Sunday, December 1, 2013

Resurrection ...

Six Hours of Cathedral Pines SS Podium

Hello, folks … Been away from this a while. To be honest, after about month or so, I kind of made a conscious decision to let it go. It wasn't that I haven't had anything to write about -- to the contrary, I've had a pretty active fall season. I guess I just wanted to take a little time and figure out if I really wanted to keep doing this blog or just let it fade away. Obviously, the volume of content had fallen off this year even before the hiatus, so it was definitely worth considering. Part of that was the decision I made last year to race less. One thing that's true about racing is that it's content rich -- even a bad race usually gives you a good story. In fact, some of the best stories come from races where things go very badly. And unless you have the resources to regularly travel to new and exciting places for rides, it's not very interesting to write about the same places again and again, even if you do have some great local rides like we do here.

So what brought me back? Well, I'll get to that in a bit. First, let's do a quick recap of the last few months.

Right after Joanna and I got home from Minnesota, I was off for a week, so I took a few trips to ride in places I don't typically get to. That was great because none of those rides were all that far from home, but they were all totally different from one another.

French Creek

Riding the SRT to its terminus at South Street in Philly after a rain storm kept me off the trails

Tight fit in Tamaqua

Along a ridge at the base of the quarry in Tamaqua
September was a really busy month. Early on, I got out for my first night ride of the fall season. It was an early morning ride before work. Since then, I've done probably a dozen or so, but it's always pretty cool to get back out at night after not doing ti for a while. It takes  familiar trail you may have ridden a thousand times and makes it feel totally new.

Up with the sun in Wissahickon
And then I got caught in a ridiculous downpour. I managed to find some cover under the horse stable at Valley Green, and I was lucky I did -- Forbidden Drive flooded and by the time I was able to leave the park, I had to drive through some flash floods in Chestnut Hill.

Waiting out the storm

Lake Forbidden Drive

Chestnut Hill under water
A week or so after that, I got out to ride one of my favorite places in the region - Rattling Creek. I missed out on the Rattling 50 this year, and so I tried to find a weekend int he fall to get out there and a do a long ride on my own. I guess I was feeling motivated that day, because I climbed the big climb to the overlook twice. I think that may have been one of my favorite rides of the year.

Chased down the turnpike by a lurking Niner


The hang glider launch

On the RC Trail

Happy 1Speed after riding one of my favorite places
After riding RC, the very next week I headed out for my first Iron Cross experience. I decided to race on the SS rather than my cross bike. As a result, i had zero expectations for how the day would go. I knew there were a lot of dirt roads, but having ridden in Michaux before and never having actually raced on a cross bike anywhere before, I thought it was a better idea for me to take the SS. And after all was said and done, I was really happy with my choice. I'll probably run a bigger gear next year because I got pretty spun out on the road sections, but I'm pretty sure I'll ride the single again. Either way, I had an absolute blast out there -- it was just an awesome day start to finish. I was not prepared for the "run up" section, but I just laughed it off. For those who don't know, the hike-a-bike section that you hit in the first 30 miles in is not so much a walk-up section as a cliff you have to scale. It's crazy steep -- I had to stop twice to keep form falling over backward! The whole day was just super fun, though. I finished the 68 mile course in just about 5:30 (good enough for mid-pack SS), and I definitely think I could have gone faster if I'd known more about what was ahead of me and ran a bigger gear. Next year I'll be shooting for something closer to five hours even.

I passed a lot of CX riders on the climbs and in the single track, but they'd all come flying by me again on the roads
After Iron Cross, I pretty much shifted my focus to getting ready for the Six Hours of Cathedral Pines in November. I put a 32:16 on the Niner and a slightly lower 32:17 on the Misfit to force myself to work a little harder on training rides. I've raced CP twice before, and came within about ten minutes or so of getting eight laps last time I did it. I really, really wanted to get eight laps. To be honest, it kind of became the primary goal of my season after my disaster of a ride at The Stewart Six Pack back in July. So throughout October and into November, most of my rides did involve that focus to some degree. I did a few long rides from home into Philly and back as distance training, as well as a few harder rides (usually courtesy of my friend Scott, who only seems to have one way of riding -- all out. I'd basically show up and ride with him as he would take off in his big ring and I'd hang on for dear life on the SS.) Two weeks before the CP race, I headed out to Blue Marsh for one last big ride on the 2:1 -- two laps for 60 miles. And then a week before, I met up with a bunch of fast guys (led by Scott) in Wharton Forest and went for a 38 mile hammer-fest on a cold, wet Saturday morning. Both of those rides hurt a bit, but ultimately made me feel like I was as prepared as I could be for CP.

Fall Rides - lots of leaves covering the trails

Blue Marsh colors

Coming through one of the meadows at Blue Marsh Lake

These guys were so fast they don't appear in focus!
I took the day off and headed out to Long Island early last Friday to avoid the (always horrible) city traffic. I got to the venue around 1:00 and decided to do a pre-ride on a light mist. Ultimately, that proved to be a blessing in disguise -- about two-thirds of the way through my pre-ride lap, this happened:

Umm … yeah, that's not good ...

Clean break at the seat collar
My seat post just snapped in half. Imagine if I hadn't pre-rode and that just happened during the actual race! It isn't exactly the kind of thing you want to have happen the day before a race, but better than than during. And I was really lucky -- when I got back to the main field, the Cadre crew of Jody, Shoogs and Jeff were setting up and they gave me the information on local shops where I could get a replacement post. I had one less than a half hour later, but when I got back to my hotel, I realized I had another problem -- I couldn't extract the broken piece from inside the seat tube. No use to having a new post if I couldn't put it in. I tried to get the broken piece out for about an hour with no luck, but then I decided to cut my losses and call the local shop near my hotel and see if they could help. Their mechanic saved my weekend with a slide hammer and bearing pull -- he used them to pop the broken piece of my carbon post out and I was able to insert the new post and set it up.

With that, I was ready to race. I was worried about whether eight laps would be feasible after Friday's pre-ride. The course was like an ice rink with its wet leaves in every corner. But I had a plan and decided to stick with it the next day and let things work out as they would. As it turned out, they did just that.

I had a great start, which is crucial at CP. The start is a mass start with about a mile long prologue before you hit the woods. The problem is, entering the woods forces everyone into a single line and that creates a huge backup if you aren't near the front. At the start, I lined up in a really good spot and then followed a very fast rider all the way to the woods. I ended up hitting the woods somewhere in the top twenty and because of that, I was in a pretty good spot before the race was even five minutes old.

Hitting the woods in a good position
From there, the first lap was a bit slick, but not nearly was bad as the day before, and I just kind of sat in with a pretty fast group all the way through. I hit the ground once when I mis-judged a angle through some trees and clipped my bars. but other than that it was smooth sailing. And my subsequent laps were all right around the 50 minute mark, which was ideal. In fact, my goal was to simply finish my 7th lap before the 6 hour mark, and as it turned out I did so with about ten minutes to spare. I was getting my eighth lap! And I didn't even try to hide my happiness about that fact. I was whooping and hollering and yelling to anyone I saw that I was getting "eight laps today!" To be clear, I really didn't care where I finished in terms of my placing -- my only goal was to get those eight laps. Well, as it turns out, getting that eight was also good enough for second place in SS men! That was way more than I ever expected or even aimed for. It was about as good an end to my season as I could have asked for.

On the gas through the twisty single track

It's pretty rare I'm smiling during a race -- I think this was during my eighth lap.

Heading for a better finish that I imagined

Done and happy

2nd - SS Men

So that brings me to today. It's officially the "off-season" now and this week I barely rode at all. I think I was out three times this week, but they were all really easy, cruiser-type rides. No "training" at all. But that's about to change, and that brings me to part of the reason I'm back at this.

Next season, I'm planning to do another 24 hour race. This time, I'm heading out to Spokane, WA to race the 24 Hours of Round the Clock. I'll be doing it SS and Joanna will be with me for support. So I'll be spending the winter getting ready for it, and I'd like to use this blog to keep a record of that training. As such, it's possible things may change a bit in this spot and I have no idea how often I'll be posting, but I'll let the whole thing develop organically since I don't really know what exactly I'll have to say or how it will fit in. I definitely have some ideas for how it may be, but I'll take a wait-and-see approach for now. Right now, I have the outline of a training plan and I'll be fleshing that out as I go forward. The last time I did a 24, it made for some interesting stories so I'm hoping this year will be the same. Either way, I've got a lot of work to do between now and Memorial Day. I'm looking forward to it. Of course, I may not feel the same way in mid-February, but that's the nature of training, right?

And so that's where I am now … glad to be back and ready to get moving! So thanks for reading, stay tuned and I'll see you on the trail!


  1. Nice update and photos! But tell me, did you ever manage to catch the lurking Niner?

  2. Great job Marty. You have had a fantastic racing year.