Thursday, December 16, 2010

And then the snow came . . . . .

Riding has been good lately. I managed to ride with one other person last week and we had a great ride. I went on a group ride the weekend before and that was a blast. And then the snow came . . . . .

Conditioning is coming along. I have been getting in a mix of trainer rides and mtb rides. Cyclocross bike is built up and ready to be ridden on a homemade course right across the street. And then the snow came . . . .

I planned on getting the road bike out next week for my Wednesday rides. I planned on my typical Maryland farm ride out by Fair Hill. And then the snow came . . . .

I am in my second week of base. Yeah, it seems early, but I want to be at my best in early June and then again in September. And then the snow came . . . .

Yeah, you could say I hate the stuff. I mean, I enjoy XC skiing, but there is no way to ski in this little bit of frozen crust.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Testing, Testing 1, 2 , , 1,2

No, not microphone test, LT test. Did a 20 minute LT test to set heart rates and training zones on Saturday. Was a bit lower that I thought it should be, but I got a lot farther in 20 minutes than I expected, so I think that was a good thing. I rode farther in this off season test than in my 20 minute intervals last season, so I think I am heading in the right direction.

MASS races are posted, 2011 goals are set and the training plan is mapped out. Trying some new things for 2011 and hopefully I hit upon something good. In 2010, racing started out good, but fizzled out by early sunner. I am currently being tempted by two bike racing related things: Snotcycle is open for business and taking accepting restrigations daily, so I think I am headed there. The other is reading about all this cyclocross racing has put me in a place where I think I will try and race one of these late season, less than serious races (or more likely, take the cross bike out once a week for some specific workout I can do on a cross bike).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Broken Stuff

I should post a pic of this, but my scandium hardtail is broken. Nice crack along a weld, I am sure it will be covered under warranty and the manufacturer has a new design from the one I am riding, but with this being frame #2 broken for me, I am not so sure about me on a scandium frame. The first one lasted almost two years and this one lasted 18 months, but it saw a lot of use in those 18 months and about 25 races. I have a really important race in two weeks, so I have to see what I can do for that race. More than likely, I will use it in the race but train on another bike. Highly doubtful I can get a replacement in two weeks. Sadly, Atomic blue is no more, so it will be white, orange (no freaking way as #1 was orange!), or raw.

On the same "broken" theme, I rode up on a local guy today with a broken leg. I should post a pic of this, but 1) I do not have one and 2) it was gross! He was on the phone with 911 when I rolled up and asked me to wait at the road for the rescue crew to get there. After waiting a bit, Meinrod (no stranger himself to a broken leg) came running up saying the ambulance crew called and they were waiting at the crosswalk where I was standing. Huh? Some quick riding later and I found they were not at the other cross walk either (Pleasant Valley Road and Creek road). Turns out they went to Carpenter State Park. Lucky for the rider, a ranger was alerted to the situation by another rider, came along and radioed to the emergency crew the scene of the event. The rider was wheeled out on a one wheel stretcher that the trail spinners had recently donated to the fire house. The lower leg was broken in half and it was flopping all over the place . . . ewwww. Glad to see his sense of humor all the way though, until they had to move him. The EMT asked that the rider not hit him because it was going to hurt!

Thanks Meinrod for helping out here too. It does not seem like too many people wanted to help out.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Been like three weeks . . . .

Fair Hill did not work out so well for me. Hung tough in the beginning, sitting in the top 7 guys, feeling good in the singletrack for the first two miles. Got out into the open section and while I still felt good, everyone just rode away from me on the road sections. One guy, Danny Deo, even asked me if I was OK, which I thought I was at the time.

Continued to get dropped bad and about six miles in on an incline, everything fell apart. Looking back, it was heat but when I was in the middle of it, it was just suckness. While climbing a small series of inclines (three sisters for the locals) I just lost everything. Head hurt, stomach hurt, but worst of all, I had zero power in my legs. Started drinking, picking up onopened gels from the trail, and all water bottles I found on the trail were poured over my head. At the ten mile mark, I refilled my bottles and poured water over me. At mile 12ish, I started to feel better and started joking with the riders around me. If a top finish would be out of the question, I would have fun anyway. I continued to have a good time on the racecourse and started passing people again. So much fun, alternating between drinking, passing others, laughing, and making up nicknames for people, like "Pro Trials", some guy who pulled off a 20 foot "crashing" nose wheelie without crashing. I eventually rode away from the laughing crowd and finished 18 of 32 riders, not bad considering 2 guys jumped me in the last 200 feet when I had nothing. It was my worst finish of the year and forced me to not race the next two series races. I am in the process of figuring out the rest of the season right now and feeling stronger on the bike than I did a few weeks ago. I have not ridden my geared bike since that race though and have not really trained since that race.

My overall position in the series in going to be out of the top ten. I have not have the same results as last season for a number of reasons and while I struggled with that in July, I am ok with it now. Having a point series is a good thing, but worrying about points and rankings lead to things like six hour round trips to race for two hours or less.

Let's see if I can put something together to finish the season strong. Or at least to race a few more times.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

About to embark

on one of the three big races here in my home state. Nice when the venues are 10 minutes away by car. It has been a long season, some ups, some downs. Many just one away from the podium, one podium (at French Creek!), then some not as good finishes. Every year it seems to get easier, then harder. Something about me and summer racing does not go together well.

But Fair Hill, Fair Hill usually treats me well. I like the endless miles of singletrack, up, down, back, forth, all over trails I have ridden hundreds of times and never get bored of. Spent a lot of time at the place the last two months, pre-dawn rides all over the place, using the stinky porta-potty one morning, solo rides, rides with team bike line, some geared, lots of singlespeed. Sometimes I forget what a treasure the place really is at times. THE best riding nearby, with apologies to Iron Hill (THE 2nd best place by a small margin).

Speaking of singlespeed, I am going to go against the grain and actually racing my normal geared bike. Like to race on a SS there, last year was the 26er TREK STP experiment there while recovering from swine-flu (although I do feel another 26er experiement coming soon, still have the scandium Kona in the basement, anyone have a SID for sale?) Kidding . . . . . I think.

I am hoping for a top ten finish today and it is there for the taking. Felt miserable last week, tired, too many hours at work, and hated the bike. Rode yesterday and the legs felt incredible. Best they have all year. Worked hard to get openers done, yet keep the legs in good shape. This series we call the MASS is ending soon, three more for me (Fair Hill today, Marsh Creek next week, and the finals at Bear Creek). Hoping to find a race or two in August, but we shall see.

Cyclocross? Not for this rider. Too long of a season and have fallen out of love with it. It's OK, as I tell the 15 people that ask me at every MTB race. It's OK. I think the cyclocross question is asked more than "Where is your singlespeed today?", not sure which of the two I am most identified with, even though I have not raced cyclocross since 2006. I guess that happens when you are part of the best cyclocross team in the region at the time (RIP, FORT-GPOA!) But I cannot be away all year racing my bike, so I have to choose and MTB is #1 for me. Not saying I will not "race" the practices if I can find some, but . . .

I will report back on my success from today. If I can get up on the podium, great! If not, I will use it as training and fuel, because this is not my last rodeo by far, even though I thought it might be on Wednesday. Amazing how easy it is to bring yourself down because of a bad MTB race or two.

So still searching for that elusive podium and knowing I will be up there again before the end of the year.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Andrew Mein's Amazing Adventure

Or the race formally known as "Escape From Granogue"

I just love racing at Granogue. The course is very special to me, very peaceful, and very fun. I hear comments about the course like "It is very technical" or "It is one of the hardest courses in the series", etc. I really do not think it is either, but I am not going to sell it short and say it is easy, because it is not. This course has a lot of climbing (Barry, do you have a GPS track for this course??), a little bit of rocks, and lots of fun sections of singletrack. I cannot ever remember having a bad race here, but I certainly can remember finishing one spot away from awards many, many times. 2010 was no different.

The week prior to the race, I injured my back while working on a home improvement project with my father involving a toilet and a lot of wet flooring that had to be replaced. I was concerned about racing in my geared class, so I opted for the SS class. Seemed to make sense to me because I can control the hurt while on a SS. Back was better prior to the race and I was second guessing myself, but went with it anyway. The SS class is chock full of talent and it was easy to see who the ballers were on the start line. I have a history of racing singlespeeds, even though I have not in over two years. Many times guys see me racing on a geared bike and ask me about the singlespeed. Going back to SS, none of those guys asked me about gears, just welcomed me back into the fold. Starter said go and I did. One guy was a major turbo off the line and I went for his wheel, but decided to let it go. I maintained 2nd for a little bit (real little), fell over, and dropped back to somewhere around 8th. That will happen when you fall in the first mile of a race. I rode the rest of the first lap not passing anyone and not being passed either. and wheel to wheel with the top ten guys. I was hurting. Bad. A 52" gear is not the best choice for this course, but I went with what I had on the bike rather than switch something out at the last minute. On the 2nd lap, I felt much better, rode with Mark Sanford a bunch (which was new for me, but since he started 2 minutes back and does not like wet technical courses, it makes sense). I went back and forth with another SSer all race and he rode away from me in the last 1/2 mile of singletrack. Turns out he was the fifth place rider and got the last step on the podium. He deserved it!

Came home, took the singlespeed apart, and plan on racing a geared bike for the rest of the year. My hats off to you SS guys. I hurt worse at Granogue than I have all year. I am doing well in the points for Vet II sport and need to remain focused on that class.

Next up, French Creek. Not wishing any bad luck for the promotors, but I hope it gets very wet for the race, as wet, slippery, climby, and technical are the best days for me. The weather forecast for the day of the race is: RAIN! Yay.

See you out there?????

Friday, April 23, 2010

Come and Gone

Last year I purchased a copy of Joe Parkin's book "A dog in a hat". This book has become one of my favorite books and I read it about once per month. It is a fairly fast read and hard to put down once I start. Sure, I know what happens next, but I seem to enjoy it every single time regardless of how many times I have read it. The joy of experiencing life through two wheels is captured well by Joe and his descriptions of making a living as a pro cyclist in Belgium makes one want to cross the ocean and give it a try for themself.

Last Friday when I got home from work, Joe's new book "Come and Gone" was there. I cracked it open at 6:00 PM and by 11:00 AM the next day, I was reading the final words. The book is that good. While the first book was about Joe's early bike racing experience and upgrading to a professional cyclist in Belgium, the second book penned by Joe is about his return to the US and racing there, both on the road and later as a mountain biker (with a bit of cyclocross thrown in for good measure). It is interesting to read about the differences with pro life in Belgium VS in the US. He also returned to the US when the economy was not doing very well and sponsorships were getting harder to find.

Now both of these books are on my list of favorites and I find them equally entertaining. Joe experienced things I will never experience, yet reading about them inspires me to try and experience some of them. I highly recommend the book. I hear Mr. Parkin is now editor of BIKE magazine, making me wonder if that publication is worthy of my purchase these days.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Danville Tour De Tykes, or the course I love the best

Got to the race late, had to beg the guys at registration to let me check in as registration was closed. Lucky for me I was pre-registered and had my number, because I doubt I could have registered day of. Had 30 minutes to get dressed, get the bike ready, and get warmed up. Lisa and Isabella made the drive up with me, so they came up to the start line. It was a bit cold and they were tired from the long drive, but there to support me. Unlike previous years, this race would have staged starts, much to the dismay of the locals as I heard when I was getting ready. I disliked this race being scored like a time trial too. That would not happen this year. Yay!

While we were on our way to the event, Lisa asked me why did I drive three hours to come to this race. I explained that this course was real mountain biking to me. Big mountains, fast singletrack, power climbs, huge views from up top, and superfast, rocky, slide back behind the saddle descents. The closest I am going to get to big mountain racing.

Got to the line feeling a little cold, and very very nervous. The fields were smaller than the previous week. 24 Pre-Registered riders VS the 62 starters at Fair Hill. Tried to put a good song in my head as we rolled up to the start line.

Let it flow
let yourself go
slow and low
that is the tempo

Slow for sure. The race starts on a paved climb, then goes up a gravel road to the top of the mountain. At the top, you start riding singletrack that continues to climb. Starter says go, guys around me are jumping the gun at 2 seconds. At 1 second to go, I am the only one on the front line that is still not going. Starter says go, I go.

It's never old school - all brand new
So everybody catch - the bugaloo flu
Not like a fever - not like a cold
The beats are clear - the rhymes are bold
So don't see a doctor or see a nurse
Just listen to the music - first things first
Let it flow
let yourself go
slow and low
that is the tempo

As we start to ascend the paved road, I notice I am on the front and put in 10 strong cranks. No one responds. I decide I will ride hard, but within my limits. I am ahead by 4 or 5 bike lengths as we ride onto the stone fire road. I am almost to the back of the group that started in front of us and decide I should try and hide in this group. Maybe having a bright blue bike and a bright blue uniform is not the best thing . . . need to rethink racing in that one of a kind 2010 Alt kit with the blue houndstooth fabric. . . . Halfway up the fire road, a guy from my wave gets around me. I learned later that he passed the leader of the wave before us prior to the top of the climb where you enter the singletrack. At the very top, another racer goes by, followed by a third. I am at my limits and unable to latch on, but I do chase on. I am in 4th position and feeling great. As we weave around the mountain top singletrack, the climbs start again. I am trying to be aggressive, passing riders from the start waves before me, but starting to feel the effort again and looking forward to the upcoming rolling power section. I bobble when passing another rider and a guy on a Blue Niner in a similar blue kit as mine from my wave goes around me. Poop.

First of all - get off the wall
It's time to party so have a ball
Because we slowed it on down - so get the hell up
Like a volcano I'll erupt
We got determination - bass and highs
White Castle fries only come in one size
What you see is what you get
And you ain't seen - nothing yet
Let it flow
let yourself go
slow and low
that is the tempo

I am starting to feel good and keeping blue niner in my sights. He has loads of power and he is using it in abundance. He is also powering right though other riders and tearing up the downhill sections. But I am determined to get back to his wheel. He is passing riders and I am following right along, passing groups of up to 2 and 3 riders at a time with me 5 seconds behind him,. He gets by a guy that is entering every fast corner full on skidding. I blame his V brakes! I need to get around him, but by this time we are in super twisty and tight singletrack and I cannot find a hole, even though I have made my intention known. Going into a fast left hand turn, he totally locks up the rear wheel, comes to a total stop, and in trying to avoid him I go down fast and hard. I am able to bounce up quickly, but while I am on the ground, Danny Dieo from Trestlebridge goes around me. Danny is on a 26 and is tearing up the tight stuff. As we exit this section, he pulls away and I work to keep myself moving forward, counting where I am in the race and telling myself it is still very early and the win is still possible.

I do not sing - but I make a Def song
You could live your whole life - and I hope you live long
On the Gong Show we won't get gonged
We're the Beastie Boys - not Cheech and Chong
Strong as an ox - fresh out the box
The crowd is so live - they're coming in flocks
And when we go on - the crowd goes off
It's all hard rock - there's nothing soft

So now I am in 6th position and I am not feeling great. There is no way I came all the way up here for 6th, I wanted a podium and I wanted it badly. I take a minute or two to get my head together and get my race mojo working. I try and keep moving forward and want to put myself in a better position when we hit the halfway mark of the course, when the course crosses over the start point and begins the ascent up the other mountain. I am starting to feel really good on the bike here, both on the ups and the downs. Somewhere in the section prior to the midway crossover, I pass Danny and set my sights on blue Niner, telling Danny to come along with me. He is on my wheel, but he eventually falls back. I am somehow able to get around blue niner just before the crossover and the ascent back up the mountain. I am now in 4th and looking for the 3rd place rider. I am rocking the climb and as soon as I am out of site of the chasers, I take a minute to eat a gel and drink some water. Smart move here, as I needed the energy the gel was providing. It allowed me to finish the race strong.

We don't only rock the house but we'll house we rock
We don't stroll but we roll straight to the top
M.C.A., Adrock, Mike D. makes three
And we can do it like this in the place to be
When I'm recorded - you'll be rewarded
I know my song is Def 'cause you all applauded
Not P.C.P. or L.S.D. - just me Mike D. in the place to be
This is not free - you must pay a fee
Cash on delivery like a C.O.D.
Let it flow
let yourself go
slow and low
that is the tempo

I love the second half of the course. The first half has climbs, but the second half has incredible, really long, technical climbs. It also has some power sections in the middle, get in the big ring, roll along fast, and relatively flat power sections, considering one is still on a mountain. The gel is making me feel good and I really work hard to catch riders in front of me. I am starting to go around some Expert riders who started before me and had to ride other sections of the course before coming back to the combined course (which is a little confusing). I am feeling good. I am trying to channel the energy of Nathan Deibert, who absolutely loves this course and is a great climber. Hopefully he felt the need to send me some good thoughts and power, it seems he may have as my suffering was not that bad. Yet.

The beat is slow in order to dance
I wanna hear I dos and no I can't
First you move your legs - and then your arms
It's not fast and nervous - this dance is calm
It's truly stable and you ought to be able
To dance to the record when it's on the turntable
Let it flow
let yourself go
slow and low
that is the tempo

The last section of the course is really hard. While descending the mountain on the loosest, steepest, hardest singletrack I have ever ridden, I am led to believe I am approaching the bottom of the mountain, because I am. And then I realize I should be hearing the music at the finish line and I am not. And then the course turns back up. And up. And along the mountain. And then down. Then up. Up some more. Up and across the mountain. In retrospect, the first descent was down to the OTHER side of the mountain and then I had to ride up and over the mountain to the finish. I actually had to walk a section of the course, because my rhythm was off and I was in the wrong gear. That can happen when you are rolling along downhill and all of sudden make a 180 turn up some loose rocky trail. I was not the only one walking, but that was also the point I saw the 3rd place rider. I push on, hoping I will not run out of trail before the finish. As it turns out, the trail had more twisting and climbing to do and he finished 3 minutes up on me. I finish the race, taking time to zip up my jersey so at least I look good for the finish line. Upon finishing, I see my wife and daughter there to greet me, but knowing I finished in 4th and would not be making a trip to the podium today. After talking to some other riders, we make our way back to the car to clean up, pack up, and went out to lunch and then home. On the way home, Lisa and I really enjoyed the drive and she really enjoyed the mountain scenery. In retrospect, it was a fantastic race and day. My finish time was 13+ minutes faster than the same course last year. And that is a pretty good improvement. The best part is I am not finished improving yet.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

And so it began . . . .

Well, it actually began two weekends ago at the MASS relay. Met a large group of racers on the way to the MASS relay at the Wawa in Lancaster, which is a favorite meeting place when heading into Central PA. Quick run to use the bathroom, get some food, and we were on the way. Set up camp quickly among the C3 and Fast Forward Development team and rode a quick lap. Learned how much harsher the bike feels with a rigid fork and was surprised by the roughness of the trails as I remembered them to be pretty buff.

My team all rode well and came within 20 seconds of getting our last relay rider out for another lap. Next year . . . . . I felt good on the bike and as always, loved the trails on the Osterling farm. 16 minute laps with 45 minutes of rest made for some dead legs on laps 2 and 3, but 4 felt pretty good. Fully rigid on the rooty trails in Marysville, not so much (although my front tire choice was not so cushy either).

Sunday, April 11th was the first official cross country race and the venue was 15 minutes from my house, which is always a nice thing. Team Bike Line, along with Mother Nature did a great job in getting the course ready for the race. Just six weeks ago, the course had a foot of snow in places, so it was nice to have a superfast course to race. 62 guys lined up at the start of the Vet II sport race, the largest field in quite some time. I did my best to hold back at the start to avoid overextending myself. As we approached the first turn, I started to move up through the field, but there was still a very long way to go before we would hit singletrack. I could see my teammate Barry up ahead in the crowd and worked to get up to him, which took some time, ½ a lap actually. We then did our best to pass folks and move up in our field. We passed a lot of guys and ended up 9th/10th for the day, crossing the line together and letting the timer decide the winner. It was great to be racing with a teammate, because we both kept each other focused on moving up in the field. I suspect by the time we passed our team tent (first section of the course on the fireroad), we were in about 25th place, so it was nice to keep moving forward all race. Pass and zoom, pass and zoom. Lisa and Isabella made it out the race as well and enjoyed being outside. It was nice to see them at the start of the race and at the end of the first lap as well. Hopefully they can make it out to more races in the future. Props to Mark Sanford who won Vet I Sport on Sunday. You deserve it dude.

Now it is time to work on more training and conditioning in order to improve my placings. I am looking forward to courses with more climbing and technical sections. The Secret Henry’s Team had a good day, although I am not sure how good because I have not seen final results yet.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gearing up

Prep for the 2010 race season has been going well. The snow has had an effect on everyone's training and has changed the way I have prepared from what I have previously done. I think that is a good thing. The changes in climate have allowed me to do some weight training and focus on specific types of training, training that should allow me to meet my goals this season. Junk miles are not really an effective way to train, but accumulating junk miles on a trainer are really a sad thing.

On the team front, things are going well. We have a core group of racers on Henry's that have some serious goals. A soon to be released website of the team will allow an up close and personal view of the team and where we want to be standing this season. It is good to be back in the folds of the organization that helped form my role in the community. The team is a melting pot of riders from other local teams, some defunct, so I share common backgrounds with many of these folks.

Things on the home front are going very well too. My daughter will start school in the fall, my wife is ever supportive of this insane training and racing lifestyle, and my 40th birthday went by without too much hassle.

Now I look forward to the season ahead, riding on some nice dry singletrack, and racing my mountain bike in about five weeks from now. I am looking forward to that day and now I am going to go do some more preparation work for that day.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Changes for 2010

I am pleased to announce I will be riding for Henry's Bike Shop, located in Wilmington, DE. I previously rode for Henry's in the past, first as a member of FSVS, then again years later in 2007 and 2008 when I returned to racing after a small break. I made a decision to leave the team in 2009 and spent a year with the Allied Milk squad. Things were great with Allied Milk. A great group of guys, all strong riders and great guys. Dan Conrad is a great guy and had a lot of passion for the sport and for his team.

But returning to Henry's was the right thing for me to do. Rick, Andrew, and Vince have always treated me well, heck Vince and Andrew play with my daughter on Saturdays when we sneak off to the shop after gym class. Being on Henry's is like having a second family for me. Being supported by them, even though I was not riding in Henry's gear, always felt a little dirty to me. And the team is taking on a renewed focus towards the Mid Atlantic Super Series. Rick MiHills is poised to make a return to MTB racing and that is a great thing. At this time, I have somewhat of a leadership position with the team and I like that aspect of it, being one of the drivers of the bus.

We also have two new riders this year that moved over from No Cents Racing. Barry Jones and Robert Baldoni have been racing with me for a few years now and I looked forward to seeing them at the races. Oddly enough, our relationship started a few years back when Barry was calling me out for being a sandbagger, a compliment that still makes me blush to this day. I have grown close to him after this event and I am proud for him to be a teammate of mine. Robert is a terror on the bike and he too will make a fine addition. Hopefully we can pull a podium sweep sometime this year - - that would be sweet. At this point, it looks like we will field a small team in the MASS and a separate Endurance team as well.

It is never too late to go home again.

Snotcycle Fail

As I sit here coughing, producing snot!, and feeling pretty crappy, I wonder if racing sick in cold, cold conditions is such a wise move in January. I guess the answer to "Are you going" will be made tomorrow morning. Off to drink some OJ and Cold Ease.