Monday, June 29, 2009

Massive Weekend

Allison and I were both pretty disappointed with the results in Colorado but on the way home we talked a lot, about a lot of things. There were a bunch of, lets call them "external stressors", that were sucking up a lot of our mental energy and hurting both of our focus (or is it foci?). :) Since then we have both cranked it up, and drowned out the "noise". We have really been putting in the work the past couple weeks and turning the screws. Allison legitimately beat me up ITT last week which means she is on the gas!

This past weekend we planned a bit of a stage race to test our fitness and ability to recover. During the week our recovery is somewhat inhibited by work and life, so we don't get the opportunity often to go out and kill it and then focus almost entirely on recovery.

Saturday we hit up Palomar Mtn. with a small group (Steph & Dan, Luke, & us). Steph and Dan got a head start on the three of us. We spun up to the taco shop from the casino and then dropped the hammer. It was really hot out and I was dripping sweat almost immediately. I don't think Allison held Luke's wheel very long but I wasn't looking back. Luke pulled around me a couple of times before we got to South Grade. It was awesome having him there to push me. It seemed like any time my cadence fell a bit, or I let off the gas, he would come around and accelerate. Not long after turning onto South Grade we passed Steph and Dan. I didn't let up as we went by and they cheered us on as we sped up the climb. The rest of the climb is just a blur, I was really hot and pushing super hard. I kept wishing for the climb to end. Half a mile from the top Luke passed me, I had sat up just a tad and was feeling pretty crappy. Just after he passed me I saw the little Palomar Mtn. spring water station and the thought of dumping some water over my head overwhelmed me. I steered to the side of the road hoping to fill a bottle and dump it on my self only to discover that the spigot didn't have a handle to turn it on!!!! DAMN IT!!!! I was mentally broken after that and it took me almost 5 minutes to go the last half mile! I still put in a great time up the climb, but it would have been much nicer to stay on the gas the whole way.

Once at the top we regrouped and then headed down East Grade. Luke had a flat so the group got separated a bit on the descent. Steph, Allison and I turned around and headed back up. Steph was motoring along and Allison and I were turning a nice tempo pace. Not too far into the climb it seemed like someone opened the floodgate on the traffic. I have never seen that much traffic on East Grade before! There were tons of people going both up and down. There were a few close calls, one where a fat ass on a Harley was riding the yellow line coming at us, and a car coming up from behind us was passing at the same time really scared me and made me angry. A sports car club was putting on some kind of road rally (on open roads??) and I have never seen so many Ferraris, Lambos, Porsche GT's, Nissan GT-R's, Vipers... great cars but I would rather not be cycling as they tear up the roads. One thought did occur to me that these people pay 6 figures to have a sports car, I AM my own sports car! :) In any case we regrouped at the top before heading back down South Grade and back to the cars. I love descending South Grade. Just something about flying down that hill over 45mph and railing those corners. I passed a couple of cars on the way down and even passed a couple slower motorcycles. Descending South Grade is much nicer than East Grade, and is probably my favorite thing to do on a road bike.

After the ride we went into full on recovery mode. We did all the things we could think of to help us recover knowing full well that Sunday was going to bring a lot of pain.

Sunday morning we got up feeling really well all things considered. We headed up to Rim Nordic and signed up and started our warm up routines. I was immediately shocked at how well my legs responded after the previous day's efforts. I felt some residual fatigue, but it was fairly minimal. Lining up it was the usual fast CAT 1 guys, Matt Perry, Griffith, James, Umberto, Marco. I was relieved to not see Gary who none of us can hang with, this means that the we get to battle for first and not second! :)

Since I was very unsure of how my body was going to respond I decided to pick a spot in the pack and just sit in. On the first lap I was sitting 5th wheel or so for a while but there was a group of three that was pulling away (Griffith, Matt, and Marco). There was a ton of traffic and this made me nervous. I didn't feel like I was really pushing all that hard and had lost sight of the lead group, I put in efforts where I could and made clean passes hoping to keep the gap manageable. Near the top of the climb Marco was going backwards and I passed him putting me in third with James not far behind. When I got to the fire road Matt was in front of me. I put in an effort and passed him and kept the hammer down. I caught Griffith and was following him as we started the descent. He was having a bit of a rough time on the descent and I put a pass on him and yelled that he might do better to just follow my lines. I had a couple of really close calls at very high speed, I was really pushing hard. My tires weren't hooking up very well and I was running too low pressure. I held onto first all the way back to the fire road but then things started to go south. For the second time in a row the water guy didn't have any water for me and my power had fallen off, it was really hot out and I was starting to suffer. I didn't have anyone to work with and was fading badly. I looked back and didn't see anyone, then all of a sudden James and Griffith were breathing down my neck. James pulled around me and I grabbed onto his wheel. He looked really fresh though. At the first water crossing I swerved to avoid a big rock in the trail and took a nasty digger into the ravine. I lost a spot to Griffith and hurt my left hand when I landed in the rocks. After that I did my best to try and catch back on. I caught James, I think he took a digger as well, but then he pulled away again. I did my best to keep them both in sight but as we headed out on lap three my legs started to cramp up. Lap 3 was all about survival mode. I was fighting through cramps and trying to hold position. Somehow I held onto 3rd, Matt finished just 30 seconds or so behind in 4th.

Shortly after finishing I got the news that Allison had taken her first Pro win! It is very exciting to do so well and succeed in our little experiment. We are both looking forward to Downieville and hope to put in some solid racing.

Happy Monday!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Since I finished setting up the Downieville Destroyer the other night I decided to go break it in properly. It seemed an appropriate trial for the new ride would be to do an Individual Time Trial up Indian Truck Trail.

The color scheme worked out well despite the fact that there was positively no planning involved. Using the parts we had laying in the garage, and the replacement frame for Allison's green Canzo, I was able to piece together a bike that I think will serve me well. What is with the pink you ask? Those are Allison's parts that weren't being used.

After snapping a few photos we unleashed the suffering. Rolling heavily fatigued, and battling the late afternoon heat, I set out to get a new PR up ITT.

I succeeded in getting the new PR, but along the way there were a few hiccups. They recently graded the road and there was a lot of deep sandy powdery mess waiting to bog you down. Maybe 15 minutes into the climb I was struggling with my pedal efficiency and realized that my seatpost had slipped down a bunch. I stopped and set it right again but in the process was passed up by the climbing superstar that I am married to. I put in some solid efforts and passed her up, only to have her take the lead again near the top and finish off the climb a good 30 seconds or more ahead of me. Sucks to get "chicked".

So it took an hour to go from Vons to the gate at Main Divide. It hurt. I figure due to the weight increase I lost somewhere around 3 minutes worth of time on a 1hr threshold climb (3 minutes was the margin I beat Allison up Clark's Grade on Saturday). I am hoping that the time lost on the climb is made up for on the descent and the next day on the downhill course, but only time will tell.

After snacking on some trail food we decided to turn left up "The Wall" on main divide to put a bit more suffering into our legs. I stayed in the middle ring and did some significant force work, I was surprised to later find that it only took us 10 minutes to get to the turnaround. I have vivid memories of walking up that climb not all that long ago... :)

Weekend Recap:

Allison already posted a weekend recap so anyone that reads her blog already knows what we did. It was our 6 year anniversary and I am still stoked to be married to her. I hope there are many many more years left in us to enjoy together!

Saturday pictures from our ride up Clark's and around some Big Bear trails...

On the descent I managed to puncture my rear tire (something sharp poked through the tread right in the center). It took a little while to get it to seal up but it eventually stopped spewing Stan's Sealant. I went really easy on it for the rest of the trip down.

No, my karate chop didn't help with fixing the leak. :/

After our training ride we went and supported Steph. I am very proud of her effort. She slayed the 12hrs at Rim Nordic!

Sunday we planned on celebrating our anniversary with a Trabuco-Holy Jim ride...

...unfortunately I managed to put a 1/4" slice in my tire somewhere around the halfway mark descending Trabuco. After putting a tube in the tire we found that the tube was not holding air and decided to scrap the ride. Climbing back out of Trabuco Allison was putting on a show and made me look bad, climbing like a mountain goat (no dabs!) and laying down a blistering pace. She really has come full circle with her riding lately. Should be interesting to see what happens in the future.

Training is going well and we are hoping to be on form for D-ville. I have wanted to do this race for a couple years now. I hope it turns out as great as I imagine! :)

Happy Hump Day!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

First in Flight

No we didn't travel to the home of the pioneers who made the first manned airplane, but we did participate in our first race that we boarded an airplane instead of the Black Max.

First step to flying with the bikes was to figure out how to pack them. I tried to research options but there was lots of contrary opinions out there. I wound up spending a ridiculous amount of money on a pair of TryAll3 hard bike boxes. It hurt my wallet really bad, but the idea was to keep the bikes from being damaged in transit. I spent a ton of time figuring out how to get all the stuff packed in the boxes. I probably did more than necessary, but the bikes did arrive nearly unscathed (Allison's seat stay has a mark on it from a hub that managed to work it's way through a foam pad). Fair warning... if you are going to fly with bikes expect to get killed on baggage charges. We only checked the bikes and had to pay $100 each, each way ($400 total)

The bike boxes presented another issue once on the ground. Fitting them in a rental vehicle!!! Somehow I managed to cram both of them into the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but I had to put the seats all the way forward (the underside of the dashboard took all the skin off my right knee from rubbing while operating the brake and gas) and drive Ace Ventura style as my forehead was hitting the windsheild!

After arriving at our hotel I unpacked the bikes (after extracting myself from the vehicle) and built them up so that we could rush over to check in for the race and get some course recon done. We lucked out and were the last couple of people to check in before they closed up shop. It was super cool for Allison to get her ProXCT number plate. She didn't get to ride with #10 plate back east (major bummer) but she had #13 for this one!

The course was in a nice park right by Cheyanne Mountain (yes, the one that houses NORAD). The first thing we did was to ask around about the start of the Pro race. The beta that we got from a race official was that the start of the race was going to include a hill climb and a bit of single track and then connect back into the course and go through the Start/Finish to start Lap 1. We pre-rode the section described and then did two loops of the course. The course was fun, not super technical, but it had a couple short HAB spots (for all but trials riders) and enough little rock sections to keep you on your toes in hypoxia. The laps were right at 5 miles and about 700ft of climbing. After the two loops (the second of which was in the rain) we headed back for dinner and bike prep (and finally bed).

Saturday (yeah that's right, racing on Saturday for a change) we were up and at the venue an hour before my race (9:45AM start). We were instructed to line up by age groups (19-29 in front, 30-39 behind them, and so on) and then told that we were doing 3 laps. THREE LAPS????? WTF??!! I have not raced many "Nationals" but it seems like total idiocy to find out on the line that the race has changed from 4 laps to 3. No way to tell the people in the feed zone. Stupid. Oh and by the way, we are doing a mass start with all CAT1 men. FACK. So we have probably 60+ CAT1 men sprinting the whole 40 yards into the funnel which by the way was a bridge (no cheating around this and making it wider!) Cluster fuck.

We get the GO and I am getting pushed and shoved from both sides. I was working hard at trying to hold position without crashing myself or others, knowing that I need to work towards the front fast (the course had very few passing opportunities). As we passed through the feed zone and started climbing I was solidly positioned. I passed a couple guys, and got passed by a couple guys, but was probably in the top 20 or so.

The scene that unfolded was just pretty lame for me. My legs had punch which was a good thing because we were yo-yo'ing horribly off every corner and obstacle, but my body just wasn't getting enough oxygen to maintain power output. Riders in front of me were decelerating excessively into corners or obstacles and letting gaps form, but then were blocking passes. I let my emotions get control of me and went for an inside pass around a corner and the rider I was passing pushed me off course. Stupid move on my part. So now quite a few riders had gone by and I had no idea where I was at. I wound up behind a younger rider that was struggling badly with the rocks. He was a strong climber but he was holding me up badly on the descents and obstacles. He created a big gap between us and the lead pack. To make matters worse I just couldn't put out the sustained power to pull ahead on the climbs so he was trying to pass me on the non-tech stuff. My last lap felt the best and I would have liked to have gone the full distance.

Despite the altitude problems I was having I put forth my best effort and wound up 7th with a time of 1:25 or so (I don't know what the race clock had me at because times weren't listed).

I supported Allison for her race and I think she suffered a lot of frustration as well. I was pretty angry that after call-ups they did a neutral start and then re-lined up in a different location and she went from the 2nd row to the 5th row because she didn't realize she had to battle for start position on the neutral start. She wound up 19th on the day which is quite a few spots behind what we expected. Hopefully the next block of training does something for both our race form.

Sunday we rode some great trails with typically awesome Colorado scenery. I had a great time and always love riding in Colorado! After the ride we drove up into a snow storm on Pikes Peak. Pretty neat to be getting dumped on this time of year! We weren't able to drive to the top as they turned us around at the 16 mile mark (it is 19 to the top).

The bikes are all packed and we are ready to head out to the airport as I type this. I was hoping to go for a hike at "7 falls" but we may save it for a future trip.

Happy Monday!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Altitude Mini Camp


My Birthday Trip.

Life has managed to punctuate both ends of this last weekend in a pretty shitty way, but that is just what life seems to do best so I won't waste a lot of time on it.

Friday we stayed home from work to deal with some flooding issues, our upstairs neighbor managed to create rain indoors. Genius! After spending the day dealing with HOA and Insurance and stuff we executed our plan to get away for my B-day at altitude.

Allison and I are both very aware of the effects of altitude on performance and given that we are going to be doing a few races up where the air is thin we felt that spending the weekend up high was a good idea. Our campsite for the weekend, in Barton Flats, was right around 6500ft. Not the highest place around, but much better than 1100ft where we live.

On the way out we stopped off at REI and I picked up a couple small gifts for myself. I got some Jetboil gear and a Primus lantern (still hoping to do some bikepacking some day)...

After setting up camp and messing with my new toys a bit we got to work cooking dinner. Allison has the pictures of dinner, but I grilled up my famous Cedar Plank Salmon and some sweet potatoes.


Despite the cold temps (it was near freezing) camp was nice and cozy with our fire blazing...

Note the abundant fire wood!

The moon was really pretty as well!

Since it was such a beautiful evening and we were celebrating my B-day we shared a Fat Tire...

Before we went to bed I put a few essentials outside the tent and as soon as we woke up I made a quick cup of camp coffee in my Jetboil french press. It was my first time using the Jetboil as well as my first time with a french press, but the coffee came out okay. I also made two servings of steel cut oats in my new Jetboil pan/pot for us to fuel up for the day. It was a GREAT breakfast!!!

The weather looked pretty threatening so while we waited for Luke to arrive we packed up our gear. We packed a little heavy just in case because weather can be pretty crazy in the mountains at times! Eventually Luke showed up and we all headed out on a route that we cobbled together out of suggestions from Brian (we love him so!) and some knowledge of the trails in Big Bear that we have raced/rode on.

The route took us on some sweet connector single track down to SART...

... and NO, Luke and I didn't plan the matchy matchy outfits.

Together we blasted down SART to Glass Rd. All three of us were having the time of our lives on the single track! What a way to start a day! We then "got our pavement on" and descended down to the bottom of Clark's Grade. This is where the day starts edging toward epic. Can you pick out the climb up Clark's in the profile below? :)

Nearly 3000ft of climbing (in 69 minutes for me) we were up above Big Bear on 2N10.

From here we dropped down the Plantation single track...

...then grabbed the Cabin 89 descent, and climbed back up Pine Knot single track all the way back up to 2N10. Once back on 2N10 we headed east and after peaking out at 8100ft we dropped down Radford Rd. (little chunky in a few spots and some really amazing views!) Once we got back to Glass Rd. we climbed back up the way we came down on SART including the cool little connector single track to the campground.

Back at camp we spent a little while snacking and unwinding from the ride. What a ride it was!

Eventually I busted out the BBQ skillz and cooked up some patented Buck Burgers and corn on the cob. The temperatures were once again getting really low so I had to go buy more fire wood!!!

Since it was my B-day I celebrated by indulging in two Dog Fish Head brews, a great IPA and a Midas Touch. What a killer day!!!!

After the huge day on Saturday Allison and I were both a bit slow on Sunday. We made some coffee, made breakfast, and slowly packed up camp. Eventually we got around to riding and I wanted to explore. Allison doesn't like exploring at all so there was some friction, but I think we were both a bit cranky from the day before/altitude/camping.

We eventually stumbled our way around Jenks Lake and then onto SART before climbing back up to Barton Flats...

After the ride we picnic'd by a stream next to 38. I have to say our little picnic was my favorite part of the day. On the way home we took a little detour and wound up watching Kirk (a buddy of mine from college) racing one of his cars in Fontana.

It may not be much to look at, as Kirk puts it "a little rough around the edges." This racecar however is no joke when it comes to performance! Here he is at the start of the race, pinned on the front stretch...

So fast on this short straight that he was just a blur...

Not much space, but in a short straight between two sharp corners he was moving pretty good!

It was great to see him racing and he got second overall in his heat, winning his class (Super Production).

After such a great weekend it sucked having to go back to work on the actual day of my B-day, but such is life. We were really looking forward to racing in Colorado this next weekend, but after some emails today both of us are kind of down on the whole thing. Our plan right now is just to rally and do our best. The Mann Show will throw down rain or shine.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Big Bear Shootout #1


"Do you feel lucky, punk?"

This past weekend we took off into the hills to escape "living in the shit"...

We live down there in that brown/grey crap. Certainly not a healthy proposition!

Making our escape...

The flowers were really pretty and everything is still so green! :)

Met up with and briefly rode with Luke, Steph, and Dan, and saw a few other familiar faces. I did some hard efforts and then didn't feel much like riding at all!

Training has been hard lately, I have pushed to the limit and feel like I am teetering. I didn't want to do too much on Saturday because I knew Sunday would be rough!

After the brief ride we got our plates for the race (which required driving up to Big Bear) and then came back down to head to camp. Getting to camp turned out more interesting than planned and left us 2 people short of a full group. I was bummed. Some tasty grub helped me feel a bit better...

And then I was frantically trying to get the bikes squared away before I ran out of daylight.

I was looking forward to the race, partially because Gary wasn't pre-registered. I get bummed knowing that short of taking illegal substances I simply will never even be in the same race as the guy, so needless to say I was disappointed when he pulled up to the line.

Eleven of us toed the line and then took off up the hill. The pace was fast as always and the usual suspect went off the front early only to blow up and go backwards. Not sure if they plan that tactic, but it really has no effect on the race. I stayed with the lead group for a while and then they hit another gear and I dropped off the back. I was pretty sure that there were 5 guys up the road, but it is hard to tell as we were already working through traffic. The rolling hills as we traversed the mountain favor my power and I was passing quite a lot of people. Passed Allison (in second place) and Joy (in first just ahead).

Somewhere around this time was my first encounter with the Dirty Harry aspect to racing in these chucklehead events. I was flying down the road pushing the limits of traction and sanity when a car comes cruising up the road the other way. WTF?!?! We are racing and now we have to play Frogger with oncoming fucking traffic?! So I avoid getting splattered and continue racing.

I got stuck behind a bunch of traffic on the first single track despite my best big ring efforts to get by everyone in sight. They weren't going slow, but they weren't going my speed either. I just sat in and tried to be smooth and save energy. The next fire road section was fast and several people jumped onto my wheel as I was passing. Sucks to know I was working in the big ring and towing possible competitors, so I put in a few efforts and there were maybe two that hung on.

I knew there would be more single track ahead and put in an effort on the next climbs in an effort to get clean track. I succeeded but found quickly that I was off my game. I was still going fast but the unfamiliar trail almost got me a few times! I was really bummed to see Adam Hart flat right in front of me going through a stream crossing. He was racing Single Speed so he wasn't competing with me, but we often race each other and it sucks to see someone mechanical.

The next section, a grinder of a single track climb with some good techie bits, was interesting. I passed a couple riders at the bottom of it and then was just sort of in no-mann's-land. I was suffering and after analyzing my HR information I wasn't working as hard as I should have (Z4 with no Z5 work). I think due to the lack of nearby competitors I felt like I was out of the race. I figured the lead pack probably still had 4 guys in it and that I was sort of relagated to 5th or worse. I did celebrate the fact that I tackled all the little tech spots without dabbing despite my hypoxic state. :) I also passed one Pro rider with a mechanical (sucked to see Derek Hermon with a busted seatpost) and a second Pro rider that looked like he wasn't having a good day.

On the next section the fire road is steep. I was working through LOTS of traffic. The racers that were running shorter courses were in front of me and it was interesting passing these racers. Some of them recognized me and cheered, I would have given more words of encouragement but I was on my limit!

After the climb there is a section of really fast fire road descent (the top part of the starting climb) then a technical single track descent. I wound up getting pretty jammed up in the single track behind riders that were doing their best to negotiate the course. Once again I did my best to be patient and pollite, but man it is hard when the speed differential is that high! It seems that staggering the start a bit differently would alleviate the problem...

After the single track we pop back out and descend the bottom of the initial climb. I was spun out in my 42-11 gear and was chasing down a rider in front of me when he came around a corner and came within inches of a head-on collision with a moto blasting up the road. This image plays over in my mind still and it really messes with me to think that Allison could get mowed down because an organizer can't get control over some fire roads for a few hours.

On the next single track section I tried to make clean/polite passes and work through traffic as fast as possible, all the while knowing that despite my position I wanted to put down my best time on the day.

Turns out my position wasn't as bad as I thought!!!

Still it is rough to come in 9 minutes back. Sure some of it can be attributed to traffic, but if I was faster on the climbs there wouldn't be a gap for people to slot in! In XC racing I can't make up for my lack of fitness with descending speed, it just doesn't work out.

Awards were great with tacos and beverages with lots of racers hanging out! Good times!!!

I have my work cut out for me. We are headed to Colorado for the final race of the Kenda Cup West and then we have a couple weeks before we take off for Downieville and Nationals. Busy busy busy! Wish me luck!

(Oh and Hippo Birdie to me on the 8th!)