Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tomlinson Run XC MTB Recap

Part II of the ABRA mountain bike series had taken us to the tip of WV's northern panhandle for the Tomlinson Run XC MTB race on July 7th.   This race has been recorded in the history books as the hottest, most humid mountain bike race ever!  Upon arriving at Tomlinson Run State Park, the vehicle thermometer read 99degrees at 11am.   By the start of the race, the temperature had hit 102degrees.

James Braswell and I, 1st and 2nd
into the woods at the start
The race consisted a 200-300ft road sprint before the bottleneck into tight, swoopy singletrack trails that were interspersed with short sections of asphalt roads as it winded itself around the park's lake.  There were plenty of steep climbs and descents which, due to the drought, had obviously become loose and sketchy.  The trails were fairly smooth with an occasional section of root, but nothing too technical.  

Any other day these trails would be very fast.  However, the general concern of most racers focused on preventing dehydration and other heat-related illnesses.  This seemed to have brought the potential speed of the Sport class down a bit.  The two lap course with a feed zone would allow those racing without hydration backpacks to reload on fluids.   JR also added a water station mid-lap that turned into  a cold-water dowsing for most racers, as well as a creek crossing three-quarters into the lap to keep their core temperatures under control.



The most technical section, but the coolest shade of the race.
Despite record-high temperatures, Tomlinson Run would prove to be a great trail system and an even better race.  Although, I'm probably a little biased since I was able to finally take first place in one of JR's races.

Next up, the  White Park XC Throwdown this coming weekend.  JR has put a lot of work into some new and old trails to stage a fantastic, series-finally race.

Thanks to all of the 2012 Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team p/b Pathfinder WV sponsors.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Wheels Are Turnin'

Since the Barbour de Tour was canceled, I only raced in one road race since I last checked in, the Mapletown Road Race.  When I first saw the course for Mapletown, I wasn't too excited, I usually do better in races that have a lot of climbing, it only had a little over 2,000 feet.  It still looked like a fun race though, and I thought I might be able to work for one of my teammates who was better suited for the course.   As it turned out, it was a tough course that felt like it had much more elevation change than it did, and I had a good race.

As we lined up for the race, I made sure to stay near the front to avoid the dreaded yo-yo effect.  During the first few miles, I noticed two things; 1) my Kenda Kountach tires were simply the best tires ever, and 2) apparently I'd gotten much better at pack riding since the last race, I wasn't slowly drifting to the back of the pack as I usually do.  Very nice.  Other than that revelation, the beginning of the race wasn't very eventful, it started to pick up around the half way point though.  


I was sitting around the middle of the pack, being very careful to remain on the wheel of an experienced rider (I didn't want to go off the back because of a dumb mistake), soon after beginning a climb, I heard the chase motorcycle accelerate, I looked back and the whole back of the peloton had detached!  All my teammates were gone.  A few miles down the road, Jeff made a reappearance, but not long after, he was gone again.  I guess the two criteriums that he raced the day before had caught up with him.  

The rest of the race went pretty well, we hammered up every climb, it was tough, I wished I'd brought more delicious Honey Stinger waffles.  On the flats nobody seemed to want to pull though, I managed to bridge to an early attack but we were reeled in in no time. 

Toward the end it started to pick up again, on the penultimate climb, I made a surge to the front and opened up a small gap, I wanted to have a cushion on the final descent before the last climb to the finish line, it didn't work out so well though.  Soon after beginning the downhill section, another racer zipped by me, pedaling hard, I sprinted to follow him, but had to hit my brakes on the first turn, the other riders didn't have any such reservations, and opened up a huge gap.  Upon reaching the final climb I gave it everything I had, and managed to pass four of the ten who had surpassed me on the descent, and finally in a state of dejection, I rolled across the finish line for a seventh place finish.  All I could think about was what would have happened if I had managed to keep my position on the descent...

'Tri'ing a New Thing


Although Mapletown was my only road race in the past month, I also took part in a different sort of race, a triathlon; the Point Marion Sprint Triathalon, put on by Morgantown Multisport.

Being my first one, I didn't really know what to expect.  I was worried about the swim because I'd never swam in open water before, I was unsure about the run because I'm bad at running, I was pretty sure I'd do alright on the bike section at least!

The swim was in the Mon river, I'm not really sure of the distance, but it didn't pose much of a problem, I was first out of the water by almost a minute.  Then it was onto the bike.

The bike course was about nine miles, from Point Marion Park to Friendship Hill park, I did pretty well there too, and made it back to the transition area with my lead (apparently my Cannondale makes for a good tri-bike too).  The next part, running, wasn't what I was looking forward to, I'm a bad runner, and it was 3.1 miles long.

As soon as I changed my shoes, I grabbed my CamelBak podium bottle and was off.  From what I understood of the directions, I was to run to the first bridge along the rail-trail, and I did, but there was some confusion, and everyone else ran a shorter course.  I'm fairly certain that I would have been caught during the run if we had all ran the same course though, some of the guys there run 16 minute 5k's, and I can't touch that.

I was happy with my performance, and was astounded at just how taxing a sprint distance triathlon could be, I'll surely do some more triathlons, but I think I should work on my running first.

Thanks for reading,

-Jonathan

All I (wanna do is) quit Crit

So this past weekend I went to the Aliquippa Crit to get in one last workout before the Tour of Catskills.  My legs were already in the hurt box going into the race from a tough week of training and all I wanted to do was: A) help out teammates  B) get in a good workout and C) finish the race "upright".  Right before the Cat3/4 race I quickly mixed up a bottle of CamelBak Elixir drink mix into my nice CamelBak Podium bottle and slammed a Honey Stinger gel and was ready to roll. Throughout the race I tried my best to help out teammate Brian who is doing extremely well in the ACS series by covering attacks.  I was able to help out some, however, Jeff was the true ace in helping out Brian get into the final sprint where Brian really came through.  Great job Brian on the 2nd place!  After the Cat3/4 race I again slammed another Honey Stinger gel as I listened to my daughter tell me how bored she was and how she was ready to go.  My intent was to double up, however, after 1 lap that idea quickly went out the door because my legs were complete toast.  I rolled into the parking lot and chatted with Jeff briefly before heading over to the car to drink another 48oz of CamelBak Elixir drink.  Unfortunately I am currently out of both Honey Stinger Waffles and Raw Revolution bars so I had to settle for a "not as good" nutrition bar I bought at a gas station on the way to the race.  Even though my legs crapped out on me this past Sunday my Kenda Kountach tires once again came through. 

Thanks again to all of Dynamic Physical Therapy powered by Pathfinder cycling 2012 team sponsors.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A New Stage: Tour of the Valley

The weekend of July 13-14-15th was an entirely new experience for me.  Having just returned from a nice week's vacation in Maine and Maryland, it was off to Youngstown, OH for the 2012 Tour of the Valley Stage Race.

I've never done a stage race before, but the team was going (or rather, much of the team was going) so I decided this may be a very limited opportunity to A) do a stage race and B) do a stage race with a team.  Time ebbs by more and more quickly, and I know that in the coming years it may be harder and harder to do things like this.  So I jumped at the opportunity.

The order of events is this:
Friday evening: 9 mile Solo Time Trial (TT)
Saturday: 26/54/80 mile Road race (RR) (depending on Category)
Sunday: 35/40/60/90 min Criterium (C) (depending on Category)


I drove up on Friday morning, arriving in Youngstown at about 1pm.  After a disgusting sub from Subway (my own fault for trying to just eat veggie and combining avocado with sweet onion sauce), I got to the Mastropietro Winery at about 1:30-2:00.  I had lots of time to do...nothing...because my start time wasn't until 6:27pm.  I was a little worried about when I should eat, what I should eat, and when I should start my warm up, as the race was so late!  I knew I'd need lots of warm up after taking the day off the day before, due to my time trial effort to get Derek some meds 2 days perviously, essentially because I thought he was dying.  Haven't heard that story? Find the short version here


I got my TT bike ready, chatted with team mates Mike, Shawn, Jeff and Ben, and tried to just stay super relaxed.  After a bit Shawn, Jeff and Ben went and picked up our keys to the Youngstown University Dorms, our home for the next couple of days.  This left Mike and I to make some adjustments to our bikes, but mostly just sit around and chat.  We sat in the shade of our sweet Cannondale team tent, and talked about what we'd been doing the last couple of weeks, about work, and the races to come.


I have never done a solo time trial.  All of my time trials are smack dab in between a swim and a run.  So, despite much "Jerry this is what you do" by team mates and others, I was unsure how I'd fare in the TT.  I figured 9 miles was a ~23 minute effort depending on the terrain (this looked flat from the maps).  23 minutes is very very short for me.






But I kept thinking about cyclocross, and the intense effort needed there, and kept reminding myself that (while yet only a Cat 4) I do ok at that.  Mike had also never done a time trial.


After a bit, the others got back and team mate Brian and Billy showed up separately.  After more sitting and munching on food, we all geared up and went for a pre-ride of the course.  Ben pulled off almost immediately- there was a stiff wind and he decided not to run his super deep (90mm) aero wheels.  I had my 60mm deep wheel on the front and a 55mm on the rear.  I was fine- but it was a stiff "breeze"!  Serious head wind at times, awesome tail wind at others.


The course was an out and back, and there was only 1 corner, and 1 turn around.  The corner you could take in the aerobars and at speed, but of course the turn around had to be done slowly.  The course rolls to the turn, then makes the left and goes slightly down for a while.  Despite the profile map, it's not exactly all down to the turn around, but it's definitely more difficult coming back.  Team mate Ben pointed out that we shouldn't save anything for the last bit after the turn, because we would have a screaming tail wind to help push us along.  I agreed, and made the mental note.






After our "warm up" (we all probably went a little harder than was really smart- or at least I did at times) I got my trainer out and did further warming up along with team mates Shawn and Brian.  A great surprise was the winery let us use the bathrooms inside, so I took advantage of that, and also filled my water bottles with the sink.


At start time, I took stock of how I felt.  I didn't feel great, I was still a bit tired from the Derek bee sting ordeal (see link above) and the general fatigue from the previous weeks travels and camping (5 hours of sleep in 2 days).  But I didn't fell horrible.  I wasn't sore at least- which is more than I can say for most of the road races I've done this year!


At 6:20 I was in line to start.  I was the first to go on my team in Cat 4, and had no idea what to expect as all the Cat 3 guys were either still on the course or cooling down.  I only had 1 Cat 4 rider in front of me, and I was very determined to catch him.  I knew going into the next couple of days our team would need as much time as possible if we were to think about taking the Cat 4 overall.  And I knew this event was probably my best chance to contribute to the team.


At 6:27 they called my number up onto the trailer.  As I sat there on the bike, watching the guy in front scream away from me, the volunteer holding me up, I got serious butterflies in my stomach.  I took a deep breath, grit my teeth, and my mind cleared.


3...2...1...


At "GO" I did the pro thing and CRUSHED the pedals, throwing down 700+ watts over the first 15 seconds, and I rocketed away.


I was surprised how far the rider was in front of me.  I guess I hadn't really thought about how far away someone can get in 30 seconds when they're going down hill and trying to go as fast.


I did NOT do a very good job of keeping my effort level under control in those first 5 minutes.  I made the exact mistake I had been repeating to the team, and went out a bit too hard.  Not overly so, but probably about 10% too hard.  So by about 1/3 of the way through, I was deep in the pain cave and well into anaerobic land.  I let up as I continued on, but tried to keep my power as close to 250-260 as I could- this is where the power meter is a huge help in pacing.


At the turn around I remember glancing down at the powertap computer again and seeing it said 10:03.  WOW!  I was flying!  If I could maintain this power output I knew I was on course for something like a 21:00 final time.  I also saw that the guys behind me were pretty far back; I was not going to be caught from anyone behind me I could tell.  This may not have been such a good thing, as it made me a little less panicky to stay in the red, and as the pain increased, I started to slow down.


In the cross wind and head wind and rough pavement I could feel a lot of resistance from...?  I'm not sure.  I've had some intermittent dragging problems on my TT bike and I think it's due to the ~1mm clearance I have between my front tire and brake (thought it was due to a wearing hub on my powertap but that has since been replaced).  I think the wheel deflects enough just with me fighting the wind that it drags occasionally.  Tire wear supports this.  I'm still trying to prove it though.  It's very frustrating!


On course I saw Cat 3 team mates Ben and Billy going the opposite direction, and on the way back saw that team mate Jeff was about to catch the 2nd person in front of him (he had already passed 1).  Nice!


By the time I got to the slight grade before the turn going back, unknowingly, I wasn't breathing as hard, I could see clearly again, and my power numbers had dropped a lot (30 watts!).


NO!  "What are you doing?!?!?" I thought.  I only had a mile or so to go, and was about to get the boost of the tail wind- I had let off too much (or went out too hard).  Crap.






So I threw the gauntlet down again, and when I rounded the corner I could see that I was gaining on the guy in front of me.  He was still some way off, but I was shutting the gap down.  I really wanted to catch him.


I buried myself for the next several minutes, and screamed across the line.  I wasn't nearly as close to black out as I had hoped (i.e. I don't think I went hard enough), but I had got the gap to the guy in front of me down to about 10-12 seconds.


With that I saw my time was 21:31, which equated to 24.3 mph.  I was happy with that!  Pretty much what I expected.  I yelled to team mate Mike waiting in line to start that he had to beat 21:30.  He nodded but didn't say anything.  He looked ready!


After all was said and done, I ended up 29th out of 66 "omnium" Cat 4 riders (those doing all 3 races).  Jeff got 14th, Mike 22nd, and Shawn 56th.  The time separating Jeff and I was less than 1 minute, about 3/4 a mile/hour, so the competition was stiff.  I think if I had a goal time to shoot for I would have done marginally better, but really I had a good ride.  I don't ever do 20 min super hard efforts, except maybe in a road race, so I was happy with my result.


We wait around for the results, hoping that Jeff would podium, as there was a rumor his time last year would have won.  But we saw the results, and packed up to leave.  Mike took a quick snap shot of the overall to give us an idea of who the potentially strong riders would be the next day, and which teams we had to compete with.


It was clear that Team Bike Shop was going to be the toughest competition.  We weren't sure where we stood exaclty, but we were about 2:30 down to them in time.  We found out later that we also were 10 seconds behind team Waslabs.


Still we were opptomistic, and at dinner that night (very late) we were happy and excited for the next day.  2:30 was nothing if we could get Jeff or Mike into a break away, and prevent any breaks from Bike Shop or Waslabs...


We discussed this at length over Mexican food (maybe not the ideal pre-race food) before heading back to the dorms.  By the time we unloaded our stuff, got situated, showered, and ready for the next day it was midnight.  I turned the light off by 12:15, and was asleep quick...


The next day I woke up around 8.  Our race didn't go off until 11:30 and it was only a 30 minute drive.  I had a quick breakfast of 2 english muffins with peanut butter and a banana.  Everyone else was already up, and Mike had already left to go to the race site.  I think nerves were a little high this morning for everyone.


The plan was for us to go to Dunkin Donuts for more breakfast but a Junior from another team that was staying with us dropped the bomb on Jeff that his race was starting in only 40 minutes!  They barely made it, but Jeff had to leave of course immediately.  Then the rest of the group got scattered, and I ended up by myself driving to the race site by about 9.






After going in circles a few times trying to navigate on my phone, and look like I wasn't, I got to the race site by about 9:50, after stopping at another Dunkin Donuts -of course- (got a multi-grain bagel with reduced fat cream cheese and a small iced coffee- love DD).


Once at the school, I checked in and put my numbers on my jersey, and then got everything set up (trainer, bottles, wheels for wheel car, food, etc) and hung around with the team for a bit.  No one seemed especially enthusiastic to warm-up, but I knew I had to.  I knew after the day before, I'd need a nice long warm up to get myself back into the swing.


So after discussing some tactics (basically cover moves and try and get Jeff or Mike into a strong break) and munching on some cereal and drinking some Camelbak Elixir I jumped on the trainer to get a nice warm up in.


Well, I forgot to bring my wheels over to the wheel car, and then I had to pee and I guess I didn't plan very well because I only had about 15 minutes of warm up on the trainer before everyone was about to head over to the start time.  Ugh.


At the start, I made sure I was right in the front.  With a field of 75, I knew I didn't want to end up in back- yo-yo-ing off the back and in danger of being caught in a crash.


After a pre-race talk by JR and the Officials, we took off.  I immediately moved into about 15th position.  The pack was being really nervous, they were right on the wheel car's bumper, and people were trying to move through the pack for no reason, and they were trying to go too hard around the initial corners.  For no reason.  It was so stupid.


And, of course, people paid the price in the back.  Within the first half mile, during the NEUTRAL roll out, I heard a horrible screeching noise, then the sound of metal on the pavement and the popping of a tire.  I didn't look back, but I guess two guys touched wheels and it ruined a lot of guys day.


The next several miles were uneventful.  I stayed near or at the front, with team mate Mike.  He actually rode off the front for a little while.  But soon he was back in the pack.


Right before the first significant gain in elevation a guy attacked, and a rider from The Bike Shop team went with, and I jumped across the gap- and as soon as I got on his wheel, they both glanced over their shoulders, and gave up.  I'm sure it's because the first rider didn't want to take a TBS guy with him, and the TBS guy didn't want to pull a Dynamic team member along, so my counter worked I guess.


We went over the top of the climb and I stayed right on the front, and was surprised that I was not drifting back through the group.  Maybe I would be able to hang with the group after all.






About this time Jeff rolled up next to me and we rode along near each other, and he told me he thought Shawn had crashed out.  Bummer (turns out he hadn't, but after the first loop he dropped due to knee pain).


A little further up the road and the course takes sharp left and we hit the first of the "rollers".  Note I said "rollers" not rollers.  These were climbs.


I survived the first one slipping back through the group.  When I glanced down at my powertap, it was reading a consistent 365-375 watts.  I started to get nervous; if this kept up, I was going to get dropped- and soon.


Aaannndddd I was right.  The first roller goes right into the second, and by the start of the third, I watched Jeff and the rest of the group ride away from me.  I tried as hard as I could to hang in, but the group was pretty strong and left me seeing stars and hoping I'd get a flat so I could just stop...I just wanted to stop.


I was by myself for a pretty long time, no idea where I was, how many were in front of me or behind me.  Probably 20 minutes went by without me catching anyone or being caught.  After a bit further, and some more rolling terrain, I finally caught a single rider who completely refused to work with me and just kept trying to drop me.  So I let him go.  I was pretty irritated.


Once I got onto the flats I could see a group of 4 riders pretty far up the road, and I was determined to try and get into that group.  Not long after, a group of 5 guys rolled up next to me and scared me so bad I just about caused a wreck!


The group looked strong, and contained Mike from Steel City that I knew was a pretty strong rider.  I was so glad to be able to get a little rest as I tagged onto the back.


I cycled back to the front eventually, and when it was my turn to pull off, I was surprised to see our group of 6 had swelled to group of 9!  Great, now we can work together to catch the four in front of us, and perhaps then our group would be strong enough to catch the peloton.


My hopes were squashed pretty quickly though.  It was clear several of the guys in the group either didn't know how to ride in a group or just didn't care about catching the groups in front of us.  They kept doing long pulls and the whole group would stall.  I yelled a couple times "shot pulls" and "pull through" but they wanted none of it.


This went on for what felt like an hour, but was probably 20 minutes or so.  And the group of 4 in front of us just kept slowly moving away.


And then a rider got to the front and just completely stalled out the whole group.  We literally dropped 2-3mph.


That was it.  I couldn't take it anymore.  I was in 3rd position, a perfect place to attack.  As we came over the top of a riser, I jumped out of line and threw the hammer.  I wasn't so concerned with dropping the group as I was in motivating them to chase.


But, my attack had a different effect.  When I looked back about 30 seconds later, I had 1 rider about 15 feet off my wheel, and another about 50 yards back- the rest were in the distance, unable or unwilling to counter.  It made me feel awesome!


I let the rider catch my wheel, and he was very willing to work with me.  He was strong through the flats, but told me he'd struggle as we got to the climbs.  But we worked together for a while opening up the gap behind us, and closing the gap down in front of us.  After about 5 minutes we let off a bit, and the rider who had been trying to bridge to us latched on- it was Mike from Steel City.


So now we had a good group of 3 and we quickly caught the group of 4-5 in front of us.  After about 5 more miles, only 1 of those riders remained with us.  We closed in on another group of 4 or 5.  This time the group stuck together, and I got some needed rest.  Back in a group of ~8, I knew we had a good chance of catching a bunch more riders.


But again, after about 5 more miles, we were 1 rider down again.  And after some hard pace lining over rolling terrain, we were down 1 more.  So when we hit the rollers, we were down to a group of 6.


The guy I attacked with was dropped on the first roller, and the group of 5 of us- Myself, Mike of Steel City, a The Bike Shop rider, a Merrel Lynch rider, a team I didn't know (neon green kit).


We rode together, worked together, and pushed each other along.  It was a solid group, and I was constantly at my limit on the climbs.  The Merrel Lynch rider was a MONSTER on the downhills and flats,.  I consider myself a strong flats rider (for Cat 4) and I would have to duck into his slip stream when he got on the front.


But it was clear that the TBS rider was the strongest climber of the group.  Mike asked me if I was "OK?" and motioned towards the TBS rider, knowing we were in the hunt for the team jersey, and that TBS was in first.  I shook my head yes and told him that that was one of the faster guys from the time trial the day before.


After that, he did me a couple of favors by pulling me back onto a wheel, or doing an extra pull up front.  Not a lot; but he did do me a couple solids.  I owe him.


Through the next miles we dropped the guy in the neon green kit.  I was hurting pretty bad, and my legs kept cramping whenever I tried to stand up.  I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to stay with the group.


But several huge gulps of electrolyte drink and a Honey Stinger gel, some flatter terrain, and just some time to recover from the "rollers" and I was feeling better again.


One of the best parts of the race came next; we were cruising along some section of the course, and could see that there was a group of at least 7-8 guys in front of us, riding in a pretty disorganized manner.  I was on the front, and the TBS rider rolled up next to me and said "make sure you go by these guys with some speed so they can't latch on".


Great idea.  So we swung around a corner and I started to ramp it up.  It was a long straight and I really got the train rolling.  We stayed quiet and when I was withing about 30 feet I really turned the screw and pulled out to fly by.


When we went by we were probably doing 30-31mph.  A rider yelled "hey!" as we went by, but we just hammered it.  I kept my head down and stayed on front for another minute or so, as we rolled up on another small climb I pulled off and glanced back.  I'd done it!  The group was at least 200 yards behind us, and it was clear they were chasing, but we were away.  And the other guys in my group took over and we motored away.  It was great!


The rest of the race I just tried to hang.  We caught a few more random riders, and even some masters riders that were stragglers from the race before us.


The finish has a small climb followed by a downhill into a grade that finishes with a short flat.  I was dropped on the first small climb.  The TBS rider beat the other 2 guys in our little group, with Mike from Steel City close behind.


I was so tired and and cramping pretty bad at the finish; I just wanted to lay down.  I had 54 miles, 2:31 minutes (21.1 mph avg) and 3700ft of elevation gain.  Average watts were 211, with my best 10 second peak of 1040 watts (no idea when I did that).


When I got back to the team tent, Jeff was already laying down.  It had been a tough day.


He told me he had got dropped on the second loop and tried very hard to catch back but never made it back on.


It was worse for the others (Shawn and Mike V) on our Cat 4 team.


Turns out, Shawn had dropped out after the first loop due to knee pain.  Mike V had also dropped out after the first loop because of both physical and technical problems- his seat was slowly lowering while he rode because he didn't tighten it.


So that was it.  We were out of the team competition.  Things happen, but we were all a bit disappointed after the previous days results in the time trial.


Our Cat 3 team of Billy, Brian, and Ben did significantly better.  Brian got 6th in the sprint to the finish, with Ben and Billy very close behind.


We hung around for the results, and then all got in our vehicles and proceeded back to the dorms.


I was beat.  After my shower all I really wanted to do was eat as much as possible and go to bed.  My ankles were starting to bother me a bit.  I was also getting a head ache from electrolyte imbalance.  Some Camelbak Exilir and salt tabs helped with that.


I wasn't kidding; Jeff was literally laying down.

We all then headed to Danny Boys italian eatery for some pizza and pasta.  I got a really good calzone, and was very pleased with the prices and food.  The live music was a bit loud because we were right under the speakers, but besides that the atmosphere is really nice too.



When we were all said and done we got back to the dorms again around 9.  After taking some more salt tabs and doing a little bit of rolling on the foam roller, I was ready for bed.  But the team was sitting up drinking some beverages, so I sat with them for a little while.  But around 10:15 I couldn't do it anymore, and headed for bed.  I read a bit of my book, took a benadryl, and it was lights out at 10:30.


Day 3 started shockingly well.  I woke up with my alarm at 8am.  I felt bad, but not really bad as I had expected I would.  Again I quickly ate a couple english muffins with peanut butter and a banana, got my water bottles all filled up with electrolyte drink, and headed down to my car with a load of stuff.  After 3 more trips, I was on my way, following Jeff and Shawn, to the Criterium course.


The course is a square, with 4 corners.  Starting at the start line, it's about 100 yards to the first left corner.  Then it's a flat straight stretch to the next turn (left).  It's then a pretty long gradual downhill to the next left, then a shorter flat section that had a middle island in center that you could go left or right around.  Then a very narrow left turn onto a side street and quickly up a very steep short climb. From the top of the climb it was no more than 50 yards to the finish.  We would have to do this for 45 minutes.


We got to the site later than we wanted too because it was tough to find parking.  After getting all my stuff out of the car for the third time now, I headed to the start line to check in.  There was a race going on, and they were going pretty freaking fast (Cat 5?  I can't remember).  I started to get nervous...


Jeff, Shawn, and I head out for a good warm up.  Mike V was already set up on his trainer.


After only a couple minutes riding around at a very light pace, Shawn decided his knee was hurting to bad to continue.  We were out of the team competition so it didn't matter anyways, so no sense in anyone hurting themselves.






After about 15 minutes of cruising back and forth on a 1/2 mile section of road Jeff headed back.  I got my final bottles together and just kept cruising up and down the road.  I did a couple hard sprints, and was not overly confident in the way my legs were feeling.  I decided to eat more.  I had a Raw Rev bar and a Waffle and a Gel.  That should be enough.


Since I've never done a "Crit" before I was really worried I wouldn't have the power to hang with the group.  I'm not a sprinter, I don't have a lot of power, and I have very little experience- so I figured I'd make it a handful of laps and then get dropped.


The womens race that was before us finished and we quickly got on course and rode around the lap.  The little hill was brutally steep and after riding it I felt even less confident than I had while warming up.  I just kept saying to myself "it's your first one, it's a free-bee".


We got back to the start line and guys were already lined up.  I squeezed into the second line with Jeff.  Mike V was just behind us.


During the pre-race briefing the official said that due to such a big field (60 riders+) he was going to be  pulling lapped riders, or those that looked like they were going to be lapped, off course as he deemed. Any rider pulled off course would be given the last place time, but order would then be determined by number of laps completed.


I was TERRIFIED of being pulled off.  I had very little confidence I'd be able to hang on.  I had little confidence about the road race the day before, and that had gone even WORSE than I had expected, so I figured I was totally screwed.


At the whistle, I quickly got right up towards the front of the field as we tore away from the startline.  I was not surprised by the savaery of the starting speed, but that didn't mean it didn't hurt any less.  We were going so hard already- and it had only been mere minutes.


I settled in to the front third of the field, and Mike V went by me in the first lap, and he actually helped in chasing down an early break/attack.  After a few laps, I was already sliding back in the group.  Every time we had to do the climb I'd fall a little further back.  But I'd always be able to bridge back to the group on the first flat.


After about a 4 or a half dozen laps, Mike V slid back beyond me.  I never saw him again.  I also hadn't seen Jeff since the start.  I figured he was right around me but I just hadn't seen him make his move yet.


The laps just kept going by, and the pace never slacked.  In the beginning I saw a guy from The Bike Shop totally eat it- flipped right over his front wheel slamming into the pavement.  Luckily, even though he was practically on the front and in a corner, no one hit him and no one else was involved.  I also saw a guy get squirrelly and almost go down on another corner.  But overall, I was very pleased with how well guys were holding lines.


By lap 8 or 9 I was at the back of the group.  Every time we hit the hill I would fall off, and I would then slowly battle my way back onto the group.  Initially I used other riders who were not being smart, to pull me across to the group.  But after a while there were no more of these riders because they were either in the group or behind me and many of those had been pulled off course.


I actually used the course to my advantage when this started happening.  I would keep my cool and not go too hard across the top flat, but just slowly reel in the group.  Then, on the downhill I would just continue with the effort and would really make up some ground.  By the bottom flat I would be back in the group.  This worked for probably 4 or 5 laps (7-12ish).  I even stayed in the group for 2 laps in the middle of this (somewhere around 6,7,8,9) because the group had caught some attackers that went off the front and the pace slacked just a bit.


Around lap 8 or 9 I also noticed that Mike V was sitting on the curb- with some other riders, including Mike from Steel City.  They were out of the race!  This was both a bad thing and a good thing.  It was horrible to know my team mate was out of the race, but it was a pretty good motivator to know I had to represent, and that I was probably doing fairly well if these super strong riders were off course- unless they had a technical (which turns out they did not).


So this is what sustained me for the later laps.  As did the single Honey Stinger I was able to choke down during the chaos.  It just kept getting harder to get back in the group.  By lap 13 I was just barely getting back to the group at the bottom of the hill.  I was in trouble.


I held on for another lap (or 2 I can't remember now) and then was finished.  I couldn't get back int the group.  Now I just had to stay out for a few more laps and survive to the finish.


I saw that it said we had to do 4 more- so 19 total laps.  I was panicking- I had worked so hard, I wanted to make it to the finish!!!!


I ended up getting pulled along by a Merrill Lynch rider for a couple laps.  I yelled "pull through" and even tried to pass him but he wanted none of it.  Which was fine with me!  Let him do the work.


So we made it to the final lap together, somehow, passing a couple riders and then catching 1 more.  He jumped on the back and we drafted the the Lynch rider along the top flat.  He then tried to pull get up front to do some work, like I had, but the rider wanted none of it.  So he just passed him and kept going.


This finally evoked a response from the Lynch rider and he jumped on this guy's wheel.  This was fine with me, since I was in 3rd position now and set up perfectly to make a move.


On the corner before the bottom flat, the Lynch rider slowed a lot and I quickly went around him.  It was now me and the other guy (no team I think).  I had planned to attack here and leave the Lynch rider because he was not as good a technical rider.


But, with me on the front unwilling to do any work until I attacked, we had slowed, and the Lynch rider came up next to us and blocked my path around the corner.  I thought he was going to pull the same move I was planning- but he didn't.


No matter.  Instead of attacking right into the corner, I attacked right after.  And it still had the desired result.


Hitting the hill I was at full power, and crested still ahead of this little group, and just tried to hold myself up right to the finish.  I did.  I had made it!


I got 35th of 53 finishers, but there were a bunch who dropped out I guess.  Mike V had been one of them, dropping after the first 1/2 dozen or so laps.  Jeff was not feeling it that day, said his legs had never felt so bad, and ended up being pulled at lap 13.


Myself and the other 2 riders were the last ones to finish on the lead lap (completed all 19).  I was very very proud of this result.  I learned so much and I think in the future I could really learn to like, and perhaps even do well at, Crits.


So with that my first Stage Race was over.  I hung around for a bit, had some of the free food, checked the results- which were wrong but luckily Ref Ryan Post figured things out- and cheered on my Cat 3 friends.  They ended up doing well again, and won the team competition overall!


After that I drove home the two hours back to Morgantown.  I had lots of time to reflect on what had happened, and on my races.


I decided it was a lot of fun and I can't wait for next year.  I learned more about my strengths and weaknesses over the weekend than I have in all my races combined to date.  With the stiffer competition, the 3 different events where you compete against the same people, and the difficulty of racing 3 days in a row, I think the stage race is an excellent venue for beginners and seasoned riders a like to really be able to assess their strengths and weaknesses to a higher degree than in a single day race.


I think with another year under my belt I should be able to do even better in the TT, and hope to at least make it to the 2nd lap in the field during the RR, and perhaps make it to the field sprint in the Crit- or even throw an attack myself.  But there are a lot of days between now and then, and I hope to really grow as a cyclist using every minute to my advantage.


Thank you to all the sponsors that sponsor this team for providing me with great gear and nutrition to get me through the weekend, and the sponsors of Tour of the Valley Stage race for helping put on a top notch race, as well as ABRAracing for an absolutely amazingly professional race experience!


Thanks to Fred Jordan and Mike Briggs for many of the photos

Monday, July 23, 2012

Surprise mail

I received an interesting piece of cycling-related mail recently. It's the brochure for a century ride in the fall. Anne Foreman and I made the cover!



Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team in Yellow!

Team members Ben Kuhlman, Brian Decann and Billy Slutz are pictured below sporting their new jersey atop the podium! Congratulations!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mapletown Preride

Derek, Jerry, and I pre-rode about 20 miles of the Mapletown road race course that's coming up in a couple weeks. We only road 20 miles because Derek got stung by a bumblebee on his lip and then this happened:

Jerry time-trialed to the closest CVS, grabbed benadryl, and threw a $20 at the cashier while I sat with Derek while he threw up and hived up. Carly, our guardian angel, drove all the way from Morgantown to pick us up and haul us back to Derek's car. Derek had to drive us home because I can't drive a standard.

He's going to be getting an epi pen! And I am going to learn to drive a standard.

Monday, July 9, 2012

That was kinda fun!

For me if a race doesn't have any long climbs I mostly don't get very excited.  So when I decided to go try out one of JR's Oval Series races I looked at it has a daddy-daughter road trip with my wife being out-of-town and a good workout for myself, but not really all that fun.  I was actually wrong because I did have fun.  I didn't do well at all, but I did get in a good workout racing around the very cool oval track and my daughter had a great time having the chance to ride her bike as well.  I was a little disappointed though that my daughter got a medal and I did not.
It was also great getting to hangout with teammates Jeff, Shawn and Brian since I have not seen them in awhile.  Plus, my daughter had a great time hanging out with Gina.  Thanks Gina.  Needless to say I will for sure hit up a couple more ABRA Oval Series races before the end of the season.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Breaking: I Am Not a Climber

Up until the start of this race season, I personally believed that one of my best strengths was climbing ability. Even if not supremely great at it, certainly better than sprinting or similar power-type efforts. There was some evidence to back this up. For example, as a Cat 5, it seemed if the race didn't have some kind of hill in it, I would finish near or at the very back. Last season, as a Cat 4, climbing was a major reason why I was "in" every race, including big stage races such as the Tour of the Valley. Even the one and only break I've ever been in was formed from an attack on a climb.
   
In reality, climbing ability played only a minor role in my acquiring a Cat 3 upgrade. My best three races from the previous year were the Wake Forest Crit (3rd/29), Wake Forest Road Race (5th/39)  and Fort Classic (4th/35).  All were noticeably flat races or a crit. All sprint finishes. 

Thus far this season, if I have learned one thing, it's this. I am not a climber, suited to long climbs. Here's a short recap.

Morgantown Road Race - Dropped while cresting the first climb.
Greene County Road Race - Dropped about 90% up the first climb.
Tour of Tucker - Dropped about 25% up the first climb (although I saw this one coming). 

Meanwhile, in either flatter races or crits.

Clarksburg Grand Prix (crit) - 8th / 30
Fort Classic Road Race - 5th / 29
Aliquippa Criterium #1 - 7th / 41

Separating from the field in the sprint at the Fort Classic road race.

Not convinced? Here's a little snapshot from every cyclists favorite drug, Strava. One of the neat things about Strava is that it lets you compare times not just by segment length, but during the segment itself. Now, on the Mile Climb segment (a favorite for those training with Rob Acciavatti), I can compare my best time against the current record holder, Todd Latocha (although credit to the true record holder, Rob Accivatti, pre-strava), who is one unquestionably of the strongest climbers in the region. Interestingly, I can put out a time 9 seconds faster on the first third, stay even by about halfway, then collapse miserably and finish out down 20 seconds.


Identifying strengths and weaknesses is an important part of both training and racing. For racing, you only get a couple chances a year to be in peak form and its best to pick those races offering the best chances for success. For training - its important to work hard on the weaknesses as to minimize the odds they result in a race ending poorly. What these results tell me is that, for me, my strengths are in short burst efforts. Not quite sprints, but not exceeding 5 minutes either. Think rollers and power climbs.

Now, with the Tour of the Valley coming up this weekend, and with the new road course having removed the long climb, and replaced with several rollers, while coinciding with my big peak for the year, I can't help but feel more excited for the race.

Columbia Triathlon and Ironman Eagleman 70.3 Triathlon Recaps


On May 20 the town of Columbia, MD hosted its 29th Columbia Triathlon. This was an international distance competition consisting of a 1500 meter swim, 41 kilometer bike and 10 kilometer run. I had done the Columbia tri in 2007 and the primary issues that stuck in my mind were the hilly bike and run.  It’s not a course that encourages super fast times but more of a short and tough event. Worse yet, it’s so early in the season that, living in the colder hills WV, I don’t have the ability to do any real open water swim practice in the weeks beforehand. My first open water swim of the year came upon arrival to the Columbia course on the day prior. Fortunately it felt comfortable. Race day came and I managed to swim 25:13 for the course. My pacing was a little too slow and technique suffering from lack of winter swim practice. The bike was exactly as I had remembered – quite hilly.  I was pleased with the outcome on the  bike course though as I averaged 23.9 mph for 1:03:51. The run was difficult but accomplished in 40:12.  My overall time of 2:12:26 was good enough for 2nd in the 30-34 age group. That was a little motivating for me because I managed to best the age group winner later in the Mountaineer Triathlon on June 24.




The Eagleman Triathlon on June 10 in Cambridge, MD consisted of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run. My last attempt at competition here came in 2009 during which I learned the biggest factor at Eagleman is the heat exposure. I had become better at managing my nutrition in these longer races and my fitness coming into race day was good so I was anxious to see how it would all turn out. I was in one of the final swim waves, which unfortunately meant I would be in the heat longer than the people starting 30-60 minutes ahead of my time. The swim went very well and I exited the water in 33:25. It was probably the straightest I have ever swam, particularly on a course with choppy water, despite the amount of body contact early in the course. On the bike, though notoriously windy, I averaged 23.4 mph for a 2:23:53 split. The run was almost entirely open farm fields with no shade. I had brought some energy gel with me but unfortunately some of the aid stations were running out of supplies when I needed it the most, around mile 11. I had been averaging around 7:10-7:20 min per mile up to that point, which I thought was fine for such a brutally hot day.  Turns out it was the hottest day of the spring up to that point, at well over 90 degrees. When the hypoglycemic bonk eventually came it brought some strange asthmatic respiratory issues as well so I couldn’t take a full breath and I started wheezing. A similar issue had happened the last time I raced Eagleman so I’m starting to think I should avoid triathlons at sea level. I limped home those last couple miles to have a disappointing 1:44:08 run split. My overall time was 4:44:51, about 10 minutes slower than I was initially hoping but I was seriously glad to be done. I had at least 10 guys from my age range pass me in that brief period of misery and ultimately finished 26th in my age group. It’s frustrating to have such a good race for so many hours and lose it all in just a short period of time. Next time I suppose I am going to need to prepare better with a backup gel to my backup gel!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Proprioception at Night

My life has been quite stagnant and boring lately, so I haven't had anything of interest to blog about. Plus my body is'nt cooperating lately so I haven't even been able to cycle much at all. So here is a blog a wrote nearly a year ago, which may be of some interest to anyone who runs.

Over the course of summer, it became common routine for me to do the
majority of my runs at night. This was in part due to my physical
therapy clinical rotation schedule, but mainly because I found myself
enjoying night runs more and more. I kept telling people how much I
was enjoying night-running, but I couldn’t put a finger on exactly why
I was enjoying it. I lived at my parent’s house in Martinsburg, WV
over the summer, and I did the majority of these night-runs on the
grassy and hard-packed dirt surfaces between the vast orchards and
hillside around the area. I didn’t run when it was pitch black, but
my visibility was nearly gone by the time I would finish my run. I’m
back in Morgantown, WV now to finish up my final semester of course
work at WVU prior to receiving my physical therapy doctorate next
spring [“fist pump”]. Two nights ago I decided to go out for my first
back-to-school night-run. Finally, it made sense to me why I enjoyed
running at night so much, as I passed through areas lit by road lights
and other areas of pitch black. The answer was
simple…Proprioception!!! What? Simple? Yes, here’s my explanation:
‘Proprioception’ is our body’s sense of its own position, balance and
movement. Proprioception provides us with ‘body awareness’ and is
commonly referred to as our “sixth sense”. There are 3 main sensory
systems which predominantly control our sense of proprioception: (1)
The Vestibular System resides in our inner ear, and it uses fluid to
detect changes in acceleration and position with respect to gravity.
[Don’t get caught up on this mechanism for the purpose of this
blog]. (2) The next proprioceptive mechanism is Vision, which uses
eye sight to orient our head and trunk and let us know which way is
‘up’. (3) The final proprioceptive mechanism is critical for running,
using our somatosensory (i.e. sensation from the body) system to
produce true body awareness. These sensory receptors are in our skin,
skeletal muscle, tendons, ligaments, bones, joints, and internal
organs. These receptors measure light and deep pressure, vibration,
heat, cold, ect.

(Sensation starting with the feet hitting the ground feeds the brain...And the brain creates the running form)

So what’s the point?...At any given time, we are predominantly using
these 3 systems in harmony to create body awareness. Jay Dicharry
(Gait analysis guru, running-injury prevention and treatment
specialist, and director of the SPEED and gait lab at UVA) notes that
most people are visually dominant. Jay says the problem with this is
that the processing of this sensory input in ‘slow’. On the other
hand, somatosensory information processes ‘very very fast’. Guess
what…Your feet are loaded with these somatosensory receptors. Are you
starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together yet? At night, when
vision is greatly reduced, you rely much more heavily on your
somatosensory system to provide proprioceptive input – ‘very very
fast’ sensory input. In essence you become better connected and more
in tune with your body. This is that sensation that I had been
struggling to define.

(Steeple Chase at Penn Relays...at night)

During that run the other night, I noticed that my form felt more
relaxed, efficient, and fluid when I was running in areas of pitch
black compared to areas lit my road lights – I’m not kidding. I
currently do all of my runs in Newton Distance Trainers or the new
Newton MV2, and occasionally some supplemental barefoot drills. I
wear very thin socks, and I even take the insoles out of my Distance
Trainers to improve somatosensory input to my feet. Try it – taking
out that little bit of padding inference really does make a noticeable
difference. Like I said, your feet are loaded with sensory receptors,
and any material between your foot and the ground will hinder the
function of these receptors. These receptors also function more
optimally on a firm surface compared to a soft surface. There are
many good minimalist shoes out there now which allow you to take great
advantage of the somatosensory receptors in your feet – The thinner
and firmer the sole the better (for this application). Research has
found the somatosensory system to be highly trainable. Jay Dicharry
advocates the importance of practicing single leg stance (i.e.
standing on one foot) with your eyes closed to efficiently train your
somatosensory system for the critical mid-stance phase of the running
gait. I now appreciate this concept more after my experience of
running at night.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Chasing Strava

For the past few years, it seems like I always hit the dreaded wall and suffer burnout somewhere in the early summer.  This usually means gaining a few pounds and spending more time off the bike than is ideal.  This year seems to be shaping up to be quite different, though with the creation of Strava.  I started using the free service in April, and have been hooked ever since.  Living in Parkersburg, where there is a huge mountain bike community, but a "social" road scene, I spend hour upon hour training solo, which I attribute to my previous years' burnout.  This year, though, with KOMs throughout the area, I am constantly testing myself against others, or simply myself, always pushing that little bit harder to best my old time up any local climb.  Strava has also helped me find rides when on travel - at my wife's family reunion a few weeks back, I brought my road bike along, hoping to find a few rural roads to cruise around on before the festivities began each day.  With the "Explore" option, I was able to find 4 KOMs in Southeast Indiana...and I am proud to say that I represented WV well in taking each away from the locals!

Last weekend, I went to Snowshoe Mountain for a weekend of riding and sightseeing (little did I know we would cut the weekend short due to the horrible storms that knocked out power to over half of the state).  With 4,800' of elevation, there were climbs galore to attempt - I was very excited - so much so that as soon as we checked in, we rode back down the front of the mountain, turned around, and started climbing!  after a Tex-Mex dinner, we uploaded our data and I came in second overall on the various segments of the climb...hopefully the next day would be different.


That night, the storm rolled through, knocking out power indefinitely.  We woke up the next morning and agreed to do a ride out to the Green Bank Telescope and to then tackle the 8-mile climb back from Cass to Snowshoe.  It is enormous - especially up close.  It is 485' tall and the dish is 110 meters wide!  On the way back, we stopped in Cass to check out the railroad.




The climb was difficult to say the least but luckily the first 6 miles were shaded from the mid-90's temperature!  The last section of the climb was by far the most difficult, as you can see in the picture, and there were no trees near the road on the final switchback corners so my CamelBak Podium Chill water bottles really were excellent at keeping my drinks cool! 



After our ride, we showered in the semi-dark and headed home to...no power!  Finally, after 7 days, our power was restored and I was able to upload my last week's worth of rides.  I found out that I got all of the KOMs on the back side of the mountain - definitely a morale booster!  So - in a nutshell, Strava has cured my mid-season case of burnout nicely.  Back to racing next weekend at the Tour of the Valley stage race in Youngstown - can't wait to blow my legs away during the time trial, then suffer up the climbs on the road race, and rub elbows during the final day crit - hope our team can bring home the Team Classification jerseys in a few categories!

Thanks for reading,

Ben

Thursday, July 5, 2012

June...The Month for Great Racing!


What better month is there to look forward to all year if you want to have a great time at some great races?   Every year for the past 15 years I've looked forward to the month of June to participate in the legendary mountain bike race relay known as the 24hrs of Canaan, which later became the 24hrs of Snowshoe, and then the 24hrs of Big Bear.   Although this was usually the only race I'd attend in June back then, I still look forward to this month, because every June I get another year older and get the chance to prove to myself that I haven't 'aged', but instead have gotten a little bit faster.

This year the month started off with the Fort Classic in McDonald, PA.   A multi-lap race over a relatively flat course...except for one grind of a climb.  For the Cat 4/5 field of racers, the race would consist of 4 laps with high speeds maintained throughout.   Historically I haven't performed well at this race.  Last year I got dropped within a couple of laps and spent too much time and energy trying to work back into it.  This year was going to be different.

Fort Classic-- Lap 3

My goal was to stay in the pack to the finish helping any other riders on our team.   Jeff and Jerry has spent much of the race on or near the front.   The pack stayed together 2-3 riders wide, making any moves to get on the front very difficult.  By the third lap I had made a move on the right to get to the front shortly after the climb.  If I could give Jeff and Jerry a pull through the 4th lap climb, maybe either one of them could make a break that would hold until the finish.   As it would happen, Jeff, Jerry, and I were on the front when teammate Jonathan, suffering from graduation new bike syndrome, made his own break with one other racer.  This would get the rest of the pack to launch a pace that I hadn't expected.    During the furious sprint to the finish from a mile out, I got dropped with 200m to go.  Jeff and Shawn, both had respectable finishes gaining points for the ABRA series.

On June 16, I would make a short drive to Big Bear Lake Campgrounds for Mark Schooley's Big Bear 2x12 race.  After losing a teammate for this race, Jason Stewart of Consol Energy Racing would provide to me another opportunity to race this particular weekend for my 15th consecutive year.   Would I take this opportunity after reaching my fourth decade just days before?   I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

If you're not familiar with this race, it is a two-person relay in which each racer would get two laps or three laps each, depending on whether you race sport or expert classes.  Thus, the team that completes their required laps wins.  It combines the chance to race as a team with friends, but in about 6 hours instead of 24 hours like previous races that I've done.   So, no late night laps in the dark, no frantic rushes to get biking and camping gear packed to get there and packed to get home before returning to work again on Monday.   This race also includes a beer and bluegrass festival afterwards, again providing something that the 24hr races don't....a chance to hang out with your team and other competitors afterwards.

So, I get the first lap bringing the baton back to Stew in 1hr 10mins later, giving us a 15min lead over the 2nd place team.   Unsure of when to get back to the log-in tent, I asked one of Stew's teammates, Joe Sheets, how fast can Stew cover the 13 miles of super-sweet singletrack.   Now I'm expecting to see Stew after 1hr 20mins.  I had heard he had gotten faster this year.  But, I had just racked my bike when he rolls in a powerful lap of 1hr 13mins.   Ooh, this could get exciting I thought.

2x12 Vet Sport Champions, Stew and Jones...
accompanied by Charlie, the future of mtb'ing, and
Nova, Dynamic PT Cycling mascot.


I felt much better during the third lap.  My heart rate had settled down a bit, but my legs were feeling heavy.  I also felt like I was handling the bike a little better, which must have been the difference as I shaved another minute off my first lap time and kept the lead that Stew had maintained during the second lap.  Now Stew was off with another 15 minute lead over Team Pathfinder.   This is when the race for us began to get exciting.  Scott Benson of Team Pathfinder had turned in 1hr 5min lap earlier in the race.  So, if he completed the course as fast or faster (which he did!) and Stew were to have a mechanical, first place could be lost.   But not this year as Stew would complete the fourth lap in 1hr 17min, just 3 min. ahead of second place, putting both of us on our first ever 1st place podium spot for this race!


Not sure where I'm at, but definitely sure
I don't want to ride back toward
the banjo music!
The Hilly Billy Roubaix was the next event on my list....and the last for June due to the unexpected storms that would leave us without electricity and prevent me from participating in a mountain bike race on June 30th.   What would be a better race to finish the month than seventy-plus miles of road, gravel roads, dirt roads, ATV trails, and deer trails all on a 'cross bike?

I would like to say that my race went well this year.  But, despite two flats and dehydration, the race was better than the 2011 version of the HBR.   I made a last minute handlebar swap and tire change after a quick stop to PathfinderWV in Morgantown to make this years climb more comfortable.   My attempts to stay hydrated and fueled were much better, consuming 50 ounces of Camelbak Elixer, which prevented cramping, and 3-4 Honey Stinger Waffles.

Regardless of my performance, the race was great this year due to the overwhelming support of the volunteers.  Every water/aide station was liking pit crew.  Volunteers were taking bottles to fill with water, stuffing my pockets with energy gels, and even handing out popsicles at one point.   I'm not sure, but I think they even rotated my tires.  I'm not sure if it was hallucinations from dehydration, but I'm sure I saw volunteers at more than one aide station.  

Great job with the Hilly Billy Roubaix JR.   I'm looking forward to June 2013 already.