Thursday, June 28, 2007

Extreme pogo?

I'm not sure what's crazier, that extreme pogo exists, or that it's totally awesome.

The last 20 seconds of this video are just amazing.

For the curious, I made it 57 miles last night and only drank 4 bottles.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Talking big

I'm still riding 50 miles tonight. Beats the hell out of sitting around a 90 degree apartment. Look for my dried-up corpse somewhere out here.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Body Rebellion

Today I "raced" at Putney. It went very... slowly.

I started a little fast.

Then my back started to hurt a lot. Then I got a cramp in my stomach.

Then my hamstrings started to hurt because my back was pulling on them. Then I got chills from dehydration.

Then I got off my bike to try to stretch.

This is what I look like when I realize someone is taking a picture of me having a horrible race:

Linnea endoed, hyperextended her knee, and then rode 4 laps. She has far more legitimate reasons for not riding fast than I did.

Alex had a much better race than either of us. Here she is, expressing her joy.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ahead of the curve

BikeSnobNYC is looking past the fixie fad, er, trend, and suggesting cyclocross bikes might be the next cool thing to ride around town on.

I've always known I was a trend setter.

In case you're wondering, this was just an excuse to link to their entertaining blog.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Halt, Hammerzeit

Riding for fun is kind of strange to me. I'm not very good at it -- I tend to stop too soon, so it's not much of a workout. I guess that's why it's "for fun."

Saturday Linnea and I "rode" the Mt Snow XC course, which turned out to suck mightily. I'll be interested to see how much they improve it for nationals -- yes, I know mountain biking is supposed to be hard, but no one not named Hans Rey can ride straight up a washed out stream bed, which is what some of the climbs seemed to be. I would suggest that these guys try installing something called a "water bar" so they wouldn't have to "rebuild" their "trails" every summer.

The downhills really weren't much better, terribly eroded and also virtually unridden this year. The 1000 feet of climbing, per lap, was about as bad as you might expect. In summary, I'd say the course has a miserable skulls-to-beers ratio... say 4 skulls to 1 beer or so. Which is a long-winded (and also very cool) way of say it's hard but not fun.

Afterward I honed my five-step stair-drop skills with Linnea doing camera duty. It turns out when I'm concentrating I make a lame face. I'll share it with you:

You might not think it's that bad, but there were no less than seven photos of me doing this, and they have my face looking... stupid. This is actually the least-stupid of the bunch. Whatever, you're probably ugly too.

As long as I'm complaining about Mount Snow, I'd advise anyone up there for nationals avoiding "Dos Gringos" Mexican restaurant. Four dollars for the same crappy chips and salsa that every other Mexican joint gives away for free?? You've got to be kidding. I would have more detailed kvetching about the place but I did have a good margarita there that dulled the memories of everything else being terrible.

After a less than restful night camping in the national forest (thanks, 2 am dirt bikers!) Linnea and I hit up Putney to preride next weeks Root 66 course. Yes, that's right, I had a weekend off from racing so I decided to go preride race courses. Anyway, the Putney course was a great ride after Mount Snow, plenty of climbing and also some pretty sweet singletrack. Singlespeed friendly (*cough* Justin, race, damnit *cough*) although I did put it in my granny ring for one section.

I didn't actually end up riding that much over the weekend, and my knee felt like crap despite that. I was feeling pretty down about bikes today until I decided that I would hit up the Fells tonight and ride hahd, as they say around here. Seems like hammering is actually better for my knee than riding slow, or at least it makes the rest of me hurt enough I don't notice.

So I killed it pretty darn well, in my humble opinion, for two laps of the Fells in around 70 minutes. Since reading about other people's good training rides is almost as boring as reading about their watts, perhaps I can illustrate how I threw it down at the fells tonight:

Yeah, I'm not sure what that means either.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Things you can get for $48

Compared to lots of things I write here this post is pretty much about nothing, which is to say it's not a race report. This weekend the Root 66 schedule is open, thank god, so I actually have a chance to do some training/resting my knee. Unfortunately these things seem to the exact opposite, and since Linnea and I are heading to Mt. Snow I guess my knee won't catch a break. We're going to preride the obscenely hard course that experts do 5 laps of at Nationals in July. It's going to be like a 3 hour race, which is good.

Also, you may recall I tore my derailler apart last weeekend, and since I don't believe in expensive equipment I got a $49 dollar replacement SRAM X-7. I was feeling pretty good about the dollar-to-derailleur ratio on that purchase until I found out one of my coworkers bought a $48 bike from Walmart.

Did you even realize that bikes could be bought, brand new, for $48? I didn't. You can get an entire "Roadmaster Mt Fury" for the price of two entry fees, or a derailleur, or some tires. You could get 8 of these bikes, or one Reba Race fork -- but only if you search the entire internet for the cheapest Reba available.

So I went over to his place last night to help him put it together. Honestly, I was hoping it would be crappier. I guess it just goes to show that Walmart can deliver an impressively mediocre product by squeezing the life out of its suppliers. The only truly terrible thing on the bike was the brakes, which are side-pull brakes that are incredibly flimsy. I guess that's not a big deal because no one riding a bike like this is going to get up to a speed where braking is actually required, but still, they were impressively maladjusted out of the box. If I hadn't been there I think he would've ended up with zero front brake because of how much cable slack it started with.

Also, the seat post is comically short, and since it's made of the cheapest metal available the limit mark is about 6 inches up its 14-inch length. There's no way to get the post to the riding height for the average male, but the great thing is that since most non-cyclists are used to low seat heights when I put it up to the max, which is still 3-4 inches lower than I would ride, he thought it was too high. Alright, tell your knees I'm sorry.

So there's no way this bike will last more than a few years, because why would you spend more than $48 to maintain it when you could just buy a new one? Seriously, what will a bike shop do for less than $48? Isn't that the price of the standard "tune-up" most shops do, that makes your brakes work and your shifting passable?

Score one for the disposable lifestyle.

Anyway, the best implication of having a $48 bike I can think of is that, if he borrowed my lock, a thief would get a better value by cutting the bike in half and stealing the lock. Yes, my lock was $55, because I like riding my cross bike around town, and need a serious theft-prevention device since I mostly lock my bike bikes that are worth about 10% of its value. I know I am an idiot for doing this, and I'm playing with fire, and some day I will have a sad, whiny post here about how my bike got stolen. Oh well.

One other thing I forgot from earlier in the week, Thom P had a ridiculous 6th place in SemiPro last weekend on a singlespeed, and a race report worth reading. Apparently he also tried the "no-warmup" technique, but since he has legitimate base fitness when he got out of the "contemplating-DNF stage" of the race he actually rode at SemiPro speed and passed a bunch of hosers.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Holiday Farm Classic Race Report

You know what really doesn't suit me? Long mountain bike races. I just don't have the training volume for this stuff, and I'm not going to acquire it anytime soon. Not when I get out of work at 6, and not when I don't do long rides on weekends because I have to go "race" long mountain bike races.

So I was a little concerned that the Holiday Farm race was a "longer than usual" XC race. But it turns out that I had completely better things to worry about, such as...

A port-a-potty line long enough it was faster for me to drive to a convenience store instead of waiting ...
which meant that I had:
absolutely no warm-up ...
But that's ok because:
I only had 2 gels for 3 hours

Mountain bike racing, hell yeah!

The course was 8 miles, 80% singletrack, lots of climbing, fair amount of mud. 3 laps for experts. I figured that I was going to be 2.5-3 hours, so why should I warm up? I don't really warm up for ski marathons.

Well, a mountain bike race isn't like a ski marathon, because in a ski marathon I can start at the back of 100 people and let them block me while I warm up for 5k. In this race, I lined up with 14 other guys, and found myself DFL about 60 seconds in. So I had to step it up, because I'm far too shortsighted to just let them ride away from me, right?

Ten minutes later I was standing on the side of the trail letting the lead singlespeeders pass me.

Three minutes after that I was holding a tree to let the 6 lead 30-39 guys pass me and thinking about DNFing and having nothing to write about.

Five minutes after that I was letting air out of my tires and the lead 40+ guys were going by me.

So I'm thinking that I should've warmed up.

Anyway, 20 minutes into a 3 hour race and the only reason I didn't DNF was that there was nowhere to do it. I let some air out of my tires because I inexplicably couldn't ride the wet roots to save my life, and that seemed to be the turning point. I got a nice 60 second rest, and a bunch of traction, and then when I got back on my bike I was suddenly able to ride again. I stayed with some 40+ guys (who had started 3 minutes behind me...) for the rest of the first lap. Then I ate a gel and hit the second lap feeling strangely good.

Sweet, man, I actually can mountain bike! If I had only warmed up I'd probably be doing really good. For the first twenty minutes of lap two I was loving mountain biking, hanging with the old guys on the climbs and passing them on the downhills. I think I even passed back one or two guys from my own category to move out of DFL position.

But then, a funny thing happened on the way to recovering -- the course didn't end. My legs made a quick switch from the "burning but recovering" feeling to "always burning." I ate some of my backup food source, a chocolate and peanut butter Odwalla bar in a vain attempt to bring back that lovin feeling from earlier in lap 2, and kept on turning the pedals over -- albeit with steadily diminishing watts.

Lap three started with a chocolate PowerGel, which is the thickest, nastiest crap I've ever had the misfortune of trying to feed with. Does anyone out there like these things? Why does PowerGel make them?? Why do I feel compelled to always grab one when I'm buying a gel assortment? The world may never know.

My misfortune continued when I had to vault my bike when I dumped it on some roots and landed with a cramp in my leg. I hopped and winced back to my bike and begrudgingly admitted to a passing racer that was "probably fine." I remounted to discover that my rear shifter was now not downshifting correctly. I had to pull the lever toward me (as usual) but also push it away from me, something that is usually done by a spring. Either something was broken or my drivetrain was just getting so mucked up that the cable wasn't moving. Awesome.

My bike was now extremely reluctant to downshift, between the amount of mud I was carrying and the broken shifter, and I couldn't really get out of my big cog very quickly. My legs were feeling pretty toasty so it wasn't too much of a problem, since middle ring-biggest cog was about all I could turn up the hills anyway, but the downhills were pretty bad. I would end up in the big ring/big cog combo and that's just a whole load of trouble.

Why am I talking about my drivetrain so much? Well, coming through the half-lap point on lap 3 I was hauling down the fastest section of the course, probably running the big ring-big cog setup because my bike wouldn't shift, and as I come sliding around a rough corner there's suddenly the sick sound of metal-on-metal and my back brakes lock up. The only problem is that I wasn't touching the brakes.

Yeah, that's right, derailleur into the spokes. Game over.

Well, I like to think that I'm some kind of badass, so I started walking carrying my bike. It's only like, 4 miles to go. I can carry this thing.

Then the adrenaline wore off and I realized that my bike weighed 30 pounds and the back wheel didn't turn. I can't carry this thing 4 miles. I dropped in the ground and looked at it in disgust.

But wait! I can take the chain and derailleur off, and then I have a really expensive full-suspension scooter!

So I sat on the side of the trail amputating parts from my bike until it would roll again, and then I started scootering along. It was fun for about 30 seconds, and then it started sucking, because there's a ton of rolling resistance scootering a bike and it's a really uncomfortable position. But now I was down the hill past the point of pulling out, so I might as well keep going. There were still a few people out on course passing me, so there was still the small chance I could beat someone. Most importantly, the leading pro women had gone by while I was performing surgery, so I knew I had a fighting chance of finishing ahead of Linnea, or else heckling her when she passed me. And I needed to wait for her to finish anyway -- so I might as well do this thing.

So I walked, scootered and rolled (downhill only) the last 4 miles. It wasn't fun, but it wasn't terrible. The people who passed me felt bad for me. I had high hopes of passing someone back on the last downhill, without a chain, but it was not to be. I did bring it in without getting passed by Linnea, and I did somehow beat a guy in my class by 30 minutes, so I don't even think I had the worst mechanical out there.

On the downside, three hours of racing/running/scootering hurt my knee, and my ego. I need some time off.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Pain and code

I think I'm drifting into a level of stat-nerdery that even the type of people who look at in the summer might not appreciate. But I did it anyway. Based on my own arbitrary system my scalp was worth 370 points at the end of last year, which is better than gewilli (425), josh (556) and zank (407) but worse than ryank (284), TP&HASS (295), and feltslave (346).

Phew, with that much linking and name-dropping I'm sure to get someone to pay attention, right? Even if I am just making up stats now.

The reason I'm inside writing php on a lovely Saturday (just kidding, it's raining) is that I crushed my calf riding at the fells last night. I was testing out my new Reba Race (which I installed myself and had to resist blogging about, since no one cares except me) and I fell/dismounted clumsily, which wasn't so bad except that one of my legs came flying up for some reason and smacked my seatpost directly at the thickest part of my calf. This was about 2.3 seconds after I mocked Alex for failing to ride something so it was definitely karma-related.

Now it's a monster bruise that hurts like hell whenever I flex my calf, which is a problem since I'm theoretically racing 2-3 hours tomorrow out in Dalton. It actually feels just like I have wicked cramp in my leg, but I can't stretch it out since it's actually a bruise.

So, coding it is today! Check out crossresults for my work.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Channel 3 MTB Race Report

Or, "This Expert Thing is No Joke," by Colin.

I got my Expert career started down in Andover, CT this weekend. Linnea and I rolled up with 2.5 hours to go before the start, but after finding out experts were riding 5 laps we decided to skip preriding in exchange for a trip to subway and a bike shop to get a chainring bolt, because when you're riding 5 laps of a course described as "fast and dry" you'll obviously learn it while you ride, right? And if the expert race is lengthened because the course is fast, that's basically synonymous with easy, right?


So I rolled up to my first expert race ever having seen a few hundred yards of the course, with lots of air in the suspension, because it was sooooo fast.

It turns out that the only part of the course I'd see was actually the smoothest and flattest section out there. The course was only 4 miles of pure climbing and descending up and down a hillside. I would describe it as "world cup style," having seen a few world cups in my day -- tons of climbing and no resting on the downhills.

Another cool feature was a giant log about 2 minutes into the course that was far more than chainring height. I felt compelled as an "expert" to ride it, but it's a good thing saw it on my practice ride and saw other people riding it, to shame me into conquering my fear and doing it.

So I lined up with 18 other 19-29 experts and we started out at a ridiculous pace. If 19-29 sport riders start like they're experts, then these guys start like they're pros. I felt obligated to not go straight to DFL in the group so I was hammering the big ring just like everyone else up the first hill. We can into the log section with me in around 15th place, I saw all the leaders ride it and then a bunch of guys in front of me hit it cross style. For guys that could remount decently (like PvB from Hup who was right in front of me) it was pretty fast that way, luckily I rode it so there was no need to break out the stutter-step remount.

The pace continued to be high for the first half lap. I was killing myself but pretending that I could keep it up for 5 laps, just like everyone else around me. There were two super steep climbs that were either granny ring or a really hard middle ring, and after the first one, about 15 minutes in, I was starting to come to grips with the fact that my legs were pretty much on fire and I wasn't even done a lap. So I began the painful process of slowing down and trying to find a sustainable pace.

Soon after that I had an amusing exchange with PvB, who kept passing me back on climbs, when he jacked his bike sideways across the trail, completely blocking me and forcing me to stop. He yanked his bike out of the way, leapt on to remount behind me, just in time for me to slide out on a root, hit a tree, and completely block the trail again. "I deserved that," he said. Oh yeah, we are so expert.

After that I was forced to walk the 2nd super-steep climb because my legs and brain just couldn't come to grips with how much it was going to hurt to ride it. Not that walking was any better, just slower. So I gave back some places there.

Coming through at the end of lap one, all the adrenaline had completely worn off. I realized that this was going to hurt a great deal for another hour and a half. So I did what any badass would do, I slowed down and ate a powergel. Mmmm, sugary.

From there, things get kind of fuzzy. There's only so many ways to describe that I was in pain. I was treated to a nice parade of leaders catching me on lap 2 and 3, as the singlespeed leader (on a rigid 29er!) caught me, followed by a bunch of the 30+ leaders, followed by the 40+ leaders...

To spice things up I planted my uphill knee on a tree trying to ride a nasty, narrow sidehill section, which is a pretty painful bruise today. Linnea had a similar experience with the exact same tree, so I'm betting 50% of the field or so knee'd that tree at some point. It was in a horrible location.

I ate my second gel starting lap 4, and by then I was settling in to a sustainable, if not fast, rhythm. There were mechanicals everywhere (flat tires), which was getting me a fair number of ill-deserved places -- unless you consider being 145 lbs and riding a high tire pressure to be a skill -- and some other guys from my category were actually slowing down even faster than me, so I was picking up some places as time went by.

On lap 4 I started passing the back of the women's field, which gave me renewed motivation, because it meant that maybe I could catch Linnea. I kept looking through the woods for her blue jersey, but it was nowhere to be found. I was, however, treated to the leading semi-pro lapping me, just to remind me what it looks like to ride 4 minutes faster per lap than I can.

Starting lap 5 my camelback ran out. I initially thought this was a catastrophic development, but it turns out that surviving 20 minutes without water is pretty easy. I passed Jess Ingram, who told me that Linnea was "about a minute ahead," so I still had something to race for. Because obviously, lapping my girlfriend is far more important than actually beating people in my class.

Too bad Jess was lying. I didn't even see her until almost halfway through the lap, when I caught a glimpse of her climbing off through the woods while I was climbing as well, meaning she was an entire climb + descent ahead of me.

It didn't look doable, but adrenaline is a funny thing, especially when you're finishing the race and your quarry still has a lap to ride. I pushed as hard as I could and with a quarter lap to go she saw me, passing by on a downhill while I was on the climb just before. A few more technical sections and I could see her on the last climb before the descent to the finish. As the fast downhill flattened out, I got out of the saddle in the big ring just in time to come screaming past and yell "gotcha" just before the last corner, which I then overran horribly and almost hit a tree.

Then I finished.

It turns out they had lots of stuff to give away (drink mix!) so they went 8 deep in my category with prizes, and thanks to 5 DNFs I ended up 8th out of 19. I'll take it!

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