Monday, July 30, 2007

The fact that I stayed up watching The World's Strongest Man Competition after the Tour coverage didn't help matters...

EFTA Bradbury Mt. Challenge

Miriam was supposed to come up and race this one but when her alarm went off she said she wasn’t feeling well, I told her “no baby, that’s how everyone feels at 5AM, don’t worry”. But she was actually quite ill and ultimately bagged it, so I went off the pick up Greg “The Leg” and head up to Maine for a race which has traditionally thwarted me in every way.

The weather looked dicey, kind of overcast, hot, humid, with a slight hint of rain, it had poured the night before in Somerville and according to it had rained in Pownal as well…this course wet is an entirely different animal than when it’s dry. Root fields which when dry merely jar your spine and tear your triceps to shreds become bike-redirecting, slippery as greased ice, you’re on your ass before you know what hit you nightmares when they’re wet. Please let the course be dry.
We got there with time to spare, wasted all that time chatting with all the nice people we ran into, it was horrible. The turn out was huge, like never before, and this for a race that breaks bodies and crushes souls like no other. After doing a headcount of super-fast guys, realizing that it was nearly guaranteed that we’d be out of the money in Open-Elite class Greg and I decided to register for the single speed class and save fifteen bucks. We were all starting at the same time and doing the same miles so we’d know how we stacked up and we’d have more money to spend on beer at the end of the day.
It was a Lemans start, a short one but it still involved running, I really wasn’t taking it very seriously, paid no attention to where I lined up or put my bike, but when we took off about five seconds in I found myself sprinting with the top ten guys, problem was when I got to the pile of bikes I had no idea where mine was, a lot of people had laid down there bikes after me. Took a while but I found my Rig, got up to full ‘cross run pace and mounted. I think we rode for about 100 yards before the hole shot which was straight up a fresh cut, soft as hell hill, more ‘cross training, shouldered the bike and ran, actually ran up the hill, passing dudes by crashing and stomping my way through the brush on the side of the trail. I was forced to dismount repeatedly, either by the soft steepness of the trail or by other riders climbing in their granny gears and bobbling about like a two year old who just had a shot of tequila. This got a bit old, I was running a lot, I wasn’t losing too much ground to the geared guys, but I was getting beatdown, it was hard to recover and the running was adding up. Eventually a couple Bikeman riders came around me as I walked up a hill, I told them I had “run out of run”, it was to be a thirty mile race I wasn’t going to empty the tank running up these stupid hills.

At the rider meeting the promoter gave us the breakdown, he told us we were doing 17 miles on one side of the start finish area field, and 13 miles on the other…only me being the amazing brain scientist I am I totally forgot which side we were doing what on. I was hoping that we were doing the short mileage on this side, I was not having much fun, I wanted it to end. I was still in contact with the Bikemen, one of them had pre-ridden part of the course and he warned me of a scary, slippery rock wall which was looming ahead. Sure enough, we come screaming down this descent and have to bang a left turn…on a moss covered, off-camber rock face, two feet from a five foot stone wall with steep transition and potential for severe bodily harm below it. We all stuck it but it was terrifying still. Another scary moment came on a gravel road descent where we were going about 30mph but it felt like 40, suddenly a stream crossing popped up, large rock borders on either side and a four foot gap between, I lofted over, coming down all squirrelly, heart in my throat, not the type of thing I would if I thought about it for a nanosecond.
Finally we came out into some stuff where I could actually get on top of my gear and climb, here I got away from a couple of the Bikemen, with one more in my sites ahead. The other riders were taking circuitous routes around the…roots, I decided to put all my confidence in my WTB Nano-Raptors which I’d set up tubeless with Stan’s Sealant and rail straight over them and take the direct line up the hill. I was running well under 30psi so I’d feel my rear tire bottom out occasionally but experienced no leakage or flats. Shortly after that I came down through the start/finish and entered the other side of the course which was an improvement right off the bat, I got my spin on, letting , my legs recover a bit before it was back into the gnarly singletrack, only on this side there was virtually no running and it was nearly dead flat so the average speed was coming up, maybe bringing this race into the three hour range. The singletrack was technical and labyrinthine that you couldn’t tell how big gaps were, there were guys all around you, front and back, it was disorienting. I could still see the Bikeman boys creeping behind me and there was another one in front, I gapped up to him and waited for a bobble so I could run around him, instantly my pace increased, I had the singletrack to myself. There was a Maxxis rider up ahead, I was slowly closing on him but again it was hard to tell with all the noodling about we were doing. The we got into some crazy twisty turny tree-lined trails, I could hear someone bearing down on me, I caught glimpses of a blue kit…Skip Brown sporting the tight looking new Seven Cycles kit? Uh-oh. But it turned out to be Michael Patrick, seasoned Fisher Pro fresh off a 24th place at Mt. Snow, about the only guy in the race I wouldn’t feel bad getting passed by. He’d had technical issues early on and now he was just surging back with a vengeance. I tried to hold his wheel but it was nuts, he’s stronger than me and he can ride a bike better, oddly enough he was pulling away and I was nearly eating it on every corner. I did stay on him for about ten grueling, anaerobic minutes, we came around the Maxxis kid somewhere in there. I was hoping that Patrick would drag me back to Paul Simoes, monster big-gear pushing single speeder, technical master with the potty mouth of a sailor with Turrets syndrome, but there was a fireroad section through the feedzone and that was it for my bullet train back to Paul, I caught one glimpse of Michael after that and it was a forty second gap kind of glimpse.
Shortly after the feedzone my camelbak gave it’s last death gurgle, what time is it? Oh, if I’m on a three hour pace then this IS just like a ‘cross race, no water for forty minutes, put your head down and go buddy! The last portion of singletrack was killer, swooping, almost too tight for the 29er, but then I’d seesaw over some fresh cut washboard stuff and say “I love you big wheels”. At this point in the race my wheels would reply “We love you too man”. I knew we had to be getting close and I still hadn’t seen Paul, I did see Boobar and Patrick up the way, but I didn’t think the latter part of the course favored a single speeder trying to catch geared riders. My mouth was getting dry but I was hesitant to ask spectators if it was almost over but when I came out onto a fireroad near the three hour mark and saw some folks I blurted out “We gotta be about done right?”. “Ya, the finish lines 100 yards away”. Sweetness.
When I rolled across the line I saw Paul, not sure how long he was in but word was he snagged 4th overall, bad-ass. It took me nearly an hour to realize that he was in a separate class and that I had technically won my class but I knew who the better rider was and that’s what really counts at the end of the day. On an odd note, there was a rider at the finish who shouldn’t have been, a guy I’d passed on the first section of the course as he was climbing in his granny gear, after I passed him nobody except for Michael Patrick passed me, you know when you get passed later in a race when things have thinned out, you might not remember everyone you pass but you know when somebody passes you, it leaves a mark. He wasn’t in my class so I didn’t feel like it was my business to call attention to it. He did say at one point a woman told him he was going the wrong way…maybe that’s because he was going the wrong way and cutting the course? Whatever, some of the course was badly marked and if he didn’t realize what he did then it’s not cheating it’s simply a mistake, like accidentally falling into a syringe filled with someone else’s blood. I’m just making a joke, if he truly didn’t realize what happened then it’s fine, no worries.
So I’m feeling good going into the 101 next saturday, I know I’ve got at least 30 fast miles in me, now what to do about the other 71?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mount Snow NORBA Nationals

Ah, I’m trying to get my head in a positive place before I write about this one but it doesn’t seem to be happening. I don’t want to whine and shoulda, coulda, woulda about it but I’m kinda bummed about how things went down Saturday to be honest. It’s my own damn fault, mistakes were made, results were not optimal. Wow, this post is a laugh riot so far, I’ll see if I can’t pull it out of this depressing nose dive.

Here, let me get all my excuses out of the way, I worked for 11 days straight, about 10 hours a day going into this, work has been hectic, really busy, I haven’t slept well during that entire period (that has more to do with staying up watching The Tour than anything else), I didn’t have the right tires or gear for the course, and I barely slept at all the night before the race. What’s this? It’s the smallest violin in the world and it’s on it’s tiny cell phone calling you a Waahm-bulance.
The problem is despite all that things started off well enough, better than ever really, Travis Brown, Carl Decker, and Adam Craig weren’t on the line, Gunnar Shogren wasn’t even there, it was anybody’s race, I though it could be mine, I’m not usually in that position. There was a guy on the line, with a shiny new Trek 69er and the full on Trek Factory rider kit, all red and white and scary…I just associate that get up with Eatough , Bishop, and Helmick, the bad dudes that show up to the 100 milers. From the gun, Trek guy went, I jumped on his wheel and followed him up the climb, I felt great, we hit the first decent back to the start finish, the couple riders that had slipped round before the hole shot fell apart the first time they hit a wet root and I shot passed them.
By the time we came through the start finish Richard Fries was shouting that Dusty Labarr had a huge lead (that would be the Trek guy), as we came up the grind leading back to the woods, me and another rider caught and passed Dusty. The first technical climb had been turned into a massive run up from hell by the rain, so I ran and ran some more (my hamstrings just tried to nod in agreement but they seized up again instead). Shortly thereafter the other rider cracked and Tim Haitz came up to me, we passed the floundering rider then Tim started to gap me. At some point John Foley (who had never raced a single speed before but fast guys are fast guys regardless) gapped up as well, we came past Tim on the decent with a flat, he ultimately dropped out as a result. John was having technical problems with his single-lator but he was riding strong anyway. We started the second lap together with what looked like a huge gap on the field.
We came through the feed zone which sucked for single speeders by the way, much too steep to safely take a hand off the bar to grab a bottle. I wasn’t that topped off, I hadn’t even finished my first bottle then I ejected my second bottle in the singletrack just past the feed, I didn’t notice until I went to take a drink before heading back into the woods. Eh, 45 minutes without a bottle, just like a cross race…except you get to drink after a cross race, you don’t have to do another lap. I think John had already gapped me by this time but he was in sight, only I started to fade in the latter part of the second lap, that’s when the eventual winner Nathan Wyatt came by me, I followed him into the decent…he SMOKED me, the kid’s from Asheville, NC and apparently they’ve got something going on down there because those dudes can ride. The course was extra slow, the decent was a mud bog split up by roots, ruts, and rocks, but fun, but fun.
Last lap Dusty caught me just about where Nathan got me the lap before, toward the end of the lap I was drawing him back but then I fell apart on the decent right in front of Tal and Darcy my IBC teammates. Darcy overheard me muttering “God! I’m a f-n mess” as I tried to remount and fall two more times before I was out of their sight. Somewhere in there I bashed a rib pretty good and now it’s bugging the crap out of me…but only when I breath.

The Little Kid's Podium for me. But man I have long arms, I look like a damn Gibbon or something.

In the end it was a good battle and a top notch beat down, left me wanting to go back next year with a better plan and a smaller gear, 32 X 20 on the 29er was way too stiff for this beast of a race.

Niece Lyla shows me what a gameface really looks like, yikes!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dover Wednesday Night TT

No racing for me this weekend, big wedding, had to get in touch with my inner belligerent moron along with some good old friends. I did have a hankering for some competition later in the week so I conned Uri into hitting the Dover Wednesday night Time Trial with me. Oddly enough “The Dover Wednesday Night Time Trial” is held in Dracut on Thursday morning at 4AM and they don’t time you, they (the homeless gentlemen gathered under an overpass) stomp and spew profanity seemingly oblivious to your presence, then when you come to the finish line (it’s more like a pile of broken glass in a puddle of urine) the “timers” huck broken bottles and human feces at you while spouting further profanity.

Sorry, not too much to say about the actual Dover TT, we showed up, it was Honduras humid and car with all the windows up in the Disneyworld parking lot hot out. Uri had his new TT set up and a skin suit, I had my human wind sock position in full effect, I don’t do this to get good at Time Trialing I do it to get faster on the mountain bike. I’m hoping I can convince the dudes that run this thing to list me as:
Thom Parsons – Wicked Frickin’ Non-Aero

OK, I’m watching The Tour and Al Trautwig just said he’d like to see a guy on a solo breakaway put his bike into “some SUPER GEAR” and send the peloton into panic. Maybe I should show up to the next Dover TT with my SUPER GEAR…like an 93 X 11, I could borrow one of the guys from the Icelandic World’s Strongest Man Competition to help me get it turning over. Al Trautwig is an ASS.
What else can I say about a TT? I think I summed it up quoting Homer Simpson to Uri at the start “When the race starts, go really REALLY fast”. I don’t know what’s with me and the caps tonight. I went out, passed a few guys, didn’t feel like I was going too, too good until I came up the hills on the latter part of the course in my 53 X 17, not normal. Uri and I rode back to the shop, he in his 53 X 12 or 11 and me in my 39 X 19, practicing the insane spin for my next 100 miler on the SS. That is some exhausting stuff.
The punchline is that by the time I began heading home from IBC Newton I hadn’t eaten for about five hours aside from an Accel Gel before the start…I bonked hard, it was all I could do not to stop at the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts, or the second nearest one three blocks later for a Butternut donut. In that situation you can’t stop, you must drag your whupped ass home and begin the feeding frenzy within sight of your couch.
The big story of the night was really Uri coming in with an 18:43 not knowing the course (it has a couple tricky turns), that beat my old best time by a couple seconds, with some practice he’ll be cracking 18 minutes easy.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

July 4th North Shore Ride

“You have prosthetic wings You drive a surveillance van
You're always doing seven things
You write the code for brain implants
There are no papers on you
The law doesn't cover what you do
You and your think tank entourage
Are all counterculture demigods

You're so technical, you go hacking around the world
You're so technical, baby, Are you a boy or a girl? “

-The Magnetic Fields – Technical (You’re So)

The North Shore of Massachusetts is by far my favorite place to ride, period. The combination of low stakes, relentless, technical, hairy moves, and fast, winding singletrack combines to make for a riding experience I just haven’t found anywhere else. So when I got an actually day off which wasn’t a race day I b-lined it up to South Hamilton to meet up with Andy Sanidas
kick ass rider and human Google Map of the trail systems in that area.

Chris MCQueen picked me up at just around 9AM, it was a beautiful summer day, I was hurting after a late night at The Independent and a less than adequate night’s sleep, since Fitchburg I’ve been waking up between 5 and 7AM regardless of when I go to bed, it’s starting to bug me out.
We left from Andy’s place, spinning on the road over to Gordon College to meet up with a couple of his posse, turned out it was Glen and Tim, two brothers I’d met through ‘cross. They rock the Annie’s mac and cheese kits, very cool. I don’t pay attention to trail names so I can’t tell you where we went aside from The Ancient Line Trail, but it was all good stuff, never a boring moment, one bobble would lead to at least two more before you’d have to stop and let your internal “Flow-Meter” bar move back up to 100%.
Chris went down in a corner early, drawing first blood.

Tim took a flyer up this rock scramble, didn’t quite make it, went tumbling, but walked away.

Glen had about the same outcome.

Something I do miss about gears is picking apart technical ascents, I got torqued out well before I even got to this spot. I had the most bizarre crash of the day. A stick lodged in my rear wheel and instead of stopping to deal with it or reaching down with my hand to pull it out I opted to try to nudge it out with my left foot. My foot got caught by the wheel and was pulled into the space between the tire and the chainstay, bringing the bike to a skidding stop. Once stopped I was in a most awkward position, it was very slow motion, "oh no, I am going!".
I was surprised at how well the 29er ate up the twitchy, slow speed, technical stuff, it doesn’t get anymore intricate and befuddling than this terrain , I can now say beyond a reasonable doubt that I am 100% sold on the 29 inch wheel thing, like going from skiing to snowboarding or black and white to color T.V..
I have no idea how long we rode for but it was just enough, my legs were hurting something fierce after doing hills the day before on the road bike, I was pretty dehydrated, and feeling some hunger pangs.
That’s it for me, Godzilla Vs. Space Godzilla is on and Evil Space Godzilla is totally getting up in Little Godzilla’s grill, it’s pretty tense.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Fitchburg Longsjo Classic
Day Four –The Crit

“Round and round
What comes around goes around
I'll tell you why”


“I don’t like crits, crits are boring, crits scare me, they’re dangerous, blah, blah, blah…what was I talking about? I like cheese, Swiss cheese is my favorite cheese, that’s some good cheese…oh look, a squirrel, squirrels are an incredibly underrated animal, they’re gifted acrobats, like monkeys but we take them for granted…squirrels, amazing little guys…cheese”.

-Thom P.

I was dreading this thing, this crit thing, the field was down to under 100 guys after the road race but still, that’s a whole lot of guys, a lot of guys to take you out and put you on the ground with a broken collarbone or wrist. I’m a sally, a cupcake, maybe I should take up golf or knitting, or both, I could knit myself a golf bag, a silly hat, and a pair of goofy pants, they would probably all be made out of wool, not good for summer golfing, I’d have to winter golf exclusively or my legs would get way too hot.
I got to Fitchburg center, found the IBC posse, we talked strategy. C Todd and Mike would try to animate the race while Andrew sat back to baby sit me, he had to make sure I didn’t eat the crayons or try to stick a fork in a light socket. We lined up, I actually got a call up, so I’m up there with the other top ten guys, at the front of 100 dudes, it would have been funny to time my migration to the back of the pack, it happened before we even hit the second corner, spit out like an anchovy that a two year old kid got tricked into eating. I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing, diving into the inside line because it was open, powering out, wasting tons of energy, then going to the outside on the slight grade through the start finish and trying to move up in the open, into the headwind. I was pinned for the first few laps, mouth agape, like a ‘cross race, only I wasn’t getting anywhere.
I’d think I was doing alright then I’d turn around to find I was “tail-gunning” once again. Then I’d see Andrew and he’d help me get back on and move up some. The speed of the race increased exponentially as it went on, eventually I found myself on John Laupheimer’s wheel. I’d been experimenting with different lines and positions in the pack to no avail, all I had to do was follow john for a couple laps to get it, he was smooth and efficient, I realized that I’d just been throwing energy away on every other lap. Coming up the finishing straight on the final lap, John stood up and hammered away, I was so cooked I couldn’t even hold his wheel, I just followed him to the line because it seemed like a safe way to get home.
I saw one crash, heard another but nothing too nutty and about halfway through I really started to enjoy myself. The feeling of vertigo I got, this head-swimming feeling as I cornered elbow to elbow with all these riders at 20+ mph was pretty cool. I might actually like crits, who knew?
Big thanks to all the IBC 4’s for looking out for me and teaching me quite a few things, it was a great experience, something I may have to try again next year.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Fitchburg Longsjo Classic
Day Three – The Road Race

“Laughin' At the Notion of a Signal Light
Knew We'd Gone Too Far
No One Knew What Happened But It Seemed Alright
We Quickly Jumped in the Car
All Through My Head It's Happenin' Over Again

King of the Road Says You Move Too Slow!”

-Fu Manchu

7:20 AM, I was up an hour and a half before the time I’d set my alarm for, I guess I’m so used to being up at the ass crack of dawn (I think I work the word “ass” into just about every post) that waking up at 7:20 constitutes sleeping in. I was running late so I was maybe going a bit heavy on the gas pedal and maybe I was rocking out a little bit too much to the Stooges and not paying attention to the fact that I was drifting up over 80 on Rt. 2 on a Saturday morning. I ended up blowing by a cop while going about 85 mph, instinctively took my foot off the gas and adjusted the rear view to watch him tear out into traffic with his lights on…but he never did, bizarre, I generally don’t have much luck when it comes to these things.

“Son, all these bad things don't happen to you because you have bad luck; they happen to you because you're a dumbass.”
– Red, That 70’s Show

It was a gorgeous day, not too hot and a bit windy, got to the base of Wachusett with ample time to warm up with the rest of the IBC team. The start was on a downhill so I immediately got shelled to the back, I wasn’t able to move up at all until the first couple rollers on 31, and even then I would drift back. I tried riding the center line, didn’t work too well, then I went back over to the right and rode the gutter, there I was able to move up and brake less on the small climbs leading up to Princeton center. Word started spreading that there was a two man break ahead, whaa? Could it be Racine I wondered? The pressure was definitely not on at the front, nobody wanted to work or organize a chase. This was fine by me, I just wanted to get to the base of Wachusett and sort things out there. I knew I wouldn’t best Racine head to head.
Gaps would open after the Princeton climb, some selection was being made but guys were still coming back all down the decent by the Wachusett parking lot. My teammate C Todd clocked a top speed of 64 mph…nutty. The gap to the breakaway kept increasing and our pace was not, somewhere in there we did catch one of the riders. Our third time up the Princeton climb I decided to get up front and see what was going on, the riders in front of me weren’t cooperating so I went “all mountain biker” and rode up onto a slanted curb, over a pile of gravel, and through someone’s front lawn…illegal? I don’t know. It got me to the front, I assessed the situation, Racine was gone and it seemed no one besides me knew what we were dealing with. “oh ya, the kid on the ‘cross bike? We’ll bring him back”. Right, and by the time this race is over monkeys will fly out of my butt and negotiate a lasting peace accord in the Middle East.
Last lap we were flying down 31, selection happened on the Princeton climb, but again it started coming back after the feed zone,
but I had two IBC wheels, C Todd and Kevin Young, Kevin pointed out two of the GC guys to watch. Jerry Hughes was also there, I hadn’t preridden the climb to the top of Wachusett and I realized as we approached it that I had no idea how long it should take. Jerry used to come out and do the TT there so I picked his brain. He said it should take about six minutes, this was super helpful because a few moments after that I was suffering and struggling so terribly I needed to know about when it would come to an end.
Things blew up when we hit that climb, I instantly got dropped but knew guys would go out too hard and I’d be able to reel them in. My high end is not so great right now so I had to keep it in check, I pushed a pretty big gear, never really using my 25, just the 23, mashing away, trying to fake it with brute force. Pretty soon it was down to about twenty riders up the road, I picked off a few before the final steep ramp to the line and then put in my 19 and mashed like a single speeder, torquing my bars back and forth passing five guys right in the last 100 meters to finish 9th on the day and move from 15th to 9th overall.
Racine had come in four minutes earlier, seizing the day and the overall lead with an insurmountable gap going into the criterium the next day. I thought it was funny when I looked over at the dude before the Circuit race and he’s wearing full-fingered gloves and mountain shoes, I didn’t note that he was also on a ‘cross bike with a hodge podge of parts and Continental Gator Skin, Kevlar reinforced, heavy ass, commuter tires. Craziness.

Thanks to all the IBC crew (particularly Hannah, she filled 50 frickin’ water bottles with a Brita the night before) who came out and supported us during this race.