Sunday, July 30, 2006

Big loops

I live on one of the high spots within the City of Roanoke. From my window I can see Ft. Lewis Mountain and Poor Mountain plain as day. In the winter I can see McAfee's Knob if I look north and Chestnut Mountain to the south. I almost have a 360 degree view.

The first thing I think of when I look at any of these mountains is what it would be like to visit several of them on an epic ride. Are there any trails up there that I haven't ridden yet? What kind of loop can I put together on my cross bike that will go up, over and around these beauties?

I dream about this stuff all the time. I imagine myself getting up at the crack of dawn on some cool fall morning, loading up three water bottles and some extra Hammer HEED and Perpetuem powder in some baggies, grabbing a some cash for water and snack stops, and I'm off! Sixty miles? One hundred? 50/50 dirt and pavement? How long would this take? 6 hours? I can't wait to find out.

I've done a 40 miler like this when I had a geared mountain bike. Now that the only MTB I ride is a singlespeed, I'd have to use a cross bike for the many miles of valley floor I'd have to traverse. Spinning 150 rpm for hours on end and only going 15 mph doesn't seem like much fun to me.

Perhaps when the temps start getting a lot lower...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Fixating, again.

Mmm, pista! Could this be the one?

Monday, July 24, 2006


twitchy. not slow. faster than with suspension. crazy? no, happy. like new, but familiar. billygoat vs bucking bronco. with speed comes responsibilty. i must use my powers for good.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

2006 Coventry Commonwealth Games Mountain Bike Omnium Race Report

The registration for the first-ever mountain bike race to be held on Mill Mountain was located at the City of Roanoke Recreation offices on Reserve Ave., right next to the site where the recently leveled Victory Stadium stood. I had spoken to race director Ron Glowczynski a few days prior to the event and he said registration was light, but he expected a few more to register the morning of. A few more? You could imagine my suprise when I saw cars backed-up all the way out of the parking lot and down Reserve Ave.! This will be the biggest race ever in the history of mountain bike racing! People really were looking forward to this event! Wow!

Problem was, all these folks lined up in their cars didn't want to race, they wanted bricks. Yep, that's right. The City of Roanoke was giving away souvenir bricks from the former staduim that is now a big pile of rubble. Cars as far as the eye could see. It was nuts. I heard that some people waited over two hours - for bricks. My problem with this is that these bricks look, feel, smell, are like every other brick you've ever seen. There is nothing unique about them except they are from Victory Stadium. But you can't tell they're from Victory Stadium! I have a pile of bricks in my back yard. These people could have taken those and not had to wait in line.

About 30 total racers made their way through the masonry-seeking masses to register for the 3 miles of uphill punishment. It was quite a unique event; an uphill individual time trial against the clock on alleyways, roads and sweet singletrack trails. I've never in my short 4 years of racing done a time individual trail on my mountain bike. I've done a hill climb - Roanoke County hosts the Poor Mountain Hill Climb each October - but it is a massed start event. Going off alone against the clock has a special feel to it. It's you against the mountain. The race of truth.

Racers started on a semi-paved alleyway that kicked steeply from the very start. This was a race where you needed to be warmed up well because the steepest sections came first. As the alleyway shot straight up the mountain it turned to gravel, making traction more challenging as you climbed. Once the alley was behind you, a half mile section of pavement led you into one of the coolest trails on the mountain. The Momument trail is a steady climb with a good hard-packed surface. There are some loose rocks to pick through on the way, but overall it's not very technical. The fun really begins with a short and fast rolling downhill to complete Monument. This section gave you 30 seconds to catch your breath. The course continues on a new trail that weaves it's way closer to the top of the mountain. A tight, momentum stealing right-hand uphill switchback on this trail was the center of most conversations at the end of the day. Many said they got off and jogged through it. Some rode it but thought it would have been faster to run. I rode it, with a dab, losing a few precious seconds. The finale' was a grassy section that seemed to grab my tires like velcro. I could see the finish line. I could hear the onlookers cheering. I just couldn't pedal any faster. Finally, 20 minutes and 50 seconds later, my time trail was over. Good eneough for first in the singlespeed class and 5th over-all.

Sunday brought on the 2nd historic mountain biking race of the weekend: The Carvins Cove Cross Country Race. Never before had the trails at the Cove seen race action. About 60 riders showed up to test themselves against the climbs, downhills, rocks and roots that this mountain biker's playground has to offer. A neutral mass start led all riders down a couple miles of pavement and onto a gravel road for another mile or so. A pack of about 8 of us rolled into the first uphill section of singletrack and stayed together to the top of the first climb. I was trying my best to make it through the first couple of miles of singletrack without spending too much energy. I rode conservatively and set my sights on some trails later in the race where I could make up some time if needed. These are my home trails, so I know where I can hammer and where I have to keep my wits about me.

What I didn't want was to blow myself up on what came next: the long climb to the Hemlock Tunnel trail. About 3 1/2 miles up on a gravel road. This could be the place on my singlespeed that I could hurt myself if I trashed my legs. I stayed in the saddle and found a comfortable, steady pace. I started passing people. People that I knew climbed well. I kept gaining on the racers I could see up ahead. I passed a couple more. Wow! What was going on? I didn't expect this to go this well! Then I was back up with the Experts. I only had to do 15 miles to finish the Singlespeed course, so I stayed on the gas the closer I got to the top. My only guess as to why I was catching the Expert guys was that they were conserving a bit of energy for the longer course they had to complete.

Cool. The climb was over and I did well. Now I could ride the downhill without letting it all hang out and risk crashing. I got into the first loose, rocky switchbacks and passed an Expert rider. Downhilling was going well too! The further down the trail, the worse my riding got. My front end felt awful. I looked at my bar-mounted lock out and it was in the "active" position, so my fork should have been soaking up all these bumbs that were killing my forearms. I kept moving down the trail, then was passed by Kenny from Bikes Unlimited and Charles from Cardinal Bicycle. I knew I wasn't decending well anymore. What's happening? I looked down at the right leg of my Reba and she was't unlocked all of the way. There's the problem! So I reached down and gave the lockout mechanism a few twists, then ran the bar-mounted remote lockout through a couple cycles to make sure it was working again. Back in business. A few minutes later, I was at the end of the Hemlock Tunnel and onto the trail known as Comet. This time the fork worked a bit better. After reaching the bottom of the valley and riding along a stream for a bit, the trail turns straight up for about 100 yards. This was the only place a hopped of the Rig and jogged. I've ridden this a ton of times, but I wanted to keep my strength for hammering across the rolling trails ahead and another trip up the steepest part of that gravel road where I passed some folks a little while ago.

When I reached the Comet, I rode through the three miles of rollers and only saw one other racer. We traded places a few times until we reached the fire road climb a second time. There I could see what was in front of me; a couple racers and that was it. Once again I stayed in the saddle and got into a groove. The music was blasting courtesy of my MP3 player and my legs where singing right along. I reached the final trail and tried to pick up the pace just a tad more. This last section is a brand new trail that's about 90% complete. I know it pretty well since I ride it alot. It's not an easy trail. It has no long climbs or downhill sections. You need to keep hammering all the way through ot or risk losing precious momentum. I was all by myself the entire 3 miles.

I reached the finish and looked around for other riders. I knew I was first in the Singlespeed class; there were only two of us in SS. I didn;t see anyone else. "Am I it?" I asked the folks at the finish. They gave me a "what are you doing here so soon?" look. Then I knew I made it ahead of everyone else. Cool. I got the overall for the 15 mile course.

I finally felt strong at the right time - at a race! These were a couple of cool races, both making history. Mountain bike racing in the Roanoke Valley will never be the same again!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

More pics from Carvins Cove X Country!!

Vet Experts were led by Bikes Unlimited rider and all-around good guy Kenny Palmer.

From left to right: Vet Sport Cross Country and Omnium winner Ashwin Amana, second place finisher Chip Camper of Team El Toreo, and the Rev. Warren Carswell of Team El Toreo in 3rd. Great job fellas!

And finally, Team El Toreo took both spots on the Singlespeed podium for the cross country race. Aaron had flat troubles, but was hanging tough until his tires stopped cooperating with him. I managed to pull out the overall victory ahead of some pretty fast geared dudes. After almost hacking up my lungs after yesterday's hill climb, I'm very happy with my 1:20 time. Perhaps I'll race Expert in the Derailer Series instead of Singlespeed...

Full race report coming soon. Right now I stink and really need a shower.

The first ever X Country race at Carvins Cove!!

Pics for now, story to follow later!

The parking lot overflowing with mountain bike racers!!

Paul (Mill Mountain Man) Chapman of Team El Toreo takes the Beginner overall at the Cross Country race. Donnie Smith (not pictured) took the Beginner Omnium, but went home to watch the World Cup Finale'. He is a soccer coach, so we understand!

Chris Clark of Team El Toreo takes the Vet Beginner Cross Country and Omnium titles. Atta boy, Chris!

Chad Davis (your friendly neighborhood Scott Bicycles rep) takes the Expert Open Cross Country title, and second place finisher Chas Mick (proud new Dad) takes the Omnium.

Pookie with her Womens' Cross Country and Omnium hardware.

Men's Sport Open Cross Country and Omnium winner Ryan Fedak was hot on my heels all day. Great ride Ryan!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

This is what pain looks like

At the top of the climb up Mill Mountain in last weekend's Road Bike Omnium, I pushed my body as hard as it could go. I had nothing left. These three days in my racing career are the only ones I can remember when my lungs gave out before my legs.

In Saturday's Troutville Road Race, it was inexperience that did me in first, then my lungs. "Don't ever let the pack go!" I heard that from everyone who has ever road raced and got dropped. Once you're off the back, you're going to stay off the back. So, the race starts out at a very reasonable pace (after a neutral start of about six miles) and gradually increases speed every couple of miles. I'm just cruising along, enjoying the scenery when up pops a little climb. The pack pushes hard. "What are you dudes doing?", I ask myself. With all the climbing coming up, I'm thinking that the group is gonna be hating life if they try this on the climbs about 3/4 into the race.

Remember, I'm a mountain bike racer. When I race against someone who is not a good climber and they pass me on a flat portion of a race, I know I'll see them on the next climb. If someone is poor at descending, I'll let them go ahead of me on the climbs b/c I can usually do OK on the downhills. In road racing, the pack is better than you at everything. The pack is alive. It surges up climbs, dragging the weaker climbers with it. It roars across the flat roads faster than any one rider could alone. NEVER let the pack go. I let them go thinking that I could catch back up. I couldn't. Road race - 11th place, off the back of the pack.

And then came the crit...

I felt like poop from the moment I woke up Sunday morning. Temperatures were supposed to be in the mid 90s by afternoon and I could feel the debris from Saturday's road race in my chest. I worked hard trying to catch the pack the day before, and now I just wanted to survive the crit. I had never raced in one before. I didn't know what to expect. I knew Rob Morefield (Team El Toreo/RCO compadre) was going to be faster than everyone else. He had already won our age group the previous two days. (And will most likely get an automatic USCF upgrade) My thought was to go as hard as I could for as long as I could and hurt everyone. Everyone but Rob. I already knew he was strong, I just hoped he wasn't feeling like I was from two days of racing in the heat. When the offical said "Go!", I took off like a bat out of hell. I wanted no parts of the pack today. I didn't want anyone crowding me in the corners. I wanted to get away from all of these people. I almost ran over the pace car on the first turn. "Go! Go! Go!" I was screaming for the car to get out of the way. I hit the first straight away like it was a finishing sprint. I hit the 3rd turn (cobblestones, mind you) and scared myself half to death as my wheels skipped across the road at about 30 mph. Then once again, my lungs started reminding me of the previous day's work. About 5 laps later, I was sitting on the side watching Rob lap everybody in the field.

Next time, I'll use my inhaler like a good little asthmatic. Oh yea, and I won't let the pack get away.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

3 down, 2 to go

I have a new respect for road racing. I've been a mountain bike racer for three and a half seasons. I've only raced a couple short road events in the past. I've done tons of training miles on the road, but had never done an omnium prior to this past weekend's Coventry Commonwealth Games Omnium. What a rude awakening.

The torture started Friday evening with a time trial up Mill Mountain. I've done this the last two years, but had wildly inconsistent results. My first TT in 2004, I struggled up the mountain in 13 minutes and 20 seconds. I was angry with this result, so my 2005 early season training was focused entirely on this event. When the 2005 TT rolled around, I pulled off a 10 minute, 10 second ride. I think it was more like 11 minutes, but it was definately better than 13:20. When I started up the climb this past Friday, my legs felt great. I had warmed up by riding to the start from work, about 12 miles of flat, easy road. I noticed some tightness in my chest, which usually happens after I inhale tons of pollen and poor air - like when I ride in a lot of traffic. But, this wheezy, stinging feeling before a race is something I've not dealt with before.
I was also playing mind games with myself; do I go all-out and risk having sore legs for the road race the next day, or do I ride conservatively and try to save my strength for the next two events?

My pre-determined start time rolled around and I rolled up on the start ramp. I knew things weren't going my way from the beginning when I lost my balance and almost rolled off the side of the platform while the holder tried to point me the right direction. I can do a track stand at a stop light for 5 minutes, so why am I such a doofus when someone else is balancing the bike for me? 5-4-3-2-1 Go! I hit the course and power up the first straight section. Legs feel good, lungs feel like crap. That's bad. Usually my legs can't keep up with my lungs. I decide to sit and spin because I don't have the air I need for some reason. 12 minutes and 26 seconds. Slow for me. Then some thoughts of last year popped in my head; a powerful thunderstorm rolled through just minutes before last year's TT and probably cleaned alot of the bad air out on it's way through the valley. It was also about 10 degrees cooler last year. Bottom line - I was only good enough for 6th in my class.

Pics and more posts soon...