Wilmington Pre-Ride

I drove to Lake Placid yesterday to pre-ride the Wilmington Course. And yeah, for what felt like the 100th time this spring, it was raining and windy when I had a long ride on tap. Seriously? What the hell is the universe prepping me for? So on goes the rain coat (Shower’s Pass BTW. Working great for me this spring, grrr!). I got on my bike and started out. My plan was to do the first two serious climbs on the course, turn around at the top of the second and come back to my car. Total time about 3 hours.

The rain stopped about 15 minutes into it and I’ll just say up front, it ended up being one of my best rides of the summer so far. The first climb was hard because the road (which has a lot of sand) was very soft. Tire sinking soft. But up I went. Feeling strong. I bombed down the other side and headed to climb 2. The second climb is hard both physically and mentally. The first half of the climb is paved but it has 4 very steep (greater than 20% grade) sections on it. There are two false “tops” that just leave you sad when you see the next steep section. But up I went. And while I was going up on of the higher grades I thought that the first time I rode this, I had to get off my bike and walk. Yesterday I felt strong, and good. There is a 2 mile (false) “flat” section that leads to the second half of the climb. The second half of the climb is a relentless 6-8% grade section that seems to go on for a long time. You hit one false summit, feel good, and then turn a corner to a 100 yard long 25% grade loose gravel section. This is actually the last part of the climb and once you get up that section you are there. I have never cleaned that section, and it is the place where I learned that sometimes its faster, easier, safer, to walk than to ride. And I got as far up it as I could and then walked the rest, again. Continued on for a little mountain top flat section. Rough rutted road. Lots of standing water. Total blast on a MTB. In a wet misty way, it was a beautiful site.


(There was no snow BTW. Most of what hit over the weekend was at elevations higher than 2,000 ft, and most of that had melted already.) Then it was time to turn around and bomb back down. Of course steep up is steep down and I hit 40 mph on the way back to the bottom of the hill (I love this descent, but I did take it somewhat cautiously. Nothing to be gained by putting it all on the line in a pre-ride.)

Back up and over the first mountain. That’s my favorite climb of the race. It’s set-up perfectly for a tired return. Up and over. Then back down.

Got to my car and ended with a short 2 mile single track.

All finished. Dirty and gritty.


Worm too.


The best part of the day came when I got home and uploaded my gps track. And there to my shock on STRAVA were a whole bunch of personal best times.


Schooled, Bloodied, and Broken

I should have known when the day started out with a history lesson it was going to be interesting……….

I was invited to ride the Donnerville State Forest by a local guy, Jim Akins. It’s a small town, so the connections with Jim are numerous, though I have not spent much time with him. We don’t really have any experience with each other and so Jim was deferential in a biking way. I’m slow. I will have to stop to rest. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Donnerville is a trail network that is under the “control” of the St. Lawrence Mountain Bike Association. My ride with Jim started with a history lesson. “I first started riding these woods in 1996…..” (That should have been my first warning.) “I put that trail in 4 years ago, and that trail in…..” (The second warning.) At some point “If you are training for Leadville you should come here. I always get beaten up when I ride here…” (This should have been another warning.)

The trails ARE really nice. They are moderately technical. That mostly comes from the fact that they are: tight, steep, and switchback. Not stuff that I typically ride a lot (so yes, good experience). Jim and I started out riding and chatted. I wasn’t relaxed on my bike and eventually I missed a couple of moves, falling behind. Jim nicely started calling out directions to me on how to do some of the moves. Schooled…….

I started to get into the ride and relax a little bit. Still periodically I would do a 180 degree switchback, up a 15% grade with rocks, and ……fall. Eventually I lost a little skin. Not a lot. The bonus of falling here is that it is slow, and mostly soft. Still…..bloodied.

I really did settle in and start to have some fun with the ride when I hit something and my chain popped off. “Jim, I dropped my chain.” I went to put it back on and looked down. My rear derailleur was there in a weird orientation. It was kind of like when you look at someone’s leg that has been broken and instantly know that something is dramatically wrong. Hum, it shouldn’t go that way. Here is a visual (after I got it aimed back int he right direction):


What happened was pure bad luck. I kicked up a 1″ dia stick and it got sucked in between the chain, the cassette and the derailleur. The derailleur lost. “Aw, Sh!t. Jim, I am done.” “What, let me see……aw, sh!t, you are done.” Time to walk out of the trails. Broken……

The good news is that I don’t think I did anything to the wheel or the frame. I am more bruised than really bloodied. (Even that is mostly ego.) And I got a great lesson from a 65 year old guy. He’s a much better technical rider than I am. I guess that comes from the 20 or so years of experience and having been the person who built those trails. As Jim said, I know where I need some work.


UPDATE: I biked the bike down to the shop this morning. Even though the derailleur is all mangle it still pedals AND shifts (kind of). I have about 5 gears I can use in back. That XTR part is amazing. If I had to I could have kept going on him…..

A long wet ride

On Friday I rode my interval ride inside. It was cold and wet and I saw very little upside to riding outside.

This morning I had a 4:15 ride one the schedule. My longest scheduled ride of the season. The weather? Cold and rainy. Oh a little wind to just keep things interesting. (Authors note: They received 34″ of SNOW in Lake Placid at Whiteface mountain on Friday. That would be May 24th. The roads up the mountain are closed. I am riding there on Wednesday.) I looked at my day. Dinner with Mom and Dad at 5 pm. Lets see, subtract 4:15, move the decimal place….I needed to be on the road by 12 latest, earlier if possible. (Authors note: I could not do this ride tomorrow. I am riding some new single track trails with someone tomorrow. No swapping.) 10 am I hit the road.

Bootie covers, long riding pants, base layer, jersey, rain coat, full finger gloves. End of May. Wow. Since it was raining I decided to take Truck out for a ride. (Truck is my touring bike.) He has fenders and big 35mm tires. I figured those would make the ride more bearable. Truck was my first bike when I started riding for real.

I rode a course that would require two laps to get the 4:15 in. I did this so I would be close to home and so I could get new bottles half way through. The start of the ride was cold and wet. It was raining. Not a deluge, but enough to be uncomfortable.  I started to question what I was doing. It was hard to get into a groove.

Somewhere towards the end of the first lap the sun popped out just a little bit. When I finished the lap I went into the house to get new bottles. I also changed my base layer and jersey. Got new (dry) gloves and hit the road again. Since it wasn’t raining right then, I stored my rain coat in my back pocket.

The weather continued to improve. It was still cold and windy, but the roads started to dry out. And so did my mood. I ended the ride feeling pretty good about my effort. It wasn’t a easy ride (and no, it wasn’t the worst ride I have had this year, I reserve that for Battenkill) and I felt like I stayed strong through the whole ride.

Its been a really good week of riding. This week I rode 250 miles (which I am pretty sure is a record for me). My knees continue to feel good (better each day actually). And I got to 160 lbs. 🙂

Excited for tomorrow. New single track and sunny weather.

Levi Effect

The sun did not come out, it was too cold to play ride, so I workout inside on that cold cold wet day…..

Today’s weather: 40, rainy, and windy. What’s an aspiring Leadville athlete to do? I could gear up and do my workout outside. You cannot choose the weather on race day right? Well I saw very little upside to that move. In fact I saw a cold soaking workout ending in me getting sick, so I geared up and road inside. But that’s not the real point of today’s post.

In order to pass time I watched the Levi Effect while I biked. I, as a Friend of Fatty, and registered 100 Miles of Nowhere “Competitor” got access to the Levi Effect as a part of my SWAG Bag. It seamed like a good day to pull that out and watch it.

For me it was difficult to watch. It was kind of like watching Star Wars Episode 1. Not because it was a disappointing movie, but because you know that cute kid you like will end up as Darth Vader. It’s not because I think Levi is evil like Darth, but because I know how this story is going go. I know he is going to make bad choices.

I like Levi. For me he is much more likeable and easier to relate too than Lance. Like Levi I remember watching LeMond win the TdF as a kid. I remember being inspired by him.

It makes me sad to see that motivated talented kid Levi was go down a dark road. Its hard to see that mixed in with the, what I see as, fundamentally good person. It makes the story really complicated.

I want to be able to believe in these guys who participate in a sport I love. I want to believe that this sport is moving in the right direction. Then I see crap like this. And I wonder.

In the end, I am willing to give Levi a chance to show he has truly changed, that he is fundamentally that little kid with a passion for a sport. And I hope I won’t have my heart broken again.


Yesterday I had a long, hard ride on the schedule. Longer and harder than Drew had originally scheduled. The issue had been how hard to go given the knee issues of the past month. Drew had originally opted for “relatively easy”. After we talked we decided that if I felt good after the first ramp up week I could go harder. Well, after the first ramp up week, I felt good, so it was ready to go harder.

The original plan had been to go to Lake Placid and pre-ride the Wilmington course. But thanks to work I had two meetings put on my schedule. One of those meetings was in fact put on my schedule by a friend of mine. Ulterior motives? Humm. We will have to see.

Instead I opted to ride here at home. And to prove to myself I am pretty much fully OK, I rode the course that finished my knee off 4 weeks ago. Here is the map….


and here is the profile….


To help translate that profile here is the grade…


This course is a version of the “Hill Ride” with dirt sections thrown in. (The “Hill Ride” is where you try to hit as many roads with the word Hill in the name as you can). The first up there is Pumpkin Hill Rd.

The second bump is just a hill leading up to the real meat of the day: White Hill Rd. White Hill is the local “long” road climb. It is a fun 3 mile, 600 ft climb that has some steep sections and some flats to recover on. You can really hammer on this hill.

The next big hill (it has some downs but mostly feels up) is Chapel Hill Rd and French Hill Rd. I like these because they are dirt, and they are steep. That’s where the 15% grade is (Note I do not believe this is a 15% grade grade hill. I think it really is over 20% in places).

The home on some rolling roads.

Couple of things I noticed:

1. Being about 8 lbs lighter really does make a difference. I can tell on the steep climbs. I am happy with my weight right now, but if I can get 4 or more lbs off before Whiteface I will be really excited.

2. I didn’t think about my knee when I was riding. I am really happy to be focused on suffering rather than waiting to hurt.

3. I am excited to get to Wilmington for the race.



Over Doing It

One of the keys to this whole training thing is achieving the proper “volume” (volume=intensity*time). If you over do it you risk getting injured. If you do to little, well you are wasting your time. I try to be a good “coachable” athlete. Saturday, I messed up big time.

I did a 1.5 hour single track ride. For the record, the ride was great. I’m starting to feel more comfortable on the single track. I felt like my speed was higher and I was smoother. So mission accomplished.

Well, it was fantastic here on Saturday. Warm. Sunny. I could not resist. I had to put in more time on my bike.

And so……I grabbed my 10 year old son and we went for a ride. We went 3.2 miles and had a whopping 82 ft of ascent. Average speed was 10.2 mph. It was so worth the risk to my health and training.

But please don’t tell my coach Drew, I don’t want him to know I am risking everything by doing extra training 😀

Training Injured

Author’s note: Today’s posts does double duty. Its mine, for here. But it is also a guest post for a friend of mine, Ashley. So pardon the background that many of you know…..

Almost two years ago I made a decision that has influenced my life since. I decided that I was going to buy a mountain bike and race the Leadville Trail 100. The why’s for that are really many the best place to find out is to start here: https://ayearoflivinghumm.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/here-we-go/.  I managed to get a spot in the race through the Wilmington Whiteface Qualifier last summer and decided to defer my race till this summer. So on August 10 I will bike the hardest ride I have ever taken.

I decided that I wanted to train for this race in a purposeful way. I read Joe Friel’s book The Mountain Biker’s Training Bible. Then realizing I knew enough to be dangerous but not enough to be useful, I hired a coach, Drew Edsall. I’ve been training with Drew since October.

Training has been going well. The weather and roads were a little slow to clear up, but I started to get outside for longer rides in March. My first race of the season was the Tour of the Battenkill in April. It was a low priority race that I was doing just for the sake of a fast training ride. Somewhere during that race my right knee started hurting. But since “everyone hurts” during a race I didn’t think much of it and pushed on. The next day I was still sore and my recovery ride was painful. The pain continued and finally I had to admit something was wrong.

It was time to learn something new: How to train while recovering from an injury.

Here is the set-up. I was going to race the Wilmington Whiteface Qualifier (June 16) again this year. Drew and I were aiming to peak for that race and use it as a tune up and yard stick. Then a second build to Leadville (August 10). The week after Battenkill I was supposed to really start building seriously. I was amped and had been ready to get going for real. But I could barely bike an hour. I could hear the clock ticking in my mind. The universe was using this as a teachable moment. It was time for a lesson. It was time to learn how to train injured. At some point everyone who is training or competing is going to have this moment. Here are the things I learned:

1. Be patient. The extent of the injury will dictate how long it takes for it to get better. It’s going to take as long as it will take. (BTW. As you get older this takes longer. Bummer, but that’s reality.) You might hear that clock ticking, but rushing and pushing creates a situation where you can stay injured or injure yourself worse. This one was really really hard for me. I’m a doer and resting is really really hard (especially when that darn clock is ticking).

2. Stay positive. I was communicating with my coach through this all. One of the things I talked with him about was my frustration. Drew told me to stay positive and control what I could control (which was rehab so I could get to training, not training). That struck a chord with me. One of the challenges at Leadville is the altitude (its run between 10,000 and 12,600 ft). Many people have asked how I will prep for the altitude. My stock answer is I am controlling what I can control. I can’t do anything about the altitude all I can do is be as strong as I can be. So during the injury what I could do was what the PT was asking me to do. That’s it. My head got better when I made the conscious decision to give up the Whiteface race if I needed to.

3. Listen to your doctors but don’t be afraid to ask questions. And don’t be afraid to search out the help you need. That’s pretty general to anything when you are dealing with a medical problem. For me this was the key. I was pretty sure my knee wasn’t a structural problem. The PT was helping but not making things go away completely. So I decided to try a chiropractor. That turned out to really important and led to me discovering the root problem AND fixing it.

4. Communicate with your coach. If you are working with someone make sure you communicate with them. Your training is going to be affected. Pushing on without modification risks longer term injury.

5. Trust your body. I have often heard professional athletes talk about needing to learn to trust that they are healthy and they can go back at full strength. When you are better, ease into it. Then at some point you need to trust it. I have LOTS of biking to do before Leadville. I cannot be focused on the injury. Its a distraction.

In the end I figured out what my problem was and fixed it. I lost two weeks of training but am back on track. My knee feels great. Drew made a schedule that was a little easier than it would have been. We talked about the schedule (communicated) and I said I felt like my knee was good to go (trusting it!) and we agreed it was OK to go harder.

I am on track for Leadville…and I will be strong (even though we are  not on the original plan) at Whiteface. In the end I think this little detour was a good thing.

30 Days to Whiteface….