Friday, June 29, 2012

Don't Let Him Go

This month has been rather uneventful for me on the bike racing front. I started in two races, but only finished one, due to an unfortunately timed injury.

The first race of this month, the Fort Classic Road Race, was a lot of fun, I raced in the 4/5 heat, and ended up with a pack finish. I was initially worried about the race because of some of the sharp turns, but, after the first lap on the eight mile course, I was pretty confident. I didn't have much problem keeping with the pack, it felt almost like a long criterium to me.
Me enjoying my new CAAD10 at the Fort Classic.

With three miles to the finish, another rider took off from near the front of the pack, I realized who it was, and decided that I wouldn't let him get away, Willem is a very strong rider, and I thought if we worked together, we may be able to make it stick until the end. With that thought, I surged and caught him. We were really moving, each taking short pulls at very high speeds. After the race, I learned that my teammates, Jeff and Jerry were blocking for me, thanks guys!

Our break held until the finish line was in sight, I could see the silo and could almost taste victory. I signaled for Willem to take a pull, and looked back. The pack had caught us! I attempted to keep in the front and sprint for it, but I was completely out of juice, and just coasted over the finish line.

After the race, Willem and I pondered that if we had another man in the break, we may have had the victory. Well, next time we'll both be much wiser in situations like this.

My other race this month was the Hilly Billy Roubiax, a crazy 70 mile dirt road race. I entered the race in the single speed category, fully intended on finishing, however, there was an event that prevented just that.

On the Wednesday prior to the Hilly Billy, I was riding in a fast paced group ride when my right quad started cramping, I did as I usually do, and just pushed harder. This time however, my leg had different ideas, it kept cramping even after I got off of the bike, and didn't subside until the next morning. When I woke up, my quad was bruised and swollen, and seemed to cramp every time I moved it. It didn't look good.

Early in the race, when I was feeling good.
Before the Hilly Billy Roubiax, I took some anti-inflammatory medicine and hoped for the best. By mile thirty, I had to give up, my leg had started cramping again, and bad! I stopped at a turn and asked the corner marshal how long until the next rest stop, he could tell I was hurting, and offered me a ride back to the start. I was overjoyed to not have to ride another mile.

Next month, I'll ride in the Barbour de Tour, the race I crashed out of last year, this time around though, I'll do my best to avoid that.

Take care,


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thoughts on The American UltraCross Championship Series

As folks have probably noticed - the HillyBilly Roubaix was held this past weekend here in Morgantown, West Virginia. The race is young, only in its third year, but it is apparent that many a rider fancies a chance to hoist the coal cobble trophy above their heads in triumph, while testing themselves along the way. The race has grown to see 250 racers at the start line, and the two races  in the UltraCross Series already held this year (Southern Cross and The Barry-Roubaix) have both sold out before their race date. Of the final two races, Iron Cross will probably sell out and Three Peaks will certainly see a larger turnout than last year. All signs point towards a (very) successful series and that perhaps these ultracross events are going to stay around awhile.

I often get asked what the right bike setup is for these events, and truthfully - I discuss these types of things with others as well as spend too much time thinking about them on a semi-daily basis. I offer some of my thoughts here, but that's all they are - not correct or incorrect. With that in mind, the type of bicycle (cyclocross vs. MTB) is not a critical decision ATMO. Cyclocross bikes have the potential to be lighter for going uphill and, depending on the surface, faster on the road. MTB's can be faster on the downhill sections with the ability to run larger volume tires for more control.

The list goes on and on: MTB's with disc brakes, cyclocross bikes with disc brakes, suspension, aerodynamics, body position, etc. Let's just assume that the strongest, fittest, and most skilled rider with the least amount of punctures/mechanicals sustained to their chosen race rig on the day is probably going to win, regardless of the bike everyone else is using. Notice I didn't say anything about road bikes in the previous paragraph. They aren't going to get you there faster, but that doesn't mean they won't get you to the finish.

Lots of cyclocross bikes (Fred Jordan Photo)

That said - there are few critical parts of any bicycle that warrant special attention if it is going to be raced in an ultracross event with the goal of finishing as quickly as possible: Tires, Brakes, and Gear Ratios. This assumes that your bike is maintained - clean, lubricated, properly adjusted, and shifting flawlessly and running quietly for race day. No reason to tempt a DNF.

There are really only 3 choices for tire systems - standard clincher/tube, tubeless clincher, and tubular. All will get you to the finish. All will take sealant. All will let you run a range of tire pressures.

  • Consider a light talc on the tube/tire interface, latex tubes, and more pressure with standard clincher tires to help avoid pinch flats.
  • Tubeless systems can allow for lower tire pressures, but make sure to try a range of pressures. Always make sure there is enough sealant in the tire and  it is seated/sealed properly. An extra wrap of tape or two on the inner rim surface can sometimes create a more secure bead. Barring a large puncture, this system works very well at keeping air in the tires and you on your bike.
  • Tubular tires have the same advantages as tubeless systems, but they also won't "burp", allowing for lower pressures. They can also be lighter in weight. The disadvantage with a tubular is if you flat, you may have to install a spare tubular tire if sealant doesn't work. You'll have to run more pressure and/or ride less aggressively with the spare as well.
  • 34c is about the lower size limit for utlracross events, ranging up to 1.8/1.9" tires with appropriate tread for bikes that can fit them.

Tire choice is probably the most important decision I make leading up to an ultracross race. It depends on the terrain and road/trail surface. I rode clinchers my first time at Iron Cross, and 700x34 tubeless tires this past year. At Southern Cross I ran 700x34 tubulars because in February I still had them mounted up from cyclocross season. I probably would have used them for the HillyBilly, but my tubular wheels are in road mode so I went with the same tubeless setup from Iron Cross with 5 more psi. I'm a bit of a tire pressure geek, and I'll run anything from 40 to 65 psi for ultracross.

A road bike on this? (Fred Jordan Photo)

Brakes are also limited to 3 choices - cantilever, V, and disc. Again, all will get you to the finish. There isn't much to talk about here, but in terms of stopping-power:lever-pressure ratio disc brakes trump all, and V-brakes are better than cantilevers. In my opinion, for ultracross racing discs will generally make you faster because you can shred more on the downhills, they are not affected by a rim out of true, and they work well in all conditions. Disc brakes also allow for more tire clearance in the frame design. Rim brakes can be lighter and do stay a bit more true to the spirit of the event (or at least they used to). I use cantilever brakes, but they work better for cyclocross than they do ultracross. A more aggressive pad compound can make them more efficient. Mini V-brakes designed to work with road levers make a good choice to increase performance for non-disc compatible bikes. I plan to try them in the future.

Gear ratios or gearing can really make or break an ultracross race. I'll avoid the singlespeed discussion here for the most part. Anything in the 60-70 gear inches range would probably work well, depending on the terrain. The most critical ratio for the geared bikes is of course the low side. A 34x32 will probably be sufficient for most of the climbs encountered in the hillier ultracross races, although I haven't done Three Peaks USA with its 10,000' of climbing in 50 miles! I've run as high as a 39x25, but have used a 38x26 in the past three races. Every time I wish for a 38x28 and after HillyBilly this year I vowed to finally get a 28t.

So there you have it - thoughts from a hack racer who likes ultracross and cyclocross in general. They can be great fun, and of course they can be miserable at times. But every one is an experience you'll be sure not to forget, with lots of friendly like-minded folks. So come on out to Three Peaks or Iron Cross X and see what it's all about!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Hilly Billy Roubaix: Epicly Epicishness

Podium.  All Photos by Fred Jordan

The Hilly Billy Roubaix.  74.52 miles.  7500ft of climbing.  At least 40% of the miles were done on class IV roads (or worse) and ATV trails.  80% of those of which are covered with large, gnarly gravel.  The top 3 guys were all on Mountain bikes.  I was on a  Cyclocross bike.  That should sum it up, shouldn't it?

But it doesn't.  The sore back, triceps, every inch of my legs, stomach ache, head ache, blisters, burnt hands, sun burn, dehydration, blood shot eyes, bloody nose, scraped arms, bent rear wheel, broken chain, bent derailleur, broken saddle bag, broken bottle cage and creaking bottom bracket get closer to summing it up.

My goal was under 6 hours, as this was my first time.  I finished in 5:45.  In those 5:45 I learned a lot, A LOT, about "ultracross".

I learned I need to eat more; I learned I need better waterbottle cages; I learned I can't live with 32cc tires (next year 40cc Kenda Happy Mediums); I learned I can bend a wheel, without ever crashing; I learned sunscreen really really hurts your eyes; I learned that I can survive for 7 hours on Honey Stinger gels alone; I learned that racers, in the midst of racing, will stop and help you without even knowing you; I learned that volunteers can make the race; I learned that ginger ale can be the best tasting substance on the face of the earth; I learned that if you're a good mechanic, you can race ultracross on a bike with only 1 hour of use; I learned higher swiftwicks were a good choice; I learned 40mph, off road, is possible in drop bars; I learned salt IS essential; and I learned that even if a lot goes wrong, it's still worth it to keep on pushing.

The race was...well it wasn't great.  But it was fun...well it was fun for the first 50 miles anyways.  I swore I'd never do it again all night after the race.  And by Sunday I was starting to think "if I just hadn't flatted" and "if I just hadn't had to run the last 1/2 mile".  Oh yeah, I had to run the last 1/2 mile, crossing the finish line carrying my bike.  Chain jammed between cassette and wheel and it was game over!  Lost 7 minutes there...

I just had to get my run in!
By Monday it was "I think I could do well at that if I just did X, Y and Z".

And yesterday, on a spin with my wife, I said the inevitable: "I think I'll do it again next year, maybe".

It was the hardest race I've ever done (well except a 50k skate ski marathon in Alaska where I broke my ski in half 5k into the race- and continued to race anyways- and I had a 100 degree temperature- that was pretty hard).

It was also one of the craziest things I've ever done.  In fact, not only is it the longest ride I've ever been on a cx bike, it's definitely in my top 10 farthest rides I've ever done in my life on any bike, I think it's in the top 5!

Jeeze...I need to ride more...such a year next year next year

If you want to know all the nitty gritty details of the race, you can go to my blog and read all about it.

But here's the highlights:
Lost bottle #1 at mile 7.
Felt great until mile 20. Passed many, many people.
Flatted at mile 20. Lost 5 minutes.
Lost bottle #2 at mile 23. (the worst thing that happened)
Passed a bunch of people after aid station 1.
Lost all the contents of my saddle bag at mile 27. Lost 1 minutes.
Passed a bunch more by mile 35.
Started cramping at mile 35 (see lost bottles). Lost many minutes.
Bonked at mile 38.
Started getting passed back.
Felt better again by mile 43 due to salt tabs and food. Passed people back.
Felt awful from mile 52 through mile 60.  Lost many, many minutes.
Cramped so bad at mile 53 almost fell over.
Felt even worse after final aid station.  Lost...(well you get the picture)
Mentally rebounded at the steep climb towards the end (68 miles???)
Passed more people.  Gained time!
Chain jammed between wheel and cassette at mile 74 (of 74.5)
Got passed by all the people I had passed between aid station 2 and finish as I ran carrying my bike to the finish
Finished, chucking my bike across the finish, swearing like a sailor, covered in blood and mud.
Drank Coke and Elixir, fought stomach ache, head ache, and cramps.  Then ate pizza.  Tried to take in all that had happened.
Went home, crippled, in 102nd overall, 48th in category (40 and under)

Thanks to my team, our sponors, the volunteers, and my wonderful wife for a "great" "experience" "racing".  I can not wait for next year.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Off-Roading in June

After the Fort Classic, I was riding off the nice pavement and into the woods and onto the gravel. On  June 16, I participated in the WVMBA event Big Bear 2X12 bike relay. I teamed up with former Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder rider Laura Kelly to complete 2 laps each of the awesome course. While we only competed against one other womens sport team, we were able to put in some solid lap times and take 2nd place. The race, including the Mountain fest event post-race, was great, and I hope more teams will participate next year. I love mountain biking in West Virginia!

Next up, THE HILLY BILLY! I have been looking forward to this race since last year when I got my first cross bike. I was nervous the week before the race, but I knew my months of training would get me through this tough race. I set a goal time for myself and the weather couldn’t have been better; I can’t imagine what that race would have been like after rain. I found a great riding partner and settled in for the suffer fest. I always know that I can complete anything that I put my mind to. I never thought that I would not finish the race, even when I saw several “causalities” at ever aid station. My strategy was to pace myself and keep well hydrated and nourished. I again relied on CamelBak lemon-lime elixir to keep up on electrolytes and Raw Revolution bars for fuel. I trucked along, somehow managed not to cramp up and finished in my goal time! I still do not know how JR Petsko found some of the “roads” on this race. What a great day to be a part of the Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder team!

Me and my riding Buddy!
Thanks Fred Jordan for all your great race pictures.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Success lies upon a continuum

Sometimes, you learn a lot from your success's.  But, most of the time, you learn a lot more from your failures.

I've learned a lot about myself, about who I am, through racing.  I use the skills I've acquired in my training and racing in all aspects of my life.  I know how to push myself, and how to work hard; and this has benefited me in all facets of life.

In my training and racing [education, job, life] there's been a lot of ups lately.  There's also been some downs.  And I've learned so much already.

In the two week's between May 19th and June 3rd, I ran the gauntlet.

On May 19th I competed in my largest Olympic distance Triathlon ever.  The Columbia Triathlon in Columbia, MD.  It's the largest race of it's kind in the Mid-Atlantic, and one of the largest on the East Coast.  It was an "A" race for me originally; however after being sick and unable to train for nearly 3 weeks, I had let it go as a PR race.  I also let all the stress of performing at 101% go.  When I decided it didn't matter, it suddenly became a lot more fun.  And it paid off.

The details are important, but I won't go into them here (but they are here).  I had a PR swim and would have had a PR bike if it was regulation length (the course is 41k not 40k) despite the intense topography (for a triathlon).  The run...I need to run more.  I wasn't prepared for the difficult course, I've done virtually no speed work, and I run 10 miles a week.  So it's no surprise I had one of the worst 10k times I've ever had.  Or, it isn't now looking back.

However, even with the sub-par run, I got 90th of a sold out 2400 athletes.  I also got 7th in my age category of 79.  It's my best result I've ever had (yes, I've done better, but not at as big a venue).  I qualified for USAT Age Group Nationals and the Hi-Vee 5150 National Championships.

For a race in May, I was very pleased.  There's always room for improvement, and I learned what I need to work on for August and The National Championships.  I need to run more, and work on some quality.

Then, only 6 days later, I competed in ABRA's Tour of Tucker County.  If you know anything of Appalachian cycling, you know this race.  Period.  It's the most brutal, terrifying, road race in the mid atlantic, and it's been voted top 10 hardest in the nation.  3500ft of climbing, in 34 miles.

I'm not a climber.  Further, I'm not a climber, and I wasn't recovered.  These two things in combination lead to disaster.  Disaster.  I hung in for the first climb, I didn't see the group go around the final corner, but I was there- I was hanging tough to the top.

But that was it.  My power dropped...I started to get down on myself...and my motivation was gone...I remember feeling it leave me.  Like the lights went out, and everything went into tones of grey.  I was there, but I was somewhere else.  It hurt; but I don't really remember much of it.  My team mates were all gone...the masters had gone- the juniors had gone.  2 women had caught me.  I had already used up all my gels (all 6), and drank all my electrolyte drink.  The final climb was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  It was as hard physically as it was mentally.  I failed.  I failed, and I was struggling to just finish.

But I did finish.  A dissappointing 44th.  But not last.  When I got back to the car- I'm man enough to say it- I was practically in tears from low blood sugar and dehydration.  I was shaking.  It was 85 degrees and I had goosebumps.  My ears were ringing.  Bonking is a light-hearted fun feeling compared to were I was for about five minutes.  Thank God for my Honey Stinger Gels and my Raw Revolution bars.  That's not a plug; that's a fact.

Lessons I learned?  I can't recover from an Olympic triathlon in week.  I need more calories than I even thought was possible when I'm in this state (like...more than 1000 even in a 2.5hr race).

And I learned I can go much deeper into the abyss than I thought was possible.  I was there; I could almost see the river Styx.

And, even when I slip into the dark, scary places- the places you only know if you've got to the limit- I can over come.  I can finish.  I will finish.  There is something very powerful about that.  I will carry that with me.

The rest of that week I just laid low.  Did some recovery workouts, and tried to get back in the right state of mind.  By the end of the week I was much more positive feeling.

I carried this into the weekend.  Yes, only 7 days later, I went at it again.  This time, at the small (200+ people) Rocky Gap Triathlon.  It's a fun race.  And I REALLY wanted to have fun again!  With only a 1/4 mile swim, a 8.5 mile bike, and a 5k run it's a snap: 50mins of intensity, and it's over.

Details aren't necessary again.  I was 2nd out of the water, 2nd off the bike (Teammate Derek C passed me at about mile 3 of the bike), and 2nd in the run.  I cramped severely (calves this time) at the turn around on the bike, so didn't have the greatest time.  Horrible cross winds also didn't help.  There was a horrible debacle on the run- they had sent Derek off on a different run course than the rest of us, and some people only ran 2 miles, some ran 2.5, I ran 2.75 and Derek ran 3.5.  After arguing with the RD for several minutes, we got the finish order figured out.  Finish times...well no idea really- faster than last year, but since the swim was longer this year and the run was shorter, I don't really know how to compare it.  I was 2nd overall though, and Derek and I beat all other racers by at least 3 minutes.  He got 1st.

It was not my best race; but I was happy to have another good finish.  I ate a ton of pizza, drank gallons of Camelbak Elixir, and just tried to rest.

The next day was The Fort Classic road race.  The next day!  It's a "flat" course, and although I was sore and tired- I was optimistic.  I hadn't forgot the lesson I had learned at the Tour of Tucker.  I had found the truly dark place, and I know how deep it lies- and I was ready to push to the borders again.  Especially for my team.  AND I didn't feel that bad.  Sore, but not super fatigued...

The race went great!  Yes, I did too much work on the front.  Yes, I wasted energy doing silly things.  Yes, I didn't know the course well enough, and got dropped within a 1/4 of a mile from the finish (I did get pack time though!).  But I also did a lot of great things.  I blocked for my team mates.  I shut down potential moves.  I stayed with the attack on the final climb.  I out sprinted the final guy in the peloton to clinch 25th place and the final point!  It was really fun, and the course is perfect for me.  I can't wait until next year!

And with that, I learned again:  Success lies upon a continuum.  Columbia was a success because I exceeded my goal, and did really great.  Tour of Tucker was a disaster success, in a very very different way, because I crept to the edge of what was possible and came back- now I know, much more clearly, where that border is.  Rocky Gap was a success because I did well, even when I didn't do very well- a PR isn't always necessary to enjoy yourself.  Finally, The Fort Classic was a great success because I learned that I can race back to back, and still hang.  It also showed that my fitness is growing, and boosted my confidence in road cycling a lot.

After all the racing this spring, I took a break.  3 Triathlons and 4 cycling racing and my highest volume week of all time meant that I could take a little break and prepare myself for what's to come: a sprinkling of about 10 more races, including my first ever Hilly Billy, my first ever Stage Race (Tour of the Valley), USAT Nationals, and later Savageman Triathlon.

Here's a picture from my break: a 4 day back country camping and surf-fishing (my other love) on Fire Island (New York, NY).  I want to mention my Swiftwicks- I brought them for the 2 mile hike in along the beach, and I couldn't be happier.  Despite the sand, my 75 pound pack, and the 75 pound beach cart I was pulling (dragging) along, my feet stayed dry and blister free.  I love them!!!

Anyways, it was one of the best trips of my life, and I caught a couple fish of a life time.  Now, I'm refreshed and ready to go back to training.  Bring on the Hilly Billy!

The treasured Striped Bass: 35", 20lb estimated.  The fish of a lifetime!

Over 50" wide, and weighed over 40lbs!  Took me 1/2 hour to get to the beach!

Work and Play

Sorry its been awhile since you have heard from me. As I come to the end of my intern year in training to become an emergency medicine doctor, I cannot tell you how much cycling for the team has been the  best form of stress release! I am lucky to be part of such a cohesive team with amazing sponsors!
As a “climber,” I was really looking forward to the Tour of Tucker County. I love to push my legs up steep hills and I was gunning for a good finish for the team. Being relatively new to road racing, I am still trying to learn race tactics and strategy. I wanted to stay with the lead women the entire race because I knew that I could out-climb women on the last Sugarland climb. On the Location climb a few women broke away from the pack, and in that split second time that you have to make a decision, I decided to chase them down. I ended up doing more work than I wanted to do before that last climb and I payed for it up Sugarland. I pushed as hard as I could, but I felt exhausted and not strong. I still was able to power up the climb and finish 4th. I just wish I could have finished stronger up the climb and placed better for the team. I keep learning so much every race and I am going to use this experience in future races.

 Climbing pain face 

The Fort Classic was a huge difference from the Tour of Tucker. I was ready to test out my “flat” legs and challenge myself to push my comfort level. On a great day for racing, I felt much better than at Tucker and was ready for a sprint finish. During the races this year, I have been involved in several sprint finishes and have been trying to work on my sprinting technique.  At the line, I was able to hold off the all the women but one and I finished second. I was happy with the finish and it was nice to race against some different competition. All in all, it has been a crazy and fun last month! I can’t wait for the Hilly Billy!

Sprint finish to second

Photos courtesy Fred Jordan

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Reality Check

So far, So good. The early racing season has been WAY better than I had expected. I got the off to a good start this year when I won a Masters race in the third race of the season and this past Tuesday, scored win number 2 when I narrowly out sprinted 2 other riders at the ACA Tuesday Night Crit. There was that little snafu where myself and two teammates missed the start of a race and tried chasing down the peloton but only managed to bring back about half of the field. Thanks to Pathfinder of West Virginia I picked up a new ride that has all but eliminated the need to make a last minute run to the porta john. Its tough to climb on it, but damn, can this thing handle even my most explosive attacks out there.

But seriously, I have really had some good results so far this year. Even the 2 boogers on the early calendar-Morgantown Road Race and the Tour of Tucker- went better than expected. Both of those races are known for their climbs and are much better suited to the skinny little climbers as opposed to someone 6'6" and 220 pounds. But I somehow finished in the top third of those stacked fields, which was as good as a victory in my book.

I was hoping for a continuation of my good fortunes today, at the third installment of the Saturday Morning Oval Series. We were racing the infamous "P Course" and I was really looking forward to racing it for the first time. But 3 laps into the masters race, I burped and ended up with a mouthful of breakfast. It was the first time that I have ever regretted my decision to race crits without a water bottle. And from that point on, I struggled to hold on to the 9 other riders in the field. Since the P course seems to be suited to a rider like me, I was hoping to make a statement about my intention to claim the championship (I was in second place, just 5 points behind the leader) but that wasn't going to happen. I tried to stay focused and eventually found myself off the back with 3 other riders.  Somehow, I managed to beat them all to the line, 3 places ahead of the series leader but 2 places behind the 3rd place rider). It will certainly make the next race all that more interesting.  I don't think any of the top 3 places changed but I think things are definitely tighter at the top.

My second of 3 scheduled races was the 4/5 race. Going in, I sat in 3rd place overall, but with the previous race, I was only racing to avoid the DNF from showing up on my Road Results page. I didn't miraculously improve in the 20 minutes between races, and soon found myself off the back again. 3 or 4 laps in, I saw Steve Antonishen take a hard fall so I stopped and started to look after him. When I rolled up on him, his eyes were open but he wasn't there. It was scary to look into his eyes and just not see anything. I tried engaging him in conversation but it seemed like an eternity before he ever started to offer up answers to my questioning. He asked if he caught a pedal and like any good cyclist, asked how his bike was.  He made a slow evaluation of his bodily functions after several minutes determined  that his left elbow was sore but wasn't hurting all that bad. He eventually asked for help up and he walked into the infield and sat down in the shade to get his wits about about.  Thats when I got the terrible news that they were letting me get back into the race on the lead lap. I tried talking them out of it (in my mind, I had the perfect excuse to take a DNF) but the USAC officials all agreed that Greg Flood, who also stopped to render aid, and I were back in the race at the back of the field. It didn't take long until I was back in that familiar position of being off the back, but I kept going as hard as I could manage. I eventually caught couple other riders who got dropped but ended the day in 11th place.

Sitting in the infield watching the Women's race with Steve and Mike Janeiro, I contemplated the prospect of having to do a third race for the day. I wanted to race, but I had already been lapped by a masters field and most of the 4/5 field, so the 3/4 field was sure to put the screws to me. Steve asked for some advil, so I went to get some from the truck and swung by the start house on my way back. I asked if I was going to get a DNF if I scratched from the last race and when they said no, the decision was made.  IF they had said yes, sure as shit, I would have been on the line at the start of the race. Thats how bad I hate seeing a DNF next to my name. Instead, I got to watch Eric Lundgren put the hammer down on the rest of the field and cheered on my two teammates, JR and Brian Decann, as they tried to stay with the field. As it was, I think I enjoyed the race from my position alot more than they did. The only thing that would have been better is if I'd had enough energy to drag the mat down instead of just laying on the pavement. But still, it was way better than racing.

It doesn't get any better than this. Actually, it didn't even come close.

Next up, the Aliquipa Crit. Hopefully I feel a little, no scratch that, hopefully I feel a LOT better tomorrow. one things for sure, I can't feel worse than I did today. well, unless I end up like Steve. Hope he feels better in the morning, and hopefully he gets some of his short term memory back. I was getting tired of him asking the same questions about his bike, the accident, and what happened. Of course, he probably was getting tired of me asking how he was feeling and if he knew his name and address and phone number. but, he won't remember how annoying I probably was to him, so its all good I guess.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dear Tour of Tucker County:

Dear Tour of Tucker County:

I do not have very many nice things to say about you following our yearly date this past Memorial Day weekend.  Up until our last date you have always been my favorite race of the cycling race season.  As a boy who likes to climb you give me a nice, long, category 1 climb to the finish line of the race.  However, this year you decided to take my wheels out from under me long before I would even reach the finishing climb.  Oh yeah, you could say our date started out good when you let about 15 of us get off the front including myself and my good friend and teammate Derek.  But then after only an hour of racing you took me down and you had to take me down on a decent.  What’s that all about?  You destroyed my fancy carbon wheels, my left shoe, a new Kenda tire and my very pretty Dynamic Physical Therapy kit made by Nalini Custom that highlights my big ears and bird legs quite nicely!  Plus, you also took some of my skin and that was not cool.  I always sleep on my left side and thanks to you I have not been able to do that since our date.  In stead of my hemorrhoids burning and itching it has been the road rash you left me with.  What did I do to you to deserve this treatment?  Did I not always show you love and respect during our prior two dates?  What gives?  And now I bet you are thinking that it is over between us and that you will never see me again.  Well guess what honey bun………… you’re wrong!  I will be seeing you next 2013 Memorial Day weekend and I fully expect you to show me some love by keeping my wheels underneath me at all times and leaving my skin attached to my body.  Oh, and one more thing.  Don’t even think about laughing at my pink cleats because if it wasn’t for you I would still be wearing my original cleats!

Love……….Not so much,

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mountains in May

 Mountains in the month of may.

Pre-riding with JR
To start the month off I participated in my 3rd ever mountain bike race at rocky gap state park in Maryland for the 9 hours of cranky monkey. To this point I have done a mountain bike TT in 2010 and won the beginners course at wisp last year in 2011. the 9 hours of cranky monkey was the first time I have done a relay style race. My teammates for the event were Mike Janeiro and Scott House, we race in the 105+ category with our other local team “thats what she said”. Now Scott and I voted mike to take the initial lap since he was the more experienced mountain biker and would be able to navigate the initial traffic from the lea-mans start. I took the second lap it was still dry and I work on trying to set a decent time, being a Rodie and not strong on the mountain bike I was happy to turn a 46 min lap. Now my next lap I had set up my gps to go off my first lap and try to match or even beat my time, I was doing well matching the time until I reached about a mile to go when one of the riders on the side of the trail actually replied that they could you use a hand. Since this was our first time doing a relay and we weren't expecting to do exceptionally well, so I figured I'd do the nice thing and stopped to help the guy on the side of the trail since he was unfamiliar with how to reinstall a master-link and chain, so I took me a couple of minutes to help him out, and maybe score some good karma, this lap was a 50 minute lap but if I hadn't stopped I would had matched my first lap in time. Now after I got in to the check in area the sky had opened up and started to rain which would mean a slick and muddy lap for my next one. I got the key from mike and started my third lap, from cyclocross I am used to slick conditions so I felt fairly confident but still not taking many risks. Mike managed to finish our 10th lap with just 7 minutes left until they close the course for the last lap I knew we were only a minute down from the 5th place team and about 6-7 minutes behind the 4th place team, so I had to keep looking at the category number on the people I was passing on the final lap. I had passed one 105+ but I knew it wasnt the 5th place team and wasn't sure if I was lapping a another rider but I didn't want them to over take me before the lap was over. As it turn out the guy I had passed was the team who had sat in 4th moving us from 6th to a surprising 5th place podium.

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Next to wisp, where I had won last year. Well I carpooled down with Jeff Gernert got there early and helped set up the team tent all Abra races. After snacking on some of my oatmeal cookie I went and pre-rode the pro-log since this would be the tricky part in traffic. I had signed up for the sport class after winning the beginner class last year, this only being my 4th mountain bike race and not used to doing distance on the mountain bike I was a little hesitant to race the next level up. Yet after doing 4 laps of a 8 mile course at 9 hours of cranky monkey. We lined up and soon we were off, I managed to hold my own during the pro-log and not long after we started heading down hill and I started losing places. I managed to pick a bad line through both of the crick crossings causing me to dismount at both of them. I took my time climbing the couple miles to the finish line knowing I had to do a second lap. I picked up my second bottle from our teams table and started my second lap, I made it down the descent without much trouble but was feeling sluggish. Again picked a bad line though both crick crossings and had to dismount and after I remounted the second time I just bonked and I just wanted to be finished but was only halfway done with my second lap. Now I don't remember to much from this point on just remember I had flatted and my spare tube had a small leak which I needed to pump up about every mile for the remaining 4 miles. Looking at the first lap from my garmin and the time of the beginner class, I feel I could have had a good chance of winning the beginner class but that's no fun (and is also sandbagging). The difference between first and last, at least for me that day was one lap.

Oh the Tour of Tucker Country. One race every year that pushes me to do “hilly” training rides and causes me to question my sanity in wanting to race one of the most challenging courses in the country. After a big day in my life, graduation from medical school, and a little time off to enjoy my vacation at the beach with classmates, I was back in the saddle and ready to ride.

 The family at my medical school graduation!

I have always been a better racer in cooler weather, so I was somewhat worried about the hot temperature.  But off we went!  I was without my partner in crime, teammate Ann Foreman, but we started with the Cat 5 men, so there was a good group to ride with to the first climb Location. At this point, I just tried to spin up the hills because I knew it was a long climb to the top. After reaching the top, I rode with another woman. I like this part of the course! I tried to keep up on water and salt. I was really happy to find out how great the CamelBak lemon-lime elixir tastes!! To the last climb I rode and was ready to make it to the top. I just pushed and pushed, and when I got past the Church on the steepest part, I knew I had made it. The heat did make the race more challenging, but I love to see how far I can push myself. Although, I had wanted to get a better time, I was pleased with my 4th place finish! Another solid ABRA road race on a beautiful WV course! Thanks to all our sponsors and my great teammates!

Kick butt picture thanks to Fred Jordan!