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.