Thursday, November 8, 2012

Are we tough enough?

First let me start by saying that this is one heck of a last lap.  If you haven't seen it, it's worth a watch.  Second, while watching the video I was struck by how rough the course is.  For those looking for an introspective post, this is going to be more of a rant.  Feel free to just watch the video and bail out. 

I don't consider myself to be particularly tough.  At 135lbs, tough is kind of . . . well, tough to pull of.  With that said, I do love adversity.  Rain, snow, mud, or in the case of last weekend locally, sleet and a combination of the previous three.  I deeply love them all, at least while racing.

I try to keep things in perspective, because I know I'm one of the weird ones.  I live for 'cross.  I tolerate road and MTB racing as a means to an end.  With that said, I think it's time for everyone to toughen up.  It's 'cross.  It's supposed to be messy.  There is supposed to be difficult terrain.  There is supposed to be RUNNING.  There should always be challenges that get you out of your comfort zone.  If you only show up when the course suits you or the weather is conventionally cheery, you're stuck in your comfort zone.  Most of us are a bunch of middle aged hacks.  If we were really decent we'd have grown a long beard and carpooled with Dan Timmerman to the motherland.  That said, it doesn't mean that we collectively need to turn our courses into gentle swoopy speedways or only race when it's sunny.

I'm not exactly Mr. New England, but I've raced there enough to know that:

1. One of their sweetest and oldest courses (NoHo) includes a launch over a set of train tracks that would send many a CNY'er into a hissy fit.

2. They'll hold a race at night on a ski hill with mind boggling mud and twisty sections of the course that would barely be visible with night vision goggles, let alone in the wet muddy dark of night.  The attendance of that race by the way will blow the mind of anyone from Buffalo to Albany.  It's sick and awesome all at once.

3. On the first lap they would drive their mother into the tape to move up a spot or two.  There is no starting easy and settling in.  Prepare to be bumped and it will be awesome. 

4. Their course layouts will include off cambers that might blow your mind.  Steep off cambers of frozen grass and hard mud are not uncommon.  No one complains, they just shut up and race.

It goes without saying that the further one travels from the Motherland, the more diluted a product will get.  I would argue that Albany is diluted from New Belgium, and Syracuse is diluted from Albany.

It's time to raise our game.  Oh, the course is bumpy?  They are literally racing in corn fields in parts of Belgium.  Oh, there's too much running?  Suck it up, 'cross includes running.  Sometimes lot's of it depending on the conditions.  Too sandy?  Your mom called, you used to love that shit when you were a kid.  You can wash it out of your crack when you get home.  Oh, someone bumped into you?  Bump 'em back on the next set of turns.  Let your legs, and occasionally a well positioned forearm do the talking.  It's cold out?  When you were a kid your mom probably kicked your sorry ass outside and told you not to come home until dinner.  If you were lucky you had a Members Only wind breaker.  If you were lucky!  Suck it up soft boy you can warm up on the drive home.

So in summation . . .

Racers:  Quit TELLING each other to HTFU and ACTUALLY do it.
Promoters:  Don't dilute your courses because some wuss who knows next to nothing about 'cross complained that your course was too bumpy, hilly, runny, muddy, turny, etc. 

Maybe a field trip to New Belgium is in order.  Ice Weasels perhaps?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Lance Armstrong . . . my 2 cents

Much has been written about Lance Armstrong and doping recently.  I don't know that I'm uniquely positioned to provide any insights or perspectives, but apparently I'm going to try.

Just so everyone is clear on my position, or religion as it where, I'm certain that Lance doped.  I was reasonably sure of it when I watched him during his heyday, and it seems as obvious as the earth being round today.  If you still believe that the world is flat, or that Lance didn't dope, you might want to stop reading.

Jonathan Vaughters wrote an interesting opinion piece in a recent New York Times.  He essentially concluded by saying that most convicted dopers said that they doped because they were simply looking to level the playing field.  Others were doping, so they simply needed to do the same in order to have a fair chance at winning or keeping up.  JV's point was that we've done a lot to clean up the sport of cycling and create a "cleaner" environment for the next generation, and it's important that the trend continue.  If everyone simply wants a fair chance, let's continue to support and grow that infrastructure.

My day job consists of working with retail businesses and point of sale technology.  It has very little to do with cycling, but it has a lot to do with human nature.  It is understood in my industry that there are three types of employees.  10 percent of your employees wouldn't steal from you if your money was in a cigar box and no one was watching the inventory.  10 percent of your employees will attempt to steal from you regardless of what you have in place to prevent theft.  Point of sale, cameras, and policies and procedures won't prevent the "bad apples" from stealing or at least trying.  The other 80 percent of your employees are somewhere else on the spectrum.  With the right systems, and policies and procedures in place, there will be little temptation to steal.

It would seem that professional cycling did little to account for the 80% and essentially forced out the 10% that refused to cheat.  Professional bike racing is a business, pure and simple.  Sponsors want wins, Directors want to keep their jobs, Phil Ligget knows that he'll make more money if cycling is popular with "hero's" like Lance, and a working class kid from Europe knows that doping may be a better choice than working in a factory or on the family farm.  It would also appear that the UCI itself may have succumbed to greed, burying, or being paid to bury a positive test by Lance.  It would seem that the entire business of cycling, from top to bottom essentially turned a blind eye as Lance made cycling wildly popular.

Many people seem to be arguing that doping was rampant when Lance was winning Tour's, so what's the harm?  I can accept the argument that the past is the past to some extent, but in the case of Lance, I cannot.  Was everyone in the top 10 doping back then?  Probably.  My problem with Lance is that it appears that he even doped during his comeback.  We won't see the evidence until USADA's case becomes more public, but it appears likely that he was back to cheating.  That alone makes it worth an investigation.  More importantly, and a consideration that seems to be missing in most peoples opinion's, is that Lance was still actively competing in Triathlon and doing so to win.  He wasn't competing to stay fit as an age grouper, he was competing for a significant donation to his foundation, fame, and as I just said, to win.  Frankly I don't know much about Triathlon, but I would like to think that the current crop of competitive triathletes are competing "clean."  One would assume that they aren't looking for a questionable character to re-join their sport, and impact their livelihood.  Lance re-joining their sport could increase public awareness, TV viewership, sponsorship dollars, prize money . . . oh wait, sound familiar?  He holds the potential to grow triathlon in much the same way that he grew cycling, but at what potential cost to the sport?  I view Lance as being in the "stealing 10%"  that I referenced earlier.  I don't think he knows how to compete without cheating at this point.  It's in his nature because the world owes him something.  If I was a triathlete, at any level, I wouldn't want him in my sport.  If the past predicts the future, short term gains in popularity, and as a byproduct money, will only be met with a black eye later.

For those that are still with me, the next question becomes about Livestrong.  Lance has unquestionably provided hope and inspiration for those fighting cancer and their families.  He's raised a lot of money and arguably done a lot of good.  I personally donated money and wore a yellow wristband in his heyday.  I'm now left wondering if his work with Livestrong is made less relevant.  In my opinion, Lance is a false god.  He's the Wizard of Oz.  He's an "empty suit" as it were.  If someone is a great business leader, but beats their wife, should they still be a respected CEO?  If someone is a great quarterback, but runs a dog fighting ring on the weekends, should they still be in the NFL?  My opinion is an emphatic no.  I know that it can be a grey area for many, but I just can't see how you separate the two when it's on such a significant scale.

Culturally, America loves an underdog.  America loves to see the mighty fall, and it loves to see those same people pick themselves up by the bootstraps and become great again.  If Lance really wants to see his legacy, and more importantly Livestrong flourish, it would be nice to see his human side.  Admit wrong doing, beg for forgiveness, and become human, instead of a false god.

Will he do it?  I doubt it.  Maybe Mathew McConaughey or Ashley Olsen can provide him with some insights.  I guess wanting to hang out with movie stars and make out with Ashley Olsen makes him human, but not in a good way.  Frankly I don't see him checking his ego and making it happen, but for the greater good of the fight against cancer, I hope he's sees the light.  Cycling will make it with or without him, but the fight against cancer could still use his help.  My 2 cents?  That will only be possible if he comes clean and creates a new legacy.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Beery Good Long Weekend

So last Weds the bosses "suggested" I "consider" using up some vacation time as the work load is rather light at the moment.  Message received loud and clear. 
That evening I did some quick internet scouting and packed the car.  The next morning, armed with a travel mug full of coffee, I bid farewell to the HumperDog and Ms. Drumroll and headed to Lake Placid.  Fast forward 3+ hours and I was able to check in my room extra early where I quickly changed & headed out for a loop of the IronMan USA course.   It still is a subtly challenging yet beautiful course.  A shower, quick check of email, etc and I headed on over to the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery.  A good pub dinner with several pints of Ubu and life was good. 
Took my time the next morning to get going but rolled into Chambly, Quebec about mid-day.  I lucked out again and was able to check-in early & quickly headed out on the bike.  I chose a route along a canal and river that is part of the incredible "Green Route" of Quebec.  For those unfamiliar, you owe it to yourself to check this "Green Route" thing out .. lots of signs, dedicated bike lanes, info at tourist/info centers, maps, etc.  So after the ride, the same shower, check email drill and I headed across the street to the waterfront.  I checked out an old historic fort (Fort Chambly) on the water and then headed next door for dinner.  Oh, btw ....Chambly also is the home of Unibroue, an awesome Belgian style brewer (try some if you haven't .. La Fin du Monde is a fav).  Unfortunately they do not offer tours or samples at the brewery but by some well performed internet investigation, this restaurant I was headed in offers samples of Uniboue and has a small Unibroue gift shop.  A great dinner (venison washed down with Unibroue's Trois Pistoles) and a trip to the gift shop and again, life was good. 
Saturday morning I headed due east to Bromont, QC.  Bromont is the home of the Bromont International Velodrome which happens to be the velodrome used in the '96 Atlanta Olympics.  I had signed up for the intro class/clinic and was a little intimidated at my glaring lack of the "parlez-vous Francais" thing, riding a fixed gear with no brakes as well as the 42 degree banking.  After several drills and some guidance, we were flying around the track.  We even got to try a flying 200m TT -- I was only a half second slower than that British gal who won a gold medal in London (oh yeah, and she was timed over 250 m .. but we did have beginner/warmup gearing though).
A long ride home Saturday eve and then Sunday was Syracuse Bicycle's Point 2 Pint Ride from the Empire Brewing Co in downtown 'cuse.  I opted for the 50 miler which covered a fair amount of familiar roads around Jamesville, Caz and Chittenango.  The ride was fun, the after party at Empire was absolutely awesome.  They put out an amazing spread with plenty of beverages to quench anyone's thirst.  Huge props to Syracuse Bicycle and Empire Brewing. 
So that's the end of the Beery Good Long Weekend -- 'cross anyone?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Critz 'Cross - Presented by Chobani

This is gonna be good . . . 'Cross, Chobani, Hard Cider.  Family Friendly, Heckler Friendly and a great way to kick off your 'Cross season.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I wish I had more to say . . . .

I wish I had something exciting to say about the Black Fly this year.  It was a great race, but the course was dry and fast and my race was lackluster as best.  I wish I could say that it was a great effort.  Heck I wish I could say something bad even happened to me during the race, but all I can say was that I had a mediocre race.

I wish I could say something exciting about the Wilmington Whiteface 100.  I could say that it was actually 69 miles instead of 62, but that really had no impact on my results. I wish I could say that some dude didn't blow past me and crash on the only sketchy section of the course.  I wish I could say that I didn't flip over my bars and do two somersaults.  I wish I could say that I was smart enough to take a look at my bike after the crash.  I wish I could say that I didn't ride uphill for 4 miles listening to my rear rotor rub.  I wish I could say that when I finally pulled over to fix it that I didn't pick up a few miles per hour instantly.  I wish I could say that when I stopped at the second water stop that I didn't dump a cup of water into a mostly full bottle instead of the empty one.  I wish I could say that after that I didn't panic and ride off without refilling my bottles.  I wish I could say that after thinking about it for the next two miles that I decided to turn around and get more water.  I really wish I had turned around . . .

I wish I could say that after I was completely out of water that I didn't seriously lose my mind and very seriously consider peeing into one of my empty water bottles for fluid.  I wish I could say that I hadn't seen Bear Grylls kill and skin a snake and then pee in the skin to store his own urine for a drink later.  A poor mans Camelback I guess.  I'm thankful I didn't have a snake full of urine . . . I might have put it to use. I was really glad to see the volunteers at the third water stop.  Really glad.  Water, Gatorade, banana, and fig newtons.  I almost got off the bike to hug the volunteers.  Almost.  Not having to further contemplate drinking your own urine can turn one into a dirty, hug giving hippy.

I really wish I hadn't tried to convert to tubeless before the Wilmington 100.  I really really wish I hadn't watched Stanley Kowalski use a 3/8" drill bit to "easily" open up the inner valve hole of a rim.  I wish when I tried to mimic Stanley's move that I hadn't ripped through my entire rim in less than a second.  That's once second of my life that I wish I had back.  I'm certain I've done worse in a second, and I'm really certain I've said worse in a second, but there's definitely a certain queasiness one experiences when they destroy an expensive piece of equipment they'll need in two days for a big race.  I'm really glad that Brian K. from Syracuse Bicycle sold me some sweet replacement wheels.

I was super glad to see my wife before the hike-a-bike up Whiteface since she had two bottle of Secret Drink Mix.  I was also glad that I didn't have my homemade drink mix . . . you know the one that induces vomiting.

I was really glad to get to the Lake Placid Brewery for a few pints and my annual dose of chicken tenders with a side of hot sauce and blue cheese.

Meh, as I read this, maybe things were more exciting than I thought.  Not "hey I drank my own pee exciting, but almost."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Black Fly 2012: Brief Recap

So for the diligent readers of this blog that may recall the "A-cup irritation problem" I experienced as part of the 2011 Blk Fly race, I am happy to report that I am home, showered, and there is no apparent missing or irritated skin on the nippleage front after completing the 2012 Blk Fly.  This is a good thing.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Skinny Phil's Secret Drink Mix . . . Warning may cause vomiting

Let me start by saying that Allen Lim has nothing to worry about.  I'm not sure how long it took him to dial in his drink mix, but my first attempt was something of a failure.  I should back up though. Over the winter I bought Allen Lim's "Secret Drink Mix."  I liked the concept, bought into his science and liked the mild flavor of the drink itself.  I also bought his cookbook, which I highly recommend.  Over the years I've used a number of sports drinks, gels, bars, cubes, blocks, you name it.  Some contained too much sugar which seemed to create energy spikes followed by drops, while others just didn't seem to work.  In addition, regardless of what I took, I seemed to always cramp after a few hours at race pace.  I tried drinking more, drinking less, adding sodium tablets, and at my lowest point read a study indicating that pickle juice would prevent cramps.  Well, despite carrying and consuming a warm flask of pickle juice around a few races, the cramps continued to win.

Fast forward to last week and I run out of Allen Lim's Skratch Labs drink mix.  I order a couple of pounds, but I know that it won't be here in time for this weekend's race.  With a forecast of 85+ degrees, I'm concerned.  I decide to just head to the shop and buy some Heed.  It hadn't really worked in the past, but it was a known commodity.  Then I got to doing some further research on the internet.  That's usually a bad idea and that may have been where things took a turn in the wrong direction. 

Long story longer, I decide I can "recreate" Allen Lim's drink mix to a large extent.  4 teaspoons of sugar, a little less than 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a little pure lemon juice for flavor.  I took it on a test drive Friday night, and again for my openers on Saturday.  I was still less than confident that it would work, but Sunday's race wasn't exactly an A race for me, so I figured I'd roll the dice.  In a moment of clarity Saturday night I text Tim O. to get his 2 cents.  He very diplomatically tells me I'm crazy to make a change like that coming into a 55 mile race that's full of hills and unseasonably warm temperatures.  I don't listen and decide to go with my home brew.  I also decide to bring 3 full bottles with me and force myself to drink more than I normally do.  Allen Lim makes some excellent points about HOW you consume your calories and in what form, and subsequently I decide that I won't bring any gel packs and that I'll rely on the calories from the additional drink to get me through the race.  I throw a Cliff Bar in my pocket for insurance.

After lap 1 of 2, the pace is high and so are the temps.  On the start/finish climb I get gapped.  When the road points back down hill, I get into a good group and we begin the chase back to the pack.  It's then that I realize that something has gone very wrong.  Maybe too much salt?  Maybe the salt and lemon juice are conspiring against me?  Flash back to a bad margarita perhaps?  Who knows.  All I know is that I promptly jumped out of groups rotation and throw up in my mouth.  Then I projectile vomit about 6 ounces of Skinny Phil's Secret Drink Mix all over the road at 20 miles per hour.  At that moment I reflect on reading how Jens Voigt has just done something similar in the Tour of California.  The difference between Jens and myself is that he's a hard man of cycling, and I am . . . something less than that.  I contemplate turning around and riding back to the start, but decide to press on.  Apparently unloading the 6 ounces was enough to get back in the game, and a couple of miles later I'm feeling ok.  I went on to finish relatively strong with no cramps.  I have no idea what place I was in, and after getting dropped and taking a few minutes to roll along and puke, I don't really want to know where I finished, but I do know that I rode hard and didn't cramp at all even though I hammered up the last mile. 

What did I learn?  I should listen to Tim.  I shouldn't let myself run out of drink mix.  I should experiment more with ditching gels per Allen Lim's recommendations.  I also learned that puking and rallying isn't just for college kids.  Gotta love bike racing.  Where else could you have this much fun in the name of science?  Then again, I'm not sure what I was doing had anything to do with science.

Maybe next time I can avoid the cramps AND bypass the puking in the process.  A man's gotta have goals I guess.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lost/Stolen - Reward Offered

I seem to have lost 30 watts.  The last time I saw them was in 2009.  They were awesome.  We had some good times.  I thought I found them a few times, but it wasn't the same 30 watts.  I think it was more like 15.  I've been looking all over for them.  Mostly I look in Cazenovia.  Sometimes I look around Highland Forest, and sometimes I look in my basement around my trainer.  I've become so desperate that I've even gone running in hopes of finding them.  I figure these types of things tend to get lost within a couple of miles of the house, so I thought I'd stand a better chance of seeing them on foot.  Then again maybe you're more likely to have an accident within a couple miles of the house.  I get those things confused.

In any event, I stopped working with a coach a couple of years ago.  Maybe the watts were part of the training program and when I stopped paying he transferred them to a paying client.  Maybe if I read the fine print in his contract I'll find them.

I've been traveling a lot for work.  I wonder if they fell out of the car at a rest stop in Massachusetts.  I also stay at a lot of hotels.  They tend to have restaurants like Applebees connected to their parking lots.  Sometimes I order a couple off the tall beers while I'm there to offset the fact that I'm in a Crapplebees.  Maybe I left them on the bar as a tip one night.

I did a lot of mountain biking last season.  I took a pretty good tumble during the Highland Hex.  Maybe they fell out of my jersey pocket.  I'm pretty sure I lost them before the Hex though.

I also wonder if Haight stole them.  He did move about 10 minutes ride from my house.  He's also riding pretty fast this year.  I know my dog Ray would eat him if he broke into the house, but maybe he took them from my garage.  Sometimes I leave them on my handlebars after a long ride.

I gotta get those watts back . . . 

I also lost a glove.  It was a Sugoi.  Something tells me I'll find or replace that first.  I'm not religious, but isn't there a saint that brings back lost stuff?  Meh, I guess I'll just keep riding in hopes that I find those watts.  If you see Haight sporting my watts in the wide open though, call the cops!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sometimes It's the Ride to the Race (aka A Dog in a Hat revisited)

Disclaimer:  If you're looking for a race report I apologize.  While the race was a great event, this post is actually about getting to the Ramble Around Prattsburgh. 

Sunday morning saw me hop into the car to head down to Prattsburgh for the "Ramble".  Once I turned southwest coming out of Geneva,the GPS seemed to have me zig-zagging south and west down every other backroad down around Seneca & Keuka Lakes.  As I drove and observed a few interesting yet quirky situations from behind the steering wheel, I was reminded of a book title and it's meaning which the dedicated readers of this blog (all 3 of ya) may recall .. Remember "A Dog in a Hat" by former pro cyclist Joe Parkin?  (Well if not you should still get a copy and read it.)  In this book Parkin notes a "dog with a hat on" is a Belgian expression sorta explaining when a normal situation changes or something looks out of place. 

My first "dog in a hat" moment came as I passed a nondescript vineyard and suddenly noted a patch of white out of the corner of my eye in th evineyard.  As I glanced over, I noted many white patches grazing in between the various rows of vines ... there was a herd of goats fenced inside the vineyard -- this wasn't crazy but something I'd never seen before.

My second "dog in a hat" moment came as I slowly rounded a corner and saw two large white (domestic) geese along the ditch just a few yards off the road.  As my car got closer, one of the geese went into defensive attack mode and started towards my car in a quick waddle with it's neck extended.  I realized this was probably a defensive move as the geese may have had a nest near the ditch as this was similar behaviour to the (semi) wild geese I frequently encounter along the canal path in the spring when their little ones are running around.

My third "dog in a hat" moment came as I was descending a long gradual grade and I wondered what the dark object was a good ways down the road in the opposite lane.  (Please keep in mind I race Masters so my eye sight may be somewhat questionable.)  As I got a bit closer, I realized it was four cyclists heading up the hill in a nice 2x2 formation.  At first I wondered if it was some guys warming up for the Ramble but a glance at the GPS said Prattsburgh was still 20 minutes away so that wasn't likely it.  Then as I got closer I realized that they were wearing the tell tale hats ... it was four Amish teenagers on road bikes plugging up the hill.  A horse & buggy were not too far behind which was then followed by two Amish gals on bikes.  My best guess was they were coming or going to Sunday services. 

There you have it -- my three little dog in a hat moments all within a thirty mile stretch somewhere down in the rolling hills of the western finger lakes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Let's Make it RAIN!!! or a Battenkill Recap

So this past weekend was Battenkill. Saturday was my third time racing it. My first time racing it I came in 14th place in one of the Cat 4 fields and I was pretty psyched. Last year didn't go so well.

Battenkill is just one of those races. You need to sign up so early that you never know what kind of form or motivation you'll have by the time the race rolls around. Due to a variety of factors, I wasn't particularly confident coming into this years race. Factors including, but not limited to increased work travel, a house on the market, a puppy, a trip to hike into and out of the Grand Canyon, a head cold, and missing all three of the early spring races in Albany. I don't say this to complain, most of us are faced with the same hurdles, and I don't even have kids to contend with. That said, I didn't exactly go into the race with my head in the game.

The night before the race I asked my favorite bike mechanic if I should blow off the race and go to Paradise Found. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I don't frequent strip joints. Not because they particularly offend me, but I just think it would be awkward to run into someone I went to high school with. I picture my half of the conversation sounding like the following as Snoop Dogg's "Drop it Like it's Hot" plays loudly in the background: "Oh hey Kate, how have you been!? What's that, you say you have five kids!? Sweet tattoo's by the way! What, what's that!? Oh, you used to have a meth problem but now it's under control!? Glad to hear it! Well, you're looking good for 40, but I have a bike race tomorrow so I should probably be on my way!"

So despite the fact that I still have all of the one dollar bills, a one dollar coin, and one Canadian Loonie from last years TNTS races, I decided that I'd just stay in and prepare for the race. My favorite mechanic did suggest that it would be fun to "make it rain" as the kids say, and also pointed out that the Loon goes a long way considering the current exchange rate.

So fast forward to the race. Great weather and a highly organized race as always. For the first half of the race I lingered toward the back of the pack wallowing in my low self esteem. I went into the race with the aforementioned low expectations, but the legs felt good and I wasn't really struggling on the hills. I knew that the last hill would probably get me, but if I could hang on until then, I'd consider it a morale victory. I decided that I should probably move up in the field. As we cranked up one of the dirt sections I was feeling good and decided I could grab a few spots. Just then some dude lost it, tried to recover and shot from right to left across the road perpendicular to the field. Thankfully he only took out one of the racers. Unfortunately that racer was me. I swore . . . a lot . . . jumped up and started running for a cyclocross style remount. I was still in the mix and figured I'd be fine. As I jumped back on the bike, I went to pedal and noticed I'd thrown my chain. Off the bike, two attempts to get the chain on in a panic, and now the lead pack was gone. The wheel van waited around to see if I could get back on, but as soon as my adrenaline was gone, so was the wheel van. After that I got into a pretty good group and we had a solid rotation going. We were making good time and I still felt ok. Then on one of the rocky sections I got a flat. No worries, I brought a tube and pump for just such an occasion! A car stopped to ask if I was all set, and I told them my race was pretty much shot, so I'll just change my tube the old fashioned way.

So, after securing the area and making sure there were no snakes lurking in the ditch I was working in, I made a quick change and was on my way. Now I was in no man's land. Everyone in may race that had any legs was long gone, so I was pretty much a solo act. Sweet. As I rode along one of the dirt sections I noticed something shiny. I love shiny stuff, so I took a closer look. As close as one can look at 20mph. Oooh a Garmin. After riding about 50 yards I decided that I should pick it up, so I made a u-turn. This was definitely confusing to the two riders within sight as they wondered aloud what I was doing. I picked up the Garmin, tossed it in my pocket and resumed racing . . . er uh riding at a brisk pace. I had a devil on one shoulder suggesting that I keep the Garmin and a mini version of my mother on my other shoulder suggesting that I turn it in when I finish the race. As this debate raged on, I hit a sketchy downhill and got another flat. As luck would have it the wheel van for my race was parked on the side of the road. They asked if I want a wheel and I asked if they had a tube. They didn't, so I took the last rear wheel in the van. I've watched enough "So My Name is Earl" to have a rudimentary grasp of Karma, so I gave the Garmin to the wheel van driver and let him know that it was from the field that started 10 minutes before mine.

At this point, I had a strangers rear wheel and 18 miles to go. I now rode as gently is as humanly possible. I started wondering if I'd need to pay a stranger $20 to drive me back to Cambridge. As the finish line approached, I couldn't even imagine what place I was in. My ego started urging me to bail out just before the finish line. "Maybe a DNF is better than whatever number will ultimately be next to my name." It then occurred to me that I'm a Cat 4 and no one really cares. Not even a little bit. I still don't know what place I came in, but considering that I was taken out and had two flats, I guess I was lucky to finish in one piece with my bike intact.

The big question is what do I do next year? Avenge my poor showing . . . . OR MAKE IT RAIN!!!! If I was a little more adept with the whole internet deal, I could create a voting poll and my three loyal readers could decide. Feel free to use the comments section I guess.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It's True ...

It really is true, you can ride a flat tubular.  To test this theory, I decided to do a loop of Oneida Lake with a clincher on the front and a tubular on the back. 

To explain this setup, you have to look at this past week where I flatted my rear clincher twice.  Upon close examination of the clincher rear, I decided it was time for the tire to go and being mid-March, I did not have a backup that wasn't of the cx variety.  So I pulled out an old deep dish HED w/a tubular that saw primary duty on the TT/Tri bike to cover me for the scheduled long ride planned for Sunday. 

At the point absolutely farthest from my house (near the NW corner of Oneida Lake past Brewerton), I noted the rear tubular seemed a bit soft.  I hopped off, popped a cartridge in the inflator and watched the tire firm up with the satisfaction of knowing the tire was good to go.  Suddenly a big hiss emerged from a minute cut and the tire went soft.  (This is what they call the "oh shit" moment.)

I figured I'd nurse it for a few miles to see how it worked out before sending out a formal SOS... well it was a slow ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk with each rotation of the uninflated tire.  The head wind, while not harsh, was enough to try to further rattle me as it was from the east.  (How freakin often is the wind coming from the east?)  I pressed on with new goals at each small village to make it to the next small village.  Once to Sylvan Beach, I was ka-chunkingly inspired  with thoughts of a tailwind once I got to route 31.  Finally Lakeport and the left turn home.  Water & food gone and 60 minutes behind schedule but I was gonna make it.  I ka-cunked into the driveway about an hour later than planned having proved yes, you can ride a flat tubular.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Uh Oh

So it's no big secret to the 3 or so readers of this here blog that the esteemed authors periodically enjoy a good adult beverage (or two).  Great brews -- we're on it (with perhaps a slight Belgian bias).  Good wine -- we're on that too (with perhaps a slight Spanish bias). 

So out of the blue, Drumroll gets all silly and fascinated with bourbon in the middle of this crazy winter.  He starts looking up bourbon websites, bourbon recipes, bourbon history, bourbon blogs, and stumbles on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail website ... and not only a Bourbon Trail website, a section/page dedicated to "Bike the Bourbon Trail".

Yes sir -- riding your bike between bourbon distilleries.  So now you see the "Uh-Oh" factor.  The major challenges now include how to incorporate a couple days of bourbon biking into the training program as well as how to get Ms. Drumroll on board (she does like horses and they have those in Kentucky).  Maybe I can convince her it's my patriotic duty as bourbon (as frequently mentioned at the distillers web sites) is the only true spirit Americans can claim as their own.  Cheers.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

To Train in Spain

As I peruse the cycling websites on a nearly daily basis (just like you do...admit it), I get a little jog down memory lane when I see the articles and pics of pro teams training in Spain.  I never paid much attention to these articles/pics until I ended up in the Costa Blanca region of Spain a few years back.   This year has been a lot of memory lane trips as the camps for the pro have recently included numerous Costa Blanca locations:
  • RadioShack-Nissan in Calpe
  • Vacansoleil in Benidorm
  • Astana in Calpe
  • BMC in Denia
  • Garmin-Barracuda in Calpe
I ended up in Albir (located between Benidorm and Altea ) at a low key resort just a short walk off the ocean.  The area was advertised as a cyclists training mecca...warm weather, great roads and varied terrain.  I rode everyday for 2 weeks straight .. sometimes with a group of others (mostly from the U.K.) or sometimes just solo.  The riding was quite amazing as you'd imagine with varied cyclist all over the place.  The acceptance of cyclists on the road surprised me as a paceline of 12 riders could occupy a lane of a major street city street (similar to an Erie Blvd) without being run off the road or cursed out.  A bonus while I was there was a second tier pro race started in Benidorm where we got to see a handful of top pros including Oscar Friere, some Postal/Discovery guys. 

So now seeing pics of the pros in Calpe, Benidorm, Denia, etc. makes me long to get back there and ride.  Almost every ride I/we did while I was there went through Calpe or Benidorm or Denia as they were only a few miles in either direction and were the main routes to get up into the mountains.

I know this winter has been rather nice to us thus far but short sleeves and shorts are sure beginning to sound nice about now.   Spain anyone?

Friday, January 20, 2012

There's snow way you wanna miss this . . .

Sorry about the snow way thing. Probably lame but my middle name isn't "Danger." It might be "Lame."

Anyway, as many of you know I spend every weekend riding outside regardless of the conditions. I'm not going to spend 3 or 4 hours on the trainer . . . ever. I tend to ride my CX bike in the winter, but there are some drawbacks. Cars, sketchy roads, wind chill from riding faster, did I mention the cars? Oh yeah, snow plows too. The three people that read my posts are well aware that being swept up in a snow plow is the most likely way that Mrs. Skinny will become independently wealthy. Maybe danger is my middle name, but I digress. I may be stupid, but at least I am well insured.

Last Sunday I left the house at 6:15am and it was -7 in Manlius. When Tim O. was in Caz is was -12. I'm no stranger to sub zero weather, but last Sunday the roads were clear so the bikes were moving fast. -7 with a riding induced windchill becomes much colder. I'm no weather man, but it must have translated to somewhere in the neighborhood of -82 . . . give or take 60 degrees. Fast forward to Monday morning when I'm shaving for work, I have a little frost bite, and boom I shave off most of a frost bitten mole. Apparently I'm a bleeder . . .

So you must be asking yourself, where is story going, and why would you ever share something so gross with the general public. Actually the mole thing is nothing, the weekend before I was cold and needed to . . . um relive myself during a ride and peed all over my mittens in a bulky clothing induced accident, but that's another story for another time . . . or not.

Right right, I had a point and the point is this, I'm an idiot. Don't be me. If you want to ride outside safely and at a speed that won't cause you to ultimately freeze your face and lose a "character defining mole," BUY A SNOW BIKE. How would one go about purchasing such a thing? What's it like to ride one? What size would I need? All great questions, I'm really glad you asked. You would go the Syracuse Bicycles Snow Bike Demo of course. Hope to see you there and here's a link to all of the pertinent information:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Rise and Fall - aka Groundhog Year

For me, it's always about 'cross. Road season is simply a way to kill time and maintain fitness en route to 'cross season. Every year as 'cross season comes and goes the range of emotions and behaviors are similar. With few exceptions, I finish the season strong and on something of a high. Fitness is high, motivation is high and generally speaking there's a high from hanging out with like minded friends every weekend. Work travel is scheduled around racing and training whenever possible, food choices are generally healthy, and despite the fact that no one pays us to race, we generally lead a better lifestyle because we race.

The end of the season always brings a range of emotions. I remember being a kid at summer camp, and on the last day you were sad to see your friends go, but you were also excited to go home. Pick-up might be from 10am-2pm and as it got closer to 2 and more and more kids were gone, it was sort of a bummer. For me, the 'cross race on the Friday after Thanksgiving was like being picked up at 1:30. Some people's seasons had ended a week or two ago, and although some people were headed to New England or Nationals, for all intents and purposes it was time to go home. I was bummed, but on the other hand, I welcomed a break in structure.

Structure has always played a pivotal role in my life . . . as Mrs. Skinny will tell you. To some extent, I've come to realize that the lows encountered at the end of the season are simply part of the process and as a byproduct, part of the structure. I can try to fight it, I can try to train through it, but ultimately what goes up, must come down and that's part of my baggage in life. In my case, lack of structure tends to ultimately end in a bad food/booze induced bender followed by the realization that I need to promptly get past "that" kind of devolved structure and back to the more conventional structure. Frankly I'm not sure that sentence even makes any sense, but hopefully the two or three people reading this get my point.

At a recent "social mixer" I was talking to a local triathlete that was essentially describing a similar range of emotions and experience after completing a 70.3. You train with your friends, you're hyper-focused and boom it's over. Sure there will be next year, but "summer camp" is over this year. During our discussion it pretty much occurred to me that although the post season low I experience after 'cross season is a downer to say the least, it's simply a means to an end and with winter comes long training rides in the dark and snow with Tim O., and before I know it we will be driving to Albany for the early spring races. Next stop Black Fly on the CX bike, MTBing, TNTS races, rinse, repeat, and back to 'cross season. Did I mention I like structure? I'll keep experimenting with ways to diffuse the post season low, but knowing that the post season high is inevitably going to lead to a post season low is half the battle. It's a merry-go-round that's worth riding.

Now if we could just get some snow on the roads so that the pure roadies will be stuck skiing or on the trainer for fitness, then I'll be truly happy.