30 March, 2012

To Beard, or Not to Beard...

Or perhaps a better title would be "Hair Today, Gone tomorrow"

The last time I had shaved my beard or cut my hair was the beginning of October, 2011.  It was right around my birthday, and I was flying out west for a job interview.  I think many of you know how that ended up.  But that was the last time I had shaved my face.

I really don't know what spurred the decision to go unkempt for half a year.  Was it Movember to another level?  Perhaps some mild depression, and outwardly sign that I didn't care anymore.

I said it was to keep my face warm when riding outside in the winter, but really, I never did that.  Then I started using Barry-Roubaix as an excuse.  It was 17 degrees outside last year (2011) and I wanted the insulation.  That excuse help up decently until it was 90 degree the week(s) leading up to the race.

The day after the race I knew it was time.  I had known it was time for a while, but this was it.  I had people asking when I was going to cut it.  They went so far as to offer to cut it for me.  I am honestly shocked that my wonderful wife didn't chop it while I slept.  The months of trapped egg yolk and dangling foodstuff must have taken its toll.

So last Sunday, after a ride with Team Big Kahuna, the weather was nice enough to sit outsid and let the shearing begin. This is what I looked like to start:

I closed my eyes to keep the hair out.  Those gray ones are especially sharp.  Mrs. W9 got out the scissors (shears, hedgeclippers?) and began chopping off large swaths of hair.

After several minutes this is what I looked like (but maybe not quire as blurry in real life):

Then came the clippers.  After the fist swath carved from the back, my wife said "You know there is no guard on this" meaning it was gonna be short, but I already knew that.
[Note:  I either need to clean the iPhone lens, or it doesn't do well in this light.]

 Now, maybe I should have kept this look for a bit.  It has a certain appeal to it.  However, I dicided it was time to go, but maybe I could keep a goatee instead...

Hmm, maybe not.  However, if I want to dress up as a certain Mythbuster for Halloween, I think I am all set!  Keep going, lets finish it off!

And there it is.  More hair on my shoulders than George "The Animal" Steele!  Time to shower and shave, and get rid of the prickles!  The final results, in another poorly lit situation:

And the damage incurred:

And for those of you that were thinking, "Wow, that is a lot of hair.  I wonder how much it weighed" I have good news for you.  I weight myself before....

183.6 pounds

and after the cutting...

182.8 pounds

That is a solid 0.8 pounds of weight lost.  Something to keep in mind if you are on the brink of race weight, and need to drop that stubborn last pound!

I was extra careful to crop out all nipples from the photos... You're welcome!

27 March, 2012

Barry-Roubaix, 2012 Edition

This year was my third time racing the Barry-Roubaix, and the third year in a row.  My how this race has grown in a short time.  After last year's Barry-Roubaix, I never really know what to expect coming in to this race.  I registered for the 36 mile men's race, as I am too much of a sissy for 62 miles at 17 degrees.  The extra miles would have been good for training, after all if you don't win, it is just a training race, right?

Two weeks out and I was on the back roads of Barry County, scoping out the new addition and test driving a rather large CX bike on loan from my pal Frosty.  At the end of that ride, we were talking 65 degrees and sunny.  Maybe it will be a different race after all.

The week leading up to the race was certainly a roller coaster of emotion.   It was nearly 90 degrees outside on Wednesday when I took a short bike ride.  On Thursday, I planned on getting some gravel miles in as a prelude to Saturday.  However, after work the sunshine turned to clouds, and a thunderstorm rolled in.  I trudged back to the basement, but it just wasn't the same.

The rain continued throughout the night, and into the next day.  Sitting at home on Friday, I began second-guessing the skinny CX tires the next day.  Facebook was lit up by flash-flood warnings in Barry County, and talk of riders staying home.  In the end, I decided on sticking with the CX bike, as it was a loaner so I didn't care if it was ruined by mud!

Saturday morning arrived and I climbed out of bed earlier than a typical work day.  I hate when that happens.  The rain had let up, so D-Dubs agreed to come with me to act as my personal photographer yet again.  I did have to bribe her with some Biggby in Charlotte, but I was able to get my triple grande as well, win-win!

I wanted to get to the starting site early, as with 3-times the riders, the easy math told me 3 times the cars, and I wanted to park close.  I was routed away from my buddy Sean, and parked in a nice swampy area of grass, next to a gentle river.  Maybe it was a muddy spot next to a ditch, whatever.

Registration was smooth, and I sat in the truck staying moderately warm getting ready for the kickoff to the season.  About an hour before the start, I was geared up and ready to begin my warm up.  I was able to walk all the way to the bike rack before my shoes filled with water.  At least I was able to warm-up this year.  Last year was 10 minutes shivering on the bike before giving up.

I saw a group of other Einstein Racers prepping for their rides, but most of them were the 62 milers, so they would be off before me.  I also saw my buddy Trev-Rev from No Boundaries.  The kid is fast, and I am glad he was running one gear again, although that never prevents him from beating me.

Back to the truck, time to strip off my warm-up jacket and head to the starting area.  I wanted to be near the front at the start to not be held up by sight-seers.  This worked out well, as I was near the front of the pack as we made the right onto Hasting road.  Apparently the carnage had already begun as there was a rider down on the left shoulder (holding their shoulder) and we were catching parts of the already splintered 62 milers who started 5 minutes ahead of us.

A quick left onto the first dirt, and the idiots start panicking and making their way through the pack, passing on the inside, outside, middle, wherever they can wedge a wheel.   On rider came up on the loose right shoulder, cut ahead of me and nearly took me out by rubbing my front wheel.  I was going to saw something, then noticed his skewer had popped open during our vehicles interaction.  Karma I guess.

Onto Sager road and I was still in the front portion of the group, and we were coming across a surprising number of 62 mile racers.  The congestion hadn't really started and I could see the trails in the sand from the earlier racers.  I moved over to the leaves on the left shoulder and continued my ride unabated.  I did have to dismount on one portion of the flats as one reader ahead had stopped in the sand, and stood there dumbfounded while straddling their bike.

Momentum returning I cleaned the rest of Sager with no issue, said hi and began trying to work my way back up front.  Hard left onto Mullen and I almost ate it as the road was pretty churned up, and I came in a bit hot. The next couple miles was hard charging across gaps until I got back on the tail of the second group.  I had planned to recover here and help close the gap to the leaders.

Onto Little Pine Lake Road, and still keeping a good pace, although the conditions of the road were less than desirable.  The shoulders showed significant damage from the runoff caused by the previous days rain.  As I recognized the danger, I was again clipped by another rider, which forced me into the eroded washout.  As I tried to recover, that rider and I became tangled and before I knew it, I was on the floor.

The good news was I landed on him (and his bike) which took a majority for the force.  Unfortunately chase 2 was gone, and I was getting steadily passed by riders from the group behind.  I untangled myself from the heap of metal, asked the other guy if he was hurt, then tried to take off.  Damn, the rear brake pad was wedged under the rim during the fall.  I work a bit to yank it back into place, and remount the bike.  Crap, I also dropped the chain.  I threw that back on, yelled back to the guy to check his condition one final time, and was rolling again.  I don't know how much time I lost there, since my Garmin auto-paused while I was stopped..  My laps for the miles before and after were 21.5 MPH, and that mile was 15.2, I would guess at least a minute, if not 2.

I was able to catch on to another group on Wilkens road, and regained some speed.  There was another Einstein rider in this group.  Sorry I didn't remember your name, but I am gonna guess it was John.  Up the climb to Cemetery Hill, and the cheering crowd at the top (one car, three people perhaps) recognized quality and yelled "Awesome beard" and the last 6 months of my life again had meaning.

This group stayed together pretty well until shortly after the left turn onto Yeckley, as the three sisters tore apart our relationship.  I was a bit saddened to realize that there was no "Eye of the Tiger" on the final climb, but I was not feeling the fight, so I trudged along.  The payoff is the downhill after this and I cruised through the section at top speed.  This is also the point where I believe Trevor got taken out.

There is another climb near Hubbell, but I was pretty much alone here, so I just spun along at my own pace.  About this time another rider hopped on my wheel and was telling me how tired he was as I pulled along the final stretch towards Sager.

Onto Sager road for the final time, I knew from my preride that is was all ride-able until the right onto Shaw.  Unfortunately the scene before me was total carnage.  The 36ers had combine with the 24ers and there were masses of people trudging through the sand, heads down and souls crushed.  I rode halfway through the deep stuff on Sager, then took a jog up to Shaw and around the corner.  Once back on the bike it became an obstacle course trying to avoid puddles and squirrely riders.  Eventually I had enough, so I went straight through the puddles and made some passes on the water.

Finally, on the last stretch of pavement.  Many first timers were relieved, not know what was ahead.  I ended up forming a group of 4 riders on CX bikes, so we took turn pulling for the final 5+ miles.  We averaged just over 23 MPH on this last part.  As we made the left into the state park, one rider made a jump from the front, but the remaining three stayed calm and had reeled him in before the wooden bridge.  The speed stayed high and there was another kick as we passed the  "bathrooms on the right".  I was in 4th wheel riding along, trying to guess when to go.  Shortly before the final sweeper to the finish I made the jump and formed some sort of gap on the other three riders.  Here is where I would like to end my story.  This jump ended up being a bit premature and one of the riders from the group caught me, and ended up beating me by a bike length.

A bit saddened I did a cool down loop of the parking lot, then went to change into some dry clothes.  The next step was to get a couple burritos from What the Truck, which I tore through with tremendous satisfaction.  They weren't as tremendously delicious as last year, but still terrific.  Next it was time to grab a beer, and mingle.  This is where I found out about Trev's crash, as he was pulling up his shorts for everybody.  He must be fun at the company Christmas party as well!

All in all, it wasn't a bad race, for a training ride.  I finished with a time of 1:53:51.  This was good enough for 9th place in my age group, and  63rd (of  883) overall, at a rate of 19 MPH.  That is roughly 6 minutes and 1.5 MPH faster than last year, with a crash.

Now it is time to hit the singletrack and prepare for some mountain biking, Yankee Time Trial is only a month away!

26 March, 2012

Busy Weekend

Now that all the fuss of Barry-Roubaix is over, I guess I have some ammo to update my blog a couple/few times this week.

1) As you may know, there was a little race called "Barry-Roubaix" [Pronounced BEAR'ree - ROO-bix] this last weekend.  The last minute rain kept the intensity high right up until race time.  I need to get some pictures uploaded, and this one will be ready to go.

2) After a nice recovery ride yesterday, it was time for the de-beardification.  I was considering going for the "yeard," but my wife said no.  Perhaps I should start a contest to see who can guess the weight (in pounds) of the hair that was shorn yesterday.  Winner will receive a bag of hair collect from my back deck!

3) There is a big box sitting at the FedEx store waiting for me to pick it up after work.  I wonder what is in it!

19 March, 2012

It's Almost Here!

Trying to be a bit more steady with the whole blogging thing, maybe the excitement will pick up once racing starts, which is only 5 days away!

The weekend was pretty good, the weather was spectacular.  I can honestly say I didn't do much of anything this weekend, training wise.

Saturday was my follow-up fit with the fantastic Jess at Two Wheel Tango.  She was just returning from a trip to Cali where she was a guest teacher with some Specialized BG Fit training.  I think we have the road bike where it needs to be.  My issue with slight knee pain from last year is gone, and I am ready to start riding.

Sunday was the test day coming off of a rest week.  I guess it would be a two part test, the first to see how the final fit worked, and the second to see if my training has worked.  Recall that I had ridden outside twice (!!) last week, so  the whole training thing is starting with a bang.  I was feeling well rested coming in, and pretty well spent after hammering for 20 minutes.  After looking at my results, I am pretty satisfied compared to the numbers from last year.  I don't mean to brag, but my power output could be classified as fractions of kilowatts... KILOWATTS!   Huge numbers, small pieces of huge numbers.

After the huge effort, I sit down at the computer to see that my friend Cody (Facebook friend, I don't believe we have ever met, but we bonded over the mocking of Iceman Registration Frustration 2012) blathered about me on hit fantastic new site kolo t.c.  I stumbled upon his site completely by accident, I was actually looking for Cholo T.C., but that is a story for later.

Any how, there was a nice write-up on the Barry-Roubaix race that he did, and I supplied some Garmin records for his reference.  Unfortunately, the poor fellow fell under the delusion that I was fast, and even used a reference to Lance Armstrong.  I just want to go on record that that was mostly creative writing, and I do not consider myself a threat to the podium in any way.  Besides, I am not ever sure that is me in the picture, you can barely see the beard!  However, the black of the Einstein Racing kit appears to be very slimming.

So, I digress.  5 days until Barry-Roubaix, my kick-off to the 2012 racing season.  I will be racing, only  having ridden outside only a handful of times, on a CX bike that is much too big, with minimal reconnaissance of the route.  My race goal is to finish before the What-the-Truck guys run out of food.  Tomorrow is another Tuesday Night Ride, and I plan on going a bit stronger, now that I have done it once and didn't die (or puke, or embarrass myself too much).

14 March, 2012


Wow, two blog posts in two days, this has to be some sort of record!

Last night was my first "Tuesday Night Ride" and I will for sure be back.

I told my boss (one of them at least) I had a meeting to get to, and bolted from work only 10 minutes late.  I barreled home, downed a snack and loaded my stuff.  This took a bit longer than usual as I had to mount the rack to the truck, and pull all my my gear together for my second outdoor ride of the year.

Once the truck was loaded, I hit the road at 5:00 for the 5:30 start.  Then I turned around and went home.  Once I had grabbed my helmet, it was back on the road headed towards Mason. 

I arrived at the lot around 5:15 and there were already quite a few cars in the lot and some riders milling around.  I got dressed, the bike unloaded and was surveying the group as others continued to arrive.  I was relieved to see several bearded riders, many unshaven legs, and some long fingered gloves.

I rolled to the exit of the parking area where the group was coagulating, where we proceeded to wait around for a few more minutes on the stragglers.  The introduction by the leader was informal, and I don't quite recall what he said, but mentioned some regrouping and double pace line.

As we rolled out I was imagining two smooth rows of riders rotating seamlessly around.  What I ended up riding in was a group of people, 1-3 riders wide that was more of an amorphous blob, with an occasional rider coming back on either side.  Not wanting to take anybody out, and not super comfortable yet, I stayed near the shoulder side, receiving a bit of crosswind.

I stayed close to the front of the 33 rider pack that was becoming more of a teardrop shape.  I remember looking down, checking my heart rate, and thinking "This isn't so bad."  The something happened, I am not sure what, but the front of the pack took off like a herd of scared deer.  I began quickly drifting back along the edge of the group.  We were maybe 4 miles in, and I wasn't sure how hard I should go at this point.  The line stretched out and I was finally able to grab a wheel and see what was happening.

The fast guys and sprinters went out, and instead of riding in a group, I was caught in no-man's land with a smattering of riders in ones, twos, or threes.  I began working my way between these islands, not wanted to fall off the back.  I spent a lot more time alone in the wind than I wanted.  It seemed that as I made it up to the next grouping, they were in a fade.  When I would try to come around and spend some time in the front, the would just drop off and I would be alone again.  Maybe the urge to work together wasn't as strong, knowing that a regroup was ahead (I had no idea when or where this would be until I showed up).

At the first regroup, I was probably mid-pack, and spent a lot of time riding alone.  We took off again and just as we get rolling, I hear a *KER-POW* up ahead and saw a rider peel off.  Flat tire, so we all stopped and waited.  Once we took off again, the process from segment one was repeated, although I didn't fall as far back this time.

After the second regrouping, I was going to make an effort to stay near the front group.  I didn't want to spend so much time alone fighting the wind and looking for a wheel.  So as we rode alone towards the third sprint, I stayed with the front pack.  Then the pack split, so I came around and clawed my way up to the front group.  Once across the guy at the back told me that was a "beautiful bridge" and I was feeling pretty good.  The pack kicked again and I hung with them, taking a gravely corner at a decent speed (I didn't look to see how fast) and ended up crossing the line 8th.  It was a distant 8th, but still.

After this sprint, we regrouped and waited again for the second flat tire of the evening.  By this time, daylight was getting short so we headed back towards the start, skipping one section and a sprint.  This final section back (once we reconnected with the normal route) had a couple of small climbs that I felt pretty good on.  There was one last sprint, and I was 11th across.  Again, I still don't know where these sprint points are, so I am just reacting, and trying not to go too hard, lest I be left behind.

We rolled into the parking lot as dusk settled in.  Just under 2 hours of riding and nearly 35 miles on the day.  I loaded the bike back up, and chatted with a couple new acquaintances.  To answer the common questions, it wasn't as hard as I had feared and yes, I will be back.

I returned home for a late dinner with my wife. She asked how my ride was, and I simply said "good."  She must have noticed a twinkle in my eye, or a spring in my step, because she told me I appeared to be happier than I have been in a long time.

6 days and 5 hours until the next Tuesday night ride!

13 March, 2012

Spring is in the Air

I have a nervous excitement today.  That kind of jitter you get before the first race of the season.

I finally got outside for a "real" ride last Sunday.  3 hours on the rolling hills of Barry-Roubaix.  I thought I may have build some form, but the hills tell otherwise.  I guess no amount of magnetic resistance can simulate the steep incline and loose gravel of a real hill.  Jesse was kind enough to guide me along during the middle 35 miles of his 85+ mile day.  I was shocked and astounded he could ride as slow as I.

So, back to the topic for the first sentence.  Beyond the realization that riding outside this years feels as hard as last year, tonight is the first "Tuesday Night Ride" of the season.  I have heard it referred to as the "Tuesday Hammerfest".  It will also be my first ride with the group, and my first group ride on the road.  I have thought about attending in the past, but now I have a legitimate road bike to utilize.  Last year I only had a CX bike, and I knew I didn't stand a chance. 

So this will be a nice 40 mile jaunt through the Mason countryside.  I have no idea when to show up, do I warm-up first, or is that part of the ride?  Oh yeah, and there are 5 sprint points.  Points meaning places of sprinting, and not actual points towards the green jersey.  Although, maybe there are points, but I think bragging rights awarded instead.  Either way,  I don't plan on contending for any points, because I don't know where they are, and also these guys are fast.  I am just hoping to be able to regroup after the sprints, before they take off again.

I think even more worrisome than my cycling condition is my newbness, noobitude, or cat.5 skills.  Call it what you will.  I hope I can follow a straight enough line to not wreck anybody else.  And what about if I am the second wheel and I miss the flick of the elbow.  Phil Liggett  points it out during every race, yet I never see it.  Even if I rewind and watch, I still miss it.  Or what if *gulp* I am at the front.  How fast should I go, for how long?  Too little time and I am not doing my share, too long and I am just wearing my little legs out.  Is it OK for me to hang off the back the entire time?

Lastly, what do I do about the incessant mocking?  The fact I am arriving with a perfect Barry-Roubaix beard (although it would probably be more fitting of a lumberjack), my hairy legs, full-fingered gloves and helmet with a visor should provide plenty of ammo.  Perhaps I should just get used to being called Fred. Fred Dub-Nine, that doesn't sound too bad actually.

5 hours left.  300 minutes of searching the interwebs for topics like "How not to wipe out every one at first group ride" and "What to do after getting dropped"!

Wish me luck!

02 March, 2012

Where to Now?

There has been a request for me to update my blog.  I didn't realize I had so many fan! [Not a typo].

There hasn't been a tremendous amount of excitement for me to write about.  In all honestly I have been drifting into a fairly dark place lately.  Those of you that know me are probably wondering how I can tell the difference.

In reality, I have all-but-given-up on quite a few things lately.  It is somewhat sad when the bright spot in my day is staring at a dirty basement wall for 1 to 3 hours.  There is an amazing transformation that occurs when you are on a bike, trying your hardest to make yourself hurt.  The physical suffering  supersedes the emotional.

Yesterday was the great Iceman click-off, where thousands of people stare at a blank loading screen for several hours hoping to get an entry to the coveted Iceman.  I ended up taking around 4.5 hours to get through, and was fortunate to only get charged twice.  All of this for a race, that I honestly didn't have very high on my schedule.  It wasn't an 'A' race, and why should it be?  I am not going to win, but was going for fun, to hang out around the fire at Timber Ridge and eat pie with my Team Big Kahuna friends.  Perhpas it was stupiditiy, or arrogance, but I decided since I shelled out the dough for a USAC license, I may as well use it.  So this year I am racing in the pro category.  My time last year (2011) would have placed me around 95 of 100 riders.  So now I have to decide how hard I want to work to avoid embarassing myself.

And that, leads me to my goals for the year.  What do I expect from myself.  What is it that I think I might be able to do, but not easily.  The first leap I made was to the Expert categories for the season.  This seems huge, since I started racing in 2010 as a beginner.  I am definitely  having some self-doubt right now.  Coming from such a charming, yet cocky bastard such as myself seems hard to believe.  So, the easy goal is to not finish DFL at any race, and the reach would be to remain in the top 50%.  A podium would be the icing (with a cherry) but I don't thing I am there yet.

Another twist I am adding is a couple of skinny tire races.  Having done 25 or so races last year, I wanted something different.  Since I have a honest-to-goodness road bike this year, I figured I may as well use it.  So I will head to Frankemuth and see how much I can suffer without having to dodge trees.

Training has been going.  I am still trying to find the perfect perch on the bike.  Saddle number 8 should arrive today.  As mild as the winter has been, I have yet to ride outside in 2012.  I have acquired a loaner CX bike for Barry-Roubaix (Thanks Frosty!) and need to get some work in on that.  B-R is a training race for me, so again I won't be concerning myself with a top finish.

As my priorities sit right now, I need to get outside, and I need to get my head right.   The former will just take a nice weekend, the latter will require much more. 

Maybe I should re-title my blog "Thoughts from a melancholy mountain biker"....