Sunday, August 27, 2006

Winsted Woods Race

Well, yesterday I took the singlespeed out for a little over an hour to test the new chain and saddle. My body and legs were tired but the bike worked flawlessly. Guess riding to work every day this week didn't leave my legs as fresh as I wanted them to be. So, I rode easy and just did a slow lap around the reservoir. This new saddle is nice. Should be much better than my last one after 100miles.

Afterwards I headed into Hartford to help with the Messenger AlleyCat race and then hung out with everyone for a while. Learned how to do skids and skip stops (another way of stopping fast without a front brake on a track bike). There are some details of the technique here: wikipedia and here at I was also practicing my trackstands but still can't do it no-handed like some of the Hartford Crew can.

Today I got up and slowly got my ass moving. The oatmeal and toast were slow going down but I managed to eat all of it. Then headed west on my road (rt44) to Winsted CT (just north of Torrington). Halfway there it started raining. Shit. I didn't bring any warmer clothes and rain gear. Luckily I had my thin rain coat in my car so I used that while getting ready for the race. Upon arrival it was pooring and I wasn't in the mood to ride let alone race. Picked up my number and then got my stuff together. Yeah. I was a racing my singlespeed in the geared class (Expert 19-29). I have a fair amount of points in this class for the overall series (holding 14th) and points in other classes (Expert SS for example) won't transfer. So, I brought my knife to the gunfight so to speak.

There were maybe 10 people in my group.?. I didn't count. I just wanted to get this over with. The start was on a paved parkinglot and I was sitting around 5th going into the singletrack. There I wound up dismounting (would be a common theme today) and running... running past everyone into 2nd or 3rd. I hung with the leaders for most of the first lap (4miles per lap and we had to do 4 muddy laps). Towards the end of the first lap I was so hung up on staying with the leaders that I was riding beyond my ability for the conditions. In otherwords, I fell quite a few times right before and shortly after the start/finish going into lap 2. The fall on lap 2 must have been #5 and I fell hard. Got squirly in the mud and the bike slid off trail. I then went sideways, landed on my side and slid for about 15ft into the bushes. Bye Bye leaders. Okay. Get up and start riding smart. That was tough for
I was frustrated with myself and wasn't mentally in the game.

The leader of the singlespeed class (they started 1min behind us) caught me shortly after I became aquianted with the side of the trail and I rode with him a bit. Then he pulled beyond me and I was left alone again. Sometime later the 2nd guy in the SS group caught up to me and I rode with him for the remainder of the 2nd lap. Towards the end of that lap my front tire slid out (another common theme) and I fell on a very muddy hillside. I then found myself sliding out of control backwards on my right shoulder and thigh down the slope for about 5feet. If I wasn't completely covered in mud, now I was. I couldn't even see my tattoos there was that much mud on my arm. Back on the bike and onward to the start/finish to begin lap 3.

Lap 3 was slow going for I had no one to pace (the 2nd SSr pulled away from me). I knew I wouldn't catch the leaders in my group and figured I had a good gap on the guy behind me so I then rode my own race and paid very close attention to balance and agility for the mud was getting worse. On the downhills my eyes filled up with mud and I couldn't see. On the uphills I rode most of them and then ran the rest. I ran quite a bit for my gearing was steep for the conditions (32x16.. should have ran a 32x18 and some mud tires rather than semi-slicks).

Lap 4 I was still alone and my calves were tiring. That made running difficult. I took my first energy gel and then drank more from my camelbag. Once I got to the halfway part of the lap I knew things were going good for I still had strength and no one passed me. Near the end the first pro passed me on his way to finish lap 4 and start his final lap (#5).

I crossed the finish line in around 2hours and 14minutes without any muscle cramps. The leader in my group finished about a minute over 2hours. I was in 5th place! That's exciting considering what I was riding. Then I waited in line for what seemed like forever to wash the mud off my bike and 'self. When that was done I was freezing and went back to the car to change and clean up some more. Shortly thereafter I left to go home with the heat blasting. It was in the mid to upper 50s and pooring rain.

It is now a couple of hours later now and I'm feeling pretty good. Legs feel pretty good but my body is tired. A good night's sleep is defintely in works. Guess the 2 weeks of 15hours/day at work haven't really messed up my form. Granted I could be better but I'm happy with how things are right now. A good precursor to next weekend's Shenandoah Mountain 100 down in Virginia. Oh yeah, the poison ivy is just about gone. I wonder how long it'll be until I find more?

Until then...

Friday, August 25, 2006

new bikes, upcoming race(s), poison ivy

Been a few weeks since I've done anything. Mainly because I've been putting in 15hr days at work. That has passed and I'm back to riding my bike across Hartford to work every day. Got a nasty case of poison ivy and the doctor said I had strep throat too (but I felt 100% fine). That went away, did some yard work at the parents' house in NJ and the poison ivy came back. doh! Back to battling that with what I refer to as "my steroid creme". Yeah, its a topical steroid creme to kill the poison ivy. Not enough to get into my system and make me a faster rider though (we don't want that anyway).

This weekend is Winsted Woods, a 4 lap 4miles per lap race. Decided to race my singlespeed in the Expert 19-29 y/o class. Thats the class I race my geared bike in. We'll see how much of an ass kicking it'll be (I'll most likely be the recepient). Tim put it good last year by saying "its like bringing a knive to a gunfight". We'll see how things go on Sunday. It isn't the best preparation for a 100mile race but it will at least get me back into racing after taking almost 3 weeks off.

Saturday is a Hartford Alleycat. For those of you unsure what I mean... a big scavenger hunt through Hartford on bikes. Fastest person wins. They are always fun. I learned the streets of New Haven by racing in a few Alleycats. good times. good times.

New addition to the arsenal. Late '90s / Early '00s GT Track bike with full Dura Ace components including tubular tires! Should arrive next week. I'm stoked.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Track Bike Ballet

check this out. pretty cool track bike video.

Track Bike Ballet, in Deutsch...

Thanks Rudzik.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

resting, riding and enjoying the good weather

Now racing this weekend. Or, rather, I opted to just ride with the 'crew rather than head off to Mass to race. Weather was beautiful. It felt like early September.

Got some stuff done around the house Saturday. Watched some of Lethal Weapon 2 and National Lampoons Vacation. Then got a nice SS ride in.

Epic ride on the geared bike with everyone (zoli, joey and rudzik). Little bbq while watching omega and chinook play in joey's tennis court.

My friend
Matt from Pedal Power in Middletown has got his clothing company up and running. Check 'em out here: Ghostship Clothing

Monday, August 07, 2006

Where is Waldo? No, Where are Doug, Tim & Katina?

There is an article about the 2005 Single Speed World Championships (State College PA) in the latest issue of Mountain Bike Magazine (why they wait an entire year to do an article, I do not know). In the middle of the article is a 2-page spread from right before the race started. If you look closely you'll see myself, part of Tim (No, not the guy in Gary Fisher garb) and Katina (hint: I have provided some help).

This year's race is in Stockholm, Sweden. As much as I'd like to be there I can't afford to take lengthy time off from this thing they called work.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Darkhorse 40

Had a week to recover from the 101. Went out on the road bike Wednesday morning and realized my legs were still sore (every incline hurt). I ran a 1.78:1 (32x18) at the 101 and at the recent H2H series race in Stewart Forest (Newburgh NY). That gearing cost me a good race in Stewart Forest. Little did I realize at the time the course was realtively flat. So, the search began for a 16tooth rear cog on Thursday. That will net me a 2:1 ratio. After digging through a few boxes of bike parts I found one off an old cassette. Fixed my brakes and set up the trusty SS for this weekend's Darkhorse 40 (a 40mile race in Stewart Forest).

Friday I tested my legs with this new gear ratio (its been months since I've ridden anything close to a 2:1) up at West Hartford's reservoir. The climb up Albany Ave hurt but I eventually got used to the gearing. After tooling around the reservoir, nice and easy, for 2.5hours I pedaled over to starbucks for some more water and then back home. Felt great. Whoa hoo. Legs are recovered. I forgot how much faster you can spin out a 2:1. I'd like to stick with this gearing for the Shenandoah Mountain 100 on Labor Day but we'll see how things go.

Slept and rested all day Saturday.

5:30am Sunday. Time to get up, eat some oatmeal, take Omega for a walk and head on over to Newburgh NY. Race starts promptly at 9am. I arrived around 8 and had plenty of time to shell out $55 for registration (ouch), change and warm up a bit. The course was a 2 lap - 20miles/lap race on fast, dry singletrack and some gravel roads. Here's a map of the course.

We had a lemans start... ala bikes scattered across the gravel road and us riders a few 100 feet behind them. The gun went off and we ran to our bikes and took off. I got a good start and was sitting top 10/20 out of all the Expert riders. Actually was 1st singlespeed. First couple miles were fast, gravel doubletrack. I tucked in on this long line of geared riders drafting them. We went through some singletrack and back onto the gravel road. Then the road went up at what was probably the longest climb out of the whole race (maybe 50 to 100ft?). Just before that climb I was passed by another SSr, Andrew from NYC Velo. He's fast and I knew I couldn't match his pace so I kept trucking at my pace. At the top of that climb was the finish line but we would be making a right into more fast singletrack.

The first 10miles of lap 1 sucked. I was stuck with all these geared riders that wouldn't let it hang out in the turns so I kept having to slamm on my brakes and lose my momentium. Then on a few short climbs they would slow down so I began yelling at them to keep pace whilst ringing my bell in annoyance. Eventually everyone dispersed and I was left setting pace with another SSr behind me, Mike? from northern NJ on a fully rigid Vicious (yeah!). That brought me in 3rd place and Mike(I'll assume that's his name) in 4th. I set pace for another 5miles and then he took off with 5miles left to go in lap 1. I tried to keep up with him but it was hurting me so I backed off. Felt strong climbing up to start lap 2 (passing what would be the finish) now probably 20miles into the race. Both water bottles were now empty so I ditched them and relied on my 50oz of Accelerade in my camelbag to get me through another 20miles.

Now I was all alone and could ride at my own pace and fly through the turns. I was more fluent on the 2nd lap and felt like I was keeping a more consistent pace, albeit slightly slower than lap 1. Taking some electrolyte pills every 45mins or so to help resist cramping (they are amazing). I'd say about 2/3 through lap 2 I ran out of water. Schit... I was thinking that was my demise. I'd lose strength and slow to a crawl. Then everyone would pass me. Somehow my legs felt decent so I mustered on at the same pace.

About 1/4 mile later I thought I was going to DNF on a mechanical. dropped a chain. yeah that wouldn't make me DNF but as I was putting the chain back on I saw a spoke on the ground.. A spoke that matched my low spoke count wheels. F (with a capital). Did I break a spoke? If so then my wheel would rub the frame and I'm done for. A quick check revealed all is good. Must have been someone else's wheel. I got back on and took off. No rub. Good! (meanwhile about 4 geared riders passed me. Still no SS so I'm cool hanging in what I thought was 5th)

Kept on trucking. Came up on Ed Burgess who normally rides SS but went geared and was hating every minute of it (bent derailleur). He let me finish his bottle of Heed for I was thirsty and needed the electrolytes. Then I dropped the chain again. Doh. Should I readjust the chain tension and risk losing more time to whomever is the next SSr behind me (I had no idea how far back they were) or shall I muster on? I mustered on hoping I wouldn't drop a chain.

Last aid station. 5 miles remaining to the finish. I stopped, downed a water, gatorade and took my chances with a Red Bull. Then said bye to Ed and took off for the finish. Still no SSr insight behind me. Ride smart Doug. I flew through that singletrack with no chain drop and made a left onto the gravel road. Locked the fork out, stood up, and kept on pedaling up the hill. I wasn't exactly "dancing on the pedals" as Phil Ligget would say, but merely slouched way over the handlebars doing what Tim and I call "the worm"... The 'worm' entails with each upward pedal stroke the handlebars swayed in one direction. From behind it looks like a worm zig zagging in a straight line. yay! Finish line and my legs were good (no cramping).

Aparently there was one more SSr infront of me that I didn't know about so I finished 6th out of 19 total singlespeeders. 3hours 22minutes for 40miles. Fast course, huh?. Next SSr behind me was 8 to 10minutes and I was about 5minutes off of 5th place.

Drank some more gatorade and then headed off to the car to clean up. Afterwards I joined the big bbq for some pasta, salad an a huge wing of chicken. Chatted to Craig (my team manager) about things at Vicous. Carl (owner) is out in Oregon right now so Craig is holding down the fort. Pleaded him for full zip jerseys (as opposed to these 3/4 zips we now have) and good bib shorts (seeing as we're all out and I never got any) for next season since Carl is doing another run of clothing. He also wasn't sure if we're changing the team colors for next year seeing as Carl is on the fence about it (he wants a color combo no one has). I told him the metallic purple and yellow (current colors) really stands out. Its also starting to grow on me.

I'm finally getting my legs back. It has been a slow start to the season with some ups (June's national races) and downs (April / May). Got two races in CT this month and then my next 100miler in early Sept. the Vermont 50 (hoping for a top 10 SS finish) in late Sept and the All-A-Muchy 50k (want to beat my 3 SS finish from last year) in late October with some other shorter races in-between.

Wilderness 101

I can ecstatically say I completed my first 100mile mountain bike race... on a singlespeed. The inaugral marathon race for me was Pennsylvania's Wilderness 101. I wound up finishing in 10hours 37minutes. 19th singlespeeder (out of 20 to 30) and 81st overall (out of 300+). It was hard, grueling and the humidity sucked. I was battling a stomach ache from the start that would come and go. It plagued me for the first 20miles and then came back around mile 45. I've attached the profile of the course. Its comprised of probably 75% gravel fire roads & jeep trails and the remaining 25% was some of Pennsylvania's finest gnarly singletrack.

Tim, Dave, Ray and I headed out Friday afternoon from NJ. Arrived around 5 to set up camp and pick up our registration info. The promoters were out at 5:30am Saturday morning with their Gong waking all us campers up. The race started promptly at 7 with a casual start, pace dictated by the motorcycles. That first climb at mile 2 was on semi-paved roads. Tim was up front. Dave and I were 20ft behind Tim and Ray was somewhere behind us. Dave fell behind me and as the climb wore on I noticed myself falling slowly off the back of the lead group. I wasn't concerned for my plan of attack was to ride within my own ability and to not let the group dictate how hard I'd go out. After all, this was mile 3 or 4 of a 101mile race. I got into a rhythm with a few other people (one guy was one of Carl's neighbor's in New Paltz NY) and we stuck together on the 1st descent. That was awesome. I flew down that gravel road descent at around 40/45mph. The flat section afterwards I fell behind very quickly for I couldn't keep pace enough to draft the geared riders that flew past me. I was on my own pedaling like mad to keep a 20mph pace on the flats. This is where my 32x18 gear ratio was making me very frustrated. Somewhere along there Dave flew past me on his custom 29inch wheeled Seven Duo with a Cannondale Lefty (yeah, he had 26 more gears than I had). Before the race had taped this airhorn his stem. I knew he was coming up behind me for all I heard was that damn air horn. Again, he was going to fast I couldn't get onto his wheel and, alas, I was left alone to spin it out.

Aid station 1 came at mile 19. I refilled one waterbottle and took off up this nice jeep trail climb. Was out of the saddle for most of the climb passing people like they were standing still. Then the first awesome trail descent. Now, the gravel road was cool because I got up to 40+mph. This jeep trail was even better for it lasted at least 15minutes and I averaged around 30mph. Just hung on and didn't touch the brakes while I passed a few more people. Going up the last climb before aid station 2 (mile 40) I began to feel awful again. Stomach was bothering me, my water bottles were empty and the heat was getting to me. Aid station 2 was a sight for sore eyes. I refueled with more Accelerade and Heed, ate some oranges, bananas and more beef jerky.. Then took off for what was the hardest 20miles of the race.

About 1/4 up the climb just past mile 40 I popped and felt like I was going to throw up. My stomach was killing me (which meant eating anything was impossible). I drank both water bottles dry before I got 3/4 up the climb. I'd pedal a 20-50ft and then walk a bit. As the climb progressed the walking duration became longer. At one point I felt my legs cramping but I was able to ward that off. It felt like I was going backwards and everyone else was going forwards. Seemed like everyone passed me going up that climb. Finally.. I got to the top and was in for an awesome, long, technical singletrack downhill. Somehow I was able to use the brakes very little while still holding onto the bike in the fatigued state I was in. Once at the bottom, it was time to climb again. Miraculously I was able to recover during the descent which allowed me to ride most of that next climb (mile 53ish). I caught up to Dave with about 100ft from the summit. He blew up on those two climbs and was right behind me going into the descent (another super technical singletrack descent) but he fell back by the time I got to the bottom. On that descent I had to stop 3 times for there were riders on their backs in the middle of the trail. They were so fatigued that they went over the bars and upon impact with the ground their leg muscles began cramping. I made it to the bottom and took off in search for aid station 3 (a MUST needed refueling). Dave rolled into aid station 3 about a minute behind me. We were both exhausted.

I drank 3 or 4 bottles of Heed and ate more bananas and oranges. Doused a few bottles of water over my head to cool me off. I took one look at where the course was going and all it did was go up (should have known). Sitting around aid station too long would eventually make my body shut down so I grabbed some food and told Dave I'm going to hike up that singletrack ascent while eating and recovering. Might as well get some miles in while I'm recovering rather than sit in a chair at the aid station. The climb was too steep to ride and just about everyone was walking. 3/4 up it mellowed out a bit and this guy on a geared bike and I got into a nice rhythm and ground it out and passed quite a few people going over the summit. Something happened to his bike and he pulled off. I kept on going. The descent was the steepest yet and scary for my brakes almost gave out (yes, I was using them this time). A couple of rear tire slides around turns and next thing I knew I was in the valley riding some more singletrack. A bee stung me in the ankle right before I headed up that short climb at mile 68 (that s ucked). I didn't see anyone from halfway down the descent at mile 63 to aid station 4 at mile 72.

Right before aid station 4 you came out on a road and rode that up about a quarter mile to the aid station. The aid station was underneath this highway bridge. Refilled my waterbottles, ate some food (stomach was feeling better after my rest at aid station 3). Said hello to this beautiful husky that was a volunteers (talked a lot like Omega does). Then took off up this insane climb. This climb hurt for I'm pretty tired and it was a very rocky jeep trail. I walked most of it until the pitch slackened off near the top. I was tired and fatigued. Almost felt like I could fall asleep on the bike. I barely had the energy to turn the pedals in and around mile 80 until the trail started going down. Having the reduced resistance allowed me to recover a bit as I descended to the final aid station (#5) at mile 89. This guy riding for a local shop in NJ caught up to me and was sitting on my wheel as we came down a pretty rocky descent. Then it opened up onto a gravel road where I sat in his draft and let him 'pull' me to the last aid station. There I refueled again and got caught up in the excitement that we were almost done! I didn't eat and drink as much as I would have liked for I wanted to stick with the group of about 4 riders leaving that aid station (1 of which was a SS'r).

The singlespeeder (Mike Browne... Editory of Dirt Rag magazine), the guy from NJ that pulled me into aid station 5 and I sat in a paceline as we rode these flat converted railroad trails. I let both Mike and the guy from NJ sit on my wheel. Figured we're all in this together by now. Then the surprise climb shows up at mile 95. It wasn't as steep as the rest but it felt as steep for I was exhausted. The guy from NJ fell off the back and I stuck with Mike for as long as I could (probably 1/2 way up). I couldn't keep his pace and resorted to my walking/riding routine as I was nursing some borderline cramps on my thighs and calves. Once through the steep parts I rode the rest and let it all go on the descent (hit 35mph again). Then it was a long, arduous, spin on more flat converted railroad trails to a short paved road to the finish line. I was sure a few of the geared riders I left on the climb would catch up to me but no one did. I rolled into the finish solo... about a minute or two behind the Dirt Rag rider and then collapsed on the grass. Tim gave me something to drink and I sat there talking to Mike Browne and my Vicious Cycles teammate from WV (Joey, whom finished 12th overall while on a geared bike).

my time: 10hours, 37minutes
1st singlespeeder: around 8.5hours
1st overall (our friend Harlan from Independent Fabrications); close to 7.5hours

No flat tires (thank you Stans tire sealant), no chain stretch like in the Vermont 50 last year, lost one chainring bolt out of 4, blew the stitching out in my new gloves and year old cycling shorts, didn't completely cramp any muscles and very sore from being on the saddle for a very long day. I met my goal of finishing between 10 and 11hours. All in all, I'll do it again! I like this type of racing better than the shorter 1.5 to 2hour races. Now I've got a month to get ready for the next 100miler....