Sunday, September 26, 2010


After a good run on Blogspot, I've decided to move this little shindig over to a new blog site over on Wordpress. Check it out and subscribe to that site instead!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Training, riding, racing.

And so it goes. About 10 days until the CX @ Brewery Ommegang. At this point, I'm expecting dry, dusty and (since it's been nearly 85 degrees here as of late) warm weather. That would actually be ok with me, since I really don't care much for cold weather riding, but I suppose since I'm pre-registered, I have to HTFU anyway.

Strangely, since I've only got 10 days left, any significant training will be lost on me now. Time to rely on the engine that has been developed (and mildly neglected as of late) over the past 6 months. One more longer, fast ride is on the books for early this Saturday morning, both to shock the legs into some longer, harder efforts and to shock my system into riding in the cooler morning weather. That will top up the aerobic engine, so my 'cross skills will be the only thing I'm really nervous about, since the more oxygen debt I get into, the worse they become. And everyone knows that 'cross is ALL about suffering above the red line.

Today I had the day off, so I did something I haven't done for a long time: go for a ride just for fun. No goals, no intervals to do, just plain old riding for the fun of riding. I don't think I even checked the average speed of the ride. I was able to enjoy the emerging fire of the fall leaves, the whistle of the wind through my Oakleys and the muted vibration of the pock marked road under my tires. It was magnificent.

So, while 'cross racing may be the order of the month, there will certainly be a relief to have no training to worry about, no numbers to hit, and many more carefree miles of road to eat up on those leisurely rides. Ah yes, and so it goes, and so do I.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Training daze, oh training daze.

The days are growing shorter, the air is growing colder, and the season is winding down. Yeah, right.

I just finally registered for my first 'cross race (CX @ Brewery Ommegang) and that means I'd better whip my butt back into shape. You see, since I've had a few things going on this summer (like a wedding, work being turned upside down, and of course the horrifically oppressive heat and humidity) I've been relying on my early season form and conditioning to carry me through. Of course, looking at my Sporttracks info recently reminded me that I've been a horrible slacker, and I've really needed to kick it up a notch. This means the traditional teeth gritting, leg crushing interval workouts, ridiculous climbing workouts and stupid hard time trial efforts. All that is interspersed with occasional recovery rides and the search for new, interesting roads to ride to keep the training from getting stale.

The past weekend involved a recovery ride to get breakfast on Friday morning (it was bloody COLD) and then a big climbing day Saturday (can we say steep hills?) followed by some short 'cross skill drills today. I've also bolted a 38 tooth inner chainring on my Foxtrot, which should give me just a bit of extra breathing room considering those heavy/solid Ksyrium wheels shod in huge, knobby tires.

So after reflecting on the past week of training, what has come to my attention? I need to toughen up a little bit more mentally, which I'm working on. My running mount-ups need a little work too (dismounts and hopping barriers is a perfect two step at this point, but it takes about 4 steps to re-mount.) My sharp accelerations are pretty good, and my endurance and pacing is pretty good.

So...three weeks to go. That means about 2 more weeks of hard training and then about a week of taper time. All the while I'll still be watching the days get shorter and the air getting colder. Ah well, I guess the season has to wind down sometime.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Of beer and ('cross) bikes...

The Labor Day weekend has been fantastic (so far anyway.) Since September actually heeded my previous request and has returned, bringing with it milder temperatures and a lack of humidity, it has been prime riding and training weather.

After spending quite a while rebuilding and tweaking my 'cross bike for the upcoming season, I've got this to work with:

Origin 8 Foxtrot frame (7005 butted aluminum with carbon rear triangle and full carbon fork)
Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels
Bontrager Jones CX tires
SRAM Force shifters
SRAM Rival front derailleur
SRAM Rival rear derailleur
Shimano 105 12-25 cassette
Shimano Ultegra 39/46 crankset
Wipperman ConneX chain
Tektro CR720 cantilever brakes
Selle Italia Octavia saddle
Crankbrothers Eggbeater pedals
FSA Stem and bars, Bontrager post, Fi:zik DualTape wrap

This should serve me well enough in the coming season, especially considering this will be my first season racing cyclocross. As a benchmark, and as a way to shake out the tweaks in the bike, I planned a 22ish mile route that included 3 laps of a 2.8 mile circuit which was 75% dirt, gravel and oil and loose stone. Each lap included about 230 feet of elevation gain to test the legs, and plenty of curves and corners to challenge the handling skills. The ONLY thing that the route didn't have were dismounts, barrier crossings and remounts. Those were practiced before we set out upon the ride.

Of course, one particularly botched dismount involved the bike tipping over opposite the side I was dismounting on, causing me to end up tripping over the fallen machine and sprawling out on the lawn. In the process, I was busy rolling my right ankle and covering myself with bruises. Awesome, I look like a battered housewife, and I only have my own "skills" to thank.

Fortunately, after a pretty decent ride (even with a sore ankle) I finally got to tear into one of these:

Home brewed Belgian Double. Not too bad, but it could still use a few more weeks of "cave aging", which has become my new term for aging beer in the rough hewn rock and mortar cave I call a basement or cellar.


Rest day, how I love thee.'s nice and sunny, only 72 degrees, and I could head out on the road bike for a recovery ride...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Welcome to September.

Hi, I'm the month of September, and I've decided that fall weather is a bunch of malarky and I'm inviting summer back for a repeat visit. I've given you 6 days of nice seasonal weather, and that's more than enough. Suffer with 93 degree heat and excessive humidity. HAHAHAHAHA!

Yes, it's horrendously warm again here in the northeast, so that means sitting inside and relaxing with the Vuelta a Espana and a cup of french press coffee (not that there's anything wrong with that.) It also means that riding is going to be cut relatively short and be limited to the early morning and late evening hours. The one bonus of the extremely hot weather is that I'll be sweating out a couple of extra pounds to put me right into competitive racing weight.

There's a fair number of races coming up in the next couple months (and hopefully the weather isn't going to be quite THIS warm in October) and they should be quite a bit of fun. The tough part is going to be training for cross season, as my motivation at this point in the season has been flagging badly. I need some motivation to get out and get riding, but the heat, the long riding season, and all the things I've had to do in the past 8 months have really put a lot of wear on both the body and mind.

It will pass though, hopefully when fall decides he's done being lazy and sends summer back on vacation.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

An open letter to Bicycling Magazine

Dear Bicycling:

Your magazine is...a standard cycling magazine. Every issue has an article on techniques for riding (currently cyclocross, which I'm obsessed with right now), clothing reviews, component reviews, bike reviews, fitness information, and of course, the smattering of feature articles. You even have occasional human interest stories, about guys who hang themselves after getting busted for trafficking pot.

But really, the one thing that you have that no other magazine has are your chef profiles. (Note that I don't know if other magazines have this or not, I really don't pay attention unless things go wrong...) Typically, you have some interesting and even tasty recipes. However, things occasionally go horribly, HORRIBLY wrong.

Your most recent issue had a profile of a scruffy, bearded vegan chef, cooking somewhere in Oregon or something. He rides a lot, talks about losing his desire to work with meat, and about the joys of veganism. He then goes on to share his "awesome" gnocchi recipe with the world. He explains the process of making his little cooked potato turdlets, and expounds on how wonderful they really are.

Let me tell you. They tasted like SHIT! Absolutely tasteless, and a huge letdown from something you'd find in an excellent Italian restaurant. I would have done better to drop floured deer turds into boiling water and see what I came up with.

So, Bicycling Magazine..
TRY these recipes before you print them. And I don't mean in the wonder-boy's restaurant, but in your own kitchen. Pretty sure you won't get the same result, and you might save someone a bit of trouble.



Oh, and while I'm at it, Mother Nature, stop with the damn rain. I can't train in this crap.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

As summer winds down:

The heat...oh the oppressive heat around the northeast in the past couple weeks has been unreal. Average temperatures of 85+ degrees paired with 70% or higher humidity have made riding conditions awful. In fact, there's been very little riding to be had.

My mountain bikes have been hanging in the garage with the exception of the 65 miles that I put on them around the time of the wedding in the beginning of July. I've been primarily riding my early season fitness into a big plateau, and re-building my cross bike, tuning it all up to get ready for some cyclocross races.

Cyclocross has laid an entirely new set of skills at my feet and challenged me to learn things like running dismounts and running mounts. Oh yeah, and how not to crush your...tender bits...upon remounting the bike on the fly. Sadly, since your right thigh is supposed to take the abuse of hitting the saddle first, when you MISS the saddle, it becomes a painful learning experience. I'm surprised I don't look like I've been beaten about the junk by a cheap sado-masochist off the corner of 42nd and Broadway (note that I'm clueless about that actual location, if it even exists...)

Similarly, running dismounts have been a hilarity. Not entirely hard to do: unclip and swing the right leg over the back of the bike, then swing it between the frame and your left leg, hit the ground running while unclipping, and go! Sure, easier said than done, especially when your left hand is operating the front brake from the hood and the right hand is supposed to be on the top tube, ready to hoist your beast over the looming obstacles. What could go wrong?

Let's talk about hitting a bump in the grass, the wheel turning sharp left and falling over onto the frame. Funny, right? Howabout scraping your leg on that non-drive-side cantilever brake as you swing the leg over the back of the bike? Maybe jamming the pedal/crank into the back of your right heel when the left foot doesn't unclip cleanly and you (try to) start running with a bike still attached to your left foot. Oh yes, this is supposed to be FUN!

Fun it will be. Mud, beer and cowbells. In fact, this description IS cyclocross. I'm looking forward to my first 'cross races: CX at Brewery Ommegang and the Wicked Creepy Cross Race in Bennington. Those should be a great intro to this bizarre fall/winter sport. consider embrocation on my shaved legs (and hopefully NOT mix it up with my chamois butter...)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

So I'm a married man now...

The wedding was fantastic. No wonder I've not been updating this blog with any frequency at all.

Things have changed mightily in the past season. I built a new road bike (a Look 585 Origin), rebuilt my cross bike with SRAM components (now the Origin 8 Foxtrot sports Force levers and Rival derailleurs), spent a bunch of time riding my mountain bike (right before the wedding) and have committed to racing cyclocross this fall. And yes, my wife was less than thrilled about it, but I finally dove in and pulled off the leg shaving thing, especially since I spent some time tending to wounds garnered on our mountain bike trips.

So there's been trail riding, there's been cross bike riding, there's been road riding, and there's been all kinds of partying and joy.

It's been a great summer so far, and we've got an entire month to go before its over.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's been a long time since an update.

Unfortunately, I've been inundated with a lot of things. Planning a wedding, work and riding have been consuming me lately.

I have not ridden my mountain bike this season. I've ridden 993 miles on my road bike, built a new Look 585 up, and have been working on building a good fitness base.

In a week and a half, I'll be heading for Kingdom Trails to do a little trail riding. Maybe there will be an update then.

Until then, keep the rubber down.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hello Spring!

Hello sunshine! It's been too long since your sparkling rays have warmed the dank and depressed earth here in NY. Amazingly, you've managed to show yourself after a record setting run of snow...good for you.

Yes indeed, with the sunshine and 60 degree days comes the thrill of RIDING OUTSIDE! Mind you that the trails are still covered in snow and ice (thanks snowmobiles) but the roads are mostly dry. The only problem is the excess of sand, salt and cinders that can shred even the toughest tires in seconds.

Sunday we shocked the world with a 35 mile ride, with nearly 2000 feet of climbing, and we finished feeling awesome. Fitness wise, I'm actually at a point which I was at in the middle of May last year. That's what only 4 weeks of indoor training will do for you. I am able to ride all the climbs that gave me even the slightest hint of trouble last year, and now I'm doing them almost effortlessly and using larger gearing (I manned up and swapped out my compact double for a standard double this year.) The only downside of this was a flat tire in the driveway of all places, then another flat on the road, and finally a third flat when the valve core of the presta valve inexplicably disappeared. Incredible, that's all I have to say.

Today, since I was given the green light to do nothing in honour of my birthday (another year older, another mark off my max heart rate, I know....) I took my newly built cyclocross bike out for a jaunt. 25 miles later, I've learned that there is a big difference between my 16.9 pound road bike in it's climbing garb, and my 24 pound cross bike with boat anchor wheels. No flats this time around, probably because those tires are thicker than a doormat. Oh well, it's good training nonetheless, and I'm more than happy to be able to get out and ride in March of all times.

And so, as spring hits us head on, I beg of you to get out there and ride. Test your form, enjoy the spring air and keep the rubber side down.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

January is down the tubes:

Tonight is the Pro Bowl. Tomorrow is February. A week from today is the Superbowl. In 2 weeks Valentine's day is here. This year is moving right along, with 1/12 of it history already.

I've been outside for two rides this new year, and with only two rides outside in January, it's been the horrifying spectre of trainer riding. As insane as that thought is, I'm actually happy to say that I've been seeing some improvement in my fitness and because I've set a target date for my first training peak I'm actually enjoying my indoor rides. What? Yes, that's entirely correct, I've fallen completely into the pit of despair and forced myself to enjoy trainer rides so that I'll have some fitness by April 18th.

Surfing around the web looking for races in the area turned up a criterium about 10 miles away from me that looks quite fascinating. I've toyed with the idea of racing my road bike all throughout this past year, but just never committed to it (not to mention that I had that little thing called the Livestrong challenge looming large.) So, a criterium sounds like a good way to start the adventure. 1.2 mile laps, 10 laps in total. The weekend after the Tour of the Battenkill (which I'll be going to, of course) it has a taste of the best of the European classics. It features a sharp climb, speedy descent, wicked corners and cobbles. Yes, COBBLES! Awesome!

With that news on the table, the pre-season has been great. I've upgraded from a compact double to a standard double (roadie speak) and worked on technique and form over the off season. I should be in pretty good shape come April, and I'm looking forward to my first experience on the road (and cobbles.)

The mountain bike? It hasn't been touched. With hunting season still in effect here in NY, frigid weather (4 degrees Fahrenheit), a distinct lack of daylight and a wedding to plan all sucking away my time and motivation for riding, the mountain bike has been hung in the garage for the winter.

Of course, there is always the newly built cyclocross bike...

Ahh, I'm pulling myself in too many directions. One day I'll have enough time for all this riding I need to do.

And on another note, I'd just like to say Happy Birthday to Mountain Bike Tales. Five years of writing, reviewing, editing and answering questions and MBT is the best it has ever been. Thanks to all the people behind the scenes who make it happen and to all the writers, editors and development folks who bring it to the forefront. Happy fifth, and many more!