Saturday, August 31, 2013

Spokes of Hope


The father of cyclist Davis Phinney and grandfather of Taylor Phinney, Damon Phinney, created an organization called Cyclists Combating Cancer (CCC) before he died from prostate cancer. CCC historically has been the largest single group raising funds for the Livestrong Foundation.

Spokes of Hope has grown out of CCC as an action group visiting cancer patients and spreading hope. I first met some of the Spokes of Hope last year at RAGBRAI. 

Valley Preferred Cycling Center

I was invited to Trexlertown to ride on the Velodrome during the last Friday night races of the season at the velodrome. This was a UCI (International Cycling Union) event with an international field.

The day kept unfolding with surprises and kept getting better as the day grew older.

Pros Warming Up on the Track

I arrived at the velodrome around 3:45 p.m. for a practice session on the track. Riding on the velodrome is unlike the normal riding we do. This was a 333 meter track with 28 degree banked curves. 

Pediatric Cancer Survivors

We joined seven pediatric cancer survivors including Duncan Micheltree who was being honored. Cindi Hart gave us a quick lesson in terminology and track riding and we all rode off practicing on the track. The kids stayed down on the apron and Cindi took us newbies (me?) in a pace line up on the track.

Paceline on the track

Wild. The bike of choice is a "fixie" which is a fixed geared bike with one speed. When you pedal it goes forward. When it goes forward the pedals rotate. There is no coasting. And there are no brakes.

My very limited experience tells me these bikes are actually safer than a typical road bike. Once on the track if I crept up on the rider in front of me in the pace line my options were to overlap wheels or brake. Braking was out of the question so I overlapped wheels which can be very dangerous on those 28 degree curves. Riding a fixie one can just slow down the pedals.

As I went on to the track I heard my name being called. Very strange because I knew no one here. I did a double take and heard my name again. I saw a woman and went over to her. "I'm Andrea Mitcheltree," she said. "I'm friends with Stacey and Gary (Gravina)."

Barry with Duncan Mitcheltree

Then I remembered. I met Andrea last year in New Jersey at Jake's funeral. I am guessing that Trexlertown is less than 30 miles from Phillipsburg, NJ.

And it was Andrea's son, Duncan, who was the feature of the night. This was so cool.

Duncan with his parents, Andrea and Eric Mitcheltree

After our practice sessions we left the track. I then sent Stacey a message to "come see Duncan and me ride tonight." She was confused.

Three Colors of Spokes of Hope

I left the velodrome and went across the street to the "track." They have a one mile cycling track which is very cool. This is not an oval but a meandering road with three lanes - one for fast cycles, one for rollerbladers, and one for everyone else. What a great park.

The Track at Rodale Park

The people started coming in to watch the races. Once the events started I took a position at the top of the boards on Curve 1. I was shocked when Stacey tapped me on the shoulder. Although I had called her it certainly sounded like they would not be able to make it on this special night.

The Fast Lane

Before the last (feature) race of the night, we were introduced. Spokes of Hope with the pediatric cancer survivors. The crowd cheered heavily and for a minute I inhaled it all but I know it was for the kids - not me. I rode high on the wall and in the back stretch a number of kids held out their hands for me to "Low 5" them. I did. 

Pros at the Start of their Race

The last event was the 120 lap "Madison." Teams of two riders would tag team. The "resting" rider would sweep down from one of the high curves and catch his partner from behind. As he did the front riding would grab his hand/arm then pull him ahead -- a sling shot move, really. Then he would safely maneuver up to the wall and wait for the next lap to change places.

Keep in mind there's no coasting or stopping with these bikes. So if one wants a rest they have to pedal farther during their rest period so they have longer in between their shift at riding all out. Stacey, Gary, and I stayed for all 120 laps. It was an exciting event.

Riding in the Countryside

On Saturday our Spokes of Hope group met at the velodrome and went for a 25 mile ride out to Topton and back. It was a great day for a ride and I think I saw more cyclists on the road than I did cars. This was a special weekend of riding and am looking forward to next year.

Spokes of Hope at a barn in Mertztown



Ride in the Country

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Boys and Girls Club


My good friend, Scott Scudamore, moved from Montclair to near Charlottesville a couple of years ago. We don't get a chance to ride together much because Scott's passion is mountain biking and mine is road. But a few weeks ago Scott asked me to come down and ride with him with the kids from the Boys and Girls Club.

The Boys & Girls Club of Charlottesville has a program to get kids on bikes. Any kid who signs up and completes the program gets to keep the bike. A pretty nice road bike. Depending on their age, they had goals all the way up to completing a century.

I arrived at Crozet, met up with Scott, and met the kids from the club. Most of the kids riding were older and Melissa asked Scott to ride with Eli, a pretty big 12-year old, on a different route from the other kids.

Photo: Our job was not to get dropped by this 12 year old. I think we did that.

Scott had invited me down to ride Afton Mountain. The older kids were going with two other adults over Afton Mountain but Scott and Eli were given a 30-mile route that didn't go over the mountain. Scott encouraged me to ride with the older kids. I chose to ride with Scott and Eli.

Eli is strong. The three of us headed out into the mountains. We had a great ride on a beautiful day. We stopped at Chiles Peach Orchard, looking for a rest room (closed) and enjoyed the aroma of the orchard.

We arrived back about the same time as the kids in the older group. There was a cooler of frozen snacks. The frozen lemonade pops were the bomb.

It was great riding with the kids, especially Eli. They will all meet their goal on September 15. I wish I could join them but have other plans that day.

EPILOGUE (October 15, 2013) - I am hoping this was not my last ride with Scott. Just one week after Scott rode with the kids on their challenge, he was mountain biking at Bryce Mountain Ski Resort. A crash broke his C1 and C2 vertebrae. As I update this he is paralyzed from the neck down.

What I remember most about August 29 was Scott was insistent that I ride with the older kids on Afton Mountain. He invited me down to ride Afton Mountain but didn't understand that it wasn't where you rode but who you were with. I was much more interested in riding with Scott than riding over Afton Mountain.

Scott, at the start line of the Boys and Girls Challenge, Sept. 15

Please keep Scott in your prayers and good thoughts. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

More Booty


Last year I rode my first 24 Hours of Booty not knowing anyone in attendance other than through a cyber invitation from Bryan McMillan. We had never met before then. But I had a good time and soon discovered some of the 4K for Cancer riders were there as well.

Some of Team Fight

This year I decided to be a team captain. Officially we were Team Jake's Snazzy Pistols, in honor and in memory of Jake The Hero Grecco. I signed up his step-father, Gary Gravina, my sister, Betsy Sherry, and John Phipps, a friend I met a couple of years ago while riding the Saint Mary's Century (or was it the Southern Maryland Century?).

Barry, Betsy, John

A couple of days before the event I heard from Gary who mixed up the event dates and could not attend. That was a big set back. But I still looked forward to the event.

Bootyville early morning

Last year I knew no one in advance. This year some of my Key to Keys Teammates attended as well as last year's 4K riders, Jeff Graves and Erin Mack.

I decided to tent, still not sure that was a good idea, but arrived early enough to set up the tent. With not much time before the start, I joined fellow survivors at the front of the line for the Survivor Lap, which I think is really half a lap. Meg Shipman, Paul Lemle, Jessica Tanner, and Thomas Backof from the Key to Keys ride, all were at the front.

After the first lap (I won) I dropped back and rode with Betsy. I introduced her to all the K2K riders I could find.

While I rode at a decent pace, I talked more than I did last year and didn't rack up the miles. I also had more fun.

I carried a wooden whistle which sounds like a train whistle. As I approached the kids that were riding I gave it my best train whistle sound. That always got smiles. It slowed me down but that was OK.

I was invited to the Yellow Jersey Dinner and took Betsy as my guest. It was the same dinner as the other riders got but with speakers. Less riding. 

After 6:00 p.m., my friend, Adam Lewandowski, came over from Race Pace Bicycles to work and brought a Trek Domane for me to test ride. Even less riding while we switched pedals and put my lights on that bike.

By 9:00 p.m. John had reached 100 miles and was checking out for the night. He had a hotel. I was envious.

Last year I rode until the Midnight Pizza arrived and my light gave out. I had 120 miles at that point.

This year I had to pick up the pace to get 100 miles before midnight.

After Midnight Pizza I decided to get some sleep. This would not be the year I would actually ride for 24 hours. I don't know if I would try that. Maybe some day.

By 6:00 a.m. I was awake and went out on the course at 6:30. I rode for a bit with Brock Yetso, President and CEO of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

Breakfast, by invitation, was a Survivors Breakfast. It was the same breakfast as everyone else got but we had speakers. More down time. (This is not to diminish the speakers. They were all good.)

After breakfast I had a great surprise. Last year during the 4K for Cancer, Team Portland was greatly effected by Jake's story, and ultimately, his passing. I had met Jake's Pedal Pal, Chey Hillsgrove, on the day they left Baltimore, but had been friended on Facebook by one of the riders, Trish Kallis.

And after breakfast there she (Trish) was. She called my name. I was taken aback certainly not expecting to see her here. It was great to finally meet her.

Trish Kallis, Barry Sherry

Late morning we tore down our campsite. More time off the bike. But I rode when I could. Ultimately I got in another 41 miles before we all joined in for the last lap.

Great weather, great friends, and fighting cancer. It really doesn't get any better than this.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Big Test Every Year


Six weeks ago I broke my collarbone and immediately tried to withdraw from this event. But I was past the cutoff time and after trying to sell my entry unsuccessfully, it was with great trepidation I decided to go to the mountain. Riding with the collarbone hasn't been bad the past six weeks but it has prevented me from doing real hill training - not that there's anything that compares.

The last group to start at the Hillclimb

Last year, the Gubinski family gave me a ride down and asked me if I would come back if they signed up. And so I did. Had I not signed the pact it would have been easy to skip this one.

It was cold at the top

My heart wasn't in this climb and even as I was driving towards New England on Thursday I often thought of turning around. I didn't bother with finalizing hotel reservations until Wednesday.

The finish line
The collarbone is pretty good. It doesn't effect me as I ride except occasionally out of the saddle if I twist the wrong way. It does, however, effect my sleep if I turn on my right side.

The flags, the blankets, the coats

But once I contacted the Gubinski family and asked if they still had a place for a rider (to bring down after the race) I felt more energized. We met yesterday at registration and were all set. Still, I wasn't 100% sure I'd race.

The Cog Railway

It was a gorgeous day. Sunny and temperatures in the mid 60s at the base. I decided to ride.

The flag whipping in the wind
As usual, I started last in the last group, the age 45 and older riders, which was so large it was divided into two groups. I started up the mountain with the usual thoughts. This hurts. Shut Up Legs. Keep the legs moving.

A rider near the top

At times I thought about abandoning (aka quitting) but then thought about cancer. I am not a quitter. I will keep going unless I can't. And even then I would find a way.

Looking out from the top

The beauty of this ride is that time wasn't important. Simply finishing would be a victory because there was no way I thought I'd be here after breaking my collarbone. I heal slowly.

Lucas (165) and Alexa (in black) at the start

I always remember a flat section but never found it. Every time I looked up, which wasn't often, the road just kept going higher. The dirt section is still the dirt section. At the hairpin turn on dirt I was hit with a pretty vicious headwind. Hard to measure but we were told 40 mph winds.

Soaked with sweat it was as though someone opened the freezer and turned the fan on high. Turbo high. I tried to get as low as possible while grinding up the dirt section.

I never checked my time. I just kept turning over the pedals. As I came to the final section a man I met at breakfast called out "Virginia." I stood briefly then as I turned the corner to the last 22% grade I stayed seated. Although I had alternated my position throughout the climb I guess it was just time to sit. I looked at the clock and saw 2:05 which was really 1:45 - less the 20 minute difference for starting later than the clock did.

My time, always consistent near 1:45, was just a time. I was quietly pleased that I had finished; I had fought off my own inner doubts about not being able to make it.

Within a couple of minutes I began to realize how cold it was. Just 41 degrees and with 30 mph winds, the windchill was 29 degrees. As the race organizers tried to cover me with a grey Polartec blanket, it was blown off. Before the woman could retrieve it I asked for a blue one. I have four or five grey ones already. I knew my wife would like blue.

Alison Gubinski found me and had my bag of clothes. I put on my jacket to keep me warm long enough before finding a nice place to change out of my sweat soaked clothes into my dry ones.

Ramp before the 22% finishing climb

It was a fun day. My friend, Jeremiah Bishop, took third overall. The Gubinski's, riding, for the first time, all did well; Lucas made Top Notch (sub 1:20) and Alexa got on the podium in her age group. I wish I could take credit for their great results.

Alexa, Barry, Vic Gubinski, Lucas
It was 1300 miles for an 8 mile race. But it seems to be the big test I face every year. Can I climb Mount Washington? And for this year, the answer was yes.

Alexa (L) on the podium


Friday, August 16, 2013

Following the Dirt


I enjoy mapping out cycling routes using then following the route I created. I stayed overnight in Brattleboro and wanted to ride in Vermont, even if it really was New Hampshire, before making the three hour drive to North Conway.

Twin Bridges in Hwy 9. The Bridge on the Left is for Bikes. Or People.

The Connecticut River divides Vermont and New Hampshire and any good ride needed a river crossing, thus the reason I would be riding mostly in New Hampshire. 

Brattleboro, Vermont

I started out in Vermont then crossed the river. After turning off Highway 9 I turned onto a dirt road. I hadn't even thought about being on dirt and briefly thought about turning back and just following pavement. But this dirt was great. It was so hard packed that it was almost as good as being on pavement and was better than some asphalt I have ridden on.

As the road went deeper into the forest the only sounds were from the water running next to the road and the whirl of a lumber mill somewhere through the woods. It was perfect.

Railroad Bridge in Brattleboro

But perfect would come to an end. At a turn on Merrifield Road, the road became rough. There was a washboard quality to it with gravel. And when I crested a hill and had to descend I was very nervous.

Dirt so perfect

I was trusting my route when the dirt ran out and I was back on asphalt. After a half mile a cyclist came from the other direction. He was on a mountain bike and I did a quick U-turn to follow him. We had a great chat as we rode.

It turned out that following the advice found in Mother Earth magazine, he ended up relocating to Bedford, Pa. where he owned a cafe for seven years. We talked about Bedford, Altoona, and Somerset.

Barn on Merrifield Road

He also told me that we were riding through a very poor area in New Hampshire but that Brattleboro was a "hippie town." He said they call it the "nuts and granola" town and warned me that it legal to walk around naked and that I might see some folks in the nude. I didn't.

This car matches my bike

I would not take a road bike on the Merrifield Road portion of this ride again but thoroughly enjoyed the discovery of a new area. Back at the hotel, I took my morning shower at 11:30 a.m. and checked out which was in great contrast to my usual 6:30 - 7:30 a.m. checkout. It was nice being last.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Prostate Cancer Pony Express


The Prostate Cancer Awareness Project sponsors an annual motorcycle ride called the PCAP Prostate Cancer Pony Express. It ended today by the U.S. Capitol. And I joined them. On my bike.

Barry Sherry, Robert Hess

They were late arriving so I did lots of circles in a traffic circle. I discovered that is the perfect place to ride. Once you're in a traffic circle you always have the right of way as long as you stay in. So don't leave.

Eventually I found Robert Hess, posed for a few photos, then called it a day as I was on my way home from Pennsylvania. I felt sorry for my friends. They had to ride motorcycles while I was on my bike.