Friday, December 3, 2010

MTB ride & trail run this sunday

There is a 4.5 trail running race, mountain bike fun ride, trail walk and Kid's running race at Moody Park (in Claremont) this Sunday. it's a benefit for Adam Maki to raise funds for pancreatic cancer treatment:

Thought it could be fun... haven't mtn biked since the 50 and its still hunting season so there aren't many places to mtn bike.   And haven't ever mtn biked with most of the team so let me know if you are interested!  If you need to borrow a mtn bike let us know.

Plus its a good cause.  Spread the word...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkey Trotting

Feeling left out for not partaking in any cross racing this fall, I was compelled to fly the Penguin colors at a couple of Turkey Trots! The first was the Brattleboro Turkey Trot, a 5k, which I ran on Thanksgiving Day with my mom (picture of us above) and friend Kim who we were surprised to bump into two hours south! The course was an out and back with live turkeys at a farm on the side of the road and a paper turkey that someone had made and displayed on a stool at the end of their driveway. Participants bring an item, usually baked good/other food/homemade craft, and put it in the back of a truck when they sign in. Once runners have crossed the finish line, they head to the truck and pick something out as a prize. My most memorable item from years past is a homemade slingshot - its whereabouts are completely unknown at this point!

The next was the Turkey Lane Turkey Trot, a 4.25mi race on Sunday to benefit the Hinesburg Land Trust. My mom had been trying to convince myself and my sister's boyfriend to run in this race for a few weeks, but ended up being ill and I had to go it alone as my sister's boyfriend is quite the serious runner (like he actually wanted to get there early to warm up!) and way ahead of me. I did, however, end up winning my age group since there wasn't a huge turnout and got a gift certificate for "a mug with coffee and a donut" with the mug part crossed off...such is life! Let the off season continue!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Last Hurrah at Baystate

Saturday's Baystate race didn't have to be the final race of the season, but after a gluttonous two days before the race I'm happy to begin hibernation. Who knows I may boot n' rally for the NE Championships, still it was nice to have a beer with John after the race, clink bottles and say "good season". And then extend the gluttony with a stop at Fat Frank's in Bellows Falls, VT.

I've got to hand it to John. He is the stalwart of the team, making it to 15 plus races this year. So when I talked to him midweek about going on Saturday, he was game. We cruised down in the Honda Element, the perfect race vehicle, and made it to Sterling, MA with a couple hours to spare.

The weather was nippy, 35 or so with a cold, cold wind, but plenty of sunshine that warmed up certain spots. I did my warm up on some beautiful roads around the Chocktney Jr. High, the site of the race. This was the first race I had the "what to wear" debate. I opted for knee and arm warmers, but no hat. I dropped gear and headed for the staging area. Greg Brown and John were there doing some prerace shivering.

Call ups began: third row! All thanks to the Maine pilgrimage (I scored my Verge points at Downeast). Alan Atwood even called my full name! I'm used to feeling anonymous at Verge races, just a number pinned to my body, and I usually can't remember what that number is. So I took my spot in the third row. There were openings in the second row and I should have been more aggressive and grabbed the slot. Someone beat me to it. Actually the kid who missed his call up tried weaseling in, but got rejected by AA and other riders. I do like the organization of Verge races. No scrum to the line, so less danger right?

Well, except at Baystate you have to race a lap and half around a dirt track. A "parade lap" it's called. More like a dangerous dirt crit with ruts and riders who don't necessarily have experience riding crits. Full lap around and I'm tucked behind a junior on the left side. WHAM! Next image in my view is an upside down junior (I believe) and an upside down bike elevated about three feet in the air. Rubber side up! The bike goes flying towards me as I slide right, I see the whole crash and yet a moment later I'm still riding. How did that happen? Greg Brown wasn't so lucky. He had been right behind me and went into the downed rider and took a bike off the back from the guy behind him (I learned this after, I thought I had beaten him fair and square, but as long as Greg isn't hurt I'm going to chalk up the W anyhow).

And finally we start racing cyclocross. I love this course (except for the scary beginning). Early on I went hard, trying to glue myself to some nemeses. But the gluttonous two days or the end of the season caught up to me. I died a few little deaths and started going backwards after two laps. I tried to be tactical and for the most part I was after that. My handling skills give me an advantage, but my power does not. So each time we went around the "parade lap" I tried to tuck in behind someone. Still that was tough. I usually gained ground on people through the circuitous stuff and there was just enough chicanes and off camber stuff to get me moving forward again. Someone was letting us know where we were placed on the run/ride up chicane thingy. This was very helpful. I like this motivation more than my wife screaming at me to "move up" and "get your ass up there George!". Instead of thinking of divorce proceedings I just thought about getting some spots back. He let me know I was 34th. Okay, not horrible, but time to move it.

I returned to smart racing. Spinning every chance I could and hitting the brakes the least I could. By the last lap and a half I was with a Cl Noonan rider and a Rockstar rider. A Colavita guy was just up the road. The Cl Noonan rider attacked and got a little gap, he was thinking of getting up to Colavita, but that was a long lonely trek on the back stretch, the windiest and straightest section. I gained ground on Cl Noonan on the off camber rollers. I caught him before the left hand turn at the edge of the field on the last lap. He hadn't caught Colavita. He slowed way down on the straight before entering the dirt track. But I didn't take the bait. This was my race. I just loped along behind him. Then the turn came onto the finishing straight. I hit it hard. The cramps came. But a thought flashed through me: only I know I'm cramping. Break the will of others, not my own. It was a longish sprint since starting from 6mph, maybe 100m. It wasn't looking good, but then a gap came and I had it. I rolled over the line alone. Small victories. 29th place out of 81 starters.

I watched Greg and John finish up. John caught several people towards the end of the race. We rolled back to the Element, got dressed and opened the beer. We drove back north, stopping for dogs at Fat Frank's. John went with the chili sausage, he'll need some space the next couple days.. I had sweet Italian. When we got back up to the Ascutney park and ride my car was covered in snow. A symbolic note to the end of the bike season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Northeast Velo

The day in Londonderry, NH was crisp and cool but adrenaline kept the assembled cyclists warm. At a glance, the course looked interesting. It included a giant outdoor velodrome and BMX track with tabletops and loopty-loops. Amber and I quickly suited up so we could preview the course before our 10AM start time. As our camera died after one picture, I had to get creative with the graphics:

1.) Start/finish on the slanted track of the velodrome.
2.) The first barrier section, after a winding loop in the infield.
3.) The second barrier section came up after a few muddy turns. Then, a sharp turn up over the pavement.
4.) After leaving the pavement, there was a quick muddy hill that could jump up to bite you if you weren't careful. Then onto a gravel road up a graded incline into the woods.
5.) After a hairpin turn, it was down a sharp incline into a few inches of mud. Woooo keep that front tire straight! Then hammer on the brakes to make the sharp right hand turn instead of colliding with some rather large trees.
6.) Snake around the trees and roots and roll down and over a wooden bridge over the stream. Then up a short steep section (start the heart-rate climbing!) and a few paces of continued climbing before dropping quickly down to a really loose, sketchy hairpin turn.
7.) Come out of that hairpin turn with as much momentum as you can, cause then you hit a medium uphill section with a rock marking the middle. If you can ride past the rock, you're golden. Otherwise, you're runnin'. Heart-rate skyrocketed at this point. Oy.
8.) Try to control your breathing as you snake your way between rocks and roots on the cruising single-track. Then pop out of the woods while navigating another sketchy downhill turn.
9.) Try to keep your momentum while staying vertical through the deep pellets and around the PortiPoty (a fantastic scent just when you need full breath of oxygen).
10.) Then roll into the BMX part. AWESOME. All packed sand. There were 2 banked corners, 4 or 5 tabletops and a loopty-loop section. If you knew how to ride these and throw your weight around, this was a blast!!!
11.) Then drop back down the steep slant of the velodrome corner to start another lap. This was where you could really put the hammer down -- and it was good if you had glasses here because all of that mud and dirt was flung off the tires at supersonic speeds.

In summary, this course was a perfect blend of fast roadie sections and tricky handling sections. It was a shorter loop than other courses, so you could do it 7 or 8 times in your race, but it was continuously changing so you had to keep on your toes to find the best line. The BMX area was a blast every time.

For the women's race, we had a decent gathering (25-30) because it was Cat 4, 35+ and the older Juniors all together, which meant there was always someone to chase or stay away from. It was my best race of the season (of course -- the downside of racing into shape is that you're just coming around as the season ENDS!), finishing 6th out of 16 Cat 4's. Amber worked on her bike handling skills and started planning her assault for next year... (watch out ladies!)... The boys had a great 3/4 race and looked strong throughout.

As always, the Penguin team kits and bikes were bangin' and making us all look good. Go Flying Penguins!!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A compilation of 2010

Amber, you inspired me. I threw together a mix of pictures and video from the Flying Penguins 2010 CX adventures.

P.S. Here's a shout-out to Raina for bagging the 2010 30-35 Women's Vermont State Champion title! Congrats!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friendzied Tactician

Okay internet, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I've got an arch rival.

Some people like to use the term nemesis, which has a bit more negativity and less respect than I would like to invoke. I'm sure anybody that races a fair amount here in New England, or probably anywhere, has 'that guy' or 'those guys' [gals] they always seem to end up racing against. Usually these arch rivals are people whom you're evenly matched with and your relative finish position is never a given from the start. Crossresults will help you find 'those guys' if you're having trouble, but you probably already have a pretty good idea. If you're racing well, the arch rivals are behind you. Racing poorly? know how it goes.

For the sake of discussion, let's just call my rival Greg Brown. Greg and I have been racing eachother for a few years now. It all started at the Tuesday night races held at the auto track in Claremont (highly recommended). They run a points race with sprints every 5 laps, primes are mixed in as well. Thus on an approximate weekly basis we can throw down 12 or more times. We definitely go back and forth. If I had to categorize us, I'd say he's got a slightly bigger engine but I've got a little more punch to my sprint and possibly an edge in the handling department. We're pretty well matched. Racing on the road in this region, our paths have crossed more than a few times in crits, road races, and in cross too. Typically Greg has his way with me in crits, I think I may have the edge in road races, and I've pretty much dominated in cross. Greg has had some notable success on the road this year. I have not.

Where am I going with this? Honestly not sure, let's see how it turns out!

As you know, dear reader, the Flying Penguins co-promoted the second annual Paradise Cross Phrenzy on 11/13 with our friends down at Paradise Sports. It's held on the grounds around the Harpoon Brewery, Paradise Sports, and Simon Pierce (yes, a little something for everyone). I recommend you mark it down in your race planner for next year due to the venue and atmosphere.

After a full day of socializing, cheering, and standing around, it was time for the men's 3/4 race. Because I was socializing and generally not warming up, I managed to make it into the last (3rd) row for the start. Sure, as a promoting team I could have weaseled my way to the front, but we were represented there and I needed to work on my starts. Whistle goes off and I kill the start. Actually, it was pretty good - 6th wheel by the time the course narrows up before dropping into the halfpipe section. We were still pretty well bunched up by the off-camber up-down. Greg was running 3rd or 4th wheel at that point, lost traction and hit the dirt. He had a fast recovery and was running. Being rivals, I thought it was a good time to offer [shout] some encouragement to the tune of "Get on your bike, Greg!". He remounted but we were gapping to the guys out front. George squeaked by, and then after 5 or 10 seconds I took my rightful spot in front of Greg. Of course the gap was growing and now I had to close it down. I'll be honest, I burned a few matches, but we were taking time out of the gap little by little so it seemed like a good move.

First lap ends and we're dangling at about 6 seconds or so. I pulled over to let Greg take a pull and he gapped me like a spectator. The benefit of working hard for one lap was that we had a sizable cushion to the guys behind us, now I just had to focus on riding good lines and reeling him back in. It was going well until we hit the first barriers on lap 2 - he was much faster than I through the high-speed barriers and I was hemorrhaging time to him there. Sadly, the course favored more power and less of my skill areas. Couple that to the matches I'd burned, and oh, did I mention that my "training" this year hasn't really left me with many matches to start with? no, well, I have now. Either way, Greg was slowly putting more distance between us. I figured there was really only one good thing left to do: a little mid-race arch rival banter. So, sitting at a 15 second deficit with 3 or 4 laps to go in a section where the course doubles back on itself, I mustered my most ominous voice, sat up, pointed at him and yelled "I'm coming for you!"*.

It worked! After that, man did he start to put the time on me. It got so bad I couldn't even heckle him since our paths weren't crossing any more. Anyway, this is how I prefer to remember him a lesson on how to suitcase the bike (elbow in).

Eric leading Greg over second barriers

*or something to that effect

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Late photos from Paradise Cross

It was great to get to meet some of the Penguin team and to enjoy a beautiful day of exciting racing! Here are a whole bunch of photos of Penguins...some of them appear to be going at warp(ed) speed.


More photos...I apparently can't post a whole bunch of them at once or at least I am not aware of how to do it!

Photos from Paradise Cross continued

Photos continued....check out the traffic cone cheering in the photo below.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Southernmost Flying Penguins have been staying close to the nest this 'cross season with the September hatching of Baby Hannah, but we've been able to get out to a few of our favorite Mid-Atlantic races with the little one in tow.

Preparing for fatherhood, namely running to the store for chocolate ice cream, left Vinnie with little training time, but he was able to go out and give it his all at two races in the weeks following Hannah's arrival. Including Charm City Cross, Day 2 in Baltimore, MD and Whirlybird in Bryn Athen, PA.

Jess and Hannah watch as Vinnie races at Whirybird...
Hannah rides a Penguin for the first time at Charm City Cross...
Hannah's six week birthday corresponded with Granouge, one of our favorite courses here in the MAC circuit. We loaded up the car for the short ride to Delaware so I could test my new aerodynamic muffin top. Let's just say I had a lot of fun and was not DFL.

It felt great to be out on the bike again. The weather was perfect for racing; a crisp fall morning with race temperatures in the mid 60's. The course was dialed in: a great combination of off camber turns, a steep run up, and sections to cater to both the roadies and the mtb'ers. Because of timing and a long line at the portapotty, I neglected to do a warm-up lap, which would have brought to attention an under inflation issue in my front tire. I really think that it cost me several places in the end, as my handling was seriously compromised.

When fitting into your kit is a victory unto itself...

Negotiating the wooded sandpit area.

Our latest race (thanks for posting the photos, Raina!!) was StatenCx 3.0 over this past weekend. It is held at a park along the water on Staten Island, a short 30 minutes from our home in NJ. The course reminds me some of the Warwick, RI race, with a long beach section, wooded track and grass sections. Unlike RI, however, it was a glorious 70 degrees in the sun and the is a cart selling Belgium Waffles, Waffles and Dinges I like Strawberries, Nutella and Banana on mine). We've weathered each year of this race (previously, snow and freezing temperatures were prominent course features) and I actually won the 3/4 race last year, so it was great to have a day where we could bring Hannah out for the fun. Again, he victory was in fitting into the kit, but the technical features of the course, along with proper tire pressure, suited me well, and I finished 12th.

That will be our las trace of this season, but I'm looking forward to getting back in the gym over the winter and be ready for Mountain bike and 'cross in 2011.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Racing in the wrong place

Us VT penguins are freezing up north and NJ penguins have this as their racing backdrop...

 Jess and Vinnie got cross racing figured out... on the beach, blue sky, ocean in the background.  (Staten CX)

Paradise Cross Frenzy

Hey Team - Thanks for all your help on Saturday.  Big thanks to Andrea for helping with the results so I could race.  It was great to have (almost) the entire team together!  Also congrats to Deb and Marc on their first cross races with the team.   Gotta run now... (maybe) more later.

20th Annual West Hill Cyclocross Race

WARNING: this video has explicit lyrics, be sure to turn the volume down for any kids!

West Hill Cyclocross 2010 from Amber Davis on Vimeo.

Nice work team (and Lauren)!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The hand-up vs. the call-up

Mid-way through the Verge series its pretty evident that I won't be getting a Verge point. I'm not sure what (or who) made me think this was a possibility. I guess the hope was that Green Mountain and Downeast would be out of the way enough that the field would be sufficiently small. Maybe if they did a race on a Tuesday in Nova Scotia I might have a chance but I have my doubts. I suppose the lesson for this year is that false optimism is no substitute for training. Anyway - as we all know, no Verge points = no call up, which puts me two rows from the back of the 140 man field at Northhampton. Not that this cannot be overcome but as we leisurely strolled up the first run-up politely chatting with each other it became evident that it wouldn't be me doing the overcoming.
So, unburdened of living up to the Call-up, or cracking the top half for that matter, I looked for motivation. The bright side of a large field is that you are at least always surrounded by someone to race. I set my sights on the group in front and tried to catch them. As we came to the bell lap it seemed that this too would elude me. Just as I was about to go into soft pedal mode I glanced ahead and caught sight of the Belgian waffle tent. There I spotted my prize, my new motivation. Beer! Thats right, the Hand-up. Taking advantage of all the extra space around me I picked a nice clean line around the last corner and manuvered toward the tent. I reached out and cleanly grabbed the plastic cup of beer. I threw the beer in the direction of my mouth and managed to get most of it in - the rest spilling down my neck and arm. Newly motivated I put in a last kick and was able to close the gap on the group I'd been chasing. I blasted through the sand and got on the wheel of the guy at the back and prepared for the sprint. As we hit the pavement I held back a belch and put everything into the pedals. Victory was mine, at least this one. The more important Victory however was finding a little fun at a Verge race. As it turns out that can be as elusive as a Verge point.
Thanks to Dave and the guys from Expo/Superior Energy for the yummy beer.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Art of the Start

The art of the cyclocross racing start is something I have NOT mastered.

In the past 4 Verge races I've had a second row call up.  So, what, 10 riders in front of me on the line?  And a whole slew of racers behind me ready to gun me down.  (I know that's nothing compared to the 150 riders the boys had to contend with in the cat 3 race but it was more than I've ever raced with).  I've been finishing good enough to get a call-up... so you would think I'd be strong enough to keep up with my peers on the start.  Hell no...   I'm getting slaughtered...

On day 1 in Maine about halfway through the first lap I see Alix next to me "Hi Raina!".  WTF!  (Sorry Alix - no slam intended)  She was on a mtn bike!  And there were 30 riders between us on the starting line and somehow we were next to each other.  Either I was doing something really wrong or she was doing something really right.

On day 2 in Maine I was determined to have a better start.  No go.  On lap 1 my place was in the mid-20's... more than 10 places behind where I lined up on the start line.

On day 1 at Northampton I was DETERMINED to have a good start.  I powered through the first few hundred yards and felt I was holding my position starting the run-up.  Yay!!  Halfway up the hill someone hooked my rear wheel in their handlebars.  Got all turned around and by the time we were untangled and moving again we were WAY back in the pack.  Damn-it.

On day 2 at Northampton I tried again for a good start.  I can do it.  I can do it.  My pep talk to be aggressive and hold my position.   I picked a bad line (yet again) and came to a dead stop behind a few girls who got crowded into the inside post on first hard turn.  At the end of the first lap I had slid so far back in the pack Eric wouldn't even tell me what place I was in (he gave up counting).  He just kept saying "what are you doing?" "hellloooooooo.... are you racing?".  I think about halfway through the race when I was still tagging along in the same pack of riders Eric gave up any hope of me moving forward.

Soooo...  I've got lots of homework to do before next cross season.... figure out the art of the start.
A few quick notes on the men's sunday race (Oliver was with his grandparents so I could really pay attention to what was happening).

Kudos to George for improving his race strategy over the past year... instead of starting out gangbusters and slowly sliding back the rest of the race, he's had really good starts (strong, but not getting to far into the red) and then holding steady the rest of the race or moving up.  He had a great finish passing a few riders on the last lap and then a good sprint finish to hold his position.

Kudos to Eric and John for making the most starting in the back of a field so large that if you are not in the first few rows you don't have any chance of a decent finish.

Eric decided to have fun with it anyway and give it his best shot.  On the first lap there were maybe 10 riders behind him (out of about 150) and he spent the whole race just trying to move up in the pack... picking good lines conserve energy and making some aggressive passes on the straights.  He passed about 70 people during the race to finish in the top half.  Maybe I need to take some lessons from him on how to ride aggressively on my first lap.

John also decided to have fun with it to, but in a different way.  John took a beer hand-out with a few laps to go.  And had a good finish... picking off a handful of people in the last few laps and then another rider in a sprint finish.  Hmmm... maybe there is some strategy to taking the beer handouts?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Modification of a Previous Mantra

Old Mantra: "Never brake down a hill..."

New Mantra: "Never brake down a hill, unless there is a railroad kicker at the end."

(Added 11/11/10)

You want a picture? Here you go Anonymous.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cycle-Smart International Northampton, MA from Amber Davis on Vimeo.

I'll leave the witty blog posts up to the English major and instead share some photos I took this weekend at the Cycle-Smart International Race in Northampton, MA.

Note: I think George was too busy trying to yell directions at me on all of the more difficult sections and so did not take any photos at those, while it looks like the women's 3/4 race took place entirely on a flat field, trust me we rode the same course as the men!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The true power of a blog

Oooh a Norri two-fer.

For me, blogging is more of a taking-notes-while-it-happens kind of thing. For instance, take the weekend in New Gloucester. More specifically, let's reflect on the Saturday race in which I was rockin' my 1990's era mountain bike in the midst of a Verge race. Despite a jump ahead at the start, I quickly found myself eating the dust of faster racers -- go figure... there's a reason people race cyclocross bikes. I stuck in there, however, for the experience and for the adrenaline kick of racing. I found, though, that my internal dialogue grew monotonous with the chant of "Go faster, Go faster," and ultimately became pointless. So I focused, instead, on narrating the race like I was writing a blog. MUCH more entertaining, let me tell you.

Some highlights:
- What's the most gracious way to be passed by a 12-year old?
- Brakes are for pansies.
- Braking downhill is like slapping God in the face. Take the gift and go with it.
- Topic: Tights. Pros: warm legs. Cons: hooking yourself on your saddle every dismount AND muffin top (you know what I'm talkin bout, ladies).
- I wonder if it'd be faster if I actually ran the whole course?

So next time you find yourself in the painful throes of the bottom 50%, spice up that internal chant ("Stay on that wheel. Stay on that wheel. Stay on that wheel.") with some blog-style humor. Believe me - you'll have a better outlook on your situation and ultimately more confidence for that final straight-away sprint.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Downeast Cyclocross

Day one. To make Alix's 9:30 start, we awoke to a pitch black morning. Four AM to be precise. I think I've been up that late about the same number of times I've woken up that early. Neither situation seems to be a good idea. Luckily, Alix was ready to rock. Annabelle and I, on the other hand, continued our beauty sleep. We awoke about 45 minutes out. Time to fuel up the baby. Options were slim, so we introduced Annabelle to Burger King French Toast Sticks. She found them curious at first. After a through inspection, she warmed up to the fried wonder and promptly devoured the pack. Yummy.

At this point, the sun was about and my 4am grumpiness was thawing. The race organizers did a stellar job with signage, so we made it to the scene with enough time for Alix to register. Pshew, I still feel bad about green mountain where I got us off track and blew Alix's start time. We lucked into a sweet parking spot about 10 cars back from the staging area. Things looked good. I opened - and promtpy shut - the car door. Brrrrrr. The cross races I tried back in North Carolina spoiled me. Reminding myself this is what cross is supposed to be like I donned a couple extra layers. Annabelle didn't seem as phased by the cold weather. She's a real trooper.

Nothing too exciting to report racing-wise day one. All Flying Penguins finished in typical penguin style. Raina and George led the way with 15th and 25th place finishes. George and Eric sounded like they had a fun time with a rider in their group who hammered ahead in the straight aways only to cause small traffic jams once they got back into the more technical sections. John was in there too mixing it up. Good times.

Day two. Another brisk morning. Raina really laid down the hammer. She looked smooth and came in sixth! It was Amber's debut. She put in a good effort at the start and everytime she came by she was smiling. That was awesome. Alix also was sporting some smiles. Eric kindly loaned her his sweet ride. She happily tossed her mountain bike aside and didn't look back.

Getting ready for our race, George hooked me up with a chocolate Gu. mmm... well "mmm" enough to get down at least. I took my usual start position at the back of the pack. Did I mention the start of both Saturday and Sunday was a bit hectic? The short paved uphill right into a hard left isn't conducive to spreading riders out. Some guys got tangled right in front of Eric, John and I. After a bit of friendly bumping the three of us got around it safely. Sunday's course was more fun. It boasted a sweet log section, a stone-wall that you could ride up and over, and an off-camber approach to an uphill barrier section. After riders started stretching out a bit, I started feeling better. Some credit is due to the Gu (thanks George!), but I also felt more confident on the bike. Day two on the new ride means I have twice the experience. So I should've been about twice as fast right? Clearly math can't always be trusted. That said, however, I was having a good bit of fun. I started braking less in corners and hopefully my sketchiness decreased a bit. I passed a couple riders and didn't feel like I was completely red-lined. On lap two, however, my front tire lost a battle with a rock. Sloppy on my part. I descended too fast and failed to adjust in time. Dropping out crossed my mind, but dropping out is rarely a rewarding experience. So I shouldered the bike and began a lesurely jog. I think I flatted the furthest you could from the pit. Good spot for running practice. I made it to the pit just as the leaders came by. Crap. Lapped halfway through the race! I took off and actually found it quite fun to chase those guys for a bit - they're fast and smooth. The rest of the race wasn't as exciting, but I'm glad I stayed in it.

After finishing, we packed up quick and hit the road. The first of many epic weekends to come. It's fun to be racing again.

Bonus post. We took this weekend off from cross to attend a good friends wedding in Atlanta. While in Atlanta, we brought Annabelle to the aquarium. Her favorite exhibit: the penguins!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Really?! Those guys?!

Yup, us guys! We're your new teammates, Andrea and Marc, and we are really looking forward to being a part of the Penguin crew. Thanks, Eric and Raina!!!

Here we are at the 2010 Vermont 50. Surely this flattering shot leaves everyone really looking forward to spending time with us crazies next season! (Photo by N. Comstock)

Monday, October 4, 2010

How it all gets done...

Elf. Similar to an oompa loompa in productivity, but a little less singing and dancing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hard Work

What's harder than that first race after you've decided you should race yourself into shape? Pinning shoulder numbers!

Here, I've kindly taken one for the team to demonstrate how not to do it:

I'll call this the wind-blown method.
Step 1. Stand facing the wind
Step 2. Hold shoulder numbers up on your shoulders
Step 3. Pin them in place*
Step 4. Get ready for the backwards attack with a big time flat.
*easier with an assistant, lovely or not

Luckily John has it pretty nailed.

George, too, is worth taking a lesson from.

Even Jesse, who just joined the flock after a few year hiatus from the race scene, managed to figure it out (though he might loose some coveted props for the shorts).

Next time, I'll go with the flow.

Thanks to Alix and Greg for the pictures.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Back in the (Cyclocross) Saddle Again

I'm like a born-again Christian, except mine is a religion of MUD and PAIN commonly known as cyclocross. All in all, Loon Mountain isn't a bad place to get re-initiated. This past weekend at the Nor'easter, the trees were dressed in their early-fall colors, the weather was a breezy 75 degrees and the course was a crazy mix of natural barriers, hills and... um... HILLS. The women's Cat 3/4 race had 22 starters, a perfect size for an anxious competitor on her mountain bike. Ahem -- a temporary solution, as the cyclocross bike of my dreams is in gestation, but it turned out not to be entirely a disadvantage.

I felt comfortable riding this challenging course on a bike I knew and I was actually catching and passing people through the tricky off-camber corners. I am happy to report that in my first off-road race in 6 years AND on a sub-par machine, I actually finished in the TOP TEN of the Cat 4 women. We won't mention that there were only fourteen Cat 4's in all, but STILL... just happy to finish. Speaking of finishing, major props to George H., coming across the line just outside of the top 10 in a field size of 33. He rocked it and looked good doing so!

In the end, though, I have a long way to go. It was the HILLS that rose up to defeat me. Or, more precisely, it was my lack of any sort of athletic training. If I can get in 5 hrs of saddle time, I'm having a great week. So let's call this an experiment in racing-into-shape, minus the (often touted, and note the quotations) "base miles." Right. So you mean the power of positive thinking isn't enough?

Thanks a lot to you all for getting me pumped up to race again. I am really happy to have met all of you and am proud to be a Flying Penguin!!!

Putney Mountain Bike Race - Two Wins is Double Fun

edit: blogger ate this post for ~3 months, and then it reappeared - go figure.


For at least a month, John was talking about possibly going down to the Putney mountain bike race on June . He kept using words like 'we' and 'us' when describing this event. Being one of the few races ~1 hour away this made some sense. Like most races far in the future that I'm considering, this seemed like a good idea at the time. So I agreed that if we didn't motivate for the Keith Berger crit, we'd go down and play in the dirt.

The weekend of the race, John was camping with the family with little-to-no cell service and made a few special trips to coverage areas to see what I was thinking. I kept telling him the forecast was terrible and the rain and humidity were making everything slick. I really wanted an out. Mentally, I told myself that if it was still raining at 9pm I'd bail on racing and do something else. Well, at home it stopped raining at 8:30p and John called around 9:30p to let me know he'd already come home (sans familia) to rest up and go race. I was hemming and hawing about not being so into it when my lovely wife said something along the lines of "you're going to race, go get your sh   stuff together". Since I wasn't really planning to race Sunday, I hadn't prepped my bike, packed anything, eaten much for lunch or dinner, or really prepared at all. Starting at 10p I scrambled around finding the things I needed and settled down to a nice bagel with cream cheese and chocolate milk dinner - at midnight.

Since we were racing the beginners class (Cat 3 now), John picked me up early so we could get down there and get some pre-ride in. It was hot and a bit muggy even at 8 am. Around 8:30a we're ready for a preride and headed out to check out the course. At race pace previous years, the lap times were just shy of a half hour. After a while of preriding we discussed the pressing need to get off the course and back to the start. We came to a section that doubled back a bit on an earlier part of the course and bailed out there, making it back to the start with about 5 minutes to spare. Checking the course map after the pre-ride we bailed at the half-way point, which also meant we got to ride most of the single track as well.

Due to small fields, they combined the start of the 20-29 cat 3s and the 30-39 cat 3s. Since I read Colin's blog too much I thought his patent-pending reverse hole shot might be the ticket to success in mountain bike racing. Unfortunately, I couldn't sit in quite enough and had to settle for 5 or 6th wheel back out of the ten of us. Down the 1.5 track section and then onto the first climbing hill I had to start passing people. Going into the first true singletrack section, there was only one guy ahead of me just out of sight. That would really be the last I saw of him. Roughly the next hour was spent riding by myself wondering if I was going fast enough and if I would be caught from behind. It turns out I didn't really need to worry, the next guy back was 12 minutes behind me. I finished with little fanfare and got ready to cheer John on. A few minutes later he comes into the feed area and takes a neutral support cup of water. I heckled him about drinking less than 100 yards from the finish and told him to hurry up and pedal.

It turns out that the guy out in front of me was a 20-29 year old and could be labeled even more of a sandbagger (really?) than I could. The only question in my mind is what happens when the course isn't nearly so roady-friendly. Almost the entire second half was double track climbing and descending. Both John and I ended up on the top step of the podium - I'm still on the fence, mountain biking has so many catagories it seemed like more than half the beginner participants were either winners or at least on the podium.

Swag for first place: West Hill Socks. Yay - socks with no holes.

when an endurance runner tries to bike

Had a fun weekend... I felt I was not going to be in good enough shape to run the VT50K this year so I decided to bike the VT50 instead.  Because in some warped way I thought biking 50 miles was easier than running 31 miles. (plus I had gone on a few mtb rides and felt really good).  Turns out it IS easier... maybe because you don't have to stand the entire time.  Or maybe because you don't have to work as hard on the downhills and flats.  Which leads to my gripe...

Maybe because I'm a runner I bike different...when you run you never get to coast.  If your legs stop moving you stop.  So that is how I bike... almost always pedaling.  Uphills, flats, downhills (except when negotiating single track).   I wasn't sure why I was passing so many people on the downhills and flats (and I'm not talking about single track here... I'm talking about road and double track sections).  Why were they going so slow?  Weren't we racing?  My heart rate/breathing was very comfortable and aerobic yet I was still passing people on the flats and downhills.  I'm not THAT heavy so I know that's not why I was faster downhill.   I can only assume the expert riders don't do this... they must keep up their level of effort on the flats and downhills... but since they started ahead of us, and were obviously faster, I didn't get to see how they ride so I guess I'll just have to wonder.

Still perplexing (but maybe less so than the downhill-coasting conundrum) is that all (ok... that's generalizing, but it seemed like too many) of the bikers attack every hill climb like they are sprinting for the polka dotted jersey and then they get to the top they virtually stop moving, pedaling slow or not at all.  Its amazing how many bikers passed me on the climbs and then within 30 seconds of cresting the hill they were panting for air barely moving and I was long gone, still pedaling away. 

Maybe many novice and sport riders don't spend much time thinking about physics or haven't researched the bodies energy systems and training zones etc.  When I endurance race I think of relatively consistent energy output to avoid excessive anaerobic efforts (obviously there will always be power demand fluctuations but you can control how extreme they are).  To put that in perspective... if you had constant energy output (lets say 100 watts) going 3 mph on a 10% grade hill takes the same power as going 14 mph on a flat.  Or another way of putting it... to maintain your speed of say 10mph going from flat to a 10% hill you would have to increase your power output by a factor of more than 6!  (You can play with the numbers at since it obviously varies with rider weight, power output, and more)

So why were so many people coasting on the downhills, probably at low low heart rates and then killing themselves on the hills so they were nearly spitting up a lung?  When they could be flying on the downhills and setting a tolerable pace on the uphills and overall holding about the same total riding time with a lot less fatigue.  I could be wrong, but I think I felt better at the end of the race and had more fun than the hill-sprinting/downhill-coasting riders.

Again I didn't get to see how the experts ride so I can't comment on them... was it just inexperienced endurance racers that stood out in my mind? or is biking totally different than running? or is it a male/female things since the guys tend to have more strength/power and don't need to pace themselves as much?  Any expert riders out there I'd be curious to hear your endurance race approach... maybe your racing is more refined than what I saw in my first endurance mtb race.

Regardless I had fun race and would do it again.  :)  The 50 mile course is a lot more fun than the 50K course.  Much more fun single track.  Trail running is still my favorite... just not for this race.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Saturday in the park, I think it was the 4th of July

It was actually the 3rd of July, but still it was an exciting Independence Day parade in Brownsville, VT. Penguin participated in the parade with a very creative float, and we're not just saying that; the Penguin float actually won "most creative float" in the parade. Eric may have greased the selectmen's palms for that honor. Just kidding, Eric and Raina created an incredible float. Check out some pictures:

View from the ice-breaker front.

Alix and Annabelle go down the slide.

A wee penguin slides

Baby penguins staying cool with popsicles

Of course there were bikes involved. I swear I smiled a lot, I'm just trying to look like a bike cop for this picture. Jesse can't hide how he's feeling though.

Side view of the iceberg

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunapee and Sandwiches

If it weren't for bike racing I'd be a blimp. Food would try to stay away from me, but I'd seek and devour every tasty morsel within reach. With cycling and specifically bike racing, I have something to keep my mind occupied. The engine I've got doesn't need a whole lot of extra weight to slow way down. But I still love food. And food is there for me when the bike racing part of my life doesn't pan out quite the way I'd been envisioning it on all those training rides. John and I signed up for the 37th annual Lake Sunapee Bike Race. On the ride down we mostly talked about mountain biking and cyclocross and how relaxing both endeavors can be. Something to keep in mind while in a pack of 100 nervous cat 4 riders bombing around Lake Sunapee. The race was a disaster in general, but John and I both finished without crashing. As Eric wrote, great things at Sunapee=not crashing.

I got spit out the back on the last climb around an hour and forty minutes in. There was probably twenty minutes left in the race when I popped. I was pissed at myself. I don't think it was a lack of fitness, more a lack of aggressiveness. Actually that was another subject John and I discussed. To do well in the cat 4s, it helps to be an a-hole, and to be ignorant of said assholishness. There were a couple exemplars of this during our race. Anyhow, I rode alone through Newbury and back along the lake when a cop car went flying by me at, I would guess, 70mph. Hmm, I thought. Then I came upon the traffic circle. What carnage. looked like a warzone. I counted four guys down and not moving, a couple more sitting, and many more standing with scrapes and damage on the side. Fortunately, no sign of John. John was in the middle of the wreck and did wear his tires bare but somehow made it through unscathed. Well, got to say it feels good not to physically hurt, but the ego is another thing.

Back to food, food helps my ego. I know it is only a temporary fix, but when things go bad on the bike it frees up my restraint and I chow! So tonight, the day after my ego bruising, I'm hankering for a snack. I look in the fridge and find a little grilled chicken. Straight up chicken sandwich? No, let's get loco. I already had some Stonyfield yogurt out on the counter. What else? There was some roasted garlic I hadn't used from pizza the other night. Parmesan cheese? I love the parm. Spicy Asian chili sauce? Oh look out. Any greens for this beast? No. But, there was a nice head of brocolli. I can make that work. So I've got chicken, bread, parmesan cheese, chili sauce, roasted garlic, brocolli and yogurt. Seven things I like. Would I like them together?The cyclist in me only allowed a half sandwich. The glutton side was upset, but I have a short memory and who knows the Claremont points race may restore my delusions of bike racing grandeur. I toasted the bread, with parmesan cheese sprinkled on the surface and the chicken sliced and laid out on one side.I sliced the roasted garlic clove and placed the slices all around one side of the bread. I used a chef's knife and shaved off the sprouts on the head of the brocolli. It makes for a decent green substitute in a sandwich. The only issue is it doesn't stay together that well. I put the chili sauce on the chicken. It looked hot. Hopefully the yogurt would cool the chilis down.
Mmmm...looks good. But how do I get it together? That took a little finagling, but I made it happen. I was a bite or two in before I sat down.
The concoction was decent. Not too fattening for that nagging cyclist side, and not too skimpy for the gluttonous side. If I had to do it all over again, I'd put in less chili sauce. Oh, and also stay with the group and sprint like a bat out of hell just before the Sunapee traffic circle.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Winter Wild #2

The second race was at Ragged Mountain on February 6. I didn't do so hot. After the race I wasn't feeling as jazzed about the whole idea of uphill racing. Earlier today was the third race of the series at Whaleback and I'm jazzed up again. My enthusiasm may slightly have to do with my results, but not entirely. I'll slog through a quick report of the second race at Ragged.

I went into the second race at Ragged feeling pretty pumped up. I even preregistered! Which meant I spent an extra $2.50 due to's fee. There is no day of charge. Doh! Ragged is about an hour away. Jesse Norris picked me up at the crack before the crack of dawn. I drank coffee, talked kid stuff and bikes with Jesse, and pondered domination for the day.

That morning (February 6) was very cold. Unfortunately, it had not been cold leading up to the race. So I hadn't been skiing much and the trail we were supposed to go up on at Ragged had been closed down. The race director, Chad Denning, changed the race course because the planned course was too dangerous. What was an ascent up a green circle became an ascent up a blue square and much steeper trail, though I had no idea as I got a front line starting spot.

The gun went off and I cooked it along the flats with some runners and the other skate skier. First race I held back and had to go around too many people. I thought I'd take a different strategy at Ragged. We got through the false flats and hit the vertical. Lactate, lactate, lactate BAM! And I am herringboning (not a word) because I can't move the skis without sliding backwards.

I watch the runners and the skate skier (Bill McGandy) move up and away from me. I tried to move up the hill with my skis in a V and my knees almost touching the hill. I even missed a pole stroke. I kind of looked like this guy except with skis strapped to my feet and not at all intentional. Lots of people came around me. Was it skills or strength that were lacking? Probably both. McGandy kept skiing up the steep, but I just couldn't get forward movement.

The top finally came, but I was defeated. I cruised down the slope mostly in a snowplow. I had become a complete wuss after my pathetic attempt at getting uphill. I came in 17th overall. But I came in 2nd for the track ski division even though I finished four minutes behind the leader after only being a minute behind him at the first race. Still fun, but a classic case of squashed hubris. I thought I had a chance for glory that day.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Offseason Uphill Racin'

Going uphill fast in order to go downhill faster is essentially the idea that spawned the modern ski industry. Initially people had to climb a mountian if they wanted to ski down. Eventually the rope tow was concocted, which beget the chair lift, which beget the high speed quad/gondola which beget boredom, coldness, and long lines which beget the uphill racing series I took part in on Saturday. An uphill race at Whaleback Mtn in Enfield, NH is how I would begin my day Saturday, not to mention competition in 2010. The race was the first of the Winter Wild series,

The races have four options: Open (running or snowshoes), tele gear, heavy metal (bring up a snowboard/alpine skis) or track skis. I decided, after some hand wringing, to go with nordic skate skis and compete in the track ski division. I would have to put my V1 into action and then barrel down a mountain on skis without edges. I can do that. I brought along the yaktrax just in case I wimped out, but I listened to myself commit to the skis once I got to registration at 6:15 am.

The race was scheduled for a 7 am mass start. Start time got pushed back a few minutes because day of registrations kept coming in. The field consisted of over 80 competitors. One of which was Justin Cox, my cross nemesis and fellow Lebanon resident. Justin was on his short tele/touring skis.

A countdown began and at 1 the field surged towards the uphill. I double poled for the first 100 meters or so and then began skating. I'm on the left side of the first picture. Helmets were a requirement, but they threw it aside for the first race. I went with one anyhow as insurance for what was sure to be a sketchy downhill on nordic skis. Thanks to Evan Dybvig for the photos

The first stretch was the steepest. It was steep both in grade and because the trail is part of Whaleback's terrain park, so there were mounds of snow that had been stacked for enormous kickers. I got through that section in the top ten. Two skate skiers and five runners were ahead of me. I dared not look back yet. The hill turned right towards the top, luckily the trail hugged the backside of Whaleback rather than going straight up. The grade got a little gentler, but my legs and lungs were smoked from the first section. So were most others I figured. Until I heard Justin give me a cheer. He didn't sound winded.

The experience was reminiscent of the Ascutney hill climb. I kept on looking at turns in the trail and initially hoping it was the last and that the top was near. And then I would immediately suppress those thoughts the best I could because the top comes when there is nothing more to climb. Not when you hope to be done climbing. I hadn't done any recon on the hill, so I didn't quite know when it would come. Anyhow, the trail meandered up, twisting and turning. Justin was behind me. Justin made his move on me and I trailed him for the last third or quarter. I stayed near.

Finally the top came into view. I could see the chairlift's apparatus as I turned towards the summit from the backside of the hill. The turn to go down was off camber. Justin had to pause to take off his skins. I squeezed past him and started charging down hill. The downhill was hairy. I passed a pair of runners just after the top. A little farther down, two more runners. And then just at the trail's bottom the final runner was passed, he must have been cooking. I understand it was Tom Jacobs. I made the final turn and cruised through the finish line, the third person to cross the line in 14:35. I had been 9th or 10th to the top. The first two across the line at the bottom were skate skiers. Numero uno was Dave Cahill who is an avid nordic racer. He crossed in 12 minutes flat. The other nordic skier and I followed. Justin came next followed by the runners.

The awards ceremony didn't kick off until 8:30 so we had a little time to kill. The second race at Whaleback on February 20 is two laps so Justin, Jesse Norris and I decided to take a second lap for training. The second lap wasn't nearly as taxing. We went at an easier pace, but sill it wasn't too painful. I did take a digger on the way down. I realized I was lucky that I only had to pass runners on the way down during the race. They were pretty easy to go around.

All in all the morning was blast. I walked away with a coffee mug for my efforts. One of the two nordic skiers was in my age division so I placed 2nd in the 20-29 category. Which I realized after wasn't the division I was supposed to be in. Racing age this year is 30. Yikes. Got to get used to that.

I didn't fly the Penguin colors, but wish I had. I could have gotten away with a long sleeve and the jersey. The temperature was above freezing even at 7 am. Maybe Eric and Raina will see it as an advertising expense and get a batch of thermal jackets. OR!! Eric, John, Raina, Molly will join me at the next race at Ragged on Feb. 6 or the second race at Whaleback on Feb. 20. (Vinnie and Jess don't have to make the five hour drive for a thirty minute race).