Monday, September 29, 2008

Ed Sanders Cross

This race has been one of the MABRA's early season races for a while now. It's a tough little course since it's fairly marshy, especially if it's been raining. It's held at the Lilypon's Water Gardens. Did I mention it could get a bit marshy there. There are several ponds there that you have to ride between which if you're in a cluster of riders could spell disaster if you're on the wrong side of the collision. A few years ago, I nearly got knocked in. Last year, I was off form and hanging on at the back of the master's elite. Then I flatted. Then after nursing it in to the pits, I got the pit bike came back out and charging after the other back markers and within a half kilometer, I flatted again. It was that type of race. This year, I wasn't even sure if I was going to race. My lead up to the weekend was probably the worst kind you could have. Tuesday, the mailserver at one of my clients melted down. Gunnar and I left at almost 7am, Wednesday after we'd finished the restoration. This server handled all their web crap and it could've been backed up a bit better, but we messed around a bit too long trying to save the old one. I was back in at 9:00am to cover any of the problems that were sure to be noticed. I did manage to ride a bit that afternoon and then again the next day, but they only amounted to 15 miles on the trail that was more of a light maintenance ride than a good training ride. Friday and Saturday were complete blanks. I intended to ride but work got in the way Friday and when I did go to ride Saturday, it started raining. Not one of those light 'yeah, you're going to get wet rains'. It was more one of those 'drop the anchor, otherwise you'd get washed away' type rains. So I woke up at 5AM on Sunday and laid in bed for 30 minutes before deciding to go. I made the 3 hour drive to Maryland. I arrived with plenty of time to get ready and even got an ok warmup, though because of the registration people not really being ready and not having numbers there for us, we were stuck for 20 minutes scratching our butts before they even started on the first rider. Registering at the line pretty much screws you for the day and I started at the back of a field of 59 riders. The prologue lap starts wide open but after a couple hundred yards turns into single track with no opportuniy to pass until you get to the first barrier section. I got past about 15-20 guys on the first grass area at the start. The rider in front of me was a good roadie and I tried following him as I knew he could do well in crits but he left a bit to be desired on this start and I was going into the grass not even breathing hard. Once I hit the grass, I went wide and high and was able to gain some of the ground I was hoping but a bit faster on the road and I would've been 10-15 places further on. I caught up to one group and then was able to make the jump to the next and then that's where it pretty much finished. I got to no man's land and then for the rest of the race I caught people who were blowing up and also go passed by a couple who had a bit more in the tank that I did. I did ride a fairly good technical race in that I was able to pick my points of battle and road a clean race. We were just trying to get in and in the last tough section, I knew that I was having trouble staying in front of the riders on the hills before the drop to the finish. I let a couple riders go by and just maintained on the top. On the flat before the off camber drop towards the finish, I passed the first rider and then the second after taking a 2nd look back and thinking he'd gassed me, I punched it and used the mountain bike descending skills. When we hit the 1st of two mud puddles he heard me and was shocked to see me suddenly right back on his wheel. I waited til going around the building and hitting the finish stretch before finishing him off. It wasn't for a high placing, but I was still able to keep the wits about me for the whole race and still have a bit for a finishing punch. I just need to get myself ready for the quick punches out of the turns at the start of the race so I don't get put into a position of continually having to work back to the group. I think I'll pre-reg next time as well.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's a good job if you can get it...

I'm starting with a new client today. I'm basically getting paid for my opinions on how people are doing things in their business. It's a pretty good gig too. I guess I've been down the street enough to know when you're about to be wasting huge amounts of money on technology. Basically doing stupid things just because of the need to have the newest and best. My brother always described this sort of behavior as being left brained. Whenever someone would be talking and making a case for their point and not realized that they'd just gone into the 'stupid' zone, he would refer to it as 'you're going left brain on me'. This is pretty much that type of job. I can add my two cents (or in this case my twenty two cents worth - I'm a guy in demand here, ya know) when I see my ideas would be of more benefit to the organization. Apparently in the last decade, the rush to upgrade computers has gone past what the cost benefits would be. No one seemed to be looking at the concept of 'Faster and newer is not always better'. I guess the best way to put it is I'm being paid to be the voice of reason. To quote Scott Adams, I'm amazed at my ability to get paid for this. This should help make cross season alot less painful from a financial perspective.

Monday, September 22, 2008

...and I heard the 'brown' note!

Well, I did the final road race of the season. I wasn't really expecting to win it or even be racing in the Mountain State Classic this year. I found out partway up the first climb, I should have just stayed in bed or gone to Baltimore for the Charm City Cross. My knee was still feeling uncomfortable on the climb from the previous weeks bungup. In short, I was ill-prepared, poorly motivated, and not that confident of my chances. So when it came time for me to step up and let the world(at least the small world of West Virginia) know if I was ready to defend my title, I really let a bad one out. I'd heard the 'brown' note and that was pretty much my day. Dammit, I should have driven to eastern PA and Baltimore for the weekend. I really have to stop second guessing myself.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Road Season Crescendo

Well, the road season will certainly be finishing with a crescendo for me this year. Hopefully it will be one that leaves a good impression. The Mountain State Classic is only a couple days away. I have to watch 2 riders, so if anyone wants to come and ride away from us because I'll be sucking wheel all day, please do. I've beat both of the riders I have to watch before(though they've both beaten me as well in other races) at this race so it will probably be a close run affair. It'll just depend on how well they do when they're being annoyed at my tactics. I know both are steadier climbers so that will fit me as well. I just hope I don't run out of gas towards the top of the big climbs as I did last year. Since the race is also the WV State Championship race, it will wind up being an 'every man for himself' situation. The body is recovered from last weeks race. The training is about as good as it's going to get. I might have someone handing me off bottles at the tops of the climbs so I won't have to carry quite so much. The only thing that could let me down is me. I'll see how much I can tough things out on this one which will be a good lead-in to cross.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mo'town Wednesday niter

I wound up not having to do a long stupid drive to Clarion, PA today, so I'm opting to drive down to Morgantown for the final Wednesday niter of the year. I'm going to be running the race wheels I'll be using on Sunday's Mountain State Classic since I haven't used them in about 6 weeks. Afterwards, we'll be sitting around drinking beer and eating burritos in our chamois at Black Bear. It'll be a nice low key way to close out the road training season. I'm going to try to stir interest in the Tuesday night old man rides again. Those were a lot of fun and they got me pretty fit in the years I did them regularly. Nothing like a 13 mile slow grade uphill which finished with an all out push in the last mile or two. Then after we regrouped, we rode back down the trail with a few sprints along the way. Nothing like pushing yourself really hard and only being able to see via headlights on the bike. It's a surreal experience made a bit difficult when a smartass like Gunnar rides along side you and then stares straight into your face while wearing a helmet mounted light. If I ride from his house, we'd get about 32 miles which is pretty good on the cross bike and on a trail to boot. That with a couple skills training and hill run-up days should make for some decent fitness this year. Bring on the fall now!

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's late...

and I'm going to bed, but I am registered for Cross Natz. Last year, I got a start spot of somewhere around 1000 (at least it seemed that way). This year, I was NOT going to have any of that. I got the email notice this afternoon and was wired and ready by midnight. An hour of surfing and waiting for that magic time when the registration and WOOOHOOO, I got in 13th. So even if they have the top 5 from last year and maybe another 1 or 2 guys, I should probably be getting a front 2 or 3 row start. It's a hell of alot better than the 20 rows back start which by the time I got moving, the front of the race was halfway up the hill. I'm going to work extra hard to be ready for this one.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Feel Bad...

To take a quote from Han Solo after being interrogated, I feel bad. I did the Big Bear Lake Ultra yesterday. I was going at a manageable clip yesterday. I even had outdistanced the guys I was going to be needing to beat in next weeks Mountain State Classic. In the end though, I was freakin beat. That was just off 6 hours of hell and I'd only done 42 miles of the event. I had smacked my knee early on and had to back off, which let Eric Delaney and Kean Bird catch me at the first feed zone. I later left them only to see Kean about 2 hours later when the knee had begun to falter and I was dehydrating. I guess I was expecting them to do something like having the feed zones somewhat evenly spaced but the 16 mile gap between stops 2 and 3 was just a bit too far and I'd run out of water about 4 miles out. At that point, I had to let Kean go and the knee was really starting to talk to me. I was doing the rocky descents and the roads fairly well, but when I had to do serious climbing I was really feeling it. When I got to the 4th feed zone, I assessed the situation. 10 more miles of beating the knee up which was showing some blood down the leg from the earlier hit or just take the final jump in. I put the pride in the shirt pocket and gave myself a shortened day. It would've been good to finish and I would've done it in around 7 hours but my goal is mainly next week. I've got a series to defend and this day had already given me what I was hoping to get and then some. The plus side of things was that I was able to keep a good hard effort up for 4+ hours. Another good sign was that the legs and lower back are feeling ok today. The bad side was my shoulders and arms feel like someone repeatedly punched them. They hurt so bad that the following day, I could not even reach behind the seat and pull my notebook out when I stopped at a coffee shop. To top things off, I get the email notice today at my kid's football game that Cross Natz registration is at 12:01AM. Jeezus, I miss the old days of the scrum of the pack when lining up. I always called it the race before the race. In years past, I'd had decent luck with this, but in the past 3 nationals I started so far back that by the time I would hit the first patch of grass, the leaders were at least a minute up. Hopefully things will go a tad better this year. In the meantime, I'm going to soak in a hot tub for about 3 days.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Addendum to Odd

I got hit with by freakin bat in my face this evening on my ride. Luckily there isn't alot of mass or speed with those little guys or I might've had a problem. It was wierd with the wings fluttering in my face for a few seconds and then after brushing it off, both of us continued on our way.

Odd happenings in my world...

Odd? ummm, really Jay?

These past couple weeks have been quite a change of pace. On top of the bike racing taking a turn for the better, I've wound up bumping into several old friends from years back. It was nice to see all of them and it brought back lots of good memories. I guess it's not unusual to suddenly catch up with people who you haven't seen in a very long time, but several of them in such a short time was a pleasant surprise. Each of them were an out of the blue occurrence as well and were completely unrelated. I'm not really sure if there is anything of significance in all this, but I just found it interesting in the timing.

The last time I'd had something that ranked in this category was on a day last year when I'd gotten a Chinese fortune cookie at the Super Panda restaurant that said 'You will soon receive an unusual gift'. Later that same day, I was at baseball practice for my youngest son and a lady came up to me and in a shy way asked, 'Do you mind if I ask you your name?' and then proceeded to tell me why. Almost 20 years ago, she'd lost a brother who like me rode his bike all around town just like I had. He had been killed in an accident and not long after that was when she had noticed me riding my bike around. She said she'd seen me all over the region including one time on top of the mountain near Seven Springs about 40 miles from home. What caught her eye was that both her brother and myself had longer blond hair, cut the same way, pretty much the same style rimless glasses and even looked close alike. She'd wanted to ask my name and find out who I was for a long time but never got the opportunity until just then. Several times she'd even turned her car around to try to catch me but by then I was gone. This was over a span of almost 20 years. She also said, the sight of seeing me brought back some good memories of her brother and was kind of comforting to her. She immediately followed this up by saying 'Please, never stop riding your bike'. It's amazing how sometimes you can touch a person without ever knowing or even speaking to them. Losing a sister in an accident myself many years ago, I know what people can go through and sometimes it's little things like this that help us get through the pain of having a loved one wrenched away from long before it was time. It was odd, but that was a fortune cookie message I'd kept even before I'd talked to this other lady about her brother. I didn't know why but maybe there was something telling me this was one to hang onto. I still do have it with me.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Big Bear Lake Ultra

With the upcoming Mountain State Classic in a week and a half, I felt the need to do something that would get the body prepared for that sort of an effort. Since cross racing and road racing really aren't that compatible, I opted out of doing the opening weekend of the PA Cross series and will be doing the Big Bear Lake MTB Ultra. This will a good 50 mile slog on the single speed. I've got a bit of maintenance to do, but for beating the ol' Fisher rig around for almost 2 years now, it's held up quite well. It'll be interesting to see if my body can match that performance this weekend. Last year, I'd done the Iron Cross and if I didn't do the world's slowest tire change near the end of the race (10+ minutes including eating a clif bar and being pissed off with myself for how I flatted) I would've broken the 5 hour mark. That would've still been well off the leaders, but for a first time effort in a race like that, it wasn't that bad. Anyhoo, the Big Bear Lake should be a fun one. I figure it will be somewhere around a 5-6 hour effort. That should definitely set me up for being a cheap drunk later in the day. One or two beers and I'll be in one of those very suggestible states. I might have to take that camping out option.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dirt Derby - WVMBA Finals

The WVMBA Champs were this past weekend. I spent the day before at the Comfort Music Festival which was a Cancer benefit concert. The hospital asked us to set up the tent there and have some promo material. Luckily it was a bit of a lower key concert that didn't get stupid loud. The music was mainly bluegrass (hey, it is West 'by God' Virginia here). That is pretty much a style where you actually have to be able to play unlike most rock acts which rely on volume over talent. On top of that, there's nothing like having some pretty hippie chicks dancing barefoot up near the stage to help divert my mind from all the other pressures of the world. We finished the night up with some sushi and bubble tea at Hibachi in Morgantown then watched 'Grizzly man' back at Chris' house. This was a documentary about Timothy Treadwell, who was a bear enthusiast who went a bit over the edge. He was to grizzly bears what Steve Irwin was to crocodiles. They both pretty much pushed things a bit and in the end which some would call tragic though many call it inevitable, learned that while other species of animals might be interesting to study and look at, piss them off and they won't hesitate to kill you. I think that's pretty much the lesson here. What else can you really get from either of their stories. It's not likely that humans and grizzly bears are ever going to sit down and play a game of cards together so it might be best to observe them from a distance.

Anyway, back to the WVMBA champs. I got an ok start, but the long road section thru the town of Barboursville makes it tough on the single speeders. Once on to the trail, I was doing alot of barking at riders to give me the line. I even prompted a few of the expert riders that I'd caught to pass the riders they were sitting behind. The first section of the course was pretty much a BMX like course. Lots of quick twists and turns, some fast stretches but no big climbs. I was kicking myself for not using the 18 instead of the 20 tooth cog on the back. I really have to have more confidence in the fact I can push the bigger gears. Having even a 19 could have trimmed a couple minutes off my time, especially as there was several fire roads on the course and even noodling along I would've gone a fair amount faster. I road a fairly clean race though I did chicken out on doing the steps where Joey Riddle crashed hard last year and broke some ribs, arm, collarbone and maybe a bit of pride too. I've had a crash like that before so I felt his pain and did not want any of it directly. It only cost me a couple seconds but I was back on and catching some riders so I felt good about my day. I let one rider past a bit more than a mile from the finish and I followed him in. He was doing the descents fairly smooth and I didn't feel like fighting for position heading into the finish. We were closing to another rider just as we came down the descent for the finish. One thing I will say about the single speed is, if you are finishing the race on a hill, it really demoralizes the other riders when they see you stomping past them. It's basically the only option for us. Go hard because we can't down-shift. It wasn't quite enough though and I finished just 6 seconds out of 4th. If I'd used the 19 or even the 18, it could've been 3rd or possibly even 2nd. Even with that, I'd trimmed 8 minutes of last years time so I was quite happy. Now I just have to make the decision on whether to do the start of the PA cross series or the Big Bear Lake Ultra next week. On one hand, it's the start of the cross season. On the other, Big Bear would be a good effort, one that I need to do well in the Mountain State Classic. My mind might be made up by the fact that Big Bear Lake is only 1.5 hours away versus 4.5 hours. 6 less hours in the car might not be a bad thing. My brain hurts now trying to make a choice.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Damn it!

Well, I'd thought the Mountain State Classic was done for this year. Well to steal a line, the reports of its demise were greatly exaggerated. Damn it! I was already starting over to cross workouts and I'm going to have to do a bit more work for the road. There are 2 mountains that are just bears and I'm going to have to tough it out. There are 4 people who are in the running for the overall road title and all I have to do is finish 3rd while preventing 2 others from finishing ahead of me. Well, the favorite for the win is going to be Eric Delaney who won it last year. Then Kyle McGammon is going well, though the only reason why he and Kean finished ahead of us in the stage race was that we let them go. They got an early advantage and the others were marking me so heavily and I really wasn't able to attack, it nullified any possibility of us running them down. Still with all of our monkeying around on the second half of the race, their initial gap gained before the first climb shrunk, so maybe it won't be so tough for me to keep ahead of them. I do know I'd been riding stronger than Kyle on the Wednesday nite rides lately so maybe that's a good sign. Just have to trim a few pounds off in the next 2 weeks. Well, there goes chinese food and donuts. Again, I will say, DAMN IT!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Well, 11 of 14 racing tires passed the 'holding air' test, with 2 of the 3 failing holding for a few hours. I do have tires for the season! WOOO HOOOOO! I got out on the first ride yesterday on the trusty ol' steel Fort. This bike is now 5 years old and still very race-able. I noticed a few improvements that could be made on equipment but as a 3rd cross bike, it's still a very respectable machine. I'll have the backup from last year ready to go this week and early next week, the Carbon-Max will be together. This bike was great last year. I only got a few races on it, but damn, what a difference a bike makes. Saving 4lbs was huge and the wider bars improved the control quite a bit. The Fort bikes are the absolute best I've seen when you look at what you get, how well they last, how well they perform and how much you pay. Take all those factors together and nothing else comes close. Give JJ a call at and he'll set you up very well. My Carbon-Max weighed in just a bit above my road bike and the old Zipp 340s performed very well. They are light and strong so this again will be the front line bike. I'm really starting to get cranked for the season. Damn, minus 20 points for the bad cycling pun there.

Monday, September 1, 2008

End of a long and unpredictable road season

Well, the end of the road season finally hit. It looks like the Mountain State Classic won't be happening this year. I'll have finished it up with a mix between a whimper and victory. I'll have won the WV road series for a second year in a row without having to defend the lead on one of the toughest courses of the series and in my final two road races of the year, I had one win and a total dud. The first one was a disaster due to a total screw up on my part. I ate breakfast just a bit too close to the start and at the top of the last hill on the course, I could feel it sitting at the back of the throat. Then on the first climb about a third or the way through the 8 mile lap, I could feel the pressure of breakfast really wanting to come back for a return visit. Unfortunately, there was a very serious attack going on here and I was torn between trying to hang on to the pack and using some finger therapy to force other things along. In the end, I was able to do neither and I got dropped. Dammit, that was such a rookie type mistake. I rode a few more laps of the course and talked one of the women on the course out of quitting. Holly was a first year racer and I showed her a few things along the way including how to position herself a bit better on the bike so she could better take advantage of descents and not lose speed through corners. I do like to help newer riders learn all of the things I had to on my own. If I had someone telling me these sort of things in the start, I would've won lots more races other than the time trials I usually took back then. I had the strength to string things out and be the sprint pylon at the end of the race. In the end she finished and was happy about it. Sunday's race was a bit less well attended and we had to combine a few of the groups. The masters went off with women and the 4/5s. We lost a half dozen on the first climb and at the end of the first lap we had a group of about a dozen that would stay together til the finish. One of the reasons for this was a Cat 2 rider who'd gotten dropped from his race decided he'd be a dickhead and helped his club members in this race. He'd pace them back when at a couple points a few of us attacked, then he also screened myself and one of the other riders when they tried an attack. I was really at the point of just shoving him off the course. Subtle cues like 'DON'T INTERFERE WITH OUR RACE' and 'GET YOUR ASS TO THE BACK OF THIS PACK, PLEASE' didn't quite register with him. Halfway through the last lap, I heard him say 'well, I better sit back otherwise someone might get mad'. Too late, I'd passed go about 15 miles before. There was an attack by one of the masters riders in the group and I was on it quick. We'd gapped the others but dammit, you know who was pacing the rest back to us. On the last climb, one of his club-members attacked and I got up to him. You know who tagged along and in the run-in to the final turn he got in my way and I lost several miles per hour and a few yards on the front group. I got back to one rider after the other and with 100 yards and coming out from the next to last rider to the front, I saw the final rider looking back to his right, so I went left. He thought he had it and 50 yards from the finish, I blew by him going 5 mph faster. Nothing like taking someone by surprise. It was good way to finish the year out. With the exception of doing one more Westlake circuit race to get an extra hard day of training, I'm ready to put the road bike away and pull the cross bikes out.