Saturday, December 8, 2007

La Ruta Aftermath

I finally got around to cleaning my bike after La Ruta. Mud and salt every where. My bottom bracket was toast. I was even using some ceramic bearings. Complete rebuild on every bearing. Took me all day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

La Ruta Day 4

Last day. Cold and rainy again today. I have my rain jacket today. I know it will get warm as we get to the coast but I'm so cold that I'll deal with the hassle of carrying it.

The day starts off as usual with a climb. Only 5000 feet today but it's all at the start . As usual I stuck in traffic and I get pushed into a ditch. I'm a little grumpy and tell the guy to watch where the hell he is going. He flips me off and I start walking up the hill.

We finally get to the top and start a massive paved downhill, 6 miles or so. This goes on for awhile and we reach the 2nd and last major climb. My legs are dead so I have to walk most of this one but I'm doing good on time and I know it's flat all the way to the coast. My eyes are a little better this morning but I still can't wear my glasses due to the rain and they are starting to act up again. My right eye is only working about 50%. I every time I blink it clouds up. I'm a little worried about it.

We finally get to the top and start another long downhill. It's starting to get humid and hot as we drop down to the coast. The scenery is changing too. Lots of banana trees and cattle farms.

We finally reach the flat stuff and I'm spinning my ass off as these long pace lines go by me. I'll get my revenge however. The flat stuff seems to go on forever but finally we make a turn one of the many sections of railroad track. We ride down the center for the most part. The ties are covered in gravel but they are still exposed. The 29er wheels help but sometimes it feels like I'm riding a jack hammer. The trestles are really scary too. We have to step from tie to tie over they flooded rivers. One mis step and you go down. Really scary stuff.

More of this and it is really starting to take it's toll on my. Finally I start to smell the ocean and we make a turn and I can hear the waves crashing on the shore. I got a tip that there is 10k of salt water swamp coming up. I'm not really sure what a salt water swamp is but I find out quick. It's basically a flood plain where fresh and salt water meet and form these deep pools. Waist deep in spots. For some reason I get a burst of energy and I pin it. I'm actually riding through these deep pools. I can't believe it. I'm parting the water like Moses passing guys left and right. I don't know where all this power is coming from. I'm cranking along and we have one more train tracks section but I have to wait because there is a train coming the other way. Holy shit

The train passes and I'm hammering again on the tracks. I'm hoping the rails to pass guys. Fully rigid going by guys on full boingers. Feels good. I eventually catch and pass all the guys that blew by me in the pace line. We hit a section of paved and I actually have to climb a hill. I'm dying, my legs are on fire and I can't see anything out of my right eye. I hear the cheers from the finish line and all of a sudden two guys I passed a while back are catching up to me. No way I'm going to let them pass so I do a sprint to the finish. I round the corner and I see the finish line. I'm cranking at 200 rpm it feels like and cross the finish line and collapse. Done, 75 miles in 7.5 hours. Another brutal stage. I jump in the ocean and wash all the crap off me. I rinse my eyes out and my vision comes back so I'm good there but my eyes will be hurting for a few days.

I drink a few beers, eat everything in site and take the bus back to San Jose which is another story I'll tell later.

Today I'm just laying around the hotel packing my gear. Everything I have is wet and all my riding gear is covered in mud. My shoes were destroyed, I just left them on the beach.

Overall one of the best times I've ever had. I never knew I could push myself that hard. To get up every morning at 3 am in the cold and dark and put on my riding gear took such will. It actually got to be routine on the 3 and 4th day. The fatigue became so common that it felt normal. I don't know if this is the hardest race in the world like they say but it has to be up there. 4 days 220 miles and I don't know how many feet of climbing. Brutal weather conditions and dealing with logistical nightmares of finding bikes and bags every morning.

Huge thanks to Vassago Cycles for the great bike. Big thanks to The Bicycle Escape. Also thanks to all my friends and family for whishing me well.

Riding Railroad Tracks

More Tracks

Riding In Luxury

At the Finish

La Ruta Day 3

The volcano day. Tons of climbing. 8000 plus feet all in one shot for the most part. It's really warm at the bottom but everyone says it is cold and rainy at the top so I have arm and leg warmers with me. All these days start out with a climb and this day is the same. These are really hard for me because I get stuck behind guys spinning in their grannies and it really kills me. I usually get pushed off in to a ditch and I'm riding the hardest line. I'm still riding with Sean, one of the other singlespeeder and we are walking and pushing. We all have to stop at one point as there is a cattle train coming down the mountain. Pretty bizarre but I'm so used to it at this point.

We get to the top of this first climb and ride through a small town. It's getting colder and raining. I get on my cold weather stuff and head out again. Some little punk throws a handful of gravel at me and it lands right in my right eye. Just the start the beating my eyes are going to take.

We get to the base of the volcano and start the 18 mile climb up. I can't see the top because it is covered in clouds. I'm riding a lot but pushing a lot too. I do this for a few hours and finally reach the top. It is very cold and raining hard. I get ready to the downhill that is the most technical of the day. Wathershed style rocks covered in wet mud and cow shit.

I'm doing really well but I'm starting to get tired and my front brakes are acting up. I have to stop now and again to let them cool off. I'm flying down this hill. Way too fast but I just want to get off and get warm. At one point I loose my front brakes totally and only have me rear. My eyes are full of mud and cow shit since I can't wear my glasses due to the rain.

I finally make it down and start climbing again for a bit. I welcome it because it warms me up and lets my brakes recover. My front brake is working about 10 percent and my right eye is all cloudy. I finally roll into the finish 7 hours later and take a cold shower and put on some semi dry clothes. I need to work on my bike to see why the brakes are acting up. I see it right away. I wore the front pads down to nothing. I change them out and pump them a few times and they come back. I drop the bike off at the bike wash and head out to the hotel for some dinner and sleep. 3 AM wake up call tomorrow.

Cattle Have Right of Way

Top of the Volcano

Coming Down

La Ruta Day 2

Day 2 was a new stage this year. So it was hard to get any inside information. I could tell there was going to be a lot of climbing as usual but it appeared that it was mostly paved. My legs felt a little stiff from yesterday and my shoulders were a little sore from the long downhill but otherwise I was feeling good.

As usual there is a long line to get your bike. The bike's are all in a jumble and you just have to hunt around until you find yours. This is one thing I feel they need to improve for future events. I finally find my bike and check it out. The bike wash guys did a great job and my chain is nice and lubed.

Where's my bike?

I take my time making it over to the start line. I don't want to get up front because I'll just get run over since I'm planning on running a casual pace today. The start goes off with a slight delay and we start off immediately on a huge, rocky climb. I'm breathing hard and sweating really bad. Not a good sign. We slowly gain some elevation and I start to warm up. This stage is only 46 miles and 8,000 feet or so of climbing. I reach check point 1 and I'm feeling pretty good. I'm riding more or less with Sean and Pineapple Bob is just in front of us.

I'm actually feeling really good as we hit the all the pavement. More steep climbs and I'm walking alot but I'm treating this stage like a recovery ride in force. More great views, more little towns and more people cheering for us. The rest of the check points go by with out much incident. I'm still feeling good and the bike is working great. I get to what I think is the last pavement climb and I'm pretty sure it's all downhill from here but then we take a left onto some rocky singletrack. It's nice being on the dirt again but I'm a little worried because I don't really remember seeing this on the map. We continue on the singletrack for a little while and it's starting to get really muddy again. Uh oh, this doesn't look good. We eventually pop out into a small clearing and I can see "The Wall of Mud" in front of me. This thing is a monster. It takes me nearly 20 minutes to get up it. My bike is starting to pack up with mud and I'm dragging it behind me up this thing. Every time I take a step forward I slide back 2 steps. Finally I get to the top and I had my bike to a kid that is helping us. I don't think he is part of the race, he just wanted to help. He says, only 1k to the finish, all downhill. Yeah, I've been hearing that shit all week. Everything is downhill and 1 k in Costa Rica :). We'll he wasn't too far off. It was all downhill but it was all mud. I can't even ride down it, it's more like surfing. At one point I slip and tweak my ribs on my barends and I have to stop a moment to catch my breath. Eventually we get off this mud hill and into the outskirts of San Jose. The finish is close I know it.

Finally I start to flags and the mall that we are finishing it. I sprint up the last little hill and roll in around 7 hours. I'm covered in mud again and my bike weighs 30 pounds I bet. I check to see how much brake pad I have left, about 50% and I figure that's good enough and I throw it in the pile of other dirty bikes. I feel sorry for the bike wash kids tonight. I take a cold shower and head back to the hotel to rest up and get ready for day 3. The Volcano.

My fans :)

Wall of Mud

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

La Ruta Day 1

Day one is the hardest day. It has the most elevation gain and is the 2nd longest day. It also has the most mud. More on the mud later.

3 AM comes early and I try and swallow some breakfast but it isn't working too well. At least the coffee is nice and strong and so good. It's already hot and humid even this early and I know I'm in for a rough day. I fill a baggie up with endurolytes and top off my camelbak and get in line to get my bike.

Getting your bike every morning is an adventure. Basically they just toss them all into a tent in random order and it's up to you to find it. You may get lucky and it's on top of the pile or not. I eventually find mine and see that the front brake hose has come off the sticky thing that was holding it on and i don't have a zip time. Shit! It's only 10 minutes to the start. I see the Cannondale mechanic getting Tinker Juarez's bike ready and I go over to beg for a zip tie and he hooks me up. How cool is that?

I get my brake fix and get in another long line to get checked into the start chute. I can see one of the theme's of this race is hurry up and wait. I finally get into the chute and I'm crammed in with 600 other racers. There are fireworks and and music but I'm too nervous to watch any of it.

We roll out of the chute at 5:10 AM and I start off at a casual pace because we are about to do some serious climbing.

Well we hit the first hill and it doesn't disappoint. I'm getting off and walking a lot and for the first time I'm a little worried that I might be in over my head. I push those thoughs aside and continue to grind up the hill. Eventually we reach the top and we are riding in the clouds. We also go through our first little town. All the people come out and cheer for you. Especially the school kids. It's a cool feeling.

More rolling stuff and then we hit the mud. This mud is unbelievable. It's basically clay and trudge through it forever. At each stream crossing guys are washing off their bikes to get them working again. I'm secretly happy I had my singlespeed but I'm not totally immune. I have to stop and scrape the mud that build s up between my wheels and stays because they stop rolling after awhile. The mud seems to go on forever but eventually we start climbing out of it. However, the hill we are going up is long and steep and I'm starting to feel it. The sun is out and it's hot. I really crack on this thing and I start thinking I'm not going to make it again. Once again I push aside the negative thoughts and continue up the hill. Finally reach the top and I recover on the nice downhill.

The major climb of the day is about 10 miles. It's not a bad grade but it takes forever to get up, almost 2 hours. To make matters worse they are doing road construction about half way up. So not only are we struggling up this hill we have to ride on this sticky tar for about a mile. It smells and it is hot. It was so miserable :) It was so bizarre I found myself laughing.

Getting close to the end I catch up to Sean. He ran into some problems with cramping and running out of food so I load him up with whatever I have left and we take it casual into the finish. I roll in at just under 10 hours, 14,000 feet of climbing in 60 some miles. Pretty stuff stage. I take a cold shower and we head back to the hotel in time for happy hour. I hope my legs still work for tomorrow.

Typical Costa Rican Road. Never mind the water :)

This is the mud :(

Bike Wash station

Check Point in a small town

One of many amazing views

La Ruta Day 0

La Ruta de los Conquistadors is 4 day stage race held every year down in Costa Rica. This race was the 15th anniversary and also the first time they've had 4 stages.

I decided to do this race almost a year ago after reading about it. I was really getting into endurance racing and kept looking for bigger and bigger challenges. I read that this was the supposedly the hardest race in the world and that sounded interesting. I made a rash decision and signed up for it. Now all I had to do was get ready for it. Do to that I packed my schedule with as many 12, 24 and 100 mile events as I could. To make things even harder for myself I decide to do it on my fully rigid singlespeed. At the time I didn't know it but I was eventually going to get picked up by Vassago Cycles and I would eventually take my 29er Jabberwocky down with me.

So anyway enough background info. I actually got down there a few days early. I was meeting up with Sean and and bunch of other nuts doing this thing on singlespeeds (Dicky, Doug, Andy, Tim and few others). We killed a few days in San Jose doing the tourist thing, visiting muesumes and just looking around in general. San Jose is an interesting town. You can walk a block and enter a very poor area, walk another block and you are surrounded by American restaurants like Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

The night before we got word that there was going to be some kind of party at the Best Western that we were staying at. Sean spoke Spanish farily well and we learned that there were was going to be some kind of beauty contest. This sounded interesting so we went out to eat and came back in time to see the show. Sean wanted to get a better look and walked into the party. Reported that there were a bunch of hot chicks walking around. I had to see for myself so I walked in. Immediately I'm surround by security and asked to leave. "Private Party" is all I understood. Ok, no big deal don't want to land in jail before the big race. I'd had enough exciment for one night so I decided to pack it in and get ready for the shuttle ride out to the coast where the race was starting.

The next day we get picked up by several buses and begin out 2 hour trip out to the coast. We pass through some beautiful countryside and eventually arrive at the Best Western - Jaco. Registration goes fairly smoothly and eventually I even find my bike among the hundreds laying on the ground. There were some really nice bikes laying around and I wondered what would stop someone from just grabbing a 7,000 dollar Scott. I figured my bike was ok since no one in there right mind would try to ride a singlespeed at La Ruta, well except the 8 of us trying it. In fact I was told several times that night that I was loco for even trying it. We'll see. I tried to put on a brave face but deep down I was scared as hell. Especially after seeing the mountains we were supposed to go over. I hoped my 20 tooth would work but brought a 21 and 22 just in case.

I head to my room and get ready for the 3 AM breakfast. I don't really sleep all that well knowing or better yet not knowing what is to come.

Hotel Filling up with racers


Sunset over the Pacific

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Shake The Trees

So my latest adventure found me in the Charlotte area to participate in the 12 Hour Tree Shaker Challenge. I was pretty excited about this race because two of my fellow Vassago Team mates were going to be there, Brian Archer and Chris Davis. Plus the competition was going to be good with Team Dicky and Ross Dowswell showing up.

The Run

So we do the usual Le Mans style run at the start. The goal of these are to try and spread guys out before you hit the singeltrack. You drop your bike off at the start line and do a small loop. It never works :). My goad for the start was to try and get up front as best I could because the trail doesn't offer many places to pass and there are several bridges that I knew were going to be bottle necks. One in particular would give me trouble for at least 3 laps. There was a suspension bridge that was so narrow that my bars wouldn't fit. I tried flicking the bars around and being all fancy to try and stay on the bike but after eating it on 3 consecutive laps I figured the best plan was to just walk this thing.

Settling In

I basically ride these lap races in big chunks of time with out stopping. I usually do one 5 hour chunk and then stop for a little bit. My plan was working pretty good. I'm riding at a steady brisk pace and really enjoying myself. The trail has nice flow and it has a nice combination of fast swoopy stuff for the first half and harder climbs for the 2nd half. I'm starting to pick out all my landmarks too. I like to make note of weird rocks and trees so that I know where I'm at on the trail.

First Stop

I had great support for this race as a good friend came in to watch me so I was really taken care of well when I did make my first stop. I did a quick check of the results and I surprisingly saw that I was in 2nd behind Dicky. I always have reservations about checking results. When I see that I'm doing well it makes me freak a little bit but it also inspires me to ride more.

Half Way

We've reached the halfway point and I've slipped to 3rd. Ross caught up to me about halfway through one of my laps. We rode together for awhile and he went by me. I hung with him but screwed up a log crossing and had to dab. That was enough for him to get a gap on me. I tried to close but then thought better of it. I knew that if broke from my pace I'd burn myself out and risk not finishing. I backed it off and let him go. There was still lots of time left and anything can happen.

Bring The Pain

Eight hours in and I'm starting to feel it. The hills are getting steeper and my body is starting to hurt. The low points are coming faster and more frequent but I'm still able to ride out of them. My pace is still good and my legs feel great. Each time I start a lap I get a new burst of energy. I'm riding less consecutive laps but after checking the results I have a one lap advantage on 4th place. Dicky and Ross are pretty well ahead of me but I'm not worried about that. I just need to ride for another few hours and I'll be done.

Just Let It Be Over

You get to point in these races where you don't care how you finish you just want it to be over. I'm there now. I'm riding at night. It's very cold and it seems like I'm the only one on the trail. The laps are coming real hard now and I know I have to do one more to make sure I have 3rd locked up. Dickey catches
up to me on my 2nd to last lap. He is still riding strong and says he is going out for one more. I ride with him for a bit just to chat and then I let him go. My light is also acting up a little bit. The connection into the battery is loose and it cut out on my. It's so dark in the woods but I don't panic and get it fixed.

Last Lap

I go out for my last lap and my support crew is really cheering for me and it helps. I know for this last lap that I just need to finish. Doesn't matter what time I finish. I'm riding just fast enough to not fall over. I'm starting to walk one of the bigger climbs. I get on the back half of the trail and I don't think I'm ever going to finish. It feels like I'm the only person that exists in the world right now. The trail is so empty. The only thing that keeps me going is the distant cheering I here. It's my support crew and it drives me forward.


I roll into the finish line and find that I've managed to hang on for
3rd place. A final check of the results show that I had 2 laps up on 4th place which means I didn't have to do that last lap oh well. Overall this was one of my best races. It was a tough bumpy course but the Jabberwocky held up and begged for more. This one is going on the schedule for next year.

As usual thanks to Vassago Cycles and The Bicycle Escape.

Congrats to all my Teammates and Pete for great finishes.

Now I need to focus on La Ruta

Few Pictures

One of these things is not like the other ;)

Brian on the trail tearing it up

Chis hammering

Me trying not hit trees

Pete in his purple flames

Thursday, November 1, 2007

DCCX Cross Race

DCCX was a cool cross race I did this past weeked. this was the first annual race held on the grounds of a veterans retirement home in downtown DC.

The adventure started early in the morning when I got lost heading to the race. I mapped out a route to get me around the heart of DC to avoid the Marine Corps. Marathon. I made a wrong turn and did a big loop around DC :). Anyway we made it.

It was a cool morning and it finally felt like cross weather. I get changed and do a few warm up laps. my legs are stiff from the Rowdy Dawg still, but eventually I work the kinks out. This is also the first traditional cross race on my fixed gear and I want to make sure I've got the dismounts nailed. the course is a long and challenging one. some good climbs which suit me and my one gear.

Finally time to start ad i set off on a quick pace and settle into the race. We get two laps down and I'm getting into some great battles with a few guys. I've only forgotten to keep pedaling once and nearly get launched off the bike.

Two more laps to go and guys are starting to fade on the challenging course. This is where I can pass a bunch of people as I sem to finish strong. One lap to go and IZm dying. My legs are on fire but I feel like I need to keep pushing myself.

Finally we start the last lap and I push my self to the end. I end up coming 32nd out of 68. Not too bad on a fix gear. the other thing that made this race fun was my Mom and Dad being there to watch me race. My Mom cheers so loud foe me :)

Next up is a 12 hour race called the Tree Shaker. 10 days to La Ruta. Holy shit! :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rowdy Dawg

This weekend Team Vassago (or a big chunk of Team Vassago) ascended on Blacksburg Virginia to participate in the Rowdy Dawg. This is a grassroots race that's been held the last few years in the hills around Virginia Tech. We decided to participate in what they call the Double Cross Country category.

After getting some confusing pre-race instructions on how many laps we were doing Brian Archer, Jeremy Arnold, my buddy Shannon from work and myself lined up with 5 other really strong riders in the cold October air.

Around 9:35 or so we get the signal to go. I jump out front to see if I could push the pace a little bit, hoping that I wouldn't burn myself out in the first 5 miles. The course consisted of some really steep hills, fairly technical rock gardens, screaming downhills and twisty singletrack. We get spread out a bit on the first hill and I'm really not feeling being in the lead like this so I back my pace down and get passed. That's ok, now I can just ride my race and settle in. I'm doing fairly well, the hills are working me pretty good with my 32x19 gearing but I like it on the flat stuff and gentle rollers. About half way through the 2nd lap I get passed again in a rock garden. No problem, I'm still feeling strong. Plus I tell myself, those guys are on full suspension bikes with gears vs. my fully rigid singlespeed ;)

The day drags on and I'm starting to feel the hills. I also start freak out because I can't remember how many laps we are supposed to do. Was it 3 or 4? Shit. I ask at each rest point but no one knows. I feel like I can't stay long at these water stops and I tell myself it must be 3 and decide to make the turn back to the finish line. I'm freaking out the whole way up the climb to the turn. Then I see the ROTC volunteers. In a very commanding voice he says "You're XXC, you're done only 5 miles left". Sweet, I get a burst of energy to finish strong.

Anyway, it was a hard race and I managed to hang on to finish 3rd in about 4 hours and 45 minutes. This race really surprised me. I thought it wouldn't be that hard compared to the 100 milers or even the MIchaux Series.

As always thanks to Vassago Cycles and The Bicycle Escape.

Pictures coming soon.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Iron Crush

I did the Ironcross today. This is a 100k endurance cyclocross race if you can believe such a thing. Basically you do a lap on a traditional 'cross course then then they cut you loose into the mountains of Pennsylvania. The route consisted of tricky singletrack, doubletrack, dirt roads and pavement. First thing I have to say is that it was a very cool race, I had tons of fun.

To make it even more interesting I decided to try this thing on my newly fixed cross bike. This was only my 2nd ride on a fixed gear but I figured what better way to get used to it. The race went well. Some monster climbs followed by some killer downhills. I think going down hurt more than going up. I was spinning at 200 rpm sometimes. When I couldn't take it I'd actually take my feet off the pedals for a bit and just let them spin. The singletrack sections were really fun. It wasn't pretty but I was able to make it through most stuff with out getting off. My technique basically consisted of powering through stuff. Made for a long day but I had a very satisfied feeling coming across the finish line. I even managed to get 6th place somehow.

It Was a Graveyard Smash

I did the Monster Mash race this Saturday at a local park. It was a charity race that benefited the DC chapter of Trips for Kids.

This race was a little bit differnet than the endurance races I've been doing. It was only 3 laps or about 50 minutes. I was hoping my muscles wouldn't rebel on me with the sudden change. There were about a dozen or so of us in the singlespeed category. The weather was a perfect 68 degrees when we got started. I was able to slip into 2nd place after the start. It was a fast pace and I was hoping I wasn't going out too hard. I managed to move into 1st place and was holding on but 2nd place was right behind me. I was thinking one slip up and I'm done. No sooner did I think that then my front tire washed out on a tricky switchback and he passed me like a shot. The hill we were on was kind of steep so I had to run up it partly and I couldn't close the gap but managed to hang on for second. Very fun race and I just saw that they raised a few thousand bucks for the cause. Double cool.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fix Me Baby One More Time

Got my ENO eccentric wheel last night for the cross bike. This thing is pretty ingenious how it works. It basically allows you to tension the chain with vertical dropouts by rotating the hub around an eccentric axle. I'll be running it fixed gear. Should be interesting this weekend at Ironcross.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Perfect Weekend

I love these weekends in the fall. Cross race in the morning. Riding mountain bikes in the afternoon. Drinking beer in the evening. Doesn't get much better than that.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Now This Is Cross Racing

This Saturday I did the AVC Breast Cancer Awareness Cyclocross Race in Hagerstown Maryland. It went pretty good overall. The singlespeed setup is still working great. I find that I can get a good jump on guys on the hills. While they are fumbling for their gears, I just stand up and pedal harder. I also got into a great sprint with a guy at the end. I had a guy right on my ass the entire last lap. I couldn't shake him loose no matter what I did. We turned the corner to the finish line and we were faced with 150 yards of smooth pavement. I knew he was going to try and take me so I started to speed up. All my attention was focused on that finish line. Out of the corner of my eye I see him start to come up around me. I speed up and put everything I have into the pedals and I'm able to maintain about a half a wheel length on him as we cross the finish line. That hurt, but fun.

Next up is Ironcross up in Pa. Endurance Cyclocross?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

La Ruta Check List

La Ruta is only 37 days away. I think I have all the logistics setup.

Hotel - Done
Plane Ticket - Done
Shuttle Rides - Done

Now I just have to ride it. :)

I just read that it is sold out now. Cool.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Welcome to My Life Tattoo

Had some work done today.... First one. Is it the last?

Monday, October 1, 2007


Allow me to wax poetic for a bit...

I just watched 24 Solo. It's about Chris Eatough's run for a 7th 24 Hour solo world championship. It was great. I knew exactly what those guys were going though. I don't compete quite on that level but I still give it everything I have when I do any endurance race, be it a 24 solo, 12 solo or a 100 miler. One of the central themes of the movie that I think they tried to convey was why do it. I don't know if they really captured it. I don't know why anybody does it. I think the everyone has their own reasons. For me it's about finding a limit and pushing beyond it.

Sorry We Have No Coffee

I'm at the coffee shop and they have no coffee left. wtf?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tweaking the Jabberwocky

Did some work on the Jabberwocky this weekend. I think this is the final form it will take. Until I decide to change it again. :) Click on the image for a larger view.

Here's one little blingy upgrade. Some red Dangerboy Brake Levers. Kind of match the little red knob and the other subtle bits of red on the bike. Not only do they look cool but they seem to fit my fingers perfect.

Closer shot of the levers.

I added an exiwolf on the back. I need a tire with a little bit higher volume for all the rocks around here.

1903 Adventure Ride

Took a break from racing this weekend to do the 1903 Adventure Ride. So what is a 1903 Adventure ride? Here's the best description from the guy leading the ride.

"In 1903 the first Tour de France was held. The roads were rough and unpaved. For this ride we'll seek out the same conditions. We'll head north through rolling hills and countryside before turning west and up the mountain where you can expect gravel, ruts, bumps and plenty of climbing. "

Lots of climbing is right. Some pretty brutal stuff. I was riding my singlespeed cross bike with a free wheel so I had it easy. Most guys were on fixxies. Here are a few pictures.

Getting ready in the parking lot.

Having some fun with Dave Kegley

Out on the road

No hands

First water stop

Getting tired at the end of the ride

Thanks to Joe from SSO and The Bicycle Escape for putting the ride on, it was a blast.

More pictures here


Friday, September 28, 2007

New Band

I discovered a new band that I like. They are called Dispatch. They have a cool, mellow reggae like sound. Unfortunately they are broken up now but I think they do some special gigs now and then. Their best album is "Bang Bang" and they have a cool live album called "All Points Bulletin"

Cyclorcross Fun

Last Sunday was the first cross race of the MABRA series. Cross racing is hard and just to make it a little harder, I decided to convert my bike over to a singlespeed :) This race is held up in Baltimore in local city park (Druid Lake I think). I was racing in the C class again this year because I routinely got my butt handed to me last year, so I didn't fee guilty about racing in it again.

We line up at 10:00 and I notice 3 or 4 other singlespeeders in the group. There is no separate class so we have to race with the geared guys. Someone says there are a 100 guys in our class. Wow. We get a brief on the rules and then the gun goes off. It's a dead on sprint up the hill. I get the jump on a few guys but my heart is already pounding. I didn't warm up enough, shit.

We go around 2 times and the pain is starting to kick in. The course is a bit easier than last year. They took out one long run up and a nasty off chamber section that really messes me up. 2 sets of barriers and 1 set of natural barrier. Plus the sand pits. These really suck.

We go by the scoreres table and they have the lap counter set a 4. That's means we have to go around this thing 4 more times. I'm dying. The only races that I sometimes think I won't finish are cross races. Slowly the laps start to drop and I know the pain will be over soon. I've crashed a couple of times but nothing bad. We go by the scorers table one more time and I hear those sweet words "Bell Lap!" meaning the last lap. I try to dig in and get some ground on a the few guys behind me and try to reel in the guy in front of me. I can't quite catch him but I do a sprint to the finish to try. My legs are screaming the whole way. FINISHED

Don't know what place I came in. They kind of screwed up the results of our race. Doesn't matter really, I enjoy it so much. I do know the guy that won our class was on a singlespeed. He was running a huge 48x18 gear combo. My puny 42x18 looks pretty wimpy compared to that.

Few pictures

I love this one. A common site at a cross race.

The sand pits

One set of barriers

I caught these guys as they were remounting. The hardest part in my opinion.

I love to try a race on a fix gear but I can't figure out how to do the dismount. I'll work on it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Terror of Teaberry

Terror of Teaberry is the third and last race of the Michaux Endurance Series. The guys that put these races on sell them as being some of the hardest on the East Coast. They might be right as these trails can be summed up with one word, rocky. Especially this last one. I was riding some of the most technical stuff I've probably ever done. Very fun stuff.

The adventure gets started the night before when my air mattress springs a leak at 3 AM. Now I'm sleeping on cold and rocky ground. I toss and turn for a few hours and before I know it my alarm is going off. It's pretty freaking cold too. The first thing I do is put the coffee pot on and get in line for the bathroom. Pretty much my standard ritual at this point. I continue to get ready, saying hi to all the various people I've met doing these races. I also had a chance to meet my Vassago Team Reps. It was pretty cool having them there. I wish we had a chance to talk more but I glad they could make it up. Hopefully they got a little bit of a feel for what East Coast Mountain Bike racing is all about.

It's starting to warm up a bit as we roll out to the start line but it's still pretty cold. The race director is giving us some last minute instructions. He says two things that stick in my head, "This will be the hardest 50 mile race you've ever done" and "The last 8 miles are just wrong". Great, sounds like fun. Let's go.

The start is crazy. I guess there are about 40 of us rolling fast down this loose, rocky fireroad. You can't see jack in front of you and to make it worse we're heading right into the rising sun. Rocks pop up out of nowhere and you have to either bunny hop them or try and dodge them. A couple of guys go down but eventually we get spaced out enough for me to settle in to my pace. I'm probably riding too fast but the stretch of single track we're on is too much fun. Things are going along pretty nicely, yeah we've hit some technical section so far but nothing too bad and I've crashed a few times but I get right back up again with no damage done. My rear tire is acting up on me however, it's slowly leaking air. I think the Stan's sealant is having trouble sealing because I'm flexing the tire so much. Eventually I hit a bit of pavement and I'll able to increase my speed and it seals right up. Great stuff.

About 30 miles in Super Singlespeed rider Larry Camp catches up to me and I welcome the company. I've lost my computer and I don't really know where I'm at distance wise. This is Larry's backyard and he knows the trails pretty well so I jump on his back wheel. More rocks, more logs and more hills. Finally we reach the highlight of the course, Rocky Ridge. Ok, now it's getting really hard, but wow it's fun. Yeah some of these rock gardens are just wrong, but I surprise myself at how much I ride. I think my technical skills are getting better. It seems like it takes forever to get through this section, but somehow I make it out alive. Few more bruises and cuts on the legs but I'm able to make it through in one piece.

I can tell we are getting close to finish line because I'm staring to see more people walking around and generally hanging out. It's a great feeling, probably how sailors feel when they've been out to sea for a long time and they start seeing birds. You know you are getting close.

Larry and I roll in at around 6 hours and change. Not sure what place I came in. With this kind of race, finishing is winning.

As usual thanks to Vassago Cycles and The Bike Escape. The more I ride my Jabberwocky the more I fall in love with it. The big wheels just roll over everything.

You can't tell by I'm freezing my ass off in this picture. Thanks to Tim Kramer for taking the pictures.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Teaberry - Oh Boy

Did somebody say this was going to be a hard race?

Watch this space for more reports....If I make it back.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

SM 100

This weekend found me in the hills of Southwest Virginia participating in the Shenandoah 100. This is one of my favorite races of the year. The atmosphere is great, the trails are just perfect. So going into this the only thing I wanted to do was beat my time from last year which was 12:15 minutes or so. I didn't have too many doubts about finishing since this would have been my fourth race doing 100 miles or more on the mountain bike, plus I'd bee riding around Harrisonburg a lot with my singlespeed.

5:00 AM Wakeup Call

I'm laying in my tent and I have to pee. I don't know what time it is but it's cold and I can't put it off any longer. I crawl out my sleeping bag just in time to hear the famous gong going off. So my timing couldn't have worked out better. I put the coffee pot on and go find the nearest porta potty. I get back, do some last minute checks of my gear and get suited up for a long day of racing.

The Start

I think this was the biggest race yet, almost 500 people I think I heard someone say. I line up somewhere in the middle. Chris Scott is giving some last minute instructions but I can't hear a word he's saying, hopefully it isn't anything important. The next thing I know we are starting to roll out. It's slow going at first until we hit the pavement. With this many people I figured it would be best just to find nice group going my speed and hang in until the first climb.

I break this race down into individual climbs in my head. Here's how it went down.

Climb #1

The first climb is a rolling fireroad up to the Narrowback trail system. We are still bunched up but passing is easy because there is so much room. I settle in to a pace I like and start grinding it out. I see guys that start to look like they are hurting I think to myself that they are in for a long day. We finally get to the top and hit the first bit of singletrack. It's bottle neck just like I thought. I have to dismount and walk a bit, some guys are getting upset but I try not to let their negative vibes get to me. Too much racing to do for that kind of nonsense. We spread out a bit on the downhill and I hit Tillman Road without incident.

Climb #2

The next climb is a hike a bike up Lynn Trail. Some of it's rideable but I don't even bother because of all the traffic going up. There was some bad mojo on the road leading up to the climb as well. First I pass Tim Dougherty, who was in contention for the Single Speed overall win, with a blown up chain tensioner. I stopped and offered help but he said he was good. Second I pass a guy in Trek gear stopped at the side of the trail. I thought to myself, that looks like Chris Eatough, nah can't be. Turns out it was. His rear wheel blew up and he was out for the day. Luckily I make it up to the top unscathed and start the descent. This one is bumpy and I'm taking it kind of easy since I'm on fully rigid bike. I'm seeing a ton of guys with pinch flats and I'm thankful for my tubeless setup. I've already nailed my rear tire hard enough to feel it hit the rim several times. I make it to the bottom with no problems.

Climb #3

I blow through checkpoint #2. I have enough water and food to get me to #3 and I figure I can shave a bit of time off here. At this point Andy passes me on his fixed gear. He's looking pretty strong and I let him go. He's riding a touch faster than me and I tell him that I've found a pace I like and want to save myself for the climb up Hankey. I think this is the hardest climb, it's long and it pitches up steep in a couple of spots. The other thing that sucks about this climb is that there are several false peaks. This is where knowing the course helps. A couple of guys in front and behind me are asking "Is this the top?" Each time I say no. But finally we do reach the top and start probably what is the 2nd best downhill of the course. It's pretty smooth and I can open it up for a fast descent down to CP#3. I re-fuel, get water and start out on what seems like a long paved section up to Climb #4 but I think it's only 5 miles.

Climb #4

The climb up from Mountain House is my weak point, it's not that long but it does pitch up in a couple of spots. I know I can climb about 80% of it because I've done it before but on fresh legs. It's also tough mentally because it's bench cut into the side of the hill and you have to pay attention to your line or you'll ride off the trail. I struggle up the thing and make myself ride the last .5 mile or so but I felt like I walked more than I rode. At the top I stop for second to get my head together to start the downhill. This one is the best of the whole course. Fast and smooth for the most part. I love all these downhills because they are free miles. At the bottom is short ride on mostly flat stuff to CP#4.

Climb #5 Part 1

The route to climb #5 sucks big time. It's all false flat fireroad (try saying that five times fast). False flat in that it has this slight uphill kick that really gets on your nerves. It's long too, not sure how long but it seems to go on forever. This thing really puts the whammy on me mentally and just in time to start grueling fireroad climb up to CP #5. I reach the turn to start the climb and stop to pop some Advil and slam some caffeine laced hammer gel and start the climb. I feel like I'm starting to get my climbing technique dialed in on the single speed. I've figured out that I can alternate between sitting and standing until it gets really steep. When I do have to stand for long periods, I really concentrate on my breathing. I try to get a rhythm going between the down stroke and my breaths. It helps distract me from the pain I'm feeling. I also try not to look up the hill too much, I just concentrate on what's in front of me. All of this helps me make it up to CP#5 with out getting off and walking and that feels good. I slam a bunch of watermelon, top of my waterbottle and camelbak and take off to finish the rest of the climb.

Climb #5 Part 2

Some people probably think of these two climbs as separate but I consider them to be the same climb since it never really backs off. Anyway the climb leaving CP#5 destroyed me last year. It's not that steep but when you have 80 or so miles in your legs it really hurts. This year was completely different. I cleaned the thing without getting off and walking. That felt good. Once again time for another fast downhill. The top of this one is kind of sketchy and I'm on the brakes a lot for the first mile or so. It eventually lets up and I can open it up a bit. There is a cruel joke on this downhill however, two kind of nasty climbs that I have to get off and walk. It's a big surprise if you don't know they're coming. I get to the bottom again incident and I blow past CP#6. With only 12 miles from the finish I have enough stuff to get me to the end. I'm afraid if I stop I will stay too long. I'm already going to miss my 10 hour goal. Maybe 10.5 is still possible.

Climb #6

Climb #6 takes you up Hankey for the 2nd time. The only good news is that you only have to go half way up. I'm using my new climbing techniques and I'm slowly making my way up it when I notice that my handlebar is starting to rotate back on me. This isn't good. I get off and find that it has loosened up on me. This is blessing in disguise as the time it takes me to snug it down lets me recover for a bit. I know I'm getting close to the top because I'm recognizing my landmarks but I'm suffering big time. I finally reach the top and make the left hand turn to the finish but I need to stop because my hear rate is so high and my legs are burning so much that I can't go on.

The Finish

The finish is mostly downhill. I say mostly because there are a few spots where you need to climb a bit and they are pure pain. The first is a short but steep section that I need to walk up. The 2nd is a slight up hill grade that I ride but I'm hating life the whole time. The good news is that once you get past these nasty little buggers the finish line is close. I'm never sure much further it is to go until I see that first campsite pop up out of nowhere. It's the best feeling in the world. I weave my way thorough the camp and roll in at 10 hours and 30 minutes. I finished 22nd out of 60 in the singlespeed class. I think I came in 129th overall. I ring the gong get my beer sit down. Another race in the books.

Next up Terror of Teaberry

60 days until La Ruta

Thanks to:

Vassago Cycles
The Bicycle Escape

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bring on Cross Season

Is it fall yet? Cyclocross season is right around the corner. Cyclocross racing is probably my 2nd favorite form of bike racing (endurance racing being the 1st). I've been kicking around this idea in my head of converting my 'cross bike over to a singlespeed. I knew had enough parts laying around to pull it off. Well tonight I pulled the trigger.

I usually get my ass handed to me in these races. Now I have an excuse. BRING ON THE PAIN.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I'm Sold

Ok, this 29er thing is real. I'm finally able to get some time on this thing and ride it on some of my local trails. We were at trail near where I live called Fountainhead. If you've ridden it you know that it has some challenging hills. They're not long but they are really steep. We'll there is this one hill that I've never been able to make it up on my singlespeed. There was a root at the top that would steal all your momentum and I'd just stall out. Well today, on the 29er, I made it and with a pretty tall gear. That big tire just rolled right over that root. It was good.

I've also had some time to think about the up coming race down in Richmond, 18 Hours On The Farm. I've pretty much got my plan together. I'm basically going to destroy myself at this thing. If I can walk at the end I didn't ride hard enough. I got 9th last year and I want to improve on that. I've been feeling pretty strong the last few weeks after going through a slump and I think I'm ready.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Wilderness 101

Here’s a quick report on the Wilderness 101. This is a back country race held near State College Pennsylvania. This is the first time I’ve done this race so I really didn’t know what to expect plus I was also going in on a new bike with these crazy big wheels. I had some doubts about how this whole thing was going to go down. In addition the weather was promising to be super hot and humid.

I've always enjoyed the start of these races. Everybody starts off in one mass group and we pretty much own the road as we make our way through town. The group stays together until we hit the first fireroad climb and guys start dropping off the back. I settle in with a big group of other singlespeeders and we get this kind of cool pace line thing going. All of us spinning our asses off.

The first 40 miles fly by and I find myself actually looking forward to climbing some hills after all this flat fireroad stuff. Well, as they say be careful what you wish for because we hit the first of two really long fireroad climbs and they absolutely destroy me. It’s getting hot and we are exposed to the sun the whole way up. I had to stop and one point because my heart rate got so hight that I started seeing blue spots. This seems to go one forever but finally I get to the top, get to go down a for a bit and then I had to do it all over again. Brutal.

I’m 71 miles in and feeling ok. I’ve found my 2nd wind and I’m climbing the hills better. It’s brutally hot and humid but I’m not cramping up. I’m walking some of the hills but that’s ok a lot of the other guys are too. I roll into checkpoint 5 with only 14 miles to go. I can see a light but is it the oncoming train? I grind out last few miles and roll in at 10 hours and 15 minutes. I had a rough goal of trying to finish in 11 so I’m really happy with my result. I ended up coming in 21st in the singlespeed class and 85th I think overall, 79th in men open

I need to talk about the bike for a bit. I was riding my new Vassago Jabberwocky, a 29 inch bike. I’ve never really bought into the whole 29er thing, I’ve always kind of thought it was fad. We’ll I’ve completely changed my mind. This course had a little bit of everything. Tons of fireroads, steep climbs, some twisty single track and rocky single track. The bike handled everything great. It does seem to let me go down hill a bit faster and I love climbing on it. It’s great on technical uphills where those big wheels seem to roll over the rocks with less effort. Even after being on the bike for 10 hours I felt less fatigued than I would have if I was riding my 26” bike. I was really happy with the WTB tires too. I was running a big fat 2.5 Weir Wolf up front and fast rolling Nano Raptor on the back. They worked great on the fireroads but I did wash out in some sand once. I also think that if it ever rains again that the Nano Raptor is going to get replaced with something a bit more aggressive.

So up next is 18 Hours on the Farm down in Richmond.

Few pictures.

Just part of the campsite. I there were 350+ racers?

A little reward after the ride

The open category winners

Singlespeed winners

Tandem Class winners (That's Rob Lichtenwalner (Vegan Rob) and his wife on the top spot. I was riding with them towards the end)