Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekend Warrior

Having a full-time job makes finding time for riding and racing difficult at times. To maximize the amount of time I can spend on my bike, I often use my bike for commuting to work. When the weather is nice, riding my bike to work is a great thing. On the other hand, if it is raining the ride is usually not much fun. It seems for the past couple of months it has rained just about every day, so this has made finding time to ride even more difficult. Since I usually have a little more free time on the weekends, I usually do my long rides on Saturday or Sunday like most working folks, the weekend warriors. Now that racing season is in full-swing, however, finding time for long rides on the weekend is hard to do now, too.

This past Saturday was special because the weather was beautiful and I had plenty of time to ride. There have not been many nice days this year like this past Saturday, especially on a weekend when I could enjoy it the most. I took advantage of the opportunity by doing a 75 mile on/off road ride on my Selma Ti Single Speed. I could have very easily gone much further with it being so nice out, but I had already pre-registered for a race on Sunday and felt that anything more than 75 miles might slow me down for my race. I usually like to take it easy the day before a race, so my legs feel fresh. I am glad that I didn’t follow my normal game plan this weekend because I would have missed out on an incredible ride.

So, on Sunday, I traveled down to Boonsboro, MD for the Greenbrier AMBC Challenge. For those of you who don’t live in the Mid-Atlantic Region or are not aware of Greenbrier, it is a rocky, technical and multiple-lap course. There have been races held at Greenbrier off and on since the early 1990’s. I’ve raced on this course quite a few times over the years, but always find it to be a good test of my riding skills and a lot of fun to ride.

When I woke-up Sunday morning, I was glad that I chose to only do the XC race instead of the four hour long marathon race also being held at Greenbrier. Not only were my legs a little tired on Sunday Morning, but I would have also needed to leave my house by 5:30AM in order to get to the marathon race on time. Additionally, I think doing an occasional XC race is a nice break from the endurance racing I usually do. And, as much as I like riding at Greenbrier, I think doing a marathon race should NOT be held on a course that requires doing more than 3 or 4 laps at the most.

Even though my legs were a little tired from my ride on Saturday, my race went well on Sunday. After a little jostling during the first mile of the race, I was able to take the lead and hold on to it for the win. Other than doing the last couple of laps at the Baker’s Dozen on my Salsa Spearfish, this was the first race that I actually did start to finish on this incredible full suspension 29er. The bike handled the never ending rocks of Greenbrier very smoothly and made the course much more manageable for me. It was also nice to use gears for a change, especially when going up the steep rocky climbs this course has. I’m sure that my Selma Ti would have also given me a fast ride, but the Spearfish made going fast at Greenbrier much easier and more comfortable. Maybe I am getting old???

So, all in all, it was another good weekend to be in the trenches as a weekend warrior. Going to battle every weekend is not a bad thing. I can’t even compare riding and racing to war because I enjoy doing them both way too much, as I am sure most cyclists reading this do. I’m pretty sure that riding my bike will always be something fun and adventurous for me to do, even if finding the time to do it can be challenging at times.

Happy Trails, Gerry

Monday, May 16, 2011


I did a longer write-up about the race for the Salsa Blog and it should be up in a few days, but I wanted to post a short version here also.

I traveled with Angry Andy down to Arkansas last Thursday Afternoon for NUE Series Race #2, the Syllamo 125 in Mountain View, AR. When we were flying in, I noticed that many of the farmers’ fields looked to be flooded, even though it wasn’t currently raining. After landing, we started the two hour drive from Little Rock to Mountain View. About twenty minutes outside of our destination, it started pouring down rain as hard as I have ever seen. The sight I had of the fields and the heavy rain that fell during our drive to Mountain View started to worry me a little about what the course conditions might be like.

I looked at the forecast earlier in the week and it was supposed to be dry on Friday and Saturday, but the skies were gray and heavy when I got up on Friday. It did end up raining a few times on Friday, but nothing as hard as on Thursday Night. Luckily, Andy and I were able to ride the first part of the yellow trail on Friday without having rain fall on us. Remarkably, the course was not as muddy as I expected it to be. There were definitely some muddy sections, but nothing too severe. The hardest thing about the course was getting use to the limestone on the trails know as “slickrock” to the locals. The slickrock was imbedded in the trails and riding over it was comparable to riding on ice. I was glad to find this out on my pre-ride rather than at race time.

Since a cold front blew-in the day before the race, the temperature at the start was only 50 degrees. By the way, I don’t know about you, but I am starting to wonder if I will be riding in cold and wet weather for the rest of year at this point. I mean really, enough is enough already. So, anyway, the race started and it was a fast start like all the NUE races seem to be. After riding for about a quarter mile on a paved road, we took a right up a steep fire road and climbed for about a mile until entering the endless single track. I was one of the top ten riders to enter the single track and I did not see any single speed racers around me.

Since I knew there was a bunch of technical riding ahead, I just kind of got into my own smooth pace. I rode with Andy, Eddie and Ernie for a short while, but eventually wound-up riding alone for about 4 hours or so. I would look back on the switchback climbs and would not see anybody. My race seem to be going very well, so I stuck to my smooth riding game plan through the technical stuff and would try to spin as fast as I could on the faster single track. After a little more than seven hours of riding, I ended-up taking the single speed victory by more than 30 minutes over second place.

Winning my second NUE Race of the season definitely made me happy, but riding the amazing trail network in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas was a true pleasure. I would definitely recommend riding these trails if you are ever in the area. The four loops of the yellow, blue, green and red trails when combined add up to one large 50 mile loop that offers a very nice variety of trails.

Happy Trails, Gerry

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fine Trails

Oh, what a nice weekend of trail riding. I had two fine days of riding some very nice trails and I didn’t even get all that muddy. In addition to the trails being in good shape, the weather seems like it is starting to come around now, too. Thank Goodness!

On Saturday, I did the inaugural Wisp XC Challenge put on by ABRA Racing at the Wisp Ski Resort in McHenry, MD. I haven’t race at Wisp since the mid-nineties, but I remembered the trails being pretty rocky and technical on the resort property. While there were a few sections of technical riding on the new 8 mile long Wisp Course, most of it was fairly smooth and fast. I love riding twisty, fast single track and there was definitely some good stuff at Wisp, along with a good mix of types of trails, too.

The race started fast. There was a short prologue loop which then led to the mostly downhill starting part of the course. It was hard to maintain position on my single speed on this fast section, but somehow I managed to stay in the top ten riders for the first few miles of the races. Once the climbing started, I worked my way up to fourth place overall and the second single speed spot behind Montana Miller.

Montana was pushing his big and ever constant 38x20 gear, which I figured would be a little too steep for this course. By mid part on the second of three laps, I caught Montana and was able to get a nice gap over him on the long climb to the start/finish line. I stayed smooth and fast on the third lap and ended-up taking the single speed win, in third place overall.

Before starting the race at Wisp, I did an entire lap of the course to check out the conditions and to get in some extra training miles. Knowing what to expect on a fast XC course is always helpful to me and it was definitely a big help at this race, too. I enjoyed the trails at Wisp so much that after the race I did another 8 mile loop to cool down and to enjoy the trails at a more comfortable pace. All in all, it was definitely a nice day of trail riding and racing at Wisp.

On Sunday, I went to North Park and did three hours of riding on the nicely flowing single track there. I think the North Park trails are some of the best around for training. There is just a nice variety of everything at the park and nothing too severe to break-up the body or the bike.

With all the rain in the Pittsburgh Area lately, it sure has been awhile since I had two nice days of trail riding near home. Hopefully, that is beginning to change and I can spend more time on dirt than on the road. Speaking of trail riding, I will be headed to Mountain View Arkansas this coming weekend to do NUE Series Race #2, the Syllamo 125. From what I understand, this race is almost entirely comprised of technical single track. Hopefully all the fine trail riding completed this weekend will help me ride the trails at Syllamo just a little bit smoother. Be sure to check back next week for my Syllamo 125 Race Report.

Happy Trails, Gerry

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A NUE Start

The National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series started this past weekend at the Cohutta 100 in Ducktown, TN. The weather was perfect for the race, especially when compared to the hard thunderstorms and rain encountered at the race last year. Everything was going as planned until around mile 30 or so, when my left pedal cleat somehow came loose. Luckily, I was able to repair my mechanical fairly quickly with my Topeak Pro 20 Mini Tool and catch back up to the two single speed riders in front of me. Matt Ferrari and I then had a good battle going between us for most of the race after I caught him, but I was able take the first NUE Series Race win at the end. My Stan’s NoTubes SS Wheels and my Salsa Ti Selma were an important part of my fast ride and eventual victory. I did a more detailed write up about my Cohutta 100 Race for the Salsa Blog, which will probably be posted sometime next week. Happy Trails, Gerry