Monday, May 18, 2015

Weeping Willow 2015 Kenda Cup East #2

Ah Willowdale.  Always such a brutal welcome back to the race season for me.  I got pretty thoroughly smashed but it felt really good to be back racing off road albeit in a slightly modified form from what I'm used to.

Feels like its been a long road back even though it really hasn't been in the grand scheme.  But I think this was proof of concept that even though I will continue to deal with RA or whatever the hell I've got the dietary stuff I'm doing is working and I'll be able to come out on Sundays and brutalize myself.  THANK GOD.


I had pretty realistic expectations going into this race.  I figured I wouldn't know how to use gears properly at race pace (confirmed) and I figured I was going to get shelled out of the Expert Vet I field pretty fast (mostly confirmed).  I have settled on the fact that my fitness profile really doesn't lend itself to the shorter XC stuff.  Things seem to break down for me pretty quickly when efforts are near max for prolonged periods but I am perfectly happy at 80% for 7hrs.

But racing like a spaz at MAX can be so fun!

And man did I go full spaz first lap trying to hang a bit above my pay grade.  I realized very quickly that I had become very accustomed to that SS governor that keeps overall speeds in check to a certain extent.  I'm not used to dropping gears and getting up to 25+mph and barreling into singletrack with 30 other dudes.

I'm also much more used to all that early traffic blowing right past me relatively quickly.  Lap 1 was probably the longest I have spent in the middle of the Expert field 'scrum' in my whole career.  It was a bit nutty.  I'll be the first to admit I don't really have that killer instinct when it comes to making passes and really racing for yourself at the expense of others.  I'm far too friendly in those scenarios.  It was interesting to see more of those interactions of guys getting pissed and making sketchy passes, mid-race heckling...good times.

I was trying to hold wheels as best I could but I was getting pretty thoroughly swamped.  Riding the opposite of smooth, very unsettled on the bike.  I even managed to drop my chain not once but 3 times on lap 1.  I have never dropped the chain on that 1-by setup before yesterday but apparently diving into root fields at ludicrous speed all while trying to pedal the whole time will do it.  Those chain drops did a great job of getting me dropped and passed by large groups of guys.

attempting to finish strong

At the very least those spaz induced issues got me into a bit of open space so I could start to ride my own race.  Looking at my data it appears like my second lap was only about 2 minutes slower than my first which is a pretty good sign for any endurance endeavors I might have for this year.  In my head I was pretty well out of the mix so I wasn't really consciously trying to pull anyone back.  Per usual I was actually more in the mix than I thought and if I had gone about things differently I think a top 15 could maybe have been in the cards but that would have required riding like a spaz again so screw that.

Tail end of the second lap I fell into a small group of Elite women.  I got stuck with them for a bit because I didn't want to force any weird passes and risk crashing someone out.  I did get yelled at to close some gaps which was awesome. Yes Ma'am right away!  I was able to finish decently strong and I certainly felt like I had more in me and today I have almost no race hangover and feel 80-90% recovered.  So I think the message is clear.  XC is fun / training but if I actually want to be competitive stick to the 3hr plus races.  And I'm ok with that.

Next up is The Grind up at Millstone.  Been many years since I've raced/ridden up there, very much looking forward to it.  Doing the Marathon class...not very long at 24 miles but the trails are much harder up that way so it should be a long / hard race. #yeeehaaa

Saturday, May 16, 2015

VT Style IPA

I'm actually not sure if there is an official "VT" style of IPA but if there isn't there probably will be soon.  If you travel over/up that way and try any of a number of local breweries IPAs I think you will notice some similarities and an overarching trend.

Those Green Mountain guys and gals LOVE their big and bold punch you in your face floral citrusy hop bombs.  And bless them for it because some of the beer coming out of that region is seriously awesome.

I got the idea to do this batch while hanging out with my bros up at Grandpa Grunts in way northern VT.  I had been working on my gluten-free brew at the time as well as trying some commercial gluten-free beer that weekend.  I had a funny exchange with Dano after he had tried some of one of the gluten free beers I had (it was not very good, I think mine will be better).  Suffice it to say Dano DID NOT like it AT ALL and went on to comment that if he had to go gluten free and had to drink beer like that there was no way he could go on living.

I admired his dedication to the beer that he loves and he now has a reputation (at least with me) of always showing up to wherever hes going with some of the rarest most sought after VT craft brew around.

I crunched some numbers in my head and discovered that if I started another batch shortly after bottling my gluten free beer that I could have my own attempt at a beer Dano is willing to die for ready in time for July 4th and wouldn't you know it...Dano's wedding.

I doubt I'm quite on par with the Alchemist's and the Lawson's of the world but I think this should end up in the ball park.  The aroma and initial punch is certainly going to be serious.  2oz of Citra hops for 10mins at flame out and I'm going to dry hop with 1oz of Cascade and another 1oz of Citra.

Gluten be damned!
A video posted by @kevinorlowski on

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Rasputitsa 2015

The 'titsa!

Loosely translated Russian for 'mud season'.  This race/ride has had a lot of chatter behind it in the cross community and Eric talked me into it for this year.  I'm glad he did, I'm really digging these early season adventure rides.  Interesting, challenging, everything I like about mountain biking but on the road!  Mountain bikers take note!

our meal ticket was a Livestrong-esque bracelet that said Never Give Up in English AND French

Since its inception a few years ago they move the course around a bit but they always try to incorporate as much dirt/gravel as they can as well as a section they call Siberia or as I've seen in print Cyberia.  This section is usually barely rideable if at all and can be quite long depending on the course.

My streak of impeccable VT event weather sort of came to an end yesterday.  It certainly could have been MUCH worse but it wasn't the kind of day you wanted to stop and take pictures.  It was more of a we better keep moving cause its real cold and it might start snowing harder soon kind of day.  But those can be fun too!  Roads were in better shape than I was anticipating as well which was nice.  There had been a lot of chatter online in the days prior with some grim reports of slush and deep mud.

I would say conditions ended up being a bit worse than the Maple ride but still very manageable.  Some descents were pretty squirrely and there was some serious washboard in sections.  Lots of water bottles getting rattled out of cages all over the place.  I'm glad I decided to bring my mountain bike.  I would have been really nervous about crashing on some of those descents and blowing my stitches out.  Probably wouldn't have but mentally it was much nicer to be on the MTB.

This year Cyberia was a looooong section of 'road' that was basically an unmaintained mountain pass to get us back on the Burke side of Victory State Forest.  The whole thing was about a 3-4mi climb gaining just over 1,000ft.  The first mile or so was dirt road but then that changed over to snow machine trail that might have been rideable had it been colder but as it was it was about 1-3in of soft mashed potato snow on top of a harder ice crust.  i.e. not rideable even on an MTB.  This section of snow machine trail was about 2.8 miles. WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

I would say it was a torturous trail of tears but it really wasn't.  Most folks were just trudging along, chatting, trying to ride here and there and failing.  It was long, and took a long time but it was cool terrain.  At the top of the pass they had an aid station with volunteers wearing rubber unicorn heads and handing out donuts so it was all good.  We then got to descend for about a mile or so on the same trail which was fun.  Very glad I had my MTB at this point.  Lots of folks had to walk it but I was able to ride most of it.

I got real cold descending off the mountain once we got back to the road.  Once we got down into the valley it was a roll'y dirt road back up north to Burke.  Legs and lungs still felt ok but hands and feet were uncomfortable and I was getting ready to just be done.  The 1K to go sign was a very welcome site.  I had hung back with Eric and we crossed together mid-pack for 211 and 212th, I think he beat me by 2 thousandths of a second.  We were 1.5hrs behind the winner.

Post race meal was amazing.  Production value of the event was great.  Great support, well marked.  Another early season event I would highly recommend to anyone that likes bikes of any kind.

hands down best post race meal I've ever had. POUTINE!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Vermont Overland Maple Adventure Ride

textbook old VT farmsteads everywhere

I think its official. In 2015 if I'm going to VT to do something rad its going to be RAD.  Best in years, ideal conditions rad.  Camel's Hump could have been a fluke but this is proof of concept.  I'M THE KING OF THE WORLD! #jinxed

This was another new to me event (not sure how long its been going least 2 years that I know of).  A shortish little loop in the Woodstock VT area with no shortage of climbing.  A stop at a sugar shack at about the midpoint with I'd say 85% gravel/dirt 10% pavement and 5% Class 4 snow shredding.

 when you are riding a loop and starting a climb with a Dead End sign you are in good shape

frozen mud aftermath

I'd say a good ratio to denote a 'climby' route is 1000ft per 10mi.  Thats what we get in my area with all the punchy dirt climbs.  This ride was closer to 2000ft per 10mi which is fairly ridiculous.  But that kind of terrain is ideal for riding these roads this time of year.  Hills drain well, flat roads not so much.  Roads were in great shape for this time of year, just a bit soft and greasy.  Enough to get you real dirty but very rideable.

Climbing starts almost immediately heading out of town.  Pavement quickly turns to gravel and its game on. Up, down, up, down. It was a big group, 150+ but things spread out reasonably quick and the roads were very lightly traveled in that area, I probably only saw 10 cars all day.  Course was well marked, easy to follow and they had some support Land Rovers creeping around the course for support.

Eric topping out on the first climb

Very friendly atmosphere.  Lots of folks stopping to take pics and passing riders always asking folks stopped if everything was good and if anything was needed.  Even had locals out in their yards on the nice Spring day cheering us on as we went by.

The Class 4 sections were great.  First one was a slight uphill to a slight downhill with packed out jeep wheel wells to ride in.  Snow, ice and mud the whole way.  It was tricky but fully doable even on a CX bike.  Second one was a descent in deep mashed potato snow.  We got into a rut and just out-rigger'd the whole thing.  I guess that counts as 'rideable'(?)  It certainly was fun.

entrance to 2nd Class 4 section

Sugar shack stop was great.  They had all kinds of goodies to eat.  The best of which were these little yogurt / granola parfaits with maple syrup to dump all over them. Very niiiiiice.  We didn't linger too long as to not cool down too much, plus we had the hardest climb of the day still to come.  And it was a doozy. .9 mi at 12% average with a headwall in the middle that had me cutting the slope just to keep from falling over.  Luckily after that it was a predominantly downhill cruise back into town.

mini maple museum

And to cap off a great event we got $1 off beer coupons for Worthy Kitchen so we stopped and stuffed our faces with some serious VT 'fast food'.

Again this is one of those events where if you like riding bikes of any kind (there were CX, MTB and Fat bikes in attendance) you should check this one out.  Great way to kick off the season.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Camel's Hump Challenge 2015

What an amazing day.  Its so rare to get all the various stars to align when attempting events/efforts like this but as cliche as it is yesterday couldn't have been any better.  Weather conditions, snow conditions were perfect. My gear worked flawlessly. This is what I looked like all day:

I rolled into Huntington early.  Nothing like combining the change to DST with having to get up at 4am to drive up to northern VT.  You get started on the Camel's Hump Nordic Area trails which are a cool tucked away backwoods network of groomed and ungroomed stuff.

this part of the country is not ugly

shoot the gap and off into the wild blue YONDER

Things got going with a mass start send off and the gentle climbing starts basically immediately.  We had a pretty hilarious group think navigation issue early on, probably within the first mile.  I had been towards the front of the first group but had basically been following a group of two that seemed to know where they were going.  But when the trail T'd they stopped and turned around and waited for me to get there.  They asked me if I knew where I was going and I said "nope I'm a first timer, I thought you did...and I'm pretty sure there is a group of 35 people behind me who thought the same thing."

As that big group began to arrive at the T we started trying to figure out who had done it before and of course we were all basically 1st timers with maybe 2-3 who had done it before but couldn't remember which way to go.  Things probably could have been marked a bit better early on but luckily we guessed right and the group finally made it to the potion of the trail on state forest land that is excellently blazed with yellow tags with 'Challenge Trail' right on them.

up up and away.

Much of the first half of the course is gentle climbing / traversing.  I had been a bit worried about my setup.  Seemed like a lot of folks had kicker skins or slightly beefier gear but the snow was ideal for grip with scales and the grade of the contour we were on was pretty much perfect.  A nice gentle climb in most spots and when it got steeper it was wide enough to herringbone for a bit if needed.  Even though the climbing was sustained it was sporty terrain with small little descents here and there.  For my alpine skiing friends it was just like traversing to a slackcountry glade for the first 4 miles or so haha.  I realize that partially sounds horrifying but I actually really enjoyed it.  It was challenging in spots on the lighter skis and kept things interesting.

fun undulating terrain

The terrain throughout was really amazing.  Textbook VT birch glades, cliff bands.  I really think that if you enjoy spending time in the woods and consider yourself a skier of any kind this is a must do event for any New Englander (or anyone for that matter).  Just about every part of the locale and event is classic New England winter recreation.

As we got around the north shoulder of the mountain the terrain got a bit less climby and more up and down as we wrapped around the east side and headed south.  Very fun short little descents and cruising traverses with small little climbs.  Perfect for metering your effort and getting short little rests in.  Mid point rest area was just after we crossed the Monroe Trail heading to Wind Gap.  Really spectacular views / terrain here.

heading into Wind Gap

Right after Wind Gap we even got treated to a small but legit alpine glade.  About 75ft wide, maybe 100 vertical feet or so.  Something I wouldn't have even thought about or really even noticed on my AT setup but navigating on my waxless setup was interesting.  I've gotten pretty comfortable on those skis but it certainly wasn't pretty in spots.  After that its one last gentle climb to gain a ridge and shoot through a saddle by Bald Hill and then its basically sustained descending all the way to the finish maybe 2-3 miles worth?  Super fun traversing, letting the skis run a bit.  Perfect way to end the day.

They had warm chicken noodle soup waiting for us, some excellent smoked ham, all kinds of cheese, apple cider.  I got a pint glass for my efforts as well as a really cool winter sports specific camelbak pack thanks to my generous family making me one of the top fundraisers.


Super excited I found this event and I highly recommend anyone / everyone check it out.