February 28, 2012

Long Winter Training Rides Winding to a Close

Last Sunday (Feb. 26), Mike and I headed out to ride the Montgomery County Epic loop in a counter-clockwise direction.  With the very warm winter, some rain early in the week, followed by strong winds, the trails were in perfect condition - something I like to call "hero dirt" - where every time you should crash from pushing it hard into the corners, the slightly tacky dirt would keep you upright and moving fast.

We rode about 50 miles in almost 50 degree weather and traded off 15 minute pulls to keep the pace high.  Compared to the same ride in mid-December, we knocked nearly 45 minutes off our loop time.

This week, the skulls on the Seneca Ridge Trail were dressed in mariachi hats (compared to the Santa hats in December).  Maybe they were dressed for Mardi Gras?

We headed north and our dreaded river crossing wasn't too bad this week with lower water levels and warmer temperatures.


Luckily, the halfway point water fountain in Germantown was still turned on and we filled our bottles.

We saw tons of hikers, horses and a number of other riders (who we figured were riding the MoCo Epic loop in the clockwise direction).  Everyone was out enjoying the sun.

With about 3 miles left in the ride, Mike took a soft right turn while landing from a small rise in the trail and his front wheel folded.  It was an 8 year old Salsa rim that he's been using for training.  It was impressive the rim lasted that long, but the crash was pretty ugly, with Mike taking a full front flip into the woods.  With the huge Continental Mountain King 2.4 tires, Mike's wheel wouldn't roll through the fork.

Even beating on the rim failed to straighten it out.

So, seeing that the rim and spokes were a loss, Mike rolled home on a bare rim.  It was pretty awesome to see him riding through rock gardens, rivers, roots and singletrack and not much slower than our prior tempo pace.

Thankfully, Stan's No Tubes is continuing as our sponsor this year, and Mike will be riding on a set of ZTR Crest wheels that are arriving today.  After racing a full season on a set of Crest wheels, I love these wheels!

Here's the ride data from Strava:

I think we might get in one more long ride on the weekend before the season starts in force in two weeks with the Shootout On Angler's Ridge in Danville, VA.  This was a very fun race last spring to start the season and worth the drive.

- Jeff

February 27, 2012

First Race of the Season - Congratulations to Dylan!

Congratulations to Dylan on placing 4th out of over 450 riders at the season opening 50 mile Monstercross outside Richmond, VA.

He was pipped at the line by second and third after chasing in a group with the guys we've been training with most of the past winter (Ian and Kevin).  The next closest group was nearly 9 minutes back...

Results are available here.  A great way to start the season!

February 17, 2012

Sufferfest - Hell Hath No Fury - Tour of Sufferlandia

I finally got trapped indoors yesterday by weather and had to ride my trainer.  I've had a good run of luck this winter, riding outside most nights, even in rain because it's been so warm.  But, last night, I just didn't want to go outside in 40 degree temps and rain.

So, I loaded up the Sufferfest's Hell Hath No Fury video that I'd downloaded from the Sufferfest site.  Holy cow, that was hard!

Usually, cycling videos follow men's classics, but this video follows footage from the women's UCI World Cup to set up 2x20 LT intervals.  Plus, the video has a plot!  I've never run across that before - you're vying for the overall stage win at the Tour of Sufferlandia under Director Sportif Agony von Grunter...

From the site, here's the description:

"For almost two years, we’ve been asked by Sufferlandrians to do the classic 2×20:00 workout. We resisted. We simply couldn’t figure out how to make it interesting. But then we got our hands on a full year of UCI Pro Women’s racing footage from the World Cup. Emma Pooley, Evelyn Stevens, Marianne Vos…the stars are all there in races like the Tour of Flanders and the GP Plouay. And then we hit on the idea of doing an entire stage race in one single Sufferfest video. Using those 20:00 sessions to do a full race simulation. Now, “it gets interesting.” Cue evil laugh."


I've not run across a training video this good/this hard before.  It kicked my ass.

Check it out on the Sufferfest site (www.thesufferfest.com), along with multiple other crushingly hard training sessions.

- Jeff

February 13, 2012

Fairfax County Epic Round 2 - Full 90+ Mile Loop

Last Sunday, I met up with Mike and Dylan at 8:00am at Ian Spivak's house in Falls Church to take on the full Fairfax County Epic loop - Difficult Run, Lake Fairfax park, Fountainhead park, Laurel Hill park, Accotink park, Wakefield park, plus the Fairfax Cross Country Trail.  About 95 miles total with most of it on gorgeous singletrack linked by some road sections and gravel trail. Perfect for my Scale 29 RC.

The downside was that it was 23degrees F (-5 degrees C) and it had snowed the night before.  The high was only going to get a few degrees warmer through the day.  Our plan was to meet up with Kevin Carter along the loop and hammer out the loop in 10 hours or less.

Heavily bundled up against the cold
Dylan - ready to rip our legs off for the next 9 hours (with a smile, no less)
We started north and rode through the snow covered Difficult Run trails to Lake Fairfax where we found new singletrack built by the local mountain bike access and trail builders, MORE, last year. Most of the loop we rode was thanks to MORE.  I'm constantly amazed at how much good singletrack is located within just a few miles of downtown Washington, DC.

The temperatures were so cold that any water we rode through immediately froze on our bikes, legs, or wherever it landed.

A frozen covering on the feet
While waiting for Kevin to get his tubeless wheels set up with fresh Stan's sealant, we ran into ex-pro and all around good guy, Ryan McKinney, on the trails. He was out for a ride before a possible new house purchase later that morning.  In typical fashion Ryan was in high spirits!
We headed out with Kevin on the loop and I almost immediately had a flat from a sliced tire sidewall on some of the sharp rocks.  A quick fix and we were back on the trail, heading south on the Fairfax Cross Country Trail to Route 123 and our 10 mile section of road to Fountainhead.

Fountainhead was fun as usual with some great double jumps and excellently constructed new singletrack.

I used to avoid the park because it was so eroded, but now with the new trails, it's something I'm going to look forward to riding more and more (and I'm donating $$ to the rebuilding effort).

It had been a windy night and the trails had a lot of dead tree limbs on them. A large stick got caught in Mike's rear wheel and immediately snapped his derailleur hangar. Luckily, he brought a spare hangar and in 10 minutes, using a handy tree as a repair stand, he was fixed and we were back on our way.


Dylan and Kevin started drilling through the steep hills and we were all just hanging on - after 4 hours my legs were getting a bit tired!  We did one loop of the park just as it was starting to thaw out and headed toward Laurel Hill and a convenience store to get more water and fuel for the next 4-5 hours of riding.

Laurel Hill is another fun trail network built by MORE and its construction looks to be all-weather with gravel lined singletrack.  The grass-lined trails were great in the late afternoon sun.

We were all smiling, even after riding for most of the day thus far.  It seems as if the multiple weeks of 4-7 hour rides have gotten our endurance levels up fairly high.

From Laurel Hill, we headed north toward Accotink through multiple water crossings.  Ian whacked his calf badly on his pedal while crossing one of the streams and his leg locked up on him.  He was limping and obviously in pain and unable to pedal smoothly.  Not good as we still had 15-20 miles left to go.  Once we got near Accotink park, he and Mike decided to skip the singletrack and head straight back to Ian's house on the smoother trails.

Dylan, Kevin and I pushed the pace through the park at a threshold rate and after a regroup for more food and to top off Dylan's food reserves with some Jet Blackberry GU (my favorite flavor), we rolled through Wakefield park, past the dirt jumps and back to Ian's house.

Total distance was around 92 miles total in a bit over 9 hours of ride time.  Dylan rode an extra 10 miles to put his total closer to 10 hours and 102 miles.  A solid day for mid-20 degree temperatures in February.

I was not initially sure about moving over to a 29er and to a hardtail after racing the past 21 years on a 26er bike and the past 5 years on a full suspension Spark.  But, after putting in lots of miles on my new Scale 29er, I'm very happy to have made the move.  As John and Ross told me last year, this bike is a rocket.  The flat road sections fly by.  I find I'm able to keep up speeds close to what I'd normally do on my road bike, and in tight singletrack, the bike shines - it's the best of both worlds. And, the integrated shock dampening on the seatstays and Ritchey seatpost, plus 2.25 width tires take the edge off any roots/rocks and terrain. I can't wait to see what the new full suspension 2012 Spark 29er RC is going to be like.

Next ride is in two weeks.  Hope to see you out on the trails!

Here's the Strava map:

- Jeff

February 07, 2012

Fairfax County Epic

This past weekend, Mike, Dylan and I changed up our weekly long ride and did the Fairfax County Epic loop.  Apparently, the full loop would take around 10 hours, but we didn't hit one of the parks and came in at a respectable 7-8 hours for the ride.  Not bad for early February!

Mike met up with Dylan at his house in McLean and they rode to Falls Church where they met up with me and Ian Spivak from DCMTB.  We rode the Fairfax County Parkway in a four man paceline at a speed I don't normally hit on my road bike.  My Garmin showed us rarely going slower than 25mph

Once at Fountainhead Park, we saw masses of people in the lot wanting to ride the newly constructed trails.

The Fountainhead Project (www.fountainheadproject.org) has developed and built an awesome set of new trails with IMBA's assistance.  The redesign transforms the network from non-sustainable, eroded trails, to well constructed, sustainable, fun and flowing singletrack.  The opening loop keeps me smiling -- it's worth doing it again and again.

If you have time, check out their site and make a donation to keep the trail work going.  I guess I'm somewhat partial as they've used a photo of me in their site image (riding my black Spark 10).

Hopped up from our road ride, we charged into the loop and hit the new Jackrabbit trail at full speed, flying over the new trail features (including a ladder bridge jump) at pretty close to full race-pace. Learning the new sections of trail blind was the way to go - I think I would have hesitated on one or two of the larger jumps had I known what was coming.

After two fast laps at Fountainhead, we got back on the roads and hit up a local store to get some more water and food for the long ride back on the Fairfax Cross Country trail.  We rode the trail network at Laurel Hill, the site of a former prison, that has been repurposed into fast and flowing singletrack.  (It reminded me of sections of the Sea Otter Classic with rolling hills and grassland.)  There was also a small skills park that we had some fun rolling through.

After a loop at Laurel Hill, we headed north on the CCT through some cool looking water crossings to Lake Accotink Park, where we rode yet more short steep hill singletrack.

By this point, we'd been on the bike for 6-7 hours and we all were getting tired (except for Dylan - he never seems to slow down!).  After Accotink, we continued on the CCT to Wakefield Park and rode more singletrack and out again on the CCT toward the huge dirt jumps.

By this point, we were all pretty cooked and it was starting to rain.  The skies had been threatening all day, and when the rain came, the temperature started to drop from a high of 48 to just about 38 degrees.  It was not a good time to be out on the bike.  Thankfully, we all made it home OK, though it took me a few hours to warm up afterward.

We skipped riding further north on the the CCT where it goes through Lake Fairfax and to Great Falls, but we could have added another 20+ miles to our ride.  As it was, we got in about 70-75 miles (Dylan rode an extra 1.5 hours on top of what we rode), with a good percentage of it on singletrack.

Here's the data from Strava (my GPS didn't get all of the loop):

Next weekend we're going to try for the full loop.  Maybe 10 hours and 90-100 miles on Sunday.  I hope we get some dry weather!

- Jeff