Wednesday, June 28, 2006

road vs mountain

I love road riding. I love my road bike.
P1010034 However I can't handle big groups. 2-3 is really fun, after that I just don't know. My comfort in the draft seems to have gotten worse the more I've worked on my visual skills for mountain biking.

I've become so dependent on the ability to look far down the trail (road) that when vision is obscured in a draft my comfort level plummets. I'm trying to 'look through' the rider but it doesn't help much.

The main thing is just exposure to group riding. I hardly have any. Time is so limited and matching schedules is even harder. My emphasis is mountain biking so the priority on getting into road groups is low and the fact that I'm uncomfortable makes it even lower.

Yet road riding works you a different way than mountain biking and that's really important. It definitely highlights my weaknesses. So that right there should motivate me to get into it more.

The other ironic thing with road vs mountain is things like the Tour De France.

We love the tour. It is the sole reason that we get cable for one month out of the year. We schedule all activities/vacations around it.

The tour provides so much motivation and inspiration in a way that mountain bike racing/racers haven't been able to emulate. There is so much history and so many stories in the Tour. Vino, Lemond, Horner, Tyler, Lance, Voeckler, Rassmussen, Jan, Pantani, Valverde and so on. Something about their stories, determiniation, passion, struggle, heart just goes so much deeper than what I can get from pro mountain bike racers. The main thing is just the media exposure. The closest thing in mountain biking has been Off Road to Athens.

Yet I have NO desire to road race and all the passion is for mountain bike racing. For the time being XC mountain bike racing is the medium of choice for my personal struggle, heart, determiniation, passion...

Besides there is no singletrack in road racing.

Monday, June 26, 2006

the H(#) ride

Blacksburg is blessed with a large number of hills nearby. They are all in the 5-15min range to climb. To get some 40min climbs we have to drive a little ways to mountain lake or Roanoke.

Years ago a local rider, Joel, made up this ride called the H5, The Hilly 5. Where you ride 5 of the hills around here. The great thing about the ride is that at any point in time you are only a few miles from home, so if you need to bail or the weather turns you can get home quick.

On Saturday I went for an H7. It depends on how you count them though what your total score is.

-Old Brush mtn Road (1point) Though I took it to the new road that gets into the new Brush mtn estates subdivision

-Brush Mtn Estates subdivision (1 Point) This is a new very steep road that climbs all the way to the brush mtn Jeep Road

-To Coal Bank 1st Hill in Preston Forrest- S. Jefferson Forrest Lane (1point)
(turn left atY then Right all the way to the top)

-Back down to coal bank to Pearman (1point) take to T then right to Preston Forrest Drive all the way to the top

-Back down to happy Hollow (1/2 point)

Down Harding, Right on Lusters Gate

-Woodland Hills the horseshoe (1/2point)

-Deercroft to Nellies cave all the way up (1 Point)

-Down Cedar Run, up Jennelle (1 point)

7 points

If I had more time I think I had one more in me to go back down the Valley and up Harding.

Others that need to be added:
Oilwell Road
Laurel Ridge
-Edison Lane?
Mossy Spring to Bishop (gravel / private ??)
-all of Nellies Cave
-Taking Bishop down on the other side of Mt Tabor

Monday, June 19, 2006

Up the Backside

I took out the road bike for a long shake down ride.

1st time up the backside of Mountain Lake this year. This is the Cat 0 hill that Lance Armstrong broke away from in the last Tour DuPont many years ago. It is also the finish of the Mountains of Misery century.

It is a bear. Switchbacks right out of a Euro grand tour. I had to try so hard to force myself to grab a harder gear when standing up. Standing up in the granny is the kiss of death, cause when you sit back down it's not pretty.

I had a 39/27 as my lowest gear. If I do this century next year I'm going to go with a 32 in the rear or consider a compact crankset.

The first switchback hurt and I was fearing for my life, but it got better and it wasn't so bad. But this was 25miles into a ride, and not 97 miles into a ride like the MOM.

The two other climbs on the way home, Brush and Gap, felt like a walk in the park.

The bike rode awesome. I just need to fix a few creaks/rattles. Coming down the front side I was working on my handling. This bike corners really nice. It was a lot of fun. I was trying to corner it like a mountain bike. Out of the saddle with the bike leaned over and the saddle touching the inner thigh of the inside leg.

Growing new mountain bikers.

I gave a skills clinic yesterday. It's part of my vision to bring back mountain biking energy to this area. Step one is growing some new mountain bikers.


The clinic was designed to focus on the fundamental basics of mountain biking.

The inspiration in the teaching philosophy came from my work with Gene Hamilton at Better Ride. I've even asked him about getting some sort of coaching certification from him.



I spent a lot of time struggling with how much information to throw at them. Typically I opted for information overload. I also spent a lot of effort figuring out how to teach some of the skills. How to break it down in a methodical step-by-step process to that you can show someone how to do it.

It's so easy being experienced at something and say just do it like this. It's one thing to be fast, but it's another thing totally to know why you are fast and to show someone else how to do what you do.

It was really fun. 3hrs. It went by in a flash. I was so in my element. Talking ad-nausea about the infinite details of mountain biking. Who doesn't like to be seen as the expert, the guru, at something. Pulling answers out of the sky to questions about handling, etc.. Well I hope my answers were good.

There was no where near enough time to get to everything. But I wanted to just get them exposed to some certain principles that will help them get through the steep learning curve of mountain biking.

I tried my best to get the point across that it is going to take a while for things to sink in, and squash the notion that they are going to improve leaps and bounds by tomorrow.

But at least they have some basic knowledge to move forward on the right foot. Everyone was happy with the clinic.

Step 2 is to do a beginner racing clinic, to get people the confidence to enter and finish a the 1st timer catagory at Rowdy Dawg. Or to do some instructional trail rides, where we go out and stop at select corners, or tech sections and work out line and practice 2-3 times.

But all this takes time. I've got the energy and the will, but working full time, and my family, and my own training/racing takes up most of my time.

Here's the outline FYI for you to try growing your own new mountain bikers:

• Goals of the class: give some basic instruction, with over goal of having more fun
• A lot of people think that fitness can be trained but skills are natural
• Not being scared might be natural but skills can be learned.
• Clinic based on core fundamentals (like free throws to basketball)
• Parking lot is controlled environment, no rocks, trees, etc..
• Lots of info at once, info overload
o printed outline provided
o take your own notes as soon as possible after class
• Won't realize benefits in one day
o Need time to make concepts second nature
o May be difficult at first because concentrating so much

Trail Etiquette
• No bikes allowed on the trail around the pond.
• Bikes yield to Horses and hikers
• Hikers yield to horses
• Bikes are really quiet when approaching hiker/horses
o Make noise, shift, ring a bell, call out well before you reach them
o Ask politely to get by, and if a horse ask which side to get by on
o Horses can be skittish and afraid of bikes
o Freewheel can sound like a snake
o Pick up bike or at least rear wheel
• When approaching hiker/horses, pull over
o Usually they will let you by
o Be prepared that a hiker/horse will be around a corner
• Unwritten rule that uphill biker has ROW over downhill biker
o Many don't follow this, so don't fight it, but practice it
• Pack out what you pack in
• Don't make puddles bigger by going around, usually better to go through
• Help out at trail maintenance, no maintenance=no trails.

Bike setup
• Don't need expensive bike or all the latest 5" of travel front/rear
• DO need a properly working bikes
o shifting, braking, fit
• Go to shop for more in depth fitting. Worth it if you get into cycling more.
• Saddle Height
o XC height is a compromise between pedaling efficiency and handling
o Ok to drop saddle down to technical sections, make a mark with pen
o return to position for climbs

• Tires / Pressure
o low pressure provides better traction for cornering and climbing
o low pressure more susceptible to pinch flats
o smaller tires require more pressure to keep from pinch flatting
o trial and error to find the lowest pressure that you can ride w/o pinch flatting.
o LEARN how to change a flat. Carry spare tube, pump, tools
o bigger tires provide more contact patch for cornering traction
 some built in suspension
 more rolling resistance
o Buy a floor pump with a gauge, pump tires up every ride.
• Brake Lever position
o wrists inline with forearms is the strongest position
o levers rotated too far up or down place the wrist in a weak position
o rotate levers to create straight line from wrist to forearm
o There is a range and no one right position
• Brake lever reach
o set reach of lever to lie underneath first knuckle
• Brake contact point
o Look for bolt on brake lever for reach adjustment
o Finger strength is strongest the closer the fingers are to being in a fist
o If brakes engage too far out it can cause forearm fatigue
o Make sure brakes fully engage before lever hits the bar
• Basic gearing
o 3 rings up front, Bigger is harder, smaller easier
o 7 to 9 speeds in the rear. Bigger is easier, smaller is harder
o stay out of BIG BIG and SMALL SMALL
o shift before you get onto a hill.
o Shifting under heavy pressure causes problems.
o chose a gear that allows you to spin but isn’t too easy
o slightly higher gear than the road, pushing against the gear helps stabilize you off road
o Shift constantly in reaction to the terrain
• Basic Suspension Setup
o Set compression setting (air/spring) to produce 25% sag.
o This is just a starting point
o don't be afraid to change things, just write it down
o Rebound, fast or slow, personal preference

Fundamental Principles

• Staying loose and dynamic
o suspension travel of arms/legs: keep them bent
o light grip, tension causes problems
o loose, flowing, dynamic
o if crashing, think roll instead of putting arm out
o Warm up prior to hitting the trail.
o * Ride around exploring limits of motion on bike
• Center of Gravity (COG)
o Where it is
o Change it in reaction to conditions
 shift weight back when going down ledges
 shift weight forward when climbing.
o Manipulate it to move the bike around
• Momentum
o Objects in motion want to stay in motion
o Usually going faster is safer (within reason)
o More crashes caused by going too slow than too fast
o Spinning wheel is more stable
o * Show example of holding a spinning front wheel and the gyroscope effect.

• Basic Neutral position
o COG balanced over pedals
 shift fore or aft depending on slope of hill
 feel the weight go into the pedals
 can hold onto bar with light grip, even, just thumb/index finger
 only weight on hands is weight of forearm.
 Will feel awkward at first.
o chest low
o elbows out
o Pedals level, with strong foot forward
o Head up
 Balance is based on fluid in inner ear
 level head tells proprioreceptors you are balanced
 tilted head throws off balance
 will talk about vision more later
o Exaggerate the position, get REALLY low, Put you elbows WAY out
o On the trail it's never as good as you think so exaggerate in practice
• Step one: Find balance point over pedals. Ride around feeling for the sweet spot
• Step two: Bend elbows, chest low, head up, light grip: repeat riding around.
• Step three: add sticks, maintain light grip

• Basic position under Breaking
o What happens to your COG under heavy braking. Just like in a car.
o Need to shift COG back during braking.
o Ride towards cone in neutral position, brake hard at cone, stop breaking at 2nd cone
• Shifting COG back on dropoffs
o Brake before front wheel drops off
o Shift COG back as it front wheel drops off edge
o Drop off curb
o Drop off ramp, brake before ramp, shift weight back
• Basic climbing position
o Weight balance to maintain traction, and keep front wheel from popping
o Bend at waist
o Elbows OUT.
 opens up rib cage for better breathing, elbows in constricts breathing
o Head up
 Looking down promotes steering errors
o Pull back on bars to drive rear tire into ground
o For steep hills scoot forward and float over tip of saddle
o Climb up hill to practice position

• Getting front wheel up (coaster wheelie)
o Pulling up with arms only gets you so far
o COG needs to be shifted to the rear
o Know you are doing it right when the front wheel sets down instead of slamming down
o Practice coaster wheelie over sticks/discs

• Basic front wheelie pop
o Choose big enough gear
o strong ¼ to ½ pedal stroke
o slight shift back of COG
o Practice over sticks/discs, curb

• Vision
o Head up, slows things down
o Analogy of driving down highway looking out side vs looking forward
o Look where you want to go, avoid target fixation
o Peripheral vision very powerful. Drag racers look at lights w/ peripheral vision
o Show peripheral vision drill with pen
o Look at object, register it in mind, then look past object
o Repeat coaster wheelie with stick.

• Braking
o Beginners usually afraid of front brake
o Most braking power comes from the front brake
o Highest braking power happens right before tires start to skid
o Skidding is NOT powerful braking. Ok for direction changes, not for stopping
o Need to shift weight back under heavy braking
o Look for braking points, smooth areas, not in dropoffs. Brake hard here before rough spots or drop offs.
o Brake hard before corners, then off the brakes
 very difficult to do, takes lot of time to get comfortable
*Drill, start from standstill
at cone use rear brake only, measure stopping distance
at cone use front brake only, measure stopping distance
at cone use both brakes only, measure stopping distance

• Cornering ( simplified version)
o brake before the corner, try not to brake while in the corner
o outside leg down
o weight the outside
o lean bike to the inside, lean your body to the outside
o look through the corner with your vision
o Practice going around corner, then do figure 8

• Going slow to go fast
o Slow race, working on balance
o Trackstands
o Show balance drill (one foot in front of other)
o Do a slow race
o Show how to do a trackstand
o Repeat slow race

• How to practice
o Practice basic position anywhere.
o When out riding focus ONE thing at a time. Maybe for the whole ride, or just one sections
 braking hard before corners
 keeping weight over pedals
 keeping your head up

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Cornering thoughts

I've been concentrating a little bit on cornering again lately. There was an article referenced at the Biking Hub about Shaums March skills camp.

In it the author was describing the position for cornering:
"And so we rode on, putting everything into practice as we went - adopting the elbows out "neutral" position on the bike, making sure that you could feel the saddle touch the inside of your thigh as you leant it over, weighting the pedals equally."

The thing that stood out to me was the saddle touching the inside of your thigh.
I am assuming that he is talking about the thigh of the inside leg. I've been struggling how much to lean the bike and where the saddle should be.

I'm starting to get more comfortable with the saddle touching the thigh of the inside leg, which is a much more leaned over position.

I went on a long road ride today that had a huge climb and long downhill. I was trying out some different cornering strategies on the road bike. Usually you see people cornering on the road bike in the saddle, where on the mountain bike I've lately been focusing on being out of the saddle.

I tried out some road cornering out of the saddle, with the bike leaned way over my body leaned the other way. Hips angled and the saddle touching the inside thigh.

It's something I rarely see any road riders doing. I looked up some pics from the Red Bull Road rage to see if anyone was doing this there.

Lopes was

Look at this pic

The guy in front is doing what I'm talking about. The bike is leaned over more and the saddle is brushing the insde of the thigh of the leg on the inside of the corner.
The other guys are leaned over in more typical style. Sitting on the saddle more, though still leaning the bike one way and leaning the body the other.

On some corners it felt really good. Even on the mountain bike though I can get it sometimes others not.

Just something to mess around with.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


When I first started doing the Morris Style training I suffered like a dog through the intervals. It was a motivational struggle to get my butt down to the basement torture chamber. I've since come to almost enjoy some of the intervals and can get through them ok.

With the exception of Leadouts and Sprints. I recently got my latest calendar for the next 4 months of training. To my dismay there were leadout workouts scheduled at least once a week.

I don't know what it is about these things that just brings on the dread. Maybe it's that with the other intervals I can actually do them with some level of success. Or that there is more quantitative feedback (power/time) with the other ones, but not so with the leadouts. Or maybe it is just that I feel like I flail on sprints and leadouts.

Typically, these are the workouts that I bag early if I'm feeling bad. However I made it through todays relatively unscathed.

10x :20 on :20 off. 2-4 minutes rest between sets Not a second to daydream. I make tick marks in order to remember where I am in the workout. Otherwise I'd lose count after the 3rd one.

Dave says to look at challenges like this as positive opportunities rather than chores. An opportunity to make yourself better.

It reminds me of a time in highschool math class. I was a geeky nerd plain and simple. In a sophmore class one year this sort of hot burnout upperclassman girl was sitting behind me. The teacher was lecturing how we should look at tests as opportunities. Opportunities to change ourselves.

Under her breath, the girl behind me says,
"Change my schedule."

I'll keep working on it.

GOOO Tinker!

I keep checking in on Tinker at the RAAM every day.

In reading some of the reports I saw a sweet tidbit about Tinker.

"Passing through TS #19 in La Veta, CO just 7 minutes behind Moonen was Tinker Juarez. A two time mountain bike Olympian, he climbed all three mountain passes in Colorado today in his big chainring. In fact I found out that he has not been out of his big chainring the entire way, but plans on using his small chainring in West Virginia. His crew chief Trevor Finch told me that Tinker has great eyes, and is still jumping railroad tracks. He doesn’t use sunscreen and is a terrific night rider. He rides better when he is tired. Then he has chosen the right event in RAAM which I call experiencing tiredness beyond belief. Tinker has accumulated 20 hours off bike time 1,102 miles into the race in Trinidad, CO. He has two bikes with aerobars, but doesn’t like them. He started the race with no chamois in his shorts, but started using them in Cortez, CO. Mountain bike world champion Ned Overend visited Tinker just before he left the TS in Durango. Ned told me that Tinker must be able to recover on the bike during RAAM.

Finch said that Tinker is very intuitive about his training. Today was the first day he’s dealt with the pain of yesterday. He never asks where the other riders are. 2005 RAAM finisher Jim Trout is on Tinker’s crew, and told me he would rather be a rider than a crew person. Trevor’s wife Jennifer is also on the Juarez crew. When I asked Tinker why he prefers always riding in his big chainring, he said, “It just feels right.” Raspy with a sore throat (most of the riders have this), Tinker said he needs a whole week to acclimate to the altitude, and he’s only been at altitude for 3 days now."

Ok big chainring so far. A mechanic was cleaning his bike and said there wasn't much grease on the small ring. Tinker said that's because I haven't been in it yet.

Whew!, and jumping railroad tracks. Yeah!

Cross your fingers for him. They are dropping hard. Last years champ dropped out with lung congestion. Kenny Souza has it too and is falling back.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Great article on balance training

There is a great new article at the Biking Hub on
Balance training

Some wonderful stuff on vision and balance including some easy to do drills at home

Going Custom: Part 8 Arrival, buildup, initial impressions

This is part 8 of the Going Custom Series that has chronicling the adventure of buying a custom road bike.

Part 8: Arrival

That frame had been delayed a little due to a problem with the clear coat. It was sent back to the powder coater for a do-over. It arrived yesterday. This placed it at about 8 weeks after approval of final design. Estimated delivery was 5-6 weeks from approval. So no big deal considering the problem with the paint.

Initial Impressions
If you've never gotten a custom frame, it is worth it just to come home and see the box and go through the process of opening it. Pulling out the packaging little by little until you catch a glimpse of the bag with the frame in it. Slowly lifting it out and peeling off the final layer to see the shiny paint.

Gloss black, white decals. Subtle. Awesome simple headbadge


Okay, I was really proud of myself that I never once asked Jim how much the frame would weigh. You know I am a weight weenie, but in the grand scheme it's at the lower end of the priority spectrum, especially considering the heavy components I've got. But we all know the very first thing I did was stick it on the scale.

3.41 lbs with seat collar, shifter bosses, and bottle bolts. The Ti bike this is replacing was 2.75lbs. This is all neither here nor there at this point but I wanted to know and I'm sure others wanted to know.

Frame Prep

Jim owns a tool sharpening business that specializes in frame tools. So as you can imagine, the frame was meticulously prepped. Head tube, BB faces were shiny and smooth. The BB threads were SHARP. I almost sliced my fingers when putting the anti-seize in it. All other threads were tapped nicely as well. The painters sprayed in frame saver pretty thick which is good considering my MO of riding and putting away wet my bikes.


It's always tough getting a new frame and being so gung-ho to get to it when regular life is also going on at the same time. Dinner, playing with the kids. Ok time for a short movie before bed..Ahh some time to work on this with me.....

Better wait till they go to bed.

The build went very smoothly. BB threaded in so smoothly. I use anti-seize on the threads, and Teflon tape on the BB. The rear wheel was a little tight, but I think it's because the powder coat needs to wear a little at the axles, that's how tight the tolerance is. Headset pressed fine,

no issues.

Well..except one. After I set my saddle height, I didn't have enough room to clamp by the seatpost. So I clamped on the seatube. I put a rag in the clamp so as not to mess the paint up, but there was a small decal under this spot and it got buggered when the frame twisted in the stand. Jim is sending me a new one.

Initial rides

It's 11pm pitch dark and I'm riding my bike down the street. I think my neighbors don't think twice about it from me as this can be a common occurrence.

I put it on the trainer in the morning to do my workout and dial in some little things like saddle tilt and handlebar tilt.

From a fit perspective it is no surprise that it feels great. We spent a lot of time designing the frame around my Serotta fit numbers. The real issue is how that fit interacts with the weight balance. That is the problem I had with my previous bike. The fit was fine, 3 points in space matched the spreadsheet from the fitter. But the stem length required to get the fit threw off the weight balance. So this sweet US made Ti frame didn't ride like it should...

After the trainer, I took it out for a real spin around the block and down a few side streets. In one word:


Leading up to the arrival of this new bike, I'd been nitpicking my Ti bike on every ride. Focusing on all the little nuances that were bugging me about it. The feeling of it moving slightly side to side with every pedal stroke. The awkwardness of getting out of the saddle on climbs. How it would all of a sudden move over a few inches while riding. All indications of a weight balance issue.

Immediately I noticed the improved balance of this bike. Just straight tracking, every pedal stroke working towards forward motion. I'm not talking fireworks or anything. Sort of like a cold beer after a hard days work, or sitting down in a really comfortable chair or laying down in one of those really expensive hotel beds.


The best feeling was standing up and climbing out of the saddle. The longer stem and more weight on the front made it feel like it should.

Road feel
One thing I was surprise with when I first threw a leg over it was the smoothness of the feel. I've had high end steel before and I know it is smooth compared to Al. But I've been on a Ti frame for the past few months. One that is buttery smooth to the point of almost being vague. I was expecting that going back to steel would exaggerate the difference in damping characteristics between steel and Ti. But this is a smooth feeling ride. It has that lively springy feel that high end steel is known for (This is a Columbus LIFE tubeset). I had a FOCO frame once that felt tinny under vibration, but this one feels solid.

Now for the long term

I'm smart enough to know that there is a new bike love that can be blind. So I'm going to stop talking about how the bike rode, and revisit this in a few weeks after I've had some serious saddle time. But from the one ride, I'm really stoked.

Stay tuned for another look in a few weeks.

Oh here is what it looks like and how it's built up:

The build

The powder is a little thick but Jim's welds are known for being amazing. This almost looks like micro-fillets instead of TIG-welding.
1999 Campy Chorus 9 (rebuilt shifters few months ago)
Dura Ace cassette + Jtek Shiftmate
Bontrager Flattop handlebar. Looks weird but comfortable. The drops are just the right depth too. Reach is on the shorter side.
1999 Cane Creek Aerohead wheels
$75 ebay special Alpha Q pro fork
$20 ebay special ITM Millennium -10degree 110mm stem
1'st generation IRD Technoglide headset. This run has a 1mm gap between the cap and the cup. But it still works great.
Thomson Seatpost
WTB Rocket V Race saddle (same as on both my mtn bikes)
Shimano 600 pedals
American Classic flimsy Bottle cages
Bontrager Grippy tape especially selected for the white stitching

The extra spacers will be removed once the fit is totally dialed in.

Total weight: a hair shy of 19lbs.

Considering the heft of 1999 Chorus and the Cane Creek wheels, it would be easy to cut up to 2 pounds. I might get some new wheels or components someday but everything works well. Having a good frame creates a canvas that can be changed as desired with new parts.

It's a good solid build that just keep on ticking.

Monday, June 12, 2006

3x up the nemesis

After 3 days at the beach visiting my parents and a 7hr drive with two kids my motivation wasn't the highest. The plan called for 2.5-3h HARD road ride or mountain bike ride.

When the motivation isn't there sometimes it is easier to let the terrain force you to motivate. Meaning you aren't going to get to the top or get home w/o having to work for it.

I decided to try some hill repeats up Old Farm. This is my nemesis trail that I use as a benchmark for fitness and time trial up it. Current record is 17:08. I can't even remember the last time I rode up it more than once in a ride. It's the kind of thing you just want to go up once. Going down is no piece of cake either.

Going for time on Old Farm is similar to racing smart. Ride with your head first then finish with heart. Go out too hard at the begining and it is all over. Seeing as this is training and not racing I opted to blow it all at the start and overgear. It was easy to immediately redline and then pinball all the way to the top
18:27. Well off record pace.

The trip down was scary as my head was still in the clouds.

2nd time. Opted to start really easy and try to ramp it up later. Forget about it. I was blown. Granny geared a lot and felt like I was going backwards. 21:35 two minutes more than the first time.

Back down again.

3rd time. Opted to stay out of the granny gear. 22/28 was lowest gear allowed. It actually felt much better than the 22/32. It wasn't a total mashfest, but felt better than the granny. I think the granny is only good if you've got the heart to spin it fast enough to make a difference.

20:57. Nothing to write home about. But I was happy that I was faster on the 3rd time than the 2nd time.

Timed the way down too: 6:32. Tried to keep my head up to look down the trail for anyone else coming up. There are several corners that I still can't figure out how to dial in. The biggest problems I've got are dragging the brakes too much, and not weighting the front wheel enough in turns.

The way home has several rolling hills. Typically I'm so blown that I can just meander up them. This time I tried to stand and push. Made it home with that tired naseaous feeling.

One day I'm going to go for 4x

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Why results are not a good goal

When you ask people what their goals are for the season, invariably results will be mentioned. Top ten, top 3, top 10% etc.

The problem with choosing results as goals is there are TOTALLY out of your control. The reason is because you have NO control over who else shows up to the race, how good they are, or how bad they want it.

Take this for example.

Here are results for last years Hoo Ha.
2005 Hoo Ha

I am pretty sure the course is identical. Jeremiah had the same time from last year
2006 Results

My time this year would have won last year. In fact the top 11 from 2006 in Vet sport would have beat the 1st place from 2005.

Vet sport class got a lot faster compared to last year.

Remember, goals should be controlable. And there is always someone who is working harder. The next time you set a goal based on results remember that he/she might be showing up to that race.

Off the wave

Thanks everyone for their kind words about the race. It's really nice to know that people read and actually take inspiration. Mountain biking has been berry berry good to me, and I hope that others can get out of it what I get out of it.

Looks like I timed the race perfectly and was on top of the wave. Now I'm on the other side of the wave.

I'm feeling the race, though am trying to train. This is how you get better. Training under fatigue. Though care has to be taken to rest properly too. Today called for leadout intervals and they were pitiful. That's ok. I did the best I could and actually bagged most of the workout. I might try again tonight.

We are going to visit my parents at Myrlte Beach for a few days. I haven't figure out yet how to get a good ride in there. Too many side streets and hard to get a consistent ride in. I always feel like I'm going to die with the terrible drivers down there.

I'm so motivated from the race, and also getting my new calendar from Dave that I packed the trainer and am going to get on trainer ride in the garage and a few easy rides along Ocean Blvd.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Tinker going for Race Across America

June 11

One of our own goes for it.

Tinker racing in RAAM


I've always loved Tinker. He's been around since I first started and is still going. Think of him over the next few weeks.

Giveaway at the Biking Hub

There is a sweet give away at the Biking Hub right now.

Just submit an entry through the comment section. Though there is one guy with 4 kids that has my vote right now.

Good luck.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Birthday Race Report

Yesterday, June 4, 2006 was my 38th Birthday.

It was also the Massanutten Hoo Ha Bike race

This was the first race of my 2006 season. I was actually forgetting it was my birthday due to being busy with work and travel and focusing on the race.

As the first race of the season I was naturally concerned. The reality is that I never go hard enough in training. This past two weeks had seen very little saddle time as well (like 4 hrs this week). So there are always gremlins in my mind about handling, dead legs, etc...

Massanutten is one of those races that I place on a pedestal. In my years of coming here it has always been one of the biggest and baddest races in Virginia. The area is known for its over the top technical rock riding, and its cycling personalities. Harrisonburg has one of the most vibrant cycling scenes in the east anchored by magnetic personalities like Chris Scott, Thomas Jenkins, Mike Carpenter...

Rocks is all I can say. Tough rocks. Sissy rocks. Rocks who climb on rocks...
Buried baby heads. Stegosaurus scales, full flights of stair steps.. you get the picture.

The race always draws a big field, of the best riders around. For example, Jeremiah Bishop won, and Eatough and Sue Haywood would have been there but had other obligations.


Here was JB's bike
V brakes on the rear with a Power Tap hub and I think those are ESI silicon grips.

I usually end up finishing feeling like death. Usually it is held in August and the heat just bakes me. This year it was in June, and a cool day to boot thank god.

Interestingly enough I wasn't suffering from that paralyzing fearful nervousness that I tend to get before races. I was focused and concentrated but didn't have as much of the nauseous butterflies. I wonder if this new pop-psychology secret weapon I'm testing out had anything to do with it. More to come in several weeks on that.

I was a little sad to not be spending my birthday with my family. This isn't the best race to bring the family to. After the kids race they would be hanging out in a field for about 4 hours. It would have been cool though to have them cheer me on

My wife had bought me a new cycling duffel bag for my birthday. Perfect timing.
All packed up and rolling out at 7:15am for the run up 81. Upon arrival I immediately downed half a bottle of gatorade, and then suited up for warmup. I was so focused that I almost forgot to pin on my # until I saw some other people pinning on theirs.

With Ipod rocking out with some good punk I followed my warmup routine
5mins zone 2-3
5mins MSP
5mins Zone 2
5x1min on 1min off zone 5
5 min zone 2

Legs felt ok. Not great.

Finished off the rest of the bottle of Gatorade on the warmup. That is 56grams of carbs right before the start. Key!

Filled my pockets with the necessities
2 gel flasks, tools, bottle of gatorade, camel back, energy bar

and rolled to the start

Typical starting line banter. I didn't know anyone near me so didn't have to partake. The course had changed since the last time I'd been here so I was eavesdropping on some guys talking about the start and where the single track was

The Start and early race

The start was on a paved climb. No idea where the turn in for the single track was. We took off, and I immediately went out way to hard. The legs and heart said no sir, and I backed off only to be passed by several riders. Will I ever learn?

The first part of the race is a prologue loop that dumps out to double track fairly quickly. With my new MO in mind I didn't try to go too hard. Several times in the single track I wanted to go faster stuck behind some slower riders, but I was proud that I just followed along and didn't try to over do it yet.

Cost Benefit Analysis
Soon enough we hit some steep grinder climbs. Everyone was walking. I KNOW I can ride this stuff. My bike kicks ass on these kinds of climbs. Especially after my ride last Sat on Price's mountain I know that this stuff is rideable.

The first grunt had too much foot traffic and I had to walk. The second and third though I was able to thread the needle around the lemmings and clean both. TRACK PLEASE! RIDER! thankfully most people got out of the way to let me by.

It was in these moments that I realized how much of mountain bike racing is a cost/benefit analysis. How many matches do you burn in a given situation vs the benefit of passing people of making up ground/time? Cleaning these steep pitches put the hurt on my legs and heart. I'd have to recover on the top and get back into the sweet spot of sustainable power. The redline effort would surely haunt me later as the leg cramps set in. Yet here was a situation to pass 10 people in a shot.

On these two grunts I passed about 15 people. BAM! like you read about.

I was so stoked too when topping out on the climbs, that I was able to bring my heartrate and breathing down and grab a harder gear and continue on. The nightmare is grinding through something like that and then coming to a standstill on the top and having to let everyone you just passed by.

Here again the light bulb went on.

It is a fallacy that mountain bike racing is just a time trial at your Maximum Sustainable Power (MSP). Dave Morris said to me once that with the exception of extended climbs, mountain bike racing is a series of high output efforts, followed by inadequate recovery combined with sustainable power and periods of very low output on descents.

These grinder climbs were the perfect example. Redline, recover back to sustainable output. This was repeated time and time again. Technical section, trying to pass someone followed by a rhythm section or a downhill.

The training he's had me doing has simulated this well. And it really paid off.

The ridge
The single track dumps out to an old paved road. In August this is typically an oven. Thankfully it wasn't too bad today. This road is steep. I mean granny gear steep. When was the last time you road granny gear on a mountain bike on a paved road? Alone you can middle ring it, but in the middle of this race it is granny gear.

I forced myself to drink a bottle of water that was handed out and eat some of my energy bar. Several riders go by but the ridge was coming.

THE RIDGE! This is the feature that the Hoo Ha! is known for. I so wanted to ride more of it this year than in the past. I was able to a little bit, but the fatigue was setting in. I started to cramp a little. But it was comical. The cramps were nothing but a thang. PFFft! Whatever, where ya been? I just kept on riding. I think I haven't really developed any cramp mitigation as opposed to just developing some cramp tolerance.

Sections of this thing might be rideable. But at this point there was no way. Cost benefit time again. It just wasn't worth the tax on the legs, and the potential for crashing.

Some sections were just long flights of stairs. This is the one situation where being short and my bike's weight were liabilities.

In some sections I became a lemming and walked along with everyone else when I should have ridden.

It started to get dark. Ominously dark. Then it cooled down. In more than 15 years coming to this race I've never once been cold. I was getting chilly. Then it started to sprinkle. Then it started to really rain. Hard rain.

FLASH!! CRACK!! BOOM! Lightning, thunder. Ok, top of a ridge. In a thunderstorm. Hmm not the best place to be. Time to go. Thankfully the turn for the downhill came soon enough. Though this was a be careful what you wish for thing.

The downhill
Pouring rain storm. Already technical riding now became wet slick technical riding. Wet rocks and roots with a fresh coat of mud from all the previous riders. Thank god for disc brakes.

My recent diligence with skills work is really paying off. This was my first race since my lesson with Gene. The entire day I was riding very well, typically passing or catching up to everyone. I believe I was passed on a downhill one time.

On this downhill in the rain I came up on a rider and didn't have the guts to try and pass. I could hear another rider barrelling down behind me. Chain slapping the bike, making a huge ruckus. RIDER!! he screamed.

We had slowed up for a sharp right hand turn, almost a switchback. The flying rider screams "passing on the right". He passed at speed on the inside of this switchback with just a few inches between him and us. My mouth was agape in awe. The guy in front wasn't planning on letting him by and was pissed off at the pass. He was swearing his head off. God dam** moth** f*** that's how people get hurt, What is he racing for 8th place in sport. and on and on.

I'm saying to myself, dude if you'd just get out of my way so I can go faster.... And btw that was a sweet pass. THAT, was mountain biking.

Ugh, this downhill was getting old. Pure concentration required. A situation where going too slow is much more dangerous than going too fast. Too slow and the tires slip or get buried. Trying to keep the head up and just get to the bottom

Finally at the bottom it turns to double track, or rolling single track. It seems like you're almost there but at the Hoo Ha you are never ever almost there. It just doubles back, turns here, goes up there down here, and on and on. It was the perfect track for me though, Big ring or middle ring spin with some climbs but no steep grinders. Just light enough on the pedals to keep from cramping.

I was rocking. All day I'd had a few lines from some songs by Against Me! trying to maintain focus. Now I was practically singing out loud. I had goosebumps. I was flying. Reeling in some people. I know reading this BLOG it seems like I place too much emphasis on intervals, training and don't have enough fun. But let me tell you . I was having some serious fun.

Finally we were getting close. I let a guy by on the last climb wishing I hadn't. In the single track he slowed up but there wasn't anyone in my class nearby so I just let it ride through the finish. Huge smile plastered all over my face. Even 5 minutes after the smile was still there. Some guy said it must have been too easy with a smile like that!


Ok something wasn't right. I felt fine. No headache, no stomach ache, I didn't feel like curling up into the fetal position. The typical reaction to this is "did I go hard enough?" I'm finally realizing that getting the fastest time doesn't always mean riding into the dead zone.

After grabbing my recovery drink I tooled back to check the results. I've said before that the results will be what they will be, but who am I kidding, I know they matter.

3rd place Men's Vet Sport

I was soo stoked. Given the size of the field, the quality of the riders, and the difficulty of the course, I'd have to say this is my best race ever.

Being able to give good news to my wife and kids is always a plus. Especially after years of disappointing answers to the eternal "How'd you do?"

I got some more birthday presents too.

If you read this BLOG you know my addiction to Reese's.

What a great day. Now that it is over I can safely think how many close calls I had. It is so rocky that I can't imagine how I didn't slice a sidewall, or have any other mechanicals except for one dropped chain. Only stuffed the front wheel once not too bad. And on the wet downhill, I hit some off camber roots and was going to go down but HARD, but like my son says, my foot came out "superspeed" and I saved it.

Great start to the season, now I just want to maintain the momentum. With the exception of our Mexico trip and a few weeks of endurance riding, I've been putting in between 4-8hrs a week. I know a lot of those guys are putting in 12-20hrs in the saddle.

My family rocks!
My bike rocks!
Dave Morris rocks!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Notes to self:

Race start 11:00

Breakfast, PBJ (natural peanut butter, wheat bread)
Naproxen - Back still hurt during race, need Wingnut water pack that sits lower on back.

8:00 Balance Gold Bar. Last solid food. 3 hrs before race start
Drinking some water on the way up

9:45 - 32oz Gatorade bottle, split into two. Slammed 1st part upon arrival, finshed second part during warmup

1.25 Hammer gel flasks during race
1/4 of a Balance gold bar. at 1hr
1small water bottle (2 scoops Gatorade) If could have gotten a handoff for another bottle it would have been good.
70oz Camel back, looks like 20oz left over after 2.5hrs.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A new Modus Operandi for racing

I'm going to try a new M.O. for this next race on Sunday.

In the past my M.O. has been balls to the walls from the get go. Sprint start as is customary for mtb racing and then go.go.go.

It's a race after all, isn't it. With a race it seems to be a given that you go as hard as you can. Explore the limits of your mental and physical strength/toughness. That's what a race is all about.

The past few years, my fitness has improved a lot especially at the top end. In the past I never was able to hang with the front group. However, I now am able to stay competetive with some of the leaders. The problem has been that I can't last at this pace. Invariably, I'll cramp. My average speed plummets and I end the race in survival mode. Though I'm not sure what is worse, finishing in survival mode, or finishing wishing that you'd gone harder?

On one hand this MO hasn't prooved to be half bad. I've gotten some good finishes. Yet, some of my best finshes have been where I didn't cramp, and didn't go totally all out. In one race, it was a mass start so I had no clue where those in my class were. Rather than racing against a vet sport jersey I raced my own race.

In another race, I actually was disappointed that I didn't ride myself into the ground, and I got my best finish of that series.

This race on Sunday is a tough one. Technically challenging and a meat grinder course, with no recovery.

I'm going to experiment with a new MO

-sprint start.
-2minutes all out to solidify position
-Bring the intensity down to a tolerable level. In control. Comfortably sustainable.
-Wait till the tech single track
-then start pushing it harder
-hold this till the finish.

The hardest part is going to be trying to hold back during the first part of the race. It is so easy to get jacked up and just spend all your cash early on.

I might no finish as well as when I go all out. But then again I might do better.
Since I only race a few times, it means having to experiment with an important one. But that's the only way to figure it out. There is no way to simulate race conditions.

In a race later in August that is a lap race. The Sport race is fairly short like 1-1.5hrs. I might try the expert class for training purposes. In Dave's workout he said:
-Race expert class for, go as hard as you can for 2hrs. Then do whatever it takes to finish.
Hmmm, sounds familiar.

That's what is considered an investment race. Meaning you pay INTO the account without care for the result. Sort of like the Giro for those Tour contenders.

This Sunday is considered a race for the best result.