Monday, June 30, 2008

Root 66 Mt. Snow Kenda Klassic
West Dover, VT

I am The Captain of My Pain

This weekend went a little better than the last two race weekends. I finished two races in two days, one of them being the hardest race I know of; the Mt. Snow XC race. We (me, Colin, and Linnea) loaded up the car Friday night to head up to Winhall, VT to stay at my friend Teri’s house. A few hours later we were up and on our way down to West Dover where I would spectate as Colin, Linnea, and George took part in the Super D event. I signed up for the Short Track and the hill climb, with nearly no intention of participating in the hill climb. To warm up for the STXC I threw on my 32 X 22 and went out for a pre-ride of Sunday’s XC course (which from what I hear is identical to Nationals). The course was in amazing condition, just a little wet and muddy in spots but much more rideable through the singletrack uphill than I’d ever seen it. That would change overnight, but we’ll get to that a little later.


The only change from last year’s Nats course was really the opening climb. You do turn right and skip the loop around the pond up near the top, but the big difference is the hole shot. You don’t go up past what was the way too steep feed zone then into the woods before shooting back down to the start/finish. Instead you almost immediately cut right off of the access road and go up an insanely steep ski hill, all wet grass and mud. During my pre-ride I decided I would not be able to ride this thing during the race and looked forward to getting dropped a minute in because I’d be the only sucker walking this bit.
After my pre-ride I went about swapping my gear for the Short Track event from by far the lowest gear I’ve ever run to the largest, a 34 X 16. There was one small climb and a little bump in the course, and not much in the way of corners. Before my race I got to watch the Sport race. There was dogfight going on between Masters Sport rider Wayne Cunningham and Lees McRae roadie Gonzo. Gonzo was on a single speed borrowed from Ben Corablis, it had a 34 X 18 gear on it, i..e; very small. He was riding smart and savvy though, sitting in and tucking behind Wayne whenever possible, spinning like a centrifuge. It took a while but he wore Wayne down and created a gap. My money was on Gonzo the whole time, I instantly became a fan, yelling out “I love this kid!” at one point. He used the same gear for the hill climb, apparently it was “wronger” for that event than for the short track…and that’s pretty damn wrong. Suffice it to say he had a nice walk. Glad I skipped it.
By now I know to watch Greg Carpenter at the start of any race and especially a short track, so I lined up behind him. Most of the other guys I didn’t know so when things went off I just tried to stay near the front and not kill myself too much. After a few laps I was thinking “this is horrible, is it almost over?”. I looked at my watch, we were four minutes in with over twenty to go, oh no. Somewhere in the middle I settled in as the gaps opened up in front, I would battle most of the race with Carpenter as he was coughing up a lung on the little climb. A guy from Lees McRae with the nickname “Lobster”and a Canadian Pro dude established an insurmountable lead and I began to get bored with the short, entirely non-technical course (and all the pain, heat, and drooling on my bike). Luckily it was over shortly thereafter, I got 3rd, then I spun down 100 to 7-Eleven in the sun to get a chocolate milk for my trouble and recover for the big event Sunday AM.

Cooldown to 7-Eleven. 34 X 16 into a headwind, not so much a cooldown.

That night we (Me, Colin, Linnea, and new additions to the crew Ben and Gonzo) went back up to Teri’s to cook up a small pasta feast. I threw the water on for pasta and dumped two cans of sauce into a pot and put the burner on it’s lowest setting, then proceeded to sit on the couch and entirely space out for ten minutes. Someone said “Hey what’s that noise?”. It was kind of weird, dull, popping sound. Colin deduced that it was the dog gnawing on a bone in the kitchen, I went back to spacing out entirely. Then it became apparent that this was not, in fact the dog, it was the pasta sauce overboiling and exploding all over the kitchen like something out of a Discovery Channel show on volcanic eruptions. Teri wasn’t home yet, but her arrival was imminent, not so imminent that I didn’t go get my camera to document the event. That’s how I roll. It took the five of us longer to clean up the mess than it took to eat the food and I’m sure Teri’s going to be finding globs of red sauce on her ceiling, cabinets, and dogs for weeks to come.

Chloe and her Grandfather. Leaving Teri's in the AM.

The Chloe and Gonzo Show. Eruption! Bedtime for Gonzo.

The night’s entertainment consisted of Teri’s four year old daughter Chloe putting on a hilarious show which mostly involved harassing Gonzo. Aside from his ability to win races while averaging 180RPM’s Gonzo is also a stand up comedian for children, seriously he should have a show on Nick Jr., he is way funnier than the wiggles and not nearly as annoying. I believe he would have to change his name though or risk getting sued by the Muppet people.
Ten hours in bed later we were up eating stuff and filling bottles with a rainbow assortment of energy beverage weirdness. Got to the mountain nice and early to warm up and gear up. After spinning around for a while I took a crack at the opening climb…and got it, I was surprised, these were not the useless appendages which I’d had underneath me at Putney, thank frickin’ god. I came to line hot only to find that we’d had our start delayed by fifteen minutes, I had another Gu and stretched, watching the start line. Here I don’t know what happened but I looked down at my watch while I was back at the car for some reason and realized that it was four minutes to start. Yikes. I roll up to see a sea of dudes, three rows deep and barrier to barrier. Etiquette would dictate that I go to the back of the back of the line, but that wasn’t physically possible with the throngs of racers packed in behind my field. So I did the dick move and backed my bike into the front row muttering something about “Series leader, blah, blah”. No one seemed to care anyway, but I felt like a douche. I was next to John Foley who I knew I had to cover to retain the series lead and Greg “The Sure Whole Shot” Carpenter, as I mentioned earlier, always the guy to follow.

32 X 22 is a climbing gear, not a getting to the climb in front of guys who can’t ride a geared bike up a climb to save their lives gear, ah such is my lot in bike racing I suppose. I tacked and track…stood up the thing behind guys in their grannies. Then the few guys I did pass and a few I didn’t blew by me pedaling down the slightly graded descent back through the start/finish area. Time to go fishing, cast that line waaay out and start reeling. Luckily the way the course is set up the second climb before the real hole shot is a great place to make up some spots, you can see the whole race strung out in front of you. Then it’s up the hike more than bike section of muddy singeltrack. That’s right, forgot to mention the torrential, non-stop rain which fell all night long. That civilized course I rode Saturday…ransacked and ruined. It was now a semi-vertical bog. Here I was behind wicked fast Masters ‘Cross guy Kevin Hines, I expected him to dismount and run up the climb like a mountain goat with it’s ass afire, but no, he did the bonehead mountain biker thing “I can clean this…oops,…no I can’t…I guess I’ll get off now…awkwardly on the wrong side of my bike… and run…sort of”. I did what I thought he was going to do and it paid big dividends, I ran passed as many people as I got passed by on the first downhill, maybe more. The portions of that section that I could actually ride became slimmer as the race went on. Wasn’t I supposed to start running in preparation for Nationals? Afraid that’s on the list right after my elective penis amputation.

If my only my disc rotor had teeth. Goodbye to white socks. Big gear.

I’ve pretty much described the first part of the course so for those of you who don’t know it and for those of me who will forget everything about it in the next three weeks before Nationals I will now describe it as best I can. So yes, STUPID grassy opening climb, back down, zig-zag up some little thing, up the extended access road grade, bit of mud, back down, hard right! Up into virtually unrideable singletrack, run, run, walk, stagger, give up die, oh wait it’s first lap, must go on, back on bike for three feet, off bike, on again, over bridge, off the frickin’ bike again? What is this a god damn adventure race? Where’s my Kayak? I feel like I have one in my jersey pocket for chrissakes! Back on bike just in time to slog through ever grosser, boggier grass crap section, then into the woods over roots, up a rooty corner thing, making you go anaerobic which is great preparation for when you come out of the woods onto a an insanely steep access road (for what a Uni-Mog?) and get completely pinned for like five minutes as gravel spits out from under your rear tire as you bake in the very direct sunlight, hateful, evil thing you bastard access road, grrr! Then what? Back down a muddy rocky thing, kinda fun here, doesn’t last, more grass ski hill, up a roller which on any other course would be climb in and of itself, not here, this is a mole hill, an ant hill, traverse back into woods, then you enter hell on earth, a thing I call “The Stair Step Climb”, you crest each successive roller, knees popping, wheel slipping out from under you, it snakes to infinity in front of you, like riding into a thirty mile per hour headwind down highway 50 in Nevada, this could takes days, weeks, you come out by the retention pond thingy, on this course we cut right going directly up the next climb, during Nationals we went around the pond which feels like a detour, like forestalling the inevitable ouchiness right around the corner, this climb marks the end of the official climbing for the lap, this does not mean you are coasting down the hill stretching out your hamstrings, you are still going to climb some more before you get to the bottom, like it or not, so drink up buddy, it ain’t over yet, here there are couple cool, rocky descents into rocky small climbs, but they’re so fun you don’t care that it hurts, then it’s one last little access road grade before the entrance to the real descent, you gotta be ready here, first lap I wasn’t, it was scary, for real, say goodbye to your front brake, grab a fistful of rear, and hang on for dear life, from here just about to the bottom it’s all slippery-ass rocks, slipperier-ass roots, I mean oceans of them, expanses of them, off-camber, gnarly, deadly roots as far as you can see, slip and slide, nowhere to hide, yes there are flattish sections but they don’t add up to much, basically that describes everything from the top down, except for two small climbs that are really kind of one climb I call “The kick in the nuts climb” because you just want to get to the bottom and until you’ve ridden this bloodlcot course as many times as I have you forget that even when you are going down you still have to go up some more, the last part of the downhill after this is the trickiest, all the rain pools here, all the mud gets deeper, it’s nuts, you don’t find the line you close your eyes and point the bike downhill and eat whatever the trail throws at you, then it’s spin down to the start/finish (and yes it goes ever so slightly up once more even here) shaking it off, drinking and eating, getting ready to purposefully slam your own hand in a car door three more times.
Wow, I’m a blabbermouth. Anyway, the race, after the first lap there wasn’t a huge amount of back and forth, I battled with a Canadian guy for a while, got him in the end. I guess Brett Racine had a bad crash and slowed down after that, ultimately dropping out, which is too bad. I’d chase Greg Carpenter up the hill only to have him put time on me on the descent, lots of time. This is the kid who on Saturday finished the Super D just tenths of a second behind a Pro on an eight inch travel bike…he was on his cross country bike. He was hurting so I thought I would get him eventually, being a hard guy is an old man’s game, these young guns, they’re soft right? Right? Wrong. This is a tough kid, he can ride a bike like a ninja, and someday I think I’ll be able to say “Ya, I used to (almost) hang with that guy before he was killing the World Cup circuit”.
3rd lap I was still feeling good, I saw John Foley up ahead, I clocked him at three minutes, I started to ride harder, I passed Greg, then he passed me back on the downhill, I tried to follow his line, I ate it, a pattern seems to emerging with that business. I thought I’d see him again on the uphill but he went out of sight going into lap four…then I cracked. He went forward, I went backward for a bit. I had made the grassy opening climb every other lap but here I slipped up, my rear tire spun a full rotation as I smashed my sternum on the stem. Michael Mooradian was up there cheering me on, he asked if I needed a GU, I begged for water, he ran to a cooler and busted out a bottle of ice cold spring water, it saved my ass 100%. I drank most of it, pouring the rest on my head and neck. Thanks Michael.
I languished during the beginning of that lap, the hike-a-bike taking the remaining wind out of my sails, I didn’t know if I’d be able to pedal my bike when I got back on the climb. Thankfully I was able to and with the bottle of coke Gonzo had handed me and the added hydration from Michael I was cooking with curry again. I reminded myself that this was just going to make me faster for Nationals and that the weekend before I literally could not ride a bike to save my life. That and I felt great on the downhill, trying to play Adam Craig with it, make it feel like an Alpine Slide. Although my last act of awesomeness was calling out “Rider up!” to the leading Pro woman, then immediately flipping over my bars as I looked for a line. Rider down!

I rolled up to the line in sixth place right next to Chris Logan, part of the husband and wife team who put these races on. Instead of spinning past him like a moron, I gave him a clap on the back (or maybe I just held on to him like a tugboat because I was tired of flailing my 32 X 22 on flat ground) Not only does he organize a great race he can also hold his own on a bike with a 3rd place in the Expert 50-59 field. Foley ended up finishing two places ahead of me leaving me holding onto the series lead by the skin of my teeth with a five point advantage. The leader’s jersey might as well have a target painted on it with the words “Please Beat me” written on it (thanks Richard Hell).

Chris Logan outsprints me to the line.

Thanks to Teri, Gonzo, all the Root 66 folks, and IBC for letting me take weekends off to do this stuff.

Below: Post-race interview by Gonzalo Escobar

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Le Burrito...Le

On the way home the other night I stopped at Chipotle in Davis Square for a quick meal. I was in my full cycling get up which prompted the manager to inform me about the upcoming Tour De France "Le Burrito" promotion. Similar to Taco Bell's ill-fated "El Foie Gras Gordita" in it's fusion of French and Mexican cuisine (Yes, technically I should have made fun of an imaginary promotion by a French-themed fast food chain here, but I couldn't think of one for some reason). Speaking of Taco Bell, I came upon this Greg Lemond Taco Bell Ad while "researching" this piece. Anyway, the manager's information on the featured Burrito was kind of spotty, he touted that it would contain "everything a rider needs nutritionally during a stage of The Tour De France". Interesting, in that case I can only surmise that it must contain between six and eight THOUSAND calories. Picco De Testosterone-O included, Guaca-EPO-a-mole fifty cents extra.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Root 66 Putney


Above: George, During, After, and long enough after to begin looking back and laughing

Not my tire this time…me. I’ve experienced some new highs this season in my training and racing, but I suppose there can’t be highs without lows. This was a low point of the season. I pulled a bonehead move last season, going way too hard and running too much at the EFTA Bradbury race leaving my illiotibial bands torn to shreds for the Wilderness 101 the next weekend. That was the only time all year where I literally could not ride my bike up a hill or around a rock, it wasn’t a matter of suffering more or being a tough guy, it just wasn’t happening. This weekend it was the same deal. Funny because I didn’t feel any more terrible than usual when I woke up Sunday morning, it wasn’t until the pre-ride with Jeff Whittingham that I began to get some negative feedback from my body. My heart rate was high, I think this was due to the fact that I was trying to spin more to ease the load on my bugged out lower appendages. By the end of that warm up lap I was sweating profusely and I felt like crap and felt like I looked like crap, bags under my eyes, maybe a hairy superfluous nipple growing out of the side of my face.

Jorge (Pronounced "George") is a merry prankster. Yes, that's a $12 kickstand on a Pegoretti.

Here a schism began between the cynically realistic back of my mind and the delusionaly optimistic front of my mind. Front says “You just need to lower your gear slightly, you’ll be fine”. Back says “Hey dumb ass, you felt those legs, they are frickin’ wasted, you got nothing today, NOTHING! You think changing one little tooth is going to make a damn bit of difference? Keep smokin’ kid…keep smokin’!”. The back of mind is a Somerville Townie, I think it drives a Grand National. So I sweat and struggle to get my gear swapped as Colin puts the number on my bike, George, picks up the entire tool box worth of tools I dumped on the ground, and Mo tells me to “Remember to keep breathing”. Thanks guys, for real.

Back when I enjoyed riding my bike, seems like yesterday, or the day before yesterday which it was. I'm lucky to have this place in my backyard.

I line up behind Jeff, he tells me “There’s only one guy in this race…YOU! I don’t care if I’m second to last as long as you’re last!”. With friends like that who needs Tobasco Enemas. The start wasn’t too, too bad, then I made up some spots on the first incline, me and Michael Mooradian just dangling off the front group by a few seconds, business as usual. Michael says “C’mon this our race”. Nice of him, but it was more his race than mine as it turned out (think he nabbed fifth). He was behind me as I unclipped my right foot on the super-fast off-camber downhill, all over the bike like a bucking bronco for a few seconds before getting back on the saddle and not dying. I Was standing a lot more than usual, especially for such a low gear, my breathing was out of check, and my heart rate was through the roof. When I came through the start/finish Jill from USA Cycling said “Hang in there Thom” or something like that, but she was laughing when she said it. She could tell this was obviously not my day.

Jeff in recovery mode.

My 32 X 18 was fine for the open sections between the climbs, I wasn’t getting dropped there, but the first time we went up Heartbreak hill it all went to hell. My legs all twingy, my upper body slumping, I was working too hard. The front of my mind was saying “You can work through this, just drink, just eat, you’ll be OK, you’ll bounce back, just ride your bike”. The back was going “Yeah right! What, were you born last night? You could strap two bags of wet linguini to your ass and pedal a bike better ya pickle smoker!”. God, the back of my mind is a dick, but it does help me out when I have to berate drivers on my commute sometimes.
After one lap I was at the back of my group, after two laps I was getting caught by guys from other categories including James Harmon, winner of the Single Speed category, he offered words of encouragement as he passed. His time would have put him in the better half of the Pro/Semi-Pro category, watch out. The downward spiral became more rapid after that. Every pedal stroke where I had to apply any pressure became nearly impossible, I played “just stay on the bike”, but at that point it did no good, my legs had staged a mutiny, my pride was getting keel-hauled and my self-respect was walking the plank.

I damn near ran this little guy over before he woke up from his sun nap and skedaddled.

Before lap four (which would turn out to be the last for the Pros due to a thunder storm, although the Sports including a top ten finishing George Shaw of IBC would ride through an outright deluge just a little while later) I stopped at the feed zone and stood talking with George who was handing me bottles. I felt bad, I could tell I looked worse, the bags under my eyes now as big as luggage. I whined and made excuses: “fifty hour work week, no sleep, stupid training, not enough recovery, blah, blah, blah”. This would mark the first time I’d dropped out of a race because I just couldn’t do it since my ill-fated first attempt at racing a single speed in late 2002. There have been many times when I’ve finished races even though I was sucking horribly just because I like riding my bike. Here I couldn’t even ride my bike to save my life. Seriously, if I were being chased by a charging pack of Three-Toed Sloths I would have been run down and slowly gnawed and clawed and Slothed to death over a period of hours or days for certain.

My recovery drink did me no good this week and Swayze wasn't there when I needed him.

That was it, I dropped out, DNF, I hobbled off the course, took my helmet off, dropped my two wheeled Loser Cruiser in the Poison Ivy and sat down to wait a few minutes to see who wasn’t sucking as bad as me that day. Turned out it was John Foley spinning happily up the finishing climb with Ethan Gilmour breathing down his neck. Seemed like John had kind of a frustrating start to the season, he disappeared for a little while, apparently started riding his bike to work, and now he’s back In the business of ripping people’s legs off and beating them with ‘em. Carpool mates Mo and Colin had good results with a 1st and a 3rd respectively.
It was a rough day, but the sandwiches at the Putney Co-Op were awesome, worth running through a wall of blinding rain to get them, the coffee was killer as well, and I’m going into a rest week. My legs and I aren’t even speaking to each other until maybe Thursday. Ah, the bright side.

Determined to deliver Jeff's clothes to him despite not having a bag to carry them home in...I made one. About as ingenious as my Bottle Stand and as well executed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Commute just about every day, things usually go well, I avoid a few hairy situations, sometimes I get away with something that makes me go "man, I gotta chill out". But most days are uneventful, not yesterday. I was coming home on Route 60 between Belmont and Arlington Centers, spinning out at about 22mph with a nice tailwind at my back. A car in front of me faked left, left blinker on, actually began turning the wheels...then blam! The guy turns hard right into a gas station. I lock 'em up, who knows what happens in the middle of one of these things really, it's a blur, total instinct and mayhem. I'm gliding, skidding sideways, turning with him, then he stops dead. I slide down the side of the car, finally slamming the meat of my left quad into his right rear view mirror, it pops off and hits the ground, only wires connecting it to the car. I drop the bike, and wind up standing, screaming profanity. I believe the term "Jackass" was the theme of the rant. I was loud, I drew attention, guys from the gas station and elsewhere came out and gathered around.
The kid was spooked, I was acting like a madman, he thought he really hurt me, he was holding his cell phone..."you weren't on your phone were you?" I spat. "No, I was gonna call 911 for an ambulance" the kid stammered. I eventually calmed, I realized this was a good kid, he was trying to do the right thing, and I had really freaked him out in every way. He apologized, said that the important thing was that I was OK, I said I was sorry about his mirror and rolled away to ice my leg and watch the Celtics with my pops. Could have been worse.

I found that the backing nut for the EBB expander wedge would back out due to the angle the allen wrench was entering the bolt head, so I had to file a bit of the end of the crank arm. Now it works great.

Earlier that that day (can't figure out why the font just changed on it's own, oh well) I went out for a race pace ride of the NEMBA MTB loop in The Fells. I wanted to set a marker in a certain gear and see if I'm faster in lower or higher gears. I chose a gear higher than anything I've used before, a 33 X 16. I have to say it felt good, grindy on the hills but no so much so that I wouldn't do it again. The power and control you have in technical singletrack running a higer gear is awesome. The Loop felt like a road crit, the extra speed smoothing out even the most technical spots. My time from where the loop begins at the cross roads near Governor's Ave, heading in a clockwise direction was 28:45. We'll see if I can beat that in a spinnier gear next week.

My staging area, so glad my girlfriend puts up with this crap week after week.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Do What You Can Do (With What You Got)

That’s my new motto, taken from a Constantines song lyric. My old motto was “You Can Do It (Put Your Back Into it)” taken from an Ice Cube Song Lyric. It was either that or “You can try to smoke an ounce to this while I pronounce this shit”. It was a toss up. The new motto is more appropriate for a single speeder. You got one gear, do what you can do with what you got. It only applies for me once the race starts, seeing as I spend countless hours deliberating over what gear to use at a certain course.

Not a bad week on the bike. Monday, rode Dover, talked about that already. Tuesday, took it off and saw Bill Peterson. Wednesday hit the Dover TT. It was a humid, windy, hot day. On the first hill I went slightly anaerobic and felt like I had bronchitis. A crazy rattling coursing through my respiratory system. I’d kind of been dealing with this feeling all week, but somehow not feeling too bad otherwise. Felt totally miserable during the TT but was only 8 seconds slower than last time. Not exactly forward progress but I’ll take it. Dave Donato was out there again taking photos, he is pretty damn good. The photo above is one of his.

Thursday I did a truncated version of The Danish Pastry House Ride with Matt O’Keefe, not CCB Matt O’Keefe but Seven Cycles Matt O’Keefe. Always a good guy to ride with. He floats over the trail like a butterfly and spins like a bee. That sort of makes sense. The ride was shorter than usual because I had to do a racer-dork workout on Wright’s Tower, throwing myself up the thing twelve times to simulate hard starts, or to stimulate heart stops, or something. Matt has a brain so he skipped this portion and left me to the self-flagellation-fest.

Can't quite take an hour on the tower of power...yet.

Friday I spun easy as usual on the Road bike, Saturday Miriam met me at work and we rolled out to Cutler Park from the shop, me on a Demo Fisher Hi-Fi. I need to do a couple more rides on the thing to formulate a proper opinion. At this point I’m useless on a geared bike and freaked out by little wheels, there’s way too much going on for me to process all at once. It does feel like a vacation for me though, although sitting comfortably and spinning small gears over rough terrain, the five inches of travel smoothing it all out. Going down hill all that travel cries out “Hey! Do really stupid stuff, like hopping off that huge thing right…THERE!”. That’s pretty fun. More on the Hi-Fi later.

Uri holding down the fort. Steve Branfman of Team Kermit. Rainy Rodeo.

Sunday I worked the Kid’s Pan Mass Challenge for IBC with teammate/Co-Worker Uri. Just as we arrived to set up the tent the skies opened up and a deluge began. The little kids ride went off regardless, the little guys more impervious or oblivious to the rain than adults. I went hypothermic just watching. I hopped in the follow car for the 17 mile Teen Ride. We were in a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, a huge, honkin’ SUV from Muzi Motors. Don’t think I didn’t derive just a massive amount of pleasure out of watching through the rear window as irate Dover Motorists laid on the horn…at a bunch of tough as nails kids out on a charity ride for MS research in the rain, every beep putting another brick in their pathway to hell. I ride these roads a lot, I catch a lot of flack from these people, but honestly…where ARE you in a rush to get to at 9:30 on a Sunday morning? C’mon! You’re not going to die if you lay off the Dick Pills for one day.

Ride leader Matt McGinty of Fitness Together ."I decided not to ride fixed today". Awesome.

After the ride which went off without a hitch, I shot down to Wrentham to do the big Wrentham-Foxborough route out of Gramma’s house. I wanted to put a bigger gear on but had forgotten my tool box so I was stuck with my 33 X 18 for the super-flat ride, Do what you can do…yup. Recent rampant use of ATVs and Motorbikes (you’d think that the price of gas would chill these guys out…how do they still afford all that crappy lite beer?) had put a lot more ROUGH in Foxborough. The trails were churned up as hell. Made for a challenging day, but a good day. Got back to Gramma’s house covered head to toe in mud and ready to eat the weight of John Goodman in Strawberry Shortcake, grilled Tofu, and corn on the cob. That’s right, grilled tofu, but washed down by real beer.

Escape from F.Gilbert Hills. Kinda spooky out here. Let there be rocks.

Heading up to Putney this weekend for the Root 66 so check back Monday for something actually worth reading.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Drop Dead Legs by Eddie Vein-Halen

The shots below should have gone with the previous post. The shots above are from my trip down for a check up with Orthopedic Cycle fit Guru Bill Peterson of We Do Feet in Middletown Rhode Island. He comes up from Tucson a few times a year to get freaks like me all sorted out. I'd been to see him in January and the improvements in my riding since then have been significant. When I had questions about whether my left leg was working at 100% (it's always been a wonky slacker compared to my right) I emailed him for a touch up on my fit. After less than an hour he had me feeling a whole lot better on the bike. If you have orthopedic issues and have experienced the "Am I talking to a stoned cat" feeling of trying to explain your problems to a normal Orthopod just bag it and go talk to Bill, he is the man. He even stretched my new Shimano M225's so they're all wide like the M225-E's...bonus.

Team Mechanics. "Dealing well with the 100° heat". Pollen count 8 Gazillion and rising.

Been getting a lot of comments lately about the veininess of my legs. "Hey Thom, get some more veins in your legs", "Jesus, that thing looks like a Rollo", "You're so Veiny, you probably think this song is about you, don't you, don't you" etc. Ya, I guess they are kinda weird and veiny, they look like sort of like Marty Nothstein's...wrists.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Heart Full of The Good Thing

My last race was pretty much total crap, but otherwise things are pretty much quite alright. The day after the Pat's Peak race I convinced nephew Noah to upgrade from the 12er to the 16er, he bought into the whole "decreased angle of attack, larger contact patch, yadda, yadda, yadda" argument. After his win in the Single Speed, Coaster Brake, 1-5 Age Group category at Pat's Peak International Bicycle Center decided to pick him up, knowing a hot prospect when they see one. Here he makes his first attempt at the Jump of Death on the new ride:

He went off the side but rode it out like the sick bike handler he is.

Here he is again sticking it, rocking his new IBC jersey.

Wish I had my camera earlier in the day when he was rolling over the Teeter Totter of Death at Gramma's house. That was nuts.

Later that day I went and dropped the car up in Concord for Miriam who had ridden to work after her first Ski area single speed race the day before. Usually my recovery ride involves hammering belligerently through traffic on the way to work tuesday morning, this was different. I cruised down route 27 through the 85° air with a ripping tailwind, spinning my
39 X 19 at 20MPH. Belligerence did get the better of me as Miriam passed me in traffic. I passed her back at a light, then determined to beat her back to my sister's house I jumped in the draft of a DHL truck and moto-paced at 33MPH for the last couple miles, winning by a pug-nose.

Fast forward a week to the following monday, plenty of juice left in the legs after the truncated race sunday. Got out of Mannying at 4PM and B-lined for Noanet Woodlands in Dover, my old stomping grounds, the place where I struggled to learn the art of mountain biking. It was close to 100° out but I felt great, just went out and started hammering in the 33 X 18. 33 seems to be the magic number for me, as far as I know Surly is the only outfit to produce a 33t chainring. Somebody's been out there cutting new singletrack and it gets my stamp of approval, I like it a lot.

There are spots in Noanet and Hale that used to literally bring me to tears ( I was an emotional teenager with girl problems). Now I whup up on them like a grown man who's gone back in time to face the schoolyard bully who gave hime wedgies in fourth grade. It's a good feeling. The stream crossing with large rocks on either side which I used to be afraid to jump downhill I can now bunny hop uphill. Uphill scrambles that I couldn't clean with a granny gear and a 34t cog, I now nail with a 53" gear.

Good thing I got better at riding a bike because if I went back in time to face that schoolyard bully from fourth grade he would still wedgie this grown man's ass with no trouble at all.

Root 66 Channel 3

The Idiot

Tracing my trail of stupidity leading up to this race is going to be tough, so much to tell…where to begin. A telltale sign of my declining cognitive abilities was my attempt to google map directions to the race from teammate George’s house. I had clicked on the “avoid highways” button to get alternate directions over to his place in Brookline. I then punched in the race venue location to see if it was closer to his abode than mine. Here’s the email I sent a few seconds later:

Dude, I was just looking at google maps.
I don;t know who put it in my head that this thing is 2 hours away, it's not,
it's closer to 3. We gotta bump up the departure time for your race.

Crap, we're looking at more like 7:15ish.
Let me know if you get this, I'll try to text you as well.


I followed that up a few minutes later with a retraction:

“I think instead of Pedialyte I was accidentally drank some
Pediatric Crack replacement juice
because I clicked the "avoid highways" button on google maps
to do something and then looked at the directions to the race
with that function still on.


Sorry, we'll see just before 9.


Note my incredibly well structured sentence “I was accidentally drank”.
I sound like an LOL cat. “I can haz pedialyte?”.

That’s about when they should have taken the keys to my bike away and called me a cab to a weekend at the sleep study lab. But no, I went off to race in earnest.

My second act of awesomeness involved getting back late from dinner with my parents, then deciding it was still a good idea to swill an entire bottle of Pedialyte during the hour before going to bed. It was going to be a scorcher and I wanted to be prepared…to wake up at least five times during the night to piss. Sleep was non-existent.

On the way down to the race we were listening to my super-awesome “it’s gonna be really hot out” mix. I’d searched for anything relating to heat, summer, hotness, fever, burning, fire…you get it, in my itunes library. The fact that I thought this was a good idea at all is testament to my reduced mental capacity. We stop for gas and when we get back in the car the Beastie Boys are playing. I look at the ipod, it says Dragonforce “Through the Fire and Flames” is playing. I’m baffled, I think it’s some major malfunction with my ipod, I keep clicking through the tracks and The Beastie Boys keep playing “like Ma Bell I got the ill…” I’m about to lose my god damn mind. Finally Miriam looks at the stereo and points out that the CD player is on, not the auxiliary mode. The jack had come out, Greg Montello’s dance party mix was playing. Tech-mology.

We get to the race, I don’t drive the car into any tunnels which are actually just images painted on the side of a cliff face by The Road Runner and kill us all in a flaming wreck. I ride the course, I’m over-geared, I go back to the car and knock a tooth off in the back. Not literally, I’m not quite that dumb. I head out for another pre-ride with Matt O’Keefe, he’s a super nice guy, and a rider I respect a huge amount, so I was honored just to roll with the guy. He was talking about how he’s still trying to find his legs, and that he’d just keep going hard from the start at these races and wait ‘til they show up. I visualized a man (maybe Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter) playing Russian Roulette with a gigantic revolver…loaded with ICBMs, I mean a really gigantic revolver. Eventually one’s going to find the chamber and we’re all dead. During the pre-ride I must have hit a nail or something on one of the wooden bridges because my front tire began to leak. I topped it off and rode around thinking the sealant had taken care of it and I was good to go.

My next act of awesomeness and brilliance went like this, I’d spent an hour the night before the race (when I should have been trying to sleep and peeing instead) building a bottle stand made out of a camera tripod and an old paint bucket. “What’s that?” Skip Brown asked me. “It’s a bottle stand, I made it last night” I replied. “You MADE it?” he laughed. Skip works for Seven Cycles, he helps make some of the finest frames in the world. When he “makes something” It’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court stuff, not a bucket bolted to a tripod. I felt like a chef on Hell’s Kitchen who’d just brought Gordon Ramsey a piece of Wonder Bread smooshed around a ball of peanut butter with a filthy hand “I made this Chef Ramsey!”. Profanity ensues.

Then I’m riding up to the feed zone with said Buckety Bottle stand thingy, I see Mo Bruno-Roy. I try to make a gesture like “Ya, I’m going to joust my competitors with this thing”…then one of the legs suddenly telescopes out, goes into my spokes, drags the rest of the apparatus in between the wheel and the frame, bucket slams into my legs, I go “Ow!”. Attempt at Will Ferrell style comedy transforms into Peter Sellers material quickly. After a trip back to the car to re-ziptie my brake housing on and check the truth of my wheel I was up at the start line watching air ooze out of my front tire through a huge gash, the sealant wasn’t up to the task. Too late to fix it, oh well, it was go time so we went.

What do I even do with this thing?

Here’s how it unraveled:

Another good start for a bad starter, up in the top five, then top three or four. Came down to the first big log hop, Harry Precourt had come around me with some big ringing action on the descent, he opted for the runaround line, I hopped, maybe the guy behind me didn’t hop so well, next thing I knew we had a gap. It was Carpenter the master of the hole shot, Foley, Ringquist, O’keefe, and a guy from Michigan with me. I was comfortable until we hit the super steep climb, I was off and running it. As I tried to close the gap back down on the off camber descent my tire started to roll off. It was only a matter of time. I took out my CO2 and threaded it on, I located my tube, I wanted to make this quick and get back in it.

I pulled off and went to it. It didn’t take but a few seconds to realize my greatest act of awesomeness was grabbing a 26” tube not a 29” tube. Still I tried to stretch the thing onto the rim like a tubular, the sealant making this as easy as boiling alive an Egyptian Hairless Cat (after you’d marinated it in olive oil). Minutes were going by fast as the riders from other fields rolled past. Eventually I got the tire on, using my left foot like Daniel Day Lewis to hold the ever-slipping bead on as I finished it off. Blasted one CO2 in, I was sloppy, wasting a lot of it. Second CO2 was my last chance, yet it still wasn’t enough to hyper-distend the wee tube into the larger tire cavity. Miriam came along with the offer of a pump, if only to just get my now ten minute behind ass back to the start, no dice, not enough purchase on the valve stem. I was walking. But first I was jumping in the river and hanging out there for a while before the hike home.

Michael Patrick went on to win, followed by Ringquist, and Foley. Michael’s been through some crazy stuff, battling brain cancer this past winter and it’s good to see him back on form. He’s coming back from a place most of us have never been and can’t even imagine. Seemed like a bunch of folks had issues with the heat, maybe my stupidity and negligence saved my ass from the ignominy of dropping out due to heat exhaustion. The upside is that in addition to a nice soak in the river Freye was racing in Canada and Oakes was DNF as well so I maintain my tenuous grasp on the points lead for a while longer.
A big ol’ ‘Nice work” to Linnea, Colin, George, and Miriam who all finished their races. I’m going to go get some sleep.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Photo Back Log and Explanations

Above: George and Greg on the Thursday AM Danish Pastry House ride last week. It was the first really amazing day of the year and a killer ride. Ripping it up through some of the technical stuff in The Fells at a good clip with some solid riders.

Colin and Gary during a breather.

Colin shares some stories from his recent motorcycle trip to Nicaragua and back.

Gary was a new addition to the ride. Here he rolls away after clearing a wicked rock garden, The guy's got skills. He's old school and XC and smooth as all hell.

After the ride I was determined not to drive to work even though I had to drag my race wheels in to mount up my tubeless tires for the weekend. This became insanely complicated as my fixed gear which is the only bike I can pull the B.O.B. trailer with was in bits and pieces. I realized that my adjustable wrench wasn't big enough to fit around the Truvativ BB tool, oops. No problem...just jam a quick release skewer into the hole behind the worm gear (the adjuster bit) and slam it on the cement floor until the whole deal blows apart all over the room. Now the jaws will spread as far apart as you like. Oh, but how do you get then to stay where you want them...vice grips. So with my chainline about 10mm off and running late I went outside with my loaded trailer...and go! No dice. The cotter pins were all wonky. My neighbors probably formed an even more solid opinion about my general weirdness as I sat on the ground smashing the cotter pins into place with a broken off piece of my stone steps.

Riding a 44 X 19 to work into a head wind pulling a trailer is no way to recover from racing. I only clipped one Cadillac with the outside of one of the wheels in traffic. The car was obviously too wide. On the way home I tried to shoot the gauntlet between two jersey barriers going over a foot bridge. This resulted in a near high speed collision with a chainlink fence. Hey, but I saved ten bucks in gas.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Root 66 Pat’s Peak

pologies for any inconsistencies in the report here, this one’s a bit blurry.

Above Photo: Mental Alertness 100% (yes, that's my coffee mug on the hood). My Posse. 24 Hour Soloist on a Pugsley.

I was a little discombobulated (in a good way) the morning of the race. My nephew Noah, who is five was participating in his first bike race and my girlfriend Miriam, who is thirty-four was participating in her first mountain bike race. They were both on single speeds. Miriam with a way too steep 32 X 20 and Noah with who knows what gear and a coaster brake alone. He’d be going old school Repack style, smokin’ that thing out no doubt. I was three hours early for my race so I played team mechanic to my crew, airing up Noah’s tires on his Trek Jet 12” (I got him a new 16er, but he’s still not convinced that big wheels hold any significant performance advantage) , and making sure he was hydrated.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a Mom did not set up the kid’s race course, I’ll go even farther and say that it’s quite possible that whoever set it up has never actually seen a child ride a bicycle, or quite possibly never met a child in little-person. It went straight up the ski hill for 80 yards, traversed to the right with only a piece of yellow tape separating the weaving urchins from oncoming race traffic just a few feet away, then most insane of all, descended down the lift line, across and un-rideable gully. Noah, like most of the kids started by running up the hill, got on his bike at the top, almost careened into an oncoming racer, got knocked off his pedals trying to ride his 12” wheeled bike down the rocky singletrack along the lift line, became essentially brakeless, zigging and zagging, and ultimately eating dirt twice, maybe three times. He ate it again running his bike down the grassy hill, but still opted to do another lap. At that point I had to go sort some mechanical stuff out for Miriam so my sister ran the next lap with Noah. Amazingly he lived and by the time I got back up there I found Noah beaming, stoked as all hell on his medal and new water bottle.

Miriam, being the super trooper that she is had decided to do the Sport race (this had nothing, I say nothing to do with the fact that it was three hours later than the beginner race and the girl loves her sleep). She hasn’t ridden the single speed very much so even during the uphill start she was totally bogged down. Twenty minutes later I was suited up and out on course pre-riding, I caught up to her walking the singletrack before the first really nasty steep climb, but she was smiling and laughing, red in the face and happy to be out there. She would finish her first lap in over an hour and opt to do another lap even though she’d be walking most of the uphill, her logic…she’d get to do the sweet downhill again so it would be worth it. Atta-a-boy girl.

Since I’ve spent the first part of this report yammering about other people’s races, I’ll spare you my own pre-race yammering for once and get right to it…times, splits, role call, wattage output figures, excuses, and all that. So I was warmed up for once, I’d done a full lap plus a hot quarter lap, twenty minutes before the start, then I hit the start hill HARD, about three or four times before lining up. There was a spot vacant behind Greg “I start like Wily Coyote on roller skates with a missile strapped to his back” Carpenter, I though that was the place to be if I was going to attempt something like a fast start. Then it turned out there was an out of place expert next to Greg, so he left, leaving me a spot on the front line. To some it may have looked like a spot was opened for the dork in the series leader’s jersey but that wasn’t really the case.

The Start: Andrew Freye. Me in the series leader's jersey (for now). Todd Wheelden.

Blam! Straight up the hill, I was holding the wheel of Carpenter, so far so good, came up through the feed and started around the lake in maybe sixth or so place, spinning it out and recovering. We hit the first section of singletrack, Aaron Oakes decided to take an alternate line after a conflict with a rock or root or something, he pulled off a nice save, tearing back onto the course behind me. Bizarrely enough, there I was sitting in an uphill paceline behind Adam Snyder, Andrew Freye, and Greg Carpenter. My internal dialogue was running wild, “O.K., you can do this, take it easy, you’re just warming up, stay on ‘em”. Freye’s a great rider, but early on seems to bobble a bit, it lulls me into complacency, I start thinking he might not have it that day…then he gaps me and everyone else with Snyder and that’s it. Here’s where things get blurry, I think it was first lap, maybe it was the second, I came by Carpenter on the steep portion of the first real climb, I said to him “just settle in, we got a good gap, settle in and cruise”. He caught and passed me on the downhill, showcasing his superior bike-handling skills, kind of terrifying really. I passed him back after a bobble and wouldn’t see him for a while.

Aaron Oakes caught me a little later, we rode together for a while, then he gapped me, never getting quite of sight, up there like a rabbit, but I wasn’t a grey hound, I was a two-legged Lhasa Apso, dragging my ass around in a cart. There was definitely some fading in there, my 32 X 18 gear creeping up on me, taking ownership of my aching legs. Will Letendre and Nate Ringquist gapped up to me, we would ride together for a while, Will upping the pace on the climbs, me going “Grrr…OK, this is how this bastard wins the Vermont 50…Argh”. Ringquist was just back there quietly and comfortably climbing away. Talk about strength to weight, the guy’s ass is the size of a walnut. He could zip tie a piece of inner tube onto his seatpost clamp and sit on it with no trouble at all.

Letendre’s achilles heal is the technical stuff, so I’d attack the singeltrack, gain some ground and make him work to close it down. After a lap or so of that game he began to weaken on the climbs. Can’t say the same of Ringquist, he was sitting and spinning, not going away. My legs started giving me cramp warnings, never totally locking up, but making me pedal funny and not attack at all, all I could do was drink and breath, and hope I didn’t seize catastrophically, blowing all my hard work. At one point we had really closed down on Oakes, he was on the false flat before the steepest climb going into the singletrack. The part where I was counting down the number of times I had to do the thing. “Wow, this sucks, this is the worst part of the race, I can’t believe I have to do this four more times, three more times, two more times…thank god this is my last frickin’ time up this sumbitch”. I was talking to myself more than usual during this race in general. Stuff like “Man, I should have gone with a 19 out back…naw the 18 is fine, this is great, I wouldn’t have it any other way, it’ll feel easier once I’m warmed up, once I’m breathing harder, ya, I’m gonna need a three bag ice bath after this one for sure…maybe if I ease back a little I’ll have enough energy to go see Indiana Jones tonight…pizza…beer….couch, couch, couch…snap out of it! The only card you need is the Ace of Spades, the ace of spades, OK, I’m back”.

Unlike most folks Oakes didn’t give it up once he had two guys bearing down on him, he turned it up to 11 and stayed away until the end…respect. Nathan gapped me going up the horrible final climb, but he was in sight, just ahead in the singeltrack, I knew I was a little bit faster through that stuff, so I started riding fast taking chances,“You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools”, then I overcooked a corner and laid it down (and how) . When I got back on the bike I crashed immediately, I had rolled my tire enough to get some debris jammed in the bead. I had to stop and hit it with the CO2 while a resurgent Greg Carpenter blew by like he was a French chick with three names on a downhill bike. That was the only spot I would lose luckily. Back on the bike I charged hard, trying to get back to Greg, not realizing how much time I’d lost to Ringquist, thinking I might see him again, wishing there was more trail to play with. I saw Greg up the access road grade before the final hole shot to the finish, I was wrestling my bike up the thing, he was doing the same, all over the machine, there was no chance in hell I was going to get him, then I blew, absolutely popped, cracked, detonated. It was all I could do to make it to the top of the climb so I could coast to the finish for sixth place.

My reaction at first was “Aw crap, no podium” then I got a grip. My goal for the season was just to make it onto the podium at one of these things and it turns out that I’ve spent more time on the thing (barely on it, but on it just the same) than off it. I’m happy to take a beating at the legs of guys like Freye, Oakes and Ringquist, I never thought I was in the same league as those dudes. My name’s Thom P. and shucks, I’m just happy to be here.

Thanks to everyone that came out this weekend, my Mom for the feeds, my cheering section comprised of my sister Julie, my Dad, my niece Lyla, my nephew Noah, Jalyn, Miriam, and other folks who I don’t even know, you all rock and I appreciate it.