Monday, December 22, 2008

Solstice Came in with a Bang

The weekend of the winter solstice brought in two pretty gnarly storms and lots of good skiing was had by all. Friday night into Saturday brought about 8 inches and then Sunday afternoon into Monday we got another 12-14. Unfortunately PSU only delayed opening Monday until 10am so I wasn't able to get to Cannon and take advantage of the latest dump. Bill is there now and I am very jealous.

I think Saturday morning were the best conditions overall but really all weekend was pretty good for this early in the season. Looks like it might be another great year. Saturday morning myself, Bill, Dustin, Amanda and Jomo ducked a rope to head over to Ravine to see how things were shaping up on that side of the mountain. Snow was awesome but it wasn't quite deep enough yet. We got great turns in but each one of us did some pretty significant damage to our bases. But each of us also thought it was worth it.

Bill and I returning from Ravine

Sunday was very windy so we hung out on the front five for much of the morning to avoid it. We were able to find some great spots and Jomo took some sequence shots. It started snowing hard in the afternoon and after a short break to get some calories in we went back and took some laps off the Peabody and the snow was already starting to fill in nicely. The conditions today must be ridiculous, really bummed I am missing out. But at least Cannon is getting a great base to work with and we will be shredding the good stuff in no time.

Please notice the flipped up brim and the bent pole. This will be 'new school' by the end of the season I guarantee.

Shaun and I discussing the finer points of shredding.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Whiskey Beer Bread

Using my beer to make bread? Why didn't I think of this before?! Dustin found a handy little mix for making beer bread this past weekend. Recipe calls for Lager beer but I said screw that and went with an Ale with whiskey in each his own.

Process is very simple, put the dry mix in a bowl, add 12 ounces of beer mix it together for 20-30 secs. Put it in the oven at 375 for 50 mins and BOOM! Beer Bread.

I wasn't sure how this was going to come out because of how blatantly I ignored the recommended beer but I tried it yesterday and it is delicious. I will probably have to repeat this process for many of my batches, its just too easy not to.

This is all you need

No, one of the cats did not pee on it...thats melted butter.


Cannon Day 1

Yeah Winter! I said I was gonna try and start bringing a camera to the mountain and start documenting some of my time spent on snow when I'm not on a bike, so here we go. I'm probably not going to post up for every single day on snow, especially early season cause its not overly exciting. And this day was no exception. Brutally cold, but the snow was nice and fast and just grippy enough to be workable. We got as much vert as we could handle at that temperature and called it a day.

I already bent one of my new poles a bit, Dustin's feet almost fell off and Joe probably needs to see his chiropractor some more so all in all a very typical day in Franconia Notch State Park.

Dustin's other ski fell off. Not really, but I wish that was true.

Don't let that sun fool you, it wasn't doing its job.

That is the real shape of Dustin's head

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey Burner

Finally got myself to attend a Turkey Burner down at FOMBA this year. This ride is a landmark in the New England MTB community, this years edition was the 14th annual. Doing anything for 14 years straight is pretty impressive even more so in the world of mountain biking where land issues almost always interfere at some point as people buy and sell and develop.

The Burner draws pretty huge crowds as far as fun rides go. I think they set a record a few years ago with a couple hundred participants. This year probably wasn't quite that high, maybe between 100-150 I would guess. But that was due more to weather than anything else.

Speaking of the weather, it was pretty horrible. 100% of sane people were inside relaxing with family most likely while we were layering up the spandex and waterproof materials and saddling up to ride into the wind. Temps were in the high 20's low 30's in the morning with a nice steady mix of rain and wet snow falling. Unfortunately due to the rain I didn't bring my camera along...I bought it for this specific purpose but seeing as its new I want to try and keep it working for a bit longer before I subject it to the 'full monty'.

Ride started off with a 6 mile haul on snowmobile roads from Front Park to where all of the FOMBA singletrack is located. You then have the option of riding as many of the singletrack loops as you want, and then you take another 6 mile haul back to the park to call it a day. I ended up hooking up with Jesse Taylor who I know through NEMBA as well as EFTA races. We are very similarly matched both speed wise and technical ability so the riding was fast, smooth and basically uninterrupted. Which was nice because you really needed to keep moving to keep your body temps up so your hands and feet wouldn't freeze. We decided to go for the full 'hero' loop, which is riding all the singletrack that FOMBA has to over before heading back to the park.

At first I was a bit reluctant because the cold was starting to wear on me a bit, but the riding was really fun and we just went for it. I'm glad we did, some of the trails I may have ended up skipping were in great shape still and a blast to ride. Plus seeing as this could be one of my last trail rides this season it was nice to really max it out. We ended up putting in about 27 miles today and my hands were just starting to go real numb by the end.

Nothing a little left over Thanksgiving dinner can't fix...look for me at this ride next year as well. (hopefully the weather will be a tad better though)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's Cold...Go Figure

I had originally been planning on riding Franklin Falls today but I woke up to 17 degree temps with a wind chill that brought things down to single digits. I will probably ride in temps like that at some point this winter. But I couldn't find the mental motivation to put my fingers and toes through that right now.

So the indoor trainer season kicked off with a bang instead! And man did I realize fast that I have lost some cardio fitness over the past month and a half or so. My riding has been dialed way back due to loss of daylight, stupid battery issues with the lights I bought, temps and general mental cycling fatigue after a long season.

torture device for the next 3-4 months

mmmm sexy.
or as Gina would say, 'so lame' for spending the time to make this picture exist and then posting it haha.

I prefer only the finest of late 80's early 90's television while I toil away

I looked back over my long term goals from my training log from last year and I am happy to report that I met about 90% of them. Some accomplishments include:

A top 3 finish in the overall Single Speed EFTA rankings
I finally established myself as a solid SS rider finishing with (and once beating) some strong SS riders
Finished on the podium at at least one race
Joined NEMBA and got more involved in trail maintenance
Commuted to work more (60+ days 800+ miles)
Completed an 'epic' event (Harpoon B2B 147 miles)
Completed a century (B2B)

The only ones I missed were attending every EFTA race, which was more a factor of scheduling and gas prices than anything else. I also wanted to whoop the Gonzo pass ride that ruined me last year but I never got around to it. I am still in the process of writing up my goals for next year but they will shift a bit, with less XC racing and more endurance events and possibly some adventure racing. '09 should be interesting with lots of new I just need to make it through this winter without hurting myself like last year.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Squamy Commie Red

True, this batch is actually modeled after an IRISH Red but Communists are red too and Squamy Commie rhymes. Plus my beer is for the people, free of charge to be spread evenly amongst the working class (usually).

It's back to basics with this batch. No more weird additions of hard liquor or strange European styles. Just a standard run of the mill Communist (*irish*) Red, ready to drink in 6 weeks. Winter is approaching and with it many Zoo family members visiting every weekend looking to shred the white stuff and relax apres with a nice fire (blitz it) and some home brewed beer. Because of this I am looking to fire off a few quick batches to bump up my inventory.

Brewing went well, this batch will live upstairs in the closet for the slightly higher temps. Not sure if I will go to secondary with this batch. It will probably depend on my schedule.

I finally purchased my new 'beater' digital camera this morning. Picture quality is moderate, nothing special...but it was cheap and its a good size with a big LCD screen so I think it will work for my purposes pretty well. Plus it adds a nice golden twinge to pics when you turn the flash off...Ponyboy would be proud.

So now I will continue with the educate Jomo series so he can get Sherpa brew up to speed:

For sweet grain steepage tie the muslin bag up to the handle of the kettle. This will keep the bag from touching the bottom of the kettle (which might burn the grains) and it will allow you to spin the bag periodically to ensure more of the grains are steeped.

Also be sure to soak any malt syrup you are using in a sink of hot water. This will warm the syrup up and make it flow faster when you are adding it to the boil.

*UPDATE*: Bottled this batch this evening straight from primary. This is the first batch that I haven't transfered to secondary for a long time. From now on I think I will probably definitely stick to a stint in a secondary fermenter, even for quick batches. It really helps with the clarity of the beer and bottling goes faster when you don't have to clean all the krausen out of the fermenter at the end.

I had a fairly hilarious mishap when my hose disconnected from the spigot of my bottling bucket and beer dumped all over the kitchen floor. BIG MESS.

This batch had the characteristic red tint I was going for and the taste was decent. I think I have made better, but following what has probably been my best batch to date is no easy task.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Winter Cycling / Projects

Ah mid November. That lovely time of year when its just warm enough to rain...but not by much. Probably the worst weather on Earth. I have still been able to eek out some time on the trails and my plan right now is to ride as much as I can until the Turkey Burner on the 28th and then 'officially' swap over to the ski season / riding the trainer indoors.

My mind has already started to look ahead to possible upgrades and projects that I can do to some of my bikes and other ways that I can keep with cycling through the winter months. I want to try and keep with my resolution from last year, to ride trails at least once every month of the year. And this winter I have even bigger plans.

I have hatched a plan to ride a bike to some new trails that probably haven't been ridden much to date. How do I know this? Because they are on islands in the middle of Squam Lake.

Riding on water? You can forget epic, this winter is going to be BIBLICAL.

I also have some big plans for my commuter bike. Idea is to swap out the traditional drop bars for a more contemporary MTB inspired flared drop bar. A' la the On One Midge Bar:
and to upgrade to some cheap disc brakes. The ultimate goal being a bike that I can still roll to work in comfort on but also be able to shred some trails with confidence and a bit more off road stability. One reason this came to mind was a goal to ride my bike from home down to Franklin, NH...ride some loops at the Falls and then ride back home. Probably about a 40-50 mile adventure or so. Plus I think upgrading to disc brakes may open up the option of changing the bike to a 29er at some point in the future but that will be a more advanced project and require more parts to be bought and measurements to be taken, so that might be pushed out depending on funds, time, etc.

Probably also upgrade some parts on the SS, but thats all just maintenance stuff.

Also be on the lookout for an expansion in content this winter. I will be buying a new cheap digital camera here at some point and I want to try and start bringing it to the mountain this winter to document some of my time spent doing the other sport I love.

Fingers crossed for another season like this...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Skidmore 6 hour

nope not a race...a 2 hour ride that went a little 'long'.

I cruised out to Saratoga Springs, NY this past weekend to enjoy a weekend of riding and relaxing courtesy of the DeLuke family. Dustin has been trying to get us out to ride the trails in and around the Skidmore campus for a long time and it finally all came together. Myself, Dustin and Jomo got the local's tour thanks to Dustin's brother-in-law Mike and a few other local SMBA members.

Our trusty steeds

Friday afternoon we took a quick 2.5hr or so jaunt through a nice trail system with some pretty technical terrain. Definitely required your full attention just about the entire time you were on the bike. Didn't bring the camera that day and its just as well because the ride didn't offer many opportunities to snap pics anyway. We had been planning on getting lots more riding in the following day and Mike promised us an 'epic', riding trails that only a handful of people know about heading way into the Adirondack foothills on old carriage roads and eventually ending back up on the trails we had ridden Friday.

He did not disappoint. The riding was...'interesting'. An adventure ride of sorts, no terrain was off limits. Bushwhacking at times, avoiding large mud pits, we even came across some old quartz mines that were very cool.

Pictures didn't do this area justice but it was basically a large cliff with large caverns blown into the bottom that are now full of water.

Lots of logging debris in spots made picking lines treacherous and there were some crashes here and there but it was fun to be so removed and just riding around exploring new terrain. Unfortunately our 2-3hr ride quickly went over time and Jomo found himself riding for hours past what he is used to on terrain that didn't leave much room for rest. Towards the end of the ride even I was starting to feel hungry, needing to get some calories not only for energy but also for the dropping temps. We pulled back into Mike's driveway just as the sun was setting. Cold, wet and hungry. But in reality I think that is the best way to end a really long adventure epic. Just barely on the edge of comfort, really wanting to be done...that way you know you squeezed out the full potential for the day. Although I think Jomo would argue he was way past the edge of comfort haha.

Our last rest before the final push home

Saturday, October 25, 2008

'Mighty Chicken'

So my newest hobby/endeavor is trail building / maintenance. Sounds boring, and for most people it probably would be...but I have found that you cant beat cutting your own trails and then riding them.

Today I started and basically finished a project I have been talking about for weeks both with friends and with members of my chapter of NEMBA. There is an area at the Falls in Franklin that has a perfect natural ravine. Currently there is a trail running right down the gut called Chicken Ravine...a great screamer of a descent in its own right, but any time anyone went in there everyone mentioned how there needed to be 'waves' cut into the ravine walls to ride it down like a half pipe. 'Sidewinder' at the Kingdom Trails would be a good comparison. Our version will be known as 'Mighty Chicken'.

We were finally able to turn lots of talk into action and myself, Scott, George and the Tilton School MTB team went from top to bottom in about 6 hours or so of work. It needs to be ridden in and we may have to do a bit of additional bench cutting to avoid some areas that might wash out, but other than that I am very pleased. This was the first time I have been 'in charge' on a project like this. I have done building before but I have been following someone else's markers not placing my own. I chose each and every line of a trail that could be a new New England classic (pending rider reviews)....pretty cool.

Scott workin hard

Its hard to see the real angles in these shots, but trust me its SWEET.

U Ditch

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Night Rider

Overcast, Pitch Black, Raining, Cold and my lights shorted out and turned off.....but I still had a blast.

I am somewhat new to night riding, but I needed to get some time in the dark under my belt so that I am ready to go for next season's 24 hour races. In the past the expensive nature of good bike lights had prevented me from bothering with night riding. I found a deal on a Blackburn X8 system that had pretty good reviews.

X8 - Sketchy when wet

The ride kicked off just before 6pm and we still had a tiny bit of light to work with and it looked like the X8 was gonna work just fine. We rode the new trail we just cut last weekend and things were good. Then during a regroup, the lights just cut out on me. Not really sure what happened, they just shut off and I couldn't get them to turn back on. In retrospect I think it may have been a combination of a loose connection and some moisture getting where it shouldn't have gotten. The system has a feature that when it detects a short it shuts itself down to avoid damage to the battery. A good feature I guess, but I was left in the dark...kinda.

I still had my jerry rigged headlamp mounted to my helmet with zipties. This isn't my permanent helmet light solution...I will probably supplement my X8 with a better, lightweight option, possibly a Danolight.

This is an okay headlamp but not quite adequate for tearing through dark woods at speed. Needless to say the ride was interesting. I was having fun though, no doubt about it. Riding at night can turn a seemingly 'boring' trail you have ridden 1000 times into something new and challenging. Not to mention it extends your riding season quite a bit. I can get rides in after work now until the snow hits.

I got the X8 working again after getting home, drying things out and making sure connections were secure. Hopefully I can avoid further issues in the future.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pinnacle Challenge '08

Another year in the books for the Pinnacle Challenge. And another year that I won't have to buy maple syrup. I was really looking forward to this race this year due to how much fun we had last year and because we managed to talk some more friends into making another 'Blue Zoo' team.

mmmm, syrup.

The weather this year was amazing, couldn't have asked for anything better. A little crisp in the morning but it warmed up to mid 60's and the sun was shining.

We were down a member from our team from last year due to injury. Christina broke her foot and her Doc wants her to stay off it for another 6 months. Lucky for us Adam had a friend from high school who ran track through college and was free this weekend. Jeremy agreed to join the team with a disclaimer that he 'was a little out of shape'...more on this later.

This year we started out with Natalie on the road run. She put up a great time of 36min, putting us in real good shape going into the mtb leg.

Ice emerges triumphant

Adam didn't have as much traffic to deal with this year thanks to Natalie and put up another great time around 34min.

The brothers Bradley owning it

Then it was my turn. My goal this year was to, obviously improve on my time from last year, but specifically I was looking to try and get to that 40 min milestone (meaning I would have to cut 2mins and change off my time from last year)

It was a lofty goal but I have felt pretty strong this year. In retrospect I think this year I was stronger going into the race but I think I prepared a bit better last year. Last year my schedule allowed me more opportunities to simulate the time trial effort on a course near my house that is similar. I didn't get around to doing that as much this year. Oh well.

Course was in great shape this year, some portions had been repaved since last year, traffic was minimal, and the wind was swirly in spots but not too bad. I came out of the start feeling pretty good, trying to conserve a bit of energy for Lovering Hill. The climb started well for me but I think I got a little overconfident about 3/4 of the way up and gassed it a bit too much because the last little pitch over the top almost sent me 'to the point of no return'. Luckily I was able to get up and over and recover a bit on the descent.

Hurting a bit over the top

I was giving it everything I had on the haul back to Newport. I could tell I was a little bit off my desired time so I was really trying to dig deep. I ended up pulling into the transition with a time of 41 mins and change (good enough for 25th overall, road times were much faster this year), taking about a minute off my time from last year but still not quite hitting that 40 min goal. No regrets though, my average heart rate was 181...I'm not going to get much more from my body than that.

So while I was fighting off the urge to puke I passed our timing chip off to 'slightly out of shape' Jeremy who proceeded to annihilate the trail run course coming back in with a time of 23 mins and change, putting up the fastest time of anyone there by over 2 mins.

en route to victory

So thanks to everyone getting a little bit faster and to Jeremy laying waste to the trail run we cut a cumulative 15mins or so off our time from last year and won the Co-Ed class by a somewhat hilarious margin of half an hour. But even more impressing is that our time put us in 6th overall of all teams and solo racers competing...pretty gnar.

But I think the best part is that the Co-Ed team that came in second 30 mins behind our team was none other than the other Zoo team made up of Amanda, Ben, Naro, and Dustin. A great result seeing as the team was thrown together last second and that none of them really had any current race experience. They have the taste for syrup now though, and next year we are gunning for a Blue Zoo Co-Ed podium sweep.

Monday, October 6, 2008

That's a Wrap

I am officially sticking a fork in my commuting season. I haven't been able to find the motivation to get myself up when its still dark and get geared up for those freezing temps like I could in April. I am a bit disappointed about bailing before I met my goal of 1000 miles commuted, but on top of my lack of motivation the daylight is also getting to dangerous levels in the morning and I worry about sleepy drivers.

I met a lot of my cycling goals for this year and while I did fall a bit short on this one, I can still be proud of my over 60 days of riding into work and at least now I have something to shoot for next year. There is nothing like just missing a goal to get you motivated for next season.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bourbon Barrel Porter

Fall is upon us once again and you know what that means. Its time to put whiskey in your beer so you can stay warm on those brisk fall nights.

This is probably my most interesting batch to date...starts with a robust porter base that you add oak cubes and whiskey to during secondary fermentation. You let those cubes and whiskey hang out in the fermenter for a full 6-7 weeks to let all those smoky, grainy, whiskey flavors mix in and ka-blamo, whiskey beer.

This beer is probably going to be brutal. The wort was the thickest I have made to date. I steeped a full 2 lbs of grains...a mix of chocolate, dark crystal and black malts and added both dried malt extract and dark malt syrup. After the 60 min boil I would put this wort in at about 10W30 at least. Everything about the boil smelled great...the hops were interesting, a few strains I have never brewed with before, Chinook and Argentinian Cascade. I can't wait to see how this matures and what the eventual mouthfeel is going to be like, I can only imagine, as DT would say, pure intensity.

This batch will be hanging out until Dec 6th when it will then quench the thirst of the attendants of the 6th annual Thanxmas celebration. Too bad I can think of maybe only 5-6 people who will actually want to drink more than one of these, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

*UPDATE*: I may have done something special with this batch. I don't want to talk it up too much but I think the 6th Thanxmas is going to be a good one. I may even be able to get more than 5 people to drink this contrary to what I thought originally. Taste was smoooooth, even before conditioning. As long as nothing funky happens in the next few weeks I think The Blue Zoo Fam is going to like this batch A LOT.

I recently got to witness Jomo bottle his first batch of 'Sherpa Ale' so I thought I would post some pics on the right way to bottle beer haha.

Jomo went with the manual siphon technique...I prefer automatic.

Although I will be honest, it took him about an 8th of the time to rack to the bottling bucket as it takes me. But I guess the trade off is my siphon also filters some crap out. Crap is bad.

When you reach a certain level Joe, the beer bottles itself. I was taking a nap when this picture was taken.

How long until Dec 6th?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

1 or 9...Pick Your Poison

So today I started what will probably be a slightly drawn out process of taking my current race rig and stripping it down to trade parts and build up my old race rig as a SS so that I can build my current frame back up as a 9 speed endurance racing machine...did you follow that? In other words: current parts to old frame to create my daily rider / beater / tank and current frame with new parts (to be purchased over the next few months) for a speed demon / endurance racing / human powered crotch rocket. Very simple.

After a year in hibernation its back and ready for GNAR.

I have alluded on a few posts that next race season I will be trying some 12 and 24 hour endurance races. Now while I like to consider myself pretty hardcore when it comes to riding, I don't think I am quite ready for 24 hours on a single speed. But I am also not willing to go back to a fully geared bike because I still believe that gears, for the most part, are unnecessary. Enter the 9 speed.

9 cogs in back and a single chain ring up front. Not a very common set up (yet) but I think it has a lot of merit. As long as I can avoid the chain dropping issues that can plague the front end of the drivetrain. Without a front dérailleur sometimes the chain can drop off the chainring if there isnt enough tension holding it in place. I am hoping to overcome this with a bash guard on the outside and a N-Gear Jump Stop on the inside. I have read great reviews about the Jump Stop and I am hoping they are warranted. Not sure if I will have this bike ridable before the snow starts to fly so I may not know 100% until next year.

Kinda hard to see, but I'm hoping this set up will be wicked.

So far I have purchased my new cranks (Truvativ Stylo 1.1), my shifters and dérailleur (SRAM X7), some grips (ODI Rogue lock on) and a bottle cage. This will be my first ride using the lock on grips, not sure if I will like them I have always liked more cushy grips, but you cant beat the ease of installation. I still have to get some wheels, a cassette, some disc brakes, a saddle and pedals. My conversion to disc brakes is also going to be a first for me on this ride. I have stayed true to V-brakes for a long time but the industry is starting to make it hard to stay that way so I suppose its time to give it a go. I am also toying with the idea of going with a Cane Creek Thudbuster seatpost...the short travel version. 24 hours is gonna be tough on my bum and I could probably use the added cushion.

I didn't think it was possible but I think this will look even faster than the first time I built it up.

*UPDATE*: The 9 speed is complete! I finished buying up the needed parts as a present to myself for my birthday, and completed the build last night so that I can take it for a ride down in MA this weekend. I threw on the Avid BB5's, put my SRAM cassette on my new WTB SpeedDisc Wheels, cabled everything up, dialed in the cockpit positioning and shifting, pumped up the tires and she is ready to RIP. Learning how to shift again is going to be interesting...its been a few years. I will post a ride report after this weekend and let ya'll know how it rides.

Booyah Achieved.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

EFTA 2008 **El Fin**

1  GALLOWAY, COLLIN     1,316  

My 2008 EFTA season has come to a close. There is one race left, but I'm not attending due to driving distance. These standings should hold, unless Jake shows up for the Grillz race and snags some points to pass me and move into 3rd. He didn't go last year so I am hoping I hold the podium spot.

I am more proud of my current 3rd place finish than I am of 3rd from last year. Last year's 3rd was a bit more of a 'I went to more races than you' type finish. This years series had a lot more consistent competition and I legitimately earned this 3rd by beating Jake at the TVR when I had to to keep from getting bumped to 4th. Jake is fast and I can hang my hat on that result.

This season had its up's and down's, races where I really suffered and races where I had a blast. As it stands now I met my goal of keeping on the podium in the overall and I also met my goal of cutting more time off my finishes so that I could actually be racing in the SS pack. This year I began to feel more like an actual 'expert' rider instead of a sport rider beating himself to death riding SS. I didn't DFL nearly as much, in fact I might have to remove that from my resume now.

This season also saw the introduction of a feeding system that really works for me. I needed a convenient way to eat so that I could eat more frequently to keep my energy levels constant. Some of the more technical courses didnt have enough places to grab a bite (safely), maybe for some riders, but not me. I tried Clif Bloks this year and they are gonna be my new jam. Less mess, quicker to eat and I can store them loose in my little pouch right up by my headset. After I got the hang of it I could quickly grab and eat two every 15-20 mins. This made a huge difference and my nutrition was very consistent all year, no real major bonking issues and in most cases I felt great going into the latter portions of races.

The other hurdle I have finally overcome this year is my confidence levels. The first two years I had sort of resigned myself to getting annihilated by the ridiculously fast SS class. If a guy was in front of me and started to pull away I would always let them go, thinking there was no way I could hold the pace anyway. Over the last few years as I have gotten faster and my times have gotten closer to the untouchables my thought process has begun to change and I find myself thinking at times 'hey I was pretty close to him last race, maybe I can hold his wheel a bit longer this time'. This progressed all season and going into the last race I KNEW I could beat Jake if I had a good day. This was a big shift in thinking for me and it had a big impact on my riding. When I caught Jake on the start of the second lap, I wasn't thinking that I just got lucky and I should just ride his wheel if I can and hope he gets a mechanical (that was the old me). I immediately started thinking about which part of the course I should attack him. Your body almost always has more in it than your brain is willing to admit and having the confidence in yourself to push past your brain was the next thing I needed to accomplish. I proved to my brain that I can hang with some real fast bike riders which I think will pay dividends next year when I take on even harder challenges. (i.e. racing for 24 hours straight)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

EFTA NECS '08 #8 Treasure Valley Rally

This was the first race this year that was held at a new venue...and I loved it. This course suited me very well. Wide open climbs that let me use my improving power-to-weight ratio and nice technical descents to weed out the roadies who can still beat me on the climbs.



(*photos courtesy of BACMtman at the EFTA forum, nice of him to post/share*)

It was held at a scout camp in Rutland, MA on all private land, the place was HUGE. Over 1600 acres with enough room for a 9 mile loop. I went into this race barely holding onto 2nd place in the overall. Two guys were threatening at about 15 and 25 points behind. One of the guys is out of my league (right now) but the other I thought I might have a fighting chance at beating. I have come within 2-3 mins of him a few times this year but could never quite bridge that gap.

The race started pretty well. I was able to stay with the group for the first mile or so and I was holding Jake Berry's wheel (the guy I thought I might have a chance of beating). We started catching the masters shortly after that and as Jake and I tried to get around one of them, we bottlenecked and I was moving too slow and was forced off my line and hit a rock that was a bit too big for my 29er wheels and I pulled a slow speed endo. Unfortunately for me I put my hands out to break my fall and ended up spraining my right index finger pretty good.

Holding the bars was pretty challenging after that not to mention braking. I lost Jake and was feeling kinda bummed. I still charged on, hoping that Jake would have some bike troubles or something. A few miles later I lost it a bit in a really technical rocky section and went over the bars and tweaked my finger, YET AGAIN. Now braking was completely out of the question, which made things really interesting. I kept trudging on, the second half of the course was a bit less technical so I was moving right along.

I was able to hop on the wheel of a fellow Central NH NEMBA member, Jesse, who towed me through to the start of the 2nd lap. Coming through the start area I look ahead of Jesse and who do I see but Jake Berry. This got the adrenaline flowing and almost immediately my finger started to feel quite a bit better. I could brake and grip the bars and I knew that I had a shot. I rode behind him for a bit and saw that he seemed to be struggling a bit. He was stretching his back and I decided that I had to make my move at the next fireroad climb so I could gap him before he could react.

I made my move and immediately had a gap. I kept the pressure on and got out of site. I continued to push it with Jesse in tow. Crossing a power line section in a technical spot that I was walking I look back and see Jake at the beginning of the section. This worried me, I think I might have pissed him off, and I knew I was going to have to push myself into cramp land. In retrospect I think that was Jake's last ditch effort to catch back on and when I had some more gas left when I saw him that was it. Jesse and I stayed together for most of the rest of the 2nd lap and I ended up finishing 4th of 5, 2 mins in front of Jake.

I was beaten by the other guy who was threatening my second place spot (but only by 6 mins, just last year he was beating me by 15-20 mins) so I lost that spot but by beating Jake I have held onto 3rd. I am not going to the last race in Maine and as long as Jake doesn't either I will have that position locked. I am super pumped that I was finally able to break into that 'upper echelon' of fast SS guys. Perfect way to end the season.

Now I just have to heal my finger and my leg. Why my leg? you might ask. Well, I removed the stitches from my recent mole removal last Tuesday aaaaaand I busted the wound open somehow during the race. I had it all taped up but to no avail. Looks like I will have to take some time off the trails and stick to the road to let that wound heal up. Works out...I need more road miles for the next big race, the Pinnacle Challenge.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Commuting Stats

Figured since I hit a milestone I would post some 'to-date' stats for my commuting this year. A few days ago I rode into work my 50th day since starting on April 7th. Using some rough estimates entered into an online calculator (found here) I figured out some values for what I have saved so far this year:

At the current price of gas ($3.76) I have saved $82.50 since April 7th. and considering gas has been considerably more expensive than that for most of the summer I think I could safely round that up to $100, if not more.

The Echo has not put 433lbs of CO2 into the air that it would have if I had been driving it for those 50 days. That means I have about 19.6% of a Carbon Credit earned so far. Not too shabby.

Not sure how many more days I will get in this year, the original goal was 100 days but that doesn't look to be too realistic at this point, I'm sure I will run out of daylight before I can hit that mark. So the goal has been modified to 1000 miles commuted. I am currently at 700 miles which means I will need another 22 days to hit my mark. I will be cutting it close, but I think I can do it. An 'atypical mole' removed from my leg is keeping me off the bike for a few days as well as some very sketchy flash flooding in the area due to all this rain. But hopefully I will be back racking up days soon.

Monday, August 4, 2008

EFTA NECS '08 #7 Fort Rock Revenge

Racing at Fort Rock is always interesting. Especially when its nice and slick from some passing storms the night before. This years edition of the course was a good use of the trail system I thought. There were a few more hike-a-bike sections than I would have liked but I think that was more a combination of the slick roots and the lack of gears, I'm sure other riders rode a bit more of the course just fine.

Early on I felt really good. I was riding mid pack and feeling strong, riding clean. Then the experts caught us (I hate it when promoters start the SS'ers before all the experts, it never works well). The traffic made it difficult to get the good lines, I lost my rhythm and had a hard time getting it back. Couldn't stay on my bike, kept dabbing and bobbling and a loose cleat didn't help matters.

About half way through the first lap the traffic finally spread out a bit and I was able to get going, unfortunately once I was really moving I came to a rather abrupt stop. Coming up to a little rocky step up with a quick left right move required I hooked a bar end on a sapling and went down/into the woods pretty hard. Knee to rock, Head/Ear to another sapling and I had to start all over getting my rhythm back. Luckily things loosened back up and the rest of the race went a bit better.

I was able to get on the wheel of a local for awhile and I had a blast...nothing like following someone who knows all the lines through the super technical spots. Passed a SS'er on the last lap and ended up coming in 7th of 10 starters. Took 3 minutes off my time at Fort Rock from last year and I beat Adam. Granted he had some drivetrain issues and hasn't been racing much this year but I'll take it haha.

My 7th place finish got me enough points to stay in second in the overall standings, but not by much. I am going to need to muster some serious speed at the next race (and possibly have some people not show up) if I want to keep that spot. The two guys threatening are very fast and I have a feeling at least one of them is going to show for the next two races and I'm only planning on doing 1 of them. Only time will tell.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Momma Bear

Now I kinda wish I had waited to do that little commute photo essay until today.

Just before reaching the I-93 overpass this morning I rounded a slight corner to see a Black Bear with her two cubs crossing the road maybe 20ft in front of me. Momma was about the size of a quad ATV and the cubs were Wylee sized. They were about 1/2 way across the road when the mom noticed me. I was basically stopped, she eye'd me for a few seconds and continued to cross with the cubs. I wanted to stay moving so I could jet if need be so I continued to roll by. They were on the other side of the road starting to climb up a small embankment as I was passing them. As I was rolling by the mom pivoted around to face me and that is when I uncorked a sprint like I never have before.

I got up to speed and gave it full gas for 50 yds or so before I snuck a peek and lucky for me momma didnt feel like pursuing. Not sure if I could have outrun her or not...bears are pretty fast, I think my top speed would have been a bit faster than hers but my commute bike is fairly heavy and hard to keep at max speed for very long. I guess I'll just have to hope that my body's preservation instincts will kick in some extra adrenaline if needed, glad I didnt have to find out today.

Monday, July 14, 2008

EFTA NECS '08 #6 The Pinnacle

It is turning out that without fail once a year I have a pre race meltdown. Last year was at Moody when I forgot both socks and my helmet. I was lucky to borrow a helmet from a sport rider who had already finished and I just rode without socks.

This year at the Pinnacle I completely forgot to fill/bring my camelbak and get a bottle of Accelerade made. On top of that the camelbak holds the adjustable wrench that I use to affix my oldschool bolt on hubs. So I realize in the parking lot that I cant put my front wheel on and I have no fluids for the race...JOY.

Lucky for me I found a fellow SS'er with an adjustable wrench to fix my front wheel problem and luckily I had brought a half gallon of gatorade that I staged at the start so every lap I could at least stop and pound a bunch. And lucky for me the race organizers at the Pinnacle have their shit together and had a water station handing out cups of water to racers as they went by. Problems pretty much solved...on to racing.

I actually kinda like riding without the weight of the camelbak, I might have to experiment with that a bit in the future. I actually ended up feeling really good during this race. The climbing was really tough (always is at the Pinnacle) but I felt pretty strong the entire time and the second half of the course was more than a reward for all that hard work in the first 3 miles.

There was an epic section of cross fall line trails that felt like a "pump track in the sky" (coined by Derek Griggs). Very little pedaling needed, no brakes necessary and FAST. It was such a blast to ride. and after that section was a screaming descent that was a perfect balance between technical, speed, and flow. As you can tell I probably had the most fun racing I have ever had this past weekend. Def one of the best courses I have ever ridden.

Results were pretty typical for me...came in 7th of 8 finishers. Broke the 2 hour mark coming in at 1h 54min and finished even closer to my competitors, missed 6th by about 2.5min to a guy who usually beats me by 5-10min. And coincidentally the guy who came in 8th was the guy who sold me the fork that I am currently riding (beat him by 6 mins hah!).

Finally get a bit of a break from racing (4 weeks straight) and I will finish up the series with 2 more races in August.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Commute...Visually

I had been thinking about doing a little photo essay type documentation of my commute for awhile now and finally got around to it this morning. Couldn't have asked for a better day for it.

I figured I would get both of the gratuitous "I have a camera and I'm on my bike" shots out of the way early. The classic 1st person under the drops perspective. Coming through Ashland first thing as I get started

and the ever popular thats my shadow shot about another 500m (thats right I'm going metric) down the road.

this is the first little "hill" just after passing under I-93. Its a nice little warm up and its good to know I can legally go 50mph up it....just in case I'm feeling real good.

North Ashland Rd. has a great canopy feel in the summer, lots of growth and nice and quiet

There is a much better view from here in the spring before it gets overgrown. That smoke stack to the left of the shot is the Bridgewater Power Plant. They burn cedar wood chips and it smells like bourbon near here when it gets really hot and humid

Shortly after passing the Power Plant you come to the home of 'my brother in arms'. I cant believe this picture came out as well as it did cause I was on the move for fear of this man coming out and killing me for taking pictures of his Man Cave. One day I hope to upgrade my 'area' to a cave.

After a nice lazy descent past the Man Cave you hit the major climb of the morning, what I call the Buckaroo Bump. (it passes the Buckaroo Farm, wicked pony rides there) Probably about a 7-8% pitch for maybe 150m or so.

another nice long lazy straight away (tons of traffic eh?)

I very frequently leave early for work and stop at the White Mtn Country Club for a quick 9 with the VP of Student Affairs and the Director of Public Relations. No I don't.

Looking North over I-93. This pic was taken from an economically, environmentally and maybe even ethically superior viewpoint.

One of my coworkers condo. About 2.5 miles from campus and he still drives that truck to work. COME ON!

I have been watching this house be built from the ground up. They started in the Spring and each day I get to see new things completed, it has been really fun to watch it progress.


Rolling into campus.

And that, in a nutshell, is my morning commute.