Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Team Kit?

So I'm thinking about starting my own cycling team. If your interested post a comment below just so I can gauge if anyone is into this. I need at least 9 other people to buy a jersey to make the minimum.

Team MWC FTJ NGT naturally.
Racing and even riding when MWC, FTJ, NGT is a real accomplishment regardless of your fitness or placings. It should be honored with some colors to fly.

Anyone could join as long as you meet some basic qualifications. Specifically, married (or partnered) with children, Full time job or at least not a trust-a-farian. The No genetic talent part is relative. You must be an all around upstanding person, love mountain biking/cycling, give back to the sport by supporting grass roots racing, helping new riders out, etc. Be a good sport, courteous, etc..

I'll get jersey's, shorts, other kit made. For those that don't want to pay a lot for clothes, I was also kicking the idea around of gettings some tshirts/mugs/other junk made through something like Cafe Press. Just so people can fly the colors casually too.

What are the benefits of joining Team MWC FTG NGT?
-A warm fuzzy feeling.

What does it cost?-Cost of a jersey+shipping+ whatever other clothing you want?

What about sponsorhip?-I don't want to clutter up the jersey with that stuff yet. Plus logistically, it would be a pain to send out stuff all over the country. So for the time being no benefits from pro-deals etc. Which actually are more of a black hole that suck your money away than being a real advantage.

What are my obligations?-have fun, ride, race, email me some pictures/results. Inspire others. Grow mountain biking.

Who's clothing are you going to use?
Champion Systems
-Their prices are amazing. Ive got a jersey and bib shorts and they are sweet. Comfy material, full zip jersey, very comfy pad. And I'm pretty sure they have KIDS sizes which just goes so well with the whole theme. I'll take some pics and post the current stuff I've got.

What will the jersey look like?

Not sure yet. I'm open to ideas. Simple, straight forward. I like the retro look like this:

What about the logo?
MWC FTJ NGT is a tough thing to logo. I've been playing around with some fonts just see what it might look like: here are some ideas. Chime in if one just jumps out at you. I particularly like the first two.

So the logo would go on the front and back in a horizontal configuration on the jersey. Same logo would run down the legs of the shorts/arm warmers...

I was toying with putting some small drawings on the pockets.
-stick figure of a family for MWC for example:

-clip art of a clock set at 9:00 and another one set to 5:00 for full time job
-and another clip art of dna with a circle/line through it to symbolize no genetic talent.

Or just taking the logo and splitting up the MWC, FTJ, NGT and putting one on each of the three pockets.

Anyway, just an idea. Leave a comment if your interested. Prices can be seen at the Champsys sight. basically I have to get 10 of one item. Jerseys are $45 After that you can get smaller quantities of other pieces such as vests, arm warmers, etc.. They take a long ass time to get but the price is significantly lower than many other custom places. I can get more sizing info if interested.

Definitely a reprogrammed pallate


Lots of chocolate. I'm handing out candy. Tons of Reese's in the bowl.

Ok, just one.

Ewww. it really wasn't that good. I mean it. Defninitely crossed some taste bud wires in the last few months.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Stars aligning

Some days everything goes well on a ride. Regardless of what bike or equipment it just feels good. Today was one of those days. Spectacular fall day. Chilly but sunny with tacky trail conditions and some leaves. Virginia has got to be one of the most beautiful states I've ever been in. From the drive to the trail head to the singletrack, just amazing.

My rear shock is on loan to Earl who just got an Azure . Out of the box his shock was blown so he hasn't even had the chance to feel the DW-link love. He bought it on my recommendation so it was breaking my heart.

I'd been planing on a road ride, but John called an hadn't been on his mountain bike since the Rowdy Dawg. Besides hunting season has started so the best time to mountain bike is on Sunday anyway. So I pulled off the slicks, and the rigid fork and stuck back on some knobbies and the Black 80 SPV (whose bushings are shot and SPV valve is sticking). I had to run yes-tubes because all my Stans was setup on my disc wheels.

Off the bat I thought things wouldn't go well. Hardtail instead of the FS, 35-40psi tubed instead of <30psi tubeless, 80mm fork instead of 100mm, and Vbrakes instead of discs.

Yet there are those days when the legs are good, and the skills are good, the weather is good, and the riding partners just brings out the best in you. The hardtail is not dead by any means.
Switching back and forth between the two bikes really helps me appreciate the best parts of each. On smooth climbs the hartail is just a rocket. Direct power transfer.

Technical climbs favor the FS, however when riding the hardtail, I believe that it forces you to be more a more aggressive and more pro-active. The FS can sometimes create some complacency that can really work against you in mountain biking. With the hardtail I attacked some of the technical sections more which in turn got me through them pretty well. I was surprised that my rear wheel was hooking up as well as it did given the higher tire pressure and the lack of suspension. I think I was able to get the front wheel up/over stuff while at the same time driving the rear wheel into the ground. The shorter fork also helped keep the front planted.

One thing about technical climbing is that you've got to get your weight driving forward. So when you pull a small wheelie or lift you front wheel up, if you don't move your weight forward you're not going to clear the root/rock very well.

But today my balance and weight transfer just felt right. I was nimble and moving all of the bike. It helped a lot to have ridden D-back the other day because that forces you to explore the limits of the cockpit and be fluid and dynamic.

I'd been trying to figure out why my skills have been failing lately. I think a lot of it has to do with vision and poor braking technique. Today, the weaker V-brakes actually helped promote better braking technique. Because they aren't as strong as disc brakes I had to get on them much harder in order to control speed. On/off is how you are supposed to brake. Not this dragging and light braking crap. Which is what I've been doing a lot of lately. It's ironic because the first words out of my mouth when I got on the bike was that these V brakes have got to go in favor of some discs. That is still true but hopefully I can adopt better braking technique.

In addition, with root dropoffs, corners, and rocks you have to pick your braking points well. And when you do brake it has to be on/hard then off for the tech section or dropoff. This is one reason why I think I do better in rougher downhills than smooth downhills. On smooth stuff I brake for no reason when I get that fear sensation that I'm going too fast. And then I drag the brakes a lot instead of on/off.

I also tried hard to focus on vision and keeping the head/chin up. Seeing obstacles and then looking past them. Relying on peripheral vision and permanence of memory. Smiling helps a lot too. Gene says that smiling releases endorphins that help to relax you. As opposed to thoughts of crashing and getting hurt which lead to tensing up which will lead to crashing and getting hurt. Amazing how that works.

Getting the weight low and rotating/driving with the hips was on my mind as well. I rotated my hips so well a few times I clipped right out of the pedals.

Another thing working in my favor has been the return to lifting. It's only been two weeks and very light lifting. However the upper body work is something I react to very quickly. I can just look at a weight or do a push up and put on muscle mass. Sort of a double edged sword with regards to cycling, but I quite like being able to ride technically well. I think it would be a good idea to maintain some level of upper body work throughout the year. But it's hard for me regardless of how little time it would take to think about it when the focus changes to the intervals or whatever phase it is.

Also the core work has been helping a lot as well. Again, my core has been so weak that just two week of anything has helped make some big gains in stability.

This time of year, I can focus on skills and not worry about the fitness/racing part. But since my attention span is like a gnat I bounce back and forth from one thing to another. I need to remind myself of the skills stuff every ride.

A lot of times, I'll say this mantra before a ride to help me remember the things I need to bring. Bike, wheel, shoes,shorts, jersey, gloves, helmet, food, water, tools, tube. It works pretty well except when you walk right by your bag and drive to the trail head w/o it. I think I need to create a mantra for skills to say at the beginning of a ride to help remind myself of the core concepts

hips- rotate the hips/drive with the hips
chin/chest/head LOW (moto)
Brakes= ON/OFF
dynamic/pro-active - drive the bike, pump the contours, push the front end down
use all the cockpit -

Hips, moto, brakes, drive, dynamic, smile. That sounds good.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Review: Cateye Bottle Cage

Some components get a lot of thought, such as disc brakes or wheels, etc. Others get taken for granted like water bottle cages.

With my FS bike the front triangle is very tight, and accessing a bottle and putting it back is tough especially under race conditions. So I've realized the importance of a bottle cage that is easy to get a bottle out of but more importantly easy to get a bottle back in. It's also important that it can hold a bottle w/o losing it.

One the recommendation from some people in the mtbr forums I picked on of these up. It seems like flimsy plastic, but it is amazingly stout while being light. Surprisingly, it really seems to hold bottle well.

But what I really like about it is how easy it is to get a bottle back in the cage. Typically when trying to put a water bottle back in a cage without looking down, I'll try and feel where the opening is with the bottom of the bottle. With metal cages there is no give to them so if you're not right on target it takes a little finagling to get the bottle in.

Normally it's not a big deal, but when riding on single track with one hand while at redline it becomes a big deal. My cage is really low on the FS so it's a long reach down there too, and the shock valves are in the way too. So it's even a bigger problem to get that bottle back in the cage.

This cage has some give to it, and it's amazing but the bottle just seems to find it's way into the cage if I can just get it close. It is still a skill that needs practicing but it is easier with this.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dragon's Back Recon

During this transition time before the serious lifting, I'm trying to burn some vacation time and expand my horizons a little bit. I think my technical capabilities have stagnated some from riding the same trails. Going to new places forces you to adapt and react to new stuff. So I'm trying to take this time to get out to some places I haven't been to for a while.

Chris and I got out to Dragon's Back today. This trail is also coming back to Virginia Racing after a hiatus. This was one of the first races I ever did when I moved to Virginia. I've seen Gunnar Shogren, Sue Haywood, Jeremiah Bishop and Floyd Landis race here. It's also kicked my butt every time. I can recall cramping so bad on the ridge a few years ago. And this seemingly benign fire road section back to the finish induced lock up leg cramps only a few miles from the finish.

The course is a figure 8. Up the grouse trail, turn right take the ridge to the Deer trail, down, then a little loop at the bottom called ring of fire, back up the Grouse again, then left across the ridge and down the Turkey trail.

It was cold. I mean my teeth were shivering and I felt stiff as a board. Tough to decide what to wear because the climbs will heat up but then the downhills and ridge would be cold.

A short warmup on the fire road, which was in suprisingly good condition got us to the bottom of the Grouse. The first part of this climb is TOUGH. Lots of small rocks and steep enough that it can just drain the life out of you. Thankfully it doesn't last too long and it leads you into the meat of the single track climb. This is classic sidehill trail. There is a washed out section early on that Chris cleaned. I didn't feel like stacking it so early in the ride so opted to walk.

You soon come to the first of several switchbacks. The left handers are possibly rideable by someone good. Again I opted to walk while CP trialsed himself in the right direction to ride them. There are some right handers that are ok if you can keep the front end down.

In the middle of the climb there is a hike-a-bike really steep shale section with some big trees down. It was very hard to walk up this shale section. The rest of the climb isn't too bad. Some off camber sections and a few slightly rocky sectionst that are best powered through. The last pitch to the crest is really steep.

Up on the ridge the wind was blowing but we were a little shielded by the trees. The leaves were down to. Going right on the ridge yields several rock gardens, and some really steep climbs. The leaves were like 4" deep so it was row-row-row your bike and move an inch at a time. The rock gardens and off camber sections are really fun for the most part.

I'd been thinking about the hardtail vs the FS for this course. With so much climbing and a fair amount of fire road sections maybe the hardtail was a better choice. The bottom part of the climb favors an FS but the rest of it favors a hardtail for the most part. But the ridge....FS for sure. It's rideable on a hardtail which I've done several times, but it was super duper fun and seemed faster with the FS.

It's not like a magic carpet ride though. You've still got to be a contortionist and be super nimble and all over your bike to finesse through the rocks. But you can really power through the rocks rather than pick your way through.

We rode right by the Deer trail. The leaves just hide everything. Thankfully Chris realized we passed it and we turned around to backtrack. There is this pile of rocks by the trail but we whizzed right by it.

The top part of the downhill is sketchy, but then it gets better. Basic straight rocket runs with a sidehill drop into a switchback..repeat. The shrubs on the side of the hill were overgrown into the trail and they were catching my bars. The left hand switchbacks were good but the right handers were super steep/loose and really sharp and I walked them all.

Again my deficiency on this type of downhills became apparent. I've got some mental block that keeps me from loosening up and getting my head up and letting go of the brakes. So it just creates this negative feedback loop of dropping my vision, grabbing the brakes and tensing up. The funny thing is it is just this type of trail that gets me. And it's not the really off camber stuff either. It's the really fast-smooth stuff. I actually much prefer rougher rockier stuff vs these sidehill rocket runs.

There are some off camber sections that aren't too bad. Once you get off the side hill and into the hollows it's pretty fun. This drops you back onto the road. Be careful when you drop off the trail because there is a wheel sucking dip between the road/trail.

We opted to skip the ring of fire due to our previous detour up top and headed back to the Grouse. The fire road is deceivingly hard. You think you should be going faster but there is some pretty good elevation gain to the trailhead. 2nd time up. Again the first part of the climb just sucks your energy.

Back on top we headed left. It is only 3 miles to the next trail. But let me tell you this is the longest 3 miles in existence. It's a combination of power rock gardens, and short steep climbs.

The rock gardens are some of the funnest I've ever ridden. They require lots of balance/finesse/and power. Several times I found myself in the wrong gear. I'd been in an easy gear to get up the steep grunts, but then needed a bigger gear to power through the rocks. A low gear just didn't work in the rocks.

There are a few spots with some serious drops that can be ridden, though I opted to walk. On and on the rollers go. The back of the dragon, right. Finally there is this really steep downhill covered in 4" of leaves that made the rear wheel just slide.

Like any good backcountry ride I didn't bring enough food and was bonking. You'd think I'd figure this stuff out, but the cold really takes it out of me. I downed the last of my PBJ and we headed down. Similar to the other downhill but not as overgrown. A few times I was able to let it go and get my head up to see Chris way off in the distance. But then I'd just fall into the bad habits. In the middle of the mountain you get off the sidehill and onto this sort of mini rollercoasters. It is a blast.

There is a section of serious off camber with a few rock steps. The steps take nerve which I forgot to pack. The camber takes balance and lean which did make the trip.

The bottom part of the trail goes into a creekbed for a little bit. The leaves were hiding all the tire eaters so trust and momentum were your friends.

This dumps out onto a jeep trail that leads to the main fire road. The fire road back to the start/finish area again is deceptively difficult. There are two climbs that can jus take you over the edge if your not careful. And be careful on the downhill corners.

We were out for 3.5hrs including the detour which probably cost us 20minutes. Now here's the mind boggling part. We didn't mess around too much. Stopping do just put on or shed jackets, and eat a little. Not a whole lot of chit chatting, and we were moving at a decent pace. Not all out but not a stroll either. The top experts do the course in under 2hrs. I've done it in 2:40 and my goal is 2:20.

Some notes to think about if you're going to race it:

-mounts/dismounts. I need to practice these for the switchbacks and some logs. I know I lose time on getting off and on slow.

-hike-a-bike. You will be walking your bike and carrying it over some sections.

-Log hoping. gotta practice this, cause there are plenty of logs.

-Save the legs. The climb can suck your life away. But you HAVE to have strong legs on the ridge. you can make a lot of time on people just spinning away if you can blast through sections.

-The rollers along the ridge are very hard. Similar to Douthat they just suck your life away.

-Go tubeless or high pressure. The rocks plentiful. If you aren't running tubeless than run high pressure or thick tires otherwise you'll pinch flat. With the rock gardens you're also riding in crevases between the rocks which are hell on sidewalls too. I'm a little worried about my sidewalls which is a weakness of Stan'd tires.

I'm going to use the memories of this trail to keep me going through the winter training. April 7th is coming up quick. And the Dragon gives no sympathy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why cutting out the crap helps you lose weight

I lost some weight fairly easily the past few months. The change was cutting out a ton of crap. Fried foods, candy and beer. It wasn't as hard I expected it would be. It's cold now and I'm cold all the time so I'm not really craving a beer anyway.

My wife is doing a little presentation for our son's kindergarten class about what's inside foods. She works in a food analysis laboratory and has access to the national nutrient database. She measured out the sugar and fat that is in some different food items.


From left to right:
1 piece of wheat bread: 2g
1 serving Kix cereal: 3g
1 tiny piece of chocolate: 7g
1 serving of Honey Smacks ceral 17g

Interstingly enought the serving of Kix has 25total grams of carbs and the Honey Smacks has 27g of carb.

From left to right:
1/3 of a bag of popcorn: 3g
1 small piece of chocolate: 6g
5 piece chicken nuggets: 17g
1 small fries: 23g

It was surprising to me to be able to drop weight so easily while at the same time struggling a lot to actually eat enough. Now I know why

Monday, October 23, 2006

2006 Rowdy Dawg results

203 Zac Cates 46:37:00
207 Nathan Sharp 46:40:00
201 John Rotola 49:45:00
none Will Norris 52:59:00
202 Scott Schubert 54:02:00
205 Matt Schumaker 59:22:00
204 Chuck Warren 1:04:37
210 Forest Kiger 1:22:10
200 Chris Overstreet 1:23:30
Beginner 2 Women
206 Esther Howard 1:01:23
209 Linda Wallace Wallace 1:06:05
208 Sandy LIght 1:08:30
Sport Women
120 Dilcia Davis 2:41:35
111 Julie Setliff 2:50:34
110 Kelly Wills dnf
Sport Men
125 Robbie Bruce 1:59:41
109 Scott Cardwell 2:02:53
107 Sam Corcoran 2:05:00
115 Jason McDaniel 2:06:06
119 Paul JOhnston 2:06:35
106 Joshua Draper 2:07:41
116 Bruce Miller 2:10:16
112 Ben Warren 2:11:26
113 David Hazelgrove 2:15:03
104 Donald Fraser 2:15:10
126 Ryan Delany 2:20:18
102 Phillip Gabathuler 2:37:25
101 Philip Hanline 2:49:07
Vet Sport Men
108 Steve Satterwhite 2:05:08
121 Ignacio Moore 2:14:34
114 Steve Schumaker 2:15:30
105 John Mcdowell 2:35:35
118 James Scott 2:44:30
Master Men
117 Lyn Wilkinson 2:13:45
122 Martin Piedl 2:21:53
103 Bob Hawthorne 3:15:35
124 James Swasey 2:52:34
Expert Men
2 Justin Riddle 2:19:10
6 Chris Pohowsky 2:24:00
11 Kyle Lawrence 2:27:03
5 Chas Mic 2:28:55
4 Chad Davis 2:32:10
12 Andy Mckeegan 2:49:26
Jr. Expert
10 Alex Piedl 3:05:17
vet Expert Men
1 Ashwin Amanna 2:42:00
7 Marty Lamp 2:47:05
8 William Davis 2:58:24
Expert Women
9 Lori Simmons 3:07:30
3 Tricia Davis Davis 3:32:35
302 Cliff Hatchett 3:04:37
304 Brian Bond 3:08:58
304 Jon Gotow 3:13:36
301 Earl Kline 3:36:07
306 Bob Wright 4:27:14
301 Lynn Resler 4:41:17


This time of year is for transitioning.

Jumping right into heavy weights is asking for injury and uber-soreness. I take about 3 weeks of slowly ramping up weight and sets. I'm lifting 3x a week and commuting and riding a little bit.

The road riding is for toughening up my skin as much as aerobic. The wind really wears on your face in road riding much more than mtn biking. I'm going to need some serious toughening up to be able to get in my riding when it gets really cold this year. The few pounds I lost makes me cold all the time.

But I still just want to mountain bike. It's a good time to focus on specific things such as vision or weight balance on the mtn bike.

I'm doing some different stuff this year for upper body. Usually I do some dumbbell presses and lat pull downs. This year I'm doing a variety of stuff to focus on more core/functional strength. Over the next week or so I'll take some pictures to show what I'm doing. I'm no strength coach or anything, it's just a compliation of stuff I've seen online or magazines that focuses on core /flexibility for cycling. Plus I'm just tired of doing boring stuff like dumbbell press or lat pulls.

This guy has a free newsletter that includes some body weight core stuff. I'm also trying some stability ball stuff. It's quite comical to be shaking like a leaf while trying to do a few reps.

I'm doing these single leg rows with a light 10lb weight. Again it's comical to be doing these and fall over in the middle of them.
It just highlights the lack of core strength and core stability with me. The other component I'm trying to highlight is some hamstring and lower back flexibility.

This pdf has some great stretches specifically for cycling

Slip sliding at peaksview

Went up with the family to visit my Brother-in-law and family in Lynchburg. We always have a good time when we go there. They live at the edge of one of the historical districts. I'm pretty impressed with how Lynchburg has revitalized much of their downtown. There are some nice bike paths down by the river too. It's cool to see small cities like that taking the effort to develop their quality of life for the residents.

Peaksview Park is just 10minutes from their house, so I had to bring my bike and get a quick ride in. This location is also the site of one of the VA Derailler Series races.

It is amazing the amount of trails these guys crammed into such a small area.
It's not easy riding by any means. Mentally tough cause you are either climbing, cornering, or descending. The trees are tight, and there are just enough roots to keep on your toes. The dirt is was just muddy enough to get really claylike tacky. So the knobs on the tires got gummed up and it was a slide fest in certain areas.

I'd put on the 100mm fork back on the Azure so it wasn't as responsive to this tight stuff. It took about 45 minutes of riding before I started to feel comfortable, then things started to click a little. The flow was coming. It takes some body english to get the bike to drop in to the tight corners. I was also focusing on getting my upper body low and forcing it low in the corners and not reacting by moving back.

The next day back in Blacksburg, I got another short ride in and felt really good on the bike. Weight balance and just shifting the weight around felt much better than it has. Bombed down the Beast. Having a good fork now makes a big difference.

I'd gotten my Minute tuned up by the folks at Garageworks suspension. Their web site seems down now but their # is 949-861-2240. I've got at least 10mm more travel available, and it's really supple. It took a while just to get used to having plush travel. The Minute is such an adjustable fork that it takes a while to settle in on new settings.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

2006 Season Wrapup / 2007 Goals

Wow. What a season. Another banner year. I continue to improve slowly but surely. One baby step at a time. Just enough success to make it all worth it and keep my coming back for another year. This year I really learned a lot. A lot of observation and analysis and I think it's paying off.

With the exception of a once a decade mountain bike vacation I averaged about 7hrs/week training. There were several weeks with under 3hrs and a few weeks around 9. I know I missed logging some rides so maybe there might have been one 10+week. But once again, I believe that I'm riding my best ever with fewer than 10hrs a week. For all you out there who feel that you can't be your best on limited time think again.

Ironically, if I had more time, I don't know if I'd be able to really ride harder. More isn't always better, its the harder part that's the limiter for racing. The ability to recover is one of the most limiting factors in how hard I can train. I don't seem to recover too well.

This year I also moved up to Vet Expert. It was a big step, but I'd been finishing in the top 5 consistently in Vet Sport in the regional races. I figured it was time to go where I've been wanting to go for the past decade. The difference between expert and sport racers is big. I went from the front of the bus to the back of the bus. But I'm really glad I did it. It's been a goal to race expert for many years but it will take several years to slowly move up.

Over the past 2 months I lost 7lbs+ body weight and am the lightest weight in over 12 years. In years past I've been fluctuated with cold-turkey depravation of certain foods diets but it never stuck. This time around it seems to be sticking. I had an Over Carb experience where I just got sickened by gel/energy drink. I think this helped force a reprogramming of my stomach and palette because since then I've hardly craved sweets at all. And every time I've had something like ice cream or cookies or dried fruits I've regretted it. My mouth just gets this bad taste in it afterwards, and my stomach doesn't feel good.

In addition to cutting out the daily Reese's I've also cut back significantly on fried foods. Just those two things elicited a loss of weight that I'd never before been able to accomplish. Ironically, I've also found it extremely difficult to actually eat enough.

I've spent some real effort trying to figure out what I need to eat and when to perform for training and racing. My pre-race nutrition sometimes seems to be the only time I eat well enough to ride well. It takes some serious planning for me to eat properly to train right and recover well. Eating enough and at the right times is proving to be a major limiter in how well I can train.

In losing the weight I think I did lose a little power. My goal is to ideally maintain some of the weight loss into next year and through the strength training/off season work. Just like Lance did. Lose weight/increase power. It's the ultimate double whammy. If I can maintain the same weight and get increase power, next year may be a real big step.

I also learned a lot about how to race my best given my own personal limiters. Pacing properly has become the biggest key to my success. Less is more in mountain biking. I can only go so fast. Trying to go faster just makes me go backwards and cramp. The goal here is to take the 'so fast' and make it a little faster year to year.

My leg cramping seems to be under control a little. I credit that to better pacing and possibly the sportlegs. Placebo affect or real physiological change I don't know but they seem to do something. The claims on the web site are definitely too good to be true, and the celebrity endorsements are similar to the hair-in-the-can adds. But hey, in this game whatever works as long as it's legal.

My skills got better than they got worse, and I'm committed to improving them again. One thing in the expert class, those guys are fast going down. And they climb strong too so the axiom about the race being won on the climbs doesn't work as well. I definitely lost several spots due to descending.

There have been over 40,000 unique hits on the web page and over 70,000 page visits. I've gotten emails from all over the world. Several people have said they've started to race because of this blog. Others have said that they're in the same boat of married, kids, job, and they're doing the best they can and take inspiration from here. That's pretty neat to be part of this world wide community doing a niche activity like XC mountain bike racing. It's an oddity to the rest of the world but those reading understand the lure and the passion.

This is pretty much my life. Family, job come first, then this. No other hobbies anymore. Ride bikes, recover, eat, work on bikes (6 adult bikes and 2 kids bikes to keep running), sleep. race a few times...Though at the drop of a hat my focus can get diverted 100%. Several times throughout the year this happens and it takes time to get back on track. I'm hoping to limit this and to try and maintain a constant eye to the longterm goals at hand. It's so easy to get bike geeked out with full suspension or components. Well I got my road bike this year that is a keeper. I got a new FS that is still getting dialed in. All that's left to geek out on is the hardtail.

Simplicity is the theme for this year. One day at a time. Enjoy my family, do my work, keep a long term focus. Worry about the consumables (tires, chains, brake pads, grips, energy drink...) and don't worry so much about the latest and greatest. The one vice is blogging and the forums, but I'll try to keep the "keep up with the joneses" mentality down on the forums.

Summary of results:
-VA Commonwealth games -3rd hillclimb
-VA Commonwealth games -1st XC
-Overall VA Commonwealth Games winner -VET SPORT

Massanutten - 3rd Vet Sport

Rocky Mount Race VA-Derailer series Vet x-last

Poor Mountain hill climb 3rd -Vet expert

Rowdy Dawg 1st Vet expert

*Now a world on results* I'll take my wins to the bank and am proud, but things get skewed depending on who shows up to race on any given day. Most of the guys are still 20minutes+ faster over a racecoures. That's the metric I want reduce.

2007 Goals

(Dream Goals)
*these are the only ones that are results based **
-Top5 Vet expert in the new VA state series
-Top5 Vet expert in the Der series. I know I've said that those course don't suit my streghts, well a good athlete would take that as an opportunity to improve their weakneses. So I'm hoping to race the whole series this year and support racing in VA.

Performance based goals
-Get down to 125lbs racing weight
-get down to 1o% or less body fat on the Tanita scale
-sub 17:00 climbing old Farm
-increaes sustainable power by 10w
-increse 1minute SMSP power level by 10w
-stretch my back every other day
-do my core excercises every other day
-practice my skills once week
-sub 2:40 at Dragon's Back
-Sub 2:22 at Massanutten
-Sub :55 at Poor Mountain Hill Climb

2007 Schedule
I often complain about the death of XC in Virginia. But in actuality it isn't bad. Maybe it's just this town where it's off the radar.

-April: Dragon's Back
-? Maybe--Mid April: O-hill Meltdown
- May 6th: Douthat
-Late May: Mountains of Misery Challenge Century
-June 3: Hoo-Ha. Massanutten
-Late June-Early July: VA Commonewealth games

Va Derailler Series
-Rocky Mount MW windows - mid August
-Danville -late 26
-Peaksview-Lynchburg mid Sept
-Falling creek - late sept
-Poor Mountain - Early October
***Do not miss this one*** Anyone and Everyone must do this

Rowdy Dawg - Mid October

There might be some WV races that are close by. But for me that is a really full calendar. Each race is a full day away from the family which is hard on the weekend.

Having fun isn't a goal because it's all fun. It's hard and painful and difficult and mentally draining. It's funner when it's on a mountain bike. If it was easy then everyone would do it.

Analysis of Rowdy Dawg Race

-Pace from the start was low key. Was able to just settle in to a rhthym early. Less is more. The first part seemed to go by faster than I thought.

-Drinking from water bottle went ok, but still takes too much time, and I look down a the cage when putting bottle back. Need to practice more

-1bottle power bar drink /hr worked ok. Stomach bugging at the end, but didn't feel like I was bonking. Need to try out power gel+water in race.

-Sportlegs takes time to intake. Slows me down. But they work so well. Timing seemed perfect and affect seem seamless w/o any glaring gaps like at Douthat. At hr2 could really feel them kick in for the last part of the race. had some muscle cramp twinges but no major lockups. But I rode consitent throughout w/o major impulses at tech sections that tend to lock up the legs.

-Full suspension works best when pushing slightly bigger gear, especially on the smooth climbs. Riding conservatively on the climbs led to going to the bailout gear. This isn't optimum for the FS. Gearing higher and lowering cadence works better for smoother climbs (Horse Trail, fire road). this is opposide of the hardtail. I can spin a higher cadence/lower gear and maintain good forward progression while at the same time saving the legs with the hardtail.

However the FS trumps hardtail through rocks/roots while pedaling. Again though must push a gear that provides good tension in the system. Double edged sword of trying to save legs in order to complete race strong but at the same time not wallowing and going backwards on the easy climbs. FS shines on short steep grunts because gear is already high due to steepness. Need to practice riding smoother stuff in higher gear with FS.

-Skills and overall speed threshold are biggest limiter.

-Need to try glasses again. Eyes bugging me towards the end. Have always fogged up in the past.

Monday, October 16, 2006

2006 Rowdy Dawg Race Report

This is my personal account of this year's Rowdy Dawg (for some race history and course info check here).

Before I begin let me start with a hearty thank you to special people.
XC racing is such a beautiful experience. Grace, power, speed, pain. But there aren't many opportunities these days within reasonable driving distance to XC race. And for someone with limited time to train/travel it is so nice to have the opportunity to participate in events like this.

-T. for taking on the duties of promoting this event. Thank you so much for the opportunity to come out here and race.

-Cora and Missy for running registration in the cold

-Nancy for coordinating volunteers

-Amateur Ham Radio group

-All the volunteers and marshals who came out to keep everyone going in the right direction. Especially the two at the top of the horse trail who were full on clapping each time I went by.

-The sponsors who provided support and prizes for grassroots racing.
Oury Grip
Hammer Nutrition
Bicycling Magazine
Trek Bicycles
Sole Footbeds

-My wife and kids who encourage and put up with all that accompanies being an amateur racer.

The day before: I was getting sick. Seriously, my throat was hurting, I had chills, I was wrapped up in a blanket on the couch. My head wasn't too into the race, which is ironic because it's all I've been thinking about since last October. My legs were shocked out of rest mode by a trip up/down Old Farm that morning so they felt slightly soar but that was a good thing before a race.

Morning of: Felt better. That tingle of fear and nervousness started to develop in anticipation of the race. I drove out with John which was nice to get my head into the race as we bantered about bike setup and what we were going to eat. Though he mentioned a letter in a magazine about the potential for overdosing on Sportlegs. Let's see, I'd counted out 3+5+5 that I'd be taking today. Visions of kidney failure on Brush mountain isn't the best visualization.

It was cold. The staging is in a field that butts up against Brush Mountain. So it was shady and windy. It's not like sub 40s is really all that cold, but we've had no transition from 70s-80s so it felt really cold. We were fully shivering changing clothes.

It was a pretty small turnout because we were unable to double up with the Collegiate race this year. But I saw Sandy the beginner woman who I gave a racing clinic to the week before. She was all excited to do her first race. This is how you rebuild mountain biking. One convert at a time.

The guy that parked next to us was also doing his first race. He'd read my BLOG entry on the race and said that's why he came. That made me feel good. Though he was doing the sport course for his first time. That is a rough introduction but he survived and loved it.

I tried my standard pre-race warmup and waited for the start. The experts went off first, and then Vet X and Masters went off together. There were 3 of us in Vet X. Bill (I think) had driven down from Arlington because he loves this race so much. He took off and I followed trying to keep myself in control.

The thing about this race course, is that until you are done, there is always, always SO MUCH MORE to go. This course will eat you alive if you go out too hard which is exactly what I've done for the past 15 years. NOT THIS TIME. I was going to go out in control, and hold steady and finish strong. That is the plan.

Bill and I have been racing together the last 3 races. He schooled me at Douthat on the Downhills but I took it at the Poor Mountain Hill Climb. We are a pretty close match. Though he outweighs me by at least 50lbs.

He took off from the line and I kept him in site but was able to ramp up intensity slowly and in control. 5 minutes in I hear rattling from my second bottle on the underside of the down tube. I thought it was falling out and I tried it to push it back in but the whole cage was moving. The cage had snapped.
Luckily I didn't lose the bottle as that was my food. I stuffed it into my jersey pocket.

The first part of the course went by faster than I thought. I finally caught him on the Gap side rock gardens. DSC00400

He looked like he was struggling. It's really easy to blow up this early in the race. I know because I did it last year. I passed hard through this rock garden section in the hopes of opening up a gap. But Bill is such a better downhiller he caught back up on the Royale downhill. We were cruising down the S turns at the bottom and I rode right off the trail. The newly fallen leaves threw me off. My home course that I've ridden hundreds of times and I rode right off.

On the Poverty Creek trail
he just follwed behind me and we turned onto Joe Pye and started up the horse trail. I'm light, he is a former clydedale. He was breathing like a freight train. Man this guy is going to blow sky high. All I have to do is hold a steady pace and he'll fall off the back.

NOT. I can't believe his mental strength. It sounded like he was giving it everything he had but he stayed right on my wheel all the way to the top. The two volunteers were cheering for us like we were in a grand tour, it was awesome. So I basically gave him a free tow to the top and had nothing to show for it.

On the ridge rollers, I slowed almost to a complete stop to change bottles in my cage, and take my sport legs. He put the hammer down and was gone out of site in seconds. I'd saved a pair of Pink Oury grips for his daughter's bike but that wasn't going to buy me any slack today. No problem. Like I said earlier there is still a long long way to go. I'll catch him on the second time around.

We went down sidewinder/snakeroot and as I also mentioned he is a much better downhiller than me. So I didn't think I'd see him till the climb. It took much shorter than I thought to start climbing again. Ok, mantra time....He's right around the corner...He's right around the corner.....If he's not right around the corner I am screwed....

All the way to the top, didn't see him. Didn't see anyone for that matter. The two marshalls at the top clapped and cheered me a second time. Thanks. At the turn to the Beast, Kirk gave me the heads up that he was like 30seconds up. But I knew that Bill was going to blow doors on the Beast so that meant I'd only have the gap trails to catch him.

Going down the Beast went pretty well even with the 80mm fork on there. I saw Bill at the mid point and he was just crawling, so I knew something was wrong. I asked if he was ok and he said yeah and go get em.

This trail is easy to stack hard on but thankfully I was able to ride well and not yardsale for the photographer at the bottom.

Now it was onto Queene Anne and back on the gaps. 5miles one marshall said. A long long 5 miles. Steady as she goes. Keep the songs going through the head. Don't think about winning or anything except keeping forward progression.

I started to catch a few sport riders which helped to motivate. On the turn up the gravel road of the Interstate I passed two sport riders much harder than I should have. I almost paid a hefty price of cramping but the twinges went away. After I was out of earshot of them I was starting to talk to myself.

Come on sucka. My own episode of Mr. T's new reality TV show combined with Rocky III was taking place.
We're gonna motiVATE, accelerATE.

The fight scene of Rocky and Clubber Lang
Was playing in my mind. C'mon, my mother hits harder than that. Is that all you got.....Clubber swinging and missing...Aaaaahhh.

My face was contorted into this Joker like grin that one might mistake for happiness but it is pure pain. The first part of the race was ridden with my head, in control. Now it was time to finish on heart.

Still more to go. and more. Finally the last few stretches. Don't crash, don't cramp just go. The last turn on the road and I was still going strong. There is one last small pitch on the road before the finish stretch. It is a tiny little rise, but my gosh does it hurt.

Finally crossed the line into the arms of Brian and Bob. Oh man I felt bad. I mean I'm going to puke bad. But also bad is good. Bad as in I'm BAAAAAAD!. Irregardless of where I finished, I was ecstatic to ride consistently and finish strong. But I was most proud of the pain. The pain you deal with on a bicycle is self created. The ability to create pain and tolerate pain is what it's all about. I'm most proud that I was able to hurt.

I got first in Vet X. Within minutes of crossing the line. Theresa handed me a check for $30. Brian handed me a beer. I'm sorry but I could only handle a few sips. Even the chips Brian had didn't go down well and I love chips. For about 30 minutes I almost puked but the Joker smile slowly faded

and I started to feel better.

It was a really low key event. Prizes were handed out right when people crossed the line so no one had to wait hours in order to get back on the road. Some people came from as far away as 4.5 hours because this course is so awesome.

With the exception of the flat monster gobbling up tubes(John, Brian, Sam, Billx2...) everyone loved the course. Prizes for all who stuck around.

This is grassroots. Why XC racing has fallen out of favor, I still can't figure out especially with events like this. But I'm hopefull that people like Sandy had a good time and will tell two friends who will tell two friends...

Thanks to all for coming out.

Nutrition notes from Rowdy Dawg pre and inrace

Ensure+ 50g
Pancakes - 60g
Syrup 100g
ensure 50g
cearl 37g

got full after pancakes, waited a bit then had more. Finished eating by 8:00 race start 11

10am drank 24oz bottle with 76g Power Bar drink

3 sportlegs at 10am

5 sport legs right before start at 11

5 sport legs at 1hr into it.

In race
20oz bottles with 2.5 scoops of Power bar drink 42g.
finished 1 per hour. Drinking 3rd one on the way back.

Stomach was starting to hurt. 1/hr may be too much. Didn't feel like I was bonking. At end I felt really bad. Not as sickly as the last time I overloaded on carbs. But it definitely took a little while for my stomach to settle.

Ensure+ for recovery.

Neglected post race recovery 2hrs, 4hrs out. Needed to intake more. Was getting cranky, light headed later in day.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Skills analysis.

I've been diligently analyzing the breakdown in my skills lately. Both cornering and just general speed threshold have been declining. I've been doing the drills that I learned from Gene at BetterRide off/on since the clinic. It took a few months to assimilate the fundamentals from the clinic and then for a while I was rocking on the corners and the speed at which I felt comfortable going down a trail (speed threshold) had gone up.

But alas, these things just like rasing kids or a growing a garden need constant tending. Practice makes perfect many people say. But Gene says, "Perfect practice makes perfect". What that means is that if you're doing the drills wrong, no matter how much you do them it's not going to work.

That's what has been happening, I believe and I wanted to figure out why. I took some digital movies of myself in the neutral attack position and doing the figure 8 drill endless drill. Very poor form. I should post the vid on You tube for others to see and to learn from, but I almost feel ashamed. I want to someday be a coach. Skills coach, and fitness coaching, and it sort of cuts into you credibility to do things wrong.

But the hallmark of a good coach, IMHO, is the ability to analyze why something is going wrong and to figure out what to do to make it better. There are plenty of fast people out there. But how many can tell you why they are fast? How many times have you asked someone how they cleaned some section and they said, " Dude, I dunno, I just trust the bike." The hardest person to objectively analyze is yourself.

The problems that I realized immediately were:

-I wasn't getting my chest very low. Even though I thought I was, it really wasn't low at all. When I concentrated more, I found my lower back really hurting after a little while. Just like it felt after my clinic and I was practicing the drills correctly. I think, that over the past few months I've been protecting my lower back some by not getting low enough

-When braking, you have to shift your weight back to counteract the braking forces pushing you forward. To accomplish this, I'd lift my upperbody up. When I should have been keeping it low but sliding it back during braking

-When entering the corner my upper body would lift up, and sometimes I'd even slide back. Both these reaction are self preservation instincts. They move COG backwards. I need to keep the chest low and forward in corners to weight the front wheel. The lifting up prior to enter a corner was much more pronounced when making a right hand turn which has always been my weak turning direction.

So I began re-doing the drills with focus and concentration on staying low. And getting my chest to stay low in the corners. I also noticed my right hip flexor became been a little sore, I think cause I've been my upper body low and rotating my hips well when in the corner, both of which put strain on the hipflexor.

Another problem has been vision. Keeping the head/chin up and looking far down the trail. Utilizing peripheral vision. Looking at obstacles and then forget about them and look past them.

Putting the vision together with weighting the front has improved things, though I've still got a long way to go.

Today I climbed Old farm and went back down. I've got an 80mm fork on there which steepens the Head angle a little making the bike a little more squirly. When entering some turns I caught myself shifting my weight back causing the front wheel to get a little light/squirly. Forcing the chest low and forward would glue the front back down.

The VT freeride club had been doing shuttle runs down Oldfarm and I got to chase after them. Actually caught one guy in full face helmet and big suspension travel. Always nice to be on an 80mm fork and 3.5" of tight suspension and be able to roll up on 6" of travel. Just like the guy on the hardtail with rigid fork must feel like when he blows by me on a downhill.

Lesson learned I hope. That skills need continuous tending, and to just go through the motions isn't good enough. Perfect practice makes perfect. If my back isn't hurting I must be doing it wrong. Which means I also need to work on strengthening my lower back and flexibility. Not like I didn't already know that though

Thursday, October 12, 2006

C'mon Sucka

Big Race this weekend. It's probably the one race on the calendar that I work towards more than any other. But I'm actually finding it hard to get focused and motivated.

It's a contrast from the last race where the fear galvanized my focus. It's not that I'm not scared cause I am. I did the expert course about 8 years ago but haven't raced this whole course. It's a challenging course no doubt.

One of my strong characterstics is hyper focus, but that's also a negative, cause it's easy to get off track and lose site of the goals I've been working towards since last October. For various reasons my mind is going in overdrive but not on the race. Work, home...bike stuff.

My fork needed service. So then I was on the hardtail, now I took my other fork off my wife's back and put it back on the Azure. So I'm not totally comfortable on the bike. My skills have been lacking a little so I've been analyzing that. My legs aren't feeling that good. Throat feels a little soar...Stuff to do, thoughts about bike setup, even contemplating hardtail vs FS...Even starting to think about the training plan for the upcoming season. Ironic to be thinking about next year when the one race the I've been thinking about all year is only a few days away.

I was on Yahoo checking on the VT score and saw this little pic of one of the most motivating forces in my racing life: Mr. T.
TV Land#01176

The focus is coming around.

Come On Sucka!

I've been working since last October. One period into another period. Those lifting sessions, the cold cold rides, the puke fest interval sessions in the basement. The skills training, the race simulations, the eating right...That's a lot of effort to just waste to a hyperactive mind.

I recall the first race I won in April 2005, one the last lap on the last climb I used mantras from Rocky III to motivate me. Clubber Lang motivating me with a gut punch. This time Mr.T is motivating the regular citizenry in his new show. Maybe I could use a little tough love from the man.

Time to get it together. Shut up foo with all this my legs hurt, do I have fever, where I am going in life..Jibba Jabba

I should get one of these and strap it on my bike

"Don't give up so soon fool, Sucess is always near, you'll get there sooner or later, you just gotta perservere."

This is a quote for the ages.

Pity not this fool, Mr. T, I'm taking your teachings to heart.

no more goo*gle ads

As you may have noticed, I removed the Google adsense. Why? Well I've made so much money off the clicks that there is no need for them. Yeah right. What a crock. No indication of any income. What was I thinking. They just clutter everything up and give the impression of being on of those sights whose sole purpose is to get you to the page in order to click on something.

I was looking for some info the other day, and there was such a lack of content that is sickened me, the main things that came up were just crap with tons of adsense links.

This site is a BLOG first and foremost to chronicle my mountain bike training. But it is important to me to also include good content that is of use to others. Reviews, bike setup, skills, nutrition, tinkering, trail descriptions, racing calendars, etc...My thinking is that if I spend an inordinate amount of time/effort analyzing something, that someone else out there may find if useful.

Content w/o adsense clicks. If I'm gonna get rich because of my passion for mountain biking it certainly isn't going to happen from Google.

Back to regularly scheduled programming. though I imagine that I'll drop down in search rankings for those obscure search terms like Black 80 SPV or Iron Horse Azure.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Azure setup
120 in main
55 in SPV
Sag 25% (9.5mm)

Tight pedaling, not good small bump, not best traction. Didn't blow through travel like it has in the past.

Tues, decent feeling legs 1.5hr only few parts hard, rest easy

Wed 1hr on road bike, legs felt dead

Lower back really hurting. I think I've been working on my positioning for downhilling more. Supposed to get low and have flat back. Over the past months my skills have decreased. I think it's because I've been protecting my lower back and raising up my upper body. Especially during braking and cornering.

When braking you need to move COG back to counteract braking forces pushing you forward. key is to SLIDE back, keeping back flat, chest low. I've been lifting my upper body, which moves weight back but also raises COG.

When cornering chest needs to be low. Bike is leaned into the corner but chest should stay in same position, so that when the bike comes back up you're back in the same position as before the corner. I've been lifting my upper body up while leaning the bike into the corner. This raises COG and also takes weight off the front wheel= washout, poor cornering.

Vision needs to be up, looking well down the trail and relying on peripheral vision. Neglecting this a lot.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

still no PR

Yesterday I tried the Azure with a rigid fork on Old Farm. Good time at 17:20 but still shy of the pr of 17:08. Today I ran the rigid fork on the hardtail and tried again.

Definitely not on today, like I was on Wednesday. Wet conditions, lots of bobbles and walked 3 sections that were ridden yesterday. Time: 17:23.51.

It's definitely the person and not the bike. The PR was sent on the Hollowpoint which is 2 pounds heavier than the Azure and 3 pounds heavier than the Hardtail. It was set in May. It's October now, I'm definitely stronger/faster. But the stars just haven't aligned yet to break that PR.

Took the rigid hardtail down Beast. Ughh that was slow and scary. On rolling singletrack and technical single track it is fine with the front disc. But long extended downhills like the Beast. Forget about it. For other more talented people yeah.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

rigid fork/on rear suspension

Tried a quick experiment today. Ran the rigid fork on the Azure. Took it up Old Farm. Good pace. Though too hard to clean the tough middle steep section, though everything else got cleaned. 17:20. My record was set in May at 17:08. That day was a motivated day too with people to chase and someone chasing me.

Was having problems with my rear tire today so the handling was all off. Tried pumping it up but the valve tore at the Stans rim strip so it wouldn't hold air and I had to change to a tube. Not sure if the pumping ripped it out or if it was already failing.

My handling has been off for awhile. My uber focused mindset jumps from one thing to another, and it's hard for me to maintain consitency and with the skills it has to be drilled constantly: vision, weight balance, cornering with the hips, chest low, elbows out. I'm trying to get back on the program and get back to where I was a few months ago.

I'm trying another method for checking positioning of the bar relative to the saddle. With the WTB Laser V saddle it's hard to run a straight edge across it for measuring the saddle angle and for measure from the drop from the saddle to the bar. This time I'm trying a 1 1/2" diameter length of PVC pipe that sides in the crook of the rear of the saddle.

My position on the hardtail with the rigid for felt really good so I'm using that as a reference. I can't do much w/o a fork on the dually. First I'll match the tilt of the saddle, then measure from the stem up to the bottom of the pipe to set handlebar height. The handle bars are the same and the stem is the same.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Jacked up Hardtail

My Minute 2:00 is getting worked on so the dually is down. My wife's new bike needed a fork as hers was backordered. So my hardtail got a rigid fork.

This is a Nashbar special that is actually not any lighter than my Black 80 SPV. But it does have a jacked up Axle to crown that is makes the ride height almost identical. 453 for the rigid, 455 for the Black which is actually tall for an 80mm fork.

I rode today with John and it rocked. Rocked hard.

A couple reasons I think that I had so much fun and didn't hurt that much: One was my weight balance felt really good, and didn't have too much weight placed on the handlebars. So the front end was able float under my hands w/o slamming into them.

I also put a disc brake on the front. That helped a ton as I wasn't braking in rough sections like I'd have to with the weaker V brake. So I didn't get the real pounding in the hands/palms.

Stans front tire setup, with 28psi. Wish I'd had Stans in the rear. I pinched flatted with the yes tubes. First time in more than year I pinched. Plus the extra cush would have been nice.

Also this fork is a compliant rigid fork.

The main thing I think, is that in order to ride this bike you have to be on. I mean really on. And when you're on well it's all good. My body english was fluid and all over the bike. Plus I was aggressive and attacked the riding. Also the ride was 1.5hrs long. 3 hrs into it things might be different. Plus we didn't do any really long extended rough downhills. My hands didn't hurt much at all like they have in the past with a rigid fork, but my lower back felt it.

But I rode the rocks on the gaps and didn't have too much trouble. The hardtail was flying uphill. And I was standing a lot which I seem to be getting better at. I felt almost blasphemeous given the time/effort gone into full suspension. It just seems lately that my best rides have been on the hardtail. A lot can be perception in that feeling more bumps can make things seem faster. But it really did seem to climb fast except on anything sketchy (roots/loose sections) But I guess that's what hardtails do best. Of course it did hurt on the baby head rock sections. If I could go faster so it could float over the top it'd be another story.

Regardless I was very impressed with the fork, and it might make a fun addition to any bike. The high Axle to Crown won't turn your frame into a pocketrocket by steepening the head anlge up. Though don't expect it to be ultra light.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Race Report: Poor Mountain Hill Climb


Today was my first run at the Poor Mountain Hillclimb

In a nutshell: What a blast! I'm coming back for sure and urge anyone and everyone to give this thing a shot.

In the days preceding this event, I've been working myself into a nervous tizzy. Having never ridden here, I had no real clue beyond reading descriptions of the course. Fear was the word of the day. But I've realized that a healthy fear is a good motivator for me and helps to really get me focused. The drive into the staging area at Camp Roanoke was so beautiful, but the mountain was ominous looking.

Poor Mountain is something I've really never thought much about. I drive by it on I-81 all the time but never knew what existed there. It's the mountain that all the TV stations use for their antennas. So you know it is for real. It reminded me of my days first starting to mountain bike back in Davis, California. We would ride up these two canyons called Mix and Gates canyons which were fire roads that took you to a ridge with all the radio towers. Long, long climbs up and up. But this was a Virginia fire road climb not a western variety. Let me tell you they were a little different from each other.

I got a little scare when registering as I pulled out my checkbook they said no checks. Um how much is it $25. Let's see. $25 in my wallet. I NEVER have $25 dollars on me. I always use a credit card or checkbook. Lesson learned, everyone speaks the language of cash.

We rolled out all together from the staging area about 2 miles to the start line at a railroad track. I didn't really do any sort of set warm up like normal, and didn't feel all ready to go when we started. It was a mass start. The first miles are a gradual upslope on paved roads. I was so proud of myself for not getting suckered into going out too fast. With so many people around and the excitement it's too easy to go too hard. I could see JB pulling a single file train way up a head, and I estimated that I was somewhere in the middle.

I am learning that my modus operandi is to start slow and get my legs underneath me and then ramp up to a steady pace. At first, I'd jump onto a draft when able, but wouldn't let it take me over my limit. My heart was feeling fine but the legs were starting to feel it a little. There were two really steep paved switchbacks out of Euro Alp.

The paved portion turned to dirt which was actually a was a little relief. At least when it's dirt there is a reason you're going slow. On pavement there is this nagging feeling that you need to be going faster. The dirt turned to some surprisingly rough sections. It's like baby head buried rocks but with the tops cut off so they are flat. At the start I was surprised that there weren't more rigid forks, but after seeing these first rough sections it made sense.

The trick for me was to go to a harder gear in these sections. It helped to stabilize me and hold momentum through them. A lot of people around me switched to a lower gear which only made them more susceptible to momentum loss. After a rough section, I'd drop back down to my regular gear. In hindsight, I think the rigid fork wasn't the best choice. A suspension fork set with higher than normal platform might have been better.

Around this time I noticed people around me were really working it. Too hard, too early. There was so much more to go. This isn't the place to be redlined.

We hit some switchbacks that were really steep. I took a really wide line around them, which allowed me to keep the same gear and not have to shift down or really push hard to get up the inside. The road had some long straight sections that allowed you to see riders up ahead. This can be a double edged sword. It provides motivation to catch people. But it's not like you just roll up on someone. It is a very slow procedure to reel someone in and pass them.

I just tried to keep a few songs going through my head (The Clash: Rudy Can't Fail, Lost in the Supermarket, Lit: In Over My Head) and go steady. Grab a higher gear through rough sections and even on the other side of switchbacks where others might go to an easier gear.

I had no idea where I was in my class or on the road. In hindsight, I've come to realize that my best performances are in these mass start situations. With these starts, I get to my sustainable pace sooner and don't get in over my head like with regular starts. Starts are something that need work, but for the next race, I'm just going to let everyone go. And ride my own race. It always ends up being the fastest for me.

The grade was pretty steady and then it started to kick up. I mean really kick up. There was a short section that I think the course web page had quoted at 21% grade. It was rideable but only if you went into it under redline. On the other side of this grade was another steep switchback then it leveled out. We took a right turn towards the radio towers. A lot of spectators had gathered here and were cheering and ringing cowbells.

My game plan of poise and control went out the window here as I got caught up in the cheering and saw a 1k to go sign. I grabbed a gear and pushed it, but realized all to quickly that this was a huge mistake. I'd forgotten that this was the part of the course that had the steepest grade for an extended period of time. It was excruciating. And I just started to put the nails in my coffin by trying to go too hard.

Thankfully, I was able to get back in control and just go steady. Slow but steady. Riders were up ahead of me but there was no reeling anyone in. One rider was coming up behind me. His breathing was out of a B horror movie. He was definitely working it. He passed me, I got on his wheel. Then I passed him and gapped. Then I started to slow and he got on my again. Finally the grade started to let up a little and there was a sign for 200m. But he wanted it more and I just couldn't bridge.

At the top,
I got off my bike to grab my bag that had a jacket in it. The pain in my legs and butt was terrible. As bad as any leg pain I'd ever had. While on the bike it hadn't been that bad, but now I was limping. If you've ever ridden a tandem or spent several hours on a flat rail-to-trails trail than you know that pain in the backside I'm talking about. You just don't stand that much in situations like this and the roughness of the road and the hardtail pounded me.

We hung out up top for a little while but it was windy and cold. But the view was spectacular:

A shout out to a BLOG reader, Chris, I met at the top. I've got some stickers for you kids if they come to Rowdy Dawg.

I rode back down the road which was a little scary for me. With good weight balance on the pedals, the rigid fork wasn't too bad, but may hands were hurting from the braking and couldn't corner for anything. I couldn't believe how long it took to get back to the staging area. I'd forgotten to put a recovery drink or food in my bag so I was hurting for certain and was just crawling.

Back at the camp I slammed a Gatorade and cliff bar and then dined on some super tasty BBQ. Even had a cookie. Surprisingly I didn't want another! I decided to stick around for the results. When they got to Vet Expert they awarded 3 deep and surprise surprise surprise the man from Blacksburg gets called up. 55:something. They gave out these little envelopes that had $20 written on it. I thought it was a gift certificate that I'd heard them talking about but a few hours later I opened it up and inside was $20-Cash money. OMG I've never won money before. Will this jeopardize my amateur status and Olympic goals? Kudos to the wonderful promoters to be able to give money out at a grass roots race. They said they had the biggest turnout yet this year.

Now to put this into perspective. The top 3 senior sports were all faster. I'm not sure how many Vet Experts there were but not that many I'm sure. But this brings up one of the wonderful ironies of bike racing. If you don't show up you can't win.

JB shattered his own record and posted 38 minutes and collected $250 for the record. It was inspring to be able to ride the same course with a world class rider. But even more inspiring was to see the beginners out there working their tails off. In our society, especially South-Western Virginia it takes a lot of guts to go up against the negative energy from co-workers, friends and family and to say I'm going to mountain bike, and I'm going to climb this here mountain on my BI-Cee-cal.

These types of events are awesome for everyone. Because even though in the end you are judged in a class of your age and skill level, it is really about you vs your demons and you versus the mountain.

This event was just awesome. I judge an event by how long it takes before I start planing for next year. After the intial pain in my legs went away I was already analyzing and strategizing what I'd do different. Thanks to the promoters for putting on events like this. Hopefully there will be even more people next year to take on the challenge.

Food Log: 10-1-2006 Race day Poor Mtn Hillclimb

Finished by 8:00
Egg white/bread - 10g
Ensure+ - 50g
Pancakes - 40g
Syrup - 54g
Yogurt 34g

Race start: 11:00
10:00-10:15 24oz bottle with 70g of Power Bar Endurance (punch flavor)

3 sport legs

2 mins before start
5 sport legs

During: 20oz of Power bar endurance 42g
no water or anything else

Mouth felt a little dry after slamming that 70g at 10, but once we got going felt fine. Really like the Power Bar punch flavor. My new favorite go-juice.