Monday, September 27, 2010

Vermont 50 skinny

I started writing some stuff about this year's Vermont 50 last night as fatigue was setting in big time and I was falling asleep. Lets continue now that I got some rest..

This is probably one of the longest point-to-point mountain bike races in New England. It has been on-going since the early 1990s. A few friends of mine that I ride with weekly have been participating since its inception. I have been participating since 2004 and took a hiatus in 2008 and 2009. In 2004 it was the longest bike race I ever did (took me 6hrs and change on a geared bike). 2004 was also the year Troy Michaud won the race on a singlespeed! A feat that has not been repeated since. 2005 I did it on a singlespeed and had chain issues (took me 6hrs and change). 2006 I did it on a singlespeed again but had back, muscle and saddle issues (finished just inside of 6hrs). 2007 I was back with my singlespeed and rode the best I ever have (5hrs 13mins with a pinched my sciatic nerve from the SM100 less than a month earlier when I took 2nd in the NUE 100miler series). I then grew tired of sitting infront of my computer at 7pm one evening around memorial day to fight my way into the race (it was selling out within an hour from registration opening) so I took two years off. This year I was near a computer when registration opened so I figured I'd give it a go again.

Fast forward to now.


I just finished a few weeks and a stage race in Colorado, at altitude. Did quite well out there and felt great. Seeing as the Breck Epic was just shy of 50miles each day with an equivalent amount of climbing as the VT50 I figured I was conditioned quite well (and had fueling dialed in). Chatted with Thom about his experiences with the VT50 seeing as he's finished in the top 5 a few times (and that was my goal). He advised something like a 50inch gear (34x19, 32x18, etc..) so I put on my 34x19 and every ride since returning from CO was on this gear. It hurt like a bitch since I'm used to a 34x20 on my local trails but I got used to it (ie: stand up a lot more than I used to). With my new found gear, my plan was to ride as much as I could between Labor Day and now; now, focusing on 4-5-6hr rides. Charlie and I got a few fun group rides in and I did a few on my own.

My real goal was a singlespeed podium with a time in and around the 4hr 30min mark. Mentally, I am a mess with a goal of such proportions even though everyone has been telling me I am capable of that. In fact, most of my races (including this year's Translyvania Epic) I go into with the thoughts of just riding consistent and seeing how I do. Typically I am riding solo so I don't have to worry about people around me attacking or me having to attack someone to put time in so its not a big deal. I just ride my bike and see where it takes me. Years of riding with some specific 'training' here and there have gotten me to where I am today. Slowly but surely.

So, with this goal messing with my mind I started fooling myself with a new goal: ride consistent and beat your 5hr 13min time. I also found out the singlespeeders were starting this year's VT50 in the 2nd wave of people, five minutes behind the first wave. I wasn't quite happy about that for I didn't want to have to mess around with passing people in the dark on some atv and snowmobile trails.

Upon arriving at Ascutney mountain Saturday, Glenn and I set up camp (we were camping within a few hundred yards of the start line) and then picked up our number plates. I asked if I could switch into my age group (listed as Senior II) since they were going out in the first wave. The lady I spoke to was in a very irate mood and said I could not switch classes just 'because I wanted to go out in the first wave'. Given my frustrations with this race promoter (more on that tomorrow) my reaction was not the most pleasant. I quickly stopped myself and walked away to buy some time. When she wasn't so busy with other participants I came back with a polite manner. This time I told her I recently chose not to ride my singlespeed and wanted to be in my age group where I belong (but was still going to race my singlespeed). Permission was granted. Victory!

Glenn and I found Dave "fourth place" Cormier and he showed us where his condo he was staying in was (we'd later use the shower to clean up post race). Then back to camp for dinner (pre-cooked pasta with sausage, chicken and home-made marinara from Ginger's garden) and to get our stuff together before it got dark.

Early to bed, early to rise seeing as the race was starting at 6am.. I think I went to bed too early for I got up around 3am and didn't sleep well from 3 to 5am when I 'officially' got up. A bowl of oatmeal and Hammer Gel down and all dressed for success. Temps were supposed to get up into the 60s and where probably around 45-50 at the start.

I saw Greg 'the leg' Montello at the start with his bike chock full of gears (forgot he wasn't racing singlespeed) and met one of Thom's friends (Will) at the start. I also hear a familiar voice coming out of the darkness behind us.

"We're gonna be riding our bikes ALL.... DAY.... LONG!"

It was Ramponi! with his loud Boston accent. What is an endurance race in New England without him? Especially after his 2nd place singlespeed finish at the Shenandoah 100 a few weeks ago. He was in the second wave of riders.

At 6am we were off at a very rapid pace (upwards of 25-30mph) down a very dark paved road and onto an even darker dirt road chock full of pot-holes. My 51inch gear allowed me to stay in the lead group for quite a while on the flats. A few guys had lights ranging from simple camping miner's lights to full out HID. A few of us, including myself, tagged along the back of the group as it stretched out into a long train. I wanted to draft as much as possible and also stayed near someone with a light so I could see.

Sharp left onto another gravel road that climbed up and up. This was the first major climb and around 5miles in.

(2008 course but this year was somewhat similar)

I took the turn wide and wound up flying past everyone once we got onto the climb. I heard all the guys shifting to an easier gear and I just pedaled at a comfortable cadence. With my gearing it propelled me well beyond the lead group and now I was way off the front... in the dark.

"Wow, this is weird. I'm in 1st place!"

"Don't worry about everyone. They'll pass you eventually. Just ride your pace and be consistent. As Thom said, ride like you did in Breckenridge."

Sure enough.. 1/2 to 3/4 up the climb a bunch of guys caught me and passed me. I held on through the top of the climb and down the descent. At the bottom of the descent we made a quick left and then a quick right onto some doubletrack. Immediately into the doubletrack the trail pitched up very steeply. In years past this section was a huge bottleneck but this year we were pretty stretched out so it wasn't a big deal. I hopped off and ran up the hill. The leaders took off and left me and a few others in their dust. That was the end of my brief stint in both 1st and at the front of the group.

While I was able to ride every short punchy climb I was pulling on the handlebars a lot to get the strength to turn over such a large gear. As you can see from the profile above the climbs are somewhat short but steep and punchy. I was starting to feel the effects of such a large gear but didn't think it was a detriment. Especially as I now had a huge gap on Thom's friend Will who was in my class and also on a singlespeed.

The trails were were riding on (when we were on trails which was few and far between) were old atv and snowmobile trails so they weren't too smooth. They had a lot of holes and tire ruts on the sides. I came into a sweeping right turn through a grassy section of atv trail a bit too fast. Speed was about what I normally would take for a turn like this... on dirt. I slid towards the outside of the turn and next thing I knew my front tire dropped into a deep tire rut. I preceded to fly over the handlebars and into a thorn bush. In the process my front tire burped the bead but held pressure.

"Great. WTF am I doing. This is not a fast, consistent pace. This is a sporadic mess."

Back on the bike brushing it off like it wasn't a big deal. Front tire was now quite low on air.

"Do I stop and fill the tire or do I carry on to the next aid station?"

I opted to carry on since the promoter had aid stations what seemed like every eight miles. Luckily, right around the corner was an aid station that had neutral mechanic support. I asked if they could pump my tire up to 23psi while I took my arm warmers off. I also ditched my clear safety glasses and plastic grocery bag (used as a windbreaker under my jersey) with them and took off down the trail/road.

I forget how far into the race I was. My GPS was cutting in and out and would turn off on me so I couldn't rely on the odometer. It was either 15miles or 20miles. I know it was before a long dirt road climb. Lets say mile 15. I took off up this climb and settled into a nice pace. Had to stand up most of the climb thanks to my super big gear. Rode past a geared guy at the bottom and pulled away from him. I could hear people in the distance behind me but chose not to look over my shoulder and see who it was or how far they were. That was not my concern as my goal was to just ride my bike at a consistent pace. Shortly near the top a gentleman caught up to me and said I dropped my arm warmers about 50ft behind us. Quick check of my pockets revealed lack of arm warmers. Fuck. I turned around and went back to get them. At this point Will passed me.

Back climbing and I got to the crest and bombed the dirt road descent trying to make up some time. Next climb I caught back up to Will and we got to exchange a few sentences. You know, the "what gear you running?" exchange. I told myself I wouldn't go asking people about their gears because it sound so cliche. I think most singlespeeders (including myself sometimes) worry about their choice of gear ratio too much. No wonder Dejay started making stickers "32xFU Run What'cha Brung!"

Regardless, it turns out Will had one tooth larger of a gear out back than I did. My excuse was

"Thom told me to run this."

and his reply was

"Thom is a masochist!"

haha. We both laughed and kept on climbing. He ultimately pulled on me as I fell slightly behind my gear. I never saw him again unfortunately.

Next climb was up this giant grassy hill called "Gavin Hill" around mile 20. In years past I never was able to ride up this but this year I did. Victory!

My body was starting to fatigue. I couldn't tell if my thighs were on the verge of cramping because of the embrocation I put on before the race. I could definitely tell my biceps were on the verge of cramping. Mile 25-35 was not fun for me and my pace slowed down a bit as a result. I don't recall getting off and walking/running any of it so staying on the bike albeit a slightly slower pace was still a good thing.

The top two singlespeeders from the singlespeed field caught me and passed me like I was standing still. One of them had a Club Ride Apparel jersey on. Was Greg Martin here? I don't recall seeing his name on the list? (I later found out it was Sean McLaughlin, another individual from ID and probably one of Greg's teammates. The other guy was the mysterious Bryan Lyster who has won the singlespeed field since 2006 and I haven't met nor any of my friends. Sean went onto win the singlespeed field this year.) A few minutes later the 3rd place singlespeed guy passed me also like I was standing still. Boy did I feel slow.

My world started to turn in the mid 30mile range as we were in some singletrack. I was both excited to be off dirt roads and shitty atv/snowmobile trails but frustrated by how un-fun the singletrack was. Super tight turns through super tight trees and lots of rutted out roots and such. One could carry almost zero momentum through this stuff which made me have to put out even more effort to keep my bike rolling (51inch gear failing me now). That started killing my lower back as it became inflamed. My arms were also fatiguing faster too since I was standing up the whole time trying to get those pedals turned.

Around one switchback I heard a familiar voice behind me.... Ramponi. He bridged the 5min start gap I had and was closing in on me. Somehow I kept on going and got through the singletrack (or what they called 'singletrack') and through the next section. By now my watch was around the 3.5hr mark so I knew we must have been past the 40mile mark. I also didn't see Ramponi anymore.

"How did I pull away from him? He's super strong right now."

More singletrack and my back was getting worse. No where to recover. No where to grab a bottle or eat some food. This section was also new to me. I don't recall doing it in the previous attempts at this race. I wish I was a bit stronger through this but I wasn't. I held Ramponi off for a while but he eventually caught up to me and passed me. I did my best to keep him within sights and minimize any gap he would put on me but I was limited with what strength I had left.

Next thing I know I saw a sign that said "5 miles to go!"

"Really? 5miles? We haven't even gotten onto the Ascutney resort and climbed up the mountain yet? How can we be doing that with less than 5miles to go? Must not be in this year's race. Hmm.."

I finished my bottles and downed a package of Shot Blocks.

"Gotta eat now if I want energy near the finish. If I wait the food won't take effect."

"4 miles to go!"

and I did the past mile in about five minutes. Okay. 20minutes left. That puts me around 4hrs 40mins. WOW. I'm doing awesome despite how horrible I feel.

Those horrible feelings now disappeared as I had a good handle of how far we had to go. Out of the woods and onto a gravel road. Sharp right onto a paved road, past a field of spectators and a left onto a driveway that went up-hill.

"I remember this. This is that climb up Ascutney mountain. This is the last climb of the day."

Rode right past the aid station and took off up the climb. The lower half was in a field and the upper half was through trees and such. I could see Ramponi right up there. He's not that far away. Sweet!

Pace picked up as I pushed myself more. Found a good pace I could sustain up this climb. Picked off a few riders but couldn't catch Ramponi. Caught up to the 3rd place singlespeed racer as he was changing a flat. Hmm..

"Could I really have been in 3rd place within the singlespeed field if I stayed? No way."

"The Beer is on Tap" said another sign

Then "2 miles to go!"

Finally a "1 mile to go! Its all downhill from here." sign.

Feeling really strong I was out of the saddle accelerating every chance I had so I could pick my pace up. Traversed a few of the ski slopes and then down one slope to a sweeping right to a slight incline to a sweeping left. Accelerating out of each turn like a madman.

Over the tunnel and down the backside through a chicane and into the ribbon that guides you to the finish. Hauling ass down the mountain and I'm still out of the saddle accelerating.

Crossed the finish line in 4hrs 42mins 18sec according to the official results. Good enough for 7th place in my age group and 26th overall (out of 650 or so racers). WOW. I actually achieved my original goals.

Despite probably 10miles of slowing down in the middle of the race I was still 31minutes faster than my previous fastest time (2007). In years past (with similar conditions) my 4:42 would have put me in the top 10 overall. Seeing as I was in the upper 20s that is how many good, fast racers were in this year's event!

My time actually would have put me in 3rd place for the singlespeed field but silly me I opted for the more competitive age group (Expert 26-35 y/o).

Will finished about 8mins ahead of me. The 51inch gear definitely slowed me down in the 'singletrack'. I can only imagine how much quicker he was through that section with his easier gear despite how much I could make up on the flats and less steeper dirt road climbs.

was about 19mins ahead of me. Not bad considering how quick and strong of a rider he is (even with him being on a geared bike and even small [26"] wheels at this event).

Ramponi was only six minutes ahead of me. I thought that was the best thing until he told me after the race that he stopped four times to take care of nature breaks. One of which required a lot more time and some leaves. Still, I'm happy I was able to hang near his time given how well he did at this year's Shenandoah Mountain 100.

Local doctor and gentleman I ride with, Andy Caputo, was 10mins behind me. Good enough for 4th place in the singlespeed field. An improvement over his previous years. Great job!

Glenn Giglio, the gentleman I carpooled with and ride with frequently, had a superb finish at 4hrs 56mins. Good enough for 7th singlespeed. Not bad considering this was his 3rd race this season!

Dave "4th place" Cormier was battling Niner Bio-Centric creaking issues and finished in 5hrs 26mins. Good enough for top 20 singlespeed.

Looks like we all had a great ride. Competition is getting faster. I don't know how I would top this finish. Probably won't partake again. We'll see what next year brings me...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

2010 Vermont 50

I took a few years off from participating in the Vermont 50. Last year was a great year to not partake since it was a total mudfest.

Seeing as I would be coming off a few weeks of riding at altitude in Colorado I decided to sign up for the Vermont 50 again this year. Figured I'd be in great shape for it. Turns out I was correct.

I will add a detailed recap tomorrow but here is the high level:

~super fast and dry trails (like CO but with the addition of fallen leaves)
~singlespeed was set up with a 51.9 inch gear (which was both awesome and extremely painful and slow at the same time)
~set a new personal record (shaved about 30mins off my previous best time)
~super stacked field
~shot myself in the foot for a podium by switching out of the singlespeed field and racing in my age group (but it didn't matter anyway for various reasons)

click on image for results

7th place in the Expert 27-34 year old class (they call it Senior II)
27th place overall (out of 600 something racers I think)
4hours 42mins (2007 was 5hrs 13mins)

My time would have put me in 3rd place within the Singlespeed field

Need some sleep and rest. I pushed myself super hard today and my body is all achy and beat down. Nothing some rest can't cure.

Monday, September 13, 2010

riding bikes

Tonight is the first time I've been infront of a computer at home since last Thursday. For some reason I've just sort of strayed away from my home computer. My piece of shit iPhone 2G also doesn't seem to like AT&T's 2G data coverage now-a-days so I can't even do much with that hunk of junk. Been procrastinating on getting a new phone.

So, what does this mean? Nothing really... Just a long post catching up on my rides since returning from the Breck Epic.

I have been riding a lot. Back on the weekly Wednesday rides and have been trying to get some hard and long rides in on the weekends. All in preparation for the Vermont 50 in less than two weeks.

A road ride we did (first ride back after returning from the Breck Epic). Humidity was through the roof and temps were in the 90s. It was a tad difficult adjusting having just spent almost a month in Colorado where it was 70s and very low humidity in the mountains.

This was from my friend Andy's GPS so ignore the heart rate. I don't use one of those things. Andy is a local fast bike racer. He just won (again) the 50+ Cat 1 field in the local series. While I was out in Breck he did the Mount Washington Hill Climb as he always does. Set a new PR and got 14th overall. I did the 'practice ride' back in 2004. Its one of two days they open the auto road up to cyclists. The second day is the race. I timed myself and it took me about an hour and a half.

Last week Andy sent me this article about Travis Pastrana setting a new record racing his Subaru up the Mount Washington auto road. Impressive time.

crazy shit!

similar? I think not and don't plan on having this car on two wheels... ever.

Wish I had the ability to drive (or is it 'race'?) my Audi up Pike's Peak last month (that's where the last pic was taken..) but we settled on a 20mph scenic drive up that mountain. It is a shame to hear Pike's Peak auto road is becoming 100% paved due to lawsuits and stuff.

Agh... This is more like it. An Audi S2 Groupe B Quattro racing up the auto road.

Anyway. Back to riding bikes. Labor Day weekend I did two long rides. The first was on furlough Friday... My day to stay home and not get paid. I met Bruce, Glenn and Dave '4th Place' Cormier for a 3/3.5 hour ride on the Metacomet. We started just north of Tarifville and headed north up to Mass and then back. I wanted to ride this section of the trail again as I want to do an all-day ride from my house up to Mass and back on this trail later this fall.

Glenn snapped this picture of me doing what I do... eating bananas. We were at the Mass border contemplating whether or not to keep going and explore the Metacomet north into Mass (where I haven't ridden yet). The start was on private property and Bruce did not want to trespass so we had to turn around and head back.

Yeah, tan lines I got out in Colorado. Figured the sleeveless Dicky jersey would be appropriate given how hot and humid it was (temps finally dove and the humidity disappeared later that night). I think its a good look. right?

Once again I tried the Garmin 205 and it failed. Kept shutting off for some reason and somehow the data file got lumped with what I was recording on my next ride later that weekend. Technology fail. I am constantly developing new technology in the aerospace industry at work yet can't figure out a damn GPS on my bicycle? So much for trying to share data with you.

Sunday morning I met up with Charlie and James and a few of their friends for a nice 3-4hour [fast] ride through West Hartford Reservoir and into Penwood State Forest along the southern area of the Metacomet. These are trails within a few miles from my house. Charlie wrote a good story about it here. I just remember desperately trying to stay on their wheels through the first hour. Once my body got over the shock of riding quite fast quite early I settled into a good rhythm and felt great the remainder of the ride.

Upon returning from the Breck Epic I decided to ride a harder gear than I typically have. I typically ride a 34x20 around here but threw on the 19. That's 51.9 gear inches versus my traditional 49.3. I ran a 32x21 (44.2 gear inches) out in Colorado. Supposedly 52gear inches is what it takes to be up on top in Vermont so I'll see what I can do with it. So far it feels great and I'm liking it.

Somehow the GPS worked for me on last Wednesdays MTB ride. Go figure. It was a nice mellow ride through Meshomasic. I haven't ridden Mesh since I crashed there earlier this summer and sliced my face wide open. As a result I wanted to take it easy so no fast riding down the rocky trails and no fancy moves over giant boulders.

Yesterday I went out for a 2-2.5 hour mountain bike ride with Ginger at Case Mountain. After that I rushed home to switch bikes, eat a sandwich and then head down to Middletown to go for an intended 4hour road ride with Matt from Ghostship clothing.

We're all ready to go and he had to head over to Pedal Power, where he works, to get some food for the ride. All loaded up with food and we're off for the ride. A few miles down the road he snaps his Campy 10spd chain in half. Doh! Well, at least we're near the shop. I tow him back to the shop via pushing him up the hills and across Middletown so he can replace his chain. Almost an hour later (due to him f'ing with the chain) we're a go. Its dark and overcast so the ride was cut a bit shorter.

Basic route was down 17south into Durham and the 77south Great Hill Road to Long Hill Road to 80east to 79north to Cherry Hill road into some back roads through Middlefield and near the Wadsworth and back to his house. Caught rain in the last 30mins of the ride. I rode big gears and only dropped into the 39T chainring on the short climb up Great Hill Road. The lower cadences and high loads hurt but I needed the punishment.

Why? I don't know. Guess I think it'll keep me ready for the Vermont50. The downside was my legs felt really heavy and tired today. I actually want to podium and the best I've ever done is 10th place singlespeed (2007). Podium means I have to be around 30mins faster than my time in '07. I've never thought about a goal like that in a race before. I typically just show up and try to do well. I think its adding some unwanted stress but I keep forcing myself not to think about it. My fitness is really good from a few weeks at altitude. My nutrition on and off the bike seems to be working. So why worry? Exactly. Just ride your bike and we'll see what happens. That is the plan.

We'll do an easy MTB ride on Wednesday. Then hoping to meet back up with Charlie and do another 3-4hr ride in Penwood this weekend. Then an easy mtb next Wednesday and then the Vermont50.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

ghostship clothing

The Ghostship Clothing... Clothing finally arrived and looks awesome and fits me great. No lotion needed on the skin for this.

I was hoping to have this stuff for Breck but our friends overseas decided they would do things their way and, alas, it took a few extra weeks. Whatevers... Its here.



shoulder detail

I opted for the extra fancy, extra padded, chamois. Just didn't know it came all graphic'd up. I will be comfy on those very long days on the saddle.

While we are on clothing.... and back when I was in Colorado (more on that in a few days) Ginger surprised me by giving me the Twin Six' argyle kit. Such a nice gift. Thanks.

as seen in Thom's Mountain Bike blog entry about the Breck Epic

The two days I wore that kit I got a lot of compliments (but did wash it inbetween). Wonder if that is why Dicky is not amused and Thom is doing his best Ray Charles impersonation? (and you thought he was good with Christopher Walken?)