Thursday, May 31, 2012

Racing in May

9 Hours of Cranky Monkey
May began with a return to mountain bike relay racing with the 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey at Rocky Gap State Park in Maryland.   In our third year racing at this venue, Travis O. and I recruited Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team p/b Pathfinder teammate Jeff Gernert to compete in the Men's 105+ category for team 'That's What She Said'.

Jeff was initiated into multi-lap mtn bike racing by being given the 1st lap LeMans style run to his bike and then a 9mile singletrack ride around the lake at Rocky Gap.  Less than 50 minutes later, he rolled into the log in to pass the timing chip and lap 2 over to me.  Familiar with this course from previous years, I was able to pick my way around the congestion of other racers that is typical in the first few miles of the second lap.  In just over 40 minutes, I finished with a new PR lap time around 40minutes.   Next, Travis, also familiar with the course from previous races, finished with a PR lap just over 41 minutes.

The race course was evidently drier and faster than it had been in 2010 and 2011 as flows around the lake for most of the 9 miles with a section of steep and rocky climbing in the middle and a loose rocky descent back to the remainder of the lake loop.    However, these conditions would not last as rain began to soften the trails into a slippery surface giving an advantage to the more technically experienced racers.

'That's What She Said'
2nd place 9hrs of Cranky Monkey
The race would prove exciting in the Men's 105+ class as we would gradually climb up to 3rd and 2nd places.   At one point we would see a 1st place position, only to find out that a 'computer glitch' had temporarily messed up the scoring but left us with a considerable lead over 3rd.  A couple of strong laps later we would finish with 11 total laps, a couple more PR's,  a 14th overall finish, and 2nd in the Men's 105+ class.

Wisp XC 
Three weeks later, I would make the short trip over to The Wisp ski resort for the 1st ABRA mountain bike race of the season.  Last year I was able to take 1st place in the Vet Sport category on a very cool windy mountain top.   This year, the weather conditions would be more favorable as we would see temperatures in the 70s to 80s.   However, the trail conditions, although drier, would be much more loose in the beginning after a rocky prologue loop that had been added.   And, I would be racing with a much younger field of riders in the Sport class since the only 35+ class would be a 3-lap distance this year instead of the 2-lap.

Wisp XC 2012
James B. in 3rd, Chris J. in 5th
Feeling good about this race at the start, I had no idea of the troubles I would encounter over the next 17 miles.  Three crashes on the fire road downhill near the start, one of which would break my left shoe, bending the toe upwards in a 90degree angle, one wrong turn to be redirected by a lady in a bikini sitting along the trail .........(pause for daydream).......why would she be in the middle of nowhere? a bikini?!....or was I hallucinating from the lack of oxygen.....oh well.....and a bad case of chain suck would leave me deciding that this was not going to be my day.  You win some and you lose some.  On this day, I had given in to losing.

So, I continued to complete my second lap stuck in the large chainring.  After a few miles of grinding a long, I noticed Mike J. had flatted his rear tire which, after a failed attempt at providing a 29inch tube for his 26inch tire, would be just the break I needed to move into 5th place on the podium.

Tour of Tucker
The final race in May would be the Tour of Tucker County on Memorial Day Weekend.   This race is always a memorable one as it has two serious climbs that make me feel as if I had ridden twice the distance.  The first real climb starts steep, then becomes gradual near the end.  Whereas the last climb, Sugarland Road, starts gradual and steepens to > 18% grades.

I would get dropped just after the steep grade of the first climb, but would make up ground by the time I reached the ridge, which consisted of several steep rollers.  By the time I reached the bottom of the long and fast descent, I had caught onto teammate Jeff. G's wheel for the climb up Sugarland road. My pedal rpm's would drop into the low 40's through the steepest grades of this climb.   The combination of the steep climb, slow speeds, and the heat made for a pretty miserable ride to the finish.

Considering the conditions and my apparent lack of physical fitness this year, I was very pleased with a 27th finish in 2hrs 9minutes, which was 2 minutes faster that my time last year.

A big thanks to all of our sponsors for supporting the team in 2012.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Roll With The Changes

On May 20th, I competed in my first ever mountain bike race, the Wisp XC Challenge, it made me rethink all my preconceived notions that XC mountain biking was riding on smooth flowing dirt paths, it was very technical riding, and it sure was a challenge.  I ended up doing pretty well, winning the Juniors category by default, but also recording the best time in the entire beginner class.

I went into the race expecting an easy flowing course, it was an XC race after all, but after ‘warming up’  (by crashing twice) on the prologue section, I was pretty sure I’d gotten in above my head.  The trails were so rocky and uneven, and given my limited scope of MTB experience, I don’t even have anything to compare them to.   As we lined up at the beginning, I was glad I was the only junior, ‘this way’, I thought, ‘I wont be able to embarrass myself too badly.’
Shortly before finishing my first mountain bike race.

I surprised myself though.  I managed to hold on to Marco’s wheel through the prologue, and thankfully, the trails got much less technical after we rode deeper into the forest.  My confidence started to grow, and I then passed Marco, and soon after another; Mike, but not long afterwards, I crashed on a creek crossing, and both Marco and Mike regained their positions in front of me.   Around this point, I realized that JR didn’t actually design the course with the sole intention of killing me, and I began to enjoy the race.

We descended on some nice flowing fire roads, and then road on some less technical single track, my confidence was beginning to build again, and when we hit the first big climb, I took off. I passed everyone who had passed me in the beginning of the race, and then I passed some of the people who left with the sport class.  My road fitness was really starting to pay off, and I was having fun.  Right before the finish, I caught up to Sean Hilty, we were both pretty exhausted, “You racing juniors, or beginners?”  he asked me, I replied that I was racing juniors, he seemed relieved that he didn’t have to chase me.

After the race, I crashed once more while trying to show off, bringing my total number of crashes to four.

Meanwhile on the road side of things...

Taking the new CAAD 10 for a spin up my driveway.
For as long as I’ve been riding, I’ve had the same road bike, a heavy, battleship gray behemoth from a major online vendor.  I’ve had kind of a love-hate relationship with this bike since I’ve been racing it, I liked certain things about it, namely the durability that comes with having a ~25 pound road bike, but I hated other things about it, namely the huge amount of weight I had to pedal up every climb.

The solution, a new bike, from our wonderful sponsor, Pathfinder of West Virginia! I am absolutely ecstatic about my new Cannondale CAAD 10.  I cannot find a single fault with this bike, I think the two biggest improvements over my old bike are the weight; a scant 17.4lbs in size 58, and the brakes have stopping power rivaling the disks on my Raleigh Furly (also available from Pathfinder).

Prior to this bike, I’d always disliked riding 700x23 tires, they simply rode too harsh, but the CAAD 10, with stock 700x23 tires rides much smoother than my old bike with 700x25‘s!  I can’t wait until I get my new Kountach tires from our wonderful sponsor Kenda, with those it will ride smoother still.

This Sunday, I’ll compete in my first road race with my new Cannondale, The Fort Classic.

 Until next time,

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The not so full pull...

It seemed like a great idea when JR sent out the invitation to do a full pull of the Hilly Billy Roubaix course on Memorial Day. First, I'd never ridden 90% of the course and I really stress about racing on unfamiliar roads, even if I have no chance (and no intention) of finising on the podium. Second, I haven't been out on the cross bike in a while and it might do me some good to change things up. Third, what better way to spend a holiday than to spend it with friends doing what we all love so much.

Bikers Dozen... and all smiles at this point

The plan was to meet at 11 and ride from Mylan. I followed JR into the parking lot and right be hind me was John Pillo. Then, in short order Seth Rockey, Traci and Gary Rodosta, David Cornett, Mike Janeiro, Tim Gregis, Nathanial Manchin, and Marco Piccirilli all arrived. All told, there were 11 strong riders set to take on the adventure.  It seemed there was no reason we shouldn't be back to the cars and heading for home in 6 short hours or less.

A quick photo and we were off. The first mile of the route was all downhill (we started at the main road and skipped the beastly driveway climb). We then made the right at the bottom and then made the left out John Fox Road. Thats when a sign of things to come appeared. Weren't 3 miles into the ride when PFFFTTT! Our first flat of the day. It was already over 90* so no one was complaining that we had to stop and rest in the shade since it was going to be awhile before we got to do that again... or so we thought. We found comfort in the shade of an oak tree while Gary and Traci set to working on her wheel and then we were off again. Up the first climb and down the back side. PFFFTTT! This time it was Gary's turn to have the honors of providing another enjoyable break. On we went and  PFFTTTTT! Guess what, Gary's turn AGAIN. Gary was taking it worse than the rest of us and took out a little frustration with the bike, but we all huddled togther on the shore of the puddle the size of a farm pond and enjoyed the shade of another tree.

An all too common sight (but thankfully this was not mine)

Well, if you are sensing a trend here, you are not alone.  All told, we had 12 flats amongst our 11 riders (2 bailed out early: 1 planned and 1 because the ride was going to over run another engagement). Gary and Traci each flatted twice, Marco, Seth, JR, and Tim each once, but somehow I managed 4 flats. I pinch flatted the front twice and the rear once and then just tooling down 19 south of Mt Morris, PFFFTTTT! flat #4 for me and #12 for the group.  And aside from having a bunch of angry and loud talking chains managed to avoid any other catastrophes. What I wouldn't have given to have thought ahead and brought along that bottle of Pro Gold Extreme Lube that was sitting on the corner of my workbench.
Just an interesting barn with a 3D sculpture that JR pointed out (while we were waiting for flat #5 to be repaired)

But back to the fun parts of the ride... The end.

Thanks for reading, Next Up: (OK, so I'm just kidding, with that many people and that many miles, there were tons of laughs, heckling and sights to be seen.)  One of my favorites was when word got around (hour 5) that we were going to abbreviate the course because we were almost out of tubes and and we were all dragging our tails behind us. JR plotted a course that took us through a secret little passage under I-79 from Osage to the Star City exit. I should appologize to who ever drug the log down to act as a bridge around the 15" deep mud hole because apparently it had a 200# weight limit, and even after sweating for 6 hours and 45 minutes in the blazing heat, I still exceeded that limit and ended up standing in mud up to my mid calf.  Oh well, I know how many miles that shortcut saved us so I was more than happy to be the butt of a few jokes on that one. For the rest of the details from the ride, you will just have to check out the Strava details.  Keep in mind that this is NOT the FULL PULL as we anticipated so don't use this as a cheat sheet for preparing for the race in a few weeks. the first 50 miles are, but then we started to improvise.

Fluid Refill #2 (and they have frozen slushees) and not so many smiles
 Thanks to JR, Traci, Gary, Mike, Marco, Tim, Seth, John, Nate, and Dave for making the holiday so memorable. See you all Sunday at the Fort Classic.

Monday, May 28, 2012

May we get to June, please?

The month of May has been a bit difficult, although that doesn't mean that it's been all that negative. I'll start with the bad, highlight the good, and move on to bigger and better.

A couple of days into May, I was just riding along on the mountain bike and all of a sudden my face met our native West Virginia plant, the greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia).

It was strung across a well-traveled trail, and before I knew it...well - I'll spare you the details. I ended up in the ER for most of the night, and went home with 9 stitches in my eyelid. All's well that ends well, though, and I'm happy to say that everything has healed up nicely. After a few days of rest and recovery I was back out on the bike. Just riding along...

Somewhere in the month of May is my birthday, and I got a surprise visit from my Dad. He's a semi-retired enginerd, and couldn't believe how light my road bike was in full race trim (it's not that light). He was impressed with the engineering that goes into carbon bikes and components these days. I still remember the first time I got a real BMX bike. I think I was about 7 or 8 and I watched as he and a friend pieced it together in the garage, literally jumping up and down waiting for a chance to ride it. It had an Araya wheelset, Shimano freewheel, gold Sugino cranks, Powerlite "Powerbend" bars, etc. The build wasn't extravagant by any means, but more of a working-man's (boy's) competition machine that was light enough to fly and strong enough to take a beating. My Dad knew I'd ride and wreck that thing on a daily basis on the mini-BMX track I had built in the woods by our house, and he set me up proper. I owe a lot to my Dad for that bike (I remember casing the double jump and the stitches I needed post-crash...he even took me to the ER for those). Some may think that I'm accident-prone, and I even wonder sometimes myself, but I think it's more pushing my limits than anything else. I've been riding and competing on bikes ever since - BMX, MTB, observed trials, downhill and freeride, dirtjumping, fixed gear, singlespeed, cyclocross, and even road bikes. He noticed that I had a passion for two-wheels early on, and I wonder if he could have imagined at that time how important bikes would be for me during the next 25 or so years of my life. I'll have to ask him, but in the meantime - thanks Dad!

Did a bit of racing in May. I say "racing", but I mean "racing as training". I didn't sign up for a race this month with any ambitions other than to get in a good day in the saddle. The Wisp XC Challenge was first, and I rode the rigid singlespeed to last place in the category. It was great, though, because apparently there were only 4 single-speederific racers so I was in the "money" and just off the podium. Sometimes it pay$ to go $low.

I also signed up for the Tour of Tucker County, which is an interesting mountain bike race, held on the road with everyone using road bikes. I've heard all the stories. I've heard that the race is so tough that folks are blowing up tires before the race even starts. I heard that one year, a lone rider was actually eaten by Sugarlands climb...never to be seen or heard from again. Let me say that is all TRUE and the race is all that and more. If you miss it next year - well, you will have MISSED OUT on probably the best mountain bike road race in West Virginia, and possibly the entire mid-Atlantic. Be there.

I finished well off the pace in the 3/4 field, but considering the heat, my ambitions (to not finish last), and the fact that I had 2.5 bottles for the entire distance and none left for Sugarlands or to wash down any "food"...I'm gonna say that I had a good day. Plus - doing the Clay Lick descent twice on freshly mounted Kenda Super Domestique tubulars was awesome. Next...

June has some fun stuff in store for bike enthusiasts. Here's a list:

Those should wear you out for the rest of the summer.

Speaking of being worn out...I just spent 7 hours today playing arborist in the Memorial Day heat. After climbing and pruning two tall sugar maples (Acer saccharum) and one boxelder (Acer negundo), and eradicating a ton of the invasive wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) I am tired, but the place looks great! (Any time a plant's scientific name ends in "fortunei" - you can bet it takes advantage of the situation it's given...actually it's named after Robert Fortune, but the vine does grow wicked fast and will out-compete and kill 40'+ trees if you let it don't!)

sugar maple (the maple syrup tree)

Until next time - keep the rubber side down.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Some Days, You're Just Happy to Finish

Some days, we race and things go as planned. Other days, we race and the race (if you're stubborn like me and refuse to quit) turns into a mental battle for survival. If a picture is worth 1000 words, this image, shows the latter. (Full size).

2012 Tour of Tucker County (2 laps).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Midseason Break

Following the Greene County Road Race, I took a few weeks off from racing. 17 races since mid-February is enough to wear anyone out! Plus, its always a good idea to take a break every once and a while to prevent burnout. Suffice to say, its been nice not having to travel every weekend, and just go ride instead. Last week, I was able to take a break from school (grad school is year round for me) and head home. Unlike most people on the team, I'm not actually from West Pennsylginya, but rather Western New York (Rochester to be exact). Now, when it comes to riding, the difference between Morgantown riding and Rochester riding are like night and day. Whereas in Morgantown, its extremely difficult to find any sort of flat road, up north, there is nothing but.

Does it ever end!?
That isn't to say the roads are any less fun, just different scenery. Such as large bodies of freshwater.

End of the line - Lake Ontario shoreline.
Of course, riding on the shore of Lake Ontario also brings with it different weather conditions. Namely, headwinds. All.. the.. time. Its not uncommon to always have a strong wind blowing to the east, which is great when riding in that direction (holding 23mph effortlessly for miles is pretty sweet), but a major pain when not, One thing I think we get to take for granted in the West Pennsylginia region is that while the hills can sometimes be a pain, rarely is the wind an issue.
My break has since ended, and the taste for racing is back. Next up for me is rounds 3 and 4 of the ABRA road series, the Tour of Tucker County and the Fort Classic. Hopefully the rest turns out to be as good for the legs as it was for the mind and I'll be able to catch up to my teammates in the results column in the summer season.

Monday, May 21, 2012

And now for something completely different...

To steal a phrase from Monty Python, "And now for something completely different..." another race blog!  I have had mixed success this year, but with more highs than lows lately, which is always encouraging.  Living 2 hours southwest of Morgantown, I don't have the luxury of attending a lot of the social functions and normal club rides that almost all of the team gets to attend.  I try to make up for this by reading all of my teammates' blogs, Facebook posts, or e-mails back and forth and adding a "great job!" here and there.  I have been taking on a wide variety of races this month, including a masters race (Sadly I am happy to have turned 35 yesterday so now in Ohio, I can race Masters!) as well as my first time trial of the season and a local rail-trail race to support the fight against cancer.  After my not-so-courageous DNF at the last ABRA series road race, my form has improved with the weather and I have picked up a few wins for the team.  First, there was a Parkersburg area rail-trail race that consisted of an out-and-back course on the North Bend Rail Trail, which runs all the way from Parkersburg to Clarksburg.  If you are in for an adventure, come down to my area and tackle the rail trail.  It actually includes 10 original train tunnels that are not lighted, so be sure to come prepared!  The race started and ended at WVU-Parkersburg, and after a mile on paved roads, we hit the trail.  Not knowing many of the riders in the field, I did what I normally do - hit the front and drive the pace.  After a few miles, I realized that I was off the front with two other riders!  After talking over some tactics, I did what I am also notorious for - throwing down an ill-advised attack early in a race (shocking, I know!)  For whatever reason, though, this one actually worked and I rode solo to the turn around point - the entrance to one of the tunnels.  The volunteers cheered me on as I turned around and headed back.  I saw a large group of chasers 45 seconds back and just buried myself the rest of the ride.  I ended up winning by just over 2 minutes and had a cool little write-up in the local paper!

On my birthday, I decided to get up at 4:00AM and drive 2+ hours to Northeast Ohio for a time trial!  Who says I don't know how to live, right?  Billy S. talked me into doing one of this series' races last year - the Eastern Ohio Time Trial Series, and I loved it.  This year, I actually have a TT bike, though, so I am stoked to test myself against the area's finest against the clock.  The course suits me pretty well - never flat with long, gradual climbs and descents.  My goal for 20k was to simply beat my time of 29:51 from last September.  I got in a decent warm-up with my new team skinsuit fitting just right and headed for the start ramp.  Looking at the 5 racers to start ahead of me, I shifted my goal slightly - I wanted to pass all 5 of them...a tough task but a lot of motivation for me!  I rolled down the ramp with Billy's wife yelling "Happy Birthday" to me, which elicited cheers for the people at the start house. I quickly found my rhythm and was in a groove.  I caught and passed 8 riders on my way to a 29:26 and a win!  Now I just have to wait patiently for the next race in June - man I love my TT rig!

Now it's on to Tour of Tucker County - I wonder which future star will show up for the race this year?  Let's see...we've already had Matt Busche and Joe Dombrowski...who's next?

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Early Season Top 10 Finishes

This is unofficial of course, but here is how the team is doing in our first 2 months of racing this season...

4/22/2012WVMBA Big Bear Lake1James BraswellMens Sport
4/15/2012WVMBA Mountwood Challenge (sport)1James BraswellSport
4/14/2012ABRA Crit#1: Clarksburg Grand Prix 1Jonathan SuiteJR
4/10/2012ACA Tuesday Night Training Race #11Shawn Geiger4/5
3/25/2012ABRA Training Series #21Jeff Gernert40+
5/15/2012ACA Wednesday Night Training Race #62Jeff Gernert4/5
5/5/20129 Hours of Cranky Monkey2Jeff Gernert/Chris Jones/Travis Olson*3 Man/105+
5/5/20129 Hours of Cranky Monkey2JR Petsko/Stacie Truskowski*CoEd Duo
4/29/2012Greenbrier Challenge2JR PetskoCat 2 (25-39)
4/21/2012ABRA RR#2 Greene County Road Race2Nicole DorinziW1/2/3
4/21/2012ABRA RR#2 Greene County Road Race2Justine PagenhardtW4
4/17/2012ACA Tuesday Night Training Race #22Jeff Gernert4/5
4/10/2012ACA Tuesday Night Training Race #12Jeff Gernert4/5
3/18/2012ABRA Training Series #12Jeff Gernert4/5
4/25/2012ACA Wednesday Night Training Race #33Jeff Gernert3/4
4/24/2012ACA Tuesday Night Training Race #33Shawn Geiger4/5
4/21/2012ABRA RR#2 Greene County Road Race3Jeff Gernert4/5
4/21/2012ABRA RR#2 Greene County Road Race3Anne ForemanW4
4/17/2012ACA Tuesday Night Training Race #23Shawn Geiger4/5
4/11/2012ACA Wednesday Night Training Race #13Shawn Geiger3/4
4/7/2012ABRA RR#1: Morgantown Road Race3Nicole DorinziW1/2/3
5/12/2012ABRA Oval Series #24Jeff GernertMiss N Out
5/1/2012ACA Tuesday Night Training Race #44Jeff Gernert4/5
4/29/2012Greenbrier Challenge4James BraswellMarathon
4/7/2012ABRA RR#1: Morgantown Road Race4Justine PagenhardtW4
5/12/2012ABRA Oval Series #25JR Petsko4/5
5/5/2012RATL #35Ben Kuhlman35+
5/5/20129 Hours of Cranky Monkey5Shawn Geiger/Mike Janeiro*/Scott House*3 Man/105+
5/1/2012ACA Tuesday Night Training Race #45Shawn Geiger4/5
4/28/2012ABRA Oval Series #15Jeff Gernert4/5
4/28/2012RATL #25William Slutz35+
4/21/2012ABRA RR#2 Greene County Road Race5Shawn Geiger4/5
4/11/2012ACA Wednesday Night Training Race #15Jeff Gernert3/4
4/7/2012ABRA RR#1: Morgantown Road Race5Anne ForemanW4
5/15/2012ACA Wednesday Night Training Race #66Shawn Geiger4/5
5/12/2012ABRA Oval Series #26Jeff Gernert40+
5/12/2012ABRA Oval Series #26Jeff Gernert4/5
5/12/2012RATL #46William Slutz35+
4/25/2012ACA Wednesday Night Training Race #36Shawn Geiger3/4
4/18/2012ACA Wednesday Night Training Race #26Shawn Geiger3/4
4/14/2012ABRA Crit#1: Clarksburg Grand Prix 6Jeff Gernert40+
5/12/2012ABRA Oval Series #27Shawn Geiger3/4
5/5/2012RATL #37William Slutz35+
4/28/2012ABRA Oval Series #17Jeff Gernert40+
4/28/2012ABRA Oval Series #17Shawn Geiger4/5
4/21/2012ABRA RR#2 Greene County Road Race7Brad Dodson1/2/3
4/18/2012ACA Wednesday Night Training Race #27Jeff Gernert3/4
4/17/2012ACA Tuesday Night Training Race #27JR Petsko4/5
4/21/2012ABRA RR#2 Greene County Road Race8William Slutz3/4
4/17/2012ACA Tuesday Night Training Race #28Jonathan SuiteJuniors
4/14/2012Rumpass in Bumpass8Gerald Audet25-29yo
4/14/2012ABRA Crit#1: Clarksburg Grand Prix 8Brian Decann3/4
3/18/2012ABRA Training Series #18Brad Dodson1/2/3
5/12/2012ABRA Oval Series #29Shawn GeigerMiss N Out
5/2/2012ACA Wednesday Night Training Race #49Jeff Gernert3/4
4/28/2012ABRA Oval Series #19Shawn Geiger3/4
4/21/2012ABRA RR#2 Greene County Road Race9Gerald Audet4/5
4/14/2012ABRA Crit#1: Clarksburg Grand Prix 9Brad Dodson3/4
4/15/2012WVMBA Mountwood Challenge (expert vet)10Chris JonesExpert Vet
4/14/2012ABRA Crit#1: Clarksburg Grand Prix 10William Slutz1/2/3
3/18/2012ABRA Training Series #110Ben Kuhlman1/2/3

PLEASE, if you see a mistake, please let me know so that I can get things fixed.