Monday, December 21, 2009


A classic Nor'easter formed and delivered a lot of the fluffy white stuff.  Friday the stores were packed with people trying to beat the storm.  Parking lots were full at the grocery stores, the department stores and home improvement centers.  One would have thought Armageddon was upon us.  Me, I was exchanging emails with the guys trying to see who going to ride in the morning.

9 pm and the snow starts to fall.  Nothing heavy, but, earlier than predicted. By 11 pm the ground has a nice blanket of whiteness and I start to wonder if it'll be too deep to ride at 9am. 6:30am and the early morning haze reveals 5+ inches of snow and steadily rising. A quick call to DKEG and he's out. Thumb hurts too much from a crash on Friday. Frank bails to ride locally and do some sledding with Grace. The Outlaw is on the fence then opts out to do a townie ride.  I call the Dutch. He's still interested and DCTony is on his way with two other guys. I have to ride.

I load the car with all the usual stuff for a ride.  Chainsaw, avalanche shovel, come-along and a tow rope. I'm pretty sure I packed a bike as well, but, I needed to have the essentials covered.  The drive up 270 was amusing as I saw no less than 6 accidents involving a lot of cars that had no business being on the road.  Downtown Frederick was covered in 6+ inches of snow and I can only assume the extra inch fell on the drive up.  The Mark boys got an early start and were already outside playing when I arrived. Their father could learn a few things about punctuality from them. Even after the DC/VA contingent arrived,  Dutchie kept us waiting while he brewed an espresso, re-faced his bottom bracket and cobbled a pair of Italian hiking boots.  The snow was getting deeper by the minute.

We opted for the back door and Mountaindale road.  The thought was to minimize steep, paved roads in favor for some traction on the gravel.  A few cars had been down the road and we didn't have any serious problems getting to the trail-head.  Iceberg, that's were we parked and what we attempted.  I won't even call it a "ride" anymore. It was hiking with brief sections where we sat on our bikes and tried to turn the cranks. The "Tip" was our goal and that was all we would see of Iceberg on the "ride".  We did clear off a section of trail leading up to the Tip and sessioned that tiny section of trail until our media cards were full of bloopers and out-takes. Our party of 5 trudged back to the cars were we cracked open some brews and watched our cars fill with the driven snow.  The toughest part of the entire day was dealing with fogged up windows as we made our way off the mountain.  That one will go down in the books for sure.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Capitol Classic

The MAC series championship held at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, VA.had all the elements for a great cross race.  Frozen temperatures, snow, ice and mud were served in copious amounts this past Sunday and I couldn't have asked for better conditions.  Cross, in my mind, is about racing in adverse conditions. While not a huge fan of the mud, I can appreciate the skills required to race in such conditions. Throw in some off-camber turns in the snow and ice and the game changes a little.  It's less about the big engines and more about technical skills and handling.  Sure, you need something under the hood to power your way through the muck, but, a metric ton of wattage won't do shit if you can't stay on the course.

The day started an hour earlier than expected when David called and said he was going to race Cat4 at 9.  The previous days snow made traveling questionable and we got rolling early, just in case.  An uneventful trip got us to the venue early with lots of time to freeze are asses off and survey the landscape.  People were sliding all over the place and we saw several hit the deck hard.  We were still in the parking lot.  This was going to be an interesting day.

David registered that morning, so, he started pretty much at the back of the pack.  I kept waiting for him to ride by when his race started and the poor guy had a lot of traffic to fight through.  He kept pushing the entire time and I could see his progress with each lap.  In the end he finished 37th on the day in his first cross race. Not to shabby considering were he had to start from.  By the time he finished I had gone into pre-race mode and was getting ready for the Masters B race at 10.

Several hundred sets of tires were cutting through the snow and previously firm sections were quickly getting rutted and muddy.  Carlo and I took a casual lap over some of the course and it was quite different from the lap I rode earlier.  We rolled back to the start and line up on a solid piece of ice that once passed for a road.  Fortunately this was just staging and the organizers moved us to firmer ground for the start.  As usual, I hit it as hard as possible from the start and tried to gain positions before the grass, er snow, actually.  Oddly, I found myself moving through the pack quickly and I was in pretty good position for the first time.  Now, I just had to ride smart and maintain for 4 laps.  The first lap was by far the most enjoyable. The course was still somewhat firm in places and my legs felt pretty good.  There was one particular section that I really enjoyed. This was an off-camber, snow covered descent through an s-turn and around a couple trees.  There were a couple roots leading into this section and it was all about cornering and bike skills. It opened up briefly before a sweeping right muddy turn. Pure pleasure if you chose the right line, not so much if you didn't.  I nailed the turn on the first two laps and carried the speed into the next section.  Lap 3 was ugly and I took out a section of tape. I survived lap 4, but, it wasn't pretty.  I am, however, getting ahead of myself.

That put us down at the stream level and some sections of open running.  The turns were a little greasy, but, the ground was flat and you could really get the cranks spinning through here.  The there was a short steep run-up followed by several twisty off-camber turns....that were muddy.  The run would pack my cleats and more than once I had trouble clipping in.  Not really a problem as I'd have to throw an outrigger for the next turn that came up fast.  Through these trees it leveled out again, but now we had to contend with an icy sweeping turn on the road.  Lots of guys were going into this one with one leg out for balance.  Past this we were back at the start with three laps to go.

One particular section that bothered me was the long, twisty section in front of the pit area.  By the third lap this section was deeply rutted, peanut butter mud that sapped my energy. Running a 42x19 made it hard to get on top of the gear and several times I'd have to run most of this 100 yard section.  Mental note: my running on it.  Riding this section would have been better, if I could.  However, if I blew a corner all momentum was gone and it was time to run.  Did I mention running sucks and I'm not very good at it?

Through the peanut butter one last time, over the bridge and to the run-up.  I'm with a couple guys that all seem to have fresher legs than me. They sprint up the hill like a couple gazelles being chased by a hungry lion.  My only hope is to ride smart and minimize mistakes.  They caught me on the run-up, but, I got one on the descent and the other on the muddy turn.  The fast open section is coming up and should be interesting.  The gaps don't change much and we go into the last run-up with me in front. They both take the hill faster and I lose my position.  On the chase, I get a little power to the legs, but, it's not enough to close the gap.  I end up in 12th place in the Masters 2/3/4 category.  My best finish to date in this new found obsession called Cyclocross.

Additional photos by DKEG

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law..

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rockburn Cross

While my second cross race wasn't as good (from a results perspective) as the first one, it was still a great day and a ton of fun.

Pre-occupied the day before with my new Spot frame, I didn't anguish over pre-race preparation.  After a morning filled with paperwork, I spent the rest of the day building up the new frame and playing with the belt drive.  The cross bike really didn't need any attention.  Hell, it's a single speed, short of some oil on the chain, she was ready to go for the race Sunday morning.  Now, if I were a more serious cross racer, I would have had my spare wheelset set up with different tires, just in case.  Well, not being "that" serious (and not owning a spare set of wheels), I thought the SB8's would be fine and I'd rail through the turns, just like I did at Roseryville.  Rockburn, however, is a slightly different animal.

A very tight, punchy course with soft off-chamber turns and a couple muddy sections to deal with.  The Small Blocks were not a good choice for this course and they hurt my ability to push through the turns and attack the hills.  I found myself taking turns wide or losing control all together.  One particular section was a sharp, muddy right turn followed by a short climb. This section killed me every lap.  I'd come around the turn wide and would spin the rear wheel as I tried to grunt my way up the short hill. By the last lap I realized it was faster to simply run up the section than waste precious energy trying to ride it.

I am, however, getting ahead of myself.  The morning started out great and the weather forecast looked incredible.  Sunny with a high temp around 60.  Barb and the kids didn't get motivated early enough and decided to meet me at the venue before my race at 10.  Jonathan was going to race the Lil Belgium's race at 1 and was really looking forward to his first bike race.  To think it was only a couple months ago when he required help riding his two wheeler. Now, he's entering his first race.  Makes a daddy proud.  So, I roll out solo, get lost when I got near the park and finally made it to the park by following a car loaded with cross bikes.  In the small lot I see Seibold, Gwads and Carlo.  Jonathan bums a tube off me and Carlo continues to have seatpost issues.  I kit up and head down to the registration tent, wherever that may be. A serious lack of signage didn't help the rookie racers like myself.  After crossing a maze of taped off lanes, Carlo and I finally make it to registration. Number in hand and waivers signed we head back up to grab the bikes for a little spin. I dumped a little tire pressure when I saw some of the muddy tires coming off the course.  I also get a chance to walk around and see a few of the sections I'll be racing on in a little while.  This course was very different from the Tacchino course.  Less open running, tighter corners, off-chamber sweeping turns and a little mud thrown in for good measure.  Boy, I wish I had those Conti Twisters hanging in my garage right about now.  As a wise man once said, "run what ya brung", so, that was the motto for the day.  I'd make the best of the situation and in the end it really doesn't matter, I was going to have a good time.

Cross is a little different from mountain bike races in that they line you up in the order you registered.  The "early bird gets the worm" as it were.  I registered late, 69th to be exact, so, that put me pretty far back at the starting line.  I was gonna have to work damn hard to move up through this field, on this course.  From the start we have a couple hundred yards of asphalt with a slight climb to weed out the field.  I punched it hard on this section and cleared through a good portion of the early registers.  The tires weren't going to do me any favors, so, I had to ride smart and not push them too hard in the turns.  A small pile-up in the sand pit, I ran around the bodies and twisted metal to get clear of some more riders. Just prior to this I caught up to the In The Crosshairs guy and followed him around this twisty section, through the sand pit and into the wooded double track. On a slight left turn I go for the inside line and he promptly shuts me down with a nice elbow/shoulder lean towards a tree. I didn't realize this was NASCAR, but hey, I'm new at this stuff. Hindsight being 20/20 it was a smart move. If I had botched the pass, I would have taken us both down.  It reminds me of my old BMX days where we'd scrap around the entire course, banging shoulders through every turn.  Something you don't see at the MTB races, at least not the long ones I enjoy.  No worries, I found a good hole a little later and continued to munch on new carrots when possible. I did make the video this week, watch for the prison stripes around the 2 minute mark and for a couple minutes after that.  Video credits go to Bill @ Check out his site, lots of great pics, videos and interviews from the local Cross scene.

As I slide around a few of the turns I'd traded positions with a few guys and kept the tempo as high as possible. The short steep climbs were doable on the bike, but, slow and energy sapping. With this in mind, I'd run-up a few of them and usually made up a place or two in the process.  Now, with one lap down I knew the course and how to ride it. Each lap was about pushing my comfort level and riding smart.  By lap 3 the muddy corners were becoming downright nasty with more guys opting to attack off the bike.  This strategy was working for me and I should have employed it in a few more places.  The off-chamber corners were also becoming rutted and slick. You couldn't attack them at the same speed without losing traction or control. It was by this lap I was cursing the tires that could do no wrong just two weeks ago.

3 down with one to go, ride smart, keep up the intensity as much as possible. A couple guys catch me early in the lap and I have a couple carrots to munch on for the next 10 minutes.  Not much action going on behind me. There is a small pack about 20 seconds back, but, I'm not letting up and pushing hard when I can.  Some mud packs up my cleats and makes getting clipped in difficult.  Frantic about losing time, I slam my feet into the pedals and get me feet set. The turns were getting lose now and the tape had been torn away in several turns.  I'm sure other guys are having similar issues with traction. Coming through the barriers one last time and the big push towards the finish.  The front wheel started to break free and I reel it in before completely washing out on a sweeping right turn.  Only a few more turns left before the final sprint and the finish line. Nearing the tennis courts, I've caught my carrots and I'm on their wheels. The next couple turns are tight with little room to pass, but, I catch one on the steep climb and another on the final stretch of asphalt. We go down to the wire and I'm not sure who placed where.  In the end it doesn't matter I guess.  The race leaders were already done for the day and we were battling for the low 20's.  I ended up with 21st out of 88. Not as good as the 18th I got a couple weeks ago, but, I learned a few more things and will employ them at my next race.

Spot v2.0

Saturday morning, sitting in the kitchen giving the Big Dog all my bank information.  We're setting up college mutual funds, life insurance policy (for me) and some other "adult" type stuff.  He brought he boys over while Michelle was off riding Schaeffer with Mrs. Outlaw and a host of ladies.  As the kids destroy the house, Darius and I attend to our serious work when the doorbell rings.  The FedEx guy has a big box, a frame sized box in hand, with a discrete Spot Brand sticker next to the shipping label.

All thoughts of serious business get pushed aside and I'm like a kid on Christmas morning.  Tearing into the corrugated box like it was the seasons "must have" toy.  Christmas came a month early to my house in the form of a shiny new frame from the boys in Golden Colorado. In all honesty, this wasn't a complete surprise. Gavin from Spot called last week to inform me the frame was done and ready for shipping.  He then asked if I ran a chain or belt drive on my old frame. An odd question seeing that they had my old frame and it clearly did not have the split dropout required to run the Gates belt drive system.  "Uh, chain" was my reply and he asked if I was interested in going to a belt. You see, Spot has changed all their dropouts to a Paragon Slider style with a split in the seat-stay.  They have done away with the simple horizontal drops in favor of the more versatile Paragon sliders.  Needless to say, I was very excited about the "upgrade".

One thing about my old Spot that always bothered me were the tabs for the disk brakes.  Seems they were a bit behind the competition when it came to the design and engineering of these tabs.  The old design was a throwback from original disk tabs where you had to remove the brake caliper in order to remove the rear wheel.  Rather shoddy design for a "premiere" builder if you ask me.  I was able to work around this design with the liberal use of washers to shim up the caliper, however, that came at the price of pad contact.  I never had 100% pad contact with the rotor, although I never had a problem with rear braking power.

The new drop-outs, however, are Spot on perfect (pardon the pun).  It's hard to beat Paragon drops for ease of adjustment and clean looks.  With a split in the seat-stay, my new bike is ready for the Gates Carbon Drive belt system.  Gavin offered me a special price for the Gates system and I jumped at the chance to try something new.  Even at the reduced price, it ain't cheap going to a belt drive and I hope this stuff holds up for a while.  I will say the machine work on the cog and chain-ring is exceptional. The same level of quality can be seen in the Spot Brand spacers and cog flange.  The Gates Carbon Drive belt, well, that remains to be seen.  If a belt is strong enough to push a Harley around, they must be robust enough for my weak-sauce self.

So, we drooled over the frame for a bit, finished up the paper work and headed over to pick up Michelle.  In the parking lot the ladies had just finished their ride and offered us cider, hot chocolate and cookies.  I'm sitting their chatting everyone up, trying to be social, while all I can think about is the Ernie orange Spot frame waiting to be built up.  After a nice lunch at Red Robin (thanks Darius), I rushed back to the house and began to strip down the Vassago.  This frame, acquired from DKEG who got it from the Outlaw, who got it from Vassago as the second replacement to a frame they sent him for review, has been a great bike while I waited to hear from Spot.  I thought its days were numbered when I slammed into a tree a month ago, but, the frame has held together and will be regulated to "spare bike" status as I get reacquainted with the new bike.

It was almost a shame to install my old weathered parts on this pristine frame. The orange powder-coat blazing like the early morning sun. I'd like to say I did my best to clean the old parts before hanging them on the new frame, but, who am I kidding?  I just wanted it in one piece so I could take her for a spin.  Without instructions, installing the belt system required a little bit of trial and error.  The usual BB spacing is different and the front chain-ring needs to be installed in the outside (big ring) position.  The rear cog also needs to be run at the outer-most position on the freehub.  Normally this wouldn't be an issue, however, my normal chain whip doesn't work with a belt drive cog and an emergency visit to Lowes for a strap wrench delayed the build by 45 minutes or so.  After all the details got hammered out I had the Carbon Drive system installed and turning.  Smooth as butter, quiet as a ninja and totally clean.  I can't wait to get this bike on the trails.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Todd on Capitol Hill

Todd on Capitol Hill
Todd on Capitol Hill,
originally uploaded by dkeg.

DKEG just posted a picture that may very well be the last ride on my Spot 29er. Taken April 23rd of this year.

Thanks David!

I'm supposed to be getting a new frame from the boys in Golden Colorado. We'll see, it's already a few weeks overdue.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tacchino Ciclocross

As if I needed another obsession........

The Tacchino Ciclocross race changed venues for 2009 and was held at Roseryville State Park.  Wanting to do a "traditional" cross race, I thought "the rose" would be a good place to start. 40 minutes of racing isn't a lot of time and I could get a nice ride in after the race.....was my thought.  So, I loaded up the car with two bikes, a cooler of beer and a shitload of clothes.  The temperature for Sunday was supposed to be nice and warm, but, I didn't know how it was going to be at 10am, the start time for the Masters 3/4 race.  Rolling up to the registration table I knew it was going to be a scorcher (for November) and I elected to go with the summer kit.  An injured Cat4 racer and subsequent medivac delayed our start and the short sleeves were welcome as we baked in the sun waiting for the start.  Jonathan and Joel both received "call ups" and I lined up somewhere in the middle.

From the gun I hit it hard and gained a couple spots on the asphalt.  On the grass I continued to push and passed people when possible and safe(ish).  A rider went down in front of me and I was able to miss the pile-up by bending the tape a little.  A few more guys out of my way and I was having a blast! Most of the first lap was devoted to getting into position and finding my place in the field. By the second lap I was in with a good group of guys that held a solid pace. We were not going to podium, but, the race within the race was forming.

With each lap I became more comfortable with the course and how to race it.  The gear I was running worked perfectly for the steep climb and didn't hinder too much when the course opened up. The organizers threw in enough tight turns to keep the speed in check and that worked in my favor.  The small blocks held the line nicely and I'm becoming more confident in their abilities.  The guys I'm racing have bigger engines, but, I can close the gap when things get tight. They are taking turns wider and slower and I was able to capitalize on this in a couple spots.  The climb was another place where I made up a few places.  While everyone else shifted down, I had to grunt my way up the climb, taking a few spots with each lap.

Going into my 5th lap my throat was dry and a quick splash of water would have been nice.  This is cross, however, and part of the race (I guess) is seeing who can last on what was in the tank from the start. That thick paste forming in my mouth wouldn't see any fluid until the end. With no one behind me and a small pack 10 seconds in front, I save myself a little for lap 6.   Up the gradual hill and past the pavilion I kick it into high for the final lap.  There is a lot of traffic on the road section and I yell up that a racer is on. They look at me with disdain and bewilderment as I fly up the road for my final lap.  Unfortunately, I had just completed the final lap.  The race directors cut our race to 35 minutes due to the time delay from the medivac.  My race was over and I shouldn't have saved anything on that last lap.  You live and you learn I guess.  18th out of 75 for my first Cross race, I'll take that.  40 minutes (well, 35) of hypoxia induced hysteria and I'm hooked.

The In The Crosshairs guy caught the first two laps of our race on video.  Now running two cameras, you can see the action from both ends of the bike. Pretty cool stuff. Unfortunately, I didn't pass him until lap 3, so, I didn't make the video...this time. ;)

Monday, November 2, 2009


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Iron Cross VII

Another Iron Cross is in the books and what a spectacular day it was!  The folks at YBR must have a direct line to Mother Nature because in the three years I've done this race, the weather has been perfect. Brisk morning air and bluebird skies greeted DKEG and I as we pulled into the parking lot.  We were running a little behind schedule and quickly kitted up in order to get David registered. Once we got up there David realized he left his wallet in the car and one of the MBM guys hooked him up with some quick cash.  I spied a few familiar faces while listening to the pre-race meeting.  JoeP, Stephen Whal and Dan "the kid" Atkins were a couple notables in the sea of lycra.

Stephen and Joe have been here before and this was The Kids first IC.  We all line up with the sub 5 hour group and hope we are not being too optimistic. At this point I notice Joe is sporting a shiny new carbon fiber Ridley...with gears!  Oh, the humanity.  I knew he had succumbed to the dark side (roadie), but, I thought he'd at least keep it real for the IC.  I guess not.  He would eventually regret this decision, more on that later.  We're given the go and have to wait until our section of mass started to move.  On the road we pick off people and continue the do the same on the course.  A sand pit had been added to the cross course this year as well as a few new hairpin turns.  The Vortex of Death was still there and I spied a big smile on The Kid as we spiraled around. Another hairpin to reverse direction and we would soon be spat out onto the road and the pace lines.

Joe, Dan and Stephen all pass me as they jumped on some fast moving trains. I settled in with a couple guys and we worked together with a pace more in-line for the days effort.  I caught back up with Joe at the big sandpit and nearly t-boned him when he stopped.  Back on the road the hill climbing begins and I start catching people from the fast moving trains.  They'll catch me again on the flats, but, for now, I'm pushing the pace.  I catch up to Dan on another climb, he's looking good and riding smart. A tap and some words of encouragement and I'm back on the hunt.  I push hard on the climbs and the single-track.  This is where I have to race. Geared for the hills, I get too spun out on the flats and need to make time when possible. About this time Dan from EWR and I are climbing together and I tell him about the Lippencott trail. He's running fat tires and I yield as we enter the single-track knowing he is about to drop the hammer.  I don't see him again until the finish were he earned 3rd in SS.  Gunnar took the top spot in SS again, the man is a machine!

Lippencott is a great section of trail and one that usually provides the most amusement for me.  Tight, rocky single-track that rewards those who take chances and ride aggressively.  There weren't as many roadies for me to yell at this year, but, I did get to pass a few who didn't know you could hop a 6" tree on a bike.  Always fun!  The loose rocky descent was a blast and I got a couple whoots from the spectators.  This section is so fun, but, far too short and we were quickly ejected back onto the road and pace lines.

Rolling hills and spectacular scenery help to make these road sections from being too monotonous.  I'd get dropped from one group and jump on another for a brief respite before falling off.  This was the theme during a long stretch in the flats.  I did hook up with one guy and we worked together up to the reservoir.  From there the road gave way to double track and I needed to shed the gillet before the "run up". Using the term "run up" is actually quite amusing when you consider this section.  It's damn near class 3 climbing while shouldering your bike. Very tough and very long. You top out briefly, ride over to another climb and shoulder your bike up a rock strewn boulder field that snakes it way up a utility cut-through.  I topped of the water at this aid station, grabbed a couple Fig Newton's and rolled on down the road.

Somewhere around mile 40ish I catch up to Stephen while climbing. The legs are burning and I've been fighting micro cramps on and off for some time.  The next length of gravel road is steep and sustained and I have to pop off every so often to walk.  It's hard to stay on top of the gear at this point and I start to loose spots to the geared riders now.  I don't loose much, though, as they are suffering as well and grind out the steep pitches at a snail's pace.  Once things ease up a bit I'm back on and work each section 25 yards at a time.  Head down, turn the cranks over, rinse and repeat.  Not looking ahead gives me an obtainable goal that, strung together, gets me to the top and the end of this climb. I know I won't encounter any more climbs like this for the day and focus on pushing as hard as my tired legs will allow.  Stephen and I are back riding together and we enter the double-track as a team.  The dirt sections are a blast and we are railing through the woods whenever possible.  The deer fence section had been replaced with some freshly cut single track that was very technical.  A pair of riders in front of us hopped off in several spots to carry their bikes. Stephen and I just stayed in the drops and plowed through roots, rocks and streams like we were rolling on fat tires.  At one point he says "I bet your smiling back there", "ear to ear" was my reply.  This IS the Iron Cross to me.  Doing silly things on skinny tires.  Not sure why, but, it just wouldn't be a race in Michaux if you didn't ride on trail that was cut yesterday.

We pop out on the road briefly before being pumped back into the trails. At times we were pushing a scary pace and I had a couple close calls with some big ass rocks.  Never deviate from the line when you're on someone's tire, sometimes it's not very wide.  We grunt our way through the last bit of trail and the final run up. From here there's a little more gravel and then some fast asphalt to the finish.  Stephen passes is his big ring and I go aero hoping to keep him in sight.  A few rolling hills and we are on the final stretch before the camp entrance. He has about 30 seconds on me at this point and I spin as much as possible hoping to close the gap.  He's not in my class, but, it'd be fun to push a little and make him nervous. However, that won't happen today.  The last bit of gravel road and into the CX course.  One last time through the sand pits and the final barrier.  I cross the line with a 4:39:33, grab my finisher socks and lock in 6th place for the single speed class.

While eating my burrito I hear my name called over the PA. Apparently they are giving away "door" prizes and I won a cool Cannondale messenger bag.  The built in laptop sleeve works well as an insulated beer sleeve. I found this out when I changed and had to get some beers for when David finished.  On my way back JoeP is sitting next to Gina looking rather dejected.  His fancy full carbon Ridley (the one I spoke of earlier....with all those gears) had some problems throughout the day. He threw his chain off the big ring a couple times, had a flat or two and THEN ripped the derailleur hanger off the bike.  I remembering reading "you never regret bringing your single speed" somewhere. Words to live by.  David had a great day, finished the race on his single speed and came in with a 5:37. Not bad for a guy who was lining up rides back to the finish the day before.  Stephen pulled a fast 4:39:03 and Dan "The Kid" Atkins popped his cherry and came in sub 5 with a 4:56. Nicely done!

Oh, I heard a full carbon Ridley CX bike is going up on Ebay soon. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.

Friday, October 9, 2009

That was my skull.....

....I'm so wasted.

I always loved that line, right up there with the "No shirt, no shoes, no dice" one.

Pre-ride of Schaeffer with chainsaw strapped to the pack looking to clear blow-downs.  I roll around a sweeping left turn, the front tire makes contact with the most innocuous little stick pointed down trail and I go down hard...into a tree....head first.  Fuck that hurt! Pretty sure I heard my spine compress. My vision was a little blurred (tears in my eyes) and I just lay there, in pain.  Fortunately,  TonyP was on hand to make sure I wasn't dead. He helps me remove the chainsaw laden pack and tells me not to move.  No problem there. A few minutes go by, I wiggle all my fingers and toes, can turn my head a little and determine nothing is severely wrong with me.  Woo hoo....I'm alive!

My Bell helmet took the hit and crushed on impact as designed. That piece of foamed saved my ass and if I wasn't wearing it, I wouldn't be writing these words right now.

I went home, popped a couple Ibuprofen and tossed an icepack on the neck. Let things rest a little bit and headed back to the park to lend out my lights for the night ride.  Yeah right, who am I kidding?  I went back to ride.  It's way too nice to stay inside.  I ain't dead and I've had worse. I go over the bike one more time looking for cracks and find a paint chip on the top tube. Next to it are some more "stress induced" cracking in the paint.  Well, I could be walking out tonight. The ride goes off as planned, the bike holds together and I felt great. Good thing 'cause I'm racing on Sunday.  I hope Spot comes through on that replacement frame. I'm fresh out of 29er's.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ho's take on Cross

Read a post from Ho and I just had to share.  It's fast and furious, just like the sport he writes about.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Getting Out

I love this time of the year. The crisp morning air, changing of the leaves and cooler temps simply make everything more enjoyable.

The regular cast of characters have been a little scattered lately. Some went to the World's, some have been bird watching or vacationing and a few have found new ways to hurt themselves. Frank got a little busted up on our last foray in Michaux. While nothing was broken, his ribs took a beating and have been slow to heal.  This, unfortunately,  has kept the good doctor off his bike lately.

Night rides are winding up and I've led a few people around the trails at Schaeffer Farms recently. This is always a good time and is generally followed with beer and food at Dogfish Head. Always a nice way to end an evening.  Last week, however, I wanted to ride some rocks with the guys and we coaxed Frank into joining us.  Being the gimp, we let him pick the route and his choice was surprising. Iceberg, F2, Viper and Salamander. Lots o rocks on these trails, but, he figured he could simply walk the slower more technical sections almost as fast as we could ride them. This route also kept him close to the road if he needed to bail. Frank put in a strong effort and rode through a lot of pain.  In the end, his injury dictated an early departure and he took the road back to the car as Darius and I finished up on Salamander.  We enjoyed some beers and jerky at the cars until the cold mountain air hastened our departure. I hope Frank heals up in time for the Griz.

Perfect Autumn weather this weekend meant getting in some boat time before she gets packed away for the winter.  David and his boys joined me and the kids for a beautiful day of sailing. 10-15 knot winds were a welcome surprise as we entered the Rhode river. The last couple trips out we were denied wind and had to rely on the kicker. Saturday was different and I didn't want to waste what Mother Natures bounty.  Dacron raised we killed the motor and it was pure silent bliss as the water lapped against the hull.  The kids were amazed that we could move without a motor and they were fascinated with all the rigging.  20 seconds later the novelty wore off and they were back to being kids and bickering about whose turn it was on the bow. Being the responsibly fathers we are, David and I cracked another beer and hoped no one went over the side.  Amazingly enough we sailed around the bay and back to the river without losing a single child. We toast our success with another beer and head back to the marina in the warm glow of an Autumn evening.

Sunday morning we were able to get a few guys together for an amazing ride in the Shed. Tony, DaveG, Darius, David and I met at Sandflats,  headed south for a bit before turning back towards the northern trails. Blue to Crystal Clear, Tricky Trail, Enchanted Forest and over to the Drop Trail.  Darius, Tony and I snaked down this trail following each others line and it just flowed without a single dab among us. Definitely the best ride I've ever had on that section.  We grunted our way up Death March and picked up f2 to find a bunch of baby rattlers on Capitol Hill. A little session on Double Stuff, the swoopy turns and final rock garden dropped us off at Viper.  Took that out and across the road to Salamander and finished up on Skink.  A little Brew Pub in town to round it all out and mark this day down in the books.

The Iron Cross VII is coming up this weekend.  Not much interest from the local crew like last year, but, I love this race and plan to be there.  It's hard to beat Michaux in the fall.

Boat photo courtesy of DKEG

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

No SM100 meant my Labor day weekend was wide open and in need of activities. I saw a flyer about some community fireworks at the new marina and entered the date into the CrackBerry. I thought a nice over-nighter on the boat would be fun and was promptly vetoed by the Mrs. when I pitched the idea. No worries, it was still going to be a great day and the kids were ready to play. Like the last time, they spent most of their time in the water and it was hard getting them back aboard for dinner. As the sun began its descent, a large orange moon appeared on the opposite horizon. Crystal clear skies and a full moon provide an incredible backdrop for the pryo-technic display. I really didn't think this display was going to be a big deal until I motored around the bend to a river packed with boats. I later found out numerous clubs sail from far away to view this display and at its conclusion I knew why. It was amazing! If you find yourself looking for something to do next Labor day, go to the Rhode river (near day mark 7) and enjoy some amazing fireworks.

Sunday I decided to head a bit further north and ride Michuax with the MBM and/or Gettysburg crew. They were planning to ride most of the Teaberry loop and Travis mentioned something about Mackey, a trail I thought I had seen before. The lot was filling up fast and there were a LOT of people out for this ride. Not wanting to get stuck in a long line of bikers, I rolled out with the lead group that hit the trails running. There were about 15 of us pushing a brisk pace throughout the 13 miles of the beginner loop. This was a great piece of trail and a bit faster than the normal rock crawling associated with Michaux. There were still plenty of rocks, but, the gardens were smaller and you could carry some speed throughout. This loop was a great sample of what Michaux has to offer, only a little smaller and not quite as technical. A nice beginner loop for the Terror of Teaberry.

Back in the lot people regrouped and prepared for more, if you chose. Some guys from Philly (Harlan Price, Topher and a buddy) missed the first loop and talked to Travis about hitting Mackey via the single-track. I heard the other ride would have a lot of double track and the choice was clear. While many of the other riders were still returning to the lot, a small group of 9 quietly slid off into the woods. I was among that group. Our second loop started in the same direction as the first, but, only for a moment. A few minutes later we were on some trails that seemed vaguely familiar and that's when Travis mentions Rocky Ridge. Memories of an earlier ride with Camps and the Outlaw came flooding back. I recalled technical trails covered in briar's that shredded your skin, deer fences that prevented access and a tour guide who was not to sure of our position. The briar's were still there (cut back a bit from a dual sport race), as were the deer fences, but, Travis knew the route and kept us on task the entire time. At the third fence was a good bailout for people on a schedule. 3 in our party had prior obligations that prevented them from continuing. Our tour guide took this opportunity to stress the fact that what lie ahead were 4 more hours of ass kicking single-track and no water until the bottom. I'm riding with people I usually read about and the shit is about to get surreal.

We jump on to a trail called Virginia. It's new, or so it seems, and the freshly raked duff saps your energy. This group pushes a mean pace and the technical sections are the only thing saving my ass. The reward for all your effort was ear-to-ear, giggle inducing technical riding second to none. I kept asking "is this Mackey?" and Cheryl simply replied "no, it's something new". The further you went, the better it got. The rock work and line selection for this trail is spectacular, the builder should be proud. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better we pop out to a nice clearing with an amazing view. On the other side, just through the trees, was Mackey, the trail I thought I knew (and didn't), the one I came to ride. Mackey has been ridden a little more than Virginia and that was a welcome change. It rode a little faster and continued to reward you with some insane lines. I would have liked to session a couple spots, but, we had to keep moving and one shot was all you really got. I can't even go into too much detail about the trail because there was so much to it. Rocks, rocks and yes, some more rocks, there was little time to let the brain absorb what was happening to your body. Just the constant onslaught of line selection and power moves to get you through to the next section.

From Mackey we made our way to Rattle Dick. This was a good piece of trail that seemed fairly new as well. I'm not sure why, but, on my last few forays into Michaux I always end up on freshly cut trail, or trail that rarely sees tires. The latter may have been the case with Rattle Dick. It is a great trail, but, I was getting a little tired of grinding over soft duff this late in the day. It wound its way through the forest until we came upon Sucker Punch. "That was the last rock garden" Travis would proclaim, as if anyone would believe him. We just laughed and smiled as we made our way down this intoxicating trail, knowing a toll would be levied at the bottom. We found water down there, in the valley, at a picnic pavilion full of party-goers not willing to part with any extra cheeseburgers. A couple Shot Bloks and a goo would have to suffice for the long climb back to the cars. Harlen, Topher and their buddy (I'm terrible with names), took Stooges up the mountain while Travis, Cheryl and I stuck to the roads. That was a LONG climb back to the parking lot, but, descending Sucker Punch was worth the trip. Travis and I talked about hitting Mackey and Virginia some time with cameras and a little extra time. I hope he remembers that conversation.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The precious

I'll admit it, I'm hooked. The Massanutten trail loop has gotten under my skin, RiderX & Jay have a new partner in crime.

With a few days left in my vacation and a three day pass, I contacted The Outlaw to see if he wanted to give The Ring another go. Jay couldn't make it this time around and I hoped my company would be enough. Joe & Jay had two previous attempts under their belts and I knew the task was no small feat. The plan gets modified with each new piece of information and there are still some missing pages from the play book.

I guess some background information is in order here. A couple years ago Joe told me about The Ring and his first attempt with Ricky & Jay. They tried it on bikes packed with gear and ran into numerous problems. Joe & Jay tired it again this past Spring (Ricky told them to take a hike....literally)and they ran out time as the weather delayed their start. Valuable knowledge was gained from these attempts and we tried to learn from past mistakes.

The Massanutten Trail, aka "The Ring", is a 71 mile loop that covers two mountain ridges, Massanutten East & West, in the George Washington National Forest. The plan is to complete the loop in two days to reduce the logistical problems of a longer trip. 35 miles a day seems reasonable enough, we have all done much longer rides in the past. However, these are not reasonable trails. With parts that date back to the Revolutionary War, long sections of this gnarled, rocky trail are all but impossible to ride and progress can be seriously impeded. On the other hand, sections that can be ridden are some of the finest pieces of single track I've ever seen.

Starting out from Mudhole Gap we had a little hiking to get to the top of the ridge. From there the terrain flowed as it undulated across the ridge line. The morning was already heating up and we knew it was going to be a scorcher, but, for the time being, on that section of trail, we were in a zone. Flying across the mountain top as we traversed past Woodstock Tower and over towards Green and Powell's Mountains. As I followed Joe through these woods I thought "it just doesn't get any better than this". A ridge line trail that offered everything you could possibly want, fast flowing lines, brief technical sections and views that were simply spectacular. This is mountain biking at its finest and exactly what I was hoping to find on this trip. A quick stop to fix a broken nipple was the only thing that broke up the flow of this trail as we descended into the Edinburg Gap.

Joe was diligent in his part as "expedition leader" and made sure I knew what was coming up. Short Mountain, he informed me, was nothing like what we just rode and had extended sections of hike-a-bike. As the day heated up, so did the terrain. The initial climb wasn't too bad, but, I knew it was only going to get worse. The progress we made on the previous ridge came to a screeching halt as the trail on Short Mountain became broken and gnarled. Sections you could ride were fun and challenged your skills, however, they were brief and followed by extended stretches where you had to portage your bike. The hard plastic soles on my shoes made matters worse as they slid across the rock surface in search of some traction. Somewhere in the middle of this mess we came across a couple equestrians headed in the opposite direction. I couldn't help but feel sorry for their animals as their bloodied legs negotiated the technical terrain. Their steel shoes searching for traction and finding little, like my spd cleats. At least we were there of our own free will, I doubt the horses had the same luxury. Even after we worked our way through the large rock fields, this mountain made you earn your turns. Forward progress was hindered with slow rock crawling that drained your reserves and fried your legs. It was about this time a visual inspection revealed an almost depleted hydration bladder. 3 miles left before our water cache and now I had to ration my remaining water bottle. The onset of a headache made this difficult to say the least. As the trail turned down and gravity became an asset the trail became only slightly less difficult. The seldom used trail was littered with loose boulders that shifted under your wheels. Coupled with over-growth that obscured the tread and made picking a clean line near impossible, I pinballed my way down hoping my wheel didn't find a hidden hole.

Off all the technical trail we rode towards the water cache and a major decision. This was mile 20 and it was 1:30pm. We were closing in on the 6 hour mark and still had at least 8 more miles of hard riding ahead, followed by 7 more that were mostly unknown. We had daylight, but, we really didn't have the legs. Short Mountain saw to that. Across the road from our stop was Jawbone Gap, a heinous section of trail which neither of us have first hand knowledge. This is followed by the Waterfall trail that Joe described as if a dump truck left a load of bowling balls behind. Neither of these sounded very appealing considering our current condition and we decided to pull the plug and try again some other time, when we could borrow Chris Eatough's legs.

Back at camp we filled our bellies and talked about the ride. While listening to the weather we decided to rest a bit and then ride over to Mudhole Gap to retrieve the car. Fridays weather was questionable at best and Joe didn't want another 20 mile ride in the rain like the last time. As with previous attempts, we learned some new things that will be applied the next time we go down there. The water cache was near perfect and I'd probably pack one extra bottle on the bike just to be safe. Summer might afford longer days, but, at what cost? The higher temperatures sap you of energy and increase the amount of water needed for the ride. The hard plastic soles found on racing shoes are great......for racing, but, a little extra traction and a bit more flex would really help on the extended hike-a-bikes. A rubber soled, lugged shoe would provide the sure footed traction required on sections found throughout this trip. Some Lake MX190's have already been ordered. A few more recon trips might be in order as well. First hand knowledge of every section would be invaluable for future trips. Besides, they give us a great excuse to go down and ride the incredible trails throughout this area.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Nothing exotic, just chillin' at the beach and on the boat. Bill made for some big waves on Saturday and we had to play near the shore with the wee ones. I was wishing I dusted off the long-board for this trip. Crab fest on Friday, couple days playing in the pool and kiddie rides in Rehoboth. Not a bad way to spend a few days.

Rolled home on Monday and got in a fast ride through Schaeffer, HMC and Black Hill that afternoon.

Tuesday we met Uncle Bob and the cousins down at the sailboat and spent a glorious day on the water. Perfect day to find a nice sandy cove complete with a private beach. The kids were in the water the entire time. I'm on a boat....mother f**ker!!

Here's the suburban white guy version:

Next up, attempting The Ring with RiderX.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pen & Paper

Just saw a very cool "video" which serves as a promo for a camera over at The Adventure Life. It's a ripoff from a Japanese photographer and Olympus didn't give the artist proper credit, but, it's amazing none-the-less.

Thanks to RiderX for the original link.

Now, the original.....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New fixed gear "bike"?

Well, actually it's a uni, but, it is fixed.

Gotta get ready for the Bliss.
I plan to dominate the derby on this rig. ;)