Tag Archives: DeFeet

It’s been a long season.

We’re finally at the end of the season.  It ended last week.

But before I go ahead and stop training and eat a crapton of fatty foods (i.e. poutine) and drinking beer because I’ve been depriving myself of indulging in the taste of the day, there’s next year to think about.  What better way to think about next year but to review the past couple of months.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog, because I’ve been training and racing with my team, Tall Sock Racing.  We’ve had some epic rides and races lately.  We rode the Loon Echo Trek and did a team camp at Rangeley.  I also completed the Cadillac Century for the first time since my first attempt back in 2007.  I completed the metric and didn’t get to go up the mountain due to lack of fitness.  What a stark contrast that was from this year.

Bobby, Todd and myself doing our job to eat goodies.
Bobby, Todd and myself doing our job to eat goodies. (Loon Echo  Trek)
Evan's Notch climb.
Evan’s Notch climb.  (Loon Echo Trek)
Reached Evans Notch on my new bike.
Reached Evans Notch on my new bike. (Loon Echo Trek)
The best goodies of the ride.
The best goodies of the ride.  (Loon Echo Trek)
Majestic Rangeley.
Majestic Rangeley.
Team camp nerding out.
Team camp in Rangeley.
Taking in the view at the top.
Taking in the view at the top.
Yeah. Rangeley.
Yeah. Rangeley.
Obligatory selfie.
Obligatory selfie.
...many, many bikes.
…many, many bikes.
Immaculate view.
Immaculate view.
Bonjour, Monsieur Poulin!
Bonjour, Monsieur Poulin!
Woke up to this the morning of the Cadillac Century.
Woke up to this the morning of the Cadillac Century.
I'm home to roads like this.
I’m home to roads like this.
At the Seawall.
At the Seawall.
Park Loop Road before the climb.
Park Loop Road before the climb.
Rewarded at the top of Cadillac Mountain.
Rewarded at the top of Cadillac Mountain.
After the descent.
After the descent.
This is what you eat after a century - Maine style.
This is what you eat after riding 100 miles – Maine style.

The last two races we completed were the Maine Apple Classic in Vasselboro and just recently, Jamestown Classic in Rhode Island.

Maine Apple Classic

Maine Apple Classic.
The team at the Maine Apple Classic.

One gentleman commented when he saw our team, seven of us hanging out at the registration area, in our matching red kits,

“You guys are like a [professional] tour team.”

Well, that inflated our egos somewhat.  But that only gave others a signal that we’re a tight team.  And it showed in the race.  We were together from the beginning, riding with each other in a tightly-knit formation.  It was an amazing sight to see a sea of red in the peloton.  The course was undulating and a bit short.  I was nearly shelled off the back a couple of times because of the notorious end-of season fatigue but caught back up riding at threshold.  It was two laps on an eleven mile circuit with one major climb each lap.  It was “Purgatory-lite” because the pace was fast and unrelenting (but no souls were depleted), especially on the short, punchy climbs.  I made it a point to stick with Chris and Kent as they were the closest to the front most of the race.  But somewhere along the way, I lost concentration and drifted back a couple of positions.

No points were awarded because it wasn’t a USAC sanctioned event.  However, up for grabs were a bag full of apples and bragging rights.  The finish was a bunch sprint for those who survived.  Chris Poulin just missed the podium finishing fourth.  Do note that beyond the top three places, the results recorded for our team were all wrong.  We probably confused the officials because there were so many of us.

Jamestown Classic

Jamestown Classic on the other hand was a different story.  A few of us headed down a day early for a mini-vacation in Rhode Island and to pre-ride the course.  Needless to say, it was absolutely perfect, until I got a bit of a chill with the gusts of ocean winds on the recce.  Heading down early made a big difference in our demeanor – extremely relaxed and pleasant, cracking jokes left, right and center.  Bobby had these knee-high, striped socks that were comparable to those on the legs of the wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz, after she was crushed by a house.  They were so bright, it would have confused competitors whether or not to sprint.  I need to get myself a pair of truly tall socks like that!

A better look at Bobby's socks and Todd's mug.
A better look at Bobby’s socks and Todd’s mug. (Photo credit: Todd Strehlke)
My socks have nothing on Bobby's.
My DeFeet socks have nothing on Bobby’s.  (Photo credit: Todd Strehlke)

Even eating was a pleasantry not to be missed:

Lunch – salmon sandwich with Parmesan risotto;

Dinner – clam chowder, cod fish tacos, quinoa and kale salad with crushed nuts and ahi tuna;

Breakfast – chocolate chip pancakes, oatmeal with maple syrup and cinnamon, orange juice and espresso for impulse power.

A perfect amount of savoury protein and carbohydrates to fuel the body without overloading the digestive system.

CAT 4 start.
CAT 4 start.

The weather too, was perfect on race day, with a slight breeze of 5 to 10 mph – a big difference from the 25mph gusts on the recce.  Temperatures were hovering around 65F.  It was going to be fast for all categories.

But it wasn’t.  At least not for the CAT4’s.  With the young and old fields combined, the race became a circus and a few riders got wheels tangled immediately in the first few miles, crashing out with a hiss of a blown tire.  We kept speeding up and slowing down and it didn’t help the riders’ nerves.  You could feel the tension pile on.

The turn-around at Beavertail Headlight.
The turn-around at Beavertail Headlight.

Over the course of the race, the middle became the back as several riders were shelled.  I gained a few positions halfway through the last lap, sprinting out of the turn around that we’ve practiced so many times on our Saturday morning rides.  Each element of the course, the climbs and dips, the wind, the turns and the straights felt like it was replicated from our usual club rides.

On the lead up to the sprint, there was a climb.  I had thoughts of winning this race and I could only do so with better positioning.  I tried moving up while others struggled.  They were breathing harder than me so I knew they were suffering a lot more.  I had to navigate through the pack to get to the front, threading several needles.  I went into a bigger gear before the peak of the climb and just powered on, eventually hitting 42.1mph at some point, stomping on 53×12 gearing in aero mode.  I passed a few riders on the descent making up a couple of places, but it wasn’t to be.

I had bought the ticket, but missed the train by a few seconds.  I ended up 13th in my age category – which isn’t bad, but I knew I could have done better.  This race wasn’t nearly as hard as our club rides.  I felt I could have given more.

The final sprint.
The final sprint.

The silver lining was that in the final sprint, I had passed one of my fellow racers, Steve, while trying to keep up with another, Matt, both from the Downeast Racing team.

“Nice job!”

…Steve exclaimed as he slapped my leg, rolling to recover after the sprint.  What a gentleman was he!  Such encouragement!  I told him at one point on our coffee rides that when I beat him in a sprint, I know I’m getting better.  It took me more than a year to do that.  Even among competing cyclists, there’s camaraderie.

And that’s what it’s all about.  Our Tall Sock Racing team finished the CAT5 races with two second places by Chris Poulin and Pete Talbot, and one third by Kent Ryan.

We’re starting to make a name for ourselves.

Eight of us raced that day and it was one of the best showings we had for the year.  We’ve come a long way.  It started with an idea mixed well with passion.  It showed in the team parties we attended, the epic rides, and the training camp at Rangeley.

Next year, for spring training, we’re thinking about heading to Florida for some proper sun and fun.

I can’t wait.

Kent Ryan before receiving his medal for 3rd.
Kent Ryan before receiving his medal for 3rd.
Chris Poulin at the podium for 2nd.
Chris Poulin at the podium for 2nd.
Pete Talbot at the podium for 2nd.
Pete Talbot at the podium for 2nd.

“It’s All Relative.”

It’s all relative.

This was the phrase that my yoga instructor said to me when we were comparing notes on how our lives were going.  She had just finished the chaos of outlining and then facilitating a Yin Yoga teacher training curriculum in addition to her regular classes.  I had to juggle my professional, personal and amateur schedules.  The busy-ness and the amount of energy required to upkeep ourselves, to keep engaged was immense.  It’s part of the reason I haven’t written anything in a while.  I’ve been too busy training, racing and traveling for work.  On top of that, I’m also a single dad, so my son requires my attention about every other week.

Another way to put it is:

“It’s all about perspective.”

Because it is.

Having completed the Purgatory Road Race in Sutton, MA, and it did live up to its name, every ride afterwards seemed much easier.  The course was a power course – fast and unrelenting with no respite because of the even quicker downhill sections sprinkled with bumps and ruts in the pavement.  The climbs were short, punchy and steep, but long enough to discover that you need to lose another few grams of fat.  Hill repeats did its job in preparation for this race.  Just.  Everyone pushed the pace.  It felt like the couple of CompuTrainer sessions I attended earlier in the year, panting like a dog with my tongue out, drool dripping onto the top tube.  The race was soul depleting but fun nonetheless.

As a way to build form and to give back to the community, I participated in the Trek Across Maine – a charity ride to raise funds for lung health.  This was my 8th year riding 180 miles for three days.  Granted, I’m certain I could do it in just one day and not make it into such a big production.  Still, it’s a great cause.

Two out of the three days were sunny and pure bliss.  Little did I know the third day would become an adventure.  Having passed most of the field (of 2000 cyclists) on the first two days, that didn’t change on the third day – except for one thing.  It was a deluge.  Not only did I pass most of the field, it seemed like over half the field abandoned because of the rain.  I saw truck after truck with racks full of bicycles pass me on the road.

“He must be crazy.”

I’m sure the warm passengers thought as they buzzed by me.  But I wasn’t the only one on the road.  Others had toughed it out to finish the ride.  The pros do it (in snow too).  And any cyclist as passionate as myself would do it.  Those who do are badass.  (See Rule #9.) It’s also a matter of being prepared mentally and physically – in terms of the clothing you wear.  As I was riding in the rain, it came down harder until there was a point in time when I suddenly felt my base layer saturated with water.  The arm and leg warmers weren’t enough.  But then again, I doubt any high-end softshell rain gear would’ve protected me from the elements.  I picked up the pace to keep warm and had to skip most of the rest stops.

At one point, I got so cold, I couldn’t feel my fingers.  And I couldn’t shift my gears easily to something easier when I hit the climbs.  I had to use my left hand to shift my right lever down a gear, and sometimes, I couldn’t even accomplish that.  I was stuck on 53×15 and doing stomps when the gradient increased.  I recalled this having happened on some early winter training rides, but not in the summer.

At the end of the jaunt, I was treated for near hypothermia, trying to return color into my face in a heated BMW X5 medic vehicle.  Hot chocolate and the Trek volunteers were more than helpful in getting me sorted out.

Not all goes as planned

Here’s where things went downhill – literally.

See the frame failure at the bottom bracket? The result of 11,000 miles.

Sasha had broken.  The adventures she had taken me through since 2011 have ended.  I named her Sasha because at the time, I considered the frame quite exotic and not everyone knew of BMC.  She was the third of my BMC frames – the first being the impressively engineered, SLT, with its mixed use of aluminum skeletal lugs and carbon. The second being an earlier version of the Team Machine SLR01.  It was near identical to the third.  The bottom bracket shell of my beloved Sasha had given way, sheared off of the frame with only strands of carbon holding it together.  The crankset moved with a click-clak every time I pedaled the downstroke.  At first I thought it was just the bottom bracket bearing needing replacing but a more careful inspection revealed that wasn’t the case.  Taking her to a bike shop confirmed my worst fear – she was irreparable.

My world stopped.  It was cathartic.

This happened several days before I were to race in the Berkshires in Massachusetts at the Tour of Hilltowns.  I was gutted.  My competitive advantage had vanished despite having trained hard for it weeks before in the White Mountains with my Tall Sock Racing teammates.  15.5 pounds of bike was no more.  I was left with riding with my backup – a 1994 TIG welded, Columbus-tubed, steel frame.  The complete bike weighed 20 pounds, and now probably just under that having stripped the BMC of its parts and swapped the carbon wheels and brakepads.  She was called, “Panzer”.  The couple of days of getting acclimated to Panzer wasn’t enough as it was evident on the first 8%+ climb in the race.

That morning before the race, I had also done a few things wrong which affected my performance.  I had mistakenly ate dairy for breakfast, upsetting my stomach.  I also took a shower thinking it would be the only chance to feel like a human that day.  But that made my legs feel heavy.  I tried to counter that with a warm-up, knowing too that the first climb would be brutal without a proper warmup.  But that didn’t help.  On top of that, during the race, I had a mechanical while riding Panzer – her handlebar suddenly twisted after hitting some rough sections of the course.  The quill in the stem wasn’t tight enough.  I had to stop to get it fixed.

Everyone has a bad day. I had a bad week.

A broken Sasha, started my downward spiral.  I was a mess even before the start of the race.  But there was a silver lining (if you can really call it that) I didn’t discover until during the race.

Panzer at a coffee ride.

With her weight advantage on the downhills, Panzer ate up the road.  The uphills didn’t matter (but really, it did) because time would be made up on the downhills.  Because I was diligent in my climbing and descending at slightly higher speeds, I had caught up with a small group of mixed categories (but not before being passed by the leading group of CAT 5’s mid-race).  The course was similar to Purgatory RR with its notable difference being the longer 5 mile climb before hitting the midway point. It was something Sasha couldn’t do, even though she was a better all-around bike.  But alas, it wasn’t enough to win the group sprint.  Panzer’s added weight was a disadvantage.

What now?

With Sasha broken, I’m without a competitive bicycle for the hills.  I tried to get BMC to honor a full warranty, but the rules they set out made it unfair.  And their frame failed in a most catastrophic way.  I even have proof that I’m the original owner, of not just one but three BMC’s.  And being one of the biggest BMC fans out there, (I wore the team kit religiously the last couple of years,) it seems loyalty means nothing to them.

Two broken BMC frames hanging like carcasses.

In order to get a proper replacement, I have to go through the crash replacement policy, which is bittersweet.  It means I’d still have to pay for the frame but at a reduced cost.  And if you know how much BMC frames cost at retail, you know it’s still a good amount.  With the Green Mountain Stage Race in Vermont looming in September, I don’t have much time to prepare.  I’m without a bike and it takes time to acclimate to one.  So now, I’m having second thoughts and considering other brands.

I’ve ridden Specialized once, and I do like their lineup.  Venge or Tarmac?  Cervelo’s R5 is another consideration as well as Wilier’s Cento 1SR or Zero 7.  I also heard from a friend that Wilier replaced his broken frame that was “out of warranty” quite easily.  Exceptional service goes a long way to produce customer loyalty as does companies standing by their products.  Our sponsors (most notably DeFeet and Maple) in our Tall Sock Racing Team stand by their products.  Why shouldn’t the bicycle companies who produce the bikes we ride do the same?

Of course, things could be worse.  To put it in perspective, I’m still able-bodied and living out my passion.  And I will always remember that it’s all relative.