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Winding Trails 2013

April 21, 2013

The second stop of the Root 66 series was today at Winding Trails in Farmington, CT. The course is entirely within the private club. It is a very fast course that has only gotten better each year over the past few years. It really flows well. With one exception it is a big ring course and has a nice blend of singletrack (twisty and turny) and wide open double track.

For me this is a great race as it is only 20 minutes from home. I wish they could all be like that. As usual the whole family came to the race. My wife, Melissa, left home early and rode to the course to get in some miles before my race. I drove down with the kids and we met at the course within minutes of both of us getting there. With a little coordination you can combine exercise and getting somewhere. It is not uncommon for me to ride to the inlays when we go there. It is a nice 62 mile ride.

I digressed from my race report. The family side of exercise is just as important to us. I felt really sluggish when I got up this morning. I was not really motivated but since I had preregistered I was committed. I got the kids set up with their bikes on the basketball courts and got ready to race. All I had time for was a brief 20 minute warmup.

The race started quickly today as there is only a short distance before the race turns into the single track. The group of 30 racers settled into a nice quick pace and we cranked through the first lap without any mishaps in about 25 minutes. I have to check my records but this is probably the fastest that I have ever done this course. I was feeling good.

Laps 2,3, and 4 were about the same. For the first time in years I saw my average speed increase as the laps ticked by instead of getting longer. All in all I am very happy to finish just 12 minutes behind the leader. I typically finish about 20 minutes behind. I also felt like I could attack the hills and not pay for it after I crested them. One day does not make a pattern but I hope this means that my fitness is improving.

My Seven Sola 29 did extremely well in the tight single track.  The more I ride this bike in the woods the more that I like it.

It was also great to see some NEMBA Racing mates in the Cat 2 race today.  Did any NEMBA mates do the Cat 3 race?

Next up for me is the Detour de Connecticut.  It is 118 miles of fun riding with at least 70% on dirt.

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The 2013 MTB Season Begins

April 14, 2013

The 2013 season is well underway at this point. I have been remiss in posting about the events until today.

King of Burlingame MTB TT

My season started with the King of Burlingame MTB TT. This is a really fun way to start the season. It is a 10 mile route through Burlingame SP in Rhode Island. The course is a nice mix of single track, open dirt roads, and technical trail. Contrary to last year’s race I made it to the start on time. I felt good out of the start gate and caught my 1 minute racer inside the first 1.5 miles.

Unfortunately, the race turned for the worse at the same time. I pulled my rear brake lever all the way to the bar and there was no brake! Ughh. Something must have gone wrong when I bled the brakes over the winter. Needless to say the rest of the race was going to be more challenging now. I focused on going as hard as I could on the open sections and on the uphills. This is not my normal strategy as I tend to be pretty good at the technical terrain.

I was able to finish the race without any major crashes and in 17th place. Considering the circumstances finishing only 9 minutes behind the winner wasn’t too bad.

Results are at:

http://www.mtbracenews.com/news/2013-results-king-of-burlingame-mountain-bike-mtb-time-trial-rhode-island

Hop Brook Dam MTB Race

The second race of the season was the Hop Brook Dam MTB race in Middlebury, CT. The race was 4 laps of the course for a total of 21.5 miles. This is a really fun course with about 2000 ft. of climbing for the total race. It is a tough start, even though there is a long stretch through the field around the lake, because the initial singletrack is uphill with a couple of logs to get over. It bottlenecks quickly. I started at the back and did not push myself too hard on the start as I knew the bottlneck would come. I also like being able to work my way up through the field.

I felt sluggish on the climbs but good overall. This was probably due to a 40 mile road ride on Sat. While not the ideal race preparation I still took advantage of the longer ride to get some more miles under my belt. All in all I felt pretty good for 3 of the four laps. The fourth lap really took its toll as I had grabbed the wrong bottles for the race and only had water (no food) for the entire 2hrs. It was a bummer but I couldn’t change it. I was happy that I did not cramp at all. This is not normal for me. I need to have some electrolyte drink to prevent cramping under normal circumstances.

I ended up in 20th place and my rear brake worked perfect also! Results are at:

root66raceseries.com

Brian’s Beachside Boogie

On April 14th I did Brian’s Beachside Boogie. This is an off road duathlon at Hammonasset SP in Madison. I don’t do too many duathlons as I am not a big fan of running on the road and would rather MTB. Brian’s works for me as it is a trail run and MTB du.

I also do this race as it is 4 miles from my In-Laws. I love being able to ride to the race for warmup and then ride home afterward.

The race starts with a 2 mile run. I started off too quickly but was able to settle in around .5 mi. After 14 minutes I was in the transition changing my shoes. This was the first year that I have actually run in running shoes. In the past I have run in MTB shoes as it makes the transition really quick. My new MTB shoes are super stiff and I cannot run that far in them. I did pretty well.

The MTB consists of 2 5 miles loops. I took off as a good clip. As soon as I hit the road section I slowed some as the headwind was pretty stiff. Once I hit the first real trail section I was able to catch a few people and motor in to the end of my first lap. As I started the second lap I could see my teammate, Ted D’Onofrio, a hundred yards up the road. I had to catch him. I put my head down and caught him just after the turnaround. He did well considering that he hasn’t been training much at all. I came into the transition feeling fairly fresh.

This transition was a little slower. I fumbled changing my shoes. While changing shoes I was also heckled by Kathleen Shaw, who was doing the running portion as a team with Ted. I got out of the transition before Ted showed. The second run always starts off slow. I need to get my legs back into the running motions. Kathleen caught me about a mile in. She is a good runner. I finished up the run in just over 15 minutes.

I am happy with the results as I finished 8th overall and 3rd in my age group.

The results are here:

http://www.race-productions.com

As usual my Seven Cycles Sola 29 performed perfectly in all 3 events. Nothing beats having a custom bike that fits perfectly. Thanks Seven. I can’t wait to get a Seven cyclocross bike with disc brakes later this year.

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Two race recap (some up and some down)

August 26, 2012

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I have been meaning to post for a couple of weeks and life obligations have really gotten in the way of that. I cannot crank out the blog posts the way some people can.  I guess that is the engineer brain that I have.

On August 5 I did the Hodges Village Dam MTB race.  I really like this course.  It has a nice blend of technical singletrack and wide open drag race sections.  It does not have a lot of climbing though.  This hurts me as that also means there is no downhill to rest on.  I also tend to be pretty good at the technical downhills.  The day was pretty hot and (as all the courses seem to be this year) very dusty.  The 40-49 group took off fairly quickly.  I started with a more reserved pace in order not to blow up in the first 30 min.  As the race progressed I picked off a few others in my race.  It was definitely a race of attrition as the temps and humidity were high.  I had success at the Wilderness 101 with using a Camelbak again so I figured that I would do it here also.  This really helped as I could take the water in the feedzone and dump it on my head to cool me down.  Without that the race would have been miserable.  I ended up finishing 8 min. faster than the last time the race had similar conditions.  I was happy to see this and the 12th place finish because the Wilderness 101 was only a week before and I am sure that I was not recovered completely.

Thanks to my Seven Sola SL 29 the technical sections flowed really well.  I can’t say enough about how nice this bike rides.  It climbs well and handles the singletrack extremely well.  I don’t miss full suspension at all.

The Treasure Valley Rally on August 26 was quite a different story.  I have been battling a cold for over two weeks now.  My guess is that was partly due to a suppressed immune system after the Wilderness 101 and then the Hodges Race and also partly due to not sleeping enough due to my daughter’s molars coming in causing spotty sleep.  As I usually do, I could not look back at that.  There was nothing I could do now.  I had preregged for the race so I figured that I would give it a go.  An additional dray was that there was a kid’s race for Lars.  He REALLY looks forward to these (more on that later).

We lined up with the 30-39 group also so it was a pretty big group.  Unfortunately, there was a good sized crash a few yards off the start.  I stayed up but did get hung up by it but wasn’t really concerned as I was not feeling great and didn’t want to slow anyone else down.  The course followed dirt roads for a decent stretch to help string things out.  As we got into the technical single track I started picking people off.  At this point I am thinking “OK I can do this” and then I got to the climbs.  As I tried to recover after the climbs I started coughing pretty good.  Bummer.  I had to slow to stop the coughing.  I kept it up though and was liking the really technical single track.  It was almost unridable🙂.

Somewhere around mile 7 I was in the groove going down a hill and suddenly there were a few guys running up the hill toward me without their bikes. Huh?  They warned me to stop as there was a swarm of ground bees, a really big swarm.  One person was stung at least 10 times!  I stopped to figure out how to get around it.  Now there were several other people standing around figuring out what to do.  We decided to go down the hill and bushwhack around the bees.  That worked out pretty well as we got out to the trail pretty quickly or so we though.  It turned out that we were part way into the lap and headed around again.  I had started to recognize some of the course and a couple of guys that passed me were racers that had pulled away from me an hour before.  At this point between coughing and the course and bee issues I decided to turn back and just ride the start.  I still got in 1.5 hours of racing but unfortunately didn’t finish.  At first I was pretty bummed.  As I processed the crazy events and also being sick I accepted it and am looking forward to a couple more MTB races with NEMBA Racing and then a full cyclocross season.

The other NEMBA Racing team members had a mix of success including a few top tens.  Check out racing.nemba.org to see the race recaps.

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August 26, 2012

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Wilderness 101 Mile Mountain Bike Race

August 1, 2012

Every year I try to do something that stretches my normal comfort zone and is a memorable adventure.  The Wilderness 101 certainly checked off both boxes.  My Seven Cycles and Team Horst Sports teammate Scott Livingston suggested that we check this out earlier this year and I said sure.  Of course after registering I got the normal apprehension that I get when outside my comfort zone.  Thoughts like “Will I be able to finish?” and “Can I make the time cuts?” crossed my mind leading up to the event.  I kept reminding myself that I had ridden 118 miles earlier this year and I have also trained more this year than in several years.  This certainly helped me approach the event with more confidence.  

Scott and I took Friday July 28th off from work to have a leisurely drive to Coburn, PA and check out parts of the course.  We took his VW Eurovan on the trip.  This is an awesome race vehicle when you are camping right at the venue.  We got to the venue around 3:30 and set up camp.  Then we headed out to check out the first climb of the race.  It was a gradual 6 mile climb on a gravel road.  This pre-ride helped to mentally plan my pace for the race on Saturday.  The bonus of the pre-ride was an extremely fun descent back to the campground.

We got registered when we returned to the venue and then prepared our drop bags with Hammer Perpetuem and energy bars.  Then we made sure that our bikes were running perfectly.  You can’t leave anything to chance when you are out on a 100 mile loop in the backcountry.  After a dinner of hummus, chips, rice and beans we crashed early to be rested up.

On Saturday we were awakened by the race gong that we would be able to ring ourselves after finishing the race several hours later.  I had a small breakfast of granola and a couple of cups of coffee.  At 7am we lined up and headed down the road to the 6 mile climb.  The climb did a nice job of breaking the 300 racers up into groups of equal abilities over the 30+ min that it took to get to the top.  Next the race traveled along dirt roads for the next 13 miles to the first aid station.  When the group of about 20 that I was in came through the first aid station in 1hr 18min my fears of making the time cut (2hr) were gone.  I had intentionally climbed well within my abilities in order to make sure I could finish and I was well under the time cut!  Several racers had advised that the first 2 hrs of the race determine the last 2 hrs.

We hit the first section of downhill trail and I couldn’t stop smiling.  It was one of the most fun double track downhills that I have done.  We also hit some nice single track through thigh deep ferns before the next aid station at 40mi.  This is where I started to catch people that had started to fast.  My plan to take it somewhat easy on the climbs was working.  I could rip the downhills and single track to make up time.  It helps that I am good at the technical single track and downhills.  We came through aid station 2 just at 3 hrs.  Things were still working according to plan.  Although I knew the second half of the race was going to be tough since I was hoping to finish in under 12 hrs (I do the VT50 in under 6 hrs and that is half this distance).  

After this aid station we headed into a 6 mile climb that was followed by some singletrack that was really technical.  It was similar to the really technical trails that I ride at Case Mountain in Manchester, CT.  Then we hit some steep downhills that made my forearms and hands scream for relief.  It was awesome!  Next up was another 4 mile climb.  Part way up this climb were a few people sitting in the back of a pickup handing out beers and water.  No beer for me.  Too many miles left and there was a keg of local brew from Eel Creek Brewery at the finish (more motivation).

After several more miles of gravel forest roads we got to aid station 4 where I got my chain cleaned and lubed, my Camelback Charge LR refilled, and my last bottle of Perpetuem.  The volunteers at the aid stations were the best that I have ever experienced.  They were totally focused on helping each racer have a successful race and making sure that everything they needed was taken care of.  A nice clean chain to head up a washed out Jeep road made it feel so much better.  I got a chuckle when a racer passed me on the climb complaining about all the climbing.  What did he expect when the race is advertised as having 10,000 ft of climbing.  I passed him long before the top. This was the second to last climb of the race.

The race profile (conveniently printed along the bottom of the race number) showed that the next 18 mi. were slightly downhill.  I though this should provide some nice recovery time before the last climb and then the push to the finish.  The trail rolled along the ridge for awhile and then hit some single track that was pretty smooth with some undulation to it.  Then we took a left onto Panther Run Rd. (I will never forget the name)……  This was another washed out Jeep road and it went on for a loooong way.  My hands were screaming at this point.  This was not nearly as fun as the single track but my go steady on the climbs strategy was still working.  I had the energy to really push it here and make up some time.  I finally got to aid station 5 at just under 8 hours.

There were supposedly 11 miles from aid station 5 to the finish.  I thought “Wow I might be able to go under 9hrs” and way under my 12 hr goal.  I really started pushing now.  I could taste the finish and I felt good.  I cranked right along the rail trail at a steady 16-17 mph to the final climb.  As I headed up the final climb it started to rain.  It felt nice and helped cool me down as it was quite abit warmer than at 7am.  At the top I shifted into the biggest gear that I had and really poured on the speed down the dirt road.  Huge smiles the whole time.  There was one last section of singletrack and some rail trail before the finish.  The singletrack was really technical.  I ran it all.  I had to keep up the speed to try to get under 9hr.  I hit the rail trail and cranked it up again.  This time is was pretty muddy from the rain.  I watched the miles tick off and things still looked good.  As I came the end of a section of rail trail a couple sitting there said “2 miles”.  Poof. My hopes of going under 9 disappeared.  The mileage was off.  I was a bit disappointed but still felt good so I kept pressure on.  I had one last bridge to cross and tunnel to go through before ringing the gong.

As I rolled up on the bridge I took note of how narrow it was and then promptly got my handlebars caught under the railing!  Apparently, it was really narrow.  I got my bike free and walked across the bridge.  I rode through the tunnel (printed on the pint glass that we all got) and headed through town to Coburn Park.  

I rolled across the line in 9hr 8min!  

The first thing that crossed my mind is a conversation that Scott and I had on the way to the race about our top ten races.  This race just became number 1.  I can’t say enough about the quality of the race (volunteers, course, etc.)  I will be dreaming about this for a long time.

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Domnarski Farm 2012

June 5, 2012

June 3, 2012 was the best Domnarski Farm yet.  At least it was for me.  It has been quite some time since I felt like I was beginning to become race fit.  I felt like I am getting there yesterday.

The Domnarski Farm course is described by most as an Old School course.  I describe it as a fun course.  It does have a lot of the elements that the early MTB courses had (deep waterholes, power line climbs, etc.).  It also has a great sense of adventure.  It is a long course, 10 mi., by typical standards today.  This is exactly what makes it fun.  At only two laps none of the sections of the course get old.  Well maybe the water does get a bit old but what can you do when the course receives over an inch of rain the day before.

I have been starting at the back this year as I have a tendency to sprint like mad to get to the single track first.  After all I am a pretty decent sprinter.  Starting in the back allows me to pass a lot of people and gain motivation from that.  This worked fairly well yesterday with the exception of the start as there is about 10 min of climbing right out of the gate and I did get hung up behind the guys that bobbled in the technical part of the climb.  With a 2hr race that hardly matters.  After the climb we hit some nice single track and then some really fast jeep roads.  The rest of the course is a nice mix of jeep roads, technical climbs, and fun single track.  It ends with a screaming downhill in a short flat to the finish.

As much as I am not the best climber on the road I can hold my own off road.  Yesterday was an example of that.  Two weeks ago at Willowdale was an example of really fun single track and that Art cannot TT very well.

I completed the first lap in about 1:04 and the second in 1:09.  I was starting to cramp up at the end of the race but there was no way I was going to let the guys that I had been switching spots with all day get by me.   I had to push through leg cramps for the last two miles.  Of course that meant cramping right after I completed the race and nearly falling over.

The Seven Cycles Sola 29er continues to amaze me.  I absolutely love this bike.  Thanks Seven.  I haven’t felt this at home on a mountain bike in years.

All in all I was happy with 16th place in what is looking like the toughest age category in Cat 1 this year.  I have made progress in fitness but have plenty of room to get better.  Time to get out on the hills with the kids in the trailer behind me.  Now that will make you strong.

I forgot to mention that Lars did his first kids race of the year and had a blast as usual.  He talked about it all day before and after the race.

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Detour de Connecticut

April 30, 2012

Yesterday was quite possibly one of the best days I have had on a bike.  I rode the Detour de Connecticut.  This is my idea of the ideal ride.  The ride was 118 miles and more than 50% of the ride was on dirt and substantial section of double track.

I spent Friday night getting my bike ready.  I decided on my titanium cyclocross bike with 32C slicks.  It has a low gear of 34-27 which I figured would be perfect.  With the chain oiled up and the seat bag filled with tubes, a multi-tool, and a pump I was ready to go.

The ride left at 8am on Saturday morning from Manchester, CT at the beginning of the Hop River Rail Trail.  About 35 people rolled out in the chilly 39 degree temps.  I knew that it would warm up so I put some of the Mad Alchemy Medium Blend on the legs and doubled up on my socks so that I would be a bit chilly early and PERFECT later on.  We got off to a quick pace and had made our way into Willimantic rapidly.  From there we wound around some trails that Salem had found in scouting out the ride.  The were really fun double track with whoops and bermed out corners.  From there we took the asphalt out to the Mohegan State forest where we rode trails through the woods for awhile.  It was at this point that we had our only mechanicals.  Mike C. broke a deraileur hanger and Paul Nyberg got his chain caught under his chain hanger.

At about the midway point of the ride we hit our rest stop.  It turned out to be awesome!  There were two jugs of water and homemade blueberry and cranberry muffins.  They really hit the spot.  After a few more miles we hit the rail trail again to head back into Willimantic.  I lost touch with the lead group at this point as the trail was pretty rough and my body was suffering.  As I neared Willmantic I caught up to Ethan who was suffering due to extremely narrow tires and then we caught up to Scott Livingston.  We rolled into Willimantic together and made a pit stop at Dunkin Donuts so that I could use the restroom.  While I was inside the lead group came by and Ethan decided to jump back in.  Scott waited (faithful teammate!) and then we navigated our way through several dirt sections including a section of power line gravel roads and the Airline Trail.  When we arrived in East Hampton we caught up with Ethan, Joe Tindal, Mike C.  We had also caught up with Tony on the Airline trail

After a lunch break at a cool little coffee shop we finished up the last 18 or so miles which proved to have the most substantial climbing of the whole day and also some of the best dirt road descents.  The last section of dirt was around Porter Reservoir in Manchester.  It is a very scenic spot.  Especially as the sun get low in the sky.

All told the ride was 118 miles, 9 hrs +/-, and about 7500 ft of climbing.  It was fantastic!  Salem Mazzawy certainly knows how to put together a great ride.