly get run over by the guy who was 10 seconds or so behind as I was sprawled across the course.  Damn!!  If I nailed that corner it would have been worth at least a couple of seconds.  Instead it cost many.  The other guy (Keith Gauvin I think) whizzed past us while we untangled - then the runner-overer (David Diviney) took off - leaving me to get back at it - now, a bit out of sorts. 

I was wearing glasses up until that point - then took them off as the crash caked on even  more mud.  This was nice for a short while - then of course, I started getting mud in my eyes especially while doing the signature praying mantis pose on the climbs and flats - so I pulled them out of my pocket (now very foggy) - wiped them off on my muddy jersey and dealt with feeling my way around the course.

"Praying Mantis" - a naturally evolved staple within the repertoire.

Photo courtesy "Eastwood9er" Many more from the event can be found.

The last lap was getting to be a death march.  Temperatures continued to plummet (42º F from 52 or so at the start) while the rain continued to increase.  The event turned from racing to survival.  The drive train was grinding with the sand and muck, climbs were barely there due to so little traction & corners were very "let the bike go where it needs to go" affairs.

I bumbled around at mid-pace then upped efforts towards the end to try and make it all stop.  Up ahead - David - he had a solid couple of hundred feet on me as we approached the finish - but was looking  gassed.  I charged and missed the pass by one second while he did the ole' arm push through the line.  High comedy.

For the next couple of hours my fingerstips glowed bright white.  Glad we didn't have any additional laps - as I don't know that I'd have made it.

The end result -5th place. 3 minutes back from Mike, one minute back from 2nd.   Not stellar - but not bad.  My fitness is right where I figured it'd be.  Definitely behind - but a little commitment should turn that around. 

Due to the epicness of this race I have a plan should similar conditions prevail:

2nd set of glasses and something to keep them clean. Being able to see well helps.

The mantra for the next couple of months is simple: "It'll come back"...