Monday, March 29, 2010

Ashdod Circuit Race Report-1st Race in Israel

So, as some of you know I'll be missing much of the racing in/around Boston this spring and summer because of an internship program I'm doing in Tel Aviv, Israel.

But that doesn't mean I'm hanging up my racing gear!

So, exactly 7 days after I got off the plane I took part in the Ashdod Circuit race, about 30 min south of Tel Aviv, along the seashore.

I was signed up for the elite race and was excited to throw down for my first race of the year. However, things would not go according to plan, in anyway, at all, whatsoever.

Things got off to a rocky start when the race was postponed due to unforeseen heavy rains caused the course (with it's 4 rotaries in each direction) to be extremely slippery because of oil on the tarmac. As a result about 1/2 the field did not start, leaving a small but strong group of 30 starters.

Image

My strategy before the race was to hang out and see how I felt. But, I failed miserably when I joined a break on the first lap of 9 on the 7km course. After a short while we were caught, then I was dropped, and cruised around off the back trying to find my legs.
Image
I ended up chasing for a while with Ian Schon (BU student currently at Tel Aviv University) until he/we caught an Israeli guy.
Image
But Ian crashed himself not much later and the Israeli guy and I worked well together for a while until the last lap, when we realized that we were going to finish 13/14th no matter what, so we did the last lap at conversation pace until a sprint up to the finish, he beat me.Image
Image

Anyhow, it was cool to race abroad, I'm looking forward to more racing once I get back into shape.

Holding it down in Tel Aviv,

Friday, March 26, 2010

The FrankenBikeBox

I made it to Israel, but more on that later. Here's a recap of my amazing bike packing skills.

Those of you who read know me are aware that I often say, "I can make it work," when an item is working, slightly broken, or even busted. A recent example being when I thought I could fix my trusty Honda Accord by simply adding coolant when it was smoking heavily, and yes, I thought I could drive for 4 hours on a leaking coolant system, but I was wrong.

So, when it came to my next travel adventure I didn't bother learning the lesson and made a few questionable decisions regarding what bike(s?) to bring to Israel for 5 months and how to get it(them) there.

The first question was: Road or Mountain? It seemed like it'd be better racing/training on a road bike, but I'd get more general use of my MTB because I'll be living in the heart of the city, and there's trails, but not a lot of open roads to get to easily. My cousin, who runs the most popular biking website in Israel (www.bikezone.co.il), said MTB, and others said to bring a road bike. So I decided to bring both.

The second question was: How do you get 2 bikes to Israel? I first thought about shipping them, but upon further investigation it was around $500 USD each way and said to hell with that. Then I looked into which carrier I should take, and found the Israeli National Airline, EL AL, lets you bring a bike to/from North America for Free. So long as the bike was enclosed and weighed under 40kg (~88lbs), and the standards did say "one bike with one seat," so I thought I was done for. I figured a 2 bike BikePro USA case would be wicked expensive, and it is, a whopping $630.

So, I did the next best thing, get a bike box and see if I could make it work.

The first step was to head over to the shop, and see what they had laying around. I asked a few of the mechanics about how to handle 2 bikes in one box, and Jon C recommended this amazing cardboard construction used to ship a $10,000 Trek Madone 6.9.
And let me tell you, this box is glorious, it's a huge clamshell with the following features:
  • Built-in padding for under the bottom bracket
  • Built-in padding for the head tube
  • Built-in straps to die down the frame
  • A Built-In accessories section
  • Built-in padding for the rear drop outs.
  • Lots of extra foam bits and pieces saved inside the box
So the next step was to take it home and get to work. Since the box was going to be travelling across the pond and would probably be thrown by baggage handlers recklessly I knew I had go big on padding for the bikes and protection for the box.

I started by heading out to the hardware store and purchasing 36 feet of pipe insulation inf 3/4" and 3/8" inner diameter and a few rolls of duct tape.

When I got home, I decided that it'd be a good idea to protect all the edges as they are the most susceptible to tearing and falling apart. So added 2 layers of duct tape to each exterior edge and inside the corners to keep the box from wearing down.
Then, I started to dissasemble the bikes and used absurd amounts of foam pipe insulation to wrap each tube on each frame and held the foam in place with zip ties and tape. I also used spacers to spread the fork and rear dropouts, and removed the rear dérailleurs and covered them in bubble wrap.
I put my road bike in first, and added bits and pieces of foam where needed to keep the edges of things like the fork or bars from punching through the box. Then I placed my MTB frame (without the crankset) on top, and used the in-box straps to hold it all down.
From there, it was a matter of laying down some thin foam, removing the tires from my MTB wheels and add extra cardboard bits to the corners, add another 2 layers of cardboard on top of the wheels and throw in my camelbak and extra tires and tubes to fill gaps before closing up the whole system.

Afterwards I added some "straddles" to where the rope was going to be placed with extra bits of cardboard and got ready to tie it close. With help from some friends, we used some nylon rope to tie the whole thing shut and it was ready to go. A quick weight check with the bathroom scale, and we learned that the whole set up weighed just 31kg, with 9kg to spare (19.3) lbs.
The next day, went on over to Logan, checked in with American Airlines for my connecting flight to JFK. The charge for the bikes: $0.

18 Hours later, I landed in Tel Aviv, waited anxiously for my luggage, and low and behold, it was all good. The only problem: The Security folk had cut the rope and taped the box back together at Boston, and then again in NYC. Lastly, the were put atop my cousin's car, brought to his house for assembly. Where after opening up the box, I learned, much to my relief the bikes had arrived in fantastic condition, with out a dent, scratch or missing part.
A couple days later I moved in to my apartment in Tel Aviv. Where they have ample room, and live just below this view:

Coming Soon: First Israeli Race Report.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Disastrous last weekend in America (for a while)

I went into the weekend with big plans, I was hoping to head on down to New York, race the Grant's Tomb Criterium, catch up with a few friends at the race, head out that night to see a few more friends, go to bed and then race the Steven's Circuit race on Sunday before heading back to Mass.

Of course, it hardly went according to plan.

Things started badly when I left the house to meet up with Green Line teammate and ex-coworker Jeremy in Waltham at 6:30 pm to head on down to NYC. As I pulled into the parking lot he pointed that my trusty Honda was smoking from under the hood. So, being a responsible adult I opened up the hood to figure out what the story was. And it was pretty clear after waving around the flashlight that my coolant was empty. So, fortunately Jeremy had some coolant and we topped off the coolant tank, packed the car and got on the road. When the car continued to fume from the hood, I assumed it was because the coolant hadn't worked it's way through the cooling loop, and as I told Jeremy "let's give it a few more minutes." But as we reached Natick it was pretty clear that something was very wrong and we got off the Mass Pike to let the engine cool off as the car was smoking heavily.

Upon pulling into some random parking lot, we opened up the hood and let the fumes fly upwards, soon discovering that the coolant was once again empty and assumed there was a leak. A quick call to AAA, a 45minute wait, and a 30 minute tow to my mechanic in Newton later we were back on the road, this time in my dad's van (oh we had to drop him off in Lincoln, just slightly out of the way). We made it back on the high way around 10pm, and from there cruised on down to Flushing, Queens where we were staying, only stopping to get me a health snack at Mac D's. We arrived at 1:15, unloaded the van and I'd say got into bed around 1:45 or 2 am.

Now, somewhere during the drive I had decided not to race the next morning for a few reasons:
  • Didn't want to race on 4 hours of sleep (need to wake up at 6 for 8 am start time)
  • Didn't want to race in 35mph wind gusts, 36 degree (F) temperatures, and heavy rains
  • Didn't want to risk getting sick, as I have to do travel to Israel later in the week
So, a casual wake up on Saturday and a lite breakfast took place at 8am, as opposed to riding around in a hurricane. Though, soon after, Jeremy and I did head over to the race, to hang out in the absolutely brutal conditions. While there, I got the chance to catch up with a lot of friends, eat some delicious Belgian waffles, ride in the pace car and get absolutely drenched over the course of the day, all while watching some exciting ECCC racing. When the collegiate races ended a quick van ride back to Queens to shower and change, before I got on the subway and headed into Manhattan to hang out with Josh (see spring break '09) and a few of his friends for the evening.

After a meal, and a few drinks I decided to head back to Queens, "early" at about 11:30, hoping to be in bed within the hour. However, the trains were running slow and it took me a while to actually get back to downtown Flushing where the 7 train ends. I quickly got up to the street and waived down a cab, told him the cross-streets and hoped for a 15 minute ride back to the apartment where I was staying. But, like everything else this weekend, it went all wrong, the cab driver didn't know queens well and got lost, really lost, and had to bust out the GPS to get me back to the place I was staying. $27 and 45 minutes later I was back in the apartment and in bed at 1:30 am. I set the alarm on my phone for 8am, hoping it'd be enough time to get my act together and get up to Yorktown Heights, NY for the Steven's Circuit race.

But, when the alarm did go off, I realized it was "Spring Forward" day and I had gotten a scant 5hours of sleep, with the added bonus of being a bit hung over and realized that I didn't have enough time (1:15 drive), or will power to get up to the race on time, never mind that it was raining. So, I opted to sleep in for an extra 3 hours.

Woke up, went to a diner for breakfast, rolled up to Sara Lawrence College to pick up my old friend Sam. Saw some serious carnage on the Merritt Parkway in CT from the storms, dropped off Jeremy at his place in Somerville, grabbed some Anna's and headed back to Lincoln home by 6:30.


So in summation, my car died, I paid for two races I didn't do, I wasted a ton of cash on a cab ride, I drank more than I should have and I stood around for 7 hours in a horrible storm.

Great weekend. Now all I need to do is get ready to head to Israel on Thursday.