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Archive for September, 2011

Climb to the Castle… A dogs tale

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Well seeing as I could not make it to Lake Placid for the annual Climb to the Castle event this year and nothing real exciting has happened in my life in the last week or so I going to share a story about this years race up Whiteface Mountain.  Ussually we all look to the stories of the race to see how the top guys played their cards and learn the perspective of how the win transpired to the winner.  Sometimes it is nice to hear a tale of what how the experience plays out for others in the race.  As such I am posting the tale of the Big Dog, a man of many talents, a myth among some circles and a knack for engaging in challenges with people he could not possibly win (as per his own admission) but saavy enough to dominate the Hoff in ping-pong.  That being said he’s a heck of a guy and an engaging tale weaver. 

US Ski Team Coach Zach Caldwell probably best summarized my skiing when he saw me recently saying, “Well Big Dog, you look less terrible.”  This is probably also the best way to describe the day: “less terrible.”  Now, having said that, I felt a lot worse than last year, but I did a lot better.  A lot.

The day was not without its trials and tribulations however.  In stark contrast to last year’s very carefully modulated start and controlled energy output, since I’ve done a half dozen workouts w/ really good skiers, I decided that through the property of osmosis, I must therefore also now be a good skier.  This was quickly proven to be incorrect on the 75% grade up Whiteface.  So while I was “in the hunt” (again, a VERY relative term) for the first mile, thinking “look out world, here comes the new and improved Big Dog.”  In reality, I should have been thinking, “this is a 5 mile race, moron, pace your heavy ass or you will pay for it severely.”  I’m sure you can see where this is going.

So while I was part of the “conversation” briefly, like many conversations I seem to have these days, the other participants quickly decided they preferred to have it without me.  And they did.  Right about mile 1, the bear came out of the woods and got me and I watch the race slowly roll up the road while I quickly pondered faking my own death, throwing myself over the side of the wall and a variety of other tactics all of which I finally decided would only make matters worse.  With seemingly few remaining options, I elected to sack up, soldier on and hope for some type of lightening strike, direct meteor hit or spontaneous combustion.  No such luck though, as I was forced to ski the whole damn thing.

Contrary to popular belief, however, I do possess a modicum of fitness and enough race experience to know not only when I’m in trouble but also a little bit about how to get out of it.  So I did my best to stop the bleeding, stay ahead of the real bozo group and focus on how much I hate all of you.  That seemed to help too, as slowly but surely I began to feel a bit better, probably about mile 3.  So for those of you keeping score at home, that equates to two VERY miserable, slow, plodding, floppy, sloppy, disgraceful miles filled w/ anger, self-loathing and lots of introspection into how my life has gone so horribly wrong.

In stark contrast to last year, where it was absurdly easy to keep track of the dreaded DFL (I had solid visual contact on this spot for a disturbingly long time last year), this year I was skiing in a slightly less pathetic pack which made it a little bit more difficult to assess my relative position and status.  Once I started to get in trouble, I was concerned that I may have been taking tickets, though I wasn’t sure.  I didn’t think I was, but again, I was focused on holding onto wheels, not on what was happening behind me, so once I lost the last week of the last member of the Bad News Bears sequel, Spring Training, it was anyone’s guess how many, if any, playas were behind me.  I had a notion that things were going better once I A.) started to ski better (turns out that is important in ski racing) and B.) Started to feel better (turns out this is also quite important), and I actually started passing some of the girls (that didn’t happen last year at all).

In the end, I was 14 mins faster than last year.  I’m no ski coach and I’m barely a ski racer, but I think that’s good.  Since last year I managed to only narrowly avert disaster and squeak out a win over one cardiac-impaired participant, this year’s goal was to beat two people – I did that and more: A lot more, beating somewhere like 5 dudes and lots of women.  I think I technically beat a few of them last year, but they start ten minutes ahead and I have too much dignity to comb the results vainly searching for victories over 15 year old girls.  This year I was mowing them down on course, even with their Tompkins-irritating 10 min lead.  Plus, as the Captain likes to say, “A kill is a kill.”  I suppose the BD version is, “A pass is a pass.”  

I will say though that I feel much, much worse.  I suppose that is a necessary by-product of going faster but still……WTF?  How can I possible still feel this bad?  Holy crap.  Have I mentioned recently that this is an absolutely miserable event?  I must clearly have a deep-seeded psychological problem to repeatedly subject myself to this.  I should really see someone about this.

Recovering/Complaining/Gravity Hating/Buying a Motorcycle Dog


Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

As per Twitter I’ve logged last week as 43228.  The code can be broken down as follows: 4 races in 3 countries on 2 continents in 2 disciplines over 8 days.

 It started saturday August 27th in Oberwiesenthal, Germany with my first Summer Grand Prix Nordic Combined event in a couple years.  A normal gundersen competition with one jump on the k-90 followed by a 10km pursuit.  I finished a lackluster 30th after blowing up mid-race trying to keep up with Taylor Fletcher but the day was highlighted by older brother Bryan’s 8th place and near podium.  Also we had a youngster Eric Lynch a second generation Nordic Combined talent ski in his first A level competition in which he really held his own with a solid performance.  

Day 2 was Sunday another competition in the same venue but instead of a pursuit race we did the first ever Nordic Combined “Penalty” race.  in this format the winner of the jumping got a 10 sec head start on the field and the other 70 of us mass started for 6 laps around the 1.75km cobble stoned hilly nightmare around downtown.  The kicker is that depending on how you jumped you had to do a certain number of Penalty laps during the race as such: jump 101 or farther: 0 penalties  

jump 96-101: 1 penalty

jump 91-96: 2 penalty

and so on up to 6 laps!  Oh, and if you fail to have a telemark landing add one penalty or worse crash, add 3!

The penalty was a lap around the inside of an outdoor hocket rink off to the side of the course just past the cobbled section and you could choose when to do your laps 1 at a time or all at once on any lap.  

I wanted to hate this race when I heard about it but honestly it was pretty interesting and the tactic of when to take the penalties added alot to the race.  I had 1 penalty and I chose the 3rd lap to do it, I went from leading to 5th about 25 sec back.  After a couple more guys took their penalties I was in 3rd and there I stayed danging 25-30 sec behind the leading duo and pulling away from the field slowly.  Ultimately I finished on the podium my first since 2010.  

It was off to Czech Republic from there to play 18 holes of golf (walking with my clubs on my back) in a little NC get together on monday followed by another competition in Liberec on Wednesday where I skied a strong race but finished in 24th.  All in all it was some solid contact with the other teams and decent results in a very strong field.  After the race I beat for the Prague Airport to try and make it home in time for race #4.

Thursdays travel was long but I made it home by mid-afternoon after catching the Paris-Salt Lake direct.  And Friday I was back on my bike for the 2nd time since Leadville to preride the opening 10 miles of Park City’s infamous Point 2 Point race.  Brutal! Those opening 10 were mostly hard single track and I hoped that later in the race it might ease up….

Saturday morning I walked outside at 5:45am after a mostly sleepless night (indigestion, baby up, etc…) to find that my windshield was iced over and it was pitch dark.  I rallied with my buddy Bryson Perry to get everything ready and out the door to get to the start line.  We were lucky that we could park at the US Ski Team training center by the start because most of the field had to ride out in the dark from town!  And seeing as it was 36 degrees at 6:30am it was not that nice to be sitting around in spandex.  We lined up at 6:55 and race director Jay Burke informed us that the race would commence after 100m of neutral around a gate.  With that said it was on and though I tried to move up the strong group of frontrunners quickly had the race going full gas onto the single mile of 2-track. After hitting the single track of rusty shovel in about 30th I knew my chances of winning were about done which I quickly became pretty happy about.

PCP2P, if you haven’t heard of it, is about as pure a mountain bike race as you’d (n)ever want to do.  Among it’s 78 or so miles is about 76 miles of singletrack and 14,000 ft of climbing (and gnar-kill descending).  It will beat you up, make you cry, and when it turns uphill once more 3 miles from the finish line will make you murderously unhappy at the volunteers pointing you up and away from the finish line.  

It requires the utmost fitness and focus and ton of food and drink.  Without getting overly detailed into my own personal religious experience I’ll tell you this:  I consumed a camelback of water, 4 bottle of sports drink, 4 bottles of water, 2 cokes, 3 probars, a sandwich, a HoneyStinger Waffle, multiple handfuls of Stinger chews, 20+salt pills and a 7-11 Hotdog with ketchup.  All of which and especially the hot dog I aquired from my good friend Jeremy Teela, who I anxiously await feeding in next years PCP2P.  I rode for 8 hours and 17 minutes rarely stopping except to eat/drink and stave off cramps.  And I felt GOOD most of the time!  Good being a relative term, but since I did not chase down the likes of Alex Grant and Tinker Juarez I settled into my own pace thereby eliminating a lot of pain.  In short I thought people were crazy when they called the Leadville 100 a “road race,” but now I’m definetly gonna say “Leadville is a (really hard) total road race!”

Needless to say I took 3 days completely off and just now am considering getting off the couch to try and start putting the pieces back together for next winter!