Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Catherine Furnace

The local cuisine
While I absolutely love my local trails, sometimes you just have to drive far away for that special something that only real mountains can give you. Today I headed out with Rickyd to join the MORE ride at Catherine Furnace. As usual, I made absolutely sure that we were late for the 10am ride time. Turns out everyone else (except maybe one person) was late too. By the time we hit the trail around 10:45, we had a huge group of 13 riders (that's a lot of people ditching work). The peloton included ride leader Scud (who was the last to arrive), Crashmore, Lee, Chance, Camp, Chunk, Nick, and Mike. I expected lots of climbing on this ride and I wasn't disappointed. First up was a 6 mile fireroad climb. Yummy. Camp, Rickyd, and I form a little breakaway group early on in the climb with Camp pulling away as the trail got steeper. After it became clear that he could out climb either of us with one leg, he took it easy and stayed back to make sure the rest of the group stayed on course. From here on, Rickyd and I traded the lead several times, but about 200 yards from the top, my skinny chickenlegs failed me and Rickyd was king of the mountain that day. I don't know why, but Rickyd seems to think that I'm faster than he is, even though I've never beaten him in a head-to-head race. Nick is another supa-fast rider, although today he was riding his bomber full-squishy bike which must have felt like a boat anchor on this climb. At the top we pause to regroup. There's a trailer parked nearby with a barking dog (and who knows what else) inside and a deer leg on the ground. My cell phone rings to remind me of a doctor's appointment that I will miss. I pull a McDonald's apple pie from my camelback. Have I died and gone to heaven?

So ends the best part of the ride for me. From there it was a short hop to one of the best overlooks I've seen anywhere followed by a rocky ridgetop trail that really tested my flowability (and found it lacking). Here, I get smacked by a branch and get a nice little cut across my nose that won't stop bleeding. I try to ignore it, but blood is all over my face and getting sucked into my throat when I inhale. Luckily, Scud is carrying bandaids. We finish a long downhill section and get to a miserable uphill hike-a-bike that seems to go on forever. Here, Camp shows us mortals just how far one can ride a singlespeed up a supposed hike-a-bike trail. After the hike-a-bike, another long downhill back to the parking lot. About 4 hours of good riding. Well worth the 4 hours of driving to get there and back.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Urban Epic

An epic ride in the middle of Northern VA suburbia? Yup, that's what happened when a group of seven brave explorers set out on a quest to connect Great Falls to the Pohick Stream Valley via the Cross County Trail (CCT).

The Fellowship of the (chain)Ring

The CCT is supposed to be a "commuter" trail, so I decide to ride my commuter bike, i.e., my Surly cross check set up fixie-cross style. To complete the commuter experience, I don my Chrome bag stuffed waaay too full of stuff that I don't really need. I figure this is a good way to test the bag (and my poor back). I drive to the Pohick Valley end of the trail and meet Randy (the MORE CCT trail liason). DT shows up soon after and shuttles us to the beginning of the ride at Great Falls. The idea is for Randy and I to shuttle everyone back to Great Falls at the end of the ride. As we pull into the parking lot the temperature reads a brisk 27F. Graham is already there waiting. One by one, the rest of the Fellowship arrives, Gary, Dan, then Lee. DT, true to form, is riding fixed with a cracked chain ring.

The first obstacle right out of the parking lot is a stream crossing. Not that deep, but slippery with a good current. Fall in and sub-freezing temperatures will ensure that the ride's over for you. A group of joggers stops to watch the potential catastrophe. Not wanting to chance it, most of us take off our shoes and carry our bikes through the freezing water. Gary and Lee put the rest of us to shame and ride through.

Gary, showin' how it's done

The whole first half of the ride is a good mix of fireroad and single track. Good singletrack at that. So good that I repeatedly question my choice of riding a fixed cross bike. I never knew there was this much in suburbian NOVA. The trick is finding and connnecting it all, and that's exactly what we were there to do. We have 2 or 3 GPS units going and stop often to take pictures at intersections. While this slows the pace down considerably, it's for a good cause.

Somewhere along the way, I complain to Lee that I've ruined 3 pairs of eggbeater pedals in the last 2 years. "Well, do you hit them on stuff a lot," he asks. "No," I say earnestly, priding myself on the finesse of my riding. Then within the next 10 minutes I proceed to smash my pedals on 4 or 5 consecutive log piles, slamming me to the ground each time. So much for finesse.

About a third of the way through the ride, we have our first real casualty: Gary throws in the towel after having mechanical issues with his drivetrain. As we emerge from the singletrack to attack our first extended pavement section, I sense more casualties coming. The trail is tougher than I expected. Dan and Graham call it quits somewhere on the pavement. About an hour later the remaining four of us ride into my stomping ground: Wakefield. Here, I lead the group up one of the fireroad climbs into the singletrack and then out towards the parking lots where, like an oasis in the desert, Gary and his truck are waiting. My legs are killing me. I call Gina, secretly hoping that she'll tell me to come home. The woman is merciless and gives me no honorable way out. Doesn't matter how fit you are, muscle cramps can hit anytime. And that's what happened to DT on one of the fireroad climbs. He calls it quits. Lee has a life outside of biking and has to bail because of other commitments. Now it's just me and Randy.

It's 3:30 in the afternoon as we head out of Wakefield to start the last 10 miles back to our cars. Somewhere along the way we wind up within two blocks of my house. My front tire is slowly leaking air. I think about heading home and letting Randy go on, but I can't let him have all the fun for himself. A few steep road climbs later, we enter Pohick Stream Valley. I push the pace through the last miles of rolling gravel paths. As we pull up to the cars I feel good. 33 miles on a fixed gear bike will do that to you. Randy is also looking in top form. My Chrome bag has worked perfectly. My back and shoulders feel as fresh as when I started. I call DT to tell him we're ok. He reminds me that there's a dozen beers in the back of my wagon. I pull out a Troeg's Mad Elf Ale and open it using one of my broken eggbeater pedals. I guess they're good for something after all.

Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia. ~H.G. Wells

Saturday, December 18, 2004


"Did you see what was on the kitchen table?" asks Gina as I wake her up. Thinking it was an early Christmas present, I rush into the kitchen and survey the blue envelope on the table. I open it. "Happy Anniversary," the card says. Damn! I forgot again. I knew then that there was no way I could sneak out tonight to go run around with my other love, i.e., the Thursday night MORE ride. Of all the thoughts that coulda popped into my head after forgeting our 9th anniversary, it had to be, "oops, I can't ride tonight..." Sick.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Snavely, PA

Last Saturday we threw the dog into the kennel and took a trip up to Hershey, PA. Yup, that's where they make all the chocolate that fuels the dental industry. Not only is there a chocolate factory, but an entire amusement park dedicated to all things chocolate and to the man behind it all, Milton S. Hershey.

Our first night there, we tried unsucessfully to get to Dutch Wonderland. Very weird since no one seemed to know where this place was. Our motel guy says its about 5 miles away, the place's website says it's 30 minutes away, one guy we asked at a Dairy Queen said it was about 2 hours from Hershey. Even the people who worked there gave us bad directions. So, after more than an hour of being lost, we grab dinner and head for Hershey Park instead where we pull into the parking lot and again, because of more bad directions from the parking attendant, get lost trying to get to the main entrance. We finally get to the main entrance about and hour before closing and we look so pathetic they let us in for free (normally its $4.50). The kids manage to hop on a few rides and slam down some brownies and cookies. Cold, real cold up there.

The next day we hit "Chocolate World" for some indoor fun out of the cold. Sagada and her cuz, Krysten, get to play factory worker on the Hershey's Kisses assembly line (33 million Kisses are made every day). Then we take the factory tour ride and wrap up the day watching the "ReallyBig 3D Show." Once in a while someone will slip us some free samples of upcoming Hershey products. The "Take Five" bar was good, but I'll pass on the "Dark Chocolate KitKats."

All in all, the whole thing was fun. A little heavy on the advertising and product promotion, and no Surgeon General warnings about tooth decay, diabetes, and such, but the kids loved it and I learned that the S stands for Snavely, as in Hershey Snavely Milton. Say it with me now, "SNAAAAYYVELLY." That's gotta be worth the price of addmission right there.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Thanks for the lungs ma, now pass the remote

On Saturday I went out for my first V02max test. Me and my buddies rickyd, static, and lee got a good group rate through Fitness Concepts (thanks, Nancy and Ken). A VO2max test is when they measure your rate of oxygen conversion during hard excercise. Like an IQ test, it's supposed to measure fitness potential, not ability. They hook you and your bike up to a trainer which is hooked up to a power monitor and a computer. A mask, which is hooked up to a C02 analyzer, is put over your nose and mouth and the fun begins. The resistance is upped every minute until you can't turn the pedals anymore. I lasted about 15 minutes before I gave in. The end result: 67.5 mL/kg/min (i.e., 67 mL per minute of O2 used per kg of body weight). Wanting to know what this meant, I poked around the net for some V02max norms. So, I guess I'm in the "excellent" category. But how does this jibe with my less than stellar racing season? Ah, here's the approximate formula:

racing ability = (V02max) / (slacker factor)

where slacker factor = infinty, in my case. Hmm, racing ability = 0. Yup, sounds about right...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Burning bridges

Never trust wet wooden bridges. Should have learned that a long time ago. I've had my share of wipeouts on them and I saw rickyd do a nasty faceplant on one once. But still, I wiped out on one of them this morning on my commute to work. The front wheel lost traction going into a turn and that was it... I went down hard enough to elicit an "O my god!" from the only pedestrian to witness the carnage. Funny thing was that I slid into a guardrail hard enough that the momentum bounced me right back up. Without missing a beat, I grabbed the bike, took a few running steps into a "perfect" cyclocross-style mount, and was on my way ("perfect" meaning that I didn't smash my stuff on the seat or top tube). The pain of the road rash and sprained wrist hit me about 30 seconds later.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Tour de Burley

Every once in a while I'll hitch the Burly up to the fixie and go for a spin with Gina and kid. Sometimes we'll start at Gravelly Point (next to DC National Airport) and head north to Bethesda along the Capitol Crescent trail, grab lunch, and head back. I don't know how it started, but the ride north is really a race. There's no starting line. No one yells "go". But surely, we're both thinking, "I'm gonna ride this sucka into the ground." And then, somewhere near the begining of the ride, with no words exchanged, it's on. 9 miles of aerobic hell: Gina on her Bianchi road bike, me on my fixie hooked up to 70+ pounds of whatever I happen to be towing: burley trailer (the double wide version), 4 year old kid (two of them one time), 80-pack crayola box, coloring books, pack of fruit juice boxes, stuffed animals, extra shoes and clothes (I will not enter a public restaurant wearing lycra), plus whatever knick-knacks my kid happens to sneak by me and throw into the trailer. The competition is usually friendly except for one time when Gina wound up on crutches for two weeks (sorry dear, I really didn't mean to swerve in front of you that close). The ride Northward is a slight uphill most of the way. Normally I don't even notice it, but when you're fully loaded up, well that's a different story. Gina usually wins. But not today. She was a bit off pace after not riding for a couple of weeks and I happily took advantage of the situation. Pathetic on my part, but I'll take whatever ego boost I can get. So what's the prize for the winner. Absolutely nothing. But the kid gets ice cream from Giffords.

The ride back is usually more casual and today we stopped to take pictures. But next time, I know Gina will be gunnin' for me. She'll have her riding legs back and then it will be business as usual again. Honey, wait up!

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Except for a nice ride last Monday, the rain this week kept me off the trails and left me with no recourse but to dream of better times. Like this one:

Douthat overlook

There's nothing like a long ride with good friends, and probably no better time or place to do it than at the MORE camping trip to Douthat. This was truly a great weekend. Two days of riding, spam sushi, and spending some good quality time with Gina and kid (and about a hundred other mountain bikers). Day one was a spirited jaunt with Wes, Jens, and Jay. Day two was a nice long ride with my buds in the picture. Didn't get to ride as much as I wanted to, but I was happy that Gina got some good saddle time and made the climb up Mountainside for the first time.