3/19/14

The educational system is flawed.

I was an under-performing high school student.  I always did well on the standardized tests, but never worked hard.  I never took my SATs.  I didn't know what I wanted and didn't go to college for a few years.  I felt pressured to go, and eventually enrolled to waste time and earn credits.

I continued to under-perform through my third year in undergrad.  It was about the same time that I was starting to enjoy the more challenging content and understanding it well that one of my professors discussed with me the fact that I wasn't being challenged.  I took on an undergraduate independent research study the next year, presented to ACSM and got into grad school with a healthy scholarship and stipend.  I thoroughly enjoyed graduate school and am now a lecturer and PhD student halfway around the world.

This doesn't really happen.

There is a huge emphasis here on determining the high-performing high school student with an understood 'high likelihood that they will continue through graduate school.'  Many of my colleagues are trying to figure out how to best identify these children and bring them into exercise science.  I would argue that just like in cycling, it doesn't really work out all the time.  If this had been the only criteria (and arguably the most widely appreciated), I would never had made it to professional school as a researcher.

Kids need passion.  Kids need a reason to push and try.  They need goals.  And mentors.

What about instead of identify the kids that 'can' do well, and identifying the ones who really are interested in something?  What about showing kids how great it can be to be deeply involved in an area and the fruits of hard labor?  Give them a reason to care, find the ones who do and weed out the ones who can't.  If you're looking to breed the next generation of scholars (or performers in anything), this just seems way more efficient.

1/27/14

On to the next one.

It's been a long time that I have defined myself off of racing bikes.  At one point I guess I really thought I had what it takes to be a 'real' pro mountain biker.  I won LOTS as a junior and amateur.  It took many years of failure and only average pro results for me to realize it wouldn't happen; I was a slow learner.

Then I found enduro.  This kept the dream somewhat alive.  It was the MOST FUN EVER.

So I raced more.

Then I found coaching, and I helped others to get better.  It was, has been and continues to be gratifying.

So I coached and raced.

Then I was invited to the media and was part of some awesome projects.

So I filmed and coached and raced.

Then at some point I realized my passion for science.  This, combined with research that wasn't getting the attention it needed, had me shift a lot of energy.  I was offered an incredible opportunity to move to New Zealand to study EXACTLY what I wanted and to teach students what I have learned along the way.  Just like finally getting that 'Pro' upgrade was always one of my life's biggest goals, I have been able to turn my eyes towards my other lifetime goal of earning a PhD.  And the great part is that they are still both related. 

The visa process has been a headache, but last I heard it is in the mail floating through varying states of being completely lost.  There are so many unknowns for myself.  It feels a lot like when I did my first race: overconfident, under-performing, slightly promising but with a hell of a lot of people believing in me, pushing me and motivating me.


9/11/13

summer time.

 It didn't take long for me to realize that summer was over when I woke up to 34 degree temperatures last weekend...
Here is a little recap.
 Spent a week staying with Seamus Powell up in NY. We ripped around on our DJ bikes
 and made fun of the goat.  I finished my thesis!
We raced in VT and Maine.  I scored a top 5.
 Decided to DRIVE to BC the day after I got home from Maine.  The van drove like a champ!  We pulled over at one point to rig up a cracked pipe with a piece of fence in Nebraska.
 Whistler's Top of the World trail.  SO EPIC.
 Scoping out lines with Jeff Lenosky.  This one was straight down- literally.  I raced in the World Series and had a great experience. 
 Giant Canada let us test out the 27.5 Trance and women's Intrigue.  So sweet, and Callie loves the women's model.  Got one on the way (:
  Kept my windows clean with Muc-Off wipes- meant for handsbut good for bug guts.

And used the lubes and spray on bikes and drivetrains! So clean!
 Second at Blue Mountain!
 Another road trip, but with Harlan Price and Chris Talotta this time.
Scootered.
 The van died and left my life.  Transmission was kind enough to get us to the race parking lot.  RIP.

Sexy shoes!

While the van is gone, I still have lots more travels for the fall.  Some sweet film projects, a great big camp, awesome races, dirt jumps to be explored and cool, fall temperatures to shred in.
Psyched to have traveled the country riding with sponsors and friends like Giant, SRAM, Rockshox, Northwave, Spank, Schwalbe, Muc-Off, Enzo's Cycling Products, ESI Grips and Curt's Cyclery.  You guys rule!  Thanks for making me look good while riding in the woods!

7/22/13

Nationals

Back in the day when I was trying to get the upgrade from expert then to semi-pro then to pro and I was doing bunches of these bigger XC races, I always dreamt about racing one day and sleeping in my own bed.  Word of nationals coming to Bear Creek got out a few years ago.  Everyone was stoked.

For the racing, I opted out.  There is plenty more racing for me on the schedule and the XC really didn't motivate me.  I was going to race Super D, but ended up missing online reg and decided buying a $150 license and paying $110 to race really wasn't cost-effective.  However, some of the riders I work with were racing and I lost plenty of sleep being excited about that in itself!

We ended up with great results!  Not many coaches and riders see national championships and podiums in a career, but we did!  They rode so hard.  Motivation and fitness peaked at the right time.  Beet juice was drank.  It was awesome.


 First up, Seamus won the singlespeed national title. By 9 minutes.  It was his season's biggest goal.
 Then Callie earned 3rd in the Cat 1 race.  She surprised herself, but not me.

 Super D came, and Seamus earned the Elite National title.  I semi called it when I saw him on course.  It's a really big deal.
Then Callie earned another 3rd in the Super D.  I think she was on track for a win, but dropped her chain and had trouble putting it back on.  Podiums still rule.

It was a great weekend and PA was done proud through all the racers, the course and the spectators.

Til next year, keep on hating.

7/16/13

How I got second on my home trails (again)

I was keen to get back to racing on some east coast trails and again proving the form I knew I had developed.  I wanted to win the Steel City Enduro.  I popped in to check out the trails a few days prior with a good group and was super stoked on the rocky greasy trails.  I felt like a turd after driving back across the country, but I made sure I was opened up well enough for the race.  There was a stacked field and I knew it would be a battle!

We used the SportIdent timing system, which was similar to what we used last year but worked with chips rather than keys.  I was really not stoked following my clean first run when my chip would not scan me out.  I tried for what seemed like an eternity and to no avail.  Eventually my 30-second man caught up to me and was nearly ready to scan himself by the time mine read.  RACE OVER.

The next 4 stages went really well.  I was able to clock the fastest times overall on
the boulder trail (stage 3) and the very pedaly stage 4 as well as tying with the fastest on stage 5.  I was able to ride back to 2nd place overall!  I was bummed to have conceded 42 seconds on stage 1 and lose the entire race by only 39, but the winner is a real good pedaler and knows the trails well.

It also felt good to get back on my 29er after racing the 26inch bike the last few weeks.  I feel much more comfortable on wheels bigger than 26 and am keen to try the new 27.5 bikes Giant will be unveiling soon. 

It was great to be home riding sloppy, technical trails.  My form is pretty good!

7/11/13

CO dirt

Just got back from an awesome few weeks in Colorado.  Everything was dialed before the trip and I was looking for a good couple Big Mountain Enduro races.  I drove out, which sucked, but the van made it and I had everything I needed.  Stayed with my buddy, Derek, who was a recent East Coast transplant living in Denver.  He said the trails were really different and took some getting used to.

In hind sight, he was right.  When the racing comes down to being 100% committed to your tires hooking up, you need to understand the dirt to take some serious chances.  I ended up never really finding my flow and lacking some mental sharpness.  I crashed a bunch.  My legs admittedly felt reasonable, but it never showed in my runs.  It's been a long time since I've raced or even been at altitude, but I'm hoping the time I spent suffering there will translate into good races back home.


Made the call to head back early after the second race and skip the only US round of the World Series.  Instead I'll race in Maine and VT as part of the Eastern States Cup before flying out to BC for Crankworx.  But before all that it's my home race and Nationals!  PLUS there was just announced an East Coast Triple Crown series with Burke, Mt Creek and Highland!  Plenty more time to take chances and find that flow.  I'll be looking for some serious redemption!

6/11/13

Well, as of last week I am way less a student and way more a researcher.  Kinda. 
Graduate classes are over. 
At this university. 
For my master's. 

Ran the stats on my thesis and all the data supports my hypothesis.  What a great feeling!  MTB and science needed that info.  I have also been working on another study related to the effects precooling before a race has on performance and core temperature.  It's been awesome. 

Racing has been going ok, and now that I have more time I am able to put a lot more in to training.  You know- intervals, naps and putting my feet up... and plenty of downhill runs.  Lower stress also means higher quality everything.  The local downhill park is also open.  I finally hit a jump line and nailed em all!

My last few races I wanted wins.  I felt great for them but ended each run without taking enough chances.  I have since been working on riding slightly more out of control and staying low... just like I used to.  No room for being comfortable in Enduro racing anymore.

On a totally different note, my riders just keep on amazing me.  We have three state championships and almost a dozen wins already!  Coaching has been exceptionally rewarding, even when my guys beat me!  Even though I don't have plans to apply a MS to a lifetime of coaching, I do see myself applying everything I've learned in the books or through research and every mistake I've made on the trails to helping point others in the right direction.

5/7/13

hi

Graduate school is quickly wrapping up just as race season is getting started for me.  The respective school years and off-season have been blurred.  What day is it?  Where are we?

It feels like just yesterday I was touring my bike around Thailand with nothing to worry about except what delicious meal to eat and how far to ride.  Oh, and trying to remember sunscreen.  Now it's finals, thesis, PhD, racing and coaching on the brain.  Sometimes it seems a bit too much to chew, but I love it.

Training has been going well.  I've been spending more time in the gym and doing downhill repeats than anything, but the on the bike specificity is going up the closer we get to the big races.  It's exciting to have a new focus for racing. 

Been testing out 26inch wheels lately.  I hate choices.  They stress me out.  I'm hoping to be all in for either 29 or 26 inch wheels and only travel with one bike.  That being said, the Reign is dope.  6 inches of travel and she only weighs 24 pounds.  Heck, I even won an XC race on it last weekend. With some lung-busting climbs (including a 20-minute grass-road climb), I can't say I really minded pedaling it and certainly felt it was efficient.  Also beat my time on my practice downhill by 31seconds on a 3-minute run.  Then again, I also feel less in control than on my Trance X29.  Still gotta iron that out.
 The travel itinerary is starting to tighten up for the year.  Looks like head out west mid-June, live in my sick new [to me] van for 3 weeks, fly home for nationals, fly back out to the van and stay for a month between CO and BC.  Then it's a little shaky and audaciously rose-colored.  I'd like to hang out in the northeast for a bit before racing Moab and polishing the year off with more NE stuff.

 Finally, I am super stoked about this past weekend.  First, I was stoked to drop the lead moto on a downhill in Michaux.  That was cool.  Secondly, I was blown away to see young kid Drew Bobb with such a strong ride.  He absolutely crushed Michaux.  Kid has speed and skills!  And lastly, three of the riders I work with entered races- and they all won!  It was one of the best feelings ever.  Science wins!



4/17/13

First first of the year.

This past weekend was the Michaux MTB Weekend that included a Super D race on  Saturday and Endurance race on Sunday.  I signed up for the super d and was pretty stoked since it was on one of my favorite descents I used to ride back when I went to Shippensburg U. 

The super d race was about 5 minutes long of a fast and rocky descent.  It was chock full of small rocks and was more about floating over them than line choice.  I felt a little stale from the gym workout the day before, but crossed the line with a decent run and no mistakes after starting last.  There was a little results mix up at first, but it was finally sorted out and I got my first win of the year.  Sweet!  Callie also won, so we got the double!
 That night we slept in the woods again.  I woke up in the middle of the night and lied there thinking how much I love camping and bike racing and stuff.  It was a pretty magical moment until I fell asleep again...
 The next day was the endurance race.  I didn't race.  I didn't want to.  Callie raced, though, and after I did my own ride with the skilled youngster Drew Bobb, I jumped in to encourage her on her final lap.  She was whooped after racing for three hours already, but put in a good final lap to come in fourth in a strong women's field.  I was proud.  And hungry.

And then I looked at my tires.  Not worn, but the side knobs were shredded.  I felt happy about throwing my bike around and picking some steazy lines in the woods.  But now I need new tires...
I really do love the Hans Dampf.  I gets SO MUCH TRACTION.

Oh.  And I have been really happy with the Trance X 29er.  It is exactly the bike I need for racing around the PA woods.  She's down to weighing only 24 pounds with the new Giant PXCR0 carbon wheels.  Those wheels also rule.  6/5 inches of travel and carbon wheels.  It is a dream machine.  Couldn't be happier!

4/8/13

UCI/USAC

I have supported USAC since 2004 when I did my first NORBA mtb race in Waco, TX.  I got my first UCI license in 2010.  Every year since my start I have gone to at least one national level USAC event.  Sadly it seems that now even guys like me who are not fighting at the front of a national level XC races will need to choose: UCI or no UCI?  This comes at a time where I hadn't really planned much XC racing and have really set my sights on the big Enduro races in north america.  Sadly, US XC nationals are also going to be held on my favorite track only 40 minutes from my home.  Both options had been part of my dreams at some point.  Do I have to choose which events to do?  Will anyone even notice me?  Should I even think about it?

I am going to ride my bike tomorrow regardless.

Cheers.

3/31/13

Michaux MTB School

A few months a go while I was in Bangkok, I got an email inviting me to come help coach at a camp in Michaux State Forest aimed at nationals preparation in our very own PA woods this summer.  The goal would be skills and training stuff, and my colleagues Sue Haywood, Cheryl Sornson, Harlan Price and Adam Craig would do the same.  I was honored and obliged, only I was really scared.  I mean, who wouldn't be?  Sue is a multi-time National Champ and 24 hour World Champion, Cheryl and Harlan have each won the NUE 100 miler series overall, and Adam is an Olympian and National Champion.  I am me... and I kind of suck.

I stressed a lot over what I would teach.  I mean, I REALLY THOUGHT HARD.  I wanted my sessions to leave an equally lasting impression on the riders as sessions from the other coaching whom IMO carry much more weight than I.  I went out and gave some skills clinics and took video or myself and other, breaking down successful movements for appropriate execution, which was a great start.  Then I went back to my physics and biomechanics stuff and decided how to communicate skills in those terms.  I was ready..kinda.

We went out on Friday in beautiful sunny weather with perfect PA dirt.  I had my summer gloves on and even felt a little sweat from the happy sun shining down on us.  We did a few hours of ripping good trail then went to a good little loop to teach some skills.  We ended the day with a cool little drop-off sessioning and some yummy chili.  Good day.

We woke up the next day and got right to the skills.  I had over 24 riders cycle through my sessions, and I saw improvements in them all.  We did see one injury which was pretty scary for me, but it looks like he will be OK.  I am interested to check back in with him.  That night I gave my ACSM presentation from the regional conference and we took questions from all the riders afterward.

It was a great experience and everyone was receptive and willing to learn.  Now you all have to crush Nationals!!!  I hope to come back again.

Set aside ten minutes to write and that time is up.
Laterzz.

3/23/13

East Coast Vert

 Spring break was fast approaching and I needed to plan something radical quick.  I wanted mountains, dirt, friends and speed, but wasn't feeling the obligatory dirtbag California hostel-based mtb trail seeking again.  I called up my friend Harlan Price to see if he wanted to head south and maybe check out Pisgah.  East Coast Vert was born.

 The idea was simple: scour the east coast for the best descents, get video and elevation profiles, then share it with the world.  Our argument is that the east coast is underrated in the US as far as length, speed, tech, fun and vertical drop when compared to the over-promoted west coast stuff (not that west sucks!).  It would be a yearlong project, but we could start down south in [relative] warmth and get a good feel for where the project could go.  Plus, we could actually start training for our 2013 racing seasons.  Yeah, good idea.



We left last sunday and stayed with friends, most of whom would be new to me.  Man, the MTB community rules and I love the people!  Each day we were shown the trails each locale held nearest and dearest to their gravity-oriented hearts.  It was so cool to feel different dirt and get a sense for each guide's definition of a good ride.  My favorite trails were Kitsuma and Heartbreak Ridge in Pisgah- SO FAST and a massive loss in elevation, great views and a priority on being smooth and 100% committed.  But Georgia was cool, too.  And then that one trail in that one place we rode when it was pouring down rain?.  Oh, and the nine-mile private descent crossing two states?  Yeah, can't forget the gem we found in Tennessee either.



The cool part about riding with Harlan is that we have similar skill and goals, but each excel in different things.  It was an absolutely frightening combination and there were times I didn't think we would live.  Seriously.  We pushed each other and both walk away faster, smoother and with tired, bruised bodies smelling of good embrocation and like a car full of old shoes.

We took video as our own videographers, which ended up being pretty stressful.  The end product should be pretty cool.  Interest has grown and sponsors are stoked!  Follow us on Facebook.  You can win stuff and support a cause.

 I decided to end the trip with a Super D race in Tuscarora, PA.  I've grown reasonably comfortable running trails fast and blind and figured I'd do it for the race.  Eh... I discovered next time I gotta preride and that I'm not confident going down straight, steep, snowy trails!


2/20/13

 This new bike really fits what I am trying to make bicycles do lately: ride trails and ABSOLUTELY SHRED!  The weather has been not too great and left us with slime for the last several days, but all things you have heard about Trance X 29 are true.  It's really light as well- about 25 pounds with a modest winter build.
Also wanted to share these dope new shoes from Northwave- the Striker Carbon 5.  I really never want to get them dirty...

Cool.  I'm going for a jog.

1/23/13

Holiday in Cambodia

Back from bike touring.  It was absolutely radical, though coming home was not.  6 weeks of 90 degree sun and 30-40 hours of saddle time during each one.  Sheesh!  Glad we tested the fitness before and stoked to see what has changed since!  My tan is great, but I have decided that ten years of evening out the same lycra shorts line is enough and will set out to destroy any semblance of a bike-geek lederhosen once it is warm again.  Uploading photos here seems to become less user-friendly every day, but I leave this lovely gem from Cambodia that pretty much sums up the trip: beautiful/ugly; happiness/sorrow; bike-touring.

12/11/12

Last post of 2012?

Halfway done with grad school.  Sure has been awesome.  It got pretty stressful there at the end, but we made it through.

 I've been logging some serious lab time.  This has been partly for academia, partly as my job, but mostly because it is awesome.  Tested Seamus the other day- he suffered like a dog.
 Then it was my turn.  3 weeks and only two rides.  Operation detraining worked, but we got some good starting numbers.
 Then I laid it all down in front of the camera.  The documentary short should be pretty awesome once it's all said n done
 Me whip all finished (sans bags) and ready for 40 days in SE Asia

Going to miss Christmas,
but we should have a good blowout on a sunny beach or jungle somewhere to ring in the new year.

It's been real.

(Just by chance we don't come back in one piece.)

*click on twitter guy for updates*

11/24/12

signed, sealed, delivered

The 2012 race season is done.  It has been a long one.  Man, over 30 days of racing in the past ten months.  The most travel I have ever done.  Lots of good races and some pretty bad ones.

Came into the year planning to race primarily stage races.  Got one out of the way with a top-10, then found enduro.  Stuck with that and was completely absorbed into the scene.  I've had crap break, crappy legs, lack of motivation and some injury.  Then I've had really good days, beat heavy hitters and had the most fun ever.  It's been so good.

Last weekend was spent in SC racing Cranksgiving Super D and Enduro.  It was rad.  Rode 7 hours the day before the race, mistakenly, all in the name of getting to know the course.  Wasn't ideal, but felt everything had to be seen and it was the only chance.  Felt fast for all the races, but wasn't pedaling at my greatest.  My descending has gotten even better, but the body is tired.  6th both days.  Not bad, but not my proudest riding.


I'll ride a couple times in the next few weeks- only because we have Pisgah in the mix and a nice group ride tomorrow.  That's all.  Will be busy finishing up the first half of grad school and packing for 6 weeks touring from Thailand to Vietnam.

Cool.

Hate on, haters.