Monday, August 31, 2009

3rd bear

The Black Bear definitely was one of the scariest races I've ever had the pleasure of riding. The drops down the mountain were huge, covered in rocks and roots, and crazy steep. I approve.

I think the course was so technical that my brain is still on sensory overload, because I can't quite remember most of the race. But I did ride all the downhills and managed not to crash. 3rd single speed, 10th or 11th overall on the day. I'll take it.

The race report shall be up later today or tomorrow morning.
From Drop Box

(Not the best picture, but you get the idea. It was rocky)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New River Bike Fest

The lady bear and I rolled down to the New River Bike Fest on Saturday after a stint in Ohiopyle at the Falls Race.
From New River and falls race 09

From New River and falls race 09

From New River and falls race 09
(I keep saying I’m going to learn to kayak)

From New River and falls race 09

When we crossed the New River Gorge Bridge, we knew we were getting close to Oak Hill. Eventually we arrived at Ace Adventure Center, and I have to say, at first I was a little concerned. From the quality of their website, I was expecting a little more from the welcome center. It was small, olive drab, and unassuming.

After checking in and receiving our free camping, we headed up the steep switchback laden road to the ‘mountain top’ campsite. My trepidation was erased when I saw the bathrooms. They were very nice, and very clean. Nothing says more for a place than a nice place to do business. It was with out a doubt one of the nicest campgrounds I’ve ever stayed in (with the exception of the loud, intoxicated neighbors.)
From New River and falls race 09

My original plan was to pre-ride the course, but we arrived too late, so I contented myself with a short spin around the camping area before bed.

From New River and falls race 09
Yes yes yes. Its that way. Im certain.

The short rotund man with glasses raised his arm and cried “Ready!” We were off. Befuddled, he said “ok, I guess go.” But we were already flying down the dusty road. I had lined up at the front so I struggled to spin fast enough to stay with the geared riders. Before we finished the first half mile, I heard the hiss of a flat tire. Another single speeder had picked up a puncture right off the start. The field rolled by.

As we narrowed down and hit the first section of singletrack, I had managed to stay near the front. The trail was cut into the side of a steep ridge, and the guy in front of me was sliding all over the place. On the first climb I saw Benji come around me and promptly crash into the rider in front of him. He hit the ground with a thud and I swerved to avoid him, knowing that he would probably catch up again.

The trail opened up to a section of dirt road and I estimated there to be about five riders ahead of me. We rode down more singletrack before hitting a dark tunnel of rhododendrons. The slippery path snaked through the shrubberies before terminating in a long rock garden. I was bunched up behind a guy who dabbed a foot or two, and I saw Benji take a shorter line through the rocks and blow by.

We spilled out onto a fire road climb, and I put in a hard effort to catch back up. I looked down at my computer and saw that I was climbing at 17 mph. Not to shabby.

We made a quick left and started a steep descent. I noticed that the trail name was ‘Rigor Mortis’ Suddenly my field of vision was filled with big yellow signs that exclaimed ‘!!!CAUTION!!!’ The rider in front of me skidded to a stop and dismounted his bike. Not knowing any better, I kept going, and the trail dropped straight down. There were roots and slippery rocks scattered all over the path, with a few big ledges thrown in. At the bottom of the section, the 12’ ribbon of dirt turned sharply to the right with a huge drop off on the left side. The next down hill was nearly identical. I got my ass way behind the saddle and hoped for the best.

When I finally hit the bottom, I shook out my hands and put the power down. Before long I caught Benji, and we rode together for a few minutes. Eventually I heard him say “I’ve got no recovery today.” With that I pulled away and kept hammering up the climbs. The rest of the lap was much less technical, but still a blast. I was looking over my shoulder the entire time, expecting to be passed.
From New River and falls race 09

I rolled through the start finish area and started my second lap. My mind was on Rigor Mortis the whole time. I traded places with a geared Gary Fisher guy a few times before we hit the deadly down hill. I rode the descant sans drama, and pulled away from the other rider on the next climb. I was so excited that my skin was intact and that I hadn’t crashed.

The course was super fun the rest of the way. It was smooth, with fast turns and just enough technical and climbing thrown in. I was still pushing hard expecting to be passed, and my quads felt fit to burst. In my oxygen deprived state I reasoned that one 11.5 mile lap + another 11.5 mile lap = 21 miles. When my computer hit 20 miles I started to sprint, thinking that the finish was less than a mile away. 21 miles came and went, and with a disheartened laugh I realized that 11.5 + 11.5 = 23 miles. Oops.

Finally I saw the light at the end of the trees and I hit the last climb. Gunnar came from nowhere and passed me. “No way am I gona let that old man beat me with 400 meters to go” I thought. But I did. I was tired. And he was fast.
From New River and falls race 09

I crossed the line with one other single speeder in front of me. I had ridden my entire race like I was in 2nd and chasing the winner, and as it turned out, that’s exactly what I was doing.
From New River and falls race 09

Thursday, August 20, 2009

the throwing of the bocce balls

The throwing of the bocce balls is a right of passage for any young meat who is about to embark on the great journey away from home and into college. A few days ago we played our last bocce match of the year.
From Drop Box
The blank expression on the big ones face is due to total boccical domination. As with any test of ball throwing strength and dexterity, I was the eventual victor. Or I would have been had the opposing players not lost heart and given up when I started to get into my rhythm.

Our style of bocce is differs greatly from that of an old Italian man. It's comparable to the thrills and danger of mountain bike racing if 'normal' bocce was road racing (this is still a cycle blog. if you want something else, please, go read javascoots.)

We started on a flat, regulation court, but soon decided that the smoothness of the field did not provide enough challenge for the montana. So the little white ball was thrown to the hills, and the larger colored balls soon followed. The little ball was struck by the big, then thrown back out, over and over, for what seemed like days. Finally, when my arm was beginning to tire, and my aim was wavering, the short attention span of my friends became my greatest ally, and I was crowned king of the bocce course. But it was a hollow victory, because the greatest meat of them all was not in attendance:
From My Pictures
No one can say when the next bocce match will be. But I can say that I'll be ready.

And I know everyone was loosing sleep over my dilemma last night, but I fixed the problem. I went with option b/2:
From Drop Box
Upon giving my Crossmark a good looking over, I realized that it was riddled with holes in the tread area, and the threads were exposed on the sidewall. It was very much ready for retirement (ha! get it? i slay myself.) I don't think that a fast rolling hardpack tire was the best choice for PA and WV racing anyway. It did perform great, but hopefully the Ignitor will be better with its larger knobs.

I did give the Rampage a chance on the back before deciding I needed to make a purchase, but just as I remembered, it was big, heavy, and slow. I still love it as a front tire, and if I wasn't racing I would use it as a back as well. But for my purposes, it's just too much beef. So I should be good to go on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

this could be a problem

From Drop Box
Or more specifically, this:
From Drop Box
The little brown clump is Stan's valiantly trying to seal a puncture about the size of a sideways M&M. Two days ago I rode on Laurel Mountain, and within a mile of leaving the grumbler, felt my back tire go flat. I never get flats, and I didn't have my mini pump with me, so I shot a Co2 into the deflated rubber. I was rewarded with a face full of latex sealant and the hiss of a deflating tire.

Thoroughly annoyed, I picked up the bike and ran back to the car. I dumped more Stan’s in the tire, pumped it up, let the sealant spew forth from the hole, pumped it up again, rode around the parking lot, let it deflate, poured in more Stan’s...and on for about a hour and a half. Some may wonder why I didn't just put a tube in, and the reason is I don't trust tubes as far as I can digest them (i'm assuming that butyl rubber doesn't break down in the tummy) I used to flat on every ride with tubes, and I flat once every three months tubeless. So to me, the 90 minutes of futzing around trying to get the white goo to stay in my rubber was worth it. (this post do sound kinda dirty don't it?)

The hole did seal, and I rode for two hours with no problems, but overnight, it went flat again. I pumped it up, and it was cool for another two hours of ridding. Before I had to go to work I patched the inside of the tire with a piece of tube and some vulcanizing fluid. I'm hoping that the patch in conjunction with the Stan's will be enough to keep my tire full of air on Sunday.

My other option is to go out today and buy a new tire and sealant, neither of which I really have the money to spend on with so many races coming up. But if the clot of Stan's decides to un-clot it self mid race, I'll be screwed and angry at myself for not fixing the problem when I had a chance. In other news of equipment failure, I busted the end of my pedal off about two months ago, and have been riding with it ever since.
From Drop Box
It hasn't died yet, but I can't imagine I'm doing good things for it. And QBP decided that right now was a good time to run out of Crank Bro's rebuild kits. QBP, you're really chappin my ass.

Racing and riding a lot is pretty damn hard on gear, and I'm just starting to realize, I have no back ups. No spare wheels, no replacement pedals, not even an extra set of tires. If anything breaks (knock on wood) I'll be pretty much out of it for the rest of the year. (or I'll have to race on the poo poo thunder) Smartparts has been a tremendous help this with regard to entry fees, but I really need some equipment sponsors for next season if I'm going to race as much as I want to.

Anybody want to hook a brother up?

edit: Actually I found a spare tire, but its a Rampage, which is a lot more meat than I want to pedal around on the back of my bike.

So now I have three options:

Mount up the Rampage and potentially go a little slower on gravel roads

Buy a new race tire and and be free of my money

Kiss my Crossmark and hope it doesn't explode mid race

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

mo racing

My race schedule is looking different than what I have written on the right side of the screen. In addition to the Black Bear Race two weeks from now, I'm going to the New River Bike Fest this weekend, and plan on doing the Shenandoah Mountain 100 three weeks from two days ago. Confusing enough?
Black Bear - 8/30
SM100 - 9/6
Three weekends of good racing right in a row. Huzzah.
I'm going to have to go to make it to more WVMBA races than I had originally planned (just two more actually. there only be 4 left), because I have a very legit chance of finishing well in the series. I'm sitting in 7th place with only 5 of my 6 races, and none of the bonus trail maintenance points.
Now if I want to think about winning, and I always want to think about it, I'll have to come out guns a blazzin and win the last four races. Considering I've never won a race on a bike (I've won more than a few on foot,) four in a row seems like a lofty goal. But then again, the WVMBA never has seen me Metal. Perhaps the time has come to revive it from its festering home in the dirty clothes basket and don it on a quest for glory and entry fee reimbursement.
From Drop Box
indeed this is the second post i've ended with this picture. and there's nothing anyone can do about it. bwaha.
(If you want more high intensity action, check out the happenings over at the javascoots hq. Its twice as exciting as it was a month ago, and roughly 3.4 times more exciting than a colonoscopy.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

a bear's inaugural moutain ride

After nearly two years of prodding, the lady bear recently came on her very first mountain cycle ride. Unfortunately, it was cut short.

From Drop Box

We rode in Boyce Park (the land of no maps and an incredibly confusing trail system), and not surprisingly, she was enjoying mountain biking more than rail trails. We were just riding along (I've found 'just riding along' to be a prerequisite for accidents or gear failure) when suddenly a rodent of a very unusual size burst forth from a hole and reared up in front of the lady bear. It snarled baring its sharp teeth as saliva dripped down its fur. There was malice in its beady little eyes.

The lady bear cried out and tried to avoid what we have come to believe was a whistle pig, but it lunged at her and slashed at her thigh. In an instant I drew off my glove and threw it at the rodent, challenging it to a gentleman’s duel to the death. He accepted by wagging his stubby tail and twitching his whiskers.

I unsheathed my seat post and took up a fencing stance. The creature charged me, but I did not falter. When the rodent was only inches from my face, I sidestepped and swung my saddle, landing a well aimed blow to the animal’s temple and dispatching him in midair.

Small woodland people appeared from hiding places in the forest and rejoiced the death of the terrible beast. They sang songs well into the night, and the Lady Bear decided that she would certainly come mountain cycling again, but for now we should make the journey home to get some Neosporin and a band aid, as the woodland peoples had no modern medicine.

at least, that’s the story we've been telling people

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wilderness 101 mistakes

I've been putting off breaking down my Wilderness 101 performance. Now the time hath comith.

Obviously, my biggest mistake was getting lost. When the group of four guys I was with approached the turn out of the first section of singletrack, all four of us failed to see that the arrow on the tree was pointing down into a parking lot, and not up into a rocky hell. I wasted 45 minutes hiking to the top of a ridge and riding back down. We did 5 extra miles of mostly walking.

When we finally figured it out and returned to the race course we had gone from being 15 minutes off the front of the pack to very near the back. I had to have lost at least an hour on that excursion. Next time I absolutely need to pay better attention to the course markings.

My crash and subsequent bloody elbow, though not really my fault, took a little steam out of the kettle. It was a hard, hard crash (we were moving at over 28mph, and landed on sharp rocks) I'm honestly surprised that I didn't break anything on my bike (or skeleton). I got up from the crash fairly quickly, but I know that I spent almost five minutes cleaning my glasses and asking the other guy if he was ok. And once I was back on the bike, it was slower going because my hip and arm were throbbing. I guess the lesson there is that I need to install some spikes on my wheels so no one can get close.

Otherwise, I'm perfectly delighted with my race. My nutrition was spot on, I felt fit, and I had no problems with my equipment. I would have finished very close to, or under 9 hours without getting lost. That would have put me in the top 15ish single speeders. Not to shabby for my first hundred miles.

From Drop Box
ahhh yeah. competitors shiver at the sight of me metal. Twin Six would be proud.
or ashamed

Monday, August 10, 2009

Raystown Lake

So i missed the the funtabulous racing at Big Bear on Saturday. Meh. Oh well.

From Raystown lake 8-9-09
But I did go check out the brand new trail system at Raystown Lake. The 30ish miles trails were recently completed by IMBA and the friends of Raystown lake.

And its schweet.
From Raystown lake 8-9-09

Eric and I grumbled out to the trail head, which is about 2.5 hours from Pittsburgh, and had no trouble finding the place. Its surprisingly straight forward.
From Raystown lake 8-9-09
"hurrrm? what that shinny lens pointing at me?"
eric does a bike check and discovers chains squeak when they are not lubed
The trails are an absolute blast. They're fast and smooth with jumps and dips all over the place. Swooping turns and ripping descents abound. The system was designed for mountain bikes, and that's all its used for. There are no hikers to be cautious of, no footprints, and most awesomely, no horse shit.
I have to admit, when I first rolled onto the dirt I felt a little out of my element. Everywhere else I ride in PA and WV is covered in rocks, mud, leaves, and dead babies. Sidewalls are slashed, shins turned to burger meat, and souls crushed. Its generally slow going. But Raystown is totally smooth, and the dirt is actually dry enough to be loose. When I came to the first section of downhill jumps, I had a little trouble keeping my tires planted. I wanted to lift off, but I knew that if I did I would end up smashing into a tree and rolling down the side of the hill like a limp fish.

The place really is like a 30 mile long BMX pump track. Its great. We practically sprinted for the first hour of riding and didn't even realize it (or I just didn't realize it.)
As the day wore on, we became accustomed the new style of riding and were actually able to take advantage of all the jumps and whoops.

From Raystown lake 8-9-09

To top off the great riding, the place is also quite lovely
I can't wait to go back. It was worth every minute of the 2+ hour drive. We rode for four hours, and were grinning ear to ear the entire time. Everyone we met on the trail agreed, the place is a winner. Kudos to the guys who designed and built it.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Holy crap. I'm so dumb. I planned on doing the big bear ultra on Sunday, I had everything lined up to camp out, and I was feeling really good. I just checked the website.

It's tomorrow. I have to work tomorrow.

How the hell could I miss that? I've looked at the date a dozen times, but every time I must have translated the Saturday into a Sunday.

If I was flexible enough to kick myself in the teeth I would.

Damn it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I'm not going to pick apart my race yet, and besides, I think I wrote enough in yesterdays post to cover me for a day or two.
From Drop Box
the noble tenderfoot gazes onward into the sun

The 'go to philly and see a show before the race' idea didn't really pan out. We made it to the suburbs of the city of brotherly love, but the lady bear got sick, so we ended up chilling in the lodgings of our gracious hosts. While I was looking forward being jostled around in a steaming mass of humanity, the rest probably did me good.

On Friday morning we left Philadelphia for State College. I only had to stop and scramble down an embankment by the side of the hi way once to pee. Go me.

From knobby meats - montana miller
the noble tenderfoot gazes onward into the sun atop a lofty perch

We poked around town for a little, ate lunch, and visited freeze thaw (extremely cool shop. and they did a ton to help out at the race. thanks guys) then headed over to recumbent bike riders to meet my padre.

I'm not ashamed to say that I rode a trike, and I liked it.
After the trike ride we shot over to Coburn, and the madness ensued.

1 night, and 10 hours of riding later,

The elbow after some furious attempts with a wet paper towel to wipe off the caked on blood:
From knobby meats - montana miller

Monday, August 3, 2009

wilderness 101 (105) race report

Wow. That was hard.

While the elevation profile did feel eerily like my rendering:

From Drop Box

I'll include the real thing for reference.

As we rolled out of Coburn at 7 am, the fog was thick and the day looked dreary. I still don't think that my brain had processed that we were about to ride 101 miles, and I had never even ridden 90. When the moto pulled off and ending the controlled start, we were slammed with the first big climb of the day. I got out of the saddle and started to roll by the riders around me.

Down the other side, the road alternated between pavement and super smooth gravel. I stayed in my lame mountain bike aero tuck and tried to save as much energy as possible. Every few minutes, a train of 10 geared riders would come chugging by me at 30 mph. I attempted to latch on the the back of their paceline, but I can only spin my 32X18 up to 24mph, so each and every effort was thwarted. The ease with which they passed me on that flat section was comical.

I hit the first aid station in 1:20 and blew right through it. I had hardly touched my water to that point. After the aid we hit another big climb and I caught most of the geared guys that had toasted me on the flat. 20 miles in the terrain was finally starting to feel like something worthy of fat tires. I was keeping up with my nutritional needs, and other than the incessant fogging of my glasses, I felt great.

Down the first single track decent of the day we went. The trail was smooth, straight, and fast. I spun my bike up to almost 30 mph and let it coast over the smattering of rocks and roots as I neared the bottom. Suddenly, I felt something jerk my handlebar to the side, then I was rolling on the ground.

"Shit. Holy shit. What the f#$k?!" I exclaimed

About 20 riders went buzzing by. I looked over and saw the catalyst of my crash laying in the dirt a few feet up the trail. "You ok man? Need anything?" I said. " bad, I'm just gonna lay here for a little...." he replied. I got up and dusted my self off. My elbow was bleeding profusely, and my hip hurt like hell, but my bike was unscathed. "Ok. Well it could have been worse." "Yeah.. except half of my f#$king bar is gone." he held up a disconnected brake lever. I asked him if he would be ok one more time, then continued down the trail, a bit slower than before.

On the next climb I re-caught many of the riders who had passed me while I was laying in the leaves. "Shit dude. That was a hell of a crash. I didn't expect to see you again." said one guy. All I could think about was how hard I was going to have to work to make up that lost time. Before long we rolled into the first section of technical singletrack. My bloody elbow (i mean that in both the literal and british way) was throbbing harder and harder every time I hit a bump in the trail. I failed to clear to the first boulder field, but I could not have cared less. I was in pain, and the rocks were wet.

From Drop Box
photo credit bob

A group of four of us soon bunched up. We turned up and ridiculously rocky trail and started to hike our bikes. The same question was on everyone's mind. "I wonder if the top guys like Eatough and Tostado and riding this.." We hiked for half an hour, and we hadn't seen anyone come from behind us. I assumed we were just out hiking everyone. The trail got rockier and steeper. It was a crazy glute and hamstring burner.

Finally we reached the top. There were no arrows. No tire tracks. Shit.

The four of us consulted each other. "Did we miss something?" "No way man, there were four of us, and we were all walking. We couldn't have." "Yeah but we were all staring at the guy in front of us." We rode up the fire road to the top of the hill just to make sure. There were no markings up there either. "Yep. We're screw." I verbalized what we were all thinking. We turned back and rode back down the trail. It was a crazy fun and technical decent. It almost made all the walking worth it. Almost.

We didn't see the turn until we were all the way to the bottom of the trail. We should have just rolled onto a nice smooth fire road. Instead we had hiked the whole way to the top of a ridge on what we would later find out was a local downhill course. The trip had cost us 4 extremely hard earned miles, and 45 minutes. I rode with the only single speeder in our four man expedition group. "Well that screws any chance I had of getting under 9 hours." he said. "That's kind of a demotivator."

I had to agree.

When I reached the second aid station, (yes all that crap happened before the race was even half over) I grabbed a gel flask and banana, and explained what had happened to the lady bear and my padre (i strategically left out the part about the crash.) I was informed that I was now an hour back from the lead pack. Which meant that before my grand adventure, I was only 15 minutes back. Damn.

I started up the most painful climb of the day, and in fact, of my life. It was frigging torturous. My knees are still hurting from that one. Fortunately, half way up the trail there was a man clad in the garb of a spartan warrior shouting and beating a gong.

He said something to the effect of "Huzzah for single speeders and orange bicycles!" and began to push me up the hill. "Hells yeah dude." I said. "Just keep goin to the top"

At the top we were rewarded with a nice view and a ripping singletrack decent. I was loving the the downhill, and I passed at least five nervous descenders.

At some point coming down the mountain I lost a bottle. Of course I lost my full bottle, and not the one that I had already drained. I tried to ration what little water I had left. The rest of the miles to aid number 3 were lovely rolling singletrack. I was really enjoying myself. But I knew that I would soon be hitting the only big singletrack climb of the day.
I grabbed a fresh bottle and a sammich at the aid and headed up the trail. Before long I was off the bike and hiking. When I can only ride 4 mph, and I can hike at 3, it makes a considerable amount of sense to just hike. It was a long walk to the top. There was another single track downhill on the other side that started out nice, but soon morphed into a "holy christ are the promoters trying to kill us?" type of trail. It was insanely steep, 12 inches wide, and covered in loose shale. And there was a big drop off on the right side. Good times. At the bottom of the death section there was a nice section of smooth flowy trail, then more of the death descending. I rode all the slippery rock descents, but there were plenty of guys walking their bikes down the trail.

Finally we were spit out onto a fire road that soon turned into pavement. We rolled out onto the side of a hi way and into aid station 4. I asked how many more climbs. "Two big ones. One before aid 5 and one after" was the reply. "Dammit. Thank god for that." I muttered.

The climb out of that aid was a big one. It was rocky, rutted, and very steep. Half way, the road goes downhill for a bit, then turns right back up. I had to get off the bike and hike a few times just to give myself a break. The rest of the path into the fifth aid was an ever narrowing section of single track that got more rocky and technical with every turn of the pedals. It started to get extremely draining. It was by far the worst part of the race for me. I was just feeling beat up and ready to be done with the day. I think I cursed the course designers and vowed to never race again a few dozen times on that section.

I rolled into the last aid station with a huge sense of relief. One more climb to go. I took off down the road and turned right onto a rail trail. I rode with two other SSer's for a while, and we soon disappeared into a surreal unlit tunnel. I could see the light at the end, but everything else was dark. It was a little unnerving when I was almost to tired to balance.

The final climb was much easier than the previous hills. I grunted up it then coasted down the other side. At the bottom, there was a ridiculous section of un-ridable single track that I stumbled around on for a few minutes. All I could do was laugh. I was to exhausted to be angry.
The singletrack ended and I was spit back onto the rail trail where I spun the last few miles to the finish. I never thought I would be so glad to see Coburn, PA.

Results are up I finished in 10:08 hours, 119th out of 347 overall, and 32nd single speed.

For my first century, I'll take it. If I wouldn't have gotten lost, I would have definitely beaten my 10 hour goal. I guess I'll just have to take another stab at it next year.

I'll add some pictures later today

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Hoo doggies. That was a hard race. I finished in 10 hours and 8 minutes. One nasty crash, and a 45 minute hike a bike that was not part of the course. Report will go up tomorrow.