Sunday, March 31, 2013

Catching up ...


I haven't been very good about keeping this up to date lately, but for a change I have a good reason for that - I've actually been really busy this month between work, riding and just life in general. So here's a (not so) quick update on what's been going on ...

Online contest(s)

As I mentioned back at the beginning of March, I participated in an online contest over at MTBNJ.com.  The point was to use the contest to ride as much as I possibly could in the month of March. Today is the last day of the contest and overall I am happy with the result. The table below shows my data for the month. I didn't win the contest - that would be really tough since a few of the guys in it apparently have a lot of time to ride or are just way more dedicated. But I think I got out of it what I wanted to - I fit in 28 rides this month, which includes a couple of double days.
I was behind on my training for the year, and with The Bakers Dozen just a short few weeks away, I needed something to get me moving. I'm really happy with the experience, and discovered a few things - I got up a bunch of times around 4 a.m. to ride pre-work and enjoyed it more than I would think, and I had a lot of fun doing morning rides on the road before work. I'd rarely ridden on the road with lights other than commuting, so that was a surprise. I rode in the rain, the snow, nasty headwinds, and spent lots and lots of time on my home field. I now feel a lot better about the upcoming race -- whether I'm really ready or not doesn't matter. I feel "normal" on the bike again, and that's what I wanted to accomplish this month, so I'd call the online contest a success.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I am actually running my own contest now over there, albeit of a slightly different nature. One of the coolest things about the whole social networking thing for cyclists is the access it affords us to the experiences of our friends. I thought an "epic ride" contest would be a fun way to incentivize folks to tell their stories of big rides, adventures on the trail, race day experiences or whatever else they experience over the course of the season. After some discussion with other forum members, I decided to throw out the term "epic" because of its overuse and connotation -- the idea of this contest isn't to have everyone go out and spend 12 hours on a bike at one time. It's to get them to tell the stories of what they experience and let the other users vote on the best story. And any experience is fair game -- an exotic location, an epic fail or success on race day, a ride that started as one thing and became something else -- whatever you've got, we want to read your story. In that sense, it's as much a writing contest as it is a riding contest - your goal is to wow your audience with your best story. Right now, we're running the contest for the month of April as a test run and we'll see what kind of a response we get, hoping that we can run one per month through the end of October and then have one big year end match-up of the monthly winners.  Anyone with an MTBNJ id can participate and you don't need to have an entry to vote each month. If you'd like to participate, please go on over to MTBNJ.com and sign up for an ID if you don't have one already. It's a great community of riders of all different styles and interests and you don't have to be from NJ to join. I've found out about some of my favorite events from this site -- SSAP and Cathedral Pines among others. The promoters for these and others, like Mike Kuhn from the TS Epic are all members and it's a great place to promote their events, and for riders to find out what's going on in the region. I know a lot of my friends that visit this site have some great riding stories and I'd love to see them in the contest! You don't need to officially enter the contest - you're entered when you post your story. Here is the post explaining the 2013 Wherever I May Roam contest. Hope you'll join in!

Work

Getting out for training rides this month was made a bit more difficult by the fact that I have been in one of the busiest seasons for work I can ever remember. That's kind of ironic because what is making us so busy is the relative failure of a project that was supposed to transition a hefty portion of our workload to an external vendor. At every turn. we've hit snags that this vendor was either ill-prepared to face or unwilling to address, and the result is that our small team of three has had to do twice the work we'd have done in a typical year. It's been crazy, and I've had a few days when I would arrive before 6:30 in the morning and not leave my office for twelve hours. I don't mind this occasionally, but it's been a fairly regular occurrence of late and I see no end in sight as we try to fill the gaps between the vendor's lack of subject expertise and the demands of our clients to support their inquiries. Typical work stuff I'm sure, but when you deal with nothing but problems day after day it starts to feel heavy after a while.

I even put off my spring vacation this year as a result, but now I am finally taking it this week. I think I was reaching a point where I actually needed it rather than just wanted to do it, so I figured it was better for me and the quality of the work  do if I just stepped away for a week and dealt with whatever comes when I get back.

The Car

After ten years, the Xterra was put out to pasture this month and replaced by a beautiful brand new Subaru Impreza Sport Wagon. I had been planning to replace it later this spring, but two weeks ago, I went to leave for Wissahickon on a Saturday morning and it wouldn't turn over. That alone wouldn't have convinced me to get rid of it, but I had just replaced he starter and battery int he last few months and I was pretty sure it wasn't the alternator since nothing was dimming and the radio was working fine. It turned out that it was the starter because my power steering hose had ripped open and dumped fluid all over the new starter causing it to fail. I decided at that point I just didn't want or need to deal with car trouble, so I went shopping. Originally, I'd planned on an Audi A3, but when I discovered it was being redesigned with no plan to bring the hatchback version to the U.S. anytime soon, I pushed that idea aside and went looking for something else. I'd heard nothing but good things about Subarus and decided to check out the Crosstrek and maybe the Outback. So Joanna and I took a Sunday afternoon and wandered around the lot at a local dealership and that's when I found the Impreza wagon.   I liked it instantly. I decided that I wanted to test drive both that and the Crosstrek first chance I'd get. So, the next weekend, we were back to try out both. It turns out that they are actually the exact same car, except the Crosstrek just has slightly bigger wheels. Everything else is the same -- same engine, same body, everything. And I just liked the lower feeling of the Impreza a little more. As much as I loved the Xterra, I always had an issue driving it -- it just felt too tall for me, like I could tip over on any bend. So having the smaller Impreza has been a huge change for the better as far as actual driving.

The Xterra at its new home


But I will miss the Xterra. I have a ton of memories with that car. Over the last ten years, I've driven it to Asheville, Wisconsin, Vermont, Virginia -- all to ride my bike -- and I've been everywhere in between for any number of reasons. It was a perfect car for an active lifestyle and it really gave me very few problems in ten years. Before I traded it in, I took a few pictures of the back, which kind of tells the tale of some of my best memories over the last ten years ...




Tattooed with the places I've been and the things I've done

Locations, locations, locations ...

Now how will anyone know that I'm both stoopider and cooler than they are?

The now defunct Diablo Freeride Park - the day I got this sticker, I broke my hand when I crashed on a jump and needed help from another rider to load my bike back into my car. Good times ...
I'll miss you most of all, torn Pisgah National Forest sticker ...
It was a good ride while it lasted. Hopefully, the new car will match up!

Rides

Finally, the rides ... As the summary above shows, I got  a lot of saddle time this month. I couldn't be happier with that. And most of it was on the Misfit, too, although I have to admit that some of the early morning road rides were among my favorites. I think yesterday's ride in Middle Run was probably a suitable closeout to the month. I had a great time and got in about 30 miles in the first truly spring day we've had all year. Unfortunately, I had a freak no-reason-for-it crash at about 22 1/2 miles in. I was coming down a hill with a pretty good head of steam and then suddenly I was flying through the air. I don't even know what I hit or how I lost control. It happened so fast - I was on the bike one moment and int he air the next. Luckily, I managed to avoid real damage in the fall because i was going fast enough at the time that it could have been much worse. I've crashed so many times, though, that my body seems to know what to do to minimize impact nowadays. I just kind of go limp and rag doll on the ground. Unfortunately, I did hit my left hand pretty hard on a stone or something. It instantly started to swell and I had a lot of trouble holding the bars after that. It's turning purple now, so I figure a day or two off the bike is probably in order. But if that and a few scrapes are all I have to deal with after a crash at that speed (my bike flew about 20 feet into the woods) then I should consider myself lucky. In hindsight, maybe I shouldn't have continued on for another 7 miles, but I just wasn't ready to stop, even if every root or rock after that felt like someone was hitting my hand with a hammer.

A bit bruised but none the worse for wear ...

Spring rides ... no base layers!

Ridge ridin' in Delaware

Pretty soon all this will be green!

Spring + Middle Run + Perfect COnditions = Happy 1Speed!


Oh well ... injuries heal. Spring is finally coming. And I'm off of work for a whole week. I've got no complaints! Get out and ride, and if you do ... consider joining up at MTBNJ.com and sharing your experiences with us. We'd love to hear about them! Ride on!


3 comments:

  1. Great blog! Tho I am pretty sure the 'spring' vacation that you pushed off once already was really a week you carried over from 2012...because - once again - you were too busy at work.
    Glad you finally have some free time to zip around on the bike AND in the new car. PS - Might be slightly jealous of your new ride ;)

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  2. Nice bit of riding there. What time do you have to go to bed for a 4 AM ride!??

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  3. Josh - I can never fall asleep before 10 no matter when I am getting up. So I usually try to go to sleep as close to that as possible. I think I was borken for good sleep-wose back in grad school when I averaged about 4 hours a night for two years. After that, 6 hours feels like a luxury.

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