Stoked

I’m on the road this weekend and I am stoked about it (well not the driving part but the destination part).

How stoked? So stoked I gave up the first weekend of luge season, happily. (You were happy to give that up for other reasons. Yeti,  here you are COMPLETELY wrong. I’m excited for luge season. Next weekend I slide!)

This weekend I am going to the NY High School Cycling League’s Coaches Clinic. The NY High School Cycling League is the New York chapter of NICA. Going to the coaches clinic is one of the steps you need to take to be certified as a high school MTB coach through NICA and one of the steps you need to get a high school MTB team established. Yeah its happening! There seams to be enough interest up here for the team. The LBS is into it (they think we can get bikes donated). The local school is into it. And town administration is into it. Time to do some work.

So this weekend in stead of sliding on the track in Lake Placid opening day, I am going to learn how to be a MTB coach, how to start a high school team, and how to manage said team.

Don’t think this weekend won’t be filled with Danger though. Lee McCormack who wrote “Mastering Mountain Biking Skills” will be there to do a skills clinic. Lee is directly responsible for my worst crash on a bike ever. The one that landed me square in the ER a little over a year ago. I get to confront my demon!

Picture of the Day

noah bike2

“The Reason”

Coach Drew

“You are breaking up with Drew?” Coreen asked.

“Ummm. We are just taking a break.” I answered.

I have reached the end of my season with Drew. And we agreed to breakup. (Actually I think by contract Drew and I technically ended at the end of August, but he kept giving me stuff to do. And I kept doing it, well mostly.)

When I started this year Drew and I talked about my goals and what I wanted to accomplish. Some of them were easy to identify. I wanted to shave 30 minutes off my time at the Willmington Whiteface qualifier. (Got over an hour faster. Check). I wanted to finish Leadville. When pressed my goal time was 10:20 (for no particular reason other than that is the average finish time at Leadville and I am OK with being average there). I call 10:30 good. I also made some noise about not wanting to finish Leadville in crisis mode, but on my own terms. Well, we know how that one went. But I take responsibility for that. (Yep we know where THAT finish came from. Shut up Yeti.) And it was memorable if nothing else. (I may need to go back someday to get a picture of me crossing the finish line with a smile…You know that’s silly Doug, WHEN you go back you know you are going to go harder. SHUT UP YETI!)

My other goal was to learn about training.

Drew has been a fantastic coach. He answered all of my why questions about what we were doing. It’s somewhat counter intuitive to have a 6 hour ride be the longest ride you do for a 10 hour race. He redirected my crazy ideas (like riding too hard right before Leadville) and in the end I was rested, strong and ready for that stupid crazy ride.

The original idea had been that I would learn training from Drew and then work at training myself next year. But you know what? It was fun to work with someone else. In a strange way you get just a little bit of motivation when training sucks. Even if Drew wasn’t watching everything I did, I had that picture in my mind. I didn’t want to put lame efforts into my record that he would see. So I went just a little bit harder.

The plan has been updated a little bit. I am going to work with Drew again next year. But first the breakup. I am on my own for the winter. Drew is busy in his off season growing oranges (sorry I cannot get oranges from you Drew, but I have family connections that I need to use to get oranges!) and prepping for his own next racing season. Sometime around March (when I can get back outside again, unless Santa brings me this that is.) we will get back together. Things will happen fast. I am tossing around the idea of a race in May (The Wildcat 100). Then quickly into Willmington where I have already declared that I will do the course ANOTHER 30 minutes faster. (That would put me in the top 25%.) Then ORAMM (Not sure on the goal there. Finishing w/out breaking me or the bike would be nice). And then I want to try to get some shorter races in later in the summer. XC racing was fun.

I would recommend that anyone who is interested in hiring a coach look at Drew. You have to find someone who works for you, but I definitely think Drew is someone you should consider. He knows his stuff. Drew’s website is here: http://www.coachdrewedsall.com/ (If you contact him tell him Doug sent you. Heck maybe if enough of you contact him I can get something for so many referrals. Something like a Kenda jersey 😀 )

Learning

About a month and a half ago I got my new mountain bike. It’s a sweet Salsa El Mariachi Ti. One of the things I was excited about was the fact that this bike had Stans tubless wheels. Tubless wheels on a mtb are becoming more and more common. They allow you to run at lower tire pressures without having pinch flats. You get pinch flats when the tire compresses and pinches the tube off resulting in sudden decompression of the tire (sudden decompression bad!). Lower tire pressure is nice when riding trails because it allows for better traction (better traction good!). So when I set my bike up I put the air pressure in the tires at 22 psi. That pressure is sure to pinch a tube (I ran Leadville with tubes at 32 psi, right on the border where a tubbed tire will pinch flat).

Last week when I was in CT riding on the trails I thought about how many tubes I would have wasted on the sharp granite I was riding. I went home with soft tires but figured I burped the air out of the tires (burping happens on tubless tires when you break the seal between the bead and the rim for just a moment causing air to leak out). Filled the tires back up and didn’t think any more about it.

Wednesday I was riding on the trails behind my office. I took one warmup lap, one lap pretty hard and was entering the trails for my third and hardest lap. When I got onto the trail my bike felt wonky (a highly technical term). It wasn’t handling correctly and felt like the front wheel was loose. I got off the bike to check the headset and wheel. They were fine. WTF. Felt the tire, mush soft. Ah crap I must have burped more air out of the tire. Back to the office.

What I figured was that when the tire came it didn’t have any sealant in it. See, you run tubless tires with a little bit of latex sealant in there. That helps to maintain the bead/rim seal. It also helps to seal any punctures you might get when riding (another benefit of riding tubless tires). So after work I went to the LBS to have then help me check if there was sealant in there. And guess what? Yup there was no sealant. BUT there was a tube in it. Huh?

Well apparently when they ship tubless tires they ship them with tubs (you can run tubes in a tubless tire/rim wheel). This of course meant that I had been a) abusing my poor tires and b) really lucky that I hadn’t had a blow out due to the low tire pressure.

The LBS owner said that we could take out the tubes, add sealant and start running tubless. So I did.

Off went the front tire, out came the tube, in went the sealant. We used the compressed air to seat the tire (one of the major drawbacks to tubless tires is you need a compressor to get the tire to seat on the rim) and blow it up. Then the hissing started. Not around the rim, but out of the side walls.

“What did you DO to these tires???”

“Well I was running them at low pressure, riding on sharp granite. I guess I am going to need new tires….sigh….”

“Nope I’ll be fine. Just wait.”

We spun the tire and the sealant started to come out of the small cuts in side walls. “Wait for it…” and the hissing slowed then stopped. The sealant worked its magic and filled in all of the little tears I had put into the side walls of my tire.

“Lets do the back one.”

Off came the back tire. Out came the tube. In went the sealant. In went the air. Out came the sealant from the sidewalls.

“Wow you really abused these tires.”

“That’s pretty bad. I guess I do need the new tires.”

“Just wait. None of those are big enough to be a problem.”

Again the hissing blew air and sealant out of the tire. This time from a bunch of small tears. Add a little more air. Spin. Add a little more sealant. Add more air. Spin. And like magic the hissing slowed then stopped. The tires held pressure.

“Ride it around at high pressure for a little while. That will help the sealant get into the sidewalls more. Then drop the pressure and you are good to go. BTW. You ARE going to need new tires soon.”

I was planning on changing tires in the spring anyway. The stock tires are not really designed for the racing I want to do next summer. But I figured they would do for my fall and winter training. Why wear out expensive racing tires training right?

TLC

The third (and final) reason we went to Connecticut last weekend was to become land owners for a second time.

Both sides of Coreen’s family have cottages on a lake in Coventry Connecticut. They are the places she went to as a kid to spend time with her grandparents and they hold special places in her heart. We have continued the tradition with our kids. We have our annual “going to the lake” trips for things like the 4th of July which inevitably become endurance eating, skin wrinkling in water contests.

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As our extended family has grown and changed our kids (who were at one time the little ones) have gotten bigger and new little ones have come into the world. It’s a terrific place.

One of those cottages has for various reasons become in need of “some love”. That cottage was built in the 1950’s and was meant to be a temporary cottage while a more substantial building was constructed. The more substantial building was never constructed and so the temporary cottage survived. When Coreen and I met at UCONN it was still usable. We “borrowed” a set of keys and would go there to spend some quiet one on one time. Later things started to break in the cottage. The electric was wonky. The well pump went out. Eventually Coreen’s mom decided to build her retirement home there and so maintenance on the cottage basically stopped. Coreen’s mom decided last year that she was not going to retire “to the lake” and wanted to sell.

Coreen and I had a long talk about purchasing that cottage. Did it make any sense for us to buy it? No it made no financial sense for us to do that. It’s too far away for us to use a lot in the summer. The taxes are high (Yeah lake front property in CT!). So it made no sense to buy. But…… it was a special and important place. So it made total sense (from an irrational perspective :)). After the long talk we decided that we were in a place where we could afford to take it over. Last week Coreen’s mom became the bank and we became the borrowers. Now we are proud owners of two properties. One being a small lake front parcel with a 400 square foot cabin in Coventry Connecticut. One of my friends in the ADK Luge Club pointed out the irony that we live in the Adirondacks (i.e. the middle of nowhere) and bought a vacation house in CT (i.e. in civilization).

The “Cottage” (capitalized now because that’s its name) is in need of some love.

coventry_cottage

(Classic 50’s eh? Can you hear the music from Dirty Dancing?)

The bones are solid. It’s straight, and square, and what rot there is is cosmetic. We would love to “cut a check” and have someone get this into shape for us, but alas, we cut a check to start buying it (and that was the last check like that in the book!). Worry not, we have a plan. Over the next couple of years, we are going to get it into shape ourselves. Roof, windows, siding next year. Remodel on the inside as we can.

In the end it will take longer to do it that way, but it will really be ours then. It will be a place where the memories include our sweat (and probably blood, but hopefully not tears). A place where our kids (and as Coreen’s aunt was “nice” enough to remind us, soon our grandkids, yikes!) can build their own memories.

Picture of the Day

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“Wangumbaug Lake (aka Coventry Lake)” Taken from OUR beach!

Road less traveled

This year I have ridden a lot. 4500 miles (200 miles short of my all time high. If the weather holds I should be over 5000 miles before I put my bike away for the winter) and 328 hours (already a new record for me) actually. I’ve ridden above treeline and made it back down (though it took me a while to recover physically). I had my but kicked by some pro riders in my first XC race (though it took me a while to recover mentally :)).

The one thing I have not done this year is a road century. As I got closer to Leadville and my time on the bike ticked up I pretty much went exclusively to my mtb. And so I never got a road century in. Yesterday I changed that.

The training plan called for a 4:50 moderate endurance ride. Perfect time to pull out the road bike and go for the century. I figured in 5 hours I would get 90 miles in, and then I would cheat it and get an extra 10 miles in to round out the day.

We have had a really nice fall in the North Country. It’s been warm and for the most part dry. Yesterday you could feel the onset of winter. It was chilly (about 50F) and the clouds looked like the kind that in the winter would dump half an inch of snow on you in 30 minutes. (Those of you who live up here know the kind of clouds I am talking about.) I kitted up in a base layer, full jersey and full finger gloves (Yes, Fatty, I use full finger gloves, but only when it’s cold enough.) and headed out.

I was talking with a fellow mtb’er a couple of weeks ago and he said he didn’t like road riding because it was monotonous. That is actually one of the things I like about road riding. When the traffic is light you can just loose yourself in the rhythm of pedaling. It’s kind of medatative.

We had a strong west wind (about 18 mph) and the route I picked was pretty much dead west for the first 25 miles and then primarily east, either south east or north east the rest of the ride. I hammered the first 25 miles and had a 22 mph average after my first 25 miles. It’s slightly up hill over that stretch, but with the tail wind it was super easy and fast. Then I made the big turn and went into the wind. Down onto the drops grinding it out.

STRAVA will show that I didn’t beat any of my segment records on this ride, but STRAVA records were not really the point. I was going for a fast 100 mile time.

The traffic was light and I was able to achieve that magic empty place where its you, the bike, and your muscles working together. In the end, I did my century in 5:21 which gives a average speed of 18.8 mph. With about 5700 ft of vertical (including two “long” climbs) that’s not bad for an unsupported solo century.  I know given the right day and route I have a 5:00 century in me. Some day. Some day.

Bushwacking

While the primary focus of last weekend was Coreen running in the Hartford Ing Marathon, there was ample opportunity for me to get out and ride some trails. Back home the leaves are coming down and the trails are sketchy/slippery right now. (I rode them yesterday. The leaves cover the trails. And the rain has made it slick.) But in Connecticut, the leaves are just falling. So riding on trails is still pretty good.

Connecticut has a system of trails called the Blue Blazed Trails. These are a series of long (40 or more miles long) hiking trails that run through different parts of the state. About a mile from my mother-in-laws house is the Metacomet Trail.  Its a beautiful trail that runs along a ridge and looks down over the Farmington River valley.

metacomet_farmington

I had two goals for my riding. I wanted to ride some single track that was new and more technical then what I have close to home. I also was looking for an off road way to link up some of the nice trails at Reservoir 6.

The terrain on the Metacomet trail is really varied. Some sections are what I would call wide single track or narrow two track.

metacomet

That looks easy right? Well what you cannot see so well on the picture is how steep and rocky the trail really is. And by rocky I really mean its like riding on a dried stream bed. Big round rocks. (Up out of the saddle, soft legs.)

The trail is really a hiking trail and so wasn’t created with MTB’s in mind. From a mountain bike perspective it has a lot of narrow single track with really steep ups and downs. Its very technical and in places unrideable.   Did I mention the rocks? And by rocks I don’t mean the nice round rocks you would find in the bottom of a stream. Nope I mean the jagged, sharp kind of you see in this picture.

metacomet_bike

You do not want to fall on that stuff. I mean….

OK Doug, lets not over dramatize this…..(Thanks Yeti. Hey where have you been?)

Its a challenging, beautiful trail. Well except when the trail just sort of seams to disappear.

metacomet_end

Or seams to disappear. (Its a recurring theme)

metacomet_bush

There is a trail in there, its narrow and over grown, but its there. I had to power through. And by power through, I mean power through thorn bushes, see.

mtb_leg-1

I pulled a couple of thorns out of my arm last night (4 days later).

Was it fun? Yeah it was (Thorns and all. I little blood rounds a ride out nicely ;)). There is a lot of challenging stuff to ride with steep up and down hill sections. It’s hard to find that flowy feeling, but that’s OK. I was learning. I discovered that  my new bike is really stable going up steep technical stuff. The times I put my foot down were because I didn’t trust my bike and my legs to get up and over something. When I did trust I had no real problems. Going up those climbs was a lot of fun.

Going down? Well I need to work on that. I know that when I have my weight correct and use my brakes properly it feels good. Now I need to develop trust there. I am not where I want to be for ORAMM next summer. But that’s OK too. I have time.

I discovered another benefit of my new bike. Tubeless tires. When I was riding back I noticed my tires felt squishy. Those sharp rocks had “burped” a bunch of air out of the tires. Burping happens when you pinch a tubeless tire and break the seal just a little bit. If I had been riding tubed tires, well I probably didn’t have enough tubes to finish the ride.

My goal of connecting up with Reservoir 6? Got it. Now I have probably 20-30 miles of trail riding I can do which is accessible a mile of my mother-in-law’s house. Tasty!

Picture of the Day

metacomet_ruins

“Outdoor Kitchen”

Ing

This weekend we christened a new endurance athlete in the family……

The tribe headed to Connecticut for the Hartford ING Marathon. Coreen was running in her first half. This is something she has been working towards for over a year. The idea came to her last year when the half marathon route ran past the house she grew up in. She didn’t get to run last year, but this year the race got onto her schedule. She developed her own training program, stuck with it and gutted out some injuries she had.

One of her training strategies was to have a running partner. And in fact her training partner, Missy, came along with to run the half with Coreen. Coreen also, kind of jokingly invited her sister to run it with them. Jessica has been running longer than Coreen, but has not ever run long distances. We were both a little surprised when Jessica also committed to flying in from Austin for the race.

As the race approached I think she had some nervous butterflies that go along with the “doing hard thing for the first time” event. But I knew she was ready. Since this race was really Coreen’s I give you a running race more or less in pictures…..

Pancakes the breakfast of champions!

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Troops ready to go….

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(Jessica, Coreen, Missy)

The weather was perfect. Cool but not cold. Sunny with the rain pushed out of the forecast. (Jessica requested no snow. Happy to oblige!)

The Hartford Ing Marathon is a big event. There were over 15,000 people there to run the marathon, half marathon and 5k events. My bike racing mind thought about what 1500 bikers looked like. But here look a portion of the 15,000 runners….15,000!

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Where’s Waldo?????

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Other troops ready (and hoping not to have to) go……

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Eventually the race started, 10 minutes later everyone crossed the starting line. And so I now got to do something new on race day….go to Starbucks, grab a book, and wait it out. It was a funny feeling to be at a race and not be kitted up. Of course  this was a run, and so I was more than happy to not be kitted up.  🙂

After about 2 hours I made my way to the finish shoot (along with a couple of thousand of other people) to watch for Coreen (the other couple thousand people were obviously there to look for Coreen too!). I managed to see her run in (looking good), yelled her name, and got a smile from her.

Coreen and Missy ran the race together and finished in 2:21. Jessica split from the group and finished in 2:05. All of them met their goals.

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I am proud of my runner girl….who I hear may never run another half (which I only half believe)…..but is considering some sprint tri’s next summer.

Picture of the Day

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“Fight Like a Girl”