Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Back on the Road Again

My name is Jonathan Suite, I'm one of the new members of the Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder of West Virginia. I'm really excited to race as part of a team this season, and I would like to thank all of our wonderful sponsors, who make the team possible. This year will be my second season of road and cyclocross racing. I currently race in the junior division (18 and under) but this season will be my last in that category.

This past Sunday marked the first race that I participated in as part of the Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder of West Virginia. I went into the race with high hopes, but those all diminished as soon as I realized that I, as well as teammates Jeff Gernert and Mike Vanderberg had missed the start while taking an ill-timed bathroom brake.

Other than missing the start, the race went well. I'm not nearly as adept at riding in criteriums as I am road races though, so some of the technical areas gave me a little bit of trouble, I think it was a great learning experience, it was a training race after all.

After we realized that we had missed the start, Jeff, Mike and I started really hauling to try to catch the pack, but every time we would take a technical corner, I'd loose some ground to them and would have to catch back up. That's when I realized that my technical skills were just straight-up bad. I slowed down and prepared to finish the race a lap down.

Looking back at the race, I think I could have done reasonably well if I hadn't missed the start, the pace was fast, but I didn't have much problem maintaining it. I can't wait for the next criterium, the Clarksburg Grand Prix, but I'm going to do a lot of work on my cornering technique before then!

Thank you all for reading my post.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Back to School

Safety Day at WCES
     For each of the last 5 years, I have had the priviledge of being a presenter during the Progressive Ag Safety Day at Waynesburg Central Elementary School.  Its always a day that I enjoy because I went to school in Central Greene School District growing up and my dad was a history teacher and my mom was basically a full time sub.  And add to it that for 3 of the 5 years I've had the pleasure of either one of my nephews or step daughter being a student in class.  This was one of the "off" years but thanks to Jordan's invovlement in sports, I had lots of kids who recognized me and were very comfortable opening up and sharing their stories.  I often have to bite my lip to keep from busting out with laughter when they start telling some of their stories.  Its true what they say, kids say the darndest things.
Arts and Craft Time
     So after 6 hours in class, I loaded up the  I got to pick the girls up and take them home. I guess if you have kids you know the feeling that comes over you when you get to steal an extra 15 minutes away with them.  If you don't have kids, its kind of like drinking mulled wine, cause it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy for a little while.  And it was with that warm and fuzzy feeling that I headed to our meet and greet for new team members of the Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder of West Virginia. We got to know each other, got to learn about the awesome care our title sponsor provides to their patients (something I hope I never have to benefit from but they are the only place I will go if need be), and got to learn about the direction the new team is headed.  We also got to take home a variety of free products from all of our sponsors.  It was like Christmas in March for me. Heck, continuing the thrid grade theme from earlier in the day, we even got to do an art project as we slapped the decals on our new Bell Volt helmets. Then it was off to dinner and a couple beverages that kept that warm and fuzzy feeling going.

     Saturday we had a team breakfast and then met in Mount Morris, PA for a preview ride of the Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association's   Morgantown Road Race. It was the first time that many of us got to ride with each other since we are often racing in different classes or live in different areas and cant get together to train together. Since I live in Waynesburg and the old course went within 400 yards of my house, I consider this course to be my home race.  And when JR and I were discussing some of the issues he had with it because PennDOT was building a new bridge, I was able to share my local knowledge and make a few changes that still gets him the mileage he wanted but eliminates some of the headaches. As much as I love the old loop, I really love the newest version. there is still lots of climbing but the two brutal climbs are replaced with two more palatable stretches.

The Chase is on.....
     The final day of our training camp was at the ABRA Training Race #2, the same course I won my first race on last year and I was really looking forward to backing up my 2nd place finish the week prior with a solid performance.  The only questionable spot on the course is at the bottom of the long down hill where you have to make a 90* turn and power up the hill.  In the 2 previous races I've done there, I can recall 5 or 6 instances where people took it too hot and either went off road or ended up on the road.  Both of those end results are something I really wished to avoid.  And I wish I had payed better attention the the "telling time" curriculum in Mrs. Moore's classroom because either I can't recognize what 5 minutes means or someone started the race 3 minutes early. (I'm banking on the latter, but ultimately I guess it is my responsibility to be at the starting line like everyone else). Instead, my teammates Mike and Jonathan were visiting the porta john and were informed that the race was already well under way.  We chased together for 2 laps before Jonathan finally cracked under the torrid pace we were setting. My dad was timing the gap for us and on lap 2 we were at 2 minutes... 1:50.... 1:44.... 1:40.... 1:36.... and so on. Thank goodness for my new Kenda Kaliente Pro tires I had received on Friday night because I could rail that turn and not once did I ever question whether I was making it stick or not. Simply put, the best tire I have raced on... PERIOD. 

Mike and I digging deep into the power supply

     I knew that our tactics going into the race were to keep attacking and force the other riders to chase and hopefully wear themselves out, leaving the 8 DPT riders in the field feeling a little fresher than the rest for the sprint. But the tactics that were aimed at punishing everyone else was in fact punishing Mike and I as we pounded the biggest gears we could to try to get back into the fray. We caught lots of dropped riders but could never bridge all the way back to the lead group. On the last lap, we did manage to catch a group of 6 riders, including teammates Gerry, Chris, and James, and sprung a surprise attack on them on the final climb. I took the bunch sprint but that bright spot couldn't begin to compare to the anger I was feeling about letting my teammates down.  Even 48 hours later it is still burning in the pit of my stomach. I owe the guys who kept attacking (because they thought they were setting mike and I up for a win but didn't know we missed the start) and will find a way to repay them for their efforts.

     I also signed up for the Masters race and when I got on the bike to warm up, it dawned on me that I probably shouldn't have chased as hard as we did for as long as we did, especially at 3 to go and we were starting to give time back to the leaders. My legs weren't as sore as I thought they would be but they were alot less responsive than I'd counted on, so I figured I take the start and see if I could find my legs on the course. After the pre-race meeting, I made a bee line to the starting line and was patiently awaiting all the other riders to join me. Like any good 3rd grader should, I payed attention to the lesson I was taught earlier in the day, and put it into practice at first opportunity. 

     And with that, we were under way. The combined Masters and Women's fields were alot smaller than the other fields and the pace was very comfortable for the first couple of laps. I just stayed towards the back, enjoying the draft but being vigilant to watch out for any of the attacks I knew were coming. Several individuals went up the road one at a time but they were all slowly reeled in when they either realized it was futile or as the pace was pushed a little at the front. Finally, 6 laps in was Shawn Geiger's coveted banana bread prime. I asked Gunnar Shogren if he wanted it and he said he didn't know so when he moved to the front, I jumped out around him and ramped up the pace in an effort to lead him out. About 100 yards from the line I sat up expecting him to cruise through but only Ted McPherson was there and he graciously took the win. we soft pedalled for about a quarter mile and all of a sudden we were joined by Dan Schar so without delay we jumped on it and started to attack off the front. I was really feeling the effects of ther first race but I almost felt obligated to ride up front becuase I spent so much time off the back  earlier in the day. Soon we were joined by Gunnar and Gary Rodosta and they pushed the pace when they got there. I hung on for dear life but somewhere along the line Ted and Dan got dropped and they rolled back to the pack. I helped when I could as we just kept working , trying to open up a bigger gap. with about 5 laps to go, I was tanked and ready to bonk. I skipped my turn on the front and ate a Honey Stinger Waffle and an Honey Stinger Energy Gel and started taking my turns again. with 2 to go, I ate my last waffle and drained my Camelbak water bottle and was happy with just being in the top 3. I led Gunnar and Gary down the hill for the first time and as we made that left hand turn onto the little kicker for the last time they rolled on past me. I grabbed their wheel and ignored the blackness burring my vision and pushed hard to the top of the hill with them. I pulled back infront of them at the top, hoping to give them the leadout they deserved, and I knew a 3rd place finish for me was way better than anyone imagined. But as I railed the final turn onto the finishing straight, I caught a glimpse of the gap that had opened and I just dug as deep as I ever have on a bike before. I was so tired, much to Keith Hower's disappointment, I couldn't do anything but hold onto the bars to keep from falling off. No salute, no wave, not even a smile as I crossed the line in first place.

     While not in a 3rd grade class room, I was taught a lesson by two of the cyclists I respect the most. I was taught what it takes to stay off the front and what it takes push yourself beyond your own limits. We are blessed with some great cycling talent in the West Pennsylginia region but few have earned my respect more than the 2 men I had just spent the last 45 mintues racing with. I was exstatic that I was in a break with them and is still unbelivable that I somehow managed to take the win. The 2 lessons I learned this day will stay with me for a long, long time but you'll have to excuse me, because I'm going to go line up for the Morgantown Road Race, its only 11 days a way and I don't want to be late again. ;-)

     Thanks to Fred Jordan for providing the AWESOME RACE PICTURES. Check the rest of them out at:  As always, great stuff.

Thanks again to our 2012 sponsors!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder Training Camp Weekend

I had a great time this past weekend at the Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team presented by Pathfinder Training Camp Weekend. It was great to meet all my new teammates. We got to visit the Dynamic Physical Therapy office in Sabraton. I also got to do some riding and racing with my new teammates using a new set of Kenda Tires. The tires worked out great, however, the rider not so well. I still had a great time and really enjoyed myself. I also must say that it was great to get a box of Honey Stinger waffles on Friday night because they provided a much better breakfast then the free hotel continental breakfast being served.

For those of you that I shared my story of "finding a hand on the road during a long ride" with here is a link to the newspaper article.

It sure did look like a human hand to me and I did not know that it is not uncommon to find bear paws in Ohio. I guess I know now.

I also have to give a shout out to Pathfinder of WV . I was without a jersey going into our team training ride on Saturday so I decided to stop by the Pathfinder of WV bike shop on the way to the ride. The guys at the shop hooked me up with a cool Pathfinder jersey. If you need anything cycling related and are in the Morgantown area I suggest you stop by the Pathfinder of WV bike shop. Great guys and a great bike shop!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sunday, March 18th marked the first training race on the season for me and a few teammates.  I wound up racing in the Men's 1-2-3 field with new teammates Brad and Billy.  I have raced against both guys the past few years and gotten to know them both during races, so I am proud to have them as teammates this season.  The race would be approximately 23 laps for a total of 35 miles of a lumpy course with a pretty steady wind.  The final stretch into the finish line had a stout headwind, so the final would be a slow-speed sprint.  The first 10 laps I spent covering 1 and 2 man moves, but when the main break went up the road, I couldn't match the speed and stayed in the field.  For the rest of the race, I took pulls attempting to bring the winning move back.  A few more riders went up the road, all 3 WV guys, including Brad, so I just stayed near the front of the main pack and waited for the final sprint.  In the end, I stayed tucked in behind wheels as long as I could, and finished 2nd in the field sprint, 10th overall.  Brad finished 8th, and Billy finished in the field.  not too bad for 3 cat 3's racing together for the first time.

Thanks for reading,


Dowlonega Nights...

So we really went to Dahlonega, GA and its really pronounced Dah-lon-ah-ga but since we were headed deep into the heart of Nascar Country, it seems only fitting that I stick with the title I thought of long before we departed WV.

Originally, I had March 18th circled on my calendar as the anticipated kickoff to the 2012 race season, but that changed in mid January when JR threw out an invite to the team to join him at Southern Cross on February 25th. It was the final installment of the 2011 Ultra Cross Series and the first event of the 2012 series as well. Since I made excuses to not do the Hillybilly Roubaix this past year (and have kicked my own butt for doing so ever since), I knew that I had to make the commitment to take on this challenge or feel even worse about myself for not trying it.

The plan was to depart Thursday, pre-ride Friday, race Saturday, and travel home Sunday. Mike Vanderberg, JR Petsko, and James Braswell were already loading the totally pimp Pathfinder of WV van when I arrived at the meeting place. Im almost 40 and I must admit, I felt like a little kid, beaming with pride as we rolled down the interstate and I would catch other motorists checking out our sweet ride. A huge, I MEAN HUGE, thank-you to the awesome folks at the Pathfinder shop for their generosity. I’ve done other big races in far away places but I was super nervous as we started our trip south. This was my first trip with the new crew and I was so afraid they weren’t going to stop often enough for me to eat. Seriously, I wasn’t concerned about the race or about my performance, I was honestly worried that I was going to be eating nuts and berries and whatever else I could manage to scrape out of the carpet of the van for the 10 hour trip. I begged Amy to bake a double batch of chocolate chip cookies to take along for the ride (and being the best girlfriend in the world, she did…). I had my backpack stuffed with extra Honey Stinger Strawberry Waffles, Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies, a pound of fudge, 5 Chocolate bars, fruit chews, crackers, and whatever else I grabbed on my way out of the kitchen. I was the fat kid at summer camp with a footlocker full of junk food.

The trip south proved to be uneventful. We stopped in Princeton for lunch around 1:30 which made me very happy. I ate 3 crispy chicken sandwiches, 3 cheesy cheddar burgers, a small fry and a Dr. Pepper…. Good to go for about 4 hours I figured. We made a final stop in Bristol for fuel (almost cost as much as my lunch) and we arrived in Dahlonega, Georgia at 7:30 PM to 76* temps. We checked in at the Hiker Hostel and headed out to town for dinner at Caruso's and the bottomless bowl of pasta. Yeah, I officially survived day 1!

Friday morning, hosts Josh and Leigh, started the day with a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, Belgian waffles, oatmeal, grits (if you chose to partake which I didn’t), OJ, apple juice, and coffee. We shared the tables with a mixed crew of cyclists and hikers and it was interesting to listen to the stories that were being shared. After breakfast, the transport vehicles were shuttling the hikers to various drop offs and when things settled down, it provided the perfect opportunity to have a look around. The Hiker Hostel was a new construction log cabin in a hardwood forest just off the highway. You really could not ask for a nicer location to spend the weekend at. By 10am we were off to the start area to do a little reconnaissance of first part of the course. The cross course was staked out, so we decided to try to figure it out to get the full effect. Less than a mile into the ride, I watched Mike catch a little air off a little lip (and thought “I wish I had those kind of balls”) and proceed to involve himself in an acrobatic aerial crash where rider flew one direction and bike flew in the other direction (and I thought to myself “that’s why I don’t”). He hit the ground hard enough to open the can of coke he had stashed in his back jersey pocket. Later he noted that he crushed his coke but didn’t even bruise his banana in the pocket next to it. Having an up close and personal view of the event, he was very lucky to manage to survive with no real injury or mechanical malformation. We rode an hour out on the course and managed to climb 2500’ in the first 12 miles. We turned around and made it back in just 40 minutes… ahh the benefits of gravity. We headed back to the Hostel and cleaned up and headed back to town for lunch. Smokin' Gold BBQ was, in my opinion, some of the best barbeque I’ve ever eaten. Back to the hostel for a little R&R and bike cleaning and preparation. Dinner that night was at Pueblo's and I think we were all pleasantly surprised at how tasty the food was. I knew going into the restaurant that I was likely giving up any opportunity to have reliable drafting help all day but man do I love Mexican cuisine. We were 4 for 4 with delicious meals so far and I had officially survived my second day on the road.

Saturday came early and the temps had dropped significantly since the evening we arrived. Breakfast was again delicious and the French toast and oatmeal was perfect fuel for what laid ahead. At this point, the guests at the hostel were all cyclists with almost all of us in town for Southern Cross. Again, the conversations were entertaining to say the least but you could sense a level of nervousness around the table. For me, I was ready to go, it was race day and I had yet to feel the hunger I feared, so all was right with the world. We turned a lot of heads as we rolled into the parking lot at Montaluce Winery Saturday morning. We set up our Cannondale Team Tent next to some of the Pittsburgh crew and their Dirt Rag Magazine tent. Literally within minutes, riders were stopping by to get advice and tech support as if we were the lead out train for Jeremiah Bishop or Tim Johnson. We LOOKED pro, even if I WAS eating cosmic brownies and fruit chews by the handful. We all talked about what to wear in the brisk temps and whether it was better to be warm climbing or cold descending. I opted for long sleeve jersey and base layer and just my bibs on my legs. (perfect option for me as I never felt too hot and was always able to spin a little on the descents to keep from getting too cold). I threw an extra tube in one pocket, my cellphone in another, and 6 Strawberry Honey Stinger waffles in the middle and pedaled over to the starting area. I was a little late to the starting area so I was mired in the back of the field. I knew I wasn’t going to win the race in the CX section so I figured I would just be patient and try to make up the ground out on the road. I knew there was a lot of climbing to be done so I just kept my tempo a little higher than the rest and slowly started picking people off as we went. I lost track somewhere after 50 as to the number of people who I passed. I felt surprisingly good on the climb, especially the steeper parts that we avoided on Friday. The 10.4 miles and 2550’ seemed to pass by and I was amazed at how good I felt. I’d hoped I would catch up to one of my teammates on the long climb for company, but even though I thought I saw one coming back a time or two, it was always just another rider in a similar blue kit. We started descending and I found myself to be very cautious. Too cautious to be honest as 3 of the people I had just passed as we topped the climb caught and dropped me on the early part of the downhill. Towards the very bottom, I was caught by a 4th rider just as we hit the pavement and we hammered it out along the paved downhill section. We swapped the lead a few times and on an ever so slight roller I swung off to let him have a pull and he was gone. Not sure where he went or what he did but he was gone from sight. I put my head down and started pedaling again and caught the first of the 3 riders from the top of the hill. We hit the base of the second hill and the reappearance of the dirt roads working together. He’d lead and work his way through a group of riders then I would take the lead and work through some more. After about 15 minutes we caught the other 2 riders who dropped me and the back rider told his partner “watch out, here comes “horsepower”. Inside I just kind of laughed because I’m usually only associated with the posterior portion of a horse. The 4 of us started working together just as I recognized the distinct blue jersey with 1 black and 1 white sleeve. No mistaking it, this was a teammate I’d finally caught up with. James jumped on and worked with us for a little while as we started catching more and more groups of riders. I suspect he went a little hard in the early part because he finally settled into his own pace and the 4 of us went on without him. Within a few minutes I had lost 2 others on the climb but worked my way up to a guy on a single speed and we climbed on. On a particularly heavily graveled section the last of the guys to drop me on the downhill got dropped and I did my best to hold the wheel of the SS rider just in front of me. After topping the second big climb I pulled away a little bit on the ridge and thought I recognized JR up ahead. Every bend I seemed to be closing ground and I finally caught up to him on the top of the final climb. Try as I might, there was no staying close to the guy on the SS mtb with skinny tires. He bombed down the hill like a man possessed. I was atleast close enough to see him at the bottom as we left the last of the dirt roads behind and got to ride the pavement all the way back to the winery. Just in front of me were a pair of teammates and a quick look over my shoulder showed me that JR was not far behind. I knew I could jump on their wheel and ride with them all the way but I sat up a little and JR closed it down and we hooked up for the final push to the finish. We pedaled on and caught the 2 teammates and another rider or two and we worked together as best we could. But like the rest of them, JR and slowly put them behind us and started closing ground on the riders in front of us. A few quick turns and all of a sudden we were greeted by a bastard of a hill. It was short and not that steep, but for some reason it just broke my spirit and I had to dig deep to not get frustrated and get off the bike. JR was hurting and he told me not to wait but I was hurting too and I knew that I was still better off working with him than out in front of him alone so we climbed together. Putting that hill behind us finally, we pushed on, catching a few more riders and finally the entrance to the winery was in sight. We made the turn with about 50 miles of racing in our legs but we knew the worst was still ahead. As you leave the road one last time, there was an absurdly steep run up. (I saw video on Youtube of someone riding it but that point it was hard enough for me to walk the bike up let alone pedal up.) The only good thing about the hill was that this is where they chose to have the beer hand ups. Never has a beer tasted so good on the palette as that one did. JR and I rode/pushed the CX course together. It hurt like hell to climb but I realized just how much it hurt to remount every time, so on the last little kicker, I decided that I was either riding the hill or walk all the way to the finish. JR opted to run up the hill which was the reason I finished just ahead of him in the final standings in 54th place out of 300 registered entrants. Mike was already finished (33rd) and was holding and empty beer can that he had somehow managed to snag at the beer hand up. I thought I should have done that but I guess he’d proved the day before he bigger balls than me and to the winners go the spoils. JR (55th) was right behind me and the 3 of us headed to the van for some fresh water. When we got to the van, our tents looked like I felt, total wrecks. I guess we weren't the only things that suffered in the wind that day.  A few minutes after we finished James (75th) rolled in and we had all successfully completed the 52 mile race in under 4 hours. All and all, I think we represented the Dynamic Physical Therapy powered by Pathfinder team well and hopefully these early successes are a sign of more to come as the racing picks up later this spring. We left early on Sunday morning, before breakfast was even served, and we headed on down the highway. We stopped a couple of times for fuel, once to eat (it was ok, I still had my leftover pizza from dinner the night before), and we were back home in the mountain state by dinner. I couldn’t believe I made it home and didn’t look or feel malnourished, SUCCESS!!! Although extremely tired and sore, I can’t wait to go back and do it again next year. What a blast!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Went down to Georgia!

Somehow, I have fallen in love with dirt road racing. I am guessing that it comes from where and how I grew up outside of Morgantown, WV. In my youth, I spent hours from the time I got off the school bus until the time it was dark, riding my motorcycle up and down the local dirt roads. Being from West Virginia, dirt roads are something we have a lot of and I have definitely grown to really appreciate them. That is how the Hilly Billy Roubaix was born. Last year, Jason Mahokey from XXC Magazine, suggested to some folks that were kicking around the idea of start a national series of dirt road events, that my Hilly Billy Roubaix would be perfect for the newly forming American UltraCross Series. As they say, the rest is history.

Southern Cross in Dahlonega, Georgia was host to round #1 of the series for 2012 and I was very excited to make the trip down to take part in the event. My Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder teammates Mike Vanderberg, Jeff Gernert and James Braswell were also up for the trip down. They are also big fans of the new “UltraCx” style of racing.

The trip started on a Thursday morning. We wanted to knock out the 9 and a half hour drive in one day so we could spend Friday riding around parts of the race course, checking out the local flavor as well as recovering from the drive down before racing. The trip down was surprisingly quick and uneventful. That is a great thing! We rolled into our home for the next few days, the Hiker Hostel, around 8 at night. The Hiker Hostel is unlike any place I’ve stayed before. It is a residence owned by Josh and Leigh, who have made their home a haven for cyclists to train during the winter months, hikers of the Appalachian Trail, as well as folks just looking to get away in beautiful Northern Georgia. The place was great and the breakfast they served us each morning was fantastic. Josh and Leigh must be Saints (that is their last name, lol!) because they welcome dirt cyclists, stinky hikers and even well behaved pets into their home (all for the small price of $17 per person, per night!).

On Friday, we awoke to the best oatmeal I have ever eaten, scrambled eggs, coffee and orange juice to start our adventure for the day. We began by heading to the start of the Southern Cross course and riding the first climb, which was about 10 miles of the course. As we rolled out of the parking lot, Vberg decided to air it out over a downhill section. It didn’t go so well and “ass over tea kettle” was the result. Literally 30 yards in to our pre-ride, Mike almost ended his whole weekend. Dang yo! Luckily, somehow he and his bike were OK. The rest of the ride was uneventful as we enjoyed the dirt roads that Georgia had to offer. We joked amongst ourselves that the roads down there were in so much better shape then what we were used to in WV. After our ride, we went to dinner in Dahlonega and then back to the hostel as we had 50 miles of racing to do the next day.

Race day! Once again, the morning started with French toast, scrambled eggs and that killer oatmeal with all the goodies that the hostel prepared for all 13 guests staying there. Great way to start a long day of racing, thanks again Josh and Leigh. After packing it in, which we all know I do well, it was off to the winery that was the host location for the race. We rolled into the venue in the pimped out Pathfinder van (thanks Pathfinder of WV for use of the sweet ride) and people must have wondered, “Who are those pros?”, lol. Look fast if you can’t be fast, right? We parked in style as James found us a spot beside the port-a-johns, nice work sir. High visibility, right? As we filed out of the van, Ben Hay,Stephanie Swan and Adam Newman pulled in beside us and then Jay Downs and Ted McPherson beside them. It almost seemed just like being at home racing.

As race time approached, we all nervously lined up. At the start I was shell shocked at how many folks I knew taking part in an event so far from our normal area. That was a clear sign to me that West Pennsylginia is the heart and soul of the dirt road racing movement. As we started the pace was pretty hot for a 50 mile race but and I was not interested in blowing up in the first 10 miles so I took it a bit easy. Little did I know that up front Vberg was up to his old tricks. This time it took him a little longer, around 300 yards before he, once again, was over the bars. He didn’t make it out of the winery! This time he wanted to hop a tree crossing. But he picked himself up, was fine then started his journey to a great performance. I found a pace up the first climb that was manageable for me as the climb was around 10 miles long. As a big guy, climbing is for sure my weakness. I will say however, the back roads that were used for the course were not as steep as what I am used to and more gradual which helped a bit. The first climb topped out on Springer Mountain. If you have never heard of it, it is the southern starting point of the Appalachian Trial which made it even a bit more interesting to me.

Once over the top, I found myself in a pack of around 10 riders and looked forward to the miles of descending that laid ahead to give my legs a needed rest. I consider myself an OK bike handler so I was shocked when I was dropped like a stone on the way down. My back got pretty tight from the long climb up and it really affected me on the way down. At the bottom of the mountain, the course took a right hand turn onto some much welcomed black top, which I knew would give my back a little break. Unfortunately for me, I was alone on the road section and couldn’t hide from the wind or get a few pulls but I motored along the best I could.

Besides my lower back, I was feeling pretty good as I approached the base of the second extremely long climb back up Springer Mountain, this time from the northern side. Again it was 10 miles to the top but from the Northern side it was an even more gradual grade. I was feeling it as I headed up. Mile after mile, I was able to pull back all the folks that dropped me on the first decent plus some. Here in, lies my biggest weakness as a bike racer, when I feel good I get dumb. I pulled a group of riders, as large as 10 folks, almost the entire way up the second half of the climb. I should have got off the front a bit and let someone else set the pace but I didn’t. I was climbing well and was afraid that if someone else was taking control of the pace it would slow me down. Once to the top, I dropped all the riders that were with me and I kept pushing.

Around mile 40, the muscles in my lower back finally decided they almost had enough of the race. As I started down the long 5 mile descent, my back gave up on me. I dropped off the mountain at what felt like an OK pace, but it hurt. A few riders passed me on the way down. My strong points where turning into my weakness with my back locked up. As I tried to just deal with it Gernert went by me. I knew the last 5 miles of the race were paved it would be a huge advantage to have a teammate headed in. I sucked it up the best I could, Jeff slowed a bit and when we reach the road, we were together. As they say, we were crushing the souls around us as Jeff, and his huge power, on the paved rolling roads pulled us along. I did what I could taking my turn, feeling good at times and feeling like crap at times, funny how you can feel so many different ways in minutes. My Cannondale SuperX is one hell of a bike, as it flies on the dirt roads and then doesn’t skip a beat on the paved roads; it feels like the fastest of road bikes.

As we headed back into the winery Jeff and I were all over the beer hand ups of Miller High Life on the run up section. As anyone who races knows, once you know you are about to finish, you get a nice warm feeling inside. Yea, that’s not always a good thing, lol. So as not to make Vberg feel alone, I too had to crash within the boundaries of the winery. Tired and back tight I gave a poor attempt at crossing a silly little stream. It was nothing, but just my luck the race PR guy was there and got a photo of me laying it down and posted it directly to races Facebook, lol!

As I picked my pride and myself off the ground Jeff and I finished 53rd and 54th out of 300 racers. It was the first time I have ever been in the situation of having a teammate with me at a finish of a race. What a difference that made, thanks Jeff, it was Awesome to finish like that, kick ass and taking names! Vberg, despite trying to hurt himself, finished an impressive 33rd overall in his first race as a Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder team member. James Braswell finished in a very respectable 75th after a limited amount of early season riding and looks to ramp it up later this summer at the Hilly Billy, 3 Peaks and Iron Cross (which make up the other American Ultra Cross events) that he is planning on attending. I was super pleased with my race, even with the back issues and I don’t think it affected my result much, if any.

After a few beers and great food at the winery, it was time for awards for the race and for the series. I was in charge of series awards so I had to put on the race director hat for a few minutes but I was more than happy to. Big shout out to Brian Rogers, Gerry Pflug, Roger Masse and Stephanie Swan for walking away as the first ever American UltraCross Series Champions! (See Steph’s post race Cycling Dirt Interview).

In the end we made it home safely and uneventful from our trip to the south. Southern Cross is a quality event, thanks Eddie and Namrita, we are coming back in 2013 for sure! Also, a big shout out to Dynamic Physical Therapy, Pathfinder, Kenda Tires, Cannondale, Swiftwick, Performance Coaching Services, Camelbak, Raw Revolution as well as the rest of our team’s sponsors for all their support!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Barefoot 5K

Ok. Short Introductory Blog -- First off, My name is Brad Dodson. I'm currently near the end of completing my physical therapy degree at WVU. As of this coming Monday, I'll be starting an 8-week clinical rotation at Dynamic Physical Therapy in Fairmont. Funny little coincidence there. I've been cycling for a good many years now, but I have much more race experience as a competitive runner. I consider this to be my 2nd true season of racing. I raced pretty well when I started in 2010, quickly obtaining my Cat3. Last year I did 2 road races, but was essentially in a recovery state from a bilateral arthroscopic hip surgery that winter. So there ya go. Lets start a new season. Hopefully some fast racing, but the real goal is to just maintain new health.

Lately I've been putting in some base work on the bike, most likely similar to a lot of the other cyclists on the Dynamic team. Likely different to the rest of the team, I was persuaded by a friend to run a 5k last weekend...Barefoot. As a student, very knowledgeable about the properties of tissue adaptation, I knew running 3.1 miles barefoot on asphalt was foolish since I had been doing zilch running, much less barefoot running. I don't like backing down from interesting challenges, so of course I was still going to run the race, despite not being smart from an injury perspective. So the title of the race was 'Lose your shoes and shirt off your back 5K'. You wouldn't believe how many barefoot running enthusiasts showed up to race...actually just 3 -- Me and my friends Paul and Dustin. Maybe 35 degrees and heavy wind scared everyone back into there shoes. To make the race summary short, I ran much faster than expected, finishing 2nd place in 16:36. I likely would have won with shoes, but sprinting in my barefoot is a bit difficult, which lead to a half second loss to a shoe-wearing-chump. The skin on the bottom of my foot hated me for the next few days, but everything North felt great. Barefoot running is truly efficient and low impact to your joints. I'm not encouraging people to run barefoot all of the time, but it has some great value in the realm of supplemental training. If anyone has a running related question, I'm definitely a good source of info. Running science is with out a doubt my niche specialty within physical therapy. Happy to assist anyone with training advice, video analysis, mobility/stability evaluation, soft tissue assessment, running technique , and nutritional advice. Running and cycling physiology are quite similar, but also very different from a mechanical and training perspective. Anyway, no more barefoot 5Ks for me until my supple footsies are a bit more adapted. Up next...lets race some bikes.