Monday, October 31, 2005

Gwynns Falls Trail

Originally uploaded by bre.

The Gwynns Falls Trail has been one of my training ground of choice over the last week.
It's an interesting beast, winding through downtown Baltimore, past some blighted industrial wastelands, and shady neighborhoods, but also taking in some stunning wooded areas right in the City. The Trail is a biking/hiking path that is part of the east coast greenway.
It's not perfect, but it's a wonderful glimpse of what it would be like to have a network of bike paths covering the area. With a good bike path it's just as fast to get around town by bike...and more healthy...and a heck of a lot cheaper!

Why do I like it?
-Except for a few bits where the path becomes a bike lane on the street you don't have to worry about cars.
-It's mostly flat so you can ride tempo with a steady effort or push some intervals. Most everything else around here is made up of many short hills, which makes for a lot of brief, hard effort, followed by brief low effort descents.
-There are long stretches where you can pedal for miles without stopping.
-It's scenic. The Trail roughly follows the Gwynns Falls from the Inner Harbor out to West Baltimore. It's really a pretty, but heavily polluted, stream.
-It's perfect for the cross bike. Parts of it are dirt path and there's plenty of city debris, but mostly it's fast so cross tires are the ticket.
-I can leave from my front door and get in a good 2 hour ride with minimal time on city streets.

Another fun training ground for 'Cross is Patterson Park, site of CX Nationals in 2001 and a short ride from my house. Yesterday, Bernie and I frightened the dogwalkers as we zipped around the Park on a sweet cyclocross training loop that he and Joern devised. It had plenty of elevation gain and more than enough stairs and steep run-ups. We added a bunch of off-camber and tight twisty turns to prep for the Lower Allen race this Saturday. We had fun and got in a solid hour and a half of training. We should be going good if we can start somewhere other than the back of the scrum on Saturday.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Originally uploaded by jaybeekay.

I could really go for a Chimay right about now.


duvel is a girl's best friend
Originally uploaded by naadspagaat.

...or maybe a Duvel.


Originally uploaded by beggs.

I'm always ready for a Hoegaarden.
I've got a soft spot for Belgian beer.

Travel Bug

I want to go here, Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald, Switzerland. The wood-fired hottub would be money after a long hike in the mountains.

I heard about it listening to the podcast of Rick Steves' Travel radio show.
While there's a lot of crap in the podcast universe there are also some really good offerings & this is one of the best. You can find his show and many other podcasts on iTunes.

The past few days I've been listening to Rick's show during my walk to work.
I have a real passion for travel and Rick Steves is an excellent resource for travel ideas.
On Monday there was a discussion about gites in France, an affordable way to vacation and become immersed in the culture of France and many other areas of Europe. Yesterday, the show focused on Prague and the Czech Republic as well as an interview with the operator of the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald.

Listening to these shows brings back memories of my own travels and inspires me to start planning the next adventure. It will take a little more planning with Thor, but I'm sure he'll get a lot out of travelling. Given Mel and I's love of adventure and exploration, I'm sure he got the ~travel gene~ too.

herd dementality

Questions that have been gnawing at my brain recently.

Why do we ignore obviously f#cked up situations and act like nothing is wrong?
Because we're afraid of confrontation?
Because we're intimidated by whoever is causing the situation?
Because we lack courage to live our beliefs and do the right thing?
Because we're so afraid of change that we're happier to suffer in silence?

Why do we refuse to implement a practical solution to a problem?
Because it would break tradition?
Because it's always been done a different way?
Do we even want to solve the problem?
WTF is that?

Why are we afraid to think originally?
Because we're afraid of breaking out of the herd?
Because we lack confidence in our ability to think?
Because we'd rather have someone else to the thinking for us?
Because we're afraid of making mistakes?
Because we're afraid of what the herd will think?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

slipping and sliding down the hill

Slippery hill lap 1

Dennis Smith snapped this shot of the first lap of the B race at Granogue. There's carnage in front and carnage behind, but I made it through cleanly. I would have my own carnage later on in the race.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Granogue B's (Ode to pain)

Granogue B's

50 minutes of pain,
and a power throw-down
Grind up a hill
Then slip and slide down

Snot slickity turns
and mud everywhere
ending up in my ears
on my face and my hair

The runup of pain
was made tougher by the rain
I needed some crampons
to get my groove on

Behind the big tower
I stubbornly tried to ride
But each time I slipped
and riders passed by

On the off-camber hill
it was such a thrill
To let go and trust
My mantra "no brakes" that day was a must

Once on the road
I thought I would die
With screaming legs of wood
And tires at 32 psi

I went round and round
without even a rest
and suffered to the finish
29th best

Saturday, October 22, 2005

muddy Granogue & 'cross ramblings

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.

So I ate it a few times today at Granogue. For the most part I rode the tricky stuff really well, but I had one nasty crash on the hill and had real trouble behind the water tower for the first 3 laps. End result...mud all over.

Granogue was an electrifying reminder of why I love 'cross so much.

The People
I met people for the first time, ran into people old friends, and got to hang out with the coolest folks.

fatmarc...first time meeting him in tha flesh. The guy can sure ride a bike and he does it in style. David Crouse and his lovely wife. David's another guy with it figured out, riding SS mtb's and racing 'cross, but I've also seen the guy throw down on the road as well. Dusty and Georgia back from their nationwide mtb tour to mix it up (quite successfully!) in the MAC 'cross scene. Meg & JD, always smiling and full of enthusiasm. Meg had her race face on and looked great riding the mud. All of the LSV and Alan Maryland crew, espcially Morgan's Mom Suzy...she is like the team manager taking care of every little detail. JH3 coming through with the speedy headset fix on the new ride!

All of the people make up such a wonderful supportive community. Even during the race the camaraderie among the B racers is a really cool thing to be part of. We're really battling out there, but there's always respect among the combatants.

The Race Courses
Every race is different, usually dramatically so. Granogue is like the Hunter S. Thompson Gonzo version of a 'cross course. Everything seems amplified & twisted...the run-up's are harder, the off-camber's more slippery, the road section more punishing. The whole thing is designed to push your limits in every way imaginable. There are times when you are barely in control and just hanging on for the ride. At the same time, part of the challenge is to figure out the best lines and come up with ways to save a few seconds here and there.

The Racing
The brutality of the course is a real gut-check. To me, it's all about constantly putting out big power and riding at the limit. Moments of recovery are very very brief. One has to constantly fight the voices begging you to back-off and end the suffering. When you're locked in a battle of pass or be passed (which is all race long in the B's and Masters monster fields) you really have to be mentally strong and willing to suffer just a little bit more. The suffering is real, but the satisfaction of laying it on the line is rewarding.

Aside from having to put out big power you have to gamble. If you ride all the technical stuff tentatively you'll lose places in a hurry. However, the penalty for making a mistake and hitting the dirt very real too.

mud in yer eye

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.

I had a taste for mud yesterday day and Granogue was like an all-you-can eat buffet of snot-slick funk. I got my fill.
I ran the Tufo tubs at ~ 38psi (pretty low for my 175lb carcass) and they hooked up like a champ. There was plenty of sliding on the off-cambers, but they always found some grip and kept me moving in the right direction. The new bike (Alan Ultral) handled beautifully. I really felt in control on a day when you didn't so much choose a line as you held on and went where the bike wanted to go. I did have some crashes, three of which were minor. I tried to ride too much of the off-camber behind the water tower and slipped down. By the last two laps I was smartly dismounting and running before I got bogged down. Those were big mental mistakes that let a bunch of riders (runners) by me at a crucial point on the course (entering the slippery sidehill). You have to know what your limits are, but I was thinking that I could ride it out. Dumb.

I did have one big crash, just after the first left coming down the hill. I had made the turn cleanly and was carrying decent speed with my left foot out and I suddenly hit the deck. My left lever/hood dug into the mud and my chest slammed the ground. That shook me up and knocked the wind out of me. I still don't know what happened, but that one hurt and knocked me off my game for a few minutes.

The only bike issue I had was on the first lap coming over the tree roots. I had made my way up from a really crappy starting position of 49th (6th or 7th row) to somewhere between 15th and 20th. I was starting to feel good and was in a strong group. I rode the roots cleanly, but somehow my rear wheel slid out of the dropouts, got crooked, and wedged against the brakes. I had to get off, adjust the wheel, and tighten it back down. This was a huge bummer as a ton of guys went by while I was fixing the result of mental blunder. Note to self...double check those wheels & QR's before the friggin race.

Despite having some bad fortune and making some mistakes I had a really fun time. That course is such a challenge, both in terms of fitness and bike handling, that you really push your limits...and that's how you get better.

My training and racing time are way down this year, but I still feel like I've improved. Last year at this race I was 38th...this year it was 29th out of 75 finishers. I didn't feel really good, but I think I could have stayed in the top 20 if I had ridden smarter. I should be able to get enough racing in to start to have some legs by the last couple of weeks of the season.

I need to recover first. Right now (9:00am on Sunday) my left calf is very sore. I pulled it on the post-barrier runup on the opening lap. Today is a family day, so I'm not racing, but I'll get out on the road for a spin to try and loosen it up this afternoon.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Urban Cross Practice

sycamore trees, federal hill
Originally uploaded by johnok.

Last night I did a solo 'cross practice in the neighborhood.

I have a couple of parks nearby that offer some nice terrain with hills, steps, and paved paths.

First up was a quick stop at Port City Java for an Espresso revive myself after a day sitting behind a desk. After a warm-up spin on the road out to Fort McHenry I cruised over to Riverside Park.

I worked on a bunch of different dismounts and carries to the amusement of the crowd watching the adjacent soccer match. I used the soft sand on the baseball diamond to try some tight turns at speed. It's a cool feeling taking your tire traction right to the edge.

Some of the local kids took a break from whatever nefarious activity they involved in to chuckle at the lycra-wearing freak jumping on and off his 10-speed. Thanks the Eminem look.

There's a nice hill that I was able to use to practice riding off-cambers and controlling rear wheel slides. That was a lot of fun and should be good prep for Granogue.

While doing this I noticed a cloud of smoke coming from the fence surrounding the pool. The neighborhood lads had created an effigy using old clothes and leaves. It was attached to the fence and lit on fire.

I was impressed by the creativity. The fire department was not. With cops and firemen rolling into the Park I decided to move on.

I made my way over to Federal Hill Park and did some loooooooong, steeeeeeep runs up the side of the hill shouldering my bike. Man, those were brutal, but with Granogue on the horizon they needed to be done.

Check out the photo for a peak at the hill. It's broken up in the middle with a ledge and sidewalk. From the bottom it's about a 30 second sprint on a steep pitch. Toe spikes are pretty much mandatory.

I have a love/hate relationship with City living, but the good mostly outweighs the bad.

Next season I'll have Rockburn Park right out my backyard. I'm planning on setting up a primo stealth cross course.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Maui Thor

Maui Thor
Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.

Thor really digs his Hawaiian shirt.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Vegas MTB ride

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
I had to go to Vegas for a quick work trip. Since I had the morning free on Thursday I rented a car and drove out to Blue Diamond, next to Red Rock Canyon. I rented a bike at McGhie's Bike Outpost and explored the network of trails. McGhie's hooked me up with a Trek Fuel 98. With the carbon frame this bike was light and climbed really well. I had brought my helmet, camelbak, shoes, and pedals so I was all set. I ended up riding for 4 hours, exploring many areas of the canyon, including the Dead Horse Loop and Badger Pass. There was a lot of climbing, but it was mostly gradual and the reward was a long, fast downhill that wound its way back down the canyon. Desert riding is a lot different than what we have around here. The climbs are longer, but not as steep and the technical difficulties are fewer in number. In spots you'll have to deal with a knarly rock section or loose sandy turns, but for the most part the trail just flows. The scenery is quite different as well. It's similar to Fruita, though the trail is a lot less technical and there is minimal exposure. With no trees the views are seemingly unlimited. You can see the trail snaking away for miles in front of you. Though the riding is different it is a complete blast and a fun experience.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Dutch Lesson

This could be useful sometime...

Yikes! Diarree!
Ik at ranzig mayonaise op mijn frites!
Waar de badkamers is?
Haast! Haast!

In English...
Yikes! Diarrhoea!
I ate rancid mayonaise on my frites!
Where are the bathrooms?
Hurry yourself! Hurry yourself!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Congrats Poz and Tracy!

On Friday we had the pleasure to attend the wedding of Tracy Griffith and Jon "Poz" Posner at The Gramercy Mansion here in Baltimore. Poz and Tracy are two of the nicest, coolest people we know and they make a wonderful couple.

The entire event was beautiful and the food was incredible. The teriyaki glazed salmon and the mashed potato-in-martini-glass bar were the two highlights. Certain individuals enjoyed the signature appletini beverages to the fullest extent, but I was doing the driving so I stuck with water.

There was a fun collection of mountain biking people in attendance, including Chris Eatough and Jeremiah Bishop. We sat at the "Joe's Bike Shop" table and swapped stories with Joe, Katie, Roger Bird, David Duval, and other assorted characters. It was nice to get out for a date night and enjoy some revelry with such good company.

Ed Sander Cross

Ed Sander Cross
Buckeystown, MD
Sunday, October 2, 2005
B Race (~50 starters)
Sunny, dry & 80+ degrees

The Course
The course was similar to that of the MABRA Championship Race last December with a few changes. For the start there was a prologue loop that went up the road before a quick right-hand drop onto the grass. There were a few twists before merging with the course proper. The main course was made up of 3 pretty distinct sections.

Section 1 - Pond Crit
First was a winding maze around the ponds with a lot of tricky turns to accelerate out of. This section began with a double set of barriers on a pretty fast grassy straight. I liked the placement as we don't see many fast barriers these days. Coming out of the ponds you came by the pit before moving on to section two.

Section 2 - Fast Gravel
This part of the course was a series of double track dirt roads that had recently been covered quite thoroughly with gravel. They were still fast, but required attentive riding due to the deep gravel. Line choice here was important in order to maintain speed. There were a couple of nice loose turns here as well that made for some wheel drifting fun. The finish of this section was a little double-track dirt & stone climb.

Section 3 - Techno-Fun
Section three started at the top of the little climb with a bermed right turn onto a grassy 'trail' that became the most technical part of the course. A quick downhill with an off-camber left bend at the bottom led into a short and very steep run/ride-up. In the right conditions this definitely would have been ridable, but it was so loose that riding it was a gamble. If you could ride it to the top you would save a nice chunk of time, but if you stalled part way up you would lose time. I made the decision to dismount to avoid losing big time if I got stalled. I was happy that I had installed the toe spikes that morning. Without them the scramble to the top would have been tough. At the top you immediately dropped right back down the same slope, usually before you had a chance to clip into your pedals. There were a fair number of people that actually walked down this drop.

From there it was up another slight rise and back down to a tight 180 degree turn and right back up the hill. Next was a bit of double-track downhill into a fast and fun off-camber left hand drop onto a a short stretch of bumpy grass before climbing back up to the double track and more climbingto the top of the hill. At the top it was a long, fast no brake downhill winding around before emptying out with a short ridable gravel pile that came by the pit and onto the gravel finishing straight.

Laps were roughly 9 minutes. We did 5 laps in the B race.

Bernie and Tina picked me up a bit after 8 and we hit the road. We arrived shortly after 9 and got right on our bikes to inspect the course. We did 2 slow laps to look for the best lines and practice the trickier bits. This was really important as it allowed us to race the course with confidence and avoid the pitfalls that took a lot of riders down. Quite a few riders that didn't inspect the course ended up with crashes and mechanicals. Aside from being very helpful, I really enjoy figuring out the course pre-race. It's like working on a puzzle that can be solved in a variety of ways.

The Race
We had been told that riders would be called up based on certain criteria and then would be staged based on bib number (registration order). Based on the criteria I was pretty sure that I would get a call-up and if not I had been one of the first to register. Thus, I didn't get to the line early like I usually do. For some reason there were only two call-up's (neither based on the announced criteria) and then it was a mad dash to the line. I was not in a good position, but I did everything I could to move up. Manners and decorum were out the window. When the dust settled I was in the third row in a mass of overlapping bikes and racers. This was not going to be a pretty start.

Ed Sander CX start

When we got the word to go we somehow got going without getting all tangled up and hitting the deck. Unfortunately the first two rows were flying up the road. I dug in and gave it everything to get in line about 20 back from the front. At the first twist some guys misjudged the turn and created a bottleneck, squeezing me into the course markings. I put a foot down and squeezed through before getting going again. At the barriers I didn't slow down, making a clean dismount, and passing several guys by the time I got back on.

Ed Sander CX barrier

That put me onto the back of the lead train heading to the ponds. I made a tight pass on a right-hander to move up to about 12th and settled in line. This section was like a crit first lap. We were single-file and motoring. I was just hoping that the guys in front of me would ride the corners cleanly and not open any gaps. A few guys bobbled taking bad lines, but I was able to stay on the good line and get around them.

Ed Sander CX leaders

Entering the gravel section I was in the top 10, but the guy in front of me overshot the turn and then over-corrected tangling me up. We slowed to a crawl, but luckily nobody behind could get around. I got back up to speed and closed the gap to the lead group. Riding the gravel single file was nerve racking. I knew the lines, but sitting wheel to wheel you never know what the guy in front of you is going to do in loose gravel. Some of the good lines were right on the edge of the ponds. A little bobble and you're going for a swim.

We got through the technical stuff cleanly, though it was a bit hairy doing it in a sizable group. About 7 of us were still together to start lap 2, with Wayne Scott behind solo trying to bridge. Behind him we had a decent gap already.

Ed Sander CX bridging

Going around one of the ponds the front two guys misjudged a turn and both went headfirst into the water. Good stuff. They both got back up and were back in the group surprisingly quickly. Note to self...those guys are fast.

That left me feeling a bit nervous about riding around in such a big group. I'm better on the technical stuff and not as strong at closing a lot of gaps. I wanted to get out in front to avoid the sketch and try to get some separation.

Heading up the double-track climb out of the gravel section I attacked up the middle and got the lead heading into techno-land. I got through everything cleanly and stayed on the front to finish lap 2.

Starting lap 3 I decided to stay on the front as long as possible, even knowing that the guys behind were getting some benefit from the draft. I figured I was better off setting the pace and leading through the tricky stuff. Around the ponds I rode a steady tempo and jumped out of every turn. I was trying to stretch things out and tire the guys in back.

Ed Sander CX leading

Riding the gravel/dirt roads in front was nice as I could see the lines and not have to breathe in a cloud of dust. Coming up the little climb a Greg Lindstrom attacked (he ended up winning) with Adrian Lobito (he won last week). I covered the move weakly and knew that I didn't have the power to stick if they gunned it again. A gap started to open and Anthony Von Lierop came around me to close it, creating a leading group of 3 with 2 laps to go.

Behind that it was me and Steve Fife from Rockville Harley with a super-strong Wayne Scott closing fast behind. I led it to over the barriers and to the ponds, before Wayne made a nice pass to get by me. I tried to get his wheel, but he was moving. He made it up to the leaders leaving me and Steve riding together.

I gapped Steve on the gravel and once I realized that I gave it some gas to stay away. It turns out that Steve had flatted. So I was on my own and trying to keep the pace high in hopes of re-catching the leaders and not getting caught from behind.

Ed Sander CX chasing

Starting the final lap I could see that I wasn't going to catch the leaders, but I had a solid hold on 5th with a big gap back to Nick Bax, who had worked his way up into 6th position. I just rode a time trial the final lap, taking care to take clean lines to avoid crashing and losing time.

Upon crossing the line I was happy to see Bernie close behind Nick to get 7th. Bernie had an even worse starting position and rode an incredible race to get by traffic and work his way up the field. He got 7th in the C's at this race last year so he has made a big jump this season.

Props to NCVC for putting on another great race. The course was fun and fast and the food vendor was a nice touch. I definitely dug the ice cold Coke and big plate of french fries post-race. Also, big thanks to Suzy Gerlak for the bottle hand-ups each lap. With the dust and heat of the day a quick swig of water helped out a bunch.

I was happy with my race. I had a bad starting position, but was able to make it up to the lead group pretty quickly. That took a lot of energy, but it was good experience to have to overcome a bad start. I hung with the leaders well and played my cards with the lap 2 attack. I knew I wasn't the strongest and just sitting in I'd eventually get gapped. My only shot to win was to get out in front and ride the techno stuff cleanly, hoping that the guys behind me had trouble.

My gamble didn't pay off, but at least it thinned out the lead group. My fitness isn't really there yet, but I was able to hang on for 5th place. Right now I have to lean heavily on my bike handling and cross skills to make up the time I lose on the long power sections. I'm hoping that I'll have the power to be there at the end by November.

Overall, it was another gorgeous day at the races. The 'Cross scene is a friendly as ever and it seems to be really growing this year. Pretty soon we'll be into the cold, nasty race days and slathering the legs in warming oils. I can hardly wait!