Thursday, December 30, 2010

Waxless Touring here I come!

The Nordic bug has been knocking on my recreational door for some time now.  I think at least the past two seasons I have come close to buying a setup but just never got around to it.  This year is the year and I snagged a used waxless touring set up at the Gunstock Nordic Center.  Figured I go with something I could ski classic on groomed stuff as well as take off track a bit to start and then get a skate setup if I really like the whole nordic thing and the trails at Gunstock.

These even have metal edges so if I find anything cool out in the woods I can try and shred it and maybe not die.

Fischer (we have to) Explorers

I don't know a whole lot about the current nordic tech but I believe these have older model Salomon Pilot bindings.  The boots I scored were newer Salomon tech so I needed to mod the bindings a tad.  According to the guy at the nordic center its a fairly common mod and I love saving money and tweaking stuff in the shed so I went for it.  All that was required was cutting out a small notch in the binding to accommodate the second rail on the boots.

 Pre mod, with notch marked

notch cut out with hacksaw and cleaned up with an exacto-knife

boot mounted post mod

The boots I got are what are called "combi" because they can be used with classic or skate set ups, all I need to do is make sure I get Pilot bindings with the two rail slots on any skate skis I eventually get.  I am pretty pumped to see what I can get myself into with these as well as getting in lots of additional cardio with a skate setup.

I'm thinking something along the lines of this is in order.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gargantubehemega Day on Cannon

In case it is not obvious I made that word up.  Gargantuan, behemoth and mega had a love child on Monday at Cannon.  When all was said and done the resort was claiming 28-31 inches of snow and I shredded every last flake.  Well not really but as much as could be jammed into about 7 hours of non stop riding.

It is really hard to put a day like yesterday into words.  I'm still trying to quantify how big of a deal it is that I was able to take advantage of those conditions.  So many things can conspire to keep you off the mountain that hitting a day like this is really amazing.  I can pretty safely say that I have never skied snow that deep.  I had one pretty big day at the Canyons in '98 but I was only 16-17 and didn't really know quite how to ski stuff like that back then and I'm still not sure that day was 2ft plus.  I doubt that it was.  Making this the deepest most ridiculous day on snow I have ever had.

The snow was so deep that it brought you to a dead stop on anything but the steeper features.  You could easily carve into drifts and disappear, literally.  We lapped the Front 5 all morning for the steeper grades and better visibility.  Easily waist deep all morning and screw face shots, the stuff was flying up and over my head and not because I flipped it up with my tips or purposely hit a drift just the right was everywhere.

We also got a few runs over at Mittersill and one into Kinsman.  Kinsman was a bit gnarly, deep but just deep enough to hide features that you could still hit.  As long as you guessed right it was pretty epic but a few wrong guesses caused some issues but nothing major.  Mittersill was really beyond explanation, I love the terrain over there and you add 2+ft of snow and forget it.  Complete awesome induced brain meltdown.  I think the highlight was probably Candyland.  Its just hard enough to find that most people miss it but accessible enough that you don't waste much time getting to it.  I was able to hit Candyland a few more times today and no one had found it since our runs yesterday and I was the only one in there today.

Not a whole lot more ways to convey the awesome so I'll let some of the pics do the talking.  Per usual they don't do the day complete way pics are going to come out perfect in a blizzard and extreme props to Bill for even trying to get some.  It was cold and taking a glove off for some pics would not have been high on my list.

 I think this is one of the best shots for actually showing some of the depth

 Shredding AKA trying to not get stuck

(i love captions that only two people will understand) 

 Hip-Deep-Hurray for powder!

gonna see a lot of us this season. Ruff Ryders!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

So Sick

I was really sick this morning and decided to stay home from work to get some rest. Surprisingly, I slept for maybe another 10mins and got up feeling great.  With no plans for the day I decided to check my phone for the snow report from Cannon.  6in overnight on top of 4 from yesterday?! Imagine that!  Seeing as how I had bounced back I decided to go get some pre-Christmas powder.  Seemed like the prudent thing to do.

I had thought this little system coming in was a bit under the radar for the masses but apparently a lot of people read FIS now.  Got crowded fast, more so than on mediocre weekend days.  I got there early enough and was up for first chair though.  Visibility was pretty poor up top.  Made things really interesting early.  You just had to point and go and trust that the force would steer you accordingly.  Worked out all right and the snow was amazing.  Very cushy and bouncy, it almost felt inflated in a way.  Irwin and I took a few warm ups off the Peabody waiting for Bill to get suited up then we did laps off the Front 5.  Visibility was much better over there and there is nothing like ripping those steeps in about 6-8in of powder.

We were even able to duck into Snow Maker's and Whiskey Jar for a run or two.  Still some junk under there but mostly awesome.

Bill's camera is back in effect

Unfortunately all the powder has obscured my purple pants, but I'm over it.  I have been digging this year so far.  No real big epic days yet but this was close and all the other days have been good and its been real consistent.  No wishy-washy thaws and freezes just slowly but surely building up the awesome.  Looking forward to '11

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Soylent Green

This bike is people

Made it a tiny bit farther with this build as well.  Got the rim tape needed to get my old road wheelset back in action as well as some Kenda Kwick's that Shaun bequeathed to me when they didn't fit on his Langster about 400 years ago.  They've been hanging in the shed waiting ever since....until now.

I also have a new front derailleur on order as well as the fork.  Went with the Surly Cross Check, decently cheap and I like Surly's rep for robustness and I have never had an issue with anything else Surly in the past.  Once those parts arrive, hopefully over Holiday break, I can have this ride all set and cabled (except for brakes).  I am really interested to see how the fit works out.  I think I am going to have to do some experimenting with the front end to see what feels the best...or who knows maybe my guess that it would be better to have this frame be a bit smaller was right and it will be perfect.  I did manage to guess on a perfect chainline when building Blue up SS, maybe I'm developing that unteachable bike wrench 'touch'.

I am still trying to decide what kind of canti brakes I'm going to go with.  I don't have much experience with canti's and I don't want to shell out too much $$ but at the same time I want something that will be manageable.  I have heard canti's can be a nightmare to get adjusted just right.  Gonna put my wrenching 'touch' to the test.


My latest parts order arrived yesterday so I was able to get a little more done on this ride.  Got the front end all fitted and installed as well as cabled up the derailleurs.  All it needs now are some brakes...that I still need to purchase, and it will be 100%.

So tonight I installed the new Surly fork, as well as the old cockpit setup from the monster cross.  Luckily I guessed right with the sizing of the frame and the old stem gave me a perfect riding position with just the one spacer with the cable stop for the canti brakes.  I was able to set the crown race on the new fork following some internet wisdom.  A legit crown race setting tool can run you $30-60 and for some reason I just don't feel like spending that much for that particular tool.  I have spent that much on bike tools that I don't use very often but this particular tool is basically a pipe you hit with a hammer...I'm not paying $60 for that.  Instead I bought a 10ft section of 1.5in PVC for $4 and cut off a 16in piece and hit it with a hammer.  Bingo. God bless the internet.

I ran into a very slight issue with the front derailleur.  I have come to realize that I really hate derailleurs...using them, installing them, cabling them, trying to buy the right one.  Top swing? Bottom pull? High clamp? Low Clamp?  My issue was created because I thought low clamp front derailleurs were only needed for new fangled FS frames that don't have a lot of room to mount the FD due to the linkage for the suspension.  And I have read that high clamp are 'better' due to better leverage, durability, etc.  So I thought high clamp should be good right? sure! trigger pulled.  Turns out not so much.

Ended up having to mount the FD just above the bottom cage bolt on the seat tube in order to get the thing positioned right.  Hilariously I found a cage that could still be mounted as long as I used a slightly longer bolt on the bottom.  Does it look stupid?  You betcha.  Does it work?  Yup.  Moving on.

I probably won't rock the three bottle cages all the time I just wanted to see it loaded to capacity.  It's just like the monster...but way more svelte.  Going to make it a bit easier to commute more consistently I'm sure as well as more efficient to take longer rides around the house.  It's also nice to have a legit tourer that if I actually bought racks for could really go to task.  I might even be able to do some cross races for fun on this bad boy.  We'll see, I still really don't feel like getting into the whole USA cycling thing and buying more licenses to race.


Just need some bar tape and I am riding Soylent Green!  And if I hadn't goofed while pulling the front brake cable back a bit to trim the housing I would be able to ride it now but I accidentally pulled it completely out of the housing and couldn't get it back in without removing the bar tape (and ruining it, never buying that kind of tape again...adhesive on it SUCKED) and removing the housing to thread it back in.

I had some issues with the brakes but not the issues I was anticipating.  I figured getting the canti's properly dialed was going to be a huge pain in the ass.  Surprisingly once all was said and done that was the easiest...although I probably just got a bit lucky.  The worst part was getting the damn things cabled and figuring out the right way to get the cable hangers set up properly.  The high rise stem in the front created a tight fit with the headset hanger.  But I got that one cabled decent after getting physical with it.  The hanger in the rear was another story.  I was trying all kinds of hilarious jerry rigging to get it just right and it was just not happening.  Turns out I was using the wrong ferrule cable stop.  I really lucked out and found the right one in my 'parts jug' (when I went to look for it it was sitting right on top, I didn't even have to dump it out).  Once I was using the correct part it actually cabled up relatively easily, go figure.  More lessons learned and another bike to the stable.

I kinda like the way the black of the raw bars looks with this ride so I may just end up getting black bar tape.  Not usually my style but I plan on riding this bike in all kinds of crap so black is probably the prudent choice.

I see Blue!

and he's glooooorious!

got the go, now I just need the stop

Stopped in to Rhino the other day on the way home from Cannon to pick up some random build parts, among them the additional headset spacers I needed to get the cockpit on the new winter bike dialed.  Came together nicely and is actually kinda light!

I think this could be a really fun winter bike with these massive Prowler 2.3's I have on there now.  Just got to let some air out and they will be golden on anything but sheer ice I would imagine and I still have my homemade studs I can throw on this bike if needed if I ever pull off a lake ride.

All that is left now is cabling up the brakes and this thing is ready to ride.  I am thinking I might try and get it completely finished off at some point soon so I can take it out on its inaugural ride over the Holiday break.  There are some flurries in the forecast and I'm pretty sure I would have a blast riding this in 2-3in of fluff


Brakes are cabled! This bad boy is ready to go.  There is still no snow in Sanbornton so I have the unique capability to shred both Cannon and local trails hard.  I have heard local singletrack is still riding great.  Rock hard and FAST.  I had forgotten how bad the pads were on the brakes I installed on this bike.  Took me quite a long time to get things dialed on the stand.  Got them workable but they probably won't last long.  I have one replacement set in the shop as well as some I could steal from the old monster cross brakes (I think the BB5 road versions pads work in the long pull version...)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Frozen Shed Session

Gina had a NH Humane Society Holiday party tonight so I figured I would freeze my ass of in the shed and get started on yet another massive parts swap / build as well as do a bit of maintenance on the good 'ole nothin but troubles.

I'm not sure why I continue to bother with those skis.  Edges are burred to complete worthlessness but I suppose every little bit helps...cant get any worse I guess.  They will hopefully be phased out a bit soon anyway.  Once everything fills in and those damn bindings I got a deal on actually ship I will have some fresh fatties to break down to nothingness.

The real action of the evening came with my latest parts swap and bike birth / rebirth.  I can't seem to build a bike and just leave it.  At least some of my bikes anyway.  I was very pleased with my monster cross bike, I thought it was a good build and it performed well at the NH100 last year but when it came down to it it was just too damn heavy.  Sure technically it could do anything / go anywhere but it required so much more energy to do it that it just wasn't really working for me.  I want to commute more next year and my commute is not an easy route and if I want to really get into it a bit more I will need something a bit lighter and more suited to that task, plus a light tourer might allow me to more easily dabble in cross next year? hmmmm

Soooo I scored yet another cheapo Nashbar frame (touring variety this time around) and I am cannibalizing most of the parts from the monster for use with the light tourer and using spare parts to turn the monster into a burly winter SS since my old ice bike has since devolved into parts.  Seemed a decent compromise and the additional investment needed to make it happen is going to come in very low so it made sense.

 so much for the monster

I felt bad stripping the monster down, but I am excited about the two bikes that will emerge from this process.  I had hoped to make it a bit farther this evening but my hands were starting to get pretty cold and working with cold metal tools/frames wasn't helping.  I ran into a few incompatibilities and parts that I thought I had but didn't so I had to table a few things until later.  I should be able to get the burly winter SS back online with just a few more headset spacers.  I thought I had more than I did and I came up about 10mm or so short.  Once I get the spacers I can get the fork mounted again, finish the cockpit and I'll be good to go.

 as far as I could get tonight

Drive train is finished at least.  Running 32-20.  And yes Shine, the zipties are back.  I'll be running my old Thomson stem from the Kona as well as those carbon bars.  Should end up looking pretty sweet and working pretty well as both a decent winter bike and a poor weather / loaner / backup SS.

I also started throwing parts on to the touring frame.  Cranks, pedals, derailleur, seat post, saddle, headset.  Some from the monster some from the parts bin.  Unfortunately the front derailleur from the monster has a clamp diameter that is too small for this frame so I'll have to get a new one.  I still need to buy a fork at some point as well as some rim tape for the wheelset I plan on using.  I am a little worried that I should have bought the 58cm frame but hopefully I can make the 56cm work.  I always felt a bit stretched out on the monster so I thought I would try sizing down but looking at it on the stand it looks small.  Fingers crossed.

I love me some cheap builds

Once I get the parts needed I will start separate posts for each of these builds as I complete them.  Gonna have to figure out new names for each...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Some Shredding and Some Perspective

Got days two and three on snow racked up this weekend and the 'true' start to the season which I gauge as the first time the riding is hard enough to thrash my lower back.  Happens every year no matter how much core work I do in the gym to prepare.  But its out of the way early this year so that's good.

Jomo and I got up to Jay Saturday to try and snag some of the leftovers from Tuesdays dump.  We were able to find some deep stuff in pockets in the woods but the cover was still very much in the extreme sketch zone.  Lots of obstacles still need to get buried, we were hitting all kinds of stuff and I lost a ski a few times due to getting snagged under a downed tree or root.  I also took a real sweet digger into a exposed muddy drainage while attempting to traverse back to the resort from Timbuktu.  I am happy to report that my gear performed quite well and I stayed dry and was able to wash the mud off with it never happened.

Even with all the junk still exposed in the woods it was still great riding for early Dec and we got as much vert as we could handle.  My body still needs a few hard days of riding to get up to full speed.

With an impending thaw barreling down on us in the forecast we decided to also hit Cannon early on Sunday before things went south for a few days.  Met up with Shaun and Joe and got right to it.  Conditions were pretty good but after an hour or two of riding we all got a solid dose of reality shortly after getting on the Zoomer chair.

We heard several people a few chairs up yelling back to get patrol to the cat track that cuts across the bottom of Zoomer just a few hundred feet up from the base.  Everyone was relaying the message down and up the mountain from chair to chair so that someone could be radioed in.  You could tell there was an urgency beyond someone tweaking a knee.  We probably only missed the crash by a minute or two and a few seconds after first hearing the call we were passing over the scene.  It was hard to tell exactly what happened, his skis were 20-30ft up the hill from where he was laying at the edge of the woods.  To spread out your gear like that there had to be some speed involved.  He was laying motionless and a bit twisted, obviously unconscious and as we passed over head we could see a pool of blood starting to form underneath his head.  It was hard to tell how severe it was from the height we were at but at the time we thought maybe he just double ejected and hit face first...maybe a concussion and a broken nose.

It turns out a 19 year old kid died from his injuries that day.  Incredibly sad and sobering.  Hearing the news this morning was tough.  Really makes you think about stuff in your own life, especially for me having recently crashed hard at Jay two years ago.  My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Page Hill Cross Post

I don't want to double post so I'll mostly just link to my post over at CNH NEMBA.  Been busy at the new Page Hill site the past two weeks.  Been killing two birds as well, getting set for more local mtb options AND getting lots of compass work in wandering around in the woods.  I've gotten pretty good at following bearings in the field using intermediate landmarks and also 'daisy chaining' with other members of a party.  i.e. they walk while you spot the bearing and keep them on line until you barely can see them and then you walk to meet them, rinse and repeat.

Still need to work on pace counting to get better at judging lateral distance as well as get a bit more fine tuned on terrain association.  I can pick out the big stuff but I'd like to get the more subtle stuff as well as get better at really identifying when it comes down to is that this drainage or that drainage type scenario.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Finding my inner Belgian

I've been getting a decent amount of road miles in lately, not really sure why but I love riding in the Fall and if the weather is good road rides are great because they get you out in the awesome for a long time and you get all the sweet views and cool Fall breezes.

Friday I was having a real hard time deciding what I was going to do today.  I had a spot to recon for AT skiing this winter, kinda wanted to get back on the MTB, as well as take advantage of the great weather with a long road ride.  I decided on the road ride because Bill was busy and I didn't want to get too removed into the woods solo.

I had mapped out a tentative route Friday afternoon that seemed like it would be pretty cool but I knew there was a small probability of sketch.  I was planning on heading up and over to New Hampton and down to Franklin and then through to Northfield to Belmont and back up and around to Sanbornton.  I had a feeling there were a few spots in Northfield that I may have picked dirt roads but most of the dirt this time of year is rock solid and just as good as some pavement so I figured I would just take it slow.

I was trying to find the "I knew it would be bad..." scene but I couldn't so I went with this.

Beginning of the ride was great, weather was perfect.  Took me a long time to warm up but I got into a groove eventually.  Got through Franklin without issue and hit the first semi decent climb on Pleasant St heading up and out of Franklin.  Hit my first class VI trying to cut over to Northfield.

Luckily it was all down hill and only moderately rocky.  It was fairly short as well, about a quarter mile.  Aint no thang.  Got back rolling through Northfield and hit the second big climb of the day up Bean Hill Rd.  Rode past Highland MTB Park.  Got passed by about 1000 redneck trucks hauling 40lb bikes and somewhat surprisingly they were all very respectful and gave me room and didn't buzz me.  Yeah cyclists sticking together!  Kept on up the hill and never did see the left hander I was planning on.

So I had to connect the dots over some 'rough' terrain on a bike made for smooth pavement.  No problem.  I was actually able to ride a decent portion of it.  I walked some due to fear of flatting...not the kind of place you want to go to the bathroom in Mikey.  Popped out in someones yard on the other side and got back on the road.  Rest of the ride was pretty uneventful.  I ran out of calories around mile 45 so I had to go into damage control to avoid bonking before getting home but it was a pretty sweet ride.  Luckily it all worked out and added some adventure to the mix.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Off Trail 4 Lyfe

This past weekend was an exercise in bushwhacking.  Saturday Bill and I went on a mission to find some lines that have eluded us (until now) and Sunday was a recon mission for Central NH NEMBA to walk the possible future site of a new trail system.

You won't get much info here on our AT recon mission, unfortunately the more people that know about it the less awesome it becomes and this line isn't exactly 'ours' but I can go into the process a bit because it was sort of my first foray into wilderness navigation.

We had some decent beta heading into the trip and we had spent some time last year trying to find this route to no avail.  But through process of elimination we were fairly certain we knew where we were going this time around.  We actually made really short work of finding the line and we began hiking up to our 'backstop' (yeah navigation terminology!) which was a trail running along a ridge.  The line itself looks like it will be really fun.  Lots of natural terrain features, and its LONG.

At the time it was hard to pinpoint exactly where we were, we were hiking in a cloud so it was impossible to site any landmarks to try and pinpoint our location using bearings and I have come to the conclusion after this trip and Sunday's hiking around that I am currently a horrible judge of lateral distance traveled.  I always think I have gone about 10x farther than I actually have.  Gonna have to work on that.  It also became apparent how handy an accurate altimeter would be especially when navigating around mountainous terrain.  Much easier to narrow down your location if needed.  Too bad they are so damn expensive.

We topped out on the ridge and started making our way across two peaks, our plan was to traverse and descend the front side of another mountain to a car we had spotted instead of back tracking.  We had thought this traverse would be easy and would be the preferred method of accessing this line.  But we quickly came to the realization that this traverse would be hilarious in the winter and might even require some crampons and ropes in places depending on how it fills in.  Definitely going to be some adventuring this winter and I can't wait.

I took some pics but they got corrupted somehow, I think that crappy walmart camera has infected my SD card or something.  Or maybe some of the individuals who did most of the work on this line installed a motion triggered EMP that erased all my pics.  Hard tellin'.

I can be a bit more forthcoming with our trip on Sunday.  I am really excited about this one.  CNH NEMBA was recently contacted by the LRCT about a chunk of land that was donated to them.  They had no plans for it and wondered if we might want to build some trails there.  The land was owned by a private party and even has two cabins on the property that CNH NEMBA might eventually have access to.  Best estimates right now are the plot being somewhere between 300-500 acres, we are still working with the LRCT and the town to figure out property lines.

I met with Jesse and Mike to walk the land a bit.  We were trying to find property lines as well as identify if the terrain was workable and worth our time.

We did a quick perimeter around probably 2/3 of the plot and I can safely say this place is going to be amazing when we are done.  Gonna be years in the making but the possibilities are pretty exciting.  LRCT seems pretty open to our ideas and we are looking forward to moving forward with development.  Hopefully we'll be back soon with better info on property lines so we can mark our boundaries all the way around and possibly begin work on a 'perimeter trail' that circumnavigates the entire plot to start.  Best guess is that trail alone will be 6-7 miles long.  We could be looking at 20+ miles of singletrack with plenty of vert and two cabins on the property.  I like getting the shakes for next year's awesome in early November.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hold please....

Found out at the end of this week that the Untamed NE race is taking a hiatus next year, or at least it appears that way on their website right now.  Listed as next race in 2012 with registration opening in 2011.  Bummer, there goes that plan.

I think I am going to continue with my training plans for the most part though with some slight tweaks maybe.  We have already found some smaller adventure races that are fairly local that we can try out.  Might make more sense to get our feet wet in a 12hr format before jumping into 3 full days.

Now I have to figure out what next year holds.  I always have EFTA and maybe I can rededicate a bit more time to that endeavor this year with NEMBA racing hopefully getting going a bit more next year that might be good.  Maybe I'll try a half marathon, could do another tri...I should probably just take a 'do everything' approach next year.  I randomly caught the nordic bug again, I think it might be good to take advantage of the facilities at Gunstock, but that means more gear to buy.  Maybe I can score some used stuff at the nordic center there.  They also have some winter tri's hosted in the area...5K, ice bike, xc ski.  Sounds good to me.  I almost did one a year or two ago but doing that will all depend on the winter we are having.  Decent powder around when its scheduled and I'll be doing other activities for sure.

I am thinking the lack of real concrete plans for next year might be good.  I have been suffering from calendar overload lately.  It might be nice to just float around a bit and just race and be active when opportunities present themselves.  I have a feeling there will be lots.

I finally got back going this weekend with a nice road ride around the lake.  Felt OK, my strength and power is pretty crap right now but my base is still pretty good and my recovery rate is still right up there.  It was a pretty leisurely ride with a few decent climbs.

Pretty awesome that I randomly picked a route that was almost 29mi on the dot after just turning 29 yesterday on the 29th.  I'm thinking about maybe going for a run tomorrow and getting back into stuff full bore for Nov.  Lunch break runs and weight room, yoga, etc.  I'm also thinking its time for some AT recon hikes, better call Bill...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Compass Dork

That's me.  Well not yet, but sooner rather than later for certain.  Up until recently I've just been reading up on technique and the fundamentals of wilderness navigation but now I can finally start to practice.

Suunto MC-2.  My first piece of Finnish gear

I think Gina might have gotten sick of me commenting on how I needed to get a compass soon over and over.  So she went ahead and got me a sweet ass compass for my birthday to shut me up.  And as you might be able to tell its the same model as the one on the cover of one of the books I checked out.

I don't know much about compasses yet to really discern value but the MC-2 seems to be a very popular full featured unit.  It is mentioned in all three books I have as being top of the line.  Score.  I have already adjusted for declination to 16 degrees W for NH and gotten decent at plotting bearings on a map and solving little test questions about determining location based on several bearings etc.  It's actually kinda fun, I have always taken to problem solving in general and I think orienteering and me will get along just fine.  I think.  I have a feeling there is a certain art to being really good at orienteering and navigation that you can't get from reading a book so I am anxious to get into the woods and get a feel for the real thing.

I scored a $50 gift card from my HMO today for staying healthy so I'm trying to think of any other gear that I need to procure before next year.  So far I am thinking about a nice light/bright headlamp, a dry bag or two, and maybe some techy layers for staying dry/warm.  Is there a chance I just keep trying all this new stuff as an excuse to buy new stuff?  Is that what happens when you get older?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pine Hill Park

Two words.  Holy crap.  Four more words.  Find of the year.  I could probably go on like this for awhile.  Pine Hill Park in Rutland, VT is ridiculous.  I am completely dumbfounded as to how this place has cruised under my radar until now.  Imagine a 300 acre playground with trails built by a cross between renaissance masters and civil engineers and you have Pine Hill Park.

Shaun needed to escape Cambridge to avoid estrogen fest '10 and the original plan was to meet Dbone at Millstone.  Turns out the drive from 'Toga to Barre was a bit longer than anticipated so we began scouring the internet to find a place that would work a bit better.  Hit VMBA's site and discovered a video for some trails in Rutland.  Surprisingly the trails looked really good in the vid and upon checking their site and seeing the map there looked to be a decent amount of mileage on site so we decided to check it out.  Best decision we've made in a long time.

New England IS Fall

The park was maxed out and trail density was high with a lot of intersections but luckily all the intersections were numbered so I went about plotting a route and making us a cue sheet with all the turns we would need to make and taped it to my top tube.

Wasn't sure if it was going to work, all it would take is one wrong turn or missed or unmarked intersection and the whole thing would go to hell.  But we lucked out and it actually worked out really well.  Saved us a ton of time making decisions at trail heads and kept us moving more consistently.  I ended up plotting out about a 10 mile ride and we did some extra stuff twice that was too fun not too as well as some exploring around Rocky Pond.

I don't even know where to start about explaining how awesome these trails are.  Berms EVERYWHERE.  Think about a location you ride frequently...I'm sure there are lots of places where you might think to yourself 'man I wish that turn was bermed, that could be so sweet.'  You will never have to think that at Pine Hill.  Absolutely amazing bridge work.  Easily the most impressive bridges I have ever seen riding anywhere.  Definitely be sure to check out the pics at their website...incredible.

you kidding me? Playoffs?!

Much more vert than I was expecting but it was a pleasant surprise.  You can get a pretty good amount of work in but still be able to rip and have a blast.  We basically did two laps around the park and there was still plenty to do or opportunities to ride things backwards, etc.  It would take a pretty long time to get bored.

All around it was a perfect day.  Tons of amazing singletrack.  We got to see a dad ditch his son and yell "Now I get to do some REAL riding!" as he very slowly spun up a climb wearing some awesome sweatpants.  AND we got to meet the mastermind behind it all in the parking lot after the ride.  Michael Smith has dedicated a TON of time to the park and we chatted a bit about a new banked bridge he is building as well as a 12 hour race planned for next Fall called the Lunar 12 that sounds far too good to miss.  More than likely going to be in attendance for that next year.

Dustin surveying the future location of the Lunar 12 from on high

So yeah if it is not apparent already if you live in New England and you have not ridden Pine Hill Park, you need to, case closed.  As soon as Shaun uploads his pics I will steal some and post a few here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Transition Time

I've been making snow sports purchases like crazy lately and with flurries flying in central NH today the itch is setting in.  Compounded by the fact that I haven't been able to get on my bike in weeks I feel the transition to winter sports coming on hard.

I suffered a mild financial freakout today and made a pretty sweet impulse buy of some FAT skis to add to my quiver.  I have had all kinds of weird universe convergence moments lately and this time around flurries start flying I start thinking about skiing and how I need some new resort boards and bam delivers a deal in close succession.  Plus its my birthday next week...happy birthday me the universe has spoken.

105 at the waist.  WEEEEEE

I've never ridden anything this fat before.  Gonna be awesome (I hope).  All the reviews I've been reading are informing me that I need to ride these things hot and heavy.  Just what I need...look for me straight lining Zoomer this season.  I've also snagged some new googles and gloves in the past few weeks.  Let it snow I guess.

I've also been thinking about getting myself going with more structured training for next summer's big goal.  Pretty daunting task trying to figure out what the hell I should be doing.  Probably going to start slow by getting back into yoga again.  My flexibility is crap right now.  A few years ago when I was doing stuff 1-2 times a week I felt like it helped a lot with injury prevention and recovery.  Probably two things that are really beneficial when exerting yourself non stop for 3 days without sleeping.  Gotta start getting back in the gym on lunch and running as well.  Except this time around more vert and longer distances (what have I gotten myself into?!)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Caribou Slobber

Wasn't long after Crotchtoberfest wrapped up that I was right at it brewing an American Brown Ale for this year's Thanxmas.

On tap is a clone kit of Big Sky Brewing's Moose Drool.  Seemed interesting and I am a big fan of brown ales.  The American versions are a bit more hoppy than the English counterpart and this batch has an interesting mix of 3 different variates: Goldings, Liberty and Willamette.  Lots of interesting specialty grains too, Black Malt, Briess Caramel and Fawcett Pale Chcolate.  Drooling yet?  I am.  Hard to believe its less than two months until Thanxmas.  Where did '10 go?

I had my students whip up some labels for this batch as part of an exercise in photoshop.  Figured I would share some of my favorites:


Primary fermentation is going swimmingly.  Everything is right on schedule.  Probably transfer things to secondary this weekend or so for about 3 weeks then bottling just before Turkey day for two weeks of bottle conditioning before Thanxmas.  Gonna be a busy end to 2010 at Kaulback Farm!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pinnacle Challenge 2010

Hard to believe this is our 5th consecutive year doing the Pinnacle Challenge.  It has been interesting to see this race change and our team change over the years.  We started off as a decently fast hodge-podge or runners and riders with basic expectations who surprised ourselves with a 2nd place finish in our first year.

We were hooked on syrup and dead set on bagging that narrowly missed win from the first year.  Luckily our Blue Zoo family runs pretty deep with athletic talent so even when some team members went missing we were able to field a team and even find some ringers in the process.

One year the Blue Zoo took first and second in the Co-Ed division and last year we narrowly missed a shot at the overall title due to probably the most inopportune flat I have ever gotten in my entire race career.  Even so we were still able to defend our crown in the Co-Ed.  But it looks like that jug of syrup is going to have to be truly earned from here on out.

The fields have been getting stronger over the years and this year was probably the strongest across the board.  Lots of extremely fast runners in all divisions and one of the biggest turn outs to date.  I did a lot of sizing up in the parking lot and thought I had our competition figured out and fairly well managed and everything was going to plan heading through the race but we were caught out by a new sleeper group I knew nothing about and narrowly missed out on that Co-Ed win similar to year 1 for the Blue Zoo.  They had just the right mix of strength where they needed it and we just couldn't quite close the gap at the end and they nipped us by 2mins and change.

Unfortunately for me I wanted to be exactly 2mins and change faster on my leg than I went but I did post a personal best for myself on the road leg coming in about 25secs better than my previous best.

I really need to start treating this like a race again and really warm up and prepare myself the right way, I just couldn't get the blood to the legs in the first few miles.  That usually happens when you go from 0 to threshold in about 200m.  I have been getting a bit lax with this race over the last few 'easy' years but nothing like a narrow second to shock you back into form.  Everyone else did great.  Xtina was back after her baby making hiatus and put up a very similar time to 'back in the day', Adam basically killed it in the MTB (dont believe him when he says he doesn't ride anymore and is slow), and Jeremy destroyed the trail run yet again with a scorching time bested only by some other ridiculously fast runner.

Not sure where these runners came from this year but there was A LOT of talent on hand.  Fastest road runner threw down sub 5min miles for 5 miles.

So another year down and it has become apparent that the Challenge has made a name for itself and earning that sweet sweet syrup is going to take a bit more focus next year...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Or is it?...Yes it is

Well apparently my legs had been hiding somewhere between last Thursday and now. - Last Thursday - Now

I still think I've been faster but I'm not going to scoff at dropping 4+ minutes off my time in just 7 days.  Granted the weather was quite a bit better this time around but not 4mins better.  Bring on the Pinnacle Challenge, I feel like I should probably post a similar time to years past.  I still really want to break that 40min mark on that course though and I'll be burying myself in an attempt.

In AR news I checked out some books on Wilderness Navigation today to start my mental training.  I am rocking:

Wilderness Navigation by Bob & Mike Burns
The Land Navigation Handbook (The Sierra Club Guide to Map, Compass, and GPS) by W.S. Kals
NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) Wilderness Navigation by Darran Wells

Just diving into them now so I'm not sure how much I will get from them.  I'm hoping to get terminology down as well as some fundamentals and methodology but it seems to me land nav is one of those things that needs a lot of hands on.  Time to get a compass and try and find some weird ponds in the Pemi wilderness or something...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fitness is annoying

Well not really.  I think this summer has been kind of interesting for me to gauge and manage what the hell I was doing and I am reaching the frustration point wandering around on my current plateau and looking forward to my yearly reset around this time and starting to focus on a specific goal again.

In the immediate future I am trying for a little mini flash peak of fitness for the Pinnacle Challenge.  I am doing the road leg this year and I'm not in the best roadie shape right now.  I haven't done a lot of high end riding lately and I have two weeks to try and shock my body back into race shape.

Yesterday afternoon I proved that I am in the same shape as I was in April. - April - Sept

Not sure if I'm ok with that.  I think I did peak give or take when I wanted to in July for my tri and I have definitely tailed off going into the end of the year so I guess at least I am still at that base level.  I guess I wouldn't mind if my current level of fitness is my new 'slow'.

I have slowly started to read articles and look for resources for getting my adventure race training going.  I will probably start by just getting ready for the ski season.  Start running again, probably more trail this time around and hauling gear.  I might go a bit Bode and just do yardwork as hard as possible as well haha.  Get back in the gym on my lunch breaks for some circuit training and maybe even the pool as well (I kinda miss swimming, such a good workout in only 20mins).  Every now and then I remember that I am trying to prepare myself for three days of non stop exertion and it makes me laugh.  I am going to have to eat so much food.  Good god.

I'm also looking forward to the mental training needed and I've already found some cool resources online:

Gotta love free e-books, especially ones with a slight military skew.  I like reading about how to read maps and every now and then told to use grazing fire.  If anyone finds good stuff on nav, etc. let me know

Monday, August 30, 2010


Finally made it back to Millstone for a proper tour since racing there in '09.  A few of us dudes tagged along on a trip to VT so the ladies could throw Tara a baby shower, they showered the baby with gifts while we shredded win/win.

Shaun and I arrived at the Millstone Hill touring center around 9am but the center didn't open until 930am (Millstone can't handle our early morning intensity) but it worked out because Mike was meeting us there later in the morning so we did a quick warm up lap on the first part of the race course that I could remember from memory because for some reason at the time when I loaded the course into my Garmin it thought we were 5,000+ miles away from the recorded data points.  Gonna have to test that a bit before AT season, if that broke last season it would have ruined at least one ski venture.

Luckily when we got back and bought our day passes we also received a huge detailed (almost too detailed) map of the trail system.  This led to a lot of this:

and this:

But after an accidental back track and me finding as many big climbs at the beginning of the ride as possible, to kill Mike of course, we got into a pretty nice groove.  Millstone is HUGE and its a bit daunting trying to come up with a ride plan because really you just want to ride everything but its not all that possible in one day so we had to try and pick and choose.  We headed south to try and snag a sweet overlook on the way to some sweet directional singletrack called Fellowship Ring.

There were plenty of places to stop and get really cool views of the old quarries and surrounding area.  That sheer cliff above I believe was called the Rock of the Ages lookout.  And the pic above that is the view from that cliff.  Very cool stuff.  I was pleased to see that most of the rest of Millstone is very similar to the race course.  Its a great mix of terrain that is very well maintained (except for that one trail with all the pricker bush overgrowth, good god I look like I was attacked by a really small cougar or something).  A good amount of technical aspects throughout but not enough to wear me out on a rigid in 16 miles so its manageable.  After hitting most of the stuff down by Rock of Ages we made our way back towards the Touring Center to check out the Grand Lookout and Roller Coaster.

You can see Canada from the Grand Lookout and Shaun and Mike just couldn't resist getting close.

The huge piles of granite in this area are really impressive.  Hundreds of feet high, just piled up.  After they hugged it out we back tracked a bit to hop on Roller Coaster which is the trail you will see if you search Millstone Trails VT on Youtube.  Starts off with some man made bridges over some granite piles and then after that its basically a freeride course down to the bottom of the hill with lots of man made features to jib off.  We didn't really have the bikes to do much here but it was still incredibly fun.  We looped back around to the Touring Center, Mike passed out in the parking lot and Shaun and I rode back in for just a few more miles of singletrack before heading out.

All told we got about 16 miles, all of it great.  I will more than certainly be back.  With a tent, that map and a whole lot of murder juice.

Droid Does

THEEEEN after the ride we drove back up to Burlington and hit North beach on Champlain (which I highly recommend, very cool locale) and then did this:

*all pictures courtesy of

and some finger painting and twister and karaoke but I digress.  Millstone is great, get in there...A LOT.

Friday, August 27, 2010

This blog is the same every year

and late summer / early fall is when I usually do a short recap on my season and drop some hints as to what I'll be suffering at next year.  Sooooo here we go.

Tri experiment = success.  The swim was obviously iffy but I think I prepared myself well and my overall fitness has definitely benefited.  I plan on continuing to use the pool here at PSU and also continuing to run from time to time as well.  I think in a round about way they help parts of my cycling and I am willing to bet I will also feel some benefits come this winter.

I think all the tri stuff I was doing hurt my high end cycling fitness a bit and I think I have been stronger on the EFTA circuit in years past but that wasn't my goal for this year so I am not too worried about that.  Surprisingly I actually feel pretty strong coming off the 100 and I think if I can keep this going a bit I can try and put up a strong time at the Pinnacle Challenge in early Oct.

I think the Challenge will probably be my last race for 2010.  There is another tri at the end of Sept that I was thinking about but the pool is closed again until Sept 3rd and I feel like I have some really good mtb fitness right now and I think I would prefer to try and build on that instead of changing gears yet again this summer.  We still need to find a female runner for this year.  I have some feelers out and hopefully something will come together soon so we can get registered to defend our title.

Other than that the rest of this year will be hopefully lots of riding for fun (already have some big rides planned that should be very sweet), some work around the house and then gearing up for what will hopefully be a huge winter with lots of AT and other awesome.

THEN starting early next year I will begin training for the next step in my efforts to see what I'm capable of...Adventure racing.

It's been on the radar for quite some time but AR is typically a team event and it has taken me a few years of setting a solid example of suffering and blogging about it to drum up some intensity in the Zoo Fam.  But it looks like next summer I will be taking on the Untamed New England race with D-Bone and JPMV.

3 days in the North Country tackling all kinds of obstacles: trekking, bikes, swims, ropes, paddling, etc.  Non stop, no sleep, lots of trench foot, maybe some hallucinations.  It's all in good fun.  Should be hilarious and don't you worry all the training hijinx and awesome new gear will get posted here.  No idea how exactly I'm going to train for this, I'm sure Dustin has some ideas...

I will also hopefully continue with the NEMBA Racing program next year and do some EFTA races per usual but they will take on more of a training/fun role similar to this year.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

2010 New Hampshire 100. Less Hot, More Wet.

Ok lets get this thing written up already...GEESH!

I talked not only myself into doing this race again this year I talked Dustin into doing it as well.  Although that isn't entirely the best term because talking Dustin into something as ridiculous as a 100K mountain bike race is actually really straight forward and does not require any kind of convincing whatsoever.

We camped out at Oak Park in Greenfield the night before, took a dip in Otter Lake, ate some pasta, etc.  We saw a guy throw a frisbee at a girls face while she wasn't looking, she started crying and then he sat in the lake in shame for quite awhile by himself (for reference these people were probably our age, increasing the funny).  Then we chatted with the mechanic EFTA had on hand who had a digital scale with him and I thought it would be neat to actually know how heavy my monster cross really is.  32.34lbs.  It's like I'm hauling a nice heavy freeride bike around with plush, cushy suspension...without the suspension!  So in short we got some excellent pre race prep in Saturday.

Home Sweet Home

Lots more racers camping out this year than last if I remember right.  Which is good to see.  I am hoping this race continues to garner more interest.  I have never done the VT50 but from the race reports I have read I think the NH100 course is a better mix of terrain and just as challenging if not more.  For some reason the 50 sells out in 5 minutes months before the race, I'm hoping the 100 will be there someday just to reward all the people who go through the trouble to put this all together.  70+ individual private landowners needed to be convinced to let us pass through their land on race day!  No small feat and again this race is very well supported, marked, etc.  A huge thanks to all the volunteers who worked the aid stations in the rain for hours on end.

Ok to you may remember from my post on this race last year the brain sort of ceases to function entirely over this distance and level of effort so recapping is kind of a crap shoot but I will do my best:

Things got going fairly well.  I let most of the Experts ride away and just settled into my own thang.  Sketchy railroad bridge at about mile 5 or so was much less sketchy this year which was nice but the sand pit at mile 15 or so seemed much deeper which was not nice.  I was able to climb more of Hedgehog and the Powerlines this year than last with a fully geared bike but remember how I said the one thing the monster cross doesn't handle that awesome is really steep technical climbing?  Guess what the 100 has a lot of?  Yeah.  And throw in the monster is a good 10lbs heavier than my 9 speed was and I was still walking some stuff.  Similar to last year I was on about a 6 hour pace through the first 30 miles or so of the easier part of the course.

But this year I came to the realization that it isn't actually the climbing that killed me on the back half of this course, especially this year with my full complement of gears.  It was the descending that was my undoing.  Namely the fact that usually when you think descending you think "rest".  Not so much.  I had forgotten how every descent for the back half of the course was typically fairly steep and fairly riddled with boulders and washout and all kinds of other things that don't let you rest, at all.

I have also come to the realization that I do not ride a geared bike well anymore.  I was extremely inefficient and lazy with my gearing choices at times and 'hitting my shifts' with old school friction shifters at mile 45+ wasn't really happening.  Very typically instead of gearing down for a flat or descent I would just spin it out waiting for the inevitable climb that was sure to be coming, not the best strategy for speed but I was having issues convincing myself to put out those extra few watts.

My shifting wasn't the only thing to go south at mile 45(ish).  I had my Garmin in my jersey pocket because I can't mount it to the stem of the monster with it being high rise the angle is too steep.  I must have bumped it either when jamming an endurolyte wrapper in there or when checking mileage or something.  So according to my data I imploded at mile 46.93.

Lots of great single track in the second half of the course, I recognized some of it from last year but I think some was new including a few miles at the very end of the course that was awesome.  I wish I had been in a better frame of mind to enjoy it a bit more but by then I was just soaking wet and ready to be done.  I finished in just under 8 hrs which was a goal of mine so I am pretty happy with this years race.  Last year I assumed the heat added about an hour to my time and this confirms that give or take.  Factor in a fully rigid bike that weighs almost 33lbs and I think that's a pretty decent ride.  Dustin came in just under 2mins behind me, another strong ride, not really sure how 62mi would go for me on a SS but I'm not sure I could pull 8hrs...

Amanda and her parents came out to cheer us on at the final feed station, the last road crossing and the finish and I hear she got some sweet pics of trey that I will post up once they get digitized to the interwebs.

 Gimme those nuts!

That's enough nuts

Gravestones = dropped. They didn't stand a chance when I opened it up

Ah the glamor of finishing 3hrs after the winners...

I have been putting a lot of thought in to how I end my season going forward from here.  Another tri has been on the radar as well as a few other big rides and the Pinnacle Challenge.  Getting hard to balance the fitness and get it all in, I think something is going to have to be tabled for another time I just have to figure out what.  More at 11.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Continuing the Joke

I have built some weird bikes in the past and experimented a bit with 'strange' setups all in the vein of exploration.  One of my most interesting and successful to date has been my monster cross bike.  I have created a few other versions of this type of bike in the past but I think this is by far my best effort to date.

I have finally ridden this bike on some substantial rides both mixed terrain and singletrack and I have found the transition back to 26in wheels a bit harsh, especially with a rigid fork thrown into the mix as well.  I figured I would buy some new rubber for this bike before the NH100 in a few weeks seeing as I am currently running my old semi-slick commuter tires and I would go with something a bit more high volume to soften things out a bit.

I found a deal recently on on some WTB Prowler XT 2.3's that fit the bill and tonight I was in the process of mounting them up when something slowly dawned on me.  The cheapo chromoly fork I have had on this build has always had quite a bit of extra room available.

And now conveniently I have a spare 29er front wheel sitting around from my Kona that is sitting in pieces waiting to be sold.  So why not see if that bad boy will fit before I mount up the new tire on the 26in wheel?  Ok it fits with plenty of clearance but it must really mess up the geometry and create all kinds of toe overlap and other weirdness right?  Not quite.  No toe overlap at all, bike still feels pretty normal short of the front end feeling a tad high everything else feels pretty ok.  Riding it around the yard at least.  I'll know for sure this Thursday when I take this out on our NEMBA ride and ride it AS A 96ER.

Almost looks normal

Kinda strange how ok it felt really.  This pic makes it look almost unnoticeable mostly because there was so much extra room in that fork that now it just looks like you would think it should.  I am very interested to see how this rides on singletrack Thurs.  The 29er up front could help quite a bit with softening out some chatter, which would be much appreciated at the 100.

And yes I did try to jam a 29er into the rear triangle as well and the clearance just wasn't there.  Would have been funny to have converted this to a full 29er on a whim.  But riding a 96er for the first time is intriguing, I'll update here after the first ride with a report...


Rode this last night in the new config and I continue to be dumbfounded with how well this worked out.  It rode just fine, better than fine in fact.  The bigger hoop up front definitely softens out the ride quite a bit.  And there really is basically no 'weirdness' to the feel of the bike.  The only thing I really noticed is that on steeper technical climbs I need to make a conscious effort to stay low over the front of the bike because the larger wheel does bring the front end up a bit and if I'm not paying attention and it hits a bump or rock or root the front end will very easily pop off the ground.

I still need to get acquainted a bit more with this ride to really be at home on it but this 96er set up is def fun to ride and can literally do anything and go anywhere, any distance.  Singletrack, Fireroads, throw some racks on it and get lost for a few days...whatevah.  My lower back was a bit angry with me and this bike last night but I guess I can't blame it.  This is probably the 4th different riding position I have asked it to deal with this season.  I am hoping I can work that out in the coming week or so before the 100.

I haven't fully scoured the interwebs yet but it occurred to me I don't believe I have ever stumbled on another "monster cross" 96er.  I'm sure I'm not the first but just in case I am coining this build the Franken Mullet. Franken as a nod to the fact I built it in my evil lab and brought it to life with lightning and Mullet due to the whole business in the front party in the rear aspect.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Horror at Harding Hill EFTA NECS '10 #5

Ah the Horror.  This is one of those middle of the road courses for me.  Don't love it, don't hate it.  Wasn't expecting much from today.  This was my first race on the new bike and I fought it off but I had been a tad under the weather this past week and I wasn't sure what my energy levels were going to do.

Things got off to a decent start.  I was in a group of 4 other SS'ers for most of the lap feeling decent.  Pace was hard but manageable and riding rigid wasn't affecting me as much as I thought it might.  The new steel is a-niiiice.  Just before the end of the 1st lap heading down one of the faster, rocky descents I was getting jostled about pretty good.  There were some shadows coming through the trees making it hard to see obstacles and pick lines and I caught something with my rear tire and got bucked really hard.  Hard enough to send both my bottles flying.  Turns out the cages on the new ride were just a tad too loosy goosy.

I really wanted to stick with the group I was with because I knew if I lost those wheels to follow that was going to be it.  But on a hot day like today I wouldn't have lasted long without those bottles.  I rounded them up, bent my cages a bit to hold things tighter and went on my way.

2nd lap I laid it on the line trying to get back on terms with the group I lost.  Things actually felt really good and I thought I had a shot.  I was climbing strong and you can tell by my ride data that my second lap was just about as fast as my first.  I couldn't keep that up going into my 3rd lap though and I never did see that group again.

 even pro photogs cant make a gnarly step up look hard on film

I was able to ride all the punchy climbs every lap, which I believe is a first for me on this course.  I usually bottom out in a few spots on shorter punchy climbs but I was able to power through today.  I ended up latching on to the leader of the women's Elite race and we yo-yo'd the back half of the last lap.  Came in under 2 hrs and put up one of my better times on this course.  Not bad for the heat and riding ironman.  I was only about 2.5mins behind a group of a few SS'ers which was about the time I lost with my bottle mishap so I am going to call today a decent showing.

And I got all kinds of "Wait...whats the deal with riding with no gears or suspension?" questions at the finish.  Damned if I know.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I think I'm turning Japanese

Big happenings in the stable lately.  I have been pondering what direction to go for the past few weeks.  I have always liked my scandium Kona.  Very light, very stiff, peppy as hell everything you'd want in a race ride or in general really.  But I have always considered my old steel Redline Monocog to be a 'funner' ride.  There was just something about that bike.  Not sure if it was the steel ride quality or just a mix of geometry that just worked for my body type and riding style.

Moving forward I either wanted to get back on a steel ride or upgrade my Kona and make it even lighter.  What to do, what to do?  I didn't really have any cost effective options to go steel so I had been searching and shopping around for parts for the Kona.  I was fairly close to pulling the trigger on some wheels, brakes and possibly even a fork when one fateful Friday afternoon I checked Craigslist.


And there it was, A Monocog Flight 29er, the upgraded version of my old ride that I loved.  Made with much nicer Japanese Sanko Steel and being offered up at a steal.  Once again the Universe comes through, I'm not gonna question it so I immediately called.  Turns out I didn't know the guy personally but I know the name and have raced against him in the past.  Bike is practically new only having been ridden for about half of last season.  I got such a deal that once I sell the Kona I will have a nice chunk of change to upgrade the Redline with some lighter hoops and presto I'll be back on a pretty light steel bike...two birds.

I got my first ride on the new whip last night and it is everything I remember about my old monocog and oh so much more.  The sanko steel is NICE.  I missed that buttery feel, but it still has enough stiffness to transfer energy fairly well.  It's not Kona stiff but I like this mix better.  I am back to rigid (for now) and I'll be honest I did just over 7 miles and felt perfectly fine on fairly craggy terrain.  This nicer steel and the tapered fork might just be what I needed to make rigid work and I really like not having that bob when trying to hammer up a climb.  We'll see how that goes.  I'll race it this weekend and see how 20mi at race pace feel...

I can definitely feel the additional weight, especially climbing but I can deal with it, what doesn't kill me right?  The Flight feels much more agile than the Kona was and also feels much more stable in the corners.  I also like the BB7's much better on the new ride than my old BB5's.  The Monocog also has 180mm cranks which I have never ridden but I think I may like.  I was always concerned about lots of pedal strike but I think the BB height on the monocog line is on the high side so that will help.  Not sure if it was just my perception but it did seem at times that the added leverage of the 180's made my 19 tooth feel more like a 20.

So yeah I am really excited about this bike and I think I will probably ride this for a long time.  It's simple, I like just about everything about the design and look and redline's are tanks built to last.

AND THEN the very next day I found these at a second hand store in Meredith NH:

I have no idea what model they are, I have never seen Adidas shoes like this before.  They fit me perfectly and are some of the most comfortable cycling shoes I've worn.  And they are ugly and loud which is kinda my jam.  They were also only $20, which is also my jam.  Hell of a weekend for gear.  Bing-Bam-Boom and I've got practically an entirely new setup.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Black Fly Sprint Tri

Triathlon = DUN

Where to even start with this post?  There has been so much leading up to this I feel like this one is gonna be HUGE.  Bear with me.  I'm gonna try and just tell the whole story from beginning to end, and hopefully I don't forget anything awesome.

Tri's start early so I was up at the house at 4:30am.  I usually don't really need the full allotted time listed on race sheets for pre race stuff, at least with MTB, but I figured seeing as I had no idea what I was doing this time around I would show up bright and early and wander around aimlessly.  I started off by finding what I thought was a pretty killer parking spot in an empty lot for the Waterville Conference Center.  It was a short walk/ride from the transition area and when I got there the lot was empty.

turns out it was also completely empty when I left as well.  Apparently I picked the dumbest spot to park ever.

I continued my bumbling as I entered the transition/registration area and tried to pick up my race packet.  The woman asked my what my number was and I was all like "uh I don't know I haven't gotten my race packet yet, don't you give me my number?" and she was all like "no you are supposed to get your number before hand and that is how I find your packet" and I was all like "oh I didn't know that, was the number sent to us in an email or something?" and she was all like "no its on that huge god damned board you walked right by to get into this tent you idiot."

It may not have gone just like that but pretty close.  Finally got my race packet, got my body all marked up with sharpie and then I tried to get into the transition area and I get a not so fast from a race official.  You are not allowed into the transition area until you put the bib sticker on your bike apparently.  Learning stuff every 2 mins at this rate I find my rack spot and rack my bike and start to get unpacked.  Then I get yelled at again.  Another race official informed me that I racked my bike incorrectly.  So far I am owning the transition area. (and of course they were not literally yelling at me, a few could have been a tad more friendly about explaining things to a newb but all in all it was a very civil affair)

properly situated...finally

I then started taking the customary pics of the transition area and wandered around the start area a bit.

Looking towards the Run start

On the other side, the Bike start/finish

Swim start/finish at the pond

about half of the swim course

Sightseeing complete, I set to actually making sure I knew what I was doing for my transitions.  As I did this I slowly realized that we had a run bib that we needed to be wearing during the run that was supposed to be pinned on.  Most experienced racers took care of this issue with a fuel belt that they just pin the bib to.  Or a different jersey or shirt that they put on for the run that has the bib pinned to it when they enter the transition area.  I was rocking my onesy so there was no other shirt to use and I don't have a race belt because I'm not an experienced racer.  BUT I do own 7 seasons of MacGyver.  GAME ON.

My timbuktu messenger bag has a strap used to keep the bag from slipping to the side while riding.  It is not designed to be a belt by any means and if I didn't have the waist of a 12 year old girl I would have been screwed, but I do so this worked:

Used the velcro closure and clipped it to itself and it literally just barely fit around my waist.  Crisis averted.

Ok now to the actual racing.  We lined up at the swim start in a huge line for a time trial start, you enter the water one person at a time with a new swimmer every 5 secs.  Bibs only went up to about 378 or thereabouts so I was pretty far back.  The time trial start was nice because it seemed to keep traffic very manageable but it kinda sucked because I was standing in line waiting to go for probably 25mins.  Plenty of time for that race anxiety to get my heart rate and breath rate increased, which I think was my undoing in the swim.

Finally my turn to get wet and off I go.  Things got going ok.  Water temps were nice (race organizers said 73 degrees I think) and being that far back traffic was good and I had plenty of room to do my thing.  My thing worked for a while, maybe until about the first left turn which was only really 100-200m into the swim.  My breathing rate was just too fast for the rhythm of my crawl stroke and the lack of oxygen caught up with me.  I switched to the breast stroke because it is a faster stroke and easier to breathe faster.  But breast is pretty inefficient and it was starting to wear on me a bit.  Then I saw a woman doing the back stroke and I was on the long straightaway of the course so I figured it would work at least for a bit.  Flipped over and went to town.  That actually worked really well for me.  I could breathe fine and felt like I was making up ground or in this case water.  Couldn't see where I was going at all but I didn't really care at that point and it didn't matter so much in the straight portion of the course.  

Switched back to breast stroke around the final two turns and then got bear hugged by an old guy.  No idea how he got as close to me as he did without noticing me but he basically put me into a headlock as his arm came around for a stroke.  Surprisingly didn't affect me much, he apologized and we both continued to flail for the last 50m.  I suppose I limited my losses as best I could but I was out of the water in about 11mins which was quite a bit slower than I was capable of in the pool.  But race jitters got me and I couldn't stay settled enough to stay with freestyle and those are the things you learn to deal with over the course of time I guess.  According to results my swim time was 273 best haha.

T1 went pretty well.  Kept it under two minutes at least.  We had to run pretty far with the bikes before we were allowed to mount and get going at both the start of the bike and they also made us dismount about 30yds before entering the transition area.  Kind of annoying but I guess lots of triathletes don't really know how to get on and off a bike so they have to do that for safety reasons.  The swim affected me a bit more than I thought it would but not horrible.  Took me about a mile or two to get into my groove.  Then I set about to passing just about everyone.  If you think about the numbers, I started at the end of the field and put up one of the worst swim times so entering the bike I was behind just about everyone...yet I finished in 88th out of 338 finishers.  So I completely lost track of how many but I was basically passing people constantly for the full 15 miles. 

But really only one of the passes really meant anything to me.  I passed a lot of guys with full aero gear (which was nice) but one in particular took the cake.  Full triathlon club kit, full aero gear setup, an Ironman logo tattoo'd on his calf and I blew by him like he was standing still.  P'WND.  So yeah, not much to really report on the bike, it was a straight out and back and I rode it fairly well, and posted the 67th best time on the day.

Again T2 was ok, kept it under 2mins squeezed into my race bib belt and got to it.  The run was actually a bit of a surprise.  In a good way.  I had thought it had gone fairly well yesterday and that I had paced well, I managed to pass a few more people and I finished strong.  But checking results and split times today it turns out I posted the 55th best time in the run. Huh?! My strongest leg was the run? What the hell is happening here?  Very pleased but also somewhat confused, maybe the field wasn't that strong in the run?  My best guess is a superior recovery rate.  Mountain bike racing relies very heavily on being able to recover quickly from hard efforts.  Maybe I can get up to my top run pace immediately after the bike whereas many others struggle to get into form?  No clue.  But again not much to really report from the run, no issues, felt pretty strong.  The two aid stations that provided a gulp of water with the rest being poured on my head really helped.

So yeah pulled into the finish with a 1:25:59.  Good for 88th overall of 338 finishers.  My goal had been more like 1:20:00 but considering my issues in the swim, I'm very happy.  I beat more people than beat me and I can guarantee a decent amount of racers I beat consider themselves 'triathletes' and are not first timers.  I also enjoy scanning the results and seeing how bad my swim time is compared to everyone else in the top 100.  I have the worst time BY FAR.

Full Results:

So the 60 million dollar question, will I ever do a tri again??  Probably.  Will it be my new thing?  Nope.  It was fun, challenging, required me to exit my comfort zone.  All good things.  Who knows maybe my breathing rate was more mental than physical and now that I have a swim under my belt I can get over that hump.  If my swim was good I would be dangerous in my onesy....