Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Summer Season Recap

Definitely some struggling involved.
It has been an awfully long time since I've taken the time to write anything here. There have been a few reasons. Historically, the place has been mostly about my misadventures on the bicycle. This year, however, has been a bit manic. I suppose that they all are, but this one much more so than others.

I'm well into my third year in a row of pedaling a bicycle each and every day and I just finished up a straight 365 days of riding a bike outdoors each and every day. One thing I learned from this exercise was that all in all, the weather during any given year is mostly pretty good for getting outdoors. There were only a select few days that I can honestly say were a physical challenge. Once we embraced the cold, we thrived in it and in fact spent the entire winter up north in the mountains of Maine riding every day.

Loved the winter.
There were a couple of days with freezing rain and ice that proved the real challenge to safety. The sled trails were punky, sheet ice and the roads were death; just plain dangerous. I think I only made it a few miles in the 40 or so minute attempt to ride. Thunder and lightening this summer in VT, near the top of a mountain brought the other challenges. The other thing I noted was that the hardest part of any ride, much like the hardest part of a race, is getting yourself out the door. Once you are on the bike, it all melts away; it's just as simple and enjoyable as riding a bike.

In terms of racing, there were ups and downs to the summer campaign. My road racing was actually coming along relatively well in the few races I actually did. I managed to be active at the Harvard race and still miss all of the crashes and wind up with a respectable finish in a very tough field. Had their been a team then who knows, but I've certainly said that before. The reality of road racing is that you can never be a part of all of the breaks. Some times you get lucky and choose right. More often it is the one that goes just after the one you were in, the one that looked perfect but was brought back. That is the one that sticks and that is why having a team is beneficial in road racing, to have someone not totally gassed to go in that break. Whatever.

The team that I worked so hard to build and promote floundered. We fell completely down on the hopes I had for a U23 team prompting the one active member of the team to move on. The master's and women's team fell flat also, the women's never even getting off the ground. With all amateur teams I suppose, there just isn't the motivation or synergy required to keep things moving cohesively. People want to do their own thing and race their own races and do their own rides rather than try to be a team, which begs the question, what part of that makes a team, wearing the jersey? We did have a great weekly beginner MTB ride series going by a few members of the team that was very successful. Many thanks to Skip for making that happen and keeping it going the times Cathy and I were away.

Bikeway Source Monday Shop Ride.
Additionally, the one friend and teammate (other than Cathy) that I actually had to consistently ride with moved away from the area. The end result was Cathy and I doing our own thing, once again. Though I love spending time with my wife and would never trade her company for that of anyone else, it still bummed me out greatly and so I shied away from doing much racing or group riding at all I'm not sure why a real team is such an illusive concept for me but here I am again. Cathy found a great team for the gravel scene with the Ride Studio women's Adventure squad and she loves it. I'm envious. Will see what next year brings in general as goals will be much different.

Through it all though, I kept one goal in mind, a good performance at the MTB National Championships. After having a costly mishap last year I wanted a flawless run this year. Early season results were lackluster but I was targeting a mid season peak, so was OK with that. Results improved as the training progressed and a few weeks before Nationals, at the state championship race, the fitness was running really high. A couple weeks later were the regional championships. Two days prior, Cathy and I went to the venue for an easy pre-ride of the course. Very early into the ride the terrain and bike got away from me and I crashed hard into the rocks, on my face. This broke my nose and wedged my right ankle through the front spokes and into the fork. Worse, it shook me hard. I somehow managed a respectable showing at the actual race a couple days later but there would be no superhuman shows of strength indicating the training was spot on. I waited until the very last moment to register for the national championships which were less than a week away; a strong indicator of the mental state I was in.

Cathy and I made the trip to PA for the second year in a row. My confidence grew as did the rage in my stomach, the rage that drives me in every race. It's not a rage against others, it is a rage against myself. Against all of my fears, my weaknesses, my flaws, and my shortcomings. It's against the fat me that is still there waiting to eat its way back out and about the weak me that couldn't handle the stress or demands of the high-tech workplace. At the start of the race I worked my way through the chaos despite a less than stellar start, and found myself part of the four man lead group off the front of the race.

Through the end of the first lap we were down to three but racked with heavy traffic from groups starting ahead of us. A crash left one man dropped off on the ascent up the mountain leaving just two of us and soon after we started down the technical descent, a flat left the remaining person dropped as well. I was now solo at the front of the race, exactly where I wanted to be. Coming into the most technical descent the traffic was terrible. Trying to pass in it was nearly impossible and nobody was giving up their lines. The two chasers caught back on as we all bottle-necked near the lower section. Still stacked up and following much slower racers I wedged my front wheel and quickly endo'd into the rocks. I slammed myself in the nose with my fist, which I managed to get in front of my face. I broke my helmet and gashed my left elbow and knee as well as smashing the other elbow, knee and both wrists. It also stole back all of my fight.

I floundered around dazed for the next mile before getting back into the swing. I managed to chase back to the then second place racer in my field, at the top of the climb. However, a well timed last minute pass by the eventual winner of a slower racer just as we enter the downhill stretch sealed the deal. I didn't get by and I was timid on the descent anyhow, so when I did get by him there was way I could bring the gap back. He caught and passed the other racer up ahead and made it in for the win, decisively. Not the result I'd worked for and nobody to blame this time. Luck or equipment failure had nothing to with this one, it was all on me. With them I limped off and called it a season for the MTB.

Great rides with MarkyG and Greg.
At that point, I was starting to get sick of riding bikes all together. I had ample projects that I'd recently gotten started on at our place in VT so I spent most of the rest of the summer there, working on gutting and redoing the interior of the camp. I totally absorbed myself in it and started to draw great satisfaction from those tangible achievements as they became reality. I'd forgotten how my fun it was to do that and how truly satisfying it was to see, touch and take advantage of the fruits of your ideas, designs and hard labor. Riding became secondary and honestly, I didn't really do all that much of it. There were a few great rides and great days on the bike including a couple of wonderful rides at the Kingdom Trails with friends the Gunsalus' and a great couple days of epic dirt road riding with the Ferret and a few great days riding with Cathy or by myself. Mostly though, the camp rebuild was the motivation.

We also had a couple of gravel races near the end of the summer that we had high hopes for. The first was the VOGP in Woodstock, VT. All I can say is wow, that was a hard race. My fitness was good but I raced stupidly; frantically attacking in the first few miles to stay safe in the washboard section and later trying to catch the lead group I'd been dropped from. I ignored what I always tell everyone to ask themselves when in the same situation, "what are you going to do when you get there?". Well, the answer to that was simple, I was going to blow right back out the back when we almost immediately started the next climb as I was gassed from the long hard chase. The next twenty miles racing hard solo left me blown with about five miles still to go. I made my way in with another racer and sprinted it out hard for a top twenty finish. Respectable given the participants, but not what I was after. The finish sprint was marred by the closest near miss I have ever had when a small child ran out from the crown right in front of me. I was traveling at about 30mph and by the grace of God, somehow missed him. The skid mark literally was a chicane that swung out, around and back where the boy was. The reality of that hit me hard and made me further question racing bikes.

Cathy and I managed some adventures.
The last summer event was the Dirty 40. I had high hopes for this race as it went pretty well last year. This year's event was looking good and although the front group was much bigger than the past year, I was solidly part of it. About ten miles in four of us hit a tricky loose climb at the front and gapped the field. We rolled the break well for a few miles but ended up getting caught. I was working hard but feeling good, feeling confident as I'd ridden the hardest part of the course multiple times and knew what to expect. About twenty five miles in I flatted. Neutral support was there and we fixed the flat in maybe four minutes. Kyle stopped to wait just as we were finishing the fix and I went into frenzy mode to chase back to the big group that had passed, and back toward the front knowing full well I'd never see that end of the race again. We started picking racers off going literally ballistic. I bet I averaged near 400 watts for that five to seven minutes while we chased. When I reached the big group that had passed me, I sat for maybe a minute then went right through. I was throwing watts out like they grew on trees, frantically trying to go forward, paying no thought to what would happen when the tap ran dry.

I finally settled with a group of three others just about when reality started to set in. On the approach to the Cole Hill climb I knew I was in trouble, so rode my own pace in, up and over. At the top I almost caught back on by a misshift sent the chain off the big ring and was enough that I could not catch on the descent. The stretch of RT5A was brutally hard and I could see my target ahead, unable to get to them. I picked up one of the three and then caught a bigger group including a teammate a bit later. I kept moving at my pace and that group disintegrated to just Ben and I. We kept moving toward the finish, just wanting to be done and with about five to go got caught by another racer moving fast in a severe washboard section. We jumped onto his wheel and almost immediately, I flatted again. A couple other racers, Paul and Tyler, passed us as we fixed the flat. Ben waited for me despite my telling him to go. The reality was simple, our race was done and we were just trying to finish. We rolled in eventually tired and battered. The race was hard, really hard. Much much harder than it's inaugural version. This turned into a real tough guy race, especially given the conditions. Fortunately, Cathy had better luck than I did and finished with no incidents as the 3rd 40+ woman. Heidi and Anthony, the promoters behind the event even gave Cathy and I an awesome plaque for promoting the event on our own. If you want to test yourself, this is a great place to do it. The spring version was still the highlight of the year so far.


We finished the build up just before Labor Day weekend, which was the target date. We are really, really excited with the results. The next post in fact, will be a complete detail of the before and after along with the process and reasoning. IMHO, the place ROCKS and we are all consumed by the whole tiny-home concept, enough so that I keep thinking maybe there is a business in there somewhere. Will see though. For now I need to deal with my own stuff.

NEBC CX Clinic
As for racing the rest of this year, I got an attitude adjustment last week when Cathy and I put on a beginner cyclocross clinic for the Northeast Bicycle Club (NEBC). This was the fourth or fifth year we have done it and we always enjoy the event. Seeing the fresh faces, new and un-jaded brings a smile to our faces and literally warms our hearts. It was also good to catch up with friends from the club that we don't see all that often these days, now that we are not as active within the club. To top it off we went out for pizza after the clinic, as we always do. A great social even and wonderful way to spend a Thursday evening.

Spent two races running from this guy.
This past weekend was the cyclocross season kickoff as well (full race report later this week). A great course, close to home. We both raced well which is always a plus and it was great to see the friends many of whom we'd not seen since last December. This is what bike racing is about. I'll admit, going into last week I was not at all psyched for the upcoming season but after a great practice session Wednesday, a wonderful clinic Thursday and a stellar race experience Sunday, I'm stoked. Team TwoAdventures is back on board and seeing things straight and clear once again.

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