Friday, October 31, 2014

Cyclocross day to day

Cyclocross day to day
Keeping a 'Cross bike race ready

With cyclocross in full swing, conditions are slowly degrading and back to back race days a more frequent.  It helps to keep a smooth running bike day in and out, and a clean bike is a happy bike. I like to use ProGold Biking Products, and recommend that everyone try them at least once. that's all it'll take to see  how great these products are.
sand manages to get everywhere.

ProTowels
These towels are particularly great at a quick clean up the frame and rims, after the dusty early season race.

Blast Off Degreaser
This here is probably my favorite product to use during 'cross season. Whether its clearing dust, mud, grease, or sand out of the drive-train Blastoff  is phenomenal getting it clean. Blast Off is significantly stronger than other similar products i have tried. Where i used a whole can of another product to clean my pit bike of sand, it took just a few quick burst of Blast Off and the grinding sound was gone from my race bike.

ProGold Degreaser +Wash
Is concentrated and recommended to use a 1:1 ratio. A spray down the frame will help cut through the mud and grime. Make it easy to wipe the bike down clean.

ProGold's Xtreme Chain lube
I run a quick layer on before i put the bike away after a thorough. The Xtreme lube is stronger and better suited for off-road use, than it's ultra low friction brother i like to use on the road bike.
A total of 20 minutes and my bike is cleaned and read to get dirty again.

These are just a portion of ProGold's great products, be sure to check out their site, and try some of these product when you have a chance. If your LBS doesn't stock these products, be sure to ask them to, all of these ProGold products stand above the rest.






October


When I first started thinking about what to write for my October blog, I was honestly stumped. It had been a pretty “boring” month, I thought. Yeah I got my license, yeah I raced my first cross race, but for some reason October was not bringing with it the extreme excitement that most other months have. This changed when I changed my thinking. I was only thinking about the extremely “exciting” things that I am accustomed to, like big races, hard training, and of course getting my drivers license. But there are other extremely awesome things to be experienced that many people, including myself, take for granted.  So yeah, October wasn’t a gigantic month of intense racing and big podiums, but it was a great month full tons of great experiences that I almost overlooked. Here is a brief list of all the things that have made October exciting.


Trials:
With all the training and racing and focused riding I did during the summer, I completely neglected my trials bike. I think I may have picked it up once to ride around in the driveway, but that was it. During October however, I picked it up and gave it the love and use that it deserves. I rode it so much that it actually got dirty for the first time in its life. This was wonderful because a dirty bike is the perfect excuse to clean a bike. I got it looking super shiny and riding smooth using my ProGold bike wash and chain lube. And after you clean your bike, what do you do? Take pictures of it, of course. Trials is one of the most fun forms of cycling and thanks to my “boring” October, I was able to get back into it.






Longboarding:
This one is pretty simple, longboarding is great. It’s the best stress reliever I have, actually. This may be surprising to hear from a cyclist, but cycling can be pretty stressful with all the racing. Its just nice to change it up, go cruising around with friends with no goals, just chillin’. Like my trials bike, my longboard was completely neglected this summer. But fall weather just creams “Go Longboarding!” So I did.




Weather:
Fact: Fall is the best season. Colorful trees, crunchy leaves on the ground, cool air, hoodies, and more. Just go sit outside, breath, and look around you, its amazing. If you say you don’t love Fall, you are just simply wrong. Another fact: The word “Perfect” was originally created with the sole purpose of describing Fall. That is all I have to say about that.

This wasn't taken by me but its a great fall pic.
Long Weekends:
Most people reading this probably haven’t been in high school for a while, but one of the most welcomed and celebrated events in a high-schooler's life is the long weekend. October has been a great month in this department. With one or two three-day weekends at the beginning and a four-day weekend rounding off the month. A long weekend means more free time to rest, ride, hangout, and procrastinate homework; it also means a shorter school week when you get back. Unfortunately, people with jobs are often deprived of this wonderful thing that is a long weekend, which sucks. Fortunately, I’m not one of those people!


October 13th, 1st long weekend
October 27th, 2nd long weekend

End of October/November 3rd and 4th, 3rd long weekend


A few more pictures from October:

Finally got my license

Happy Halloween

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Midway into cyclocross season

Well, we are deep into cyclocross season. At this point I've done four 'cross races. Every race has felt different and each has come with its own set of mistakes and challenges.

I decided to do the first race, the Fort Ritchie Challenge, on a whim because I happened to be passing through Cascade, MD that day. It was more about getting back into the cyclocross mindset by becoming acquainted with the intensity and speed. I hadn't really practiced any of the important carrying or dismounting skills since last year. It still ended up being decently fun but I nearly rode the whole thing in "no man's land."

At the next race, Kickoff Cross in Point Marion, PA, I felt pretty well, especially compared to last year's event. However, the lack of technical demand doesn't really favor my abilities. It was probably the first 'cross race I've ever done where I could consistently work with another rider throughout the course the way a rider usually would in road cycling. What a fun course too!

Next up I headed over to the Pro Bikes Cyclocross in Oakdale, PA. I felt strong at this race but couldn't quite pull off some critical moments of high intensity to bridge the right gaps.

Last week we had great weather and a really hard course for Franklin Cyclocross outside of Washington, PA. I usually feel like a power climber but this race made me feel really out of condition because I bonked in the final 10 minutes. I'm pretty sure that the extra bit I dug in during the beginning lap did me in.



There are likely just three races left in my cyclocross schedule and then it's hopefully onward to more running while the bikes take a rest.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tough Decisions


Tough Decisions

Recently I had to make a tough decision.  In many ways I feel that the decision I made was right and in many ways I feel it was wrong.  You see, in September I celebrated a birthday and I only had one wish for my birthday this year.  That wish was to get a birthday ride in with my daughter.  My birthday this year happened to fall on a week day and I mostly don’t get to ride much during the week due to long work days and a long commute that doesn’t get me home until late in the evenings.  However, for my birthday I had planned to leave work a couple hours early to fulfill my wish.  So early that morning I loaded the bikes into the car so when I picked up Addie from school we could head straight to the trails.  Everything was working out as planned.  I picked up Addie and by 5pm we were sitting at the trail-head ready to go.  We unloaded the bikes, pumped up the tires, went to grab our helmets and …. ugh…… no helmets to be found in the car!  I quickly did the math in my head and realized if we jump back in the car, drive 45 minutes home to get our helmets and then 45 minutes back to the trail it would be 6:30pm and darkness would be rolling in.  Now I am a big advocate on ALWAYS wearing your helmet when riding.  However, on this day I was going to go against my better judgment.  I looked at Addie and said “Today we are going to do something that we will never do again!  We are going to ride very slow and are going to be very careful since we do not have helmets.”  I could tell by her facial expression that she was pretty surprised that we were actually going to ride without helmets and to be honest, I was pretty surprised myself.  We actually rode for close to two hours that day and God was certainly watching over us because neither one of us took a spill.  And that is pretty surprising in itself because most of the time when we hit the trails at least one family member always seems to go down, thus coming home banged up in some way. 

(Always wear your helmet!)
 
In many ways I was wrong with the decision that I made.  Accidents happen all the time and you only have one brain.  Riding without a helmet is not something I practice and will hopefully never do again.  However, driving home that night I was also happy with the decision I made.  I was happy because I know that my daughter will always throw it in my face about that one time that we rode without helmets because I forgot them.  And every time she does that I will also remember that it was the night of my birthday and I got to enjoy a bike ride with my beautiful little girl. 

Thanks for reading.

Billy

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hey what's new Chas? Glad you asked...

Since I've written my last blog, I've started school here at WVU.  I moved in to a new house and really wanted to re-evaluate my well-being.  After turning 21 last fall and gaining a 10 lb beer gut, and spending the summer at home last year, it's been the first time in my life I've had to watch what I eat.  For some reason, though, it's always easier for me to ride and stay fit when I'm at school.  It may be because I don't have my mother baking delicious pies or meals that I always end up over-eating.  So this year I've really started a healthy eating kick (about 6 weeks into this).  A few of my favorite meals I've made: chicken stir fry-super cheap and easy to make, burrito bowls-just like they have at the fast food Mexican places!, and some chicken primavera- even easier and cheaper to make. 

I've also been able to get back in to riding consitently.  With my class schedule this year, it's been a lot easier to manage my time than over the summer while I was working.  I'm not really looking forward to hitting the real world.  There may not be homework and exams, but I've realized time starts to disappear.  With eating right and starting to ride more, it looks like this years base season will carry over well to next year, that's the hope.  Oh, and I have to start base season, like, last week. 

I also tried mountain biking for the first time in almost a year.  Needless to say, my technical skills were slightly off.  I fell off my bike close to 50 times (not an exaggeration), broke a spoke, bent my derailleur cage, my front shifter cable housing split open, and I cracked my Garmin screen, which I can no longer even view it.  So yeah, that's why I stick to road bikes.  The next day I felt like I played a football game the day before, and could barely move. 

But, schools been going well so far.  Nothing too hard and getting decent grades.  I got to go visit my brother and niece and nephew earlier in September and ran a benefit 5K for Team Ashlyn in DC.  I was very sore after that one as well.  I will also be joining an adult league hockey team for some fun.  Hopefully I can keep riding and possibly even get out to a cross race or two and see everyone from the team and just hang out and have a good time. 

Here's a few pictures you might enjoy:



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall is officially here. That means pumpkins, continuing to rebuild from my injury, WVU football, and, for everyone that knows how cold I am all the time, giant blankets. Even though Thanksgiving is still plenty of time away, I need to send some thank yous out to those around me who have helped me get to today and halfway through midterm week without going crazy.




This past weekend was also the WVU Mountain Bike Race. Huge shout out to Tess Senty for putting on a great race and the WVU team for coming out to help and support to make sure it ran smoothly.

(Adam Woods and Kyle Kukieza of WVU Cycling)

(fellow Dynamic Teammate- Chas McFarland)

And finally I again want to thank Rob Acciavatti over at Dynamic Westover and Performance Coaching for putting up with me and helping me recover since April. As discouraging as an injury can be, he has kept me motivated to continue to strengthen myself for February. Two other friends have gone through their own physical therapy with Dynamic, one with Rob and one with our fellow friend Phil Cook (below), and have had awesome experiences!! I would never suggest any other therapy team other than Dynamic.

(Kyle Blair of K. Blair Fitness and fellow friend. Go check him out!)


See you all at ABRA Cross!!

CB

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mountain Biking the North Rim of the Grand Canyon





In September of 2014, Chrissy surprised me with the most memorable Christmas and birthday gift ever, a guided mountain bike trip along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  We've taken mountain biking trips to Moab Utah, Fruita and Durango Colorado, and Asheville North Carolina in the past.   But, we had never taken a guided trip.   Although we were responsible for providing our tent and camping gear, the tour guides would provide guided trail rides,  preparation of our meals, transportation of our camping gear from campsite to campsite, and permits to ride in the Kaibab National Forest.

The trip began in Saint George, Utah with the typical meet and greet with the other mountain bikers and our trail guides before loading up bikes and camping gear to shuttle three hours to the Kaibab National Forest on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  For Chrissy and I, this trip would be a mountain bike reunion with our friends, Christian and Jen, who moved to Denver, Colorado several years.  Two other mountain bikers, Gary from Denver and Ed from North Carolina, were also on the trip with our guides Bama and Tanesha.

Mountain biking along the rim of the Big Ditch offers more climbing and descending than we had expected between 7000 and 9000 ft elevations.  The trail surfaces on the Kaibab plateau were surprisingly comprised of loose rocky sections through Ponderosa pine, Juniper, and Pinon trees.  The trails provided spectacular views of the Grand Canyon, mountain meadows, and plenty of wildlife.  Although mountain lions are known to live in this region, we were fortunate to not see any.  But, we saw plenty of Mule deer (similar to Whitetail deer, but larger), Stryker Jays (similar to Blue Jays, but larger), and black bodied/white-tailed Kaibab squirrels (similar to red and grey squirrels, but...you get the idea...larger) that are only found on the Kaibab plateau.


We began our adventure on day one with a relatively quick out and back ride on the Rainbow Trail.   Mileage was pleasantly short, since the high altitudes made it difficult to breathe.  But, we got back to camp to take in a dinner of fish tacos before the unexpected rains from a hurricane blown in from the Pacific Ocean would drive us into our tents.  

Chrissy, Jen, Christian and Ed on Rainbow Trail.  Day 1. 

Day 2 started with temperatures in the low 50s and a steady rain.  Usually, I look forward to starting rides in the early morning.  On this rainy morning though, I was feeling pretty content to stay in the tent until the rain stopped.  But, after a blueberry pancake breakfast we were riding off on the Rainbow Trail.  Six miles into the ride, several riders decided to turn back towards the camp to get warm and dry.  Four of us continued on another 3-5 miles as the clouds gave way to sunny skies.  After lunch at a viewpoint into the canyon, Gary, Ed, Christian and I hammered back with Bama to the camp for a dinner of steak fajitas and an Apple Betty desert.  

Although we were far from Morgantown, WV, we had spotted several things that reminded us of home:

Even though Christian lives in Denver, he continues to
buy his Cannondales from Pathfinder.
(this says a lot for their products and service)
On Day 3, Tanesha sent me out to lead the group on the Arizona Trail while she rode clean up and Bama drove our gear to our next campsite.   The Arizona trail had the same loose rocky surfaces as the Rainbow Trail.  But, the climbs were steeper and longer.  And, the descents were steep and swoopy.

Christian climbing through Aspens and Ponderosa pines


One of the mountain meadows.  A perfect place to repair Ed's broken chain.
Many areas of the Arizona trail were riddled with fallen trees from storms.  Chrissy had an unfortunate experience with one of the toppled jagged tree trunks during a downhill.  Fortunately though, this was the only crash with an injury.  In her usual tough girl form, she finished two more days of riding with a contusion that got much worse. 
Chrissy leading the group up a climb before her crash.
Multicolored souvenir.

With several hours of riding, we seemed to spend time riding as a group getting to know our guides, Gary, and Ed.  Gary proved to be an excellent mountain biker and an inspiration to all of us, riding strong at age 72 and only 15 months after open heart surgery. 

Gary and Jen climbing through Aspens and Ponderosa Pine.
Day 3 ended with another amazing dinner with spectacular views of the canyon.


Camping on the edge...literally. 

Our longest and most challenging ride came on the fourth day after a beautiful sunrise.  

Day 4 Sunrise.

Warming up the Swiftwicks before breakfast. 

Even the views from the shitter are grand.
Perfect place to contemplate the meaning of life.
Just don't lose your balance

Twenty-four miles of mountain biking with four climbs hitting 8900 ft in elevation.  This out an back ride had a 1/2 mile descent at 26.8% grade with multiple switchbacks.  Bama guided us down after a brief overview of what was ahead.  As we descended, I tried staying staying on the back wheel of his rigid Surly fat bike.  But, he would lose me in every switchback by riding a nose-wheelie through the turn, then planting the rear wheel to accelerate away.
Bama showing some fat bike skills.
Since this was an out and back ride, the 1/2 mile downhill became a 26.8% 1/2 mile climb at mile 20.    This is quite possibly the most challenging climb that I've done on any bike. 

We continued on the Arizona Trail for our final day of riding.  The trail passed through more mountain meadows before another steep climb into a Ponderosa forest that was decimated by a forest fire in the 1990s.


Christian, Ed, Jen, and Gary about to enter the burned forest.

A big thanks goes out to Bama and Tanesha, and Western Spirit for a great trip with old friends and new friends.   


And an especially big thanks to my wonderful Chrissy for the amazing gift of travel.