Saturday, May 31, 2014

Breaking Through to the Other Side

My name is Devin Corboy and I guess I consider myself a road racer. I got into cycling early in 2005 when a high school friend asked if I wanted to go ride with his team. I was always into sports and was in good shape so I figured "what the hell-how hard could it be!" Needless to say I had a rude awakening. What the team thought was an easy group ride was nearly 10mph faster than I was able to pedal. Did I mention that was just the first 8 miles. Lucky for me a few guys were nice enough to slow up and finish out the ride with me. I survived the 40 mile ride that day (which was 20 miles longer than I had ever ridden) barely! Regardless - a road masochist was born. Maybe I wanted to continue riding because I felt like I lost a competition that day or maybe it was because I wanted to be as fast as the team was that day.  All I know is within weeks I had new cycling shoes, pedals and a bike fitting. I was going to give it everything to become a bike racer. And so I did...

It's 2014 and so much has changed in my life but the consistency of cycling remains. I race with a team of great guys and gals. We have a team director. The team is so fortunate to have sponsors to support our efforts. All these people help to push us to be better. They help to push our limits and support us to develop as athletes. We can't do it without them and we can be confident crossing  new thresholds knowing someone has our back.

So in this 2014 season I decided to step out of my comfort zone of the road and take to the dirt  with my mates. The idea has been in the back of my mind for a couple of years but I didn't have time, energy or finances to make it happen. Thanks to a team and great sponsors I was able to make that happen this season. I'm really glad I did!

Sometimes the best roads are the roads less traveled!
The Dirty Double was my first Off Road Race and I had a great time testing the new cross and mountain bikes in the West Virginia mountains. You can't help learning a little about yourself when suffering on the steep, dirty and muddy climbs. The experience was epic. It was such a special race and weekend overall. I can't wait for next year. 

Sometimes new roads can make you a little nervous. But you have to push through and test yourself...

Sometime new roads can block you completely but knowing your mates are there for you makes all the difference in the world...

... so you can build a bridge and ride it to success (and probably excess).

So maybe I did start cycling because I felt like I lost a competition on that group ride. But as I developed as a cyclist my perspective has changed. I look back now and see all the lessons have learned about my character and true grit (I said True Grit). I see the impact mentoring has had on the character of others. I can't help realizing that it's mostly about helping those around me be their best and trying to lead by example. We all give a lot of our lives to the sport of cycling and it seems to me cycling gives us as much if not more in return. So if you have friends or family (framily) that are caught up in the daily grind to nowhere-get them out on the bike where they can get in touch with nature, feel the wind in their hair and maybe learn a bit about their True Grit. I promise they will be happy they did it. 

Racing in May Re-cap

So far this year, I have spent very little time on the road bike.  In fact, I've only had the road bike out two or three times, which were ABRA races.   However, my Cannondale cyclocross bike has seen more miles than ever, as I've focused mostly on dirt/gravel rides in Preston County, WV, with an occasional mountain bike ride here and there.   Thus, I was feeling better prepared for what the month of May would bring to my race season....the Mountain State Dirty Double Roubaix and the 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey mountain bike race.

9 Hours of Cranky Monkey
To start the month off teammate Derek Clark and I would join forces with CER's Travis Olson for the 3-male relay class.   From a LeMans-style start, Derek began the race with a lead that had me thinking he must have forgotten something at his bike...until I realized he had close to a 50-75 yard lead on all other runners as he came through the log in station.

After 8-9 miles of single-track, he would roll in for the baton hand-off to Travis only 39min after he had left.   We maintained very consistent lap times throughout the race with less than 5 minutes difference from our slowest to fastest laps.   Nine hours later, we proved to be the most fortunate of teams in the class, racing unscathed from mechanical issues to a 1st place spot on the podium and an overall 2nd place in the race.  Dynamic Physical Therapy p/b Pathfinder dominated Co-ed duo podium with JR and Stephanie, Jeff and Nikki, and Nate finishing strong.  Congrats team! 

Mountain State Dirty Double Roubaix
I tried to prepare myself for this 2-day gravel race as much as I could by pre-riding the courses weeks before the race on May 16/17th.    The original course that provided quality, steep dirt and gravel riding with military firing ranges, not-so-happy-we-were-there turkey hunters on ATVs, a half-naked 8yr old with a BB gun that didn't think "pedal bikes" would make it up his road, and The Original Cucumber Corner, a feature Derek was particularly fond of.

Fortunately, JR would change everything of this race that I was familiar with from the pre-ride.  After a slow start with a six mile climb, Day 1 would throw a lot of gravel roads interspersed with a few asphalt and tar and chip sections.   Jason Samonds of Fat Head Brewery and I worked together from the first ridge to the end.  We seemed to lose ground the competition on the developed roads, battling against crosswinds.  But our mountain biking skills and experiences seemed to give us an advantage once we entered the rough county roads.  

One particular downhill that turned to 3-4 inch gravel provided the opportunity I needed to get back into the Masters 40+ category as it flatted several competitors tires.    Taking advantage of the situation and the many more miles of gravel, we rolled into the finish without giving up any spots at 19th and 20th overall, which put me on the 4th step of the podium.

day 1 dirty bike
I typically don't have opportunities to ride, let alone race, on consecutive days.  
5-10min of Progold
So, refueling, rehydrating, and preparing my bike for the next day would be a challenge.  
clean bike ready for day 2
Thanks to ProGold products, the bike cleaning would not take long and allow me to focus on a big dinner and drinking like a fish that night.
As I traveled to the race venue for Day 2, I realized that the 2-4 minutes lead over 5th and 6th place finishers from Day 1 would not be enough time to ride comfortably, particularly since the course would bring over 4000ft of climbing--1000ft more than the previous day.  After a short rolling warmup to start the race, JR would have us climbing the most enjoyable climb of the two days.  This first of many climbs had several switchbacks, varying grades, and surfaces from tar-and-chip to gravel, to dirt and sand, back to gravel with gorgeous views from "almost heaven" ridges.  

Surprisingly, my legs were not as fatigued from Day 1 as I had anticipated.   I crossed the first climb with a bit of a lead on yesterday's 5th and 6th place finishers.  Aware of this, I hammered the ensuing downhill with possibly too much trust in my tire pressures.  The heavy rains from the week leading up to the race had washed ruts in the gravel and exposed a drain pipe three-fourths of the way down.  My attempt to hop the pipe slammed the rear tire onto the downhill lip of that washout, flatting the tire, and pushing the rim out of true.   A quick tube change, a shot of CO2, and back to racing with time to spare on the competition, right?    Evidently, one of the two tubes in the Camelbak was a patched tube from a year ago...a failed patch at that.  The tire quickly inflated, then deflated.   (Two lessons learned:  1) just buy new spare tubes for races and 2) put a little air in them for a quicker install).  

With tube #2 in place and holding air, I was on my way, but in the role of the chaser.   I was grabbing every wheel ahead of me, trying to work back up to the 40+ 'ers that had passed me and eventually catching Curt Brown, Day #1's 3rd place finisher, who had also suffered the same fate that I had just minutes ago.   Although it seemed beneficial to both of us to work together to climb our way back, he didn't appear to be as interested.  So, I rode on with the extra resistance of a rim dragging against a brake pad.   We chatted about various bike related issues which seemed to take my mind off of the burning in my legs and lungs through the remainder of the race.

sorry Princess

Up and over the last climb and ridge, I began bombing down the forever descent to the finish, trying not to touch the brakes in hopes that it would make up some time on the competition and hold onto the GC podium.   Although I managed to catch Scott "Princess" House of CER, I fell short of the Master's Day 2 podium, and 4 minutes off of the GC podium for the weekend.   Fortunately, Dynamic Physical Therapy p/b Pathfinder placed several racers atop the podium with Derek, Shawn and Cara, as well as Nate and Stephanie placing in their respective categories.  Congrats team!

Overall, the Mountain State Dirty Double was a great race with a great format created by JR.  It's organization from registration through the awards on day 2 was beyond exceptional thanks to JR and Gina, and a phenomenal group of volunteers.   I enjoyed every minute of it, and looking forward to the 2015 version.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Jumping back in the swing of things

Coming back to the bike after a month of infections/fieldwork/finals has proved to be harder than usual. It is amazing how quickly endurance seems to fade from being out of the saddle. I am excited to jump back into training again. This means harder rides and better eating.

Current favorite recipe: Greek Quinoa and Avocados

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, 
1 cup water, 2 Roma (plum) tomatoes (seeded and finely chopped)
, 1/2 cup shredded fresh spinach, 
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion, 
2 tablespoons lemon juice, 
2 tablespoons olive oil
, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 
Spinach leaves, 
2 avocados, 
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. 

2. In a medium bowl, stir together quinoa, tomatoes, spinach, and onion. 

3. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil, and salt. Mix with quinoa. 

4. Place spinach on plates with avocado slices and quinoa. Sprinkle with feta.

I will keep posting Cara approved recipes in the future.

I was also able to try brand new races this month by experiencing dirt. My first mountain race was at Cranky Monkey paired up with Shawn Geiger for the co-ed duo team. It was terrifying and amazing at the same time with trying to remind myself that this mountain bike can go over much much more than my road bike. I will admit that I walked the big gravel decent each lap…I’m not that adventurous yet. Shawn and I partnered up again on the tandem for the Mountain State Dirty Double for my first dirt race. For 2 days we pulled this tandem through mud and roots and honestly I had a great time doing it. I thank Shawn so much for being my duo and introducing me to the world outside of road.
(Nikki getting ready to start at Cranky Monkey)
(the alpacas along the Mountain State Dirty Double course)

However, I am excited to finally be able to complete my first ABRA road race this season tomorrow afternoon. Coming back from staff infection has sucked tremendously but I am glad to start working my way back towards becoming a better road racer again.

(Team bonding at Cranky Monkey)

See you all at Tucker in the morning!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Taking Time Off To Heal

I have made the decision, or maybe I should say that my body has made the decision, to take time off of the bike to heal.  I had been nursing some shoulder pain that had recently come back from a mountain bike wreck in December that left me with a partially separated shoulder on my left side.  I had already scheduled another doctors’ appointment for this coming week and now I am really glad that I did.  This is because on Sunday I wrecked again crossing a bridge and dropping into a creek about 4 feet below to suffer some cracked ribs again on my left side.  God was definitely watching over me because it could have been a lot worse.  With all the rain that we have had the creek was full of water and muck that made the crash a lot less harmful.  The crash came at mile 23 of a 26 mile mountain bike race and I was able to get back on my trusty Cannondale from Pathfinder of WV and finish the race.

(Mohican MTB race)
For me taking time off the bike to heal injuries is really, really hard.  I am a type A, very hyper guy.  When I am forced to take time off I often struggle with depression and anxiety that leaves my wife wanting to knock me out.  At times like this I drive her completely crazy, but yet she still manages to handle it all quite well.

Even with the crash I had this past weekend, I must say it was a really fun weekend all-in-all.  My buddy and teammate Jeff traveled over to spend the weekend with me and my family and celebrate his birthday.  On Saturday we joined in on a nice and easy Stark County Bike Club ride followed by a delicious dinner cooked by my beautiful wife and some yummy DQ cake.  Oh yeah, and also a couple adult soda pops!  Sunday morning we got an early wake-up call to travel to the Eastern Ohio Time Trial.  Sunday was Jeff’s actual birthday and his candles were burning brightly as he smoked his competition taking the top block on the podium!  Way to represent Dynamic Physical Therapy powered by Pathfinder of WV Jeff Gernet!

(Happy Birthday Jeff)
After the time trial Jeff left for Pittsburgh and I headed down to Mohican for the mountain bike race.  It was a beautiful day and following the race, although I was quite sore, I got to enjoy the sun and see some sights with the family. We enjoyed a nice picnic table BBQ dinner and then walked around Landoll’s Mohican Castle.   A great weekend equals riding bikes, hanging out with friends, and spending quality time with the family!

(Addie girl at Landoll's Castle)
(Arryn & Addie at the castle)
Thanks for reading and God bless,


Thursday, May 15, 2014

What Mountain Biking has done for my family!

Since my good friend and teammate Jeff was honest in one of his previous blogs about getting burnt out on the bike and contemplating taking a break from the cycling scene I feel that it is time for me to be honest as well.  Mid-way through the summer of 2013 I also started to get burnt out on riding my road bike.  I was going into races with the attitude of not really caring a whole lot about my results and that has never been me in the past.  I have always been a goal-oriented person and felt like I was doing an in-justice to myself and the team.  On top of that I was feeling guilty about driving to a race every weekend either without my family or dragging my family to a road race only to let them watch me start the race and finish the race while in between that time letting them sit in a car bored for multiple hours.  I myself was also thinking about taking a break away from the cycling scene in 2014 and focusing on my family, becoming a better husband and father. 

(Family camping trip to Scioto Trail SP)
As the summer of 2013 rolled into fall I was finding myself doing a lot of mountain biking thanks to my good friend JR lending me a bike to ride.  I did a few mountain bike races and really enjoyed them.  For the past couple years I have always listened to my teammates Jerry, Jeff, JR and Shawn tell me how much fun cross was so I decided to give that a shot on my steel framed single speed.  Between mountain biking, cyclocross and gravel road rides I was starting to get my mojo back for cycling.  Just not road riding & racing.  However, what about my family? 

(Enjoying to hilltop overlook)
Well, Arryn and Addie seemed to like going to the mountain bike and cross races with me much more because it is usually multiple laps where they could see me go by and it was usually in a park or scenic area that offered them much more things to do then what they would find at a road race.  I had also purchased a mountain bike for my Addie girl at Pathfinder and she was really enjoying the kids’ races at the ABRA mountain bike and cyclocross races.  Now fast-forward to winter of 2013.  Since I was getting into mountain biking I decided to make a trip up to Ray’s indoor mountain bike park with my buddy Jeff and to my surprise Arryn and Addie wanted to go as well.  The night before we were to head up to the indoor mountain bike park Arryn says to me; “I think I would like to rent a bike to ride tomorrow.”  I said, “Really?” and inside I was grinning from ear-to-ear. 

(Arryn's 2013 Raleigh Eva 29 Comp)
After a few trips up to the indoor mountain bike park and after I purchased a mountain bike for myself at Pathfinder Arryn says to me; “I think I would like to get a mountain bike.”  I had always been blessed in the past with her just supporting my hobby of cycling, but now she actually wanted to give it a try herself via mountain biking.  It has not been very long since Arryn got her new bike and she is already telling me that she would like to try a mountain bike race and some ABRA CX races this year.  This is still TBD, however, I am just happy that she is experiencing some of the same joy that I find in riding a bike and getting the health benefits that cycling offers as well. 

(OMBC Scioto Trail race)
However, the most important thing by far that mountain biking as done for me was bringing my family closer together.  Since purchasing mountain bikes for all three of us; Arryn, Addie & myself, we have been going to parks together as a family much more, going on camping trips to do some riding and racing, and even enjoying Sunday funday family towpath rides.  We have a park not too far from our house that offers a 3 mile mountain bike loop, miles of hiking trails, a playground, a lake, and an ice cream stand.  We have been spending a lot of time at this park seeing the beautiful nature that God has blessed us with and becoming closer as a family!

Thanks for reading and God bless,


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sunday Fun Day!

While I could spend the duration of this blog singing the praises of how awesome my teammates are, especially after this weekend's 6 Hours of Brady's Run Mountainbike race, I would be failing to share my favorite story from the weekend. But to start with, 6 members of the Dynamic Physical Therapy powered by Pathfinder competed in a couple classes.

Mass Start of the 6 Hours of Brady's Run
First off, new team member Billy Slutz raced the solo men's division and finished a solid 14th overall with 6 laps. He probably would have finished a lot better, but he's still running the tires that came from the Cannondale Factory while we wait on our order of new tires to come in from Kenda, and suffered a significant sidewall tear. He was able to finish his first lap running and managed to borrow a spare wheel off of a friend of the team, Glenn Gerasimek.  By the time Billy came back for lap two, Shawn Geiger had Billy's wheels set up with my spare set of Kenda Slant Sixes.  Nice job Billy, and welcome to the 2014 team ;-) . In the Co-Ed Duo, I again teamed up with Nikki and we had a blast.  Our results weren't as notable as they were the week prior at Cranky Monkey, but I don't think I have ever seen anyone have so much fun on the bike. She has definitely brought an element to the chemistry of the team that will be hard to replace, I vote she stays in Pittsburgh! JR again competed with the birthday girl, Stephanie Lamb. Due to some extremely fast couples, they finished off the podium.  Only newbie, Nate Clair (partnering with Veda Geramisek of Whole Athlete) managed to make an appearance on the podium. The two youngin's finished in 5th place with 7 laps. Well done!
Pre Race Photo... Nate telling Billy what he thinks of all his no-shows at races??
I love this smile!

Birthday girl cutting her cake... man was it good too!
After the race, most of us headed down to the Southside and took Stephanie out for her Birthday. Then back to her place where she "taught" us the how to play one of her favorite games. I still don't know what the heck I was doing, but she did tie JR for the win, so I won't complain too loudly.  Happy Birthday Stephanie, but don't think I've forgotten that you got away with out your birthday spanking.

And that leads me to Sunday... Early last week, Billy and I were talking about what we could do for a ride on Sunday. I joke about him being new to the team, but its just with family and the race calendar, he hasn't made it to any of the ABRA team events yet. But the truth is, Billy is one of my best friends and I've missed having him around so far.  So when I knew we'd finally be racing the same event, we got to talking and decided to set up a recovery ride on Sunday. We chose to ride at Bavington since it was "on his way home" if he decided to stay over, or at the very least, partway between Pittsburgh and East Canton. I threw out an invite on the team's facebook page and Shawn stepped up with the local information and volunteered to lead a ride.

Billy and I were joined by Nate and Pat Clair, Stephanie, JR, Shawn and his girlfriend Cassie hit the trails for what I billed as a "Slow EASY" recovery ride. But then Nate gets kitted up and is wearing a skinsuit and I was like... my slow and his slow must be WAY different. All told, we covered almost 14 miles with only 637 feet of climbing... just what the legs needed after 2 endurance MTB rides in a week. And while the ride would be considered Newbie Friendly, there were still some areas of the route that would be considered pretty technical.  One such part was a double log pile spaced about 10' apart. The first was about 16" tall and the second was probably about 14" tall. After riding them, I threw my bike down and positioned my self in a convenient place to catch Cassie, who was trailing behind me. As she approached it, I hollered at her to ride it, and without hesitation just went up and over the log pile, then preceeded to head right at the second, more difficult pile and rode that as well. I don't know who was more surprised at how well she did, me or her. Two weekends in a row, I have been impressed with the skills of two new riders. Nikki did awesome as a newbie to the sport of MTBing, but she does have experience as a cyclist, and has even raced cross on numerous occassions. But Cassie on the other hand, impressed me with her determination even as a complete rookie to the sport. She was taking on obstacles that even caused me to approach with hesitation.  Put that girl on a bike that doesn't weigh half as much as she does, and she could waiting for me to catch up the next time we ride together. I was totatlly amazed at how well she road, and didn't complain 1 time about how long it was taking or how many times she had to push her bike up a hill. Well done Cassie... now to get you signed up to race... :-)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cranky Monkey 2014

This past weekend the majority of the team took part in the 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey race at Rocky Gap State Park, located just East of Cumberland, MD.  JR got down to the park early and started setting up the team site on a little knoll out behind the bathhouse. This is a break from our usual camping area, but because we had Nathan Clair camping with us, we thought it would be in everyone's best interest if we set up camp away from the usual ruckus that is the Pittsburgh Mountainbike Community. Mind you, they always provide a ton of laughs and stories to tell around future campfires, but we were going to be a little more laid back this year, but still planned to have a lot of fun!

Since Amber had to work and Stephanie Lamb had taken the day off from work as well, Nikki and I carpooled down to the event after work. We rolled out of Pittsburgh and were headed south for an unknown adventure. The shenanigans started unexpectedly as we stopped to grab our last minute provisions in Lavale, MD. As we pulled into the parking lot Nikki noticed Shawns car in the parking lot, so we decided to "steal" his bike and watch what would happen.  Just minutes after completing the heist, Cara walked out of the store, went to the car, grabbed her purse and walked back in. She looked like she noticed something was wrong but really didn't know what it was.  So while Nikki and I laughed hysterically, we had to stay in hiding while we waited for the rest of the crew to come out and hopefully notice the missing bike.  A few minutes later, we weren't disappointed.  Almost immediately Shawn noticed his bike was missing and for the first time that I can remember, cursed out loud. We burst from our hiding spot and yelled "surprise". I don't know if the look on his face was one of relief or anger, but it was priceless.
Shenanigans started even before we got to Camp!

Smores Gernert style (toasted marshmallows on chocolate chip cookies)

A blined Stephanie  and Shawn Hilty

Campfire with JR, Cassie, and Shawn

Nathan snuggling with a foot stool(?!?) and Nikki Bee with a smile to start the weekend, even though she was freezing

Saturday morning was on the chilly side as we started our race day preparation. I got a fire going in the firepit as I hoped to make pancakes over it. I modified a grill rack with aluminum foil to cook my pancakes on, but after 10 minutes of sitting over the flames and still not being cooked enough to flip, former Pathfinder of WV mechanic offered up his skillet to use. I got another fire going in the grill and went down to the registration desk to sign in while the charcoal was getting ready. When I got back to the campsite,I started making pancakes for anyone who wanted one, because I knew I had plenty to go around. The second or third pancake turned out with a hidden surprise baked into it.  Sitting on the plate in front of me was a smiling monkey's face. This was surely a sign of great times ahead of us!
9 Hours of Smiling Monkey!

Nikki and I were signed up to race in the Co-Ed Duo class, against JR and Stephanie, Shawn and Cara, and Nate and Angelina (TOP Gear).  Since Nikki had only ridden a MTB 1 other time, I tried to reassure her that I had no expectations, other to spend the day with a smile on our faces. I was going to take the first lap which included a LeMans style running start, but while thinking about the race as I was supposed to be sleeping, I realized it kind of  made more sense to let her start. While not the strongest mountain biker, I knew I was stronger than alot of other people doing the race and that those teams that were in close proximity to me when I finished my lap, would likely be trying to pass Nikki early on in the areas of singletrack she'd be seeing for the first time during her first lap.  By doing the first lap and taking a slow start, she could essentially ride the first lap without feeling the pressure of riders trying to force their way past her in tight areas. And with the exception of a few of the fast 3 hour racers who started 20 minutes after our field, she was able to ride her own lap.
Deep in thought before the LeMans style start.  I missed getting her picture while she had her head down and appeared to be praying .
Moments later she was back to focusing on the point of our weekend... and was all smiles.

Nikki did her lap and I went out to do 2 to give her a little break. Just under the 3 hour mark, Nikki started her lap and I went back and put a new kit on, clean up the bike, and get a little food in my belly. I went to the free bike wash service and asked what their procedure was and was instructed to just hang my bike on one of the stands and they would get to it in turn. I was free to go do what I needed to do and they would move my clean bike to a stand on the other side of the cleaning station. Good deal and I did as I was instructed.  I dropped my bike off and headed up to the team area to find clean dry clothes.  After 16 miles of mud and dirt, I had forgotten how good clean dry Swiftwicks feel. It was honestly like someone flipped a switch and I went from tired to happy. So... Thanks to Swiftwick for again being a sponsor. I. LOVE. YOU. For REAL!

I went back to pick up my "clean" bike and was a bit surprised at how dirty it really was. Sure, the heavy crud was gone, but I could have cleaned my bike with just a garden hose just as well, and I wouldn't have had to waste all the cleaner that they did.  I wish I would have taken a picture, but there was still all kinds of gunk in my drivetrain and as I pedaled up the hill to the team site, I knew I still had some work to do to prep my bike before heading out for my second laps. I literally spent 30 seconds with ProGold's foaming degreaser and let it set for a bout 5 minutes, then went back and rinsed the chain and derailleurs with less than a water bottle's contents.  I took a dry shop towel and dried the chain and it was like I had a whole new drive train.  A little Extreme Lube and I was ready to rock my second set of doubles.  If you haven't ever used ProGold lubricants and cleaning products, you owe yourself the simple pleasure of trying it. I bet you a cold beer that you will be impressed, they really are that good.

When Nikki finished her second lap, and she told me she was done. We were sitting in 6th place and out of a podium spot, AND since this weekend was about having a smile on our faces, I was OK with that. I went out and rode two more laps and as I finishing up my segment, I saw Gina running down the hill from the team area towards me. She told me she had talked Nikki into going out for one more lap and to wait at the exchange area and Nikki would be over momentarily. I finished my lap and decided to ride back to the team area to see what was up with Nikki. We met half way and I asked her if she was sure she wanted to go back out... I was fine with her being done and was probably close to being done myself.  The most I'd ever done was 4 laps and I was more than wiped out from that and I had already matched my 4 laps PR.  The rocky nature of the course really takes it out of you and I was feeling the effects of the estimated 1.2 million "baby heads" I'd already hit out there. I told her to not do it if she wasn't going to have fun, because that's what the whole weekend was all about. Nothing more.  She confessed that she was going back out because she didn't want to be hear it from the rest of the team.  So with a little apprehension she went our and did a 3rd lap of the Cranky Monkey.

With that, I headed over to the bike wash station, and following the instructions I was given earlier in the day hung my bike up and started to leave. The guy washing the bikes snapped at me that I had just passed all those kids who were waiting in line to have their bikes washed.  I explained that I was in no hurry and that I was only doing what he told me to do 3 hours ago but he still got pissy with me.  I then told him to forget it, I'd just go wash my bike with stuff that worked and he could keep his crap for himself and waste all the water he wanted. "no matter how hard you try, you're crap will never come close to comparing to ProGold's cleaning products anyways".  Ok, so I might have used a different 4 letter word in my actual conversation to describe their product, but I hope you get the picture. Its bad enough that their product is inferior, but when an employee of the company is rude... well I have no problem saying publically: that neon green stuff is a Wicked Waste.

So back at the team area, I hit the drive train with a quick shot of  blastoff degreaser to dislodge the heavy stuff, then a healthy dose of foaming degreaser, and then washed it off with another bottle of water. Yeah, ProGold might coast a little more than some other products, but since you don't have to use as much, it really ends up saving you money in the long run. Again, I dried the drive train and and finished the process with some more ProGold Extreme Lube, and the bike was running like new.

Across the lake I spotted the familiar blue and white kit through the trees and started trying to figure out who it was... Yep it was Nikki finishing her lap, so I grabbed my gear and headed for the exchange area. We were back in 6th place, so I thought I'd give it one more lap and call it a day. About a mile and a half into lap 5, as my Kenda Karma tire crushed yet another rock and made another ear splitting sound that I swore should have resulted in a blowout, it dawned on me that I didn't have my tools with me. Since Nikki is a MTB newbie, she doesn't have all the little tools you should carry with her, so I decided to just put mine in a ziploc baggie and share.  It worked good until my last time out when I failed to remember to get them from her. So naturally, this would be the lap that the rocks would wreak havoc on my tires, since I had nothing to reinflate them with. Since I was tired and feeling the effects of the day of racing, I had lost a certain amount of sharpness and skill as I continued to hit bad rock after bad rock. Each time I expected to hear that unexpected sound of air bursting free from your tube (yeah.. I still haven't gone tubeless).  But as I finished my 5th lap (flat free) I was relieved to see the team area and know that my tools were close by. (Thank God Kenda makes such reliable tires. Its the 3rd year in a row that I have ridden the exact same set of Karmas and have yet to have a tire related mishap)  I veered off course to pick up my tools because while I was out there, I had moved us back into 5th place and back onto the podium. I was OK if Shawn and Cara caught me and beat us, but I'd be damned if I was going to give them a step on the podium because I decided to quit. And since Nikki had stepped up and did one when she thought she was done, I drew from her inspiration and was going to attempt to the same thing.

Photo credits: Loretta Kessler and Breakaway Velo
Back into the woods for my sixth and final time. Shawn and Cara were running their laps a little differently and I knew that Shawn would be chasing me on my final lap. He's a much better mountainbiker than I am, so the whole lap I was looking over my shoulder expecting to see him ready to attack me. My only hope was that I was going to be able to go deeper into the pain cave than he was. I knew from past rides that when he started to fade he tended to fade really fast.  I was fading as well, but because I had kept up a steady supply of easily digested fuel, I wasn't crashing just yet. Thanks to Honey Stinger Smoothie flavored Fruit Chews. I ate a pack every time I hit the paved road after the 3 mile aid station. It was just in time for to give me the energy I would need for the long climb up out of the campground. I don't know what Shawn was eating, but for me, the Honey Stinger products were just what I needed for almost 50 miles of mountain biking.  When I finally got to the top of the climb for the last time and I still couldn't see Shawn behind me, I started to believe. If I could get down the big rocky descent ahead of Shawn, I thought I might be OK. But because I hate that stretch so much, I knew that this would be where I would ultimately get caught. Its the difference between being a roadie(me) and a mountain biker(Shawn).  I did my best to just let the bike roll down hill, but inevitably I'd be on the brakes trying to keep from destroying myself. As I hit the bottom and passed the aid station at mile marker 6, I started to stoke the fire. I was digging deep and giving that 5th place podium spot everything I had. And when I exited the woods for the last time, I could hear my teammates on the knoll cheering me on. I looked over my shoulder one more time and knew that I good to go. Even if the wheels fell completely off at that point, I was close enough to the finish to run the bike in and not let Shawn pass me.

8 hours  and 45 minutes after starting our adventure, Nikki and I were done with 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey.  I was cold and dirty, but most of all I was exhausted and aching. I headed back to the knoll and wanted nothing more than to put on clean dry WARM clothes. It turns out that Shawn had called it quits prior to going out for his last lap.  At first I was disappointed that I had pushed myself so hard trying to stay in front of him even though he had opted to not go back out. But then reality set in and I was proud that I was able to dig so deep and test my true mettle.  I would have been happy for Shawn and Cara if they had podiumed at our expense, but I was proud of Nikki for stepping up and pushing her limits beyond anyone's wildest imagination and proud of myself for being able to go where I had never gone before.  We had drawn inspiration from each other and at the end of the day, stood on the final spot of the podium with a smile on our face.
2014 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey Co-Ed Duo Podium

2014 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey 3 Man Podium
JR and Stephanie finished in second place of the Co-Ed Duo class, with Nathan and Angelina in third.  Nikki and I were 5th and Shawn and Cara just missed out on the podium as they finished the event in 6th place.  Derek Clark and Chris Jones teamed up with CER's Travis Olson to win the 3 person team category.  I want to thank JR & Gina, Shawn & Cassie, Cara & Pat, Stephanie, Derek, Chris, and Sean Hilty for the all the cheering, heckling, helping and basically making the weekend great.  I also want to thank some of our wonderful sponsors like Kenda, Pathfinder of WV, Honey Stinger, and ProGold, who without their support and products could not have happened.  And lastly, I want to to thank Nikki Bee for agreeing to team up with me on this adventure and for pushing me ride further than I ever have on a mountain bike before.
Anyone up for splitting a Growler from Morgantown Brewing to christen these glasses properly?
 I am so thankful that I decided to stick it out with DPT for one more year!  This is shaping up to be the season of a lifetime for me!