Big Winter

Winter has not been too cold, but it has been good to me. I went to Vermont to ski just after the New Year and got a bit more skiing time in before the spring semester started back up.

Warm weather last week peaked around seventy degrees provided two fine afternoons of cycling. It was windy, but arm warmers were unnecessary. My legs felt good from my skiing cross-training, but my fitness is understandably low. Serves me right for taking nearly two months off.

Twin Six, a cycling apparel company from Minneapolis, donated a full kit for the trip this summer. Nothing beats a new pair of bib shorts and a pretty new jersey with the high quality of Twin Six. Those folks are really awesome!

I am hoping for a good blizzard to come through, but also pulling for some spring weather again. It is about time to start working towards my 1,000 mile goal before the BIKEtheUSforMS Northern Tier begins on Memorial Day.

Plans for the upcoming weeks:

Get some riding in

Get a big push for fundraising going

Buy a new cassette

Spread awareness for Multiple Sclerosis

-Jason

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Warm December

I spent most of November on my mountain bike exploring new trails and happening upon more deer than I can count. If it rained, I went trail running or hiking.

So far, December is off to a strange start. It is too warm for snow, but just cold and windy enough to take the fun out of road cycling. The forecast in the coming week doesn’t look so good either.

But because it is December, I have cold weather and snow on my mind. So, I am about done with cycling for the year. I have final papers to write, exams to study for, and some further research to continue. Then, before I know it, it will be Christmas Eve.

After Christmas, the ski resorts will all be open for the season! That is when my winter fun will begin.

On the agenda so far are New Year’s at Whitetail, the following week at Mount Snow, Vermont, many more nights and days at Whitetail, and topping it all off with a weekend in Deep Creek.

Cycling can wait till late February/early March.

I hope everyone can get out on the slopes this year.

-Jason

P.S. Snow is in the forecast for the 10th of December!

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Patapsco Cross

Yesterday I raced in my first cyclocross race and first bike race of any kind for that matter. It was incredible!

Here’s my race number.

The race was held at Watkins Park in Mt. Airy, MD. There were maybe 150 of us who raced. 25 competed with me in the Cat 4 Men’s race. The course was 2.9km, hilly, and grassy. Obstacles consisted of two regular wood barriers found in most cross races, two logs laid across one of the many hills, and shortly before the finishing line, a beach volleyball court of deep and loose sand to cross.

Go!

I heard a screech and some general panic. Thirty-feet down the course, three guys went down, hard. Registering late, I was at the back of the pack and luckily avoided the crash.

The hard-core guys got out quick, leaving my sights almost immediately. I was near the back, but still ahead of a few guys (most of which were still untangling their handlebars from one another’s spokes).

The course stretched us out into a line and I struggled to pass, only overtaking a few in the first lap. Then we hit some hills, which were my only strong point.

After that came the section where we went up and down a hill, zigzagging across the ridge. Coming down and overcooking the turn, I went down hard on my right side, tearing my race numbers from my jersey.

After two laps, I was dog-tired. I forgot how much racing hurts more than training (my experience comes from running track races). I struggled through the last lap and felt especially lame.

Here’s my uninterested cheering section…

Great fans, eh? From left to right: Dad, Chels, Roomie, and Twin.

Good news about the race: It was really fun. I didn’t get lapped. After failing 4 times through warm-up and the first two laps of traversing the sand pit while riding my bike, I crushed the sand-pit on the final two laps.

Moral of the story: Cyclocross is extremely hard and feels like a sprint the entire time, but it is awesome. Everyone should sign up for a race nearby before the season is over!

I’ll end with some more pictures.

-Jason

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I suppose winter cycling starts here

First snow of the year and it’s only October. I left my car window open the last two or three days (before during and after the storm) and the seat was like a frozen sponge this morning. Then there was ice on the inside of the windshield–a real good start to getting to church when I was already running late.

Anyway, with the afternoon sun came a good thaw, a 40-something-degree thaw. Naturally I got on my road bike. Roomie and Twin both opted for naps, so I went at it alone.

After about two or three miles, I realized I would need a jacket or wind vest on such a ride. But going home is never a good way to start a ride, so I just pressed on.

I became extremely cold, you know, with snot running down my face, lost feeling in my fingers and toes, and just a general chill all over the rest of my body. I found myself pushing my intensity and actually doing intervals just to keep warm. (Maybe the whole under-dressed thing was a good idea). Winter might actually make me faster. I will just have to dress smarter if I am to make it through this winter.

So long ahead of schedule, some winter cycling started today (and yes, I know it was not that cold, but I am not quite acclimated to the cold.) Anyway, there was snow on the ground. See! So it does count as the start of winter in my book.

I think the strangest thing about this picture is how green everything else is. This next picture is even stranger.

It doesn’t look like any snow should be on the ground (well what little there is since it all melted).

I cannot wait for the first substantial snow storm. That’s when ski season will actually be able to start. I think the nearest resort only got five or six inches. It will be fun (or just interesting) to actually train on my bike through this winter. I’ve never really done it before. I have ridden in winter before, but that ended with Roomie calling quits for a case of chapped knees. That’s for another day though.

Let it snow!

-Jason

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Wednesday

Note: Yesterday, RAKEtheUSforMS, which is a part of BIKEtheUSforMS, sent out a message on Twitter saying that it’s time for us to help some folks with MS. So I talked some of the guys at BIKEtheUSforMS about helping some MS patients here in Maryland. Raking their leaves is such a good thing to do. Folks with MS can have extreme physical challenges, so if their main goal is just walking comfortably, why should they have to pick up their leaves? I think we should help them! If anyone wants to help, we’ll be helping some folks out here in the near future if the Maryland chapter of the National MS Society finds some yards to clear.

So today, twin and I had the whole day to do nothing but research. Naturally, we went for a bike ride in the rain and cold. Luckily it didn’t rain that much. But when we stopped at the fire hall at the halfway point, the chief was outside and told us we would get wet, but we were already forty minutes from the house. So, it didn’t matter. Shortly after the fire hall, we passed some construction workers working on the side of the road. They told us we were crazy for being out on bikes and on that road. Those guys should get some bikes.

I remember being afraid of traffic back when I became a roadie. I almost got hit by a bus. It was kind of ugly. But traffic taught me to ride straight and predictably. I also ride faster. So, traffic is just something to overcome.

Anyway, today was yet another perfect day for arm warmers. And it is officially fall because I got a leaf stuck in my front brake (extremely common for MTBing, but never before in my Roadie days. And no, my mountain bike does not have disc brakes). I am glad riding in fall is as good as I remembered, maybe even better.

Don’t forget to ride your bike!

-Jason

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Oh Sweet Ridin’

On Thursday, I talked to a friend I am trying to convince to join me on the trek across the Northern Tier next summer. She is not a cyclist and seems to think I am crazy, but she has not said she won’t do it. So I keep bothering her about it.

Anyway, in our brief conversation, she asked me if I had been riding tons since I last saw her. I realized that sadly, I had not been riding enough. Just an hour of mountain biking here and there. No long road rides in almost two weeks.

It was just the light kick in the butt I needed. Yesterday, limited by sunset, Roomie and I got another short MTB ride in. But today I got a real ride in.

The temperature started at 57 degrees and dropped to a cozy 54. This is premium weather for arm warmers (my favorite invention in all of clothing. And they are not to be confused with just sleeves. Get a pair, you’ll see). I rode some thirty miles just before the threat of sunset came again. I rode up all the hills I normally go down and down all the hills I normally go up. Also it was simply beautiful out. The cool autumn air and no precipitation whatsoever were exactly what I’ve been waiting for. Then, just as I was pulling up to my house, an eight-point buck ran across the street and stood in my neighbor’s yard. We sat there looking at one another for just a few seconds, but it was really cool.

In all, it was my perfect ride.

The best thing to do as a cyclist is to just get out there and ride as often as possible, but not necessarily with any agenda or training ideas. Even short rides will improve your week.

-Jason

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Busy Busy Fall

As summer was expiring in September, I found myself longing for the cooler days of fall. And now that those days are here, I am too busy to find much time for riding or cross-training (normally in the form of trail running for me). I’ve got a pile of books to read, three large research projects to do, some volunteer tutoring, two less-than-part-time jobs, fall yard-work at my house and relatives’ houses, any regular classes to attend, and homework to do. Not to mention special events and finding the time to relax for a bit and put my feet up.

I am not complaining, just explaining that I have reached the same depressing point that most cyclists meet this time of year. The weather is perfect, but I am too busy, or home too late (curse the setting sun) to get a ride in.

So here’s to the prospect of a beautiful weekend that will actually find me with some spare hours to get some good rides in! Anyone want to join me?

-Jason

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