Friday, September 25, 2009

North Face Endurance Challenge

Last weekend, we ran the North Face Endurance Challenge in Algonkian Park. They offered several races...50 miles, 50K, 21K, and 10K. We opted for the 21K (half marathon). My only other trail half marathon was a brutal, hilly event at Kualoa Ranch. This one promised to be much flatter. The weather was better too, with temps in the low 60s. I was eager to redeem myself after the lackluster performance at the off-road duathlon the previous week. Since I didn't have to ride a mountain bike, the chances were good that I'd do a little better. I didn't get off to a great start, as I had to make a last minute pre-race bathroom run. That set us up at the rear of the group. There were a few chokepoints early on in the race, so since we were at the back, we had to walk a few times in the first mile. After the course opened up a bit, I settled into a decent pace. A heavily tattooed dude past me. For some reason, I decided to follow the guy and ended up running with him through the next few miles of singletrack. At about mile 4, there was a huge hill. Everyone was walking, except for tattoo. I followed him up the hill and we passed dozens of walkers. He paced me for awhile. By the turnaround, tattoo ended up somewhere behind me, as it was difficult at times to pass runners on the single track. Most of the run was uneventful, except for stepping in a ditch, soaking both feet 6 miles into the race. After the turnaround, I saw Sonya close by. She said something about the lack of waterstations...come to find out, she ended up with a group that went off course missing both of them. I made it back to the hill again at mile 9. Like the first time hitting the hill, there were a lot of walkers. I continued to run. About halfway up the hill, I heard someone behind me. It was tattoo. We made it over the hill, and continued on...had some trouble finding the trail, but we thought we were on course until we looked around and saw no one ahead of us and heard no one behind us. We kept a good pace, until we finally came out of the singletrack and started seeing other runners. The 10K was finishing up, and the lead runners from the 50K (which started a couple hours earlier) were all merging onto the same course. We hauled ass for the end, tattoo had a stronger kick and passed me at the finish at around 1:57. I was 40th out of 272 by the gun, and somewhere like 38th in chip time. Looking at the times, if I had started near the front, I could've finished ahead quite a few other guys. Since Male 30-39 is the strongest age group, ended up 20th in the age group. Sonya finished close behind me, good enough for 5th in her age group, and 11th out of 91 women. Had she not gone off course, probably would've finished higher.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

hybrid man

On the ride in this morning, I passed a mustached man wearing a short sleeve button-down shirt, with shorts pulled up pretty high.  He was sporting a bow-tie and riding a hybrid....the quintessential DC nerd.  Even though I was riding in easy today, I thought for sure I'd blow by the guy and never see him again.  When I passed him, he immediately sped up and latched onto my wheel.  Dude was singing Journey songs the entire way down the Mt. Vernon Trail, until he passed me North of National Airport. 

Monday, September 14, 2009


Competed in my first ever off-road duathlon on Saturday. Learned a couple of things:

1) I suck at mountain biking
2) My mountain bike sucks
3) I did well in the run portion
4) No matter how well you run, the results are all about the bike
5) In order to win, you must drink beer, eat pizza and smoke post-race

When I showed up at the race, I had pretty good expectations. I knew I could put in a decent run, and although this was going to be only my 3rd mountain bike ride of the year, I could probably crank out the 9 miles in a respectable time, then bust my ass on the last run and make up any lost time...I couldn't have been more wrong.

First run went well. I could see the leaders as I was finishing up, and there were quite a few bikes left on the rack. I took off on the bike and passed a few riders early on...that's before the singletrack started. We had ran on part of the bike course, so I knew a little of what to expect. As soon as I hit the singletrack, I began to have shifting problems, couldn't get in a low enough gear and ended up falling over on the first climb because I couldn't clip out of the pedals...that happened again, moments later. I fell twice on the first climb, and eventually ran up the hill with my bike. In the first mile, I was passed by quite a few mountain bikers as I struggled with some of the log jumps. I end up behind a guy for a short while who's having a few more problems than me. We come up on a tricky section...a tunnel under I-95 that is not lit. Before the tunnel, you have to ride up on a platform. Next to the platform is a ditch of stinkwater about 3 feet below. The platform was wet, so the guy slipped, bounced off the concrete platform and fell into the stinkwater. I thought for sure the guy was injured, but he bounced back. I pulled his bike out of the stinkwater, and was thankful that at least I didn't smell like him. Then we rode under I-95, a spooky experience as you could see nothing but a small light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel has about 2 inches of stinkwater running through it, so it was a very pleasant experience.

I took a couple good falls after the stink-tunnel, slipped on a root and really busted my arm was tingling for the rest of the ride. I really wanted the ride to be over, then I took a flat. Thought about riding it on to the transition area, but had no idea where that was....eventually decided to fix the flat. Watch quite a few people pass me. Once I'm back on the bike, I'm convinced I'm in last place. I bust my ass to catch all those that got in front of me...manage to pass most of them. Got to the transition area, and was being cheered on by those who had already finished the race...not good. Head off on the run, cruising at a pretty decent pace, passing a couple others on the course, but did most of it alone. As I head in for the finish, got a few more "good jobs" from other finishers.

Despite the bad riding and bad luck, it was a lot of fun. Post-race pizza and beer was great. Saw a guy at the keg smoking...come to find out he won the race. WTF?

Thursday, September 10, 2009


A situation arose this morning, that got me thinking about commuting etiquette. As I merged onto the Mt. Vernon Trail and began to pick up speed, a rider passed me as I was accelerating. As I settled into my planned pace, I realized that I was sitting on his wheel. So I thought, this guy passed me for the sake of passing me. I wasn't sure what to do, but quickly worked out a couple of options in my head:

1.) Throw down the hammer, pass the guy and don't let him catch me.
2.) Back off a little and give the guy some space...he did pass me, and since I don't know him, sitting on his wheel is rude.
3.) Sit on his wheel...if someone passes me, he should do it with authority, or at least ride at a pace I'm not willing to ride.

Since it was a windy day, and I had no intent of hammering all the way to work today, nor did I want to delay my ride by backing off the passer, I sat on his wheel. After a couple of miles, he waved me on and I pulled for the next 2 miles before we exchanged pleasantries and he left the trail. This was probably the ideal situation today, as I got to relax for a bit of the ride, but I could see my choice to quietly sit on the wheel pissing someone off. I'm sure "asking the guy" would be part of proper etiquette, but that's not my style. I'd much rather quietly choose option 1 or 3.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Commute

The worst thing about DC is the commute to work. The daily drive over the Wilson Bridge for 4.5 years (pre-renovation) must've added 10 years to my life. I was dreading a repeat of that experience. Luckily this time I'm working somewhere easily accessed by public transportation and bicycle. Public transport is a little took me an hour to get to work via bus and metro on Monday. On Tuesday I rode in for the first time. The ride was nice...after a test run the previous week, I found a route with a lot less cars, avoiding Old Town. I thought it would be an easy 26 mile round trip, but I've let the competitive side get the best of me. There are tons of people on the Mt Vernon Trail...I can't let anyone pass me, and feel like I must pass any recumbent or hybrid bike I see out there. Due to traffic lights, I can't ride it much faster than 45 minutes...record was 43 minutes on Friday morning, and I was hauling ass every chance I got.

According to the Kipplinger Bike Commuting Calculator, I'm saving $21.30/day by not driving...this is partially due to the $9.50 daily parking fee. Since I haven't bought a 2nd car yet, I could probably calculate in some additional savings. Of course, I've negated some of these cost savings by eating an extra lunch every knock off $10 there...take out the parking and it's basically a wash. When you throw in all the recent purchases to support the commute, I've negated all the saving. So far it's been lights, jackets, tights, and most recently this bike:

After much deliberations and shopping, I bought a Kona Jake the entry-level Cyclocross racer. I'd been eyeing some higher end CX bikes, nearly bought a Cannondale, but after realizing that I'm a Cat 4 racer that only plans on 2-3 Cross races per year, I couldn't justify a Cat 3's bike. This will double as a commuter bike, and I'll feel better about leaving this on the rack in the parking garage than the Cannondale.

The biggest benefit to riding every day is my sanity. When I drove on the beltway everyday, I felt like punching every grandma that cut me off or jumped in the "fast lane" and slowed down to 35mph while she tried to operate her cell phone. It's a lot easier to ride in the grass off the bike path while passing the ipod wearing girl weaving on her aero bars as she learns to ride a bike on the trail (so far the biggest annoyance on the bike path).

It's all exciting so far...we'll see what December brings. I've got all the gear, but have no idea if I can survive the cold.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Beers of the Week

I've been overdoing it on the beer tasting...can't keep up. This week I tried 5 beers.

Starr Hill's Dark Star Stout--Starr Hill is my favorite Virginia-brewed beer (I've only tried 3). This is the 6th brew from their lineup that I've tasted, and it's another winner. It's a smooth stout, solid A, good enough for a PQ=36

Hofbrau's Oktoberfest--I drank a lot of Hofbrau Hefeweizen while I was deployed, thought it was a decent enough beer. Saw this in Costco for $21.99/case...thought it a steal, then noticed that the bottles are 330ml as opposed to 12ozs...they're cheating me out of .8 ounces! Nevertheless, this was a pretty decent seasonal beer. A-, PQ=45...despite being cheated out of .8 ozs/bottle, this still is a good deal.

Sierra Nevada's Summer Lager...picked this up as a single, since I couldn't find a full six-pack. Not really impressed. I prefer Sam Adams' Summer Ale. Grade=B, PQ=18

Trader Joe's Dunkelweizen--Unfiltered, fruity, good flavor, Grade=A, PQ=48

Dogfish Head 90 miute IPA--This is some high-octane stuff. A little pricy at $9.99 a 4-pack, but it weighs in at 9% ABV. Unlike a lot of high alcohol beers, you can't taste it. Really a high quality beer...I love a good IPA. Grade=A, PQ=19.