Monday, November 26, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Iceman + Season Wrap Up

Well that’s a wrap on another full season of mountain bike madness. Iceman went off without a hitch. It’s funny that I placed 17th… exactly the same placing as last year. I thought my prep this year was a whole lot better not having to deal with a broken neck, but I believe the 2012 Iceman was the most competitive yet. The start went off fast as usual. I stayed right on the front and tried as hard as I could not to get bumped backwards. You have to be super aggressive on the start before it bottlenecks into the woods. Sure enough, the left side surged and I was instantly buried 50 deep. I can never seem to nail these chaotic mass starts, but at least I survived.

Once into the woods, I went to work getting around people and working my way up through the chaos of flinging sand and swervey lines. Before we hit Tornado alley, I was in the top 7. The pace seemed to surge just after and that’s where I blew up and tailed off the back. It was the opportunity I wanted and I was so close to sticking in there with the front group. Just a little more power and I would have made it. I know I can do better.

I settled into the 2nd group and tried to stay near the front as much as possible. I tried to get off the front a couple times, but the pack was right on me. Not much happened till we made the surge for the shoot. Tristan Schouten and Colin Cares got around me, along with a few others. It was all I had in the shoot to finish 17th. Not too bad. No crashes, no mechanicals, and no wrong turns. Not all that satisfying, but given the competition, it was what I had on the day.

It was a hard year overall. Lots of big road trips and a total of eight 100 mile MTB races which netted me 10th in the NUE series. I was the first to finish 4 races and I actually lead the series for a couple months. I’m surprised I had the motivation to make a push for Iceman. Training for a season of 100 milers, then trying to flip the switch and go fast is a huge challenge. It takes some time for the body to get used to going all out. It was a successful season though. I won a road bike race, a mountain bike race, and a cross style gravel grinder. Good all around performance I thought. A lot of those races contained National caliber athletes and I was able to ride with the leaders and compete for podium spots at almost all of them.  

Can I do better? Hell yes I can! As much as I love the 100 milers, I’m not exactly built for 100 mile long races with 12,000ft of climbing. So in light of that, I will be focusing less on the NUE series, and more on the gravel grinders and triple crown races. I might even try a few more road races since that style sort of fits right in. I think my true calling is more of a steady power rider, and it’s time to start focusing on a specific style that suits me and catering my race schedule to fit. I’ll still do Mohican and Lumberjack, but other than that, I think I’m done with the NUE’s. I work full time along with this circus of racing, and it’s too hard to try and focus on 2 or 3 styles of racing and expect to compete with the full time pro’s… especially when you’re not cut out for one of those styles ala NUE. Some of the courses are getting a little too on the hazardous side for my comfort level as well… call it what you want. I also thought that the 100 milers sort of wore on me as the season progressed. Each race I just felt slower, so I think cutting way back on them will definitely help develop more of that speed and power I need to hang with those front groups of pro’s at the big triple crown races.   

Well that’s about it for right now. Huge thanks goes out too all the sponsors, Notubes, Infinit Nutrition, CPA Crossings, and of course RBS, who bent over backwards to help get me everything I needed. Thanks guys, you rock! And who couldn’t forget my awesome wife Michelle who endures all this craziness day in and day out and also helps me tremendously. Thanks for checking in, and hopefully I’ll see you out there prepping for next season on the frozen dirt rds of Michigan.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

Peak to Peak Mud Fest

After a great weekend last week, I was really hoping to oepn it up and give the legs a real test this weekend. The weather however, had other plans. We pulled into the venue Saturday morning just in time for the rain to start coming down. And did it ever! It just never stopped! The legs felt good during the short wet warm-up and I decided to try and go for it at the start. After a short delay over duck tape, the race was underway. I managed to work my way to the front heading into the trail. Not exactly where I wanted to be, but better than being burried in the pack. Shortly after, Cole House and several others flew around me, as I found myself struggling to keep the bike upright through the corners. 

 It wasn't long after where I found myself off the back of the front group. They were just railing the corners way faster than I wanted to. It was hard to see too, and the mud was flinging everywhere. It was like a slip and slide, and I just couldn't seem to stay off the brakes and let the bike roll. Once we got to the more open sections of the course, I felt a lot better and started working way around some people up the ski hill.

The race was completely blown apart. People were dropping out, and I had no idea what place I was in. I kept hammering the best I could, but was still really struggling in the corners. Finally, right near the end of the 2nd lap, I managed to catch Scott Hoffner, and my team mate Ron Catlin going up the ski hill. Just at that time I heard word that they were cutting the race short. It was a little bitter sweet as I was actually looking forward to making more ground on the 3rd lap. Oh well, it was the right call to end the race. The brake pads were almost gone and the course was getting hazardous. 
I put the power down up the ski hill and slipped and slid back down to take 5th just ahead of Scott Hoffner. I was happy that. I did the best I could, given the circumstances. I felt like I couldn't really get a good gage on my fitness because my handling held me back, instead of my legs. To lose 4-5 minutes on the same guys I'll be racing in 3 weeks is a little discouraging, but it is what it is. I just have to hope the Iceman course isn't the same conditions. Congrats to the guys up front. They rocked it out on that mess and deserved the podium. 

I have to give huge props to Dan "superman" O'Dea for driving up our spare set of keys to the minivan. Apparently people like to snatch gloves up that aren't theirs and hopefully they'll realize how much of jerk move that was when they find our car keys in them. But karma has a way of sorting that out, that's all I'm going to say. 

Hope to see all of you next weekend at Mad Anthony... and lets pray the weather is good this time.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Miscellaneous Fall Races + Ronde + Grampian Challenge

Sorry for slacking, it’s time I update this thing. I’ve done quite a bit of racing since I last posted, some I’m proud of, some not so much. I managed to finish out the NUE series placing in the top 10 for the points. A lot of fast guys came out of the woodwork and posted their 4th races. The series has really grown and become very competitive. I've done quite a few of these races, all were very difficult, maybe too difficult, and some maybe just down right hazardous... which has me re-thinking my race schedule for next yr and maybe taking on a season that suites my styles a little better. Details to come on that later...

The last race of the year at Fool’s Gold wasn’t really anything to write home about. We drove 12hrs, it rained, I got lost a couple times, we drove 12hrs home. I did like the course however. A little heavy on the climbing, but the singletrack flowed awesome and it was a good mix of dirt rd/trail.

After Fool’s Gold, I got sick. I’m not surprised. Two tough NUE’s along with a couple big road trips less than a week apart is enough to take down even the healthiest individuals. So just coming off the cold, I decided to give the Ronde Von Stony a shot. Despite the rainy cold weather, I had an awesome time racing out near all the roads I train on. I didn’t quite have the punch at the end and finished 4th. My team mate Ronnie was riding super strong on the day and took the win. It was great hanging out with all my riding buddies after a long season away from the scene.

After Ronde, I decided to try my luck at some Cyclocross racing. I was hoping for a top 10 and a good workout, but to my surprise, I rode with the leaders, Adam York and Sven Bauman, all the way to the sprint finish taking 3rd. The course was super choppy which made the mountain bike a good choice.

This set me up well for the past weekend at the Grampian Challenge. I didn’t quite know what to expect, because the CX race the past weekend could have very well been a fluke due to the choppy course. The Grampian Challenge is set on all my favorite local training roads. It starts at Addison Oaks, right where my wife and I got married. It then heads out to Markwood and Drahner Rds. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve ridden on these roads. Everytime I leave my house on a ride, I don’t feel warmed up till I get to the top of Drahner Rd. It’s where I’ve spent countless hrs in sub freezing temperatures, it’s where I developed myself into a national caliber rider, it's where I go to contemplate on many of my lifes toughest decisions, and most importantly, it’s where I got to know some of my closest friends. I’ve really started to fall in love with these types of races like Grampian and Ronde. If you haven’t had a chance to check them out, be ready to roll next year because I think these races are really going to take off.

The action got started quickly and I could tell the legs were good. We snaked through the Addison Oaks 2 track and head out to Bald Mountain. I decided this was where I wanted to make my first attack. I went hard through the trail section and pulled out my team mate Ronnie, and Mark Parmelee. We were hauling out on the dirt rds as each of us took pulls in the cross winds trying to work each other over. As we made our way into Grampian Mt, I attacked as hard as I could up the hill, and only Ronnie held my wheel. I pulled us all the way to the finish inside Addison Oaks and very narrowly took the win ahead of my team mate Ronnie. It was an RBS 1-2! It meant a lot to me to win this race on my home turf and race on all the roads so near and dear to me. It also proved to me that my fitness has really started to come around. Sometimes all it takes is a little more rest, and some time off from the road trips to bring the fitness right back around. It’s in perfect timing for this weekends Peak to Peak. I’m looking forward to it.

With that being said, I hope to see you out there in the coming weeks as we all prepare for the season finale at Iceman. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Shenandoah Saga - Final Chapter

I’m not going to lie. I was a bit nervous about heading back to this race again, and it looked like it was a sure bet that we were in for some muddy conditions too. If you weren’t already aware, I had a nasty crash at this race that netted me a 4 day vacation to the University of Virginia ICU last year, so surely that was going to be on my mind the entire race. My wife Michelle made the trip down with me again. Not sure who was more nervous, her or me.

With the wet conditions, I decided not to take any chances and I mounted up my trusty 2.4” Racing Ralph tires. Maybe a little overkill, but a little more control is always welcome. When I hit the pavement rollout at the start, I could feel the drag of the tires immediately and I thought, “this could be a long day.” I made it over the first climb in relatively decent position. I did the best I could on the descent and formed a little group out on the dirt rds with Zach Morey, and Evan Plews. We made our way out to the 2nd climb. Normally I struggle on this one, but I was keeping Evan in site, and cleaning most everything all the way to the top thanks to the grip of the monster tires.

I took my time on the descent and carefully picked my way down the mountain. A few guys passed me, and I was losing quite a bit of time. When I got to the bottom, I heard someone yell that Evan and Rob Spreng were about 1min up. I threw it into the trucker gear (42-11) and went to work. By the time I reached aid 2, I had bridged back up to Rob and Evan. It was a pretty big effort. Heading up the 3rd climb, Evan just had a little bit too much power and I popped off the back. I muscled my way through the rain to the top. I looked back, and no one was in site. The descent was a little tricky and before I reached the bottom, Rob Spreng had caught me, and just like that, he bridged what was probably more than a 2 minute gap.

We ripped through aid 3, and head out to the 4th climb. I could see Christian up the road, but decided chasing him down was probably not worth the effort as the next climb was steep and techy and I was going to need to be recovered. We made our way up, and I was able to distance myself from Rob, but got passed by another rider. I tip toed down the descent, and like magic, Rob was right back on me at the bottom.  Heading out to the sole crusher, Rob let me go on the dirt rds. I got super close to bridging to the rider who passed me earlier on the climb, but once the road turned up, he was long gone. The fatigue was starting to creep in, and pushing those 2.4” tires up the soggy dirt roads was really starting to bog me down. Just as I reached the top, Bryan Astell caught and passed me. I hung for a few minutes, but the wheels were starting to fall off.

I got to the top and gathered myself for a moment. I dropped into the descent and prepared to clean the downhill that almost took my life exactly one year ago. This was the moment of the race for me. It was like challenging someone again who had stabbed me and left me for dead in an alley. But I faced the attacker and gingerly made my way down eagerly awaiting to pass the spot where I crashed last year… butt cheeks fully clenched. The descent was super rocky and sketchy and I was all over the brakes, using every square inch of those 2.4” tires to slow myself down. I even had a few close calls, but that’s probably because of the nerves and how tense I was. My triceps were burning and my hands were cramping from the death grip I had on the brake levers. I passed the crash site and felt a huge moment of relief. I made my down to the bottom and ironically enough, Kevin Carter passed me, just like last yr. My wife Michelle was there, and I could see that she was overly relieved.

We blew through aid 6, but I could tell the wheels were still falling off. One little push uphill from Kevin Carter, and I went into complete bonk mode. It didn’t matter how much coke I slugged down, pushing the big tires and the nerves had cooked me. I made my way up the last climb and several more riders passed me on the way to the finish. I got to the line and I was so happy it was over.

Doing this race again made me realize that at some of these courses, in order to do well, you have to be able to take some risks on the downhills to be competitive. Some of the guys passing me had full on slick tires and I don’t know how they were doing it. I used to approach a descent and just not think about anything other than staying off the brakes as much as possible. Now, so many things go through my head on a descent. I look at things a lot differently and I get easily spooked. I see a big tree, a steep gully, or a wet root and think of them as things that could send me careening head first into an early grave. Perhaps it’s just because I know what the consequences are. I'm not sure I'll ever get over it. 2 minutes of extra time on a descent can easily turn into 4 days in the ICU. But I suppose there’s always going to be risks associated with racing a mountain bike. It’s all about what you feel comfortable with. I’m not sure I’ll ever come back to this course (or ones like it) again. I kind of feel like I’m gambling with a little too much.

With that being said, I have one more NUE left for the season down in Georgia. I’ll be glad when it’s over. I could use the rest. That will be 8 NUE’s for me this year, and they’ve really taken a toll. The fitness seems OK, and I’m still getting in my training rides. This week will be all about recovery though as these two races are only 6 days apart. Wish me luck and let’s pray we don’t have any rain for the weekend down in Georgia.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

2012 Hampshire 100

This past weekends adventure took us out East for the first 100 mile running of the Hampshire 100. It hadn’t been since the National Championships was held at Mt Snow, VT that I’d made it back into the area. The course was a little more challenging than I had thought. After reading the race route preview, it seemed like the course would be a lot of jeep roads and rail trails, boy was I wrong about that.

The first 20 miles of the race is relatively tame and a large group stayed together for the most part. It wasn’t until the steep jeep climb that things began to break up. I held it together though and cleaned it to the top. My memory of the climb and slightly after seems pretty foggy, perhaps that’s because I was breathing through my eye balls trying to keep up. Soon after, we hit the powerline climb. I managed to ride most of it, but there were a few sections I had to run. I was glad it was over. I was riding with Zach Morey and Kevin Carter when I crested the top. The pace seemed manageable. Zach was riding the trails a lot better than I was, but I could power out the flatter less techy sections, so we were working well together.

I managed to get away, and for a long time, I was by myself, battling it out with the demons on what seemed like an endless session of techy, rocky singletrack and rutted out ATV trails. It seemed like the trail would send you through a few hundred yards of slow twisty rocky singeltrack, then throw you up a super steep granny gear pitch. Just repeat that over and over. The trails were slow and wet, and it didn’t look they got much use. At one point I remember walking through waste deep water with my bike on my back thinking this was insane! I remember passing Jeremiah with a flat. He fixed it and passed me right back. He was gone in a flash, and I couldn’t even stay with him for a minute. It was then that I realized how terribly slow I was riding this techy terrain.

Later on near the end of the 1st  lap, Zach caught back up along with a few others including a very young guy named Dylon. They passed me while I was in full on inner demon battle mode, and I had zero moral to chase, so I let them go. I almost wanted to quit at the lap point, but I knew there was a long stretch of rail trails that I had a chance bridge on, so I kept moving forward. I grabbed my bottles from Janet (thanks Janet), lubed my chain, and I was on my way. I was feeling 20 times better on the roads and trails and went from inner demon battle mode to full on trucker mode. I chase down Dylon, and later on during the cut-off route, I caught Zach. With John Schottler bridging up, we had a group of 3. I was feeling good, so at one the last aid stations, I powered through and went on alone in an attempt to grab the 7th spot. The trails seemed to flow much better the 2nd time through, and I felt like I was riding them a lot better, but not better than Schottler. He caught me near the end, and I narrowly pulled off 8th overall. Congrats to Christian for the win, and everyone else who finished. It was a tough course.

I was happy with 8th. No crashes, no mechanicals, and no wrong turns. It was a pretty clean race. I lost a lot of time fumbling around in the singletrack, but there’s not much I can do about that. The legs felt strong, and I had power all the way to the finish, so that gives me hope for the next race at… dun dun dun… Shanandoah. Wish me luck. Big thanks to my team mate Greg Witt for traveling with me. We had good times, and it made me realize how much fun I have just sharing the travels to these races with friends. And who couldn’t forget the folks at RBS. They’ve really been a god send this year helping me out with mechanic work and taking care of all the bike needs. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you at Shenandoah for the next one!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Training Block

So after the last 100 mile race in Pennsylvania my 2 weeks looked like this. I was getting dropped on the climbs, so I figured I needed to work out on some hillier routes, plus riding a single speed helps increase power. It's like lifting weights going uphill to build strength, and then spinning the cranks at a high cadence on the flats and downhills to develop the power. Each ride I worked on maintaining the highest average speed I could manage. The gear is a 34-14 (70 gear inches), so 19mph is about a cadence of 90rpm's. So going uphill I might be from 10-14mph, and on the downhills and flats, I'll be well over 20mph spinning like crazy trying to power up the average speed. It's a great bang for your training time buck.

Not to mention riding on the singlespeed is fun! There's nothing I love more than just hammering out long dirt rd rides on my singlespeed mountain bike. With all the new gadgets and training techniques, it's so easy to get carried away and lose sight of the fun factor. Plus I think I ride better when I'm having fun and feeling good.

Wed Aug 1st - 2-1/2hr hilly dirt rd loop on Singlespeed. Averaged 17.5mph
Fri Aug 3rd - 6hr 100 mile hilly dirt rd loop on Singlespeed. Bonked and overheated on the way out to Fox Lake. 93 miles. Averaged just over 17mph.
Sat Aug 4th - 3hr hilly dirt rd loop on Singlespeed.
Sun Aug 5th - 4hr ride on Singlespeed. 1/2 on pavement, 1/2 on hilly dirt rds.
Tues Aug 7th - 2-1/2hr ride on Singlespeed. Did 4 laps of Gen Squire/Bishop/Hough/Mill. Averaged 20.5 mph during the 4 laps.
Rest period.
Sat Aug 11th - 5hrs pavement on Singlespeed. 90 miles.
Sun Aug 12th - 5hr-40min ride on Singlespeed. 100 mile hilly dirt rd loop. 6000ft + of climbing. Averaged 18mph. Pushed hard at the end.
Tues Aug 14th - 1-1/2hr ride on poly-anne/dirt rds. Easy pace.
Rest period
Fri Aug 17th - 1hr easy
Sat Aug 18th - 1hr easy pre-ride course
Sun Aug 19th - RACE!
Hopefully it's enough to hang in there with the front runners. We'll see you out there this weekend.

Monday, July 30, 2012

NUE #7 Wilderness 101 2012

Wilderness 101... I kind of forgot how hard this course was. Just about every muscle in my body is sore today. It was a quick trip. We left Friday, drove 8hrs to State College, did the 100 mile MTB race on Saturday. Then hopped in the car, drove home 8hrs and crashed in bed at midnight. I told one of the young guys here at work what we did, and he was like "I'd be dead right now." No shit.

I thought the legs were feeling good, and coming off the win at Bloomer last weekend, I thought for sure I was in for a good performance. The temps were mild, and the course was a little moist, which I prefer. The race got off to a nice start up the first big climb. I really like that about this course. There's plenty of room and time to sort things out and move around safely without crashing into each other. It seems every year the group that makes it over the first climb gets bigger and bigger. We had a huge peloton. Things pretty much stayed together until we hit the next climb just after aid #1. Justin Lindine put in a dig and I latched onto Jeremiah Bishops wheel. Jeremiah said he was doing about 350 watts. With him at 64 kg, and me at 85 kg, a quick calculation (350/64 = 5.47watts/kg x 85kg = 465 watts!) proves I was well over 400 watts for a good 15 minutes up that climb. No wonder I had a hell of a time recovering.

The next climb comes quick, and Tanguy made sure the pace was hard. I dropped off the back and didn't have the legs to stay with the group. It took me quite a while to recover and I lost a few more spots in the ensuing singletrack. Coming into aid #2, I felt terrible, but I knew in the back of my mind that I could ralley and take back some spots. I just kept telling myself that it's a long race, and those guys were going to get tired at some point. I was with Garth Prosser and Matt Ferrari heading up the big climb after aid 2. I still wasn't feeling well and those two were putting the hurt on me. I dug in though and did my best to keep Garth in site. Coming into the next climb, I started feeling better and managed to bridge up to Brandon Draugelis, but he quickly dropped me in the singletrack. I was riding the trails terrible and I kept having flashbacks to the big crash last year. I had a death grip on the brakes and handlebars. Some of that stuff is like riding on cinder blocks. It's a full body effort just to stay upright!

Garth and I hooked up on the fire roads heading out to aid #4. We were trucking and working well together. I was feeling better and better and I decided to make a big push on the climb out of aid 4. Garth was right on my heels and he even helped me push the pace on the climb. Later Garth put it down and I found myself all alone again until I passed Rob Spreng on the next climb. We descended the "pulvorizer" together. It's a long straight descent over the most jagged rocks you can imagine. It's why I could barely turn the steering wheel of the car on my way to work this morning. It's that rough! The bike survived and I was finally feeling recovered. I took a huge dig on the flat fire roads with Rob Spreng in tow. I managed to catch Garth and Brandon right before the final climb.

Brandon pushed the pace and got away. Garth helped pull me to the top. I was cussing at each ramp as I was now paying the price for the big effort to bridge on the flats. Garth told me to stop being a baby and hammer it out, so I did. We caught Brandon on the descent, but he was too quick through the fisherman trail and got away for 8th. Garth and I rolled in together for 9th and 10th. Thanks Garth for not making me have to sprint for that spot.

So that was it. No flats, no mechanicals, no worng turns. It was a clean race and I did the best I could and I had a great time racing with such cool people. Seems everyone is getting so much faster and we are all upping our game, which is a good thing. Let's hope I can recover now and get ready for the next adventure. Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lumberjack 100 2012

I have to admit, I had my eye on this one since the beginning of the year. It’s sort of my home course on the NUE calendar, and its’ flatter profile and fast flow suits my style a little better then say some of the other courses with over 13,000 ft of climbing. I also look forward to this race every year because I get to see and hang out with a lot of my local riding buddies and the RBS team. I’d been on some heavy duty antibiotics for about 10 days before the race due to a tick bite, so I wasn’t sure how well I was going to ride. It felt like I was only digesting about ½ my food all week. The other ½ seemed to like to evacuate at about midnight, 2am, 3am, and 4am each night. I don’t recommend getting bit by a tick. It’s not very fun at all. I know… excuses excuses… blah blah blah…

The race start felt a little more mellow than last year. I stayed right on the front as all 400 of us dodged the van pulling into the parking lot. Barry Wicks took the holeshot into the shoot and I was right on his heels avoiding the crash mayhem which happened just behind us. I was lucky. Wicks pushed the race pretty hard up all the steep rolling climbs. At one point, I let him and Kevin Carter go off the front. I thought if Wicks was going to ride like that all day, there was no way I would survive. Fortunately he let up and a group of 6 formed.

It was Wicks, Tostado, Tanguy, Carter, and me for a while, until Edsall, Spreng, and others bridged up later in the lap. I got caught between groups for a few miles during lap 1 when my seat post slipped down. I fixed it quickly and chased back on.  I was feeling pretty good. The pace felt totally manageable and I was taking a few turns on the front trying to push the pace.

Lap 1, so far so good. During lap 2, Tanguy took a hard pull through Road Monkey until he developed a slow tire leak, then I took over for a while all the way up to the fire tower climb. Then on the ensuing rollers, Kevin Carter came to the front and took a blistering pull. I could tell he was feeling good. Wicks found the hot line and came around Kevin on the rocket launch. The rest of had to run as we slid out on the sandy terrain. At that point, I was really feeling it. The heat and humidity was climbing, and my body was shutting down.

I pulled into the pits and loaded up on ice and a fresh camelback of infinit and tried to recover. I was feeling better, but the group on the front was long gone. I’d try to just keep the pace up and limp in for 5th. It just seemed to get hotter and hotter. The climb up the fire tower took the last bit of energy I had left. Soon later, with about 3 miles to go, Tostado rolled up. He passed me in slow motion and I had nothing left to stay with him. I would roll in for 6th.

Not too bad. Could have been better, could have been worse. The heat really bothered me at this one and who knows what effect the tick infection had on my endurance. Big thanks goes out to my wife Mitch, and my in-laws Dan and Sandy for getting me through that 3rd lap. It is what it is. It’s a points series, you have to roll with the punches and save the best placings you can at each race. And when a guy like Barry Wicks shows up, you know it’s going to be a hard day. I think it’s good for the sport though, and it brings up the pace and the level of competition. Congrats to Wicks for the win and a solid ride by Kevin Carter. I think I’m the first one of the top contenders to finish 4 races, so that’s a huge relief. Even if something bad happens in the 2nd half of the season, I know I have my 4.

So here’s to a successful first portion of season! Now I’ll hunker back down for the next few weeks and see what kind of condition I can bring out for the summer run of hundies. Perhaps I can better a couple of those lower placings and come home with good series finish. Hope to you see you guys out there on the trails.

Monday, June 4, 2012

NUE #3 Mohican 100 2012

This weeks adventure brings us to middle Ohio for round 3 of the National Ultra Endurance Series. With fast singletrack and ample rolling dirt rds, this race is typically a good course for me. Throw in the cooler temps, and the conditions were perfect. The short 3-1/2 hr drive to the venue was a welcome change from the epic road trips of the first two rounds.

Thanks to Rochester Bike Shop, I decided to utilize my new Superfly hardtail for this race. I figured it would help with all the dirt rds and the agonizing “buggy trail”. It proved to be a good choice. No mechanicals to speak of, although my back is feeling it today. The race got off to a quick start with the hill climb prime just outside of town. Native Michigander Jordan Wakely lit up the sprint and took home the extra $200. I decided to lay low near the front and save my effort for the shoot. I managed to be first into the shoot. The trails were dialed. Not much mud to speak of, which was surprising with the rain the day before. The opening climbs strung things out nicely.

As we made our way into the Mohican Singletrack I found myself struggling a little to keep up with the pace. The hardtail had me bouncing all over the roots. I decided to lay low and let a few guys go. I figured I could catch up with all the dirt rds later on. Christian Tanguy turned on the afterburners in the remaining singletrack and built himself up a 12min lead. I found myself working with Kevin Carter, Chris Peariso, and Jordan Wakely. Kevin kept a nice smooth pace as we motored along. Sure enough, out on the dirt rds, we swept up Brandon Draugelis, and Rob Spring, but Tanguy was long gone.

We developed a pace line on the dirt rds out to Mohican Wilderness. I was feeling good, so I decided I would try and break away on the climb out of aid 3. I had a small gap near the top just as we made our way back out onto the dirt rds. I dug in hard and found myself alone, free to open up the motor on the remaining dirt rds.

I kept getting the time splits from people out on the trail. I’d hear 5min, then 4min, then at the end of the buggy trail in aid 4, my wife Michelle yelled 2min. There was a chance! It kept me motivated. But, it was too little, too late. Once I started hitting the steeper climbs near the end, I could feel myself slowing down a bit and paying for my efforts. Christian was going to win. Perhaps if one of the others had broken away and joined me, we would have had enough horsepower to pin it back.

Even though I was tiring, I managed to keep the motor running and held off the chase pack to finish in 2nd. I was really happy with the performance. No crashes, no mechanicals, and no wrong turns. It was a clean race, and I felt good the whole way through. I managed to take about 30min off my time from last year, so that’s a good sign for the upcoming Lumberjack right here in my home state of Michigan.

We had a great time after the race chatting up and hanging with all the cool people this sport attracts. Big props to Ryan O'Dell for pulling off a great race. I was starting to get down on myself, and the sport, but it’s funny how one good race can turn that all around… something to remember when you find yourself struggling with the results. Congrats to Christian for soloing out a monster effort and the win. And as always, congrats to everyone who finished. 100 miles is never easy. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you at Lumberjack.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

NUE #2 Silly moe's Revenge

Google maps had Mountain View Arkansas clocked out at a 15hr drive from Oxford Michigan. It was going to take quite an effort to get there and back for round 2 of the National Ultra Endurance Series. This would be my first effort at the Syllamoe’s course, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d never been to Arkansas, and it’s one of those places only a mountain bike race would bring you to.

The course is very technical and layered with big sharp rocks and gravel. I was a little off the pace heading up the opening dirt road climb, but I figured I would be able to bridge back up once we got into the singletrack. But of course, shortly after we entered the singletrack, I was hit with flat tire #1. Normally the Nano’s hold up pretty well for me and have proven to be a solid choice even on courses like the W101, but this course definitely requires something a little more beefy. It took a little while to fix it. I found myself struggling with the age old debate of a quick blast of C02 and let the stans do the work, or opt for the full on tube change. I chose the latter, and ended up wasting an entire 40 gram canister. Luckily, Dan K dropped me a fresh C02 and I went to work.

So I’m back to rolling down the trail and I’m steadily picking up spots. To be honest, I wasn’t really riding the techy trails all that well. I felt slow, and a little apprehensive about crashing, so I just sort of took my time and picked my way through the brush. Coming down a short descent, it happened again. Flat #2. This time I was stranded with no tube or C02. Luckily with a little begging, I was able to track down a pump, then a few riders later, another tube. I went to work again and got it fixed. Thanks to those who donated for the cause!

OK, so now I’ve lost so much time, that it’s just turned into the principal of finishing this dam thing. I’m rolling along and about to get to aid#5 when it happens again. Flat#3. Holy hell! I have a tube, a pair of C02’s, and a multi-tool. This time I’m getting mid-evil on this thing. I yanked out the flat tube and bit out the valve stem like some sort of possessed flesh eating monster. I peeled open the tube all the way around. Then I took my new tube and wrapped it inside the carcass of the old tube. Voila! Flat fixed for good.

The rest of my race was just me bouncing off more rocks just waiting for the finish line to present itself, but I got through it. Then as I was sitting in my folding chair drinking my recovery drink, the front tire flatted again. How ironic. It was just one of those races that made me want to quit racing mountain bikes. It made me feel stupid, like I am wasting my time with all this. 14hrs of driving to a Podunk town in the middle of nowhere, silly course, mechanicals… all we needed was a thunderstorm and it would have made it a complete mountain bike experience. But for every 3 bad races, there’s one good one, and that’s what keeps us coming back.

I had a lot of time to reflect on the drive home, and tried to focus on the positives, rather than the negatives. At least I didn’t hurt myself, it was still a good training effort, we got to see the Ozarks… etc. I thought about other sports, and other athletes, who go through the same kind of struggles. I thought about how fortunate I am to able to compete at such a high level, and how lucky I am to truly experience my passion. No, it’s not stupid, it’s not a waste of time, it’s what I love to do, it’s what gets me out of bed on a Monday morning, and after a bad race, it’s important to keep reminding myself of that. I’ll still keep having my special moments on the bike that we all chase after week in and week out, but it just wasn’t in the cards this past weekend. With that being said, I hope to see you all at NUE round #3 in Ohio, right there with me chasing that perfect race. Happy thoughts.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cohutta 100 2012

This was a race I was looking forward to all winter long. I was anxious to get back into the 100 mile racing after the big accident at the season finale last year. I put in a lot of work into the off season and I felt ready to go. With Jeremiah Bishop, Justin Lindine, Christian Tanguy, and host of other super strong dudes, I knew this was going to be a tough race, and it was. The new version of the course was epic with over 13,000ft of climbing and added singltrack. I was glad I chose the full suspension bike. My new policy is 100 miles = full suspension… period.

The start was furious right off the gun. We ripped up the opening road climb with a 35 mph bar banging scrum into the singletrack. I tried to be as aggressive as possible without killing anybody, which netted me a top 10 place into the bottleneck. The pace was fast through the singletrack and I worked my way up to the front in the open sections. Later, it was Justin Lindine who pushed the pace on the trail. I hung on for dear life and managed to stay with the lead pack out onto the fire roads where the pace backed off substantially.

The pack grew and grew all the way up to aid 3 at mile 37. I grabbed my bottles and quickly bridged up to the others who had rolled thru the aid station. The pace seemed tame, so I decided to go out on an attack of my own and try to split the group. I soon found myself all alone. The legs were feeling good, so I kept the attack rolling, however, the group chased and quickly brought me back before we reached the top of Patato Patch Mt. Jeremiah put in a dig after aid 4 and split the group a little more before aid 5. Bishop looked really strong.

Rolling into the South loop singletrack, Christian Tanguy pushed the pace and I started to feel my early efforts, but I hung tough and didn’t let Jeremiah and Tanguy get too far. Once back out onto the fire rds, it was down to just the 3 of us as we approached the back side of Potato Patch Mt. I had to let Christian and Jeremiah go as soon as the road turned up. I didn’t seem to have that same snappy power I had the first time up Potato Patch. Lesson learned. Tanguy and Bishop motored away.

I drove on, but the relentless slopes just didn’t seem to give any sort of break. I could see Kevin Carter gaining on me, and soon he caught and passed me. He still looked strong. I had no answer, but to just suffer the best I could to the top. You would turn the corner only to see more upward slope. It was demoralizing. On the descent I chased like crazy. I seemed to have recovered, and was back to putting down the power. I knew Kevin probably wasn’t too far up the road, so that kept me motivated to chase as hard as possible.

Heading through the last aid station, I heard Kevin was close. I buried my head and pushed hard. Next thing I know I’m in some guys front yard and dogs are barking at me. Doh! I turned around, then found myself in another persons front yard with kids in a swimming pool. Double Doh! I finally got myself back onto the course not knowing if anyone had passed me or not. All that hard chasing on the descent was for not. It took the wind out of sails, but I pushed on. The fatigue was really starting to creep in on the final singletrack. My hands and arms were sore. I was happy to see that finish line. 4th! Good nobody passed me during my detour.

It felt great getting back out there on the trails. I love these events. Well I should say I love the first 60 miles of these events. It’s those last 40 that make me question why I do these things. Congrats to everyone who finished, and to those who finished on the podium. If every race is going to be this competitive, it’s going to be a hard season of racing. But it’s that kind of challenge that makes it fun. See you at Syllamo’s!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Waterford Spring Fling

So for the past few weeks I’ve been trying out a little road racing in an attempt to get a jump on the early season fitness. Waterford sportsmans is a stones throw away from home, so I figured what the heck, why not. With CPA Crossings willing to lend me a top notch Madone road bike, I was out of excuses. Waterford sportsmans is a three race road series typically starting the last weekend of March and going every Saturday for 3 weeks. It’s been going ever since I can remember… as far back as when I used to race for the Kinetic Systems Flying Rhino’s, the dedicated shop that has promoted the series since the start.

I will now take you through some of my inner monologue as the races progressed...

Week 1. Dam, this is fast! These corners are freaking me out. Everyone is way too bunched up. I’m gonna crash! No I’m not, Yes I am! Holy crap that was close. Hey look, I’m off the front! Now I’m dangling at the back. I’m chasing those guys down. Why? I don’t know. It’s a good workout. Let’s chase that Bissell guy down. Dam, he’s too fast. I think I’ll pass on the field sprint.
Week 2. BWAAAA! Attack off the line… they’ll never see it coming. Dam, they saw that coming a mile away. These corners are still freaking me out. Let’s attack some more. Let’s chase some more. Hell… let’s just get a super hardcore workout in on the front and call it a day.

Week 3. Whoa! My legs feel great! Let’s attack. Oh! That felt good. Let’s attack some more. I see dudes splitting off the back. It’s working! I feel much smoother around these corners. OK, so I get this now… chase those Wolverine guys… or the Giant guys. Hmmm, or how about chase those Giant guys, but bring a wolverine up with you. Hey, it worked! A group of 7. Let’s whittle this down some more. Attack! Sweet! It worked! Just 2 of us now. Hell, I’ll just attack in the same place again. Holy Crap! I think I’m gonna win this. Just hold on a little longer. Power it out. Grit the teeth. Yes! First win in a loooooong time. That feels good.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Barry Roubaix 2012

This past weekend took us to the West side of Michigan for the first race of the year, Barry Roubaix, starting from Yankee Springs Rec. Balmy temps were on tap which saw most racers in just shorts and a jersey. The rain from the night before left the course in surprisingly good condition. It was soggy in some places, but for the most part, it was fast. I knew my fitness was much better this time from last year. I think I got on the scale last year the day before the race and clocked in at 192… this year I was a svelte 180, 12 lbs lighter! So just the weight reduction was going to make huge difference.

The action got going right away. I kind of thought the lead into Sager Lake Road, the first sandy 2 track about 3 miles in, was going to be elbow banging mayhem with so many racers this year. But it seemed everyone behaved and we all trickled in with no problems. I think I was top 5 when someone attacked and I was gapped off the front of the race. I struggled and chased, and by the time we were back onto the dirt rds, I had made it back on. It took quite an effort and I just wasn’t recovered enough to stay at the front. The 39t chainring up front didn’t help much either. Wish I had a 44. From there I floated back and hung onto the next group. Dan Korienek and I took turns attacking, but nobody was letting us go. I probably did too much work, but it really didn’t bother me because I still wanted to get in a hard workout. About 40 miles in, we caught up to the group that had gotton away earlier, but alas, the top 5 were still up the road. So we played cat and mouse, until we got to the final sandy 2 track section. I went as hard as I could, and Dan and I took turns attacking trying to blow it up the best we could. We swung back onto the pavement and I dug in as hard as I could. At the top a group of 4 emerged, me, Dan, Ernesto, and Adam York. We traded pulls to get away until we reached the finishing straight. Dan lit it up in the sprint… I didn’t even try. I’m surprised he didn’t rip the crankarms off his mountain bike! I rolled happy and spent for 9th.

First race of the year, and I got what I wanted out of it, a good hard 62 miles of hilly dirt rds, and a nice tune up for the first round of NUE’s. The legs felt good. It’s very hard for me to keep the anaerobic endurance up for these shorter punchier events while training for the 100 milers at the same time. Perhaps in the fall, I can work a little more on that. Next up is the Lowell 50, another hard dirt road race to tune up the fitness before Cohutta. See you there!

Boonen after his first bike race of the year.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

100 Mile Workday

So with all of the blogs and postings about everyone’s pre-season training, I thought I would add to the hype with a post of my own. I’d like to talk about my training camp, or lack thereof… or more specifically about a particular day that I’m quite proud of. You won’t hear about some trip to Hawaii or a month in Southern California on this blog. No, I’m choosing to brag about a typical work day right here in Warren Michigan, where some of the best training in the world can be had. What’s so special about Warren Michigan? Well maybe nothing really, it’s flat as a pancake, and traffic is shear gridlock, but that’s not the point…

My Wednesday started off with Boonen, the new puppy, whining at 4:20AM. It doesn’t seem to Matter how early I set the alarm, his ability to anticipate it is pure genius. I’m beginning to think that little bugger can read time on the alarm clock. I’m greeted by Boonen along with some angry undertones from Michelle as she’s woken up from a dead slumber. I choose to ignore it, rather than start something at 4:30am I know I’m not going to be able to finish before the 5am wheels up. I throw the cycling clothes on and get Boonen out for his food and potty. Buddy, the older golden, just slides his head under the bed to wait for when normal people get up.

I load on the 25 lb backpack filled with everything I’ll need for the day. No breakfast and just water for the ride in, it’s unfortunate this sport is heavily reliant on how much you weigh. Thanks to daylight savings time, my entire ride to work will be in complete darkness. The wind is light and out of the west, but it’s quite chilly… 35 degrees to be exact as my 1500 lumens lights up the display in front of the bank. I’ll make good time today trying to stay warm. My 40 mile route from Oxford to Warren is quite cunning. It was sniffed out by the great Robert Herriman and keeps me clear from most all of the traffic, although at 5am, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Hammer, hammer, hammer… I’m trying to make it in 2hrs, but I’ve never accomplished it, 2hrs 10min today, good effort, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I drop my gear off at the cubical and head for the bathroom. You won’t find a shower or locker room in Building 201, the best we have is the 3rd handicap stall. Lets just hope no one has blown it up yet. I pull in for the clothing change and realize I only have one baby wipe left… better make it count and take care of the undercarriage. Last thing we need is a grape sized saddle sore. I retreat to my cubical for breakfast where I’ll spend the next 9hrs. On the docket for today is finishing my mid year contributions for my performance review… this should be interesting.

The morning seems to fly by as I’m still buzzing from my ride in. One of my generous healthy co-workers decides to bring in donuts, I decline, and stick to my oats and protein powder topped off with fish oil for desert. I have a little bit more attitude today cause I rode in. Then it hits me… the idea to pull off the work day century. I may as well, seeing as the weather was beautiful, and the wind shifted and was out of the South. Lets do it! I get to planning the route with some help from my buddy Pat, we come up with a solid 62 mile plan to get it done…

The “work” day starts to come to a close and I’m sort of getting fired up for the challenge. The temps have climbed, and it looks like all I’ll need is shorts and a jersey… a far cry from the full on winter kit I stumbled into the office with. Hell, there’s no one around, I’ll just change right in the cube today to save the walk of shame from the bathroom to the front door in front of my co-workers. They love it though, they think I’m absolutely fucking nuts, but they REALLY get a good kick out of it. I really don’t care, I’ll entertain them if that’s what it takes to get the miles in.
The legs feel good. I seem to be breezing right through every road crossing and hitting all the green lights. This might be a new record. I head North onto the dirt rds for some hill action, and they’re fast and dialed. Seems the road grader hit the East/West rds, good thing I’m mostly heading North. I make my way all the up to Almont to check out this climb I’ve had my eye on for while. It’s surprisingly tough and has a super steep kick near the end. I’ll have to integrate this into the rotation. 91 miles in on the mountain bike and the backpack is starting to wear me down. I head East back home on the rail trail, but it’s still a little mushy. Ugh… I’m feeling it now, but in a weird way, I’m happy the trip is starting to really tax my legs. I’m focusing on the average speed… 18.3, 18.2, 18.1… I dig super hard and decide I’m not letting it drop below 18. I’m really gritting my teeth now… and I go for a sprint to finish myself off on the bridge over M24. Whew! I made it! 18.1mph average and 102 miles… on a workday! I have a moment of great pride. The family was in the front yard to greet me. The perfect way to finish a long day at work.

So I digress back to my original point of what IS the point of this workday madness. I guess my point is that it doesn’t matter where you train, or who you train with, or even how much time you have to train… Good riding can be had everywhere, and a solid training program can be developed to fit almost any schedule with a little determination. It’s the mindset that matters more than anything. Thriving off the determination and perseverance to do what is needed to be in peak condition regardless of the conditions. And turns out, I think I prefer it that way. Thanks for reading, and stay determined to keep the wheels turning in 2012.

Monday, February 6, 2012

45 and Pure Sun in February?

What's with this weather we're having up here in Michigan? I remember shoveling snow piles as tall as my head this time last year at the end of my driveway, just as the plow truck so graciously pushed it right back into my driveway. I've had quite a few battles with her, Mother Nature that is. We're not exactly the best of friends. I guess I'm lucky I still have all my fingers and toes, cause the frost bite's never been THAT bad. I think all Michigan cyclists kind of feel the same way if you've lived here long enough.

I don't know what she's up to handing out dry, sunny, 45 degree days in February, but I'm scared. I'm scared about what she has brewing for us in March, or even April. Or did winter just somehow miraculously pass us by? Maybe old man winter got sick of her bossing him around and he retreated to the heated garage and now she's taking it out on her pets the Lion and the Lamb. Or maybe it was my purchase of that fancy indoor spin bike that guaranteed this weather were having. I just hope old man winter doesn't come storming out of the heated garage all pissed off ready to reclaim his territory. I don't know, but I'm living it up while I can. Hell, I might even ride to work and back this week! Woohoo!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The "Wonder Ifs"

I wonder if I didn't drink so much. I wonder if I weighed less. I wonder if I rested more. I wonder if I trained with more intensity. I wonder if I trained more hrs. I wonder if I had a pro contract and didn't have to work. I wonder if I would have started racing at a younger age. I wonder if my bike was lighter. I wonder if I wore blue socks instead of black... and the list goes on and on.

I've been at this for over 10 years now, and while I think I have answers for most of those "wonder ifs", the dreams still haunt me, at least for another year. Well, I'm 32 years old now. It's right in that age catagory where experience meets the limits of a young adults physiology. And let's face it, the dream of doing this racing gig full time went up in smoke somewhere in my 20's. But the dream of the "perfect race" still holds a coveted spot in my heart and I still haven't convinced myself I've gotton there yet.

With that being said, 2012 is the year I settle all my wonder ifs. That's the goal. I want to be at peace with this cycling stuff at some point in my life. Some day I'd like to be a guy that enjoys a slow pace group ride, or shows up to the local race series with the winter beer belly still in tact. But this year, THIS YEAR, I'm going to accept all the mandatory requirements to survive on this planet and refuse to let them be "excuses." At the end of the day, I'm happy with the choices I've made so far. I mean, you can't be a pro forever. It's nice to have a career in place and the finances squared away. Something I'm proud to say I've managed to work in tandem with this whole cycling thing.

But I'm convinced you don't need to have a full time pro contract to compete and win against the pro's in the sport of mountain biking in the United States. Sure it makes it easier, but only a handful have the luxury, and I'm not going to let it be an "excuse". So at least I have an answer for that big "wonder if." But what about all the others? Well I guess I can't answer them all, but there are still a few left within my power to answer this year, and hopefully that's enough to satisfy my hunger for the perfect race. Hope to see you out there at the races answering all your "wonder ifs", and hopefully one day I'll be happy to just enjoy that slow group ride on a nice warm sunny day.