Apres at the Cottage

You know, the older I get, the more I value the social aspect of things related to mountain biking and skiing. I have posted many times about sitting around in the parking lot after a ride and sharing a beer with my pals and talking about the day on the trails. The same holds true for skiing. I have talked about the great places to go after a day of skiing out west. Places like The No Name Saloon in Park City, The Shooting Star Saloon in Huntsville, Utah, The Mangy Moose in Jackson and other iconic locations to sit down after a great day on the slopes. But there is something special about visiting the Adirondacks in Upstate New York and having an apres experience at The Cottage right on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid.

Let me set the scene a little bit here. One of my favorite things to do is pack my Jeep, put on my tunes and podcasts, and drive up to the Adirondacks to see my pals Mike Smith and Mark Hutchinson. If only for a couple of days, we make it our business to ski Whiteface in Lake Placid – seen above- and spend a good amount of time on the Summit Chair skiing all the great runs at the top of the mountain. Whiteface is not only a great ski area, but the views are spectacular. You can see all the way to the spine of the Green Mountains of Vermont so eloquently described by my friend Mark in several of my videos I have posted about skiing in the pouring rain on the Summit Chair trails and also on bullet proof ice. But we have had great days there too with brilliant sunshine and spectacular views of the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. Lapping that chair is such a fun thing to do and you can really rack up the vertical. But then comes the social aspect with an apres ski visit to The Cottage.

A visit to The Cottage is a must. I have had so many memories of settling into those bar stools, sipping a nice cold draught, and looking out at the skaters and hockey games on Mirror Lake. The food is always good, the conversations with Mike and Mark are fun with recounting all of our great runs of the day and good times there in the past. Again, as I get older, I value the time spent with friends post skiing at a great watering hole. I am kind of a one and done guy with the beer, but that first sip is always the best. There is so much history in Lake Placid with it’s Olympic background. In fact the Cottage is owned by the Weibrecht family who own the Mirror Lake Inn right across the street. Andrew Weibrecht, the Olympic Silver Medalist, is their son and the pride of everyone at The Cottage.

I spent a lot of time in Lake Placid for PSIA events and also taking in the Olympics way back in the day. But I have always made it my business to visit Whiteface and Lake Placid recently as the Adirondacks hold a special place in my heart. The nice thing about doing a road trip is not having to deal with airports, delays, rental cars, and other inconveniences. You can pack your vehicle with anything that you need including multiple pairs of skis for any conditions that might arise. Kind of a nice way to travel if you don’t mind driving.

The west is great for skiing and the experience of seeing the Rockies, the Wasatch,the Sierras, and the Cascades, but in my mind, I truly enjoy the Adirondacks just as well and topping off the experience with a session or two at a great apres place like The Cottage. So, if you are looking for something different or maybe an experience that brings you back to your past, look no further than Lake Placid. I am kind of ready for the seasons to change and for winter to start. Thanks for reading and think snow.

Where you are- it’s happening.

Bondieu Lake. The Lodge at Glendorn

Kind of a Yoda like title but really- it’s true. Where you are…….it’s happening. Just like this fall for the last three weeks around these parts. The fall colors have been spectacular, the weather sunny and cool. So many people have remarked how wonderful the fall weather has been in the northeast and no matter where you are………it’s happening. Enjoy it, relish it, and get lost in the moments.

My last stretch of this fall weather and spectacular colors began three weeks ago in Bradford, Pa. Driving up through the Allegheny National Forest was nothing short of breathtaking. The sun was out, and my wife Janet and I took in the drive and also our time at one of our favorite places up there which I posted about last week. Whether you are a hiker, a road cyclist, or a mountain biker, all of these activities have been enhanced by the spectacular fall season around here.

Fall hiking has been unbelievable.

I even had the opportunity to see two black bear cubs on one of my rides up there that had me jazzed for days.

The cubs scampered to safety.

The next week at Laurel Mountain was again – perfect weather, riding mountain bikes with a great group from Pittsburgh Off Road Cyclists and the group from the Laurel Highlands Off Road Bicycling Association. 45+ riders and all taking in one of the last fall weekends in the Laurel Highlands. Miles of smiles and a fun after ride party in the lot up there.

Weekday rides at our local parks have been really scenic too. The colors even in my own neighborhood have been brilliant and the riding and hiking locally has been cool, clear, and colorful.

The leaf covered rocks make you pay attention.

Finally- this weekend I ventured south just across the border into Wild Wonderful West Virginia. A place where I love to ride and a place that holds so many wonderful riding memories for me. This time it was at Cooper’s Rock State Forest.

Really cool rock sections in Cooper’s Rock.

The group I was with this weekend were the Adventuremen. http://www.adventuremen.org. Adventuremen or Dirt Church is a group of really fun guys from Western Pa and West Virginia who not only are good riders, but also love the Lord in an outdoor setting. We can all appreciate the Creation with the fall scenery and the Adventuremen make it happen. This was the second Adventuremen outing this fall and Dirt Church was in session at Cooper’s Rock and also at Laurel earlier in the year.

The Adventuremen- Roger Evans put together a great time. Plus his post ride chili got rave reviews. Roger is the tall guy in the back.
The Overlook at Cooper’s Rock

Aside from all the ravings about the leaves and the weather, the point of all of this is – where you are……..it is happening. I hear so many people say” I wish I was somewhere else, I wish I was out west or down south.” The fact of the matter is all of those folks are enjoying their weather and their fall seasons. But we have a lot right here in Western Pa. and West Virginia. We just need to appreciate what we have. Sure the west is cool and other places in the country have their appeal. But everyone needs to appreciate their home turf. I am sure some of them are saying what a beautiful fall it is out east right now. But no need to do that……..enjoy where you are.

I watched the World Cup ski race from Solden, Austria this weekend and as much as I am wanting to ski, I love the fall. I am in no hurry for this to end and I hope we can get some more of this spectacular weather for a little while longer. Enjoy what we have, get out in it, and take in a huge breath of cool, crisp, fall air. Thanks for reading.

Return to The Lodge at Glendorn

The main fireplace in the dining room.

If you ever wanted to take your significant other to a fabulous place for a special occasion or just any occasion for that matter, look no further than the Lodge at Glendorn in Bradford, Pa. My wife Janet and I have visited this place at least 10 times and every time we go, we are amazed at what a great experience it is.

One of the many tastefully decorated rooms in the main lodge.

This particular trip, we went at peak foliage season as Bradford, Pa is in the northern reaches of Pennsylvania right near the New York state border. As we drove through the Allegheny National Forest, we entered Glendorn through the black iron gates and it is always like we are taking a trip back in time to a place that does everything right. The staff is always so friendly when you arrive, and they are more than happy to oblige with anything you might need. The rooms and cabins are decorated with artifacts from the Dorn family who were the original owners of the estate. The cabins are not what you think because when you walk in to any one of them, you are amazed at the fine linens, beautiful artwork and fresh flowers that welcome you. The lodge rooms are beautiful and if you wanted to take another couple or two, you can rent anyone of the cabins because they have multiple bedrooms and bathrooms.

Jill Lake – one of many on the property.

The food is amazing as Chef David Haick creates breakfasts, lunches and dinners with fresh produce from local farms and orchards, local meat and fish selections, and can even prepare picnic lunches if you want to explore the property outside of the dining room. My wife can also attest to the quality of the Forest Spa, on site, which can refresh sore and tired muscles with deep tissue massage and many other spa services.

I particularly like the 1500 acres and their trails that are available for hiking, mountain biking, and cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. We always alpine ski up the road at Holimont in Ellicottville, N.Y which is only a 40 minute drive from Glendorn. Lots of outside activities including fly fishing( Glendorn received the Orvis Resort of the Year back in 2016), and skeet and trap shooting. Guides are available to assist upon request and are very knowledgeable. Another note of interest is that The Lodge at Glendorn is listed in the Relais and Chateau book of top resorts in the world. It is quite an honor to be listed here and Glendorn has been on the list for many years.

Skeet shooting year round.

The amazing thing to me is that amidst the luxury at the resort, you can wander out to the trails in the 1500 acres adjacent to the Allegheny National Forest and feel like you are a million miles away from anything. I was riding my mountain bike on this recent trip after hiking with Janet, and a huge turkey or pheasant ( not sure) flew right over my handlebars and scared the heck out of me. Right after that while descending a trail, I stopped to see two black bear cubs scampering up a tree right in front of me. I snapped a shot but then got out of there quickly because I know mama was around somewhere and most likely would have taken a dim view of me taking photos of her cubs. I dropped my post and descended the trail quite rapidly.

One of the cubs .
From wilderness riding to fine linen dining
Hiking with the bride on our anniversary.
One of the many trout stocked streams on the property
Bondieu Lake

Of the many places where Janet and I have traveled, this is definitely one of our favorites and the great thing is that it is only a 3 hour drive from our home. No airports, no rental cars, just pack up your stuff and go. I have posted about The Lodge at Glendorn before, but I felt compelled to talk about it again because it is truly spectacular. You have to try it yourself and you will definitely rebook if you do. Warren Miller, the great ski movie producer always said, “If you don’t do it this year, you will be another year older when you do.” This is so true and why not visit The Lodge at Glendorn soon? Cliff and Tracy Forrest, the owners, have done a marvelous job of capturing the essence of a wilderness resort with first class lodging, dining and activities in the wilds of Pennsylvania. Go visit. I am not going to tell you again. LOL!! Thanks for reading.

Fresh flowers everywhere!

A Slave to the Watch

The Garmin Fenix 6X- Taskmaster!!

I have always liked gizmos. I had Polar heart rate monitors for many years as well as sports watches and devices mounted to my bike to tell me my mileage. I regularly entered information into Velo-News logs about rides, who I rode with, maximum heart rates, and all kinds of information that was interesting to me as a weekend warrior. I had the first app on the I-phone for calculating vertical feet when skiing, and when the creators of Alpine Replay( the name of the app at the time) saw that my buddy Hutch and I had broken the one day record each for his app( 57,000 vertical feet in one day at Northstar at Tahoe), they texted me wanting to know more about us. I had a backup battery in my parka so as not to lose any data and to make sure I collected all the vertical from 8:30 AM until 4:00 PM that day. In any event, I have always liked these things and they have been of particular interest to me with their amazing technology.

So at the suggestion of my friend Mark ” the Shark” Sauers, I recently purchased a Garmin Fenix 6 X Sapphire watch. It was available on the Amazon Prime sale and I got a good deal on it. I had not purchased anything like this in a while and have been amazed at the data and information that it provides. I am only using a fraction of that data because I am not a real techie. But what I have discovered is very interesting but the watch is starting to make me feel bad. It is subtle in it’s insults and I am hoping that the information I entered as an aging athlete would have tempered it’s comments. But to no avail. This thing in a subtle way admonishes me, and I am starting to think it has a personality all of its own.

The Aging Athlete

To give you an example, it tells me I am a poor sleeper and I need to focus on getting better rest. I think I have had a decent nights sleep but I guess with the frequent trips to the bathroom as an older guy, it senses that I am not getting enough REM, and deep sleep. And it lectures me. ” Although you slept enough, your sleep was restless.” ” Try a white noise machine or earplugs.”

There is a measurement called load focus which tells me I am balanced based on my running Vo2 max trend. It tells me that my training load is sufficient to maintain fitness but I need to work out longer and more often to improve. WTH- I am riding four days a week on my mountain bike. I don’t race anymore and ride to ride again. I use my mountain bike for exercise. But this thing says I am loafing. Come on!!! Guys I went to high school with are coming home and getting a hot bath and watching Fox News. They have one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel but my Garmin won’t give me any slack.

When I look at the training effect measurement after a two hour weekday ride, it says,” This activity enhanced your ability to maintain a moderate pace for a longer amount of time” ” You gained a slight anaerobic benefit from this activity” My heart was pounding at 169 beats per minute on many climbs. I would argue about the moderate pace. I thought it was a pretty good pace at close to 8.5 MPH moving average speed. Come on Garmin- I am an old dude. It did say I had 64 minutes of vigorous intensity and 22 minutes of moderate intensity, so what gives? I think it just likes to insult me.

This winter, it says that there are over 2000 ski areas mapped into the Garmin. So wherever I am , I should be able to map how many vertical feet I log without going to the standard I-Phone app for vertical feet. I wonder if it will tell me I am lazy or not making enough turns? How will it insult me on the slopes? The watch has an app that connects to on my I Phone called Garmin Connect. It takes the data from the watch and downloads it to the app. So both the watch and the app double team me. Admonishment from two sources.

The watch- motivating or insulting?

Speed, Timing, Heart Rate, Training Effect, Elevation, Nutrition and Hydration, Temperature MTB Dynamics, and Intensity Minutes. What did I do do deserve this? TMI if you ask me but I was the one who bought the watch. So buyer beware!! If you sale for one of these watches and you are an aging athlete like me, be ready to be humiliated by a device. I am sure in its own little way- it is trying to motivate me, but my giddup and go for a lot of these measurements has gone up and left. I just need the basics to give me the data on the rides or the slopes. I don’t need much more than that. But I will still look at the watch. Heck, I sleep with it to get the after hours measurements. It is part of me now. Thanks Shark!!! Thanks for reading.

A Fitting Tribute

Lois and Phillip Dupre

Sitting at one of the tables reserved for friends of Lois Dupre Schuster, I was engaged in a conversation with Angel and Andy Michanowicz and Willis Croker. Willis is a bright young guy involved in commercial real estate in Pittsburgh and I ended up apologizing to him for Andy and I rehashing 50 year old ski stories of friends and events. That is kind of the way it was at the induction ceremony this weekend at Seven Springs Resort for the Pennsylvania Snow Sports Museum Hall of Fame. Willis’s grandmother Lois and her late husband Phillip were inducted this year into the Hall of Fame and it was a fitting award for two people who really shaped the soul of Seven Springs back in the day.

Lois Dupre Schuster

Lois not only developed the rental shop at Seven Springs back in the day, as well as many other services, but served as the mayor of Seven Springs Boro for 50 years. Her enthusiasm for the ski area and the people who came as guests was only matched by her late husband Phillip who was the “go to” guy for a lot of daily things at the resort in the early days. Lois said that if you needed anything, you called Phillip. He was just that kind of guy who always had a resolution for any issue and was always willing to help. Lois had a great story about the early days when a congressman and his wife arrived at Seven Springs. The hotel was booked and when asked by the congressman if there was anything Phillip could do to secure a room, he responded that he had extra beds in his home. That is just the kind of person Phillip was. 40 years of Christmas cards that came in the following years from President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty, served to show how much they appreciated the effort. They had a great time and always remembered the kindness of the Dupres.

Stories like this abounded at the induction ceremony. Rus Davies, a local legend in ski instruction and ski patroller foundations at Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, and Laurel Mountain was also inducted in a most deserving way. And behind every good man is a good woman. Rus’s wife Miriam encouraged Rus all along the way in his illustrious career with the ski community.

Rus Davies

Western Pa has been widely represented in the nominations and elections to the Hall of Fame. Josef Cabe, Dick Barron, Jim McClure, Bill Bendl, Herman Dupre, Lars Skylling, Willi Klein, Doc DesRoches, and the founders of Seven Springs- Helen and Adolph Dupre. Even Olympic medalist and World Cup racer Dianne Roffe has also been inducted for her work with ski areas in Pennsylvania.

Michelle and Frank Pipak and Helen Durfee( Lois Dupre’s oldest daughter)

But as Charlie Hinchliffe and I looked about the room this weekend and at the subsequent reception at Lois’s home. we remarked that it was amazing to see how many people there look at skiing as a lifestyle and not just something that they do once in a while. People like Frank and Michelle Pipak, whose countless hours as PSIA Level III ski instructors have enriched the lives of their students in many ways. Rich Wright was there to honor Lois as he was the voice of Seven Springs for many years on the PA system. If you continued to scan the reception, it was amazing to see how well people are faring after many years. Skiing does that to you. It keeps you young and alive and enthusiastic for that first snowflake that comes as the herald of winter. There are people who ski, and then there are skiers. The people in that room and at the reception were skiers – there is a difference.

Now many of us have skied all over the world and appreciate the Rockies, the Wasatch, the Alps and other alpine venues. And although the Laurel Highlands do not offer the vertical drop of some other places in this country, the soul of skiing still exists strongly in our part of the world. We all consider the Laurel Highlands our home field and it is always great to reconnect at the beginning of the season and see our winter friends enjoying the slopes once again. The passion that the inductees into the Pa. Snowsports Hall of Fame have shown, indicates a love for something that is greater than themselves. They selflessly contributed and developed the opportunities for many of us to enjoy the sport of skiing- right here in our home state of Pennsylvania. The Eastern contingent of guests this weekend also feel the same way about their inductees from the Poconos and together, the blending at the reception of eastern Pa skiers and Western Pa skiers was really heartwarming to see.

Dupre memorabilia

As I drove home from the event, I thought about the 61 years that I have spent in the Laurel Highlands and the friends that I have made over the years. Skiing has brought so much to my life and thinking of friends who are no longer with us, but made an impact, was a bit nostalgic driving down County Line Road. Pennsylvania has a rich history in the sport of skiing, and to have it celebrated with events like the induction ceremonies this weekend, showcases the enthusiasm and passion that local skiers have for their home mountains. I am happy to have been a part of it and hopefully will have many more years on the slopes both locally and in other areas where there is another whole host of friends who share the same love of the sport of skiing. Thanks for reading, congratulations to all the inductees, and think snow!!

The Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb

The beginning of fall at Mt. Washinton, NH.

So it’s a rainy day and I am surfing around You Tube and I happen to see Phil Gaimon’s coverage of the Mt. Washington Hill Climb. Phil is a former professional in road cycling and has raced all over the world. He now has a You Tube channel where he continues to chase records on STRAVA and tours the country riding in the most iconic places and chasing records for climbs. When I saw the coverage, it brought back memories of when my pals Eric Durfee, Jack McArdle and I did it back in the mid-80s. Eric, at the time was a Category 1-2 road cycling racer and extremely fit and ended up in the top 5 overall which was a huge accomplishment. Jack and I were not in that category but I recall being respectable at the finish.

A young Pat back in the day at the start in New Hampshire.

Thinking back on that day, it was a bluebird sunny one at the bottom of the mountain and as I recall it is about 7.6 miles to the top on a road that was part asphalt and part gravel and dirt. The road today is paved to the top but at the time, it was definitely a cyclo-cross tire on the rear wheel. A fairly large group at the time started together and people started to settle in for what was a grueling climb to the top of one of the highest mountains in the East – topping out around 6,000 feet. I recall settling in and at about the halfway mark( reported to me by a bystander), it was about 46 degrees and a heavy fog. Typical weather for Mt. Washington that can change rapidly at any moment. It was windy. The highest winds recorded on earth are at the top of Mt. Washington because of its location as the epicenter of weather patterns roaring across the US and Canada. My friend Jack was behind me and he reported later that he stopped several times to get a drink out of the rain barrels that were used to cool down radiators on the descent in a vehicle. Pretty nasty stuff but he was thirsty. LOL!! Coming into the upper sections, I was able to see the summit weather station and just kept my head down and grinding the gears to approach the last several switchbacks that were reported at a 20 percent gradient. Lots of people cheering us on as I struggled to finish upright and came in with a time of 1 hour and 25 minutes. Respectable for a guy from Pa. My pal Eric from Vermont was top 5 and he was a little over 1 hour and three minutes, just to give perspective. Don’t remember what Jack’s finishing time was, but he made it and immediately stripped down at the top to his Superman briefs which garnered laughs from the crowd as he shivered to change clothes in the parking lot and put on a wool hat and parka because it was 41 degrees and sleeting.

The course marked in red.
Todays racers finishing on the 20 percent paved grade.

The interesting thing is that there is a running race up Mt. Washington as well. The winning times for the bicycle race and the running race are within a minute of each other. Phil Gaimon’s winning time this year was 51.38 which was a record. Sure he had the advantage of paved roads all the way and also the good fortune of technology of light bike design, training improvements and nutritional expertise. But nonetheless, an excellent time, and speeds up that mountain are getting faster every year. Athletes today are just so much better. But back in the day, my buddy Eric made a statement. Today there are a lot of entrants with many of them making the top to the cheers of their friends and family in 2 hours, 3 hours, or whatever it takes. Many of them ride it just to see the scenery and to say that they finished. One guy rode up there this year on a unicycle. Amazing!

As we made our way back down the mountain in Helen Durfee’s van, we were amazed that we could not ride our bikes down the hill. Even with today’s disc brake technology, you would not want to negotiate that road on a bike downhill. Even many of the parade of cars descending the Auto Road have to stop to cool the brakes. It is that steep. So happy to have seen Phil’s recording of the 2022 event as it brought back many memories of an interesting day a long time ago in the White Mountains in early fall. Thanks for reading.

The Adventuremen

The Adventuremen plus Julie!!

Organized mountain bike rides are usually a lot of fun, especially when they are in the Laurel Highlands. Great trails, sunshine, beautiful state forest greenery, and challenging rock sections. But this day was special among the scores of organized rides at this time of year. http://www.adventuremen.org was the host with the founder Greg Nass at the helm. Adventuremen is an organization of Christian men who enjoy the outdoors together. The signature event is Adventurefest which is a camping event the weekend before Father’s Day. Great speakers, bonfires, mini-bike riding, fishing, Harley riding, mountain bike riding at Raystown, basketball, air cannons, drones, and a plethora of other activities that make the weekend a blast. The venue is at Agape Farm and I have posted on it before. Great group of guys and a great event. But Greg and I decided it was time to branch out from the fest and perhaps schedule some outside events like the ride at Laurel Mountain. It was special on many fronts.

Our fearless leader- Greg Nass.

First of all, my pal Jeff Chetlin came with his wife Julie- even though technically it is a men’s event. Julie rides the rocks better than anybody though, and she was a welcome addition. Jeff, as I have posted before, is returning from a stroke about a year ago and this was his first ride back on some technical trails. Our buddy Pete and Jeff rode together and it was amazing that Jeff has made the comeback due to a lot of hard work on his part and answered prayer. Julie rode the rocks with us. Jeff will ride them soon.

Next amazing story was my pal Tom Tiernan. He has come back twice from cancer and was in terrific shape. Tom pays a lot of attention to his fitness and it showed on the ride in the Laurels. He is an amazingly enthusiastic guy despite some pretty major health setbacks. He enjoys life and really likes mountain bike riding as well as road cycling. He is back and his health and fitness show it. And he talks the whole ride- can’t figure it out. He must have lungs of iron. He and I wouldn’t let anyone else get a word in edgewise. LOL!!!

The group was rounded out by the dentists- Steve Gurtner, and his pals Brad and Sean. All great riders with whom I have ridden many times. Along with Steve’s son Dan who decided to ride with the old guys this day. Julie and Jeff were in the dental field as well and if any one of us had any issues with our teeth on the ride- well we were covered. Roger Evans brought his posse up from West Virginia. Roger and I ride at Adventurefest every year at Raystown and it was great to see him again. My pal Sandy McKee came along and all in all- 16 riders of different backgrounds, faiths, believers, non-believers, and general good guys all hooted and hollered as we left the parking lot after a thoughtful prayer by Greg asking for protection. Greg also asked for prayer requests which were numerous in coming.

The West Virginia Boys and Pete.
Steve and Dan at Wolf Rocks- watching for rattlers.
Sandy taking a breather.

The cool thing about the outing was that even though it was sponsored by a faith based outdoor organization, there was nothing uncomfortable about it. Everyone, no matter if you have faith or no faith, likes to have a prayer said on their behalf. Greg handled it with grace and it was well received. The misnomer about a lot of Christian men is that they are extremists, right wing, condescending when nothing could be further than the truth. Real Christians recognize that they are sinners and in need of the Savior. There was no uncomfortable discussion, no shoving anything down anyone’s throat, just plain fun in the mountains on our bikes. Christian guys are not weirdos. Just come to Adventurefest and see for yourself. They know the good news of the Gospel and are willing to share it, only if asked. Just normal Joes like the most of us. No need to be intimidated by Christian men whose battle cry at the front of the pack was “Halle……….then the back of the pack responds ……..lujah.” And the whole group chuckles and keeps riding.

Mountain biking is a cool way to get 16 guys together and 1 cool lady for some exercise and fun in the woods, with some great dialog. People have issues, or have friends and family with issues, and no better people to discuss them with than the guys from Adventuremen at what they call ” Dirt Church.” I am happy to be associated with them and in fact Greg asked me to be on their board. I was truly honored. So guess what he gets out of me? An enthusiastic guy who organizes fun rides or as I call them Pleasant Pat Peddling. I am going to try to organize some more rides, hikes and even a ski day or 2. Check with me or http://www.adventuremen.org. Adventuremen on Facebook and Dirt Church on Facebook. If you have interest, join one of these FB groups and get all the latest information on rides and events. Greg, Shark, Pete and I invite everyone and it is amazing who God puts together. Normal people – mountain bike riders – in the woods, discussing life and its ups and downs, and how faith in the Lord can fuse it all together. Thanks for reading.

Duckin

Breaststroke by the incomparable Michael Phelps

It’s funny. My wife says to me occasionally as we walk, ” Hey- you are duckin.” I laugh and say-” well maybe that is because of all the breaststroke I did as a kid?” Duckin is her word for saying that I walk like a duck. Left foot pointed left and right foot pointed right in a kind of fast waddle. I am kidding but as I remember back, all of us kids who were breaststrokers, walked like a duck. Perhaps it was a hallmark of the physiology needed to do the whip kick that is the engine of the stroke. The Rose brothers, me, Johnny Kane, Dru Duffy, all battled it out in the community pool wars and the YMCA teams. We all ducked. Even the Rose girls ducked ( sorry Annie and Mary). Breaststrokers all ducked. That is the way it was and apparently still is. I still duck.

The Allegheny Y Team back in the day- I am third from left at the top.

So as the days dwindle down for our community pool, I do take advantage of what we have left until Labor Day and swim some breaststroke from time to time when the pool is not crowded. Breaststroke was always a natural stroke for me. I could freestyle and backstroke, but the butterfly? No way. But breaststroke came natural and I competed as a kid for our community pool- Valley Brook Swimming Club, The Allegheny YMCA and also Shannopin Country Club. My dad drove me back and forth between venues a lot so that I could catch my heats. I would no sooner finish a heat in a relay or individual event when my dad would rush me into the car to catch the meet at Shannopin which started later. Breaststrokers were a valued commodity and all three teams needed a breaststroker for individual events and medley relays. There was a lot of competition between all of us “strokers” but it was a fun part of the competitive side of growing up.

Our community pool

Today I find that swimming in my community pool is relaxing and as I “stroke” along, I think about how the sport has changed. Watching swimming on TV I see the rules have changed as well. It used to be that you needed to touch both hands on the wall before you could turn. When you did turn, you had to push off the wall and get your arms above your head and make one giant pull under water and kick to surface and start swimming the next lap. Today- you can dolphin kick for as long as you can and then surface and start swimming. You also submerge your head after each stroke. In my day, your head could not go below the surface of the water. I try the new breaststroke and it is definitely more efficient and faster. But the main reason I swim is to stretch out. I tend to get tight from mountain biking and swimming helps me stretch out and relax those tight leg muscles. As I swim along, I think about all those old meets at Trees Pool at Pitt, with the Jello sticking to our feet. The energy powder in those days was Jello and it spilled all over the floor and made our feet sticky and we sported the many colors of cherry, grape and lime. I think about the summer meets at Valley Brook and the other away meets and finally think about how hard it was to jump in the pool at the Allegheny Y or Allegheny High School in the winter. Wool hats and parkas to Speedo suits in the indoor pools.

So as the countdown begins, I will try to take advantage of all the great summer days left before the fall takes the pool out of play. Another guy from the neighborhood swims every day and he is amazing. He plays golf every day and swims every day and I just found out……..he is 80 years old. Doesn’t look it. Swimming is a wonderful form of exercise – even if it makes me duck. Thanks for reading.

Rich Roll Rocks

Rich Roll- ultra distance athlete and successful Podcast host.

Last year, my friend Jeff Chetlin turned me on to a great podcast by Rich Roll. You can google him to find out all about his podcast and his amazing lifestyle change over the years. But suffice to say that he is impressive as is his list of guests on his daily podcast. I also read his book which is a good one too.

I have listened with great intent to his interviews with world class athletes like Lyndsey Vonn, Lance Armstrong, and Rebecca Rusch. Rich brings out the best in all of them by asking provocative questions and allowing them to expand during his usual 2 hour show. The interesting thing about world class athletes is their drive to which Rich is intimately familiar as he himself is a national class ultra athlete.

The Rich Roll Podcast

Rich is aging like many of us and it is interesting to hear his guests who speak on what it takes to stay healthy. I heard a Rich Roll podcast with Drs. Dean and Anne Ornish who spoke at length about plant based eating and how that lifestyle can be a “fountain of youth” for many of us. They also spoke about mitochondria health in our cells and as we age, how it is compromised. I first heard of NADs (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and how we can refurbish our cells taking a product called Tru-Niagen. I take it every day because I believe that the science is there. Rich has varied guests in the medical field who talk about health in general but also as it relates to those of us who are trying to stay healthy through exercise as we age.

Rich on an ultra distance training run.

Recently Rich had Dr. Peter Attia as a guest who has worked with many world class athletes. The discussion centered around Zone 2 training. Now, as I listened, I thought back to where I had first heard that term. It was from the Heart Rate Monitor Book published by Sally Edwards in 1993. I had a monitor in those days and found the discussion on training in zones particularly enlightening. Sally Edwards as well as Dr. Attia find that training in Zone 2 which is basically a heart rate zone where you can exercise and still have a conversation, is the most beneficial. The heart rate zones are different based on the conditioning of the athlete, but the basic premise is not to always be in zone 4 or 5 which is aerobic to anaerobic in scale and often hampers one’s ability to be conditioned. He spoke about lactate levels which are blood lactate readings taken basically in a lab environment where an athlete’s blood is taken regularly during exercise to find the optimum level at which lactate levels begin to build in the muscles leading to lactic acid formation. If you can be aware of your levels, keep your heart rate in zone 2 and not go above your recommended levels, the training benefits are optimized. The discussion also included awareness of watts produced during exercise and the balance between watts and lactate levels. Watts seemed to be more pertinent in the discussion than heart rate but many casual athletes do not have a watt meter attached to their bike as world class cyclists do.

Now Rich Roll even admitted during the interview that most people who exercise are not at the level at which lactate measurement is a consideration. Most of us can relate to heart rates that are in different zones and if we stick to training or exercising in zone 2 – the conversational zone, it will be more beneficial and also……..more enjoyable. Pain is not always gain.

Dr. Peter Attia- google him.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to me about the interview with Dr. Attia was the discussion on what goals we have as we age. Dr. Attia stated that as an aging athlete, we need to consider what we would like to do in our later years as octogenarians and above. Do we want to be able to get up off the floor without using our hands? Do we want to easily get up out of a chair? Do we still want to race? Do we want to ski? Do we want to have sex? All of these things are considerations and if we outline them, we can “back cast” to the present time and lead a life that will make those things possible barring any catastrophic health issues. Bottom line in the discussion for us mortals is just to keep moving. I always quote Scot Nichol of Ibis Bikes when I asked him how long we can ski and ride like we do. His standard answer is ” just keep doing it.” ” Don’t even think about it.”

If you get the chance, tune in to the Rich Roll Podcast. It can get technical but for most of us who exercise for health with our racing days behind us, his discussions with his guests are enlightening. I won’t be undergoing any lactate testing any time soon but I recently did get a Garmin Fenix sports watch that gives me way more information about my daily exercise and lifestyle than I could ever utilize. But it does give me some benchmarks that I can use as I “forecast” to the future and see how long I can keep doing the things that I like to do. Garmin, Rich Roll, and books like ” How Not to Die ” by Michael Greger M.D. keep me in the game. Friends do too and to have a group of people who have similar interests on the slopes and trails keep me motivated and engaged. Zone 2 keeps it fun too. Thanks for reading.

Taking a Flyer at Snowshoe

The Finish Line- Snowshoe, WVA World Cup Mountain Bike Race

” So Pete, what made us think we would escape the rain, roots and mud of riding in West Virginia?” I said this as my friend Pete Hilton and I made our way through the Backcountry Trails at Silver Creek right outside of Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia. We decided to take a flyer and go see the World Cup Cross Country Races and get a ride in too. We have a lot of experience over 30 years of riding mountain bikes in West Virginia for different events and unfortunately it rains most of the time. But somehow, that adds to the allure of the place and we kind of expect it. When we went to the Word Cup finals last year, it was a hot, sunny weekend. But that was a first. At the Wild 100s, the 24 Hour Races, the NORBA Nationals, the Fat Tire Festivals over the years- it always rained………….and that’s ok believe it or not.

Before the muddy mess.

So Pete picks me up at 4:00 AM and we take the drive to Snowshoe from Pittsburgh. About a 4 hour jaunt and when we get there, we get our tickets for the races and then head to Silver Creek. The long and the short of that is we got lost because I started out on the wrong trail. We had a long, rocky, climb and eventually ended up in the woods on a trail system that we had ridden before. Rooty, muddy , slimy and all around West Virginia treacherous snot fest. But we survived as usual and got back to the van and changed clothes and headed to the races. We met up with our Pittsburgh contingent and took in the expo area and saw a lot of the new bikes and equipment and also saw some of the racers who were warming up for the respective women’s and men’s cross country events.

U.S. Rider Kate Courtney warming up for the Scott Team

As we made our way to the start line and then to the course, it began to sprinkle and then about halfway through the women’s race, the skies opened up in true West Virginia fashion. We were positioned at this amazingly muddy and steep downhill and witnessed some of the most skillful bike handling you will ever see. Take the time to watch the races on Red Bull TV and you will see how difficult the course became and how well the women rode. My MVP for the day was Jolanda Neff of Switzerland who bombed down the muddy, slimy, rock infested descent and bridged to the lead group to finish on the podium. An amazing feat of fitness and skill was on display for all of us to see in a truly biblical, torrential downpour.

The first lap for the men .

The men were next and it seemed to be raining even harder as Hank, Samra, Pete and I hung out in the North Face Store just to stay a little dry although we were totally soaked. We welcomed people into the North Face Store jokingly hoping not to get thrown out. But eventually we made our way to the wicked fast start and eventually back to that treacherous downhill to see how the men handled it. Well, not only are the speeds higher than the women, but the fearless attacks in the torrent both on the climbs and on the descents were impressive.

Thomas Frischknecht- Former Olympic medalist and World Champion- manager of the Scott Team and a nicer guy you will not meet.

Although the weather was really foul, the amazing thing about the whole event is the people. First off, the fans are truly enthusiastic and no matter how badly they were soaked, their cheerful attitude and encouraging voices and cowbell rings, buoyed the riders on. The Red Bull TV people all comment on the enthusiastic fans at Snowshoe and it was on display even in the raging rainstorm.

The athletes, managers, and employees of the manufacturers at the booths are amazingly approachable and always happy to oblige with a picture or a discussion. There is something in the air at Snowshoe that makes it a great venue for mountain biking and mountain bike racing. People are friendly, and the visiting athletes from all over the world are always glad to come here. Even though it is quite remote, it is like a gem in the wilderness of West Virginia and the people of mountain biking make the venue even more special.

Don’ miss this bar b que – bottom of the mountain on the way out.

The Pittsburgh Contingent.

On our way out, Pete and I stopped at the Almost Heaven Smoke House at the bottom of the mountain on the way out to RT219. Great bar b que if you visit and the owners are hard working and friendly – typical of the locals of West Virginia who embrace the World Cup every year. I am hoping that the UCI always hosts the World Cup at Snowshoe and we can continue to see world class athletes show us all how it is done. Nothing like the races and nothing like the people of the mountain bike community.

We headed home after the men’s races were over and the four hour drive back seemed to fly by with our enthusiastic recounting of the events of the day. A long day for a couple of guys in their 60s but what the hell- go for it. Spending the weekend is the way to go, but Pete and I had other things that precluded that. But we made the effort, got a ride in, and saw some great racing in the wilds of West Virginia. It truly is ” Almost Heaven” even when it rains. Thanks for reading.

Final Images courtesy of Red Bull TV