Monday, April 27, 2009

Fat tire race results

Josh asked Jesse "What do you feed that guy?" or something like that

So I'm just getting around to writing this race report on Tuesday morning at 5:30am. I don't have a whole lot of time to write these and I squandered my time watching video's of the race on Cycleing dirt and comparing my results with other riders. So I'm sorry.

The week after Battenkill was a slow week of riding. I only got in 2 good rides and they were both on the MTB. Pushing that 2:1 gear around really made my legs react weird and Saturday before the race I spun around for an hour on the Cross bike. My legs felt really crappy. I worked in the Garden alot on Saturday too and planted some strawberries and raspberries with Jesse and her sister Miriam.
Yes that is a tractor. No I don't own it. I'm lucky that I live where I work and can use any of the equipment I want. Work smarter not harder. I'm also really lucky to be married to a gardner. By the way we just celebrated our 11th year of marriage!
So all day on Saturday I drank lots of water with lemon in it to keep me hydrated for the race the next day. I think it helped but it sure didn't seem like I was very hydrated the way I was sucking down the water during the race. The night of I went out to Senior Poncho's with Jesse's sisters Miriam and Rachel and Rachel's boyfriend Chris and had a steak enchilada with beans and rice. I love Mexican food. I didn't want to bonk out again and made sure that I ate plenty the day before. Afterwards we when back to our house and ate frozen strawberries. We were bored so we played a game called the Dictionary game. It's like a fortune telling game. So of course I wanted to know what my strategy should be for the race. So I asked the dictionary and Rachel opened it and Chris pointed blindly to a definition. It said "tea poy"- a type of stand for a tea service. So I thought how could this help me and realized that I needed a new water stand.
So the day of I built this stand and it worked awesome! At hopbrook I lucked out and it was cold and rainy and didn't need that much water. Farmington was just the opposite. Every lap I downed a bottle and it felt like I needed more. My bottle would be gone by the downhill sand/mud/dumb section. So I chucked the bottle way before I got to my stand and slowed a little for the grab. Bam! perfect height and everything and It didn't slow me down much. If you still don't believe in the Dictionary game I asked another question about the race and it said "point." I got 36 points for 9th place to put towards the root 66 series in the pro class! The trick with the game is that you have to all concentrate and believe.

So I got there a little later then I wanted to be and rushed around to get my number plate and set up my tea poy. I got to the car and saw Seamus Powell warming up on the trainer like a real pro. At hopbrook I beat him but this time he would destroy my time. I got on the bike and didn't know what to expect. I pre rode the course last Thursday so I knew it well so I didn't need to do a whole lap. I was amazed at how strong my legs felt. I thought it was a mistake. I kept trying to make them feel week by sprinting up the starting hill but they were rock steady and my breathing was normal. Sweet!

I wasn't feeling very warmed up but because of the heat I don't think I needed to be any warmer. I saw the official walking over to the start line and I when right over. Got in the front row. I really felt out of place. I looked around and all these really good riders were behind me and I looked forward at the sand and thought that I must have made a mistake lining up first. I should just go to the back right now because that's were I'm going to end up. Then I looked over and saw my wife lookin' good in her bikini top and relaxed a little. My goal was to get the hole shot. I got the hole shot! And super happy that I was right in front. I know that in a cross race the start is everything and this felt no different. They guys behind me had to fight for the single track and I was able to relax and not over stress myself. After a hard start I tried to settle into a groove that would keep me below redline. Because it was so hot and this course can really blow you up I had to hold back on the climbs and not kill it.

After the second lap I was praying for a flat! I wanted to quit so bad. But fear of regret and having Jesse's family there cheering me on changed my mind. I caught on to Scott Feltmate and rode behind him for a while. I guess he had some surgery done a few days before the race so I don't blame him for dropping out. I'm sure he will be back killing it soon. Sean from Bethel was there also on a single speed. He caught up to me and he didn't sound too good. I did get a boost of energy knowing that I was able to keep him at bay. But he's had it rough with 2 new babies. God bless him! So then my team mate and mechanic Josh Wilcox was with me for most of the race. We went back and forth. On the climbs I would do well and get a lead on him and then get caught on the flats. He was riding his Ti IF with gears. Josh can really rock it out on the Single speed too. I just kept drinking and maintaining a good pace and trying to keep it smooth. Any wasted energy that day was going to cost me so I just waited until the last lap to give it all. I'm really not that good a sprinting for finishes so I wanted to make sure I was well ahead of anybody. I was very happy with my 9th place finish. I think there were 24 guys to start and 16 finished.

Thom parsons killed it on a 34x15! He's Amazing! I know his bike is part of the reason he is so awesome. If you compared our bikes you would think it was impossible that I can even be in the pro class. My bike is steel and weights 23 lbs and is ridged. His bike is full carbon, and 20lbs with 29" wheels and a front shock!
I don't know how long I'm going to wait for Salsa to make the Selma. I really like it though. Sean from Bethel dropped off my new Arches and spokes at the race on Sunday! I just need that frame!Thanks to all my family that showed up to cheer me on. It gave me the extra boost that I needed. I love you all!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tour of Battenkill race report

Battenkill was really great! I had a really good time and will remember that race for a long time. The scenery was fantastic and the riders were super cool and fast. The 30+ 1234 was stacked with pro team tactics and attacks that were the real deal. Attack, attack, attack, was the race. Sometimes it would be Attack, then slow way down then someone would come up from behind and attack. Every hill and riser was Attack!

Alex drove me and Josh up the 2 1/2 hours to Cambridge NY. The weather was perfect and the roads were dry. The night before the race I was drinking lots of water to try to hydrate my body knowing that I would only have the 2 water bottles during the race and in the morning I was drinking lots of water so it was a relief that Alex stopped 2 or 3 times along the way.

Battenkill has been the focal point of my riding since February, I'm sure it was Josh's and Alex's as well. We would talk alot about it and focus our "training" towards it. Josh and I would ride alot together and hurt alot in the process. I don't think I would have been as prepared without all of those punishing rides with Josh and Alex.

The start of the race was intense. The group was pushing 28 mph and I was in the middle of the chaos. Trying to stick behind Josh was a challenge. Everybody trying to get towards the front if you didn't concentrate for a second someone would move in front of you and eventually you would find yourself at the back of the pack. Josh was amazing at sticking with the front of the pack and I wanted to be in the action. On the first dirt section we came up to a corner and were slowing when someone hit a dead stick about 1" in diameter and it got airborne and flew right into my front wheel and instantly shattered when it hit the forks. If that was a green stick I would have crashed head first. For some reason it got me really stoked! I guess it reminded me of mountain biking and I was wishing there was more excitement like that.

I was slightly disappointed with the dirt sections because they were relatively smooth. Guys were flatting left and right from potholes but I kinda expected more. I think 23's would have done the job. My 25's were really slowing me down and the only time I felt like they came in handy was on some of the loose climbs and loose descents which there were only one of each that I remember. I think me and Alex were the only ones on cross bikes. I was the only one with Mountain bike shoes. I guess I made an impression on some of the riders because I heard one guy talking to another about me. All I heard was "have you seen the guy with the mountain bike shoes. " I have to admit that I wish I had some road shoes, and a road bike with all the right gear but I'm really not a roadie and I don't have a lot of money and I don't believe in spending money I don't have. My shoes are Specialized "Sport" that I got over 3 years ago from Specialized for $50. They have held up for all these years of constant abuse. When I ride my cleats click and clack in the pedal because they are so warn. I almost got a pair of Mavic pro shoes that were the bomb but they didn't fit. So I'm still hoping to get some shoes soon. At one point I was ahead of the pelaton with one other guy and that was a lot of fun. It was the most beautiful part of the course with old farms and rolling hills. There were a lot of people with pro cameras and I'm hoping that they got me in some of the shots.

Back to the Race. Every hill I was with the group and was doing really well until about mile 45 My vision started to cloud up and so did the sky. I thought it was just my glasses or the clouds but then I started to get into trouble. I ran out of fuel in my body. I bonked. I kept trying to stick with the group ahead but couldn't hang on. Then Alex tried to rescue me and offered me to draft. But it was too late. I couldn't hang on to his 28 mph pace. I dropped off and started to suffer. I looked at how many miles I had left and my computer said 47 miles, 15 miles to go. My vision was really suffering and it started to rain a little so I couldn't really see that well. I still had some dirt road climbing to do and I pushed through with all I had and just spun in my easiest gear until the next hill. I was passing other riders that were completely blown so I didn't feel too bad about my performance. A couple of guys in my group caught up to me and I tried to hang on to there wheels but it didn't work. 4 miles to go and it was all down hill from here. I crossed the line in under 3 hours. My computer said 2:57 it might have been a minute less or so. Josh and Alex made it 32 and 33 respectively. They averaged over 22mph and I averaged 20.7. So not too bad for bonking out. My eyes clouded over to the point that I couldn't see peoples faces. I got back to the car and ate all of the sweetest things I could find. An orange some dates some chips for salt. We went back to the finishing line area to wait for the results. I still don't know what I placed. My eyes didn't clear up until halfway home.

So how did this happen? The day before the race I was on Martha's Vineyard. I was there the whole week on vacation. I think it was that on the way home from there I didn't eat as much as I should have. For breakfast I had some turkey sausage and some potatoes and then had some almonds and prunes waiting for the fairy. We tried to find a Mexican food place on the way home and did find one just not until 3pm. We didn't have any food at home so I had to stop along the way. We didn't get home until 8pm. I still had to replace the chain on my bike and clean it up and go for a spin out session. 8:30 I was on the bike with my lights on and it was a nice warm night and beautiful. I got back and made dinner. Some chicken and rice but I didn't feel like gorging my self before bed. I ate at 10 and went downstairs to work on my bike. It was 12:30 when I went to bed.

After we got back from the race Jesse wanted me to hang out with them at the Red Door in Watertown. I wanted some food. So instead we went to a nice restaurant and I got a NY steak to treat my self.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hopbrook Dam Race

It was really nice to see Rachel and Tim my Sister and Brother in law come down to watch me race. Jesse took the picture and stood in the poring rain for 2 hours on our Anniversary. Thank you for being there you are the best.
Coal miner look


I didn't even know I had 503 for a number until the first lap was over and the official called out my number. 503! you know 503 cycleworks. So I thought that was pretty cool.

Here is a little clip showing off my smoothness and that I was in front of Thom Parsons for a little bit. I can't believe he road such a huge gear. Afterwards he said that it was faster to run up the hills. Then he easily pulled away on the flat section drafting a geared rider. I guess that's the thing to do when you ride with gearies.

So the start of the race I felt really calm and comfortable chatting with Monte and hanging out at the front of the line. I had no idea that Tim Johnson was there. It wouldn't have mattered anyway. I'm way out of league with these guys so I'm really just racing with the pros as a cat 1. If I don't come in last that's fine with me.

So the start was going good but I wasn't used to such aggressiveness as people were passing me on the left and right. I was right behind someone but I guess I should have been passing too. My small gear wouldn't let me go too fast on the flats so I kinda expected that. So right off the pavement some dude cant make it up this small hill and forces me off the bike. No big deal. Now I'm around 18th place out of 24. I know this because cyclingdirt has a video that shows me in 18th. I'm not sure but I think Thom and I are the only single speeders. I thought Monte would be single and where was Rob Stine? Well if you look at the video from cycling dirt you will see that me and Thom are the only ones standing. Which would not help because the trail was really slick so trying to control the rear from spinning out every pedal stroke was very hard. Plus it would slow me way down. I was at one point behind John Foley on a huge climb but that didn't last long.
On the second lap I lost about %90 of my rear brake. 2 days before I was at 503 Cycleworks talking with Josh about my brakes. He looked at the rear brakes and said I needed to replace them but I was not going to. Trying to save every penny to buy a new bike is really hard. I should have listened. Josh is a top notch mechanic and I should listen to him. I'm still waiting for my Selma to arrive from Taiwan or China. It won't be here until mid May. I really could have used some 29" tires to grip on the mud. Andrew Freye won Hopbrook on a 29er. I love it when he says that in Maine he puts on a full face helmet and ski goggles to go riding in the harsh winters of Maine. He's the man! He beat Tim Johnson too!
Back to having no rear brake I was starting to think that it was over. I would have to quit. I slowed down and was getting really bumed out. Then I decided to keep going and just modify my riding a bit. What was happening was I would pull the rear brake and then when that bottomed out and I still wasn't slowing I would jam on the front brake by reflex causing the front wheel to lock up. Not good on a muddy course. So every down hill I would keep my speed down so that I could control my front wheel from locking up. Rear brake fully engaged to the handlebar. I even unscrewed the adjustment to the max. So I think that costed me the most time.
I was trying to keep up with other riders in my class like Parsons but found that when I lost him I still had Seamus Powell (pronounced Shamus) in my sights. The third lap I was on to him and passed him going up hill just for him to pass me on the flats with his gears. But I could tell he was not having the best day and as soon as we hit the last hill before the finish I decided to crush him and launched an attack (cat 1 style) and left him on the hill. I needed to gain some ground so that I could creep down the next muddy section with rear brake fully engaged. After that I didn't see him for the rest of the race and I felt really good and happy. My legs started to cramp a bit on the last lap but I pushed that aside and had the best race. If I raced the ss class I would have won. But now I'm really excited to lose. Not lose but just to race with these guys and not come in last is a really good feeling.
So I still have no idea how I placed. I think somewhere in the middle which would be fine by me. I learned a lot.
#1 listen to your bike mechanic. Especially if his name is Josh Wilcox
#2 Don't let a little thing like not having any rear brake make you quit or slow you down. Who needs brakes anyway?
#3 have fun
I'm off to Marthas Vineyard this week and will be racing Battenkill on Saturday. I'm hoping to get some good rest and a little bit of riding in to do well.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cat 4 upgrade! yes!

Well I'm now officially a cat 4 Roadie! How did I do it you ask? Simple. All you have to do is enter 2 criteriums and lose real bad. Then convince the Official (Diane Fortini) with some clever words and maybe a Pajama gram. Saying something like "These guy's in cat 5 suck, I eat pieces of shit like them for breakfast," (You eat pieces of Shit?) This, on the other hand, would not have helped my chances of sweet talking her to victory. Why did she upgrade me?

Here is the email I sent and her reply:
I raced 2 races at Bethel and felt really comfortable riding with
the groups. Criteriums are very interesting to race in. It's almost
like playing chess. It seams like the ones who win the races "hang out"
until the end and then punch it for the finish. I felt like the group
was going slow and I wanted to up the pace and so I spent most of the
time pulling and attacking on the hill. On the last lap of the
Criterium de Bethel I had a decent gap at the top of the hill and it was
only at the bottom of the hill that I was unfortunately caught. I feel
like if I was in a higher level I would be more evenly matched for the
overall race, not just the sprint at the end.
I have had lots of riding on the road experience with group rides over
the last 3 years. Most of my riding is on the road.
I would really appreciate it if you could upgrade me to a cat 4 road.
Thank you for all you do,
James Harmon

Hi James,
Believe it or not you were next on my list to e-mail. I had been away on
vacation all last week and I have been catching up on upgrades so I wanted
to follow-up with you on how the racing has been going. What good timing you
have! I am going to go ahead and approve your upgrade to cat 4. You will be
able to print your account page and/or approval notice to use at
registration until you receive a cat 4 sticker for your license. I will send
you the sticker tomorrow. I will use the address on your USAC account page
unless you prefer it go to a different address.
See you at the races,

So it was some kind of supernatural force playing us like puppets for some bigger cause to save the planet or keep people out of jail. I was next on her people to email! I was next! When she said "I'm going to go ahead and approve your upgrade to cat 4" I was flooded with emotion and relived that I can proudly walk up to the registration desk at Battenkill and hand them my licence with a sticker that says I'm a cat 4!

Thinking more about Battenkill. I've discovered that Battenkill is a really good thing. It has nothing to do with winning. The 30+ 1234 group is going to kick my little ass. It's all about preparing for the entire season. What better way to get in shape then to ride around with 25's on. If I go up there and get dropped on the first hill then fine. If I flat out then fine. It really doesn't matter. What matters is that I am in better shape this year then last year at this time thanks to BK. Burger King... No that would not work. I've gotten sick more times at Burger King then any other fast food chain. Thank God that I don't eat like that any more.

Last night Josh and I went on a ride. Josh took out the big gun and I had just put on my 25's. What a difference the extra weight and rolling resistance can make. We started out with the old man group and then he just punched it up some hill and I knew it was time to go. I'm glad we didn't stick around with the slower group for long. I like the guys I just get board very easily. From there on out it was a race. Worse then the criterium I did on Sunday. I was beginning to wonder if I should have stayed in the OMG. Josh was killing it and I was hurtin'. Now I know all this time how he's been feeling with those 25's. After we hammered around Lake Waramaug we took the dirt section up to West Morris Rd and flew down some sick dirt. Josh was ahead of me when he caught some air off the top of a hill and kicked his back wheel out. It looked so sick on his road bike. He is so Rad! Then right at the end of the dirt I got a flat with my new "puncture resistant" tires Michelin Litheons. I picked up a nail that went right through the top. I guess that would puncture anything. So it was a goood ride. 2 hours of battling with one of the best riders around was awesome!