Monday, December 15, 2008

KC Day #3


I was expecting an exciting race from the UCI Elite Men at Cross Nationals and I was definitely not disappointed with the show that I watched yesterday. The warm weather from the previous days racing had disappeared by the start of the elite UCI Race, but the course dried a little more, giving the elite riders super fast conditions. The usual group of top contenders in the sport pushed the pace to unbelievable speeds at the start and quickly had the pack strung out in a single file pace line. By the top of the first climb, a lead group of about 7 riders had separated from the rest of the field, which became the decisive move of the day. The biggest surprise of the race was Jamey Driscoll holding on to a second place overall finish behind eventual winner Ryan Trebon. Cross racing in the US has a bright future with young riders like Driscoll and also Jesse Anthony progressing as fast as they are. It was amazing to watch the speed and tactics of the race up close and personal like I did. To me, being able to watch cross nationals live was like being able to watch the super bowl in the front row on the fifty yard line. It was truly an awesome show of talent and determination.

The Elite Womens Race was also exciting to watch. Katie Compton pretty much dominated the race from start to finish, with Georgia Gould and Rachel Lloyd chasing hard, but unable to match the pace of the five time national champ. Below is a video of the womens


video

Saturday, December 13, 2008

KC Day #2












What an exciting day of racing!!! Things went well for me, with a 9th place finish today. I was actually as high as 7th for about a lap midway through the race, but I just didn't have the power to maintain that spot for the remainder of the race. Andy and Ernesto had good races as well, finishing 20th and 18th respectfully in the 35-39 age class.




Compared to the day before when we warmed up on the course, things were much faster. The higher temps in the mid 50s and the strong wind really helped to dry up the course. I don't think the course conditions could have been any better. I found the course to be one of the better cross course I have been able ride. It was fun, somewhat technical without being stupid technical and allowed riders to pass without difficult. As a matter of fact, the winner of my race, Roger Aspholm, started about 6-7 rows back and was able to work his way to the front of the group by lap number two.

Today's racing is going to be spectacular with the UCI elite men and women racing. I have my cowbell ready for the action, along with my running legs to cover the whole course. I will be carrying my camera to record the action.
Update to come later. - Gerry
Check out the crazy start of Andy's and Ernesto's Race on the video below.



video

Friday, December 12, 2008

KC Day 1










I arrived at KC today to find sunshine and blue skies. This is a much better sight than what was forecasted earlier in the week. They did get some snow out here I guess on Monday or Tuesday, so the course is muddy, but it is only bad enough to stick on the wheels and nothing more. The course is the perfect for someone that can put out a ton of watts. It has more vertical climbing than any cross course that I have ever witness and is probably on the biggest hill in the KC Area, too. The course kind of serpentines up the hill to the top and then does the same coming back down. Don't get me wrong it is a fun course, but it is going to make racers hurt real bad. There are three dismounts per lap; one set of double barriers and two separate sets of steps going up steep inclines.




I did get to watch the end of the womens 30-39 masters race and the entire mens 45-49 masters race. Betsy Shogren rode to a 10th place finish in the womens race and her husband, some guy that very few people have heard of, Gunnar Shogren was 7th in his race. I put a picture of each of them above. There is also a picture of the first uphill run-up on the course.



There are tons of people here like there are every year at cross nationals. It is like a big party with bikes, mud and cold weather all thrown into the mix...always a good time. If you have never been to cross nationals, make a mental note to yourself to do it sometime in the future. Not much more to say for now, hopefully my race reports tomorrow will be a little more exciting. Later - Gerry

Monday, December 8, 2008

Spin Class




No, I did not enroll in a new gym, decked out with a room full of lycra wearing MILFs riding spinning bikes. Instead, what I did was get schooled at picking the right gear on my single speed at a cross race. When you race cross on a single speed, the most important thing is gear selection. I learned this very clearly yesterday when I raced with a gear that was way too low, a 34x18 to be exact. I guessed that the course at the final Bike Authority Cyclocross Series Race in Copley, OH would be a mess from the snow and all that the weather forecast was showing. I planned to race with an easy gear on the bike, so that riding the snow would be no problem. Well, I guessed wrong. The course did have snow on it, but by the time the elite race went off it was hard packed and fast. Unfortunately, I also did not bring a higher cog along with me to the race, so I knew from my first warm-up lap that I would be doing a lot of crank rotations to keep pace with the other geared bikes.

I definitely could not generate the power and speed that I needed with the gear I had on my bike, but I don't necessarily think that this was a bad thing. Spinning that easy gear gave me a great workout, albeit a completely aerobic workout. I just didn't have enough of a gear to give my legs a hard effort type of workout. But, from what I understand, this should be a good thing going into Nationals next weekend. My heart and lungs were still tested and they did feel good, even after my nasty cold that is waging a good fight with me. At the same time, my legs did not have to really work too hard with all the spinning, so they should be primed for a hard effort at the Nationals. Another thing I noticed about doing 100+ RPMs during an entire cross race is that it does keep one warm on a day when the temperature is in the mid 20's at best.

Spinning like a possessed mad man, I was able to finish 6th overall and win the 40+ race in which I was entered. The 40+ win was enough to give me the overall 40+ series victory as well, so I guess the race was a success today even though I was not at the front of the pack like I would prefer to be.

I am flying out of PIT early Friday Morning for Kansas City, MO to compete in my final race of 2008, the 2008 National Cyclocross Championships. I am not too sure if I am more excited about doing my 40-44 masters race on Saturday or watching the elite men's race on Sunday. Both of these races plus many others over the weekend are going to be awesome events to watch. At last count, my race had 138 riders registered. Many of the guys in my class are the top master racers in the county, so my thinking is that a finish in the top 20 would be a good result. Of course, my plans are to do much better than that, so please do wish me luck.

I will try to give an update of the course, venue and the race atmosphere when I arrive there on Friday. I will also add a recap of my race, Andy's Race and Ernesto's race after the battle is done on Saturday. As of today, the weather has a Murraysville Cross Race look to it. Lovely! - Gerry

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Menthol, Mucinex and Eucalyptus




I used cough drops with menthol, an expectorant called Mucinex and an eucalyptus balm to help clear the green stuff out of my head and chest, but I obviously needed something more at today's race. Earlier in the week I got a head and chest cold. Of course, I did my typical thing and ignored it. I never seem to learn when my body needs a break. For some reason, I feel that if I stop training for a few days I will lose my competitive edge. Well, once again, I trained hard all week thinking that my cold and the green nasty stuff that I have been blowing out of my body all week would just automatically go away without rest. Needless to say, it did not, so I did the best I could to make my breathing at least a little easier. I must admit that the above mentioned products did help, but I doubt that any pharmaceuticals actually could make someone feeling sick race cross faster. Quiet frankly, I probably should not even have done the Murraysville Cross Race, especially since the weather was so horrible. But, again , being a little bit in denial about my health and wanting to support a local cyclocross event , I did do the race.

Surprisingly, the course was in better condition than I thought that it would be, so that was cool. I actually even surprised myself at the start of the race by going into the first left turn off the pavement in first place. But, pretty much from that point on, I was in suffer mode. It is not often that I have thoughts about abandoning a race; today I did. I made it through the race by battling against my two cross teammates Andy and Ernie. Without them being near me and having our friendly battle, I would have quickly lost motivation to continue. Mike Mihalik was in the mix with us Speedgoaters too at the beginning, but then he decided to turn on his turbo boosters and leave us in his wake of mud. Mike had a great ride to be sure, finishing in second overall. SteveO took the title as the Pennsyl-Tucky Champion and course designer Joe Ruggery rounded out the podium in third. Somehow or another I suffered through my illness and the nastiness on the course to finish in fourth in front of Ernie in fifth and Andy in sixth. Amazingly, Andy actually won the earlier 35+ masters race too, so he had a strong performance today. Ernie was riding right with me until he had a mishap over the double barriers, which caused him to go down, otherwise he would have probably been right with me until the end.

Thanks to Fred for promoting the race, all of the sponsors and Joe/Team FU for the course set-up and design. Also, thanks to David Burke for the posted photos above...me riding with Andy and me going into the course tape on the downhill off-camber turn. Overall, it was a nice race....painful, but nice. Now I just have to convince my body that what I just did to myself makes some kind of sense.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Brewing Storm


Seems like there is a perfect storm brewing for the Pennsyl-Tucky Championship tomorrow in Murraysville. The weather forecast is predicting a 60% chance of a snow and rain mix. Boy, doesn't that sound wonderful, when you consider that the ground is already saturated! I have read Joe's description of the course on his blog (http://teamfudiary.blogspot.com/) but I really have no idea what the course is going to be like, especially when considering the nasty weather coming our way. I was able to ride outside in the snow two days this week at Mammoth park. I did one day on the fixie cross bike with J-Pok and the second alone on my Speedgoat Special Cross Rig. The fixie was faster on the flats, but overall my regular cross ride felt faster and easier to control, so it will be my choice for tomorrow unless the course is really bad. If the mud does seem to be the major obstacle on the course, I will use my single speed cross bike without the fixie set-up.
This cross season I have pretty much been able to pack all of my stuff and travel to the race that day. To prepare for Murraysville, however, I will have to prepare for tomorrow's race today because of being scheduled to work. I will be going to work later this afternoon and work until 11pm. I work again tomorrow at 7AM, which will only allow for about 5 hours of sleep between shifts. With this busy schedule ahead of me, I will have to prepare my bikes this morning and then pack them in my car along with all my clothing and stuff. I can tell you now that I will be packing a lot because the weather sounds like it is going to require a lot.
My goal with my clothing choice tomorrow will be to stay warm and dry. This will pretty much be impossible to do, but by using my thin neoprene gloves and socks I can keep my hands and feet pretty good. A polypro base layer or two under my skinsuit should keep some heat in my body during the race, too. I am sure that the biggest clothing challenge tomorrow will actually come after the race when I am trying to quickly removing the wet, muddy clothing from my body without a changing room before going into hypothermia. Sure does sound fun, doesn't it???? I swear cross racers are sadomasochists in disguise. For some reason we cross racers seem to enjoy pushing our bodies to the point where it feels like our hearts about to explode and then to add to our level of discomfort, we typically do this in weather that makes a sane person's trip to the mailbox a difficult expedition. Gotta love it!
One last thing I think that you guys might be interested in hearing about is my tire choice for tomorrow. Recently, I mounted a pair of UST tubeless ready Hutchinson Bulldogs Tires onto a pair of Mavic Ksyriums SL Wheels with some tubeless tire sealant and Stan's Valves. The tires sealed up easily without the use of tubeless sealing tape or a rubber rim strip being used on the rims. These things hook-up great in the muddy stuff, even better than the tubulars I use mounted with Tufo Plexus Tires. The tubular set-up is probably faster on the dry stuff, but I think this new set-up will be my first choice for any slick, muddy races.
I will type up another blog entry after the race tomorrow. I am sure the conditions will be epic!
See you Sunday - Gerry

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

4 + 1 = One Fine Day of Racing


At the beginning of last week, I was planning to travel down to WV to do the WVMBA Bruceton Mills Cross Race, mainly because I could do the race and still have time to make it to work in the afternoon. Well, like most of this season, my plans changed midweek. J-Pok sent me an email with a link to the Ohio State Championship Cross Race in Columbus, OH. I almost did not even click on the link because I knew that doing the race would require me to burn another day of leave, something I have done too many times this year probably. But, I did click on the link and liked everything that I saw in regards to the race. So, I said what the heck about using more leave from work and decided to register for both the elite masters race and also the elite race. Yes, two cross races in one day.

The first race of the day was the elite 35+ masters race, which had about 30 registered riders line-up at the starting line. I had a good start and soon after the first few turns a small group of riders including myself broke free from the rest of the pack. That pack then whittled down to just me and bikereg.com rider Frederick Rose. It was nice to have another rider with me because the course had quite a few long straight-aways and the wind was blowing hard. We traded off pulls at the front up until the last lap. I noticed during our previous laps that I would gap Rose going over the double barriers, so I diecide to increase my speed through the barriers on the last lap to hopefully create a big gap. My strategy worked and I was able to maintain the gap until the finish, winning the race.

Immediately after finishing the first race I put on some warm clothes and jumped on my trainer to keep my legs loose. After riding the trainer for about 40 minutes I made my way over to starting line for the elite race. When I got there, the race officials were already starting call ups. This was not a typical 8 slot starting line, though, so I was still able to sneak in to the first starting row, which was probably at least 15 guys wide. Next the official says listen for the whistle to start, but first let's take a moment of silence...(what????)...then a song that I haven't heard since the 80's starts playing loudly, Survivor's Eye of the Tiger...you know from the Rocky Movie. I expected them to play the whole song and was a bit confused about this whole starting ordeal, when suddenly I hear a whistle and see a rush of riders come flying around me. I instantly went from my nice front row starting position to mid-pack or worse right from the gun. Knowing that I needed to do a lot of work to get back towards the front, I starting sprinting with every opportunity that I had. The course was laid out much wider than most cross course that I have done, so I was able to work my way up to a group of about 5 riders that had already pulled away from the pack. It took me a lap or so for my legs to recover from this effort, so I just sat at the back of this pack. During this time, and because of a couple of riders directly in front of me crashing in the turns, two riders were able to escape from our leading group. I tried chasing hard for one lap, but it was not enough to catch the two that had escaped and created a pretty big gap. So, Mike Mihalik, Phil Noble, Andy Messer and I were then in between the two leaders and the quickly disintegrating rest of the pack. It seemed as if Mike and I were doing the majority of the work and I was okay with that since I was basically doing the race for a hard day of training. Near the end of the race, Mike and I had escaped from the other two riders. Mike then dropped me going through the last few off camber turns, which lead to him taking 3rd and me finishing 4th.

The Cap City Cross Guys did a great job with the race and offered up some super prize money, too. After looking at some muddy pictures of the WVMBA Race, I do think that my switch in plans was a good one. It was cool to get in a really hard day of racing/training by doing two races in one day and it was also cool being able to take a 1st and 4th place.

Andy had a great weekend of racing too by finishing second both days at the MAC Races in South Hampton, NY. The only rider to top him both days was super human master racer Roger Aspholm from the Westwood Velo Team, so congrats to Andy on his best MAC finishes ever.

Next up is the Murraysville Cross Race! From the looks of the forecast, my reprieve from mud this past weekend will come to an end on Sunday. I may actually try racing my fixed gear cross bike at this race if conditions are bad enough. I have noticed that my fixie rides mud and snow much better than a regular single speed or geared bike does because of the rear wheel constantly turning. I am not sure if USA Cycling rules permit the use of a fixed gear bike for mass start races, but if they do, it might even be the right choice for Nationals in a few weeks if the conditions are as bad as last year. If anyone does know the answer to racing a fixie in a mass start event please do advise me. Later - Gerry

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Pennsyl-Tucky Cyclocross Championships

Western Pennsylvania is a great place to ride and also has some good riders, but for some reason the area has very little racing, other than a Wednesday Night Training Race around a semi-banked track oval during the months of April through September. It is almost like the area is it's own isolated, hard-to-get-to island of cycling. What's worse, is that when someone does put in a good,hard effort to promote a race, few in the Pittsburgh Area actually do show up to do the race. For this reason, I have given Western PA the new name of Pennsyl-Tucky. It really is not part of the mid-west cycling scene, nor is it part of the mid-atlantic cycling scene. We in Western PA are our own isolated group of cycling species. So, with this in mind, I am un-officially calling next weekends Murraysville Cyclocross Race the Pennsyl-Tucky Cyclocross Championships. I posted it here before, but this link will give you all the information you need about the race: http://www.bikereg.com/events/register.asp?eventid=7174
I do hope if you race/ride in Western PA that you do make it a point to support our local and sparse racing scene. See you at the race! - Gerry

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

MUD!


Cross courses this season have been pretty exceptional, with little mud and fast conditions. This weekend all of that changed. I did two races this weekend, both in nasty, muddy conditions. On Saturday, I did the first day of racing near Trenton, NJ at the Mercer Cup USGP Race. On Sunday, I traveled to Cleveland for the Lake Effect Cycling Team Broadview Heights Cyclocross Race.


Initially I said that I did not see the point in doing the USGP Races in NJ in my last blog, but I could not pass-up a front line call-up at the race. I probably should have stuck to my initial thoughts about doing the race now that I look back in hindsight. The race course was a mess, covered in a thick peanut butter type of mud that required racers to run a large part of the course. I had a great start, going into the first hard left turn in third place, but that position vanished quickly when we all had to dismount and begin running through the thick mud. I don't usually mind running, but I easily start to become frustrated with a race when I am doing nothing but slow running with heavy muddy feet and have little opportunity to get my bike up to speed. By the end of the race, I finished in 13th with about three middle gears working on my rear cassette due to mud and course tape being jammed in my rear derailleur. I should have used my single speed, but I unfortunately did not bring it to the race. From what Andy tells me, the racing on Sunday at the USGP was in even worse conditions than Saturday's Race.


So, Sunday's Race was muddy too, but the mud was not as thick, which made it much easier to ride. There were definitely sections on the course that did require some extra effort to power through the mud, but nothing even close to the bog that I attempted to ride through the day before. I came to the race on Sunday with only one bike; my single speed. I figured it would be muddy and after the lesson learned the day before, I decided that the single speed would be the best choice. The choice did seem to be a good one, since I ended up as the overall winner of the race.


What I learned this weekend is that when it comes to racing in the mud, I would much rather ride in a wet, thinner mud than on a course covered in a thick mud. I like that mud does require more technical skills to riding a course smoothly, but I don't like when it completely takes away from actually being able to ride the majority of the course. Every cross course is different, though, so I guess it is just a matter of playing the cards you are given. Now that the weather in the region seems to have taken a turn for the worse, I guess mud will now be a factor at all remaining races, including nationals. Maybe I should start running and riding in this thick muddy retention pond near my home to better prepare for this type of racing....I hope you know that this is only a joke! - Later, Gerry

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Marilla Cyclocross and Kirkland Park Race Weekend


Awesome weekend of local cross racing... On Saturday, I did a race in Morgantown, WV named the Marilla Park Cyclocross Race, or Raza De Los Muertos (Race of the Dead), which was promoted by friend Marc Glass. On Sunday, I traveled north to Cleveland to do another Lake Effect Cycling Team Cyclocross Series Race in Kirkland Park. Both course were well designed and a lot of fun to race. I am happy that local cross racing is starting to grow, both with the number of races and the depth of the field. Traveling 4 + hours east every weekend takes a toll on the body and the mind, for me anyway. My plan is to race locally over the next few weeks, while I build for Nationals. I may not be able to race against the fastest master racers in the nation this way, but I do think that it will allow me focus more on training and less on traveling.
I finished 3rd to Steve-O and Wes on Saturday. Wes is very smooth and strong on a cross bike. He rode away from Steve-O and I with what seemed to be very little effort. I was definitely impressed by his strength. Steve-O and I had a good battle going on during the remainder or the race. Unfortunately, we became entangled over the barriers on the last lap, which caused me to flat. It would have definitely been much more fun to battle Steve-O to the finishing line, rather than worry about doing a wheel change and riding in alone for third. But, I am sure we will have another chance to do this again sometime this season. Thanks to Marc and the other WVMBA Guys for putting on a great race.
The Kirkland Park Race was set in a small park in downtown Cleveland. The course was very twisty and had three run-ups, which used cement stairs to force dismount off the bike. Two of the run-ups were very long, probably about 25 steps, or so. After doing 11 laps of this, it definitely made for a hard race. After the first few laps of cross course chaos, Paul Martin, Ernesto Marenchin and I were able to get a gap on the rest of the field. I pretty much lead the race then until the last lap. My goal was to try and drop Paul off the pace, perhaps through the tight turns, with hard accelerations out of the turns. I did get a few small gaps, but not enough to drop Paul. Eventually I knew Paul was going to use one of his trademark powerful attacks on me and my fellow speedgoater, Ernesto, which he did on the last lap. Neither Ernesto or I had the power to match his powerful effort and he rode in for the win. I finished second and Ernesto was third overall.
I am working midnights this weekend, so no racing for me. Andy will be travelling to NJ for two MAC Races, though. I have decided not to go out to NJ the following weekend for the USGP Series and will race in Cleveland instead. I just don't see the point in spending a ton of money to race in another weekend of USGP Races when there is something closer to do.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

USGP - Louisville


Again, another blog entry added to this mess of mine way too late. For some reason, I just can't find time in my life to update this thing like I would like to do. Anyway, Louisville was a great time. I thought that the course was much better this year, with less long straight-aways and more technical aspects added to it. My racing went pretty well too, finishing 10th each day. I was a little bummed, though, because I made last lap blunders that pushed me back a few places each day. It is amazing how important the start and the finish of a cross race is, especially when competing against a group of talented riders. Unlike MTB racing, cross racing really does require one to keep their wits about them during the entire race; one small mistake in the beginning or at the end can completely change the outcome. Of course I knew this before racing this weekend, but when your brain is suffering from a lack of oxygen it is hard to keep your thought process in order. Perhaps I should be more like M.J. (EuroTrash) and put myself through a 10-day Buddhist Retreat, so that I can better connect with the inner me and also learn how to ignore the discomfort that I am feeling at any point in time...
I am doing a cross race in Morgantown today called the Marilla Cyclocross. The race flyer makes it sound more like a MTB race than a cross race. It is close to work, though, so I will give it a try. Tomorrow I am traveling up to Cleveland for another one of the Lake Effect Cycling Team Races. I will try to give a race update on my blog a little earlier in the week this time...yeah right! Later - Gerry

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cross My Heart and Hope to DIE!













Cross My Heart and Hope to DIE...was the aptly named cyclocross race that was put on by Spin Bicycle shop in Willoughby, OH this past Saturday. The course was in a small township park, but used the terrain in a fun and interesting way. The course had two parts which stood out as being a little different than other cross courses. First, there was a large and deep mud puddle that the riders were directed to ride through on each lap. This “mud pit” completely trashed the bike and covered all racers with a thick crusty mud. The course would have been mud free without the addition of this unnecessary mud pit. The second unique feature of this course was a super long forced run – up, with a barrier at the bottom of hill. I would guess that the run-up was about 100 yards long. The rest of the course was pretty typical with grassy twisty stuff. Even with the unwelcomed mud pit on the course, I do think that the course was well designed for what was available to use at the park.

About 50 riders showed up for the “A” race and I was happy to see that many racers from the Pittsburgh Area made the trip. I traveled to the race with J-Pok and Charlie P, but I also saw Chris Mayhew, Mike Jernigan and Sam Morrison at the race. It was also cool to see local Cleveland Area Cyclists like Ernesto Marenchin, Shawn Adams and Paul Martin at the race, which of course was sure to increase the level of competition in the pack.

As of the Thursday prior to the race, my plan was to attend The MAC Series Granogue and Wissahickon Races near Philly. Since I was not able to make all the changes necessary to my work schedule to allow for travel time out to Philly, I changed my mind into doing the Willoughby Race. It turned out to be a good decision. Not only because the course was a lot of fun, but also because the prize money was spectacular. The race paid the top 15 riders with a total purse of $1500. Money like this is usually only set aside for the elite class in UCI Races and not local cyclocross races.

I trained hard the week leading into this race because my plan was to tapper during the week before the USGP Races in Louisville, KY. I figured that this hard training would leave my legs feeling tired for this race. Surprisingly, however, my legs felt pretty fresh before and during the race. I think that this is a sign that my fitness has seemed to have turned the corner for the better during the last week or so.

Anyway, I lined up in the first starting row of the race and had a great start, taking the hole shot into the first sweeping right turn. I never gave up the leading position throughout the race and ended up taking first overall. The win definitely felt good and also confirmed that all my hard training was finally starting to show.

It will now be interesting to see how my fitness compares to the top master cyclocross racers in the country when I race against them in Louisville. By looking at the starting list, I will say right now that a top ten finish in Louisville will be a good result. I will let you all know how it goes next week in a new blog entry…wish me luck! - Gerry

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Feeling a little more fit



Sorry for my delay in writing again. I always have good intentions to write after doing a race, but for one reason or another I always seem to get side-tracked. Since my last writing, I have raced in the final two Month of Mud Races in Grove City and Moraine State Park. I also did two elite master cross races in Cincinnati, OH. During each of the races, I felt a little more fit than the past few races I did in September. I am hoping that the extra effort that I am putting into my training and the increased racing over the past month will get me back up to top form. I don't feel like I am quite there yet, but I definitely feel like I am making some headway.

So, the MOM Grove City Cross Race was a blast like it usually is for me. The competition seemed to be a lot stiffer than in previous years, which only added to the fun. Since I was doing the single speed classification for the MOM Series, the amount of effort I had to put out in Grove City to keep up with the geared bike guys hurt me pretty good. Of course, having fast Evan Perone on his fixed gear cross bike only added to my work load at the race. With a little over two laps to go, Evan had like 20 seconds on me. I laid down a huge effort and bridged the gap with about a lap to go. I then had a major brain fart by letting another rider (Sam Morrison) come between me and Evan before the final turn. With only about 25 meters to the finishing line after the final turn, I was not able to come around Evan for the win. One day I will learn to sprint. Maybe...

This past weekend I traveled to the Cincinnati, OH Area on Friday and Saturday with Justin Pokrivika to race in two UCI cyclocross races. The races went well for me considering my bad starting positions. I took third on Friday after putting in a hard effort to work through the three rows of racers that started ahead of me. Justin rolled a Tufo Clincher Tubular Tire and had to abandon the race on Friday. On Saturday, I had another bad starting position in the fourth row back and the course was not friendly to moving up to the front of the pack very quickly. By the time I did get to the front of the main pack, there was a group of six riders that had about 15-20 seconds on me. I worked hard with Kris Auer, but we could not close the gap. With two laps to go, Kris crashed in a sand pit obstacle, which allowed me to finish in seventh. Justin started in the sixth row and managed a 21st place finish. The most notable thing I would like to mention about doing these two races is how much I dislike racing cross in hot weather. I can certainly see why cross is meant for the fall and winter seasons, not 80+ degree temperatures. Other than that, these two races were a lot of fun and are highly recommended for next year.

After doing the two cross races, I traveled back home and did the final MOM Race at Moraine State Park on Sunday. I could tell during my pre-ride of part of the course that the race was going to be fast because the trail conditions were perfect. Right from the starting whistle I could see that my pre-race assumption was correct. I actually took the hole shot going into the trails, mainly because I did not want anyone impeding my way for the first steep climb. I again chose a gear on my single speed that was a bit more than I could chew for the race and the first climb made me well aware of my poor choice. By the time the second climb on the course came, I was maxed out. I knew then that I had to back down a little, or would totally be blown. So, I let Evan (my single speed competition) ride away from me along with the top expert riders, while I re-gathered my composure. During this time, I was caught by another single speeder and a couple of other experts. Eventually, I did find my race legs again and was able to get by a couple of guys, but the damage was done and I finished third for the day in the single speed class. The points I gained from the race, however, were still enough to allow me to win the overall single speed win for the MOM Series.

After the race and while waiting for the overall series award ceremony, I did a 14 mile cool down ride with Henry Spreng and his up and coming fast 17 years old son. My legs certainly needed some flushing after three days of hard racing and the beautiful weather of the day made the ride more than enjoyable post race ride. The award ceremony was also cool, as it always is for the Month of Mud. All in all, it was a perfect way to end a weekend of racing.

Chris Huffman has been the promoter of the MOM for the past ten years and in my opinion and I am sure in the opinion of many others has done a fine job with the series. I do commend him for the work that he has done and thank him for keeping mountain bike racing alive in Western PA. Of course, he had help from guys like Gary Bywaters, Ty Musser and Tom Bell, but Chris was definitely the steam behind the engine the past 10 years. If you see Chris around, thank him for all of his effort because any race promoter will tell you that putting on a race is often times a thankless job.

I am hoping to do more cross racing this weekend and will be traveling to Louisville, KY the following weekend for the USGP of Cross Series. Hopefully I can continue to build on my fitness through the next month and work towards my goal of doing well at Nationals. I will try to do a better job at providing blog updates and will also try holding Andy's Head under water until he agrees to add at least one entry to this mess of a blog. Later... - Gerry

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sick as a DOG....

Last Tuesday I started feeling a little sick. Trying to deny my symptoms, I decided to do interval training with Brian W. at Mammoth Park. We usually have fun doing intervals there, as fun as doing hard intervals can be anyway. Brian being Brian beat me into a pulp during our pain session. Knowing that I was sick only made me seem like easy prey to him. Brian W. is one of the nicest guys in the world, but he will not hesitate to abuse any bike rider when he knows that he has the opportunity to take advantage of you. Needless to say, I felt much worse Wednesday Night at work and pretty much horrible at work the next morning. By Thursday Night, I was on my death bed and only wishing that death would come quickly and end this pain that I was experiencing. I took some Nyquil and went to bed early. I decided to take a sick day on Friday Morning because there was no way my body or brain, for that matter, wanted to do anything that required any effort.

With the second race of the Month of Mud coming up on Sunday, I was a little disappointed that I was feeling so sick. I knew, however, that I would race whether I was sick or not. The Month of Mud is a series and missing any race of the series means that contention in the series would be over for me. By Friday Afternoon, I started feeling like I felt like I had some energy in me again. I actually went on a very easy one hour ride. I then did the same thing on Saturday. By race day on Sunday, I felt like I was ready to go believe it or not. Not quite sure what I had and I certainly did not enjoy it, but whatever it was has seemed to pass. Hopefully that will be my only bout with sickness this coming winter.

I thought Sunday was going to be a very competitive battle between me and super fast single speed sensation Evan Perone. As it turned out, Evan was called to the starting line, but did not show. I guess he had a little too much fun in Vegas at the bike show. It made me happy knowing that I could ride hard with the expert riders, but not have to go crazy battling Evan, since I knew I was still recovering from illness. I used a 32x17 on my single speed at Brady's, but it was way too steep of a gear. It was good training for cyclocross, though, because I had to get off and run up the steeper climbs. I actually kind of enjoyed the running too. All in all, after being so sick at the end of the week I was very happy with my ride. I finished the race as the first single speeder and fifth overall.

This weekend is the third race of the MOM at Grove City. It is a cyclocross course, but on the jungle side of the world of cross. I still think it is a fun course and will absolutely be there on my single speed cross bike. Again, if you are anywhere near Western PA, come on out to do the race.
Speaking of Western PA Racing...Team Freddie FU is putting on a cyclocross race on 11/30/2008 in Murraysville. I am planning on doing this race also and hope that all the riders in the area that have any interest in cross whatsoever will also be out to enjoy the fun. If you do not know anything about the race yet, here is a link: http://www.gopolar.com/teamfu/murrysvillecross.pdf

Well, that is enough from me. I don't want you spending too much time around me because my sickness might spread and it is also time to watch the Steelers beat the Ravens... After working 8 days straight, I actually get Tuesday and Wednesday off....lucky me. At least I will be able to recover from watching the game. See you Sunday.... Gerry

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

OUCH!

I am trying to achieve better race fitness for cross season, so I did two races this weekend. The first race, the Nittany Lion Cross, was the first race of the MAC Series in Fogelsville, PA, on Saturday. Then on Sunday I did the first race of the Month of Mud Series at the Bavington State Game Lands, near Pittsburgh. Both races definitely helped push me towards better fitness and both races definitely hurt, but for different reasons.
At the Nittany Lion Cross, I competed in the elite masters race. The race was brutally fast, especially because I made the decision to start on my single speed cross bike rather than on my standard geared bike like everyone else in the field was using. The race could not have started any better, though, with me going into the first turn in second place. I was able to hold that position for about the first lap or so and then the attacks started. I chose to use a 34x15 as my gear on the single speed. All in all, it seemed to be a good gear choice; however, like any other single speed bike, there were sections on the course where I was spun out and other sections where I really had to stand on the gear to turn it over. All of the extra effort that I put into the single speed was not paying the dividends that I expected and one by one I started dropping places. With less than 2 laps to go, SteveO gave me an awesome bike exchange, but by that time I was cooked and there was not enough time left in the race to do anything significant anyway. By the end, I finished in 14th, after trying to sprint to the finish with four other riders unsuccessfully. It was definitely an all out aerobic pain fest that made me wonder what I liked so much about cyclocross racing.
On Sunday, my plan was to leave early enough for the race to allow enough time to ride the entire MOM Bavington Time Trial Course. As things would have it, I barely made it to the course by the race registration deadline. I then rushed around to put my bike together and don my cycling clothing, so that I could at least ride the beginning part of the course. I rode the first loop super fast thinking that I would be starting at around 10am with the expert riders. Well, upon arriving back at the starting line at about 1 minute to 10:00, I learned that I would actually be starting in 44th position, which meant that I had about 44 minutes before my actual start time. I was a little bummed about this because my legs were now warmed up and ready to go, but I figured that I would make good use of the wait for my starting time by riding the new ending section of the course. Knowing the Bavingon Course is the key to riding a fast time on it, but there is no way that one loop of the course will prepare anyone for riding fast on this course because it is some of the tightest and most twisty single track known to mankind, but an absolute blast to ride.
My start for Bavington seemed to be good. I felt smooth through the beginning parts of the course. The single speed was an awesome bike choice. I had no reason to think about shifting, so I could focus on just riding and riding hard. It is so easy to go way to hot into the turns at Bavington, so I did my best to also stay relaxed and smooth into and out of all the turns. I was having fun on the trails and the bike was purring like a tame house cat for me. Life seemed good. Things suddenly changed, though, when that big linebacker, from that Reebok Commercial that tackles office workers for screwing-off on the job, came out of nowhere and threw me to the ground...well, at least that it how it seemed to me at the time. In actuality, I had clipped the end of a tree with the end of my handlebar, which then threw me to the ground with a quick and hard impact. It took me a minute to figure out what happened and to also untangle my bike from the mess that it had become, but I was soon on course again trying my best to remained focused on a fast finishing time. I did manage to finish the race without anymore mishaps with a finishing time of 42 minutes 11 seconds, which was second in the single speed class.
The second MOM Series Race is this coming Sunday, September 28th, at Brady's Run County Park. It sure would be nice if I could finish a race without inflicting so much pain on myself. Unfortunately, I think pain and doing well at a race does seem to go hand in hand....I hope that is not why I like this sport so much, but maybe it is. Happy Trails... Gerry

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Transitions


Transitions is the title of this blog because that is what the last couple months of my life has been. This is the main reason I have not posted anything new for so long on here, sorry for that. Okay, now where should I start to describe this time of transition.... I think The Wilderness 101 Race in the last week of July would be a good starting point since it was the last race that I did and it was also my last racing blog.


I will admit that not having my best performance at the 101definitely took some of my racing steam out of me. I think that after training so hard for Nationals and the NUE Series my body was craving a long rest period. Well, unintentionally and not really by choice, work has given my legs and mind a very long rest from racing bikes.


My work schedule at the beginning of August made it impossible to race. Then two weeks into August, I learned that I was going to be transferred from working in Philly to a station closer to home. Doing a transfer at work is not an easy thing to do because there are certain issues at work that do need attention before the transfer occurs and then again once it does occur. Basically, I had to concentrate on work a lot more than usually. I also was not sure what weekends I would be off, so it was hard to commit to doing any races with an unknown work schedule. I do need to have set racing goals and without any planned races I kind of lost focus with my training.

One thing that I did to keep my mind somewhat interested in riding and training was to switch from riding my 29'er to riding my cyclocross bike. It was amazing how light and fast my cross bike felt in comparison to the mountain bike when I first made the switch. Cross season is a blast and I hoping that my earlier transition this year to the cross bike will help my performance at cross racing this year.

I did compete in one race since my last report. It was the Tour of Strongland Mt. Bike Race at the Roaring Run Trails in Apollo, PA. I did not do great, as a matter of fact, I did not do well at all, in my opinion. I could certainly notice that my fitness was lacking. Additionally, I could also tell that I had not been on the mt. bike in a while. To make matters worse, I switched back to my rigid fork a few days before the race thinking that it would be the best choice because of the shorter distance of the race. What a mistake this was. I totally forgot how technical the trails are at Roaring Run. They are certainly great trails, but absolutely better for a bike with suspension than without. I ended up in fifth at the race and feeling like I just got out of the ring with a prize winning fighter. I definitely need to add a sentence in this blog to thank Rob Spreng for saving me after I crashed during the race. I had just over taken him on a climb and then bombed into a single track descent that was really narrow and had a steep drop off on the right side. I hit a rock, or something, at the beginning of the descent that launched me off the steep right side of the trail. My initial thought was, oh my, this is going to hurt BAD! Luckily, I did not end up at the bottom of the 20 foot drop-off because I was fortunate enough that a small tree caught my rib cage as I began to fall down. The crash onto the tree left me completely stuck, hanging precariously over this "cliff" until Rob was kind enough to stop and rescued me. THANKS AGAIN, ROB!!! After the crash, I decided to back off the pace and wait for another day to race hard again.


I do believe that I have now completed my past couple months of transitions with the bike switch, with my changes at work and with moving back home. Hopefully, I can begin to now focus on racing fast again. I have also committed to a long range racing goal by registering for the US National Cyclocross Championships in Kansas City, MO, this past Monday Morning at 1:00am. I did very well with the pre-registration "race" by placing fifth. This is an important part of doing the race because it will give me a good starting position, probably in the first two rows. Starting a cross race at the front of a 140 plus man field is priceless and essential to be competitive in the race.


One last thing that I do need to mention before I end this blog is the start of the Month of Mud. This awesome local Western PA Race Series will start it's 20th annual series this weekend, on 09/21/08. I highly recommend that if you live in the Western PA Area that you should do this race series. There is more information about it at: http://www.westliberycycles.com/.


Oh yeah, the Speedgoat Cross Bike pictured above will be one of my cross racing rigs for the season. It is set up in training mode right now, but will soon be a true cross racing machine. Don't try to find this frame at Speedgoat, though...it is one of my special creations.
See you at the races..... Gerry

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A MTB Race for a Worthy Cause

A fellow bike racer, PSP member, friend and soon to be PSP Sergeant, Joe Ruggery, is doing the 24 hours of 7 Springs Mountain Bike Race, in Champion, PA on August 30th-31st, 2008. He is racing in the solo class, which means he will do the entire 24 hour off-road race alone. Joe is not doing the race to set any course records, or with a goal of necessarily winning the race in mind; instead, he is doing the race to raise funds for another member of PSP, Sgt Tom O’Conner, who has exhausted all of his paid leave since being diagnosed with terminal cancer last year. Please take a moment to read Joe’s Blog at http://24fortom.blogspot.com/ to learn more about Sgt O’Conner and the fundraiser that Joe has started to help the O’conner Family through this tough time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The 101



The Wilderness 101, which starts and ends in Coburn, PA, is one of the better ultra endurance mtb races around. I think this is true because of the promoter, Chris Scott, and the amount of work that he and all of his volunteers do to prepare the course and everything they also do to help all of the racers during the race. The support they all provide is unmatched. Additionally, the terrain of the race is both beautiful and challenging. There is some gnarly rocky single track on the course, but primarily many fire roads and jeep trails that take the racers on one big loop in the mountains east of State College, PA.
Since the 101 is one of the longest standing 100 mile mtb races around and because it also has such good support, the race usually has a really good turnout and also a strong field of fast riders show up. This year 280 riders started the event, with pretty much all of the NUE Series Point Leaders in attendance, too. My goal, was to finish in the top five, especially after how good I felt at Nationals the weekend prior to this race. Not much time had elapsed after the start, though, when I knew that my goal would not be achieved.
The race has a controlled start out of Coburn to the first major climb of the day, about 2 miles into the race. A funny note about the controlled roll out was that SteveO was yelled at by some mountain biker chick for not riding smoothly in the large pack of racers. I was riding next to him at this time and had to chuckle, knowing that Steve has probably more current pack riding experience than most of the riders in there and because what the girl was yelling about made no sense. So, anyway, we get to the first climb and like last year, Gorski and I go to the front to set tempo up the climb. I like to do this early because it does help get rid of my I’ve gotta pee feeling that I typically have at the start of many races.
It was probably about part way up the climb that Christian Tanguy decided to take control of the pace that Andy and I were riding. The speed increased from like 11mph to over 15mph on the climb real quick. Soon after Tanguy’s move, Jeff Shalk made the decision to throw his horsepower into the front of the pack also. I did my best to hang-on to the pace, but it was way too much way too early and so I backed off to watch these two riders along with about 6 others ride away. I ended-up in the next group over the mountain, which contained about 10 racers. We all worked pretty good together and at about ten miles into the race, I actually saw a glimpse of the lead group ahead and had hope that maybe we could catch them. Unfortunately, our group of ten started to splinter pretty quickly in the single track and on the climbs that followed, so catching the leaders would never occur.
Then, to make matters worse, I noticed that my rear tire was going flat as I rode into check point two. It was definitely a convenient place for the tire to go low, but the repair still cost me valuable time and also the ability to work with other riders. After the repair, I left check point two alone and started to chase down riders in front of me. Unfortunately, it was probably less than 10 miles after the check point that my rear tire went flat again and this time required a slower in the woods tube change. The repair was definitely made easier, though, by a nice concrete patio at a camping cabin that I found along the course to use for my change. I figured that by doing this that I would not lose any parts and that it would also give me a convenient step to hold up my bike while the wheel was off. Strangely enough, after changing my second flat, my legs started to feel like they finally wanted to race and so one by one I started catching riders before check point three. I did, however, have to stop one more time before the third check point to fix another mechanical….a loose bottle cage. Luckily, the bolts that had completely come unscrewed did not fall out all together along the trail someplace.
Soon after leaving check point three, I caught my friend and the Bronze Medal Winner at the US Cycling MTB Nationals for the Master Men 35-39 Age Class from Mt Snow, Justin Pokrivka. After that, it was not until check point four that I saw another rider, Steve Cummings. Disappointingly, my friend Steve did not hang on to the pace very long and so I was left alone again. It was not until right before check point five that I was able to catch another rider, Andy Gorski. Since Andy is my teammate, we worked together for a little while after check point five. We were told that another rider was about two minutes up on us, so we put the hammer down to catch him. The next rider we caught was another NUE Series Contender, Michael Simonson, at the base of the last major climb. I ended-up getting to the top of the last climb alone, did the final descent and then rode into the finish in 10th place overall and 9th in the open men’s class, finishing in 7 hours and 37 minutes.
I was definitely a little bummed about my flats and bottle cage mechanical, but in reality the repairs probably only cost me about 10-15 minutes of race time…not enough to achieve my top 5 goal anyway. I soon forgot about my race problems when the post race cookout started and the conversation with many of my friends at the race starting flowing. It is always interesting to hear everyone’s personal battles and race stories, especially for such a demanding course like the 101.
I am going to the beach this weekend with my family and probably will not be racing again very soon because of my work schedule, but I will be sure to post some stories on the blog anyway. In the meantime, happy trails to everyone. - Gerry

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I'm going to Disneyland....



Like a MVP of a winning Super Bowl Team, I feel like I should be smiling at a nationally televised audience and telling them these same words. But, Disneyland does not give free trips to USA Cycling National Champions and instead of a national audience, I have you guys. So, to all who know me well and not so well....I did what I have wanted to do for a long time; win a national championship. Let me tell you it does feel good, even without the trip to Disneyland.

It seemed as if everything went perfectly the day of the race. First off, the dry conditions that I was not too psyched about on Friday disappeared on Friday Night with a thunderstorm that came through while I was sleeping. When I saw that everything was wet outside, I immediately knew it was going to be a good day. My focused warm-up and my front row starting line-up had me feeling confident of the task ahead.

I took the hole-shot from the gun, pedaled like a possessed man into the first hard left turn, which immediately goes straight up the ski slope. I then looked back to see who was on my wheel and was shocked to see that there was nobody there. With my fast start, I began the first climb with about a 50 foot gap over everyone else and decided at that point I would not look back again. I maintained the first position during the rest of the first lap and was never challenged by another rider in my age group throughout the race. To keep my intensity high, I focused on the younger age class riders that started in front of me and one by one would chase them down. By the end of the race, I finished about three minutes ahead of second place in my race class and actually had the third fastest overall expert time of the day.

Gunnar, Chris McGill, and Justin all tried their best to get me to race in WV today, but I have decided to pass. My next racing goal is the Wilderness 101 this coming Saturday, so I am going to put my focus towards this race. I am switching back to my Bontrager MTB Tri-bars for the race because of all the long flat hammering sections on the course. To get used to the bars and keep my endurance high, I have decided to do at least a four hour ride today instead of racing a XC race.

I need to say thank you to some people for helping me with my victory at Mt Snow. Obviously, there is Speedgoat Bicycles for all that they have done, The Law firm of SPK for their assistance, Salsa Cycles for the ride, the Shimano Tech Tent at Mt Snow for getting my front XTR Disc Caliper to work perfectly in a pinch and also to Alan Neveu of Aline Footbeds. I put these new foot beds in my cycling shoes on Friday, after talking to Alan, and could immediately feel the difference. Check them out at www.aline.com

Friday, July 18, 2008

Way to go Ruthie and Henry Jr.

As expected the weather is super nice up at Mt Snow. I arrived last night and spent the night in a hotel with J.Pok and Ruthie. The Spreng family is a few doors down, so we all went out to dinner at the Silo, a descent local place. With it being very dry, the course is as fast as I thought that it would be, but I am still crossing my finger for some rain to fall...with a 30% chance of showers, it doesn't look good, though. The course has change a bit from the last few times that I have race here. They took out some of the technical stuff on the prologue loop and re-route some of the upper loop also. All in all, nothing too dramatic. The descent is as tricky as always, but with it being dry it is going to be scary fast.
I saw many regional riders up here today, which I thought was cool. Many of the local/regional riders that saw up here did pretty well. Henry Spreng, Jr. was second in the Junior Men 15-16 year old class. Remember this name because he is certainly an up and coming young rider. Then in the semi-pro me, Wes Shempf won, Ryan Leech was fourth, Benn Ortt was eighth, and Dave Walker was 13th. My roomie for the weekend, Ruth Cunningham was third in the 40+ sport women class....which is not too bad, but she still thinks that she is a loser anyway, or maybe that was what I called her after some lady that looked like a grandmother beat her for second place. All of the other local expert racers, including myself, will be racing tomorrow. It is going to be interesting...that is all that I will say for now.
Well, I will post another update by Sunday or Monday. Justin is trying to talk me into racing on Sunday at a WVMBA Race, so I just might be reporting on two races with my next post.
Later - Gerry

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Forecast Looks Good.


Well, the countdown is quickly coming to an end. There are only 4 days left until the US Cycling MTB National Championship XC Race. For almost every race that I do, I like to start looking at the predicted weather outlook a week in advance of the race, trying to guess what to expect for the day. As of now, the forecast is for a high of 84 degrees with sunny skies. Admittedly at 8am in the morning, at starting time, it will not be close to 84, but this forecast at least does give me an idea of what to expect weather wise for the day. Quite honestly, I was hoping for rain, though. This might sound strange to some of you guys, but here is my thinking about rain and the mud that typically comes with it.
In general, I believe that east coast riders tend to do better than west coast riders on a muddy course. Typically, east coasters have more experience racing in the mud and because of this have better technique when it comes to riding in it. On the other hand, I would certainly say that on a fast dry course that west coast riders have the upper hand. I kind of find myself in between these two stereotypes, though. If I am doing a big race on the east coast, I would much rather have a faster, less technical race because it suites my old school roadie riding style better against other pure mtb racers from this area. I usually do better at a race anywhere else in the country if it is more technical, or at least wet and muddy.
So, when I say the forecast looks good, it is actually not the best of weather conditions for me or for any other east coasters for that matter. But, I will say that I am feeling pretty confident in my conditioning and bike right now. I have trained very hard this past month and I am now in my tapering phase of preparation for the big race. I did have some major issues with my bike last week, but everything is fitting and working smoothly with it now. Hopefully, this will all add up to a victory against what is looking to be a very strong field of racers in my 40-44 expert man age class.
If there is any internet service at the lodge where I am staying in Mt Snow, I will try to do an update about the course conditions before the race. I will also try to have my complete race report posted by Monday and I do hope to be giving it from a winning perspective. Until then happy trails! Gerry

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Hiatus from Racing...

So, the last race I did was the Lumberjack. Due to work circumstances, I will not be doing another race until the USA Cycling MTB Nationals at Mt Snow Vermont. This is an uncommon occurrence for me. Typically, I race just about every weekend. I do races whenever I get a chance not only because I enjoy it, but also because I think it is an excellent way to keep ones fitness near peak all season. I am sure many will argue that it is also a good way to burnout, but it does seem to work for me. Since I have this one month hiatus from racing, I am now in uncharted territory and I am not sure if I will be either flat or fast by the time I head to nationals.

I have developed a pretty specific training plan, though, to keep my fitness high and to hopefully reach my peak by nationals, but without testing myself out at the races I think that it will be hard to actually gauge my progress. I have also included two elements into my training that I do not usually do at this time of the year, or at least not at the amount that I am currently doing. Over the past few weeks, I have added core body strengthening and running into my training program. Almost daily I do sit-ups, push-ups and other calisthenics to build my core strength. In addition to this, I have been running a few miles about every other day.

Last year at the MTB Nat’s I was third and truly believe that it was because of my lack of preparation for all the running that was required at the race. Mt snow, when it is muddy, does require a lot of running and if you are not prepared for it, then a win there is not possible. Additionally, I believe that Mt Snow requires a strong upper body because of the long and technical descents there. Basically the course consists of climbing for three miles and then descending for three miles. Overall, I definitely think it will pick the strongest overall mountain biker because of the demands it makes on both a riders fitness and bike handling skills.

In addition to my preparing for a full-on 2 hour mtb race, I am also preparing for the next 100 mile NUE Series Race, the Wilderness 101, which is held near Penn State. Chris Scott is the promoter of this race and in my opinion does one of the best jobs at putting on a 100 mile race. I think this is because he is also a racer and understands what the proper support of an endurance race needs to be. The aid stations at his race are the best around. But, even with all of the good support, the 101 is not made any easier. It is tough course with a combination of long climbs, fire roads, technical single track and long climbs…I know I already said long climbs, but they seem almost to be never ending here. To help prepare for this race, I have been doing one longer ride every week since the Lumberjack. I consider a long ride as being anything over 4 hours.

Speaking of long rides, I celebrated the sending in of my entry fee for 101 this past Tuesday by doing a 5 hour single speed ride on a combination of trails, roads and rails to trails. I ended-up with 75 miles for the ride by pounding my 36x16 single speed gear for the day. This Tuesday, on my one day off from work this week, I am planning to do about 5-7 hours of riding…but with gears this time. I consider my single speed to be a weapon that must be used cautiously and wisely.

Well, that is my update to the blog for now…sorry I did not have any good race details to provide this time. - Gerry

Monday, June 16, 2008

Another Suffer Fest - The Lumberjack 100


This past weekend I traveled up to the northern part of Michigan to compete in the third race of the NUE Series, the Lumberjack 100. This course is different than all of the others in the series because it is all single track, well except for the first 1 mile of paved road section which leads the riders to the single track. Yes, that's right 99 miles of single track. In addition to being different by it's enormous amount of single track, this race is also a multi-lap race instead of being a one big loop race. At the Lumberjack, there is an inner loop that connects to an outer loop, which then forms one big 25 mile loop of trail. Riders then do 4 loops of this big 25 mile long loop to make the race 100 mile.
I think that having a predominantly single track course does make this 100 mile race tougher mentally than the others. Most of the 100 mile races out there provide a mental break by giving some road or fire road sections which do allow a rider to stretch out, eat, and just put the hammer down without having to worry about any unknown technical sections of trail ahead. At the Lumberjack, it is very important to stay focused on the trail during the entire race. Taking your eyes off the trail for even a split second could definitely cause an up and close visit with one of the many waiting trees which tightly line each side of the trail. The Lumberjack Course also wears on a rider physically by having many short steep climbs and fast descents added to the tight, twisty and sandy single track. The race information sheet says that a total of 13,000 feet of climbing is completed over the 100 mile course. In the end, it all just adds up to one tough race course.
Last year the Lumberjack was made difficult by the extreme heat that the area was experiencing at the time. Well, this year we did not have the heat wave, but we did get hammered by the biggest rain storm that the area has seen in 30 years. The storm dropped about 11 inches of rain on the area. Now, in Western PA and most place in the Mid-Atlantic Region, 11 inches of rain would create a complete quagmire of mud. In Michigan, this amount of rain did cause for some flash flooding and road closures, but no real muddy trail conditions overall due to the very sandy soil. The rain actually made the sand, at least initially in the race, more predictable. The rain, however, also created three long and deep water/sandy-mud holes at about the mid section of the course, which there was no way to avoid. These holes seemed very similar to the mud-bogs of the Blackwater Race in Canaan, WV. I found it to be faster to ride through these holes, but most riders were running/walking their bikes though these bike swallowing course hazards.
Why so much talk about the course in this blog writing??? Well, because I think that the course was the biggest battle of the day for me. I had probably had one of my best and longest sustained starts at this race. I started real fast, probably way too fast, riding with all of the big guns of the series, Schalk, Eatough, Price, Plews, Simonson and Tanguy. I was able to hold the fast pace for almost the complete first lap, until one of those big guns decided to attach up one of the bigger climbs on the course a few miles before starting the second lap. My legs and body said if you try to hang with that attack you will not be around at the finish. So, as hard as it was to do, I watched the group ride away from me. I was then left in no-man's land, with nobody insight, left only to do battle with my own demons on the course. And, that is exactly what I did for next eighty miles, other than catching some lapped riders and trying to pass them. So, it was basically just me and thanks to Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 22 (Firstwave) a bunch of old alternative tunes from the 80's dancing around in my head that kept me rolling towards the finish.
Not until the last lap, with about 15 miles to go, did I actually catch a rider on my lap. The rider that I caught was Trek Pro Michael Simonson. The interesting thing to me about catching Mike is that at the last three 100 mile races that we have done together, I have caught Mike every time in the last quarter of the race or so. He always starts off super fast, but for some reason has faded at the end of the race and has not been able to hang-on for the finish. This time when I caught him he said out loud to me "not you again, Mother F#*ker!" I knew he was saying it in kind of a joking/humorous way and so I just laughed and said back to him "No, I really don't know your mother in that kind of way." He then pushed on the gas and really started hammering the single track again. I was hurting, but managed to hold his wheel, until we hit the three deep mud-bogs. I did like I had done before and stayed on the bike. Mike, on the other hand, decided to run them. I picked-up time by staying on the bike and then heard Mike scream out something from behind. I knew that this might be my only opportunity to get a gap, so I dug deep and rode the next 9 miles to the finish as hard as I could manage. I did not see Mike again until the finish, with him about 4 minutes off my pace. This finish put me in 6th place overall out of 250 racers. Another suffer fest completed! -Gerry

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sprints, Manayunk and Pigeon Poop




Most people who know me know that I am not much of a sprinter. I like to do longer races and let things sort out that way, instead of in the last 200 meters or so. Well, this was a week of change for me for many reasons, which also included doing a short race, a very short race.

So, I changed some things up this week to help my shoulder heal. First, I took off my my rigid fork and put my Reba on my Mamasita. I probably should have done this before the Mohican 100 because I could instantly feel a difference in how my shoulder felt when on rough terrain. Secondly, I took off my Bontrager Satelite Mountain Bike "triathlon handlebars" and then installed my nice and wide carbon Salsa Pro Moto Bars with a 17 degree bend. I think these bars should give me more control over steering and a wider base to support of my upper body. These changes combined with the regiment of PT given to me by Fotia Physical Therapy has really seemed to help my shoulder to recover quite nicely so far. It certainly is not a 100%, but is coming along much quicker than I thought that it would.

I had to work this past weekend, so doing a long MTB race was not an option for me. But, since everyone I work with knows that I am an avid racer, I was volunteered to do a law enforcement only bicycle race competition, which was a part of an event known as the Delaware County Hero's Challenge. Not only did I get volunteered into doing the race, but also into setting up the race course. I did not have much terrain to work with in designing the course because it was all to be held on the athletic grounds of Widner University in Delaware County, PA. After, checking out the area on a few training rides, I was able to create about a three mile loop that included some natural and man-made obstacles on it, to make it at least a little fun to do. At the time I designed it, I thought that 3 loops (9 total miles) of the course would be good for a law enforcement only race.

So, after spending two hours marking out the course on the day of the event, I took the 20 competitors around the loop to make sure that everyone understood where to go during the race. It was amazing to me that most of the riders were barely able to make it around the course at a very slow warm-up speed with many catch-up and wait stops. I mean granted it was 95 degrees at the time, but these guys were suffering before we even did one mile on the course. By the time we finished the warm-up loop, I could tell that this was not going to be much of a race. Most of the riders then approached me and the event organizer before the race started to request that the race only consist of one 3 mile loop instead of 3 that I had initially planned to do. I didn't argue with their choice, even though I did not agree with it, because I really did not want to be responsible for rescuing one of the guys from a myocardial infarction during the race.

As I expected, it was not much of a race.... I won the race, about two minutes later another trooper from my station came in second, in about another two minutes another local PD officer finished, two minutes after that a female officer finished and then the rest of the male officers limped across the finishing line. At the end, you would have thought that these guys had just finished one of the 100 mile races that I do instead of a 3 mile race by the look of exhaustion on their faces.

After seeing me win the bike race event, the other troopers from my station then requested that I be apart of their 1 mile running relay team. I was a little hesitant at first because I have not really done any running, especially sprinting and because I was not certain of how my shoulder would take the running. But, I did agree to do the run for the team anyway. So, I started my second sprint race of the day and surprisingly enough actually won my lap. The other troopers on my team also won their relays, so we were the overall winning relay team. I still find it hard to believe that I was able to win a sprint, not to mention while I was running. I was also happy that I had no discomfort in my shoulder during the run, or afterwards.

Well, after my day of sprints on Saturday, I decided to do a nice long ride. To make the ride more interesting, I decided to ride from where I am living in West Chester, PA down to Manayunk to see a lap of the Commerce Bank Philadelphia International Pro Road Race come through town. I arrived in Manayunk about ten minutes before the pack was to arrive, thanks to the guided help of a rider named Tom that I met while on my ride. Once in Manayunk, I found a nice shaded spot under the SEPA Train Bridge, next to another guy that seemed to me like he might of been homeless. Anyway, this guy, like many others in Manayunk at the time already had a nice beer buzz going and was heckling just about every girl that walked near him. I really did not pay much attention, though, because I just wanted to make sure my camera phone was ready to take a picture of the riders when they came. Suddenly, I heard and felt a big splash on my left shoulder, you know the injured one. Well, I look down to my shoulder to find a big pile of pigeon poop sitting there. I then looked up to see the actor of this crime perched above me, almost as if he was laughing at my misfortune. The drunk, heckling, homeless guy seeing my bad situation then pulls out the largest wad of fast food napkins that I have ever seen one person possess and offers me one to clean-up. I accept his kind offer and then ask for another because one napkin is not enough to handle the pile on my shoulder. From what I understand, it is good luck to have a bird poop on your shoulder...maybe it was meant to be a sign from above that my shoulder is healing. I don't know either way, but I will say that I am thankful to the man carrying an endless supply of napkins with him.

So, even though I did not get to do any epic races this weekend, I did still have some interesting times and observations. Before I end this blog, let me say nice job to Ernesto for his second place at Big Bear and to all the others that did the race. From what I have read so far, it does sound like it was quite the death march. I will be going out to Wellston, MI this Saturday for the third leg of the NUE Series, The Lumberjack 100. I will be sure to update the blog after the race. Until then, Happy Trails. - Gerry

Monday, June 2, 2008

Keep It Moving

This past Saturday was the 2nd race on the NUE Series Calendar, the Mohican 100, which was held in Loudonville, OH. Andy and I left on Friday afternoon and had to make a quick stop at the Trek of PGH Bike Shop in Cranberry Twp., PA. On our travels to the bike shop, I was telling Andy about my crash at Granogue and about the shoulder pain that I was still experiencing. I also mentioned that it sure would be nice to bump into a doctor or physical therapist that might be able to give me an idea about how bad my injury actually was. Luckily for me, when I walked into the bike shop, I bumped into a long time friend and physical therapist, Joe Fotia.
I tell Joe about my injury and he did some quick assessment of my movement, so that he could give me his opinion of what might be wrong with my shoulder. As it turns out, he says that I probably either partially tore my rotator cuff or maybe stretched out my shoulder ligaments during the crash. He said it was a good thing that I still had most of my shoulder movement, but a bad thing that I could not resist his pressure when he tested my strength. He told me about some exercises that I could do to re-strengthen the area and also said to just keep it moving.
Of course me being in complete denial of possibly having a bad injury, still thought that it would be good idea to do a 100 mile mtb race on a rigid fork. To make matters worse, the race course was made very slick by an early morning thunder storm that hit just before the start of the race. My plan for the long day of racing ahead was to ride safe, keep the rubber on the ground and to do my best at not putting too much pressure on my shoulder; all of which is hard to do in any mtb race of any length, not alone in an endurance race.
I definitely rode safely during the race, almost too safely. I basically had to ride the beginning or the race very conservatively, due to the slick and muddy conditions, to ensure that I did not crash. Of course, this meant losing ground to the top riders and all other riders whenever I was riding through a technical section or a downhill portion of the course. I then would have to ride like hell to make-up time on the climbs and flats to stay somewhat competitive in the race. Somewhere before the second checkpoint (about mile 35 or so), I became so frustrated with my inability to ride hard and the horrid chainsuck that I was experiencing because of the muddy conditions, that I almost decided to give up on this race. At that time, I had just gone past Trek Regional Rep, Bob Myers, who seemed to be all over the course that entire day helping everyone out, and said to myself that it would just be so much easier to turn around and to ask him for a ride back rather than completing the rest of the course. Instead, I decided to keep it moving.
During the remainder of the race, I just focused on trying to make-up ground on the riders that had put time on me in the more technical beginning sections of the race. There are certainly other sections on the course that are equally as technical, but because the course was drying and with me feeling a little bit more sure of what my should could and could not withstand, I decided to press on and ignore the periods of pain that I would feel in my shoulder. I actually think, in a strange kind of way, this shoulder pain did help distract me from the typical 100 mile race pain that I do tend to experience throughout an endurance race.
The night before the race, Andy and I were talking about all the fast guys registered in the race this year and we both agreed during the conversation that a top 10 finish would be pretty good for anyone. I was certainly hoping for the best finish possible, but realistically knew that considering my shoulder condition that even being in the top ten would be an achievement for me. Well, by the end of the race and by going through much suffering, I did manage to finish 9th with a finishing time that was pretty much the same as last year's (around 8 hours) on a course which I would consider to be more difficult because of the wet conditions.
In the end, my shoulder was sore, but not any worse off than before doing the race I think. Hopefully this means that I did not do any further harm to it by deciding to keep it moving and that maybe it is not a severe injury (the denial thing, again). On another note, however, I am sure the doctor of Floyd Landis also told him to keep it moving after his hip surgery. Well, after a mediocre start and a crash on the slick singletrack, I saw Floyd bent over in pain and holding his hip on the side of the trail. This makes me think that there is probably a limit to how much one should keep it moving. I will try to take this into consideration the next time that I decide to keep it moving, but will probably continue to push forward anyway. -Gerry