Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Indy or Bust: The Highs and Lows of Privateer Cyclocross

Only an experience of the proportions of my travels to the UCI Major Taylor Cross Cup in Indianapolis could revive this blog. I have raced nearly double the amount of UCI races this season, mainly because for once, I believe I belong there. I have had good luck and bad, but broke into the payout and scored PROCX points for the first time ever. I even managed to lead lap the C1 at Charm, passing half the field on the way up from the back row. 

2 weeks ago Chab walked up to me at a race and asked "Do you want to go to Indy and get UCI Points?!?" I was instantly in. A rare 3 race UCI weekend in America meant diluted fields and a better chance for an elusive UCI point, or worst case, enough PROCX points to make it to elite nats.

Transfer Day:
Chab showed up at my house in the morning. I had just finished replacing a brake caliper that I hamfistedly broke while swapping to my race wheels. I scrambled to pack up and we hit the road. I worked from the car (I love my job) and Chab got acquainted with the R32. "Can we change the screen off something other than the gas milage?"
We made great time and decided to stop outside of Indy for the night. 

Photo: Dan Chabanov
Day 1: 
We awoke to grey skys but the sun showed up as we arrived. Racing a 4:10pm meant a full breakfast. Luckily every single exit we stayed at had a Cracker Barrel. Both of us were a little nervous to see what the track would be like. We passed on NBX to do this race, and knew NBX was an amazing one.
In short, it was rad. Great use of off cambers, hop-able barriers, steps, crazy descent into some jumps. Terrific. 

Traveling with Chab has its perks. We met some nice folks at Mid West Devo who offered to pit for us. It was incredibly kind and helpful. 

The Racing (1): It went well for both of us. I moved up from the back and found a group containing the mid teens to "you get nothing". Nieters left us with 1. to go and I couldn't get it all the way across without pulling the hater train with me. It came down to a 4 up sprint. I lead out and got bested by 1 rider. We nearly picked up Nieters at the line, but he was safe and he knew it, 17th.
Chab fucking crushed it and got 5th.
Photo: Joe Vond

Photo: Joe Vond
We hit dinner hard. We found some buffalo burger place and racked up a dinner bill slightly higher than we both anticipated. Our motel was not as opulent. I guess one would assume a Penn State vs Ohio game would not be in Indiana? Well you would be wrong, and you would also be paying out the ass for a relatively bleak Motel 6. 
Procuring soap (which I forgot in the brake replacement scramble) and toothpaste was impossible. Leaving the motel seemed illogical. We were both done wearing real pants for the day. I cleaned my skin suit in the shower with a bar of soap and hung it to dry. Glamorous. 

Day 2:
We awoke to more grey. Radar showed we were going to get wet, but we had known that. 
More Cracker Barrel.
It took us both a little longer to get motivated today. I finally got my attitude adjusted to race levels around noon. Then the rain came. At first it stayed dry. The rain fell lightly. 2 pm it had rained harder and the conditions were degrading. On my last practice lap I realized I would be running a lot. Toe spikes go in. Mud tires go on. Pressure set to "lower". The Mid West Devo guys invited us into their double tent with walls. 

And then it got real. I did my warmup outside in rain paints and a rain jacket. I stayed dry, but I got cold. This mistake proved to be fatal. The gun went off and I found a lane and moved up closer to the front. We rounded the first few turns. I made some crafty passes. We lined up for the first long straight. I applied some watts in an effort to move up.

Nothing happened. I was frozen. Literally and figuratively I was frozen. I felt the cold spray hit my back, chills went deep into my core. Positive self talk.
"Focus, you can do this."
"This is cyclocross, you are made for this" 

"Go. Burn it now." 
"You have to do this."
"You want to go to Natz, don't you? Hit it"

By lap 2 I was shaking. I ran as hard as I could up the run up losing contact with my group on the slick slope. I remounted and my eyes met with my garmin. HR was in the 140's, 40 beats lower than my normal working HR. Um.

Indy, we have a problem. 

I gassed it one more time. I felt ok. Then I descended a slick bumpy descent. I realized I couldn't feel my hands. Breaking was difficult. I awkwardly slid down the hill, barely making the turn at the bottom.

20 minutes in and I was cracked. The weather broke me. 

Like you would expect, I did the conservative thing. I abandoned. It stung. I handed my dirty bike to the Mid West Devo guys to clean. Rode my B bike to the car, grabbed my stuff and retreated to the locker room to change. I got back to the car. It sank in. I wasn't racing my bike. I probably wasn't going to elite natz. I had quit. 

Then I got out of the car, wearing a coat, puffy vest, pull over, and undershirt, and after 30 seconds, resumed violently shaking. I retreated to the car. I ate a donut.

Chab finished 10th and immediately rode to the locker room. I got out to help him. The noises I heard of suffering in the locker room were surreal. I kept pressing the buttons on the hand dryers to make the room warm. I gathered people's belongings for them. 

We finally got clean. We got in the car, with a few extra pounds of mud from the track on our bikes and clothes. We started driving. First to Mcdonalds, then to a shady self serve car wash to clean bikes, lastly to the highway. I managed to scare Chab a few times with my lane changes around left lane hogs.

Things always get worse before they get better:
We arrive at the Motel 6 (fool me once...) in Somewhere Outside of Dayton, Ohio. We unpack. There is a black trash bag with our start line clothes in it. Missing from the bag are all of my clothes. In the bag are a pair of jackets and a pair of rental car keys.

Enter Puke Feeling.

The guys helping us mixed up the coats and somebody in Indy is having a very bad night. I email the promoter. We do a load of laundry, drink some Coors beers and go to bed. 

Transfer Day:
"Does the sun ever shine here?" Chab pondered as he pulled back the worn curtains. "Is it time to go to waffle house yet?" I replied. Luckily it was.
Photo: Dan Chabanov

After a pleasant meal we hit the road. I had to fire up the laptop and do some work while Chab learned how to make the R32 make loud exhaust noises. On our trip out he was conservative trying to save fuel. Now he's redlining 2nd, slamming gears on highway on ramps. 

I sorted out the Clothes/ Keys dilemma from the car. A few boxes and trips to the post office later and all parties are on their way to being made whole. 

My mood improved as the day went on. I thought a lot about the weekend on the car ride back. I made peace with the failure. The problem with goals, good ones, is that sometimes you don't get all the way there. Shitty goals are the ones you can meet 100% of the time. My time in Corporate America has taught me how to make a good goal. 

We hit the PA line. The sun came out for the first time in 3 days. 

I have one Hail Mary left to make my way to a Sunday start line in Hartford. Let's see what happens? 

Monday, November 3, 2014

How to be Awesome at Cyclocross.

2014 has been my 3rd year of paying the UCI a handy sum of money to race cyclocross bicycles. What does that mean? Absolutely nothing. 2 seasons of getting beat on pretty badly have taught me how to have a bit more fun. Here are my ways to turn lemons into... less sour lemons.


The Bike(s): Have 2 if you can. Swapping brake pads or race wheels is for plebes. Having a bike you ride 20 hours a year is baller. Bonus points if you have 2 of the same bike. Here is the tricky part, if you have two of the same bike, how will you tell them apart? Stickers, obviously. Step 1: Name them. Mine are named #yolo and #swag. Redbubble.com sells ridiculous stickers. Buy some. Step 2; Headtube badges. My Cannondales say Cannondale on them 35 times. Covering one logo is ok. Buy something like this: STICKER
Slap that guy on the front, watch hilarity ensue. The reactions you get are priceless. 

Tire Pressure: Prepare to be asked what pressure you are running, all of the time. Your weight is obviously a huge variable here but nobody ever asks your weight, they will just silently judge your fatness. 

You: Train a little. Life is way more fun with fitness. Ride your cx bike. Your mtb will make you forget cantis don't stop. Your road bike will make you forget how to turn. The internet has some really simple workouts that are kind of dare I say fun... go to a cross practice once weekly if you can. Take it seriously but don't take it seriously. Recover. It took me too long to learn this. Burning out sucks. 

Beer: Obvious right? Beer makes everything better. Sometimes its tough to drink DURING the race... those officials are everywhere... but make sure you have something cold for later. If the race is unsanctioned or for fun (Kuhn's Intergalactic CX Relay)... you better be drinking by the end of lap 1.

Make your significant other race too: Back in 2009 I forced cyclocross on Lauren like a hover parent forces pee wee sports on little 4 yr old Susie and Timmy. She learned to like it, I think that's called Stockholm Syndrome. Either way we race bikes together, and I get the added bonus of having somebody to work the pit for me. Thanks babe. Pro Tip: this may eventually lead to divorce (for you, not me and my lifetime ho) so look into the Pre-nup jump off. 

Signature Move: I have written about this one in the past. You need a signature move. I do x ups. Craig does blue steel. He used to roll tires... but he seems to have sorted that. Whatever it is, make sure it looks cool in photos. Then get as many pics as you can of you doing said move. 

The Race:

Things are going to go wrong, and it might not be your fault. 
There are so many variables in cross. You will have good days and bad. I typically DNF at least 1 race a year. Even when your day goes to shit, win the day. In 2012 at Town Hall race, everything went bad. I couldn't turn, I got stuck in the tape countless times... finally I bagged it. I stopped for an illegal beer handup, took a picture with a clown, waited for a teammate then just messed with him for 4 laps. The point is a bad day racing is still better than a lot of stuff you already do (work).

UCI Races: Congrats, you're relatively fast. Sorry, you're probably just waiting to turn 35 so you can race masters. 
80% Rule: Oh have I ranted about this before. I have been pulled with 1 lap to go twice now. It sucks. Ride 50 more feet and nobody will ever catch you, because they are finishing. How do you make it more bearable? #SELFIES
Borrow a friend's phone run back over to that official and snap, Also nicely let them know how dumb the rule is with 1 to go. Mimi is a good sport. 

Last but not least, don't be a jerk. Maybe you don't chop that wheel 15 minutes into the race when you are in 45th place? Maybe you don't ram into somebody riding a section while you are off your bike running it. Neither of these things are illegal, but there will be a time when you are the nail and not the hammer, and the former nail is the one swinging... you're going to see these people... a lot, remember that. 

Enjoy and see you out there. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Half of Cyclocross Season: UCI Races and Rants, Grassroots Fun.

Let me start by saying, I love cyclocross. Its by far my favorite cycling race format. I get to be equal parts roadie (nerd) and mountain biker (Mountain Dew Slammer). The races are short, which makes them attention span friendly, and for the first half of the season, the weather is warm. 

UCI Ass Kicking:
There were 4 so far. We start at Nittany Cross. I wrote about that last time...

Charm City went a little better. The race itself is awesome, one of my favorites, despite Baltimore being about as sketchy as Bangkok. Last year at Charm I rode better than usually and found the money in a UCI race. I felt amazing that day. I tried my best to repeat that, and had a great ride on day 1, but in typical fashion finished 2 spots out of a payday, burning every match I had, and racing for a total of 71 minutes. That's a really really long cross race. One thing I was happy with was my sand pit skills. I typically suck there, but I was actually able to use it to attack my friends on the last lap and win my group. Day 2, went a little worse. Bad start, tired legs. I resorted to having fun, but still trying to make the lead lap. I found some guys to race and we moved up together.

UCI RANT: I got pulled. Normally I am cool with this,. I get the 80% rule and I do not want to get in the way of the leaders. Here's what happened. I had 2 riders in front of me. They were riding better than me and got a slight gap on me after I had made the bridge. We were entering the bell lap, meaning as soon as we all crossed the line we would never be passed by the finishing leaders a couple min behind us. I entered the 180 degree turn onto the road section with a 20 foot gap to close. I wanted to close the gap so I could draft in the headwind sections coming up, so I launched hard and started to close the 1 second gap. The pair of riders goes through. I get pulled. I literally had to ride 50 more feet and would never be touched by the leaders as they were wrapping up behind me. I obeyed the official and pull off. I realize what has just happened and sans profanity start arguing with the official with the logic I just laid out. His response "I'm enforcing the rule" in a stern tone. I told him to use his head and let me race the 2 guys in front of me. He then sarcastically said he would "mark it down that I should have beat them". If I was 100 lbs overweight surrounded by ridiculously good looking skinny dudes getting rad, maybe I would be upset too... but there's no reason to be like that. I rolled over to the officials trailer, and they also wanted none of it. I should expect this from the UCI/USAC but the blind enforcement of a rule that made no sense in the time it was executed is par for the course. 
Always time for these. Photo Dennis Smith
Town Hall: PACX, The fields are not as deep but payout isn't, so racing at the front it pretty tough. New England Holy week took away a lot of the big names which left myself and some familiar faces at the front. On a course that usually spreads the race out pretty quickly, 5 of us formed a group. I admittedly was hurting a bit and couldn't move out of 4th after taking the holeshot and leading much of lap 1. It was an exciting race. Gerry took off first, then Greg Whitney, I got gapped a few times then clawed back in it, On the top of the "St Luke's Staircase" I attacked, moved into 2nd and had a 3 to 5 second gap to catch Gerry. Gerry held me off, but my surges held off the rest of the chasers and I held 2nd. The promoters handed out Bells Two Hearted. Promoters take note. 
Men's Elite Podium

Whirlybird: A MAC race, but not UCI... a field smaller than the payout... means you MUST finish or else you are leaving money on the course. I got a last row call up... I moved half way up the field, and promptly blew my rear derailleur apart, along with messing up my rear wheel. I bounced around on my pit bike for 6 more laps, nearly killing myself to beat Hal Batdorf with Craig's roadie tactic help. I wound up 15th and broke even payout wise. This was disappointingly fun. I missed my group because of the mechanical, but had a fun time on a great course. 


Cooper River Cross (CRCX): This race is a prime example of how to make a great course on a difficult to work with piece of land. Dead flat and very long/narrow... but the course had flow, fun sections and obstacles. Starting in the back due to no NJCX series points, I had to ride up to where I needed to be. I took it easy the first half a lap and didnt force anything. It was too much of a shit show to be aggressive. finally it opened up and I moved forward. My one regret was watching a split in the field from still to far back and missing the junction. Instead I chaired a large group with Eric from MTBNJ which we spent 4 laps trying to break up. I threw every trick I knew at it and thinned it some, but not enough. I had to attack, often on the last lap and go way into the red to stay clear. Jack Drummond make me work pretty hard to stay clear, but I won the group... and finished... dick spot. 1 out of the money. 11th. 

Lap 1. Dave Casale yard sale on the stairs.  Kelpius Helmet cam footage

Friday, September 13, 2013


I love grass crits. They are like normal crits, but when you fall down, you are not picking asphalt our of your hip for a month. I have never raced Nittany in anything other than dry conditions. I missed 2011's mud bog due to some... circumstances
#steeze Photo: Drew Armstrong
Since falling down is so fun, everyone took ample opportunity to fall down in the first minutes of lap 1. I missed the fun on the first two crashes, but managed to find the party on the 3rd. I got my foot tangled up in somebody's wheel who had crashed in front of me in a wide turn, and instead of riding through it and destroying their wheel and breaking my ankle, I stopped to get untangled. And got yelled at. Dude crashed in front of me and then got mad. He obviously didn't realize crashing is fun. 
Now that I was in dead last, I figured I would burn all the matches! and catch up. Well that worked great until I was like, "oh haaaaayyyy nice shaded grass corner. Lets take a nap here". Boom. Crash. A rarity for me as I escaped 13 cx races last year only crashing on the last lap of my last race. I didn't get lapped. I didn't make any money. I didn't break my bike.

Day 2 was a bit more calm at the start nobody died in the first fenced in corner. (COUGH, ANDREW MILLER, COUGH) I got the dead last call up on the grid, but despite that got a great start and settled in the 30's.
Photo: Dennis Smith

While moving up past the pit, I hit a large root (I guess) with my front wheel and spun my bars down quite a bit. Since I was 20 feet past the pit had to wait a lap to go in. The Sram guys hooked me up fixed my bars, and after a 1/2 lap riding my pit bike (named #swag) I was back on tires not inflated to 40 psi.
Sadly my inopportune pitting made me miss out on all the fun the groups were having riding together. I chased mostly alone for 25 minutes, watching the "you are this far behind the guys winning" clock. I knew we were doing 6 to 7 min laps. So when I saw 4:xx with a few laps to go I knew I had to ride a bit harder. Instead of pedaling harder I just started doing tricks. There were a bunch of kids and drunk adults standing by small jump. I started doing x ups, mainly because that's the only trick I can do.

Finally with 2 to go I found some friends. I rode with them for a little and then tried to beat them all. 1 did escape but I did move up a few spots. The most important thing you can do at Nittany is ride the log over.
MTB SKILLZ Photo: leisterimages.com

Photo: leisterimages.com

People stuck around and cheered/drank/heckled all weekend. It was very rad to see all my CX friends again and start the season. See you out there.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rattlin 50.

Steve, Craig, Wester, and myself all set out to do the Rattlin 50 mtb race in Lykens PA. Last year, Craig. Steve, and I rode the race for fun, had an awesome time, and still finished with respectable placing. We ride this like a TSE Duo/Trio/ group ride thing and don't drop one another. 

The start takes us on a short paved climb and right into the wood for a brief but painful hike a bike. Being a jackass, I took a fake flyer on the road. Cole Oberman came with me, so I immediately sat up. As dumb as it was it got us to the singletrack in the top 5 and we missed the bottleneck. We rode a little harder than we normally would have for the first hour. I wasn't pumped about this, but we were doing ok. Eventually one of us would mess up and we would slow down. 

That person was Steve. Steve's trusty 10 year old Shimano pedals went into "Imma release.... NOW. mode" Sadly "now" was during a turn... over a log... through a rock garden... basically any time you didn't want to unclip. Over a larger log over Steve's pedals let go and he landed square on his man pieces. We stopped. People passed us. Steve took a short walk. Steve sat down. Steve then pissed to make sure blood didnt come out... Giving his teammates a play by play every step of the way. Remember communication is key to racing. 

We got going again, cut the throttle a bit, but still were moving. We realized in typical fashion Kuhn's race distances were off. We hit CP1 a few miles past where it should have been. No biggy, the next trail was like 20 minutes of awesome swoopy DH. We all rode it and had a ton of fun.

About 30 min after and say 2.5 hours into the race, we all took a turn for the worse. Nothing happened, we all just stopped having fun. Nobody talked, except to curse at something. Craig crashed hard, tried to quit. Steve unclipped at random, I endoed into a pile of rocks slamming a knee on the ground. A bee stung Craig in the ass. I sucked the poison out. 

We also realized all of the doubletrack in 2012 made the course fun. It was absent this year due to a conflict with a horse jamboree... thus making the race basically 95% singletrack. Rocky singletrack. It also made the course sort of a 2 lap race, so we knew exactly how much rocky goodness was left. 

The last few miles trended DH, so Craig and I ripped that, me basically holding on for dear life. We hit the final section of trail, which is -28% and the same hike a bike from the start. Craig went full #yolo and I followed, trying to perfect our TSE Duo form. 

We rolled the last few hundred meters together and crossed the line 3 wide I tossed an epic bike throw but the blind officials awarded the "win" to Craig. 14th, 15th, 16th. Not dead. 5:16 moving time 50 ish miles. 4400 ft of climbing. Our finish time last year was 35 minutes faster... doubletrack...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

USAC Mountain Bike Nationals at Bear Creek.

Typically, when I write about Bear Creek, I do my absolute best to mention how much fun I do not have there. Last Saturday more than made up for 1/2 a decade of poor to mediocre levels of fun there. 

I got my ass kicked in my race. I started in the back... and I stayed in the back most of the day until the inevitable happened and I got pulled as the leaders flew on by.  The course was challenging. Anyone who says its "dumbed down" or not technical isn't riding it fast enough. Its shorter than the big lap. That's it. It had some nice flow and a nice downhill to reward you for the entirely single track climb. Simply put, I loved it.
Lauren shoving stockings filled with ice down my back.

I had pre rode it a bunch during the last few weeks, figured out the lines and had a good idea of exactly where I needed to be on the tough spots. All that went out the window at race pace. Instead of having the luxury of picking and choosing my way through the rocks, I was just trying to hold the wheel in front of me. That put a lot of emphasis on sprinting all the time and less on line choice. Being in the back meant a lot of yoyoing and some more running with my bike on normally ridable sections due to jam ups.

I knew at the top of the descent a large crowd has amassed. I purposely didn't go up there before my race as I wanted to experience it for the first time in the race. I knew most everyone up there, and by that late in the day they were pretty drunk loud. I was a little late to the party (slightly dropped) but I eventually made it to the Wall of Sound. it was overwhelming. So many people yelling, sirens, bells, music, people screaming my name. Even some heckling "GET OFF THE BRAKES!" I got goose bumps. I almost crashed on the stair step rocks due to the noise causing me to go a little more rad than my skill level can handle. (Video below)
J Rock... keeping MTB weird. Photo: Pat Engleman
Mr Abram Landes somehow continues to take the most awesome pictures.  You can even see adult beverage being thrown on me.
The weirdest part, if you asked me who was up there after the race, I wouldn't be able to give you 3 names. There were so many voices coming at me, I couldn't pick out individuals. The trail required most of my brain power anyways. Everything else was a audio and visual blur. 
Deep in the heckle pit. Photo Beth Fayant
I was fortunate enough to pass through the heckle pit 3 times. On my last lap I yelled "Thank you" as many times as I could at 190bpm. After rock drop 1, I pulled aside to let the lead moto pass. Instead he yelled "GO GO GO GO" I took off, launched off the log pile and ripped the last descent one more time.. with a dirt bike chasing me. The 63 minutes I got to spend in the PRO national championship were truly an honor, and I look forward to spending a few more next year. 
Switchback: Photo Kyle Centrella
Thank you to all that yelled, cheered, threw beer at me, or gave me a little push on the hill. Thanks to my family for standing out in the heat to yell at me. Thanks to Lauren for missing all the fun and staying in the feed zone all day to hand me bottles. Thanks to USAC for putting this on. Pay attention to the fun parts, it seems the party at the top of the hill is getting as much press as the serious stuff. Thanks to Bear Creek, for finally proving to me your course doesn't completely suck, and it is in fact possible to have fun on your mountain. I will return. Oh, your bar is awesome too. 

Proof I rode the drops, Thanks Bear Creek for the photo

Monday, July 8, 2013

A String of Unfortunate Events

In this post I aim to detail out the chain of first world problems I have encountered over the last several days. Feel free to find humor in my misfortunes. 

The Weather. It has sucked. It rains literally everyday, exactly 5 minutes after I get off of work, no matter when I leave. Riding in the rain is ok, but riding in a thunderstorm is substantially less satisfying. Its also a great way to get run over. 

MASS GCC gets postponed. My favorite MASS mtb race, gets pushed back till 8/4, due to you guessed it, the rain. No pre nats tune up race. No confidence booster.

Chesco Road Race. I got number 13. I wore it upside down. I was pumped. I made it 4 laps (1/2 way) last year before getting dropped. Determined to finish the 92 mine race this year... especially since saving energy for GCC was not a factor, I was a bit dismayed when I found myself pushing 500w at 30mph when the rider in front of my was costing. I later heard my brake squeaking on a climb. "OMG I AM SO DUMB" I reached back and swatted at the brake to recenter it. Something still wasn't right. The race wasn't hard but I still was burying myself to stay on. Finally, I got dropped early in lap 2. My HR was 198. I stopped, stepped off the bike, and calmly reentered by break... only to find it was the only thing holding my rear wheel in place. The skewer had come undone somehow, likely by my own negligence... Relived I hadn't crashed myself our, but disappointed I was done. I soft pedaled back to the start to drop out. Riding was much easier without the wheel flopping around. 

Training ride after Chesco:  I went for a ride after the "race". Pulling out of my driveway I saw a car far in the distance. As I neared a stop sign, I saw a car in the oncoming lane. I sensed the other car behind me, not slowing down, at all. The car int he oncoming lane basically stopped and pulled over as the car behind buzzed me,  with 6 inches to spare, while I was a foot right of the white line, in the gutter. 
I pulled up next to her at a stop sign she was busy rolling through, she tried to ignore me but I knocked the window. She slowed and rolled it down which must have been tricky with with the dog on her lap. Here is the following conversation: 
Me: "Did you even see me?, What was that?"
Driver: " Yes I saw you and you were going TOO FAST"
Me: "Are you fucking kidding?"
Driver speeds away.

Training ride after that was uneventful... Silver lining: I made the front page of the local news with some friends.

NJ State Road Race. I went to support Lauren and feed for PB&Co. I also wanted to ride a little. I forgot all of my clothes. I had bibs and shoes though. I borrowed, after much wondering around, a helmet and a women's size small jersey. I looked fabulous. 

Bear Creek pre ride for Nationals. I am going to do my best not to rant... but I don't have fun here. I have documented it on this blog, quite a bit. Its the opposite of what I enjoy in MTB. There is no flow, the course is straight until a  90 to 180 degree turns, and a lot of the time it leaves me saying "Why am I doing this?" it takes an awful lot to get me to that point on a bike.
Then I found the drops. I simply couldn't ride them. It was embarrassing. My skills, I think most peoples skills can get you down the new, somewhat already eroded, man made rock drops... but my mind had checked out.  4 times I got to the edge and panic braked out. Stupid. I rode a mile long decent at TSE as steep as this. Couple more days to get my shit together. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How To Be Awesome at The Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic

Once again my last week of May was dominated by the awesomeness that is TSE. This post is going to read a lot like the last installment in the How To Be Awesome Series. It will not contain too much race report content as you can read race reports at cyclingnews.com and on the TSE blog. Instead I will offer you, my misguided reader, an insiders look into what exactly it takes to rock out at TSE. 

First off:  Know what the hell you are getting into. I am not talking about the courses, reading doesn't make you better at rocks, sadly riding road bikes doesn't help either, but we'll get to that. Instead look for info on how to win the week. For example, whats the best lodge? Where is the nearest beer store? Do you know how to 'rassel a rattlesnake? I didn't think so. Fear not we will go through it all in this IPA, Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout induced guide. 

Rimney: It is scary there. Wissell is there. He beat me in a wrestling match and pushed me in a lake. Fear the Wissell. 
Eagle: Dicky is there. Not scary per say, just, well, Dicky. Don't do it.
Single cabins: The really cool Panama riders took them this year. Seems like an ok idea. 
FEMA/Katrina trailer: Reserved for Kuhn and the Louisianian black mold that shipped with it. Has AC.
Tent: I don't do tents. No advice here, you dirty hippy. 
Go back to college dorm life. Flips flops on at all times when inside. Lodges get "dank" as Lindine would say.
Chillin at the Eagle. A E Landes/TSE
Now that you are sufficiently screwed on lodging, lets talk about food. 
Meal Plan: I have never done the meal plan at TSE as I like to escape camp for a bit and go to State College to eat sometimes. Every night I walked into the dining hall for awards and regretted my decision. Desserts EVERYWHERE. I love cookies.
No Meal plan: Get some friends (preferably one with a Costco membership) buy some stuff and plan meals. Works very well. Only problem is noted above.
Snacks: Bring too much. Share.
Breakfast: Chocolate Chex. Whatchu know about this chocolate cereal game playboy? Nothing. There will be at least one coffee snob in your lodge, make friends with them. Hit the redbull lounge to supplement. 
Pizza: Nobody delivers to the scout camp, at least that Lauren and a smart phone could find and she "procures" things for a career. 

State College: Safest bet but also 15 miles away but has a drive-thru beer store. Even after all of PA's stupid blue laws, you can drive-thru for beer. An experience not to be missed by the out of stater. 
Brownies: 2 miles from camp, use only if desperate  If you want a "I'm going to get shot" moment, go there. I asked for 30 "kinda cheap" beers. When the bartender asked me what cheap was, I answered PBR. 3 locals started screaming at me in central PA English, explaining how PBR was the most expensive beer they had. Bartender can't add 9+7. Be warned. Dont go with ID -less Derek Bissett.

Create a Catch Phrase:
This year was dominated by "piece" such as "Yo check out my new LEFTY piece" Or "Hey lemme get one of those beer pieces." Laughs were had when a warning of  "Don't look this way or you might seem my D piece." was cast when changing pre stage.
Lodges can have catch phrases too. "EAGLE" was heard every time a Eagle lodge member climbed the podium during awards. If racing duo, every time you assist your teammate, like passing the salt at dinner, state "Duo" as a form of bonding,

Picking a Duo teammate: 
I already stake claim to Craig "Imma Do Me" Lebair, so you are already at a disadvantage. You can't have my Craig piece, but you can do the following:
Find somebody who faster at stuff you suck at. I went down a cliff 3 min faster than last year because I knew Craig would make fun of me if I sucked. Motivation. 
Drop in to win. Craig only had time to pee this year on R B Winters penultimate descent, instead of the nap he took in 2012. A E Landes/TSE
Racing Etiquette: 
Don't be an asshat:  
A) Let the GC women's leaders do their thing if they are faster than you, they probably are and they have cash one the line. 
B) Don't yell at people. Yelling when you can ride a section but 9 people are walking in front of you makes me angry. Matt Harris pre-oatmeal angry. 
C) Don't pass unannounced or in stupid place. Finish times are over 17 hours 1 second isn't going to kill your week. A crash might. 
D) Be fucking nice. Say thank you. Say good job. We all ride bikes. Chill, ha. You will see these people again.
E) Have respect for those better than you. You will be amazed at some of the things you see people ride. Learn from it.

Unofficial Stages:
Wednsday Night: Go up to the field and join in the Hammer Nutrition (they buy the beer) Wed night stage 4a. Wheelie contest (Props to Gunnar Bergey) skid contest, relays for socks, bunny hopping, lighting shit on fire... go hang out. Don't get pissed when lights out is not at 9:30. You are not pro, you are sleeping in a tent, dirty hippy. 
Ripping up on my coach's bike. A E Landes/TSE
Stage 8 Three Beer Derby World Cup Eliminator" DJ will shoot fireworks at your head, the race promoters will break all of the fine print of their insurance policy, and Sue Haywood (dressed as batman) will DQ your team if you don't finish your beer. It will be filmed, embrace it. 
#YOLO, DJ. #YOLO.  A E Landes/TSE out of the line of fire. Coward. 

Watch more videos on CyclingDirt

Make friends with Abe Landes. Not only is he really really funny and an all around awesome dude, he will make you look way cooler than you really are in pixels. Looking cool leads to all sorts of other cool things. If cyclingdirt interviews you, have a personality. Dig deep. You got this. 
Get a signature look. I do x ups, Craig Lebair does Blue Steel. Perfect it, do it all week. 
Blue Steel captured by A E Landes/TSE
The X Up (while complaining) burden on A E Landes/TSE
The Actual Racing Your Bike Part:
Pedal hard, have fun. This is probably your vacation, enjoy it. Race for the pictures. Tell your cube life coworkers you rode a 20 hour week and see their faces as they look at you with puzzlement. In this case being the 1% (that races bikes) is a good thing. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

2013 NE Rapha Gentleman's Race

Question: How long does it take a person to forget how bad a 9 hour, 138 mile ride/race/deathmarch with 7 hours spent in total back spasm?
Answer: 23 months. 

In 2011 I was privileged enough to be part of Lehigh Valley edition of the RGR. It was beyond hard. 2 hours of beyond steep climbs, followed by 4 trips over Hawk Mt, ending with a zig zag of choppy dirt roads on the way home. We were pushed to the limits mentally and physically but finished it off. 9/20 teams were able to complete it.

When I sent the email to my team proposing we try it again in 2013, I hit send with a bit of trepidation. Is this worth it? We applied, we got a spot... this was happening again. We knew the course would be in George Washington's playground. Everything I know about GW I learned from this video (probably NSFW... unless your work is awesome). I also knew the top secret donut stop.

Myles, Chris, Craig, Steve, Kyle, and I were selected to represent Ciclismo. The way RGR starts, teams are ordered by slowest to fastest, separated by a few minute stagger. We were seeded last to start. This is obviously not ideal. I don't know what I did wrong. Here is what I wrote to the race director:
"Craig Lebair: Cat 2 road, Elite MTB and CX. Member of the "Try not to get lapped by JPow Club" in cx.
Kyle Centrella: Cat 2 Road, Cat 1 Mtb. Cat 2 CX.
Chris Pagoda: Climbs Mountains (Denali) Doesn't race much anymore but strong.
Steve Ordons: Elite MTB and CX. J Pow has yet to lap him.
Myles Lund: Young and newer to cycling, trying to be a lawyer. Strong. 
Mike Festa: Cat 2 road, Elite MTB, Elite CX. JPow lapped me once, but never again. "
I guess used the word "elite" too much and forgot to mention we all go to offices on Mondays hoping no one notices we are half asleep from our attempts to win $18 for 25th in a UCI race. 

8:45 am we set off. We quickly met up with some teams on the road. We quickly realized only 1 of the 3 Garmins we had with the course loaded on it was working correctly... and it happened to be on my bike. This meant I got to yell out the 150 turns we would have to make. I also spent a lot of time staring at the little device on my stem. 

How could we get lost?

Photo Anthony S
My recollection is all a bit fuzzy. Somewhere we had to hike through a stream. Then we climbed a hill that had us at 40 rpm for a while. We had plenty of dirt. We got filmed by the film crew a bunch. We had to hike through the woods and another stream to go around a out bridge. We got bagels. The top secret donut stop was out of donuts.
Abigail Thomas Photography

At around mile 80, Kyle's 2003 Dura Ace shifter tired to eat its own cable. We fixed it in maybe the best spot ever, a quickie mark in front of a hardware store, next to a bike shop. Around 4.5 hours I ran a lil low on the old blood sugar and things went dark. I demolished 2 Honey Stinger gels and a waffle and got it moving again with my normal level of hyper. I hit every pot hole on River Rd during this period. 
Fixing some cables at the quickie mart.

Craig and I probably making jokes or singing 90's pop songs. Abigail Thomas Photography
It may sound trite, but the rest wasn't that bad. Of course it was difficult though. We found good company in the Bicycling Magazine team. it turns out the one and only Bike Snob was among the group, and we didnt even realize it.

Abigail Thomas Photography

The course ended with a trip through Sourland Mountain, and a big climb that turned to dirt just in time for the descent. Arguably the worst dirt descent in the race, long, full of washboards. It was tricky with tired eyes and bodies. The course failed in its one last attempt to foul us, and we were rewarded with smooth sailing on valley roads back to the start/finish. Basically the opposite of 2011. In the end, smiles were abundant, beer was consumed, and 7 medium pizzas were consumed by our team alone. 

We were 4th out of 26 teams. Time outside was 8 hours, 14 minutes. We spent about 7 hours 40 minutes of that moving. 

1/2 Serious

Not so serious. Abigail Thomas Photography

Never had to even use the paper cue sheet.
Strava file.
Training peaks SRM data.
130 miles. 7:43:32 moving. 5038kj. 418 tss. 

Game Notes:

Myles wore bright green pants and Nantucket red shorts.
Kyle has informed me his shifter is from 2009 not 2003.
I wheelied a few times. 
The Dunking Donuts guy rang me up wrong, only charging me 13 bucks for 10 waters and 6 bagels. 
Song list: Spice Girls. All of us sang it. 5 of them, six of us. Same amount of talent.
Times we cursed course designer Jed K: Too many to count.
Flats: 0.

Up next... more bikes... a day at the MASS Iron Hill Endurance Race