Tuesday, May 18, 2010

World In My Eyes

I've been meaning to post a bunch of pics I've taken over the last few months for some time now, so enjoy.

This is a picture from a ride we did in January where we ended up on Lake Monroe.  An by on, I mean ON.  The posts you see used to be a 'road' that appeared to be reclaimed by the lake.  The thin ice I was standing on tipped me off to that.  I turned around.

I've had a long term plan to put a small subwoofer in my car to tighten up the bottom end since, for all their virtues, BMW cannot engineer a car stereo.  I think the best attempts were some Harmon/Kardon iterations but they still sounded like muffled garbage.
The challenge here was to install the sub and not lose any storage space since prime directive of the car is to haul bikes and other miscellaneous things that require, uh, space.  Putting a big fat cube in the cargo bay is quite antithetic to that whole notion.
Of course, a small sub requires a small amp, which helps with packaging but still takes up space.  Being mostly virtuous, it turns out my car has some space where some optional electronic modules would mount.  Since said optional modules were not there I opted to install my own.  Once the load floor is installed you can't even tell there's an amp in there.

This brings me to the project I started while watching the Super Bowl.  As I said, space is at a premium so I decided to mock up a box to check for sizing and installation ease.  It worked like a champ because the sub box fit the first time without fuss.  Naturally I didn't take any pictures of it after this stage, but I promise I will.  The last year or two, any project I work on tends to get 90% done to where it's functional then it sits long enough until I get tired of looking at it not finished.  Once I have some spare time I 'll finish upholstering the box and take a few pics so you can see it.  Again, I promise.

Bridal Veil Falls - Dupont Forest, NC.  If you follow my Twitter feed you saw a pic from here.  As I'm sure many (including myself I'm sure) have said, this is where the chase scene from The Last of the Mohicans was filmed.  Not ashamed to say that's a good movie.  Makes it all the better to see first hand the place where it was filmed.
Oh yeah, this and the next few are from our spring training camp.  It was 80 degrees and awesome.

John Rock.  Kinda funny because it's not only a rock, but I'm pretty sure I saw a plaque saying the guy's name for which the rock was named was John Rock, like "hey, that's John Rock's rock"
Unfortunately my camera was my phone and autofocus picked the trees on which to focus.  Eh, you get the gist.

Beautiful waterfall on the descent down Butter Gap.

"Now it's a ride!" Not sure when, but somewhere on the descent down Black, I did that.  As I see it, this is the best kind of cut to have; it doesn't hurt but there's blood so you can say it was a good ride.

Another car project more born out of necessity.  The rear windscreen wiper seized on my car, which illustrated to me exactly how much I need a rear windscreen wiper.
I ordered everything to replace except the one part that was really rusted solid so I got to drive around for a week with duct tape on my car to cover the hole it left in case of rain.  The edges were cut with scissors, not ragged tears so it looked like it was supposed to be there.

I'm also not ashamed to admit that.

That big ring of rust is not supposed to be there.  After 30 minutes of wailing on the spindle with a BFH, I decided to count my lucky starts for not having missed the spindle only to connect with the rear glass, so I had to cut away at the metal bracket from underneath.  I guess you could say I'm getting wise in my old age.

I just think this is a neat picture.  I suppose its like most pictures from vacations and such in that they remind you of your time spent wherever the pic was taken.  In this case, when I left my house to commute from Bloomington to Columbus at 5:30a it was 38 freaking degrees.  If my car had been in the garage I would have without a doubt driven in to work, but I drove in to work the day before and ridden home after work, so my car was 45 miles away.  Instead, the only option was to man up and ride, so I did.  Did a few intervals, too.  Parenthetically I don't recommend threshold intervals 60 minutes after waking up.
Anyhoo, along the way, there was much fog and temps were up to around 40, so the leading edges were pelted with water vapor, but not enough to form drops and drip down.  The result was that my brake and head tube, along with shins were perfect magnets to collect road dust.  On the last 20 min of the ride, once the sun came up, the dust dried to what you see here.  Pretty cool, but it didn't matter that night - I still washed my bike.

In other news, as much as I may like the house we're renting, I'm really getting tired of not owning it.  The house has a nice layout but there's so much I look at and want to fix/change that it has me longing for another house I can call my own.
Of course, before this happens I need to sell my house in Columbus.  This is proving more difficult that I thought.  Yeah yeah, economy and housing market blah blah blah, I'm not buying that excuse - there are plenty of houses that are on the market for a freaking week.  If they're going that fast people still want houses.  From the discussions I've had with my real estate agent I've decided people are just plain stupid.  Not dumb - S T U P I D.  To decide to buy a house based on the color of the wall, not the brand new furnace that will last the next 20 years completely blows my mind.
Anyway, I need to stop thinking about it.  I'm pretty sure this situation has given me the headache I've had for the last 3 days.

So with that, I'm out.

-the Mexler

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sweetest Perfection

For many years now I've structured my season around July so that I could have a good race at MTB Nats.  This worked out well, especially in 2008 when I took second at Mt Snow in Vermont.  Even before that race I somehow bonded with that course and it has become one of my favorites - some really good climbs along with some insane rocky rooted out descents.
Anyway, the down side to this is that I've never had really great spring races.  Sure I've had pretty good results but never great results.  Top 10s, top 5s but never really having the chutzpah to make the podium and feel content with how I did my race.  This has meant there have been plenty of time spent towards the end of the race when I was racing by myself, with waning motivation only to beat myself up later because I would lose a bit of time from lap to lap and end up with positive splits.  At least for me, when I don't get the positional finish I want I look for ways to make myself feel better.  Positive splits do not make me feel better about a race effort.
For this year I decided to put more emphasis on early season form since racing into July kinda peeters out with only a few MTB races on into August.  Of course now with cyclocross taking more emphasis and starting in mid-September, it's a little hard to wind down from a peak then quickly wind back up for a solid cross season while still having the motivation to race (and more importantly train) when the late fall hits and the weather turns to shit.  Since I have really never had a great race at the DINO series opener at Winona Lake, I set my sights on it as really wanting to podium, perhaps even take the W.  Signs were pointing to a good execution of plan when I had a good showing at the PRO race wave of the SERC series at Tsali trails in Bryson City, NC a few weeks back plus good sensations at the DRT Brown County State Park Hesitation Point time trial (minus the mechanical mishap...), but one never knows until the finish line is crossed.
After a week of great weather the trail reports were that they were blazing fast and ultra dry, but reports were calling for some pretty nasty storms the night before.  Usually at Winona the magic mud sheds water well, but the pre-ride showed otherwise.  I decided to switch to the mud tires to avoid potential issues then headed off to toe the line.
Throughout the first lap the lead group of 4, including, and being pulled by my teammate/coach/friend/business partner/all-around good guy Don put some serious time into the rest of the pack.  About 2/3 of the way into lap 1 a crash whittled us down to 3.  Starting into lap 2 another crash left Don and me 20 seconds up on 3rd place so we tried to hold a steady high pace.  Alas it was not to be since Matt Battin was in 3rd and he was, as he generally can, able to close the gap.  With Matt now leading into the third and final lap, Don caught a root and yard sale'd, forcing me to stop for a second while Matt rolled up the trail.  Once I got going again I was pleased with how quickly I calmed down and set about closing the gap.  It took some time but I brought it back, then went to the front to set the pace.  Matt and I were pretty even except on the climbs where I seemed to have just a bit more, so I rode to stay in front as well as ride my own race.  Towards the end I sprinted hard out of a sharp corner and got a few seconds, then kept attacking up the series of short hills that ended up getting about a 10 second gap.  There was only one minor panic moment with lapped riders, through no fault of theirs, where there was no room to pass so I had to wait what seemed like an eternity for an opportunity to get around.  It all worked out and Matt was far enough back that my small lead was preserved.  I carried this through the remaining bit of trail to post up for the win.
So I feel pretty good to have achieved the first of my season goals and I guess this is where I have to resist adding too many new goals trying to cash in on my good form.  While I can't say it was a perfect day for the team result we wanted it was pretty damned close since Don was able to recover from his crash to hold on to 3rd place and consolation prize of fairly deep gash on his leg.  I can say, however, it felt pretty close to perfection to be able to ride a strong race in its entirety then seal the deal in the waning minutes to grab a victory at a target race, and that is pretty sweet.


the Mexler

Monday, April 12, 2010

Race and recover

 Its funny how no matter how long you've been racing you still get nervous before a race.  I find myself constantly checking my watch to make sure I get to the start on time, and from that constant checking comes constant verification of my pre-race schedule of warm-up, nutrition, clothing and bike prep. 
Anyway, the Knobscorcher always has a good turnout and the PRO field ended up with about 25 guys all intent on being first into the single track after a short gravel road climb.  I got a reasonable start and pulled a bit of a maneuver to get into said single track in a respectable position but paid for it on the first longer grinding climb.  Knowing that there were still 2 hours of racing to do I eased off a bit and rode within myself and was not too proud to use my 27t front ring instead of grinding away in the 40t.  This paid off towards the end of the race because I could stay on the skinny climbers' wheels then dig deep towards the top and use my size and technical skills to drop said climbers on the rooted out descents.  After all was said and done, I ended up 8th which, if I'm not mistaken, is my best result in a regional PRO race.  Nice!
Today's plan was to get up, clean bikes then take a recovery ride out to Caesar's Head just across the border into South Carolina.  I say recovery ride, but even if the hills are longer and not as steep they're still hills.  Regardless, it was an easier day, unlike what we have planned for the rest of the week so it was welcome.  I can already see the color returning to my legs after a long winter of leg warmers and tights, so this week of 80s and sun will be very much appreciated.  Oh yeah, and there is no shortage of sweet riding around.  The pic is about half way up the SC side of the climb to Caesar's.  At least I'm not the only one with pasty white legs.

So anyway, I probably ought to get ready to eat or something.


-the Mexler

Saturday, April 10, 2010

....and Resume

I uncharacteristically started my 2010 racing season on the road, but since I bailed on the Chickasaw Classic (100% glad I did, BTW) such is life.  I'd never done a proper cat 1/2 road race, just a couple of crits here and there, until I picked up an Ohio Valley Spring Series race last weekend.  I was a little disappointed with my result only because I have to relearn this whole nutrition thing when it comes to a 3 hour road race and having less of a calorie deficit is key.  Alas, I failed at my attempt and got dropped on the climb on the 5th of 7 laps due to, uh, upset stomach.  Anyway, I still finished the race and almost bridged back up on L6 but just couldn't close.  Regardless, I got in a great 3 hour race effort at a much higher effort that I would have been able to do otherwise, and then I did some hard MTB efforts on Sunday to test my efforts after recovery. 
As a result of some no-go planning that fell through for work trips out to Arizona (and the resulting mini-training camp that would have followed), I was able to plan on attending my team's full on training camp in North Carolina.  So here I am.  To start things off, we're all racing the Knobscorcher at Tsali so I'll kick off my MTB racing season against some heavy hitters on a climb heavy course, so I should definitely get a good result.  I do have to say I feel like this year I've been able to ride better technically and push myself more into corners so who knows, maybe I will actually get a good result.  In any event, I'll give it the ole college try regardless.

OK, I'm out.

-the Mexler

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I decided to hit pause on my race season start... call me smart, call me a sissy - either way I'm NOT racing my MTB today in 50 degree pissing rain and mud.  I usually open my racing season with the Chickasaw Classic an hour south of Nashville, TN but the weather forecast for race day was a consistent 70% chance of rain throughout the week.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to a sloppy and/or cold race; anybody who races cyclocross in the late fall will at some point have a nasty race.  I raced cyclocross last November in North Carolina in 40 and rain, which ended up taking about 2 hours in the car with the heat cranked and 4 layers of clothes to stop shivering.  Hell, I even did Chickasaw a few years back in sub-par conditions.  The day before saw torrential rain, and race day was overcast and maybe 45 degrees.  The course was a non-stop peanut butter mess, but I had already made the 5 hour trek so I toed the line.  It worked out well for me since I ended up with the win. 

Still eager to race this weekend, I even looked into driving 6 hours North to hit up Barry-Roubaix, but I would have been severely time crunched to work a mostly full day, come home to pack, and leave early enough not to make it another post-midnight bedtime.  That, and it was supposed to be about 30 degrees at the start of the race.  Again, somewhat sissy-ish but at this point in my racing career I think I benefit more from not beating myself down early in the season for a training race.  This will pay dividends in spades come November when I am driving to New Jersey for the USGP, and still have the motivation to do so.  It's always way better to want to race but not than to force yourself to look for motivation and half-ass your effort.

Soooooo, I'm sitting at my desk, enjoying my second pot of coffee on the day getting a laundry list of things done that would have otherwise put yet another time crunch on me - boxing up eBay sales, paying bills, watching Ghent-Wevelgem, downloading training data.  OH, and blogging.  Can't forget about that.

-the Mexler

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A pain that I'm used to

As cyclists, we tend to have a high threshold for pain.  It always ends up the same - "What will it take to get me back on the bike?" or better still, we just push through the pain and deal with it.  That second part really encompasses a wide range of pains; from the mundane dull pain from a hard effort, to the more acute pains associated with crashes and missing chunks of skin and flesh.
Most of us have a number of stories of pushing ourselves to our body's limits to give up and suffer a far worse pain: the pain of regret.  This typically manifests itself in any number of ways such as self-loathing, doubt, questions and maybe even resignation.  Happily I haven't come close to resignation, but have definitely danced with questions, doubt and self-loathing many times over the years.  My typical pattern is a period of self-disgust, then after stewing about the events for some time I doubt myself and the work that I put in to get where I am (this passes quickly), then questions of motivation arise.  Most of the time, if after a race I'm back to normal around half way home.  Of course, it could be because at this point I've stuffed my face with some type of comfort food but I try not to pay attention to those things because they bring on a whole other subset of regret.
Anybody who has turned a pedal in anger for any length of time has almost certainly had some incident happen to cause some type of physical pain.  I've had a few road rash incidents that have resulted in a few weeks of pants stained from wound seepage around the knee.  Not trying to sound too modest, but those are injuries where you just double wrap the gauze, walk slowly and with a limp, then carry on about your way.
It's said that, on average, we'll have a bad crash once every 7 years or so. Since I had two crashes happen one month (31 days exactly) apart I figure I'm good for at least 14, maybe even 21 if I play my cards right.
The first is, to date, my worst crash ever.  Not really in terms of bandages and tape, but out-and-out pain.  It was the first mountain bike race of the year and I was on a completely new bike and didn't have my position on the bike quite right (grossly wrong, as it turns out!).  Long story short, my long-time friend and teammate, who was directly behind me summed it up best "Well, once your face hit the ground, your body just kinda went limp."  I have to rely on his account since I really don't remember anything from about 10 seconds prior to 30 minutes after when I woke up in the ambulance. 
So the end result was a few scrapes and scratches, a bent rim, a concussion and a good story.  I wouldn't really find out the worst of the damage, though, until about a month later which dovetails nicely with my road crash a month later.
That one resulted from me decelerating from 30 mph to about zero by way of a 90 pound dog in the road.  I tried everything short of riding into the ditch to avoid the dog, but the dipshit kept running towards where I was going to be.  With 5 other guys directly behind me not able to see the dog, standing on the brakes was not an option so I hit the dog, went ass over elbows and landed in the ditch.

Again, scrapes and bruises, but I also got 25 stitches in my shin from where my cassette scraped my shin.  Believe me, I've tried to work out the physics of how that could happen but there is no other thing on a bike that can provide 7 equally spaced slices.  Not surprisingly, stitching skin that doesn't really have any meat underneath it is pretty hard to do.  Painful, too.  In line with pushing through the pain, I remounted my bike and rode the 10 miles home, but did have a friend drop me off at the ER.  Thanks, Terry.
Throughout the previous month I had shrugged off a lingering back pain that I figured would just go away.  Alas, no.  After being head over heels for all the wrong reasons twice in a month, I decided to push through the pain no more.  X-ray film at the chiropractor showed the signs of a hyper-extended back that I can only guess was the result of feet touching ground over my head when my face stopped forward progress in my mountain bike crash the month prior (think situp except bend the opposite way).  Fast forward a few years and I still get knots in my back that usually take a few days of deep stretching to remedy.

So anyway, that's the long way around of saying I've had some pains in my day, but I've gotten used to because I love it.  As I type I'm still dealing with a nagging pain from about a month ago that feels like it could be a pinched sciatic nerve resulting from a forgot-to-account-for-suspension-sag incorrect saddle position.  I guess the only thing to say is don't crash, always stretch and don't ever get old.  The wisdom you gain from living and growing older does not fully compensate for the pains you gain.  Trust me.


the ATM

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A sign the Apocalypse is nigh

You'd have to know me to understand the gravity of the above picture. When I first started riding a road bike I chose Campagnolo components not only because they had a great reputation, but also because service parts are readily available. This appealed to my 'do it myself' approach that had served me so well in the past (and still serves me well to this day). For about $15 in parts, you can have a functionally brand new set of shifters. Sign me up. In fact, I still have that entire gruppo I bought almost 10 years ago. The last few years the parts have served well on various iterations of cyclocross bikes to good effect.

In addition, once I find something I really like I stick with it with a passion - not unlike what most people know Italians to have. In line with my do it myself strategy, staying with one brand longer allows me to 'get to know' a company and their design and product philosophy in the same way one gets to know a person. This is a huge time saver because one doesn't have to invest scads of time to re-learn subtle nuances for any given thing.

Anyway, back to Shimano. People I ride with regularly know me as a Shimano hater. In part that still holds true; I really don't like the Shimano mountain bike gruppos. To me they feel mushy and generally not positive. Ever since I switched to SRAM 4 or 5 years ago, I've become ever more used to the flat out solid gear engagement and not only audible, but tactile clicks for each gear change. Don't get me wrong - Shimano make good mountain components or they would not be as well known as they are. I even have a Shimano front derailleur on my mountain rigs.

All that being said, there are a few annoyances with Campy gear that got me to thinking it wouldn't be bad to try something else. They're really not that big of a deal but they stayed in the back of my mind over the years. For example, freehub bodies. Of course Campy has to have a different style than Shimano because they believe it to be better, but this makes it difficult to test out a change if you've got a good number of wheels. Since I'm a wheel whore, I fall into that difficult-to-change category. This leads into cassettes. Shimano (and SRAM) cassettes are generally 1/2 to 1/3 what Campy cassettes cost. This makes outfitting wheels with cassettes an expensive proposition when you're the aforementioned wheel whore. There are a few other things but they're really not important enough to merit attention, but they do add up to plant a seed of doubt.

On to the actual riding. I've had the gruppo on my road bike for just over a week and I finally was able to log some solid miles on the road (trainer miles don't count in this case). As expected, it took about half the ride to purge my Campy shifting habits. I expected no less, but the shifting is quality. The ergonomics are good, as well. Different, naturally, but just fine. The different hand positions I've come to use with Campy ergonomics will mostly not work on the Shimano so I'll have to come up with new ones. Such is life.

So a week in I'm not in love, or even smitten for that matter, but I'm confident it will always do the task required without fuss. Since I'm ever increasingly looking for ways to have free time, that alone may mean the gruppo finds favor with me.

But let's be honest: What Italian man hasn't had a mistress at some point in his life? Maybe this is mine. They are a passionate people, you know.


-the ATM