Thursday, July 27, 2006

We got hecklers

First dirt crit of the year yesterday.

20mins + 2 laps.

There were 4 cross bikes and 3 mtn bikes.


We even had spectators. AND hecklers. The course runs alongisde a country road, and on the other side were some houses. Some urchins were hanging out and heckling us. With the cross bikes around you would think they would don some orange overalls and douse us with beer.

But I don't think they knew how to do it right cause they stayed on the other side of the road.

The start was fast as usual for an event like this. The cross bikes just totally dominated on the gravel. Even the grass climb seemed to favor them.

CP had his 32 cog which just let him spin constantly up the grunt.

There was some shouldering and foot out cornering from the crossers.

Though the one downhill corner favored a mountain bike, though we agreed to let the cross bikes start cutting that corner to make it easier to negotiate

A full suspension didn't do a whole lot on this course. Yours truly brought up the caboose. Hopefully this won't be a harbinger of things to come in the future. For whatever reason I just couldn't get the legs to go. It wasn't an issue of going too hard, cause I wasn't even going hard enough to hurt. And these things are supposed to really really hurt. Even after the hecklers yelled to me "Do you speak english" (I'm assuming because of my dark skin) I still couldn't turn the pedals in anger.

Cold beer and drinks greeted us at the end and as predicted we only did one heat. I don't know when I'll organize the next one. Maybe in 2 weeks or so. Course may change

Monday, July 24, 2006

What's in Your Garage?


3 of my bikes
2 of my wifes
3 kid's bikes
2 scooters
1 skateboard

Now you know why I sell a bike every time I buy one. There is no room for a quiver bigger than 3 of my own. Good thing my wife is happy with just two. Once the kids get big enough to get into road and mountain we are going to be in trouble.

If anyone has any ideas how to keep kid's bikes organized let me know. Every day they are just strewn on the floor in front of the garage door. It's great that they ride their bikes everyday, but I'm going to kill myself one of these days tripping over stuff.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hardtail dying

I think my hardtail is on it's last legs. The rear wheel keeps slipping. I'd sent it back recently and the builder had re ground the drops with a negative grind basically tapering them slightly so the wheel wouldn't move that direction. Under really heavy pedal pressure like on a short steep climb it still slips. Not as bad as before.

He said the drops are getting soft. It's going on 8-9 years. I don't think it is worth fixing at this point and I don't want to put $ into it. It's fine for light duty and it will be a great bike for commuting or for the kids when they get older. New drops can always be welded on anyway.

I'd like to get another hardtail but lately I've been into the FS. I'm saving my ebay stash for an Azure maybe. But I still love hardtails, there will always be a place for them.

Bad days all around

Well before I even saw the tape of Floyd's imposion in the TDF, I was having a bad day. Stressful events at work weighing on the mind.

This past weekend I was riding really strong.

Yesterday not so. Just felt like crap the entire ride and rest of the day. It wasn't sore legs cause they burn or tenderness wasn't there just no power no snap. Tired. Same thing today. Not sure if it is just cummulative fatigue or combination of life stressors and some lack of sleep.

One characteristic of really good riders I think is their ability to compartmentalize life. Lance is probably the best example of it. It's not an easy thing to do. And just another example of how hard it is to be a regular joe.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Welcome to Expert?

I recall many years ago a sport racer who won the VA State series. He smoked everyone in the class and was riding up with the experts a lot. At the awards ceremony the promoter shook his hand, gave him is award and said welcome to expert.

Recently I've gotten some good results. 3rd at Massanutten, 3rd in the Mill Mountain Time trial and 1st at the Carvin's Cove XC and 1st overall for the Omnium in Vet Sport.

Last year the results were really good too. A 1st, a few 3rds, 4ths, 5th, 6th. Granted we have some really small fields in Virginia but that shouldn't take away from the level of the competetion, in fact it tends to mean that there is just less pack fodder and more hardcores come out.

I've been racing long enough to be cognizant of the sandbagger phenomena and don't want to be one. Given that I don't destroy the field I'm confident that I'm not one. However the general consensus seems to be 3 top 3s or 5 top 5s as a good indication to move up and give someone else a chance to get called up.

I've been thinking of making the jump to Vet Expert. This is a big deal. Expert really is a whole different world, and the jump from sport to expert is a significantly larger step than from beginner to sport. As my friend Skip says, expert is for real. I was asking my coach Dave Morris about vet expert and gushing over how fast those guys are. He said that by that time you get to that level most of the pack fodder has gotten filtered out.

Racing expert is actually one of my lifetime goals. In fact I pulled out a sheet of paper dated 10/9/96 and the Lifetime goal listed was a top 10 in a regional expert race. Given how small the fields can be sometimes that might be a reality if I just cross the line.

I actually raced expert for a little while right before my first son was born. What a fiasco. I moved up just because I'd been in sport class for so long and wanted to get "more money's worth" by doing the longer courses. I certainly was a mid pack sport racer. It was sad acutally. I pretty much rode caboose every race. Alone, typically last place. Discouragaing. The one upside was that I never quit a race.

It wasn't very much fun actually. Coming back to racing these last few years has been a lot of fun. I'll be the first to admit that winning and getting your name called is great, but the most enjoyable part has been just being competitive with some other racers. To really race and not just time trial.

I think I'd do better this time around, but understand that it is going to be a very humbling experience. The reality is I train around 5-8 hrs a week. I imagine some of those guys put in 15-20+. It is concievable that I could spend the rest of my racing career as a mid packer. The thing I'm worried about is that the jump is going to be too big and that I'll be right back where I was years ago, bringing home the caboose.

This is where non-racers just don't get it.

Jason Sager said it nicely on his blog:
" People forget that if you measure your bike racing success on paper results alone that, well, there's only one winner, and most likely it ain't gonna be you. Enjoy your time in the trenches. That's where we all live, save for the occasional gopher jump out of the hole to check the view at the front."

Think about all those guys that dedicate everything to being a midpack pro. Or our American pros that go to Europe and rarely break the top 20.

Why do it?

If you have to ask that question than you'll never understand the answer.

I'm going to ruminate on it some more.

In some ways it's like having kids. I'll never be 'ready'.

I was plannig on racing expert in some VA-derailer series races just for the training because those courses are real short in sport class. Basically go balls out till I die than do whatever it takes to make it over the finish. I imagine that racing in vet-expert for real isn't going to be much different.

Patience Rewarded

Our youngset son rode without training wheels last night.



*This little red bike is so awesome. It was a bike shop purchased GT. Cost way more than a walmart POS but it has going through 2kids and still as good as new, except the rear tire is bald from burnouts from the 1st kid. Just bought a new tire for it.

You have no idea how big a deal this is. He has had the ability for a long time, but is so neurotic and stubborn that he just wouldn't do it. With both parents being cyclists it has been hard to just let it go and not pressure him.

With him on training wheels we were really limited in what we could do for family rides. My oldest has been off training wheels for years now and we were able to go on the bike path regularly with him. The youngest would go for a little ways on the path but then he'd get to a hill and get part way up then put his brakes on. And we'd have to push him. We just couldn't go too far with him.

Training wheels actually teach the wrong way how to ride a bike. They teach turning the handlebars in stead of leaning to turn. So transitioning from training wheels to no training wheels was too hard on him. One of the best things we did was to get him off his training wheel bike and onto a Tag-along.

At first he was freaked out on the Tag-a-long when taking turns because of how you have to lean on a bicycle in a turn. Now trying a little bike w/o trainig wheels has been much better for him because he understands better the right way to balance.

In addition, we have the seat really low so that he can 'scooter' around. One of the best way to teach kids how to balance is to take the cranks off and just let them scooter around.

Anyway it was a huge breakthrough for us. And he is so proud. Now we just gotta get him to figure out how to start. And keep him from crashing too hard, because one crash and he'll want to give it up for a while.

My older one is all into trying to track stand now, and he is almost there.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Azure review at Dirt Rag

Iron Horse Azure review at Dirt Rag

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Virginia Commonwealth Games Race Report

Today was the historic 1st ever XC race held on single track at the Carvin's Cove. This race and yesterday's offroad hillclimb were part of the Coventry Commonwealth Games of Virginia.

Yesterday at the hillclimb I got 3rd in Vet Sport. The organizers did a really cool thing and created an Omnium category which was your combined time of the hillclimb and the XC race and you had to use the same bike for both.

Admittedly, after the hillclimb my confidence for the XC was a little low. The legs didn't seem to roll as well as I'd hoped and were really sore that night. I'd given up 5 minutes to the first place guy and 1 minute to second place. When I got to the XC race I found out that first place in the Vet sport from the hillclimb wasn't racing. Yesterday was his first ever mountain bike race. He did it on a borrowed bike!

During my warmup I scouted the first section of single track, Some short steep grunts, fun sweeping single track. And I started to feel better about today and realized that my training has been very specific to XC racing lately, NOT hillclimbs. So lots of hard efforts followed by max sustainable pace. Which is exactly what a lot of the race was going to be.

The turnout was fairly small and they started everybody together. We had a vehicle escort down the road and the hum of knobbies was loud. As soon as we hit the gravel road it was on. I just stayed close to the front as best I could as small rocks were shot out of the from other riders ricocheting off my bike. The experts led it out and they seemed to be taking it really easy I think because their course was significantly longer than ours. Brian Lang was in front of me and his gears started skipping something fierce. Then his chain breaks and wraps around his stay. He was still pedaling furiously and I was yelling, CHAIN, CHAIN. I was half expecting it to whip up and hit me in the face.

We turned one the single track and it was a tough call how hard to go. I had confidence that I could gut out the steep grunts and recover across the top. This track was a horseshoe loop that took us back to the gravel road then we headed up the 1000' fire road climb.

This is one of those climbs that can suck you into going harder than you want to. It is so tempting to take off or try to stick with a group. I knew that it would haunt me later if I tried that so opted for damage control and rode steady. Part way up the 2nd place rider from yesterday's hillclimb, Chip and his buddy Aaron came up on me. Now it was a dilemma. I HAD to stick with Chip AND beat him in order to go for the omnium. Yet going to hard risked cramping later on. No choice, it's a race after all, and as soon as he passed I sucked onto his wheel. Inches away trying to hold on.

This road goes up and up and switchback after switchback and I wasn't sure where the turnoff for the singletrack downhill was. I wanted to get ahead of Chip before that if possible. He seemed to slow a little and I grabbed a gear and slowly moved forward and just kept steady fearing to look back to see him latching onto MY wheel. By the time the turnoff came I'd gapped him a little.

The downhill was awesome. Side trail, switchbacks, loose, steep. Actually I felt a little sketchy all day which means I need to go practice my skills with the cones. At the bottom it turns into some steep grunts combined with power singletrack. Props go to Bicycle Soup Warren who motored up the climb in his singlespeed. I had him in sight on some of the grunts at the bottom but once he got on top of the gear on the power track he was gone, like 7 minutes gone.

At this point I was just trying to hold it together. Keeping it steady keeping the songs going through the head. Taking a conservative on the downhills, and pushing a steady gear on the climbs. We finally dumped out back on the gravel road and it was back up the fire road climb to the turnoff for the new connector.

Brand new trail. Very well done. Smooth as can be. And it went on and on. I hadn't seen Chip the few times I risked looking back down the trail. I started to have thoughts of grandeur of winning the omnium. I had no idea if there were any other vet sports ahead of me either. Every time these thoughts came into my head, I tried to purge them and get back to focusing on the moment. Any one of a hundred things could happen to shut everything down and the race isn't over until it is over.
Where was the turn off for the last stretch? Finally the finish was in sight.

Surprisingly, I felt pretty good at the end. Not like the walking dead. And notice everyone.....No cramp stories.... Not sure if it is the training or these but not even a twinge today.

No idea what the results were until they called the awards.

1'st place Men's Vet Sport=Gold Medal
and 1'st place in the Omnium

It was really cool to do the Omnium. To come back from a deficit and move ahead over the XC course, just like a real stage race.

The prize for the Omnium is wicked cool. A laser etched cog made by Endless Bikes. Ron the promoter was up late making the cogs into medals.

*notice the laser etched East Coasters

Special thanks go to Ron and Roanoke Cycling for putting on such a wonderful event. It is really special to have races near enough that I can drive to in a few hours. The only thing they need to improve on is course markings as there were a few off shoot trails that needed some wrong way X's.

Special thanks to my wife for watching the kids all weekend and to my kids for being so excited for me. They were beside themselves when I showed them the medals.

It's funny. I've wanted one of these Common Wealth games medals for years and years. And was pretty bummed when I went off course (like to the moon off course) at last year's time trial. On one hand they sort of give the medals out like candy and with so many events and age/skill categories. But on the other hand these are the State games and it's a big deal... to me anyway. I don't know why more people didn't come out for this especially with so few races in the area. Hopefully the word will get out for next year.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Time trial results

Did the Mill Mountain Time trial today in Roanoke- offroad version. I haven't felt all that great the last few days. Not sure if I overdid it this past weekend or if it's a slight sickness going around the family. Got to the parking lot and didn't do the best warmup, and the legs weren't feeling all that good.

The start was up this wicked steep alley. The starting alleys were the steepest part of the whole course. I opted to take them really easy. This seemed to be a good call as I hit the single track feeling ok. It was hard to find a good gear, and I seemed to be between the small and middle ring wishing for an easier gear in the middle, and a harder on in the small. I went down to the 4th cog when in the small ring, I think I should have tried the 5th one before moving up to the middle ring.

The course was really smooth, non technical. You have to use the same bike for the XC and climb if you are doing the omnium course and I opted for the full suspension. Because the XC course has some technical in it and I haven't been riding the hardtail at all. I also run pretty low tire pressure for general technical XC and this was also a liability today. But in hindsight with the big climb tomorrow the hardtail probably would have been better.

Did a good job of staying in the sweet spot for the most part. A pre-ride would have done wonders for me though. I think I could have gone harder during the middle singletrack. Also there was a downhill section and for whatever reason my skills seem off. At the top I thought I was near the finish and that it was going to be paved path the rest of the way, and went hard, then it went back to grass and a real grinder to the finish. So I was totaly blown by that part and seemed to be going backwards.

The time was ok, but there were some much faster times. Good enough for 3rd in Vet Sport. Though the first place vet sport guy had the FASTEST time of everyone there. I heard the guy's nickname is 'Automatic upgrade'

I got one of the sweet medals that they give out. I've coveted those things for years. Though my kids were playing with it and I can't find it now!

At home my legs have been hurting a lot. So we'll see about tomorrow. Not sure what is going on. Last Sunday's ride called for 2hrs, but I ended up doing 3+ and riding hard with the duracels on the shoulder trying to show off for some friends I met up with on the trail. So I wonder if I am just not recovering well enough.

The time is probably going to be around 1:40 or so. A little on the short side for my tastes. On very long fire road climb, long descent, some fun single track.

Again my goal is to stay focused and ride good solid steady pace.

Friday, July 07, 2006

In Search of the Sweet Spot

Uphill time trial tomorrow: The Mill Mountain Time Trial of the Commonwealth Games. Man, those boys at Roanoke Cycling sure can put on some good events. Their promotion and web pages are the best around. Great information, directions with map links to all the events, Topo maps of the courses. Very well done. They are returning mountain bike racing to the area with some gusto.

This will be an approx. 20min time trial climb 75% single track 25% road.

These are so tough. The tendency is to actually go too hard. Ironically, the thing that nags at me is that I won't go hard enough. There is a stigma of races especially time trials of "Going as hard as you can"

One thing I've learned is that Going the hardest doesn't always equate to going the fastest. Invariably, holding back leads to a better time.

The goal is the sweet spot. That razor's edge where you are going at the fastest speed that you can actually sustain. Where your speed and momentum feeds upon it self. Too slow and you aren't riding to your potential. Too fast and the legs start to bog, the breathing goes up and you end up going backwards.

This is my goal. If I can control myself enough to hold the sweetspot through to the finish I'll be happy. It is just so easy to go out too hard. Especially in an event like this. And especailly on a climb.

20mins. Big deal, sprint the whole way. Yeah right. That is a recipe for disaster. Maybe I'll sprint when I can see the finish.