An Open Letter to Elden Nelson Part 3: Calling you IN

Dear Elden,

I am going to be serious today, because well that is where I am.

You know that I have been writing some smack talk about Boggs. And you know that, that was all in good fun. (And I know that you know that was all in good fun.)

You also know that my fall and winter have been long and difficult. It started with being away from home for the year on sabbatical. While that should be a fun time, its hard to be away for extended periods of time from the people who are important. During the fall things became complicated with family medical problems. My uncle was diagnosed with cancer and passed in the fall. That was followed with more sabbatical traveling this winter and more being away from home. All that is to say, it’s been difficult to find the motivation to train and look forward to the spring.

About a month ago we had a second serious medical issue come up, this time with my mom. It looked bad, very bad. For about a month we didn’t know what was going on or how things would turn out. What little motivation I had kind of went out the door with just trying to get through the day to day grind.

Last week two things happened, both on the same day.

We talked a little bit off line about making a fun bet and you didn’t want to bet against any Friends of Fatty. You said you wanted to go to Boggs and cheer for all of us.

The other thing that happened is that we got word on what was really going on with my mom. We got some good advice from a doctor my wife works with and we were able to figure out the real problem. It turns out we hit a “best case scenario” and everything is going to be just fine. Now we are facing antibiotics instead of surgery, chemo and radiation. Yeah, best case there. And really a weight lifted.

I am really excited to go to California to ride in a couple of weeks. I get to travel to the West Coast and ride with an East Coast friend Jeff (who won the trip to race Boggs). I raced one year with Jeff at the Tour of the Battenkill. While that is the one race I truely hated and will never ever ride again, Jeff and I have kept up the friendship. I also get to go and ride with two West Coast friends who I met through your blog, Dave and David. I met both for the first time when I went to Davis to ride Live Strong. I remember meeting the Thompson Clan and hearing about Rob and the bike Dave built for him and Rob to ride together on. David has been bugging me to come ride in CA with him almost daily since then. So this is the chance to do that. (And to bug him hourly about some writing assignment that he has yet to finish. I think you may want to join me in that.) I get to meet Levi and to ride with you (with oxygen included this time). So yeah, I am looking forward to the trip. Its a chance to relax, race and more importantly to remember that bikes, even at races, are about riding with people.

I am officially calling you “In” instead of “Out”. I’ll bring the guacamole, you bring the brats. We can both bring bottles of Carborocket and pass them to each other as we race.

Doug

An Open Letter to Elden Nelson Part 2

Dear Fatty,

Hey Buddy, how’s it going?

Recently I wrote you an open letter discussing your team plans for the 8 hours of Boggs race. I have yet to receive a reply from you per this letter. I realize you may of been recovering from you True Grit Race experience and have not yet had time to reply to the challenge that has been thrown down. Nice job on your solid “middle of the pack” finish at True Grit BTW. How did your wife finish again? Or maybe you are shaking in your bike shoes. Who knows.

I thought I would update you a little bit on the progress of our team.

You may be asking yourself who this mystery “Rider-X” is on our team. Well let me help you with that. He is in this picture.

riderx

Hope that helps.

I also wanted to let you in on some of our special training. Dave has been riding hard. He has a unique training program where he rides a special tandem bike with an awesome stoker.

dave_training

Dave and his family are World Bicycle Relief Ambassadors and their story is AMAZING. (If you don’t know the story you can find it here.) Dave and Rob have been training hard, and when they are finished training Dave has been going out for more riding to build up his speed. Yeah, two-a-days for Dave.

Since Dave has been doing two-a-days, I have been counting his training rides as mine. I don’t want us to have an unfair advantage when we meet at Boggs. Yes. I have been embarking on a true “Team Fatty” training regime of bratts, pizza, ice cream (I have been doing two-a-days on this one) and pie this winter, with a couple of latte’s thrown in each day for extra energy. So far its working great. I am up 10 lbs above my optimum racing weight, which helped me in my serious physical training regime this winter: luging. You would NOT believe how much effort it takes to lay relaxed on a sled and let gravity pull you down a hill for 46 seconds and then get on a truck to go back to the top of the mountain.  I figure that I am going to be a monster on the downhills where gravity matters.

I also have been taking advantage of our fabulous winter here to avoid riding my bike.

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The snow here is melting (well except for the fact that it snowed all weekend again) and we are at about 2ft in my yard right now. I should be able to start a more “formal” training regime in June or July when all the snow has finally melted off the mountain bike trails.

I did figure that I should check to see if my bike was working so we took a trip to the deep southern state of Connecticut for some riding.

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It was a great ride and my bike (rusted chain and shot bottom bracket) is totally ready.

I decided that I am also ready to race

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and have begun to enter taper mode for Boggs.

 

See you in a couple of weeks,

Doug (Designated GC Rider Team Fatty)

 

Monday Morning Slider: 2015 US Masters National Championship (A Weekend in Pictures)

Two people to thank for today’s post. Laura Murphy whom you all have seen work from in the last 2 posts. And Cynthia Hausman who also took some fabulous photos. You can see  a lot more of her pictures at the US Luge Facebook Page.

The people make Masters a exceptionally fun event. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the weekend.

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“In”

 

2015_masters_truck

“Up”

 

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“Prepare”

 

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“Focus”

 

2015_masters_sleds

“Down”

 

2015_masters_jen

“Jen”

 

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“Mom”

 

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“Young”

 

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“Serious?”

 

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“Ummmm”

 

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“Oops”

 

CS_and_EW

“Jedi”

 

doug_and_jen

“Padowan”

 

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“Best”

 

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“0.003”

 

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“Slider”

 

Monday Morning Slider: 2015 US Masters National Championship Part 2 (Race Day)

Author’s Note: The pictures in today’s post are again courtesy of Laura Murphy, who suffered a sub zero race morning (it is almost spring right???) to get some more awesome shots.

OK, so for my last run the night before the biggest race of the year, the race where I get to slide with Olympians, where some of the competitors have been sliding as long as I have been alive, I tagged walls. But I was calm and centered in the morning. And in a very non-Fat Cyclist way, I have been calm recently before luge races. It was race day, and well, I wasn’t going to win. So there was no real pressure (except what I heap on myself). I did, however, bring my game face

angry_eyes2

and my race suit. No sense giving up even before the race starts. You never know. There had been a lot of crashes during practice. And well it was possible that two of the good sliders could crash and I could sneak into 3rd. (And maybe I would hit a moose on the way to the track. The odds were about even, considering the only moose I have ever seen in the Adirondacks is on a sign.)

I also opted for my Leadville Tech-T as my base base layer.

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The quotes help me to put what I am going to do in perspective.

It was cold when I got up. Like below zero cold. (Just a couple of days before April. Hey Spring WTF?) But it was dry, and we were hoping the track workers had prepped to give us a fast track. Ladies and Gentlemen when we got there it was a fast track. The track workers had worked on the start ramp and had sprayed a light layer of water on top of the ice. Instead of the hazy ice we had been seeing the past few weeks, we saw a glassy track. The anticipation built.

Race day in the start house is different. There is a seriousness in it. Even if this isn’t our job, even if our future doesn’t depend on how we do in this race, well, who doesn’t want to be the fastest person in a sport in the ENTIRE COUNTRY. (Even if it is a niche sport like Luge. How many of you can say you were National Champions????)

I was in a good place, focused.

Here’s was the deal. There were 7 of us in our division (the “Not Yet in AARP” Men’s Division). 4 of the sliders were much faster than me. My sole hope of getting onto the podium was to: 1. Slide two heats better than I have ever done before. Way better. 2. To hope that two of them slid at least one really bad run, preferable two really bad runs. It was a long shot. In the “slow” sliders group there was me, my friend Jim, and a guest who is pretty good considering he only really slides with us during races. Jim has the ability to slide faster than me, but he has been suffering the dreaded inconsistency problems. You may remember Jim from this picture:

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My line, while not perfect, was faster by virtue of the fact that I was ON my sled:

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I was the 6th slider and Jim was the 7th.

I didn’t pay much attention to the times of the first 5 sliders, but I did hear that one of my friends broke 45 seconds (this is THE metric for a really fast run on this track, from this start location) so I knew the track was fast. I pulled off, didn’t paddle and went straight down the start ramp.

I had a really nice run. Not a personal best, but it was one of my best most relaxed runs ever.

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I made it through the Labyrinth (the first 1/3 of the track) cleanly. I got onto the chicane cleanly and even managed to relax there. Then into the heart. I felt the turns and did what was needed. And then I flew across the finish line up the out ramp and past the clock. I missed seeing my time, but the results would show that my time was 46.487 seconds (just over 1.5 seconds behind the race leader). It’s a lot of fun to carry so much speed into the finish that you go past the clock without being about to see it. Jim, slid a fantastic 1st run and had a personal best at 46.178 (he OBLITERATED his PB by half a second). I was in 6th place.

My people sent out a social media blast informing my fans of my good run.

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Time to get ready for the second run.

The Adirondack Mountains are a beautiful place. Even if you get cold and snow in spring.

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And one of the nice things about spring is that the sun in intense and warms things nicely. The cold -5 F temps climbed and kept climbing. Not to the point where the fast track was in danger of slowing, but to the point where you really did appreciate having a chance to be outside (even in spandex).

Run 2 was in reverse order of finish, which meant I was second off the handles. My second run was a carbon copy of the first. Nice, clean, relaxed. Just a hint of a bobble at the end. 0.08 seconds slower, but enough to be in first place after 2 sliders.

2015_USLA_Masters_race1_finish-1

My day and my season, finished.

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It was time to wait and see.

Jim came down next and had a slightly rough run. I moved ahead of him in the standings. Today’s finish is brought to you by the letter “C”(onsistency). It was time to see if any of the fast dudes would choke under the pressure.

The sport of Luge is timed to the 1/1000th of a second. And here is why.

3-29_Master's_Men

 

 

3rd and 4th place were separated by 0.003 seconds. After two runs, which took just over 1 minute and 30 seconds of total time, they were separated by 0.003 seconds. 1st and 2nd were separated by 0.020 seconds. So the short answer is no, none of the top 4 sliders blinked and I ended up in 5th place.

Neither of my 2 runs were personal best times. They were close, but not quite there. BUT, but, my combined time made this this fastest two run race of my career. I found my groove and ended the season sliding fast and confident.

 Picture of the Day

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“To the Victor….”

Monday Morning Slider: 2015 US Masters National Championship Part 1 (Whack-A-Mole)

Author’s Note #1: All the pictures shown in here are courtesy of Laura, wife of one the club guru. She did a fantastic job getting both the high and low points of the weekend. Thanks Laura!

Author’s Note #2: Master’s is hands down the best weekend of the winter for me as a slider. I get to slide a lot, with my friends in the club, with friends from the other luge clubs, and with former international sliders and Olympians. It’s a lesson in the history of the sport in the US and a chance to learn from the best. I don’t know many other sports or opportunities that you have to compete with people who were tops in their sport.

You can tell when someone is really sliding well on a luge. Someone sliding well throws down run after run with times that are really close. That marks consistency and consistency means speed. (You can be consistently bad, but its really really hard to have consistent bad runs with the same time.) When you find consistency sliding is fun.

But, well sometimes you loose that consistency. And when your sliding is erratic luge is a game of Whack-A-Mole. You fix something here, and something pops up somewhere else. And really since I finished Empire State Games, my sliding has been, well, erratic.

Masters this year had three training sessions before the race. Friday night, Saturday morning, and Saturday evening. Three chances to get all the moles hack in their holes and find some consistency on the track.

I notice two common things about me when I am sliding poorly. 1. I get in my head. I start to think too much about what I should be “doing” at a particular spot on the track. In some sense its good to know what to do where, but when that turns into sliding a script in my head, I stop feeling the track and start driving my “should be” run. 2. I anticipate the bad things that are going to happen. That’s a problem when the bad thing doesn’t happen because then you make a new bad thing happen.

Friday night was a cluster. I was all over the track. From the start ramp to the finish. Driving a script and not feeling what was going on. My times were slow and all over the place. And on my 4th run I crashed. It was one of the “good crashes” that came after the finish eye. The club guru looked at the timing sheet and commented that it was my best run of the night. Yes, but. I had a bad line in the last curve and started to skid out. To which I executed the fail. This usually slows the sled down a lot but didn’t in this case. I ended up on the high line through the curve, which while fast, tosses you into the wall right at the timing eye (which it did) and sometimes results in you being ejected off your sled (which I was) leading to physical and mental bruising (which I got). Ugh.

Saturday morning it was more of the same. Walls, corrections, OK, bad, kinda bad. No back to back good runs. I insulted with session coach with my poor starting and hesitant weak paddles to the point where he said “Don’t paddle, they aren’t doing anything except chancing driving you into the wall. Just pull off and settle onto the sled.”

It wasn’t all bad. I had flashes where I looked like I knew what I was doing.

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THAT is back and low on the sled.

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THAT is not over-reacting after hitting a wall.

But then there was stuff like this……

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THAT is “I AM NOT COMFORTABLE (and not sure if this is going to be good)!”

Though, it was good to keep in mind that it could have been worse. (It’s helpful to remember it could always be worse, even for my friend in this picture. Who BTW was not hurt and made this into his FB picture.)

2015_USLA_Masters_curve18_JW-1

(The direction of motion in that picture is left to right. Notice that he has a hold of his sled. Rule #1 never let go of your sled. He is in the low spot on the track and if he had let go of the sled it would have come back at a high rate of speed.)

Saturday afternoon I snuck out to do a little biking. I got a chance to try out a fat bike and ride in the snow which helped to get my head cleared out a little bit. (The fat bike was a lot of fun and while I ended up with a mechanical issue on the bike I was using, it cemented my plans to get one ASAP.)

Before the last practice of the night I was talking with the club guru and mentioned something about being in my head. “No, really?” was his reply. Yeah they know me.

I made two command decisions. 1. I was going to stop paddling at the start. Just pull off and calmly settle onto the sled. As the fastest person in the club says “Not all straight starts are fast, but all fast starts are straight.” I have a better time when I can start a run in a calm controlled manner. 2. I was going to stop thinking about my run while I was doing it. I was going to focus in my head on being relaxed and quiet on my sled. I was going to feel the track more and deal with what was actually happening rather than what the script said.

My first run was my cleanest and fastest run in a month. And my second was even better. I probably should have quit at that point. I was tired and sore from so much sliding (we rarely slide two sessions in 1 day) but I went for a third. It wasn’t clean, but I managed it better than any of my other bad runs and in the end my time was actually pretty close to what I slid on my first run. I was ready to race.

Pictures of the Day

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“Focus”

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“Weeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!”

An Open Letter to Elden Nelson

Dear Fatty,

Because you are the team manager of the bike team I ride for I feel I must bring something to your attention.

Last summer you ran a “contest” giving away a chance to race at the 8 Hours of Boggs. Now seeing as how I have been named the TEAM LEADER of your team, I fully expected to win said “contest”. I even donated to the cause (even though THAT cost me more than you are paying me to be the TEAM LEADER) and then waited patiently for the “you win” email.

Now imaging my surprise when I got an email from a good friend of mine name “Jeff” saying he was going to Boggs because he won the contest. I ask you to imagine that.

I don’t mean to go all “Lemond” on your “Hinault”, but seriously? I have to wonder what this means about my status on the team. Boggs is after all a 3 man team and I am after all the TEAM LEADER. I remind you of the contract you signed.

great_contract-1

 

I looked at your team for Boggs.

1. “Jeff”: I really cannot say anything bad about “Jeff”. He’s a stand-up guy and a strong rider. But did you know he races CX? (Shudder. Do want a road bike or a mtb? Pick one!) 

2. Levi: I know what you were doing here. Trying to placing a ringer on the team. Someone who could pick up the slack of the weakest rider on the team and ensure victory. However, I want to remind you that Boggs is a MTB race and well the last time I saw Levi on a MTB, well it wasn’t pretty.

Levi-donought

I appreciate the simplicity of a fully rigid single speed, but please let Levi know if he needs to borrow a more suitable MTB, I am sure we can get one for him with bigger tires. (He does know they first moved to 26″ tires like a century ago and more recently to 29″ tires and even more recently to 27.5″ tires right?)

3. You: I’ll give you the fact that you are pretty fast,  but still I question the choice of putting you on your team since you are not even the fastest person in your house.

And lets talk about this “team” you have put together. How are those “team” dynamics working out for you? I mean remember this?

fatty1

Lets step back from that picture for a second and take a wider view.

fatty2

Yeah, Levi gleefully putting you in a headlock and pounding on you. Looks like you all get along. I feel sorry for “Jeff”.

So I did the only thing that I could given this situation. I looked at the rest of Team Fatty and formed my own coalition within the team to assert my dominance. So here is my Team for Boggs.

1. Me: I AM the fastest biker in my house. Hands down. That makes me a good choice for the team. I also want to point out that I live up north. WAY up north (almost Canada WAY up north). We grow hardy people up here.

iceman-1

People who love nothing more than to come home after a long ride with an ice encrusted bike.

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2. Dave Thompson: You know Dave right? He is a World Bicycle Relief Ambassador this year. He bleeds this sport and KNOWS the “Power of Bicycles”.

dave

3. Our special mystery rider: We are keeping our mystery rider’s name a secret. But he has been training, hard, for Boggs.

mystery_rider

Eye of the Tiger.

I like our Team. We are handsome, modest and strong. But one might question why I am so confident about our team. You might be asking how do I KNOW we are faster than your team. You might want data. Well I have it for you and it is summed up in one word: Leadville.

Let’s compare our records at Leadville. Neither “Jeff” nor our mystery rider have ridden at Leadville and so they remain an uncertainty at this point. But I am absolutely sure they would not factor into this determination of which team is faster, so lets move on.

Dave completed Leadville in 9:20 last summer. I did it in 10:30 the summer before. That makes our total time at Leadville 19:30.

Levi was a record holder at the race (though I am still not sure how he even completed it on that bike) and his time was 6:16. That’s “good”, I will grant you. Really you are the problem for your team. Your Leadville time is something on the order of 161:30. I’m not really sure because the number was so big my calculator melted when I tried to figure it out. (BTW, have they taken your buckle back yet? You are well past the “12 hour” mark.)

Now lets see……

My Team: 19:30

Your team: 166:46

Yeah, THAT’S why I am confident.

So here you go. Team World Bicycle Relief will be at Boggs on May 2. Perhaps you want to make this race more interesting?

Sincerely,

Doug (Designated GC Rider Team Fatty)

 

Monday Morning Slider: Tuning up?

The luge season can sometimes be a strange thing calendar wise. We start in the fall with leaves on the trees during biking weather. We end in the spring with snow on the ground. Like I say it feels strange sometimes.

Last weekend was the final weekend for the ADK Luge Club 2014-15 season. We still have over 2 feet of snow on the ground. It doesn’t feel like time to put the sled away. On the last weekend of the season we traditionally have the club race and annual meeting. I was re-elected President (yeah, I am President, but I prefer to be addressed as “Your Grace” and you may kiss my spikes when you see me). With that out of the way it was time for the club race.

The BESTEST time of the luge season is in two weeks: The US National Masters Championships. The club race was my last tune up before THE event of the year.

My sled was just (like I picked it up a couple of hours before the race) tuned up by a luge god and my Jedi Master. He promised a gain of 0.5 seconds from what he did, so my hopes were high.

It was warm, and humid, which if you have been following this blog, means frosty slowness on the track. Not record breaking kind of ice. When we got to the track we saw the start ramp. Urgh. There were chunks of ice on the track. It looked like someone took ice cubes and sprinkled them on the track. Bobsleds. Grrr!. It was in such bad shape that I (half) joked about ruining the new edges my jedi master put on my steels and having to give it right back to him to fix after the race. One of the kids asked what the start ramp meant. I swallowed my disappointment and said “Nothing, we are all racing on the same track.”

Its been a long couple of weeks and I hadn’t realized how REALLY distracted I was until I got on my sled and pulled off. When I experienced my brain being just about half a second behind my sled, then, THEN I realized. It’s exciting to be mentally behind your sled on the track. It was a terrible run that I fought the entire way down. I somehow managed to be 3rd out of 6 after the first run. I should have been much much closer to my friend who was 2nd.

I decided to get my head in the game and let go on the second run. It was much much better. Not where I need it to be in 2 weeks, but closer. My time improved by a second. Not enough to catch my friend in 2nd so I ended up in 3rd.

Adult_Men_Les_Mayers_Memorial_Classic_Lug_Race_2015

 

Time to get ready to take on the Olympians. (My steels survived just fine.)

Picture of the Day

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“ADK Winter”

(I went snowshoeing between the club meeting and the club race. I love our mountains!)