Monday, April 29, 2013

SingleSpeed-A-Palooza 2013

This weekend the family and I drove to Montgomery, New York for the SingleSpeed-A-Palooza race I've been preparing for.

A few hours before we left I went to an appointment at Pittsford Performance Care to see Dr. Luckey. He had fixed my knee problems in the past.  This time we were able to see that my left leg was not reacting a strongly as my right.  This was likely putting extra strain on my right knee as it was trying to compensate.  Dr. Luckey made an adjustment and I left hoping it would feel good for a 25 mile ride.

The race was at Stewart State Forest. There were 297 mountain bikers registered and 3 unicyclists: Claude, Robi, and myself.  Being the slowest cyclists, we started last.  Claude rode a 36er, and Robi and I each rode 29ers. Trail conditions and weather were both perfect.

The race started on a dirt road that would last nearly three miles.  We all separated right away.  Claude took the lead and continued to gain distance.  Robi was maybe 30 seconds ahead of me towards the end of the road.  I wasn't pushing too hard, concerned this was going to be a long race.

Minutes into the race the sweeper rode up along side me.  This is one of the race marshals that rides last and makes sure no one gets left behind. Yay!  I'm the last guy. Haha. Of course we chatted a bunch.  If I recall, his name was Rick.  It wasn't long before we encountered a group of cyclists standing around, one of them lying on the ground.  Rick stopped to help.  I continued riding, and soon Rick showed up again.  The injured biker had gotten caught up with others in the pack and had a concussion.  He didn't know where he was.  Scary.

The first dirt road section ended with the course heading into single track.  It's kind of cool how I suddenly felt at home.  Yeah... that's the stuff.  It wasn't long before I caught up to Robi.  I passed and he commented that he was feeling dead.  Months ago he separated his shoulder and between that and winter, he wasn't able to exercise as much as he had hoped.  Going into this race he was concerned about his endurance.  I hoped he'd be ok.

I think he was behind me for a while, but it wasn't long before I lost track of him.  Soon I heard some big huffing and puffing coming up from behind and wondered if that was him.  It turned out to be a mountain biker.  I'm sure it was one who stopped for the injured guy.  He was ready to pass just as I was heading into a rocky down section.  Unfortunately his sudden approach and my indecisiveness to dismount and let him go led me to fall back as I failed to step off properly.  I got a nice pedal bite and demonstrated to at least one mountain biker just how much I suck. Haha.

The trails were pretty cool.  There were many occurrences of these mini rock gardens, about three feet long.  It was almost like a wall made of rock had been broken through.   Most of the climbs and descents were short, but many were technical, at least for muni.  Some sections were smooth and flowy. Most of it could be ridden, but an occasion climb was nearly impossible for me, some just weren't worth remounting for a second go, and some technical downhills just weren't worth the risk during a long race.

At one point I encountered a mountain biker who had stepped off.  I passed and we rode in the general vicinity of each other for some time.  I told her to just tell me when she wanted to pass, but she was content and suggested I would just end up passing her again.  She obviously wasn't the strongest rider.  At one point I rode down the most technical section of my day (that I actually rode) with success.  She was behind me and I heard a pretty good metal against rock smash.  I yelled back and she confirmed she was ok.  Yikes.  Eventually she passed me and I never caught back up.

Another Pint Glass!
However my sweeper friend, Rick, found me once again.  He told me that Robi was calling it quits and would be heading off the course and back to the start, led by another marshal.  So, I was last again.  I didn't really care if I finished last, but it was a bit distracting having a mountain biker riding my tail.  For one, I'm just not use to it, but mostly I just felt like I was holding him up.  Hearing his freewheel clicking, or brakes, and knowing that he'd rather be going about triple the speed.  It always seemed like he was only a few feet from my tire.  Occasionally I encouraged him to pass and go have some fun.  He seemed content to stay back.  A few times he passed just because he could fly down a hill and use the momentum to climb up the next.  Must be nice.  He stopped to talk to other marshals or EMTs when we crossed dirt roads once every few miles.  For one part an EMT rode with us.  With their freewheels clicking away I heard Rick informing the EMT of how easy these trails are.  Yup.

It was probably at about mile 12 that my right knee eventually started hurting like it has been.  I think my visit to Dr. Luckey probably got me that far.  I may have to see him again, or maybe my IT band still needs time to recover after being fixed.  We'll see.  Anyway it wasn't bad enough to stop me from continuing.

At mile 15 there was a water station.  I opted to refill my CamelBak with water rather than beer, leaving more for the crew.  I ate a Stinger Waffle bar and stretched.  Rick had stopped to talk with other marshals and showed up when I was about ready to move on.  He mentioned to the water station crew that I was the last guy, and so they could pack up.  He questioned if I was going to continue or not.  I was still ok to ride a bit more, but I wasn't really seeing how I'd make it 10 for miles.

We continued on.  I was feeling weaker and my quads were starting to twitch and burn at the first few cranks of any climb causing me to dismount more frequently.  Crap... it wasn't looking good.  I asked Rick how long it was going to take me to finish at this rate.  He confirmed we'd be here a long time. He seemed to be riding more and more ahead of me and waiting.  I found myself walking up smaller hills and taking three to five attempts to free mount.  I was clearly done.

As soon as I informed Rick, I knew I had made the right choice.  All I wanted to do was get out and be done, but we still had a few miles to make that happen.  Eventually we hit a dirt road and he told me how to get out, and he continued to sweep the course.  It was probably a mile and a half of road before I got back to the start.  My GPS said I rode about 18 miles and my cycle computer said 18.8.

There were about 300 mountain bikers in the start/finish area and awards were being given out. I looked around for my people, but my family hadn't returned from an outing and Robi and Claude had not come back yet.  I felt like the guy who brings a unicycle to a bike race.

Later it turned out that Robi's marshal had given him bad directions and Robi had to use his GPS to navigate his own way out.  Part of that included riding more of the course.  He ran out of water, and entered the water station just as the truck with crew and supplies was pulling away.  They didn't see him.  Once he made it back, he had ridden 18 miles and his voice was raspy.  That had to suck.

Eventually Claude showed up the way you're supposed to.  He crossed the finish line with a time of 3:55.  He looked happy and he probably could have done another 10 miles.  Nice!  Claude rocks!

It wasn't long before the event started closing down and that was that.  I was disappointed to have not finished.  It was a long weekend, with a lot of driving and trying to keep the family happy along the way.  In hindsight, it probably wasn't worth the trip.  I'd rather have just met up with the guys for a few 10 miles fun rides over a few days.

Muni at SingleSpeed-A-Palooza - 2013-04-28

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pre-race Test Ride

Today I took a few hours vacation from work and rode at Whiting. My goal was to ride a fairly strong, but not overly strenuous ride. I wanted to test my recently irritated knees and the unicycle I put together for the race. My new muni friend Dustin joined me, but we rode separately.  Since he's at the beginning of his muni career he can't yet keep up with me.

I'll be using my 29er with my non-geared rim since it's a single-speed race. I bought a Schwalbe Hans Dampf 29x2.35 Pacestar tire, which is a lightweight tire that works very well for muni. I also moved my lighter weight Spirit cranks, Wellgo pedals, brakes, and saddle from my 24" muni to the 29er. Lighter is better, I want to have brakes in case there are any serious downhills, and the saddle is just easier to move than messing with the brake lever mounting hardware under it.

It rode very nicely.  It's nice and light.

My knees started out feeling fine. I raised my saddle a bit along the ride several times to improved my leg extension.  I also noticed my toes tend point a bit outward, and more on my right side, so I consciously tried to straighten them a bit.

By about my 5th mile my right knee started to irritate me.  Again it was just a general soreness and I don't think there was any one area I'd point to.  But it was enough for me to decide not to ride much longer.  By that time I was in Webster Park on my way back to Whiting.  I happened to find Dustin and we rode maybe a mile more, heading back to the parking lot.

Once I got home I iced my knee and later did some stretching.  I ended up with a feeling a lot like back when I had an IT band problem in the fall of 2011. Nearly four months later Dr. Luckey ended up fixing that, so I'm going to see if I can drop in tomorrow with the hope for a quick fix.  Otherwise it's going to be tough to make it through 25 miles on Sunday.

Dustin's riding is getting better and better. He noted his need to improve his endurance.  The combination of being understandably inefficient, using new muscles, and his self-proclaimed being out of shape makes muni challenging for him.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2013-04-25

Sunday, April 21, 2013


A coworker of mine, Dustin, recently started learning to unicycle.  He borrowed my learner uni and then my 20" trials uni to get better.  His progress has been impressive.

A few days ago I helped broker his purchase of a KH 26 from Mj.  Today we met up at Vosburg Hollow in Webster and rode on the Hojack, through Vosburg, and the Big Field.  He had some impressive UPD-free runs and can successfully free mount most of the time.  He also made some good progress.  Obviously just riding offroad was a great start, but he also got better as our ride went on.  The Big Field trail was good for getting started on climbs and descents.

Here's a little video of him riding on the Hojack:

It was a more casual ride for me with a lot more resting. Though there were a few hill climbs to power up in Vosburg and up to the Big Field. Hopefully my knees will be ok.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Knee Problems

Recently my knees have been bothering me.  It seems like every year I have some kind of problem with my knees.

I've been trying to exercise my legs more and ride longer rides for my upcoming 25 mile race.  Coming out of winter and being particularly busy with work and family lately, I'm far from peak physical condition.  I've been trying to exercise more and ride more, but mostly I'm just doing the weekend warrior thing.  Unfortunately that's not at all optimal for training and it can be bad physically.

Over a month ago I got some soreness in my right knee while using my elliptical machine.  I was pushing hard and "jogged" for something like an hour and half. Then I was doing some long rides when I could.  In the past few weeks I was doing the plyometrics routine of my P90X workout and riding the Hojack pretty aggressively in my high gear.  About a week ago I tried using my elliptical and felt my right knee was starting to get sore very early on.  I quit for fear of exacerbating the problem.  Soon I tried plyometrics again and felt the same way and stopped.  Since then I haven't exercised and my knees have continued to have odd aches and pains that kind of vary.  I've been stretching off and on, and sometimes I think that helps.

I've read some stuff online about knee problems and I like this article.  It pretty much describes my situation perfectly... coming out of winter, pushing with more intensity, riding longer, and using a harder gear without easing into it.  Also a change in equipment, my 29er.  I also may need to raise my saddle even more than I have recently.  It's also typical for cyclist to over strengthen their quads which causes a muscle imbalance and effects the knees.

My knees continue to bother me even though I'm not exercising.  It's just occasionally aching and sometimes some sudden, though not quite sharp, pain that is more of an irritation that anything else.  I'm sure I'm psychologically more sensitive to them.  It's hard not to be since knees are such an important part of my passion.

With my 25 mile race only a week away, I'm pretty much screwed.  My plan is to continue to take it easy, maybe riding once or twice without straining too much, doing exercises specifically to help my knees, and then just do my best at the race.  I expect my knees will be sore at least after the race, but hopefully not during.  Afterward I'll take it easy, work on strengthening my non-cycling muscles, and build up my ride intensity more slowly, assuming my knees will allow it.

I guess the good news is that this is more of a ride for myself more than anything else. But in the future I'll probably pass on early spring races unless I have been truly keep up with my fitness.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Another Hojack Ride

Continuing my training for my upcoming race, I got out to ride again. With all the rain we got last week, the trail conditions have gotten worse. So I settled for the Hojack trail again.

My goal was to ride it twice again, but unfortunately my right knee was bothering me. I sat and stretched at the far end of the Hojack, and that helped for a while.

The end of the Hojack has a small path that goes down to Lake Rd. When I started heading back after my stretch I noticed a biker heading up from the road. I kept going, knowing he'd pass me in a minute. He did pass me and I found myself instinctively trying to keep up with him. I did well, though I'm sure if he was pushing as hard as me he would have been long gone. He left the Hojack at Klem.

Towards the end of my way back I realized my knee was getting more irritated and it would be best to head home. Hopefully I work it out before my race in two weeks.

I rode close to 13 miles.

Muni on Road and Hojack - 2013-04-14

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Left FWT and GROC Board

In November of 2011 I joined the board of both the Friends of Webster Trails and the Genesee Reqional Off-Road Cyclists. Both of these groups help maintain the local trails I ride. In both groups I was a "Member at Large". My duties were nothing specific, other than showing up to monthly board meetings. Ideally I'd be contributing in some additional ways, but it wasn't happening. Life is busier than ever and I'm not finding the time and energy for a lot of things. So earlier this week I left the board of both groups. It's a bit sad for me, but I'll still be a member of both and contribute to trail work.