Saturday, September 19, 2009

Scottish Wee Heavy

As the temps drop I have once again ventured back in to the realm of higher gravity brew. Such is the way of the world. As I try more and more different types of beer I am finding that I am partial to a good English Brown or any type of Scottish Ale. Union Jack knows his stuff, what can I say.

The Wee Heavy is a standard Scottish Ale at its core but it's trumped up a bit...kinda like the batch of New Old Ale I made a while back, which was a brown on steroids. I figured this would be a good beer for the holiday season and Thanxmas in particular. Oh man, Thanxmas? Can't wait. 7 years strong and I still get giddy every year around Sept when we start laying the ground work for yet another magical get together.

This batch is rocking a full on 12lbs of malt extract, which is about twice as much as many of the batches I make.

Power Burner

It was only a matter of time before manarea went recursive. Don't look at this for too long. Trying to comprehend the implications of this photo could make your head explode...kinda like this video:
I dare you to watch it.

*UPDATE*: And now for the Thanxmas Brew Beer Label Vote, brought to you by my section of Web Expressions. Vote for the one you want to see on your bottle of Thanxmas homebrew in the comments. I might actually look into getting the winner printed off and the bottles labeled in time for the big day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Millstone Grind NECS '09 #9

or #8 depending on how you look at it...#6 was rescheduled for later this month so maybe its #9 now? Who cares, I don't. Why am I even writing this?

Go ride Millstone, do it now. Do it often. Ride everything they have 4 times in a row, you won't regret it or maybe you will depending on your level of leg cramping, but I had a pretty awesome level of leg cramping and I still had a huge smile on my face and it was not a face cramp induced smile either.

I can't say enough about this place, these trails were everything I love about mountain biking. Challenging climbs, but doable (even SS, sorta). Lots of technical features. Ample flow. And plenty of spots to let the speed get a little crazy.

Enough horn tooting onward to the report. I went into this race with a little trepidation. Things hand't really been gelling since the NH100. I had some residual IT band issues that would act up about 5 miles into any ride and I was still trying to ditch a cold/allergy thing that I've had for a week or so now. Wasn't anticipating an awesome experience but I really wanted to check out these trails due to all the hype its been getting lately. Hype that is well deserved.

Hit the road early for the 2hr drive and got to the venue while the fog was still clinging to the valleys. Granite country in VT is gorgeous and it was a pretty cool scene with the fog and everything. I was actually starting to feel pretty good, I had done a lot of stretching and using heat to try and get the IT band back on terms and my lungs felt a lot better. Then they started blasting techno.

8:30am serene VT farm, fog, cows, really loud techno. Obviously this got me very pumped up. Perhaps it was our time in Canada this summer or just how ridiculous the whole situation was (so ridiculous I had to tweet about it) but I was ready to race. My mental game was ready to go...sickness didn't matter, leg would be fine, LETS DO THIS. I suited up still had lots of time to burn so I decided to get a quick pre-ride in. This got me even more pumped. Did maybe 3-4 miles of some of the sweetest singletrack I've ridden in a long time and could not wait to get the show on the road.

Got out of the gate sitting in 5-6th and pretty much stayed there all day. I rode in 6th for the 1st and half of the 2nd lap and then caught 5th (NH guy that I actually bought the fork from that is on my Kona). We were pretty similarly matched and leap frogged all day until the last lap when I ditched him at the feed station. Now to some highlights. 1st and 2nd lap were pretty uneventful. 3rd lap things started to get interesting. Cramps were setting in, they were managable at this point but fatigue was starting to set in pretty hard. I could start to tell the 'slop' was starting to show up in my lines...with almost catastrophic consequences.

Towards the end of the lap there was a sweet descent I believe called 'Switchback'. Three guesses why they call it that. Huge, techy in spots switchbacks at speed, awesome. One in particular was fairly hairy, largeish boulders and maybe 1-2 doable lines and if you screw it up you either fall into a boulder field or get thrown off into the woods down the fall line into trees and various other brush, probably getting impaled in the process. I had smoked this section laps 1 and 2 with a pretty sweet inside line that was relatively clean, not the best exit but it worked. For some reason (probably a brain cramp...everything else was cramping, why not my brain?) on lap 3 I figured I would try a high line...not really sure why, I had already found a good line and I wasnt trying to pass anyone but I tried it. Didn't work.

I tried to wiggle through a spot that was probably un-wigglable, maybe on a 26in bike but you'd still have to be a ninja. Made it half way and then my rear wheel hit the boulder and popped straight into the air. I am now doing a huge nollie down a steep switchback boulder field heading straight for the woods and certain doom. Last ditch, I push and throw all my weight back and let go of the brakes to try and get things centered again to get my wheel on the ground. It worked, but it actually worked too fast and now I have to try and get my weight back centered again and fast because there are more boulders coming. So I throw my weight forward...failing to ensure I had proper junk clearance over my seat. I basically thrust my crotchal region straight into the back of my saddle as hard as I could. Luckily I took the shot in the bladder I guess is the best way to put it and not to my business. But it still did not feel good. 10 second breather and I'm off again...gingerly.

Lap 4 was good because now the legs were really locking up. I had to find the exact riding position where I could still get some power without cramping. I was able to sort of figure it out but sometimes you just cant get in that position when you need to. These were pretty epic full leg cramps too. Quads, calves...if you've never had a muscle as big as the quad fully seize up on you I highly recommend it. It is hilarious. Especially when you attempt to get up a very short steep pitch and your left leg completely locks up (as in it will NOT bend probably not even with outside assistance). And then the momentum from your movement and your other leg still brings the cranks around, only problem is that leg isnt bending. Try and visualize what would happen if you were pedaling your bike and one of your legs couldn't bend. That's right, you get lifted off your bike and tip over into the woods.

Rest of the lap went better, took the right line in the switchbacks and pulled in around 3h:48m. Which I am very pumped about because my goal had been 4hrs.

per usual, until Garmin figures out their correction algorithms, this data is basically all wrong. Distance...wrong. Elevation...probably wrong. Average Speed...wrong. Thanks Garmin!

I believe that time puts me in 5th of what was probably 8-10 starters, didn't get the best head count at the start. I am very pleased all around with my result...bested my goal, placed well, and I think I even beat some people I have never beat but I'll have to wait and see the official results when they post probably tomorrow. And all that with some phlegm and an angry IT band. Very pleased. Pleased enough to use an emoticon :)

Official Results. 5th of 7 finishers, I want to say there had to have been at least 1-2 DNF's in SS as well. A much more respectable time in the Expert field for me too, especially considering this was a longer format race and I was dealing with issues. Always nice to end the season on a stronger note.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Continued Intensity

Here we are barreling into the end of '09. My last few races are on the horizon and I'm starting to struggle to keep motivated, I'm getting over some sort of bug and am dealing with some repetitive stress injuries...yup its Sept. Just about every sport I consistently partake in requires a healthy dose of looking ahead down the trail to be successful. Being 'hardcore' is no different. To battle the end of season doldrums I have begun to start thinking about what it will be in '10 that makes my friends and family tell me I'm nuts.

This past year I have tried some longer distance MTB races. I had anticipated doing well in these events but that didn't entirely pan out. I felt like I managed things well considering I was new to the distances and the endurance is definitely there but getting/maintaining the high end performance to really be competitive at those events probably requires more intense training than I am really willing or have time to put in. So for now I have conquered those challenges, notched my belt and am thinking that I will table some of the 12/24hr stuff for a bit (unless I can actually convince some friends to throw down with me). The NH 100 was a whole nother beast that may or may not be tackled again depending on how my bike stable rounds out and the weather forecast going into the race. I have come to the rock solid conclusion that temps over 85 completely remove my ability to ride effectively.

Speaking of bike stable...I tried to sell some bikes and it didn't go that well. Probably part economy and part I build weird bikes that don't really appeal to a mainstream demographic so selling is a lot of work. So I have gone to plan B. I'm keeping the roadie (specifically for one of my new endeavors for '10, more on that later) and my old commuter will get a few modifications to make it a better more versatile ride. I'm going to refine the fit and maybe upgrade a few parts. Might even be a ride I could use at a race like the NH 100 or another less techy long distance off road event. Or maybe I'll actually try some off road touring, who knows. I hope to sell my 9 speed successfully, its a good build and if Shaun doesn't snag it I think I'll have more luck moving that ride. That moolah will either go towards an AT setup for this coming snow season or be put towards a nice new shiny single speed.

I have spent the last few years focusing specifically on cycling fitness which has been great, no regrets. I feel like I really took myself to a new level of cardiovascular fitness that I doubt I will ever lose at this point as long as I stay active. However at times I think back to when I was ski racing and doing more consistent dry land cross training and a lot of skiing and I feel like overall I was in better shape back then considering both strength and endurance and now that my heart is used to very prolonged harder efforts I want to get back to a more rounded fitness level.

So I have decided to try and get myself back into more of a multi-faceted fitness regime. Gonna start by getting back into the gym this winter to start building strength again, gonna earn more turns this winter (hopefully) to keep the cardio up, gonna try and start running (body part permitting...running and me haven't always gotten along), maybe even start swimming a bit...can you see where this is going?

Turns out Central NH has an amazing triathlon scene, probably due to all those lakes in the area. So the form of competition I will use to try and keep me motivated to stay rounded will be triathlons and duathlons. There are plenty in the area scattered across the whole season that will require less than 60mins of driving. Can't go wrong there. I'll probably start with sprint tri's (usually no more than .5 mile swim, 15-30mi on the bike, 3-6mi running) next year and see how things go...I'm still not 100% sure my body will take to all this yet. I have spent a long time thoroughly beating the crap out of myself and a bum shoulder could make swimming interesting and don't even get me started on the various joints in my legs and their interaction with running...only time will tell. But thats the plan...return from being a pure cyclist to more pure fitness. I'll still race single speed MTB here and there though, there are a few races that I love too much: Bear Brook, Pinnacle, etc.

Here is a tentative/possible race calendar for next year:

Black Bear Duathlon (Running / Biking) Waterville Valley, NH
Mooseman Tri Festival Alexandria, NH
Bear Brook Blast Off Allenstown, NH
The Pinnacle Newport, NH
Black Fly Tri Waterville Valley, NH
Top Notch Tri (MTB / Swim / Hike) Franconia, NH
NH 100?? Greenfield, NH
Timberman Short Course Tri Gilford, NH
Circle Tri Ashland, NH
The Contoocook Carry (Run / Paddle / Bike) Contoocook, NH
The Pinnacle Challenge (Run / MTB / Bike/ Run) Newport, NH

This list will obviously get narrowed down due to schedule constraints and reg fees, but look at all those choices I have! and all within no more than 1 hours drive. Gonna be a doozy in '10. Actually thats gonna be my campaign platform: