Friday, November 21, 2008


Some may think Darkness is one particular individual. I like to think it is about 75% of what I saw on my mountain bike ride this past Wednesday evening.

After Sunday's Epic Ride Ohio Rob did not want to explore CT trails at night with the loaner singlespeed 'that fits well for someone needing a 17inch frame'. Collectively, we decided it was best to ride yet another 26inch wheeled bicycle. And a 4inch travel full suspension with gears for that matter! At least the frame fit for him. I dusted off The Groover and Robb had a bicycle for the evening.

Temps were hovering around freezing or most likely in the mid to upper 20s (fahrenheit). I bundled up with my super thick riding jacket (which later became a mistake because it was too warm) and quickly realized I had two pairs of insulated knickers and not one pair of knickers and another pair of full length insulated tights. Guess my shins are going to be cold (I really could have used some 12inch tall Swiftwicks). Robb also realized that his second light's battery was dead. Guess he's riding with one Halogen light atop his head.

The usual gang was off at 5pm. Road was cold but we only needed to ride about 10minutes to get to the trails. Probably 20minutes into our trail ride I am confused. Why does my HID light look so dull? A few minutes later total darkness. Ugh oh. Battery died. Now I knew I didn't charge the battery but the past few weeks have resulted in me getting about three weekly rides out of one charge. To ensure that I brought the battery into the office while I was at work on Wednesday. Guess it just didn't have enough juice. FUN.

Now I'm riding the fully RIGID singlespeed by BRAIL in a very ROCKY and TECHNICAL wooded section in the DARK. I immediately decided to hang onto a buddy's wheel. Use his light to figure out where I'm going and pretty much ride in the shadows of our group of six. Glenn's light was just far enough to where I'd normally be viewing if I had my own light (even with me riding right on his back wheel). This became 'interesting' quite fast with the tight singletrack. I could see around the bend but had no idea what I was immediately riding over until right ontop of it. Good balance and agility training!

Once off the technical stuff we kept to more mellow trails so I hung with it and kept on riding in the shadows. Somewhere along here Robb broke a pin in the chain on his bike. Hmm. Relatively new bike that gets ridden maybe 20miles a year and the chain broke? Ugh oh. With my chaintool in tow I went to work taking a link out. After putting the new link in for some strange reason I moved my hand over the chain and my thumb caught a burr. Slice. Now my thumb has a big gapping cut in it and blood everywhere. Robb finished up the chain while I quickly tried to figure out how to fix my issue at hand. Bob offered the duct tape off his shoes while I realized I could use the electrical tape off my seatpost to apply pressure to the wound. End result: electrical-taped thumb provided enough pressure to stop the bleeding and I could get my glove back on and continue riding. So much pressure that by the time we got back to Bob's house I couldn't feel my thumb (the cold didn't help either). After changing and cleaning up at Bob's house we put a proper bandage on my thumb and alles ist guten!

So, Robb is in CT for two weeks and got a nice multi-hour walk in the pouring rain this past Saturday with Omega and myself. He got an epic 6-7hr ride on some awesome CT trails atop a bicycle with a fit one could get away with in a skatepark rather than an all-day trail ride. Then he ends the week with a night ride that challenges me more than riding across Hartford in rush hour traffic on a brake-less fixie with a coffee in one hand.

Lesson Learned:
- Charge the HID battery weekly in the cold weather
- Its polite to actually ride the bike you are loaning out prior to loaning it out. This way it doesn't break mid-ride.
- Cross your fingers that Robb would like to ride in CT again when in town next.

Next month: I venture down to his neck of the woods and get to explore the Asheville North Carolina area.

Fun times!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

epic riding in west hartford

Ohio Robb is up from North Carolina for some business traveling. Figured he's in Hartford we might as well take him around and get a taste for the CT trails. Found a bike for him to ride from a friend of mine (Wound up being all out of whack for his fit and the butt of all our jokes for the day.). After a very rainy Saturday things cleared up a bit and we spent today (Sunday) riding with Sean from Bethel Cycle and his buddies in West Hartford and Simsbury.

I, myself, also learned of a few new trails within riding distance from my doorstep. I'm stoked. These trails are awesome and as we did today, I can get a full day's worth of riding in without even having to get into my car and drive somewhere. This is what its all about!

Total time out on the bike (including stops for a multitude of flat tires and a StarBucks stop on the way home) was 6.5 to 7hours.

Two bananas, two waterbottles of Clif drink, 16.9oz (not 20oz) of CocaCola (thanks Sean), one Clif Bar, one espresso brownie, medium dark coffee

Temps were what? In the 40degF range? Wind was howling up on those ridges. Glad we weren't on the road today.

Overcast and cloudy most of the day with probably 15mins of sunshine.

Tempo and pace was medium with a few spirited climbs with the whole gang.

Low lying areas were wet (as expected) so we rode slow but the higher areas were dry but chock full of those nice slippery oak leaves.

I estimate we were just inside of 50miles (6hrs @ 8mph). Estimate being I don't carry any fancy devices to document that. I just put my phone and wallet in my pocket and ride. So, I know what the time is but not how far I have ridden. Keep it simple and fade off into the ride and wilderness and enjoy turning those pedals over.

My lower back felt fine and my knee was doing well. No complaints. Perfect day of riding with a good group of people. It was just enough to make things sore but not sore to the point where I'm dead. A solid 8hours of sleep tonight should make me fresh to go in the morning.

'Where is everyone? You mean I'm late for services? Oh, that's right. We are at services... atop two wheels.'

'Robb wishes there was a fire going. It was cold up on that ridgeline.'

Looking west deep into Simsbury off the ridgeline we rode.

Flat #1 for Robb. Right about now he was REALLY wishing he had his 29er and tubeless tires.

The 'James Property'. A nice little informative sign but it did not really give me any clue as to where we were. GOOD to know we were on township land trust acreage.

Yoga and the gym this Tues & Thurs. Night MTB ride Wednesday. Probably back out for an epic spin on this trails this coming Sunday.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

la ruta '08 - day four (final)

Congrats Harlan! 10th place overall and top American! 5th place finish for the last and final stage.

Happy to be done. Harlan with Thomas Turner (2nd place American and 11th overall).

Great Job Janel for a 7th place overall in the Women's field. Great Job Lisa for an 11th place overall in the Women's field. Good showing for your first stage race(s).

news from Travis:

Today was one of the first last day starts in the sun. Turrialba volcanoe was visible and smoking which took the pain away which consumed my whole body. Everything hurts from the relentless climbs and teeth ratteling descents the past 3 days. It seemed the whole coffee plantation stopped working to see the start which was a 5km loose climb if about 2000 feet that we descending for the finish.

It was really emotional to be starting this day and my body was in enough shock to become numb and make the legs work. This stage looks easy on the profile but nothing us easy. We cruised a ridge line and what would be big climbs have become rolling hills in costa rica terms. We it a descent that must of been 25+ degree grade down paved. It dawned on me that they pave steep places then flats have gravel. We have to climb out to the second check point and I realize that I am on full autopilot as I replace the buckets of sweat with a solid hot day fluid and energy replacement scheme. More hoses with wild kids to cool me off.

Flying down towards the coast we see the relentless flats to the coast and the dreaded train tracks. We get a glimpse right after the descent and the first train bridge. Trestles over a huge river and we are walking. This would be easy but here the trestles are not equal distance and I am sweating double in fear but make it. By the time we finish the day I was a pro. What was interesting is locals took bikes and made carts that the rear wheel would be on one rail and the cart would span the tracks.

Tracks, rough dirt roads, smooth fast paceline road sections, long straight plantation roads under pounding 95-100 degree heat for 40 miles was what made today hard very hard.

Tracks mean riding down the middle on the concrete ties which 29ers excelled alternating with the along the side. Then the train bridges with locals watching the fear of the racers.

Plantation roads are dangerous as carnage occurred. Lisa was on my wheel as I pulled us closer to the coast and we as we passed a group of guys one stepped on on lisa hit him at full speed going into the ditch and over the bars. She is bruised up but only thing one can do 25 miles from the finish is to charge on. The guy seemed fined and only stares were exchanged. Then we came across a fresh crash with face carnage.

After mind numbing miles we hit the coast with 10 miles left and that took what seemed forever but only about 40minutes. Last bit on pavement and chills hit my spine as I turn left down the step ramps to the finish. Wow!

This is a tough event. There is talk of 5 days next year and althoug I am sore I have some gas left in the tank. So hard telling if I will be back but experience helps in this event.

So many memories so much mind numbing pain.

My thougts are with the two guys I heard about second hand. One had a heartattack on day 1 and the other went into a near coma with low sodium (too much water not enough salts) both are going to be ok I guess. Then to Tim d. and his hip.

Lisa kept 11th and killed it for being new to endurance racing this year.

4 tubes, 1 tire, 5 pairs of brake pads,pair of shoes and a seat bag that dumped my multi tool was my la ruta god gifts. I think I drank around 40 water bottles of various fluids on top of more calories than I can count.

Time for a week on the beach.

Thanks to for posting these updates. One great mag!

la ruta '08 - day three

News from Travis about Day three's climb up and down the Irazu Volcano. I can only imagine how it must be without rain. Last year we were met with nothing but rain. However, it looks like heat was the name of the game. You never win..

Day 3 has come and gone. There are many different 'races' in this race. The winners were finishing as I was still just under 3 hrs from finishing. This puts me in the survival race just to keep the body working. Everything hurts and everyone has their own issues going into day 3. Then there is the race to drop ones bike at the mechanics, getting your race bag, into the typically cold communal shower, a meal and shuttle to hotel. It's about calories and rest.

Today was only about 8000 feet of climbing over 39 miles or so up the irazu volcano. The profile is deceiving as down is just as hard as up. Climb up above the clouds to almost 9000 feet went much better this year and there was no rain. Last year it was the coldest wettest most henoius decent and this year it was dry but what they call roads here we call a scree field. Granted in these descents there are always stinger of climbs some worse than strand hill climb. This descent is one that kills brain cells from the ratteling. Last year it was in torrential rain so this year was nice to be dry and only arm warmers.

Altitude, in some clouds and cool weather brought out Lisas best and she climbed and climbed to no other. Then it was my job to lead the way on the descents yet there were no lines just descending by brail through baby to adult size head rocks. It shakes the whole body all the while hanging on to near catastrophe. Words and pictures can't describe.

The views were killer in and out of clouds when last year I was following becky descend like a maniac as I approached hypothermia and could barely see in the fog.

In my own race for calories and fluids we made it to the hotel pool by 3:30 with a beer in one hand and water in the other. We scored the closest hotel as some are over an hour from the finish.

I had targeted 6hrs for today but turned 6:45 so I am consistantly 45min to 1 hour short of my daily goals but heck 1 hr or so faster than last year. What's it really matter when I get a great view from the back 1/2 of the back and easily making the time cuts.

Last year I got incredibly sick after day 3 and could not start day 4 so tomorrow is new territory for me with only 6000 vert, 78 miles and the infamous 20+ miles of train tracks.

This is not a mountain bike nor a road race it's la ruta and to quote 5 time la ruta vetran matt luhn "la ruta kills brain cells".

Thursday, November 13, 2008

la ruta '08 - day two

Harlan (#47) is battling Thomas Turner (#60) for the top American Male spot.

(first climb from day one)

Looks like a great effort!

Janel (#415) is currently 7th female and 2nd American female. Looks like she is doing very well for her first stage race!

Travis and Lisa finished in great time today. I think their just over 7hr finish was better than Travis' from last year. Lisa (#407) is 12th female and Travis (#103) is mid-pack in the master A category.

From reading the results on day two I can only conclude that Tim's body is not treating him well. I wish him the best!

From Travis:
Talking to Fred from velonews this morning had me pondering why would both of us come back to a race that destroys your bike, oppressive mud, climbing 30,000 feet or so in 2 days and 118 miles, hot and humid - the list goes on. So while giggling to myself when the first 20k of the race changed and the route book said 10k to the first aid station I reflected. Straight up after a 2k road 'rolling enclosure' which included rush hr traffic I realize we were on a new course for the start. 2k from the top of the ridge and locals are saying we are there. Not true. Finally on the ridge and I take in the sites thinking aid station 1 is right there. Left turn into fresh 'single track' that was cut yesterday it seemed and I continued to giggle as I knew nothing was the same and so many people relied on the stage profile yet promoters changed it up 2 weeks ago or so.

As we climb through aid 2 on possibly the steepest continuous paved roads in the world the school kids are cheering. Today is all about so many villages clinging to steep mountains with schools what seems every corner but really each village. The students are so excited and cheering. Granny gear mixed with walking when the road pitches above 20% is cooled off by the numerous water hoses and the eager child to cool us off.

This is why I am back. No other tourist experiences how participants in la ruta gets to see costa rics and all the while testing ones physical and mental limits.

The end this year avoided a stupid mud section that was down right dangerous. See Becky Reimann's article in this past summers mountain flyer for pictures.

Legs were sore, it was hot, I climbed my ass off, was 1+ hours faster than last year but that is all secondary to why I love day 2 and the smiles on the road framed by amazing views.

Sorry no pictures as I try to run light and no camera room in the pockets.

Also check fred's updates on as he is doing press and top 20 overall representing Colorado as well.

Day 3 is all up and yes knee warmers, arm warmers and rain jacket will be along for the rainy cold descent off of irazu volcano


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

la ruta '08 - day one

Today marks day one of the 16th annual La Ruta De Los Conquistadores. I am not taking part this year and have mixed emotions about it. Part of me wishes I was there but the other part of me is happy to be home and just riding whenever I feel like it with no set structure.

Received an email from my friend Travis @ The Alpineer today. He and Lisa traveled down to Costa Rica from Crested Butte Colorado to compete. Harlan Price is also there and I just got word today that TimmyD is there too.

I will live vicariously through Travis' emails this week..

Here is Travis' recap:
3:00 am came very fast and I slumbered to breakfast trying to eat. 4:20 and was through rider check in sitting in the corral waiting for my slaughter. 1min to go and i guess since 100 less americans means no fireworks but i got my madonna. 5:00 am and we started ok time which is unique for costa rica. 18kph roll out for 4ks was more like 30kph. Big crash on the first turn which I got to witness and a quick look back and lisa is riding like a true roadie on my wheel. This year there was about 10 miles of fast road before turning in to climb about 5 miles to rejoin the orginal course. Right into the gnarly mud descent and I almost clean it but a motorcycle tried to ride it and stacked it. I can not describe the gnarliness of this descent but last year I walked most of it and this year I opted to ride as it is "safer".

Aid station 1 at 8:15 and a little behind my desired 10hr pace but there was about 5mi added

Lots of rain and the next section is the worst mud ever. Just keep moving and the superfly was working a lot better than the steel if last year.

Clear the mud and haul major ass on some gravel with the drivetrain screaming for mercy as the 5 or so river crossing help to clean. Did you know superflys float? Yes sometimes the whole bike gets submerged to help remove the 20 extra pounds of clay mud. Who said never pressure wash your bike? Well like a mirage there were the mechanicos with pressure washer errr superblaster to clean the bike then onto the motor oil chain lube and the drivetrain is perfect.

Aid station 2 and potatoes with salt down the hatch and onto the gravel up down then up up up. 85 and 200% humidity and I felt like puking just like last year on this section but I knew there would be a lovely seƱora that loves to cool off boys in lycra so I kept going. She gave me my cool shower and I was off to aid station 3 and as I left there the lead guys were 40min from finishing. I had 4 more hours, roberto heras had 1.5 hrs left for his 5th or 6th place. I just looked but the subway is digesting on top of the killer post race meal. They really stepped it up this year including lengthening the stage to have a killer location vs the ranch last year

Up up up and more up on pavement gets you to aid station 4. Who cares about stats but it never ends. Aid station 4 and you always think sweet I am almost done but yet I had 2.5 hrs to go. Screaming down the steepest gravel then concrete then gravel road to the last climb and I get a flat. I have had 3 flats since being here but only 1 in the race

Climb climb and past last years finish to more climbing. Get into town and 3kms to go can only mean big chain ring descent dodging busses in traffic. Chills come about me as I turn into the finish. 11:07 on the clock 70+ miles and 16000 feet of climbing approx. My computer choose to not work but last year I was just shy of 12hrs and 59 miles and 14500 of climbing. Didn't hit my 10hr mark but the course was harder. Still I am pack filler in the master a class. I would of placed higher in the open ironically.

Lisa did awesome and is in 11th! Not bad for her first international stage race with some buff women.

My friend Tim Dougherty who got top 25 last year on a ss was out by the first aid station. He was sitting there when I went through and he said he heard a pop from his hip. Thoughts are with him

Tomorrow has the steepest paved roads I have ever seen so time for sleep.

Harlan is currently the top American in 11th place. Congrats Harlan!

Wish you the best Tim. I hope things get better!

My friend Keith, from work, gave me this today. May 2004 Issue of Bike Magazine. Its a recap of the 2003 La Ruta De Los Conquistadores. How fitting. He and his wife found this old issue in his collection while cleaning his house this past weekend. (Click on the issues for bigger size to read the article.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

tires anyone?

Had the 'cross tires for this past weekend. Now time to convert the 'wolf' back to her roots...

29x2.3 tires have been on since Labor Day. Time to downsize and throw on my trusty 29x2.1 Maxxis Crossmarks.

Well, found one Crossmark easily. Had to go digging for the other.

Tires anyone?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

wolf in sheep's clothing

29er singlespeed got a facelift.

Maxxis cyclocross tires I've had sitting around for a year.
40tooth FSA front chainring
19th rear cog (for the Eel)
20th rear cog for riding the singletrack around West Hartford Reservoir.

With the facelift, I went out to explore some new trails in the West Hartford Reservoir system today. 4hrs on the bike. Caught in the dark coming home but I had a blast. Some of the singletrack I found was so much fun. Fast, leaves covering big rocks, 700c-32 tires at 75psi holding strong.

Insider info (front and center) was provided and most of the time I stayed on the blue blaze. Or was it teal?

Some sections were tough rocking the 2:1 but others were super enjoyable. Upper body was sore from raking wet leaves all morning but that didn't stop me. The 35c tires definitely beat me up a bit but I still enjoyed it and rode fairly hard and fast. I had a really good time and the current set-up was awesome for cruising on some roads and some long climbs. I also had my share of hike-a-bikes today. Good to be out exploring and drifting off into wherever I go while riding..

The plan was to head north. I left the house around 2 and rode north 'till around 4. Then turned around and started heading back south. Got some nice shots out west and south around 4pm:

That is the Heublein Tower you see off in the distance.

Got caught in the dark as I meandered through the reservoir down to Farmington Ave. Stuck to the gravel roads and paved roads. Stopped to catch the moon but the clouds moved too fast. Doh.

Home by 6pm. Just enough time to clean up, walk Omega and pick up Rob from the airport.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

riding clears the mind

Didn't get my full night mtb ride in on Wednesday this past week. Rain set in so we only rode for 45mins. I was jonesn' for some ride time.

Friday morning I took Omega for his walk. It was warm, pseudo dry and humid. "I'm going to ride into work today."

I've been trying not to really ride the fixie that much since my left knee is bothering me again. Gym time and staying off the fixie should remedy that. Since I went to the gym on Thursday I figured it was 'safe' to ride the fixie on Friday.

Partway through West Hartford I decided I needed a challenge. As if riding in Hartford rush-hour traffic was not enough... Try doing it fixed, brakeless and with one hand. I stopped to get some coffee and then rode across town to work. Made it to the office 30mins later without spilling anything. I rode slow and actually felt more aware of my surroundings than I normally do. Stoked!

What I really needed was one of these (thanks Andy).

Riding to work on Friday got me thinking.. Riding is an outlet for me. I don't care where I'm riding or what I'm riding or the terrain but it is an outlet. My mind escapes the daily grind and I feel cleansed. It is my way of disappearing from society for a few hours.

Take last Wednesday's weekly ride for example (Oct 29th): It was wet in the woods so we ventured out on the road with our road bikes. I left work with a splitting headache and no direction to overcome the latest hurdle I was faced with. After easing into the ride and overcoming the first big climb my body started feeling great and I was up front with LaPierre. I never once thought about my headache and never really thought about the frustrations at work. I felt strong and rode hard. The sun was setting and I opted to leave my HID headlamp off until I absolutely needed it. Everyone else seemed to have them on so I'd use their light. With the lights on behind me I continuously saw my shadow and had enough light to see the road. My blinkie lights were in full effect so I was visible to cars. It was fairly chilly (booties, insulated jersey, insulated vest, insulated knickers). After 2hrs and around 35miles we were back at Bob's house. I felt awesome! The next day I figured out how to overcome that hurdle at work.

This is one of the many reasons why I ride my bicycle(s).