Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy T-day

Today was a good day. We got up early and headed over to my folks for Thanksgiving. The roads in Maine were still pretty miserable from the storm yesterday, that kindly gave us a white Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, despite having more snow sports gear than you can shake a stick at, Cathy and I came up short in terms of actually having any at all physically with us. As such, we didn't really get a chance to play in the snow. Instead we did a short snow hike, or maybe you should call it a snow wallow, as we broke trail through a foot of snow in our boots a short ways up the AT in Shelburne, NH. Still fun to be outside.

Morning frost of the windshield.

Anyhow, today was about food and family and both were good. We got a chance to chuck some lead in the AM with my brother and nephew and I welded up some new runner shoes for my old snowblower (yes, I know you can buy new ones but I'm being thrifty). My dad spent lots of time showing his progress on the hot-rod truck he has been building. It's looking pretty good, especially with the new custom headers and straight pipes my brother built for it. Sounds pretty mean as well. My brother also had a file cabinet that he'd made (he works for a high end furniture company and also makes really, really nice hardwood furniture on his own so if anyone needs stuff, let me know) that he didn't need, so we went and got it at his place and snagged it. While there he showed me the monster JCB backhoe he bought. The thing is huge and weighs 17,000 lbs. It's an industrial sized pig with an 8' bucket on the front and full size hoe on the back. Works pretty well for pulling boulders out of his lot.

Santa's Village at night at 40 mph out the window of the truck.

We headed back home to Maine late in the day, where we had another Thanksgiving feast of leftover baked beans that Cathy had made yesterday. An excellent day indeed. I really have much to be thankful for and for all of it, I truly am.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and we will see many of you this weekend in Sterling.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

2011 Northeast Velocross

This years edition of the Northeast Velocross cyclocross race, the race promoted by NEBC and taking place at the Northeast Velodrome property saw a few changes year over year. No, the changes were not in the course layout but in the attendance. A massive show of support by the good folks of NECX made for much, much deeper fields. It was awesome to see all the folks there. From what I could see, most everyone had a smile on their face after sampling the course laid out by Kurt and his crew at the Velodrome.

Cathy and I arrived at the venue early Saturday morning to volunteer as well as to get a good parking sport. We weaseled our way into the venue and scored the absolute premier parking, forcing the Shimano guys to move their tents which they were in the process of setting up so we could sneak by. We simply pretended that we were official and those saps all bought it. Score! From there we sought out the volunteer coordinator to see what needed to be done. Parking was the first on the list and then we settled into course marshaling and generally getting crap done that needed to be done. Not exactly rocket science but good stuff.

The hours flew by and before I knew it, Tipsy was asking me if I was planning to race or just volunteer. That seemed odd as I had the perception that I still had hours before my first race. The truth was that we were only an hour away from the start and I hadn't began to think about getting ready. Panic sat in, I pinned up, ate some stuff and got suited. Quickly I pulled a bike out and onto the trainer and started spinning, all the while pounding the water that I hadn't been drinking. Soon the start time neared and I got the good bike down and ready to go. Cathy volunteered to take my SSCX bike, which I needed for the SSCX race and would also serve as my M35+ pit bike, to the pit for me.

On the line NEBC got a front row start so we all lined up right on the first row. Quickly got the count and shortly after that was the start. A mad dash around the track portion of the course saw teammate Scotty drill it. I settled behind him and when he swung off wide in the first corner as we came off the track and onto the infield, I hit it hard. Soon I had a gap and kept changing hard. I could sense that people were holding back and letting my run but like any fat tuna on the hook, I led with all I had. This held for the first couple of laps but coming through the start/finish I had been bridged up to by an unknown to me racer. He attacked hard and gapped me on the track but I kept close.

Soon I could see another racer coming up, none other than Mark M., who had done thew same the previous weekend. Shortly thereafter Mark was with me and then came to the front. I was intent to stay with him but soon noticed a problem. My rear tire was feeling a little squish as I came around the BMX course. I couldn't tell the extent of the issue until I hit the track, at which point I was quickly flat. I rode it out around the track and on the infield without much issue, jsut a bit slower than I would have liked. After the 2nd set of barriers the chain jumped off and wedged in between the spokes and cassette. Ugh! I carried the bike up the track and down into the pit, which was only 30 yards away. Unfortunately I had trouble locating my spare bike and by the time I found it and got back out on course, arch rival (not really rival as much as guy who always finishes ahead of me) Billy had caught up to me.

The two of us worked together and although I was faster in the technical stuff he would school me and my one gear on the track and on the steep uphill, which I was forced to run. Bill made multiple offers to let me switch bikes back, as the neutral support had fixed my bike, but I was stubborn and refused. In reality, that was a really stupid move but I never claimed to be smart. On the final lap I go by Bill before the hill and killed myself to stay ahead of him running through lapped traffic but he made it through and got by me. We hit the track together but he easily crushed me and my wimpy gear. It was a fun race still.

A couple hours later was the SSCX race. I was disappointed at my performance in the first race but had high hopes for the second race. When race time arrived however, the sun and the temperature had dipped and I was freezing. I literally couldn't stop shivering. I even raced with leg warmers on. The start was almost surreal. I hadn't touched the bike since finishing the first race and was as cold and stiff as possible. My only hope was that we would all go really slow the first lap so the race would be as short as possible. This is because they use the first lap time to figure out how many laps you will be doing. It worked for the most part. I never saw the front of the race and just followed wheels. Scotty at first with the hole-shot, then Doug and then Curtis. After a couple laps I was solo chasing Curtis, who wasn't working nearly hard enough but which was OK by me as it meant I didn't have to work harder top maintain the gap he had. We all got spread out and it was basically a bunch of solo races taking place at the same time on the same course but that's racing some times. In the end Curtis easily stayed ahead of me, but I was OK with that. I felt pretty good for both races and had respectable results on both counts. I can live with that.

All in a great day of racing. This was a very feel good event, with ample smiles of joy and excitement. Why not after all, this was such a unique course, how could you not have fun? Only the most technically inept would see this as something less that it was, a cyclocross funpark. Many thanks to the good folks that made this event a reality. I'm proud to be part of the club that promoted it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fun Stuff

Today was the first complete and full day of vacation. We were off yesterday as well but were traveling, so it didn't count, really. After breakfast this AM it was still effing cold (17 degrees) so we opted for a drive to Berlin to snowblower shop and then hit Wallyworld for some sight seeing. We snagged a sweet new Ariens Professional 28" blower that cost a fortune but will hopefully be the last we ever need by buy. We then got some Blue Bunny, gun accessories and targets as well as some beef-ribs at Walmart and headed for home. Unloaded and did some chores and by 1:30PM we were at the day's high temperature, about 41 degrees. With that we suited up and went out for a ride.

Starting the climb up RT113 in Evans Notch.

The plan called for nothing too imposing, the rolling run out North Road to Gilead and then up RT113 into Evans Notch. This is is mild, 8 mile climb that kicks a little in a few spots but is a nice easy climb to the top of the notch. As we headed up, we noticed that thew suspension bridge that used to cross the Wild River is gone. A victim of Hurricane Irene I believe. As we progressed up the climb the sun sunk low and it became overcast. The temperature went from comfortable to pretty raw and chilly. As we crested it was starting to look like it could snow, which it is supposed to do in earnest later on, so we did not dawdle.

Looking out into NH from the top of Evan's Notch.

The descent down quickly cooled things off some more and the ride home was all but cold. We managed to get home before dark, though barely, and missed any adverse weather conditions besides the cool temperature. All in all a great ride upon which we met very little traffic and had no incidents. It wasn't super fast as we were on cross bikes with full knobbies but it was still good to be out riding and especially good to be riding some place different. It had been a couple of years since we did this out and back. It really is a very nice ride.

It's all downhill from here, except for the ups of course.

After some quality time warming back up in the hot shower, we snagged a rental flick and sat down for a couple brews and a plate of nachos at Suds Pub. Good stuff. Soon the crock-pot will yield the batch of corn chowder that we put together earlier in the day for supper tonight. Tomorrow promises at present to be a good old fashioned snow day, which will be fun in and of itself.

Life is good and vacation is great.

Friday, November 18, 2011

That's Right

How's this for bucking the accepted living from paycheck to paycheck in financial servitude trend. Corporate and personal greed as well as "the man" can pucker up and kiss our collective bottoms. Team Two Adventures is FREE AT LAST!

Just in time for Black Friday in fact. Off to Walmart for a big-screen TV or maybe a slick new euro-car so I can look and feel more important than I really am. Heck, you know, we deserve it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Plymouth Cross Fest 2011

No, not Cross Dress, Cross Fest. This past weekend Cathy and I once again packed up the van and made the pilgrimage to historic Plymouth Massachusetts for the Plymouth Festival of Cyclocross. The two day event has come to be held exclusively at the Plymouth South High School campus in the past couple of years. In the past, the event was split between Plymouth North and Plymouth South High Schools, the former being a past home of the US National Championships. As always, the event is promoted and organized by Bill Sykes and family and sponsored by George and Corner Cycles. Good people and long time staples in New England bicycle racing. Cathy and I have attended this race since we started racing cyclocross, way back in 2006 and our attendance has become a yearly tradition.

The 32nd Annual Plymouth Festival of Cyclocross in historic Plymouth Massachusetts.

On a side note, despite the fact that this was billed as a "festival", I was disappointed to find no fried-dough, folk-music or clowns making balloon animals. I'm not sure how you can consider yourself a "festival" without any of those staples. In all fairness though, there was a bouncy-house, which I suppose could possibly meet the formal qualification for a festival.

In looking at the two different course layouts for the two days in the online race guide, I noticed that there were some strategic changes to both day's courses versus those of years past. I've got the bigger description and report from last year here so if you want more on that, go there. With great expectations we suited up upon arrival Saturday and went out on course for a pre-ride. The changes were indeed subtle but took a big portion of the boring drudgery out of the course, in the form of removing the big perimeter loop around the back playing fields. In it's place were a couple of switchbacks and a double-back around a playing field that was also in play for another section of the course. That afforded you views of other racers coming the other way on the course and broke up any potential boredom. It also meant you went in both directions allowing for opposite wind patterns one direction to the other. A headwind one way promised a tailwind to look forward to the other way. There was only the one short section of mud behind the barriers, which is always there, at least from my experience.

Cathy was up first in the women's open race. She was feeling pretty good and the course was a good match for her strong suit, steady power and lots of it. I made sure to try and get a good training week in the week leading up to the races. As I mentioned before, the ride interval Tuesday made a big difference for Cathy in terms of boosting her confidence. I wanted to continue with that through the rest of the week and so we did skills and a few mid length intervals on Wednesday and had a good spin-sprint opener on Friday. That seemed to work well as it has in the past. She got a great start and rode really strong the whole race. I could tell from the way that she was racing that there was a change in the style I had seen of recent and in fact, for much of the season. She was driving, not just sitting back and following. The result was a really exciting race and one of her best results this season.

There is not a whole lot to say about my race, really. I had a good race but was outgunned by one of my across the boards (except maybe on the MTB anyhow) rivals, "Wild" Bill from Corner Cycles. The start was one of my best ever though we had a couple of really fast starters in our field like "Mr. diesel" Kyle from the Embrocation Team, who managed to curtail my short lived holeshot before the first corner. Old time friend and 45+ strongman Don from Bikeman was a major factor, as expected, especially early on in the race. What I didn't realize but should have based on past performances, was how much of a battle I would have over the course of the weekend with the other Corner Cycles racer in the field Saturday, Dave.

What played out after the first lap was Bill, myself, Dave and Don each separated by 10 yards, plowing around the fields battling the wind. Eventually the elastic snapped and I managed a small gap and caught Bill. Unfortunately, Bill's teammate Dave was also coming up, so I knew I had to stay on the gas. I went to the front and hit as hard as I could for half a lap. This managed to put some distance on Dave but when Bill decided to come around and punch it, I was gone. The remainder of the day was spent trying to stay away from Dave and Don and reel back Bill. The former worked, the latter did not. Still kept me in the money though, which is a nice change.

As a note, I liked the course switching back on itself the way it did, affording the opportunity to see racers going the other way. When the race settles in I enjoy cheering on teammates like Scotty and other friends like Brant, G-Willy and Gary in those face to face sections. Don't get me wrong, this is more of an encouragement grunt, but it's something I always like to do in all competition. "Be nice, until it's time not to be nice.". The switching back also gives the impression that you are still racing people rather than just doing a solo time-trail, despite the fact that those people may be on completely different sections of the course. Often you find yourself alone on remote sections of a course, leaving you to wonder if there is still a race going on.

Day two was a slightly different course with some additional technical features and a little more variety to it. There were also two sections of deep, loose sand. I liked this course layout a lot and think that the changes made over years past were excellent. In hindsight, this could be one of my favorite courses. There was also a downhill, low speed, fresh cut loamy, tight switchback section in the woods that proved a great challenge. This was a very neat feature and the more I reflect back, the more fondly I think of it. The also used a couple aspects of day one that had been never used before, including a miserable little steep and slick grunt. Each time up I would spin out for the final couple pedal strokes over the top.

Once again Cathy was first up. She was having a great ride in a much stronger field until she pulled out of her pedal in a convoluted sprint attempt going through for the lap. This nearly resulted in a tangled up in the bike face plant but she managed to pull it out and get going again. Unfortunately the bobble took a toll and she lost contact with the woman with whom she had been racing. She still managed to retain her position and get a solid result. Most importantly she didn't get hurt. Upon examination of her bike after the race I noticed that she had bent the front wheel in the incident such that it was rubbing quite a bit on the brakes. Too bad she didn't notice and switch to the bike she had in the pit. That said, it didn't seem to make too much of a difference. Later that night when we got home, I pulled the tubular tire off the wheel so I could access the internal spoke nipples and got it all squared away for her for next time.

My race saw some additional players in the form of Curtis B., Mark M. and Alec P., all of whom often beat me. Bill and Dave were there as well so it was going to be a challenge. I didn't get a great start and had to chase through a couple of people to get up to Bill, who was driving hard. It was near this point that I was feeling really good and thinking to myself that I could maybe win this thing. Kyle had a great start and was riding super well for much of the first lap, with four of us managed a gap on the field and moving nicely. Eventually Curtis took over from Bill and drilled it hard. I was on the back behind Kyle who was starting to struggle, so came around to grab Bill's wheel. The three of us moved forward quickly through for the lap but when we hit the fields in the back the gaps started to open. Back to reality.

Curtis rode off the front, Bill dangled in the middle and I dangled behind him. This was the scene for another lap or so until I could see Mark and Dave coming up. I tried to recover for the surge that I knew would happen after Mark caught me and recovered. That trick never works though and when he jumped and headed up to Bill I was only able to hang for half of the effort. Dave had wisely come up to me with Mark and firmly affixed himself to me. I tried time and time again to ride him off my wheel but couldn't. I knew with his teammate Bill just ahead of us, he wouldn't be interested in dragging me up but we agreed to work together to preserve. I'm terrible at following for some reason and never seem to recover or be able to hold tight. Fortunately I'd catch on the technical sections and corners despite gapping off on the power sections. We worked together for the rest of the race, now running from an advancing Alec, who is yet another Corner Cycles rider. On the final lap I made a hard charge to try and catch Bill and drop Dave but accomplished neither. I stayed in front of Dave up the final climb and kept on the gas the rest of the way, getting within seconds of Bill and managing to fend off Dave and Alec. I'll take that.

All in all, a great weekend of racing in good weather that wasn't all that far from home. Bonus was that on Saturday, one of the local radio stations started their seasonal 24x7 Christmas music run. After some back and forth as to the appropriateness of this at this particular date, we decided it was indeed officially Christmas season. I finish write this listening to Johnny Mathis.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why I Ride

People have a multitude of reasons why they ride bikes. For that matter, reasons change with time. The reason that you start riding may well not be the reason that you continue riding. For me, I was always fascinated by bicycles. As a kid growing up in the middle of nowhere with few others directly nearby with which to play, I used the bicycle as my escape. I think that this is a common thread for so many of my generation, for the bicycle was their sole means of transit. We would amass in roving bands and plot trips throughout the local area. Competition quickly crept into the mix in the form of wheelie, long-jump and no hands riding. Feats of daring or more often, stupidity. Lack of skills coupled with inferior quality product and questionable engineering practices often lead to catastrophic failures.

Bicycles were also one of the very first objects of my desire, so to speak, that I can recall truly wanting for. I grew up very modestly and as such, bicycles and so many other non necessity items made their way to me as used or salvaged goods. To that end, there were very few in my neck of the woods who had the where with all to have much in the line of brand new and if they did, it was department or hardware store as there literally were no bike shops in Northeastern Vermont in those days.

I can't begin to convey the countless hours spent sourcing used parts from the few local hot bed stashes of bike parts and then cobbling together something to ride. The pure satisfaction of building up a viable form of transit from a collection of odd and dissimilar parts and pieces is something that stays with me to this very day. It is something that I still take great pleasure and satisfaction from and fully expect that I always will. There is a sense of accomplishment that one gets initially from the build but then from actually riding the bike that they built. The experience affords an escape like few others.

As much as bicycling historically helped define not only me but my generation, it has further become a major part of my life and with that, it has become a part of Cathy's as well. We are largely who we are today because of it. In many ways, it defines us. I like to think that we are better because of it and as such, we try to be good hosts and ambassadors to the sport that has given us so much.

This is why I ride bikes but there is also another reason why I ride, train and race with purpose that I do. I am one of the many people who has been totally changed by biking. As a kid I was always husky (that means fat). Growing up rural in a family that was not into recreational physical activity and didn't necessarily have the means, motivation or understanding to make really healthy nutritional choices set the stage. As such, I constantly battled with my weight, often being the biggest kid in my class as I was always tall as well as fat. This was the case right through my freshman year of high-school where I topped out at about 210# just about the same time my height maxed at 6'1". My sophomore year I started playing football. With that a change occurred, which got me started on the road of legitimate physical activity. I played football (poorly) through the rest of high-school as well as track and field in the spring. This got me to the point where I "looked normal" and got my weight in check at just over 190#, where it would hover through the remainder of high-school.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of the tale of the scale. It never is. College helped pack a solid 20# back on thanks to beer and unhealthy eating choices and quantities, despite remaining active with recreational running, hockey and racquetball. My freshman year I hit 216#, a new record, but one that would not be the ultimate plateau. No, that would be post college, when I started working and regular physical activity took a huge dip. I'd picked up tennis and loved to play though I wasn't very good, but the couple times a week that I could play just wasn't enough to do it. I climbed steadily to the point where I topped out at 236#. That was just about the time when I started getting into mountain biking in earnest. Though I'd owned a really nice TREK 950 MTB for a while, I hadn't really ridden it much. I was new to the area and didn't know all that many people.

This changed when I meet a couple of other folks at work who also rode bikes. Through that networking I learned of local places to ride. Yes, this was back in the days of finding information first hand, back before Google or the internet or even Cathy for that matter. Things are so much easier today as information is so easily accessible. Anyhow, we started riding the Middlesex Fells once a week and our work based ride group swelled. We learned of Lynn Woods and started riding there as well. Keep in mind, however, that the rides were not exactly high impact. We would ride really technical trails for a couple of hours and cover 5 or 6 miles. The hook was set though for what would be a lifestyle change.

Soon I met people who not only rode recreationally but raced as well. A couple of the crew learned of a mountain bike race on the Cape and we decided to give it a try. This was my first bicycle race ever, the Surf n' Dirt in Orleans, MA. I did the beginner race, which was only 5 miles. I remember being unable to fathom how the higher classes could do 10 or 20 miles; it simply did not seem possible to me at that point. I struggled mightily in that race just to finish and though that I was going to die. As you can see from the post race picture of all of me, there was some excess baggage. And yes, that is a full suspension TREK 9200 that I am stranding next to.

From there a few of us kept racing and I ended up getting hooked on it. The weight came off slowly and over time I managed to get back down closer to 210#. This would remain my core weight for some time. My fitness and stamina steadily improved as the amount of time I spent riding increased. I upgraded categories and continued racing for a number of years, always easily qualifying for the clydesdale class. My winter weight would shoot up to near 220# and the summer weight would be between 205-210#. Though it didn't seem like it at the time, I look back now at some of the pictures and am aghast. Over the course of the following few years we became disenchanted with racing bicycles and walked away from it, though we never stopped riding. Not for a minute.

Fast forward to the current epoch. This time-line started in and around 2006, when Cathy and I got back into racing bicycles. This time we had become well established in the cycling community and came at racing from a different avenue, from the road rather than offroad. That is a whole different ball game, is incredibly competitive and requires a much higher level of fitness just to hang. I remember meeting Johnny Mo' for the first time on a late winter/early spring, NEBC Saturday morning library ride. I was on a cyclocross bike that I'd built as an exploration and sight-seeing vehicle. We talked about cross and he set the idea of racing, an idea I'd toyed with since a brief and failed attempt back in the previous century. I also distinctly recall talking about weight and the fact that I was about 218# at the time. I can only imagine what he though.

That season Cathy and I would take up racing in earnest and race many road races, as well as weekly training time-trials. We also took up a full season of cyclocross in the fall. Add into the mix the constant riding and training and weight came off, paring me down below 200#. Despite the activity, my love of food and beer kept me right around that mark steadily. That is, until the competition bug sunk it's teeth a little deeper. I was finally starting to see some better results and like any addictive substance, I wanted more. This clear solution was to ride, race and train harder. I did and another weight hurdle was met, getting me to the 190# range. The final stage has only been in the past few years. Through some steady and consistent training, riding and racing as well as other activities like X-C skiing thrown in to keep it interesting, I've been able to hit the low 180# range in the summer and stay right around 190# in the winter. That is where I am now.

I'd really love to drop another level but find it difficult to balance. Again, my problem is my compulsiveness. The same thing that keeps me riding my bike is also working against me when I open the refrigerator or step into the pantry. I realize that and in truth, it scares the crap out of me. I know how easy it would be to get back to where I was and fear every day of inactivity risks a relapse. I honestly think of it that way, like it is an addiction.

I ride my bike because I love to ride my bike. I ride and race my bike with the level of conviction that I do because I'm always riding scared. Scared not necessarily as much of the competition though, as I am of myself.

Monday, November 14, 2011


It really is amazing to see what a little dose of confidence can do. Some people just get into a rut and let their confidence and self image slip. In normal everyday life that self perception has certain connotations but in the world of athletics and competition it can have far more dramatic and damaging consequences. After all, the difference between a good and bad performance is often 100% mental and having a negative self perception or lack of confidence in your ability will inevitably become a self fulfilling prophecy. I know. Like most of us, I've certainly been there, though quietly I probably suffer from this complex less that most. I'm one of those people (fools) that chooses to ignore reality and regularly overestimate my athletic ability.

Last week we did our normal Tuesday night training ride. The ride, as I have mentioned before, is a road ride consisting of about a dozen sprint intervals, primarily on up-slopes. We regroup and recover in between the sprint intervals, each of which is between 20 seconds and a couple minutes long. This past week we had a feisty group and things got hot as soon as we hit the open road. The hammer-fest kicked in and soon we forgot about the recover portion of the show. It was pretty much just game on the whole night. Good stuff for sure.

Cathy racing Nashoba back in the previous century.

I mention this ride for one reason. Cathy decided to join, which she has in the past. She had been a little down on her results and her abilities, at least that was my take from the outside based on what I was seeing. In reality, I could see that she was not racing anywhere near her potential. When she wants to go, she can go. There are few women I know that can pull through at 25mph and bump the pace up, but she is one of them. If we get her climbing ability under control she would be deadly. I believe that is an easy fix as well, she just needs to want it and believe it; believing or more, knowing that she can climb. I honestly wish that I had half of the potential and natural ability that she does.

Anyhow, on the Tuesday training ride last week Cathy made a dramatic transformation. She got angry and she dug her heels in and she rode to her potential. What happened next was that she had no problems hanging on all but the longest and steepest sprints but she also started dropping some of the guys (no names mentioned). I could literally see her getting more and more confident as the ride went on. We had a great ride and the more important part was what happened this past weekend when it came time to race.

The old Surf n' Dirt race in Orleans.

That renewed confidence gained on Tuesday evening was still there come Saturday morning. Cathy raced better and stronger than she had all cyclocross season. She wasn't just sitting back and letting the competition dictate her race, she was driving her race. This resulted in a great result on Saturday. Sunday was looking even better, with a really strong performance going in a much tougher field. Unfortunately while sprinting hard to get on a wheel coming through for the lap she pulled out of her pedal and nearly crashed. The violent weight shift ended up tweaking the front wheel pretty badly, unbeknown to her at the time. Fortunately she managed to keep it upright and finished the race without loosing position but lost the other racer that she had been working together with all day.

This is one of the times where a carbon-fiber rimmed front wheel paid off as the incident simply stressed a bunch of the spokes causing the wheel to come out of true. However, the rim was rigid enough that it didn't collapse. An alloy rimmed wheel would have likely taco'd and collapsed, causing a catastrophic crash. Last night when we got home, I pulled the tubular tire off and trued the wheel up (internal spoke nipples) without issue. I glued the tire back on and all is set.

The point here is that racing is largely a mental game. Much of competition deals with your minds ability to get your body to suffer. If your head isn't in it, your body never will be either. Believe in yourself and the ability that you've shown to have. It's there, you just need to realize it and take advantage. How's that for motivation.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

That Time of Year

Well it is officially "that time of year". The time of the year where, for me at least, everything starts to come into question. Overall fitness is usually at the core of the debate, but of course there is motivation and overall attitude which are all intertwined with environmental factors that we who call New England home, face on a daily basis. In reality, I usually have at least a few of these periods a year, depending on how things go.

Lets break this thing down and detail what I feel are some of the contributing factors in the equation. I think that starting with the obvious environmental factors is a good place to start. It's the fall and in reality, we just turned about at the corner for late fall. We all know what is right around the next bend. So what is the real issue with fall? After all, it is arguably the most beautiful and enjoyable season in the northeast. The bugs are gone, it is cool and crisp and the leaves, underbrush and poison ivy start to thin making for some excellent mountain biking conditions. What's not to love about that?

Nothing, except for the fact that I rarely get to ride the MTB in the fall any longer as it is rapid-fire no holds barred and non-stop cyclocross season from September through December. I think that it is one of the unfortunate truths about racing cyclocross, it wrecks the best season of the year in terms of being free and clear to just ride for fun. Take it as it is, that is just the trade-off that we all make when we get serious about racing bikes.

Along the environmental issue front, the bottom line is that this time of year in the northeast is dark and cold. The sun is setting by 5PM and by 5:30PM you need lights. With the setting sun, the temperature quickly plummets. This makes for cool to cold weather riding. Worse is the fact that the ride may start with reasonable temperatures but end significantly colder. You deal though. Besides, riding in the dark is sort of different and fun. The same old roads or trails seem fresh and new, primarily because you can't really see them all that well and you get a bit of tunnel-vision defined by the reach of your headlight. Most employed people also don't really have the luxury of riding during the day when it is light and warmer. Theoretically, I could bring all of my junk to work and then ride at lunch. This however poses enough issues that I'd just rather ride in the dark after I get home. When I'm an work I want to work, so that I can go home at a reasonable hour. I'm not a fan of extending the work day whenever I can avoid it.

I think that one of the most obvious yet difficult aspects of this point in the year, stems from the fact that I am really, really bad at training. Couple this with the fact that I'm not getting any younger and bang, I'm always effing tired. You can understand it earlier in the season when you are really ramped up on training and putting in the big time and mileage. However, at this point things have tapered down in prep for cyclocross, right? Well, for the smart bike racer yes, they have. They are into very targeted training sessions that fit with cyclocross efforts and race schedules. I too have cut back but realistically, not as much as I should. For instance, I'm spending between 8 and 11 hours a week on the bike. During the summer I spend more like 11 to 15 hours a week on a normal week and in the spring I'd average a little more. Why can't I pare it down some more? Simple, I'm a junkie and am addicted to the miles. I've tried to kick the habit but just can't see to make it work. That yearly total just keeps looming over my head and I certainly can't ride less this year than last year.

2008 Plymouth South cyclocross race.

It has been a long season of racing. As a master of really ineffective training, I tend to be one of those that has one peak in the season. It starts about May and ends about November. Graphically speaking, it's a very mature looking peak, if you think of it in geological terms. Much like the local New England hills and mountains, it has been worn and eroded by time into a choppy series of shallow ridges and valleys. There is some variation but the peaks are fairly low and the valleys are fairly high. This makes for little variation between off and on, which results in consistent mediocrity. It is indeed an ignorant man who knows not his flaws but it is a foolish man who chooses to ignore them.

Yep, I am what I am.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Addition Complete

The long awaited addition is finally complete. It was actually finished up a couple of weeks ago on Friday but things have been crazy. Immediately after completion and the final inspection, we promptly left for the weekend away in Maine and were not able to take advantage of it at all despite the nice weather. Last week the weather deteriorated and we all know the story of last weekend. Suffice to say, we haven't really had the opportunity to use it so far. Too bad as it is really, really nice.

New deck and 12x12' sun-room with removable glass/screen panels.

Now in terms of the new deck, obviously we make use of that. No we have not spent much time sitting out on it but we use it to get to the grill on a regular basis. Anyhow, it will be all set to go once we do get a bit of good weather or a nice sunny weekend afternoon when we are not racing bikes or doing chores. I can't want to just sit out in the room with a beer and enjoy it. Many thanks to our friend John who hooked us up with some very nice and nearly unused furniture for the room.

The first snow of the season on the new deck.

Next up is the internal lighting. I'd planned to get after it last weekend but the snowstorm changed all of that. The ceiling is vaulted and finished in tongue and groove pine. Cathy and I built two beams to span the width out of three ganged 2x6's that we glued and screwed and then ran through the thickness planer. That is always a fun time trying to run a 12' long beam through the planer on all four sides. We did the same thing for the mud-room addition that we did ourselves in Maine. After they are planed I dowel plug the countersink holes for the screws to make them look like they are pinned and to cover the heads of the screws. Ends up looking pretty nice. Those beams are actually semi structural though where as these are not really. The main use of the beams will be as carriers of the reflective lighting source, simple rope lights. We will string them on top of the beam and the light will reflect off the pine ceiling and give a nice glow. When it was wireds we had a switched outlet put at celiing level next to one of the beams to control the rope. Again, same as in Maine. Works well there so why change a good thing.