Hand-made bike show in Richmond!

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I have trouble believing it, but Urban Velo is reporting that the North American Handmade Bicycle Show will be in Richmond next year in late February.

Virginia isn’t exactly a hotbed of frame building. Previous shows have been in California, Portland and Indianapolis, all of which have much bigger custom scenes. I seek out the coverage every year and drool on my keyboard over the bikes offered by Vanilla, IF, Cicli Polito, Black Sheep and many others. It’s bike porn of the highest artistry. (That’s this year’s best in show above – an old-style grass track racer from Cycli Polito.)

Our own Jimmy Miller made the trip to Indianapolis this year to spread some of his Speedy’s hot sauce love. If Urban Velo is to be believed, the trip will be much shorter this year. And I’ll be making it. I may not be able to afford a custom bike, but that can’t stop a boy from dreaming.

Wednesday update: Richmond show confirmed by Velonews!

May is for mountain bikes

May is for mountain bike racing.

There’s a race every weekend this month. I missed Middle Mountain Momma due to soccer commitments with the girls, but I could hit one a week for the next four weeks.

May 9: RunRideRace’s Camp Hilbert #2

May 16: SportsBackers Urban Assault

May 23: Devil’s Backbone Challenge

May 31: The Shootout at Angler’s Ridge

Camp Hilbert, west of Richmond, is a longtime favorite race venue where the only three wins of my short mountain bike career came as a sport vet. The course is forgiving enough that I can make up for my technical shortcomings.

The Urban Assault takes place on the James River trail system in downtown Richmond. This remarkable assembly of technical trails in the heart of the city hosts the annual Xterra eastern championship and was the scene of the duathlon national championship meltdown two weeks ago.

If I can make it, Devil’s Backbone should seriously test me since it’s at Wintergreen and will no doubt feature a monster climb. Looking forward to beers at the brewery after the race too. Liz describes the course (with a few photos) on her blog.

The Shootout near Danville though sounds the most intimidating. The expert class will do 34 miles with about 3,000 feet of climbing – about half an Ironcross, but mostly single-track, no roads. Ouch. It’s cool though because it will draw a lot of racers from North Carolina as well as Virginia.

Should be a great May playing in the dirt.

The hottest race

Saturday’s National Duathlon Off-Road Championship race in Richmond turned into a sufferfest of survival thanks to 95 degree heat, the first day over 90 this spring.

Yes, I’ve raced in hotter weather, but typically my body has had more time to acclimate. Many people suffered Saturday in the heat, including a couple of the strongest athletes I know.

The race started at 10:30am, but it seemed as if the midday heat had already set in. I started the run at what I thought was a moderate pace, but slowed about a mile into it. On any other day, this might have been a pleasant run: Down the hill under the Lee Bridge, across the suspended pedestrian bridge, around Belle Isle, up onto the isle’s plateau and back. But we had to do it twice. About two miles in my mouth went dry and I almost choked trying to clear the cotton. At the water stop, I downed a Gatorade and pushed on. As I crossed the suspension bridge, the lead runners came back at me. This was going to be a long day.

I struggled through the second loop and was so happy to get to my bike. I rode across the Lee Bridge, getting my cycling legs under me and then hammered along the fire road with Tom Gillespie, making up ground on faster runners. Once we transitioned to the single track of the Buttermilk trail, I started to feel really good. I passed Tom on a climb leading into Forest Hill Park and chased down others. Soon I saw the East Coast jersey of Rob Dinterman, who’d won the FORD race two weeks ago, ahead of me. As I passed he said the heat killed him and he was going to DNF. I rolled on. Back on Buttermilk I tried to ride through a small rock garden at speed, but miscalculated and went right over the bars. Fortunately I landed well.

Back on the fire road again, I saw Mark Russell‘s IF jersey ahead of me. I caught him soon after we transitioned back to Buttermilk. Not long after going by Mark I felt my handling start to get shoddy. I was getting tired and I soon paid for my effort on the bike, clipping a rock with my handlebars and going down again. I got rolling again quickly, but rode a little more conservatively. When I got to Boulevard Bridge I was really gassed. I hit my last gel – this one borrowed from Scott Ramsey (thanks) – and kept pushing but I was really pedaling squares once I hit the North Trail. Tom G. caught and passed me at the ramp and big climb. I couldn’t follow.

I recovered a little – the gel kicking in – when the trail flattened out for the last mile or so back to transition. I pushed it, but was suffering. Back in transition, I took two more Endurolyte caplets and grabbed my spare bottle to run with. And started walking. Yes, walking. My legs wouldn’t give me anything else. At the water stop outside transition I downed two cups of Gatorade. I soon started shuffle running – down the hill, across the bridge. Back on Belle Isle, I started to cramp in my stomach (too much Gatorade?) and had to walk a bit along the riverside trail past the hordes of kids out playing and partying. I must have been a sight – a bare-chested, red-faced dazed man shuffling along in bike shorts. I walked (with purpose) up to the hilltop, then shuffled along the plateau as best I could. By this point I realized I shouldn’t have carried the water bottle; it was just dead weight and I couldn’t drink a sip with the cramp.

I plodded along, down the hill, around the back of the island and back over the bridge. I even caught and passed a couple of people with my shuffle. But I died again on the hill climb up to the finish. One of the guys I passed came back by me. As I crossed the finish line, I took a stagger step that had the people waiting for us lurching toward me, but I recovered my balance and was draped in a cold wash cloth. Ahhhhh.

I finished what was one of the hardest races for me ever. It was a real mental fight to keep going. And I was really impressed by some of the resilience I saw out there. A redhead from the VaTech Triathlon club came into transition as I was picking up my bike. She was completely disoriented and bleeding from a large gash on her knee. She spent about ten minutes pulling herself together and getting some medical attention and fluids. But she got up and insisted on finishing with two of her teammates following along at the urging of the EMT.

My time and placing are nothing to brag about. I finished 35th out of 90 or so starters, 33rd among the men and 9th in my obscenely deep age group. The first 10k run took me 58:38, which is the slowest I’d ever run over such a distance. The 26K mountain bike took me 1:27:48 for an average speed of 11mph – not bad, but not great. If I thought I was slow on the first run, the second was much worse. It took me 42:02 to shuffle the final 5K, twice as long as that distance usually takes me. With transitions, my final time was 3:13:02. Thanks to Jimmy and Karen, who won her age group in the sport race(!), for the encouraging words and just being there after the race.

I’ve decided duathlons are just plain hard and I’m glad I don’t have another running event coming up for a while. I’m still fried and my whole body is sore more than a day after the race ended.

I did get up early this AM to attend to Dan Hersh Memorial Ride for the bicyclist struck from behind and killed by a driver last Sunday on Shore Drive. (Story from the Pilot) Wes Cheney organized the placement of two ghost bikes, one for Hersh and another for a cyclist killed on North Witchduck last year. Hersh’s sons locked the bike to a telephone poll in an emotional moment that choked me up. What happened to Mr. Hersh could happen to any of us out on the road. Be safe out there.

Two races and spring break

I’m not doing very well with this blog recently. Is it Facebook? I like the immediacy of the social network, but miss the narratives of the blogs.

The past two weeks were busy what with races each weekend and the girls out of school on spring break.

The racing started April 11 at the Fredericksburg Off-Road Duathlon, put on by FredEvents, featuring a 3-mile run, 12-mile bike and 2.5-mile run. It stormed overnight and the day dawned cool and moist, but the rain held off until the race started. Just as we lined up, a wave of wind swept across the Rappahanock River, the temperature dropped 10 degrees and big fat drops of rain started to fall.

A hundred or so of us ran down the path and into the woods. I felt good on the run despite the muddy up-and-down trails, arriving at the transition to the mountain bike 3 or so minutes behind the leaders. I quickly passed a few runners who weren’t skilled bikers, but found myself likewise being passed. The tires I was running found little purchase on the slick singletrack. Still the course was kind of cool, twisting around and even through a long, dark tunnel under I-95. Whoever built these trails was a little too log happy – there were far too many log crossings to build decent momentum – and they’re not much fun wet.

The race sorted itself out on the bike. Several minutes into my run I saw Rob Dinterman heading back to the finish, the winner by some distance. Again I felt good running (better even than biking) the muddy trails. I saw no one in front or behind me on the run and finished strong in 1:57.19 – 18 minutes behind Rob and 14.5 minutes behind Mark Russell, who finished a strong 6th. My time put me in 15th overall and 5th in the 40-49 age group.

After driving to Fredericksburg and back Saturday, I drove to DC on Sunday with the family. We walked around the Capitol, then went to the American Indian Museum where we saw a cool film in the round, great displays and a fabulous art exhibit of works by Fritz Scholder. We drove out to my brother Mark’s in Fairfax. He and his wife Michele kindly put us up and fed us dinner both Sunday and Monday nights.

On Monday, Mark and Sebastian, my nephew and godson, joined us as we rode the Metro into the National Zoo. For some reason (spring perhaps), the animals were very active, especially the male panda Tian Tian, who is in rut. He paced his large enclosure and even pounded a paw against a window where Millie and I stood. We also saw orangutans on the high-wire and the gorillas being fed, during which the dominant male bullied the others for carrots. After an exhausting morning at the zoo, we headed to the National Mall for more walking, visiting the base of the Washington Monument, the World War II memorial, the Vietnam Wall and the Lincoln Memorial.

We spent the next day at the Museum of Natural History. It was packed, which made it hard for me to enjoy, but the girls had a great time. We drove home that night, stopping at Ikea to eat dinner and load in some Swedish meatballs.

Back home we enjoyed a couple of lowkey days. On Friday, we went to First Landing State Park. The girls hiked while I ran. We enjoyed a picnic and then drove to the Boardwalk where we rode bikes then played on the beach. We ended the day with some awesome frozen yogurt from new Tripower sponsor Skinny Dip at Hilltop. At one point one the girls called it the “best day ever.”

After a morning ride and run and Ellie’s afternoon soccer game, we drove to Williamsburg and the in-laws weekend timeshare. A big dinner and the hot tub primed me for Sunday’s race at Poor Farm.

I really didn’t know what to expect as I lined up in the 11-man expert vet field at noon. I’ve never had much luck (or is it form?) at Poor Farm. It also was very warm and we faced four of the 7-mile laps for a long race. After several days in a row of hard training, I could just as easily wind up last in this field. I started conservatively as Crazy, Kevin and others contested the hole shot. I soon passed a few riders and was chasing Kevin, who said he wasn’t feeling well and pulled the plug after the first lap.

I, on the other hand,  felt amazing with a good spin in my pedal strokes. The twisty, technical, up-and-down course seemed easier than I remembered. I chased Jerry throughout the second lap, passing him toward the end, then almost crashing us both on a log crossing. He came around me to start the third lap, but I soon left him behind for good. I asked him for his skills; he asked me for my legs. No trade.

I saw few others until the 4th lap when I started pulling back the slow sport racers on their third laps and some fading pro/expert racers also on their 4th laps. I finished in 2:34.15 in a surprising – to me – 5th place. I was 12 minutes – 3 minutes a lap! – behind Crazy and Rob Suydam who finished 1, 2 in a sprint up the final climb. Still I was very pleased. Overall I had the 11th fasted time among those who raced four laps. It was perhaps one of my best mountain bike races ever. Even though the course was fairly long, I really liked the way Mark of RunRideRace laid it out. There was a great mix of big-ring flats, short steep climbs and rolling twisty singletrack. Maybe Poor Farm isn’t so bad after all or maybe I’m just getting better.

Next up: the Off-Road National Duathlon Championship race in Richmond on Saturday.

Virginia Doo

I had high hopes heading into the Virginia Duathlon at Chippokes Plantation in Surry County last Sunday. I was running well and had borrowed a time trial bike and felt pretty comfortable on it.

Then Wednesday night before the race, some nasty GI bug crawled up inside me. I stayed home Thursday. Feeling somewhat better, I went to work Friday and got stuck for 12 hours. Saturday I felt like crud again. But Sunday dawned a new day and I remained optimistic as I drove the 50 minutes west to the plantation, a gorgeous state park nestled up against the James River.

I arrived early and my prep seemed fine. I started the race well, running the first mile in about 6:40, a little faster than I wanted, but not unsual for me in  adrenaline-fueled mass starts. About midway through the 5K, I started cramping, something like a side-stitch only lower. I slowed significantly and finished in about 22 minutes, a minute slower than I wanted.

I jumped on the TT bike, gasping for breath, and immediately started passing faster runners, but slower riders. For the first half of the 22.5-mile bike, we fought against a tough headwind, but I felt OK and was passing others. Making the turn into the tailwind, I brought the speed up and started hammering along, but every time I pushed even faster that cramp clawed into my side. I also discovered that I had the bike saddle a bit too far forward and was favoring one side. I fought through it and finished the bike in just under 1:03 about three minutes slower than I’d hoped.

The transition to the second run was excruciating. Between the side stitch and riding to one side of the saddle, my left hip locked up. I shuffled out of transition to the road, then stopped to stretch for a minute. When I started jogging again, guys I’d just passed on the bike came by me one by one. The run was brutally painful. The cramp took up permanent residence as I ran/walked uphill and trudged along the river. The run took me nearly 27 minutes, my slowest 5K ever, I think.

I’d really hoped to finish in about 1:45, but instead crossed the line in 1:54:43. I don’t know if I could have achieved my goal, but I’d sure like to have raced healthy. The difference between my goal and my results were gaping in the 40-44 age group. A 1:45 would have put me close to first, but the best I could do was 8th. Tough crowd. That night I felt really sick again, so the bug was still hanging around. It really was about two days ago that I started feeling better.

Kale Running did another fabulous job with the VaDu even if I felt like doo. Tripower teammate MikeP almost hunted me down and other friends did fabulously as Karen took second in women’s masters and RobD and Melissa teamed to take the mixed relay. And the very pretty location would make a fine cyclocross venue if the state didn’t mind us mucking up some of the grass fields out there.

Smackdown

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The VB Wheelmen organized another great race at Sleepy Hole park in Suffolk on Sunday. I raced Cat 4 in the morning. This course makes me pretty nervous because the paved track is quite narrow with two hard turns that can put you in the dirt and a bend in the finishing straight. But only 32 guys preregistered, so it was more manageable.

The race, as they all do, started fast with one knucklehead trying to attack from word go. That lasted a half lap. Eventually everybody settled in. I went with one attacking threesome, which lasted a lap. Then I blocked for an attack that included Jerry. All of my Tripower teammates in the race – Jerry, Chad, Art and Mike – took digs off the front at various points during the race.

I countered after one big breakaway attempt and got off the front solo as the team blocked for me. The pic above from Mike C. (more pics here) shows me in the first turn as the group rolls through the start/finish. My lead grew to about 20 seconds at most with me in the second turn as they crossed the finish line. I sustained 25mph for a while, but had really hoped somebody would come across and work with me. I stayed away for 5 or 6 laps, I think, but my speed started dropping and the group lost patience with my mates blocking.

Back in the pack, I focused on recovering and staying in good position and safe as the lunatics risked life and limb for the burrito premes. The pace picked up with four laps to go. Somehow a VCU rider went down solo on the back stretch, his popping tire sounding like a gunshot. During the second to last lap, a guy rolled a little off the front. It was a moment too long before I realized his teammate was blocking at the front and suddenly he had 50 meters and was time trialing hard.

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I moved up from about 10th wheel to fifth on the backstretch in the bell lap, then jumped hard out of the third corner in a futile effort to bridge and perhaps lead out Chad. But the rider was too far away and all I succeeded in doing was leading out a Natures Path guy and Devinnish from the Outer Banks (aren’t you ready to upgrade yet?). Chad finished right behind, so I nipped 4th, just out of the money.

TriPower had a decent day. Carhart got 6th in his race – 3rd in the field sprint, as did Kevin in Cat 3. Hosang and Greco were 9 and 10 in the 1/2/3 race. Sally and Brenna went 5th and 6th in the women’s 1/2/3 and Lynn 4th in the women’s 4 race, which Chad’s wife Dawn finished as her first crit.

It was a gorgeous day out at the park and we enjoyed a beverage (thanks Art) after the race as we watched others turn circles. Millie accompanied me and had a wonderful time running around the infield with other kids there. She tells me she’s going to be a racer too some day.

She’s tough all right

Jumping for a header in front of the opposing goal during the first half on Sunday afternoon, Ellie just missed the shot and tumbled to the ground. A few minutes later she was waving to come off the field. She ran off in tears. Someone had stepped on her hand after she landed on the ground. You could see the cleat marks and she said she couldn’t make a fist.

She stayed on the bench for the rest of the half, but said she wanted to go back in at left wing for the second half of her U-12 game. You could tell she was trying to protect the hand, still she played hard. About midway through the second half, she took a ball and beat her defender on the dribble (her ball handling is markedly better). She booted an angled shot into the far right of the goal, giving her team the 2-1 margin it needed to win the game.

A few minutes later, while fighting for the ball, she stumbled and landed on the bad hand. Her scream led the ref to send her to the sideline again. Sunday night, Michele took her to the ER for an X-ray as it started to swell. The ER docs saw no major breaks, but put her in a small removable cast anyway and referred the films to a specialist in case there was something small. The report came back today – nothing broken thankfully. But it is swollen and an ugly bruise is emerging. You can see how swollen it is by her right thumb:

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Unfortunately Ellie missed the first day of her middle school field hockey tryouts. She went yesterday with the cast and the coach sent her home.

Ellie showed up again today, knowing nothing was broken and played through the pain. At the end of tryouts, the coach told her she made the team. That’s my tough girl.