Matt Donahue

Friday, September 05, 2008

SM100 2008

Great job to all who rode/raced on Sunday.

This was my best 100 yet. After four times riding this race, my focus for the fifth ride was on the fun- try to ride with folks, and keep myself out of the pain cave. Going into the race I had no agenda and no time goal, rather I had a strategy to ride within myself and not suffer by chasing anyone or getting too close to the 'red zone.' With that in mind, I was only 3 minutes off of my best time (last year) coming in at 10:20.

For the duration of the race I rode with or very near CB teammates which really made the day. At the start I got caught off guard by the slightly false start- again, no worries, no chase, just ridin'! I caught up to JJ, Alistair and Mike on Bear Trap Farm Rd., just before the turn into the fire road. They seemed to be debating where I was in the pack, Mike seemed convinced that I was in front of them. We made the turn and my rear wheel immediately gobbled a branch and a bunch of it got jammed in my cassette. I had to hop off and clean that up, again, no worries! I'm just ridin'! Wheaton showed up around the time when I finished cleaning out my wheel, we rode to the first climb together passing Anna wishing her a happy birthday! She was cheery and seemingly enjoying herself, although wishing for a 50 mile version!

Wheaton and I caught up to Mike, passing Alistair and JJ again, and Mike and I rode for a bit, passing Joel who was enjoying the his new Niner at the very top of the climb. We headed into the cookie trail/Narrow Back section together. Riding that section with Mike totally rocked (no pun intended). We both enjoy the technical stuff, and were riding along encouraging each other, laughing, joking, etc. just like a regular weekend ride. We got separated by some fools popping off their bikes on some sketchy sections, but the gap didn't amount to much and Mike rode back to me just after the turn off of Tillman Rd. on the false flat to the Lynn trail. We also rode the Lynn section together, hamming it up with Roberts from Cannondale and laughing at some dude in the woods taking a dump. I followed Mike's wheel up Lynn for a good way, again, we were taking it pretty easy, chatting, track standing at some sections due to some slowness ahead but managed to stay on the bikes right up to the hard left turn in the shale section where the hike-a-bike regularly starts. Evan passed through at that point, motoring up the path but getting hung up in some traffic that inevitably occurs in that part of the course. Although I didn't get to ride with Eric, he did report that he had a clear shot through this section this year and somehow managed to ride it- nice!

Wolf Ridge was a blast, with the minor exception of two clowns on single speeds who poorly attempted to pass through a line of 8 of us on the descent. We weren't going slow either... one guy in his attempted pass around me crashed into the mountain laurel and ended up across the trail taking me out as well. "What the hell are you doing!?" response "Just trying to keep it moving." idiots. I ran into Kent at this point who was changing out a flat. The remainder of the DH was rippin' as usual- then the big splashdown at the bottom into some creek and onto the long road back to Aid Station Two.

I caught up to Evan on this section and we rode together for a bit, bitching about the two SS guys who also drove into him on the downhill. He eventually pulled away and I was not up for following at that pace. Incidentally, this was the section where I cramped massively last year, no desire to revisit that.

Into and out of Aid Station two I crossed paths with Kent and Wheaton. The three of us traded places up the Hankey climb. I caught up to Wheaton at the top, at the start of Dowell's downhill and he kindly let me go ahead, thanks Jonathan! Another wicked descent. My wife was the first person I saw at Aid Station #3 - she was checking in riders, I was psyched and in a great mood, and seeing her made it even better. We didn't get to talk too much, and I was focused on moving out ASAP, but it was a great quick break- stuffing food into my face and trying to talk a little.

On the road from #3 to the start of the Mountain House climb (to the Brailey's downhill) I happened into a pace-line containing Kent and 8 or 9 others. This was the one point in the race that I really pushed it to hang with this group. I came very close to backing out of it since the pace was higher than my liking, but the draft was great and worth hanging onto. I was relieved to reach the parking lot which led to the next singletrack climb with the group. The climb turned into a march of attrition. Guys who were strong on the road bobbled and faded and a smaller group, Kent, Jason Berry, and some others ended up in the folks continuing. Once again I didn't clean the climb. I bobbled in one of the shale gardens, dismounting for a short walk. At some point on the climb I sucked in a giant clod of poorly mixed energy drink. I hadn't shaken up the bladder well enough. This totally nauseated me and it represented the low point in the race for me. At the top of the climb I stopped briefly to evaluate the merits of hurling- I saw none, so I didn't. Kent came walking out of the woods from a 'natural break' and we hit the downhill just ahead of big clod of riders about to arrive. I think we caught 5 or 6 people on the downhill, maybe more, all of them let us pass, kindly and safely-I wasn't about to mimic the behavior of the two retards on Wolf Ridge.

The brief rest at the top of Brailey's combined with the downhill shook away the sickliness and I was back in the game. After getting stopped by a volunteer at AS #3 to let an ambulance pass (which ended up not passing since the victim was not all the way loaded yet) I caught up with Kent and we joined forces to conquer the miserable stretch to AS #5. We had a great time yacking away but maintaining the pace and avoiding getting sucked into the mental monotony of the 10 mile gravel forest road two #5. One highlight was a SS dude who showed up on the steeper climb to 5 with a mini boom-box in his jersey pocket. The music choices, Sublime, 311, some reggae, M&M really kept me moving and motivated me to stay in contact with this guy. At station #5 I realized that I wasn't likely to beat my 10:17 from last year. I didn't care, I hadn't cramped, was having fun and felt good.

Kent took off a bit before me and I was unable to catch him up the final climb to Little Bald Knob. I punched it past an NCVC guy on this climb- Paul Mica, who was getting a bit pissed that we were still climbing. "Does it ever go down?" I responded "NO." to which he said, with all honesty "Are you F'ing kidding me? all that for no descent?" I laughed and rode past (to ensure that I got in front of him for the descent) explaining that there was a huge 7 mile descent around the pile of rocks that we were passing as I passed him.

Another ripping descent, I caught up with Kent again, but didn't stick on his wheel when things went up for a short bit. Somehow the muscles weren't motivated to pick up the pace, so I rode on my own. On the approach to AS #6 I assessed the fluids- plenty of drinks left, plus I had a banana in my jersey as well as gel (banana in my jersey- sounds slightly perverse) and I decided to blow through the aid station. No need to stop when so dangerously close to the finish and feeling good. Kent was eating at the station and I waved as I passed through, hoping he would jump on and catch up.

The road to Hankey felt solid, I got the food I had into the system and took some solid swills of gatorade and secret camelback mix in prep for the final climb. On the early slopes of Hankey I noted that my shoe was sliding around in the pedal strangely. I unclipped flipped the pedal and re-clipped with no improvement. After a bit more it got worse. Putting the evidence together in my endurance-malaise brain I deduced that the cleat had come loose. Off the bike, pulled off the shoe and screwed the cleat back in. Kent passed by asking if all was well, it was! Things were fixed and I chased after him but didn't catch up enough to ride in with him.

In all, a solid day. Riding with friends and avoiding the cramps made it a great ride. I'm pretty well recovered, aside from a chapped ass- not sure if there's any avoiding that...

Great job to the rest of the team and to my buddy Alex who broke the 12 hour mark with an 11:50 this year. Thanks to Evan for the energy drink advice and a huge thanks to my wife Katie for volunteering and supporting the gang at the campsite!

Maybe I'll set a goal for next year, but with all the fun had this year, maybe not!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Greenbelt 5/14

Raced my first road race of the year last night, the Greenbelt "training" race. It's a good experience in concept. Ride out to the race- nice 30 min warm up, race for an hour, ride home for 30 mins for cool-down.

I could be grumpy about some of the riding etiquette in the race, but really it's not worth writing about.

I came away with somewhere around 10th place, although the 'official' standings (13 deep) don't list me at all. They also don't list the guy that was in 6th at all. Woops. I guess there are some bugs in the MABRA scoring system still to be worked out.

I always feel that I could have gone faster at these races. It's not that the race 'went badly', rather, I didn't punish myself enough to come away saying: "Well, there was nothing more in the tank on that last sprint, I couldn't give it any more." It's a training race after all, so why not go hog out and burn all the matches? A voice inside says, "ride off the front and burry it for as long as you can." why not? The other voice says, "but it's so comfy to stay in the pack, plus you get to work on your pack riding skills..." I think I need to go with the first voice next time.

I will say that my stomach was burning in that last effort, and I was seeing some stars but it didn't hurt in a satisfying way, maybe that's because I'm a sore loser. There's always next week.

There were lots of familiar faces out there pulling some hard efforts, awesome to see that. I'll be back for more.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Greenbier 4/27/2008

Time to capture this while it's fresh in my head. On Sunday I raced in the Men's Expert 30-39 class at Potomac Velo's annual NMBS Greenbrier Challenge. This race looms over me every year for a few reasons. It happens early in the season and my slacker ass tends to be less than ready for the hurt that this course pours on, and more importantly the competition that the it attracts. I've flatted at the race for the past two years ('06 and '07). I'm not fast at fixing flats, and they've happened at the tail end of the race, lap 4, both times, so fixing and chasing was not much of an option. Furthermore, beyond the problem of the flats, I'd regularly started this race all out from the whistle in an effort to stay with the leaders as long as possible before cracking spectacularly and losing 10 places or more before flatting. Not the best strategy. I've raced long enough to know my limits, I can't ride 4 laps in the red zone. I can't even ride one lap in the red!

This year, the previous day consisted of major rain, so the already technical course was going to be a mud fest. Actually, most of it wasn't bad as the trail drains relatively well, there were a few sloppy sections though, which made for some sweet splashing and mud-water drenching incidents. Who needs to see through their glasses anyway? In addition to the rain, I had expected to have a large in-law contingent on hand, my wife, our 3 nephews, sister in-law and mother in-law at the race. In the end the questionable weather kept them away and I made the trip up solo...

With the previous years' experience in mind, I opted to have a strategy this year. It was pretty simple, "Don't go all out from the gun. It's OK if people get away from you, you'll either reel them in later, or not. Ride within your limits so you have something in the tank for laps 3 and 4 if you happen to avoid flatting." For the most part I stuck to this. In the 22 person field, I started in row three, purposefully to make sure that I didn't push out to the front right away. Not the best idea, but I needed something to force a slowdown. At the gun the start was fast and furious and I was probably in 10th or so going into the single track. I stayed there until the main climb of the race where I passed a few guys. I kept repeating to myself, just ride within your limits. I kept relatively close to another local rider, Chris McGill who was riding a single speed- what a bad ass! but he dropped me in the latter third of the course on the first lap.

I was pretty shocked to get passed on my first lap by Gunnar Shogren of 40 plus guys who started 3 minutes behind us?? That dude is fast and he passed me fast, not some sort of slow gradual pass, rather a "hey on your left." Gone. He's 12 years older than me...

After lap one, I settled in well. I kept waiting to see my teammate Darren gain on me during the climbs, but I never saw him. He's gotten really strong over the past year and I was pretty much expecting to get passed by him at some point, but I never saw him... by lap 4 I figured he'd gotten a flat or something. It turns out that he had some back problems kick in on a climb.

Evan was also in the mix, eventually taking second place, nice work! I lost sight of him at the top of the first main climb, he's fast, and I wasn't expecting to keep him in sight for long.

I felt pretty good throughout the race. I pushed but kept from cracking. I had one bobble on a slick log on one of the climbs which forced me off the bike, but other than that, I had no problems. The technical downhills on this course suit my riding style, and with the new bike (Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper) I was railing the downs with reckless abandon.

The verdict: 6th place out of 22 starters. I'm happy with that. It was better than I expected, and it was nice to see that result after following my own strategy. This weekend is the 12 hours of Lodi...

Photo from Jay Divinagracia

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Math Test for Canadians

Over Thanksgiving, we flew to Minneapolis to spend the holiday my in-laws. We flew on Northwest Airlines. Northwest, formerly known to me as 'Northworst,' did an excellent job with pretty much everything. We arrived 5 minutes early on Tuesday night prior to Thanksgiving - not super impressive as that wasn't the 'rush' day, but on Sunday, we arrived back in Washington 30 minutes early, which to me is amazing considering the Sunday after Thanksgiving is one of the biggest travel days of the year.

A few minutes ago I recieved an invitation from Northwest to take a survey about my experience with them. The survey was advertised to take 2 minutes, so I took it. I finished in under 2 minutes and even wrote them a nice note. They did a great job. Taking the survey automatically qualified me for their quarterly drawing for 100,000 miles on their World-Perks frequent flier miles program.

So what does this have to do with testing the math skills of Canadians?

Well, after completing the survey, I clicked on the rules and regulations link of the survey's thank you message (I was curious when they were planning to draw the winner - not that I expect to win, but curious nevertheless).

In the Prizes section of the rules, one line seemed very strange to me (in blue below):

PRIZES: One Grand Prize of 100,000 WorldPerks Bonus Miles will be awarded each quarter for a total of five (5) Grand Prizes over the length of promotion. Approximate retail value of each Grand Prize is $1,000. You must be a WorldPerks member to win. There is no fee to join. Prize may not be transferred, substituted orredeemed for cash except at the sole discretion of the Sponsor. Winner will be required to complete/sign/return an Affidavit of Eligibility and Liability Release and except where prohibited, a Publicity Release within 14 days of receipt or prize will beforfeited and awarded to an alternate winner. Canadian winner must successfully answer a mathematical skill-testing question to receive prize. Should prize not beavailable for any reason, Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value.

What is that all about? Is Northwest worried about Canadians' math skills? Are they planning to hand out a really hard Calculus problem that is impossible to answer in order to not award a prize to a Canadian?

I suppose there's a law or something in Canada that prizes cannot be awarded without someone correctly answering a question... hopefully it's something like: what is the sum of 2+2 ... sheesh.

For fair disclosure, I put the full rules below. Strange...

ENTRY: You are automatically entered in to the Customer Experience Sweepstakes
when you complete the online survey. You may enter without completing the survey
or without flying on a Northwest Airlines flight within the last 60 days by handprinting
your name, address, phone number and the words “ Customer Experience
Sweepstakes” on a 3”x5” paper and mailing it to Northwest Customer Experience
Sweepstakes P.O. Box 8600 Westport, CT 06888. Limit one entry per completed
survey. You may enter at any time; however, winners will be selected based on
entries received in the quarterly entry periods outlined in the section titled
“DRAWINGS”. This Sweepstakes is sponsored by Northwest Airlines, Inc. which is
not responsible for phone, electronic, network, computer, hardware or software
malfunctions, failures or difficulties. Sweepstakes ends 12/31/08 at 11:59PM CST.
Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received.

ELIGIBILITY: Open only to legal residents of the United States and Canada (except
void in Quebec) who are 21years of age or older at the time of entry. Promotion is
void where prohibited or restricted. Employees of Northwest Airlines ("Sponsor"),
Maritz, Inc., Promotion Management Corporation, ("PMC”) and all other
organizations affiliated with the sponsorship, fulfillment, administration, prize
support, advertising or promotion of the Sweepstakes, and/or their respective
parent, subsidiary, affiliate and successor companies (“Sweepstakes Entities”) and
immediate family members or members of the same households (parents, stepparents,
legal guardians, children, step-children, siblings, step-siblings, or spouses,
whether related or not) of such persons at any time during this sweepstakes are not

PRIZES: One Grand Prize of 100,000 WorldPerks Bonus Miles will be awarded
each quarter for a total of five (5) Grand Prizes over the length of promotion.
Approximate retail value of each Grand Prize is $1,000. You must be a WorldPerks
member to win. There is no fee to join. Prize may not be transferred, substituted or
redeemed for cash except at the sole discretion of the Sponsor. Winner will be
required to complete/sign/return an Affidavit of Eligibility and Liability Release and
except where prohibited, a Publicity Release within 14 days of receipt or prize will be
forfeited and awarded to an alternate winner. Canadian winner must successfully
answer a mathematical skill-testing question to receive prize. Should prize not be
available for any reason, Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or
greater value.

DRAWINGS: Winners will be determined by random drawing, from all eligible
entries received during the entry period, on or about 15 business days from the end
of each of the following five entry periods: 10/1/07 – 12/31/07, 1/1/08- 3/31/08,
4/1/08 – 6/30/08, 7/1/08 – 9/30/08 and 10/1/08 – 12/31/08. Drawings will be
conducted by PMC, an independent judging agency. Winners will be notified by email.
Should notification be returned for any reason, an alternate winner will be
randomly selected. Bonus Miles will be awarded approximately two weeks after

GENERAL: By entering this sweepstakes, you accept and agree; a) to be bound by
these rules and all decisions of the judges, which are final and b) that Northwest
Airlines and it’s respective parent, subsidiary and affiliated companies, advertising
and promotion agencies, and all of their respective officers, directors, employees,
representatives and agents, will have no liability whatsoever for, and shall be held
harmless by participants against any liability for any injuries, losses or damages of
any kind to persons, including death, or property resulting in or in part, directly or
indirectly, from acceptance, possession, misuse or use of any prize or participation
in this sweepstakes or any sweepstakes related activity; or for any typographical or
other error in the printing, offering or announcement of any prize; and c) except
where legally prohibited, winners grant (and agree to confirm they grant in writing)
permission for Sponsor and those acting under its authority to use his/her name,
photograph, voice and/or likeness, for advertising, trade and/or publicity purposes
without additional compensation. Northwest Airlines reserves the right, in its sole
discretion, to cancel, terminate or suspend this sweepstakes should virus bugs,
unauthorized human intervention or other causes beyond its control corrupt or affect
the administration, security, fairness or proper conduct of the sweepstakes. In the
event of cancellation or termination, prizes will be awarded in a random drawing
from eligible entries legitimately received prior to the event causing such
cancellation or termination. In the event of a dispute regarding prize claims or
entries received from multiple users having the same e-mail account, the authorized
subscriber of the e-mail account at the time of entry used to enter will be deemed to
be the entrant and must comply with these Official Rules. Authorized account
subscriber is the natural person who is assigned the e-mail address by the Internet
Service Provider (ISP), on-line service provider, or other organization responsible for
assigning e-mail addresses.

WINNERS LIST: To obtain the names of the winners, send a self-addressed,
stamped envelope to NWA Winners P.O. Box 8500 Westport, CT 06888. VT
residents may omit return stamp.
SPONSOR: Northwest Airlines, Inc., 2700 Lone Oak Parkway, Eagan, MN 55121-

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Lots to blog about, but little time.

One thing I should mention is that our team is organizing a 'cross race in DC. In fact it will be held in my backyard, almost literally.

DCCX 2007
A Day of Cyclocross Racing in Our Nation’s Capital
Presented by DCMTB/City Bikes
U.S. Armed Forces Retirement Home
Rock Creek Church Rd, NW & Upshur St, NW
Washington, DC 20011

Registration is open for DCCX! The race will take place on Sunday, October 28th, 2007 at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in NW Washington, DC. We won't be able to take day-of registrations, so sign up online at

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Cranky Monkey Dirt Crit Burnout

First, I rode an 82 mile Mass-Sky ride in Saturday's heat.

Sunday was the Cranky Monkey dirt crit. It's a full gas effort for 60 minutes plus one lap- a.k.a. 70 minutes.

I was carpooling with Steve (teammate and neighbor who lives behind us). At about 10:30 we realized the race started at 12, not 1. Neither of us had our bikes in any working order. His BB was pulled and in pieces, my bike hadn't been touched since my final mud-bath lap at the 24 hours of Killington the Sunday prior. Each of us went into overdrive to get ready. We rolled out of the alley at 11:20 for Wakefield. 40 mintues to go...

Earlier in the week, my coach JB and I agreed that this was not a 'priority race' for my season goals. So I had it in my head that it was just a training race. But couple that with being wiped out from the day before, and late arrival (no warmup) it was not starting out well.

We rolled into the parking lot- with 7? minutes until the start. I jumped into my kit, put the front wheel on and headed for the reg table, grabbed my number hastily twist-tied it onto the bike and sprinted down the path to the start line as the field was disappearing up the road and the organizer was yelling at me "GO! GO! their off!" Steve ended up starting further back than I did, he lined up with the single speeders who were next on the line.

So I sprinted up the road and caught on to the end of the expert group as they entered the singletrack. I started passing people fairly early, and was making good headway to a mid to upper mid-pack position. I was battling pretty well with 3 or 4 guys. At that point I was riding strong, not suffering, riding at probably 85% and feeling like I could hang with and eventually beat the guys I was around by hanging on and exploiting the passing opportunities. Then I started to suffer. It was hot. My mental state was such that I didn't really care how well I did, yet I didn't want to get beat by the guys who I had worked to catch.

Meanwhile, on the physical side, I was getting stuffed into the hurt locker. The 82 mile ride from the day before in the Shenandoahs had left me feeling pretty empty. Mentally I wasn't willing to go into the hurt locker. So I started thinking I would let up a bit, which resulted in the guys I'd been battling with riding away. I started giving up. I began evaluating whether I would throw in the towel and just ride off the course. But there were only 3 laps left, and I was still ahead of a few guys. And it's a race! come on!

I went through some back and forth, but generally kept slowing down. Steve passed me... and just as I was about to head off the course, I saw a teammate who rode earlier in the sport race cheering me on. His enthusiasm was enough to get me through the second to last lap, which quickly became the last lap as the leader lapped me (thank God).

So that's what being late, mentally unprepared and having a bad attitude got me. Not a stellar race, but it's all part of the season. I'm probably suffering from a little burnout.

Time to focus on training for the SM 100.

Monday, June 18, 2007

RFK Crit Race Report

I came into this race with the hope making a top 5 finish. I had suffered badly at the 24 Hours of Big Bear the weekend before and spent most of the week resting and doing recovery rides and fighting back a sour stomach and general badness. Thursday and Friday’s rides left me feeling ready for some hard efforts and I wanted to get back some dignity and see how I would do in a sprint, which from all reports is how this crit typically ends.

As Mike S. reported, we lucked out with the 8:45 AM start time and enjoyed the lowest temperatures of the day. I’m sure it would have been a different race had we started with the 4s at 4PM.

Right away I noticed that the 5 field was stacked with about 8-10 Route 1 Velo/Capitol Hill Bikes riders. Although it was a 5 race, it seemed inevitable that those guys would organize something and send riders off the front and keep attacking to wreck the field. Fortunately they didn’t do much and the field was able to react to the attacks they made.

It was great riding with Darren and Mike. Each took some big turns at the front. Darren even broke free to dangle off the front for over a lap. Mike S. and I did all we could to stay on or near the front and soft pedal during his sojourn, but a course like that isn’t great for breaks and Darren soon returned to the group. My big efforts consisted of chasing down one Route 1 guy who dribbled off the front, and then sticking on an Artemis guy’s wheel for about a lap. I stayed away from any solo attempts or any long efforts on the front, trying to conserve for the sprint.

The smooth pavement of the former Le-Mans/Gran Prix street race course made for a fun course. It was pretty sweet leaning in on the curves and feeling the tires hook up at speed with no bumps over cracks or potholes. As usual, there were a few sketchy, boneheaded moves. One particularly puckering event was when I watched the guy directly in front of me drift into the rear wheel of the guy in front of him. Predictably, he over-reacted to correct his error causing some yells and so forth, but thankfully no one went down.

With one lap to go and all major moves reeled in and neutralized, the pack started organizing for the final charge. I started moving up and staying very conscious of Route 1’s moves as well as my own position, struggling to stay in the top 5. I’m not sure what effect it had, but on the second to last straightaway there was a rider noodling along the left side who had been dropped on the previous lap. I don’t understand why the official didn’t pull him off to the right, but whatever. The pack had to avoid him which may have caused some issues for those on the left side of the group. I lucked out and was on the right. Rounding the final corner, the sprint was on. Two guys jumped, Nunez (eventual winner) and a Route 1 guy, followed by a Pedal Shop rider and me and whoever behind us. It was quickly obvious that I wasn’t going to catch the front two, who had carried some nice speed through the corner. But Pedal Shop guy (Shawn) and I battled it out to the line. I managed to get around him and beat him by a wheel?

It marked my first top-three road finish.

Thanks to Bega and the Hub Racing crew for running a great Crit. Thanks to the sponsors for their support! It’s great to have a local race that you can ride to within your home town.