Sunday, January 24, 2016

Manarea Signing Off...

Say it ain't so!

Don't worry I'm not just deleting this and disappearing into the Internet mist. But like many things in nature after awhile things shed their skin and move on.  This blog has been pretty central to all kinds of things I've done over the years but my archive history tells the tale of diminishing posts and in the very recent past I've just completely forgotten to post about certain things that I would definitely have posted about in the past.

In years past I would be thinking about the blog post while I was still doing whatever it was that I was doing. Not sure what has changed. Priorities, time and probably just a desire to mix things up a bit.

So mix things I shall.  I'll still blog about bike racing.  That content will be moving to my team blog at:

For a long time my goals around racing were about constant physical improvement and trying things I wasn't sure I was capable of and while that hasn't exactly changed, getting faster is certainly nice, I'm probably about as fit as I'm genetically predisposed to be and I spend about as much time training as I'm prepared to so my priorities are shifting a bit to fun and furthering the NEMBA Racing program.  Blogging there I think will help tremendously with keeping things fresh, leading by example to draw others out, and getting the team more socially active.

As for 'everything else' that has made up this blog, I haven't exactly found a home for everything and maybe some of this stuff won't really get covered as much or as thoroughly but some things will be taking its place as life priorities change and I spend my time doing different things.  I've had an inkling of an idea for awhile that I would like to broaden what I cover and have it really be more of a stream of consciousness type thing but converting Manarea didn't really seem to make sense because it was so concrete and built to be what it was.

Gina has also dabbled in blogging here and there with animal stuff and her photography but nothing has really stuck to date. So in a way we both have found ourselves in similar situations as far as online presence so we have decided to combine forces.  So I'm happy to announce that if you want to continue to track the awesome that is us you can do so at:

We are going to ignore the Ghostbusters and cross our streams of consciousness. Animals, Brewing, Projects, Travel, Parties. A Captain's log of sorts (PUN intended) of our lives.  No real format we can grow out of, just everything going on at the Farm. You should probably follow along...we're pretty cool.

Thanks for following along, see you on the flip side.....

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Ice Weasels Cometh 2015

Picked a good one for my first Ice Weasels. Or for 2015 more like 'El Nino Weasels' or 'T-Shirt Weather Weasels'.  Venue moved to Riverpoint CX park in Warwick RI and it was a balmy 60(ish) degrees on race day.

This is a tough one to recap succinctly.  There was a whole lot of rad stuff going on and I'm not sure I can accurately remember all of it but I'll try. The park and course were excellent.  At least for a rider like me.  All kinds of varied technical terrain, flowy, punchy, two longer runs, sand.  Roadies were probably mad but if you were having a hard time with the course you could just stop in the Danger Zone and grab a beer.  That is the magic of Ice Weasels.

I mean just check this out.

It was apparent early on while I was spectating that while the course was super fun it was also pretty brutal at race pace.  Watching the Beginner races and the Killer B's everyone was coming through looking pretty shredded after just 1-2 laps.  The beer started flowing pretty early and the central portion of the woods section AKA The Danger Zone slowly ramped up in heckle intensity as the day progressed.  By the time I was racing in the SS race it was fully blown keg party in the woods.

I hadn't really decided if I was going to truly "race" this race or just sort of ride hard for a bit and then take advantage of the unique atmosphere.  It felt like there was a pretty solid 50/50 split in most of the races between folks actually racing and folks just having a good time.  I figured the SS race would probably have a ratio leaning more towards fun / drunk with it being the last race of the day and I certainly didn't want to be the only bro actually trying to go fast when everyone else was having fun.  Figured I ride hard for lap 1 and if things were going well and folks were racing around me I'd continue to ride hard.  If I wasn't feeling it...DANGER ZONE.

entrance to the #dangerzone

I also realized I had a great opportunity with the strength of the field and the chance that most of that strength was tired and getting drunk to get a decent result and lower my points a ton.  After my Cat 3 upgrade denial I have changed my goal to having the lowest points of any Cat 4 ever (or at least in New England). I got a second row start so I figured I might as well give it one really good hot lap and see where I shake out.

Got a decent kick off the line but got jammed up in the 2nd corner and lost a bunch of spots but probably still top 15.  Made a few passes here and there before getting to the true gnar portion of the course and found myself in a small group with Tyler Knapp and Scott Rosenthal who are typically stronger than me so I was content to settle in there and see how things went.  There was a bit of jockeying and trading spots here and there and I was anticipating getting dropped coming through the field on lap 2.  But I was able to get in the wheels and hang in.  I was farther up than I had thought was possible so it felt like I should probably race this and see where it goes.

I awp'd that log ALL DAY

Lap 2 was similar we were already catching traffic so there was some recovery on offer.  I was feeling like I could ride some of the chutes and techy spots a bit faster than the group if I had room so I tried to start to find spots to put pressure on.  The runs were the easiest spots.  They were both pretty long and they favor me.  I don't really remember where the gap really opened up but I came through for a pull just before the pump track section and I figured I should try to shred those next few features to see if I could get some room while I had a clear shot.  Starting there it was pump track, chute, sandy hill run, chute, danger zone, flat sand section, granite stairs run.  I don't know what happened behind me but I rode it all cleanly and had gotten away.

Did I mention Tyler was in a hot dog suit?

I also picked up some sort of weird clicking sound that was bugging me but didn't seem to be affecting the bikes functionality so I continued on.  Traffic had worked itself out for the most part by this point so my final laps were just shredding and trying not to crash.  I believe this was right about when the fireworks started getting set of.  I think I just missed getting to ride through them.  The party in the danger zone was enticing, what with a New Orleans brass band and all, but I figured I was probably very close to top 10 so I wanted to push on.

here's my clicking sound. rode 2 laps like this lolz

They cut our race at 4 laps, a bit short but there was probably daylight and party getting out of hand concerns.  I ended up with a surprising 9th but considering I was taking things a bit more seriously than many others I'm not going to let it go to my head.  But crossresults doesn't take the party into account so I scored some really rad points to provide a huge first step towards my goal.  I am now a Cat 4 with 362 crossresults points!  Woo!

I must say I get all the hype and accolades now.  Ice Weasels is super condensed no rules #necx all jammed into a single day.  And its pretty amazeballs.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

2015: A year in review

I'm pretty tired.

Which is good. Or at least ok this time of year. 2015 has been pretty busy and successful from a fitness and racing standpoint.  Especially considering the shit show that was 2014.  Who would have thought a gluten-free experiment would be my savior from a slew of weird joint issues?  Still don't really have a solid diagnosis and I can still tell there is something off with my joints and how inflammation is working in my body but staying away from gluten seems to keep things at bay and allows me to do what I like to do just about as hard as I want to do it.

So what did I pull off this year?  I took a much more laid back approach to my MTB season.  I did a few XC races, really more for training than anything else with my focus being more on a few endurance events that I like.  I was pleased with what I was able to accomplish in those events.  Got a 5th at Millstone on a real tough weather day.  I got back up to the BC Challenge this year and was able to break the 6hr 100K time threshold which was a milestone I had been working my way towards since my 100K times started getting faster during my NH100 run of 5 races.  That was a pretty good indication that my endurance fitness is just about the best its been which is nice.  After last year I was forced to accept that I might not be getting any faster from there on out so it was nice to see I still had some results in me.

I really liked my approach to my MTB season this year because it left me a decent amount of time to do other stuff that I used to miss out on a bit when I was racing more frequently.  Got to hit the beach more with Gina, do some hiking with Mike as well as a lot more riding for fun. Finished up the MTB season doing the Cat 2 Marathon at Landmine which I was able to win.  Another pretty good indication that my longer range fitness is good and definitely the thing I should focus on for MTB.  That focus also ends up working perfectly because it racks up all kinds of great aerobic capacity to build on for Cross in the Fall.

Cross was my pre-savior of sorts for 2014.  It allowed me to partially salvage a crap season last year.  My shitty joints could handle the slightly more tame riding (as opposed to trail riding) and I was in some pretty intense PT just prior that had gotten me to a slightly better spot joint wise.  I did well enough last year to realize I really liked the format and the 'scene' and that I wanted to make a more targeted run in 2015 with an actual Summer season of racing under my belt.

Turns out a few months of riding and racing hard does wonders for your results in the Fall.  I hit the ground running in Sept with a somewhat surprising top 10 in the 4/5 race at White Park.  It became pretty obvious in the first few races of the season that I was going to be towards the sharp end of the 4/5 field and my points came tumbling down.  I also built up a SS race bike this year and dabbled in the SSCX scene.  Very likely that becomes my 'thing' for 2016.  Not sure my body can handle SS MTB anymore but SSCX isn't quite as brutal on the body and there is a reason I was a single speed MTB'er for so long.  I just really like SS riding.  Plus I really like the mentality of the SSCX scene.

Guys take CX pretty seriously and the vibe is different than MTB. The category races can be pretty "physical" and I would imagine that will only get worse if/when I progress to Cat 3.  SS just has a better slant to it for me, you can still race hard and compete but fun is prioritized much more.  And the bikes are so simple and light!  Plus I'm pretty sure I'm faster on a SS anyway.

Speaking of my progression to Cat 3...that was a goal of mine once I realized I was about at that level.  I never quite scored that many USAC upgrade points because of how I was often doubling up etc.  I think if I had made that my main priority I could have gotten more but I had thought my SS results would have held more weight.  I was beating Cat 3's in those races and I was always just outside the points in the races I missed them and everyone beating me had already upgraded by the end of the year. It seemed apparent to me I was tangling with Cat 3's all year and I thought I had a case for an upgrade.  I applied with less than required upgrade points and stated my case with the results I had.  Didn't work.  Got denied.

I was a bit surprised but ultimately I didn't have the upgrade points.  Maybe I'll prioritize chasing points next year but that doesn't sound as fun as just racing SS.  Maybe I'll set a goal of having the lowest crossresults points of any Cat 4 ever...or maybe the most Cat 3 upgrade denials of all time.  Yeah that sounds more fun.

Racing bikes in New England (both MTB and CX) seems to be gaining steam and getting pretty rad.  Kenda Cup East seems to be taking off...we've got an HC event in the greater Boston area next year.  CX events seem to get bigger and better every year.  2016 should be pretty damn sweet, can't wait.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

VT Double: Paradise CX and Putney West Hill CX

I did the NH double in Sept so it only made sense to also do the VT double in Oct/Nov.  I did Paradise last year but Putney was new to me.  I've heard all kinds of great things about the course and I wanted to get in another SS race before the end of the year.

I needed to do some stuff around the house so I decided to only do the late SS race at Paradise this year.  Its a pretty good course for SS and it was riding perfectly this year.  The grass was matted down and super grippy.  The turns were very rail-able and fast.

It was a smaller field of about 13 or so.  I got a pretty good start and was siting just off the front group of 4 and was ahead of Griggs and Spencer who I figured I would probably be battling with. Spencer disappeared (mechanical?) but Griggs was still creeping just a few seconds off.  Front group also crept away so I was in no man's land just trying to ride hard and get a good workout and high speed cornering practice.

pre barrier explosion

Little did I know my streak of issue free racing was coming to an end this day in a pretty spectacular fashion.  The barriers were a tad awkward.  You came in at pretty high speed and there were some irregular patio stone type things right before that required some attention and steering to counteract the bumpiness etc.  Nothing too crazy but just enough to possibly mess up your rhythm if you weren't being 100% attentive.  Do you see where this is going?

Third lap I came into the barriers staged and ready to go and this all happened really fast but best I can remember I went to clip out my left foot to start my run/jump sequence and when I thought my foot was free so I could pull my foot off and go it was not.  Foot stuck, weight shifts and I get all flustered.  All I've got time for in that moment was to throw the bike down and hope that my foot came out.

Luckily it did and I avoided personal injury and sadness but unfortunately I threw my bike down and directly into the barrier at speed.  The wheel took the brunt of the forward impact and my right drop / brake lever took the brunt of the downward impact.  Broken spoke, trashed brake lever and it was even brutal enough to bend my handlebars. Bike wasn't exactly rideable in that moment so I had to DNF for the first time ever.

Luckily a drunk guy in the beer garden had a super strong heckle game and was immediately ready with a "that wouldn't have happened if you had gears you filthy hipster!". Well played sir, well played.  I immediately rolled back to the car, called Eric and said I was en route to the shop straight from the race to try and get it back and race ready for Sunday.  We had to do some weird stuff involving a breaker bar but we pulled it off.

I believe Putney West Hill has the title of longest continuously running CX race in New England with this year being the 25th edition.  Its a well balanced course with an iconic run up right before the finish.  The top section has some really fun MTB-esque features with a ripping descent down to the bottom corn field section that is a bit more roadie / power oriented.  Although this year they added a ton of turns down there that limited the extended threshold work which was better for me but made it hard to close gaps.

There was a decent gap between the 4/5 race and the SS so I figured I'd double up.  I was hoping to do well in the 4/5 race and maybe get some more upgrade points but I could tell there were some day of sleepers in the field as well as some fast folks who just don't have that many crossresults points.  At the gun I did a great job of negating my front row start by slipping my left pedal about 3 secs in (I think I might need new cleats).  Luckily I didn't crash but it was touch and go for a sec.  I lost probably 5-6 spots and really had to dig deep to get back up to 5th/6th wheel heading into the course after the start chute.

I was stuck in some frustrating traffic early on, getting jammed up in corners and having to soft pedal with nowhere to go.  That continued through the corn field, I got stuck behind a kid who didn't corner very well but had good power out of the corners so I couldn't get around in the short straightaways.  Front group got away and I was in my familiar just off the front group no man's land.  I got caught by Adin Maynard at one point but was able to get away again and distance him.  I had a group of 3 that seemed to be closing on me late in the race, which is always a delightful feeling.

I felt like I had just enough heading into the field but they were close enough that I'm sure they could smell blood.  I hit the stretch of road with a gap and put down as many watts as I could manage.  About 100yds from the run up I snuck a peak under my shoulder and the dude was head down in the drops hammering about 1 sec behind me...uh oh.  I was worried / not worried.  He obviously had a bit more in the tank in this moment but we were also coming to a huge run up that I was going to hit first AND I don't know why but I KILL run ups.  Particularly steep hard run ups.  So long story short I put 5 secs into him in the span of less than 50yds and held on for 7th.  Not a bad result but not good enough for any upgrade points.

The SS race was more fun. Per usual. Not sure why really but its probably the same reason I was drawn to SS mountain biking.  Its just simpler, more pure, less noise...hard to explain accurately.  This race soothed my soul a bit because I was still feeling a bit stupid from my crash the day prior.  But low and behold the guy winning the race at the time exploded at the barriers in much the same way! Fast guys do it too! they are just like me!  The difference being he didn't DNF. He ran to the pit, changed bikes and still beat me #sadtrombone.

I feel like racing with faster guys brings the best out of me.  Even with the fatigue from the first race I felt like I raced the SS race better and faster although looking at the numbers I bet that isn't quite the case.  But I'd be willing to bet when fresh I'm just as fast or probably faster on my SS bike. Stayed relatively consistent and finished strong for 10th of 21 in a field made up of primarily Cat 3's so I'm happy with that.

That may be just about it for CX racing for me.  Body is definitely calling for a bit of R&R and my soul is calling for a bit of low key fat bike shred.  We'll see how it goes.  Might be writing up my application for my Cat 3 upgrade soon...

Monday, October 26, 2015

Orchard Cross at Applecrest Farm 2015

This was one of my favorites last year and I believe it was also my best points result for 2014 as well.  It really is a great venue and event.  All kinds of nicknames are forming...Grassroots New England World Champs will stick I'm sure.  I don't know how hard Applecrest Farm orchards but if its anywhere near as hard as they CX then that is pretty impressive.  They certainly seem to be doing pretty well for themselves.  That new market / bistro thing they built is pretty damn impressive.  If we lived down there I bet we would be there a lot.

This year they used their farm equipment might and the help of a local landscaper to build an entire pump track in a field the night before the race complete with two big table tops, a 180 degree berm, and a series of rollers to pump.  The rest of the course was pretty comparable to last year with some grass straightaways, high speed corners, two sets of barriers, and a run up with stairs.


The 4/5 race was fully loaded at 100 riders and I had managed to lower my points enough this year for a front row start.  Not only that but race predictor had me on the podium which was very new for me.  It had been raining a bit all morning and the course was greasy and slick during pre-ride.  This had me very pleased.  Mud always seems to do me favors when it comes to my results.  I staged up middle left because of the line I wanted going through the little chicane turn before the first straight-away false flat.

Got a good start and was 3rd wheel heading into said chicane.  My line was correct and I exited said chicane winning the race.  This was VERY WEIRD.  I have never been at the front end of any cross race let alone a full 100 rider field.  Knowing that there is this mass of riders right behind you but having your path be completely clear and quiet is weirdly surreal.  I traded spots with Addison Minott a few times but I led a decent amount of the first lap.  I lapped through in second and was feeling pretty comfortable being there.  There were 4 of us in the lead group, pace wasn't too volatile early on lap 2.  Seemed we were all getting sorted and settled into something resembling a sustainable pace before we started attacking.

lap 1 run up at the front of the race

Unfortunately for me I didn't make it to the fun attacking part because heading into the run up on lap 2 I forgot to bring my bike with me after my dismount.  Not sure exactly what happened but as I went to clip out right before the stairs and grab my bike to run I either slipped or just missed the grab and basically just dropped my bike on the ground right across the track.  Luckily I didn't screw anyone else up but the lead group ran away while I got sorted.  Lost about 15-20 secs and finished about 15-20 secs off the podium. CYCLOCROSS!
A video posted by @kevinorlowski on

There was a bit more intrigue than that though.  I wallowed in no mans land for the rest of lap 2 and much of lap 3 trying to bridge back no avail.  Brian Cole was creeping behind me the whole time and eventually I could tell he was closing.  Lap 3 or maybe 4(?) I had a temporal issue getting back up onto my big ring on a straight-away and Brian powered past me.  I got shifting issues sorted before I lost his wheel and got back to proper racing.  Towards the end of 2 to go Jose Ordovas came up to us out of nowhere and we were a group of 3 going for 4-5-6.  Jose promptly crashed in one of the slickest corners on the course and I thought that was probably it for him based on the gap that opened up.

Brian and I were working relatively well together but Jose did it again and completely snuck back up out of nowhere.  He redeemed himself and made a good pass on the corner were he had crashed the previous lap.  He got a tiny gap heading into the pump track section and I was worried about diminishing real estate to get him back so I went all in at the entrance to the pump track section.  I left it in the big ring and was out of the saddle and hammering the whole way up.  I think I was probably a bit more comfortable than Jose on those features and was able to sneak by on the rollers.  I held the gap heading  back up to the grass but he passed me back shortly after.  I had to dig REALLY deep to stay on his wheel.  All that was left was a few turns, the barriers and then a short little out and back with a 180 before the finish.

I was hypoxic but right with him heading into the barriers.  He bobbled ever so slightly on the entrance and I got a half step through the barriers that turned into a bike length on the remount.  I think my remount must have been a bit smoother as well but I'm not entirely sure what was happening behind me.  I was focused on getting through the 180 fast and clean because from the other races I had watched coming by someone who didn't mess up that turn was near impossible in the distance that was left after.  I didn't leave anything to chance though and went as hard as I could to the line to take 4th.

I was really pleased to win out of that group.  That killer instinct to make those moves and hold those wheels when needed is not something I excel at.  I blame my lack of a truly competitive nature but I do like getting the most out of myself and there were certainly a few times my brain was telling me I did not have the capacity in that moment and I ignored it to great effect.

I'll be looking to put the finishing touches on my race resume for my Cat 3 upgrade request this coming weekend with the VT double of Paradise and Putney and then after that it might just be fat biking to end out the year.