Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I'm struggling to find a reason not to get serious about this.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Purgatory Race Report

Well, at least I was right about one thing:

The bass boats were out in full effect.

Also - my diatribe about CMass having some great riding still holds.

But I was wrong where it counted. I totally mis-read how the racing would unfold... specifically how the hills would play into the effort required to stay in touch with the lead group. Based on at least one other race report, all of the races basically the same way mine did.
Not that I'm complaining mind you, the differnce between what I thought would happen and what did happen allowed me to stay with the lead group for the entire race, so I'm pleased with that.

Here's the report...

After what appeared to be a truly neutral start, we turned left onto Mendon Rd. to climb what I thought would be the hardest hill of the day. First ascent was pretty managable, but we had just started, so I wasn't getting too excited by the relatively easy pace. Plunging down Mendon Rd. I took the opportunity to get to the front and have some fun. I also wanted to go by the house at the front of the field, I knew the kids would get a kick out of that. I know that descent like the back of my hand, and while I may have drifted over the would-be yellow line in my search of the straightest and fastest way to the bottom, I always ride that hill like that, so I can't control it or be held responsible really. Can I? The road was also designated temporarily one way for the race, so I thought it was cool.

Maybe not.

My falcon-like descending skills got me a bit of a gap, 20 seconds or so, and 3 others were with me. They wanted to come through, but I waved them off as we turned onto Barnett so I could be at the front. I heard a few grunts and groans from my escape mates, but sorry. Did they really expect to go clear at 4 mi of a 52 mile race... because I sure didn't.

The kids loved seeing me come by first, so the effort was worth it, but I promptly went to the back of the group and began skipping turns, which generated additional groans and one snide "c'mon Matt, take your pull!" from racing pal Harry Stover. I got back in the line, but it was all for naught, we were swept up at the end of Whitins road just 3 miles along. No surprise there.
The gentle hill on Manchaug Rd, which I though would we would be riding at nuclear pace, was also tame, guys were rolling it like a group ride and I even moved up through the field a bit. We turned onto Lackey and things got very hot. The climbers attacked at the bottom while more power guys like me were best served setting a hard but sustainable pace. In the middle, the climbers slowed and I kept the effort up, limiting my losses. The top of the hill kicked again, and I got gapped when another rider couldn't hold the wheel in front of me. With one last effort I stayed close enough to get back on to the lead group through the start finish stretch, which was super fast.

We turned onto Mendon Rd. to start lap 2 and again rode that hill at an easy pace. It became clear at that moment what was happening andhow I had been so wrong about this course. There was no sense going hard anywhere but on Lackey Rd. because that was the only climb long enough to really cause permanent damage. The Mendon Rd. hill was followed by a 2 mile down hill, anyone popped off there could easily get back on. The Manchaug Rd. hill was too close to Lackey, so guys rode it easy because everyone was saving their legs for the big hill. This wasn't a climbers course - it was more like a classics course where non-climbers could justify a big effort on the hill to stay with the field then enjoy 9 miles of rest before doing it all over again.
Despite the fact that the race I was expecting was different than the race I was in, I still wasn't sure I could hang on for 5 laps. Going up Lackey once every 20 minutes to make it happen seemed possible. Lap two was uneventful, but I was surprised how timid the field was on the descent. Without pedalling I was able to slide right up to the front going down that hill every lap, passing guys who looked to be turning over a pretty big gear. It pays to be fat.*

Up the hill at the conclusion of lap two the attacks were ferocious. Good friend Mike Rowell marked Bill Yabrody and Jonny Bold of all people.... good for him. Mike is a pure bike racer and is not intimidated by anyone in any race, unlike me. The acceleration did create a split in the group, and my sag climbing technique (start the climb at the front hoping that as the good riders pass you you are still in the group over the top, albeit at the back) planted me firmly with... the chasers. The front bunch looked strong, consisted of all of the heads of state, and was starting to pull away a bit on Mendon Rd. I had been waiting for this to happen so that the rest of us could just race our own pace, but knowing I only had to bury myself on one hill per lap I wanted to get back up there and see how long I could hang on. I saw my pal and former/current cyclonauts team-mate Keith Gauvin in the chase group as well. I had committed to riding for him that day and when he rolled to the front to take up the chase I moved past, told him to get on my wheel, and took off down Mendon for the third time. We made it about 1/2 way across the 30 second gap before we hit the bottom, and I got on the gas to deliver him as close as possible at the turn onto Barnett. He came around and made the bridge while I sat up and waited for the field behind me. As soon as Keith integrated with the front group they slowed, and we were all together before turning onto Whitin. Can you say "wasted effort?" Between that and the first lap charge to my driveway I was riding way too hard too early.

The next lap and a half were again uneventful, the Lackey climb was hard but a steady effort at the bottom, some hard thrashing at the top, and a proper chase to get back on through the finish line had me in the final group of 25 or so guys at the bell. I did feel a bit of leg cramping coming on with one to go. Throughout the race there had been small efforts off the front but there was only one guy ahead by about 35 seconds at this point. I never see those things go, I think you have to be riding at the front of the field for that. I chatted with all around good guy Kevin Hines a bit and tried to ID the rider currently off the front. Seemed no one knew who it was.

Speaking of riding at the front, Mike Rowell was animating the entire race and never was further back than 5th or 6th wheel. On Whitins Rd. for the final time, with the field posturing a bit to see who was going to chase down the leader & I heard Mike say "f*&$ it, I'll go" and take off up the right side. I promptly jumped into the slipstream created by his effort and hid from the wind like a frightened child. Mike's a strong racer.

The final time on Manchaug saw a bit higher pace, but nothing killer, and by the top of that rise we were still all together. Turning onto Lackey for the final time I went just a bit harder but followed the same basic strategy: stay close, keep it steady when others slow down, then let it all out to get over the top. I was at the back of the lead group of 20 or so, and held their pace to the half way point on the hill. The second half acceleration came and I considered going with it but knew that I was risking a cramp as I felt that familiar twinge again. Looking back there wasn't many guys behind me and those that were there weren't that close. I decided to let the field roll away, keep a steady pace, and concede the time but try to maintain my spot. The field sprinted it out for 2nd about 25 seconds in front of me. I pulled hard to the line and a few guys caught and passed me, but Brian Haas was cool about it: he sat on while I busted to the line and let me roll through ahead of him.

Generous scoring had me finishing "st" (same time) as the group in 24th. I'll take the placing, but there was a huge gap ahead of me. Thanks JD!

Also - the same clowns who bring you crossresults.com have a road-results.com site that may actually have some cooler features. The race predictor there calculated that I would finish... 24th. Amazing.

After my race I rode three laps with Mr. Kenny in the SRAM volvo. Here are some shots:
Chris Bailey getting thrashed

This guy... I don't know what to say.

*sometimes. more specifically in this race, half the time.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Oh... and one more thing.

This here blog is no high-frequency site like others out there but it was interesting to see how much traffic the prior post generated.

I've got one more PRO tip for anyone racing Purgatory tomorrow that happens across this post. It's a safety concern and I'd feel awful bad if someone got hurt if I didn't post these pictures.

I mentioned before that Barnett Rd. is flat for about one kilometer and then it descends before you hit what I called "Hill #1." That little descent is narrow, fast, and nearly totally blind. A Cat 4 field with 100 riders in it is not going to resist the urge to take up the entire road here.

Here's what it looks like.

Look again... notice the car lurking around the corner?

This is 10 meters further down the road and you are suddenly 20 meters from a car taking up about half of the road way.

This sexy little 1996 Corolla Wagon is my ride of choice, and since I was also taking photos I had to park it to show this section. It is therefore not moving, but still sneaks up on the unsuspecting rider. Now imagine it's race day (tomorrow) a instead of this little love machine a big pick up truck towing a bass boat is coming through this part just as your field gets there...
I'm just saying, please watch out.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Purgatory Road Race Recon: blog form

Why the Southern Worcester County recreational landscape is dominated by bass fishing and country music has escaped me for all of the 12 years that I have called this place home. I like skewering a slimy worm onto a hook and throwing it into the water in hopes of enticing an equally slimy fish to consume it so that I may hoist it clear of it's sub-marine home as much as the next guy, but the number of bass boats per capita in this area is bizarre. And country music. Isn't this the same state that legalized same-sex marriage, kept Ted Kennedy in office for a few generations and counts Amherst, Northampton and Cambridge amongst it's townships? Country music seems so... I don't know... red state? Is that wrong to say? I've been around the rest of our Commonwealth and am comforted by the fact that these interests don't seem as pervasive in other areas, but you never really know until you live somewhere I guess. The bass boats are on the water by 5:00 am and the locals don't play the music out doors so it doesn't affect me that much.

I blame Webster.

What this area should be best known for is some of the best cycling in New England. Maybe it is because everyone's too busy cleaning out their livewells to get on a damn bike and go for a ride, but as an avid cyclist living in the area I can assure you that this place has got it all if you fancy two wheel (non-motorized) endeavors. Let's break is down by category, starting with my favorite...

Cyclocross: New England is a hot bed for cyclocross, and if you were to plot all of the cross races in the area you'd be hard pressed to find a more central, convenient, and affordable place to live than Worcester County. Plus Mikey Zanconato builds the best cross bikes in the world right here. 'nuff said.

Road: The roads in this area are great: light traffic, not a lot of development or city centers, very few stop lights, beautiful forests and lakes, and generally courteous drivers. From here you can go north and west to do some climbing or head south and east to ride the flats. The RI shoreline is easily within reach from southern Worcester County.

Mountain: There are three trail systems in Sutton alone and a half dozen others within a 15 minute drive. One in my back yard. Team BUMS has built many of these and those guys know how to build trails. Don't believe me? Just ask Colin.

Triathlon: Honestly, this isn't really even cycling now, is it... so let's stop here. But if you must know, there are probably more serious triathletes in these parts than serious roadies. Now that is a cry for help!

I'm not the only one to recognize this area as the cycling mecca that it should be, the guys at Green Line Velo see the light as well, and are hosting a road race in Sutton this weekend as their way of celebrating that fact. The course map (below) shows a neutral start rolling south from our public school compound (we just approved a new $60 million dollar high school... how liberal is that?!) and dropping the riders off onto Mendon Rd where the real fun begins. I live on the course so the elevation chart starts about 4 miles into the loop. Racers will travel just under a kilometer before hitting the first hard hill on Mendon Rd, a short but steep incline that flattens out a bit half way up. This will be the hardest hill of the race in my opinion, but I'll get to that further down. Please, keep reading.

After cresting that hill, there is a bit of rolling terrain (two small ups) before the long 1.5 mile descent on Mendon Rd. Two years ago this road was nearly un-ridable, but more liberal capital project spending and a fresh coat of tar make this one of the best descents in the area, topping the popular but much busier Purgatory Chasm road running parallel and just to the north. Let 'er rip people... just watch out for the rogue car that may be heading up the hill. Course marshals are supposed to enforce the temporary one way traffic direction for Mendon Rd. on race day but the old Lincoln RI training crit was supposed to be marshaled as well, and we all know how that turned out.

At the bottom of the hill there is a bit of flat and then a right hand turn onto Barnett Rd, the street that I call home. There is always, always, ALWAYS, A!L!W!A!Y!S!!! sand on this turn so be careful. Always no matter what. Even when it gets swept. Just be careful here - please.
Barnett starts flat for a kilometer or so then drops before going up a short hill of moderate pitch. I've labeled this hill #1. With the rest that everyone will be enjoying on the descent, I don't foresee this hill as posing much of a problem, unless that rest inspires some nutbag to launch an attack, in which case this little hill will certainly hurt. It's over quickly though, and you'll be turning right again onto Whitins Rd. in no time.

Whitins Rd. is flat for just over a mile, then rises a tiny bit before descending and running out for another mile. Easy stuff here, especially in the pack.

You'll cross Putnam Hill Rd. (Zank's shop is in the mill building to the left before the intersection... drop in and say hi) and begin a long, shallow climb on Manchaug Rd, marked #2 on the map (green arrow shows start of climb, red the finish). This is one of those long, false flat climbs that will be made hard by the sheer speed of the field. It's not steep enough to cause a selection, so you'll try and hang on and will be quickly into the red. It gets steeper as it goes, which is always fun. The first of the three crowns.

Cresting the hill on Manchaug you'll descend along the Blanchard YMCA camp and along the rocky shores of Lake Manchaug, which will no doubt be loaded up with bass boats. They will stare so don't be afraid, that's just what they do. I'd say rest here, but it'll be over so quickly what's the point really.

The next turn will be right onto Lackey Rd. I avoid this road as much as possible. In fact, I'll be racing (riding) up it 5 times on Saturday which will probably double my total number of ascents of this hill, marked as #3 on the map. It's not that the hill is steep... it's that it isn't on my way to or from work and... ah - who's kidding who, I avoid it because it's steep. This is the finishing climb. It is most steep at the beginning, rising away from the lake quickly in the first 75 meters before settling down over the next 200 meters, though it never goes flat, that's for sure. It will level out again (but never go completely flat) for another 100 meters and then bend to the left, where it pitches up again for the final 250 meters at a grade about equal to the section right after the steepest part down towards the bottom. All distances are approximate of course. Once over the top there is a slight drop, then another gentle uphill to the finish of the lap (and later, the race).

Through the finish line you drop quickly down Putnam Hill and will take a high-speed right hand turn back on to Mendon where you'll come to that first hill I mentioned before: it is marked #4 on the map. This little guy looks tame but it comes at the end of the long Manchaug high speed hill, the steep Lackey Rd. climb, and an insufficient amount of rest from the Putnam Hill descent. The field will hit it at speed and it will smack everyone in the face. I've tried... many times... to power up this little hill, and I always blow up before I reach the top. Always! Unlike Lackey Rd, this one is on my way home and I've ridden it a lot, I think it is steeper and longer than it looks because you can't see the whole thing from one spot as it twists first left, then right and is heavily wooded. Enjoy.

So there you go... Come on out and play on the roads I get to ride each and every day. Good luck, be safe and try not to leave too jealous!
As for my race strategy, I'm expecting to go out the back somewhere during lap two or three, so the pressure is off and I can just roll home easily enough.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

my daughter's father

Two weeks ago Cory got off the bus wearing a polka-dot skirt and matching pink shirt. This may not seem unusual, unless you knew for sure that she got on the bus that morning wearing a purple dress with white flowers on it. Kindergarten is an exciting place, but not somewhere you'd expect your 5 year old to come home from wearing someone else's clothes.

Halfway up the driveway and overcome with curiosity, the question had to be asked: "Cory, weren't you wearing a purple dress this morning?"

She answered matter of factly: "Yes I was. I had this (she tugs at the hem of her polka dot skirt) on underneath. The purple dress was my morning outfit, this was my afternoon outfit. I made sure I was wearing shoes that matched both. The purple dress is in my backpack."

Lord please help us... and send money.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

some days you're the stick, others you're the ball

I try not to get to excited about the early summer holidays... or any warm weather holidays for that matter... weather can be such a huge factor. It really doesn't affect the fall and winter holidays much, you're usually inside for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's anyway, but a rainy and/or cold Memorial or Labor day really is a downer.

This weekend was pretty nice, save some late night thunderstorms, and I got a lot donw around the house. I never just do house/yard work, there is always an alterior motive, and usually that motive is getting out on the bike. I don't know if Ali has figured this out yet so don't tell her.

Sunday I made plans to meet IronPerson Sara P. for a 20 mile mtn bike ride at the Domnarski Farm, home of next weekend's Root 66 mtb race. Sara decided last week to train for IMLP at the end of July (most people plan for this event at least a year in advance btw) so she needed to get 6 hours on the bike. We hatched a plan where I'd take her mountain bike out to Ware and she would ride her road bike to meet for a 7:30 am to start the course recon. Sara would drop the bike off "sometime Saturday" before or after she attended a wedding down on the Cape.

I went to bed Saturday night at 11:30 and the bike was still not dropped. I thought she was out, but should know better than to doubt her by now. When I woke up at 5:30 I couldn't believe that her effin' bike was out there in the driveway. Around that time she was leaving Worcester on the road to get to Ware working on probably 3 hours of sleep. Waaay tougher that I could ever hope to be.

If Domnarski's course was a cyclocross course, I'd have to label it Jungle Cross. The trails are only semi-maintained: there are plenty of sticks and small logs across the course and lots of branches that you have to duck under as you go along. There are 5 hard climbs, all of which are exponentially more difficult when it is wet (our first lap) than when it is dry (our second lap).

We tooled around the course for the first lap just to check it all out, and it was striking me as a very rough route with lots of places to slice a tire, rip off a derailleur or pinch flat. Following Matt D. around on his home course helped, he showed all the fast lines on the ups and downs, and our second lap started out a bit faster. Half way through we lost Sara when she missed a turn, so that more or less put an end to our riding though I ended up with 22 miles. Sara got back on the road bike and rode home. Here's her Garmin stats for the day. She's a monster.... in a good way.

Monday's memorial day plan was to take advantage of the good weather and ride point-to-point to my sister in law's in Tiverton RI. Rolling out the driveway I knew it was going to suck... I felt like complete garbage and the legs never came around. As bad as my legs were, my head was in a worse place. I was thinking about bailing out 7 miles in and this was a 60 mile ride. I tried to push things a bit to get the legs warmed up, but nothing helped. I've told Alison a million times to just push through when she wasn't feeling it so when I called 32 miles in declaring that "I'm fading fast" and asking "where are you" I didn't get the offer to pick me up that I wasn't going to ask for myself. I got nothing but encouragement back, like I always do for her. Great.

Anyone who has raced on the road knows that feeling that you have when you get spit out the back of a group and you are just waiting... no praying... for the field to come by and pick your sorry ass up. You're blown, you're legs can barely move, but you know that if you can just catch on to the field and sit in for a bit you'll feel 1000 times better. That's how I felt for the entire 3:20 minutes, and there was no field coming to bail me out. It was ugly.

I'm taking a few days off.