Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Informal Race and my Demons

I have been racing since 2008.  In the past 6 years I’ve averaged 20 races a year.  I think…I am…getting burned out.  Or something.  I’m not sure, but I just haven’t been my usual self.  And it doesn’t help that I lost my race buddy (Tom’s crash that has put him out of commission this summer). This year I just don’t have that spark I used to, that makes me dig deep.

So today I had just left my house for a road ride, turning from my road onto Clazemont in Montpelier.  As I started up the shallow long hill, I heard “on your left”.  “What?” is my typical response, not as in “I didn’t hear you”, but as in “Oh no you don’t, you are not going to pass me!” (Old habits die hard even though my biking Spirit is weak lately.)  I stood up to start banging the pedals and looked to my left and lo and behold it was Frank Yeager, my teammate.  It’s the first time I’ve seen a teammate while I’ve started a ride from my house.  Instantly, I think partly because it was Frank and I knew I didn’t have much of a chance, and partly because of my weak bike spirit, and partly because I’m not in great shape right now (not training hard because of the weak bike spirit), I just sat back down and didn’t chase.  Background- since I started riding I’ve always been a chaser, like a dog I can’t let a road bike pass me without trying to stay on their wheel. 

I slogged my way to the top of the hill, feeling sorry for myself…then when I got to the flat part, I saw him at the stop sign turning right onto Taylor’s Creek.  That was where I was going.  He was quite a ways away from me, just a small speck…but something in me went “I can’t let this go, I’ve got to try to get him” (maybe it was that I had finished the hill, or that I had a little warm-up, or mostly that I wanted to give myself a second chance).  So I put my bike in the big ring and started hammering.  The old chase spirit came back.  My legs eventually started burning, I was breathing hard- and it felt good to suffer, the way it used to.  I don’t think I’ve pushed myself in a while.  It felt good too, passing two other bicyclists that he had passed.  And after a couple of miles I realized I was gaining on him!  Slowly, but steadily I was reeling him in. 

About 4 miles-ish up the road, when I was so much closer, maybe 75 yards from him, he turned right onto Centreville Road.  I was going straight, so the chase was done, but I felt good- it had lit that old fire again.  I’m not sure if it will stay lit or not, but now I know the embers are still there…and for that I thank you Frank.  And please, let me have this…don’t tell me if you weren’t going hard on Taylor’s Creek, if that was some recovery spin for you- I don’t want to know.  Leave me with this spark of hope.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sometimes Everything Just Comes Together

Ever since I started mountain bike racing I wanted to win at the RiverRock Urban Assult.  It's held on the trails that I started riding on and where I still ride most often since they are so close to me.  I don't have a very good track record here, but I look forward to it every year.

I don't make it to a lot of out of town races and with the lack of local races this year I decided to make this my top priority for the season.  I usually ride the JRPS loop clockwise, but started doing every loop counter clockwise early in the year to get used to the race direction.  I focused on riding smoothly and not scrubbing too much speed in the corners.  I created a plan for every aspect of this race.  Training, nutrition, race strategy, etc.... 

I started to have some doubts about how I would race when I had a few crashes in training on features that I easily cleared in the past.  My head started to get the better of me every time I got to these spots. Then 2 weeks out I got sick and couldn't ride for a week.  At the same time work got really busy and had me up till midnight most days that week.  Thankfully I recovered fairly quickly from my illness and work calmed down a bit during the week prior to race day.  I was able to focus and ride some crash free laps and get my confidence back.

We had a monsoon of a rain storm Thursday night into Friday morning, but luckily the trails held up well and were perfectly tacky by race start.   On race day the temp was upper 60's or lower 70's with some good sunshine.  Not too hot and not too cold. 

I chatted with Roger and Brandy at the check in (who both did an awesome job organizing this event!) and found out about a few course re-routes and modifications.  The non-rocky line on the first climb was blocked off.  Everyone had to take the harder route up the climb.  My goal was to try to be the first one to the climb since it became a bottle neck last year.  Also taken out was the tunnel through Reedy Creek since it was flooded.  I was fine with that too.  In the past I haven't had problems with that section, but for some reason in every training ride through there this year I would end up smashing my knee into my handle bar on the climb back out.

I headed out on North Bank a little ways to look at the beginning of course again and get in a good warm up.  At the first rock climb I ran into a single speeder and the two of us practiced the rocky climb a few times.  It seemed like the main line was changed a bit too.  Both of us were having difficulty getting all the way up which made me a little nervous.

I got back to the starting area and found Dave Hardisky and Thom Flynn.  A little later Paul Leeger and Jennie Belt showed up too.  We listened to the announcements and then lined up for the start.  As the waives ahead of me went off I started to get really nervous and felt a bit weak.  I wasn't sure how this would go.  I did my best to stay relaxed when we rolled up to the line. 

Before I knew it we were off.  I can usually clip in really quickly, but totally missed my pedal this time.  It was tight at the line, so I was knocking shoulders with the guys next to me.  The one on my left started clipped in, holding on to the railing and blasted to the front of the pack.  After finally getting clipped in I was in 4th or 5th going around the first turn.  I stayed calm and seated up the first gravel climb.  The guy in front of me tried to stand and power up the climb, but spun his wheel on the loose gravel and almost came to a stand still right in front of me.  I got around him quickly and was third wheel in the train moving down the gravel road toward North Bank.  Soon I moved past the 2nd rider and bridged up to the racer who took off so fast at the start.  Before we hit the fence to the narrower gravel road I sprinted past him and kept pushing forward toward the "hole shot" up the rocky climb.  I cleared it with ease and heard the guy be hind me cuss as he got stuck half way up which probably brought the rest of the field to a stand still.  I flew down the armored descent on the other side, took a page out of Tom Richeson's book and stood up and hammered on the flat straight away.  (I saw Tom do this at the Poor Farm race last year, disheartening those chasing him and increasing the gap.  I always wanted to do it, but never found myself with the energy or position to do it.  Thanks for the inspiration Tom!)  I rode the rest of North Bank as hard as I could. Once I hit the parking lot I again got out of the saddle and hammered away.  I looked back before going down Stairway to Heaven and just saw 2nd place come on to the straight away from the parking lot.  I couldn't believe my strategy was working.  I planned on trying to get a gap and then relax a bit and ride my own pace and not worry about the others around me.  I usually have some kind of a plan worked out in my head before a race, but it never seems to work.

I focused on hydration on the flats by the canal and quickly made it over the Nickle Bridge to head down ButterMilk.  I focused on riding smooth, descending fast, and staying off the brakes.  I kept pushing hard, but tried to relax and spin up the longer climbs since I usually fade hard and fast at the end of races.  I started getting into a lot of traffic from other groups at this point which caused a lot of slowing and accelerating which I knew would hurt me later, but those behind me would have to come through the same traffic, so I hoped they wouldn't get too close.

Forest Hill Park was a lot of fun with the fast descents and high speed corners.  Near the end of FHP I came into a turn too hot, drifted off my line and smacked my forearm into a tree.  I nailed it right on the top of the forearm muscle near my elbow.  At first I thought it would affect my grip on the bars, but I was able to work through it.  Somehow I hit the exact same tree on the 2nd time through there as well.  

I was really surprised by how fresh I felt at this point.  I knew that I burned a lot of matches pretty early, but I kept my pace as high as I could and kept taking in fluids since I often cramp when I go out too hard.  At the start of the Manchester Bridge I caught up with Emily Bashton who was leading her group.  We chatted briefly and then agreed to trade pulls over the bridge.  Once over the bridge I stood up and accelerated to the start of North Bank.  On the rocky climb I came upon the single speeder who I practiced with during my warm up.  Both of us cleared the climb, I wished him luck and kept moving on.  Near the end of North Bank I started feeling the first twinges of cramping in my quads.  I quickly finished a bottle and tried to ignore it and use easier gears on the climbs. 

As I started back into ButterMilk my thoughts started going negative.  The cramping was getting worse and I had a feeling that I would get caught.  I could see a couple of riders coming through the woods a bit behind me.  Really...everything was going this well and it wouldn't pay off?

At the first creek crossing my front wheel slide out, but I caught myself before going for a swim.  The rider behind came up to me quickly.  Thankfully he was from a different category and gave me a wheel to stare at till I could get the demons out of my head.  I continued to throw back fluids (thankfully I had decided to bring 3 bottles) and the cramps finally went away the second time through Forest Hill Park and I was able to charge on again.  There was still someone lurking about 50 yards behind me, so I again focused on descending as fast as I could and riding smooth (except for hitting the tree again).  Whoever was behind me was soon out of sight and I was re-energized coming out of FHP.

I finished the rest of ButterMilk without issue and pushed hard over the bridge.  I looked back and didn't see anyone behind.  I couldn't believe that I had actually managed to stay away for the whole race.  I'm excited that I finally got the win that I always wanted and that I was able to actually execute a race strategy as planned!

Great event, beautiful weather, perfect trails, bike worked flawless (Thanks to Coqui Cyclery for the tune up) .....Sometimes everything just comes together!

All I saw were smiles at the finish.  Everyone got their free beer and hung out for a while telling their war stories.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy the trails and atmosphere.  I talked to a few out of town folks who absolutely loved it.  They weren't expecting anything like that in the city. 

All teammates rode strong and had a good showing!

Jennie Belt - 2nd Female Expert
Dave Hardisky - 7th Sport 40+
Thom Flynn - 12th Sport 40+
Paul Leeger - I couldn't find Paul's result, but I know he rode hard on his singlespeed since he broke his other frame.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bless the JRPS

Wow, Tuesday night's ride around the JRPS was awesome!

Eric joined Todd and myself for a spring fever lap of the classic downtown loop. There were a ton of people out, but the trails were not too congested. They also had amazing hero dirt! Just the right amount of moisture for fast rolling and increadible grip. My new Anthem 27.5 seemed to be purpose built for ripping the loop.

During our ride we got momentarily held up by the po po, who was driving along the gravel access road just past Hollywood semetary. Then we got chased down by none other than Joe Fish who was out for a run. We navigated accross the hanging foot  bridge to Belle isle and passed a guy walking a dog that was almost the size of a pony!

After a fun loop of the island we zipped through buttermilk and forest hill, rounding out a classic ride.

Riding in normal gear without numb hands and feet was very refreshing!

Bless the JRPS.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Danville State Championships

So the mountain bike State Championships were this past Sunday in Danville.  I had never ridden the course before.  Tom and I decided to make a weekend out of it and get a hotel room, since it's about a 3 hour drive.  We drove down early Saturday and got to the course around noon, planning to do a one lap pre-ride.  Well, remember the sleet that the Richmond area got Friday?  Danville got a couple inches of snow, that was still there.  The whole park was white.  Then up a steep hill from the parking lot we saw what must have been the race promotor on the trail with his bike, and he was shoveling!  We walked a ways up the trail and it was pretty bad- snow with mud underneath.  We decided to save our bikes (and ourselves) and not attempt to pre-ride.  It was a warm day, so the only hope was that it would all melt overnight.

That night we met Jason's family (Mason was racing too) and Tom Haines family for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, which was nice.  We all stayed at the same hotel, so saw them again for breakfast.  All night I tried not to think about those snowy trails.  What can I do?  I had driven 3 hours and gotten a hotel, I wasn't going to back out now.  It didn't help that this was going to be my first cat 1 race, so the race was longer than I was used to.  It was going to be 21.6 miles (3 laps), vs. the usual 14 or so.

The morning we got to the race there was still snow in the woods but the trails themselves were snow free, however they were completely soaked and mucky.  At the race start there was a rumor they were going to cut our race short.  They had cut my husband's 3 lap race one lap shorter, so he had 2 laps.  Then when we got to the start line the official asked us if we wanted 2 or 3 laps.  There wasn't a consensus so he kept it at 3.  I had to race longer than Tom???

So the start was up a steep hill with straight paths but tight switchbacks.  As soon as I got into the muck, it was a bizarre experience.  It was worse than I even thought it would be.  You'd pedal, but your wheels would just spin in place which was exhausting, and when you did make forward movement your bike was pulled one way or the other depending on the hidden ruts in the trail under the mud.  I must have fallen about 4 times on the first hill.  At first, I was so discouraged, I thought there's no way I can do almost 22 miles of this.  I think I came the closest ever to quitting a race.  But I couldn't, I knew I wouldn't be able to live with myself so I just kept going.  My goal became just to finish.  It got easier, not because it got less muddy, but I think because I relaxed and stopped fighting my bike.  It actually became fun (mentally, physically I was suffering), learning how to ride in the mud.  I found out two things- ride through those deep puddles instead of trying to go around them- they clear the debris from your drive-train.  The other thing was when the water was literally flowing down the middle of the trail like a river, to ride in the center of the stream- the water carries the silt away and leaves sand and the sand has better traction.  (For those of you that maintain trails and are cringing reading this- I know, I know- that was the other thing running through my head the whole time- the poor trails!  But they didn't cancel the race, and so race I would.)  Another thought would poke in my head sometimes.  You know that show "Monsters Inside Me"?  There was mud over every square inch of me and my camel bag- drinking from that muddy thing, I could even feel mud stuck on my teeth.  I was just imagining what parasites I might be picking up along the way....

When I finished my second lap I yelled out to the officials whether I had one more to go, just to be sure, they said yes so I mentally geared up for another round and as I was nearing the hill at the start I heard my number being yelled frantically!  Ah...they were pulling me!  I was so excited, my race was over and I didn't quit!  (For those that don't know, an official can pull you out of a race and place you based on where you were relative to the other riders, they then pull out all the remaining racers.)  The grace!  It felt so nice to be done.

Luckily they had three hoses for people to wash their bikes and themselves. 

I learned that our teammate Tom Haines had gotten third in his cat 2 40-49 race getting a state bronze medal, that teammate Thomas Flynn finished (finishing this race was a victory, there were many DNF's), and that my husband Tom got first in his 50+ cat 1 race and took away the state gold!
For my 30+ cat 1 race I got 5th place, but got a state bronze in the 40-49 age group.  I was very happy with the results, and to get my first cat 1 race behind me.

Three state medals for out team, that's not too bad!  I think the Richesons are going to the Nationals in Pennsylvania this summer.  For Tom, he has a chance to do something, for me it will be a neat experience if nothing else.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

WC Ride - It's time to go Winter!

Todd and I met up at West Creek again for our weekly polar vortex road ride. Even though the air temps were supposed to be around 40F, rolling around it felt a lot more like 30F. I'm guessing this is because all the leftover snow acts as a giant 'cool pack' and chills the surrounding air. Great.

We were careful to avoid the multiple bucket sized corpses of rotting icebergs that lined the road, each one orphaned by a snow plow as it cleared the road some time ago.

My toes are getting sore from repeatedly getting double socked and then stuffed into my riding shoes.

Winter, this is getting old.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The KID still gettin' it

Mason is working into her early season form and a team weekend provided everyone a little bit of relief from Jeff's massive accumulation of BTS points.  Looks like she saved us 145 points this week.  Although it might a little too late for everyone as Mason's riding might be taking a back seat to healing this week...

Yeah that might take a few days to heal...

Slummin' in the snow

I had to keep close to home yesterday so my snow ride consisted slumming through the alleys and streets near my house. I visited a nearby school and rode in the tennis courts which had a very odd ice cover that was solid, but sat on top a thin layer of water with air bubbles that moved under my tires as I gingerly rode around.

Monday, March 3, 2014

I’m not sure if I ever made the varsity team

In Jason’s post about yesterday’s team ride at Poor Farm, he said he felt like he “got called up to varsity to play with the big boys”. A comment that instantly bubbled up to my already inflated ego and spawned the sophomoric drivel that awaits you if you read on.

When I was actually in high school (before the internet for you young-ins) I wasn't on the varsity team. I was in the Marching Band. My instrument shall remain a mystery... We were never really the cool kids at home coming.

A year later I remember the band instructor asking me why I was switching from Band to Drafting. I had discovered girls, guitars, and Guns N Roses. Marching Band was done! For a few fleeting high school years I was sort of a cool kid. My varsity jacket was made of denim and had an Ozzy Ozborne patch instead of a school letter.

Obsession #1

Way past college, the birth of the internet, and then the dot com boom, I had been riding motorcycles for years and was a weekend knee dragger. Every weekend I drove to the mountains with my sport bike in the back of the truck. I would unload it and ride about 300 miles of the most twisting mountain roads I could find. After many a hooligan’s outing, and getting chewed out by an off duty WV cop for passing him on a double yellow at about 120 I started to realize I needed to get on the race track, or I was going to kill myself on the street or get locked up. So I effectively hung up my leathers… my motorcycle varsity jacket. No school letter on my leathers, just knee sliders and a full face helmet.

Obsession #2

I needed something exciting and legal. My fitness also needed a lot of help. So, I started riding mountain bikes with a couple of friends from work. I paid my dues riding the JRPS way back before north bank existed and well before buttermilk was sanitized for the masses. When it came to mountain bikes I was about as Fred as you could get. However, I was a hard charger and gradually got pretty decent.

A few years later my rough and tumble mountain bike style caught up with me and I had to get help for serious back problems. It took a year and a half of physical therapy and rebuilding my core, but I had a great coach. Clarke Tanner from Optimal Solutions Physical therapy brought me back to life as a mountain biker. Did I mention that Clarke was one of the cool kids, and played college football?

Clarke asked me to race the 2008 BC Bike Race with him. That’s when I got serious about mountain biking and training. In October 2007 a 30 mile ride at Sherando was about as big as I could go, and that kind of ride left me hurting pretty bad.

I had about 8 months to get ready for the BC Bike Race, 350 miles over 7 days on the most challenging terrain I have ever ridden! I needed a training montage, err… training routine. Clarke suggested we follow AndreasHestler’s 11 week training program, and so we did. The big race came, we had many highs and lows and ultimately rocked it out! I finished the race with a finger that was taped up following a dislocation and manual relocation courtesy of my trail side body mechanic and race partner, Clarke. This race was an incredible experience and forged the serious mountain bike racer in me.

Obsession #3
A couple of years later I was searching for a cool team to race with in Richmond and I started riding for Design Physics Racing. I remember how awesome I thought it was to finally have a legit race kit and be a member of the cool kids racing team in the RVA. Years later, it turns out that the folks on my race team are an awesome bunch of riders and friends. My mountain bike varsity jacket sports our team logo and I’m always proud to be rocking it out.

My Varsity Jacket

JV Team...

Headed out to Poor Farm to meet up for the 11am BTS ride.  I joined Plassman, Toddy G, Tom R & Tyler for the ride.  I knew I was in trouble as soon as we left the parking lot...  Plassman was leading the group, barely scratching zone 2 and I was already in zone 5 sucking wind.  I felt as if I had been sitting on the bench for the JV team and got called up to varsity to play with the big boys.  As exciting and fun as the opportunity sounded (and it was), the reality is that I am not prepared to play with them at the moment.  Coach Jeff has mastered the trail system out at Poor Farm and links together the trails like a point to point race!  He had a solid gameplan which did not seem to include time to breathe.  After an hour or so we headed back to the cars for a water break and that is when I opted out of the two-a-day schedule.  It was fun to play with the big boys but a reminder that I need a lot more practice time before I can hang. 

BTS bonus for the day were free DPR t-shirts for those who showed up for the ride. 

Headed back out for round two.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saturday's BTS part B

As I was gearing up for this morning's ride, the work monster made an appearance and gobbled up my chance to make it to Poor Farm at 8:30. Boooo.

I'd entered the matrix and did some cyber battling while repairing a broken network route between two of our servers. Neo never showed, so I just had to take care the Agent myself. Stupid computer stuff.

I sent Sonya an email to give here a heads up, but her phone must be as old as mine... Seriously, people laugh when they see my well worn flip phone.

After work stuff settled down I got back into the real world and headed out to Poor Farm. I saw Tom and Sonya leaving and we chatted for a bit.

The trails were no longer frozen by the time I started riding so I carefully linked together the driest loops I could and rode for almost 3 hours. I repeated a lot of stuff because a lot of the trails were still to wet to ride. Fortunately by the time I was leaving, most of the upper trails were firming up nicely increasing the options.

I'm glad Tom and Sonya made it out, and wished I could have been there earlier. Better late than never.

Saturday's BTS part A

I called this BTS Part A because I assume there will be a blog for part B...Tom Richeson and I went to join Jeff Plassman at Poor Farm Park at 8:30am today for his BTS, and he never showed!  As it turned out he had e-mailed us that he couldn't make it but we didn't get the e-mail in time.  But, it got us out of the house early to get our ride behind us, something we may not have done otherwise since it was only 22 degrees when we left the house.  It made for good riding though, the wet spots at the park were frozen solid. 

I think though that Tom was disappointed to get stuck riding just with me, since I am slower than Jeff; he was hoping to have someone to play with.  Tom and I rode together for over an hour, then split ways so that he could go a bit faster.  We ended up out there for about 3 hours, but part of that was spent fixing a flat I had.  We had put on my new Rocket Ron tires last night with Stanz, as I wanted to try them out before the State Championships next weekend.  Something happened and the front tire lost the bead.

But it was a pretty day, we saw the herd of deer about 4 times.  I was thinking the trails at Poor Farm must drive them crazy, as the trails are so twisty..."The Humans are coming straight at us!  "No wait, they're going away from us!"  "Now they're coming at us from the opposite direction!"

Here is a picture of Tom with his new bike, a Giant XTC Advanced 27.5 1, with his new Industry Nine Wheels.  He loves his new bike!

On the drive out of the park we passed Jeff driving in and talked to him, he had missed the morning ride due to work.  Happy BTS part B Jeff!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

BTS - That’s how we roll

Last night Todd and I were getting ready to head out for some chilly laps at west creek.

I was almost all geared up and realized I had left my knee/leg covers at home. Dang!
I was wearing full calf socks, but that still left my knees and about 1/3 of my upper legs exposed... So I desperately was trying to figure out how to repurpose any other gear I had. It was not looking good.

Todd rolled up and I explained my plight. Todd offered to go back to his house and get his spare warmers and I tried to decide if I could make the extra gear I had work. Todd realized my attempts would not work well and talked me into the idea of him driving back to his house and getting his extra warmers.

What a team mate! Todd made a round trip to his house and got his knee warmers and I got to ride in relative comfort. We knocked out several laps until both of us got really cold.

It's awesome to have such a great team mate and riding partner!

That’s how we roll on the Design Physics Racing team.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tuesday's Poor Farm BTS

I keep hoping to be surprised and see someone on the team show up at the parking lot, but alas, the lot was empty.  I admit as usual I did not want to ride at lunch, 37 degrees and gray, it just felt cold.  But also as usual, after I warmed up I had a fun time and was glad I did it.  Got in exactly an hour of riding.  The trails were in great condition except the bottoms which are still a very soggy mess and so were avoided.  I had to go look at the river though.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The KID holding you down...

Felt bad for Plassmido & Toddy G so I only took away 1 point for each mile Mason rode last week.  For this week I will limit it to to only the top placed rider in the BTS...

Got out again with Roger on Thursday and had another great ride.  Sweet 25 mile loop with a nasty headwind had us limping home.  I did save enough to attack on the last hill up into Rocketts.  Good times!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

BTS#21 Is it spring yet?

Todd and I met up at West Creek and it was uncharacteristically pleasant... No ice, no snow (on the road) and temps about 60F!

I reflected on how much easier it was to get ready for a ride when you don't have to put on layer after layer. No toe warmers to fuss with and I did not mind getting dressed outside of the car. It's been a while since I could basically just get on my bike and go, and that felt great!

The weather was nice enough that bats were out and one in particular seemed to be following just overhead of me. That's weird because bats usually fly around like huge moths on crack darting around nonexistent light posts. This one was odd, flying basically in a straight line with me. Maybe it's the high pitch squeals and noises emanating from my neglected derailleur pulleys...

West creek had it's typical pockets of warm and cold air and it felt nice to work up a sweat.

I pulled us around and played a little cat and mouse with a fellow rolling on a time trail bike. We caught up with him for a bit, and then he lit it up and pulled out sight. Seemed like he got on 288!

Towards the end of lap five I had some good burn going on in my quads and we finished out a solid set of laps. Back at the cars I noticed how the parking area was still surrounded by gravel encrusted icebergs left by snow plows almost a week ago.

Is it spring yet?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Weekly Poor Farm BTS

The woods in Ashland are still covered with snow, so to protect the trails today's BTS ride was again a Hanover Country road ride.  I did a 24 mile loop, but this time routed it through some major hills.  Included were Fire Training Hill (on Winston Road, which borders Poor Farm Park), and one of the 3 sisters (the notorious 3 big hills just leaving Ashland on Blunts Bridge Road).

Well it wasn't below freezing today, but the wind was incredible!  In a cross wind I had to lean to the side to prevent from being blown over.  I (luckily) started out in a headwind so could finish in a tailwind.  It's interesting how psychological training/riding is- in the headwind I was feeling dark thoughts about Monster Cross this weekend, wondering if I am ready, why do I race, etc., then in the tailwind I felt so strong I had thoughts of "Man, I should have registered for the full 50 miles instead of the 22 mile Mini-Monster".

The point-requisite photo below.  Yes, I'm hiding behind my Jeep- I didn't want the Town of Ashland employees next door to think I'm vain...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Miami - the race that almost did not happen

Back in late fall I found out I had to go to Miami for a work related conference on Presidents day weekend. Planning out the 2014 season I saw the first race for Xterra state side was that weekend. So we decided to do a weekend in Miami and include the race and see if i could muster some early season points. Xterra makes you gather points in your age group to qualify for US Nationals in September.

All looked good on paper...

Conference went without a hitch at the Fountainblue in Miami Beach. If you have ever watched TV or heard about the Miami scene this is the epicenter. Not the most ideal pre - race week, but made due with long nights and long days on the feet.

Then things got interesting..I shipped my bike via FedEx two day ground on Monday which was half the cost of bringing it on the plane which again was good on paper; however, mother nature was conspiring against me. By Friday the bike was still in NC due to the storm. FedEx got the bike on a plane and was fairly confident it would be in Miami by Saturday. Saturday was less then 24hrs before race time the bike did make it to Miami but never made it to Saturday delivery. FedEx informed me the bike was at a facitliy in north western Miami and I could drive to get it. I was then informed that that facilitiy was closed on weekends. Great, now in Miami with no bike. A rep at FedEx was able to get someone on the phone at the facility at 10AM and let me know if I could get to the security gate by 3PM they MIGHT let me get the bike. So, I got the directions and took off from Key Biscayne to a fedex site to talk them into getting me my bike. Four hours later and a super cool secruity guard and a more super cool fedex dude who had to unload a truck to get my bike did....I had my bike in hand! Its 3:30pm now and to preride some of the course I had to be off the grounds by 5:30. I booked back to the bike shop and assembled the bike in an alley behind the shop because they were so busy with the race. 4:15 done, off to the course. I get one loop in of the most technical single track but was not able to preview the run or swim. Gonna half to wing this one. As I am leaving the parking lot to go back to hotel, my neck was starting to tingle. I had gotten bit by a spider or insect on the cheek and now I was swelling up on the face. Great, off to CVS for some benydril cream... What a day......

Good night with the family, catching up on their day at the  hotel. They had a blast with a ton of kid activities and my daughter ended up making a ton of new friends. Good news was...i was not missed on Saturday.

The next day proved that the race gods were on my side. I must have done enough begging and pleading the day before that karma was on my side. The weather was perfect and the sunrise at the race site was amazing.
In Fisher fashion we were first to rack our bikes and get a prime location in transition. Warmed up, got on my race suit and speed swim suit and headed a half mile up the beach for the swim start and a warm up swim. Todays race was going to be 500m swim, 10mile mountain bike, 4 mile trail run with one mass wave start.

Great shot of Maddie and I at sunrise.

Pre-swam out and noticed a very strong current from right to left. Looked like the tide was coming in and we had to swim straight to a bouy then make a right up 1/2 mile to transition. As I pre swam i noticed the sea grass a the bottom was moving  hard left. Getting some fast feet to follow was going to make or break this swim. I knew if I had any chance to place in the top 10 I had to be with the lead pack in the swim. Warm up done....gun goes off and I sprint hard the first 200 m to make the break. Once out to the first turn i make the pack and swim right in the middle of  five guys. Perfect spot.
Kate said the current was so hard that the back half of the field got pulled way left. Glad to have made the break. I swam 70% in the draft but the effort to get around was so hard with the current. I decided after two attempts to stick on the feet and save some in the tank..Got out of the water and Kate yelled I was in 11th overall. some work to do.

Hit a fast transition and out on the bike.

The bike was 1 mile of road to 2 loops of 4 miles of super twisty technical single track. Not much different then back home in Freedom. A lot of man made features that keep a big smile on my face.  By the second loop i was jonesing for more course and felt like i was flying. The bike was awesome. 1x11 on the 29r was perfect and I could not believe the acceleration the bike had. Could not have been happier on this amazing racing rig.

Picked off two guys but got passed by one in the traffic on the second loop. This course did not allow you to peg it the whole way so I was interested to see how much was in the tank for the 4 mile run. Super fast into transition 2 to feet on the shoes with a dude right in front. This was gonna be one heck of a run with four of us within 45 sec of each other. They say you ride for show but run for dough. Did I have enough dough in the bank...

Came out of transition in 10th with another fella ahead. The first mile was all sand running to the first WATER crossing.

I usually struggle on the run, but today felt different. After the 1st water crossing at mile 1 the legs were coming around and I was able to start pushing the pace in the solid 6:30's we picked up another runner and now the three of u were shoulder to shoulder. We came into a field and saw 6th and 7th. I took it up a notch and decided to hunt down 6th and 7th with thoughts that maybe a top 5 was possible. After a long fire road false flat climb I heard the other two fade off and I was on my own. We hit along road straight away and i saw the other two 30sec by my count. I had two miles left and knew I had to make up 15 sec per mile and started digging. We hit another sand section out and back and it was down to 10sec with 1 mile to go. Then I hit the final water crossing...

I came out of the trail on the far side middle of this pic and said holy &*^. Dove in and started to swim the channel. The current was incredible. I swimming as hard as I could and felt like I was not moving with two wet racing flats on my feet that felt like concrete. I made it across and could not see the two in front. Scrabbled to the trail and saw them at 15 sec again. I gassed in for a half mile but came up short by 10 sec. What a race.....

Ended up 8th overall and 1st in my age group which gave me some solid points in the hunt for a US champ spot.

Great course, and fun competing not knowing a soul. I would do this race again in heartbeat. My daughters ride to airport summed up the day....

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Training with fat tires on the road and cobbles

Today’s ride looked a little bleak at 11:00am. There was still a fair amount of rain rolling through and it felt pretty chilly outside.

A quick check of the radar showed the system blowing out of town so I geared up and headed for Dogwood Dell. No one else from the team joined me by the bark park, so I headed across the nickel bridge to meet up with David Reid, Denelle, and Joe Fish.

When I got to Denelle’s I realized Brandy was there for the ride rocking out  proper Design Physics race kit. Now we had a solid crew together.

The 1st two hours of the ride was spent heading out on Riverside Dr. to Cherokee and finally Old Gun. We turned around at Robious Rd. and made an out and back climb detour on Cheyenne.

There was still a lot of snow on the ground and the roads were sandy with potholes and lots of snow melt run-off. As we made our way back to Forest Hill Park, the call of Crossroads coffee lured us in for a nice break from the cold and some much needed comfort food.

Joe, David, and me split off to ride another hour or so through the city including the flood wall and a climb up the cobbles next to Poe’s Pub.

We finished up riding through the canal walk and Browns Island and took the Manchester bride back to Riverside to finish things up.

It was a great day for a training ride and the sun made it out just towards the end of it.

I’m glad I stayed off the trained and got to spend the day making the best of conditions with friends.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fresh Tracks

SnowRide BTS points?   I was headed to the library anyways so.....

I dusted off the sled and headed out to get some fresh tracks.
The slopes were a little crowded at Meadow and Cary despite the heavy precip.

But Floyd Avenue was nicely groomed and I had the whole run to myself, straight to Cabell Library where they were letting it snow inside for some reason.

I dug into some seismic structural design for a few hours until they shut the place down.
On the way back to my hood the groomers were getting a little tracked out and icy so I practiced my long distance skids and then hit the alleys in search of untouched powder stashes.

Conditions were all time as I traversed over to Byrd Park for some off trail powder shredding.

After a few laps my feet were feeling the chill so I headed back to the house for a footwear change and the dog.  We went back out for more laps around the lake and stayed out until snow changed to ice around midnight.

Good snow times, and the most saddle time I've gotten in a while.