Friday, August 31, 2007

Portland trip

Still recovering from the trip. I had the flight from hell through Atlanta. To top it off, there are no decent places to eat near the Pittsburgh airport. I ended up at an Eat'n'Park (Pittsburgh version of Denny's). One doesn't go to Eat'n'Park (or Denny's for that matter), they end up there. Usually it involves a bit too much alcohol or just total desperation for food. Damn, I almost broke and stopped at a McDonalds too. That was close.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ahhh, Portland

Ever since I went out to Portland for cross natz a few years ago, I've made the trip back there every year. One interesting thing though is I don't know what it is like to race on the west coast in the sun. From Napa thru the Hillsboro Cross Crusade last year, I've had to deal with a freakin downpour on raceday. Hopefully this year will be different.

I didn't actually plan it this way, but my trip (which is doubling as a work trip, gotta love the tax code) begins the day before a twilight criterium right in downtown Portland. I love these things. The last race I've done like this was Williamsport, PA a few years ago where I was strong enough to get beat up by the Alliance Environmental guys. I still had a decent result, but I felt I had ridden one of my strongest races. To top it off, it was in a downpour. If I had know I was dashing over wet manhole covers, I don't think I would've been quite as bold. But, back to this race. I'll do the Cat 3 race and then if I have a decent race, I'll see if I can jones for an entry in the big race. It's an OBRA race so maybe I can swing it. If I'm cooked after my race, I'll be able to sit and have a beer along the course with some friends who are having a course side party at one of the schools along the course.

Following the races Friday night, the next day some friends and I will be taking a trip out to the coast. The last time I was out, we tried to make this run, but wound up killing too
at the air museum where the Spruce Goose is located. This plane is one of the largest ever to be built and was the brainchild of Howard Hughes. He believed enough in this project that he spent more than a million dollars a year to keep it flight worthy up thru 1971. The amazing thing was they had one of the remaining SR-71 Blackbirds there as well. It fit really neatly under the wing of the Spruce Goose. Now the SR-71 is a pretty big jet considering it only seated a couple crewmen. It was all engine and fuel tank (plus a few spy cameras). It was completely drarfed by the Goose. There was alot of other cool jets and planes along with a nice collection of armored vehicles from past wars. It was neat to see a Russian T34 tank from World War II. This tank kicked the shit out of the Wermacht then. Nothing fancy. Just engine, a few hand cranks, and a big gun. Sometimes simplicity does work.

And at some point, through the week, we of course have to hit a classic buger stand that is in Portlandcalled Giants. The first time I was out, my friend Chuck and his wife said we had to go there and get there ultimate burger. DO NOT GET ONE OF THESE IF YOU ARE NOT REALLY HUNGRY. These things are huge. Imagine a half pound burger, then lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup or some sort of sauce with an large egg on it. I could feel the arteries begin to lock up before I was half-way through this thing. Past that, it was a pretty good burger. I would say this would be the best 'we're seriously drunk on a saturday night and i bet you can't eat one of these' burgers I had. Forget the fries, unless you want to use them to sop up the grease off the burger.

Anyway, enough rambling. I've got to pack the bike up and be at the airport in about 7 hours.


Monday, August 6, 2007

Ohio Flats

One of the most common excuses for a poor performance has got to be the flat tire. How many times have you heard, 'You should have seen it. I was up front driving the pace and all of a sudden, I heard that damn hissing. Of course the follow vehicle was nowhere around.'
Well, I just had that on Sunday in Zoar, Ohio. It was a good road course with 2 climbs. Not quite the climbs one would find in my home area of western PA, but they made you work and the second one finished with a nice kicker at the end that usually had people struggling. I wasn't one of those people. Everything seemed to be going my way. The other teams were watching me. I was picking moments to give the pack some punches and watch the reactions. I was staying in the front few riders on the climbs. I was eating and drinking as I planned. Each time the hills seemed to get easier. The pack was racing up to the turn towards the big climb for the fourth of five laps. We had 1 rider up the road at about 30-40 seconds. The rain had finally let up and I was thinking, its just about time to finish this one off. One good blast up the hill and then dumping it in the big gears and I'd bridge the gap to the lone rider ahead. . . .

One of the interesting things about Ohio is on the back roads, as in many areas of the country, they tar and chip the roads. Anyone who has ever had to deal with this nasty practice knows exactly what I'm talking about. In Pa, we use a small gravel stone which is a bit sketchy for control on the bike but all-in all, not that bad. Ohio uses this crappy slag. There's lots of broken sharp rock shards in this stuff and it might be good for filling in the holes in the roads, but if you're a skinny tire fanatic, it's best to avoid it or make sure you've got some heavier tires on. I've now been a victim of the crap twice this year. I went from thinking, 'Damn, I'm going for the win here and it doesn't look like there's much to stop me.' to coming a step away from renouncing religon and all other beliefs I have in the time it took for the air to leave the tire.
And to rub it in, no wheel van in site. So there I was stranded on the side of the road with one of the course marshall's who arranged for me to get back to my car. Damn.

Also, anyone who races should say thanks to the course marshalls and police who help us have our races. On days like this last weekend where most of the race was held in a nasty downpour, I wouldn't say no to making sure they had a hot coffee too. Without this help, many of our races would not be around. And no matter how pissy the locals might get about being delayed 6 seconds in getting their smokes at the local convenience store, try not to flip them off. You never know when you are flipping off the town mayor or his wife. It could make it a bit tougher to get the race course for next years race.

A Jr Devil made his appearance in Zoar, Ohio. Will he make it to the tour? Stay tuned.... New reality show? Hmmm, call ABC in the morning.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Massage night. OOOOO AAAAAAA

Aaaaahhhh, it was massage night again. I consider this an essential element of a training/racing program. Nothing puts a person back together again quite as well as a good sports massage. All those little nagging aches and pains get fixed up. It really helps if the therapist knows their stuff too. Alot will just have you lay down on the table and just do their thing and not like input from the client. I believe the best massages are done on an interactive basis and not just on a 'what hurts' question at the start of the massage. It's your body and you can feel when they are working the muscles if there is something going on there. That's the time to speak up. The massage therapist I see has a pretty good medical background so it helps alot. Often she'll find the problems without me telling her, but it certainly helps her out if she knows things ahead of time. If you do get a good sports massage, I recommend getting it a couple days before you have to race again. If you have to race the following day, make sure you have the bare minimum done. Otherwise, you'll not be as responsive as you'd like to be. It's usually the second day after the massage that you really notice the results of the massage and then you're ready to go out and wreck yourself again. Anyone who races on a weekly basis should definitely consider adding this as a necessary step in training. If you know someone who can do this, great. Otherwise be a bit selective on who you go to see. Talk with them beforehand and you'll be able to get a good handle on if they are capable of doing the job. Also, this is not a do it once and wait til the next time you are really hurting to go back. Many times, it takes a few visits to really start working things out, especially if you continually go back out and beat yourself up again. As I said, it should be a regular part of your training program.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Feeling good!

Well, I finally am posting here again. I've had a fairly decent road season. I started the blog to help myself keep a track on my progress through the season. Unfortunately work and being responsible, not too mention, being lazy when it came to this task came into play.

To start with, I'm feeling good. I'll stop short of saying REALLY good, but things are coming together for me.

One of the biggest things that I've been able to fix this year has been my health. I've had to deal with fatique issues over the past decade which I've determined to come from a couple sources, some physical, others from issues that have danced around in the head. It doesn't help the physcial health when you are not totally in the game upstairs. Little by little though, I've been knocking off the physical blights that have damaged my racing over the past decade. Besides dealing with the fatigue, one of the main things that seems to have been holding me back has been the weight. Since peaking in the spring at around 178lbs, I am now sitting around 165. It does make for a whole new ballgame when you can drop that kind of weight. It's like dumping off a gallon and a half of milk. Trying riding home with just one gallon of milk and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Part of this has been actually getting out there and training. Another is my diet, which falls in the attrocious department. Anyone who drives all over God's country for work and winds up eating on the run will relate to this. I managed to cut most of the fast food out, though I still hit the Chinese buffet which is a personal addiction of mine. I also have cut out the late evening/night snacking as well. The fast food and the late night snacking are probably two of the things that have killed me most over the years.

Past the diet, I am also doing a few mountain bike races to keep the riding interesting. I'm on a single speed Gary Fisher. It requires learning a whole new way of riding. Patience is definitely a virture here. Hammer too hard, too quickly and BOOOM, you're seeing wonderful colors and hurting like you never thought possible. I've gotton better in the skills department and can now descend at a reasonable rate and not have to flash on the mantra 'GET OFF THE F**KING BRAKES, JAY' (you can do an endo on a 29er. - another 'poor dumb bastard' moment) After doing the endo at Charleston, the next couple races, I was saying that outloud to myself. I'm making some pretty good progress now that I can just be thinking it.

The mountain biking and weight loss has certainly helped out on the road as my climbing has been improving quite a bit. I can keep up with people now and not embarrass myself on many of the races I've done over the last few years. Along the way, I've actually won a few races this year. They weren't big races, but it was a good boost to the morale. Another good boost to the morale is at some of the criteriums I've done this year. These are my favorite races, as I really like the cornering. The Westlake races in Cleveland are very competitve weekly races. I hit a few of them a year and the competition is pretty good for a training race. They normally have some of the Texas Roadhouse and Ambercrombie & Fitch guys there along with the RGF and Columbus teams as well. This past Tuesday, I only placed 8th, but I definitely got some satisfaction on being able to be the second rider to react to a very serious attack from a Roadhouse rider, pulling past the initial rider with a trail of bikes in tow and then once catching the attack, continued on past at 52-53Kph for another couple hundred yards. Then when a few of the weaker riders were wimping out on hitting the front, I was able to hit the front again and keep the pressure up. I even had the energy to yell at the wheelsuckers to take their skirts off and pull on the pedals a bit. A couple more riders helping out and we would have completely blown it apart. It was good to hear the compliments after the race like 'What's gotten into you? You were smoking it out there' It was also a good sign when I'd jump up to attacking riders and they'd see it was me there, they'd keep going because they knew I wasn't going to wimp out on the pulls. It's been a long time since I've felt good enough to do that.

I've used the road and mountain bike season this year as a springboard for the cross season which is to be starting up mid September. Last year, I started to see signs of life in my riding again. This year, I'm hoping to be doing much better. I began my hill run ups this week and felt like I was going even better than I felt on them last November. I have a hill near the house which is close to 200 yards long. It's not steep, but hucking a bike up on the shoulder and running that distance makes you work. I did it with the rig which is at least 5 lbs heavier than the cross bike and didn't feel pegged at the top even though I did a decent clip up the hill. Some of those drags up the steep hills in the WV mountain bike series races seem to be doing some good here. I might have to do more of them next year. Thanks for convincing me to do those races, Gunnar.

There's only a couple more road races this year, but my nemesis race the Mountain State Classic is there looming large. It's a really tough race with lots of climbing. I've usually been described as the 'blinding flash' that blasts out the back of the race as the climbing got serious. I like to say that it's a patented 'attack out the back move'. They never see it going and they never see you til the finish. I'm thinking this year I might be able to suprise some people here.

Oh, yeah, things are getting fun again!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Starting all over - again

Gunnar might've won the SuperCup race in Baltimore, but they took my pic instead.

Well, it's been about a month since I've been trying to get the training going. I've got the weight room stuff started and I've been doing the trainer workouts and even going outside some. Being from western Pennsylvania, it's a bit tough to get out in the winter especially when you have to wake up in the morning and be responsible and go to work. In recent years, I've found it a bit tougher to motivate myself to go outside in the cold. I used to live for this type of weather. I remember and some old training friends used to see who could deal with it more by going out on rides in the snow and see who started bitching about being cold first. Looking back at it, I'm pretty sure most of the world thought we were complete morons by being out on the roads when there was 6 inches of snow and the most we'd change our bikes was putting on 28 mm road tires. Of course that was 10+ years ago. I'm more using my blog here as a way to keep myself going and relate a few of the interesting things I've come across in my wonderings on the bike over the past 23 years. It sure has changed alot. I've made alot of friends as they've come and gone in the sport. Quite often, life caught up with them and the bike became not a big part of it, so I only get to see them once in a great while. Of the people I started racing with back in the early/mid 80s, I only know of about 3 or 4 who are still at it. I was never a pro, nor close to it, but I have stayed with the sport because it is one of the things that make up who I am.

As for the name of my blog 'Poor Dumb Bastard', that comes from my cyclocross racing. As a lifelong roadie, I got into cross racing in '01 and it's taken me a while to find my footing in it. One of the problems I've had to deal with is that I'm not as light as I once was. Another thing is that I quickly learned (in my third race - Baltimore Natz 35-39) is that turning on a cross bike is NOT the same as turning in a crit. Nothing like doing a 30+ foot slide on a muddy off camber dropping turn to demonstrate to the world that you don't know what the hell you are doing. 'Poor dumb bastard' moments like that have come quite often over the next couple years, especially at the moments when I'd thought I'd figured this type of racing out.

I know I tend to run on alot, but give me a break - I'm an old man. I'm allowed to.