Tuesday, May 27, 2014

2014 King of Burlingame: Mountain bike vs Kayak.

I had pre ridden the course several times this year, and had the previous week posted my PR on the lap, with a time of 45.05.  We had given up trying to ride the course backwards because the rumor that persisted from year to year, was just not going to happen.

The weather forecast had been for rain initially on Saturday, but as the weekend approached, it was moved to Saturday night into Sunday morning.   Lying in bed on Saturday night, I could hear the rain engulf the house.  It sounded pretty bad.  Upon getting ready for the race, the emergency alert on my phone went off:

This was going to be an interesting season opener!  The drive itself was quite harrowing and included a couple of pond crossing where there used to be a road.  One of them was quite a surprise on the highway, when all visibility disappeared for 3 seconds.  It took everything I had to not touch the brakes.

Of course when I got there I found out that the race direction had been reversed.  There wasn't much time for a warm up but I got to ride about 1 mile into the race course, and it was...well...very very wet. Over the tire deep water.  That was just the first mile.  The pictures below are of the actual race course and there isn't much more that needs to be said.  In some sections the water was hub deep w/ no way of seeing the rocks and roots under it. It even got to the point where the water was high enough that the wooden bridges, meant to safely bring you over the wet areas, were now floating and moving as you rode over them.


The trail went through the red covered bridge pictured below which had standing water to just below the benches seating area. The water was so high that there was no way to see the trail leading to this.  I ran through it as this seemed the prudent thing to do, but Tim H. was able to ride the whole thing.    

The racing itself wasn't really going well for me as I was too tentative and not committed enough to riding the unseen under all that water.  I was putting my foot down a lot and then needed to try to make up for it. I did know the course well enough to know where all the climbing was and to try to plan my efforts accordingly.  However, about 2/3 of the way through, a new section I had never been on had been added. After a semi climb up a fire road, I was expecting a right turn down a quick descent and some recovery. Instead I found the trail continuing on to not only climb for a mile, but to climb up a trail which was now a real creek.  I totally blew up on that climb, and just could not recover afterwards.  My tentativeness increased after I attempted a creek crossing where my front wheel suddenly disappeared and I went over the bars, into the creek.  I heard behind me the next rider have the exact same experience.  The saving grace in all of this was that it was fairly warm so being soaked through was not unbearable.  Tim weighted his wet clothes after the race and came up with 12 lbs.  I ended up finishing 6th of 12, with a time of 1hour 3 mins.  Not great, but since I am getting old, I'd rather be safer and slightly slower than miss the whole season because of an
injury.  Tim did quite well and finished 3rd.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Musical Interlude...

2013 Battle of Burlingame

I forgot to mention in my last post that I now ride w/ NBX.  Kit was not quite ready for this race but I should have it for the next one.  Pretty exited about it as there are a lot of really good people on the team, and by good I mean cool people, not just fast riders.  I'll still continue to ride with Providence Velo Club, but will race under the NBX banner.  So here are the links for the team sponsors:

NBX bike  /  Narragansett Beer   /  Apex Technologies        

Give them a click to support them!  Thanks.

Back to racing... and a great pic by Meg:

Race course was super fast with a couple of sections to keep it a Mountain bike race.  Liz, John, and I pre rode the lap right before the start of our race to warm up, and it still amaze me to this day how different a course is when just riding it vs racing it.  Even the techy ledge section on the pre ride was very manageable (coming down it in the above pic), yet it totally stumped me for the first four laps of the race.  I finally got the rhythm of it on the fifth and last lap.

Anyways, since I only have one minute to write this report, the skinny of it is that I finished 5th...

Here are some other cool shots by some local riders who took the time to shoot these:

Monday, May 6, 2013

2013 Winding Trails / Fat Tire Classic

I supposedly mostly gave up racing, so I had no intention of attending this race.  The compromise I had with my lovely wife was that I would only do the very local races.  The very reasonable agreement was that anything over 45 min of traveling would just be too much.  For this season that meant only racing in RI, maybe a couple of MA races, and perhaps if I got a couple of long rides in, the NH 100 as a special occasions kind of a thing!

On Friday morning, after my wife found out that the Massasoit Lung Challenge in Taunton, MA was cancelled, she suggested I race the Fat Tire instead.  At first I thought she was teasing me, but after several: "you're not f'ing w/ me?", and "you really won't mind at ALL?", I was getting my bike race ready and went for a quick leg testing ride.  I of course broke several spokes on that ride, but was able to drop the bike off at Caster's on 4th, and had Freddie taking care of me!  Picked up the bike on Saturday, cleaned and ready to go!  Fred's the man!

Every year, I write the same sh*t about the Fat Tire Classic, so here is the copied and pasted part of my 2012 entry:

"I know many Mtb riders/racers who complain about the Winding Trails (WT) race.  "Not techy enough", or "you can ride w/ a cross bike", and "it's a roadie course & all the roadies show up".  All of these are true, but despite that, I have always liked WT.  After most winters, my tech skills are barely out of hibernation and still need lots of stretching, so it's a nice way to start out the season as I can concentrate on just fitness (or lack thereof!).  And it is a fitness course! A fast course that you need to pedal all the way around w/ no recovery whatsoever   They have over the years worked hard to address some of the above complaints and have done as well as can be given the terrain that is there."  

This year though they tried to add some small new sections, it was still a rehash of the same course we have been on for the past 10+ years.  Time to race it backwards to mix things up a bit!  I made the suggestion on the Rt66 Fb page, and someone responded that they are looking into it.

The weather was perfect: sunny and crisp.  The crowd was larger than last year (then the weather kept folks at home), and I estimated about 30 lined up. It was the usual start on the sandy fire road that required a careful line to not either go over the edge off the road or get stuck in the soft sand.  Somehow and unintentionally I found myself towards the front of the line up.  When we went off, I was in the top 10 and was able to clear the lines w/ out traffic interference. Being off the front allowed me to single file it into the off camber single track on the side of the hill w/out having to navigate the traffic jam that happens when more than 1/2 of the field vies for the same line.  As we hit the fire road, I got passed by a few of guys who had gotten stuck and was able to grab a wheel.  I could see all the front runners and keep them in sight.  The pace was really fast but somehow I was holding on...for the time being.  We blew through the first lap at a crazy pace and I also blew through all my matches!  Now, I was fried w/ three laps to go!  Uh oh...

On the second lap, I had to significantly slow it down and even started to wonder if I was going to be able to  finish the race.  I was so fried, I was contemplating a DNF.  Maybe pull over and fake a mechanical.  A few riders passed me and I had nothing in the tank to pursue.  When a few more went by, I decided I just had to chase and was able to settle in a more sustainable pace.  I was able to stay on for most of the second and third lap.  Since it was really a roady style course, I attempted to give back and take a pull but quickly blew up, and had to settle in my own pace. I stayed in no man's land for a while with the main goal being to just finish.  Pj passed me 1/3 into the last lap and I stayed w/ him for most of the lap, which helped wrap this damn thing up.  

As I was waiting for results, someone told me I finished 7th.  I was quite shocked and needed to verify for myself.   The number on the results sheet were faded and it was easy to miss that there was a "1" in front of that seven!  So it was 17th out of 29.  Not great but better than a DNF!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


My training has significantly decreased since the summer.  I cut back time on my bike to have more available at home w/ the people that mattered.  Now I think I average two or three rides a week, down from five or six, for a total of four hours of riding/week, down from nine.   With that I have of course been expecting my fitness and speed to drop significantly.  As I no longer ride w/ a computer (Polar Hr broke once again!  To their credit they send me a new one for free even though the warranty had expired ), it's hard to track the actual decline and loss.  Maybe it's a good thing I cannot quantify it!

One thing I have picked up though is Yoga.  Something my wife has been trying to convince me for years how good it is, but of course have never given any credence to.  Well I finally tried it. I have been going about once a week and have greatly enjoyed.  It is really an efficient workout for me as I get to workout and stretch at the same time.  But more on that later in a later post.

This was my third Cross race this season.  I posted worse results than previous years in the first two.  I  finished 19th at the Prov Cx race and at the NBX CX came in 30th.   At both of these races this year I started all the way back so it was hard to get to the front and not be slowed down by the massive pile ups that happen around the first lap.  I don't usually care how I finish, as I do these strictly for fun and to bring my hr up.  I don't own a Cx bike and have no plans on buying one.  Cx is fun for sure, but it just can't compete against a great mtb course.

So with no expectations and waning fitness, I decided at the last minute to do the DAS Cx race (cancellation of a NYC trip freed up my weekend).  Even on Saturday I was not sure I was going to race and so went for a hard road ride in that shitty cold rainy weather.  On Saturday night I decided to race it, after Liz, who had designed the course for this race, told me the course would "not be a grass crit".

I got to the race venue on time even withtou speeding.  It seemed low key though the lot was starting to pack up with cars.   I was able to get two laps in for a warm up.  The course was really fun with a gravel section, barriers (who were too close to each other to efficiently bunny hop), four (!) sand pit crossings, and longish gradual climb, a fast decent on a fire road, a covered bridge crossing, a couple of tight turns w/ a climb up to some log crossings (which were easily rideable), another fast decent, a section on a running track, a very steep unrideable climb (though I tried each lap), some twisty stuff on grass which brought you back to the start/finish area.   It was a real nice mix of terrain and very creative use of the what the park had to offer. I think Liz used everything she could and with that kept the lap very entertaining and fun.  And I am not saying this because it Liz, but this and Eco farm are now my favorite Cx courses.

We lined up at the start and to my chagrin could only find a spot in the back behind John, who for hell of it showed up in his speedo!  I did not try to find out why.  Being behind him at the start though, gave me great motivation to pass him as quickly as I could.  Especially on the gravel section.  That could have gone so wrong!  I started somewhat at the back but after the sand pit crossing, being on the mtb, found myself getting to the front quickly.  As we started the gradual climb, there were two guys who had separated from the pack and were half way up distancing themselves rapidly.   For the hell of it, I decided to give everything I had and to try to grab their wheel.  As we crested the top I was on their wheel.  I was gassed but as we started the decent, they were hitting the brakes, and again being on the mtb, I could rail the corners much faster so I decided to pass and see if how much distance I could put on them.  I knew for sure that I would pay dearly for this, but I was out here just for fun so decided to give it a shot.   I was expecting to get passed on the flat section of running track, but they were not catching up.  I went through lap one in the leading position though was not creating a big gap to the guy in second position.  Again I was sure I would get caught pretty quickly.  Yet I seemed to distance myself with each lap.  Slowly I started to believe that I could actually win this but  was in slight disbelief when I finished the race in first place w/ some time to spare.   Absolutely no complaints though, since it had been quite a while since I had won anything.

It was really a fun course and can't wait to race it again next year! Nice job Liz!

PS: I just realized I never hit "publish" on this post, so here it is quite late....

Monday, March 25, 2013

2013 Burlingame MTB TT

This TT is great.  It has really become a RI "spring classic" for me (and I bet a lot of others).  The time to test your fitness not just against others, but see if you can keep your HR in the 190ies for 45 mins w/out throwing up after a winter of...well what ever it was that you did over that period.   The course is fun and challenging enough to pack a punch if you don't plan your efforts carefully, especially in the beginning three miles.  

I always get a little over exited when the race season is starting, which the B-game TT is the start of.  I love my wife and kids dearly and wouldn't want a thing different.  My work is good too and have nothing to complain about. But riding is really the icing on my great cake of life, and racing is that damn cherry on top (i actually hate cherries).  Racing is riding on steroids!

Rich killing it at the TT 
The race was great.  Very well planned by the usual crew of great guys, w/ a new timing chip attached right to the number plate.  If someone beat you this year by 1/2 second, you know it was going to be real, not a human judgement. Very fancy stuff!  Everything was flawlessly implemented.  I had the three guys I wanted starting in front of me, w/ Rich (who I  knew I would never catch- he's gotten way too fast), SteveO starting one minute before me, then Freddie at 30 seconds.  Both very tasty locally grown organic carrots!

SteveO coming through!
Freddie called me the P-word at the start for debating about getting my feet wet right away at the first mud puddle (he was right-I am).  But I had him caught and passed during the first climb of the new section, and was able to return the name for having lost so much ground so quickly. I was able to tackle the new section fairly intelligently, by keeping my pace high but without blowing up on the steep little short climbs.  I decided to just run up the two hard ones to make sure I wouldn't loose time trying to ride it unsuccessfully at race pace.

Freddie working it!
Coming out of the new section and turning left onto the fire road section I put Steve in my sights, but then on the fast decent trying to catch up, drifted into a wet rocky rut and went down.  The fall wasn't bad but my front wheel twisted and it took a couple of seconds to figure out which way to turn the bars.  By the time I was back on the bike, Steve was gone.  A mile down, I started to catch back up on the fire road climb and he let me pass him before the road section.

The rest of the race went w/out a problem.  I did dab once on the log/puddle/rock climb, but after that it was mostly fire roads and the bridges. The bridges were dry so everything was easily rideable.  My finishing time was 45:18.  Last year's time was 44:27, but many racers thought this year's course was a little slower.  I think we were maybe all a little slower because it has been a colder and longer winter.  At any rate, I felt a lot better this year, and even though the time doesn't reflect it, this year's race felt a lot more fluid.  I finished 8th out of 26, and I hate to be so shallow, but really it's all about beating Freddie and Steve...that be my icing on the cherry!

Who knows what the hell I was thinking there...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Let me take me take a dead rotten horse corpse and beat it some more...

This topic is beyond thinking or writing about, but I just can't help myself, and felt like putting down some thoughts in black and white.  Heck this is my blog after all, and it's really my style to write about something that has been said a thousand times and whose topic has been completely exhausted.   I've come to accept that I am mostly a day late and a dollar short...

I have always maintained Lance doped.  Even when it really wasn't popular saying so.  Being French didn't help when saying so. It wasn't an emotional opinion. In no way did I hate the guy.  And I never condemned him for doing so either.  It was to me what was just an obvious conclusion.  It was how things were being done and how results were attained.  He raced against people who doped so he needed to dope as well, and of course vice versa!  

The simple fact was that there was no way he could be so much stronger of a cyclist while being clean compared to racers who doped.   It seemed physically impossible to be able to drop the competition so dramatically when they were chemically enhanced, especially on those long climbs after several tough stages. He had to be enhanced himself.

I even had my conspiracy theory about Lance.  We all know there is just too much money involved in sports at the professional level (wish some of that would trickle over to mtb!).  Way to much.  Cycling was not getting a big enough slice of that cash cow, especially here in the United States, and was loosing ground.  It was following the route of Tennis. The sport needed a Cinderella story that the world could fall head over heels over.  Cycling needed a story of overcoming based on America's favorite recipe: a story of the come- back kid, who picked himself up from the bootstraps after so many hurdles, and becomes the best.   Inject that story in the world of cycling, and the cash will start pouring in.  I know I am going over the deep end here by saying this, but I would not be totally surprised if, in 2033 Oprah does a follow up w/ Lance, where he come clean about never having had any cancer at all.  As someones else said (and I am paraphrasing here), "you have to be totally out of your mind to mess w/ performance enhancing drug if you have just recovered from Cancer".  I am not saying he faked it, but am saying I wouldn't be totally shocked either.

But this isn't about me saying I told you so.

I love the excitement Lance brought to the TDF and his no prisoner attacks (though he at odd times let others take the win).  I have all the DVD's from 1999 to 2006 and they are so great to watch on the trainer.  I can watch them over and over again and they get me pumped up every time I watch them.

But what I love most about Lance is what he did for Cycling in the USA.  Europeans have mostly always respected cyclists and you can feel safe there sharing with traffic a narrow road.  My first serious ride there was outside of Foix in France at the base the of the Pyranees mountains.  I was riding a small hilly and twisty but busy road, and cars were really pilling up behind me.  I tried to hug the wall as close as I could to give them space to pass, but no one tried.  No one honked.  No yelled for me to get on the sidewalk.  Once the road was straight, which took a little while to get to, then people passed me, all giving me ample space.  No one swore at me, threw empty beer cans, flipped me off,  or tried to use the fenders of their pick up truck to push me into the ditch.  Most smiled as I thanked them.

Foix Castle in France
Here in the US, even though we don't even have narrow roads, the mix of spandex and bicycles meant some people would willingly go out of their way to make sure the road felt very very narrow.   Lance to a large degree changed that.  The media picked up on his remarkable accomplishments (and the accomplishment are remarkable even with dope!) and he showed America how hardcore cycling was as a sport. It changed the  perception of cycling as froufrou activity, to one of the most demanding and challenging of all the sports; that cycling was not about wearing pretty pink spandex and molding your junk to the world, but that it took dedication, discipline  and incredible amount of hard work!  Lance started to become accepted as a highly respectable sports figure even in the back roads redneck bars. Those who only had appreciation for football players, were now having to admit that riding your guts out for 20 straight days, five or more hours everyday, over mountain ranges was actually pretty damn hardcore.

Now of course there is a certain low IQ quotient which still refuses to sees that the road doesn't solely belong to them and that swerving out of the way is in fact not a huge burden (they probably also bitch about having to pay taxes for those roads), but the point is that in my personal experience (I haven't actually looked to see if there is data available out there - I am sure there is), I feel that many drivers are now more willing to give me a little extra space on the road.  And I firmly believe Lance is to be thanked for that little extra space and respect I get on the road!

But this isn't a love Lance fest either.

Sadly in his, and other cyclist's doping accusation process, what Lance ultimately showed about himself, of the man behind the accomplishments, is that he is a giant Asshole.   There is really no need to detail any of it  as that has really been beaten to death, and there are plenty of great articles out there that detail how he was someone whose ego got too big and too comfortable w/ how large it had become.    So I am torn about Lance.  There is so much I appreciate he has done, but it's really being overshadowed by how much of dick he is.  And I am someone who cares more about "how" someone is than "what" they have done.

So when he is on Oprah, what I hope he gets, what I hope he apologizes for, and attempts to make amends for, is not that he took, like all his fellow competitors, some performance enhancing drugs, but rather that he acted like a giant douche bag.  I think most of the cycling community has forgiven (or never cared to begin with) about the drugs.   It's the man I want to like.  I love the accomplishments already, but now just want to like the guy too. And I am willing to do that if he is just willing to be sorry for being such a dick about it!