Fatty Walrus Arctic Kick Off 2016

Racing in New England year round is a reality! Fat bike racing last winter got a bit wiped out thanks to copious amounts of snow and a stretch of 40+ days below freezing keeping that snow light and fluffy and less than ideal for fat bikes (great for skiing though!)

This year is the other side of that coin; warmer temps, mixed precip, freeze/thaw cycles.  Bad news for skiers but great news for fat biking!

Our first big Nor’Easter decided to stay south so I figured I would check out the first race in the Fatty Walrus series put on by our friends at Riverside Racing.  I had heard good things about the course at Plug Pond and its a pretty easy drive down to Haverhill for me.  It was a pretty good turn out, probably about 30 racers in the ‘Polar Bear’ division.  Probably only about an inch or two of snow coverage in the park and the course was hard pack and only icy in a few spots. Nice and fast and drifty.

These shorter higher intensity races aren’t my strength but I like them for training.  I can’t convince myself to work as hard as I can on a training ride as I can in a race.

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not sure about you but I can’t spend 88% of my ride at 80+% max unless I’m chasing someone

I slotted in about mid pack or so after the initial haul along the pond. The course actually had a decent amount of climbing, almost 1000ft for the 10mi race with some really fun descents mixed in.  Everything was completely rideable, a few turns were a bit sketchy and I would have loved studs in those moments but as long as you saw them coming you could run an outrigger and tokyo drift your way through.  Which is probably more fun than safely riding through with studs anyway.  A few of the descents were fast and a tad scary with the slick hard pack / ice conditions but I managed to stay upright all day.

I would highly recommend checking the rest of this series out.  I believe the next one is Feb 13th, Register Here.

Join Us for 2016!

NEMBA Racing is accepting new racers for the 2016 Season!

I’m hoping by now many of you have seen our riders/kits around, either at NEMBA events and rides or at local races or even just riding your local trails.  The team is growing every year; we topped 50 racers for the first time in 2015 and I want to see that number grow even further.

We launched our Gravity team last season and I’m happy to say it was a great success. We had a core group of riders representing NEMBA consistently at the East Coast Gravity series events. We are looking to build on that success and grow the Gravity team even more in 2016!

Racing can be many things to many people.  The production value of local MTB races is getting better and better every year. There are new summer series races popping up, the gravity series are stacked with events, new and more endurance events many of which are closer to small festivals, we even have an HC US Cup event on the East Coast for 2016!  They are family friendly, they have local vendors, it’s not all just suffering.

I want NEMBA Racing to be a home for every type of rider.  New and developing riders looking to get fit and challenge themselves, strong riders looking for other like minded folks to help push them further, riders looking to ride new trails with lots of other folks and then have a beer afterwards. Join us for 2016, I highly doubt you’ll regret it.

The Racer Application Form can be found here: http://racing.nemba.org/?page_id=1835


Questions about the team can be sent to Team Director Kevin Orlowski at kevinorlowski[at]gmail[dot]com or Gravity specific questions can be sent to Stacey Jimenez at flionfree[at]gmail[dot]com

Gravity XC

The SM100

I know where it started for me… In 2002 both of my brothers finished The Leadville 100, long before Leadville was the race across the sky. I knew it was rad, I knew they suffered, I knew it was a pinnacle moment for both of them. I knew they both took several IV’s after and I knew it was something I had to experience. The stories were too good, to shake their heads and laugh saying, “I can’t believe we did that, that was amazing”. I wanted to experience that, and I wanted something as cool as that Belt Buckle.

After last years SM100 I came home thrilled with how I felt, how far I had gone, how I had ridden and totally disappointed with not finishing. Getting 60+ miles in and hitting Aid Station 4 was far, and quite an accomplishment… but I was obviously irritated with myself for not keeping on. For the past 360 days I blamed it on my brother, sister and parents for working that aid station and having a Bloody Mary bar and beers waiting for me. I mean, no matter who you are, when you see your Mom after 60 some miles holding a Bloody for you, you’re going to sit down and take your shoes off. I think I may have been one of the first twenty people to register for this years SM, as soon as it opened. I’m pretty sure every one of my friends (all three of them) and my family were tired of hearing me talk about it… I was annoying. I wasn’t ready last year, this year I would be.

If you’re not Jeremiah Bishop, or of that ilk… (and there are plenty who race this event and absolutely crush these trails effortlessly) this event is about finishing, I think. It’s not a “race” for so many of the people who enter, but it’s an event that they’ve said, “I’m going to ****ing do that”. And I know these riders, I’m one of them. We ride when we can, have jobs, kids and every ride is finished with several beers talking about how fast we are, how nice our bikes are or belittling one another to amusement.

The NUE series and Chris Scott, Shenandoah Mountain Touring are pros, by every sense of the word. The event is huge, the trail system is a mix of mechanized screaming downhills, huge fire road climbs and some of the longest, raw technical descents that you’ll ever do, it is absolutely outrageous. Combine the 13.000 feet of cumulative elevation, the technical singletrack along with the distance of a 100 mile backcountry race and you have what many consider the most difficult of the series. Chris and his crew of volunteers make it great and smooth and it is no easy task… it’s a total pro situation.

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I went into this year physically prepared, I knew I wasn’t far off last year and I felt great leading up to the SM. The Patapsco Epic a month earlier had given me the confidence physically, I felt strong finishing a very difficult 50 miler and knew that more than anything it would be the mental hurdles that come with being on the bike for 100 miles… and there are plenty.

I’ve thought a lot about the day and how I felt crossing that finish line. The accomplishment, the exhaustion and the excitement of having done something that was so difficult, something I set out to do, something that started for me 13 years ago. I didn’t care about my time (it was 12:50 in case you’re wondering). I remember the downhills being so long and just holding on, so technical and so fun. I remember climbing up Hanky the second time and just looking at those “S” turns up and laughing at how ridiculous that was. I remember telling myself it’s one day out of your life, it’ll be fine and to shut up. I saw my brother at AS5 and there was some relief and we laughed and him telling me that I had this. But, much like my other posts, this race became about something more than the bike…

I’ve seen a lot of wrecks, I’ve wrecked a lot. There is an inherent danger to Mountain Biking, I know that, my kids know that, my friends, family… it’s dangerous. A fatality in a race that you’re in makes you stop and say “what the f***”. I did not know Ross Hansen, I did ride alongside him for about 50 miles. We shared the banter that comes with passing someone back and forth. We’d acknowledge one another, laugh, say “see you in a few”, ask how one another was doing. We didn’t talk much, we just suffered together and loved it, knew exactly what one another was feeling because it was exactly the same. We both were clearly racing to get to the beer. I came upon his wreck pretty quickly down Braley’s, folks were already springing into action, other riders quickly pulling phones, staying with him, like they had been friends on a ride… it wasn’t a race, they were helping their friend.

It wasn’t until the next day that I knew Ross had passed, I still don’t believe it. The degrees of separation are so small in the Mountain Bike community… his friends on Long Island are my brothers friends in Baltimore. From what I’m gathering from social media and communication with folks in both organizations is that he was loved and awesome and fun. I think I knew that after my time with him. Memorial rides are being planned from DC to Long Island, the outpour has been staggering. And I realize, I love the bike, the freedom, being a kid, the suffering, the wandering into the woods… but it’s the community that Mountain Biking brings that does it for me. It’s starting the race with Sean Schmidt who I’ve known for 30 years, it’s acting insane with Todd Bauer, running into Ryan Delaney and suffering up Hanky together, seeing Tom Howe everywhere I go, the familiar face of my brother at mile 80, the awe of Larry Camp riding 17 of these… it’s all of that, and the guys you ride with, if only for a short time.

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Thirteen years later I feel so lucky to have had the chance to ride in this race. Things like this that’ll change the way you see. And, I’m not so upset about that Belt Buckle from Leadville anymore… you can’t drink a pint out of that.

Next up… The MOCo…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Patapsco Epic

When I do these events there always ends up being so much more than getting on the bike and heading out for a 50 mile technical, quad burning, roller coaster ride. Granted, it takes a day of driving home and piecing it together, but the folks of MORE, MD State Parks and the “Patapsco Army” are throwing a hell of a good time.

For those of you not in the know, MORE (Mid Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts) put on an Epic series: The Patapsco and MOCO (moreepics.com). Pick your distance, fully supported, fully fun. Last year I cracked and had to rely on some friends (and pickles) to reel me in at the Patapsco Epic. This year I knew better than to underestimate this trail system… and I drank a lot less the night before.

First off, it’s the trail system. PVSP (Patapsco Valley State Park) is not for the faint of heart. It can and will break you, I don’t care who you are. The combination of technical, elevation, roots, rocks and constantly being on is like very few places. There’s a reason some of the best riders I know are mainstays of that park. And now with the “Army” growing in numbers and behind the guidance of two of the sickest people I know, yes you, Ed Dixon and Eric Crawford, the trails are growing and going further out. There’s new trail and a new mix of technical and head shaking.

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This years loop was basically the reverse of last year, which made it more friendly in some spots and more difficult in others. I liked it better, mainly because I wasn’t a heap of cramps at mile 40… but it had a better flow for me and put you in a better position when you were headed to the finish. Even if you blew up your derailleur and had to ride the last 15 on a 3 speed.

This event is also about the people, I mean, ultimately they make the whole thing happen and set the tone for the time you have. I said it last year and I think they got better… but MORE and this crew of volunteers do it right. Every shop from the Baltimore area puts in on an aid station. From Race Pace and their photo booth to Family Bike Shop’s full pancake and sausage breakfast… to The Hub shucking Oysters to Amber from Patapsco Bike and Sport pouring the last drop of Skratch out of the barrel into my bottle. They’re all in… and are so proud of their park, it’s a real community.

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Of course my kids rode the Patapsco Mini Epic with their cousins and Aunt and Grandfather… and then ran around, jumped in the river, ate a mountain of food and basically had the best day of their lives. New Belgium donated all of the Beer. The three food trucks, including a vegan option, were not a terrible idea either. REI there in full support, BIKE Maryland and so many other sponsors that see the hard work that the cycling community is doing in that Park and want to support in any way they can.

So, there’s always so much more than the ride; the stories, the people, your friends, the trails, your kids, the suffering, the accomplishment, the laughs, the beer. I rode part of the 50 miles with a friend I used to ride skateboards with in my backyard 30 years ago. The obligatory Tom Howe/Wicked Wash ride along at any endurance event I’ve ever done… I can’t do one without that. Or this guy, Dante… he decided it would be a good idea to go for his first mtn bike ride on the 50 mile Epic, the night before. And of course, Poz and the guys from Race Pace made sure they did anything they could so he could finish.

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I’m all in on these guys and the Epics. It’s not a race but it’s the challenge. Get out to the MOCO in October, come check out these trails and these folks… you’ll get everything you want and more.

And for me, 7hrs and 50+ miles… and next a shot at redemption at the SM100.

Carrabassett Backwoods Duathlon

This past weekend, I raced in the Maine Huts and Trails Backwoods Duathlon put on by Baxter Outdoors (a division of Baxter Brewing). It was a small local race in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, but despite its small size and it being a first year event, the entire experience was top notch.

 

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My girlfriend and I stayed at the Stratton Brook Hut, a part of the Maine Huts and Trails system the Friday night prior to the race thinking it’d be a good way to help support the trail system there and really get a proper Maine backwoods experience. Once settled, we were provided with an amazing trail dinner of sweet potatoes, a bean salad, cole slaw, and corn bread with a chocolate cupcake for dessert. If you’re ever in the area riding these trails, I’d highly recommend staying at the huts. After dinner, we relaxed for a bit before heading to bed.

Race morning came quickly and we were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the Bigelow mountain range and breakfast in the main lodge. They had provided breakfast omelets but having to race in a few hours, I stayed with a small bowl of oatmeal with some fruit and a couple of home fries and copious amounts of coffee. We then prepped a couple of PB and Js for after the race and headed back down the mountain to the start.

At the start, the atmosphere was perfect. It was a small race with 60 competitors and that gave the race a very intimate feel. It was great to see that despite a “backwoods” locale a sizeable group of people wanted to come out and race a bit and help support the trails in the area (the sponsor, Carrabassett Coffee Roasters, was making a donation pf $0.50 for each mile that all the competitors raced). At the end of the day, CRNEMBA got a couple hundred dollars to improve an already world class trail system.

The bike was a mass start on a 3.5 mile flat stretch on the narrow gauge. The pace of the lead group was relentless (we reached speeds well above 25 mph) and everyone was so ready to go, that trying to get a gap on anyone was futile. Fortunately, I was able to “make the selection” of the front group as we started the 600 ft climb up Crommet’s.

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The efforts I had made on the narrow gauge caught up with me as I mashed my way up Crommet’s. This was a significant steady climb that had some serious pitch changes so you were constantly changing gears and cadences and really wore out my legs. I was glad when we finally made it to the top and I began the descent on Oak Knoll in third position.

I had heard rumors about how amazing the Oak Knoll trail was and had been anxious to actually ride it. I can guarantee that this trail lives up to the hype and then some. It’s a purpose built mountain bike trail that is beautifully bench cut into the hillside and includes tons of berms and rock features to keep you guessing but is so incredibly flowy that I was smiling the entire way down. Without a doubt the best trail I’ve ever ridden. Period. A lot of credit goes to the local NEMBA chapter for building an incredibly well designed sustainable trail that is incredibly fun to ride.

As I spun back into transition, another racer zoomed by and I was off running in 4th place.

Despite really working it on the bike, my running legs felt good and I quickly made a pass on another runner and moved up to third. I kept running hard, hoping that I might be able to take back some of the time I lost on the bike. However, it was not to be. I ran well the entire to finish the race third overall and second in the solo division.

I was incredibly happy with how well I raced and it felt good to relax with the other racers and enjoy a cold beer. At races, it amazes me the sense of camaraderie that you develop with your fellow racers. It was great talking to everyone, many of whom were locals, and hearing all the work they do to maintain and enjoy the beautiful trail system up in Carrabassett Valley. I would definitely say that those trails are the best in New England and I would highly recommend checking them out.

 

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http://carrabassett.nemba.org/