Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night

I missed the kick off party for the Tour of the Unattended held at the Ride Studio. I was not going to miss the post ride party. No way. Not even a Hurricane was gonna stop me. So yeah we had some weather here in New England last weekend. The end of dayers love this stuff. Me I am not new to this rodeo. Blizzard of '78 yeah lived through it. Loma Prieta in '89 barely survived it but did. You are going to need to do a lot more than a Tropical Storm to get me hunkering down. But I left the kids at home and did pack a rain jacket and flash light. But the night had that feeling of a dark force heading our way. People were in the mood to party! Rob and Patria had promised a party to remember and that is saying something as the Ride Studio has already firmly established that it knows how to throw a party! I owe the RSC for 90% of the friends I have right now. Most of them I met at a function or event centered around the Studio
In keeping with the Dark and Stormy theme and the Hurricane Rob was serving up Dark N' Stormy cocktails. Take 1 highball glass, add dark rum, add ginger beer, 1 slice of lime. Voila instant party. Sure there was a lot of the usual biker party banter but I think the night and the cocktails and the fact that so many of us are now such good friends added to the conversation. Two of the more highly entertaining conversation centered around a foible I made with Strava a month ago. I may have had my bike on the top of my car when I scored a KOM that blew the whole town of Boston out of the water. Oopsies. I deleted that ride and made it right with the Strava gods. Next up was bee stings along with the Quint like explanation of each attack and the showing off of scars. If Robert was there no way we didn't win that competition. I swear one time we must have run over a hive because we each were stung at least 5 times in the ass in Cutler Park...but I digress
The new Curator of the Studio and QOM of TotU Patria! So great getting to know her over the course of a week. And congrats to her on her new role at the RSC she is going to do a great job!
There were some super cool Star Wars/Hans Solo t-shirts and a Hans Solo cake as well as Star Wars being played continuously on a flat screen tv. Add in a live DJ rocking the beats and so many of my friends. The storm just became a background adding to the ambience of the evening
Everyone had such a good time. It was a great way to end the summer. How do I know the summer is over? Traffic has gone up about 300% in the last weekend, all the moms have a crazed look in their eyes as they try and run me down in their minivans rushing to the Gap and the woods are now my sanctuary for the next 4 months. CX season is here my friends. We have waited sooo long. Get those bikes ready. See you soon. Hup! Hup!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Master says Faster

And just like that its over. The Tour of the Unattended was incredible. What a fantastic event. Its been a journey to say the least. It came together so fast. Huge thanks to Zac Daab, Rob Vandermark, The whole Ride Studio staff, Patria, Michele Smith and all the riders. We had so much fun. It was soo cool to see how people came together on this. The Ride Studio served as the HQ/Hub for this. The leaderboard was such a great idea. Being able to go into the Studio check the standings, get a macchiato , a couple of gu packs and talk about the stage was so cool. So much gamesmanship went into this. The midnight texts to see when people were riding. The constant checking and guessing about peoples times. Bike doping. Recovery doping. I swear I put more prep into this than any race I have ever done. I also got sooo much great advice from so many people. Congrats to my good friend Matt Simpson! It was sooo much fun riding with him and hanging out together all week. Friends like Matt are a gift. Seriously. He pushed me and inspired me all week. I have yet to see the official results but Matt won it. No doubt in my mind. He got some stiff competition from The Wilcox and Billy Campbell. They both fought so hard to stay close to him. But Matt smashed it. Seeing David and Matt in action has given me pause. Not sure what it will translate to for this cx season but I have a whole new perspective on the bike game. And like war when you go into the trenches with good friends you and your bond comes out stronger. So congrats to everyone who rode all week. Or who took a crack at it and missed some stages etc. It was soo challenging getting all the rides in and managing the toll it took on body and mind.

I came so close to sleeping through Stage 5. My babymomma punched my in the stomach at about 5:45 and told me to get out of bed! The alarm never went off but Pam sensed it. Thank god. I love that woman so much its ridiculous. And the fact that she is willing to punch me in my stomach of anger to get me to complete what I set out makes me love her even more. So I grabbed my kit and tore out the door. The sensation were less than good to say the least. My biggest fear on this one was getting lost. Lexington was/is my Kryptonite in this. I am not fast perse but on home ice I did ok. I studied the cue sheet the night before. I even took a page out of the classics and taped the actual turns onto my tt. But I missed a pretty big detail. In Bedford there was a confusing interchange. I should have put the mileage down at that point so I would know just where it occurred. But back to the stage. David and Matt and I met up. We bumped into Cort Cramer commuting to work on his cx bike. No big right? Wrong Cort is a P.I.M.P. He was on deep section carbon wheels and tubies. On his way to work. Yeah try and top that. He coined me "Black Ice" Love it. That matched my sensations pretty much to the t.

We pounded cofeets, talked shop with Patria and David at the Studio and then tightened up our sidis and went to do one last sick effort. My plan was to try as best as I could to get up the leaderboard. I wanted so bad to get my name back on that chalkboard. But I knew I had to be fast and ride the course clean. We shot out of the start house and hit a detour. We got around it pretty smoothly. I saw both David and Matt up the road go off course. OMG. I couldn't even believe it. Not two miles in and they took a wrong turn. I put it out of my head and got back to the business of smashing my pedals as hard and fast as I could. They caught me on rt 2 and flew by me like they had jets. I got a slap on the ass and a low five. I kept driving and trying to mentally picture the course in my head. Being able to look down at my tt and see the turns really helped. I was going pretty good. Averaging about 21 mph. I came across a Ride Studio rider on the side of the road fixing a flat. I said bummer and just kept driving. I felt bad for him but the rules are pretty good in this case. Your time is based on moving time not stopped so getting a flat or held up at a light doesn't kill your chances. I had the course dialed. I got onto 225 with no problem. But I was getting mentally punchy. I saw some arrows on the road that corresponded with what I thought was the route. They had an upside down w or an m not sure which. So my mind drifted. I got lazy and thought I could follow those. The tricky section was coming up but I wasn't sure where.
I got through Bedford center and saw the w with an arrow pointing left. And took it. Alarms went off in my brain but it looked familiar. I have ridden here so many times before but never been on my own and have always been with someone who knows the area. So I tracked it on memory. But what I am noticing about Lexington is that they don't like street signs. Maybe they don't have enough money in Lexi to buy signs for all the streets or maybe they want to confuse thieves who want to steal all their fancy stuff. I don't know but it makes it real hard to stay on course I will say that. So I am flying. Then I see the VA....oh no I think this can't be right. Then I see Middlesex college. And I stop. I check my superphone to see where Page road is. Its of course two miles behind me. Ok so I turn around and start hauling. I get on Page and am now pretty much just riding as close to the limit as I can. I come flying by the Ride Studio guy who had a flat earlier. I get up and over the Col de Lex and just keep digging even though I am so bummed I missed the turn and blew any chance at getting that number 5 spot and a place in that chalk board in the Studio. In all honesty I probably couldn't have made it up anyway. The riders ahead of me are in a whole other class. I am a cross racer not a road racer.

But you know what? Getting lost is half the adventure. I am learning to be a better rider. This week is going to pay off huge dividends in October. I got to spend the week riding with friends on some amazing loops and learned how to go fast. The real epiphany is I don't go this hard in a cross race. When I was talking to a friend about the week she told me a story about some advice Georgia Goulds dad gave Georgia after he saw her at a cx race for the first time. He said to get better all Gerogia had to do was to pedal harder and faster. Hahahaha that is awesome. Only a dad could say that to one of America's best cross racers. But you know what he is spot on. Other than getting in touch with my inner Black Ice that will be my mantra all cx season "Harder and Faster"

Again I can't say enough how much I enjoyed all the energy everyone had all week. Patria and Michele were so great. They did so much to make sure everything ran smoothly. Their stories from the week were awesome. And the fact that Michele wore a Boston Cross kit on the final stage makes her even more of a hero in my mind than before. Thanks to Matt and David for pushing me so hard and being such good partners in crime! Billy damn fine effort my friend. I am so up for doing this again.

Congrats to all of you! What a great week. Hopefully see everyone at the party at the Ride Studio this Saturday night. I can't to see the podium presentations. I hear they have a really special night planned

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Red Dawn

Stage 4 of the Tour of the Unattended began before most people were even thinking of getting out of bed. My alarm went off at 5 am. I was out the door by 5:30. Now sure the Crack O Dawn riders are pretty much already cued up at Cutler and rolling but for me getting up that early is obscene. But I knew if I was going to have a good day it was going to be this one. I knew this stage like the back of my hand. We rode the Tuesday Night Worlds course in Dover. If I was going to get the 3 minutes (Well 10...) that I lost on stage 2 it was going to be today....So I turned to doping.

Weather doping, embrocation doping, tire doping, bottle doping, course doping, basically every type of doping that doesn't include doping or going out and buying an aero road bike with deep section carbon wheels. And the latter did occur to me for a mili-second.

But back to the doping. The weather report for today wasn't ideal. The Wilcox, Matt and I knew early was better so went with wicked early. This also gave us two other advantages. Let's call them traffic doping and course doping. There was zero traffic. Like no cars. People either don't have a work ethic around here or are on bankers hours not sure which. Don't they realize 9-5 means get in your cubicle by 8? Weird. And traffic doping led to course doping. I have no idea why but man I hit ALL the lights just right. I know you don't get penalized for stopping as your time is moving time but you don't gain anything by stopping and restarting. Well you gain some cx holeshot power but that is it. But man it was something else. The only other time I have made the light at South and Dedham ave was back on the original Ronde. And it was a good omen then. It was a great omen today. I made it in both directions.

But let's get to the real meat of my doping today exhibits A, B, & C in my defense...

Tire Doping: Switching to Conti 4000s for the hillclimb made zero impact. I am not a climber that much is obvious after yesterday. But what may be emerging is I may have the ability to go kind of fast on a wide open rolling power course. Fast tires help here. Damn those Contis where the tire equivalent of a nitrous injection system. They also were tough. I was flying and rolled right over a shattered pile of glass. I think it was a Heineken. Who even drinks Heineken anymore. I let out a fairly loud F' me... as I thought I was done. But I didn't flat. The glass didn't even get stuck in the tire. I think the Germans know a thing or two about tires.

Bottle Doping: I ran out of nuun. I had nothing but some camelback elixir. Screw that I wasn't putting that in my bottle. I wanted some rocket fuel. Behind glass I had a huge can of accelerade. When I bought it the guy at Landry's basically told me its like liquid crack cocaine for cyclists. He wasn't that far off the mark. I filled two bottles with it the night before. I drank every drop. And got faster as the TT unfolded. I may be off nuuns. Its great that you don't get all geeked out on god knows what is in accelerade but do you want to soft pedal or do you want to go fast? Yeah I thought so.

Embrocation Doping: Say what? Its about 80 and humid today. I busted out the Mad Alchemy secret stash. It was basically a kamikaze move to force my sleeping shattered legs to wake up and do what they are supposed to do. Push those cranks harder and faster. The legs won the mental battle on Prospect Hill so I decided to punish them. I massaged that MA in deep. And then the crawling fire ants feeling started to crawl up my legs. I felt like Beavis and Butthead...But I didn't even have to tell my legs to shut up once. They knew I was not messing around today. And every time I looked down and saw them glistening and the sweat balling up and rolling off them I would stand up and pedal harder. And laugh.

The other type of doping I did and probably one of the most important was the soundtrack in my head. Call it Music Doping. I have two girls. We listen to Kiss 108 constantly. On Stage 3 I listened to the old Chip. The old Chip was a typical townie dude who thought Mettalica and Swedish Death Metal is the way to harness your inner stomach of anger and ride with rage. Nope. In the words of Chuck D N.O.P.E. Didn't even remotely work. In fact all it did was give me butterflies and make me nervous. But thank god all weds post-ride I was with my girls and listening to their music. As I rolled out the start house a song popped into my head. Its one of their favorites right now. I dedicate my CRW 28 (26) time of 1:12 to Nicki Minaj and her song Super Bass....man that song just gets me going. I was flying the whole way. Seeing Matt and David who had finished wayyy before me as I came down Greendale gave me even more watts. It was like wolves when they come back together as a pack. It was crazy. So I am a doper. Or just finally figuring out how to do this bike riding thing. Final Stage Friday. I am so stoked. Tonight I am studying that cue sheet all night long. And I am busting out the Hup blues for this one. Belgian Blue really does make you faster.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

You can't handle the Truth

They say that a time trial is the "race of truth." Never really understood that til now. Riding or racing a road bicycle without a draft is pretty much the most painful thing you can do. The Tour of the Unattended has been a wake up call for me. I have some really fast friends. And they indulge me a bit. Ie they actually ride with me even though I am so slow. But I never really understood the work and preparation that goes into being fast. We can look at other guys bikes and think oh they have a lighter, faster bike and that is why they are fast. That is so far from the truth its not even funny. But you know what I have gotten faster. And its been basically by osmosis. Merely being in the presence of fast people makes you fast. It starts to wear on you. You model their behavior. You get rad when you thought you didn't have a shred of radness in your body. But I digress. The point is or the truth is I owe a HUGE thanks to so many people for one of the most amazing summers of riding ever. And the Tour of the Unattended has been the most surprising of all of my adventures this last 4 months. I thought it would be cool but had no idea it would be so addictive and so competitive. The concept has a lot of people really fired up. I don't race this hard during cross season. Which I guess is one truth I should deal with in the coming weeks. But I have loved every part of it. The planning, the texting and tracking of riders times. I have loved all of it.
Today was stage 3. A .92 mile hillclimb up Prospect Hill in Waltham. Prospect Hill is a little slice of hell. It is short but really steep. It flattens out and you can get to about 20mph but then it pops up again at the end and makes you dig deeper than you thought humanly possible. Matt and I met up this am and did some recon. As we were getting ready to go none other than Dave Chiu rolled up! It was so great to see him. He is such a Baller. Matt is one of the most prepared athletes I have met. I guess I haven't seen this part of Matt before. But it has been so nice being a part of his prep. I showed them the course profile. Then we warmed up on the road. I was so geeked up to get this over with I probably jumped the gun. But I couldn't soft pedal around the truth any longer. I pushed myself sooo hard. I tried to tell my legs to shut up but they weren't buying it after these last couple of days. They were pretty much about ready for their own Mutiny on the Bounty.

But I got an ok time. I rolled back down and cooled down a bit. After the puking feeling subsided I foolishly thought hey maybe doing it another time would yield a faster time! That was probably the stupidest idea I have ever had. So I set up and went for it again. This time Dave was coming down and yelled ::" Go Chip!" It got me pretty fired up but my legs were thrashed! I almost quit at the level off but pushed harder and finished it up. About 20 seconds slower. Dave and Matt's times were sick!
It was such a beautiful day out there. Bikes rule. The Tour of the Unattended is such a great way to cap off the summer. We are all taking this really seriously which in of itself is hilarious. But to me its the greatest glory. Almost like surfers. Who cares how you do in a pack at Wells Ave. I mean seriously. How hard is that? Sit in going really fast and then field sprint FTW. Ok actually that sounds really, really hard. But back to the TotU. Its all about suffering and challenging yourself in a way that you never would in any other event. Stage 4 is going to be a good one. Finally back on some familiar turf! Perhaps I can get back some of those minutes I lost up in Carlisle!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Solo Break-Stage #2 TotU

Stage 2 was a big dose of HTFU. Who knew a 27 mile TT would hurt about 500 times more than a 8 mile one! Matt Simpson, Dave Wilcox and myself were emailing each other and texting each other into the early hours of tuesday am game planning how we would tackle Stage 2. When we saw the leaderboard at the Ride Studio much heated debate ensued as to what we had to do to stay on top or not fall off the GC.
I sadly brought a butter knife to a gunfight in the form of a paper cue sheet. David and Matt both were smart and had Garmins with touch screen mapping. I love my 500 but in this instance its not the optimal tool for the job. That is doing a tt on a route you have no experience with technology is your friend. And the more the better! Pulling a wad of paper out of your jersey pocket at 20 mph to see what turn is next is suboptimal by any definition. So long story short I took two wrong turns. Once cost me ten minutes. The other was no big deal at all. But you know what? I will give that ten minutes away for experiencing what it feels like to get in a solo break and turn yourself inside out for an hour and a half. Frankly I will now have a whole new perspective of the breakaway in a road race. Racing on your own without a draft is insane. I have literally never suffered like that on a bike in my life. But it felt good. I was locked in just trying with all I could to get every second I could out there. And I felt fast. The numbers may not support this but my legs felt good.
When I got back to Hanscom and heard the times that Matt and David put in I couldn't believe it! They were flying! What an amazing course. The TotU has hit a note with me. Its brought a level of excitement to a weeks riding that I have never experienced before. All the riders involved are sooo stoked for it. My failings so far have been poor recon. The smart riders are pouring over maps and memorizing the sectors and turns. They are taking advantage of course knowledge and using it to their advantage. The gamesmanship has been hilarious. There may even be some bike doping/bike kidnapping going on but what happens on the TotU stays on the TotU...
Stage 3 is going to be no joke. I am heading out early in the am. I have consulted the hillclimbing experts and have a plan! Ok maybe my plan includes huge amounts of cofeets and Swedish Death metal. But some plan is better than none right! The Ride Studio has been a great hub for this Tour. We were in for quite a while plotting and scheming today. Huge thanks to Matt and David for being such great companions on this house of pain.....

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tour of the Unattended Stage #1

That man can lay down some Watts!!! Matt Simpson and I rode out together to do the first stage of the Tour of the Unattended. Stage #1 was the Dover TT. A 20 minute rolling loop. I am not a time trialer. Matt and I went out and did it Cannibal style. But this isn't a normal TT. It is hilly. It has some technical bits. You could get Shlecked really easily if you aren't on top of your game. It was a gorgeous day out. Matt gave me two minutes as he wasn't familiar with the course at all. Luckily he caught me right after the most technical turn so he could see how it was. It was actually pretty bad. 180 with a ton of leaves and sticks on the inside. He slapped me on the ass as he went by. For a second I thought I could keep him in sight. But it was an illusion. He was gone! I tried to keep the pedal on the metal but my legs were toast. I came in wayyy too hot at the end trying to carry some speed and flatted my rear tire across the train tracks. My time was an unimpressive 21 minutes. My garmin was acting up and missed a bit of the mileage out of the start house. The timer worked the whole way. Matt ripped an 18:41. Don't think anyone is beating that.
We bumped into Patria and David from the Ride Studio at the Dover common. We were all laughing and smiling at the fact of being out on a sunny monday doing a TT for a stage race. We talked about bike doping as I fixed my flat. I am seriously undergunned for this TotU. I mean seriously. I am now accepting deep section wheels and fast bikes. I will pimp the hell out of your brands....well say really nice things about them anyway. I am kidding. Kind of. My bike is awesome. Its the motor that is maybe lacking

We rode back towards Wellesley with Patria and David. It was so nice riding with people I have met before but never had the chance to ride with. Umm I don't know Patria that well but she is really, really strong. She was hammering the little risers that we were rolling up and descending off them like she had stolen something. I think she had to get back to work to be honest.
It was a great day out there. The TT hurt like hell. Riding with friends was as always the best. Matt and I stopped at a lemonade stand and got free double stuff oreos with our purchase! That my friends is winning. So I apologize in advance. Matt wasn't really planning on doing this and now he is all in. I see no way he doesn't crush us all. But he is such a nice guy I am ok with that. Plus it means I get to ride with him all week!
What a fantastic idea this is. I am actually shocked no one has done this before. Like we weren't crazy enough about riding our bikes. Now we are focused on this challenge for a solid 5-days! Tomorrow is Stage #2 the CRW Hanscom loop. Its going to be a good one. I am taking the 25s off and putting some fast rubber on for this one. And if its as sunny as today wearing full blanco!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bloody Knuckles

The cross gods are not some buddy jesus who stands up on stage in a tuxedo t-shirt playing Freebird. The cross gods are like a tempest. Fire and Ice. Honing its legions into razors. The Ronde 2.5 went down this saturday. Not enough can be said about the effort Matt Aumiller, Matt Miller, Ian Whittle and a whole horde of Cambridge Bikes people put into making this happen. It was one of the most creative routes that I have ever ridden. It blew my mind. So many times during the ride I was just losing it I was soooo stoked. Matt did a superhuman job of marking the course. The pink syringes were off the hook. I honestly didn't hear of one person getting lost. That is a miracle. This is the third incantation of the Ronde and trust me getting lost is the price of admission. Not on this one. Matt even rode neutral support. Fixing flats and offering pep talks along the way. Ok maybe the pep talks part is a lie. But back to the gods. Wether we angered or excited them I do not know. What I do know is we woke them up. It started on Firefly Cx001's maiden journey. My good friend Lucia is kind of into cross this season. So much so that she had Tyler build her one of the sickest ti cross bikes in existence. Imagine Tyler as Hephaestus and Lucia as Achilles and well you get the idea. Tyler basically created a weapon of the gods for this cx season. We hadn't been riding for ten minutes when we heard thunder crashing over our heads. And not just hey here is a little storm but Thor's Hammer smashing ice giants type of thunder. We rode it out and had an amazing ride. The bike performed perfectly. It was a great opener and a foreshadowing of how the Ronde would go for us. I personally was so jacked up from riding through the t-storms and the thoughts of the ride that I couldn't sleep at all. I just dreamt of shredding gnar all day long with the NECX.
We arrived at Ian's to see this....the gods smashed his car. Wow. The Destroyer was indeed living up to its name. Everyone was bouncing off the walls and getting ready to go. I said hi to everyone. Hugged soooo many people. Pumped everyone's tires to 50 psi. Or I thought I did...and we rolled out with the Pink Beacons! The Pink Beacons were none other than the Newbury Comics crew. We had 8 riders in our group from HUP. Mike G, Lucia, Markie Mark, Mark Van Liere, Parke, Ctodd, Me and celebrity guest rider Mike Zocchi. Billy led us out on a paceline all through the streets of JP and delivered us to Canto 6. We hauled up the hill and popped into Franklin Park. We hit the first trail sections and then the bad things started to happen. I felt my rear tire bottom out a bit on a chunky rock. I didn't really think I flatted but it registered. At mile two in the most beautiful cemetery I have ever been in with church bells ringing all around us I called out for a tire change. I mentioned it was mile 2 right? FML. We bid Newbury Comics adieu and got down to the business of the flat. Fairly quick tire change and our group of 8 was back on it at full pedal to the gas. I am not going to lie. I was driving a fairly hard pace. Not killing it but I wanted to get to some separation. I knew Robert and his super squadra were behind us hunting us down. We pacelined really well for a while. No problems. Staying on course and railing the little woodsy connecter paths.
We popped out the road heading to Blue Hills and I started to get even more geeked out. The Blue Hills part of this ride was something special. At least to me it was. Sure it was kind of rocky, babyheads, axe heads, hammer heads...gravely in bits. But it had that mountain feel to it. Nice loamy trails in parts, trees rearing up. We climbed a bit. Well we pushed and Mike Zocchi floated up the steepest rockiest climb we had that day. That man has skills that is all I am saying. At mile 13 we had flat #2. Of course we did. It was mile 13 after all. It actually wasn't that big a shocker for how rocky it was. It was at this stoppage that team Camelstache caught us. It was great to see Uri and Jon and the boys. We exchanged pleasantries and they waited for us while we got our act together. We all descended as a group off the mountain...well hill. At some point on the descent we had another flat. Then another. I realized at this point that this was just going to be how the day was going to go. We soldiered on. At one point Matt rolled up in the team car and assisted the boys with one of their flats. He may have burned a smudge stick or through some mojo lifted what ever flat karma from us. As we really only had two more the rest of the ride.
QOTD from my babymomma :"Who was that guy who looked like a porn star?" Damn I thought Uri looked more like Tom Ritchey or Tom Selleck...

The course had such a great flow to it. You would get out on some urban road sections and just hammer then pop into such great greenspace. And all of it in Boston or in its environs. I mean who knew Boston had such a great urban trail system. Turtle Pond was calling my name sooo bad. I seriously wanted to stop and jump in. It was really hot and it would have felt so good. But we were on the hunt. I knew we were dfl and was trying as much as I could to coax as much speed out of our group as humanly possible. When we got to Millenium park in West Roxbury we were greeted to some awesome mud! You could just shred through the corners doing two-wheel drifts with mud flying everywhere! I almost killed a robin fledgling at one point but was able to use some body english to keep it from getting crushed under my front wheel. We saw a huge deer at one point. At Cutler we kept the pace hot. I could hear everyone hooting and hollering at how rad it was. Again one of the coolest parts of these rides is you end up in places you have never been. I ride Cutler all the time. Its never boring but to me its old hat. But for people who were seeing it for the first time? It was like a cx amusement park. We got across the boardwalk and then onto the Island. I was at the front when I hear a HUGE crash behind me. It sounded bad. I went back and saw Lucia crumpled on the ground. She asks me " what does it feel like when you break your collarbone" Hahhaha nah I say. If you can raise it you are fine. At least I hoped she was fine. She like all of my friends is tough as nails. She was in visible pain for the whole ride. We are talking another 35 miles at this point.
Not surprisingly The Wilcox smashed the Ronde 2.5!!!

We roll through to the pump track and rail the berms. We head out and all I can think about is the water stop at the end of Needham Town Forest that my babymomma has set up for the ride. She was sooo nice to set up around 9:30 and wait for riders to come through. It was a perfect spot. At about the half way mark. She had pop tarts, cookies, nuun, water etc. She loved seeing each crew come through and the crazy ass stories they would tell. But in my mind as we popped into the trail at NTF I was praying she would be there. It felt like some type of special forces mission. Would the extraction team be there at the LZ? In the back of my mind I thought damn we are sooo late. I said we'd be in between 9-11. It was close on noon. But as I popped out into the parking lot seeing her was like seeing an oasis. Or Isis I suppose. I gave her a huge hug and a sweaty kiss. She seemed pretty grossed out to be honest. I was pretty much like a feral animal at this point. We stocked up. Filled our camlebacks and rolled out.
We started getting a bit punchy as we headed toward the auqueduct. I think the miles of hard trail riding were started to add up. But still you could tell people were loving it. We rode the loop. Still we saw no one. I still don't know how this is possible. At the Dunkin Donuts on rt 9 we saw a group of Cambridge hanging out. I won't lie I sped up. I could hear the crew wanting to stop and indulge in those donuts and iced cofeets. But I knew if we stopped we were done. So I pushed harder. And faster. I started getting the Jens Voigt I need coffee bit going in my head. Ok I might have been signing it out loud to get people moving. I almost crashed wicked hard on some wet roots up in the S.Natick side of the loop. Who knew mud 2s pumped to 55 psi don't ride so well over nasty slimy roots. Other than looking like a hot mess I pulled it off without incident. We were now flying. Or at least it felt that way. But as we crossed over Great Plain and dropped back into the trail Parke hit a tree. Umm like full on. And he appeared stuck to it. I had visions of the final scene in the John Wayne Movie the Green Berets luckily he only was hugging the tree and slightly stunned. We got him off the tree. Then we started to change his front tire which flatted. Then the bleeding started. Blood was everywhere. On the levers. On the hub. The tire. Parke just shredded the hell out of his hand. Later in the er they took a piece of metal out of it. But Parke is all cool and chill. We get some duct tape and an elastic and tie it off. Mike Zocchi gives Parke a full fingered glove and off we go. Note to self: Carry first aid supplies!
Some nice Belgian tan lines

At this point I have two riders who have taken some serious crash damage, a couple who are looking like they are about to enter bonky town and never come out. So I make some executive decisions. I drive the pace even harder as now all we have is road. The thought being the faster we go the quicker we get to the beer. It sort of works. I float to the back of the paceline and offer up some gu shots etc. I cut out the secret stash in Brookline as I knew there was no way we would come out of that alive. We finally roll back to Larz and the BBQ! We see DJ heading home in the other direction. We were like a pack of wild dogs at that point and I could tell there were some grumblings as to wether we should attack him and eat his flesh...back at the start/finish we shared sooo many tales. Ian had an amazing bbq going. Chris Igleheart was hanging out. Matt came over and congratulated us. And as he sat down on the cooler and asked me how the ride went it hit me. The reason we put on these crazy ass rides, the reason we do these crazy ass rides is for that moment. Matt gave us a gift on Saturday. And like lots of gifts you could tell he got as much from the giving of it as we did the receiving of it. Thank you Matt, and Matt and Ian. Huge HUP hugs to all of you that rode, to CB racing! So stoked to be a part of this crazy ass community of rad bikers in the NECX...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Crank the Zank

QOTD@24HOGG "Why is the big tent laughing at me?" The big tent was laughing cause it knew deep down in its green heart that this weekend was going to be sooo rad it was going to be ridiculous. Team Crank the Zank aka Team Chamois Cream FTW touched down at the base of Mt Washington Friday to contest the 24HOGG. This would be my third year doing this. To say I was a tad nervous and excitable would be an understatement. To say by the time we laid down in that tent that I was about to jump out of my skin would be an understatement as well. The hardest part or coolest part about 24HOGG is all the preparation that goes into this. Which in my case consists of a 2-day freak out in the middle of all my other usual freaking out about this that and the other thing. But 24HOGG freak outs at least have a purpose. Food, shelter, water, lighting. Actually lighting should probably go to #1 in that list as you could go without the other 3 for the night but without lights you are just going to be food for the bears.

We assembled a super squadra from the NECX. Mike Zanconato and Matt Myette from Zanconato Custom Cycles, Nick Maggiore from Newbury Comics and Leah Pappas-Barnes and myself reping HUP UNITED. We were reg;'d for the 5-person Coed. Nick, Leah and I rolled up in the HUP team sprinter van. We packed sooo much stuff into that van it was insane. We left Boston pretty much without incident. Grabbed the best PB&J from Canto 6 and pointed the van north. We made great time got up and followed Colin's Macpaint masterpiece to where we thought he wanted us all to set up camp. 24HOGG is pretty much a NECX reunion. Sooo many of our good friends from cx are here every year. This year was even more of a gathering of the tribe. Our team was planning on circling the wagons with a pro team of Colin Reuter, Mike Wissell, Greg Whitney and Kevin Sweeny. We were also to be joined by a 2-person 12 hour team from Boston. The MRC crew had a HUGE compound right next to us. Lauren Kling was up with Cary attempting to defend her Duchess of Dirt Crown.
Our tent city was part shanti town part base camp. I mean on paper we looked great! The boys moved all our stuff from being right in front of the porto-potties...(what were we thinking?) to a nice spot boxed in between a bunch of rvs. If zombies came out of the woods we would hear the screams in time to lock and load and have a clear target before they got to us. But I am getting off track...we had a BALLER ultimate stand for our bikes which was under an ez up. That is PRO. We had a huge ez-up courtesy of the Ride Studio Cafe. Again PRO. It even had side flaps. That was our kind of kitchen/den. We had a Specialized ezup for a living room. We had the big green tent and about ten others. We also had more junk food than a frat house. Every year I say the same thing I will eat good food. But then you are walking the aisles of Trader Joes and the peanut butter cup trail mix starts calling your name...

Did I mention a moose almost killed us? Um yeah. So the White Mountains are amazing. I have seen mountains and these ones are gorgeous. When you drive to them you start noticing all these annoying yellow signs along the road. But you tune them out cause talking about what tubulars you are running this cx season is vastly more interesting than the "Moose Crossing" "Caution hundreds of collisions each year" signs. I mean really? My mom loves moose. She comes up here and goes on moose hunts. Has she ever seen one? Hell no. What are the chances of me seeing one let alone hitting one on the highway. Apparently fairly high. So we are descending the mountain at about 65 in the manvan heading to the Red Fox for dinner. For the record I am not tired or brain dead like I am now. If this happened on the drive home Sunday we would all be dead. Anyway I am flying off the mountain lazer locked on the yellow line to my left and the two lanes of traffic coming up at me on the other side of the paint. Out of the corner of my eye I see a big black flash. Then I hear Nick and Leah saying ohhh fuck! The moose ran across the road and just made it past our rear bumper. One second the other way and yeah I am probably not writing this blog post. And frankly had the cars reacted to the moose and instinctively swerved away from the moose. Yeah same story. We live in large part due to the fact that I am like the Iceman behind the wheel. Well that and the gold buddha my babymomma picked up for me at Kripalu last week.
After a fantastic dinner of pizza, nachos and mash potatoes at the Red Fox we get back to the tent city safe and sound. Todd from MRC invites us over to the MRC VIP lounge and we sit by a fire watching the moon rise over Mt Washington...it was a beautiful night. Then Colin rolled into camp and much hilarity ensued. We woke up the next am to a perfect day. We got a pre-ride in and found they had "beginnered" the course. Well thank god because I suck. And am a danger to myself and others on a mtn bike. But in reality the beginner course was pretty challenging. The last two times I did this race I got schooled. Its has a lot of things you have to sort out. A brutal opening climb in the first two miles. MegA coined it Blueberry hill a couple of years back and that is what I call it now. But when I would say that my teammates would look at me like I was insane. I could see the look in their eyes. Why are you calling that horrible torture rack of a hill something as sweet and nice as blueberry hill. Why not just call it kick you in the nuts hill cause that would be a bit more spot on. So you go deep for 2 miles. Like you want to puke deep. Then it drops into a fairly fun single track with rocks and roots and some raised bridges. Speaking of bridges. For the first time in three years I put this whole ride together. Not like the real racers but for me I finally felt like I was racing it. I owe all my strides to Matt, Zank, Rosey, Matt Aumiller and riding my cx bike all over trails for the last month. But one wood bridge still owns me. There was a tiny bridge at the top of the climb. Easy. But there was a pretty big rock crevice that if you botched it you were going into. Way too rich for my blood. CX dismounted that bad boy each time. But what I noticed about that. When you do that in front of mtn bikers. Even fat out of shape mtn bikers in baggy shorts and wife beater t-shirts they now own you. Or they think they do. They think well this guy sucks he couldn't clean that bridge. Yeah well I actually ride my bike so maybe from the sounds of that asthmatic heavy breathing you might want to just forget trying to stay on my wheel before you have a heart attack. I thought it but never said it.
The tale of the tape for me was 6 laps, 60 miles, 7,110 feet of climbing. My fastest time was 44:13. Team Crank the Zank did 26 laps and came in 6th! I am so proud of my team its bananas! This was Nicks 3rd race on a mtn bike. Ever. Dude did fantastic. I had no doubt as I have been riding cx bikes with him for a few years and he is tough as nails and has great skills on the dirt. But that is still very impressive. And Leah came back from Maine just to race with us. Granted all that dirt road commuting up there has made her strong! When I saw her I was like wow it is on now. She is fit! And it showed in her riding. Both Leah, Mike Z and Matt rode single speed 29ers. Leah had a rigid fork. HUGE respect. I can't even imagine. I barely had enough gears to handle the lap. We had a great rotation. We had some adversity. But really so did all the teams. Great Glen is pretty much where bikes go to die. There were sooo many flats it was crazy. At one point in the middle of the night I came across Mike Wissell on the side of the trail. I asked him if he was ok. He laughed and said he was fine. In my head I thought wow this will be the only time I ever pass Mike in any type of bike event in my entire life. Not seconds after thinking that karma bitch slapped me upside my head. I hit a root or a troll reached up from the underworld and wrenched my bike out from under me. I slammed sooo hard. Bike went cartwheeling down into some boulders. I run after and pick it up and see the remote lockout has sheared off the bar clamp. I tie it off to my handlebars I continue back on my way. Seconds later Mike flies by me at warp speed!!

So many sections were horrible. Just brutal climbing on sketchy gravel. But then you would get this sick roller coaster fireroad descents and the Plunge! I finally was able to ride the single track switchbacks and rock the trail that lead up to it. My first time down the Plunge I got such a sick rush I don't think I will ever feel that alive again. I came down it as hard charging as an old cx racer can. Did I enter Gnarlington? Hmmm probably not but in my mind I got pretty rad..at least for me. The fact that I was hanging out in the same camp as 4 of the most rad human beings and pro mtn bikers upped my game significantly. It has always been my contention that to be fast you don't just have to race with fast people you have to hang out with them. Anyone can enter some race and get lapped by fast dudes. Doesn't mean you are fast. Not at all actually. But if you are in a car with them or in a ten foot radius for any extended period of time it will begin to up your radness scale by a factor of 11 for each 1 hour or so.

I had such an amazing time hanging out with everyone. The boys won the PRO and the Overall. Lauren Kling is the Duchess of Dirt for a second straight year! Cary is so rad its ridiculous. He not only did such a great job supporting Lauren but he pumped us all up every lap we went out. He did the best bike exchanges ever! Each time I did it I got more and more stoked. A huge thank you to Rob Bauer and Todd Prekaski aka DoubleHop and 20#Skull for the use of the photos! Todd took that gorgeous panoramic. Rob took the action pics. Dr Jay was looking so badass. He did the 12 hour 2 person and cracked me up soo many times. He is such a cool dude. So much more to talk about. But that is all I have for right now. Further topics for discussion will be parts 2 and 3 of z HOGG. On tap will be single speeders. Yes they are wayyy tougher than you. And solo riders how are they so tough and are impervious to the zombie plague? HUGE HUP HUGS to everyone up there. Coming off this weekend I just realize once again how much I love the NECX and how lucky I am that Boston is my home. You all kick so much ass...thank you for that. And thank you for helping me get rad...Hup! Hup!

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Destroyer aka Ronde 2.5

The bike can take you places. Places you would never even know existed if you stuck to your car or your neighborhood. I am sooo guilty of that. I grew up here. I spent sooo much of my childhood in a multi-family home in Roslindale every Sunday with my cousins. But in all my years I have never even seen one tenth of what Boston is about. But once again my friends, the NECX, Boston they push me. When Matt Aumiller of Cambridge asked me about putting together a Ronde 2.5 I was like "Hell Yes!" When he started talking about his vision of it I got even more stoked. We did a couple of recon rides. Mainly showing him the sectors I know sooo well. Stuff Steen taught me. And then trying to plot and scheme how to make the whole loop. Matt wanted this Ronde to be hard. And to have a lot more dirt sectors. This one is probably 75% trail 25% road. And the trails are the real deal. And they are mostly all in Boston. That blew my mind. The fact that a city as urban as Boston can have soooo much greenspace and actual trails is incredible.
Matt coined this one Ronde 2.5. Makes sense to me. But frankly after the track record of destruction that has been accrued just doing recon I am calling this one the Destroyer of Bikes. At first I was calling it the Black Market Three Peaks. But as Matt said to me climbing up some nasty trail on Blue Hills "the British know nothing about cyclo-cross" Word! I laughed out loud when he said it. Frankly what I have come to realize with most of my friends who are total badasses is that they all have this sense of gallows humor. Its probably merely to keep me from cracking completely out of my head but what ever the motivation it has sure made for the best summer of riding in my life. Bar none. So after Matt put the kabosh on the 3 peaks analogy, The Destroyer just made sense. This ride ate tires and tubes. Baby Heads, Axe Heads, wood bridges. They all create a minefield of potential flats. Especially when you are rocking cx tires at fairly low psi.
On Friday. Matt and I set out to do the whole loop and get a good garmin file so we could create something useable for the ride/race. I met Matt at his house in Hyde Park and we rolled out around 8 am. Not gonna lie I was a tad nervous. But I also had a boatload of hubris. How bad could this little urban cx ride be anyway? Goat Hill, Kings Highway, etc etc. This was going to be a piece of cake. But Matt is tough as nails. And he was coming off Darkhorse 40 and 6 Gaps. Me I am old and fat and just did the FUNdo. Yeah you can probably guess how this was going to end up. Anyhoo. We roll out and I am feeling good! We get to Canto 6 (which will be were we stage up on August 20th!) and we hit start on the Garmin! We roll up to Franklin Park and I of course am having flashbacks. Franklin Park is where it all started for me in a way. It was my rebirth into Boston's bike culture. You can race and be a "part" of the culture in a way but until you embed yourself into it and give back to it you aren't a part of it. That first foray was a New Years Day cx throwdown hosted by Adam and John Bruno. I think there were 6 or 7 of us. I think we did three icey laps drank some beers and left before someone broke some bones .

We rolled up into the park and then dive into some sick trails. All fun stuff. Swoopy, loamy cx goodness. We pop out on a street and then head into one of the coolest cemeteries I have ever seen. We rock through there on our way over to Blue Hills. We end up doing a great loop in Blue Hills. Lots of what you would expect. Rocks, gravel nastiness. One seriously steep climb. That was when I made the 3 peaks comment. Perhaps Iron Cross would be a better analogy. But a lot of the stuff in Blue Hills is nothing like you would expect. Just beautiful loamy trails. We come out of Blue Hills and roll down into Hyde Park. We pop out right near Firefly and I of course must go in and talk to Jamie, Tyler and Kevin. They have a gorgeous road bike in the shop that they are finishing up. I once again vow to get my name up on that white board. Hmmm Road bike for sure. Ti or Stainless....that is the question. Tyler and Jamie show us the new stainless tubeset that came in for their cx bikes. Gorgeous. So much cxey curvy goodness. I am thinking a check point at Firefly is a must!
I am feeling a little rough around the edges but nothing too critical as of yet. Just kind of off. I blame the hot yoga class I did the night before with my babymomma. What was I thinking doing 1.5 hrs of hot yoga before this death march? We roll out of Hyde Park and pop into Stonybrook. Thankfully at this point one of Matt's earlier points saves both the day and my ass from an enormous walk. When we first cued up at Matt's house he mentioned that for most of the ride we were only about 2-5 miles from his house. Thank God. So we pop into Stonybrook. Again super sweet greenspace right smack dab in an urban neighborhood. Matt warns me about some nasty poison ivy right after the gate. The trail starts to head up a bit. I stand up to climb and then Kablaam. No chain. My mad watts snap that campy POS to pieces. Freak out time. Actually we were both strangely calm. I was calm as my brain was so hypoxic and had visions that being friends with Matt Roy and the Wilcox would by osmosis allow me to McGyver the chain and ride to glory. No such luck. F'n Campy. Really? Neither of us could get a rivet out to fix the chain. And thinking about it. Even if we did get a rivet out no way it was going to go back together and be functional. So Matt in his never surrender way says " I will push you back to my house" I am like what? But yeah he pretty much did. And it was fucking bananas. I hiked for a bunch of it in the woods, then would like-a bike down the trails. Then when we popped out onto road with great risk to his personal safety he pushed, dragged me all the way back to his house.
Have I mentioned how short I am? Like Little Tommy Voeckler short. Have I mentioned how tall Matt is? So yeah he lends me his Big Boy mtn bike. I slam the seatpost down and can pedal but am now in a crazy ass superman position. We ride back to Stonybrook and restart the Garmin. We ride like ten miles from Hyde Park to West Roxbury to Cutler. I almost die soooo many times in Cutler because the bike is so big. We roll through Needham Town Forest and I beg Matt to go to my house so I can get my clown bike. We pop out of NTF and rock to my house. We burst in and chaos ensues. I am like a feral animal at this point. The big bike broke me. I am rummaging through the fridge drinking juice, eating bananas, bars just stuffing what ever I can in my mouth. My smoking hot wife comes down and is appalled. Thankfully Matt starts showing her his tattoos and its distraction enough that we can get back out the door without getting in too much trouble. I cross remount onto my Seven Sola and ahhh yeah. Now I am ok. Getting on that bike after ten miles on the torture rack was like nothing I have felt.

I was a new man. We rocked back to NTF. Started the Garmin again and hit warp drive. We shredded Ridge Hill and the aqueduct. We did the loop. Stopped at Dunkin Donuts on Rt 9. No we didn't get the frosted ones with sprinkles even though its what I really wanted. We split a huge ice cofeets and had a couple of glazed sticks. Matt almost dies dropping in on one section of the loop over by South Natick. The rest of the ride is uneventful yet insane. Matt shows me the secret stash in Brookline. It is like riding in Wonderland. We roll through the rotaries and to the finish at Lars Anderson Park. How fitting. This will be the best Ronde ever. Its true. The fact that it starts in Franklin Park and ends at Lars is amazing. Those are the two crucibles that we use every cx season to hone our skills and find our form. It is going to be an amazing day of riding on August 20th I will say that. The tale of the tape? About 60 miles. For us it was about 5 hrs. But we lost an hour with the bike change. If this sounds like something that you are into you know where to find us. Thanks Matt for making this happen. And thanks for dragging my sorry ass all over Boston....