Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fully recovered?

Concussions are scary. For those that don't know I hit a tree I while racing my bike head on at the end of November 2012 and just started to feel normal at the end of April. I thought I was fine in January but looking back now I clearly wasn't.

Don't mess with that injury. Rest 4x as much as you think you need to. It'll be a shorter recovery in the long run.

I'm still taking anti-headache medicine, 8+ months out, and that hasn't prevented all of them. This experience has been all about learning how to deal with the limitations that this injury leaves you with, possibly for life.

Also, I learned about what a great group of friends I have here in the cycling community in New England. Thanks to you all.

Friday, October 5, 2012

introspection

I got to hand it to the big guy... it's hard to keep up with a blog these days, never mind posting 2 or 3 times per day. He truly is the last of the dinosaurs... or the last unicorn or something.

This year is going to be about having fun. This year I'll skip one day at PVD, maybe both days at Noho, and at least one day at Sterling and free up time to get to Orchard Cross, Putney and Lowell. The contraction of the VERGE series has been great, no pressure to get points in VT or ME just so you're not 16th row at Gloucester: just line up by CR.com points and go. Love it. 

Race Racaps:

Got to start this section off by mentioning the 2011 NECXSSWC held last December at the Ice Weasels. I had been riding better and better throughout the year, and the efforts were coming easier and easier. I had a good start at the Weasel and was in second behind Sean Mottram for a half a lap. Got past after the flyover and started to ride away a little. CJ Congrove was there, as was Curtis Boivin. The decisive moment in the race came a lap and half later, when Shawn went down taking out Curtis as well. I upped the tempo, CJ hung with me for four laps, then started to fade. I felt better with each pedal stroke and had enough of a gap to ease off just a bit for the last lap and a half to be sure I didn't crash. Winner winner, chicken dinner. 

This season has been less than stellar. I followed last year's preparation pretty much to a tee but the legs weren't ready for the first races as they were in 2011. Also unprepared for 2012 was my brand new rear tire, which went flat at the first race (tire's fault), flat at the second race the next day (my fault), then went flat again this past saturday at Gloucester (I'm going with tire's fault on that one). So I stuffed that bad cat into one of those space-age envelopes for the post office and sent it off to Florida for new internals. I'm borrowing velocb's sweet FMB/grifo wearing R-SYSes, which I'm reluctant to ride in anything less than perfect conditions.

BOB SSCX: Started losing air in the rear tire halfway through lap two.  Right in front of the officials, I dropped the bike, ran over to the car, grabbed the pump, and ran back to inflate the tire. It lasted another half lap, so I repeated that every time through the S/F area. This is not the way to get a good result. 

PS: Future me: 42x19... would have loved a 42x18

Quad SSCX: Same shit different day. I thought I had addressed the leaking tire issue with some teflon tape, the damn thing went flat again. This time, pit wheels! But I was not happy so I soft pedaled for a bit before getting back on the gas. Another sub par result.

42x19 again, and again... would have loved an 18

SBC SSCX: Hells yeah. This race was what single speed is all about. On a geared bike, it's a watt fest, but with one gear, you can only go so hard. That tends to keep guys together, longer. From the start it was Mike Rowell, Doug Kennedy, Curtis and yours truly. It stayed that way throughout. Rowell got ahead by 5 bikes with a lap and a half to go and held it, but he was working hard as the three of us took turns at the front trying to get up to him. I was second heading into the sand on the last lap, about 50 seconds from the line. Doug made a sweet pass in the sand and had a nice remount to get a 2 second gap and hold it. Curtis pipped me at the post for third. The difference between 1st and 4th was just 5 seconds. When's the last time you saw that in a geared race?

That's it for now. Midnight ride and the two Gloucester race updates next. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quad Cross

Life's been out of control lately, way more stuff coming at me than I have time to process. Things like sleep, quality time with my wife, and this blog are paying the price. It's 9:35 on Thursday night and I'm dedicating the next EIGHT WHOLE MINUTES to updating this thing.

By updating, I mean writing a race report on an event that happened 3 months ago.

Waaay back in September I drove out to... I forget where now... but it was some sort of Rod & Gun club (#TWSS) to race the first race of the year in the single speed category at Quad Cross. The last time I raced Quad Cross I was about to get beat down by Lynne Bessette but was spared that fate when I twisted my ankle wickid haad and had to go to hospital for medicine.

This year, Quad Cross was a true jungle cross course with lots of fresh cut sucky woods sections and a severely undersized field. Hey, racing is racing so why not have fun.

I have this habit of checking my skewers and valve caps on the line. Usually the official calls "one minute" loud enough for me to know how much time I have to walk through my little OCD routine, but on this day they were speaking softly or I just had manure for brains and I never heard it. So I'm standing there bent over my bike when I did hear the whistle and woosh... we (they) were off!!!

Not many races start with a flying right-hand side remount, but this one did for me. I was pumped up with adrenaline and quickly got through traffic and off towards the front. The course was very short... 5 minute laps short... and eventually took the lead half way through lap two. I felt great and started to pull away from everyone... except Chandler. He wasn't making up ground, but at that point he was the only dude that was keeping pace. By lap three it was clear he was making up time and he blew by me half way through lap 4.

It was DAMAGE CONTROL time, I backed off for a lap or two and waited for the good sensations to return so I could make a run back to the leader. Looking at my watch after 5 or 6 laps I figured we had three to go as we had only been racing for 20 minutes. WRONG! I came through the finish line and they were ringing the bell for final lap. Crazy I tell you.

I chased, gained nothing, and finished second.

Boo hoo.

Time's up - I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

24hogg

I like my rides to be simple, confined events with a definitive start and end. Hard or easy, short or long, hilly or flat. Mostly that is unimportant to me. What is important is that there is a clear start and a clear finish. I'm pretty good at putting the rest together as long as I know when the gun is going to go off and where the finish line is.

Yeah that's not the best way to approach a 24 hour race. There is a clear start to the racing, but the preparation is as much a part of the event as pedaling the bike is. And the end? well, what is the end? You basically do a cyclocross race every three hours, and only until the last few hours are you clued in to when you may finally be done. Even then, teammates may not feel well or another team may be gaining on you so you got to dig deep and get ready to lay it down again. So the end and beginning aren't so neatly defined.

People are surprised to learn about all of the strategy behind road racing, especially the grand tours, and there is lots of strategy around the 24 hour event. When to eat, when to sleep, should you take two laps, does someone need to go out for one last lap at the end or is the team right behind us going to bail on that last lap as well... all of these things cost some mental collateral. Pedaling the bike maybe the easiest part. Well not really.


This race starts on Thursday really, when you have to be sure to get a good night's rest. Then into Friday, you're stressed about clothing, rain gear, your camp set up, food for before during and after the event, and maybe trying to figure out when to make the drive. I was racing on a 5 person co-ed team with Mike Z, Nick M., Leah PB. & Chip B. I only knew of Leah a little and had never met Nick, so I wasn't sure how this was going to go down. Would they be fast? Well prepared? Would anyone get sick? Lots of unknowns, so I tried to focus on getting my stuff as tight as possible.

Mike Z & I caravaned up to Great Glen Saturday morning and arrived 90 minutes before the race. We skipped the rider's meeting and got the intel from teammates and our sister team of Colin R, Greg W, Kevin S & Mike W. These guys had done this before and knew all the secrets, like setting up your tent prior to your first lap.

Being a seasoned "triathlete" I was elected to take the first lap which began with a short run around a pond to stretch the field out. This run hurt bad, shot my heart rate through the roof, and I never recovered for the entire first lap.

About that first lap.... I didn't get a pre-ride in, and that's probably for the best, because I would have faked a stomach bug or something and skipped out on the whole damn thing had I done so. The course started out going straight up hill for a mile: at first via a series of well intended switchbacks but eventually ended with a direct shot straight up the last 100 meters of the climb. It was like the trail builders got sick of cutting so much back and forth stuff and said screw it, let the bastards right straight up to the top. There was some sweet singletrack down from there and then several long section of fireroads, most of which were very fast. There was some fresh cut choppy singletrack mixed in here and there, and a leg breaking rocky climb about half way through each lap. The decent from this climb was awesome, not super technical but just bony enough to be fun and challenging. A final singletrack climb to a last drop and that was it: 8.3 mile laps with something like 1000 feet of climbing per.

No one ever suggested to me that a single speed bike would be a suboptimal equipment choice.

Half way through the first lap I was gassed and thought that there was no way I was going to do this even one more time, never mind 5 or 6. This was full on race pace and this course was hard. The singlespeed was badly overgeared for the climbs and worse yet undergeared for the flats.

My teammates were awesome: totally supportive of each other and out there to give it everything they had. Zank cranked out a great second lap and it was on. Chip rocked the downhill on the team's lap three, and Nick M, racing his third mtb race ever, rode strong after that. Leah PB was the only woman riding a rigid singlespeed (BALLER) and she crushed it too.

Surprisingly, my second lap felt better than my first. Yes I had slowed down some but the ratio of feeling good to going slower was not direct. I didn't go much slower but man I felt a whole lot better.


So this whole race, rest, wait, check the time of your teammates, eat, try and sleep, get ready to ride, then head out again routine went on for 24 hours. We skipped some turns, made adjustments to the rotation, and tried to figure out how to have as much fun as possible while riding a bike in the woods of NH at 2:30 am. It wasn't that hard really, because the RAD factor for this race was off the charts. It helps that I love riding at night I suppose, it was a lot of fun to be ripping through the woods after midnight on a perfectly clear night with just your light and the sound of your bike to keep you company.

The course at first bothered me. Not technical enough. But after a half dozen laps, you got to appreciate it for what it was, not what it wasn't. There were spots that challenged your mind and others that challenged your body. Will I make plans to go there to ride recreationally? Hell no, but in a race setting it was a great course. The fire road descent after that bony climb was worth the work to get there.

We finished strong as a team and quit on our last lap as the sky opened up. Had the team behind us simply sent someone out for a final lap we would have lost 6th place but they were smart like us and got started on the celebrations a bit early.


Thanks to Mike, Chip, Leah & Nick for a great time. You guys were a great team and rode like champions individually.

This one will be on the schedule again next year for sure.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ideas Gone Bad

What I lack in blogging discipline I more than make up for in ability to come up with some really bad ideas. Those two things are not related in any way and the comparison is meaningless, but I managed to acknowledge my tardiness with this blog and segue into the ride report you're about to read in one short sentence. killer.

So you have read before how I feel central mass has some of the best cycling around. Our roads are great and lightly traveled by cars and thanks mostly to team BUMS and their trail making skills, the mountain biking is top notch. Earlier this year it occurred to me that a massive loop connecting all of the local trails would be a fun challenge (turns out I was half right there) and that someday I should talk some people into trying it with me.

That someday was this past Saturday July 23rd. I got Colin, Ronnie, Pete, Greg & Karen to join me for what I predicted would be 48 miles of trails connected by 20 miles of road . Karen made it clear from the start she was not doing the whole ride but only the first half... the easy half mind you.

We rolled at 8:30 am and almost immediately got stuck in a heavy rain and thunderstorm. I think there it stopped and started 4 separate times in the first two hours, but it was better than the predicted heat. It was still a lot of fun through those first few sections which were mostly connected by dirt roads or trails rather than long sections of pavement. This was gonna be sweet.

Or not. About 2.5 hours into the ride, our group was starting to get strung out a bit, and there was a clear reduction in the amount of talking going on. I mentioned this with a chuckle and no one laughed back because it wasn't fun or funny, and this ride was heading that direction too.

We pushed on through 3 or 4 mechanicals (all Colin) and emerged from the Grafton Woods trails at about three hours in. Pete started to ask about the distance back to the house and Ronnie was having significant trouble keeping the grips on his new bars, which looked like something you'd see at the back of the head shop on Commercial St. in Provincetown if ya know what I mean. Colin asked what we all were thinking: "Is there some sort of rule that you can't run normal looking bars Ronnie?" HA!

We pulled into trek stop for any needed service and everyone is good so I assume all but Karen and Pete are continuing. When they peel off just up the road from there, sneaky Ronnie Steers follows them with a wave and a huge grin signifying that his day is done. Smart fellow that Ronnie Steers.

Lunch then three more trail systems where our primary motivation was to get to the damn reservoir at the end of the final section to take a swim. The rain was done for the day but it was getting hot and the horse flies were everywhere. These little effers have evolved to know that the back of your arms and the sides of your back are the perfect place to land and grab a chunk of flesh. I'm all sorts of chewed up back there.

So we survive the ride, swim in the reservoir and make it home at 6:30 pm, 10 hrs total and 7 hours of rolling time later. The ride as presented by Strava is below.

Now that this it's over, I have mixed feelings about how this all went down. Here they are in bullet form (copied from the wrap up email I sent the group):
-I'm glad I did it so that I don't have to wonder any longer if I can.
-Mtb riding is supposed to be fun. This ride stopped being fun (for me at least) at about the 3 hour mark. I wasn't tired as much as I was just tired of being on a bike. The trails we were on are enjoyable: I know this because I have ridden them many, many times and they are always interesting and challenging. After about three hours on Saturday, I just wanted to get it over with. That state of mind makes trails like these tedious and annoying.
-This ride destroyed me for a full 24 hours after we finished. I felt as though I had been on a 3 day tequila-fueled, sleep-deprived bender with mandatory mechanical bull rides every 15 minutes.
-During the course of the ride I consumed 2 full camelbacks of water, 2x20 oz vitamin waters, 2x20 oz poweraids, a cycling bottle full of Ensure, a (rather large) small buffalo chicken sub, some cheese fries... and still lost 4 lbs.
-The most epic part of my day may have been the chaffing.
-It was a huge relief to have everyone make it back with no apparent serious injury, though Colin's knee may not feel the same for some time.
-Unless there is a ground swell of enthusiasm for this I will not attempt this again. Just because these trails are all there so close together does not mean they should all be ridden in one day.

I will surely host long mtb rides (20-30 miles) from my place in the future: just hit a couple of these venues and then retreat back to the house for some food and a few beers. In other words, keep it real.

So in summary: this ride sucked.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Time Lapse

Bang. Seven months are gone and not one new blog post. My life is so frickin' interesting I don't have time to even write about it. Envy me.
<small talk>.... kids are good, Charlie's (finally) taken to hockey. phew. I was really starting to get worried there for a while. Not that I'd love him any less if he didn't play... Let's just leave it that I'm super-duper psyched that we have had the chance to skate together. If it all ended tomorrow, I would not be disappointed. He really does seem to like it, and he started up with it without my prodding. Maybe it'll stick.

Cory is amazingly smart and not just at school. She deals with words and situations like an adult. To grown up in many ways, and that can get her in hot water from time to time, and that's when you're reminded that she's just a kid, and a little one at that. She has more friends than @charliesheen has followers (twitter reference).

Somehow I managed to get talked into playing hockey again this winter... and it has been awesome. Ice is done but I'm filling in on an inline team. For 10 years off, it's not that bad. I can still keep up and even put a few in the net.

Races singlespeed-a-palooza in April. What a great race. I got 13th in the pro division on a bike that was built (not assembled) less than 24 hrs prior to the event. Another beauty from mike zanconato. The thing rides like a cross bike with a flat bar and suspension fork. It is very quick and you've really got to pay attention to it, this bike isn't for the nervous rider. Beginners need not apply.

Backlog Race Reports:
Sterling Day 1: misplaced my mojo... suffered like a dog but maybe it'll be back tomorrow?
Sterling Day 2: felt better but not fast, mojo is totally MIA but at least I wasn't about to die
NBX Day 1: Holy shit my mojo moved to Flo-rida for the winter. Passed by Brant Hornberger of all people! (just kidding Brant, I still love ya) but I did suck.
NBX: Day 2: Better again (the magic of day 2 cross race after a tall glass of chocolate milk), but not the best race ever. At least I beat Brant.
Ice Weasels Single Speed: Best party all year.
Single speed a palooza: The first lap was hard. Really hard. It was super fast from the gun (as fast as a single speed down hill start can be) and after a 2-3 mile prologue to stretch things out we climbed a peanut buttery mud hill for a mile. I was waaay over my head. Completely shelled. But the rest of the lap was sweet and flowy and I recovered a bit. I was dreading that hill for the second lap, but I must have reseted enough because I felt great and made up a bunch of spots on the climb. I can also handle my bike, which many others could not. Made up more spots on that second lap and finished 13th, losing 12th in a sprint at the line to some guy running a 34/18. I has a 32/19. He should be ashamed.

Next up: Domnarski farm mtb thingy. I hope it is dry, that course would be a bear wet.

Ciao

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Shedd Park: 11.21.10

It wasn't my idea to sign up for the P123 @ Shedd Park. My daughter was going to be singing at church that morning, precluding me from my usual master's field. The 3/4 was too early, so the only option was the main event. Gave me butterflies all week.

Sunday morning heading into church I was delighted to learn that cherub performance had been cancelled. Now I was going to get my nuts squashed to oblivion for no good reason. Hooray.

Nearly 50/50 split between scared/pissed, I did actually manage to get a good warm up in, getting to the racing part always helps. I think the key for me is to ride the course before the event I'm racing in starts for at least two laps, and get some hard race pace efforts in during that time. Then stay moving for the next hour, with perhaps a little effort if I didn't get one in on the course. I'm writing some of this stuff for the future me, who should do exactly what the current me has been doing this season... except for the tire thing. Get that sorted out earlier, ok future me? Great.

After Adam Myerson bowled through the field from the back row at the start the rest of us were left to sort it out before the first bottleneck, a 180 us a small bump and around a tree. I think I was the last guy not to put down a foot, as there was a great deal of swearing and crashing sound coming from right behind me. The field was already split into two groups at the front, the first 7 and the next 7, and I was tailgunning this second group.

The first ride up the main hill wasn't bad, neither was the speed out of it at the top. I know I breathe heavy but one of the B2C2 guys came up next to me and was panting like this:


soda's panting from normah on Vimeo.

I thought he was going to die.

The split stretched out approaching the descent, but no one was getting away there, everyone was just trying to stay upright. As we came across the field to go to the second half of lap one, the guys I was riding with started attacking each other relentlessly. This continued for the first four laps. One guy would take a flyer, blow sky high and would come back. Then the next would go, and the next, until the first guy was ready to go again. They'd sit up on the track and look around at each other, and invariably someone would take the bait. I surfed the back and burned surprisingly few matches to stay in touch.

Chandler Delinks was in the group, and I wondered if I'd have to read about myself in his blog if we stuck together long enough. He was gone from my group before the end of lap 2 or 3, so I guess not.

Synjen Marrocco got on the front for a long while, took some of the worst lines I've ever seen through the corners, and got dropped shortly after Chandler. That kid is strong but spent way too much energy getting back up to speed after each turn.

Greg Whitney clipped a pedal, almost got thrown from his bike, and lost touch after hanging out for a while too. Either he or Mike Wissell took a sketchy inside line through a turn on me at one point, but not enough to complain about beyond what I just wrote.

Cary Fridrich came through our group on lap three and made an attempt to get to the front group of 7 that was unsuccessful. He stayed 20 seconds away from then basically until the end of the race. Half way through lap 3 Toby Wells took off to join Cary, but never made it there. At the end of lap 4 there was some sitting up again on the track, and Sam Morse was the first to blink and he took off. He must have been getting antsy, because it seemed to me like this was all working out just fine with the youngsters kicking the shit out of eachother. Anyway, Wissell gave chase and I followed him.

When Wissell pulled off and no one else came through the remants of the group slowed a bit and I knew that the kids were tuckered out from all that bike racing. I jumped across to Sam and right up to Toby, bringing only Chris Hamlin from UVM with me. The four of us reformed a group and started to pull away as the others faded back.

With three to go Sam started to get gapped, and I let Hamlin and Wells do all of the work. Hamlin was strong in the corners, but Wells was so smooth and powerful... it was great to watch. *Man crush alert* He carried ridiculous amounts of speed through the fast turns, especially the downhill going towards the tennis courts. He was taking it very easy up the ride up though, and I thought for sure he was playing possum and would rip up that thing on the last lap.

Hamlin's bike creaks like a rusty old wrought iron gate. Like he lubes his chain with salt water and beach sand.

Half way through that 5th lap we were making ground on Cary when Hamlin sat up a bit. After a moment Toby said something about catching Cary and he went to the front, but the hesitation was enough to keep Cary away for good. Hamlin tried to go inside Toby in the woods before the track and I scolded him for it. Bad line, bad place to try to pass. Damn rambunctious kids and their helmet cam thingamajings.

Just before two to go with Sam pretty far back I got to the front for a second time and put in one long pull on the track to see how much of the gap to Cary I could close down. We gained a little, but he was moving pretty good and we realized we weren't going to catch him.

At the bell Hamlin was on front, and led us up the hill with a bit more speed. Toby didn't spring the attack I expected, and I was content to follow the two. Wells went to the front near the tennis courts and I didn't want to be third wheel, so I out broke Hamlin and got in between them. Wells attacked hard coming out of the forest of Lowellenburg and I matched, though we were careening through the woods so fast I didn't want to get to close for fear of slamming a rock.

The accelleration did drop Hamlin and we came to the last few turns together. Being in front, Wells had the better line coming out of the woods and could start his acceleration sooner. He got a gap and held it to the line to take 9th. I'm happy with the 10th place (paid $20) and the best results point wise yet @238. If we had driven we probably could have caught Cary, but then again he may have been saving something in the event that we got any closer.