Thursday, October 30, 2008

Caring for the little guys

There is so much to be said for individual customer service. At the shop level, individual customer service can make or break a shop. Don't give good service and you won't be able to build a customer base and you'll quickly fold. Provide excellent service along with a solid product and you should easily be able to retain a good customer base and through word of mouth continue to grow that base. Everyone has a story about bad service at a shop, especially as a newbie to the world of bikes. Shop level customer service is simple and extremely important to the operation of a business.

On the level of manufacturer customer service can be a little harder to come by. Unless you have to deal with a warranty issue or something along those lines you typically will never see what type of service a bike maker may provide. The stories I've heard from folks tend to fall into two categories when a manufacturers' customer service comes into play; they're basically terrible or excellent.

Those who receive terrible customer service generally vow to never bring their business back to that manufacturer and will likely be very vocal about their feelings regarding them. The lost business of a few sold bikes due to one poor interaction to me seems like a bit of a disproportionate loss. On the other hand the people that receive excellent customer service tend to spread there good feelings around as well. Whether through blogging, forums like Bike forums or the MORE forums or worse, which I always review before I purchase, word is spread of the encounter is spread. In the days of the interwebs and googles, much farther then a local group of fellow riders.

So, when a company actually takes the time to provide the service and personal interaction on the micro level, I for one am always super impressed and somewhat flattered. After the Big Bear debacle this summer a guy from Ellsworth took the time to look into things and found and commented on my blog. Made a big impression on me and I know I've passed word on about it since then. I've got a lot of love for Ellsworth bikes and if my price range fit better into their products', I'd very likely be thinking Ellsworth as my next mountain rig.

Yesterday I posted about my latest bike malfunction and low and behold Jamis' product manager finds the post and comments, letting me know what I need to do to go about getting the frame replaced. My post may have sounded a bit rough on the bike though that was not intentional. I have the most recent review on it in the forum and while I plan to edit it, I also plan to include my experiences with dealing with their customer service. I've heard the new frames have corrected for the cracking issue and assuming all goes well I'll very likely provide a very favorable review, possibly even more so then before.

The fact that the mountain bike product manager from Jamis actually took the time to search blogs, found mine and commented on it says a lot to me about the company. Either they're just really slow and bored right now (kidding of course :) ) or they really care about their product and keeping their current customers happy and prospective customers interested. Mike May over at is really on to something with the whole micro level web and weblog centered philosophy.

Helmet tip to Jamis for taking the time for an simple individual customer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A season (and bike) of firsts

I've gotten a lot of firsts with my Jamis Exile 29'er. You know, my first single speed mountain bike and first 29 inch mountain bike. My first serious rigid mountain bike (unless you count the old Diamondback (Outlook?) I first started a little mountain biking on). Did my first 13 hour race on it and my first 24 hour race as well. First night rides, first Rosaryville rides... I think you get the picture.

All of those "firsts" can easily be rounded into the "good" category (unless you want to talk about the quality of my performance at the two races of course). A whole other set of first have also been achieved on the Exile that I wouldn't quite illuminate under such a kind light.

My first ride, both on the bike and at Rosaryville SP was interrupted midway by my first ever broken chain. The near 2 hour trek back to my car, exacerbated by the fact i knew nothing about the park definitely sucked, though luckily no serious damage was done to my body as a result of the break.

Then, my first ever broken spoke at the Leesburg Bakers' Dozen race. Not terrible and after I finished the lap the awesome guys from Plum Grove hooked me up with a loaner wheel. Again, little harm, little foul.

Next the brake line blew (first time ever for me again) out mid-lap at Big Bear during my night lap. More harmful as I was forced to rely on the front brake through all the worst downhill areas of the already difficult course. Endo city, though no broken bones so still not the worst thing ever.

Following that race, for the first time ever I had a destroyed bottom bracket. I've yet to replace that actually after an order for a replacement BB was never entered at the shop so the pedals spin almost as if I'm walking a fixed gear when it rolls.

Now, last night for the first time ever I can say that I've busted a bike frame. A steel bike frame no less...

I'll post pictures when I get a chance but essentially the down tube broke clean away from the headset and the headset also cracked in half, held together simply by the Jamis head badge decal. A couple minutes more of riding and I was set for a face plant and a frame in two pieces.

Before the ride last night at Rosaryville in meeting the legendary Ricky D of the Single Speed Outlaws, I got my first warning of the likely hood of the frame crack. 45 minutes later with the front end of the bike was shaking and wobbling all over the place I had my very own proof. Damn, such a good ride too last night to be ended mid-way through, half way through the inner loop.

Here's hoping Proteus and Jamis back up their product. Will share the pics when I get them and keep this updated on here. The worst part about the whole thing is That is my only mountain bike so I'll be off the dirt for as long as this takes. Just as I was really getting into the trail grove.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The ultimate in local Cyclo-ism

The weekend was a bit of a wash for me, but Sunday by far made up for any short comings on the rest of my time. The second annual DCCX Cyclo-cross race was held on Sunday morning, once again the only cross race to be held within the DC city limits. DCMtb again put on a phenomenal event this year and I got a first hand view of just how great they really were. Every person at the race was taken care of like a rock star. From the little Belgians and their official race medals to the big Belgians and their first class course to the spectators and even volunteers. DCCX is quite possibly the most hospitable event in the local racing catalogue; both for participants and spectators alike.

I had the opportunity to help out at the fry booth for a couple of hours while being fed (free) beers by Brian (the bro-in-law) who I dragged out for the race. Catching up with people I haven't seen in a while and people I never expected to see was very fun, plus just having even a tiny hand in helping for such an awesome event was pretty good stuff. The remainder of the day we spent watching the top notch competition out on the course, all the while flip flopping between really wishing I was racing, and being entirely thankful I wasn't out there trying to kill myself.

Brian was pretty hooked on the race and is even more eager to at least get his ass on a mountain bike; I've been working on that since he first got on a road bike back in the beginning of the summer. Hopefully he keeps the bug and this time next year sees both of us racing around the dirt for DCCX.

Anyway, big hat tip, or more appropriately bottle clink to DCMtb for another first class event!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ridin Rosey

I'm lovin it! Last night I finally made it out to the Rosaryville night ride with MORE. Couldn't have been a better night for it. My lighting situation* (which I also raced Leesburg Bakers' Dozen and 24 Hours of Big Bear with) is in need of some serious improvement but otherwise the ride was amazing. It was a little chilly hanging out in the parking lot and I was almost contemplating wearing my heavier cycling jacket for the ride but thankfully remembered how quickly I tend to warm up and start sweating, not to mention how nice a dry jacket was going to be post ride.

The group mostly showed up pretty early, assuring traffic wouldn't cause a missed ride, and by 7 we had 7 guys ready to roll. We rolled in clockwise (in my experience the best way) and immediately the pace was a quick and even tempo. I rode in at 5th wheel and stuck close to Eric also on an SS rig as I quickly realized my helmet light was terribly angled and my handlebar mount lost a spacer and was constantly slipping. With Eric's lead and light I was able to keep up with the steady and quick pace though I noticably fell back when I dropped off his wheel.

We rode quickly through the park regrouping now and then as the front 3 were tearing through the trails a bit faster then we were keeping up at times. The dry earth was producing a ton of dust which at times was a pretty tough hinderence but overall I think we avoided any major issues aside from a lost contact by the third single speeder (Greg?). We took the inner loop and At this point riding a wheel wasn't a wise idea so my pace slowed fairly dramatically as I kept running myself off the trail, unable to spot in the somewhat heavier cover of leaves where to go but I avoided any serious mistakes and was assured by those behind me I wasn't causing any issues there.

Once back on the main outer loop the trails were more visible and with less logs to go over wheel sucking was once again not a terrible thing to do and we sped through the rest of the trail. Definitely an awesome way to spend a Wednesday evening. I will definitely be making this a regular part of my routine.

*My lighting set up consists of a handlebar mounted nite rider road rat (big, bulky and not that bright, plus now missing a spacer) and the old performance bike light helmet mounted using electricle tape since the helmet mount didn't actually come with it and they are no longer available anywhere that I can find. Lots of tape...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Been a while since I've posted a car bike rant

This morning as I rode in to work a BMW came around me, entirely in the opposing lane of traffic over on D St, NE. Generally no big deal and maybe it'd even kind of the guy (albeit stupid) for the guy to give me so much space. Not this time. I was riding with traffic, cruising at speed behind a large pick up truck as a car would do (in reality probably even tailgating a little, also similar to how cars drive). The BMW had no where to go and I threw my arms up and let him know.

So, he drove along next to me for the rest of the block. The truck turned and the lane ahead was open so the guy took off... to the next light. Apparently though he didn't really notice it very quickly since he had to slam on the brakes and scared the shit out of a half a dozen pedestrians in the crosswalk.

I congratulated him on his ability to scare anyone and everyone; figured it was an early Halloween prank.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rosaryville Autumn Fest aka Bike Doctor Waldorf Demo Day! :)

The event I was looking forward to!

I've rarely been to any kind of bike demo days, really I've only stumbled on one at Patapsco while riding with some friends before this weekend. I test rode the Cannondale Caffeine 29'er that day having just recently heard about the whole 29'er idea. I didn't like it very much though the bike was fairly poorly spec'd, I'd never ridden a lefty and more importantly I'd never ridden a 29'er and had just spent the last couple of hours riding my 26 inch Trek. I liked how well it rode over things but handling just felt terrible.

At Big Bear I got to test ride the Ellsworth for my last lap, but other then that I've pretty much spent all of my mountain biking time riding my own bike. Demo days are the greatest thing since Al Gore invented the internets!

I managed to drag Aimee and Brian out somehow and figured the 3 of us would tool around a bit on the bikes they had there before heading out to lunch or something. Aimee still being hungover ended up hanging out with the dogs and reading and enjoying the amazing day while Brian and I got to ride a lap on our borrowed bikes thanks to Bike Doctor Waldorf.

I'd expected to try out the Trek Fuel EX 9.9, mostly since it was the highest end bike I saw on the list posted on the forum. Turns out they'd left it at the shop so I had to choose a different one. My eyes almost imediately were drawn to a sleak white Gary Fisher on the end of the rack and my mind was made up on what I wanted to try out. The 2009 Gary Fisher Paragon; 29 inch wheels, X-9 componentry with Avid Juicy Five disc brakes, a Fox fork and Bontrager wheels all set up on the lightweight and super sharp looking aluminum hardtail frame. They initially tried to set Brian up on it but since it was a large it was a bit too big for him, perfect for me. He ended up on the full squishy Gary Fisher Carbon Hi Fi running about $4400... A nice bike for a beginner.

Turns out it was a mixed blessing that the Trek wasn't there. First I really don't have any desire to get a full suspension bike; I just don't feel like it is necessary on the majority of what I ride. So, riding the EX 9.9 would have been relatively pointless aside from just riding a really nice bike. On the flip side, riding the Paragon just poured fuel on the fire. With my history of bike buying putting myself on something I might want is never a good idea. Consider the Paragon wanted.

I loved the ride of the aluminum frame and having gears was definitely nice; my general riding speed aside from waiting for Brian here and there was definitely higher then while on my ss. The bike was tremendously lightweight compared to my steel frame Jamis with lower level components, and on that note the sram X.9 drivetrain was so sweet and smooth. I am set on at least the style of my next bike if not the bike itself.

Reading some online reviews over at I think my only worry would be the likelyhood of the aluminum frame to fail. While it would appear a majority of the complaints are from the older model and that the 2008 model design was overhauled to correct the issue it is still something to think about. Otherwise the componentry complaints are all non-issues to me. I'm not a weight wheenie and at 26 lbs I wouldn't be one to complain about heavy wheels. I love the X.9 and the Avid Juicy five brakes and bontrager components would be easy swaps if I decided I didn't like them. As for the frame, the life time warranty would tend to allay any fears of failure to a back of the mind issue. Plus for the $2000 price tag it comes across to me as a relative bargain for those components.

All that said, I'm in no rush to buy and I will definitely be trying out as many bikes as I possibly can before I really start to get into it. If you on the other hand prefer hardtail, want light and fast with a solid drive train and sleek and simple look, go check out the 2009 Paragon. It's a super nice ride.

Fort Dupont hike-a-bike

A couple of things went down last week that I wanted to post about but never got around to. This weekend, the same.

Most notably, on Thursday I made it out to Fort Dupont to check out the trails. I really wanted to make it out to the Fort Dupont ride on Wednesday but that just wasn't happening for me. So instead I cut out of work on Thursday and headed over to check them out myself. I didn't have the write up on the trails since my printer connection isn't set up correctly so I had some issues figuring out where to go and once I did I never quite found the right flow of the park.

There were some cross country kids practicing out there that I kept riding up on and I never found any of the trails that led out and across roads so I probably missed the good parts but for what I rode iit just felt like the single speen wasn't the right bike. Some too steep inclines and too quick openings had me hiking and over spinning for what felt like most of the ride. One little section provided some nice smooth flow though I was moving around blind corners fast enough that I was nervous the whole time I'd be crushing one of the runners around the next bend.

I probably put in about 45 minutes jsut spinning around, back and forth on the trails, never quite getting much good riding in before packing it in and heading back to Aimee's. This week I'm going to try and join up the final official MORE Fort Dupont ride and see if the guided tour helps with the flow of the trails at all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dreaming of greener "cube walls"

Over the past few months I've been questioning my current career path and looking into possible alternatives. Sometimes being a cubicle monkey feels like just the most depressing way to spend my career and I can't imagine doing it for the rest of my life. Others, especially when things are fairly busy around the office I feel like I could be totally content to continue a career here as a government employee.

One of the most appealing alternative careers I've been considering is a move to the National Park Service or something in the Bureau of Land Management as a Ranger. I always promised myself when I was younger I'd never work in a cubicle and that desire still glows deep in my heart. Everything about sitting couped up in front of a computer for 8+ hours a day goes against my grain and I don't believe there are many office jobs out there that would really leave me excited eager to go to work on a regular basis. A Ranger position on the otherhand has along with it's certain and serious downsides, all of the up sides I could ever want.

While I'll be the first to admit this is a total pipe dream, especially at this point in my life, with no relevant experience, a house I owe more on then is worth, next to zero in savings and no real easy way to go about getting certification for the type of work involved, it is still there. MY American dream if you will. (No, I know, it seems wrong that my american dream has nothing to do with making millions of dollars... crazy right?)

I've looked fairly extensively into what it would take to make this change and at this point it looks like sacrifice is the big winner. One thing I can and really ought to be doing anyway over the next few years is volunteering in the local parks. Whether it be clean up days, trail maintenance or some sort of awareness program this type of experience is a must is probably some of the easiest resume building I can do right now.

Maybe it's an omen or something; this morning I stumbled across a post on the site for Park Police Volunteers for the Montgomery County Park service. I know Maryland has a similar volunteer ranger program but it's apparently a fairly extensive process that is fairly hard to get in to. This opportunity on the other hand includes about 18 hours of classroom training, and a required 15 hours of field experience to become a certified Park Police Volunteer. After that there is a 15 hour quarterly time requirement including 8 hours of detail work which I take it is specified time for park events. The remainder is simply spent patrolling the park and trails, on bike while radioing issues and working as essentially an "informational" officer.

Sounds ideal to me; assuming I can pass their background check faster then the 3+ years I've been waiting on the one here from GSA. To be fair, OHR here at Labor lost my original paper work and only informed me a year + later when I called to find out about the progress...

Who knows, once I have a few years under my belt of this type of volunteer work I could actually get my butt in gear and head down to Southwestern Community College in North Carolina for a month and get my seasonal park ranger certification. It may be a pipe dream, but maybe it's a bit less potent then I thought...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bush on Biking

President Bush has been showing up on my radar a bit more then usual of late. No, I'm talking about the usual arenas of financial crisis conferences/speeches, or really even in the political arena at all. I'm talking about the world of mountain biking...

It seems the Prez spent this past Sunday morning riding my recently favorited trails over in Rosaryville State park. Apparently one of the MORE members has been emailing him for a while trying to make sure he rode the local gem at least once before leaving office. The possibility of other participants in the G-8 summits joining in on the ride is also present. Pretty cool; too bad I only made it out there Saturday morning and not Sunday as well. Although I doubt they'd let me go anywhere near the trails considering my alignment to the Racing Union and more importantly Dear Leader himself...

This to me brings up the question of what kind of mountain biker is bush really? Does he really go out there and ride the trails? Does he get into the rythem and really feel the flow that I love so much? Did he find my favorite little sections of trail when he rode Rosaryville Sunday? I always assumed he enjoyed riding his bike, leisurely along trails kind of the way a hybrid owner rides their bike leasurely along the C&O Canal. I'm now beginning to believe otherwise. Actually I guess I could have just read this article for that information.

Yesterday I also got wind of the possible opening of additional NPS trails to mountain biking. The President is apparently trying to come out with a little kiss and make up session with the cycling world before he leaves office by passing some legislation giving individual park administration the options to open certain trails without federal regulators' approval. More information is widely available on the topic.

Pretty cool; especially considering the trend that seems to be occuring where park service authorities are beginning to recognize the positive impacts the Mountain Biking community can have on trail creation and maintenance. Just a brief review of MORE's volunteer work is a strong testament to that. If you ride mountain bikes you should seriously consider joining up with this or other similar organizations to help out on trail work days. Very good karma.

Now to practice what I preach a little bit...

(Photos courtesy of and respectively)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The rest of my weekend

Saturday night Aimee and i drove out past Leesburg to her friend's wedding at a nice little winery just off 66. It was a beautiful setting though it was really close to the highway and train tracks so noise was a given, including a long train and some sport bikes tearing up and down the highway. I'd wanted to bring the dogs and camp out nearby that night to get an early and easy start on a backpacking trip the next day in the central Shenandoah region but Aimee poo poo'd it and we drove all the way home that night.

The next day we made our way back out, hit the trails and after a number of frustrating setbacks regarding the trails we were supposed to be hiking for our route (compounded by the fact that we didn't have out route plan written out anywhere) we set up camp a bit off the AT, munched on a few bagels and some trail mix (since I forgot macthes to light my camp stove), threw the food sack up a tree and climbed in to bed. Amazingly everything worked out alright in my little 2-person tent with two people and two dogs (aside from a bit of pup pacing going on every once in a while).

Monday we got up and headed back the way we came and then took to home. All in all we probably ended up covering a solid 10 to 11 miles the first day, between noon and 6 pm so it was a bit more of an effort then we'd planned on. Coming back was probably 6 or 7, the expected first day distance and was much more reasonably paced. Lessons were learned and I think we're planning on another trip to make up for our mistakes on this one very soon.

The rest of the day monday I relaxed and did some laundry while Cass snoozed on the couch. An early bedtime and back to the grindstone today. Horay for short weeks!

Breaking in the new kicks

Another weekend of near perfect weather and I soaked it up for everything I could. The extra day was crucial too. Saturday I got out for the first test ride of the new Northwaves; my first pair of cycling shoes with the ratchet closure. Very nice; the shoes fit perfectly and feel great! They don't feel quite as stiff as the Kameleon 3's did but I will not hesitate to say that these are the nicest pair of cycling shoe's I've ever used.

Cass did a quarter loop with me again before sleeping in the truck while I did the full loop alone. She's doing great and really loves getting out and running like that. I need to spend some more time out there at Rosaryville but I think for the record I can state doing the loop clockwise is the better way to go. I generally would go counter just because the trail head is right next to where I'd be parked but the flow of the trails going around really works best the other way around. Once again, Rosaryville is so incredibly ideal for single speed rigid riding.

As I was loading up the bike after my ride a group of three guys rode up to ask my opinion on what was the best way to hit the trail. I told them my opinion and they started to ride off. The third got his chain stuck/thrown on the rear cog so I gave him a hand. Very old, like early nineties (maybe) mountain bike (think Trek 900) with no cages and many rusty parts. Nice. Better yet the second guy was on what looked like more of a hybrid, pretty skinny tires with street tread. Hope they did alright. Assuming they did, I wonder how long until they're totally hooked and are all buying up expensive new rigs.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Luvin' on Chain Love

Speaking of my favorite deal of the minute site, my second new pair of shoes just came in today from Chain Love. The first ended up being just a bit too big so I'm going to be selling them shortly; up for grabs if my old teammate doesn't want them. They only ran me about $60 with shipping, normally something like $140.

Northwave Kameleon 3 MTB Shoe

My new kicks have the same great design only instead of the super clean white with red, they're a little less pure red with white. Plus they're the next level up with the adjustable clasp. I managed to score the last pair for sale at backcountryoutlet (supplier for Chain love and the rest or something) along with the "at least 50% off" redemption code they had up on Chainlove last week. Normally about $170 I got them shipped for about $85. Love it! They fit like a glove!

My new pair: Northwave Bike Kameleon MTB Shoe

Oh yeah

If you somehow don't know about or don't regularly check the Chain Love and Steep and Cheap sites here's a quick glimpse of what you're missing...

Reynolds DV46T Carbon Wheelset for $1000

Zipp Speed Weaponry 300 Road Crank for less the $300

Oh yeah, and this for about $1000...

If only this was around about a year and a half ago. Not that I don't love my Cannondale but this rocks my deal without a doubt!

Ramblings on a slow Friday

It's doom and gloom across the country today; I think I'm just stuck on the gloom. Despite the beautiful weather and quickly approaching 3 day weekend of projected perfect weather I just can't quite shake the funk hanging over me today. Between waiting for my new computer to finally be installed (supposed to happen this morning), giving up on my second cell phone fatality in about half a year and a quite and mostly empty office things just aren't quite clicking for me today.

The good news, this weekend should be amazing. Going to a wedding at a winery with Aimee on Saturday followed by a quick one night backpacking trip in Shenandoah with Aimee and the pups Sunday and Monday. I know the weekend will fly by but it will definitely be a great one.

My neighbor's boyfriend(?) rides for ABRT and invited me out to join their weekend group rides. I was really hoping to make it this Saturday but after a guilt trip from the bro in law who is home along this weekend and some cement heavy legs I think I'll wait on that one. Maybe if Brian and I don't end up doing anything I'll just head out for a quick mt bike ride. He really needs to get a mt bike. I think he'd love it.

The markets are busy feeling sorry for themselves and playing out their self fulfilling prophecy. I really wish I had some money laying around to invest since I don;t think it could go a whole lot lower this this before it starts to turn around. If nothing else I could probably just invest a bunch of money in GM stock and wait for the impending government bailout of the automaker that's "too big to fail". (I know, it's not gonna happen but we have set a precedent and I'll believe it when I see it.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tri Newbie Kickin some ass

On Saturday Aimee did her first triathlon! Woohoo!

She competed in the Giant Acorn Sprint Tri down at Lake Anna and did a great job. Her training for the race was pretty spotty at best so she was getting pretty nervous about it beforehand but I knew she'd be fine. My biggest fears for her were what her comfort level (or lack there of) would be on the bike around all the other riders and any cars she might encounter on the course.

We got to the race around 8:30 am and got her all set up in transition. Transition area rules were super lax so I was able to go in and help her get set up. After she set up and pulled on the wetsuit she basically said she had no desire to do the race anymore. The pre-race jitters were really setting in on her. She started in the second swim wave and with her pink accented wetsuit and massive goggles I was able to spot her for almost the entire course. Pretty cool! She came out of the water looking great and finished in excellent time.

As she came out of transition she also looked strong running with the bike. The bike course hit a sharp though short little rise right away and she struggled up it as she tried to get her feet into the straps and then was gone. I went back to my truck and grabbed Cass who was patiently waiting for my return and headed back to play for a bit before Aimee got back on the back. I was assuming she'd be about an hour for the 12 mile ride but since I didn't have a watch or clock of any kind I had no idea how much time had passed. I probably started looking for her after about a half an hour so by the time she'd come in I created plenty of horrible scenarios in my head, all of which ended up in her hating me for the rest of her life.

Turns out she did the ride with no problems and I was spared the life long hatred for another day. Looking strong she rode by and headed into transition. Coming out on foot she hit the pavement looking great with a big smile and a wave. Cassie and I moved over towards the finish to watch her come in and cheered her on as she passed. Aside from low blood sugar she said she felt good at the finish and was pretty pleased with her result. Someone had grabbed her Hammer Gel from transition so she struggled a bit because of that and she said she got bored out on the bike course but otherwise enjoyed it.

We obviously have a very different outlook on racing since I'd never get bored during a race so I struggled to understand that a bit. But I think she's going to find some friends to train and race with and she says she plans to do more next year. Actually I believe an Olympic (specifically Nation's) is in her eye for next year.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Trail rides and a tired pup - And a passing of a good friend

It's been a while since I made it out on the mountain bike; 24 hours of big bear was the last time actually. The bike spent some time at the shop getting the brake line replaced and and then Jerseyman training and the rest of life got in the way. The last few weeks I've been itching to get out and ride and finally today I had the free time to do so. A few dry days after heavy rains and mid-seventies with a light breeze made it the perfect day to get out there.

I decided to go to Rosaryville which I've decided is perfect for a rigid singlespeed set up. I also wanted to bring Cass along and see how she'd do as a trail dog and since I've never seen more then 5 or six other people in the park thought it'd be an ideal place to try it out. Turned out Rosaryville was a pretty happening place to be today with the conditions edging up on perfection. I took her out anyway at a slow and watchful pace and after a minute or two or running around she settled in behind my wheel and didn't leave it for 15 or 20 minutes into the park.

I turned around then and started bringing her back and eventually could see I probably should have done about 5 minutes less out as she started drifting back as I slowed down more and more to wait. She gained some fans though along the trail as all 6 or so of the people we saw cheered her on. She did great with getting out of the way as we let them pass as well so I'd say the first time out was a big success. Plus she's sleeping heavily now and you know what they say about a tired pup...

After I got her back to the truck I decided I could use a bit more riding and so I moved the truck to a heavily shaded area and opened all the windows so plenty breeze would go through the cab while she slept. I hopped back on the trail going the other way and 20 minutes in decided instead of turning around like I'd planned I should just ride the entire loop. My flow was excellent and the shorter slower riding with Cass seemed to work out the rust like a dream. The trails were in fantastic condition and I was flowing through everything.

Before I knew it I was back in the parking lot waking up a sleepy pup in the truck. I got everything packed up; let Cass drink the rest of my water (she'd gone through all of hers already) and heading for Chipotle and home. After I ate in the car with Cass and started driving home I felt a warm rush of liquid along the side of my leg as Cass decided now was a good time to throw up the loads water she'd slurped down along with the grass she'd decided to eat (ok and probably the little pancake I gave her during breakfast too). Plus, instead of on her little platform bed I built in the back of the cab she stuck her face up between the front seats and poured it all out over the center console, into my cup holders and along the side of my leg. I love a dog with a self preservation instinct... :)

The truck is now cleaner then it's been almost since I first bought it at carmax a year ago.

In other dog related news, my childhood dog Christy had to be put down by my folks at just under 15 years old. She was a black and white springer spaniel that we'd picked up on good friday when I was in 6th grade as my dog and had a great life. She couldn't go with me to college and from then essentially became my folks dog but I always loved her to death. She's been struggling more and more the past few years and apparently last weekend while my folks were at my race her liver shut down on her and she stopped eatting and couldn't do much. They said they thought she had liver cancer that was heavily ingrainded and she'd die within a few days no matter what they did...

Christy never really got used to Cass but of course Cassie always liked her.

I know it's just a dog but it still sucks. Poor dog, my father told my mom she was the prefect dog; she was, at least for them. The two of them will struggle with it for a while probably. She was so ingrained in my dad's daily routine, and my mom always loved her company, especially since she doesn't work now. I sense there may be another dog in their future, though we'll see about that.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Jerseyman 70.3 Race Report

So, now that you know I survived and even finished; I suppose all 2 of you that may read this want to know all about the race! Or not, but here it is anyway. ;-)

The morning started off a bit dreary and foggy as Brian and I set up our transition areas, got marked and eventually made our final preparations. Brian's Sprint race was supposed to start at 7:30 and my Half at 8 though registration issues delayed the sprint start until closer 7:50. I saw Brian off and then cheered him out of the water. He looked good and had a great swim, especially for his first ever race! My race was delayed an additional 30 minutes or so due to apparent thunder that I never heard, though otherwise I doubt I'd have seen Bri finish the swim.

When our race finally was cleared to start we made our way through the shoot and to the water's edge and quickly heard 45 seconds to the start. I managed to find a great spot between two people and had a very strong start, putting myself easily in the top 15 of my 50+ person wave start. I saw a group forming up to my right so I made my way onto the feet of one of the guys in it. I kept my place in the draft for a couple of minutes before losing it and just going on my way. Throughout the swim I drafted where I could and just worked on keeping a nice steady pace throughout. At times I felt like due to a stronger follow through with my right arm I was drifting to the left, though I think it was less pronounced then I believed during the swim. A number of the people I was basing this thought on swam way right of the bouy's and finish area so my thoughts were a bit skewed on that.

I got out of the water feeling good and made my way up the beach while working off the top half of my suit. Running by my parents, sister and Aimee was great as they cheered for me. I even smiled for the first time during a race! T1 was pretty slow as I struggled to get my left leg out of the suit over the timing chip. Once out I got my stuff set for the bike and was gone.

Swim: 38:40 (heard the swim course was a bit long, possibly as much as 1.4 miles...)
47th overall on the swim.

T1: 2:49

The bike started off a bit slowly and we hit some general rollers basically right away so it was good for warming up the legs but it felt like a slow start. Once I got rolling I started to feel better, got my first on bike gel in me and settled in for the long bike. I also focused on taking in liquids, despite the relatively cool and wet conditions compared to Nations' I didn't want to have a repeat of my near total meltdown two weeks prior. The roads were mostly very nice and the scenary was definitely beautiful. The heavily hyped Frenchtown was a bit of a joke, being at the bottom of one of the steepest declines in the race and being an extremely tiny little town. The course also took an immediate left upon entering the town; I along with a number of other riders missed this left as I was more focused on navigating the somewhat heavy traffic that was held up around the turn. Luckily I caught my mistake quickly, turned around and then saw the volunteer standing silently pointing to the turn... Seriously, completely silent... Never said a word as I went past the turn or as I watched others do the same while retracing my steps to find it.

The covered bridge which was also heavily built up in the race description was also highly overrated though the scenary leading up to it was great. The rest of the ride was uneventful and continued on with some light rollers that I struggled somewhat up, though not much worse then anyone else around me. Rode back into the park and before I knew it I was back in the dismount zone, one shoe off the other still on.

I tore into the transition area threw my bike up on the rack happily noting I was one of the first 20 bikes to return pulled on my running shoes and took off. All the while my "fan club" (including Brian who'd finished by then) cheered and screamed me on. One of the head race organizers even called out that I had the best fan base at the race. It really was great to have them there cheering, and especially cheering for me specifically. That's a first for me.

Bike: 2:51:38
24th overall bike

T2: 0:56
Very smooth transition

I went out fairly easy on the run, not sure just how much I could give it without blowing up. I got to run by my "fan club" again as the course looped around and came back by transition and I gave a little skip in direct defiance of the stated "run, walk or crawl" rule for the run portion and then was on my way for the long slog along the wet streets. The rain had come down steadily and sometimes heavily during the bike portion so some areas had standing or even running water across the streets. The run course followed the bike course out for about 6 and a half miles before turning around and coming back. Since none of the roads were closed off to cars it seemed a bit scary at times but as far as I know there were no incidents. There were also no mile markers so I based my milage on water stations being at about every mile. I later found out they were ever 1.5 miles so I was undercounting, which I had absolutely no problem with, especially when it became apparent i had much less distance to go to the finish.

About half way through the run I started walking at the water stations to drink before resuming my running; a practice I adopted from two runners I'd been trailing the entire run. Finally at about mile ten I caught and passed on of them and then held on for the finish. The final quarter mile I felt great; I opened up the stride a bit and strode into the finishing stretch. Holding back tears of general exhaustion and happiness I smiled yet again for the family and crossed the line just under 5 and a half hours later. I got a finishers medal, wrapped up, in a plastic bag...

Run: 1:49:24
55th overall run

Overall Time: 5:23:25
Overall Rank: 31st
Male Rank: 29/158
Age Group: 5/12

8:22 pace was a bit slower then I'd hope for, though I'm far from dissapointed with it, especially being my first time at this distance. In my age group I was somewhat excited to see that all the guys that beat me were later 20's so I've still got time. 2 29 year olds, a 28 year old and a 27 year old. Look out late 20's, here I come! :)

Aimee made me a homemade "1/2 Iron Man" trophy which I was presented with and more pictures were taken. Overall Aimee had 300 + from the day. My soaking stuff was thrown together and then into my bin in the back of my truck, goodbyes were said and Aimee drove us back to the hotel were we stayed the rest of the gloomy and rainy day, reading and watching movies and eating pizza.

All in all an excellent 1st 70.3 experience and while the race may not have been the most well planned (card stock bike numbers don't stay on in the rain; instead they get in the cassete) and organized race out there it was still a solid race in my opinion. I may not choose to return to it specifically again, though there is no doubt I'll be doing another 70.3.

The big shibang!

So, that's it. It's over. Life as I knew it now resumes.

It feels good... to a degree.

I enjoy being finished, though I already miss the buildup a little.

The race was fun and I did about what I expected in my first. Cheers, to a successful first season in the Triathlon. I may actually feel comfortable calling my a triathlete now for the first time. Somehow, completing a couple of sprint tri's just didn't seem like enough to say the word.