Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Vacay... Day 4

Yesterday was a complete washout for the day.  I woke up to fog on the bay that only lifted because the high winds and driving rains eventually pushed it out to SEE. And as much as I wanted to jump on the bike and endure the inclement weather, the overnight drive was finally catching up with me and I spent part of the day napping and refueling my tank.
I swear there is water out there
Jump ahead 24 hours and it was an entirely different story. Instead of fog, I was greeted with bright sunshine and a view of the ocean.
Told you there's water out there

With mom and Dad in Boston to pickup 2 of my nephews who were flying in from Pittsburgh, I didn't have to worry about keeping quiet as I got up and started my day. First up was a quick cleanup of my bike which was finished by 630. Then Dad's bike was next on my agenda. On Sunday, we had to stop several times to work on his bike. 3 times he threw the chain in the bid chain ring and about as many times we had to stop and play with the rear derailleur to get it to shift out of the small cog in the rear cassette. Having limited experience with Campy, I wasn't sure where to start with the latter of the two ailments so I removed the hood covers and used ProGold's Blastoff Degreaser to clean the shift mechanism. If I hadn't just put an old white towel down on the deck, I wouldn't have known just how much dirt and debris the Blastoff dislodged. And all I did was spray it twice but there was a definite change in the way the shifter was functioning. I ran through the shifting atleast 50 times and couldn't get it to act up again, here is to keeping my fingers crossed it continues to work the same way when he rides again.  I tweaked the limit screws on his front derailleur, cleaned up the gunk on his front chain rings, wiped down his chain, and cleaned his cassette with the ProGolds Foaming Citrus Degreaser. And yes, ProGold is a sponsor, but I swear their products make cleaning your bike easier. If you haven't tried them yet, you are doing yourself a disservice.

Best work station I've ever worked at

By 11AM, I'd knocked out my to-do list and started focusing my attention on my ride.  I'm familiar with the layout of the roads up here, but since its been 3 years since I last rode up here, I decided to stick to the main "highways" to make sure I didn't get too lost. I decided on a loop I estimated to be in the neighborhood of 50 miles... Beech Hill Road to 52S to 235S to 105N to 131N to 135W to 137S to 52S to Beech Hill Rd.

Even though I was riding on State Highways, if I was passed by 125 cars all day, that would be a lot. The best part about the ride is the views I was rewarded with on my second pass of Beech Hill. After climbing a short steep climb, reminiscent of many of the hills on the Dirty Dozen (less the city traffic) the long descent down the backside offers a couple of gorgeous views of Penobscot Bay. I had to stop and be a tourist by taking a couple photos, but I think it was worth it.

Beech Hill Rd looking East

Beech Hill Rd looking South East
Now, its time to start plotting a route for tomorrow morning. I think its time to take a loop around Lake Megunticook. Stop back tomorrow and see where I end up though.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Vacay... Day 2

Billy touched on a subject this month that is near and dear to my heart in his blog: Great Ride > Great Race.  Some of my most memorable rides over the last 10 years have been laid back rides with friends and family. And like Nathan Clair points out in his recent blog:  Mountain Bike Nationals, its very hard to  put into words the feeling that you get when your hard work and long hours pay off with a spot on the podium.  But today's ride was an easy 24 miles in the Midcoast of Maine. We went out on a familiar route to both of us and spent 2 hours hanging out and sharing stories since the last time we got to see each other. When we got back to Northport, he headed back to his camp and I went for a quick climb up Beech Hill Rd and an additional 16 miles.  Dad kept apologizing to me for "holding me back" and he kept telling me that I should just ride on and leave him behind, but today's ride I will always remember, not for where I went, what I saw, or why I was riding, but rather for WHO I was riding with. These days seem to be fewer and further between as to compared to when I was a kid and it happened 3-4 times a week. I have learned to appreciate these as much as even the hardest fought for podium spot. Today I checked another vacation bucket list item off, but also added it right back on to my list and I hope I can get back out on the bike with dad. And if it happens again tomorrow... I will add that right back again for the following days.
Shore Road selfie

Bayside Selfie

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Vacay.... Day 1

With all the changes that I have gone through in the last 13 months, this week is long been overdue.  My vacation started Friday night at the Bud Harris Memorial Oval and the Team Time Trial. EJ, Devin, and Nate toed the line with me. EJ, Devin and I had a few laps of TTing together, however, Nate arrived just in time to race and we had to just figure it out as we went from the line.  And the first few laps were a little sketchy as we tried to figure out our rhythm, especially on the second lap when Nate had a bird fly into his wheel in turn 3. But we got if all figured out and eventually finished our 5 mile TT in 11:04, a touch over 27mph.
Blue Ribbons for the Blue Train
I left the oval, went to work and wrapped up a few items and got on the road around 10PM. Since I was up at 5AM, I fully anticipated needing to pull over and take a nap, but I wanted to get as many miles behind me as possible through the night to avoid the headaches of weekend traffic in New England. Google Maps said it was 766 miles door to door and it estimated that I would arrive at my destination at 10:33AM if I was going to drive through. I stopped the second time, just after crossing into New York for fuel and was pleasantly surprised that my 20 year old Subaru still manages 30+ miles per gallon. (to keep this family friendly I will not share the reason I had to stop the first time that caused me to leave one of my favorite tee shirts on the side of the road). As I struggled to stay awake on 84 in NY, I was hoping to make it past Hartford before napping because the traffic absolutely sucks during daylight hours. And as I approached Hartford, I started getting my second wind and kept pushing on with a goal of making it to the rest area on the Mass Pike... then it was a rest area on 495 I've frequented... then liquor store in NH... then LL Beans in Freeport, Maine. I crossed into Maine around 7:45AM, my favorite moment of every trip.

The middle of the Piscataqua River Bridge is the state line between New Hampshire and Maine
I did stop for fuel in Freeport but was feeling good so I pushed on with Northport Maine in my sights. I covered the 785 miles at 10:26, just 7 minutes faster than the ETA that was predicted some 12 hours prior.  Technology is utterly amazing.

And surprisingly, despite being up for over 30 hours, I managed to stay awake and visit with my parents until 130 when I finally went and took a nap.  And as a surprise to me, Mom and Dad had lobsters and corn for dinner when I woke up. Nothing like 5 star dinning for the first meal of the stay!
Finally able to enjoy some of the PBR's we won at the TTT the night before

Dinner is served

Up close and personal with my favorite Crustacean
I didn't get on the bike like I'd hoped and tomorrow it is supposed to rain, but I do have to leave something else to look forward to since Fresh Lobster is checked off my to do list already. Check back as I will try to update you again the next few days.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mountain Bike Nationals

Every year, hundreds of kids compete in national events all around the country and even the world. Every sport that I can think of has a 'Nationals'; cycling, ice hockey, and softball to name a few. The thing about cycling that makes it different from other sports is that only five people(per category) get get recognition for their achievements, and only one of those people is the 'National Champion'. This means that a lot of cyclists go to a national event and race super fast, but don't grab a step on the podium. There is no denying that those steps don't just hand themselves to you, you gotta work hard to get one, as I proved to myself this year. Even after you work hard training all year, tons of other things can cause someone to miss a step, like: crashes, flat tires, broken chains, bad positioning on the start line, and any number of other things. But I guess it's just as much luck as it is preparation. This year at USA Cycling Mountain Bike Nationals, luck and preparation were on my side.

At Nationals this year, I got the third step on the male, category 2 15-18. The preparation was rough: many hours spent on the trainer, many extremely hard workouts on days when I just wanted to lay on the couch and watch movies, and also having to rest on days when I wanted to go out and just ride. It wasn't easy, sometimes it wasn't even fun, but it was fun racing minutes ahead of the rest of my category. 

We arrived at Bear Creek Resort in the late afternoon on Wednesday, July 16. The whole car ride there all I tried to do was not think about the race. I was extremely nervous, which is rare for me and races... Skip over all the not so exciting stuff that happened Wednesday night and move onto Thursday morning. I woke up, walked up to the cafe with my dad, got pancakes and bacon, then went back downstairs. Again extremely nervous, I decided to take a bath. I don't actual understand my rational for this, but I don't have to. Then I put my kit on, pumped my tires and lubed my chain, then laid in bed to try to calm down more. I got on my trainer at about 10:30, to allow 20 or so minutes to get to a good spot at staging, because the start is everything. There were call-ups but I didn't have one so I was starting in the center of the third row, not great, but not terrible. Fast forward to 1 lap to go, Adam Cohen was off the front with a rather large gap, I was sitting in third right behind Tommy Steinebrunner. I grabbed my bottle at the feed zone and cruised up the gravel climb to the single track. I moved ahead of Tommy right before the single-track climb, then he moved in front of my about half way through. We got to the top of the first descent and I passed him so I could have a clear line of sight to pick my line. This worked extremely well for me, I was smooth and fast through all the rocks. Tommy moved ahead of me on a short double-track section and then it was back into the single-track climbing, and then descending. Unfortunately there was no room to move around him before this descent, which was the rockiest and had many switch-backs in it, so I was stuck behind him for this. I knew that if I stayed with him to the last 100 meters of so I would have a great chance at out-sprinting him and taking second. Unfortunately, I crashed right after the last switch-back with about 1.5K to go, and while trying to catch Tommy again, I punctured my tire. I knew I had a sizable time gap on the people behind me so I stopped to try and let the sealant get into the hole. For some reason it didn't work super well, so I ran it for about 100 feet, then said screw it and got out my CO2. I put in a bit of CO2 to bring it back up to pressure, then just started riding. Sealant was spraying all over my leg for a bit, but it sealed with about 1K to go at about 18psi. I had to be gentle so I didn't wreck my wheel, but I wasn't too gentle. I made it across the line in third place, and I was extremely happy! I went to congratulate my competitors and then to the hospital for stitches, which turned out to actually only be one stitch(called a horizontal mattress). I got back to the resort, put on a kit, and got ready for the podium! My first podium at Nationals!! 

Now for Pictures!

Artsy Pic of Medal

Top 5

                                     The Transformation

Thanks to my parents for making great experiences like these possible, Devin for killing me with workouts, and everybody else on the team for making my training for Nationals enjoyable!

Shoutout to all of our sponsors:
Dynamic Physical Therapy, Pathfinder of West Virginia, Morgantown Brewing Company, Apothecary Ale House & CafĂ©, Sketches by Anne, Kenda Tires USA, Swiftwick Socks, Performance Coaching Services, ProGold Bikes and Cannondale Bicycles for helping make it possible! Kenda's Slant Six tires gripped over every rock, the Swiftwick socks kept my feet comfy the whole race, and the ProGold kept me sparkly and lubed for the race! 

Great Ride > Great Race

Is a great ride better than a great race?  A few years back my answer would have been “No way!” Nothing can compare with the feeling of victory, standing atop the podium, the feeling that all that hard work finally paid off.  The feeling of accomplishment does leave a very sweet taste in your mouth, however, the memories of a great ride with family and friends are unforgettable.  Don’t get me wrong, being part of a great race can leave you on a high for a long time.

(A very competitive start line!)

However, recently I was enjoying a solo ride out in the woods and I started thinking about all the ups and downs that I have had on the bike.  Surprisingly the memories that popped into my mind the quickest was not the victories or defeats that happened in races.  It was the epic rides that I have had with my friends, it was the Sunday Funday rides I have had with my family, and it was the Daddy and Addie rides where I watched my  daughter lose her training wheels, take her first crash, and clear her first jump.

(Addie learning to ride the obstacles at a local single track)
So now I would have to say “Yes, a great ride can be greater than a great race”.  This is because my great rides are rides that I have shared with my family and friends.  It will be those times on the bike that I will remember the most when I am old, grey and sipping sweet tea under a shade tree. 
(A quick selfie before our Daddy / Daughter Sunday Funday ride)
Also, when I do catch myself thinking back to past races my thoughts are many times towards events that took place before or after the race instead of the race itself.  Many times I can tell you what funny things happened while enjoying a post-race meal or while camping with family and friends on a race weekend, but don’t actually remember much of the race itself. 
(Hanging out post-race with family & friends.)
So with all the memories that cycling has and will continue to give me.  It appears that the fondest memories on the bike will reflect back to those involving family and friends more so then those of races.
(Good Times)
Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Hop Gardening

I expanded the garden this year with the intent of adding an interesting plant that I haven't grown before: hops. I'm sure most of you know hops are a critical component to brewing beer. At first I was nervous because all you have to start the process is a piece of root, known as a rhizome. Each piece can typically cost anywhere from $4 to $8 so I was hoping it wouldn't be wasted money. The wonderful internet informed me that several types aren't too hard to grow so I dove in. Apparently this region was once a hotspot for growing hops. In March I picked up five different hop rhizome varieties from a nursery in Oregon. The varieties included Northern Brewer, Fuggle, Cascade, Kent Golding and Mt. Hood. I'm pleased to say they are all growing pretty well at this point with some plants being several feet long already though apparently they don't produce many hop flowers until their second year of growth. Did you know a hop "bine" can grow up to 12" in a single day? I'll hopefully get enough flowers at the end of the year to at least brew a batch of stout or maybe a porter. Who knows, maybe in a couple years I'll become a hop farmer and supply our great sponsor over at Morgantown Brewing Company with some hops to brew up their tasty brews. I love their coffee porter! Next year I hope to try growing a little barley and/or wheat to malt. Ultimately I'd like to create my very own true Mt. Morris home brew with every ingredient grown right at home.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Honey Badger Don't Care

When I saw that Kenda was releasing a tire called the Honey Badger, I just had to try them. The Honey Badger popularity grew with the viral video a few years ago. If you hadn't seen it here is the link. As it says in the video, the honey badger don't care. That seems to be case with these tires, they just don't care.
I've been riding the kenda honey badger 29 x 2.2 (the all mountain version, just a bit heavier than the narrower xc version.) for about a month now, and finally my first race on them at Tomlinson run this past weekend. I set these up tubeless on a set of RXL rims, the Badgers set up easy with a quick burst of air and some sealant and was ready to go. 
Photo from Mike Briggs
Within the first ride i realized that these tires like to be aggressive, they will reward the rider who will be push them, or they will save the newbie who takes a turn too fast. Now I'm not a terribly great mountain biker, so ill deal with extra weight, to have a sure ride and traction, with short center knobs and aggressive cornering knobs make these a fast tire. With coming from the  Kenda Nevegal all last year, i would be getting used to having a lighter & faster tire, but with sacrifice of so much traction that the Nevegals offered.  During my first ride on these tires, which was at north park, with a mixture of conditions (roots, rocks, dusty, tacky, and 1 slog of peanut butter like mud). I learned that the more you lean into a turn the more these tires will grip.  i learned this the hard way after taking a turn to quick and just having to lean more than I'm used to but as i did i could feel the honey badgers just digging in and letting me carve through the turn. this first hand experience left me with a lot of confidence with the traction in turns. so i was pushing it a bit more than i normally would, i could feel in the tires slip in a dusty turn but it immediately dug in and found grip

Photo thanks to Mike Briggs
My first race on the honey badgers was at Tomlinson Run State Park for the WV state championship. This race is known for its climbs with about 3 climbs about 1 miles each over a 7 mile course, and several steep sections, and also for it's fun descents. With heavy rains the night before, it meant was going to be mix of slick and tacky trails. My goal was to treat it more a cyclocross race, since within 300-400 meters from the start on the road, to the entrance of the trail, so it would be a pile-up and get clogged with people trying to get into the trail. With the short center knobs these tires they spun up and rolled quick, as i settled into a rhythm in 6th place entering the trail behind the guys i knew i would be pushing the pace up the first climb. i knew not to chase to hard and blow myself up early because that would lead to a very long day. On the first climb the Honey badgers climbed up and over the slick roots with no problems. On one of the steeper sections there was a straight of peanut-butter mud in a easy gear, with a quick light cadence i could feel the tires just spinning and digging in to find grip. With only losing 5 minutes from my first to my second lap, mostly from a deteriorating me and a bit more deteriorated trail( but mostly me when my legs would lock up while trying to get over the gear on steep grades. need to get out for more longer rides), i  still managed to finish 10th out of 25+ sport riders.

Even the tire says they Don't Care
(actually the DC is for Kenda's awesome Dual tread Compound)
The Honey Badger tires proved to live up to there name, they just don't care and try to find traction where ever you ride. I just keep hoping that Kenda releases the Honey Badger in a narrower cyclocross version, they would be a great dry and all condition tire.