Friday, November 30, 2012


Well, cyclocross season is almost over with only one race to go for the 2012 season.  The season began at the warm and not-very-technical course at Kick-off Cross.  A move from Cat 4 last season to the Masters 40+ category this season may not have been as strategically smart as I had thought it would be before the season began.  There’s a reason for the Master’s category title.  It appears that many of the ‘old’ guys are some of the fastest racers using the mid-day category as a warm-up for the later Cat 3-4 and Cat 1-2-3 races.  Oh well, this would give me a chance to see how I’d do against some of these local and regional legends.  That kind of thinking was my first mistake…I didn’t get to see any of them after the call-ups.  You would think this class races only one lap as fast as they start.  My biggest motivation to ride fast from the end of the first lap on was to prevent being lapped by the leaders before the final bell ringing. 

An 11th place finish for the first race of the season in a super-fast category was suddenly an acceptable accomplishment for myself.  Congratulations to all of the other members of the Dynamic Physical Therapy powered by Pathfinder WV cycling team that finished on the podium that day---Mike V, Brian D., and Anne F…and Jeff G. for this top spot on the tandem.

The next race of the series would keep us in PA for Military Cross, a fast but more technical course with steep climbs and run-ups divided by fast power sections.  Throughout this year I have had more success in the mountain bike races.  Thus, I had expectations that this course would better suit my abilities.  It was fast and fun despite the cold and windy conditions.  And after a few laps chasing fellow Masters racer Bob Vernon again, I felt like I was getting faster through the turns and building more speed and power through the straights.   I would pick off another competitor through or just after the set of barriers on each lap.  A top ten finish may be in the works this week.  However, I would have to settle for a 15th finish.  Jeff and Jerry would gain podium spots this week in the tandem and Cat 3-4 categories, respectively.  Congratulations gentleman and other DPT p/b PWV teammates for stellar performances.

Marilla Cross, organized by Gary Rodosta and Mark Glass, was the third race of the series.   A fun, near Halloween, event on a very technical course that brings out the festival atmosphere of cyclocross with costume-attired racers and horn blowing, cowbell ringing, we’re-not-satisfied-with-your-efforts-until-you-crash-or-puke spectators.  Now we’re experiencing cyclocross the way it was meant to be experienced!

Battling the Run-up w/Bob
Once again, I’ll find myself in a race with Bob V, alternating places throughout the race.  I would lose time with poor off and on-the bike transitions at the infamous, spectator-crowded Hill of Death for the first two laps while picking slots between crashing racers and their bikes.  My near-masterful transition on the third lap would be done alone, with no spectators to witness.  I would eventually finish just out of the top ten again in 11th place.  In addition to racing, I got the chance to learn and experience a little about working the pit for Derek during the Cat 1-2-3 race as he would demonstrate pro-like transitions twice due to rear tire flats. 

A day or so after the Marilla race, Superstorm Sandy would cripple many areas of the eastern US, as well as any attempts or desire that I may have had at training to improve on the second half of the season.  She would eventually dump in excess of 18 inches of nice white snow at my house.  I figured I may not be able to ride, but I can break out the xc skis for a cardio workout.  However, as luck would have it , we experienced loss of electricity for eleven days due to trees collapsing power lines throughout Preston county.   Inside temperatures quickly plummeted to 47 degrees, and so did my desire to exercise knowing there would be no warm shower afterwards.   So, for nine of the eleven days, my workouts consisted of carrying five gallons of gasoline twenty feet from my truck to the generator once a day, and pull-starting a stubborn generator more times than I can remember each day.
Sandy at least gave us a couple weeks of winter
scenery like this one along my driveway.

So, the next race would stay in Morgantown for the two-day Monster Cross.  Maybe now I can ride again.   Nope… in all of the excitement of the superstorm, I had completely forgotten that I had to attend a continuing education course that same weekend to maintain my license. 

Finally, I was able to return to cyclocross action the following weekend at Bruceton Mills and again the following day at Raccoon Valley.  Out of shape and not too sure I remembered how to ride a bicycle, I struggled at Bruceton Mills for a 15th place finish.  And, although feeling better on the bike, I managed another 15th place finish, which places me in the overall series standings at 16th with one race to go. 

Dynamic Physical Therapy powered by Pathfinder WV cycling team has had an excellent showing this year with Jeff G. dominating the tandem races, and podium finishes for Mike V., Jerry A., JR, and Anne F.   Congratulations!

Thanks again to all of our sponsors that provide us the opportunities to race, keep us clothed, and maintain our machines throughout the year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A turn of Speed: Turkey Trot 5k

About a month ago my family decided they wanted to do a 5k race on Thanksgiving.  We talked about which one we'd like to do, and settled on the Huntington Turkey Trot.

We were going to be in Southern WV for Thanksgiving at my Grandmothers, so it was an ideal distance away, and all the money raised went to a no kill animal shelter.

 Everyone was going to do it that was able: My Dad, Mom, Sister, Wife, Uncle, and I.

My Mom is coming off of 2 years of injury, my Dad a year.  I've run once in the last six weeks.  My sister and I did a 4 hour ride through the mountains (5000ft climbed in 40 miles) only 36 hours before the race, her longest ride ever, and the longest time out exercising at once.  My wife doesn't especially like to compete, and my Uncle doesn't run at all.  Because of all of this, we all decided that we had to make this really fun and less competitive.  No worrying about times or places- this was about family- matching homemade tie-dye t-shirts and all.

Left to Right: Jeanine Audet, Jerry Audet, Tim Audet,
Cheri Audet, Tony Audet, Gus Audet, Carly Audet

We got up pretty early and were at the race over 90 minutes before the start (we had to drive 2 cars).  I ate a Raw Rev bar on the way to the race and sipped on some Camelbak Elixir.  Getting there early was actually not a bad thing since there was only 2 TWO port-a-potties for 1100 people! My parents had picked up our race packets the night before so there really wasn't much to do.  And it was cold (low 30's).  So we sat in the car for a while doing nothing, just chatting.

30 minutes before the race I shed some clothing and went for a 20 minute warm-up.  I did it alone- Jeanine (sister), Carly (wife), and Tim (Uncle) said they'd rather just sit in the car.  My mom had already left for her warm-up, and I didn't know where my Dad was.

My warm-up was simple.  Go out and get sweaty.  My legs were still sore from the previous weekends cyclocross race, and I hadn't done anything the day before so I needed to make sure my muscles were warm- especially given the temperature.

The course is very flat and I ran about 1.2 miles out the course and turned around and came back.  On the way back I did some stints of "race pace"- not really knowing what race pace was I just targeted 6:45 mile pace.

By the time I got back and put my race shoes on, grabbed a Honey Stinger Gel, and shed my warm-up cloths I had about 10 minutes.

As we were all standing there a reporter from channel 13 news in Huntington approached us and asked for an interview!  We ended up making the news both on the website and on the 6 and 11 news.  They interviewed my father and I for the story.  You can find it here.  Unfortunately I can't find the video.

I said good luck to Carly, Jeanine, Tim and my Dad and my mother and I walked towards the front of the line.  The music was blaring and we were excited.

Oh yeah, did I mention I had a turkey carcass on my head?

Open your eyes and you'd run better
My mom wanted to duck into the group about 1/4 of the way back, but I told her she should just come to the front.  She's fast, and I knew she'd get stuck behind folks if she tried to start too far back.  No idea where the rest of the group lined up.

I started on the second line.  I could see there were some folks around me that shouldn't be, and certainly folks in front of me too, but I didn't care.  I'd rather not be on the front line at the gun.

I did some warm-up strides at the timer ticked down.  I decided to wear shorts, gloves, and a long sleeve shirt after my warm-up and I was pretty chilly.  In retrospect I think I could/should have worn tights and then a short sleeve shirt or maybe the long sleeve and no gloves.

At the gun I started conservatively, or what I felt was conservatively.  There were some folks way over their heads right from the get-go as usual, and I tried not to get suckered in.  It was clear that there was 1 guy that was going to put the hurt on everyone else, and besides that I was pretty much right in the thick of it at top 10.

But I glanced at my GPS and saw it said I was doing a 5:35 mile and I panicked   What the hell am I doing running a 5 anything mile!

So I decided to just settle in a bit.  No sense in trying to push- I had no idea if I'd even make it to the turn around at this rate.

But it did feel relatively easy.  I guess cyclocross has taught me how to really hurt, and this felt almost comfortable.

Until the turn around that is.  I was in 4th place at that point, and just tailing this college aged kid in front of me.  At the turn you had to go around a couple corners and then head back.  Although the course was pretty much flat, you did climb slightly all the way back - think 0.5% grade.  And when we started, the guy in front of me started to fade pretty quickly and I passed him in the first tenth of a mile after the turn.

Things were starting to fall a part a bit for me though.  Aerobically, I still felt ok.  Legs, ok.  Joints?  Not so much.  My right knee was starting to hurt pretty badly, and my left ankle felt AWFUL.

I continued to push, and as I traveled back, all the folks coming towards me started to cheer me on.  They liked my hat, which I constantly got remarks about.  It really helped me grit my teeth and just keep turning my feet over.

As I approached my sister coming the other way, she yelled "the guy in front of you is definitely in your age group!  Get him!".

Damn.  OK, just try and keep pushing.

I never even glanced at my GPS after that first 1/2 mile, but I felt like I was continuing to speed up.

I did reel him in a huge amount by the time I hit 1/2 mile to go.  But it was pretty clear he was still going to escape.  As I entered the long stretch of parking lot, my ankle was really bad.  I stopped trying to push, and just brought it home nice and fluid.

I crossed the line in a shocking 18:43, which is a 6:02 mile average (My GPS says 18:35 and 3.10 miles so not sure what happened there).  That's much better than I thought I'd do, and actually is better than a previous 5k I did in July in Morgantown (19:02) while actually still run training!  I got 3rd and 2nd beat me by 20 seconds- he was at least a minute ahead of me at the turn as I saw him and tried to calculate it roughly so I could see how much I had to chase him down.  So that's not so bad if I shut it down that much!

I immediately went back out on course to cheer on the rest of the family.  First, my Mom got 9th woman overall, and top in her age group at 22:19 (43rd out of everyone!).  Next was Dad with a surprising race as well at 25:45 (162nd).  Jeanine did an impressive 26:07 for 178th place.  Carly had a PR, despite this being her 2nd race ever and going out too hard AND running with our dog Gus, for a top 50% (520th) place.  Uncle Tim walked it, the furthest he's walked in sometime, to round out our group (not even last in his age group!).

By the time Tim crossed the line my ankle was KILLING me, and my knee wasn't good either.  And I was freezing.  I ate a banana, and drank some water- and got out of my awful race shoes which have since been thrown away...they had way too many miles on them and I should have got rid of them before Savageman.  Lesson learned.  Just hope I can get myself back to pain free by Saturday...haven't done anything since...

We hung around for the awards, which my Mom was the sole person in the group who got one, and then jumped in the cars and went home.  After that, we all had a great afternoon and evening over consuming of many delicious foods and beverages.  It was a really fun, and surprising, day!

Now if I could only get my knee to stop hurting....


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An End to Cycling Season (Almost)

With just one last race remaining for me, I have to wonder, where has the time gone?  I can recall just last year, finishing up my first season of bike racing.  How far I've come since them!
My last cross race will be the first day of West Pennsylginia Series/State championship finale.  I'm looking forward to racing another new course, though my off season legs leave speed to be desired...

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to compete in Bruston Mills Cyclocross, I'd been battling an illness for the week previous, and only after pre-riding the course on race day, did I decide that I was in no shape to race.

I'm really looking forward to next season, when I'll give criteriums a go, and hopefully be able to race in the Tour of Tucker county.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pittsburgh Night Ride

Having worked in Pittsburgh for the last 4 years, I am almost ashamed to say that other than the 2010 Dirty Dozen, 2 seasons of oval racing, and 2 Steel City showdowns, I haven't taken the bike and ventured out to explore.  But twice in the last 7 days, I've had the pleasure of enjoying a night on the rail trails around Pittsburgh.

The first night, I failed to properly charge my phone and the battery level wasn't sufficient to take any pictures, so I decided that I would soon take another ride and be sure to share some of the sights I enjoyed. With the holiday season soon upon us, the Christmas lights that have already been put up make things even more beautiful out there. 

So last nights ride was kind of impromptu. I through out a Facebook message and Mike Janeiro decided he wanted to join up.  He also has limited riding experience in the 'Burgh, so our options were going to be limited, but the weather was supposed to be nice so off we went. 

My work is literally steps of f the NorthShore rail trail, so I decided to leave my truck parked at work and ride down to the SouthSide to meet him (where we would eventually finish) at the Over The Bar Bicycle Cafe. After enduring the harassing remarks about riding if my full team attire from the old ladies downstairs, I jumped on the bike and hit the trail. I had some extra time to kill so I turned west on the trail and headed away from the city. I knew the trail ended just a short ways beyond work but I figured that I hadn't been that way in a while so it would be nice to see some new turf.

After a mile and a half, the trail ended, so I turned back around and started slowly pedaling towards the city. Even without the Christmas Lights, the Pittsburgh skyline is gorgeous, don't you think?

I made my way over the Fort Pitt Bridge and headed for the SouthSide to meet Mike. I got to REI a good 15 minutes early, so I poked around and explored a bit while I had a chance. The Cheesecake factory was SCREAMING my name, but I knew that we were eventually ending up at the OTB for dinner and I didn't want to spoil my appetite for the $1 tacos I'd heard about the week before. 

I met up with Mike and we decided to keep heading east on the trail to see where it led us. I was surprised to discover that just a few miles into our ride, we were met by a chain link fence and warning signs for trail users to proceed no further. Again, I turned around and headed back towards the city. When we got to The Point, it was finally dark enough that the lights on the tree were fully visible.

All in all, the ride with Mike was uneventful. We pedalled roughly 20 miles in just under 2 hours with several stops to take in the scenery.  We made it to the OTB and ran into one of Mike's friends from the MTB scene. I'd seen Dan Depenhart at some races previously but never talked to him. super nice guy and seems to be falling in love with CX racing. Thats always a bonus in my book. The tacos were as described and WELL worth the ride. After eating, Mike and I parted company, and I made the 7 mile ride back to the garage. 

Along the way, I couldn't help but be amazed at how many rabbits were out on the trail. Literally hundreds of them. Earlier in the night as they came up as a topic, Mike pointed out that in any other city, they would be rats, so we should appreciate the fact that they were just bunnies. As I continued on, I stopped to take a few more photos to share.  As pretty as they are, photos just don't do it justice. You really need to set aside an evening and ride around the city to see things for yourself. I know that I will be making another trip out into the cool night air real soon. 
hit me up on facebook if you want to join me!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Some may say she is my tag-a-long but.................

I prefer to call her my twin engine! And for the last few weekends she has been right behind me on every ride I've done.

The most enjoyable ride, however, would have been last weekend when we finished off our 50mile / 3hr 30min ride at the William McKinley Monument in downtown Canton, OH.  Could someone please tell me how a 6yr old can have enough energy to run the 108 steps up the monument after cycling 50miles? 
Of course my excuse for not running up the 108 steps was because I had on cleats.  So after my little princess runs back down she tells me she wants to bike up to the top.  And so we did.
All-in-all I must say that I am really enjoying putting in the miles with my new training partner. 
Here is another pic of my training partner refueling with some yummy RAW REVOLUTION bars after our 50mile adventure.
Thanks for reading,

Monday, November 12, 2012

just some musing

As I was looking over's race statistics for me, it dawned on me that as of Sunday I had competed in 52 cyclocross races.  As of today, it only adds up to 44, but I am still waiting on Murrysville (x2), and Morgantown Monster Cross (x4) to be added to the results. Last year, I also drove up to  Kirtland to race, and almost a year later they have still failed to post the results with USA Cycling. Kirtland was even the next to best results I've ever had in CX and those dirty rats robbed me of my glory and probably jeopradized all the potential sponsorship money I had coming my way. I guess that's just another reason to despise the city of Cleveland. I should also mention that doesn't include the 5 races I've done with Rick Plowman on the tandem this year (4 wins and 1 second), but there aren't enough people racing tandems to really keep track of those results (at least that's what Colin Reuter tells me).
Anyhow, If you've ever had the opportunity (or some might call it the misfortune) of watching me race cross, you know that I do so for the love of the sport. Even though the race pictures don't always portray it, I am smiling like a butcher's dog when I am out there. And while I only have 3 career podium finishes (2nd at Kent State CX, 3rd at Kirtland, and 5th at West Pennsylginia) to go with my 31 career bottom half of the field finishes, I can honestly say that Cyclocross is my favorite discipline of the sport of cycling. Yes, I have multiple "road" wins and ABRA series titles on the road and in criteriums, as well as an ACA title at the Oval, but NONE of that is as much fun as an afternoon of cross racing. I make no excuses, I just flat out suck when it comes to racing in the dirt and grass, but I just can't help but love being out there. I'm asked all the time why I don't just concentrate on one class, but if I did that, I feel like I would be missing out on so much of the fun that I look forward to every weekend. Yeah, it would be nice to be consistently in the top 10, but I can't complain about all the fun I have when I am racing out there, even though I am slower than I want to be.

And looking back over the 52 races that are under my belt, the 2 days of Morgantown Monster Cross may have topped the list as far as fun times on a bicycle. The near perfect weather, the exuberant fans and hecklers, the awesome course, the picturesque setting, and the camaraderie of fellow teammates, all added up to be one of the best weekends ever. From the first race on Saturday to the final laps on Sunday, it was an A double U E awesome time. Next weekend is another double up with Bruceton Mills on Saturday and the rescheduled Raccoon Cross on Sunday.  Both venues have been awesome in the past, and I have equal expectations for them going forward. I hope you grab your bike and give it a go, I promise you won't be disappointed. Come out and see what its all about! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Am I to old to be a mountain biker?

So I don't have a cyclocross bike or race cyclocross which is what most cyclists are doing right now.  And riding my road bike by myself has been pretty boring lately.  So I decided to dig out my Trek 820 from the garage that I bought in 1994 during my senior year of highschool.  I believe the last time I road the bike was probably sometime in 1998 during college.  I drove to a nearby park to ride some trails and within the first mile I felt like a 9yr old boy on a bmx bike again.  I was loving it even in the cold rain and even when I went down 30minutes into the ride because my bike handling skills suck.
So if riding this antique 2 wheeled machine is this much fun then how much more fun is racing a 29er through mud, navigating switchbacks, over rocks, and everything else that mountain bike racing offers?  Plus, can a boy, or should a boy, approaching is 40's with horrible bike handling skills attempt to get into mountain bike racing? 

Either way I am having alot of fun riding this old hoopty even with the tag-along and my Addie girl riding behind me.  Yes, that black looking thing on the seatpost is for a tag-along. 

Thanks again to all sponsors.  Honey Stinger has made my rides very yummy.
And camelbak is keeping my thirst quenched.

And ABRA racing is the best road, crit, cyclocross and mountain bike racing series around.

Ride on......


Murrysville CX: CRASH and FLAT

Last weekend I decided to travel North to Pittsburgh to compete at the annual Murrysville CX (cyclocross) race.  It seemed like a well respected race, and it's only about 80 minutes away so not too far, and the regularly scheduled ABRA race that was supposed to be on Saturday got postponed.  So it was a no brainer.  Especially because it gave me another chance to go at it before next weekends State Championships.

We (Carly and I) got a little lost but showed up in plenty of time for me to get all my stuff out of the car, put together, and then go pre-ride the course a couple of times before the Masters race started.  It seemed like a long course, with lots of straights and a run up that was rideable by many.  So not too technical- bummer.  And it had a long (200 yards+) section of pavement where you gained all your elevation as you crossed the finish line.  Spoiler: unfortunately there was also only a 1 sided pit area, which was directly adjacent to the starting area.

I wasn't feeling stellar, but after only 1 easy day on the bike (plus a 40 minute run and 2 hours of XC skiing that left me very sore) it wasn't super surprising.  I figured I just needed to get a good warm-up in and I'd be fine.

So that's what I did.  I spent time on the course riding around (probably 15-20 minutes), some time spectating, then about 20 minutes on my trainer, then another 10-15 minutes doing hot laps on the course again before my race.

Photos Courtesy of Greg Flood
 I got to the line early because I heard there were no call-ups.  I lined up dead center in the front row.

As I stood there, I took stock of how I felt.  Fine.  Should be fun.

The whistle blew and I took off like a rocket.  I quickly got the lead from the field, and as we got to the first corner I slowed considerably as it was clear I could let off a little and still be first to the grass.

Everything was going fine.

Then, as I rounded the second corner, no more than 40 or 45 seconds into the race, I caught my wheel in a little divet, and slid out.  Only my second time this season I've hit the dirt.  But, unlike last time, this was to have dire consequences.

Because it was so early in the race, the riders behind me were very close, and going very fast.  As I went down, everything went into slow-motion.

The first rider swore, and just rammed into me.  He slammed into my back and flew over the top of me, his bike twisting and getting caught in mine.  Another rider stopped short but still clipped me (I think) and the others scrambled to get around.

I quickly got to my feet, riders passing on left and right, and ran with my bike.  My back was really hurting.  I also felt like I was in shock, and I was breathing really hard.

I jumped back on the bike and by the time I got my feet into the pedals I was probably in 12-15th place.

It took me at least a lap to even bring myself back to reality.  I was so out of breath, and I felt like there was a giant chunk out of my back.  All I could picture was a big meaty piece of flesh just ripped from my back, bleeding profusely.

But I was relatively fine.  After getting yelled at by Carly for a while, I snapped back to life.  I grit my teeth, and got to work.

After another couple laps, of much swearing by me, I worked my way into 3rd place.  In fact, I was in 3rd place with a solid gap to 4th.  But another rider was moving up.

Once I was past everyone it was clear I was going to catch, I started to sag a bit.  There was a lot of motivation to pass folks in front of me after the crash, but once past them...the effort began to wear on me.

On the 4th lap it was clear the guy in 4th was going to catch me.  After 3/4 of a lap of trying to put attack and stay ahead, I decided to slow up a little and see what would happen if I let him catch me (That is, I had the thought, I can just get a little rest, and then ride his wheel, and out sprint him at the end.  Since it's a non-series race, I might as well try something new?).

So of course, he caught me about 1/4 of the lap through the 2nd to last lap (lap 5).  I did exactly what I said I would.  I jumped on his wheel, and was thinking...damn, this might work!  But, as we crossed a section of gravel, I hit a big rock and I heard the horrible, horrible sound of air escaping from my rear tire.


So, now I'm in trouble.  I'm only a 1/3 of the lap in and I have to make it all the way over to the pit which is all the way back at the start.  I yell to Carly, "TELL DEREK TO GET IN THE PIT I HAVE A FLAT!!!".  Derek was there getting ready for his race.

All I could think, as I watched 3rd place ride away, was "I can't believe this is happening, and my F$%&@#G tire better not roll off the bead".

Everything quickly went downhill from there.  With no rear tire, I slid out at least three times after that.  And, I couldn't get up any speed because I had no traction and was afraid if I hit something hard the tire would come off and I'd have to run.

Well it didn't.  Thank god.  But by the time I got back to the pit, I was in 6th place.  Damn.

I rode into the pit and chucked my bike.  Team manager JR was standing there waiting for it...and I didn't see him!  Oops.

I grabbed my pit bike- my single speed- from Derek and rode out.  Pretty quick.  Nice job guys.

As I rode away, I was pretty mad, and tried my hardest to catch 5th place, but my SS didn't have as good of tires.  And it was tough, being tired, and pushing the gear in some areas.  No spinning on the SS.  But I race on this bike, so not sure why it was so bad this time.  But it felt like my legs were lead and I couldn't put any power down.

And then I slid out 5 times in the first 1/2 of the last lap.  I also caught my bars on the tape of one of the corners and it stopped me dead, and I ripped the tape.

So by the second half of the final lap, I was battling for 7th place.  I attacked through the back side of the course and through the barriers, and had a small gap.  In hindsight, I should have pushed the advantage and attacked through the twisty slalom section.  But I didn't.

So when we hit the pavement with 50 yards left to go, the guy with the gears jumped out next to me and blew by me like I was standing still.  I rolled over the finish line, exhausted and pissed.

Bad race. Yes.

Fun race?  If not for the crash, it would have been fun.  Power course, not a lot of technical stuff.

But there is positive.  Even with all the crap that happened, I still got 7th!  That's pretty amazing given how bad it was going.  And while I got no upgrade points for USA cycling, I did get prize money from the 7 deep pay out.  So I got to buy some chili and some hot cocoa from concession.  The chili was awesome.

I hung around and watched Derek's race, took some video, and spent time hanging around the fire with the team and other racers.  That was the most fun part of the day for sure.

Next weekend: Monster Cross.  So excited.

If you'd like to see some videos from the race, CLICK HERE, and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sunny and Sixty

Again a big thanks to Fred Jordan
 for the awesome photos

This past weekend was the start for the West
Pennsylginia cyclocross season, with Kick Off Cross in Point Marion being the first in the ABRA cyclocross series, and Month of Mud's cyclocross race in North Park.. After a hard fought couple days in Baltimore For Charm City cross I was hoping for some better results locally, now that I have had some time to do some cross specific drills and training.

As I was loading up the car to head to Kick Off Cross I noticed that the thermometer in car read 27 degrees, and was thinking to my self now this is 'cross weather.  After I arrived at the park, I grab a bite to eat, and head over to pick up my numbers and sign in. from registration I see my team-mate Jeff's truck and head over to find Jeff and Rick Plowman adjusting the saddles on the tandem JR was lending them, thinking this will be interesting to watch them try to race this with no practice. I watch the first lap of the cat 4 race then remembered I had to get a move on as i was going to be racing the single speed class which was up next.
 As with last year on the nice day and where the course wasn't mud I brought out the gorilla suit and raced in it, it seemed pretty early to break it out but with such a nice day and a dry course I wasn't sure when I would get to next. I got back to the car suited up and spun around on my 36 year old bike which i had converted to single speed last season. in the gorilla suit I rolled down to my team mate's Derek and Anne to see if she is ready for her first 'cross race, Anne will be racing the same time as me since the single speeds, start with the women. In gorilla suit I manage to freak out a few dogs.  I get back to the course to see the finish of the cat 4 field, a little while after the first few riders finished and the course opened up I go spin around the course and try to familiarise myself with it.  At this point it was about 60 degrees or so and in the suit I was already sweating a good bit and dreading having to go the full 45 in it but I was committed to finish the race in the suit. 
I lined up at the Back of the field after call ups figuring a repeat of last time wearing it and being lapped by almost everyone. At the back of the field with the cat 4 women telling them they shouldn't lose to a gorilla,  after the whistle blow we were off and I was content just to go along at a easy pace and not push to hard with a second race later on in the day. I got a little carried away the first lap and started moving up through the back of the field a little bit. after the first couple laps I eventually caught Greta's wheel and she was setting a comfortable pace for me and I sat there for a while, while just trying to keep up I could here some spectators telling her that she had a monkey on her back (that made it all worth it to race in the suit). I eventfully passed Greta on the run up and started to catch the next woman in front of me which was wearing a Pathfinder Kit, unsure at the time who I was actually following but she had a bit more of a kick coming out of the turns then Greta did and I had to push a little harder to keep up but I sat on her wheel for a while just trying not to over cook myself before the next race. I got around the Pathfinder rider and saw that just ahead was another ride so I pushed a little hard to try and catch them but not long after I started gaining some ground the strap holding the goggles in the mask in place snapped I had to stop and remove the mask since it was becoming a hazard since I couldn't see. as I was stopped both the Pathfinder rider and Greta passed me back up. I got lapped on my last lap by the top 8 riders in the single speed class, a lot less than I had thought would.

The 3/4 race I was a little anxious since it was my first time racing the higher category and wasn't sure how it would end up. We got going I started within the last couple rows of the field but made it up to the top 50% by the time the dust settled. About half way through the race I was leading a group of 3-8 riders I realised this when I clipped a gas line marker and was launched from my bike, my bike went to the outside of the tape on the inside of the turn and I had landed and rolled outside the tape on the outside of the turn, saving me from being ran over. As I laid there trying to catch my breath and focus on trying to get back into the race, I scrambled to my bike dodging riders diving through the turn and hurried up the run up. I had landed on my hip harder than I had thought, it made running a pain. I was soon at the back of the field only a couple of people behind me and was trying to keep the behind me and work on the riders slipping away. I soon realised that this was futile and couldn't find the motivation to put the power down, and just settled into a rhythm to finish the race.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder are teaming up with the Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association to collect canned foods at the Nov. 10th & 11th, Morgantown Monster Cyclocross race at Camp Muffly... You can also help out by stopping by Camp Muffly next weekend from 10am - 3pm and drop off your canned goods for local food banks!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Early Autumn = Epic Rides

Early autumn is a time for change in West Virginia.  The leaves begin changing colors, while the temperatures and humidity levels reach pleasantly comfortable levels.  For a cyclist, autumn is that time of transition between the road/mountain bike seasons and cyclocross season.  The four to six weeks when bicycle rides focus less on training and more on leisurely rides that remind us of why we became interested in cycling…before the interest in competitive cycling. 

For myself, early autumn has become the time of year when I search for that ‘epic’ ride of the year.  The one ride, or weekend of riding, in which I get to travel to try new mountain bike trails or ride scenic roadways.  This may involve a relatively local destination in WV, a weekend trip to Asheville and Bryson City, NC, or a cross-country journey to Fruita, CO or Moab, UT. 

Trying not to fall off the mountain
 during a Honey Stinger Waffle break
This year, I would join Travis, Joe, Stew, and Dave for a revisit to the North Fork Trail between Franklin, WV and Seneca Rocks, WV.  The trail known to many as the Gnarly North Fork traverses the ridge of North Mountain for 24 miles with more than 4800ft of climbing over alternating sections of smooth and flowy to rocky and don’t-fall-to-your-right-off-camber singletrack.  The main attractions of this trail, other than the trail itself, are the many scenic overlooks of Germany Valley, Spruce Knob (WV’s highest point) and Sceneca Rocks that it offers throughout the ride. 

Our previous ride two years ago was epic enough to justify another trip.  Then, the sky was clear and sunny, the temperature began in the 30’s and reached the 60’s, and the leaves were in full color. This year the conditions would only be slightly different... according to  The forecast for that area of the state called for temps in the 30’s that were to reach the low 50’s and a chance of rain in the early afternoon

Shuttle was set.  Everyone was dressed to ride.  Tires were properly inflated. And, our camelbaks were filled with water, food, and lighter layers of clothing for when the weather gets warmer.  That was the first mistake…well, responding to Travis’s facebook trip invitation may have been the first mistake.  But, for today my first mistake would be the decision to dress moderately warm and shed layers in anticipation for the afternoon warmth.  .   (Side note:  don’t trust any weather forecast for elevations above 3000ft) 

So, I’m clipped into the pedals and ready to ride just as the first snowflakes begin to fall.  That’s right, snowflakes on October 8th.  No problem.  “They won’t last when the temps get warmer” I thought as we began to roll out.  Two miles into the ride, I’m finally warm with feeling back to my fingertips when we suffer the first mechanical of the day.  Thanks to a thorn, Travis was forced to resort to use a back-up tube in the rear tire and the rest of us resorted to a few jokes at his expense. 

Joe Sheets on ridge of North Mountain
Rolling on and snowfall getting heavier, the first sighting of wildlife—deer with antlers ‘as wide as handlebars’ would help us forget about being pressed for time due to available daylight and back to enjoying the trail.    We reach our first overlook several miles in with an anticipation of some great scenic view of the valley.  However, all one could see was a wall of falling snow.  The only bright leaf color to be seen was straight below us over the rocky ledge of the ridge.  No reason to stop at any other overlooks now.

Trailside repair with small parts and cold fingers
A few miles later, we were making great time, moving faster along the ridge than we had two years earlier.  The snow was beginning to stick to the ground.  But, the trail was really fast, particularly the downhills.  Occasionally, I’d get tossed from the bike or forced to dab through the off camber rock gardens.  Then, we suffered our second mechanical of the day.   You would expect something common, another flat, a broken chain, or a problem shifting.  But, Joe would have a screw fall out of the derailleur hanger on his Cannondale Flash 29er.  A possible fix with a small zip tie? Maybe.  Or, a conversion to single speed? After several attempts to cannibalize replacement screws from other parts of the bike, a small screw was removed from the little plastic ring that holds the brake line to the body of the Lefty fork.

After a few more miles of climbing we reached the dirt road that comes up the eastern side of the mountain near Smoke Hole.   I followed the road over the ridge with a slight hope that it would offer a view of the snow-covered valley, when a camouflaged figure appeared from the tree line.  A friendly greeting would hopefully settle any frustrations that this hunter would have with us potentially invading his hunt.  However, he was a squatter of sorts who had lost his job and home and had been living with his wife in the woods for a month now in a tent made from tree branches and an old plastic tarp.  A few minutes of listening to his down-on-luck situation, we realized we had neither seen nor heard anything from his wife except a rustling in the tent.  Then, he invited us to stay for lunch…a gesture that raises concern for anyone familiar to Looney Tune cartoons.  Either he is a generous sole willing to provide us what little he had for some company…or, we would be his lunch.
Dave Burns and myself wondering 'is this guy for real?'

So, a quick good-bye to this gentleman would send us on a high-speed descent on a dirt road with snow stinging our faces and other exposed skin.  For the next couple of miles, I would realize that now matter how miserable the riding conditions were, things could be worse.  I was pretty lucky to be able wake from a warm home, brave the elements for a little outdoor recreation, instead of living day to day in these conditions without a home or job. 

At our halfway mark, the singletrack would alternate from fast downhills to steep climbs until we reached the final peak.  From there the riding became much more technical with steep drops, challenging pine and laurel root and rock gardens, and narrow twists and turns.  Joe and Travis would impress the rest of us with their technical riding skills and dramatic crashes into the laurels lining the trail. 

Cold, soaked and eager to return to the truck, we would hit the most enjoyable section of the ride through fast switchback over loose shale as the snow changed over to rain.  Once at the truck and a quick change to dry, but not nearly warm enough clothes, we would begin our dinner with appetizers of cold Dunkin Donuts and Coca Cola as we headed to the Front Porch restaurant for some hot chocolate and 4 large pizzas, and a recap of an epic ride.
Lots of pizza and almost too tired to eat

Thanks to ABRA and all of our wonderful sponsors for a great road race series.  Thanks to JR Petsko for scheduling month off between the road and cyclocross seasons to fill with some not-for-series-points epic rides.  And, thanks to Travis Olsen for the ride and post-ride photos.