Monday, May 31, 2010

Mohican Preparations

I stayed with my game plan the past couple of weeks and did my racing on the road instead of on the dirt in preparation for the Mohican 100. I raced at the PA State Championship RR near Bloomsburg, PA on 05/22/2010 and did the ABRA Tour of Tucker County this past weekend in Thomas, WV. My game plan of staying on the road to keep healthy and fit held up pretty good for the most part, but I did have an unexpected battle with sickness last week that I was worried might ruin my chances at having a good Mohican 100 Race.

So, anyway, my bad luck all started when I woke up at 4AM to travel 4 hours up to Bloomsburg, PA for the State Road Race. I raced for about 8 miles in what seemed to be a pretty fast master’s field and then all of the sudden, without warning, I blew my rear tire. I immediately raised my left hand and pull off to the right side of the road to receive a wheel from the wheel truck. The change was not a real fast one, but the part of the course we were racing at that time was. I chased as hard as I could for about 3 miles, but there was no way that I was going to catch the fast pack.

Not wanting to waste the day after getting a flat I decided to keep on riding anyway, so that I could at least get in a good workout. I soon joined up with another rider who also suffer from a flat tire during the race and we rode hard together until the end of the first lap. After finishing the first lap, we decided to do another fast lap together and then I decided to do one more hard loop after my flat tire riding companion decided to pack it up. Doing a ride after my flat did help clear my mind of the frustrations I had about my flatting and made me feel a little better about getting back into my car for the four hour ride home. My bad luck may have started on the bike, but the bad luck soon continued by attacking me by the end of my long drive home.

During the drive home, my gut did not feel right and latter Saturday Night it was impossible for to keep and food in my body. Even now I am not sure if I got a case of food poisoning or the flu, but I can tell you that it knocked me down for a few days whatever it was. Being the way I am, I tired to ignore my symptoms on Sunday because I had planned to do a long ride. Well, being the way I am, I did the long ride anyway. It took just about every ounce of energy for me to complete and probably only made a bad situation much worse. By Sunday Night, I was so sick that I was unable to eat, was shaking from being cold and had a screaming headache. I took so many trips to the toilet on Sunday Night and during the day on Monday I started thinking about staying seated on the thing rather than heading back to bed. Thankfully, I was able to call off work on Monday to try and recover from my sickness, which definitely did some good. I also stayed off the bike on Monday and Tuesday, which was easy to do because I had no energy to do anything.

It wasn’t until last Thursday that I started feeling somewhat better. I was already pre-registered for the Tour of Tucker County (ranked as one of the hardest road races in the United States), but I was having apprehensions of doing it because of how I was feeling. But, by Saturday, I figured it would be best to give it a try and see how my body responded. My goals were simple: attempt to ride hard and hope that my GI track would withstand the extra stress of riding hard. I managed to exceed my expectations by actually being one of the main riders to create a five person breakaway on this major climb that was eventually whittled down to me and another rider by the last climb. Additionally, my gut felt fine and I didn’t have to finish the race with a chocolate stream running down my leg. However, being the non-sprinter that I am, I mistimed the last charge to the finishing line and wound up in second for the day. I was stilled pleased, though, because only a few days earlier I thought I was on my death bed.

Things seem to be back to normal for me now. I followed up the tough Tour of Tucker County Road Race with 3 hours of single track riding on Sunday and a hard 4.5 hours of riding on Memorial Day. Hopefully my spat with bad luck is done now and I can have a smooth week leading up to the Mohican 100 NUE Series Race this weekend. I am so psyched to do the Mohican and feel very fortunate that my health turned around quickly enough for me to prepare properly for the race. Let the count down to the weekend begin! Happy Trails, Gerry
BTW, thanks to Benjamin Stephens for the photo.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wide tire fun...on the road???

After a little indecision about where to race this past weekend, I finally decided on doing a road race called the Fawn Grove Roubaix, near York, PA. The race was held on a 14.5 mile loop and had an interesting concept of combining fast paved roads with about 5 miles per lap of gravel roads. With a course description of some tough climbs also being included, I figured the race would be a good match to my racing strengths.

A couple of days before the pre registration ended on the race I talked with a racing friend, Blair Saunders, about the course, since he did it last year. Blair said that a cross bike would be best suited for the race because of the rough gravel road sections on the course. I told Blair that I recent sold my cross bike, so I would not have one for the race. He said that a road bike is not the best option because there is a good potential of getting a flat tire on the gravel sections of the course.

After discussing the course with Blair, I started doing some brain storming and decided to race my Salsa Mamasita at the race with cross tires mounted to my 29er wheels instead of standard mtb sized tires. I set up my wheels with Hutchinson Piranha Tubeless Cyclocross tires and filled them with 60 psi. Since I was not too sure about my bike selection, I packed my Salsa Podio Road Bike and took it with me to the race also.

On race day, I took my Mamasita out for a quick pre ride of the course specifically to checkout the gravel sections on the course. After I encountered the first section of gravel, I was pretty certain that the Mamasita was the best choice for the day. Like Blair told me earlier in the week, it is better to work harder during the race than chance getting a flat; and, after driving over 3 hours to get to the race, I totally agreed with his thoughts.

So, anyway, Blair and I lined up at the starting line with him on a cyclocross bike and me on a mtb with wide cross tires, while everyone else on the line was on standard skinny tired road bikes. At that time, I was definitely feeling like an outcast and a minority, since I was surrounded by road bikes. Things didn’t seem to get much better for me after the race started either, with the first section of the course being on fast pavement and having a couple of climbs. But, after entering the first section of gravel road, I was soon feeling much more confident about my bike choice and was happy I made the bike selection that I did.

I wanted to be one of the top riders into the first gravel section, so that I could stay away from potential crashes. I initiated an attack one climb too early, though, so I ended up entering the first gravel road about 15 riders back from the front. The race totally blew apart in the first couple of gravel sections. Tires were blowing, water bottles were flying out of cages and riders were drifting all over the place trying to find a good line. At the same time, I just smiled as my Mamasita picked a straight and clean line through the carnage.

My smile was short lived; however, because hanging with the faster road bikes on the paved climbs was intensely hard to do on my heavier bike with wider tires. Blair was in the breakaway group with me, but ironically he suffered a rear flat about part way through the first lap. Eventually, the breakaway group was whittled down to me a two other riders about part way through the second lap. The two guys I was with were absolutely hammering me in our three man break and on one road climb actually powered away from me. I had to dig really deep to bridge back up to them at the top of the climb where the pavement ended and another gravel road section began. I think the other two riders were pretty shocked that I latched back on to them after they had dropped me. From that point, I decided to save my energy a bit and not do much work in the break, so I could survive the fast pace on the road sections. I am pretty sure they understood my decision, especially since my high gear was only a 42x12 compared to their standard road gearing.

The three of us finished the third lap and the race together. I did not contest the sprint at the finish, since my two roadie friends did the majority or the work during the race…not that I would have been any match against them anyway. I was pretty happy with finishing the race in third overall on my Salsa 29er and I bet there will be some other riders making the decision to do the race on a bike with wider tires next year.
Happy Trails, Gerry

Monday, May 10, 2010

On the Road Again

After four long weeks of doing endurance mountain bike races, I decided to go back to road racing this weekend. This past Saturday, I raced in the Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association’s New Martinsville RR. I find that by doing an occasional road race my body seems to recover quicker from the rigorous endurance mtb races that I like to do, but at the same time I still get in a race and a good workout. I think doing a combination of road racing and mountain bike racing is something every racer should consider. Both types of racing are hard, but they are hard in different ways. Mountain bike racing requires a hard consistent individual effort. Road racing, on the other hand, requires surges of super hard efforts, but often allows for periods of recovery. By doing both types of racing, I think racers gain better overall fitness and become more well rounded riders, which can be especially useful during the fall cyclocross season.

Ironically, most of the New Martinsville, WV Road Race Course was held in Ohio. Additionally, the flattest part of this course was the mile or two we did at the start in WV, which is also ironic because most people think of WV as being hilly and consider Ohio to be mostly flat. The New Martinsville Course was certainly not flat by any means and basically went up and down during the entire length of the race, which was okay by me.

After we crossed the Ohio River and headed onto the first of the two 25 mile laps of the course, things started climbing. As a matter of fact, the first climb on the course was 3 miles long and it pretty much was the main determined factor of the race. Fortunately, I was one of the few that made the early separation during this climb and the only master rider to stay connected to the lead break away group. Our break away group stayed together until the end of the first lap, when SteveO and the eventual race winner separated themselves from the rest of the lead group. The two leaders then rode the next lap together, while the group I was in, which contained about 7 other riders, attempted to chase them down. By the end of the second 25 mile lap, everyone was pretty shattered from battling the strong winds with 40 mph gusts and the constant climbing on the course. By race end, I managed to stay up front for the masters race win and actually finished 5th overall for the day.

For the next couple of weeks that lead up to the Mohican 100 NUE Race, I will probably be doing a couple more road races. I think by doing some road races during the next few weeks I will keep my fitness level high without wearing myself out too much for the Mohican. Of course, I will still be doing plenty of mtn bike riding during the week because playing in the dirt is too much fun to miss. So, if I don't see you on the dirt for the next couple of weeks, I sure do hope to see you on the road. Happy Trails, Gerry

Monday, May 3, 2010


Not only is Lost a show on TV, but it is also what happened to me at the Michaux Maximus Race this past weekend. I have never watched the Lost TV Series, so I really don’t know too much about the show; however, I do know how frustrating being lost can be and can empathize with other victims in the same situation. I was not lost because of another person’s mistake or error, but because of my own failure to accurately follow the course markings.

Up until the point where I got side tracked, the race was going pretty well. The 19-34 year old racers started first at the event and about a minute later or so, the group I was mixed in with containing the master and single speed racers went off. During the first 10 miles of racing, I was leading the single speed race and had worked my way up into the top 10 riders overall, catching many of the racers in the younger age group that started ahead of me. My good race beginning started to go wrong when I went over the bars while descending down a short steep section of single track because of a large stick getting stuck between my front wheel and fork. The crashed caused a good size abrasion on my inner thigh, tweaked my left should a bit and also broke my lockout lever off my front suspension fork. After the crash, I decided to take things a little more conservatively since I was leading my race and seemed to have a comfortable lead.

I went into check point one and then entered some more of the infamous Michuax Technical Rocky Single Track, which then lead to a fire road. During my descent to this fire road, I heard another single speed racer coming up behind me. I could tell it was a single speeder because I did not hear a chain slapping on the approaching rider. Before I exited the single track, I saw a course direction arrow pointing to the left. I then took the left onto the fire road and looked over my shoulder to see who had just caught me. Unbeknownst to me, while I was looking over my shoulder instead of the course ahead, the course almost immediately turn left off the fire road back onto a single track trail. The other racer also missed the turn because he was following me up the fire road.

I like to turn my speed up on fire road climbs, so with another racer catching me, I had no problem with hitting the turbo switch on the climb to gain some time over the other racer. To make matters worse, the fire road we were climbing actually came back onto the course, so we now had course marking to follow again. The course marking eventually lead to the finish line and, at that time, I knew something was wrong. After talking to the race organizers at the finishing area, the other single speed racer and I decided to head back down the fire road to where we though we took the wrong turn. We descend down the fire road climb and took a left onto another fire road that we assumed was from where we came. We followed it for a while and climbed up another ridge, which lead us back to checkpoint one. Knowing this was wrong we then descended back down to the original fire road and eventually found the turn we missed. Probably about 100 feet or so into this trail my lost single speed companion got a flat rear tire and told me to go ahead without him.

Since I lost about 30-40 minutes of time after trying to get back on course, I knew there was no shot of me having a good finish at this race. But, since I had paid $70 for registration and driven almost 3 hours to do this race, I figured that I would at least get a long, hard training effort out of my mistake. I rode to check point two and only saw few riders here and there, but started to catch riders pretty regularly after the checkpoint. Even though I was not in the game for the win, I was still having fun riding the sweetness of the Michaux Trail network.

By the time I had finished the race, I figured out the extra mileage of being lost added 7 miles onto the 40 mile race loop. Even with this additional mileage, I somehow still managed to finish in the top 7 single speed riders. I also learned a few things during my misguided ride, which made the race a good learning experience for me anyway. First, I learned it is more important to pay attention to the course a head of me rather than the riders coming up from behind. Secondly, I learned that my body does not like to use Perpetuem by Hammer Products during a race on hot days. It seemed like everytime I would take a swig of the stuff my stomach would knot up. I am not saying this will happen to everybody, but it is the experience that I had with using it. I also learned that Caffe Latex Tire Sealant works wonderfully. I tore my side wall on one of the many rocks at Michaux sometime during the race and Caffe Latex sealed up the hole enough to allow me to finish the race without any repair. Other tire sealants that I have used have not done this nearly as well for me as this one did.

Yeah, sure, it would have been nice if I would have stayed on course and remained competitive for a good finish, but at least I learned a few things from the race and had a good time riding on some incredible single track. As I believe there is with most things in life, there is always a positive experience to gain from every situation, even if it is a bad one. Happy Trails, Gerry