Bear Attack: 2016 Bear Creek XC

Long overdue, a writeup on my first solo XC MTB race at the Bear Creek Challenge

First, MyStats:

Course: 3 laps of a 6-ish mile course over the Bear Creek Ski Area

Time ridden: 2:11:28

Finish Place: 6th

Equipment: Scott Spark 29er 900RC, Crankbrothers Cobalt cockpit, AbsoluteBlack 30T OVAL chainring, SHplus Helmet and glasses, Gaerne G.Sincro LE shoes, BIKE LINE of Newark Support

On June 12 I decided to break into solo XC MTB racing with my first race being the Bear Creek Challenge XC.  The Bear Creek course covers the BC Ski Area and has hosted the US MTB XC National Championship.  It’s NOT an easy course.  The course consists of 3 miles of technical climbing followed by 3 miles of super rocky, technical downhill. When I asked guys who have raced MTB for years about the course I heard things like: “hardest course in the MASS series”, “super hard”, “it ain’t easy”.

So, having never raced a solo MTB race, I figured it was a perfect course to start.  After waffling on what category to sign up for, I bowed to peer pressure and jumped in the CAT1/Expert 40-49.  My rationale (other than my training partners calling me a sandbagger for even considering CAT2) was that the CAT1 distance was approximately 20 miles which is in line with what most XTERRA races cover.  I want to get faster on a MTB over this distance.

As the race approached, the forecast was on/off to the point where I waited too late and had to do a day of registration.  No biggie. Got to Bear Creek plenty early and got myself ready.  A teammate from BIKE LINE, Thayer, offered to let me use his water bottle stand to stash some extra fuel for the race and I even got about 15 min to tool around and warm up a bit.

The race starts on a gravel road that starts to climb after 100m or so. That leads into a short single-track uphill section that then drops back down to the upper parking lot.  Then the real climbing begins.  I felt pretty good, but honestly didn’t know how to pace myself, so my plan was just to stay in the top 5 and try and hold position.  Well, one bobble on a root later I was getting passed and dropped by guys who were just a lot smoother than me. The course finally emerges from the trees onto some fire road uphill and I hit this strong, there’s a section of up then a section of down then another uphill.  On the little downhill section, I took a wrong turn (the tape had been torn and there was no directional) and started down the mountain. Luckily someone shouted that I was going the wrong way and I turned around.  After climbing back up to where I had made the turn, I had lost a fair bit of time (mistake #1).  I finished out the first lap and actually felt really good through the rocky section. I guess after Guatemala, not much in PA will seem too difficult.

Lap 2, I felt not so good. Not sure why but I was struggling over tech sections that should have been straight forward.  I lost my flow. Then, when I went to take a drink on a flat section (Mistake #2), I hit a lone rock in the trail and went straight over the bars onto my face.  Oops.

face

In the words of Rebecca Lewandowski “Sometimes your the windshield, sometimes your the bug.”

Shaken, I got back onto the bike and started through the rock garden. WAY to tentatively. I lost more time as I was still ringing and didn’t want to go down again.  I got back to the start/finish and told myself: “Calm down. Smooth is fast. Relax the death grip”

Seemed to work, my last lap definitely felt like my smoothest and I was able to catch and pass a few more riders.  I moved through the rock garden easy and was feeling pretty good when I emerged from the woods.

After the race, I felt a little disappointed in my performance as I felt I coulda gone faster, shouldn’t have missed the turn, woulda had a better second lap had I not taken a stupid spill.  Coulda, shoulda, woulda….But then I remembered that that’s why I’m doing this. To get better, faster.  Bennie set me straight a bit, calling out a solid performance given I jumped into a hard category on a hard course for my first solo MTB race.  Regardless, the post-race beer felt deserved. Much thanks to Howard and Bike Line Newark and all my other sponsors for the chance to race with some of the best.

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Riding the Bear      Photo: Paul Freeman

2016 Leesburg Bakers Dozen: “The Cowboys From Hell”

First, MyStats:

6 laps and 1 3/4 lap: 2 ridden at night

Distance Ridden: 55 miles (6 laps and 1 3/4 lap)

Time ridden: 4:32:25

Avg speed: 12.1 mph (fastest lap was 12.9 mph)

Equipment: Scott Spark 29er 900RC, Crankbrothers Cobalt 11 wheelset with Maxxis Ikon tires, Crankbrothers Cobalt cockpit, AbsoluteBlack 32T OVAL chainring, SHplus Helmet and glasses, Lupine Pico lighting, Hammer Nutrition

For the last four years, April brings a special kind of suffering, the Leesburg Bakers Dozen 13h MTB race.  I’ve been doing this race since 2012 (with a hiatus in 2014 due to work travel) on a team we call “The Cowboys From Hell“. The founding members of The Cowboys were my good friends (and excellent cyclists) Bennie “the Jewla” Anemone, Russ Blake and myself.  Our first year was a learning experience but we managed a 3rd place podium behind some dude called “Fatmarc Vanderbacon” and his team.  If someone was gonna school me on a MTB, I’d want it to be Marc. He’s good people. I say this was a learning experience because I had never raced a MTB before that day. MTB was always something to use as a recovery ride from road cycling (Confessions of a Roadie).  I never took it seriously.  But, I digress…

Back to 2016. The Cowboys were the defending champions of the 3 man Geezer category. We had won last year with a solid team consisting of Ben, “Smilin” Joe Bothell and myself. It was a hard fought victory that had us chomping the bit right through to the last lap. 2016 would be much the same.  It seems The Cowboys are cursed when it comes to the third man.  Last year, our third man dropped out due to a family emergency right before the race and Joe stepped up. This year, it was Joe who had to drop out due to personal reasons and we found a new Cowboy, “Flyin” Ryan Stankhe.  Ryan is fast. This was the first year the Cowboys were fully a Bike Line Newark sponsored team as well.  It was gonna be a good race.

Bakers 2016_a

2016 Cowboys From Hell p/b Bike Line Newark (left to right):                                                  Bennie “The Jewla” Anemone, ME, Flyin’ Ryan Stankhe

The weekend of the race neared, and the weather looked pretty miserable.

weatherAlas, we were committed.  But seriously, one day of sub-freezing temps, 30mph winds and snow/rain mix flanked by two perfect riding days.  It was almost laughable.  Never mind that I HATE BEING COLD!

The good news is, Bennie knows how to camp.  My boy, rolls in an RV surrounded by tents, a bike rack, a closed off tent with a heater inside and all the pork BBQ you can eat…

Side story: Ryan likes his pork BBQ on a slice of bread covered in peanut butter.  He says “it’s a thing”. An Elvis thing, maybe. I didn’t take a picture of this as, being a Southern Gentleman, I considered it close to heresy to do that to good BBQ.

 

 

Bakers 2016_b

We had a magical campsite.

 

Campsite set, we headed out for what turned into a hot lap of the course (one of our fastest the whole time we were there, doh) because Ben and Ryan were bathing in  testosterone [editors note: endogenous testosterone].  Then we made a quick run into town for some food (and as custom, beer). After a restless nite sleep, we tried to get motivated to race in sub freezing temperatures, rain/snow and high winds.  It was gonna be a long 13 hours.

The course at Bakers is awesome. Some really fast sections through the pines, some moderately technical sections with drop-offs, rocks and roots, and one really soul-crushing section that just twists and turns uphill over roots and fallen trees (read: no momentum). At the start, the course was wet and slick, but later in the day the trails submitted to the pounding of thousands of bike tires and became simply perfect.

Ryan started us off. The race start is chaotic as everyone jockeys for position ahead of the entrance to the woods; if you’re too far back you’ll get trapped behind slow folks and your done.  Ryan had a good start and entered the woods in the top 10.  Due to the rain the night before, the trails  were wet and slick. Ryan found this out the hard way, taking a few dirt naps on the prologue lap.

Ryan

ryan2

Flyin Ryan administering pain. Photo: Bruce Buckley

Bennie was up next. Ben had been complaining that his fitness wasn’t up to par, but he turned some mighty fast laps. And he’s so freaking smooth on a bike. His first lap was right at 39min for the 8.2 mile course.

The Jewla

Bennie da Jewla airing it out. Photo: Bruce Buckley

Bennie handed our marker off to me and I was off. I gotta say, that first lap hurt. All I could think was “I gotta do this for 13 more hours”. That said, toward the end of the first lap, my legs loosened up and I started feeling better.

Bakers 2016_5

Honestly, it was steeper than it looks. Photo: Bruce Buckley

As the day rolled on, we were turning consistently fast laps and felt pretty good about ourselves; that is, until we got our first look at the results.  So, apparently last year The Cowboys From Hell made a name for themselves. As has always been the case when you’re the fastest gun, everybody wants to show they’re faster.  Well, this time someone was faster. Another team had come up with a strategy and a stacked team intent on beating us.  Given our strategy consisted of ride fast and then drink beer, we were a little out-gunned.  Not by a whole lot, but enough.

Bakers 2016_d

OK, we were a little strategic. Bennie makes the hand off to Ryan.

We worked hard to catch up while staying in front of the 3rd placed team, but we couldn’t close the gap. That says a lot.  We were moving. I didn’t turn a lap over 40 minutes until it was time to ride at night (and that was only 42min).

Bakers 2016_6

I’m still smiling..and those wheels are a thing of beauty  Photo: Bruce Buckley

The biggest factor for me in this race was the wind. The cold didn’t end up bothering me too much (other than having to wear more clothes than I like), as the laps were “short”. But the wind…it was howling. I almost got blown off my bike a couple of times…in the WOODS.  I mean it was gusting 50mph at times. Limbs were breaking out of trees; it was crazy. The wind just sucked your soul right out.  It made those last laps super hard.

Due to the length of Bakers, everyone ends up having to pull a couple of night laps.  I can’t remember who had to pull the first night shift, but it was a good night for riding. Despite being cold and windy, the trails were packed and there was little dust to distort your view. Animals made strange calls in the night; it was eerie but super cool. Not to mention, I was much better prepared to ride at night this year. Last year I had one tiny 300 lumen light. This year, I showed up with a Lupine Pico 1500 lumen power house. It was a game-changer for me.

ben2 BB

Bennie poppin’ rocks on the Night Shift. Photo: Bruce Buckley

As we watched the results, we realized that in order to clinch 2nd place we were going to have to turn one more lap than everyone else (other than the 1st placed team).  The third place team was just to close to the 10pm cut-off to risk.  I volunteered to take the last lap, but in the end we shared it. Ryan would do the first woods section (about 1.5 miles) I would do the middle core section (about 5.5 miles) and Ben would do the last section of woods and finish. That last lap was still hard due to wind, but I could take it a little easier as I knew we were 15 min ahead of our rivals and they may not have even started the lap.  It gave me a lot of time to contemplate the race. In the words of 50cent, “As much as I hate this $*#%, I love this $*#%”. I gotta thank my good friend Bennie the Jewla for the experience. 4 years ago, Bennie asked me to do Bakers and I thought he was crazy. I had never raced a MTB for a single race, much less for 13 hours. Well, he was crazy, but the Cowboys From Hell were born. And, we’ll be back, so you’d better be ready for us.

Here we come reach for your gun
And you better listen well my friend, you see
It’s been slow down below,
Aimed at you we’re the cowboys from hell
Deed is done again, we’ve won
Ain’t talking no tall tales friend
‘Cause high noon, your doom
Comin’ for you we’re the cowboys from hell.

-Pantera, “Cowboys From Hell”

A couple of post race thoughts:

First of all, a HUGE thanks to my sponsors. My equipment is flawless:

AbsoluteBlack chainrings, Crankbrothers pedals and components, Lupine North America lighting, SH Plus helmets and sunglasses, and Bike Line Newark for support and everything else.

I switched to the Crankbrothers Cobalt wheels the week before the race. I only had 15 minutes of riding on them going into a 13h mtb race. They were stellar.  Light, stiff and super carvy through the turns.  I’ll write up a full review on these in the next couple of weeks, but needless to say it was a good choice.

I learned a lot from the Guatemala experience. I was using Hammer Nutrition products throughout the race and never cramped. I always cramp. I’m a convert.

Bennie converted to an AbsoluteBlack OVAL chainring before the race. Ryan now wants to go Oval too. A few more converts. Oval is the new round people!

Peanut butter and pork BBQ on toast really is disgusting. Shame on you, Ryan.

El Reto del Quetzal 2016: A Race Like No Other

A race like no other, INDEED!

In December, one of my teammates Matt Vahey told me about a mountain bike stage race in Guatemala. Matt said he’d always wanted to try it and asked if I’d join him as a two man team in the 2016 race. Before I even knew what I was agreeing to, I said yes. Then, I looked at the website for the race www.elretodelquetzal.com. Uh oh.

El Reto is a 4 day MTB stage race through the wilds of Guatemala.  Other than good equipment, I was fully unprepared.  I have never done any endurance event that lasted more than 4 hours or so. el Reto was going to be several hours longer than that for 4 straight days.  Totally outside my comfort zone.  I was also used to pretty tame mountain biking, and el Reto was in a word, WILD. Top that off with injuries that plagued me in December and January and a demanding work schedule early in the year.  As I read more about the race I realized I was in for some pain.

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Hola Guatemala!

We arrived in Guatemala City a day before the race, and met up with Matt’s in-laws who live in Guatemala city and would be our hosts for before and after the race. This gave us time to get our bikes together and go for a short ride (though probably too strenuous in hindsight), in order to spin out the legs.  I learned very quickly that Guatemala is either straight up or straight down.  And the altitude….Even at the altitude of Guatemala City, my lungs were taxed.

First, the gear:

Bike: NEW 2016 Scott Spark 900RC

scott

Great Scott! Post race.

[Note: I received this bike in February. Had only ridden it for two short rides before Guatemala. I had ZERO mechanical issues the whole race, and I LOVE this bike. A great testament to Scott and the folks at BikeLine Newark who really know how to put a bike together]

Gearing: SRAM 1X 10-42 rear, AbsoluteBlack 30T OVAL chainring front

Pedals: CrankBrothers Candy 11

Helmet/Sunglasses: SH+ Shot helmet, SH+ 5000 sunglasses

Shoes: Gaerne G.Sincro Limited Edition Fluo Yellow

“Mmm, fluo.”gaerne

Lighting: Lupine Pico

Hydration: Patagonia Forerunner hydration pack

Nutrition: Hydration: First Endurance: EFS, OptygenHP  Supplements and Ultragen Recovery

Enervitine Cheerpack gels and Sportlegs electrolyte tabs

Stage 1: 12K TT

Stage 1

Stage 1 was a NIGHT TT. Half up, half down.  We started in a group of 6 and quickly pulled away from our group. The start was straight up out of a quarry. 10-15% grades greeted us from the start. But, it was steady climbing so not too bad and importantly easy to navigate at night.  That said, I already noticed I was wishing for one more gear (maybe two). A harbinger of doom.  We finished the climbing in under a 1/2 hour and started the downhill.  Now, Matt is a much more experienced downhill rider than me, and I have limited practice riding at night.  That said, the Lupine was as bright as the sun. In retrospect, I would have mounted it to my bar instead of my helmet; the beam was picking up the volcanic ash in the air and reflecting back into my eyes.  That said, it far better than any light I’ve ever used and super light.  I held my own for the first part of the downhill, keeping Matt’s lights in sight.  Then, about half way down, a rider in front of me stopped in a tight turn and I swerved to avoid him…and crashed. Hard.  I popped up but I was shaken. After I went down, I had a hard time getting clipped back in. For this I don’t fault equipment, but a)terrain and b) preparation. Terrain was straight downhill and rough. I was bouncing around and couldn’t get my feet over the pedals. Preparation in that I should have “fitted” my shoes to my pedals by removing some of the tread (more on this later). This would have been simple to do, but the only riding I had done with this equipment prior to the race was  on the easy trails of Middle Run (in the snow).  Nothing as technical as I dealt with during el Reto. Matt finished well ahead of me as I had a bit of trouble with the 2nd half of the downhill portion. We finished in under an hour, good enough for 5th place and only 5 minutes behind the leaders. Without the crash…shoulda, coulda, woulda.

post stage 1

Post Stage 1. I’m a dirty boy.

STAGE 2: ANTIGUA GUATEMALA – PANAJACHEL

stage 2

86KM doesn’t seem like too bad of a distance. Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to be the biggest challenge. But here is where some prior knowledge of the course would have been extremely helpful. Just before leaving for the race I replaced my stock 32T SRAM ring with an AbsoluteBlack 30T OVAL chainring. This was a great move, but in hindsight I should have gone with a 28T OVAL ring.  The few who were brave enough to run 1X at el Reto were running  a front 28T.  The 30T oval felt too easy in Delaware and I almost changed to a 32T, little did I know.  I was pushing way too hard a gear for the whole race. Nowhere was that more true than stage 2. The steep, sustained climbing at the start of Stage 2, combined with the fact that I was pushing the gear led to cramping in the first 20KM. I never recovered.  I was cramping the whole race, legs locked up in a grotesque zombie quad of cramp.  For the rest of the 86 KM, I suffered.  I was also feeling guilty about letting down Matt (who was still feeling great and spinning up climbs).  In fact, the pain and difficulty were secondary to the guilt of not performing as well as I should.  The terrain was extremely challenging, the only “respite” from climbing were the downhills which were steep and technical, not offering much of a break. The saving grace of this stage was found in the form of cut fruit.  Each of the aid stations had fresh watermelon and pineapple. Matt laughed at how ravenous I was for this stuff, but it really helped the cramping and quenched my thirst. In hind sight, I wasn’t staying hydrated enough (I didn’t pee for 24 hours) and was probably dangerously dehydrated.  The  extremely steep climbing gave away to a series of downhills that were followed by either really steep slow climbs or hike-a-bike sections. A couple of these were so steep they were less hike-a-bike and more rock climbing with a bike on your shoulder. After the 3rd aid station there was a 6-7 KM steep climb on gravel roads that led us up to the top of the final climb. My legs were shot but kept turning over and Matt and I finished out the last climb together.  That lead us to the downhill finish of the race…the Snake.  This was probably the most fun part of el Reto.  Very technical downhill that was basically mountain on one side, sheer 1000+ foot drop on the other.  I was able to ride all but a few short sections, surprising myself as it was by far the most technical downhill I’d ever ridden.  Straight up gnar.  The downhill section led into gardens and then a village.  The last section of the race took us through the narrow walkways of the village…you can’t make this up. Kids were sitting atop walls lining the course cheering us on at the top of their lungs.  I felt like i was a Tour de France stage.  I had a huge grin on my face the whole time despite my legs and arms screaming at me.

 

street race

Racing through the alleys of Panajachel! Follow the pink arrows.

We finished Stage 3 in 7 hours, good enough for 5th, but we lost 40 minutes to our closest competitor.  It was a big disappointment, but my biggest concern was continuing at that point.

stage 2 post

“I hurt myself today. To see if I still feel. I focus on the pain. The only thing that’s real”

STAGE 3: PANAJACHEL – XELA

Stage 3

I woke the morning of March 5 feeling not so great. Having hardly slept, and still sore, I was unsure of my ability to finish Stage 3, the stage billed as the hardest of el Reto.  I kept my mouth shut about this as we prepared to board the boat that would take us to the start of the stage on Lake Atitlan.

stage 2 boat

All Aboard! Boat trip to the start of Stage 3

Stage 3 started with a short downhill into a long uphill on a cobblestone  road.  We were last off the boat as our bikes were in the back, and this ended up hurting us as we started near the back. I’m convinced we lost 20 minutes due to our starting position.  We climbed for about 1km before it got to be so steep that everyone was dismounting. Without a clear line, Matt and I followed suit and proceeded to hike-a-bike for about 6 km.

 

Stage 3

We’re going that away. A lot.

Stage 3 start

Nobody rides for free.

Stage 3 lake

We started the day at that little blue building and climbed up to the first peak on the far right. From their we climbed up to the radio towers on top of the third peak from the right

This part was not fun. Our feet were killing us, our legs were tired and dammit, we wanted to ride our bikes. In hindsight,  it allowed me to loosen up my legs some for the challenge ahead,but we lost time.  Once the riding started, I felt much better than I had all race.  I still rode conservatively though, not wanting to cramp.  I had switched from EFS to Matt’s Hammer Nutrition mix of HEED and Perpetuem and this is what I’ll be using from now until forever.  It works.

After 6KM or so, the climb became rideable.  The rest of the day was climbing, climbing climbing. I had learned that if I was going to push a big gear, I needed to use my quads instead of my adductors or my legs would cramp.  This strategy paid off, but as I still couldn’t spin, going was pretty slow.  I was feeling good on day 3 and even snapped a few pics on the fly of a few of the many hike-a-bike sections:

stage 3 mid 2

On the right is a view of one of the “hills” we rode down before hiking up the other side

The day topped out around 10K feet. Air was really thin, and we were struggling for breath even when hiking.  We were in the jungle, it was wild and I was grinning again.  Good stuff.

jungle stage 3

Matt: “Welcome to the JUNGLE!

The last hike-a-bike (again, read rock climbing with a bike on your shoulder) topped out to a fire road. One last quick aid station and we set off down the mountain.  I had clearly been holding back in this stage as I felt great.  The downhill dropped us onto flat fast fire roads that led through town to the finish. I went into TT mode and led us home at over 30KPH over the flat muddy roads. We rolled into the finish feeling good and were off to the hotel in no time.

Stage4: XELA – IRTRA (REU)

Stage 4

At our hotel in Xela all things conspired against us.  A nice hotel, the Central Park Hotel in Xela, should have been restful and a great place to recharge. However, our room was on the first floor facing a busy street, and there was a party going on below us.  Not to mention our bags were 3 hours late getting to the hotel, and when they arrived they were soaked (from being in the back of a pickup in an unseasonable thunderstorm).  Still, we ate, hung out our clothes to dry, and got in bed. When we woke at 5:30am for the next day’s start, Matt and I asked each other “did ya sleep”…. nope, not a wink. It was going to be a long day.  Not to mention, while we had been ecstatic the day before that we were “practically done” as we thought today looked like an easy stage on paper, we learned that the first 1.5 hours would be spent climbing steep climbs at altitude.

Never-the-less, we toed the start line all smiles and feeling good again. The start was neutral for about the first 5K and then the climbing started. It was hard to catch breath due to the altitude, but we made good time. We climbed to one of the highest points in Guatemala, what locals call “Alaska” somewhere around 10K feet elevation. It was quite chilly, about 45*F. We were feeling pretty good and gapped the team that was ahead of us in the standings.  The days of climbing in too big a gear were taking their toll on my legs, but I kept telling myself “this is the moment”.  The team we were keen on beating this stage kept yo-yo-ing back to us, but we were able to lose them again when we topped out the climb and entered  some sweet single track. This is where Matt and I excel and we were confident we could loose those guys.  There were a couple of shorter climbs but we were sailing. Another bonus, as we descended, it got much easier to breath and it got warmer.

Guatemala

Yahoo! I’m on my way down! Railing some sweet single-track.

An almost tragedy occurred when I entered a wet slick downhill with a bit too much speed and the bike skipped out from under me. Not really a crash but I slid into the side of the ravine and it knocked my saddle 90 degrees. I rode down this technical section way off the back and then pulled out my shiny new CrankBrothers tool to quickly adjust the saddle, knowing “the enemy” was close.  A quick fix and I was back on the bike, minimal time lost. Matt had been a few yards ahead of me and was now unaware that I was off the back.  Luckily, he figured it out and pulled off to let me catch up.  We continued down the mountain and entered the dry riverbed section that was strewn with what I call “baby head” boulders. It was treacherous, but following a good wheel we were making great time. Just about time for crash #3. I rolled over a loose boulder about the size of a cantaloupe and it kicked up in between my crank and my rear chainstay stopping me cold and sending me over the bars.  I hit hard (pretty sure I rebroke that rib from December’s crash, see The Accidental Cyclist). I shouted a very bad things very loudly (sorry, Mom) and Matt heard and pulled up. He told me later he thought we were done at that point, ’cause it sounded bad. Before I had an idea how badly I was hurt and how much damage I had done, I was back on the bike and riding.  Then Matt crashed.  Not bad but I know it hurt to hit those rocks.  I held up and decided to take my glasses off as they were fogging due to the temperature change.  Matt zipped by me halfway through this and I had to sprint to catch back on.  This is where our determined competitors caught and passed us, again.  Well, we couldn’t have that.  We were tearing through the last part of technical downhill and caught and passed them again (they too both crashed pretty bad in this section). Somewhere in this section I lost my brand new SH+ 5000 sunglasses; wah.

After the single track ended we got on a long (5-6 mile) section of cobbled road that descended a grade of about 15%.  It was like holding a jackhammer for an hour.  My hands, already cramping, were locked up, but it was fun and fast.  This dropped us into a valley and we quickly felt the heat.  Starting the day in the 40’s, it was now nearing 90.  “Now we’re in the tropics!”.   A short climb led us up to an aid station; Matt wanted to skip it as we were sure our competitors  were right on our tail, but I was out of water. I had seen them start the climb when we were just at the top, so I quickly replenished my fluids and we set off. There was some confusion at this point how much more racing we had. I thought we had about 20 more miles and Matt thought we had about 10-15 more kilometers. Big difference in how one would pace themselves. We also had different ideas about how close our competitors were, he thought they were breathing down our neck, as he thought he saw them rolling up to the aid station when we were leaving. I knew that they were further back as I had seen their position.  Regardless, we rode with abandon.  We rode through another village using our now honed urban downhill skills, and then rolled up to the swinging bridge.  The bridge was about a football field long and crossed a rocky river bed and a raging class V river. It was raging due to the unseasonable rain we had had the night before (the picture below is from the 2015 race).  Technically, you should walk your bike across this, but we rode it. Matt rode first and I waited as more than one person on the bridge starts it swinging. I stated across and made it about half way before two gents from Puerto Rico started walking across. The bridge started swinging pretty wildly. Danger! Seriously, I peed a little. I unclipped one foot and sort of scootered across.

bridge

Danger. Danger. Danger.

After the bridge there was a very steep hill that we had to “paper boy” up. A couple of fans, refilled Matt’s empty water bottle and pushed him to the top, I had no such luck.  Anyhoo, the last section of the race was a fast downhill on the PanAmerican Highway.  The two gents from Puerto Rico caught us and we formed a 4 man TT to the finish. I was spun out going 45+mph. At the bottom of the hill we rolled into Itra and crossed the finish line. We thought we had won the stage for our category, but it turns out another team had crossed ahead of us. Still, after the struggles of the week to finish second place on the stage felt pretty good.  Cold beer and a shower we were feeling mighty fine. All of the disappointment at not performing as well as I had wanted was replaced with a sense of accomplishment at having finished one of the hardest MTB races in the world with suboptimal preparation.  Matt too was feeling good at having beaten some of our fellow competitors on the final day.

post Stage 4

The bird over my shoulder was a biter..

ride home

Our ride back to Guatemala City. Thanks Mindy!

Finally, here’s a Central American site’s video of the race. Matt and I show up a couple of times:

RACE Video

So looking back, I would have changed a couple of things.

  1. FIRST and foremost, I would definitely run a 28T OVAL chainring for this race (not a 30T as I did). I had done all of my training spinning climbs at around 75-90 rpm.  Pushing too hard a gear at 50 rpm killed my legs. This one aspect cost me more time in the race than imaginable. Cramping 20Km into an 86Km stage on day 2 was devastating. The only saving grace was the ovality of the ring. Had it been round, I’m convinced my knee would have given out and cramping would have been even worse.  Regardless, every other rider I met running 1X was riding a 28T, and most were on dual ring rigs like Matt’s.  I would really suggest this set up for el Reto, as the weight gain of a dual ring setup is wildly trumped by having extra gears to spin up steep climbs. I’m usually a bit stronger than Matt on hills, but in this race he was waiting for me.  Live and learn.
  2. Circumstances of getting equipment ready quickly for this race meant I didn’t have enough time to test gear. Case in point was my shoe/pedal interface. I needed to trim tread from my shoes to accommodate the platform of the Candy pedals. I had used EggBeaters up until just recently and this would not have been a problem with them. This is no fault for shoes or pedals which both performed extremely well in these conditions, rather it was my fault for not knowing my equipment and modifying it to my needs. Clipping in on a rough descent was too difficult and cost me a lot of time on Stage 1 and Stage 4. I have since done this and the interface is MUCH better
  3. Nutrition. While I still like the First Endurance OptygenHP and Ultragen, the EFS has got to go.  The steady energy of Hammer Perpetuem and electrolyte replenishment of HEED was the way to go.  A shame I found this out only after cramping on Stage 2.  That said, I also didn’t drink frequently enough to combat the altitude and was not diligent about taking salt supplements and gels every hour until after day 2.  I definitely need to get better at this. I learned a hard lesson about racing long course.
  4. Training. Well, not much you can do when you have snow on the ground and no hills close by more than 10% grade (and those for only a mile or less).  Not to mention only having 2 rides on a new bike prior to a big race. Lack of training was compounded by injuring my knee doing climbing muscle tension intervals on the trainer.  I guess the only fix is to move out of PA.

All that aside, it was a phenomenal experience. The mental challenge grew me and I learned more about MTB in 4 days than I have in the last 2 years riding in PA.  It made me better, stronger, faster. So many people asked me if I would be back; I told them to ask me in 6 months:-) Much love to the sponsors who helped make it happen.

PS. My spirit animal is a Spider Monkey.

Thanks for reading.

 

2016: Time For New Gear!

The first race of the season is fast approaching. From March 3-6 I’ll be racing in Central America at el Reto del Quetzal. This is a 4 stage MTB race through the mountains of Guatemala.  I’ll be racing as part of a 2 man team with my buddy, Matt Vahey, who’s in-laws live in Guatemala.  I’ve been busy with preparation for the race. Acquiring the right gear and lining up sponsors for the 2016 season. Then there’s the training…

Its been a challenging off-season for training. Aside from the weather (post November), which has precluded the opportunity to ride off road, I’ve had a few injuries that took me out of commission.  I broke a rib in December on a training ride (see The Accidental Cyclist for more about that). Then, in an effort to do some catch up training for Guatemala, I somehow managed to really trash my knee. Mostly, this came from doing long, hard workouts on a stationary trainer, because outside was not an option.  So, in light of any cool photos of me riding or doing any thing interesting, let’s talk about NEW GEAR!

For 2016, I’ve had the good fortune to begin working with several new individual sponsors. I’ll provide full gear reviews as I start to use new gear this year, but I wanted to highlight what I’ll be riding in Guatemala.   I’ve signed on with BikeLine Newark to do some MTB racing in addition to my Xterra events. I’ve now gotten past the point of being a roadie on a MTB, so I can justify getting some off road racing in. The bike I will be riding in 2016 is a Scott Spark 900 RC. It’s a full suspension rocket ship. At just a hair over 22lbs it’s almost as light as my Cannondale hardtail Flash 29er. Early rides on this bike have left me with a huge grin.  The geometry is “racier” than my Flash, with a lower front end and tighter geometry.  The suspension is amazing, and a remote lets me fully lockout front and back, or do a partial lockout that gives me more traction on climbs without bounce.  I can’t wait to race this sucker, as I’ve been erasing PRs on the trails, even in less than ideal conditions (like below). I’ve got two rides on the bike so far…That’s enough to break it in for a 4 day stage race in foreign territory, right?IMG_1069

I’ll also be working with #CrankBrothers this year.  I’ve been riding CrankBrothers pedals for a long time now. After the XTERRA World Champs in Hawaii, where my Candy 3’s performed flawlessly, I decided to inquire about sponsorship.  Now I’ll be using various gear from CrankBrothers in Guatemala, including the new Candy 11 titanium pedals; look for reviews coming up.

This hat: coming to a podium near you.cb gear

 

The first stage in el Reto is a Time Trial at night. My previous experience racing at night was at last year’s Leesburg Baker’s Dozen where I tore through the trees with a 300 lumen Light&Motion light strapped to my helmet. I nearly died.  Thanks to #LupineNorthAmerica, I’ll be blazing a trail in Guatemala with 5x that. Yep, 1500 lumens care of my new Lupine Pico light. It’s a tiny powerhouse and comes with some cool features like a Bluetooth remote, Bluetooth connectivity to my iPhone, and power indicators on the battery.

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Here I’m riding behind Matt and you can see that the Pico is bathing the woods in light.

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Last, but not in any way least, is a new sponsor for lids and shades. SH+ is a company I had never heard of before Interbike 2014, where I met the North American distributer.  SH+ is made by an Italian manufacturer that has long made helmets for other companies until deciding to launch their own brand. These helmets are in a word…Awesome. I now have two models, the Shabli (with a removable helmet cover) and the Shot.  I’ve ridden with the Shabli (pictured in the top picture on the saddle of my bike) and it’s the most comfortable helmet I’ve ever used. Given our weather currently, that helmet cover really comes in handy.  I’m looking forward to riding with the Shot and I’ll likely use that lid in Guatemala.  Once I have some time under these lids, I’ll post a better review.  I’ll also be wearing SH+ sunglasses, but at press time these are not in hand.  More to come.

NEWS FLASH! after press time another sponsor came through in the clutch.  absoluteBLACK is the maker of the best oval MTB chainrings around. Check them out at www.absoluteblack.cc.   I’m now a brand ambassador for @absoluteBLACK and will be riding their oval chainrings in Guatemala.  I used a round absoluteBLACK chainring on my Cannondale 29er for the 2015 XTERRA World Champs and I can’t wait to try the oval rings.

Well, that about covers it for new gear.  I’m off to Guatemala in a week and a half for the trial by fire. I mean literally, a TRIAL BY FIRE; Santiaguito, one of Guatemala’s active volcanoes, is currently blasting “huge explosions”, forcing race organizers to reroute. This could get interesting…

Santiaguito on a quiet day.

Santiaguito

Santiaguito erupting in January.  Hmm, may want to steer clear.ob_36afa3_2016-02-07-santiaguito-2-elquetzalte

More erupting Santiaguito photos, just cause they’re cool.

Santiaboom1

 

boom

Thanks for reading. Now get outside and play!

 

The Accidental Cyclist

Some crazy weather we’re having, right?  It’s made for some mad “off-season” rides where everyone is jockeying for position, moving off the front and eyeing STRAVA segments, in December. That’s not supposed to happen. Seriously. Now, I know everyone has seen recent posts like this one:

The Myth of Winter Base Training For Cyclists

…and everyone is questioning the need for easy base miles in the “off season”.  Should I go hard? Should I take time off? Should I take time off then go hard?  It gets really confusing. All that aside, I typically enjoy the no stress rides associated with easy base miles in December. It’s usually cold, nobody wants to go fast and sweat. You actually get to take in some scenery in beautiful Chester County, PA without blood dripping from your eyes to blur your vision.

IMG_0860Mmm, pretty.

So imagine my surprise when I show up to the first cold ride of the year (last week it was 60 on Saturday, yesterday it was sub-freezing) looking for some easy base miles.  Everyone showed up bundled up and I figured, “Finally, a chance to relax and enjoy”.  It was not to be.  Now, I’m as much to blame as the next guy. Push my wheel on a hill and 9 times out of 10 I’ll respond. Can’t help it. But this ride was peppy from the get go. And then it happened…

Riding hard in a 15mph cross wind with two other guys (off the front of the group), we were stacked up against the wind.  Someone swerved to miss some gravel in the road and clipped my front wheel. Would have been a non-issue, but our bikes got hung up and I guess it pulled him farther over. My wheel went from I to  and I went over the bars. It’s hard to describe how hard I hit the pavement, but it went a little something like this…

JerichoFrankensteiner

 

I bounced off the pavement and into a ditch. Damage assessment:

broken rib (at least 1)   bruised hip   bruised lower back

All that aside, the bike was completely unscathed save for a small tear on the saddle.  So, there’s that.  Also, no damage to clothing or helmet. I’m not really sure how that happened except that I hit and bounced instead of sliding.  I lay no blame on anyone for the accident.  It just happened. Wrong place, wrong moment in time. That said, after the accident, I tried to keep my trap shut so I wouldn’t say something stupid in the moment. It was hard, I wanted to lash out. I wasn’t super nice, but I kept my shit together. Pretty happy with that.

IMG_0859The extent of the bike damage.

Anyway, I still had to get home and it was about a 20 mile ride back. Gravy escorted me most of the way, and I thank him much for that as it was slow going. He also repaired a tire that had come unmounted due to the crash. I couldn’t have managed that in my state.  Yeah, Jeff’s a good friend. The rest of the ride was in solitude and it gave me some time to reflect.  Why do I do this? Why do I injure myself so often?  How does one break ribs on either side of the body in two separate accidents in the same year and keep going (I suppose I should go back and write up a report for XTERRA East Championship)?

18ky5ljl24b6ljpgThe author discussing riding styles after the Xterra East Championship

After much reflection, I don’t really have any answers.  Self reflection in my case is pretty useless, I guess.  I’ll ride, run, swim and whatever else despite repetitive injury. My former primary care physician once told me the best thing that I could do for my health was to stop exercising so hard and so frequently. Huh? [FYI-this is why she is my former physician].  It’s just how I’m wired. I inherited a propensity for self destruction coupled with a high pain threshold from my dad. I got the good and the bad, the Yin and the Yang, the peas and the carrots.

What I do know is that when you fall, you get back up. Period. Just ask Nicholi Rogatkin.

Rogatkin Crash

I spent a restless afternoon in bed. Then later medicated myself with some sweet Guatemalan Rum at my buddy Matty V’s holiday cocktail party. Thanks Matt, better than Oxy!

Onward!  I have a week in the U.K. visiting Rebecca’s family to recover. They have a fridge stocked full of vitamins and minerals to help with my healing process, and I’m a quick healer. Have a Happy Christmas and thanks for reading.

Oh, and take it easy on your next ride.

Vitamin water

 

The Duality of “Off Season”

Life of a competitive athlete goes something like this (at least for me)…

  1. Race from ~March until September (longer if you race cyclocross or have a key late season event #XterraMaui anyone?)
  2. Take some time off to reconnect with family and enjoy some “non-training” activities (maybe 2 weeks or so).
  3. Engage in some non-specific training through December: “activity when I feel like it”. Also begin planning for next year
  4. Incorporate some structure at the start of the year
  5. March–> start racing

Sound familiar? The time from my last race to the start of structured training is always a mixed bag for me. In any given race season, I really look forward to the feeling of just being able to chill and have no stress about training that comes with “off-season”.  But after 2 weeks or so, I start to go a little batty.  Part of the issue is the cooler temps, earlier sunsets and work/life commitments of the fall/winter that invade my free time.  I tend to get a little seasonal depressive disorder.  But also, I have trouble just relaxing and not working out regularly.

I guess it’s fitting that the month of January is named after the Roman deity, Janus. Looking both to the future and to the past.

janus1

This time of year, I have trouble living in the moment and taking advantage of a lack of training to take part in activities that don’t involve my Garmin.

That said, I’m getting better at it.  I was able to take a trip with the family down to Raleigh, NC to visit my folks for Thanksgiving. We also celebrated the 50th birthday of a lifelong friend, Troy Hogue.

[Sidebar: Troy and I once took the mother of all road trips. 3 weeks driving and camping from San Antonio to the Grand Canyon and back to Houston. That was the definition of “in the moment”]

Road Trip

On the same Raleigh trip, I was able to catch up with some Maui buddies, Margo and Dan, for a Raleigh MTB ride.

MauiBuddies

[Yes, I have creepy facial hair and I’m in a Captain Morgan pose.]

I’m also learning to be opportunistic about what I do in the off-season. For instance, our hot water heater just died, which sucks. But, now I get up early every morning and go for a swim, so that I can use the [hot] shower at the gym. Yay, #offseason swim block.

So it ain’t all bad. I’m pretty sure I can keep my sanity. Bring on the rain (mud run anyone?). Bring on the snow (I have snowshoes). Bring on the night (OK, night MTB is something I need to work on).  But don’t bring March, at least not just yet.

2015 XTERRA World Championship Maui, HI

The most fun and the most suffering of any race I’ve ever done.

Its the “$&@! Catalina Wine Mixer.”

If you’ve never heard of XTERRA, here is the official Race Highlights video to give you an idea of what it’s about…

Here are the stats from my Garmin via Training Peaks:

Swim: 1768m  (was billed as a 1500m rough water ocean swim, and yes, I swam straight lines): 25:41 Gear: ROKA Swimskin, ROKA F1 goggles

Bike: 19.4 miles: 2:16:20 (elevation gain 3862 ft) Gear: Cannondale Flash 29er, Enve XC Wheels, Absolute Black 32T chainring /SRAM XX1, Maxxis Icon tires, Crank Bros Candy 3 pedals, SpeedSleev flat bag, Lake MX331 shoes (yes, they are the CX specific ones, but they fit great and rock for XTERRA), Enervitene CheerPaks and Endurolytes for nutrition

Run: 6.5 miles: 1:07:09 (elevation gain 1109 ft) Gear: Inov-8 X-Talon 212 shoes, Rudy Project ProFlow sunglasses, some visor, Inov-8 fluid flask

maximum temperature: 97 F

We spent 5 days in Hawaii prior to the race. Sightseeing, playing in the pool and ocean with the kids and generally taking in the beauty of the island did a lot to ease my pre-race tension. Maui is awesome and Rebecca and I contemplated why we live in such a cold and dreary (most of the time) place. Even the Hawaiian flag, a mix of US and UK flag influences, seemed to symbolize our partnership.

waterfallmaui

I also had the opportunity to pre-ride the XTERRA bike course.

image2 copy

I’m not sure if this did more to help me prepare or just add to the stress.  The bike course was a lot harder than I anticipated and I didn’t carry enough food with me.

Rebecca and the Kids also got to do some XTERRA racing at the Duke’s 10K.

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and the kid’s costume race…

jamiefinish Xkids race

If I go back to Maui, I would probably opt for arriving closer to race time. The several days without sleep and hot humid weather took a lot out of me.

Despite that, I felt great the morning of the race. Arose with the sun, had a coffee, a PBJ and a banana. Rechecked my race bag and bike and downed some blueberries. Then I was off to transition. T opened at 7am and I got in around 7:30, spots were numbered so there was no rush. I had a pretty good spot. Set up was quick. I then went for a short run (about 10 min) and a quick bike (about 15min) keeping my HR low.  I donned swim skin and did about 400m in the ocean with Margo as a warm up.

The energy at the start of the XTERRA World Championship is indescribable.  Helicopter flying over head with a nose mounted camera, Hawaiian priest giving blessings on the beach, waves crashing and a huge international crowd of competitors added to the excitement.  They must have had an issue with the cannon as they started us with an airhorn. Pro Men and Women went first and all men started 5 min after. It was a melee.  Rebecca took some video

and here’s a screenshot. I’m the one in the green swim cap and black swimskin😉

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 8.15.17 PM

I felt great in the swim (other than getting beaten like a rented mule).  It was an “M” shaped course. Round the first buoy and back to the beach for another surf entry. Both sides of the M were roughly equal this year, about 850m each. I held back so I wouldn’t pop myself and was surprised to see that I emerged from the first half of the swim in the top 50 or so.  Back into the water, I pushed a little more this time and came out in good position.  The long trudge up to T1 worked me and by the time I got to “my” bike I was a bit winded. I started my transition only to realize I was standing in front of A Cannondale Flash, but it wasn’t MY Cannondale Flash. Oops, mistake #1 [Time lost: about 1 minute] I picked up my gear and ran to my bike. dropped my swim gear, quick transition (probably my fastest if you don’t count the whole “wrong bike” scenario) and I was off.

The Bike Course was a climb from GO.  I had pre-ridden the course so I knew not to go too hard from the gate. I metered my effort and respected the “pocket” which was hard as guys were sprinting out of transition past me. I kept thinking “Is this the right strategy?” It was then I realized I had made Mistake #2: In the rush to get to the right bike I forgot to take off my swimskin. DOH! I was riding with my ROKA skin around my waist, and it was cooking my legs; I felt like an idiot.  I climbed the course about 1.5-2 miles and saw a TV golf cart. I asked if I could drop my skin with them and they said “YES!” Tossed the skin, gave them my number and I was off. Much better. [Time Lost: 2 min]

I was climbing strong and passing a lot of the guys who rushed past me out of the gate. I felt really good on the bike and only had to dismount once.  Guys were walking their bikes up one of the steeper climbs and they were 4 abreast making it impossible to pass. After some sharp rooted climbing, the course pops out onto a ridge with sheer drops on either side. It’s kind of the highlight of the ride as you can see forever in all directions. I knew this was coming from the pre-ride, and I surged to the front.   As you can see, I had a huge grin on my face. Did I mention I was having fun (and feeling great at this point)?

2015 XTERRA WC Bike

I turned it on and was making good time until the technical downhill.  About 1/3 of the way down a steep downhill with dropoffs, I saw a female rider in the narrow trail lay her bike down. I wheelied over to avoid her and my front wheel landed behind a root. When I rolled forward the root tore my tubeless tire right off the rim. Mistake #3, I had never changed a tubeless tire to a tube and to do this on a steep, narrow section cost me a lot of time.  Also, with the Lefty fork on my Cannondale, I couldn’t remove the wheel.  [Time lost: 10 minutes..yeah, yeah, I know learn how to change a tire faster] However, the aforementioned female was Wendy Ingraham, former pro triathlete and winner of the Ironman WC in Kona 1997.  She was extremely nice, calmed me down and helped me change my tire. I remounted and rode with anger. Then I realized when I had laid my bike down to avoid crashing, I lost all my Enervitene and salt tabs. I was nutrition free for the remaining 14 miles.  Uh oh.  I dashed down the rest of that technical section and attacked the next two climbs passing lots of riders. I knew I was riding well when I started passing riders that I had been riding with prior to flatting.  I bombed the downhill and passed several riders (which was not easy as the trail was pretty rough). The rest of the bike was pretty uneventful; I knew at this point my hope of a top 20 finish was, well… finished.  I made up a lot of time, but it cost me a lot of energy as it was super hot (max temp on the bike was 97 F). As for equipment, at 20lbs my bike was a pure rocket ship. The Enve wheels with ICON tires were a great choice. My only regret was I used the new Orange sealant to set up the tubeless. I’m back to Stan’s now. No more Orange. I had zero issues with my Crank Brothers Candy pedals and they and my Lake shoes were caked with mud, another solid outing on the Crank Brothers. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better race rig.

Then came the run. What can I say? I was shelled. I was bonking due to lack of nutrition, and I was really, really hot.  I had to ditch my Inov-8 flask at the start as it had been sitting in the sun and the Gatorade was boiling.  Rebecca tossed me a flask when I left transition, but I threw it back not sure what XTERRA’s rules were with respect to outside assistance.  The run started with the same uphill section that the bike used and I was overheated and my legs were like two wet newspapers. The upside, everyone else was suffering as well. I took the same strategy, ease into the run…”respect the pocket”. Sure enough, lots of guys came flying past me. 1.5 miles later I was passing them. I was able to get a GU at an aide station at mile 2, and that helped some (although gels tend to cramp my stomach a bit).  Some runners were staying with me and we leapfrogged the rest of the run. One was a 15 year old competitor from the Netherlands, that I referred to as “Dutch”, along with about 5 or 6 others, some younger some older.  We gave little encouraging shouts each time we passed one another.  The run course was changed from prior years, apparently. I had been told to expect 3 miles of up followed by 3 miles of down. Not so.  There was indeed about 3.5 miles of up, followed by about a mile of down and then the trail turned up again. REALLY up. like a 20% grade. It was a death march.  When that hill topped out, the trail turned gently downward and I started feeling good again, moving with some speed and vaulting trees that crossed the trail. I hit the mangroves and knew I was almost there.  I bounced onto the beach and willed my legs to keep churning until I came up on the finishing chute.  My daughters, Lexi and Jamie, greeted me at the finish and ran across the line with me. Highlight of my athletic life.

2015 XTERRA WC Finish

My run equipment also performed well. No blisters at all despite being soaked through. The X-Talons are my go-to shoe for rough trail and they did not let me down.  The only let down was the fluid flask, not a fault, but an opportunity to learn. Note to self: use a cooler

At the finish, my girls stayed by my side and one of the XTERRA photogs snapped a pic. It made it into the gallery and also into Triathlete Magazines online coverage of the race: A pretty cool outcome.

http://triathlon.competitor.com/2015/11/photos/photos-age-groupers-compete-at-xterra-worlds_125438

XTERRA Triathlete

Photo: Jesse Peters

My second XTERRA experience was a success in that I had a lot of fun and finished the race.  A few mistakes and a bit of bad luck kept me from the result I wanted, but all in all, it was a stellar experience.  As with my first XTERRA, I met some really cool people. Margo Pitts was there and scored a 3rd AG place! Go Margo!!  Margo introduced me to Dan Girouard, also from Raleigh.  Looking forward to catching up with those two at Thanksgiving when I visit my family. I also met “One-armed Willie”  Stewart. He is truly an inspirational dude and a serious competitor on any course. XTERRA is as much about the people as the race, as I’m learning.  It’s a totally different vibe.

willie2

Photo: Stine Sophie Winckel, Xterra Nordic

Thanks for reading. Until next time:

Xterra Nordic Photo

photo: Stine Sophie Winckel, XTERRA Nordic

BLOG 1: #SpecializationisforInsects The birth of WildType Multi-Sport

OK, so I’ve jumped on the blog bandwagon. I’ll use this page to post race reports, support sponsors, review gear and more generally just to archive life.  More importantly, I’ll use it for motivation (for myself and others).  I started racing bikes pretty late in life. I became so focused on that sport that it became pretty consuming. However, I noticed that as I got to be a better cyclist, I got worse at other activities. Running hurt. Swimming hurt. I started having more injuries due to imbalance or bone loss (yes, bone loss). It led me to a new philosophy.  If you focus on one sport you will get good at one sport, but not so much at anything else. And, it gets boring.  So I decided I would branch out. First to triathlon. Then to everything else when I got bored with triathlon. Now I do what I want; cross-training for everything and anything that comes along. XTERRA racing embodies a lot of this philosophy so there’s a bit of a focus there now. But, that ain’t all….

16767_wtflyhead

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein