Monday, May 30, 2011

Kung Fu Noodles

Congratulations to Dennis Smith for using every square inch of trail at Iron Hill in his design of an amazing course. Dennis is one of two men, Thayer Seese being the other, who know the trails at Iron Hill better than anyone.  When that knowledge comes together, it makes both of them very tough to beat. Ironhill holds a pretty special place in my heart as far as bike racing goes. I am excited to race Ironhill again for the first time in maybe 5 years.  More history later. For now here is the masterpiece that Dennis has come up with:

We had a hell of a nice group to survey the course this morning. It was Dennis, Buddy the leg breaker, Travis the beginner, Nick Sears, Garvey, Travis S, 1/2 of the glimmer twins (Doyle), and LWeb. Hoyle started out with us but decided to do a derailer adjustment/removal about 1/3 into the lap.

As always it was jungle hot in the woods of Ironhill and resulted in some blurry pictures.
Nick, Dennis, Buddy and Beginner Travis

Doyle- 1/2 of the glimmer twins


Me in the Stay Puft Marshmellowman kit, Travis, Garvey, and Lweb

Other than that it was a pretty mellow weekend. Got to hang out with the ladies a bit:

 in other news:
Congrats to Tom McKay for his ride at Bike Jam...  

at least Potter made it outside...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

worth a thousand words...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Word Epic Gets Used Too Much (my Rapha Gentlemen's race report)

The Rapha Gentlemen's race is an invitational, unsanctioned, unmarshalled race over 133 miles, and according to my GPS 12k feet of climbing. The course was made up of lots of road, and what had to be an equal amount of gravel  and dirt road climbs.  Teams of 6 riders take off at 6 minute intervals and attack the course.  The teams must start and finish together with all 6 riders. 25 teams took the start this year.
manager's meeting

The race offers a cash prize to the winners, a mountain of beer to second, and some snazzy Rapha gear to third, but the race is more about the experience and the effort, then racing for a prize. As we toed the line the race director told us that when we returned we'd enter the velodrome and do two laps- Paris Roubaix style, as if the abundance of gravel roads weren't enough. For me, in some of my darkest moments of the day, I visualized my team and I finishing up in the velodrome. That was my carrot. I wanted to ride around the track with my teammates.

My team was made up of 5 awesome guys: Bad Andy, Auer, Meatball, Jameson, and Sweet Johnny.
l-r: BA, Fatme, Jameson, Auer, Sweet J, and Meatball

I have known for a bit I was going to be on this team, and certainly had my concerns regarding the distance and climbing, both would be above and beyond anything I had done before in my life.

Our team got off to a good start and 30 miles in we had caught two teams that started ahead of us, without over extending ourselves. We were descending a gravelly decent, when Sweet Johnny shredded a front tire. It took some creative patching to get the tire together and then a quick detour to King's cyclery in Kutztown (just a half mile off course thank goodness).  First, props to Sweet J who rode twenty miles through tough technical conditions on a front booted tire, this after we saw a pile of Indy Fab riders who crashed with a flatted tire. 

The folks at King's were super rad, and although it delayed us a bit, they really saved the day. We left with an extra tire in our pocket. I also have to say the pump track they had there was way rad, and I could have spent the day watching Chris King's daughter rip it up.

As we set out again, we made a quick stop, with what seemed like everyone else at Turkey Hill. The first 50 miles of this ride into Kutztown may have been the hardest of the entire ride. 
At the advice of Jim McNeely, I ate this, it was awesome, just like he said it would be:

Once we got going again, we'd have some more challenges with another shredded tire, and 2 more flats in addition to that.  The route was challenging and as a team fortune didn't smile upon our chances to place well. But then, again the gentlemen's race never really was about the race. It was about the adventure. It was about 6 friends challenging themselves against what had to be one of the toughest routes ever. It was one of those e moments where you ask yourself, how hard can I push myself. How far can I go?

At mile 80 or so we connected with team Bike Snob. Team bikesnob was made up of lots of cross friends: Chris, Kelly, Szczpanski, Matt H, Colin and Eban. We would end up riding out the rest of the ride together. 12 friends riding can be better than 6.

At the 90 mile check point we met up with the bicycling team as well, and would ride together with them until our second shredded tire would have them continuing on, while we looked like geniuses traveling with an extra tire.
Bad Andy's yellow shoes are Bad Ass...

In my mind I had built up getting over the last large climb of the day, which wrapped up at mile 103. For some reason I felt like if I made that, we'd be home free. I was wrong. The final 30 miles had a number of steep and short pitches, and tons of tough gravel roads. It felt like a death march. Water was short, and we were all getting tight on food. It was gut check time.  Our group was quiet, as we took turns pulling and working hard, as we all sensed the end was near, and frankly were ready to be done. Jameson and Meatball, who had been our young guns most of the day looked tired for the first time. They had really worked hard all day for us. Sweet J always had a positive word, and a look of determination driving through.  Auer and Bad Andy went to the front and paced us in for the final few miles.

Finally, 9:35 minutes of ride time, and close to 10:45 chamois time, we pulled back into the Leigh velodrome. As we entered the small crowd of riders, fans, family members cheered for us,  and we entered the track. I was shattered. Completely done. But I had goosebumps as we circled the track. I had dug deeper, and pushed harder than I ever have. We all had, it was awesome.  Those two laps around the track, were amazing.

Thanks to my amazing teammates, Auer, Bad Andy, Sweet Johnny, Jameson and Meatball for being great teammates, and companions on this journey.  Thanks to Auer for considering me for this mission.

thanks to team bike snob for rolling the last 50 or so with us. Always a pleasure.

For me, this was by far the hardest day I have had on the bike. I am a better rider, a better person for it. And while my body may still be hurting, those laps around the velodrome at the end felt amazing.
The ladies were there to make sure we had food at the finish...

you know, I don't even drink wine, but I have to admit, I will be enjoying a sample of this later.

Epic is a word that gets thrown around a lot. I am careful when I use it. But today, today just might qualify.

thanks for reading.

fatmarc vanderbacon

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Gentlemen's Race

I couple of years ago, I saw this video of the Rapha Gentlemen's race out in Oregon.

When I saw the video, I thought it must be the coolest idea, race ever. Six friends/teammates take off together, and have to finish together over what could best be described as an epic route. Epic climbing, Epic Views, Epic experience.

Last year I saw this video

Rapha Gentlemen's Race - New Paltz, NY from RAPHA on Vimeo.

A Gentlemen's race on the east coast !? I was totally stoked. Even cooler when I looked at the video, I saw lots of folks that I knew. I was sucked in even more.

About a month ago, I got a call from the team director:

"Fatmarc, our team just got an invite to participate in this year's Gentlemen's Race in the North East"

"yes?" I coyly asked.

"Fatmarc, I want you to be on our Gentlemen's Race team!"

Without thinking about it, I blurted out, "Fuck, Yeah, I'm in!"

As the event has gotten closer, and  I got more details regarding the event,  and well, well I started to get a little nervous. The reality of what is in front of me is a little intimidating:  130 miles, and 7 thousand plus feet of climbing.

My teammates, all super bawlers (Bad Andy, Sweet Johnny, Jameson, Meatball, and Auer Power).
Yeah, their combined body fat is still less than mine alone. And while we are into having a great time and fun,
I know this is gonna hurt.

Here's the reality check:

So how many times have I ridden over a hundred miles? Well, Twice.
How many times have I climbed over 5000 feet? Well, Never.
How many times in the last year have I ridden longer than 3 hours? well, 4.

I am scared and excited all at once.  This should be interesting.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

9 hours of cranky monkey...

Sunday, I took my fixed gear bicycle out for the first time in 2 years.

Diane, sanded and painted some deck furnature.

Pretty peaceful day.

Saturday, well saturday was a 20 hour day.

Kid Chris, Monkey and I were a 3 person co-ed team in the 9hr Cranky Monkey race at Rocky Gap State Park in Flinstone, Maryland. Our team was named C3- Honey Badger Don't Care. The venue was 3.5 hours away, so we were up at 4:30 and off for western maryland.

The venue was beautiful and the 8.5 mile course was fast, technical and challenging. The first three miles were fast and twisty with lots of rooty trails and a sweet little rocky garden or two. From mile 3 to 5 you were basically climbing with a couple of steep ups, and a couple of tricky  rock sections, the effort was rewarded with a ripping down hill, to the final 2 miles of the course which was fast, smooth, flowing single track. Super fun course with the fastest lap being a 34 and some change. (from Single Speed Super Star Montana- super nice guy too!)

We set up a little camp with Blake and Travis, who were both racing solo. Blake did 6 laps finishing 6th in the open women's class, and did 10 laps, finishing 3rd in the 35+ solo class.

Kid Chris lead off for us. Here Blake, Travis and Chris get ready for the lemans start.
Chris didn't know he was running.

As always it was great to see Mayhew, who was racing with Tille and Shieken.
Tille with the SWEET new hope Jersey...
 They finished 2nd in the 35+ men trio I believe. Chris really is a great teacher, and he was very helpful providing Monkey and I some pre-race information on the course.

During my second lap, I was riding with Mayhew, and we were move through the track pretty well, when we came upon Chris Mcgill. Chris won the 35+ solo class by putting in only 12 laps. I tried to make a cheeky pass, and ended up hooking my bar end on a tree and going ass over tea cups. Fortuneatly, this was my biggest hic up on the day. Thanks to the Chris for not laughing at me!
Chris is not checking his junk before putting in 12 laps.

Diane, Chris and I had devised a plan that we figured would give us a shot at getting 12 laps in, which we felt would give us a good shot to win our class.  We had a few minor issues along the way, one of which involved the emt squeezing chris's ass instead of trying to clean out his cuts, and  gravel from his skin after a little crash, but I digress. We had a plan, but came up 10 minutes short of fulfilling it to it's fullest extent and getting out for a 12th lap. The Evolution Cycling p/b Long and Foster, took the lead early on, and despite our best efforts, got that 12th lap in and took the win. Cheers to Randy Root, Alex Mata and Katy Curran for their efforts and the win.

Okay, we don't have the proper podium attire on, wonder if we'll get a fined from the team director for improper uniform?

Thanks to the kind folks from Pittsburgh Pro Bike/Trek of Pittsburgh/Team CF of Pittsburgh, who camped out next to us and were kind enough to help us out of a jam. It would seem that Diane and I brought our Jet Boil but no propane, so we couldn't cook our food. Our neighbors were kind enough to boil up some water for us. I have to be honest everytime I see the Pittsburgh Crew, I am totally impressed. Just seems like whether it's cross or mtb or anything these are really good people...

A little after midnight, in the pouring rain, which thank god we never saw during the race, Diane, Chris and I pulled into the driveway back home. It had been 20 hours since we left, and a pretty exhausting and wonderful race day for sure.  We sat in the car for a few seconds, waiting to start a furious unload in the storm. When Diane offered this, " for the record,  you guys had like an 1:30 of recovery between laps, I only had 1:20 or so... just saying..."  We laughed, and started our furious unload...

thanks for reading.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Guest Blogger; Oliver Yeh

I Believe in Wormholes

Yesterday, I did a George Costanza. I went on the Delaware Legislators Bike to Work ride down to Dover. When the email first came out announcing the 60-mile event, I thought about doing it for sure. Then my lardness snuck in shims of excuses in between my everyday ongoings suggesting, "It's a weekday, you won't know anyone, it could rain, you've never biked that distance before, you need to get back in time for pick-up..." So I strategized. In a last minute flip of attitude, I did the opposite of letting the event pass and set plans in motion the night before so I couldn't back out.

Oliver +1

Lardness 0

People talk about muscle-memory's role in cycling. I find even more intriguing the Pavlovian response to getting ready for a cycling event. It felt like 'cross season had already arrived. The laying out of clothing, gear, foods. Breakfast in the dark. One shot of espresso and out the door I went into the chill of the morning. My stomach gurgled here and there. Anticipation, a little anxiety. This is when logic seems to get clouded and fear (for no good reason) takes hold.

I think if there's ever a compelling reason to do an event you've never done before it's to experience not the event itself but its people. Maybe I'm more affected than you because I sit at home all day in my mental cave while you drive-to-work types get your fill of other beings that actually exist. All sorts arrived at Zingo's Supermarket's parking lot that morning. I was the outsider for certain but a couple of familiar faces gently folded me in like a nice meringue. This took away some of the fear and unlatched my shutters to the whole experience.

I unleashed a few ounces in the bathroom at Zingo's (yes, there is one, in the back right, through the doors and up the stairs -- you will get looks if you're wearing cycling gear). We saddled up. Cue sheets were handed out, a welcome, a few scant announcements, warnings, precautions and off we went. I wore on my wrist my wife's Garmin 405cx. It's been acting a bit wonky recently so I wanted to test it again before sacrificing it to my son as a superhero watch, or for use as target practice with our sledgehammer. Twenty-some minutes into the ride it blanked. I prayed it wasn't a sign. But really, what was I keeping track of?

Wormhole: a hypothetical portal between separated regions of space-time. (Ergo, you enter a "hole" and come out somewhere else in time. Let's use the assumption that it is a forward movement in time.)

On planet Earth, I think traveling through a wormhole is indication that something great is happening. Something enjoyable. Children travel through them all the time which is why they hate it when they arrive into a parent's arms and hear those fatal words, "It's time." Dates that are going well go through wormholes. On the converse, a team who is being pummeled by an opponent is traveling in the wrong direction in a wormhole. It cannot budge time.

While I could hypothesize the whole event was a wormhole, I encountered two distinct instances. The first went something like this: I rode alongside a person, we talked in depth about an interesting topic, we kept pace and on a long stretch of road we looked up to see no riders in front of us. We looked back to see no riders behind us. We stopped, waited. Checked the time but didn't know when we started or when we're supposed to end. We looked for water towers only to see what I thought were vultures or some large birds that eat roadkill. We couldn't even find tumbleweed. Luckily he had his smartphone and I pulled out my sweaty cue sheet. Find, find, find. What's funny about getting lost is that you tend to accelerate your traveling pace when searching for the right track (or deepen your level of lostness). I tend to worry in these situations so I pulled most of the way back to find the next gathering spot.

The second hole happened at the end of the ride. After a break-stop before the last stretch to Legislative Mall, a small group set off ahead of everyone. Overall, I thought that this would be a nice coast-in. Instead, when I set off, a new friend and I became the lead of a group of fast hard-charging line of cyclists. It was thrilling. The two of us started to pick up the pace (I don't know if either of us wanted to but it just happened partly because I told myself to let go). After a long pull, we backed off when a red light inserted a much needed breather. I paused my restart and sandwiched in the middle of a new single-lined train. In my head I heard voices of mentors telling me to tuck in, keep my nose out of the wind, and all those small tips you cannot begin to understand until you're in dire need of them. Feeling the wind, keeping an eye out for the wheel in front. Not thinking about the pain. We caught and passed the very first group (who had a pace I should've been riding with).

Eventually, I imploded and bowed out. It was only later I heard someone had marked us at 39 mph at one point on the flats. I don't know if it was accurate. But I do know we were in the express line.

I came out of the wormhole at Legislative Mall: after dropping off, I smiled and sidled a couple of riders who had also dropped off. Eventually there remained myself and another talking and lost again. We quickly found our bearings to a table of volunteers who looked at us as if we were Gil Gerard and Twiki.

"Where is everyone?"

"I don't know, weren't you with them?"

"They were in front of us."

"Well you guys are 1st, 2nd and 3rd."

Someone who rode a folding bike (who rode in the fast moving surge that shot us out) had arrived first. So then I remembered someone mentioning Subway and how they couldn't wait to eat before the ride back up to Zingo's. I backtracked knowing the intent was to ride as one and waited next to a DelDOT photographer who only spoke when asked a question. Not used to speaking to large Chinese guys in spandex I guess. Eventually, the whole crew rode by and I slid in.

It was impressive hearing Senator Dave Sokola's speech if not for the mere appreciation of the history behind the cycling efforts in Delaware. When we enter a new world, whether it's a sport, an area of work, or what not, it's easy to gloss over a past long established. The thrill is having the opportunity to add to that map and to meet those who contributed their own piece. As a newcomer, connecting those pieces is an enjoyable adventure in knowledge. I admit I won't remember everyone's name. I will however remember the smiling faces and what we did together. I now have a piece of my own.

Do a Constanza once in a while. Break routine. Lose yourself; find a wormhole.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

French Creek and the Importance of Getting a Strong Start...

I have a race routine. It's not religious, but pretty general. It doesn't ball me up if I get out of routine but it does help to alleviate some stress on race day. Adding a puppy named Potter might have been a monkey wrench in my routine.

Saturday morning was the normal, up at 5:00am with the dogs: a quick out for Potter, then feeding, and then a longer out for both Layla and Potter. After this, Layla usually sneaks off to her room and goes to sleep, Potter starts a morning of raging.

This particular Saturday morning was a little different, as Potter and Layla started a vigorous wrestling match. I laid down on the couch and passed out. I woke up a half hour later and see the kids still wrestling.  "Layla you rule. Thank you for taking care of the puppy!" I laid down and when back to sleep. Precious Sleep.

7:00. I get up. The dogs are still at it. "totally awesome!" I think to myself, as I start to head up stairs to get monkey up.  I look over in the office. A scream from the core of my existence escapes from my mouth, "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!"

The office looks like a CSI scene. There is what appears to be blood all over the carpet. After closer examination i realize it is a Gatorarde Prime and a series of raspberry hammer gels. Potter went in my zipped up race bag, and pulled them out, drained them and spread them all over our formerly white carpet. Now I
know how the vigorous wrestling match was fueled.

Then I see it. My brand new camel back, which was zipped in my race bag, in the corner, and the bladder, which was zipped up in the camel back, pulled out, chewed up and killed.


Diane charges down the stairs after hearing my second blood curdling scream in 5 minutes.  We look into the kitchen where we see the two dogs, sitting and looking at us,  perhaps admiring their carnage, but sitting looking cute and angelic.

I stare at Potter, "I'm going to eat you. You cute little bastard. With Cheese. I'm going to eat you with cheese on a sub roll."


While staging for the French Creek race my teammate Jake looks over to me and says, "fatmarc, do you know your camel back is leaking?"  I reply, "yup, my bladder was puppy altered this morning, and is currently being held together with a series of black tape patches, I'm hoping they hold at least through the first lap. Would you like a puppy?"

Jake laughs.

Despite a rocky start, French Creek was fun. Thanks to the wonder of black tape, I was able to finish the race pretty hydrated. Fun day for sure. Congrats to Marcus and his team for a really fun course that was really challenging. Monk and I both went in with modest goals, (finish, don't get hurt) and both came away pretty pleased with the day.

it doesn't get much better than that.

Samantha said to me, "Puppy's are so cute so you can't kill them when the destroy your stuff."



Thursday, May 5, 2011

Moe's Bike Shop

Wonder if this is a uniform violation?

Guess we'll see if the director fines me at that end of the month.

fatmarc vanderbacon

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guy Mariano

you know I've watched this clip maybe 20 times. It just doesn't get old.

The story is that Guy had just gotten himself cleaned up, and wasn't even supposed to be in the
video. The first section in the warehouse is the first time the guy skated in like 3 or 4 months.
Then they were like, dude, you're too rad to not be in the video.

Not sure if that's true or not. But the Dude is totally sick.

I'm signed up for French Creek this weekend. I have a couple of modest goals.
First and foremost is to race the entire race. It's been a few years since I've been able to do that.

I'm pretty excited. I like racing at French Creek.



Monday, May 2, 2011

Ten Things from the Granogue Weekend...

Race Promotion Make Potter Tired.

1. Thanks to everyone that came out for our race weekend, runners, time trialist, and MASS racers. The folks that came out to granogue were awesome this year. There are lots of other races that have landed on our date. You could have been anywhere in the world, but you choose to be with us. We appreciate that choice and hope to make your experience the best we can.
Push Up Contest for A Set of Tires
2. Thanks to our volunteers- 2 days of racing takes a lot of people and a lot of time to pull off. Thanks to everyone who sacrificed their weekend, their time to come out and help us pull off this event. If you love something, like say bike racing, you have to give back to it. For everything we get from this game, it's worth it to give back.  Thanks to everyone who helps this weekend happen.  I will say the daily  6:00 am meetings with Tom, Buddy, Laurie and Charlie at the venue were hard, but moments that I wouldn't miss. Awesome stuff.

3. Awful coffee mugs. The printer screwed them up. Totally disappointing. Thanks to everyone who finished in the top 10 or that I could pawn them off to. Thanks for happily taking  them, so they are not stuck in my garage.

4.  DE, MD, PA, NJ Mountain Bike Time Trial State Championships- seriously an excuse for me to get to race the granogue event. thanks to everyone coming out to play with me a bit. 3 mile race, 20 minute efforts or so... Super fun...  We've grown it the last two years, and hope to grow it again next year...
The Competitors for the DE, MD,PA, NJ Mountain Bike Time Trial State Championships
5. My partner Jeffy. First I figured out how to keep the kid from dropping me: make him run a 10k before our race. Even then I think he was going easy on me.  Thanks  Jeff. Maybe it's just kind of a silly mountain bike time trail, but you know it was rad to race with him. He took lines and did things, that I never could dream of and racing with him was just awesome.  20 years from now I'll still tell the story of racing with him. We had the 2nd fastest time overall, and cut over 3 minutes off our time from last year. Conditions were outstanding this year. BTW, We are the DE, MD, NJ, PA Mountain Bike Team Time Trial State Champions, which is nice.

6. Seriously, promoting a 10k run is about 100x easier than a bike race. No scrum for the line, everyone is stoked with the prizes they get, they are in an out in 2 hours.  Awesome and Easy. Take note bike racers ;)
Kyle Miller working hard as a Running Marshall.
Charley the evil mastermind behind our 10k run
7.  It's monkey's birthday. She comes out and works her ass off for the race. She's awesome, and I really, really appreciate ll her efforts. How many of you out there would give up their birthday weekend to run around a bike race for 2 days. My wife really does kick ass.

 Monk always gives away more swag on her birthday than she gets!

8. Potter's baby sitters. Thanks to everyone who end up hanging on to Potter when Monk or I had to run to do something. Thanks a ton.

9. Fun. Hell yeah, that's why we do this right? But let me be honest the last few granogue races I have been a ball of hot tired mess. I didn't feel like I got to enjoy the trees for the forrest. I really didn't have fun- just stress.  I don't know what was different. maybe it started with a nice walk in the woods early Friday marking a section of the course with the Manchester Orchestra in my ear. Maybe it was the sunshine. Maybe it was the great people all around me. I don't know but this was by far the most fun I had promoting a race in a very long time.

10. Andrew Mein. Our race's name sake. One of the founder's of the WW mountain bike team. The first guy that brought me into the bike scene. And he taught me "to always be an ambassador for the sport". Almost twenty years later, it still resonates with me. I treasure the opportunity to spread his message this weekend.

thanks for reading