Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Winter Arrives in New Jersey

As a cyclist, winter is something I endure more than enjoy. I know that without black, we would not have white and without rest we would not have strength. The seasons are a perfect combination that I am lucky to experience. Winter just seemed to come fast this year.

December rolled in and so did winter. Christmas is only a week away, and already three snowstorms and the woods are covered under a blanket of snow. I have already tried to hike on ice, ride my mountain bike on icy roads and XC ski on crusty snow. All of which fall into the endure category. There is no doubt that the snow and ice have been beautiful, but winter conditions outside have not been ideal just yet.

The really good news is that the days are already getting longer, which means the countdown to spring is not all that far away. So, in the mean time, there is plenty of hope for some winter fun and perhaps a few long rides when the weather allows.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Crossing Over

After 11 weeks recovering from a sprained ankle, I am finally able to race cyclo-cross. I gave it a few experimental tries in October, but came up short and felt like I needed more time to recover enough to handle the basic off the bike part of cross. As it turns out, this forced time off of racing has almost been a gift. The weather this fall has been so wonderful, and this free time has allowed me to do some great mountain biking. I did so much mountain biking that I could almost say I was getting tired of riding. I have a hard time admitting that I could be sick of riding my mountain bike, but yes, pixy needs a break from her favorite thing now and then, and that is where cyclo-cross fits into the plan.

I took my lack luster attitude on the mountain bike as a sign to do something else, and signed up to race CX at Fair Hill. Fair Hill has a really fun course and Art agreed to ride White Clay on Friday to make for a worthwhile drive south. I nearly fell asleep on my White Clay ride, and I feared that CX would not go well. However, that was not the case. I had such a good race, that I decided to race HPCX the next day. Somehow, I fell right back into racing like I never missed a beat, and somehow I was back to racing every weekend.

Yesterday was Supercross Cup: The 3/4 women had an 8:45 start and were cut to 30 minutes. It hardly seemed worth getting up at 5:00 am to do 3 - 7minute laps, so I checked my options. I had never raced with the men before, but I decided to race my age group with the men, as it would be a better training option. This would mean I would get a full 45minute race. It also meant that I would be out there with Art. Art was second to be called to the start, and before the front row was full, they called my name. I was a little flustered as I assumed I would take the back row, but I ended up right next to Art in the front row. Art looked to me and said “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to do this but” and he raised his hand to high five me. As we did our high five, I heard “15 seconds”, and we were off!

Amazingly, I held onto the whole group to the bottom of the first hill, then a few, including Art, got away, but I still had a few in my sight in front as well as a few already behind me. Not a bad place to be, I thought. Then I clipped my foot on the barriers, nearly tripping myself. The barriers were a tad tall for me to clear on the up hill with my short legs and weak ankle. From there on, the course got fun with twists, roots, holes, ups, downs and even the stupid curbs. I can’t say I liked the cubs, or even felt comfortable jumping them, but I made the most of what I could do with them, and made it work in my favor somehow.

As much as I love racing the ladies in the Mac series, I enjoyed the lack of expectations that came with this day of racing with the men. I felt a certain freedom with it, and of course one of the extra perks is the heckling and hand ups that do not always take place with the women’s B races. I managed to grab a cookie on the run up. My heart rate was so high that I did not want to eat it right there in fear of puking, so I stuffed it in my skin suit. Instantly, it started bouncing in my bra and driving me crazy. So in between technical sections, I managed to dig it out and stuffed it under my pant leg.

Later I rolled in with 5 very consistent laps (ranging from 7:31 to 7:42) to take a mid pack 6th place. I took a cool down lap and ate my yummy ,warm and now, salty cookie. By the time I found my way to finish line, Art had taken 2nd place. ….A good day all around representing our age group.

Photo by Christy Perkins

Photo by Christy Perkins

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pictures and Words

There is a saying that goes something like " A picture is worth a thousand words". I am not in any way trying to challenge or prove such a statement. I'm just pointing out that with all that a picture can say, there is much that it can not say. Things like: the sweet smell of rotting leaves and decomposing ferns. The feeling of salty, wind irritated tears mixing with sweat on my cheeks. The rhythmic knocking sound of a pileated woodpecker on a nearby tree. My pounding heart trying to climb a rock face at the top of a hill. These are all what make each mountain bike ride a chapter in an ongoing story; the story in the life of a mountain biker.

All the pictures in this post were taken within 5 minutes of each other, at one location, in the middle of a ride, on a cloudy fall day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pixy vs Spider

Although I have recently made several attempts at getting inspired to blog, nearly a month has passed since I have connected any words to my thoughts. While life continues every second, it is sometimes hard to determine what is meaningful enough to share. While some people may blog for blog sake, I really don’t think all of what I do is all that interesting, nor do I have the writing skills to make these things seem interesting, but here is my humble attempt.

So what has been going on?.... I raced Mountain Creek, and was enjoying the last few lingering, easy, late summer rides in the woods, that were spent randomly riding into spider webs. If you have not experienced this, it may be because I have cleared them for you. It is not something I plan doing or even enjoy doing, but is more of my accidental destiny. When I am riding along, blissfully in flight, I only see the trail, not the fragile bug traps that the spiders have so intricately build across my path. Once a busy spider, and then whoosh, they are riding along on my helmet, soon to be tossed off in a new place.

Most the spider webs are down with weekend traffic, but by mid week they are all back up. As much as the spiders on my face creep me out, it is nice to know that they also have a use for our trails. I like to think that we share the trails, and if you ever look closely at a spider web, they are truly amazing. I am saying this with great respect as a trail builder. The webs have a purpose and follow a natural order. They are also built by hand with tiny hands or legs.


Then there was the MTBNJ Short Track, which I entered as training for Cyclocross that was coming in September. I took a very minor spill, but somehow managed to sprain my ankle. Three days on crutches, a week completely off the bike and 6 weeks no running or jumping allowed. So it looks like racing cross is on hold for me right now.

It could be way worse, and I am super stoked to be able to ride my bike in some form again. After a few weeks, I finally left my flat neighborhood and rode some hills in Harriman. I felt positively renewed with my climbing attitude since my last Harriman road ride. Many of us ride often, pushing the limits of our mental and physical strength, and we can get trapped in a mediocre place if we bypass needed rest. An injury can give us a chance to rest both mentally and physically. I am not sure if this was the case for me, but I enjoyed my ride and rode quite well considering the muscle imbalances I currently have from my sprain.

Excited from my road ride, I ventured out the next morning to do a mountain bike ride in the woods for the first time since my injury. When I arrived, I went behind a tree to pee and noticed the random pattern of the bark, and the pattern of the leaves on a tiny plant: seemingly random yet with a purpose and a natural order. As I walked back to my car, I walked through my first spider web of the day. On the trail, I noticed the colors of the forest had become more brown. Summer was winding down, and a few weeks off the bike had made it more noticeable.

The morning sun was low and lit up the spider webs in spots. Maybe I just needed to be injured to ride slower and see them, but they were quite beautiful. I was able to save a few by ducking under, but some just fused to my sweat.


Many have asked me about dealing with missing racing, and yes, it was disappointing to miss the first few cross races, but it’s the little things on my summer mountain bike rides that I miss the most when I am off the bike. Racing is about fitness, but mountain biking is about happiness. A healthy racer needs to be happy on the bike. I am currently working on happiness.

Monday, August 12, 2013

909 Test Racing Pivot 429 Carbon

H2H 909 is one my favorite race courses. The course is not overly technical or rocky, but has some really fun and flowing single track, giggle bursting momentum sections and the longest sweetest descent that I swear goes on for what seems like 15 minutes. This year I was racing and testing my new Pivot 429 Carbon in it's first XC race. I had been racing a steel 29er hardtail for 2 years and I was excited to race this super cool looking bike. I was so excited, that I chose to ride full suspension over my trusty hard tail on a fairly smooth course.

I was unsure of how I would fair on a full suspension bike on the slightly uphill gravel road start, but the Pivot rode surprisingly lighter, almost effortlessly with the combination of larger wheels, lateral stiffness and lack of wheel deflection. I also want to mention that I was running NoTubes Raven 2.2 tires which are very supple, making my wheel lock to the ground until the moment I decide to leave the ground. Those of you that know me, know that I do not leave the ground often, but 909 is one place I may vary from my habits. More on that later.

The pivot descends and rails turns like a bullet, and what really surprised me was how well it climbed. For a bike that felt so plush, the DW-link supplied an efficient and light feel climbing bike, especially in rolling terrain. On steep sections, I could stand and make it happen easier than a hard tail. I was able to get through my last lap climbs very easily even though the bike was slightly heavier than my hard tail.

I sat as 3rd woman behind 2 pros for 2 and a half laps. Then my team mate caught up to me, and I convinced her to go in front of me on the long climb since she was on a single speed and I did not want to force her off her bike if I slowed. I ended up getting a bug in my eye, causing tearing and then clipping a tree with my wider handlebars on the forever high speed downhill, and going for a tumble. Amazingly, the bike was still between my legs, derailieur side down completely unharmed. I did have some cuts, bruises, abrasions and stiff neck, but was lucky to have no broken bones or serious injuries. This fall supplied me with my one "tires off the ground" experience for the day, and it was proof that this bike makes me want to go fast. I was back on my bike in less than 30 seconds and rode in as first Cat 1 female.

My minor injuries kept me off the bike for almost a week, but I am on the mend. I also had Art cut my bars down yesterday after I clipped a few trees riding at Wawayanda.

Pivot 429 Carbon Size small with Fox Float CTD Kashima
Fox 32Fit 120 CTD Trail Adjust Kashima
Sram XX 2x10
Sram X0 Type 2 DR
NoTubes Race Gold wheels
NoTubes Raven 2.2 tires
Easton EC70 seatpost and EA90 stem

Besides being a great performing bike, the Pivot 429 Carbon has some really nice details such as: internal cable routing, dropper seat post routing, rubberized protection on chain stay and bottom of down tube, and anodized headset, seat post clamp and pivots. For me, one of the selling points was the curved, notched top tube allowing stand over for a shorter legged rider like myself.

Although this bike is sold as a XC bike, which it still is, it descends quite plush like a 5 inch travel bike. I would highly recommend this bike for riding the rocky terrain here in Northern New Jersey. Get into Campmor and check one out, if interested!

Monday, July 22, 2013

National Championships

National Championships at Bear Creek: Let me start by saying that the amateur XC course at Bear Creek is an awesome, rocky, kick-ass course for real mountain bikers! There was a great vibe all around the venue, and my weekend was like a whirlwind. My only regret is that I did get to spectate more.

The biggest factor of the weekend was the heat. Steamy, near 100 degree heat had us all melting and hiding in the shade. Many family members took refuge in the air conditioned lodge and watched out the window. This was certainly a factor in race performance for many over the weekend. Luckily I am not affected by heat as long as I am hydrated and in the shade. More than 75% of the course was in the shade. Art and I drank about 5 gallons of water in 3 days.

I had done my preparation and pre-ridden the course several times in the month prior to the race. The course was well suited for me with technical climbing and many rocks, because that is what I ride almost every day. I heard some chatter about the course, but it was just regular riding for me. I’m not saying that it was easy, just that I was comfortable with the challenge. My main concerns were not pushing too hard off the start so that I got stomach cramps and not flatting, as I flatted on this course the year before.

My start was delayed 2 minutes to accommodate a racer who had a front flat at the start line. Unfortunately, she was unable to resolve the issue, but there was an effort to wait for her, as she came all the way from Idaho. Thank you USACycling for the effort!

Bang and we are off with the 60+ ladies. I take the lead, but cyclocross national champion, Ostenso passes me on the gravel climb. In fear of over cooking my stomach, I sit in behind her. Once we hit the trail, her pace dropped and I made my pass. I listened when the course turned back on itself, but I never heard anything behind me.

I quickly encountered racers along the trail and passed them with ease, both men and women. By the time I reached the final climb, my legs felt good and I passed a bunch more. The traffic started to build as I approached the technical section on the backside. The older men were very accommodating to let me ride through. There was an awesome 80 year old on course! How cool is that?

And then it began to rain. This made me laugh out loud. It was so hot that the raindrops, which were still warm, felt good on my skin. Thunder and lightening came and course conditions started to change, and I was okay with all of this. Riding this course was like a big party. Coming through the technical rocks was awesome with spectators screaming, major traffic, slippery rocks, you name it. I made my way through, calling lines, dabbing here and there to get around racers both on and off their bikes. There was a great vibe out there.

I climbed alone on my second lap and may have slowed the chase, but once the rocks appeared in front of me, I came to life again. I made a few more passes and then exited the singletrack knowing the finish and a national champion jersey was around the corner. It’s an awesome feeling, and that in itself, brought new energy to my legs. I rode in with the second fastest overall female time, winning my age group.

Super D is a great way to top your weekend. Whether you are looking for redemption after a less than stellar XC race or looking for some extra fun, Super D is a great option. I have always been somewhat conservative descending. Doing Super D has helped me open new doors. I may never be great at it, but it is really fun and has helped improve my riding skills. I raced my new Pivot 429C, which I was still making adjustments to on race day. I rode conservatively in the tight turns in the beginning of the course, and then let it rip. The climbing portions were much improved with this new bike, landing me an unexpected 3rd place.

What an awesome weekend of racing, including Art (6th in XC), Dar (3rd SS), Team Campmor, friends and the best pros in the country. I have nothing but good things to say about this race. There was a great vibe, great courses, and it was well run. It was very satisfying to have a good National Championship race on home turf with friends in the mix. I was looking at Nationals as perhaps being a last XC race for me, but my experience this past weekend may have re-kindled my desire to race for now.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ripping it Rip Van Winkle Style

After the two Enduros that were on my race calendar for this year, got cancelled, I decided last minute to sign up for Super-D at Windham. .... and after a mechanical DNF at Lewis Morris the week before, I decided another XC race before Nationals might do me some good. So I signed up for XC as well. Why not?

Art and I headed up Friday to preview both courses, riding a lap on the XC first. Heavy rains had left the course pretty wet in spots, and although much of the trail building at Windham is sustainable and built with draining rocks and bridges, there were a few dirt fall line sections left in for thrills. It had been quite some time since I had raced or even ridden fall line trails, and I felt a bit out of practice on skid controlling down the slippy-slide fall line sections. I did not let it get me bent out of shape, as my main goal for the weekend was to practice my skills for Super-D/Enduro stuff. There would be plenty of opportunities to practice fall line stuff on the Super-D course.

The top of the Super-D course was a total quagmire: puddles, soup and peanut butter mud. My hopes of really riding this stuff became a bit dismal, and my first run was not so good with Art advising me to walk the long off camber peanut butter slide. Art bailed after one lap, which I totally understood. The course was a mess, but I had made it to this point and I needed more practice, so I took another run solo. This time I plowed through the mud on top and made it without getting off. Then I tried riding the peanut butter slide. I got a little unglued on a water bar, but rode it out like a cowboy and made it down in one piece with some nervous laughs. Not so bad, I thought. There was one drop that I could not face up to, and I accepted that fact, reminding myself that I already made gains in one day and tomorrow was another day.

I had little expectations of finishing high in the cross country, but I was still going out there to shred the down hills and drag my butt up the mountain best I could for training. The climb was tough. My legs were not feeling great, and while I was climbing, I remembered that at one time I actually liked to climb. I am so not there now. I suppose after racing for 18 years, one’s priorities can change. I am more interested in having fun these days. As for the race, I soldiered through the climbing, and felt fairly consistent and rode the technical part well finishing better than I expected with a 5th place in the 35+.

By 6:00, the courses were beginning to dry out some. However, I knew there was no hope for the Super-D quagmire to dry out. I chose to skip a pre-ride in fear that it would mess up my drive train too much. I also opted for a down tube mud flap which was a big help containing the splatters towards my face and glasses so that I could see.

Art headed up to “Kabush Falls” to watch the end of my run, and had some extra time alone in the quiet woods, so he took a nap on a log. He was woken up by local spectators who quickly named him Rip Van Winkle. They asked him if he was waiting to watch his son race, and he had to explain that he was waiting to watch his wife…. Mrs Rip Van Winkle, I suppose.

We had a lemans start, and like usual, I was last into my pedals. It did not help that I lined up between 2 downhillers that towered over me in height. Elbow to elbow running, I may have been a little size intimidated. Once on my pedals, I started passing. There was a 2 girl tangle up, with words flying, as one woman got flipped into the woods and the other tumbled and slammed down across the road. I had to swerve not to run her over. She eventually came by me down the peanut butter slide and disappeared like a bullet. The slide had actually dried out some and I was able to hold the preferred line all the way down. I had one miscue in the first single-track, but from that point on, I had a great run, nailing the drop that I did not get the day before. It is amazing what you can do when you are focused! I heard a lot of cheering when I came through Kabush Falls. I did not know that it was the Mrs. Rip Van Winkle fan club, lol!

Still waiting for official results to be posted, but according to my calculations, I finished 4th just out of the money in the Pro/Cat 1. There is no doubt, that this course was downhill heavy, not really suited for my strengths, so this was a very good result. But in reality, I do not care much about winning. The feeling of ripping down the mountain at the edge of your control, is soooo much fun! I do not understand why there are so few girls doing this. It is a blast!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Waway Bliss

I had not been to Wawayanda since the Bearscat 50 race. With all the rain, I hadn't been on a mountain bike much at all. Finally the rain stopped and the sun appeared. When I got back to my favorite forest, things had changed.

The ferns were so tall, thick and lush that they appeared to be a sea of textured green three feet above the ground. The laurel were in full bloom and hung like puffy white clouds above verdant seas of ferns and blueberry bushes. The trail, a ribbon of rock was now inches wide as my tire parted the green sea, and got swallowed by ferns. Climbing out of the sea onto big rocks and then floating down back into the sea. ... pure bliss. This was a special day to be out riding.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bear Scat 50

I have done enough endurance races to know that they are not my thing. Yet, one week prior to the Bearscat 50, I had a little brain glitch, and thought this might be a race for me to try. I am not sure if it was the predicted good weather, the fact that the race was on my home turf at Wawayanda, or if after eleven years had passed, I had completely forgotten how much these races can hurt, but I found myself registered to race 50 miles on some of the most demanding rocky single-track around.

So my game plan was to ride comfortably, in control, and clean on the technical sections and not to push my legs harder than they wanted to go on the first lap. If my legs felt bad, I could stop after one lap, with a good ride under my belt, minus the 2 weeks recovery.

I got off to good start, thanks to the mellow start. I was comfortably within the top 5 and was able to ride the rock bridge at the end of pump house trail. I was warned that I would be walking in traffic, so this was better than expected. When I started to penetrate the back of the men’s field, they were really accommodating to let me through ...even better.

Things seemed good, and then I heard a jingly noise and noticed my saddle felt loose. My first thought was that I broke a saddle rail, so I stopped to take a look. Both bolts were loose and almost falling out. So I dug around my pack to find my eyeglasses and the right size wrench. I noticed a few ladies pass me, and a bunch of guys that I had just passed were now passing me back. Although a little discouraged, I focused on the task and got myself up and riding again in 4-5 minutes.

One good thing about a long race is that I had plenty of time to catch back up if I wanted. It took me a few miles, but I caught back up and got myself back into 4th or 5th place. Then the jingling came back and I now had to squeeze the saddle between my legs to hold it still. As much as I wanted to hold my position, I was forced to stop again and this time, crank those bolts down as hard as I could. I lost count of how many women came by, I just needed to get this fixed or I would be out of the race. A racer stopped and chatted with me. I am not sure why he stopped, but it helped me step out of my race momentarily and slow my head down to concentrate on fixing my bike. Thank you Robert!

It took the balance of the lap, but I passed six women back and was reported to be in 4th place once again. I stopped in the feed zone at the half mark to get water, gel and potatoes and was on my way for round two. I started lap two a little faster and started to ride sloppy, so I backed off a tad. I also noticed that my legs were getting tired about half way through the second lap. I ate everything in my pockets and decided I needed the 38 mile rest stop to refill water and electrolytes. Art was not there, but Bruce and the Black Bear guys took great care of me, filling my bottle and retrieving stuff from my drop bag.

The last 14 miles were tough, and it was hot by this time of day as well. My legs were tired, my big toe was cramping and my arms were so tired, I wanted to let go of the handlebars. I pushed ahead and got through the climbs and to my surprise I was still able to enjoy the technical single-track, just a little slower, and pretending it didn't hurt.

Two laps, 2 gels, 2 heeds, 2 fizz tablets, 2 potatoes, 2 pretzels and 2 fig newtons later, I found myself at the end of a 50 mile race with a smile. The smile was mostly because I was glad to be done, but I feel accomplished for repairing my bike and completing the race. More than half the racers did not complete 2 full laps. Although a little long and grueling for my regular race schedule, a welcome challenge, and a good result for me.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Rumble in the Jungle Race

With nice weather forecasted for Sunday’s race, I was a bit surprised when I woke up to the gentle sound of rain. I checked the radar and did not see too much green or orange and thought it was a passing shower. Well I was wrong, as it rained all day. I suppose the rain was so close to the ground, it was under the radar. We certainly do need the rain, but racing in the rain can completely change the game plan.

This may seem odd, but seeing the rain on Sunday gave me a feeling of relief. A dry race would mean a full effort the whole race for me and everyone else. Rain meant slippery conditions and a slightly backed off pace, flirting right under loss of control and flailing about. While some racers may have been intimidated by the conditions, I felt confident backing things down a notch and trusting that my skills would dictate my race. Staying within my control and riding smooth, efficient and consistent were my plans for the day.

The start went well. I’m not sure if the ladies were being cautious or I was having a good day, but I found myself as 3rd wheel with ease. As soon as things opened up, I moved up to second, which was ideal going into the first long stretch of single-track. Once we began to snake our way through this slimy, slippery intestine of a trail, I found my “keep it upright” speed. With the twisty trail, riders were spotted in front and behind, but not much changed. The conditions dictated the pace for all, and I was happy with it, as it was very workable, leaving some in the tanks for the technical climb ahead.

Much to my surprise, the climb and all the rocky sections were in pretty good shape, which enabled me to ride the entire course, and made my race so much more fun. I can honestly say that this was the most fun race to date this year. It was somewhat challenging technically, but nothing seemed overwhelming for me. It just came together like a fun ride.

By my third lap, the Cat 3 racers had been released onto the course. This is not the usual way races are run, but the weather had thrown lap times off and the promoter chose to stay on schedule regardless. I got a little panicky when I heard the distant whistle, thinking that I was going to be swarmed by energetic Cat 3 men, some with no wet racing experience, but that never happened. ...they were all in front of me. My third lap became an exercise in polite passing etiquette, and trying not to ruin anyone’s race or terrorize any 10 year olds.

By the time I reached the slimy intestine trail, it was almost futile to try and pass as the conga line went on for as far as I could see. One by one, I worked through trying not to make anyone pullover and stop. I received some unexpected cheering at the stream from spectators. You got to love Cat 3 spectators! So, although my last lap was slower than I hoped, I knew that all the women behind me were in the same situation. Dealing with passing is part of racing and I got my practice on Sunday. Racing in with the Cat 3's also reminded me how far I have come as a racer. It was an awesome day and well spent!

After my race I spent hours removing a half inch of caked mud from my bike, my clothes and me. ...and yes, I did remember to wash behind and in my ears.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Strava Blues

Just another reason to slow down on a ride.

As many of you already know, I am somewhat of a luddite when it comes to technology. My natural tendency is to resist anything new that is overwhelmingly more complicated than practical. However, once convinced to give this new stuff a try, I am usually completely sold on it and wonder why I lived so long with out. Just for chuckles, some of the things that I resisted that have made huge changes in my life are: tubeless tires, disc brakes, computers and cell phones.

This past winter, I updated my heart rate monitor to a Garmin Edge. This piece of technology was long overdue and been something I had been resisting. When my man gave me one for Christmas, I happily accepted. As soon as I got it up and running, I realized it worked great and I was able to download data for more accurate records. Many people told me to try Strava. I found it so easy to use, even for a luddite like myself. After a few weeks, and still somewhat na├»ve, I started noticing little crown and medal icons popping up and thought what is this all about? … and there you go, the Strava hooks were placed into another rider.

So, I don’t think I ever became obsessed, but after 20 years of racing, a little Strava motivation was a welcome training tool to get me through the winter. However, one thing I did notice is that when trying to challenge a segment, many other things would get in the way. First there was snow and ice in the trail, then blown down trees across the trail, or a flat tire, social group stopping, giving directions to a lost hiker, stopping for wildlife. The list could go on, but why bother. I think you get the idea. Nearly every ride with Art somehow turns into trail maintenance, whether I like it or not. It’s part of what we do as being Stewards to both the park and Jorba.

I suppose Strava and I are not a perfect fit. At first, I thought I was a bit too easily distracted with my riding to concentrate on my Strava goals. Then I thought a little deeper, and decided that a cyclist or mountain biker probably should not be too distracted by Strava while out riding. You can call it priorities, but I call it common sense.

I’ll admit that the whole concept and technology behind Stava is pretty amazing. You can create and share routes, make goals and create world wide competition. However, I can see how some could loose track of reality. I plan to use it as training tool when it is appropriate, but I hope to not let it run all my rides. There is more to riding than what can be interpreted electronically. I still like the happy little surprises that pop up when I get home, letting me know that I am indeed still a big deal to somebody, even it is just because I am out riding a bike.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

More Trail Builder than Roadie

Last Saturday was the High Point Hill Climb TT. I am not, never was, nor do I plan to become a road racer any time soon, yet I made a last minute decision to enter this road race again this year. Each year, I find it harder to motivate myself to “train” and usually just ride my bike for enjoyment. In the winter and spring I need to find ways to motivate myself enough to get the riding in to cover my training needs. Training races are one option, and that was my thinking for why I signed up to race my road bike 5 miles uphill. To the average person, the thought of riding your bike up hill for 5 miles must sound like torture. I will not deny that I suffered some during the 28 minutes it took me to get to the top, but the race itself gave me the motivation to push harder than I normally would push while out riding.

It was a beautiful day and much warmer than last year. I felt good in the morning on my warm up and I had high hopes of improving my time from last year. Although my start and finish felt better than last year, I still hit a wall in the middle, where I felt like crap. I was disappointed to be a few seconds slower than last year. However, I did not let that ruin my day. It was a great training run, and the sun was shining with awesome trails all around me waiting to be ridden. As soon as results were posted, Art and I headed over to Wawayanda with our mountain bikes to pre-ride a lap on next weekend’s H2H new race loop.

The promoter of the race, Black Bear Cycling has built some new single-track and it will be used in next weekends race. This is just another reminder of the kind of progress that the PayDirt program has made for mountain bikers. It encourages racers, race promoters and mountain bikers to get involved in the future of mountain biking. The end result: new and improved trails for mountain bikers to ride and race on. Thanks to all the racers that have supported this program and to those involved in building the new trails at Wawayanda. Riding this new single track on Saturday was the highlight of my day.

My Sunday was spent building a new trail at Ringwood, which will also be used in an upcoming Eduro race. I can honestly say that I got more satisfaction from the trail work on Sunday than from racing my bike up hill for 5 miles. Would you expect any different from any real mountain biker?

Monday, April 22, 2013

2013 Racing Kick Off!

Pre race snapshot: a race day is still a day in the woods.

"Roots as big as the Crown" Photo by Art White

Campmor H2H Chain Stretcher:
Sunday was the first race in the 2013 Campmor H2H Series: “The Chainstretcher” at Blue Mountain Reservation in Peekskill NY. If you have not ridden at Blue Mt, you need to do so as it has some of the best flowing technical trails in the tri-state area. You can bet that the promoters, WMBA made sure that this race challenged many racers and put a smile on many faces.

This year’s course was one of the best courses at Blue that I can remember. It was similar to last year, but they changed the opening single-track and replaced a nasty eroded road descent with a fun single-track that included a rock garden and several optional rollers, which I took every lap to increase the fun factor. One thing that I love about mountain bike racing is that it not just about finishing first, but it’s about rising to your best level of riding skills and being one with the course. Being fast may seem like the only goal, but there is always additional room for personal challenges and bonus style points.

I’ll admit that the trails at Blue are tough for an early season race with the many hills, logs and rock lines. My legs were talking back to me the whole race and not really giving me what I had hoped for. However, the “fun factor” experienced while riding these trails seemed to over-ride any negative thoughts that I may have had about my fitness or lack off fitness. I was really glad to have the technical trail entertainment to get me through this first race of the season and remind me once again that I am a mountain bike racer.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Day # 1 of Intensity "Pixy vs Norvasc"

Last Saturday was my first day of intensity training in 2013. It also happened to be my first race of the year. Although jumping into a fire is not a totally bad idea, this was not in my master plan. I usually start upping my intensity around March 1, and work up to a short track race and then a XC race. This year, although in better shape than usual on March 1, things got messed up.

If I can back things up a bit: I started Norvasc, a blood pressure medication at the end of February right after my trip to Arizona. Norvasc is not a banned in cycling drug, for all the anti Lance fans out there. A few days later I experienced some fatigue and felt quite lethargic with my riding. I assumed I was over extended in my training and took a week of rest. …. then another week. After 3 weeks of sleepy, lethargic 1 hour recovery rides, I ended up back at the doctor and being taken off the medication. Apparently, I experienced some less common side affects that the drug company did not list on the pharmacy sheet.

Uncertain on race day of what day four off the meds would do for me, I took the start line to test my health and to attempt my first day of intensity training. I used caution with a mass co-ed start and lined up in back. Once I cautiously worked my way into the single-track, and it was quite a squeeze down at the first turn, I was forced to sit in a bit to wait for safe passing room on this very tight, wet, narrow course. I did rub a few tires and elbows, as to be expected with this type of course.

It eventually opened up for me and I glanced down to see numbers on my heart rate monitor that I had hoped to see on March 1. It was such a relief, that it almost brought tears to my eyes. While most racers on course were wanting to vomit in pain, I was teary-eyed with happiness. It felt so good to be healthy and able to race, I never noticed any pain or effort. It was like business a usual as I worked through my usual lap 2 stomach cramps and then the diesel kicked in as it usually does. I felt like I powered into the finish and was handed a block of wood and a beer.

Elated with first race day feeling, I headed out on a 50 mile hilly road ride the next morning. I had not been able to ride more than an hour or so at a time over the last 3 weeks and here I was out for back to back days and a 3+ hour ride while feeling good. I can not wait for the snow to melt, so I can get back on some rocks. Oh yeah, and I do have to go back to the doctor and figure out what to do for my blood pressure next, but for now, I am out riding and enjoying.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

North Carolina

The appalachian mountains never stop to amaze me with their verdant beauty: dirt roads twisting and winding though mountains of towering rhododendron and laurel. Water gushing, and seeping through every crevice. Steep banks filled with galax and moss. The forests are extremely lush and remind me why so many choose to call these mountains home.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Chasing the Sun

As the winter rolls on, the anticipation of spring grows ever so strong. By the time March arrives, us mountain bikers want spring so bad, that we start to believe that it is actually here, when it is not. And then, right on cue, March inevitably bites us on our backsides, forcing us to accept another month of winter. Being a trail builder makes this time of year even more difficult, because I want to ride in the woods more than ever, yet daily freezing and thawing of the ground makes most trails a mess. My best judgement steers me to facing the chilly winds on the road bike.

My solution to this dilemma is to leave New Jersey and chase some sunshine in a foreign place where the sun shines strong and the trails stay dry more days than not. Destination: Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson Arizona. A mini blizzard on arrival made for some beautiful contrasts in the dessert. Hard to believe, but five inches of snow was completely gone at trail level in a day or two. Wildlife sightings over those fews days were incredible. A hawk with a broken wing, unable to reach his nest, had created a war for nesting in the big pines and coyotes were wondering through the yard multiple times a day.

A few days later I was enjoying a variety of single-track in shorts and short sleeves. The injured hawk went missing, and was most likely eaten by coyotes, picked over by ravens and feathers used for nesting by birds. Just like the snow that came and went, supplying moisture for life, life itself is completely absorbed quickly, feeding itself. Life goes on in this harsh but beautiful sunny place. There is perfection in the system.

My visits to WOW in Arizona are always appreciated. ....Back in New jersey, recharged by the sun and the beauty of the desert, I wait for spring alongside the daffodil sprouts in my back yard. As an athlete, I have great appreciation of the seasons. Just like our bodies needing rest to grow, the seasons supply rest for the forest and all it's wildlife. I am glad to be over the hump of winter and waiting for the next stage ahead.