Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hilly Billy and Tour of Lawrence

The last two weekends in June both had very fun race, Hilly Billy and Tour of Lawrence. The Hilly Billy was a blast but only because I did the co-ed duo with Billy Slutz. He motivated me to keep riding even though I just wanted to walk a lot since sitting on the bike hurt after a couple of hours. I learned that 6-7 hours on my cross bike hurts my back a lot so I am going to look into how the bike is fit. Going downhill on the gravel roads was so much fun. I had some very skinny cross tires on but I flew by people who were riding their brakes down the hill. The disc brakes on my Cannondale SuperX really helped me feel like I was in control on the downhills. But for the uphills I decided about halfway up the second hill that I wish I had a lower gear ratio, so I had to do a lot of out of the saddle climbing and very slow pedaling to get up the hills rather than spinning up hills like I usually do. With all of Billy's motivation we got 4th in the co-ed duo!

The last weekend of June I traveled back home to Kansas to race the Tour of Lawrence. Friday night was the street sprints where there are multiple heats each with about four racers who sprint for about 200 meters. I got 9th out of about 25 women. My old teammate Vanessa won, she is a really strong sprinter. I thought she would win so when we were getting in line for the heats I tried to stay far away from her so I wouldn't have to race against her until the end. Saturday was the circuit race, the course was a lot of fun but I got dropped from the lead group early on a very bumpy downhill that a lot of the women around me seemed like they were braking on while the lead pack was pushing it down the hill. Sunday was the criterium which was a 1 miles figure 8 shaped course. This race was so much fun because there were 23 women in the race. Until one woman crashed in the last lap I think the entire field stayed together. The Trek Midwest Team (also called Midwest Cycling Community NE) had seven women in the race and they were using a lot of team tactics during the race. It was interesting to watch the tactics because most teams do not have enough women to use tactics like that. The only bad thing about this weekend is that I left almost all of my ProGold products in Kansas so my I still need to clean my cross bike after the Hilly Billy. I can't wait til mid-August when my mom is coming to visit and bringing my ProGold stuff with her.

My WV List: #7 The Weather

A summer gravel grind...

Being from New England, I'm used to about 3-4 months of "warm" weather.

Sure, there's years you get 5 months of nice weather- to ride, run, fish, hike, etc.

But here in WV, you get 6 months.  Or more.

A spring mountain ride...

Not only that, the rest of the year is mild enough that even in the bleak of winter you can still be active.

Yet, it's not horribly hot for the majority of the year, and there's still enough snow to entertain myself with.

I really think in WV you get all four seasons.  In VT (at least in VT where I lived) you really only got 2 or 3.

A late Fall evening road ride

Well, 4 if you count mud season.

Early Winter in Preston County

That's not to say I don't love New England weather.  In summer, the fact that it's so short makes it even more precious.  And the winters are epic for Nordic skiing and other winter fun.

Summer trail ride

But I will miss being able to ride in short sleeves in April, because the chances of that happening in New England are slim to nill, and here in WV it happens regularly.

A little skiing on the Cheat Lake Trail

Or fish well into November, when "back home" everything is starting to ice over...

A ride in Autumn along Sky Line Dr.
The rhododendron in winter

I bet it'll take me some time to adjust.

Which is fine, as it will serve as another lingering reminder of my time in WV.

Tandeming in July

Lately, I've broadened my cycling horizons, and trying out a completely new discipline of riding: Tandeming.  Our director-sportif, JR, was kind enough to allow my friend Cara and I to borrow his tandem, and we made quite good use of it.  Our first ride was around 30 miles, and it started out rough.

Riding a tandem is much different that riding a one-person bike.  Most notably, starting off is kind of tough, climbing is quite a bit more difficult on a tandem as well, but that is more than made up for by the speed you can reach on descents.

By our second ride, we were starting like pros, and both of us seemed a bit more relaxed that on the first.  We joined a dirt road group ride, sure, it was a little tough to navigate the technical parts of the "roads" but I think we did pretty well.

On another note, I was super disappointed to find out that all the remaining ABRA short track events were cancelled.  After working on the course in Gerard's Fort, I realized how fun it would be to race...  Jerry may be over the cancellation, but I'm not!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My WV List: #8 Grandma

8 is my favorite number.  It's fitting then, that I make it special.

There was really only one thing I was excited about for sure when I came to WV.

For well over 20 years I lived 700 miles away from my Grandmother.  She has lived in Hurricane, WV for the last 30+ years, much of it alone.  Well, not really alone, as she is a highly active social lady with lots of friends.

I don't feel like I got to know her very well during that time.  I'd see her at Christmas, and during our family vacation in Maine every summer.

Grandma trying a crayfish I caught and cooked
Besides that, it was only family deaths or reunions.

And that's no way to foster a relationship.

Being less than 3 hours away, we have got to spend a lot of time with her over the last five years.

Many games of skip-bo at Grandmas
Well, maybe not a lot.  Certainly not enough.  But more than we ever have before.

Since moving here, I've come to really know my Grandma.  She is a very smart lady, who is incredibly resilient and independent.

No one is as kind as she is, or as giving.  Just check her mail...or her message machine...she's got more requests for donations than anyone I've ever met...because she is CONSTANTLY giving donations to someone or something.

And Carly has got to know her too, and that has been really great.

So, moving here, I've actually come to miss her more.  I miss her more because I regret not having known her well, before now.

I cannot be thankful enough for the time spent with her.

So, when I leave Morgantown, she will be on my mind.  I will have a heavy heart as I make the long drive north, knowing what I'm leaving behind.

Here's hoping I will see here again very soon.

But it won't be soon enough.

Monday, July 29, 2013

My WV List: #9 The 'Cross Scene

So you can see the videos...

My WV List: #10 The Snail Trail, Cheat Lake Trail, and Botanical Gardens

When I came to interview at WVU, the first thing I did was run on the rail trail.  Literally.  We drove in from Pittsburgh in the evening, I went to bed, and the next morning at 6 am I was running on the rail trail.

I decided immediately I wouldn't spend much time on it.  Flat and straight.  BORING.

Which was true for a year or so.

But the "snail trail", as I like to call it, is unavoidable if you're an athlete in Morgantown.  Or it felt like it was.

And with time, it's become very familiar and very useful for me.  Now, I actually enjoy it.

Many creatures can be found on the snail trail
I use it a lot to do spin-outs, recovery rides, mental rides, or as runs/rides with people who aren't as fit or don't want to ride hard.  I also like to roller ski on it, which gets me some strange looks

And it really is the gateway to all the other places to ride in the's the super highway for cycling of the area.

Or running.  My friend Derek and I used to run on the snail trail to the might Mon river and swim all the time.

The trail is also a pretty wild place at times.  Dusk and dawn especially.  I've seen things on the rail trail I'd probably never see anywhere else...yikes.

The rail trail is a meeting place for all Morgantown cyclists.  For me, it's become a place of comfort.

Well, except for last weekend.  Ouch.

A stick jammed in my wheel on the snail trail.

The Cheat Lake trail is similar.  Except quieter, and more isolated.  Gus (our dog) knows it as "the licky lake".  Long story, don't ask.

When I lived out on 857, I used to go there all the time.  ALL the time, every day nearly, winter, summer, raining or 100 degree heat.  It's also a gateway, but not even close to the magnitude that the snail trail is.  But you can get to Mud pike via the stairs at the end of the trail.  And I've Nordic skied on the cheat lake trail multiple times, so there's that it's got over the snail trail.

Carly loves the Cheat Lake Trail
But to me, they both encompass the same sort of idea and feeling.

As does the botanical gardens (aka the Picky Park if you're Gus).  Except it's even more isolated, and you can't ride your bike.  Just running.  Still, it is an extremely peaceful place that serves as a sort of comfort to me when I don't want to worry about where or how much or how far.  I just go and do.

Unless they're shooting at the range, which is right next door.  Go figure.  Then, it's not quite as nice.

Sure, I've been on better systems.  The one in Westminster, CO that I spent some time on was really amazing.  But not as amazing as the one in Anchorage, AK.  Stowe, VT also has a really nice path.

But, when I look back and think about the good times on my bike, in my running shoes, with my cycling friends, etc., I always seem to think of these trails in Morgantown first.  It's because I've spent so much time on the trails, but also because of how much fun it always seems to be.

And the comfort it brings.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tour of the Valley 2013

PreTour of the Valley 2013.
pretty nice seeing dynamic up front leading the field
As I came into the road season this year and laid out my schedule, this was a race I came into the season to be peaking for and to place in the cat 4 field. The week before TOV was Mapletown RR this was a tune up race for me to see where my fitness is, as a I wasn't concerned with my finishing place I opted to help my teammate Jerry to secure his lead in the ABRA Road Race Series. As we had lined up to start the sky just started to open up and the rain was falling and the temp was in the mid 60's. This race felt really good for me, I was able to stay with the lead group of riders up until we crested one of the last climbs where I was unable to shift into my large chainring and spent too long trying to get it to. I lost contact with the group on the decent and the next several miles were on a false flat that tilted down, I was slowly losing ground on the group and was redlining myself to catch up, I was unable to pull back any ground. The last six miles I lost sight of the group and just set a steady tempo as not to get caught by anyone that was behind me. I cross the finish line very content that I felt that good and that without a mechanical I may have been able to hang with them up the final climb. About 25 yards after I cross the finish line I lean to the right to enter the parking lot and I could just feel the bike start to slide, next thing I know im on the ground, me and the bike scuffed up but nothing in too bad of shape.

TOV '13 TT
Didn't have clip on bars so
 had to go merckx style
The dreaded time trial, well at least for me. I'm not know for my individual riding efforts, so I came into this with extremely low expectations and looking to just do a personal best for a time trial. I do a warm up on the road since I forgotten my trainer to warm up on for the weekend, though not a big deal. I get to the line about 5 mins before my start time and just relax to keep myself from trying to start out too hard and get burned out for the second half. I figured in my head if I can finish within 18 mins over the 7 mile course id be content with that and would be one of my better TT. I start off and quickly get up to speed and settle into a rhythm, I got passed by my 30 second guy about 1/3rd of the way into the race though I kept him in sight to use as a rabbit to push myself but I eventually he slipped out of sight not long after the turn around. The second half I was giving in to my more realistic side, or some may call it a pessimistic side but I let the thoughts of realizing when my 1 minute guy passed me that no matter what kind of effort I put out in the TT I was unlikely to score points for the General Classification due to my lack of skill in this discipline and that I should hold back and save some matches for the road race the next day that was slightly better suited to my skills. I cross the line 31st out 36 in the TT at 18:09 just a few seconds off my own goal and over 2 minutes down from the winner, and almost a minute and a half to score points but it was still a personal best in a TT for me.
Don't look too gassed after 7.2 miles

The Road Race
I got to the venue just before the first races head off for the day more than 2 hours before my race starts. As i was laying out my stuff to start getting ready, i remember that my cadence sensor and heart rate strap had died during the time trial. I looked up where the nearest rite-aid was and took a short ride over to pick up new batteries, on my short ride I could feel the ride from the previous day even though I didn't go all out. I think back to Mapletown and try to figure why I did better there and kept thinking I stayed in the front. so thats what I did, I lined up towards the front and tried to hold it through the neutral roll out as thats where the crash was last year. My main goal was to just try to stay safe and to keep up with the lead group as long as possible. I sat in the group within the top 10 to 15 riders and took a couple of pulls, but focused on trying to stay in the group and to save energy. All was going well up until about 10 miles in, I recalled the king of the mountain climb being at mile 11. On a descent I made a jump to get to the front of the field on a downhill to lead in to the climb so if I faltered I could catch on to the back of the field. We made the left hand turn at the base of the climb and I was sitting in first and started to get into a rhythm. When 4 or 5 riders made a attack, after they went Jeff byer a west Pennsylvania racer, had came up and asked if I thought we should cover it, we agreed that 12 miles into a 54 mile race was to early for a break to work. Though as soon as we decided to let them have some space the field reacted and I started to drift back. By the time I reached the KOM line I was just dangling off the back by only a couple hundred feet and was with a small group and thought we could catch back on. Though as we kept going over the rollers I kept finding myself on the front doing most of the work trying to catch back on, because anytime id get off the front the pace would drop, and id see the field slip further away. 
Heading out for a second lap
I realized if I kept doing this I would burn myself out and sure enough about 5 miles of pushing it I popped and couldn't keep up with the group I was in. Not long after I got dropped I got picked up by a 2 man group and we rode together until Caleb Smith from pro mountain caught us(was surprised here I thought he was stronger than I was) it wasn't long till he saw some more riders in front of us and went off on his own. He made it half way across and stalled out, it took me and the other 2 guys awhile to catch him, only for him to repeat it not long after we had caught him. We then started working together as we finished the first lap. The second lap was pretty uneventful as Caleb repeated try to make solo efforts to catch other groups, the final time he went and after awhile I saw the group he was going after and I made a attack myself to try to catch him. We had eventually caught the small group that I was first with after getting dropped, about half way through lap 2. our little group made a sprint to the line, I went to stand up to up out more power but legs had nothing in them. I finished second in our little sprint and 24th out of 38 for the day. I once again learned how much I dislike the heat, I had wore my mesh skin suit from champ-sys, though I learned one thing on the day. If im going to wear the mesh skin suit on sunny days that I should apply sunscreen to my back.

The TOV Crit
I get to the race 4 hours before my race so I can eat, and walk around the course to get an idea as to what im going to do. I have some left over pizza and I start to walk around the course. This was going to be another hot day on the bike and I had already drank a a bottle of water and had my others were half frozen, for the race I opted for a bottle of drink mix and a bottle of water to cool off during the race. I wished the people I know good luck before they start their races and went to start getting ready myself. With two races to go until my race I go and get a pre-ride on the course to get a ideal what it was like. It was a 4 corner downtown crit, though the turns and the side streets were wider than what ive raced before and that would be beneficial for me. Now the back straight was very rough and and had one traffic island and several large holes. The final straight was going to be interesting, as you came out of turn 4 there was a traffic island and on the right was parking spots that the curb came back in to the course; and and the second traffic island the left side was closed for construction, then about 100m to the finish. Since I had forgotten my trainer I join other riders in warming up next to the course on a short loop.
Keeping Safe
We lined up, I ended up lining up at the back due to getting there a bit late. We set off and everyone is a bit jittery the first few laps but everyone stays up right. I managed to hit the large hole for a manhole cover, the first time was jarring and was a bit concerning, though the second time I hit I flowed through it. About half way though several riders went for a prime coming down the back straight, as we came through turn 4 I wanted to stretch my legs and see how they were feeling. I managed to catch all but the lead guy for the prime he had several bike lengths ahead. As I cross the line I think to myself ill see how fast I could take the first 2 turns and when I looked back over my shoulder half-way down the back straight I had a pretty sizable gap on the field. A solo attack isn't something I felt comfortable with that far into the race, so I sit up and let the field catch me. About 2/3rd into the race I see a couple of riders get squirrelly, and suddenly I start to see rider go down, I start to go wider and wider as I saw more riders going down. After that I forced myself up towards the front to keep myself safe. The final few laps a lot of people were jockeying for position for the final sprint, I kept making an effort to get to the front. The second to last lap there was a prime and again a few riders went for it, though the group didn't really react, and left them out front. Going through turn 4 I was sitting 5th wheel or so and was getting ready to sprint until the guy leading it out just sat up and suddenly everyone went around I was too late to react to the move to be at the front but managed to finish 7th out 30 some riders. So all in all as the weekend went on my races got better and better, not what I came into the season hoping to.
Sprint finished

I would like to thank Honey Stinger for keeping me fueled all weekend, Pro Gold Lubricants for keeping my bike running smooth all weekend, and Kenda Tires for keeping me upright all weekend and providing confidence in my bike. Also would like to thank Fred Jordan and Mike Briggs for being out there all weekend taking awesome pictures, that I used in this blog.

My WV List: #11 White Grass

I love to Nordic (Cross County) Ski.

For years I would tell people "If I could be a pro in any sport, it'd be Triathlon, but I'd definitely settle for Nordic skiing".

Of course, this year I haven't even swam once.

But I digress...

When I was in 8th grade.  In our "careers" course we had to take I got to hear an incredible talk from the then New England Nordic Ski Association director.

Hearing him talk about Nordic, I was hooked.

Turns out, he'd end up teaching me to Nordic ski, and he'd later become my XC running coach, and one of the most influential people in my life to date.

But I digress....

When we move to WV, I accepted the fact that I would have to put my XC skiing on hold for 4-6 years while I worked on my PhD.  But, I knew that with shorter and milder winters I'd be able to do a lot more spring and winter training that I didn't get to do in Vermont.

However, I have been shocked by how much skiing I've done in WV.  In fact, in 2010/2011 I had my second biggest ski year of my life.  I also had some epic single days, including one day where I skied 33k in a single go.

I've blogged about this before, but I've been shocked by the quality of skiing in WV and the surrounding area.

But I digress...

White grass.  Probably in my top 5 favorite physical places in WV.  The Canaan Valley is so incredible, and White grass touring center just epitomizes what I look for in a XC ski destination.

The skiing is unique.  I have used my race skis, but I don't like to.  Not that there isn't enough snow, because there's always a ton, even when everyone else around is brown (and I mean, like New England has no snow and White grass will have ski-able conditions).

Rather, it's an adventure kind of place.  The trails as narrow, and like everywhere else in WV, the terrain is STEEP, and demanding.

But it's not just the skiing, it's also the people.

Chip, the owner, is so kind, and willing to talk with anyone about anything.  He's passionate about skiing, but passionate about fostering a sort of ambiance at White Grass too.  One of acceptance, and of relaxation, and fun.

You really do come to White grass to "get away".

Sure, there's a race, but it's the most laid-back, anything-goes ski race I've ever done.

Except it is REALLY hard.

Also, WV is the place where Carly learned to ski, so it'll always be special to us in that regard.  Carly loves to ski, and we really enjoy skiing together.  Most of the rest of the year I'm out cycling and running without her, and Nordic is a time for us to really enjoy an athletic endeavor together.

Will I ski at White grass again?  Probably.


Not soon enough.

Friday, July 26, 2013

My WV List: #12 The Hammer Ride

To quote the mad man himself "Still the best ride for bang-for-your-buck in my opinion!" -Gunnar Shogren

To quote me, "The hammer ride is so hard"

To quote me again "I just puked in my mouth" 

The loop was always the same until this year.  Then it changed.

And got worse.

The first 3 years I attempted the Wednesday night group ride affectionately known as "the hammer ride", I never ever made it to any of the re-groups with the front group.  In fact, I never really could do anything but dangle off the back of the group and try and stay in it as long as I could.

But then, this year, it finally happened.  I made it to the re-group with the fast folks.

So what is it?

Think of the hammer ride as a race on a weekday night for no prizes, and there's no categories, so there's Cat 2 (and 1?) men and women stacked up against folks who don't even have a racing licence  and everything in between.

And then we try and go as fast as we can.

In all weather, from about April through about September.


But the cool thing is, we always regroup, so if you get dropped, you aren't left for dead on the side of the road.


And sometimes folks ride mountain bikes.

Ok, that really only happened once this year.

This is a very serious video of the hammer ride.

And there's a couple of sprints too, although it seems like only a half dozen of us ever try for them.

The hammer ride is a chance for anyone to try something different too.  An attack, a hard pull, launching a team mate.

It's also a time to practice pack riding skills.  Don't mess up, or you'll get a growl or a sharp rebut from the more "established" riders.

And for God's sake, don't cross the yellow line.

I've had several of my best-ever power numbers on the hammer ride.  Also, I've had some of my best times with my fellow Morgantown cyclists.  

It's a no-pressure anaerobic-fest that always leaves me feeling I haven't done NEARLY enough hill repeats... 

I have no idea if a ride like this exists anywhere else, but I'm sure it does.  And I'm sure it's really hard.  In fact, I'm sure there's harder rides.

Let's hope I never find them.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My WV List: #13 Smitty's Kountry Kreme

Ever been to Dairy Queen?  Of course you have.  Well, unless you're some kind of 'Murica hatin' heathan.

Ok, so I'd really only been to Dairy Queen three times in my life before I came to WV.

Well, Smitty's is like Dairy Queen.  Except the portions are much larger.  And the prices are much cheaper.  And the people are way nicer.  And it's a small local buisness.

It's like comparing a house cat to a tiger...

...with wings, and a naked lady on it's back.

Ask for a large soft-serve (you New Englanders reading this, that's a creme).  I dare you.

Nah, get a hill-billy mess.  Think, a blizzard-mcflurry-blast type concoction.

A Hilly Billy Mess


Because Smitty's has flavors like Peanut Butter and Jelly (my hands down favorite- literally 1) vanilla ice cream 2) peanut butter 3) grape jelly).  Or, triple berry cheesecake.  Coconut creme pie.

And of course classics like nerds, or gummy bears.  Yikes.

Well, OK those aren't classics.  The classics are Oreo, Heath Bar, Snickers, etc.  They've got to have at least 30 flavors.  Carly's favorite is cookie dough.

And they're cheap.  Like, "bring the whole family" cheap.  Like "Yeah, sure add sprinkles, why not?" cheap.

A small (which is like a Dairy Queen medium) is less than $1.50.

 So there you have it.  A local favorite.

And I've even been here long enough I can say "remember when it was over in star city in that little shed?"

OK, I'm out.  I gotta go get me some Kountry Kreme

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My WV List: #14 The Climbs

When I came to WV, I had one bike.  And it had those strange pointy things sticking off it.

And I hated climbing.  I liked blasting along at 25 mph on the flat and straight.

A lot.

I'm from VT, and I thought I knew what "hilly" meant.

I didn't.

Unless you're from the big mountains of the west, you won't find better climbing than here in WV.  I'm convinced of that.

I wouldn't have believed it though, if I hadn't come here myself.

Straight out of the one day European classics, the steep, narrow roads twist and pitch through the rhododendron covered ridges and valleys of Appalachia.

It's amazing.

And it's not just here in WV, but the surrounding area as well.  Both PA and MD both contain pitches that defy imagination.

Mapletown.  Break Iron.  Mile Climb.  Quarry Run.  Big Savage Mountain.

Why try and list them all.  Or even most of them. There's too many.

And Sugarland takes the cake.

Not to mention all the off-road insanity that exists at places like Coopers Rock.

But my two favorites?

Mud Pike and Wymps Gap.

Today, I did both in 1 ride.  Finally.

I poured a bottle out at the top of Wymps, a tribute.  I Love it.  Gazing down towards the quarry, I got butterflies in my stomach, and I had to clear my throat a few times.  I will miss this place.

Wymps is so hard.  It's the constant illusion that gets me...that just around that next bend, it might relent, and I can get out of my largest cog.

And on the opposite side, I found one of my favorite spots in WV- Lake-o-Woods.

It was the first real climb I ever did in the area.

And one of the reasons I can no longer say, "I'm not a climber".

Let it not be my last.