Wilmington Whiteface 100k: “Noah’s Ark Edition”

It’s rare that you get a weather forecast that predicts a 100% chance of rain. It seams like even when a hurricane is bearing down on you there is only something like a 80% chance on rain. So the weather forecast for Wilmington (100%) was pretty bold.

I figured there were a couple of good things about having rain in the forecast: 1. Not everybody would show up (thereby increasing my chances of getting a Leadeville spot); and, 2. Not everybody would finish (thereby increasing my chances of getting a Leadville spot). The only real drawback was having to ride in the rain and mud. The temps were forecast in the mid 50’s. I hate biking in a rain coat if I can avoid it, so I went long sleeve jersey, no rain coat. (BTW, that FC long sleeve jersey is the BEST long sleeve jersey I own. It was warm, even when wet.)

Wilmington 2016 Clean a

The gun went off at 7 am sharp. The rain started (literally) when the gun went off. I have documented the race course before. Say here for example. So I’m not really going to talk a lot about the course. But….. there are 4 major climbs in this race. The first was a dream (good). The rain tamped the sand and dust down. The road was tacky and the traction was good. The second was also in great shape. 1:30 into the race and the rain was a non factor.

Wilmington 2016 cant see

And then we got to the top of the second climb and the a very different dream came into focus. I rode the first half of the course a couple of weeks ago and knew that this section was rough. It was still rough, except that now it was also a muddy mess. This transitioned into the downhill, and that folks is where the wheels became….. completely unnecessary.

The road had deep ruts and now those ruts were filled will rivers of mud. The line you took down the descent was largely dictated by which mud river rut your wheel was in. In a lot of ways it was like being on luge run. Steering? Completely ineffective. OK, to be fair it wasn’t like a luge run. You can steer a luge sled. It was like a bobsled run (you cannot steer a bobsled 🙂 ). When I got to the bottom I looked at the guy next to me.

“I wonder if my face looks like yours.”

“Don’t know, all I see is mud.”

On the back side of Jay Mountain the roads were soft with a 1″ layer of mud. The net effect was that going downhill felt like biking on a flat, going on a flat felt like biking uphill. The turn around is a 3 mile section of “single track” that was really a muddy swamp. Then back up the river of mud.

Wilmington 2016 smile a

(Yes I AM smiling in the pictures from this race.)

Bike started to get really upset at this point. Every pedal stroke was accompanied by grinding (on my NEW cranks, NEW chain and NEW rear cassette). Shifting was a 3 step process: Index down, index up lightly (to release the cable so it could actually index down) and then index down again. I was in good shape though, I still had brakes (which many people lost).

The course “firmed” back up once we got back over Jay Mountain. My time wasn’t great but I was feeling good. Down the Jay Mountain descent back into Wilmington. Up over the last major climb. Into the Hardy Road “Trails” (i.e. mud pits). Then back to Whiteface to finish the day. We ride a set of trails called the Flume Trail. I was wondering if that one would be cut out of the race. It parallels a river and is ALWAYS wet/muddy, even when the world is dry. Those trails ended up being the best single track we rode during the day.

The final section is on Whiteface. Every year it seams like they change the end, never really finding the right mix. This year they carved a bit of trail that went up, down and then up the lower portion of the ski mountain. I rode it on Saturday to see what it was like. Like? Steep, loose, rocky and tight. Fun in the right conditions. A day of rain? Not the right conditions…. As I rode onto the mountain I realized they bypassed this new little section (yeah!) and I entered the final single track right before the finish.

That section, well it sucks in dry conditions. It is deeply rooted with a really soft surface. In wet conditions it was a nightmare. I did wrap myself around a small tree in a slow motion crash. Nothing serious. I went conservative and walked some. Only bad things would happen at that point.

And then onto the finish.

Wilmington 2016 finish2a

Wilmington 2016 finish1a

See, I got a medal and everything…

Wilmington 2016 finished

And that is where the real adventure BEGINS (and this episode ends……)

The Best Thing I Bought for My Bike

Ok, sorry that the posting was sparse last week. It is crazy time here right now. This week is finals, so I am grading like mad (or not grading like mad and stalling while writing this thing here). Last Friday I took the NYS DEC Basic Wilderness Search Course and next week I’m taking a Wilderness First Responders course. We will get to why over the next couple of weeks. Anyway just stay with me for a couple of weeks while life gets onto the summer track.

As promised, the Best Thing I Ever Bought for My Bike……

I live as many of you know way Upstate New York. Just about as far north in NY that you can go and still be in NY. I Know I’m from Upstate. (The very last person who is in that video, yeah I’m from that town. What he says is true.)

The point here is that I live pretty far north and that corresponds to pretty darn cold most winters. Though this winter we didn’t really have winter. We had more winter in April than in February. That of course made my purchase last summer of Sunday to be something of a disappointment.

Sunday

Sunday is a Framed Minnesota 3.0 XWT (extra wide tires, 4.7″ wide) fully rigid fat bike. I call her Sunday because she is the nice little thing you get after dinner to make your day complete. In theory you could live with out it, but really why would you WANT to? I mean let’s be serious.

Now Sunday is NOT the best thing I ever purchased for my bike, well because she IS a bike. But Sunday is supposed to enable biking in the winter, when its cold. And THAT my friends is the problem. The cold.

From the moment I started biking seriously here in Potsdam there has been a problem with biking in the cold. Its cold. And the crux for me biking in the cold has always been my hands and what kind of gloves are right. If I go with thick gloves then they eventually get a little “soggy” which lets the cold air in and my fingers freeze. If I pick a glove that has enough wicking then my fingers freeze. There wasn’t any good answer. Then I found Bar Mitts. Bar Mitts are neoprene things that stick over your handlebars. You put your hands in them and ride.

Here have a look:

They are simply put the BEST THING I have put on my bike (since I bought a GPS). I went riding this winter when it was cold. So cold that my eyes froze shut when I blinked. So cold that… well it was this cold. I was biking at work and went back to my office as the support staff were going home for the day. 🙂

doug winter

Sunday equipped with Bar Mitts  enabled that ride.

Sunday_with_barmits

The Bar Mitts work because you are basically encasing your hands in a neoprene igloo. The neoprene shell protects your fingers from wind and wetness. There is enough air circulation that your fingers do not sweat but enough insulation that all you need are your summer fingerless gloves inside the shells.

If you ride in the winter and have trouble with cold fingers. You really should give them a shot.

http://www.barmitts.com/

And BTW. I paid for mine (full price) and I would pay for them again if I needed too.

Author’s Note: The fat bike is a hoot. I would not replace my normal mtb with my fat bike. Meaning if I HAD to pick ONE bike it would not be the Fat Bike. But it was a lot of fun to ride in the snow and it was also a lot of fun to ride in the real serious mud. 

Author’s Second Note: The rumor that a fat bike tire acts like the suspension on a normal mtb is FALSE. Riding a fully rigid fat bike is like riding a fully rigid mtb only bouncy.

Wilmington Whiteface 100k: (un)race report

 

I tried and tried and tried all week to write an un-race report for Wilmington and just couldn’t bring myself to do it. In the end, I did the smart thing and scratched myself from the race.

Look summer up here is like 2 weeks long and I didn’t want to risk turning myself into a limping mass of unfunness for the entire summer. Biking at any speed is better than biking and no speed.

Team Fatty Fundo Rider Jeff was there to race. Coreen and I had a room in Lake Placid (without the kids). So we went up anyway. I participated in the pre-ride with Jeff on Saturday since I figured I could do that at a safe pace for me. And it was fun. Fun enough that I almost race in the 50k race instead of the 100k race. This was followed with a Fatbike ride with Jeff and my Olympian sliding friend Duncan. Three giant massive heavy bikes. Another fun ride. But I stayed firm and while Jeff was racing Sunday morning I was having an awesome breakfast with Coreen at a very cool little restaurant we have wanted to eat at. My Wilmington race weekend was a fun get away with my wife.

Jeff had a great race and was using the experience as a benchmark/ tune-up for Leadville. I put him solidly under 12 hours. (Authors note: My official prediction right now is 11:18 at Leadville for Jeff.)

I’ve been in physical therapy for the past two weeks. It’s been helpful. We have pretty much broken up the mass of frozen muscles in my legs by daily rolling with a foam roller and a lacrosse ball, stretching, some electric stim, and some deep massage. So I am feeling better and off the DL. Coreen knew I was feeling better when I sent her a text last weekend after 2.5 hours of riding (which is what I told her I was doing) and let her know it would be another hour or more before I came home.

My second event for the summer has always been the Hampshire 100. Its a race I have wanted to do for a couple of years. I should be good to go for that. I think at this point the 100 mile version is a little optimistic, so it will likely be the 100k race. But we will see…….

Happy Fathers Day to all you Dad’s out there. Get out and do something fun outside this weekend.

Dads, kids and bikes, what could be better than that!

doug_and_noah_2014

Wilmington Whiteface 100k: First Impressions

As we walked to the waiting room I asked the physical therapist, “So is the kind of pain that indicate you are doing damage or the kind of pain that indicates that something is wrong and you won’t hurt yourself any further?”

PT: “Well I cannot tell you you won’t hurt anything by racing Sunday. Common sense would say….”

And there was a chortle from a young women in the PT waiting room.

PT: “She (indicating the laughing young woman) has a problem with common sense (which made her laugh harder) just like I suspect you do to (clearly 60 minutes was enough time for her to form a solid first impression). Common sense would say don’t race. Even if you don’t hurt anything more, the length and difficulty is going to aggravate your leg.”

ME: “That’s kind of what I was thinking too.” (Big sigh).

Back up 60 minutes to when I first met my PT. We talked for awhile about what I do and what the problem was. What do you mean by you bike “a lot”? 10 hours a week. How long is this race? 70 miles. (Eyes pop) etc. Then we did some testing. And in the end we think that the problem is coming from my mechanics.

When you pedal your knees should describe a roughly circular plane. My right knee does what they call “chopping”. When I pedal the knee comes in. I have gotten a bike fit twice and the guy who did it has never been able to fix that problem. Usually you add wedges into your bike shoes and poof it goes away. But we never have been able to fix the chopping motion with wedges. The working theory is that the bad mechanics are stressing my hip and hamstring. All bike related problems start with the knees. Add to that the fact that I am, as most bikers are, quad dominant, and the problem is exacerbated.

Our plan of action is some stretching, muscle strengthening, massage and a tape job. The tape runs from the inside of my right knee across the top of my leg and then around my waste to my lower back. This is a tape method for runners who collapse their knees and restricts the inward motion of my knee. The idea is to re-train my leg to be more stable and have better mechanics.

I left the PT’s office pretty well decided that I would not race on Sunday. But I had my mtb at work and took it onto the trails behind my office. It was the best, hardest, and first real pain free ride I have had in a while. I call it the “adding insult to injury” ride.

 

Wilmington Whiteface 100K: Pre-race Press Conference

I would like to thank you all for coming to the Team Fatty/Hoops/WBR Wilmington Whiteface 100k prerace press conference. We are here to discuss the team status going into one of the most important weekends of the year.

We are first of all pleased to announce that Jeff D., Team Fatty Fundo rider, will be joining us this year in Wilmington. Jeff is prepping for an assault on the course record at Leadville and he brings real excitement and buzz to the Whiteface race.  We know that Dave Weins is looking forward to racing Jeff. We are confident that Jeff will not repeat the start finish/line confusion experienced at Boggs. (Aside: See Doug’s Perspective, Fatties Perspective, and Jeff’s Perspective for 3 views of the same incident.) Well except that someone should tell him the finish at Whiteface is a little confusing because you have to do 2 laps. Well, we will see what happens there.

Oh, one more announcement, due to injury I may not be racing. Thanks for coming.

Wait a minute. What do you mean by you “might not be racing”?

Hi Yeti, so glad you showed up. I think that statement is pretty clear.

Back up a minute where is this coming from? I don’t remember reading anything about an epic crash or anything like that.

Nope no epic crash. I have been fighting a sore hamstring and thigh since coming back from Boggs. I cannot put a lot of power into my pedaling, especially when I am climbing.

So what’s the problem?

Wilmington is all about climbing.

This is really about you being under trained and not wanting to embarrass yourself. 

While it is true that my training has not been optimal for this race, and that I am likely to embarrass myself, that is not the reason for this potential scratch. I mean I am more than willing to embarrass myself.

doug2_ct_easter2015-1

chicane sunday race

 

And before you ask its not even about it hurting while I am racing. It’s more this. This is the beginning of the biking season and I want to be able to ride this summer. I don’t want to really hurt myself to the point where I won’t be able to bike at all.

What about the magic chiropractor who fixed your knee in an hour during the Leadville year?

I’ve seen him, twice, since coming back from California. This injury is stubborn. I’m even going back to the PT I also saw that year tomorrow.

Bummer.

Yeah, bummer.

So what’s the plan?

Coreen and I are going to go up to Lake Placid without the kids. I’m going to do the group pre-ride. We will have a nice evening Saturday alone. And then we will see.

Bummer.

Yeah, bummer.

 

Boggs: Epilogue

As I go through life it becomes more and more clear to me that happiness comes from shared experiences. Spending time and connecting with people. Maybe just an afternoon playing ball with your child or dinner and a movie with your wife or riding with a group of friends.

For me THE highlight of my trip to California was getting to spending time with friends who I don’t normally get to see. We set the RV’s up so that our little virtual campfire was between the two campers. Virtual because real campfires are a tricky thing in California. But it doesn’t matter. The campfire is neither necessary or sufficient.

boggs_postrace_relax2

boggs_postrace_relax

At the campfire we talked about lots of things. Leadville was a big topic. (Hey we Bike, so where did you think the talk would center????) 4 out of 6 of us are going there this summer. Some rookies with the goal of finishing under 12 hours, some sophomores with the goal of finishing under 9 and some who are institutions at Leadville with the goal of finishing under 8.

We ate. We talked about eating. We talked about what might possibly be the worst tasting thing a company has ever produced as endurance “food”. (I am groaning with disbelief in the picture above.) We ate some more. We talked about amazing blunders that large companies have made. We talked about what constitutes dessert. We ate dessert (well most of us). We talked about bikes. We talked about families.

We talked about snipes (both the legendary “purple” snipe and the much less known “arctic” snipe).

The other “campfire” I spent time at when I was in California was the Thompson family campfire. The Thompsons are a remarkable family. I saw this picture on the Book of Face and it made me think of them.

the_lama

Several years ago Amy and Dave’s son Rob had a serious accident, one that changed their lives forever. I know that like any family they have their moments (good and bad) but they face that challenge together with humor (sometimes highly inappropriate, but being part of a family that had someone who worked at Hospice, I certainly appreciate the need for inappropriate jokes) and a remarkably welcoming attitude.

This year Team Thompson are World Bicycle Relief Ambassadors. One of the WBR slogans is “The Power of Bicycles”. I was fortunate to have a chance to ride with Dave and Rob while I was in California. After the accident Dave built a custom tandom bike for him and Rob to bike on.

rob_bike

That bike proves the power of bicycles. The doctors, nurses and other care givers were amazed at Rob’s progress after he started riding. But here is the thing I learned while riding with them. Biking gives Dave and Rob a chance to be be together and share the “doing” of something that is independent of the accident. It’s pure connection. They get to do, something that most of us take for granted like playing ball or hiking with our kids. When they are riding they are actively experiencing things, they talk, they bicker. Rob told me that he likes to bike because his accident doesn’t matter when he bikes. (Authors Note: Dave and Rob are maniac’s on that bike. I wouldn’t ride tandom with either of them.)

Team Thompson, thank you for opening your house and family to me for a couple of days. No there cannot be too much Mexican food. Amy it was awesome to see you get your new dream bike (hopefully they got the frame thing straightened out!)

Yes. THE highlight of the trip to California was getting to spend time with friends. The kind of friends who I could have lunch with next week or next year and pick up as though I had seen them the day before.

 

Addendum: When we were talking about deserts, which all proper FoF do while eating, we discussed what may be the most repulsive desert flavor ever used by chef’s on humans. Lavender. Lavender is good in soap, but it makes desert take like, well soap. This was something I brought up having personally experienced this crime against humanity at an expensive local restaurant back home. In a strange twist of fate, Dave H. brought an assortment of birthday cupcakes. It was his Birthday. One of the flavors was lavender. It went uneaten. Jeff kindly reminded me that this was forgotten in his write-up, Elden’s write-up (to date) and mine. I added this so that the record of the horror would be complete.

Boggs: Part 1, Getting There is Half Fun

I’m home from California and its time to write up my adventures. Two of my blogging colleagues (Jeff and Fatty) have been busily writing up their adventures. I could tell you that I taught them everything they know about writing up bike reports and didn’t want them to feel pressure by having mine come first, but that wouldn’t be true. Nope. In fact I am writing later than them because I have an Epilogue to my story.

The whole Bogg’s trip for me started with Jeff winning the all expense paid trip to California for Boggs to race with Fatty and Levi Leipheimer. A couple of my friends in CA have been needling me about coming out to ride by them and when Jeff won, one thing lead to another and pretty soon I was planning my trip.

Not Fun

My trip to Boggs started by packing up my bike. The week leading up to my leaving I had been meaning to see if my bike would fit in my bike bag (it had yet to be in that bag). But things were crazy and I never had time. Then departure day came and well I had to pack and in the way that things work in this world, the bike of course didn’t fit. Air out of shocks, drop-outs removed it was not going in the bag. A couple of frantic emails to my friends in CA helped me to realize that renting a bike for the trip would be very expensive and so I was preparing myself mentally to take my 26″ mountain bike with me to CA. I haven’t been on that bike much since Leadville and the couple of times I had been made me realize how used to my 29’er I had grown. But eh, it would be OK. Then I realized that it was the padding that was keeping my 29’er from fitting in my bike bag. Well I could take that out right? I mean what harm could come to my bike on an airplane without padding in the bag right? All kidding aside, the spot I need to take the padding out of wasn’t critical and my Ti frame is more forgiving than say a carbon frame, so I wan’t really worried.

Once packed I headed to Syracuse to finish up my sabbatical leave (I had 4 days of experiments to run before I was officially finished and on vacation). My training regime leading up to my departure? 3x 12 hour days in the lab running experiments. At least I would have fresh legs for the race.

Fun

Like Jeff, I had a benefactor for this trip who covered my airfare. Unlike Jeff, my tickets were in the front of the airplane. 🙂 Like in front of the curtain they put across the isle. Yeah, my tickets were booked first class. I have been in first class on an airplane exactly once before in my life. Coreen and I got the karma/pitty upgrade once when we were in college. Ok let me in a secret here for those of you who have not been in front of the curtain. It’s fun. They bring you a drink before you take off. (Which we all know since we have to walk past them when we go back to the cramped back of the airplane as we board.) After the plane takes off they bring you a hot towel to wipe off with. Then they bring you heated mixed nuts. (Which the guy next to me complained about. Seems there were not enough in the cup. The people up front EXPECT certain things. Sheesh. ) Then lunch. Lobster Mac and Cheese. Yup. Lobster Mac and Cheese. It was a hoot. Not worth twice the ticket prices in back, but heck I was being treated.

I arrived at the San Francisco airport and was picked up by Chris the third mystery member of our three man team. We drove to my host, Dave’s house. And when we got there the “Princes” RV was waiting for us to see.

princess_RV

We were going to “camp” at Boggs.

I assembled my bike and we were ready to head off to Boggs early the next morning.