Sunday, March 31, 2013

Morgantown Road Race

Yesterday I finished up the first big race of the year: the Morgantown Road Race. I never expect this race to be my finest performance simply because I don't ride much during the winter months. Training had been going generally well in the last month as far as consistency is concerned, although I had the flu last week and that created a bit of a setback for several days. As a result, I didn't know what would come of today's race. I did know that it was a beautiful day with sun the entire time, very little wind, and temperatures in the 50s. Very nice for March. 

I was really pleased with how well things were going for the first two-thirds of the event. There were a few attacks but nothing that stuck and overall everyone was riding smoothly and safely. Despite this fact I am still not fond of being in a group of greater than 20 riders. Perhaps I was feeling too good because my brain begged me to push the pace on the first major climb in hopes of reducing the rider numbers. I tend to like that climb up Sugar Run Road with its big sweeping turn and higher gradient at the top. I don't particularly like the large rollers that are on top of the ridge though because the prior climb kicks my butt so much. This is a section of the course that can really separate riders out though and my push worked well to instigate a split in the field. I could barely see or hear at the top but I was excited to see the separation. The pack in the front had about 12 riders and we maintained that gap down the large descent. 

Approaching mile 30 while descending Woodside Road I was mentally prepping for the next climb when I suddenly had my drivetrain's rear derailleur jam. I'd never had this problem happen in a race! Another rider was kind enough to briefly push me while I was trying to attempt to repair it on the move. The timing couldn't have been worse because riders come through that section at around 30 mph. Unfortunately I could not get the cranks to move forward or backward and I ultimately had to dismount my bike to fix the issue. Several seconds went by with my brain in a state of significant frustration as several riders came flying by me. I tried to get back into the next big group on the road but I was mentally out of sorts and my quads really didn't like that stopping concept. That group formed a small gap from me that I was never able to recover by riding alone. I rode at least 3 miles while being only 20 to 30 seconds behind them in no-man's-land. In the summer months I would probably be able to bridge that kind of gap but not this time of year after a hard climb. I found a rider who had fallen off the pack before I hit Kirby Road and we stayed together for about 4 miles. The final climb was not kind to him and I had to go it alone from that point to finish a disappointing 39th place in Category 3/4. 

I felt like my fitness was capable of a top 20 finish. Hopefully next time! I was pleased with how good I felt at the finish despite trying to maintain higher wattages in the final stretch of the race without anyone to ride with. Now I'm extra anxious to dig a little deeper and put today's training to use in our next event at the Greene County Road Race on May 4. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Cannondale Bikes!!

I recently got two new Cannondale bikes from Pathfinder of West Virginia!! The first one is the SuperX Hi-Mod Disc. So far I've only taken it on one ride since it is not cyclocross season but that first ride really tested the bike and got it really dirty as shown in the before and after pictures below. We went on some really muddy roads where the disc brakes were really useful. There was a couple of times that Jerry's bike would not move anymore because of all the mud in his brakes. Even though all the mud that the tires picked up made riding hard at least my bike would still move.This is the first bike I have ever owned with disc brakes and I think they are definitively worth it going through the mud and when going down hill. When I would go down some of the hills around here on my old bike I would be squeezing the brakes as hard as possible and only slow down but not stop. With the disc brakes I can finally stop on a downhill if I need to. 

My second new bike is the F29 2. When I went for a mountain bike with JR and Jerry I learned that JR knows some crazy ways to get from his place to White Park. The way there was kind of hard since we had to walk our bikes a few times but after we got to White Park the ride was a lot of fun. I've never ridden a 29er before so everything was very different since my center of gravity felt a lot higher than with 26in wheels. I got a flat on the ride but luckily I stop at Pathfinder of West Virginia before the ride to buy some tubes. The flat was the front tire so the lefty fork made changing the flat easy since we did not have take the wheel off to change the tube. Also, I learned that the pump that I won in last year's ABRA cyclocross series is the easiest, fastest, and effortless mini pump I've ever had.  It is the Cannondale Airspeed Nitro Mini Pump. After JR was very nice and changed the tube for me I started pumping it up, with little effort the tire was at about the same pressure I started the ride with. Any other time I've gotten a flat I've given up on pumping up the tire before I get to the pressure I really want but not this time because this pump worked so well. This ride also got my bike dirty, I like the mud but when will everything be dry so I don't have to clean my bikes after every ride?

Overall, I'm really happy with my new bikes! I can't wait for mountain bike racing to start soon.and I really can't wait until cyclocross racing starts

Monday, March 25, 2013

A New Year: Southern Cross

February is a tough time of year to be racing, or even riding really.  It's cold, and it's been cold for sometime- months here in West Virginia.

It's dark.  It feels like there's no hope, warm weather is far away over the horizon.  You can try and stay motivated, and I do, but it's the toughest time of year.  I'm glad it's March, even if it's been a tough March, and April is around the corner.

February is not exactly the time to be going and doing an epic 52 mile race, with 7000 feet of climbing on tough gravel "roads".  Especially if you've been out of the saddle for weeks.

Typical look for a ride this time of year
And yet, with my time in WV narrowing, I knew that if I ever wanted to do Southern Cross, it'd have to be now.

I just decided that I wouldn't worry about it.  I knew I could finish, the time and place were not important.  It was about finishing this time.  Next time?  Well if there is a next time, and I hope there is, perhaps I can think more about results.  But not this year.

Still I did get some solid base miles in, if not consistently, and I at least had a little base from my XC skiing.

So with this in mind, I headed south with some members of the team- Todd, Shawn, Jeff, and JR.  The race is a 10 hour drive south to the northern mountains of Georgia.  JR was gracious enough to rent a large van, and we piled all of our bikes and all of our bags into the van, and headed down on a Thursday morning.

I was very excited to get away from work for a bit of a mental break from the stress that was swirling around in my head at the time.  The race was something to focus on, something to take my mind off the hell I was in at the office.

After an uneventful drive, and a pretty nasty dinner at pizza hut, we arrived in Dahlonega, GA around 9pm.  We pretty much just got to the hotel and called it a night.

I slept great.  Shockingly.  Lights out, and I was asleep in no more than 10 minutes and I slept right through until 8 am.  Even after everyone was up and moving about.

The next day we hung around.  I walked to Dunkin Donuts and got some coffee, and some disgusting oatmeal.  We worked on bikes for a while in the parking lot, lubed everything up with our ProGold, and I snacked on various items I had brought with me- cereal, fruit, nuts, lara bars, etc.  I decided to just stick with water, nothing special for this race, and really just stayed pretty calm.

I got a little nervous when we decided to work on my brakes for a while- embarrassingly in my rush to get them on, I had seriously botched the install.  JR helped me get my new mini-linear pulls set up correctly and after that I had amazing stopping power.  It all worked out, and they worked a lot better after they were adjusted right.

Around 1 or 2 we drove to the course, I had to force them to stop so I could get some lunch- the story of the whole trip actually.  JR especially is like a camel, and doesn't eat much during the day- same with Jeff, and Todd just brought a bunch of stuff he munched on.  I don't know how they do it, without a real meal I feel awful- and wasn't going to risk anything the day before a race.  So I got a burrito from Moe's and ate it in the car on the way to the course.

On the pre-ride we had beautiful sun.  The weather was nice in the 50's and I rode in shorts and arm warmers.  We rode pretty hard- much harder than I would have otherwise, and much harder than I would next time.  In fact, I was actually sore the next morning from our hour and forty five minute, 22 mile, semi-hammerfest.

But, again, it was about the experience, and it was great to see the first part of the course, and the beginnings of the huge climb, and ride with my team mates, and chat about whatever we felt like.  I wasn't worried about it, really.  Which is saying something.

We then drove the course, and I tried to stay awake all the way back in the 3rd row as I got knocked around by the huge holes and trenches that were on the "road" we were to bike.  All dirt, except for a bit at the beginning, tiny bit in the middle, and then again at the end; it was looking like it was going to be epic.  Wish I could have kept my eyes open though...

But at the times I could, I saw huge sweeping corners looking over the edge of what were essentially cliffs; and with no tree cover this time of year you could see for miles.

While we were out driving, it started to get dark, and I was getting hungry- surprise.  So I ate some trail mix and a couple cookies Jeff's mom made him.  I was glad when we finally got back to town and picked up our race packets.  I was ready for dinner.

JR really wanted Chinese or some kind of Asian food, and picked out a Japanese place.  I wasn't so sure, and almost went with Todd who decided that Chinese wasn't for him before a race.  And with so many good choices of places to eat in town, I don't think he felt like he had to come with us..and neither did I.

But, I am SO glad I did go with JR, Jeff, and Shawn though.  It was the most amazing sushi I've ever had!  Who knew in the middle of the mountains in Georgia?  And I had lo mein, and hibachi chicken, and it was just incredible.  And all only $22 (8 pieces of sushi with soft shell crab, a salad, hibachi chicken, and side of lo mein)!  The place was called Hoka-Hoka I believe, and I encourage others to check it out.

We headed back to the hotel, picking up Todd on the way, and turned in.  Shawn worked on his bike a little (he was having creaking issues), and it resulted in being up later than I would have liked.  It probably wouldn't have mattered, as I didn't sleep much anyways.

I woke up feeling neither rested nor overly confident.  But we got out of the hotel quick, and everything went smoothly.

There was one little thing nagging at me- the temperature.  It was freezing.  No, colder than freezing.  It was in the high 20's by the time we got to the winery.  What should I wear?  There's so so much climbing, but also LOTS of descending.  And the elevation was going to mean it could get very cold.  I was going to wear just leg warmers, arm warmers, a warm sleeveless base layer, and an underarmor knock-off top (both under my jersey of course).  Warm gloves.  Warm gloves, and a cycling cap under the helmet.

Morning of the race I ate a pancake made by chef Gernert, a bagel, honey stinger waffles (2), cliff electrolyte drink, Gatorade and some cereal (frosted shredded wheat).  This was over a 3-4 hour period.

When I got to the winery (start site), I got my bike out, got it all ready, got myself ready, my drop bag, etc etc.  I was running Kenda Small Block 8's in 32cc- I wish I had 35's, but I didn't at the time (I do now!).  I decided on 68 psi in the back (I actually flatted the day before on the pre-ride) and 65 psi in the front.  The small blocks were the perfect tire for this race, unlike maybe the Hilly Billy.  I was using my flashpoint 60's with the powertap in the back, and of course was riding the 09' Cannondale CaadX.  I also ran my 11-32t cassette, like I always do on the 'cross bike.

As I got ready, I got more and more concerned about the cold.  I was freezing.  And RIGHT before the start I switched to a real winter cap, and stripped my sleeveless base layer off, and decided to use my awesome champ-system winter team winter jacket.  Could I be overdressed?  Yeah, but I'd rather be a little hot than freezing.  Oh, and my Savageman toe warmers.

A little warm-up (like 3 minutes of easy spinning) and I lined up at the start.  Probably about 40 people back.  I just lined up with JR, I had no idea where.  There were about 260 people pre-registered, and over 230 lined up at the start.

At the start, I took off easy.  People flew by me and JR.  I just took it easy through the 'cross course (there is a cyclocross course at the beginning- with obstacles and a giant run up) and laughed at the dozens of folks who blew by me.  Good luck fools- way to kill yourself on the cross course, I'm sure I'll see you in about 10 miles when you blow up.

Once we got past the log dismounts, the giant run up, and the cross tape, I settled into my actual race strategy.

JR pulled away on the pavement and I let him go- I know he's much stronger than I, and I am not about to chase after him thinking I can keep up.

I kept an even keel throughout the entire first portion of the race.  I talked to some folks, tried to stay out of the hammering that was commencing around me.  I don't know who these folks were, but they clearly had no idea what the word "pacing" means.

After a bit the pavement ends and the dirt begins...and the climbing.  The course is crazy, and I encourage you to look it up.  7000 feet of climbing that's essentially made up by 2 giant climbs.

I rode with team mate Todd for a while, and then lost him dodging people.

As soon as the little climbs started to come, people started to drop.  I just kept my eye on my powertap computer, and continued to let the legs spin.  No more than 10 to 12 miles in, there was a guy laying on the side of the road, practically in tears, breathing super super hard- he blew up.  I kid you not, I asked if he was OK and he said it to me.  TEN MILES IN.  What the...???

Anyways, I stayed even throughout all the first dirt part.  On the first major climb, I started going by people, especially at the beginning.  I tried to go TOO easy at the beginning- but I think I did it just right.  The climb just keeps going and going, mile after mile.  And, even though I didn't feel I needed it, I took a gel at the bottom- only about 45 minutes in.

I got into a good tempo and kept my head down.  And when it got really, really steep, I was still trucking.  I was shocked to see how many people were walking- I mean, I wasn't in the back either.  I was absolutely not going to be one of them.  I didn't in the Hilly Billy, I didn't in Savageman, I sure as hell am not doing it here.

Still, after a half hour of climbing, I was starting to see stars.  This was brutal!  If you lost concentration for even a moment, the rocks and rubble would get you.  If you let off a little, the soft, tacky road would leave you in a track-stand, unable to move.  The going was getting tough, and I was gritting my teeth.

But then...I caught a glimpse of someone ahead, someone walking.  Someone with a blue and white hat...wait...I know that hat...

It was former team mate Ben.

Oh hell, it's on now!

I have got to catch him.

So I picked it up.  I figured I was closing fast enough that I'd catch him before the top.

It gets rutted and nasty towards the top, and I had to focus on what I was doing, so I lost view of him.  But right as I crested to the first aid station, I saw him mount his bike and go over to the aid.

Hell yes.  I am ahead of Ben!  He's a freaking strong rider, much stronger than I think I am.  Maybe not this year...???

So I stayed on it, used him as motivation.  I have nothing against Ben, I like him a lot, he's super nice- even gave me some good career advice- but he's also super fast and I wanted to try and beat him!  Could I?

The climb, although it seems it, isn't really over for a few more miles, but I took the opportunity to take in a gel and a waffle and a huge gulp of Clif electrolyte drink.  I was sweaty and had my coat open, and my face was hot.  That would change.

While I've done a fair bit of climbing in my time living in WV, I've rarely done any descents like those in this race.  Once you crest the huge seven mile climb (which is really more like ten if you look at the map) it's six and a half miles of down!  Huge sweeping corners, blistering pace- all on gravel, washed out, rutted "roads"- it was amazing.

Right before I got there, Ben caught me again.  I knew it was going to happen, so I wasn't too surprised.  He pulled up next to me and we talked a bit, made some jokes, and then he slowly rode away.

The Finish!
But as we started to go down, I quickly caught him again.  And flew by.  I passed at least 10 people, at least, going down.  I was crushing it, and my confidence was soaring.  I connected all the turns and concentrated very hard.

When I got to the bottom, and was not focused on going down, I realized I was pretty cold.  My feet were numb, my fingers cold, and my body overall was definitely chilled.  I felt like my muscles were lead and it was hard going.

You hit pavement after the long down, and I was struggling to keep cadence or power up.

A guy from Rutgers pulled up next to me, he had been drafting me I guess, and said "let's work together".  I said sure, and we did.  We pulled each other along on the pavement to the next dirt section.  We talked a little here, but it was clear he was feeling stronger than I, and he took off as I settled into a better pace.

I ate some again, another waffle, and another gel, and worked on focusing on my cadence.

Here, the course starts to slowly climb again- it's not constant, but almost.  And you snake along next to this beautiful river.  I really did take the time to look around and take in the sights.  It's a very nice part of the country, no doubt about that.

As I spun along, Ben caught me again, as did several other people, and they all passed me.  No problem, I don't want to get ahead of myself, I know it gets crazy again soon.

I was starting to really hurt too.  My legs were burning, and my feet were totally numb, and I could feel fatigue building.  Still, I felt I was in a good position- if I could keep making contact with Ben like I was, I was definitely having a half-way decent race, if not a very good race, even if my time seemed a bit slow.

Here and there the road is a little soft like I mentioned before, and it saps the power out of you- it's very demoralizing, even though I knew why.  So I think I slowed a bit through the section between the pavement and the next large climb.  I actually was by myself a lot, couldn't even see anyone in front of me due to the corners and rollers.

But as I hit the next [very] significant climb, I started to think...damn you're getting close to done!

I took another gel, and started to think- you can probably let it hang out a little now, take a risk, put some power down!

So on the big 2nd climb (it's another 6+ mile climb) I dug a little deeper.

And it paid off.  I caught Ben again.  And the Rutgers rider that had left me some miles ago.

Coming into aid station 2, I knew I was having a good race.  I blew by, as I had plenty of drink left, and wanted to waste no time.

Ben and I swapped back and forth, and even did some work together- in fact, Ben told me he thought he was cooked and said he'd help me by pulling me along a bit.  Which he did for a little while, but I felt that it was unfair so I ended up riding next to him mostly.  We climbed together for a while, and then he'd get a little ahead, and then I'd catch up on a slight down grade, or a flat.

But as I approached the final down hill, the big scary one, I knew if I was with him, I could beat him.  I knew I could out descend 80-90% of the field here, and I was confident that the last little bit isn't long enough or hard enough for him to catch up.

So I stuck with him, worked hard.  And we crested together.

The only picture of me on course.
So I REALLY took some risks coming down.  My hands and forearms were screaming, as were my brakes, as I eked out every single minute amount of speed I could coming in to every corner.  And coming out, I treated it almost like a criterium- I was up out of the saddle powering away.

Despite my confidence and skill, I caught, nor saw, a single rider on this downhill.

Down, down, down through the amazing sweeping 90 and 180 degree corners.  When I hit the pavement at the bottom, I was freezing again, and my hands were very tired.  Hadn't felt my toes since mile 23- I was now on mile 43.

But I knew I couldn't rest.  I had to keep up the tempo, especially on the pavement, if I was to stay away from the handful of guys I kept behind.  And Ben.

So I stormed along- too hard probably.  And I could actually feel my stomach grumbling.  At that stage, usually I'm hard-core bonking and totally done.  But this time, for whatever reason, I wasn't at all.  And I didn't want to stop to eat.  I said, it's only another 6-7 miles, you can get there, no time to waste on getting another gel.


I caught a few folks on this section, and passed them.  Including a woman, the first I had seen (but there were several in front of me).  We went back and forth for a couple miles, then I actually rode her wheel for about thirty seconds, and took off again on my own.

I never looked over my shoulder, but I could feel those I had passed breathing down my neck.  I will not be passed this late in the race.

There is a bitch of a climb near the end on pavement that is just a slap in the face.  You think you're done, but then there it is.  And it hurts so bad.

When I hit this, I was chasing a group of 6 or 7 guys.  I focused so hard on trying to get them on this climb, but they actually got away.

Shoulda ate that gel Jerry.  Mistake.

I was starting to feel bonky.  Ut-oh.  It's fine, power power power, it's only another couple miles!

But then, it wasn't.  And when I thought it was supposed to be about 48 or 49 miles, it ended up being 52.  And while that may not seem like much, it felt like a million miles.

I just kept my head down, and hammered (well, relatively).  I caught the 7 guys in front, and launched an attack on a grade coming back.  One of the guys went with, and the rest dropped away.

As we turned into the winery, still no Ben.  I was starting to think it might happen!

My head was a cloud, and my legs were jelly now.  I couldn't talk, and I couldn't really see straight either.  I'll never say "oh it's just another X number of miles, don't worry about calories" again.

Because then, you have to do a run up.  And I'm not just talking about a small section of grass you have to stumble up, I'm talking a super steep, 100 yard long, muddy climb you have to push your bike up (I couldn't even lift mine at this point).

And there, the guys I had attacked caught me again.  And a couple passed, and as they did, one said "Where did you even come from?  We passed you miles ago!".  I only replied "I don't know".  It's all I could think to say!

I was losing motivation.  F&*%$ this stupid god damn mother f$%^*@g course.  It was a mantra in my head.  How dare the race officials make us do this last part- another cross course!  It's not fair, they're idiots.  Fools!

But of obviously I was not in my right mind at all, and I couldn't feel my feet, and I was flat out breaking.  I think it's a swell idea now- really icing on the cake.  But it's torture.

As I was thinking evil thoughts about what I'd like to do to the race director, I was barely moving along.  But then, ahead of me, I saw two other riders I knew- Derek and David.  Both EXTREMELY strong riders, always kicking my ass, and it absolutely set me a fire.  THEY WERE RIGHT THERE!  I'm like, what, 1 mile from the finish of an almost 4 hour race and there they are!  I can get them!

But they saw me too, and obviously had a lot more left in the tank than I did, because they rode away.

I tried to stay in it though, used this as motivation- look at who's around you!  These are guys who traditionally are much much stronger!  You are having an awesome race!  So your time is slower than you would have hoped, maybe the course is slower!  And this is the easy part, the cross course, this is the part you're good at.

And then I flipped head first into a brook.  Right in front of 4 volunteers.

As I picked myself up, my hands soaked and my ego shattered, I vehemently started cursing the race director again.

I couldn't re-mount my bike, and despite my stinging feet, I ran the next 100 yards of the course.

The Kenda Pro Team doing a Photo-op

When I got on my bike again, I could see the finish.  But it must have taken me at least 3 or 4 weeks to get there.  That's what it felt like.

But as I was only about 200 yards from the finish, the guy from Rutgers that I had worked with miles and miles ago came up along side me and passed me.  I said good ride, and he just nodded.

But then I thought- what the hell is wrong with you?  You passed him, this is the end, and you are not going to let this guy beat you in the last 100 yards!  So when he had to swerve around a spectator who wasn't paying attention and walked out in front of us, I stood up and sprinted for the line.  And I got it.

And I beat Ben.

And I ate a ton of chilly.

Time 3:53
Place 60th overall (all categories); 31st "Under 40 Men"
Avg Watts: 196
Best 60 min Watts: 241
Best 30 min Watts: 260
Distance: 52 miles
Elevation Gain: 6618
Total Elevation: 13252

I think I surprised a few people, including myself.  I think after a good season of cycling, and lots of cyclocross, has put me in good form to go into 2013 strong and much more competitive.  I hope.

After the race we had much discussion of what went well and what didn't.  JR had an outstanding race finishing in the top 30!  Jeff had a very very bad race, with 3 flats, so no surprise he was slower than anyone thought.  Todd was disappointed with his race, but he did really well for his first event of this kind.  He was just over 4 hours and in the top 100.  Shawn had a fine race too; especially for how few miles he had been riding.

The course was definitely slower this year, everyone was saying it.  It was tacky, it was cold, and there was wind.  All of which meant even the winner was significantly slower than in years past.  And the winning woman talked with cycling dirt about how slow it was.

So, some closing remarks.  It was an awesome event, in a beautiful part of the country.  Truly.  I probably should have gone a tad harder in the middle.  I probably should have worn shoe covers.  I definitely should have ate that last gel- gets me every time.  I definitely had a good race.  And, I definitely followed a great race strategy.

Could I have been faster?  Definitely.  Not being sore race morning would have helped.  But...could I have been slower?  DEFINITELY.

That night, we had calzones, and I was tired.   And the next day, I actually slept in the van- the first time in probably 2 decades I've slept in a car.  And ate a ton.  A ton.

Earned every calorie.

And now, a month later, I'm using the confidence from that race, to carry me through Morgantown road race next weekend.  Here's hoping it's enough.

My Intro to the Team

When one door closes another is sure to open...

I must say this new journey began last August when I spoke to JR Petsko regarding my interest in riding for a cycling team in 2013. Nothing was said at the time but apparently JR's wheels were spinning. At the end of 2012 I got an email inquiring about my Team Status. I didn't realize what I was getting myself into! I was sent a list of rider requirements. I thought it sounded great so I told the Team I was all in. Then I was sent about 40 contracts to sign. I actually got carpal tunnel finger signing all those sheets. As luck would have it I had Title Team sponsor Dynamic Physical Therapy for very personalized attention. I knew at that point it was a perfect team fit. 

All I really needed was to join a fun group of riders that loved racing their bikes. Again-I really didn't know what I was getting myself into! Look at that crazy rider with his mouth open trying to get some carbs and protein on this long training camp ride. Wait-that's me! Maybe the team didn't know what they were getting into!

Before March I had not met the teams 2013 riders. What better way to do it than have a 3 day Team  weekend! I would call the meeting more like a reunion than a meet and greet. Personalities were flying and I felt like we had always known each other. Well I guess a few of the guys/girls had already been training together but that's beside the point. 

Then came the support. I could not have imagined such a glorious spread from Team sponsors!

Since just before our first weekend together as a team we have been in constant contact. Riders are always messaging about races, race strategies, training etc. I don't think a team rider could ask for anything more. I'm super excited about getting this season underway. It an honor to be able to represent such great sponsorship and ride with such a great group of people.         


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fun at Malabar Farm State Park

This past Saturday Arryn, Addie and myself took a road trip to Lucas, OH to spend the day at Malabar Farm State Park.  We enjoyed the day spending time with our friends the Lautzenheiser's.  Joe Lautzenheiser and myself participated in the Malabar Farm Road Race.   We were blessed with a beautiful sunny day and although it was a bit chilly the 4 times we got to climb up Bromley Hill kept us quite warm.  On our last trip up the hill my buddy lil' Joe managed to squeeze out a 3rd place while I finished behind him in 5th.  Great job Joe I'm proud of you buddy!

While Joe and I were riding Arryn and Addie took a hike with Mrs. Lautzenheiser and her other two kids Erin and Chad.  Here is a picture of Addie, Chad and Erin playing in one of the small caves. 
The scenery on this day was so beautiful as many of the rock cliffs still had ice hanging from them.
And my lil' Addie girl had a great time hanging out with her new friend Erin.
I would like to think that Joe and myself got in a pretty good workout during the race, however, I think the "workout of the day" award went to Chad with his amazing hiking abilities.
Although I was the only Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling team powered by Pathfinder rider at the race I was always in good hands knowing I was rolling on Kenda Kaliente Pro tires.  And thanks to a quick squirt with my ProGold Luber Pen I had smooth shifting the entire race!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Soda Bread

  I posted a couple times last year about my baking, and this will be my first time posting a recipe that i use. St. Patrick's day is just behind us and was hoping to get this out before the day had passed but had forgotten about it, but better late than never. In the theme of St. Patrick's day i made a few loaves of Irish Soda Bread, not traditional Irish Soda Bread but more of what most Americans are used to.

Irish Soda Bread

  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups raisins
  • 2  tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup  sour cream

Place 9 inch cast iron skillet or a 9 inch round cake pan in your oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl beat eggs and brown sugar together.  Blend in buttermilk and sour cream blend, mix to desired consistency.

Add 4 cups of flour , baking powder, baking soda, salt, raisins and caraway seeds, mix until dough is sticky.  Add 1/2 cup of flour and knead in bowl about 10-12 strokes.

Put about 1/4 cup of flour of a surface, remove dough from bowl and put on floured surface, add another 1/4 cup of flour to the top of dough and knead till no longer sticky.

Remove skillet/pan from the preheated oven, and grease sides and bottom. Transfer dough to skillet Carefully pushing the dough down to fill the skillet/pan. Cut a X slit into the top. Optional brush with a simple egg wash for a shine.

Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F. oven for 65 to 75 minutes, until tapping the crust produces a knocking sound. Let cool and turn bread onto a wire rack.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An Introduction of Sorts...

The snow is falling again.  The brief warm up that hosted our team training weekend consisting of my longest ride ever and the first race of 2013 was short lived.  I’m staring out my office window in a Pittsburgh high rise at what is quickly become a near white out.  I’m still digesting the good conversation, beautiful scenery, 10th place result, and all the perks of being a team rider for Dynamic Physical Therapy P/B Pathfinder.  I’m feeling one of those perks now.  As I type my legs are still screaming after completing my Wednesday trainer workout courtesy of my coach and team sponsor Rob from Performance Coaching Services.  Riding in after that workout may not have been the best idea but I just hooked up my Ridley with a more commuter friendly Kenda tire and I wanted to put that new rubber to road so here I sit in agony.  This past weekend was a great kickoff to the season.  Good food and beer from the Morgantown Brewing Company on Friday, an amazing team ride on Saturday, and training race on Sunday. 
It's hard to write a first blog post.  Laying some foundation is probably important.  I'm a Pittsburgh native that has spent the past few years living in New York.  Professionally I have worked in the action sports world marketing brands like Salomon Snowboards and Red Bull before making a jump to the agency side.  Emily (my better half) and I decided to start a family and come back to Pittsburgh in June of 2011.  Emily and our Daughter Palmer provide a softness in my heart that all these tattoos can’t hide.  With fatherhood came lifestyle changes and a bicycle.  I spent years commuting in New York on track bikes and in March of 2012 I decided to pick up my first road bike.  Back to the family, I ride for them.  They are my motivation.  My Road ID bracelet reads “everything for Palmer” so when I think I can’t make another pedal stroke up a gnarly climb I force myself to think about telling my daughter I couldn’t do it.  I hope cycling seeps into her DNA naturally from exposure at an early age.  At 15 months she already has 5 cowbells and a tiny pink bike.  I pick my battles wisely and my family travels well.  Race weekends now need to be sweetened up with a country town, bed and breakfast, nice restaurant, and a result that I can live with.  After completing my first couple of races last year we took a trip to Lancaster PA for the Turkey Hill Country Classic.  I placed 4th in the 4/5 category and I was hooked.  Unfortunately for me, ABRA road races feature a lot more climbing.


Besides finding a new way to suffer through cycling, ABRA races have also provided me with a reliable family of like minded people from many different places.  All united by pain, bikes, and…during cyclocross season, BEER.  I remember showing up to my first few races so nervous that it took everything not to vomit and I had to force myself out of my car to warm up.  Now I look forward to riding alongside the folks that I only see on race weekends.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Whole Foods....

So if you've read any of my previous posts, you probably have come to realize that I absolutely LOVE to eat. And not necessarily foods that are good for me, either. And when I find a food I like, I eat it in vast quantities.  These eating habits have caused me to teeter right around the 230 pound mark for the last 3 years. Some times I am strong and dip down to 215ish but eventually I shoot back up to 230ish.  And anybody that has ever done an ABRA race knows that being on the heavy side is not helpful. JR likes to find the longest, steepest, and nastiest, climbs in the area to make you hurt when you're racing.  And given that most of my training rides this winter seemed to revolve around tacos, Sloppy Joes, or wings, I came into the racing season at my heaviest point in 4 years.

Something had to change, so when I saw a status on Facebook regarding a support group for a whole foods nutrition plan, I threw my name in the proverbial hat. I was shocked to learn that whole foods did not refer to whole pizzas, whole lasagnas, or whole bags of chips. All jokes aside, when I looked over the list of Green, Yellow, and Red light foods, I was encouraged.  I knew I was going to have to struggle with some of my food choices... no more AM soda to get me going; no more ice cream; no more pizza; and no more Krispy Kremes. But on the bright side, lean steak, fruits and vegetables, and whole wheat bread are still on the menu.
For a matter of puclic record, I started this diet weighing 228 pounds on March 11, 2013. My goal is to get down to and stay around 210 pounds or less. So... if your see me with something in my hand other than something healthy, I give you full permission to punch me in the arm as a reminder to stay on target. Well, everyone except Amber that is. She's likely to put a doughnut in my hand while I'm sleeping, just so she can hit me. :-)

By the way, if you're interested in joining me, let me know in the comment sections and I will hook you up with the details.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

When Will Winter End...

The winter of 2013 has seemed longer than winters in the past, with Super Storm Sandy dropping nearly two feet of snow in October 2012 to the six inches of fresh powder falling as I sit here in Preston County, WV on the second day in March of 2013.   Throughout this winter, the ground has been covered with enough snow to keep me off the least outside.

Misery loves company.  As you can see Nova provides excellent coaching. 

 So, winter recreation has involved  traditional winter activities, such as cross-country skiing and hiking, to the not-so-traditional activity of the day-long extraction my truck from a thigh-deep ditch.

An unexpected vacation from work.

Every few weeks, the temperatures will reach a level that all of the white stuff will melt.  For those brief moments I harness the cross-bike and explore some dirt roads (usually the day after, because as luck would have it I'm working on the warm days).  A couple of weeks ago Travis and I ventured out on some frozen dirt roads to see what Preston County could offer for Hilly Billy Roubaix training.   Within the first two miles we were careening down a icy road to Rockville, fairly certain that we were the only idiots brave enough to dare the 20 degree day...until we reached the Big Sandy River.  At that moment, it became obvious that there were indeed a braver breed of idiots.  Riding a bicycle on frozen roads seemed much less challenging than the whitewater kayakers competing in an organized, free-for-all, down river race just beneath the bridge we had stopped to take in some winter scenery.

Cannondale represented on Rockville Bridge
 over the Big Sandy River

Sponsor alert
Honey Stinger Waffles never freeze 

Throughout my years as a bicycle enthusiast, I have been presented with many mechanical issues requiring a little ingenuity to keep the wheels rolling to get home.  However, having my cables freeze over with mud was a first on this glorious day, just four miles into what would eventually be a 35mile ride.  My cross-bike had now become a 2x1 drive train with a shifter cable that had become frozen too thick to pass through the guide below the bottom bracket.

Many attempts were made to thaw the cable to provide at least a 2x2 system, from melting the ice with a still-smoldering road-side cigarette butt to peeing on the cable guide (don't judge...desperate times call for desperate measures).   However, nothing seemed to do the trick, until I poured some Camelbak Elixir from my bottle onto the cable guide.  The sodium content semi-worked for a few miles.   Eventually, the bottles froze to a slush too thick to be squeezed through the nozzle.

Camelbak Elixir...does more than replenish electrolytes.

For the next 25 miles I got to work on slow pedal grinds on steep climbs to intermittent fast pedal cadences when the front shift cables froze over leaving me with a 1x1 system.

Since the Dynamic Physical Therapy Powered By Pathfinder's Biggest (Canine) Fan Challenge was presented by Billy and Jonathan....

Can't wait until the new Nalini kits arrive...
Nova and Gus may never give these back

Friday, March 1, 2013

Uber Pain: The 30th annual Mountain State Marathon 25k

Wow, I can't believe February is gone, and March is here tomorrow.  I've been meaning to write about this race since the end of January, but keep forgetting.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures, so I'll keep the text short as not to bore you with a long read.

I previously wrote about XC skiing in the Morgantown, WV area, and I took it one step further on January 27th completing my first ever Mountain State XC Marathon.  I've always wanted to do it, and I've had my eye on it for the 5 years I've been in WV, but it's never worked out.  This year, I figured I had adequate fitness, the weather was supposed to be OK (although very little snow), and I didn't have anything to do.

Now, the last time I did a ski marathon I made my wife Carly promise to never, ever, EVER allow me to do another.  They're just insanely hard, I never have the fitness during that time of year, and I hated my last one so much (my ski broke 5k in to a 50k race, and I had a 101 temperature I didn't know I had until after) that I never ever wanted to do another.  So just talking Carly into allowing me to do it took a few weeks.  But eventually we decided it'd be fine- after all, thanks to the team I'm in the best shape I've ever been in.

...and then I was a little sick in the days leading up to the race, pretty stressed out about work, and totally worn out- so it really didn't look like it was going to happen.  But somehow I got my skis prepped with fresh wax and all my gear prepared.  I got about 10 hours of sleep the day before so I felt a bit better, and Carly decided the day before that she'd compete as well- but in the 10k race, not the 25k- so I decided I'd go for it.

My confusing take on the course.  The STAR is the start.  RED is from start through snow farm to first Ascent of 3 mile (to round top).  BLUE is first Descent.  GREEN is Gandalf loop/Orchard loop and 2nd Ascent.  ORANGE is final descent to finish.  So course goes red line to blue line to green line to orange line.

We got to Whitegrass, the XC ski center where the race is based, early enough to test out kick waxes (need for propulsion) and to get a good warm up in.  On arrival, I still wasn't sure which technique I was going to use- classical (traditional parrallel skiing you see most folks doing) or skate (a "skating" like motion in which your skis make a V shape).  Skating is faster, but I'm not nearly as good at it and it doesn't play to my strengths like classical does.

But, after signing up and seeing who was doing which race, I decide that the real race was going to be in the 25k skate, and that while I most certainly would win the classical race, I wanted to race against the big guns.  So I decided to test myself, and go for the skate race.

At the start, I knew I had made the right choice.  The weather was warm- too warm for my kick waxes to work I think, especially given the type of snow.  And I didn't have klister, which is another form of kick wax that is made for warm conditions.

There were only a handful of folks signed up for the race.  Probably somewhere between 20 and 30.  But there were some pretty serious folks in attendance- a former Olympian  a former Div I collegiate biathlete (XC skiing and shooting), a top ranked international orienteering skier, etc.

I wasn't feeling very sharp as I lined up, and had I known these folks were around me, I probably wouldn't have started so fast.  At the gun I took off after the leader nearly at full throttle.  I still couldn't keep up, and after only about 1k I was gased.

The course was....brutal.  You start out doing the "snow farm" which is essentially a couple of loops around a field.  Then you head out behind the center and up this trail- this horrible, hellish trail- called 3 mile.  It climbs an amazing amount interjected by 180 degree switch backs.  You finish that trail and climb further (although now not quite as insane) to a small hut, turn around and head right back down.  Once back to the center, you do a small section of narrow and hilly terrain, then back out to 3 mile and up again.

About 15 minutes in, and I was crushed.  Let me tell you, I've done a lot of different kinds of racing- running, cycling, triathlon, duathlon, adventure, etc- and I can absolutely say that XC ski racing is the most painful (I've done a couple other "marathons" both 25k and 50k).  Because you're using your whole body, your heart rate and respiration rate rise so quickly, and there just isn't enough oxygen getting to your muscles.  Plus factor in now the extra energy needed to fuel your lower AND upper body and it's no surprise that I have to be even more careful about bonking with XC ski racing- it sneaks up on me quick!  And it's just plain difficult, especially if you're not an expert in terms of technique.

Photo Courtesy of
So here I am, in 2nd place, barely moving, going up this mountain (first 3 miles is about 600 ft of elevation gain) thinking...why did I do this to myself again?  Definitely wasn't feeling it, and wasn't on my game at all- form was crap, system felt completely burnt out.  I took a honey stinger gel only 30 minutes in, and hoped for the best.

But I soldiered on, getting passed by 4 racers slipping into 6th place.  One was a woman, the ex-Olympian  so it wouldn't affect my place, but I count it none the same.

However, when I hit the turn around (about 40 minutes in) I started to feel a bit better.  And coming back down, through a combination of skill and double-polling strength (example of double polling here), I worked my way into 4th place.  I battled with a guy for a while, who had passed me on the up portion, before getting away.  I did the little loop around the center (couple miles) and headed back out for my second crack at 3 mile trail.

Us post race, thanks to Chip owner of Whitegrass

At this point, I became aware that 1 of the guys in front of me (the collegiate skier) had been racing the 10k, not the 25k, and was done (they did 1 loop of what we did).  So I was in 3rd, 2nd male at this point.  This put a little wind back in my sails, and I took the time again to slow so I could take another honey stinger and a quick drink.

Charging back up the hill, starting to hit my stride and feeling a bit more awake (but muscles torched from the strain of climbing), the guy behind me caught up to me again.  I started to push even harder, determined to make it impossible for him to pass.  Because even though he had caught me, he'd have to put in more effort to get around me since it's narrow and he wouldn't be able to use as good of form.

He stayed right in my draft and we ascended the mountain again.  I knew if I could make it to the top in front, I had 2nd place in a lock (spoiler: he did too, which is one of the reasons he didn't try to pass me because he knew he'd just get right in front and I'd blow by on the way down, he told me after).  So at the top where it starts to level a little more I put in a doubled effort and pulled away.

From there it was just holding it together and not biffing (a technical term) on the downhill switchbacks.  I caught carly on the last little section before the finish, which made her mad and put some fire in her race helping her secure a 2nd place finish in the womens classical 10k!  YAHOO!

Photo Courtesy of

I crossed the line totally spent and so happy it was over.  2nd place male, 3rd overall.  1 hour 56 minutes was my time, which I was happy with, since I thought 2 hours would be a tough goal- that ant it was my fastest 25k despite the terrain (granted I've only done 1 other).  I was very very glad it wasn't a 50k- no way I would have made it.  Here's the Strava link- hopefully it works

Carly and I hung around for the awards, I got a really nice waxing brush and she got a awesome wool buff, and then headed to hellbender burrito for a delicious (GIANT) burrito and guac with chips, and then drove the 2 hours home.

Glad I did it, but glad I've got some time to forget how much that hurt before the next one too...

Hope to get a report up from my experiences at Southern Cross.  Look forward to that...