Saturday, September 13, 2014

China CX Post 1.

Blogs are dead. I know. But if I dont write it down now, I will forget stuff. 10 years ago I would have had a journal and wrote things down by pen to maybe read later. This is easier.

So in early August CX magazine said they were looking for applicants for China. Short notice brutal trip a week before cross season? I am in.  I applied and got accepted. They bought my plane ticket. Communications were a bit tough through the language barrier. My understanding: Fly in, race a C1 UCI race, race an "amateur ride," extend my trip in Beijing for 3 days. I think it was 10 total days, with 2 travel days.

I cant quite recall the details, but I finally got to the resort at 8:30 PM Beijing time. This was about 32 hours after leaving my house in Pittsburgh.  I got put up in a room with Travis from Team Sonic. "You are American... You live together."   He and his teammate Andy Reardon ended up being awesome dudes during the trip, which made a huge difference.

We rode to the Great Wall. It was about a 50 mile ride total. Every road has a protected bike lane. Everybody is on bikes. Driving is insane, but in a controlled type of way. There are almost 3 classes of vehicles: motor cars, electric bikes and bicycles. Electric bikes look like a 125 scooter or a bicycle depending on how fast it is. They sometimes take bike lanes and sometimes are in the road.  The roads had 0 glass. I rode tubular CX tires the whole time. No problems, no worries.

Because we rode there, we ended up on some non tourist section of the wall. We basically had it to ourselves. Fuck yeah. The actual race was about 30 miles outside of Beijing. The town is called Yanqing.  I dont think it was common to have a westerner there just checking things out. The town was cool. There was a HUGE mall. Like 5 stories with probably 2,000 little shops. Some were chains, most seemed to be independent. It was a mixture of indoor and outdoor. It was packed.

Me and my new friends Travis and Andy rode to the course, did a few laps and then went back to the resort for lunch. This is why I think we got along, after lunch we went and explored on our bikes. We rode up to the Longing Gorge, which was super beautiful and insane. It was kind of a tourist town. It was super beautiful, but we were unable to go all the way in due to our bikes.

Then we rode to and abandoned ski resort, checked it out and tried finding a pass over the mountains. We found one of the smoothest, least used roads I have ever been on. It must have been paved for the Olympic road race. There were sculptures of bikes everywhere on it.  We found the mountain pass and were turned away at the bottom by a dude who's job it was seemed to be turning people away from it.

UCI C1 Race.  Standard race day stuff.... Rode around in circles. Got 21st. Pretty good for me. It was my first cross race in like 50 weeks, as I tweaked my ankle last year and had to miss 90% of the season.

Soooo there is a huge language barrier. I dont think many people knew that we were going to get into a bus and drive 5 hours to the road race. I surely did not. Also I didnt know what the "road race" was going to be like. I didnt know the name, the location, the distance. They simply had a photo of the race and there were people on mountain bikes. I figured a cx bike with cx tires would be fine.

Now I am not making fun of china, but upon closer inspection, the photo of the road race seemed to be photo shopped.  And I am not lying here, but that photo was then used on bus stops where we were, it was the sign for a bike shop that I randomly encountered, and it was used elsewhere. I think it was the Chinese photo for bike racing.

We get to the hotel. It is seriously baller. Like insane nice. We learn that the road race is like a grand fondo. Suddenly just having tubular cross tires seems like a terrible plan. There is a crazy banquet. They love having celebration banquets. Before races, after races, etc. They love rice wine. It is 52%. North Americans less than 27 years old should not be allowed to drink rice wine.

Road Race:
We rode to the start from the hotel. We had police escorts and they were blocking the intersections. The start was insane. There were bands playing. Cannons that shot confetti. Balloons. Drones. Fans. Grand stands. Sign ins. It was like the start of the tour de france (ive been to the start of the tdf..)

There were allegedly 500 people. On the start line there is an english speaking dude that I can only characterize as a "masters grand fondo racer"... 10k bike, gadgets all over it etc. He is talking about traveling to the race to race it. Suddenly it is real how real of a race this is. He says there is 10,000 yuan to the winner (1610 usd)... I think this is a shit ton of money in China.

So the race was insane. 32 miles into a 4 mile climb. We did literally 30+ mph for an hour. It was the flattest road, straightest road I have ridden in probably 10 years. There was 1 turn in 32 miles. It was a highway. It was closed. Totally insane. At one point there was a guy on a hang glider above the field filming.

Days 6+: Beijing Tourist. 
Beijing is awesome. Bike lanes everywhere. I rode around and felt safe. It is the safest city for its size in the world. I loved it. It was insane. No English. Sketchy food. Everything is weird. There must literally be a million markets or street vendors. Sick time. Was happy to leave, but am so thrilled to have gone.
town we rode to

Great Wall 

Ill dump a bunch of photos later.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Racing Bikes.

I did my first bicycle race in about 7 months on Saturday. It was a fairly flat 4 corner crit.

Racing is a total pain in the ass. This was the easiest race to get ready for, a crit. I threw some clothes in a bag, threw a bike in a car and did it. No mud. No clean up. No gluing tires....

I rode with a dude the other year. I think he was probably a fairly legit pro dude at some point. We rode for about 5 hours. He was surprised when I outlasted him on a hill halfway through the ride. He didnt talk about racing much, but just said that it got in the way of riding.... I can see where he is coming from. The time that I  spent driving, warming up, racing and then driving home could have been spent doing a long ride on new roads. I could have driven half the distance that I did to the race and done one of probably one of the most epic day rides I have ever done.

Then there is training. Instead of going out and enjoying nature or farms or the sun, I end up on a bike bath or a hill not too far away just turning myself inside out for an hour.

THEN there are bike racers who sometimes can be the worst people alive, after real estate agents and lawyers.

I am not going to "make it".... Im on my decline physically at the old age of 33.

All this said, after racing on Saturday I was super pumped to start training and getting in shape. So weird.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Cathedral of Learning stairs. Mt Everest Challenge

With the deep freeze happening there has been little motivation to ride.

Steve K and I decided to try to get into the Cathedral of Learning "Mt. Everest Challenge Club." It is a non existent club that Danny Chew made up that now has 7 people in it. At 6:30 in the AM when we were walking into the cathedral with 10 gallons of water and bags of food, I thought to myself... "so this is the exact moment I became Danny Chew."

Cathedral of Learning stair records and reports via THE CHEWMAN

This consists of climbing the cathedral stairs 66 times in a single day, giving you the elevation gain of Everest from sea level - 29029'.  (440'x66= 29040).

I had not done a long event in years. I think the last 12 hour athletic thing I had done was The Twelve Hours of Granogue  , which I did on a two man team, so it doesnt even count.  Anyway, I knew that if I was going to burn a whole Saturday, I was going to complete it. It was simply a matter of how long it would take.  The only thing more boring than doing it would be talking about it, so Ill just say that it got done. Steve K had some leg issues after 40. If there is something that is literally not worth hurting yourself over, it is this, so he chilled for a few hours as I finished.

 Rest was nice. Unfortunately 20% of the day was spent dealing with elevators...

 Amy took this as as she finished my last few with me..

 VERY Chewish chart. 11:26

 The cathedral is actually a cool building to not exercise in .

TALK TO ME SUMMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The new most gnarls thing I have done.

My cyclocross season was a total bust. I tweaked my ankle after racing 4 races and only got mediocre results at those races. I was riding some and having fun, but something was missing.  Racing is weird. When it is what you eat, breathe, sleep, it is all that you care about. When you are forcibly removed from it, you dont care. I didnt watch any races or look at any results. So weird.

 I needed a goal, something to work towards. For some reason I chose a presidential traverse.   I did a few backpacking trips. One was pretty cold and gnarly.  I thought I was good to go.

I hired a guide named Marc Chauvin. I researched a few guides and paid a bit more for what appeared to be the best.  Amy and I drove 8 hours on Sunday to Vermont to stay overnight with friends and did the last 4 hours on Monday. I met up with Marc and we looked at my gear, he told me what to lose, what to take, etc.

Day 1:
It was 8 degrees in Conway when we left. Above treeline it was -10 to -20 with constant wind at 70mph. Marc made the call to stay at the RMC Gray Knob Hut .  At the time this made no sense to me, but in retrospect it was a great call.  We would get up to Gray Knob, ditch our stuff and make a push for Adams.  This would put us above treeline from the Hut to the summit and back = 3.2 miles or so.  If we did the standard route to try and get Madison, we probably would have been so blown when we got to it that we would not have gotten to the summit, and if we did, the next day would have been a bust after camping so high up and we would have spent the same amount of time above treeline without a summit.

We took the Lowes path all the way up. The previous day it had rained all day then dropped to 20 degrees at 5pm.  Everything was blue ice. We used microspikes on our shoes from the first mile all the way to the hut.  They worked great and allowed us to save time by not taking our crampons off and on.  We got to the hut about noon and ate and drank. We left around 1pm to try and go for Mt Adams. This was going to be more epic than I had expected. It was -20 with 70mph steady wind above treeline.  The second we left treeline it was like being pushed by a wave. Marc would turn around every few minutes to look at my face and have me look at his. I was totally covered with goggles on.  We went over Sam Adams, which I thought was THE SUMMIT,  until we descended down the backside and I looked up at the real Mt Adams.   The rain the previous day had eliminated any snow. Footing was really brutal as it was just piles of icy rocks and the wind trying to push us off.  After getting the summit, Marc yelled "lets get the fuck out of here." I think it was the only time he swore all day.  We got back to the hut, and the caretaker was very surprised to hear that we made it to the top. I managed to let my shell over my chin down and got frost bite a little bit.

Lowes Path was blue ice.

This is a RMC hut a few miles up. It was basically just a shack to break the wind.

The hut was freaking awesome. They now keep them at 40-45 degrees, which is freaking balmy after being outside all day. We cooked dinner, made tea, hung out.  The dude running it had just done the PCT and was living there for the winter. He was a cat 2 bike racer in a former life. Small world.

Gray Knob Hut. Pretty rad.

Mt Adams = most epic thing of my life.

We woke up. Marc had crazy radios and stuff for weather info. It was impressive. He gave us a 50/50 shot of doing Jefferson and Washington.  Once you get past a certain point, you are committed. Jefferson is probably the most remote mountain of the range in the winter. They announced the previous day that all search and rescues were going to be done from the ground, not from the weather station due to the crazy cold weather. This means that you are hoping to survive and probably losing digits if shit hits the fan.

We got to a certain rock formation that has a name that I forget. Marc asked if I was good. I said yes and put down 500 calories in a minute.  We then pushed for 4-5 hours over Jefferson and Washington.  It was honestly pretty easy. Weather was around -10 and wind at a constant 50.  This was so nice compared to Adams the day before.  Again, footing on the rocks was the only issue.
 One of the only postcard shots I got. Just above the cabin right at treeline. At this point my camera died.

We got to the Summit and hid in a nook to talk about the game plan. Did I want to camp that night or get down?  When I woke up that morning I thought that if I got Jefferson and Washington I would be totally content, but standing there having to make the call myself was difficult. Part of me wanted to do it, and part of me felt lucky that we were basically safe from this point and didnt want to push the weather luck. The final summits are formalities (250' of climbing each... all downhill from Washington.)   For some reason, the thought of melting snow in 100mph winds killed it for me. We agreed to roll down Pinkham Notch and go ice climbing the next day.  We missed Madison in the first place, so even if I did get the last 3 summits people would be like "not a real traverse" or whatever. I wasnt doing this to say  that I did a traverse. I was doing this to justify wearing patagonia clothing to whole foods.  We descended like 5000 feet down the Lions Head trail. We needed ropes and crampons for awhile.  We got to the AMC center right at sunset.
Mt Jefferson 

I did wake up that night at 4am and wish that we had pushed on. It would have been an experience, no matter how miserable it was. Standing there on top of Mt. Washington making the call I thought about all of the negative. I thought about the crippling back pain that I had a week prior to leaving. I thought about the knee pain that I had after doing the Rachel Carson trail (37 mile day).  I had self doubt and fear of that pain resurfacing and causing issues.  I sat there comfortably in bed without any back or knee pain.

The next day we went ice climbing on a 350' wall.  I told Marc that I was nervous and he laughed saying that up on Mt Adams was like a million times more dangerous.  Its weird how the brain works.

Can you find the human in this photo?

I made it up Frankenstein cliffs' standard route.

I trusted this dude with my life. Would do it again.