Friday, June 28, 2013

Rrrrrrrraccccccccing in June 2013

The Fort Classic Road Race
The weather for The Fort Classic each year is always troublesome and has no middle ground.  It is either cold and raining or hot and humid (that’s it).  However, this year is was actually rather nice, so I was very skeptical on what was going to happen during the race since the abnormal weather had me out of my comfort zone, so I opted for the Masters 40+ race this year and it was a blast.  The field size was about 30 riders or so with some pretty heavy hitters, so it was going to be a hard day in the saddle since all Masters race together (40, 50 and 60+).

We started off on our 7 lap journey at a reasonable pace and hit the first little “up” in grand style and I crested the top in first position of the group.  Some attacks tried to go away throughout the laps, but could never seem to “stick.”  I was growing a little frustrated with the pace at points (for masters it was slow), so when it was my turn to take a pull, I just put me head down and did a strong effort.  I would look back, and the group would just let me ride right off the front, so I just kept going.  They would eventually pull me back around the start/finish line and then the cycle would repeat itself over the course of the next 5 laps.  HOWEVER, on lap 7, Frankie Ross (Masters 40+) put in a nice attack and two others were soon to follow.  I thought to myself, that I should go with this attack, but there were a few other strong riders that did not go with him  that I was sure would close the gap and I would get a free ride to the break and then I could counter attack when we bridged.

Live To Fight Another Day

Sure enough, we closed the gap to within 30 seconds and then the folks that were driving the group realized that there was no one in their age category (Masters 50+) in the break, so they shut it down and stopped racing.  I was forced to throw my cards on the table and I counter attacked as soon as that happened, and basically led out the sprint for the others. Oh well, that’s how it goes sometimes, but I’ll live to fight another day!!!

I tricked JR into standing by me.....


Note The Fancy New Kicks...

Bud Harris Grand Prix
Todd ‘The Masher’ Hauber was in the points lead for the ABRA crit series going into this race, so we were all committed to giving him the win in this race and retaining the series points lead.  The race didn’t break up all that much and Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team Powered By Pathfinder were definitely the animators of the race (especially Devin Corboy).   The team as a whole, attacked all race long to get things going, but it just seemed like nothing would stick.  At one point in the race, I noticed that the second and third place riders in the overall points for the series were up the road in a break, so I told Todd to get on my wheel and I would bridge him to it.  I put in a substantial effort and closed the gap to the break in no time.  Pretty much spent from that effort, I swung off and Todd catapulted to the break and I sat up and waited for the field to catch up.  As it turned out, that break did not stick either, so the race was going to come down to a field sprint.  The bell rang, and it was one lap to go, and I had to punch my time card for the day.  I got to the front, followed by Devin, and Todd.  The lead out train was at full speed and approaching the station.   I took my turn ant the front and it was then up to Devin and Todd to close the deal for the day.  Alas, it was not meant to be that day, but that’s how it goes in bike racing.  Overall, we still kicked butt and rode like a team, but more importantly….WE HAD FUN and that’s what it’s all about my friends.

Masher on The Podium.....

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Short Track Racing---Part 1

June has turned out to be the month of racing riddled with mechanical issues and lots of mud.  However, my best performance came on the first day of June, racing in an event that I had never before experienced...Short Track Racing.   ABRA held it's first ever short track event in Oakdale, PA at the same venue that Military Cross had taken place in the fall of 2012.  

Unsure of what to expect, I quickly discovered short track racing was much like cyclocross racing--fast starts, tight turns, hard accelerations, steep climbs, obstacles, and multiple laps in 35 minutes -- with the exception that obstacles can be ridden over instead of hurdled.  I had pre-registered and expected to only race the Master's class.  But, we had arrive early enough that I figured I would ride the Cat 2/3 race to at least get a feel for the course.   Although relatively short in duration, I quickly found that short track racing was more intense that I had expected, a 35 minute all-out sprint.

The Cat 2/3 race went well as I had reached the front position shortly into the race and managed to hold onto it while trying (but unable) to stay on Gunnar's wheel, in the Singlespeed race.

The Master's race began within minutes after the Cat 2/3 race, leaving me little time to re-hydrate and fuel up in the 90 degree heat.

After realizing a few days earlier that only 3 individuals had pre-registered for the Master's race, I figured I had at least a 3rd place finish.  However, I was more than surprised to see the number of day-of-race registrants that toed up to the start line.  A third place finish seemed less likely now.  But, another quick start and jump into third before the congestion of racers helped to get into third behind Gunnar and Frank Ross.  Although I never saw them after the first lap, I kept them as my 'carrot on a string' to push through the fatigue for that 3rd step on the podium...a satisfying finish.

June 2nd turned out to be a great day of racing for another Jones, as my 8 year old nephew and newbie mountain biker competed in his first ever kids race.  Showing determination, he raced his brand new mountain bike at North Bend State Park, WV.

A great finish awarded him with a medal and DQ gift certificate...Congratulations Kyle!

Congratulations to all Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling p/b Pathfinder teammates for outstanding performances during June.  And, thanks to all sponsors for making this season happen for us!

Best Fathers Day Ever!

On Sunday, June 16th I received the best father's day gift a cycling daddy could ask for.  I got to compete in a bike race with my beautiful 7yr old Addie girl.  Well, it was actually a Time Trial.  We rode together in the stoker / kid category and I must admit the girl was putting out a lot of watts!  Especially since her daddy was trying to save his legs for his run following.


This cycling season has brought a new kind of fun to me on the bike because two nights a week I have been training with my daughter. We either ride together on the tag along or we load the bikes up in the truck and drive to the school parking lot nearby to do intervals and practice our criterium racing skills. Last week we even hit up some trails to give Addie her first MTB experience.

 As a cyclist one of the best experiences has to be standing on the podium with arms raised. The few times that I got to experience that feeling was amazing, however, on father’s day I experienced something even more amazing. That was the chance to stand on the podium with my daughter!

It is also super motivating to have my Addie girl out there cheering me on.  When she is out there it makes me want to push harder to give my very best.  I guess I feel that if she sees me out there giving it my all and never giving up no matter how I place in a given field then hopefully she will have the same attitude. 

I really hope that Addie can get the same joy and happiness out of riding a bike that I get on every single ride.  However, even if she pursues other things as she gets older I am blessed that God has given me this time right now to enjoy this fine sport with my daughter.  Most non-cycling adults just don’t understand why someone would want to ride there bike everyday especially after a long day at work or in ugly weather.  To be honest, I really can’t explain it myself.  All I know is that riding my bike brings me so many things: joy, peace, relaxation, a sense of fulfillment, a closer relationship to my Savior as I often talk to Him on my solo rides, and it fills my competitive juices.


Above all I want to thank God for giving me the ability and the health to ride a bike be it in a race, a club ride, a team ride, a ride with my daughter, or a solo spin even if it's on the rollers.  I also want to thank my wife who supports my passion for the sport and often times goes with me to my races.  Being part of the Dynamic Physical Therapy cycling team powered by Pathfinder makes racing a bike that much more fun.  I really enjoy hanging out and riding with every single one of my teammates.  I also cannot say thank you enough to all of our sponsors.  Cycling can be a very expensive sport and the help from our sponsors goes a long way.  Please help me support all of these generous companies:

Friday, June 21, 2013

A picture is worth a thousand words

Sunday, June 16th was the Round #2 of the ABRA Mountain Bike Series Presented by Pathfinder. And while I do not consider myself a mountain biker, I try to get out there and give it a go occasionally, just to keep things spiced up. I'm sure I would be able to settle in and get comfortable riding a mountain bike if I put forth the effort to ride it on a regular basis, but when the opportunity to go for a ride comes up, I instinctively grab my road bike and zip out the door. Its usually not until I upload my data to Strava and see the daily adventures for the people I follow that I think to myself... "I should have grabbed my mountain bike. it would be a great day to be in the woods".

To set the backdrop for Sunday, you kind of need to how the previous 2 weeks went for me. On June 3rd, I got an email from work late in the afternoon asking if we had any trainers available to help out with a new location in Baltimore, MD.  Since I was covering a run that afternoon, I wasn't at my desk and I didn't get the email until Tuesday morning and I started making calls to find out exactly what was needed. Turns out, they needed me and at least 1 trainer (I have 4 total) to leave Wednesday night and be available to train new applicants on Thursday, Friday, and Monday. We had the option of staying through the weekend or coming home (if you EVER had to try to get out of Baltimore or Washington DC on a Friday afternoon, you know what I am talking about). We had no races scheduled, so I made the decision to stay the weekend and since I was taking a bike, I was really looking forward to spending a weekend alone in a new area exploring by bike. I was looking at it as a mini (and much needed) vacation. So on Friday, as we were making plans for Monday, the topic of staying through the end of the next week came up.
Surprisingly, not as easy as it looks

 At the last minute on Friday, I invited Amber and Mackdiddle down for the weekend since I probably wouldn't be seeing them on Monday evening like we had originally planned. She got there late Friday night and the three of us settled into the hotel room. Since Kenzie slept the whole way down from Pittsburgh, she was in no mind to fall asleep upon her arrival but by the grace of God, finally laid down after midnight. However, she was standing up in the crib staring at me at 6AM Saturday morning, ready for the day's adventure.

Her first day in Baltimore, I did what any self respecting Steeler Fan would do, took her out of town. Thats right, we packed up and headed to Washington DC. She is still way to young to really benefit from the trip, but I think every kid needs to get to the Nation's Capital at some point in their life. It had been years since I had last driven a motorcoach trip to DC, so I had mostly forgotten how to get around in the worst laid out city in the world, so I worked my way in, parked the car, and we set off to explore on foot. And then spent the evening at the hotel pool.
People watching (or character is more accurate) on the Mall

Who wants to be president and work here when they grown up?
A Million Bones... I say it would have been more effective if they actually used bones instead of  cardboard .
And it looks like they used rock climbing wall pieces for making their molds. What they heck are those supposed to be??
Sunday, we ventured down into the City of Balti-less and walked around the Inner Harbor. If not for being home of the Ravens, I might have considered the offer to transfer to help the 50 bus start up that is currently under way. But the day was short because Amber still had to make the long trip back to Pittsburgh and she is a nervous wreck if she has to even drive in Southside, let alone 250 miles amongst some of the worst drivers in the world.

The rest of the week I next week I spent standing in a blacktop parking lot, either dodging storms or trying to avoid the blaring sun. When I did get done early and had time for a ride, I would inevitably receive a severe weather alert on my phone. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash flooding... I saw them all. I did manage to get out on the bike and jumped on a "rail trail" less than 1/2 mile from my hotel. I was on Molly, my Cannondale CAADX cross bike that the awesome folks at Pathfinder set me up with, but in hindsight, I would have been better suited on my road bike, everything is paved down there.  
The most unusual animal sighting on a ride yet, an emu.
I got back to Pittsburgh early evening on Friday, and for the first time in a VERY long time, got to hang out, just Amber and I alone. It was nice to just relax and catch up and somehow ended up buying tickets to the Toby Keith concert.  Amber is always giving up her time to go to races with me, so this was just something that I wanted to do for her.  But Saturday morning came and we were off again, me to the ABRA Crit Series #3 and her to her sisters playoff game. I raced the 4/5 race with Shawn Geiger and I managed to finish in the top 10 with a big field. But I was spent. I didn't spend any time on the front other than when I was trying to slow things down for a bit while Shawn was off the front, and at the end, I felt like I had just ridden the entire time pulling the field around at the oval. I have definitely hit rock bottom endurance wise. Later that day, we headed to Niagara Pavilion for the Walmart Cowboy Roundup. I saw more bare midriffs than I care to remember, and that was just the guys. Somewhere along the line "country" has become synonymous with "hoochie" or "alcoholic". But it was all good, I came up with some great costume ideas for the upcoming HillyBilly Roubaix

Sunday, the alarm felt like a dagger in my ears.  Its been a long time since I felt that tired and when I finally realized it was raining, it made getting out of bed for a MTB race all that much harder. But I did get up and we headed out to Brady's Run. It was the first time there for me, so I was totally unaware of what was I was facing for the day. I unloaded my stuff and got dressed and new I should be warming up, but I just couldn't find the motivation. Finally, I took a lap around the park to just make sure everything was working on my bike before it was time to race. Everything seemed in perfect working order, except the legs. Oh well, I was just out for fun anyways.

Riding the Clydesdale class, I would be mixed in with the sport class doing 2 laps. I lined up at the back of the pack, where I knew I would soon find myself if I had started on the front line, and we were off.  My old Cannondale felt as good as it ever has. Snappy shifting, responsive braking, and no extra chatter from the drive train. At least I had something to be happy about. Then we started climbing and all the good I was feeling about my bike was soon converted to anguish as I worked my way up the hill.  I passed a few riders who had gone out too hard but also got passed by a few who somehow managed to get stuck behind me on the prologue. Near the top of the climb, I noticed a junior female off the bike in a ravine struggling with her bike. I had nothing to lose, so I set my bike aside and helped her back on her way. She'd only thrown her chain and I think she was a little in panic mode trying to fix it, so I was happy to be able to help her on her way. Back on the bike again, I climbed some more. Because of all the rain, the course was slippery and muddy and I have to admit, my Kenda Karmas never left me questioning my tire selection (and by selection I mean the only MTB tires I own.)  Thanks JR for the recommendation, you were spot on. I even like the little tread design they left on my leg when I was bombing down the descent and destroyed my pedal on that rock and went over the bars. But I picked myself up, dusted myself off (maybe mudded is a more accurate description), and continued on my way as I tried to clip in. After several failed attempts to get my left shoe attached, it dawned on me that maybe I had tweaked my pedal when it impacted the rock, and sure enough, I could easily see that the once parallel rods on my egg beaters were now anything but. If I was going to continue, I would be doing so with only one good pedal. 

And there she was again. Poor Veda was having another mechanical on the side of the trail. This time, her rear wheel had come out of the drop outs and she couldn't get it to realign properly. I pulled off the trail and went to work straightening things out for her. It took all of 30 seconds and we were back on the trail. But this put the two of us riding together with Stephanie Lamb and another rider along an old dirt logging road. It was mostly fast with some soupy mud holes and I settled in on Steph's wheel as we made our way to the completion of lap 1. Then it happened... Steph go squirrelly in front of me and slid out to the left. I had tried to avoid her to the left but saw the back wheel of her brand new Cannondale (see her post from 3/30/2013) and I knew that there was no way I was avoiding the inevitable and I crushed it full on as I went ass over tea kettle. I remember at some point that the might right foot was still clipped to the bike and the bike was somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 feet off the ground and falling towards us at an alarming rate. I did my best to steer the bike away from us as were piling up on the ground. My knees were all cut to heck but I was in one piece and Stephanie was reporting she was ok, except some mud in her eyes. I checked the bikes out visually and mine looked ok, other than that pedal. Hers looked ok, even though I ended up fully on her back wheel. I double/triple checked that she was ok and I started down the trail while she was rinsing her eye out. I felt guilty leaving her there, but I didn't want to offend her by possibly implying I didn't think she was tough enough to crash like that and still be able to finish (but she did get back on her bike and rode it all the way to #1 in the 1/2/3 expert field. WAY YO GO STEPHANIE!)
I have dirt in my eye too now
I finished out lap 1 without any further adventures. Lap 2 started with another climb up the hill and as I tried shifting, I heard the unmistakable sound of nothing. First with my rear derailleur... no movement up or down. Then with the front derailleur... still nothing. I again pulled to the side of the trail, but this time for my own mechanical and not someone else's misfortunes. The derailleurs appeared ok, and it seemed that the problem was in the shifter units themselves. I fiddled with the chain an force-fed the drive train into something a little more suited for climbing. I got back on the bike and started riding again. Still not able to clip both feet in and stuck in 1 gear for the time being. At the top of the climb, I found that by  pushing down on the big trigger as I shifted the rear, I could get the changes I wanted. However, shifting to an easier cassette in the back was a real crapshoot as it worked 1 out of about 10 times. The left trigger assembly was in a little better state as it just seemed to be stiff and needed a lot of coaxing with my thumb. On I rode with 1 good pedal, 2 bad knees, and thumbs that soon started cramping from the unusual effort they were being asked to make. Lap 2 was a lot less of an adventure and were only spiced up when Craig Cozza and a couple of  the other expert came hammering by as the expert field start lapping me. Damn, those guys are fast, even in the mud. When I finished I crossed the line and laid the bike down amongst some of the other finishers. An unidentified voice called out and asked how I was. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I didn't have any to say. But a post race photo puts into words what I could not say in that state of exhaustion....

Its true, a picture really is worth a thousand words. If this was all I posted about the Brady's Run MTB race, you could figure out for yourself how it went. But thanks for reading long enough to get to this point.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Summer-y of Events

re has been so much going on in my life that I have been neglecting my blogging pretty bad.  I am finishing up my PhD in the coming weeks, which is the start of a new era for me, and the end of another.  It also means I'm spending 8-12 hours a day writing and sitting in front of my computer trying to piece together a subset of the 5 years of work I've done to make some kind of cohesive story.  Doesn't really make me want to sit down and type more about racing, or anything else.

I am also moving half way back across the country to take a job as a heat stroke and high-altitude researcher.  Along with this comes all the tasks associated with moving- finding a place to live, packing, transferring car registrations, getting new bank accounts, etc.

Add in the 6 weeks of racing in a row, and you're left with little time to do anything but work, race, and recover.

However, before I get into the thick of summer and things get really crazy, I'd like to do a short recap of those events I didn't blog about.

I did a full blog on the Mckeeysport Criterium and the Greene County Road Race, and after that was the Wisp Mountain Bike Race, then the 9hrs of Cranky Monkey, followed by the epic Tour of Tucker County, and finally the Fort Classic.

Wisp Mountain Bike Race:  My first real mountain bike race ever.  The days leading up to it I was extremely nervous and was all jittery and anxious.  The night before I rode my bike at a local spot to make sure everything was OK- and it wasn't.  My chain wouldn't stay on the front chain ring!  Well long story short, I got a new one from Pathfinder from my friend Shawn and- adding more stress- installed it morning of the race with 50 minutes before the start.

It was pouring rain the whole morning of the race, and cold.  No one was really warming up.  I didn't either, just a short 10 minute spin around to make sure the chain ring was on well.  I had several folks comment to me about my Kenda slant sixes: "You're going to ride on those!?!?" and "How are you going to do it on those?".  I didn't care, I had faith in them, and while the rear was pretty worn down, I had them set-up tubless and didn't have my others (Kenda Karmas) tubeless so went with it.

The start wasn't nearly as fast as I thought, and with a little bumping and rubbing of elbows, I was in first within the first mile.  The course goes down for about 3 miles and then rolls and cuts through amazing single track.  When I popped out on the double track after all of this, and started the first hard long climb, I couldn't even see anyone behind me.  And so that's how the race went.  It was unbelievably muddy conditions, where I had to run at least a mile in the race if not more like two miles.  However, I did very well and ended up passing half the expert/pro field in front of me (I was racing sport) after only the first lap!  The laps were much longer than anticipated and in the whole race I ended up taking something like 4 gels and drank all of 2 bottles.

Despite having to stop and fix my rear derailleur, and crashing bad once, at the finish, I had about a 6 minute gap on 2nd, and another 10 minutes to third (a two time sport national champion or something like that, I was told).  It was an amazing race, and one of my happiest days on the bike.  Everyone was complaining about the conditions, but I loved it- and there is no better testament to the Kendas.  People were shocked, but I wasn't.  Closing comment: the course was incredible.  Even the waist deep creek crossing.

1st place mens cat 2/3 (of 28), time: 2:35, distance: 21 miles, 1565ft elevation gain.

9hrs of Cranky Monkey:  This race is an entirely different beast.  After much work, 2 days, and love with a range of Pro-Gold products my bike was ready again. I raced with team mate Stephanie in the Duo Co-ed class.  It's exactly what it sounds like- you race for 9hrs, and try to complete the most laps between the two of you.  I've never done a race like it (obviously, the weekend before was my first mountain bike race EVER) and was interested to see how it'd go.  While we were going to race hard, Stephanie and I decided we wouldn't stress about it.  I did the hammer ride and pedal for pints the days leading up to it, both race-simulation rides that leave me exhausted.  But going into it I felt OK- tired but not sore or anything.

I did the first lap and you have to run to your bike.  I was ~4th of ~250 people into the pit area (where you leave your bike and wait for your teammate) and 6th out of the pit and onto the course.  After the first lap I was in something like 8th I believe.  I was pretty excited about that!  Stephanie kept up the high pace and going into my 2nd lap (our 3rd) we had 2nd place in our category locked up already.

Then things started to take a turn.  My rear tire lost a lot of air on this lap, but I still put in a pretty good time despite taking it a little easier because I could feel the rim hitting.  By the time I got back, it was nearly flat (10 psi in it when I checked it).  When Steph when out again, I put more sealant in the tired, pumped it up, and rode it around.  It seemed to seal up fine.  I put a little extra pressure in it- like 30- and was ready to go on my 3rd lap.  Between each lap I was swapping out my bottle and trying to each 300-500 calories, and just socializing with folks who were camping and racing.  This 3rd lap is where everything went wrong.  After working hard to catch a fellow Morgantown racer on a Duo mens team (I wanted to beat) I was screaming down a rocky descent when I misplaced my line and went right through a large puddle with a big hole in it.  My rear wheel hit hard and my tire instantly exploded- the rim had already been weakened I think from the previous lap.  Remember- no tube in it, this was the tire that exploded.  I stopped to check and saw the rim was cracked.  I tried to put air in it, but it wouldn't hold.  Not having a tube (idiot) I just started running.  I ran for probably 10-15 minutes before Dynamic team mate JR passed me and gave me his tube and pump.  I worked on it for probably 3-4 minutes (not having a tire lever oops), got it inflated, rode literally 30 seconds and it exploded again.  I then ran another mile about, and got off the rocky part of the course.  I decided to just ride it flat after that.  So I rode the final 3 miles on a completely flat rear Kenda Slant Six.  And I was still passing people.

Got back, and Steph told me as we passed off our timing chip, that if I could get it fixed, I could do a double lap and we'd make up the lost time.  However, I was exhausted- that lap was over an hour and my others were under 40 minutes.  I got back to our area, swapped out my rear wheel to my old stock tube wheels, pumped them up to 50psi (no risks), and my friend Shawn of Pathfinder adjusted the derialleur.  I ate, drank a ton, and changed my kit.  I tried to relax but I was pretty exhausted from the stress of it all and having to run.  I wouldn't have been so worried if I didn't have a team mate.  Anyways, after eating probably 1000 calories, I was ready again.  I doubled up this time, and on my second passed third place to get us into 2nd again.  I might add that this team was none other than JR and his team mate.  I was getting REAL tired now.  Steph went out again and I just hoped I wouldn't have to do another double.

Well, JR decided to do another double unbeknownst to us until we saw him fly by.  So now, I'd have to do a double to take 2nd, or it'd literally come down to the last mile or two and Steph decided she didn't want to risk it.  So I did another double, finishing up for the team, and passing JR's teammate AGAIN on the final lap to secure our second place.  I was SO tired and my back hurt SO much that my final lap was extremely slow-  I ended up doing 7 laps and nearly 60 miles of mountain bike racing.  After the race we hung out and got our podium picture and award (nice timex watches) and completely wiped out Carly and I made the trip back to Morgantown.


Tour of Tucker County:  The next weekend was the epic Tour of Tucker county.  I have never done well at this race.  In fact, last year I did just plain horrible as I had raced my A race Triathlon the weekend before and with the travel and such just wasn't recovered.

I went into this years not caring about the result or my place or any of it.  It was just a 56 mile really hard training ride.  Just a reminder this course is the hilliest course in the series here in Appalachia and ends with the most incredible climb that is 3 miles long and gains almost 2000ft, maxing out at almost 30% grade in the middle.  However, it starts with a bit of flat and then a good, long 7 miles of climbing, and then some rolling bits and flat part, a killer down hill, some more flats and a couple kickers in the middle, and then the epic climb.  I led the first whole climb right on the front of the 4/5 field.  I set the pace and tempo, and I felt good.  At the top of this first climb the field had split in two, and we were down to about 20 racers.  By the end of the rollers we were down to 15.  After some more up and down, when we hit the flatter parts, we were a group of 13.

I felt good and continued to be at or near the front for the first 20 or so miles.  Then I tried to ease off and get out of the way, but an attack and break that slipped away and got out of sight made the group chase a lone rider for nearly 10 miles, which really hurt and made me think I was going to get popped.  I just kept taking my Honey Stingers and tried to be relaxed.  We caught him eventually and the group slowed immensely.  I took over the lead again and led the whole field at a very leisurely pace for about 7-8 miles again.  It was really nice to actually be racing not just time-trialing the whole time.  We'd surge on hills and people would do little attacks but mostly we'd just ride along at a steady almost slow pace.

Going into the final climb, all 13 of us were together still.  The pace picked up considerably on the long grade leading to the first hard pitch.  I took another gel (my 5th) and prepared for the coming assault.  The attack came right at the base (the winner) and I reacted but just couldn't hold his wheel.  It burnt me out and as I tried to recover a group of 5 riders passed me.  I was now in 7th.  I think, in hindsight, I gave up a little.  I was so happy to just be in 7th, I didn't even care about trying to get on the podium at first.  But then, another rider passed me and I could see 3rd place up ahead, and I started to think: A) don't lose your top 10 position, B) why are you not trying to get on the podium!?!?.  So I picked it up again, and passed 1 for 7th again, then another for 6th.  I was closing in HARD on 5th, but he looked back and surged and it took the wind out of my sails.  I worked back to him, but as I did I was passed by another rider with about a mile to go.  So now 7th again.  I could still see 3rd up ahead.  At 1 K to go, I almost caught 6th again, but he stood up and hammered and I just couldn't react.  I ended up finishing 7th crossing the line within sight of the podium, and absolutely thrilled with my race.

7th place Mens 4/5 (of 31). 3:11 (minus a little because I didn't stop my Garmin at the finish). 56.2 miles, 6,627ft elevation gain

Finally, the Fort Classic:  Let me start by saying, I wanted to win this race.  I have been saying it since January.  It's flat, with 1 small hill in the 8 mile loop that you do 4 times.  I thought it favored me (although now after Tour of Tucker county, can I really say I'm not a climber anymore?) and really liked it last year.  However, I was really not feeling well going into the race.  I was exhausted- the weeks of racing, and the stress of dealing with job interviews and writing my dissertation had just left me completely worn out and I had no snap in the legs, and no motivation either.  I showed up later than I wanted and did a little pre-ride, that turned into escorting the juniors state championship race because they had no lead car.  This left me off my routine.  At the start I was nervous!  Why!?!?  Silly.

The first lap was crazy.  There were 7 separate attacks- all spurred by hearing my team mate Jeff and I talking about tactics.  The made all the other teams decide to not let us do anything I guess.  The worst part is, me being inexperience and also wanting the win- I chased every single one of them down.  All of them.  In the second lap, I followed a very strong attack up the climb and as he started to falter, turned it into an attack of my own.  We crested with 1 other rider and about a 200-300 yard gap to the field.  But then, the others seemed completely gassed, and unwilling to work.  So I just gave up (another mistake I think).

After some bumping and yelling, things settled down again and another attack went.  This time it stuck for about 1/2 a lap, but when we got to the hill again, everything came back together and I led up the climb again.  I wasn't trying to, I just wanted to stay at the front and was going my own pace.  But in retrospect, probably should have just chilled.  The final lap was a bit faster and I did hit the  hill hard.  Then, with most of the group still together, I worked hard at and on the front to be in a good position for the final sprint I KNEW was coming.  I had other racers comment to me after that I did way too much work that final lap, and while this is true, I also had to make sure I had my position secured as I had no team mates to help (they had fallen to the back of the group).

Coming down the final stretch things really heated up and the guy from Nu-Go I had raced with at Greene County did an excellent lead out for his team mate.  I tried to counter but ended up having to start my sprint on the front, from 300 meters.  I was swarmed and dropped to about 8th-9th with only 100 meters to go.  I stayed on the full throttle, grit my teeth and kept the sprint going, and just eeked out 5th place for the podium- with 1st no more than 2 bikes length, and 4th about a wheel.

Lots of stuff I could have done differently here, including saving my energy for a real attack, but I was happy to get on the podium again.

5th Mens Cat 4/5 (of 30). 1:32. 32.4 miles,. 1430ft elevation gain.

Sprint Finish!
So that's it.  We just got back from a weeks vacation (bad timing, but that's another story) where I ran a total of 3 times (only ran 4 times all of April and May) and got in the saddle twice.  Well, besides all the cruising around on the beach cruisers we got for the week!  But, we fished a lot and I caught my first Black Drum!

Next up is the Hilly Billy Roubaix, that b&#ch of a race- this coming weekend.

Not sure what races I'll be completing after that between now and cross' season, but I'm sure there will be a few.  I hope to blog about them, but you may not hear from me nearly as much for a few months....

Thanks for reading!

Photos by Myself, Fred Jordan, and Swim, Bike, Run Photography

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What a Ride

       Well, I've had a lousy past couple of races.  A midnight trip down the stairs left me with a back injury for the McKeesport Grand Prix and the Green County Road Race.
       At the Wisp XC Challenge, my bike's brakes became completely useless after the first two miles, kind of disappointing, but there were many other racers suffering the same kind of fate.
       The Tour of Tucker County was next, this was my race.  I knew that if I could make it down the descents with the pack, I would have a shot at making the podium.
       The race began on a nice descent, there was a crash about 20 seconds in, but I wasn't involved!  I stuck with the lead group, but I stayed toward the middle, trying to conserve energy for the infamous Sugar Land Climb at the end.  Jerry set the pace for almost the entire first climb, and dropped many competitors, I think he had the group down to 10 or so by the time we reached the top.
New (top) vs. Old (bottom)
       As I crested the hill, I shifted my bike into the big ring, you can probably imagine my dismay when my bike emitted a crunching noise, and the cranks ceased to turn.  I tried messing with the front shifter, but I still couldn't pedal.  As I watched the pack quickly exit my field of vision, I decided to stop and try to fix my bike.  Well, it turned out that the front derailleur cage was really bent up, and my chain was pinched between the derailleur, crank arm, and chainring.  I used a stick to liberate my chain and partially bent back my derailleur cage, they are way stronger than you'd think!
Don't I look happy?
       I hopped back on the bike, and tried to catch up, but I still wasn't able to shift into the big ring without my chain jamming, and had to stop once more to un-jam it.  I came to love the 39x12 gear though.
       I eventually gave up my chase, and decided to enjoy the very scenic route, something I wouldn't have been able to do if I was racing.  I did speed up a little bit when going up Sugar Land though, the faster you go, the sooner it'll be over!
       Jerry ended up in 7th place, and to think, he was considering not racing!  I didn't actually do that bad in the results (22nd, I think) and I definitely enjoyed the scenery, the new course was top notch, and as fun as it was to ride, next year I hope to be able to race Tucker County.
       The day after the race, I stopped into Pathfinder, to get a new derailleur, they didn't have any in stock, but they ordered it for me, and it was in by the next day.

       The Fort Classic isn't really my race (I don't sprint so well), but I had a lot of fun there last year, so I was looking forward to it.  Unfortunately I lack the brain power to properly operate an alarm clock (and differentiate between AM and PM, apparently...).  I awoke a half hour before my start time with no hope of getting to Washington, PA for the start.

       I still need to get my MTB cleaned up, but it shouldn't be much of a problem with all the wonderful ProGold stuff, I'll have to post a before and after...  Then I'll race in one of ABRA's new Short Track races, I hear they are loads of fun!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Still nothing to brag about

This was one of the best of the weekends I've experienced in a long time. It started out with some course work for the ABRA's ProBike Short Track Series Race #1 on Friday night. Most people have no idea how much work JR puts into his courses. Having had the benefit of helping JR a time or two, I want to publicly thank him for going the extra mile every week, to make sure we have a chance at epicness. And this weekend was extra difficult  given that he proved to be harder working than most of the ABRA equipment as things kept breaking down all around him. JR, thanks for all you do to make racing happen locally. I hope you know just how much you're appreciated and never let a few idiots deter you from continuing to put on bicycle races.

... so after darkness halted the trail building, it was time to sit around a campfire with a few of my teammates (JR, Stephanie Lamb, Shawn Geiger, and Sean Hilty), enjoy a cold beverage or 6, and laugh for a few hours. I headed to my tent around 1AM and immediately fell into a deep sleep. Sometime before 2 though, I was awakened to something rocking my tent. I have no idea what it was or if I was only dreaming that it happened, but I laid there wide awake for a long time, trying to hear when my impending doom would try approaching again. I finally fell back asleep and woke up around 5AM, still holding the only "weapon" I had in the tent, a can of ProGold Blastoff. The stuff is fantastic for cleaning your drive train, but I knew it would do little good against a pack of wolves, a wayward lion, or the chubacabra I'd seen earlier that day.
Mythical creature my ass... These are a live and well in Oakdale, PA

As the sun came up, I did what all experienced campers do, I checked facebook and saw that Shawn had just checked into a cafe somewhere nearby. I thought about messaging him to ask for him to bring back a couple breakfast sandwiches, but then remembered that I still had some Krispy Kremes in the truck and Amber would be headed our way shortly to cheer us on. At 730AM, it was already 76* and even the slightest activity resulted in beads of sweat pouring through the skin. It was going to be a hot one for sure. Since I've only ever done a handful of MTB races and log maybe 100 miles annually on my Cannondale Caffeine, I signed up for the Cat 3 Beginner race with teammate Billy Slutz. Prior to the race, I told billy that I was just going to go easy from the start because I planned to do several more races throughout the day.

But when the whistle blew for the start, for some unexplained reason I pegged it, got the whole shot, and hammered down the twisty track.
 Hole shot secured... now to start drifting back thought he filed on the uphill portions
At the "bottom" of the course, I had opened up a fairly sizable gap on the field (proof that fat has more gravitational pull than bone and muscle combined). Shortly after the trail turned and we started climbing back up towards where we started, I was passed by 1 rider, as we headed into the short piece of "single track".
Still testing the limits of the old school Lefty
Immediately after we climbed the bank out of it, I was passed by an E2C2 rider and then Billy. By the time I got to log crossing, I had fallen to 6th but was right on the wheel of 5th place. I held my position to the finish of lap 1, and after clearing the off camber hairpin, I used the gravitational pull of my fatmass and moved into 4th place on the downhill where I stayed throughout most of the race. When I came across the finish line the second time, there was a small red and white box sitting on the course to one side of the trail. My initial instinct was to grab it but I hear JR and Dennis telling me it was a prime, so I sat up and left it there, only to hear them both sigh in disbelief that I had failed to bag the prize. That didn't happen again the rest of the day. Lap 3 I grabbed a dollar out of a coke can
and lap 4 I scored a saddle bag, and for the first time in my life, I was somewhat disappointed that the race was done on lap 5.  I did get passed half way through lap 5 and fell to 5th place, where I ultimately finished, but it was FINALLY a podium position for me. And what made even more awesome was that Billy "Bearpaw" Slutz hammered his way to the well earned victory.
Podium photo, check! but now I want to be photographed standing on the boxes
After a 35 minute break, I got back on my Cannondale and went to the starting line with the rest of the Cat 2/3 Sport racers.
No wonder Gunnar always gets the damned hole shot on me. He's cheating while I'm tweeting
I was again joined by Bearpaw, as well as Shawn Geiger and Chris Jones. I had secret visions of me hammering at the start and grabbing the hole shot again but when the whistle blew and the legs were asked to respond, I knew immediately I was out on a training ride. I did manage to start the race in roughly the top 5 but not even the gravitational pull on the downhill could help me maintain my starting position as rider after rider rode on past. Finally, Billy caught up to me and said something to the effect that he was feeling tired and wanted to just ride around the course. I got on his wheel and we agreed to try to ride together and enjoy the day. Into the single track and up the little climb, Billy just kept inching away from me.
I actually had to work hard to stay with him to fulfill my end of the bargain. As we approached the starting finishing line, we were riding side by side
so I backed off so that we could each take a shot at grabbing the prime, but as we made the last sharp turn towards the finish, low and behold, JR was still propping it up from a previous failed attempt by another rider to grab it. BOOO!, lets get on the ball son, I have a cross bike to build up for Amber. On the downhill section, I just let the bike roll and opened a bit of a gap on Billy, something I was very happy to have because I knew he was SOOOOO much stronger on the uphill portions than I was.
230#'s chasing 155#'s uphill
It worked out perfectly I think, he pushed me to try to stay on his wheel on the climbs, which is his strong suit, and I pushed him to try to let his bike roll on the downhills, which is better suited to my strengths. for primes, I scored a set of light up bar plugs on lap 2 and then a set of bar end plugs  that were lying flat on the ground. I even impressed myself with that one. I guess it pays to have 37" sleeve lengths for some things. Billy finished in 10th and me in 11th, but it was one of the most enjoyable days on the bike in a long, long time.  I can't wait until round 2.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Springtime extracurriculars

Outside of cycling, I've been working on a few new things this spring. My yard was begging for a garden so it seemed like a nice additional hobby. I grew up gardening with my family but this will be my first attempt at having my own garden. It will be a nice learning experience that I can eventually share with my children too. Since this is an old farm I have high hopes. The view makes for a really nice work atmosphere. 

I've also got a few chickens that will hopefully be making some delicious eggs in the next couple months. Eggs and breakfast foods are one of the few things I can actually cook correctly so I'm looking forward to their production. And eggs are a critical ingredient in one of my favorite ride foods: rice cakes. They've grown up so amazingly fast!