Friday, December 16, 2011
In the event you've totally shut down your season from a physical and psychlo-crossical perspective, you might not know Jeremy has been in Europe racing with some of the big dogs. If you're jonesin' for a CX fix, check out his FB page or his website ... if you need a teaser, check out this latest entry on his website....
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
The Woolsports Mussleman Triathlon is held in Geneva, NY each summer and has grown into one of the largest and most popular tri events in the this corner of the country.
Out of curiosity, I looked up WoolSports on the net and was intrigued by their offerings as a relative newcomer to the wool scene. Intrigued enough in fact to contact them and offer an invite to display their offerings under the jumbo party tent at Team Ommegang-Syracuse Bicycle's CX @ Brewery Ommegang event this past October.
Since the 'cross race at Ommegang, I have worn the various socks and long sleeve "T" almost weekly. The long "Superfleece" socks were toasty and comfy while out hunting as well as the few colder days at work, The "Multisport Ped" sock and "Active Outdoor" sock both not only look really stylish but they are comfy & supportive while still being totally functional as cycling, running or whatever type activity sock. Perhaps you noted myself or a few others sporting the mid-length "Active Outdoor" sock at a few of the local cross races in October and November. Basically all these socks ROCK with my fav probably being the "Active Outdoor".
While putting on the socks were straightforward, wearing the long sleeve "T" came with a bit of scepticism with regard to comfort as I tend to have pretty wimpy skin (yes, sensitive on the inside and out! ... stop laughing). After numerous "wears" as a baselayer, worn alone, or over other items, it has not caused any irritation and never retained any of the STANK familiar to synthetics. In fact, the "T" has worked its way into my regular rotation of work wear now that the temps are getting cooler.
While you have probably heard of some of the benefits of wool (i.e., environmentally friendly, doesn't stank, continues to insulate when wet, etc.), you might be surprised at how many advantages wool can provide as a true performance fabric (see the WoolSports link & browse the site, there is a ton of cool info ... http://www.woolsports.com/wool-info/benefits-of-wool/ ). While wool items will probably not replace all your cycling and fitness/performance apparel needs, it can be a neat and truly functional addition and enhancement to the performance wardrobe.
You should check out WoolSports and give the products a try -- they are some of Humperdog's favourites and you too can gain a new appreciation for performance wool products.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Day 7: Wait, I lost a day somewhere. I think it's day 8. It's dark too early and light too late, which doesn't even make sense. There are only 7 scratches on the cave wall. Regardless it's Monday. Monday's are always a recovery day so today feels normal. Made even more normal by the fact that I'm looking at the walls of a Hampton Inn room with the warm glow of an Applebee's painting the very same walls in multicolor lights. Mmmm Home Sweet Home. Applebees . . . no Crapplebees . . . let's just call it Pooplebees. This is all a great way to get excited about riding the trainer all winter. I'm literally excited to ride the trainer. Mission accomplished.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Day 1: Exhausted. I keep telling Mrs. Skinny how tired I am. She insists that I come up with a new catch phrase. It's been a long season.
Day 2: The new puppy wakes up at 4:30am like clockwork. Sleep is a distant memory. Still using my catch phrase and no interest in pedaling anything.
Day 3: No interest in pedaling anything, but scouring the internet looking at new bikes. New road frame or snow bike? Interest is low, but I will pedal again. Firefly Bicycles is making beautiful bikes.
Day 4: My liver is hoping that I'll pedal a bike. The $232.22 in wine that I buy tonight makes this questionable.
Day 5: My energy levels are rising. At 9:15am I have a great idea at work and almost call it a day. I'm shot out of a cannon. The 4:30am wake up calls are a blip on the radar screen. Pinarello Paris frame or Surly Pugsley? That is the question!!!!! I demand answers but the man in the mirror just stares back blankly. When did my eyes start to look like a catchers mitt? Must still need rest.
Day 6: It's 8:45 am. There are no openers to be done. No race to prep for. I find myself watching Beverly Hills Cop. If I don't find a positive outlet for my energy I suspect all will be lost. Madness is setting in. For the first time in weeks I muster the energy to update the blog. Can I make it two weeks without falling off the wagon and riding? I need a self help group . . . or a local chapter of Fight Club. Mrs. Skinny demands to know why my energies aren't channeled into something positive . . . like cleaning. The puppy and I have a lot in common.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
If you are one of the 2-3 regular readers that has periodically checked in for a while now, you may recall a few "discoveries" we've mentioned within the realm of food & beverage (at least discoveries for us simple 'cross lovin types of questionable intelligence). Perhaps the two biggest discoveries noted in this here blog (IMO) include the Bialetti and Nutella.
Since it has been a while since any food or beverage discoveries have been recently covered, it seems timely to make out a list of 5 things a 'cross racer (or heckler) should check out if you have not already.
(1) The first is almond butter -- if you are a fan of peanut butter and almonds, this should be a no-brainer. A personal favourite PBJ alternative is some almond butter with honey on good whole grain bread.
(2) While sticking with honey (or should we say sticky-ing), how about a nice cup of green tea with a dab of honey and lemon after a cold/damp weather ride. Not exactly a big time discovery (folks have been doing this for a long time), but something kinda new on this end. If you are unimpressed, add a shot of whiskey. The added whiskey might not make for a great post ride choice but it sure takes the chill off on other occasions.
(3) So you are probably surprised it took us all the way to #3 before we talked booze (or does #2 count) but did you get a chance to try any of the Critz Farms hard cider? They had around 5 or 6 varieties to try so one would likely hit a note with you. Some sweet, some dry, and some flavoured yet nothing really like the non-alcoholic cider drink you may be familiar with. This stuff was really interesting if you enjoy a decent alternative to a brew or vino.
(4) Since we are all getting older and we all could use more fiber, be healthier etc, etc. .... have you tried steel cut oats (aka Irish oats)? This ain't your mama's instant oatmeal here. Read up on it and you'll see. Besides, why just get on a carbon CX bike with fancy tubulars to be PRO when you could have had steel cut oats for breakfast ... now that is PRO.
(5) OK, this blog has beer in the title so here ya go ... if you love your Belgian style brews, and if you can get your hands on any (this stuff is real hard to find - may not be distributed in NY), you truly should try to get a hold of some Allagash Curieux. It is a Belgian-style tripel aged in used bourbon barrels (Jim Beam I believe). Very hi-test but an amazing brew from Allagash Brewing Co. up in Portland, ME. The bourbon sits quietly in the background but adds such an awesome subtle element to the overall taste. I would use intrigue and awe as descriptors of the Curieux tasting experience.
There ya have it ... the top 5 recent food & beverage highlights for the first half of the 2011 'cross season. Enjoy!
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Eff Me Twice: jump into a hot lap with the gang on the brand new, never ridden tubulars glued up last night -- stick with eyes jumps into rear derailleur & rips it off
Eff Me 3x: while the derailleur is ripping off, the new chain I put on last week (w/only 1 race on it) decides to imitate a pretzel.
Bonus Eff Me: On 690 cruising home in a combo bummed/pissed mood (with a messed up bike on the roof rack) and a freaking re-tread pops out from around a car as I'm changing lanes and slams the underside of the car.
Having realized that it don't mean shit because I am still pretty lucky when I consider the big picture ... Priceless (and a vodka martini or two never hurts either)
Saturday, August 27, 2011
(2) Read this: The unofficial CX racers bible/manual/reference by Simon Burney.
(3) Watch this: The gold standard of CX instruction & techniques from Cycle-Smart.
(4) Bonus Steps: websites to know: Cycle-Smart.com, Cyclocrossworld.com, CXmagazine.com and associated links thereof; search YouTube for CX; get a cowbell; read the blogs of J-Pow, Jonathan Page, Adam Myerson and any other CXers, practice/practice/practice; know basic first aid for bloody/muddy shins; and most importantly .... keep the embrocation off your boy or girl parts.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
2 New Cassette's - Check
2 New Chains - Check
2 New Set of Candy 3 Pedals - Check
2 Sets of Clean White Bar Tape - Check
2 Sets of Cables and Housings - Check
4 Challenge Grifo Tubulars - Check
A Boatload of Glue - Check
1 Replacement Seat (White) - Check
1 Highly Motivated Cyclocross Racer - Check
Enjoy your last road and MTB races boys and girls. I'll be 'cross training . . .
PS - Clearly Drummroll is ready for CX . . . I think he has some pent up issues to work out (See below). You might want to give him some extra room on the first lap or two when we get back to racing.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
I secretly almost found myself yearning for some Pee Wee Herman re-runs and a news story about a streaker after these modern day "enlightenments". Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go find me a steel ride with down tube shifters to try to bring some sanity back in the world. And if you got any of those ultra cool Greg LeMond ski gogglesque Oakleys, I'm willing to pay top dollar.
Friday, July 15, 2011
I read a book for business many years ago that was titled Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It was something of a business/self-help book published in 1937. In it Hill wrote briefly of ancient Greek warriors:
“A long while ago, a great warrior faced a situation which made it necessary for him to make a decision which insured his success on the battlefield. He was about to send his armies against a powerful foe, whose men outnumbered his own. He loaded his soldiers into boats, sailed to the enemy’s country, unloaded soldiers and equipment, then gave the order to burn the ships that had carried them. Addressing his men before the first battle, he said, “You see the boats going up in smoke. That means we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win! We now have no choice – we win – or we perish!”
Now I'm not suggesting that you set your bike on fire, but I am suggesting that you approach every race with this mentality. I'm no stranger to being dropped in races. I'm no stranger to asking myself mid-race "why the hell do I do this?" In a race with laps or circuits, I'm no stranger to looking longingly at the start/finish and thinking of an early exit. I can't tell you how many times I've been in the middle of a race, or the first two laps of a 'cross race and just wanted to pull off of the course, but I don't. It makes me crazy to see people that were in the middle of my race, all of a sudden resting on their top tube. It sometimes makes me crazy because I'm a little jealous, but usually I just can't understand why you would drive to a race, pay an entry fee, gas money, put your life on hold for the better part of a day and then just quit. Sometimes there are legitimate mechanicals that will force you from a race, but watching my teammate run over the finish line at this years Black Fly carrying his bike with a tube around his neck was impressive. Watching another teammate run 3/4 of a lap at the Ommegang CX race after rolling a tubie was impressive, and both were crowd favorites to say the least. It would have been very easy for either of them to throw their bike on the ground and walk away in disgust, worried about a poor placing on the results sheet next to their name. "Forget it, I'll take a DNF, that'll look better . . . "
I came extraordinarily close to dropping out of last years Cobb's Hill 'cross race. I didn't want to be there, my season wasn't going well as a Cat 2, and after a crash on the first lap, I was in second to last place. If there hadn't been a few of my friends there cheering me on (heckling), I would have quit for sure. As the race went on I started getting into a groove and passing some locals. At the end of the day it wasn't a great race, but I was glad that I'd stuck it out. Now 9 months later I can't even put my head in that negative space and I'm REALLY glad I stuck it out.
My point, if I have one is this: Approach every race as if it's a point to point race. No matter where you are in the race, no matter how many laps it is, or how bad you are feeling, finish the race. Approach the race like your boats have been burned. Finish or perish. This may sound a little trite or mellow-dramatic, but if you hike to the top of Everest, you can't stop there. You need to get back off that mountain because you're only half way there. Sometimes we need to do some mental gymnastics to get through a race, so approach the race as if you can't quit and I'll bet that more often than not you'll finish.
I'm probably preaching to the choir here though because I know that most of my friends and fellow racers reading this are the same people carrying their bikes over the finish line with tubes around their necks.
'Cross is just around the corner . . .
Thursday, June 30, 2011
I grew up on a dead end street. Literally not figuratively. We rode bikes all day every day. We raced up and down the street and built jumps, daring each other to see who would hit them first. When we weren't riding we were sitting around in the grass dreaming aloud "What if a Diamondback Turbo just fell out of the sky for each of us."
As the years have gone on, bikes have continued to play a large role in my life. Recently Tim O. and I were reminiscing about the time we were taking a photography class in high school and we decided to do a photo shoot including: 1 Jump, 1 Diamondback Silver Streak, 1 Pond, and my Pentax K1000.
This picture is the result of that "photo shoot." Last weekend I went to my parents house and with the help of my mother, I was able to get my hands on this picture. I'm afraid the negative is long gone, but I was able to get a pretty good image of the picture with my iPhone.
If I had to guess, we were probably 17 at the time. We went to a local pond, built a sketchy jump at the end of the dock, and took a few quick pics. After I was pretty sure I had a decent picture, I decided to give it a go. As a 17 year old "roadie" I hadn't hit a jump in more than a few years and as soon as I hit the jump, my front wheel dove forward into the water and I landed in a lame headfirst splash. At that same time, the property owner rounded the corner on a tractor and saw it all unfolding. He was yelling, I was trying to drag the bike out of the pond, and Tim and I grabbed our stuff and sprinted out of there. I was in the dark room as soon as humanly possible and this was the best shot on the roll.
I'm not entirely sure what the point of this post is, but suffice it to say bikes have been and continue to be a big part of my life. I'm fairly certain that if a Diamondback Turbo was to finally fall out of the sky and land in my front yard, Tim or Drummroll and I would have a jump built with minutes of the landing. We'd dare each other to hit it first, and after Tim and Drumm hit it, I'd finally be shamed into giving it a go. I'm also fairly certain that I'd endo the jump again.
Love to ride your bike!
Thursday, June 23, 2011
It was a great race. Not the most technical, but definitely hard for a guy that is used to racing an hour at a time. The ride/hike a bike up Whiteface was cool as well. I know that there was a little grumbling, but it was a Leadville qualifier for crying out loud.
This post has been rattling around my brain for a few days. I tend to write positive posts for the most part. Sometimes sarcastic, sometimes with dark undertones, but positive or humorous none the less. This post will be less positive.
The fact of the matter is that sometimes there are butt head's in races. That's not really the term I'd use on the streets, but . . . butt head will have to do in this case.
By and large I find racers to be decent enough people. There are the stories of doping in the pro's and even in the amateur ranks on occasion. It's a fact of life that people cheat. Just watch the news. It isn't a cycling specific phenomenon. Frankly I don't give it much thought. I'm racing my own race and for the most part, I trust that the guys I'm racing against (or at least the guys I'm concerned with competing with) are racing clean. I know a lot of these guys. We've ridden many miles together and done a lot of racing together. I particularly trust the CX and MTB guys. The pure roadies always weird me out a little, but I'm sure they find my lackadaisical attitude toward road racing equally vexing.
. . . crap, I'm too nice. I can't write the rest of this post. Suffice it to say, sometimes people don't need to dope to cheat. I wasn't planning to name names or anything, but it's too specific of a story to not end up creating a problem. The internet is a big place, but we're in a microcosm of the internet here. Someone almost cheated. They tried to down play it. Thankfully someone else talked them into letting the promoter know and their results were removed, but it took a lot of talking to get them to see the light. Cheating on purpose or cheating by accident is still cheating once you know you did it.
Concessions to "sportsmanship" like that go a long way to explaining how people justify cheating in other ways. As a guy who finished in a lowly 86th place, I'm glad I didn't finish in 87th. 99 people were going to be awarded belt buckles as awards. It would have been a bummer if the guy who came in 99th didn't get one because someone wasn't man enough to do the right thing, or to be more specific, someone wasn't man enough to tell that person they were a butt head if they didn't do the right thing.
Friday, June 17, 2011
In any event, there are two of us contributing to this blog. Myself and my teammate Drummroll. We both have a similar self-effacing sense of humor, occasionally have decent results, but more often strive for mediocrity. It would be easy to understand why folks might think we are one person doing the writing.
So, I'm Skinny Phil. He is Drummroll. Collectively we are the GREATEST ROCK N ROLL BAND ON EARTH . . . er uh . . . two so so writers trying to race bikes and occasionally write something interesting.
Five of us are headed to the Wilmington/Whiteface 100 this weekend. Hopefully we'll have results or stories that are fit to print . . . and hopefully Drummroll doesn't have any further chafing issues!
Monday, June 13, 2011
For those unfamiliar with the Black Fly Challenge, it is a point to point race that on alternating years begins and or finishes in Inlet and Indian Lake. To quote the race promoter "Over half the 40 mile course traverses the rugged Moose River Recreation Area on mountain roads composed of dirt, gravel, sand and exposed boulders with several steep elevation changes." Originally conceived as a mountain bike race, most of the faster racers use cyclocross bikes. Since Team Ommegang-Syracuse Bicycle is largely made up of mud, blood and belgian beer loving cyclocrossers, we attend this race in great numbers and talk about it throughout the year. This year we had ten Ommegangsters make the pilgrimage to "BF."
Going into the race, we all knew this year was going to be different than previous years. The Moose River roads, if you can call them that, had been decimated by a rough winter followed by spring floods. To say that sections of the road had been washed away would be something of an understatement. Pictures posted by the promoters illustrated the point. An already difficult race on a 'cross bike was going to be made more difficult as the importance of correct tire pressure and bike handling skills were going to be magnified. The race day weather further "enhanced" the experience with pouring rain that turned the course into a power sapping wet sand fest.
390 people signed up for the race. Unlike most road races, there is no on-line registration, and you need to mail in your race application or sign up the day of the race. This means that you don't really know who's racing, which I kind of like. Rumor had it that some local favorites were headed to the race, but when we got to the start line, most of them were missing. Scared by the weather, afraid to get sand in their . . . uh . . . drive chains? At the start line, I told my teammate Ray to keep racing no matter what happened. In a race like the Black Fly there are plenty of flats and crashes and there's always a chance of grabbing a few more places. You never know who's going to flat or if the past predicted the future, overcook a turn and fly off into the woods.
The race started in Indian Lake this year, which meant the first eight miles would be on the road. In previous years the race started slowly which meant everyone was bunched up and there was a lot of bumping and yelling. This year in a hard rain everyone went hard from the gun which immediately stretched out the field. By the time we hit the dirt it was every man for himself. The mud and sand were brutal and climbing hills required extra power, and descending them required pedaling as opposed to the typical coasting and braking. Racers weaved around looking for firm ground, but it seemed that whichever line you chose, it was simply soft. The whole race played out in a very painful super slow-mo. In reality the super slow-mo was probably for the best because many of the washouts required picking the right line in single file. Even in slow-mo it was fast enough that picking the wrong line could have dire consequences, particularly on a 'cross bike. Eight miles of the course were actually unreachable by car, so the DEC had a couple of 4 wheelers to keep an eye on everyone in case there was a bad crash or mechanical.
I won't bore you with the blow by blow events of the race. Actually, I spent a lot of it by myself toiling in the sand. I did spend some quality time riding with and then chasing my teammate Ray W. It was funny as we were climbing a hill I said "I see footprints, we're going to catch somebody!" On the next hill Ray saw more footprints and like a couple of starving hyena's chasing a wounded gazelle, we chased with new found enthusiasm. Unfortunately the footprints weren't from a wounded gazelle, it turned out to be our teammate Fred who was a Division 1 Cross Country runner. Ray and I were left hungry as Fred probably ran the hills as quickly, or slowly, as we were riding them. Sadly, Ray had an untimely flat. As I went by I yelled "take your time" or something like that. It occurred to me that Ray might take that as sarcasm, but luckily he took it in the spirit in which it was intended and slowed down for an efficient tire change. Ray got a second flat right before the finish and actually ran his bike over the finish line to much applause and cheering with a tube hanging around his neck.
As I reached the road coming into Inlet, I caught teammate Greg D. as he was putting his wheel back on after a flat. Greg quickly caught up and I rolled into the finish behind him. At the end of the day, all ten Ommegangsters finished with four guys in the top 10 and five in the top 15. Three of those guys had flats during the race, so results are all the more impressive. Tim O. came in second after getting a flat about half way through the race. He couldn't get his front brake closed and raced the rest of the race with only a rear brake. The Black Fly will certainly get you out of your comfort zone.
On a bad note, Tim's brother-in-law and team friend Steve had a very bad crash. Crash Report:
The Black Fly is an amazing race, and more than other races brings a new experience each year. Sadly racing is sometimes dangerous, but for most of us the rewards far outweigh the risks. Ride safe and enjoy the ride. Even, or especially, if its a sufferfest like The Black Fly Challenge!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Now here I am in my mid 40's and yup, major back issue last year. Over the past few years I have definitely noticed that while I generally haven't slowed down much (at least it doesn't seem like it), I cannot thrash myself all week and expect to be in any kind of condition to race on the weekend.
So I completed the Black Fly this past weekend and unsurprisingly, was fairly beat up afterwards. This year seemed extra hard with the course conditions as they were. A review of the finishing times over the past few years showed a considerably slower race this year which was definitely attributable to the "tougher" conditions.
Now the being a bit beat up post race was expected -- you probably know the drill .. heavy legs, maybe a little soreness in the quads or calves, or maybe a tight back and probably sore hands (especially if you were on a CX bike). These post race aches and soreness, while perhaps a little more pronounced to an "older dude", are quite manageable and in some ways, are almost a badge of honour in knowing you rode your a$$ off. This all comes with the territory -- 40+ miles of a beating on a CX bike for over 2 hours at 40+ yrs of age = sore.
But the soreness & aches story doesn't stop there, the ageing thing has revealed another post race situation that until now, had never been encountered ... and dare I say it did not reveal itself until I got home and hopped in the shower. I had just rinsed the pound of sand out of my hair and then stood up and turned to face the shower and realized my little man nips were on fire. Being a bit concerned and confused, I examined a bit closer and hmmm, looks like a frictional issue. Now I had worn the same baselayer as I had countless times previously with no issues (CX, MTB, etc.) but apparently there was more, umm movement (i.e., bouncing) here than in the past. So I am a bit demoralized to have discovered, thanks to ageing, my boobs have grown and/or gone mushy and must now be bouncing when I ride over rough terrain. It is bad enough seeing your middle section get mushier as you age but c'mon, I got freaking little scabs on my nippies that hurt again today when I showered. How the he!! did that happen? When did it happen? A quick internet search and I am faced with "he-teets", "man-mammaries", ads for reduction surgery, and this .... www.marvelousmanboobs.com/ ...... AUGHHHHHHHHH
All I know is that if you call me "A-cup" at the next race, I will kick you in the nuts -- and when you get to be my age, that still hurts too.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
I think that athletes at all levels routinely dig deeper than the general population. Most people have no idea what it's like to get their pulse up to 190 beats per minute. They don't understand what it's like to have their muscles fill with lactic acid and to experience searing lung pain as they gasp for air.
Even in the world of sports, I don't think there are many sports that are as hard on the collective mind and body as bike racing. Mixed Martial Arts is a notable exception since getting dropped on a bike doesn't include getting repeatedly punched in the face, but bike racing is hard. Our sport and its inherent suffering are often described in terms that attempt to describe the pain, but also put a romantic spin on it. Phil Liggett usually puts it best: "The elastic has snapped." "He's wearing a mask of pain." "He's really having to dig deeply into the suitcase of courage."
Sometimes we dig into the suitcase of courage and we come through the other side and contest the sprint. Other times we dig deep but the mind and body simply can't make it happen. When this happens, I would imagine that it feels a lot like "walking into the light." I don't want to trivialize the concept of death, but unlike most athletes, we often lose in slow motion and have time to think about it. We then have time to ponder our fate while riding off the back of the break or pack. We've all been there. A gap opens or a break happens. Initially there's a shot of adrenaline and the mind and body respond. The gap starts to close quickly. The only problem is that the racers that created the gap had the same shot of adrenaline. They also had a head start and you've lost the draft. The legs start to hurt, your pulse spikes, your lungs gasp for air. The distance between you and your goal yo-yo's. You might take a second or third or fourth dig. You might yell to those around you to pull, but sometimes it just isn't going to happen. Your legs and mind finally give out in a whimper and you'll "walk into the light." Ten yards looks and feels like one-hundred. You'll quietly scream to yourself "HOW CAN I NOT CLOSE THIS GAP." Everyone in front of you rides away. Some of them are glad, and some of them may pity you, but you're a dead man either way so it doesn't really matter.
The general population simply isn't going to experience what it's like to face the grim reaper and lose. At least until late in life ideally. I don't know that this experience makes us better people. It only makes us different in ways beyond the more obvious shaved legs and bad tans lines. Extreme athletes may stare death in the face, but unless something goes wrong, they don't get to experience it, they just get an adrenaline rush.
Love to ride your ride your bike and love the ride in this life or the next.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Definition of NEMESIS (nem·e·sis)
(1) the Greek goddess of retributive justice;
(2) one that inflicts retribution or vengeance or a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent.
We all have at least one, or more likely, several in all of the varying facets of our being. Perhaps it's more than just a single person in a standard setting. Maybe a group of people, maybe a situation, maybe a company or authority figure. A nemesis can take many forms and shapes if we step back and contemplate.
Now that I've tried to establish this post as an insightful and philosophical piece of electronic literature, if you are truly a cycling dork, you probably have a few you can rattle off based on your last ride or race. Think Jan Ullrich and his TdF nemesis if you want to take it to a cycling macro-scale.
I myself have my share of cycling related nemeses (that's the plural of nemesis for you folks up there in the Oswego County area). Some are quite easy to identify.... you look at the last 5 races you have done and there is that same freakin guy beating you over and over. Or better yet, crossresults.com or similar even "calculates" it for you in case you can't tell. These are your apparent nemeses. Although you receive a regular ass-kickin, you know what to expect most of the time and can handle it for the most part. The truly dangerous nemeses are the "subtle" ones. These are like the passive-aggressive types of the nemesis world. They lie in waiting looking all cool and calm and then try to put a smack down on you with an aggressive attack.
Such is my nemesis .. the Branta Canadensis with it's subtle and serene yet surprising aggressiveness. These bastards can be spotted in all sorts of locations (but mainly near water). They are especially plenttiful along the Old Erie Canal towpath where I like to ride frequently. These damn animals, all decked out in their sleek yet mysterious black and white, put me on edge in that they put out little "land mines" that I have to either dodge or pay the consequences. (Look me in the eye and tell me honestly ... do you know what it is like hoping above all hopes that that was mud that just flipped up off your tire into your mouth?) Then, should I happen upon a family, the get all hissy and puffy and have even tried to jump me as I ride by. I have been tempted to break their scrawny little necks when the come at me but I have shown restraint in starting a physical altercation. I will admit to cursing a few out on occasion imploring them to waddle their cocky azzes out of the way so I can get by. So now that I think about it, they are Canadian and all the Canadians (or Canadiens) I have ever met are pretty cool folk so I'm not sure what the story is or why they always act so pissy.
So go forward with an eye on your nemesis, keep your mouth closed, and practice your handling skills cause I am sure my nemesis is more than willing to be your nemesis.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
As some of you know, I'm taking what would typically be my road season and switching it up with some new challenges. I started road racing purely as a means to be a better CX racer. In an effort to keep the motivation high and play around with the lead up to CX, I've stumbled into a healthy mix of road racing through spring and MTBing mixed in with the Tuesday Night Training Series through summer.
A few weeks ago I was on a training ride preparing for the Wilmington/Whiteface 100. I innocently said "I'm not sure if I'm going to do the Syracuse race or the Highland Hex." After two minutes of discussion it was decided that the Hex would be a great overload workout four weeks out from Wilmington. Done deal. Checked with Haight (Bob) and Drumroll, and they were in as well. In the words of Cosmo Kramer . . . "Giddy up."
After peppering Bob with no less than 3 questions a day in the week leading up to the race, I was pretty sure I was ready to go. If anything, I was overly confident. Not about racing fast, but I definitely blocked out any thoughts of the suffering that might occur.
With four of us going from the team, I snagged a big tent from Syracuse Bicycle, brought the tools and a stand, and of course some post race Ommegang. I had a cooler full of bottles, gel packs, Cliff Bars, Endurolytes and a sandwich in case the wheels really fell off.
I'll try to keep this brief, but I could write a novel like "The Rider" after this race:
Lap one - ride easy and try not to get in anyone's way. In my last MTB race a few years ago, my motor kept me up front early, but once it got technical I was more in the way than a drunken monkey on a unicycle in the Tour de France. Regardless of taking it easy, I ended up running through a mud section, running through a spider web of roots section and then crashing in a flowy single track section. When I crashed I jammed my right index finger on a log. It hurt pretty bad, and I refused to look at it for about 200 meters for fear that it would be pointing in the wrong direction. Thankfully it wasn't, although it never ceased to remind me that I'd jammed it earlier.
Lap two - Bob and I are trading positions constantly. In the technical sections he gaps me by 100 meters. On the non technical sections I catch him and press on, telling him I'll see him in the technical stuff. Right around the same place I jammed my finger, I'm back off the bike. On my CX style remount, the bike moves on the trail and I completely rack my left . . . uh, what's the word I'm looking for. Oh yeah, testicle. That never would have happened to Lance Armstrong, but I digress. After another 200 meters, I decide it's still intact and resolve myself to relaxing. If I don't find some Zen, I could lose an eye, break a finger, lose my other . . . never mind.
Lap three - I get my Zen on. Firing on all cylinders, flowing as well as a drunken monkey on a unicycle can flow and generally feeling good about things. I also verbalize one of the dumbest thoughts I've ever had. I say to Bob "Most of these guys can ride mountain bikes, but they're going to get tired, so hopefully it will level the playing field and all of our handling skills will be similar." Man was that stupid. In my defense I was probably well on my way to an oxygen debt fueled trip to Stupidville.
Lap four - I get lapped by Tim O and Bob passes me for the last time in a technical section. Thoughts of catching him again on a non-technical section leave my head. If he doesn't stop to grill a cheeseburger from scratch I won't see him again.
Lap five - this is where things get fuzzy. This is where I start wondering how slow I can possibly ride so that I can minimize the damage but still finish. Also, in an interesting twist I start to think that most of the sticks and roots that I see in the trail are snakes. I really hate snakes. It bears repeating, I really hate snakes. It's primal.
Lap six - I decide that if I play my cards right, I can milk the next two laps and finish in just over six hours. For those unfamiliar with six hour races, 5:59 is a DQ, you need to race one more lap. At this point I'm popping Endurolytes every lap, and running over a bunch of obstacles because I've lost what little trail mojo I ever had. Also, Tim O laps me a second time. He's literally flying, fresh as a daisy and no one else is in sight. If he wasn't a good friend I'd punch him in the nuts for feeling so good while I'm seeing snakes.
Lap seven - I'm ahead of schedule and I don't think I can possibly ride slow enough to make my lap last past the six hour mark. I also don't see how I can possibly ride an eighth lap. On the plus side, I stop seeing snakes. That's as close to an endorsement as I can give for the Endurolytes. "Endurolytes . . . if you completely lose your $&!# in an endurance race, they'll make the snakes go away." If the Hammer Nutrition folks are reading, I'd be happy to work something out in trade.
At the end of lap seven, it's clear that I'm going to roll in just under six hours. A few people are hiding out in the woods to avoid another lap, so they can roll in at 6:01. I see Big John O coming down the trail and he's in my race. I was a little on the fence, but now I decide to grab another fresh bottle, two more Endurolytes to keep the snakes at bay, and head back out. John says he's done. I shake his hand and tell him I'm going back out. As I'm riding away, he says he's all conflicted cause if he goes back out he can probably beat me. He's probably right. He has five minutes to decide.
Lap eight - Oddly enough I hit my stride. I'm still cramping, but I'm getting some flow back and nailing most of the obstacles. When I say nailing most of the obstacles, I mean riding over logs that a seven year old with an MTB could easily clear after a weeks worth of riding. I find some form of inner peace and roll on. I wouldn't want to do a 12 hour race right then, but I can see how it could be done. I'm still slightly concerned that the five minutes of debate got the best of John and that he might be chasing me. I run best scared.
I roll in at 6:49:50. Give or take a second. I ask Jason if this course was normal and he says it was really hard. That's what I was hoping to hear. It was tough, but I'm glad my first one was tough. That should make future races easier mentally if not physically.
Again, I don't have a lot of perspective when it comes to MTB races, but CNY DIRT put on a great low key race. Everyone was SUPER supportive. Much more like CX than road racing. That could be a post in and of itself.
Tim O won, and Drumroll and Bob podiumed in their age groups. I lived and hopefully learned some MTB skills for next time.
Love to ride your bike, whichever bike it may be.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Many people have put up a shingle, taken a test and declared themselves a coach. It doesn't take much quite frankly. With that said, Tim is the real deal.
I've written about the benefits of being coached on a few occasions. In short, a structured training program provides FAR more value than new wheels, a carbon frame, or the latest gizmo. Getting dropped while rolling on new Zipp's is not cool. Trust me, I know. In a perfect world, get the wheels and hire a coach. In an imperfect world, hire the coach first and get the wheels/frame/gizmo's later.
Many may already be aware of Tim's racing credentials. Cat 1 Road racer, kicked Lance Armstrong's ass by over a minute in the NYC Marathon by running a 2:45:20, sub 10 hour Ironman at Lake Placid, 6th place in the Vermont 100 running race AFTER making a wrong turn. He races, road, MTB, CX, runs and swims. I've known Tim since 5th or 6th grade, and despite being one of the smaller kids, he routinely held his own arm wrestling the biggest kid in our class. As an aside, I was the second smallest kid in our entire school. Thankfully there was at least a Filipino girl that was smaller than me, although I'm pretty sure she could have kicked my ass. In sixth grade, Tim would run to and from school carrying his books under his arm. It was probably 6-8 miles round trip. I digress though, because I'm not selling Paul Bunyan. Tim also knows what it's like to suffer and get dropped. You don't become a success without knowing what it's like to fail.
Racing credentials and experience are nice, but that's only half of the package. Being fast doesn't qualify one to be a coach, and being a good coach doesn't mean that you need to be fast. In Tim's case he is well positioned to address every side of the equation.
I've spent countless hours training with, car pooling with, eating with and sharing hotel rooms with Tim. If you spend enough time with someone, you really start to get a sense of what makes them tick and their core values. Tim is built for coaching. He's fascinated by the data, the process, the diet and most importantly the psychology of a racer.
Without harping on the technical side of coaching, which Tim clearly understands, I'd like to address the psychological aspects of training. I think this aspect of coaching is largely ignored, and I think this is what really sets Tim apart from the average coach. Watts, max heart rate, resting heart rate, blah, blah, blah. It all means nothing if you're head isn't on straight. When things are going well, we train. Sometimes over train. When a race goes bad, it's easy to get in a funk and lose a few days of training or lose interest in bikes and racing all together. I've experienced all of this first hand. Tim has a knack for helping to keep everything in perspective. Additionally, he does a great job of explaining things in real world terms using spot on analogies that anyone can relate to.
The bottom line is that Tim spends at least as much time thinking as he does training. I've purposely taken some time off from fully structured training, but I've been reaping the benefits of Tim's dietary knowledge and "attitude" support. If you've ever thought of working with a coach, or if you've worked with a coach that only provides data for work outs, but little else, get a hold of Tim.
You can call him at 315-655-4620 or e-mail him at cxnationals5 (at) gmail.com
As I said last time . . . Love to Ride Your Bike.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Here's the back story . . . Tim O. starts talking about the Wilmington/Whiteface 100K and I say there's no way I'm interested. After MUCH thought, many e-mails, and hearing that Drumm, Haight (aka Bob) and local CX'er Ormsby are already signed up, I pull the trigger on a new bike. In the process of debating, both Tim and I looked at every conceivable MTB option on the planet. Resurrect an old 26'er, convert the current single speed 29'er, new geared 29'er, eBay, craigslist, turn to a life or crime, shake my money maker for dollar bills, you name it.
At the end of the day, I went with a new Superfly from Syracuse Bicycle. Those guys are awesome and between Paul K. and some, actually a lot of guidance from Brian K. it was a no-brainer. What really struck me though was the number of "mint condition" bikes that were for sale used. "I bought this bike with intentions to ride it, but never did." "I never rode this MTB off road or in the rain." "I built up this bike and only rode it once while wrapped in pillows and wearing oven mitts."
I seldom sell bikes because I usually like to keep them around, but when I do sell them they have been used for 1,000's of miles in their intended purpose. If I were to try and sell my bikes, it might sound like this:
Steven's #1: Head tube scratched from shouldering the bike up numerous run-ups. Paint on fork scratched, couldn't tell you why. Crank scuffed with extreme prejudice. Crashed in CX races more than once.
Steven's #2: See above and add that the protective sticker to prevent chain suck damage was removed during actual chain suck.
Cervelo S1: Frame only. Small paint chips everywhere from racing, training in all manner of weather and some cable slap.
Cervelo SLC-SL: Frame looks awesome. There is some scuffing from cable rub. Oh yeah, I put a hole in the frame last year at Hollenbeck and had it repaired by Calfee. Looks good, rides as good as ever, but selling a frame that had a hole in it is a little tough.
Trek X01: This bike has been raced for CX, MTB'd at Highland, loaned out to countless friends to test the CX waters, raced in Black Fly a couple of times, ridden through two winters, blah blah blah.
I could go on, but I'm starting to feel like a jerk for owning this many bikes. The bottom line is this: my bikes are clean, very well maintained and all of them see A LOT of action. Like I said last time, Love to Ride Your Bike . . . and then actually ride them. I suspect that most people reading this already are.
Monday, April 18, 2011
This time of year is always interesting. Most racers have a new lease on life. Their cycling life anyway. Everyone hopes that "this was the winter." This year I'm going to be the hammer instead of the nail! It's easy during the winter months to forget how much racing hurts. After my first race 4 weeks ago, I very seriously contemplated buying a new pair of running shoes. I rode all winter for THIS? To get dropped in the first 11 miles???
After a few days of reflection, I realized that I didn't ride all winter to be faster in spring. I rode all winter because I love riding my bike. If I really wanted to be faster, I would have ridden the trainer more and outside less. I'm not entirely sure that this post will make complete sense, but it's a blog, not a publication, so bear with me.
I'm going to reference some names, but keep in mind that I'm assuming they are thinking like this, and haven't spoken to any of them about it . . .
I'm sure there's some local Cat 5 or OCC member that would love to be as fast as I am, which is to say they'd be thrilled if they could simply hang in a Cat 4 race and not get dropped for a few laps. I on the other hand would love to be as fast as Tim O. or Wayne B. I'd assume that Tim and Wayne would love to be as fast as New England strongmen such as Justin Lindine or Roger Alpholm. Justin and Roger would probably love to be as fast as Jeremy Powers. Jeremy Powers would probably love to be as fast as Dave Zabriskie, and Dave Z would probably like to be as fast as Fabian Cancellara.
At the end of the day, the key is to love what you do and to work with the potential that you have. I'm not saying that we shouldn't strive to train better, eat better or collect more sweet cycling gear. I'm simply saying that very few of us has the potential to collect a decent paycheck based on our bike racing potential, so do it because you love the sport, love the lifestyle, love the people and love the bike.
You see a handful of racers move from a Cat 5 to Cat 3 overnight and then all of a sudden winning becomes a lot tougher. In a year or two, some of those guys get burned out and quit the sport. What came so easily early on became much tougher as they moved up and the playing field was leveled some. Maybe they loved the bike, and maybe they didn't, but ultimately misplaced expectations or ego drove them from the sport.
At the risk of sounding like I'm on my soap box, all I know is this . . . guys like Drummroll, Jason H. (aka Bob), Dave F. and I will be at this a long time and doing so for the love of the game. Hopefully everyone else will too. Cheers, and here's to everyone having the opportunity to be the hammer instead of the nail this season.
Definition of Sucktion:
suck.tion (noun), suk-shun
(1) The act or art of sucking during a cycling endeavour or competition.
(2) A technique or means to be unprepared (mentally or physically) for a challenging circumstance.
Ex: Drummroll demonstrated a mastery of sucktion at the Check Your Legs Road Race this past Sunday.
Monday, March 28, 2011
So the riding consisted of some group rides, some solo rides , and some combos of both but always flat as can be flat. The big climbs consisted of getting over the draw bridges. Hooked up with the Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club for some great group rides and routes. They were good folks who more than welcomed an out of towner into their ranks. The bike lane network was really good in many areas but you were almost always around some traffic. On the other hand, there were usually lots of people out riding nearly all the time so drivers could not but help to remain somewhat diligent of the cyclists. And there were all sorts out cycling too which was refreshing ... young, old and everything in between on about every type of bike imaginable.
All in all, I can't call Sarasota (and the nearby "keys") a big time cycling training destination like Tucson, Asheville, or San Diego but hey, it worked considering I had a non-cycling sig-other to consider as well. We had the beach, good eats, decent shopping and I was able to solidify the base miles and work in some initial intensity in short sleeves and shorts every day.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Tim O. and I haven't missed a single Saturday or Sunday out on the roads this winter. Short of a little break after CX season, the base has been in full effect all winter. I'd say that we're both in agreement that the enthusiasm to ride is still very much present, but the enthusiasm for riding in the cold and snow is waning. Thursday and Friday finally melted the snowbanks which was a plus. I got home a little early Friday, but decided to hike with the dogs and then hit the trainer. I know it sounds crazy to ride the trainer when it's 50+ degrees out, but I didn't have time to figure out what to wear and still beat the dark. Much like prisoners become institutionalized, I've gotten used to mittens, winter boots, bad shifting, and worse brakes.
On the positive side, every weekend that it is cold and snowy is a weekend that most people are on their trainers, or worse yet drunk on the couch. That's one more weekend to get something of an edge, and given my overwhelmingly average genetics, I need it.
Yesterdays 40 mph winds and drifting snow made riding borderline crazy. By and large it was a lot of fun, but there were a couple of times where visibility was about 25 yards and you could barely keep the bike upright. Turning around to look for cars was nearly impossible. Hearing cars or plows was entirely impossible. It crossed my mind that all of my jokes about being found in a snowbank in spring had the potential to be fulfilled. Turns out that travel in Madison County was "emergency only." Apparently, half of the county, including Tim and I didn't get the memo.
March and the Johnny Cake races in Albany are almost here, then Battenkill, the local spring Classics and summer. After that, back to CX and the cycle starts all over . . . Now that I think about it, I'm already excited to ride in fresh snow next year. I am however still sick of this snow. Surf's up.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Are you a real hardcore cyclist or at least wanna be this year? If you are (or want to be), this new diet may be for you. First you have to decide if you are truly a hardcore cyclist. Here's a little quiz to test ya ....Do you know who this is in the pic below?
If you know these right off the top of your head, this diet is for you. It's based on a rather simple concept ... no points, no crazy calculations, no label reading, no mailman delivering meals -- basically no nonsense. Here's how it works ... every time when you open your yap to put something in it, you have to decide if it is PRO or NOT PRO. At the end of each day, you must reflect on how many times you answered PRO or NOT PRO. If you consistently noting PRO much more predominantly than NON PRO (and being brutally honest with yourself), chances you are on the right path. So here's some guidance:
PRO: modest serving of oatmeal or raisin bran or two egg whites plus 1 whole egg scrambled-- NOT PRO: 4 egg, ham & cheese omelette with a side of corn beef hash
PRO: turkey on wheat w/veggies, no mayo, side salad w/sprinkle of olive oil -- NOT PRO: Philly cheesesteak with fries
PRO: grilled Ahi, sweet potato & green veggies -- NOT PRO: The 16 oz "king cut" filet with mashed potatoes & gravy
PRO: a glass of wine w/dinner -- NOT PRO: a bottle of wine w/dinner
There you have it. Simple, straightforward and just like your training log -- if you're not honest, you're only cheating yourself
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
So sneeuwschoenen ? ... we're talking celebrate. The sneeuwschoenen (or snowshoes) scene seems to have inched just a bit closer to becoming a mainstream winter fitness activity here in da 'Cuse. A quick peek at the local "events" calendars for Jan & Feb show three snowshoe races (Highland Forest, which was last weekend and upcoming events at Sunnycrest & Beaver Lake parks). There's also a NYS series, a state champs, a New England series, Empire State Winter Games, and stuff all over place if you look for it.
You lackin' da sneeuwschoenen? Rent'em. Various options all around town. This way you get to test drive 'em without the commitment. Get out to Highland or Green Lakes or wherever. Check out the scene on-line and then get out there.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
I must admit that there are moments, on unavoidable roads with icy shoulders and cars that are annoyed you're out there, it can get a little dicey. The prospect of getting mowed down in the summer by some idiot trying to text their wife that they're picking up KFC for dinner certainly crosses your mind, but it does seem that the frequency of driver stupidity increases in the winter months. I'm assuming that some of them are pissed that we're tying up their roads in the winter now too! Some of them are probably a little agitated already because it's 14 degrees out and their car is freezing since the window is open so they can smoke. On the other hand, there are just as many people that are impressed and happily wave.
One thing is for sure, the risks are higher, but the gratification is higher. I used to listen to some surfer dude or skydiver on TV say something like "hey bro, if this is how I die, I died doing what I love." Or, "If I get eaten by a shark, that's cool man, circle of life bro." In turn I'd think "what an a-hole." I think the last few seasons of riding in the winter have given me a similar outlook. The simple act of riding outside in the elements have become some of my favorite rides. I find myself at the end of long rides rolling down hill no handed just taking it all in. Racing and fast group rides bring on a tremendous high, but it's a sugar high. A sugar high has it's place, but during the winter months, I'm enjoying the long slow burn.
So, if I get hit by a snowplow tomorrow morning, know this . . . I'm well insured so Mrs. Skinny will be fine and up until the last second when the shark ate me, I was in love with my life.
Some random surfer quotes:
"I took off on a wave, went down the side, popped out the other end, and went, shit, I'm still alive!" - Greg Noll
"For those searching for something more than just the norm. We lay it all down, including what others call sanity, for just a few moments on waves larger than life. We do this because we know there is still something greater than all of us. Something that inspires us spiritually. We start going down hill, when we stop taking risks." - Laird Hamilton
"You either surf or you fight"
"If I say its safe to surf this beach Captain, then its safe to surf this beach. I mean I'm not afraid to surf this place, I'll surf this whole fucking place!"
"Charlie don't surf!" - Kilgore (Apocalypse Now)
And I can't resist a lame quote from Point Break:
If you want the ultimate, you've got to be willing to pay the ultimate price. It's not tragic to die doing what you love. - Bodhi